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But we go further. The Greek of the New Testament could not have been written by men who had learned their language after the age of the apostles. This mingling of Grecian and Aramean, as it is preserved in the New Testament, ceased to be the familiar tongue of Christians in Palestine before the death of St. John. When Jerusalem, with the whole civil and religious polity of the Jews, was, in the seventeenth year of the Christian era, entirely destroyed, and the descendants of Abraham were rooted out of the land, and foreigners came in from all quarters to take their places, the language of the country underwent such a change, that except with the scattered few who had survived the desolation of their country, the Greek of the New Testament was no more a living language. When St. John died, there was probably not a man alive who could speak or write precisely that tongue. In the second century, an attempt to compose a book in the name of the apostles, and in imitation of their Greek, would have been detected as easily as if a full-bred Frenchman, never out of France, should attempt to compose a volume in a dialect of English, and endeavor to pass it off as the work of a plain, sensible, but unpolished Yorkshireman. Hence, while doubts were entertained for a while, in some parts of the church, as to the authenticity of some portions of the New Testament, it was never doubted whether they were written by men who had lived when the Greek of Palestine, as it had been in the apostolic age, was yet alive.
2. The language and style of the New Testament are in perfect harmony with the known characters of the reputed writers. The apostles and evangelists were men of plain, sound understanding, but without any polish of education, and not likely to adorn their writings with much rhetorical dress. Paul, the only exception to this character, was well read in Jewish, and, we have reason to believe, in Grecian literature. From other sources besides the New Testament, we are informed of certain peculiarities of natural character, as having distinguished some of those to whom the books of the New Testament are ascribed. John, for example, is always represented in ecclesiastical history as having been remarkable for meekness and gentleness, and a manner and spirit full of mild affection. Paul, we always read of as characterized by prompt, energetic zeal and animated boldness. If the books bearing their names were written by those apostles, we must expect to find in them the distinctive stamp of their respective characters. So it is. In the historical books, none of which the educated Paul composed, there is no ornament of style, but merely the simplicity and directness of plain sensible men, honestly relating what they familiarly knew, and disregarding style in their intentness upon truth. In the epistles of Paul, however, the case is entirely different. There we behold the style of a writer brought up in the schools, though obviously in the schools of Judea. Accustomed to writing and to argument, he reasons precisely as we should expect of Saul of
Tarsus, after having been educated at the feet of Gamaliel, and arrested by divine power and grace on the road to Damascus, and made to "count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ." Everywhere in the epistles bearing his name, are written the strong characters of the peculiar zeal and boldness, as well as education, that belonged to Paul; while throughout the writings ascribed to John, there breathes the sweet spirit of gentleness and tender affection, so characteristic of "that disciple whom Jesus loved." Similar statements might be made with regard to other writers of the New Testament, in proportion as their peculiarities of temperament are known and conspicuous.
From all that has now been said, it may easily be made to appear, that if the historical books of the New Testament, the gospels and Acts of the Apostles, on which our subsequent argument will chiefly depend, be not authentic-in plainer terms, if they be forgeries, nothing less than a miracle can account for their early and universal currency. Remember that John lived to the end of the first century. It cannot be supposed that books falsely pretending to have been written by those very evangelists with whom he had been so intimately associated, and one of them professing to have been written by himself, could have gained a reputable currency in the churches while he lived. He certainly knew what he and the other evangelists had published; and no motive can be assigned that could have induced him to suffer a forgery to pass unexposed. We conclude, therefore,
that if these books be not authentic, they must have been palmed on the churches after the death of John; that is, after the beginning of the second century. Suppose we descend to the third. Can it be imagined that the deception was introduced after this century commenced? Impossible; since by this time the books in question were read every Lord's day, in all the churches, quoted by writers of all countries, universally received as the oracles of God. If a deception was introduced at all, it was brought in somewhere between the death of John and the third century-somewhere in the course of the second. Now, to obtain a clearer view of the difficulties which such an attempt must have had to overcome, let it be supposed that during the present year, a volume containing a digest of laws, under the title of "Laws of the City of New York," should appear among us, pretending to be a code of municipal regulations, composed, about seventy years ago, by a few of the most distinguished inhabitants of that period, and to have been received by the citizens, and appealed to in their municipal courts ever since, as the book of the laws of this city; claiming, moreover, to be acknowledged and obeyed by the present generation as the very code inherited from their fathers; what would be its chance? A moral impossibility would prevent its success. Nothing but lunacy would undertake such a scheme. It would be enough for lawyers and judges and people to say, "It was never heard of before. It has never been known in our courts." But this is only a feeble illustration of the
case before us. If the books in question were forged in the name of the evangelists, you must suppose that at some period within a hundred years of St. John, while many were living who had either known him personally or conversed with those who did enjoy that privilege, a volume appeared among the churches differing widely from those books which, as works of the evangelists, they had received and read from the beginning, and yet demanding to be considered as nothing more nor less than those very works. You must suppose the abettors of the imposition to have said to the various nations of Christians, "These are the genuine gospels in which you were educated; which your fathers died for; which your persecutors endeavored to destroy, and your martyrs labored to save; which have been daily read in your families, expounded in your churches, quoted in your writings, and appealed to in all your controversies with heretics and enemies." And yet it must be supposed that Christians, notwithstanding their notorious love for the writings of the evangelists, and their great care in preserving them, were so easily and universally imposed on, as never to perceive that these fraudulent works, instead of having been expounded and read and quoted and appealed to in all their churches, had never been heard of before. You have to suppose, moreover, that while Christianity was surrounded on all sides and opposed at every step by keen-sighted and determined enemies-Jews, on the one hand, with all their cunning; Greeks and Romans on the other, with all their skill and power,