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of Mathematics in the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, one of the most scientific and pious laymen of the age; or more at large in the learned volume of Leland, on the Advantages and Necessity of a Divine Revelation.
Let us begin with the AUTHENTICITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT. We possess a venerable volume under this title, consisting of twenty-seven independent books or writings, reputed to have been composed by eight different authors. It professes to contain, and is continually appealed to as containing, not only an accurate account of the history and doctrine of Jesus Christ, but an account written in the first age of Christianity by its earliest disciples and advocates, who were contemporaneous with its author, and were most of them eye-witnesses of the events related. Now, before we can be reasonably warranted in placing implicit reliance in the New Testament, as the book of the facts and doctrines of the gospel, two important questions must be determined. First, Is there satisfactory evidence that the several writings of which it is composed were written by the men to whom they are ascribed? This involves the AUTHENTICITY of the New Testament. Secondly, Is the New Testament deserving of implicit reliance as to matters of historical detail, so that we may receive any narrative as unquestionably true, because contained therein? This refers to the CREDIBILITY of the New Testament.
Thus you perceive, that whether a volume be authentic, and whether credible, are two widely sep
arate questions, neither necessarily implying the other, however the evidence of one may bear upon the proof of the other. Writings may be authentic, composed by the men whose names they bear, and yet not credible. They may be credible, because correct in their statements, and yet not authentic. The question of authenticity refers to the author; that of credibility to the narrative. "The Pilgrim's Progress" is authentic, because it was actually composed by John Bunyan, to whom it is ascribed; though, being an allegory throughout, it is credible only as to the truthfulness of its spiritual meaning. The book entitled, "Travels of Anacharsis the Younger," is credible so far as it exhibits a view of the antiquities, manners, customs, religious ceremonies, etc., of ancient Greece; but it is not authentic, having been written in the eighteenth century by Barthelemy, and fictitiously ascribed to the Scythian philosopher. "Marshall's Life of Washington" is both authentic and credible, being a true history, and worthily honored with the name of that eminent and excellent man from whose pen it professes to have come. That the New Testament is also authentic and credible, we undertake to show. We exclude the more ancient portion of the sacred volume, not because of any deficiency in its evidence, but for the sake of unity and clearness in our inquiries; and because, when the argument for the New Testament is set forth in a conclusive form, the authenticity and credibility of the other is rendered, as will hereafter appear, a necessary inference. The two questions will
be the subjects of different lectures. To that of authenticity our attention will this evening be confined. Let us begin with the following:
How does it appear that the several writings composing the volume of the New Testament were written by the men to whom they are ascribed, the original disciples of Christ, and are consequently authentic?
We pursue precisely the same method in determining the authorship of the New Testament, as in ascertaining that of any other book of a past age. For example, we possess a celebrated poem entitled Paradise Lost. It bears the name of Milton. How do we know that Milton composed it? The answer is easy. Our fathers received it, as his production, from their fathers, and they from theirs. By such steps we ascend to the very year in which the book was first published, and find it invariably ascribed to Milton. Moreover, the history of the age in which he lived speaks of it as unquestionably and notoriously his work. Writers of every succeeding age refer to and quote it, as well known to be his. The language of the poem bears the characteristic marks of Milton's times. Its spirit, genius, and style display the distinctive features of Milton's mind and character. And finally, though Milton had many enemies, and lived in a time of great divisions, and this poem redounded greatly to his praise, and many must have been disposed, had they been able, to discover some false pretensions in his claim to its authorship, no other person in that age was ever mentioned as disputing his title;
but all united in acknowledging him as the writer of Paradise Lost. On this evidence, although the poem professes to have been written as far back as the year 1674, we are so perfectly certain of its authenticity, that the man who should dispute it would be justly suspected of idiocy or mental derangement. And had Milton lived in the seventh, instead of the seventeenth century, a similar body of evidence would have been equally satisfactory. If, instead of the seventh century, he had lived in the first of the Christian era, similar evidence, reaching up to his time, would still prove beyond a question that he wrote Paradise Lost. Thus it is evident that time has no effect to impair the force of such proof. Whether a book be ascribed to the Christian era, or to five centuries before or after, the evidence being the same, it is equally satisfactory. It as well convinces us that the history ascribed to Herodotus, in the fifth century before Christ, was written by that historian, as that the Æneid was written by Virgil a little before the birth of Christ, or the "Faerie Queene" by Spenser, in the fifteen hundred and ninetieth year after that event. We are no less satisfied of the authenticity of the orations of Demosthenes, than of that of Newton's Principia, though between the dates of their publication there is an interval of more than two thousand years. So little does the age of a book affect the evidence required to establish its authenticity.
Now, in ascertaining the authorship of the New Testament, we are furnished with evidence precisely similar to that which settles the question so conclu
sively as to either of the works above-mentioned.⚫ An unbroken chain of testimony ascends from the present generation to the preceding, and thence to the next beyond, and thence onward again till it reaches the very age of the apostles, exhibiting an uninterrupted series of acknowledgments of the New Testament, as having been written indeed by those primitive disciples to whom its several parts are ascribed. Besides this, historians and other writers of the age ascribed to this volume, as well heathen and Jewish as Christian, not only recognize its existence in their day, but speak of it as notoriously the production of its reputed authors. The language is characteristic of their age, nation, and circumstances. The style and spirit exhibit the well-known peculiarities of their respective minds and dispositions. And again, although the New Testament at the time of its first appearance, either in parts or collectively, was surrounded with numerous, learned, and ingenious, as well as most bitter enemies, both among heathens and Jews; and although there arose at an early period many animated controversies between the real believers in gospel truth, on one side, and sundry heretical pretenders to the Christian faith, whose cause would often have been materially served by a well-sustained denial of the authenticity of certain
*." We know," says St. Augustine, "the writings of the apostles, as we know the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and others, and as we know the writings of divers ecclesiastical authors; for as much as they have the testimony of contemporaries, and of those who have lived in succeeding ages."