תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

gery: and though they may occur, and probably will occur, in genuine writings, yet it cannot be proved that they are peculiar to these. Thus what St. Paul declares in chap. xi. of 1 Cor. concerning the institution of the eucharist-"For I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of me," - though it be in close and verbal conformity with the account of the same transaction preserved by St. Luke, is yet a con. formity of which no use can be made in our argument ; for if it should be objected that this was a mere recital from the Gospel, borrowed by the author of the epistle, for the purpose of setting off his composition by an appearance of agreement with the received account of the Lord's supper, I should not know how to repel the insinuation. In like manner, the description which St. Paul gives of himself in his Epistle to the Philippians (üi. 5.-"Circumcised the eighth day, of the stoek of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church ; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless," is made up of particulars so plainly delivered concerning him in the Aets of the Apostles, the Epistle to the Romans, and the Epistle to the Galatians, that I cannot deny but that it would be easy for an impostor, who was fabricating a letter in the name of St. Paul, to collect these articles into one view. This, therefore, is a conformity which we do not adduce. But when I read in the Acts of the Apostles, that when “Paul came to Derbe and Lystra, behold a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman uhich was a Jewess," and when, in an epistle addressed to Timothy, I find him reminded of his “having known the Holy Scriptures from a child,which implies that he must, on one side or both, have been brought up by Jewish parents; I conceive that I remark a coincidence which shews, by its very obliquity, that scheme was not employed in its formation, In like manner, if a coincidence de pend upon a comparison of dates, or rather of circum. stances from which the dates are gathered the more intricate that comparison shall be; the more numerous the intermediate steps through which the conclusion is deduced ; in a word, the more circuitous the investigation is, the better, because the agreement which finally results is thereby farther removed from the suspicion of contrivance, affectation, or design. And it should be remembered, concerning these coincidences, that it is one thing to be minute, and another to be precarious ; one thing to be unobserved, and another to be obscure;

thing to be circuitous or oblique, and another to be forced, dubious, or fanciful. And this distinction ought always to be retained in our thoughts.

The very particularity of St. Paul's epistles; the perpetual recurrence of names of persons and places; the frequent allusions to the incidents of his private life, and the circumstances of his condition and history; and the connexion and parallelism of these with the same circumstances in the Acts of the Apostles, so as to enable us, for the most part, to confront them one with another; as well as the relation which subsists between the circumstances, as mentioned or referred to in the different epistles—afford no inconsiderable proof of the genuineness of the writings, and the reality of the transactions. For as no advertency is sufficient to guard against slips and contradictions, when circumstances are multiplied, and when they are liable to be detected by contemporary accounts equally circumstantial, an impostor, I should expect, would either have avoided particulars entirely, contenting himself with doctrinal discussions, moral precepts, and general reflections ;* or if, for the sake of imitating St. Paul's

* This, however, must not be misunderstood. A person writing to his friends, and upon a subject in which the transactions of his own life were concerned, would probably be led in the course of his

letter, especially if it was a long one, to refer to passages found in his history. A person addressing an epistle to the public at large, or under the form of an epistle delivering a discourse upon some speculative argument, would not, it is probable, meet with an occasion of alluding to the circumstances of his life at all; he might, or he might not; the chance on either side is nearly equal. This is the situation of the catholic epistie. Althoogh, therefore, the presence of these allusions

style, he should have thought it necessary to intersperse his composition with names and circumstances, be would have placed them out of the reach of comparison with the history. And I am confirmed in this opinion by the inspection of two attempts to counterfeit St. Paul's epistles, which have come down to us; and the only attempts of which we have any knowledge, that are at all deserving of regard. One of these is an epistle to the Laodiceans, extant in Latin, and preserved by Fabricius in his collection of apocryphal scriptures. The other purports to be an epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, in answer to an epistle from the Corinthians to him. This was translated by Scroderus from a copy in the Armenian language which had been sent to W. Whiston, and was afterward, from a more perfect copy procured at Aleppo, published by his sons, as an appendix to their edition of Moses Chorenensis. No Greek copy exists of either: they are not only supported by ancient testimony, but they are negatived and excluded; as they have never found admission into any catalogue of apostolical writings, acknowledged by, or known to, the early ages of Christianity. In the first of these I found, as I expected, a total evitation of circumstances. It is simply a collection of sentences from the canonical epistles, strung together with very little skill. The second which is a more versute and specious forgery, is introduced with a list of names of persons who wrote to St. Paul from Corinth; and is preceded by an account sufficiently particular of the manner in which the epistle was sent from Corinth to St. Paul, and the answer returned. But they are names which no one ever heard of: and the account it is impossible to combine with any thing found in the Acts, or in the other epistles. It is not necessary for me to point out the internal marks of spuriousness and imposture which these compositions betray; but it was necessary to observe, that they do not afford those co incidences which we propose as proofs of authenticity in the epistles which we defend.

and agreements be a valuable accession to the arguments by which the authenticity of a letter is maintained, yet the want of them certainly forms no positive objection.

Having explained the general scheme and formation of the argument, I may be permitted to subjoin a brief account of the manner of conducting it.

I have disposed the several instances of agreement under separate numbers; as well to mark more sensibly the divisions of the subject, as for another purpose, viz, that the reader may thereby be reminded that the instances are independent of one another, I have advanced nothing which I did not think probable; but the degree of probability by which different instances are supported, is undoubtedly very different. If the reader, therefore, meets with a number which contains an instanse that appears to him unsatisfactory, or founded in mistake, he will dismiss that number from the argument, but without prejudice to any other. He will have occasion also to observe, that the coincidences discoverable in some epistles are much fewer and weaker, than what are supplied by others. But he will add to his observation this important circumstance --that whatever ascertains the original of one epistle, in some measure establishes the authority of the rest. For, whether these epistles be genuine or spurious, every thing about them indicates that they come from the same hand. The diction, which it is extremely difficult to imitate, preserves its resemblance and peculiarity throughout all the epistles. Numerous expressions and singularities of style, found in no other part of the New Testament, are repeated in different epistles; and occur in their respective places, without the smallest appearance of force or art. An involved argumentation, frequent obscurities, especially in the order and transi. tion of thought, piety, vehemence, affection, bursts of rapture, and of unparalleled sublimity, are properties, all or most of them, discernible in every letter of the collection. But although these epistles bear strong marks of proceeding from the same hand, I think it is still more certain that they were originally separate publications. They form no continued story; they compose no regular correspondence; they comprise not the transactions of any particular period ; they carry on no connexion of argument; they depend not upon one another; except in one or two instances,

they refer not to one another. I will farther undertake to say, that no study or care has been employed to produce or preserve an appearance of consistency aliongst them. All which observations shew that they were not intended by the person, whoever he was, that wrote them, to come forth or be read together: that they appeared at first separately, and have been collected since.

The proper purpose of the following work is to bring together, from the Acts of the Apostles, and from the different epistles, such passages as furnish examples of undesigned coincidence; but I have so far enlarged upon this plan, as to take into it some circumstances found in the epistles, which contributed strength to the conclusion, though not strictly objects of comparison.

It appeared also a part of the same plan, to examine the difficulties which presented themselves in the course of our inquiry.

I do not know that the subject has been proposed or considered in this view before. Ludovicus, Capellus, Bishop Pearson, Dr. Benson, and Dr. Lardner, have each given a continued history of St. Paul's life, made up from the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles joined together : but this, it is manifest, is a different undertaking from the present, and directed to a different purpose.

If what is here offered shall add one thread to that complication of probabilities by which the Christian history is attested, the reader's attention will be repaid by the supreme importance of the subject; and my design will be fully answered.

CHAP. II.

THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS.

No. I.

The first passage I shall produce from this epistle, and upon which a good deal of observation will be founded, is the following:

с

« הקודםהמשך »