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they bear? If it should be said that this was done only in matters of small importance, I ask what certainty have we, that any thing was left untouched ? Surely those who found means of interpolating and inserting whole passages, would rather do it in things which, in their own conceit, were of greater consequence, and which they might do either by the omission, transposition, or addition of a word, the which might contribute towards maintaining their different doctrines; more especially in such affairs, as in their opinions concerned salvation, than in things either of small or no importance. And this was no doubt the cause which gave rise to the many different copies, not only of the four Gospels which they now have received as canonical, but likewise to the many other Gospels, which were received by the different parties, without any possibility of knowing the true from the false-(if indeed any of them were true ;) for they could have no other criterion, than as they more or less agreed with their different systems of faith. And for this reason were the four Gospels we now have, preferred, or made (accounted) authentic, rather than those rejected as spurious ; for it is certain no authority appeared in these above the others. “The ancient heretics,” says Calmet," began generally with attacking the Gospel, in order to maintain their errors : or excuse them. Some rejected all the genuine Gospels—(that is, those which the councils declared such)--and substituted such as were spurious in their room. Others have corrupted the true Gospels ; and have suppressed whatever gave them any trouble, and have inserted what might favour their erroneous doctrines."
Thus the Nazareons corrupted the original Gospel of St. Matthew, and the Mercionites mangled that of St. Luke, which was the only one they received. The Alogians, seeing their condemnatión too plainly declared in St. John, rejected him, and admitted only the three other Evangelists. The Ebionites rejected St. Matthew, and received the three other Gospels. The Cerinthians acknowledged only St. Mark; and the Valentineans St. John only.* In Origen's time, Celsus exclaims against the liberty ....ians (as if they were drunk, says he) took of changing the first writing of the Gospel, three, four, or more times.f The Manicheans showed other scriptures, and denied the genuineness of the whole New Testament. Faustus, their bishop, says, “You think that of all
* Calmet's Dictionary on the word Gospel. + Origen lib. ii. Contra. Celsus.
books in the world, the Testament of the Son only, could not be corrupted ; and that it alone contains nothing which ought to be disallowed; especially, when it appears it was neither written by himself, nor his apostles; but a long time after, by certain obscure persons, who, lest no credit should be given to the stories they told, did prefix to their writings partly the names of the apostles, and partly of those who succeeded the apostles,-affirming that what they wrote themselves was written by those : wherein they seem to have been more injurious to the disciples of ......, by attributing to them what they wrote themselves ; so dissonant and repugnant,---pretending to write those Gospels under their names, which are so full of mistakes and of contradictory relations and opinions, that they are neither coherent with themselves, nor consistent with one another."* Again the same bishop says, “Many things were foisted by your ancestors into the scriptures of our Lord which, although marked with his name, agree not with his faith.”+ The learned Dr. Mills gives an account of a general alteration of the Gospels, so low down as the sixth century. I He likewise with great labour collected and published all the readings of the New Testament, which are so different and various, that the learned Doctor Whitby declares, that “ The vast quantity of various readings collected must of course make the mind doubtful or suspicious, that nothing certain can be expected from books where there are various readings in every verse, and almost in every part of every verse." Mr. Gregory, of ...... church in Oxford, declares, that “ There is no profane author whatever, caterus paribus, has suffered so much by the hand of time as the New Testament has done.”'ll How willing and ready the priests have been to encourage pious frauds, and continue impositions on the credulity of the ignorant, need pot be mentioned. One fact, however, I cannot pass in silence, and that is a letter of Cardinal Belarmine, who, with the other divines, attended the correction of the vulgate, in which he acknowledges that there are still several faults, which, for good reasons, the correctors did not think proper to remove. I shall make no remarks on this passage, but shall proceed to a short account of the rest of the writings of the New Testament.
And first-The Acts, which are said to be the work of St. Luke, were rejected by many, particularly the Marcionites and Manichees: many others described the acts of the apostles, yet were they rejected, * for the same reason that this was received, that is, because it agreed better with the doctrines in vogue than the others. St. Chrysostom complains that this book was little known, and that the reading of it was much neglected, which shows that even in his time it was not held in any degree of authority. In this book St. Paul cites a saying of Jesus,f which is not to be found in any of the gospels; so that either he had this passage out of some spurious gospel, or it has been left out of the present copies since his time. Concerning the authority and genuineness of the epistles there have been many debates, and I think all have been doubted and rejected by some party or other, and this for the important reason above mentioned, according as they either agreed or disagreed to the doctrines and opinions embraced by the different sects; particularly St. Paul's epistles to the Hebrews, the epistle of James, the second epistle of St. Peter, the second and third epistles of St. John, and the epistle of Jude. But as the inspiration of all or either of them can never be proved, I shall say nothing concerning them, but refer you for a more particular account of them to Calmet. I
Augustin, Con. Faustus, lib. xxxii. c. 2. § Whitby's Exam. Va. Lelt. Milli.p.3, 4. † Lib. 33.c. 3.
|| Preface to posthumous works. | Mills' Proligon, c. 93.
Calmet's Dic. on the word Vulgate.
As to the authority of the Apocalypse, or book of Revelations, as its author cannot be ascertained, how is it possible that its inspiration should ? for “ Caius, priest of the church of Rome, who lived at the end of the second age, seems to assure us that the Apocalypse, or book of Revelations, was written by the arch heretic Cerinthus. And Deonylas, bishop of Alexandria, says, that some indeed thought Cerinthus to be the author of it; that, for his own part, he believed it to be written by an holy man named John, but he would not take upon himself to affirm that it was really the work of the apostle and evangelist of that name.' The Apocalypse has not at all times been owned to be canonical. St. Jerom, Amphilocus, and Sulpitius Severus remark, that in their time there were many churches in Greece that did not receive this book."
On the whole, the writings of the New Testament appear to me so far from being infallible, or written under the immediate guidance and influence of God, that I am surprised how it is possible
* Calmet's Dic. on the word Acts. On the different articles, & word Apocryphal. + Acm xx. 35.
$ On the word Apocalypse.
that any persons should make them the foundation or basis of their religion : for the contrary most evidently appears; and they are even destitute of proof that they were written by the persons whose names they bear; nor, indeed, does it appear that those persons ever wrote any thing themselves. This uncertainty, together with the continual alterations they have undergone, makes it impossible to credit them even as historians. Moreover, it appears highly improbable that any of the writings we now have should be the genuine works of the apostles; because, had this been the case, they would have published them as such, and no one would have refused them; they would have been received by all without contradiction, as every person had it in his power to have satisfaction concerning their genuineness from the apostle who published them. The contrary of all this is evident. Besides, common and usual facts, such as may happen in the common course of things, may, and do generally receive credit on the evidence of the historian; but it would not be the same, was he to relate things out of the common course of probability, or what appeared improbable; for the more extraordinary are the facts which he relates, the more extraordinary ought the evidence to be. But this evidence is nowhere to be had but in the writings themselves, which is no evidence; they being destitute of proof: therefore cannot be admitted or allowed.
The only thing which seems probable from the account transmitted to us is, that there were many who wrote, and, in order to give a greater repute to their writings, they published them under the names of such persons as should give them a greater degree of authority; and, as these writings contained different, facts and doctrines very opposite and contradictory, so every one chose, and made use of such or as many gospels as he pleased or liked best. These gospels, as they were in private hands, the possessor did not want for opportunities of changing, interpolating, adding, and curtailing whatever they thought convenient, or was agreeable to the opinions which they had embraced. Under their circumstances, it was impossible to have known the true gospels of either of the apostles, (had there been any,) because it would have no mark of authority, and the true one must have suffered equally with the false ; for had there been any mark or criterion by which the true might have been distinguished from the false, every one would have received it. So that it is plain, either that the apostles did not
publish any, or that they fared no better than those which were published by others, and were confounded with them.
It likewise appears to me, that the authors and transcribers thought of nothing else but inserting and relating surprising and marvellous events, such as would astonish and catch the credulity of the vulgar, and also such things as best suited with their prejudices and purposes; for it seems improbable that the apostles, whose labours and sufferings are always represented as proceeding from their love of mankind, and care of their salvation, should be the authors of the writings we now have under their names, and which have been the cause of such disputes, discords, hatred, disorders, troubles, grievous persecutions, and even wars and desolations; and all this occasioned by these very writings; for every party authorize their proceedings by them. Surely, if they were such persons as they were represented to have been, they never could have published or authorized any thing like it, unless they were determined literally to fulfil the saying recorded of Jesus "Think not that I am come to send peace upon earth ; I come not to send peace, but a sword;" which sword has been drawn from the beginning, and which ......ians have taken care not to sheath. It is well for the doctrine of the infallibility of the writings, that the ......ian laity, or bulk of ......ians, take it on trust; and that few, very few, take any pains, or make inquiry concerning the evidence of their inspiration and infallibility; and that those who make such inquiry are disposed or concerned, either in interest or policy, not to publish their thoughts concerning this matter, contenting themselves with keeping their discoveries secret; for, was the infallibility or inspiration of any writings contrary to these to have no better foundation, how would they publish their arguments against them, and expose their insufficiency!
(To be continued.)
For the JEW.
והיו למשסה שאסין ורחקו כל מבלעיך ישיש עליך אלהיך כמשוש חתן על כלה:
:' “They who spoil thee shall become a spoil, and they that swallow thee up shall be removed far away. Thy God will rejoice over thee, as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride."--Heb. Hymn.
Of all the methods resorted to by the professors of the christian religion, to bring the worshippers of the true and only God into contempt, that of misrepresenting facts, as to the present and real condition of our