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learned. Still, however, it is desirable that these various readings should be corrected, and it is proper that you should have a general acquaintance with the sources from which the correction of them is to be derived. These sources are four. 1. The MSS. of the New Testament which abound in Germany, France, Italy, England, and other countries of Europe. I mean MSS. written long before printing was in use, some of which, particularly Codex Vaticanus and Codex Alexandrinus, are referred to one or other of the three first centuries of the Christian era. 2. The ancient versions of the New Testament, which having been made in early times from copies much nearer the original MSS. than any that we have, may be considered as in some degree vouchers of the contents of those MSS. The most respectable of the ancient versions is the old Italic, which, we have reason to believe, was made in the first century for the benefit of those Christians in the Roman empire who understood the Latin better than any other language. It has, indeed, undergone many alterations; but so far as it can be recovered in its most ancient form, it is the surest guide, in doubtful places, to that which was the original reading. 3. A third source of correction is found in the numberless quotations from the New Testament with which the works of the Christian fathers and other early writers abound. Had they always copied exactly from books lying before them, the extent of their quotations would have rendered them as certain guides to the genuine reading, as they are unquestionable witnesses of the authenticity. But it cannot be denied, that as the books of the New Testament were perfectly familiar to them, they have often quoted from memory, and that being more careful to give the sense than the words, they differ from one another in some trivial respects, when quoting the same passage, so that their quotations cannot be applied indiscriminately to ascertain the original. 4. The last source of correction is sound chastised criticism, which, joined to the sagacious use of the most ancient MSS., versions, and quotations, cautious but skilful conjecture, determines which of the various readings is to be preferred, upon principles so clearly established, and so accurately applied, as to leave no hesitation in the mind of any scholar. The canons of scripture criticism have
been investigated and digested by many learned men. You will find collections of them in the Prolegomena to the larger editions of the Greek Testament. They are frequently applied by the later commentators, and they are the introduction to a kind of learning which, although it is apt, when prosecuted too far, to lead to what is minute and frivolous, yet is in many respects so essential that it does not become any one who professes to interpret the Scriptures to others to be entirely a stranger to it..
Superficial reasoners may think it strange that so much discussion should be necessary to ascertain the true reading of the oracles of God; and in their haste they may pronounce, that it would have been more becoming the great purpose for which these oracles were given, more kind and more useful to man, that the originals should have been saved from destruction; and that if the great extent of the Christian society rendered it impossible for every one to have access to them, the all-ruling providence of God should have preserved every copy that was taken from every kind of vitiation. They who thus judge, forget that there is no part of the works of creation, of the ways of Providence, or of the dispensation of grace, in which the Almighty has done precisely that which we would have dictated to him, had he admitted us to be his counsellors, although we are generally able, by considering what he has done, to discover that his plan is more perfect and more universally useful, than that which our narrow views might have suggested as best. They forget the extent of the miracle which they ask, when they demand, that all who ever were employed in copying the New Testament should at all times have been effectually guarded by the Spirit of God from negligence, and that their works should have been kept safe from the injuries of time. And they forget, in the last place, that the very circumstance to which they object has, in the wisdom of God, been highly favourable to the cause of truth. The infidel has enjoyed his triumph, and has exposed his ignorance. Men of erudition have been encouraged to apply their talents to a subject, which opens so large a field for the exercise of them. Their research and their discoveries have demonstrated the futility of the objection, and have shown that the great body of the people in every country, who are in
capable of such research, may safely rest in the Scriptures as they are; and that the most scrupulous critics, by the inexhaustible sources of correction which lie open to them, may attain nearer to an absolute certainty with regard to the true reading of the books of the New Testament, than of any other ancient book in any language. If they require more, their demand is unreasonable; for the religion of Jesus does not profess to satisfy the careless, or to overpower the obstinate, but rests its pretensions upon evidence sufficient to bring conviction to those who with honest hearts inquire after the truth, and are willing to exercise their reason in attempting to discover it.
Griesbach, professor at Jena, in Saxony, published in 1796, the first volume of his second edition of the Greek Testament, containing the four Gospels; and in 1806, the second volume, containing the other books of the New Testament. He availed himself of the materials which sacred criticism had been collecting from the time of the publication of Mill's edition. And, adverting to all the manuscript quotations and versions which the research of a number of theological writers, in different parts of the world, had brought into view, he went farther than the former editors of the New Testament had done. They adhered to what is called the textus receptus, which had been established in the Elzevir edition of the Greek Testament in 1624, which is very much the same with that of the editions of Beza and Erasmus, and which is now in daily use. They only collected various readings from manuscripts, versions, and quotations, introduced them in a preface or notes, and explained in large and learned prolegomena, the degree of credit that was due to them; thus furnishing materials for a more correct edition of the Greek Testament, and unfolding the principles upon which these materials ought to be applied. But Griesbach proceeded himself to apply the materials, by introducing emendations into the text. This he is said by Dr. Marsh, late Margaret Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, and now Bishop of Peterbro', to have done with unremitted diligence, with extreme caution, and with scrupulous integrity. His emendations never rest merely upon conjecture, but always upon authority which appeared to him decisive. They are printed in a smaller character than the rest of the text, or in some clear way distinguished from the received text: and when he was in any doubt, they are not introduced, but remain in the notes or margin. I have great satisfaction in saying, that in so far as I have exannined Griesbach's New Testament, it does not appear to differ in any material respect from the received text; so that all the industry and erudition of this laborious and accurate editor serve to establish this most comfortable doctrine, that the books of the New Testament are genuine. Dr. Marsh says, that
Griesbach's edition is so correct, and the prolegomena, or critical apparatus annexed to it, so full and learned, that there will be no occasion for a different edition of the Greek Testament during the life of the youngest of us. I quote Dr. Marsh, because in that portion of his lectures which has been published, he gives the most minute and ample information concerning all the editions of the Greek Testament. He mentions repeatedly, with due honour, Dr. Gerard's Institutes of Biblical Criticism, to which I refer you. Marsh's Lectures, and his translations of Michaelis's Introductions. Macknight's Preliminary Discourses in his Commentary on the Epistles.
Lardner's Credibility of the Gospel History, and Supplement to it. Leland.
Hartley in vol. 5th of Watson's Theological Tracts.
INTERNAL EVIDENCE OF CHRISTIANITY.
THE leading characteristical assertion in the books of the New Testament is, that they contain a divine revelation. Jesus said, "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me;”* and when he gave his apostles a commission to preach his gospel, he used these words, "As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you."† "He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth him that sent me." This is the highest claim which any mortal can advance. It holds forth the man who makes it under the most dignified character; and, if it be well founded, it involves consequences the most interesting to those who hear him. Such a claim is not to be carelessly admitted. The grounds upon which it rests ought to be closely scrutinized; and reason cannot have a more important or honourable office than in trying its pretensions by a fair standard.
As every circumstance respecting those who advanced such a claim merits attention, the first thing which presents itself to a rational inquirer, is the manner in which the claim is made, and the state of mind which those who make it discover in their conduct, in the general style of their writings, or in particular expressions. Now, if you set yourselves to collect all the characters of enthusiasm, either from the writings of those profound moralists who have analysed and discriminated the various features of the human mind, or from the behaviour of those who, in different ages, have mistaken the fancies of a distempered brain for the inspiration of heaven, you will find the most marked opposition between these characters and the appearance which the books of the New Testament present. Instead Luke x. 16.
*John vii. 16.
+ John xx. 21.