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impossibility that either negligence or design could have introduced, without detection, any material alteration into a book dispersed among millions in widely distant countries, and among many discordant sects; regarded by them all as the rule of iheir faith and practice; and in constant and regular use among them all in public worship, in private meditation, and in their vehement and unceasing controversies with each other 37:
With regard to the Bible in general, including both the Old Testament (or Covenant) and the New, a cogent proof of the general conformity of our present copies of the several books, with those which existed in early times, is derived from an examination of the works of the Fathers of the Christian Church. If we take, for example, the epistle of CLEMENS ROMANUS to the Corinthians, written at latest about A. D. 70, we shall find at least thirty-four express quotations from different parts of the Pentateuch, four from the book of Joshua, two from Esther, ten from Job, thirty from the Psalms, four from the book of Proverbs, sixteen from the prophecies of Isaiah, three from Jeremiah, one from Ezekiel, three from Daniel, one from Jonah, one from Habakkuk, one from Malachi. In the New Testament,
37 Gisborne's Familiar Survey, p. 229. Doddridge's Pneumatology, &c. Lect. 118, 119. “ Not frighted (says that very eminent critic Dr. Bentley) with the thirty thousand various readings, I, for my part, and, as I believe, many others, would not lament, if out of the old MSS. yet untouched ten thousand more were faithfully collected :
: some of whic without question, would render the text more beautiful, just, and exact; though of no consequence to the main of religion; nay, perhaps wholly synonymous in the view of common readers, and quite insensible in any modern version.” Philaleuth, Lipsiens. p. 90. See also pp. 111-114.
On the subject of Various Readings, the critical reader may consult the Eclectic Review, vol. v. pp. 236-250; a small but instructive painphlet in reply to the blasphemous “Manifesto of the Christian Evidence Society," by my esteemed friend, Dr. J. Pye Smith; and the Rev. T. Hartwell Horne's Introduction to the Critical Study of the Holy Scriptures. I cannot refer to this work, without cordially recommending it, as constituting a most valuable accession to biblical literature, serving, indeed, to supply a serious desideratum long felt by our theological students.
two from St. Luke's Gospel, one from the Acts of the Apostles, fourteen from the Epistles of St. Paul, including three from that to the Hebrews, three from the Epistles of St. Peter, three from that of James, and one from that of Jude. Some of these are long quotations, nearly of whole chapters; several of them are introduced by the notices, “ Thus it is written," “ Thus saith the Scripture," " The Holy Spirit itself beareth witness,” &c.; and all of them agree with the corresponding passages in our present copies. This I affirm, not upon thority of others, but from a careful inspection; and I think it furnishes a most striking proof of the general integrity of the Scriptures we possess. So far as I have carried ihe comparison through the works of the Fathers of the first three centuries, the inference from it increases in force: and I have no doubt that those who have leisure and inclination to pursue this train of inquiry will find its result irresistible.
T'he Bible has also unexpectedly met with strong additional confirmation, as to the correctness of the most received versions, in the discoveries of recent travellers in India. Dr. Buchanan especially, who in 1806 visited the Syrian churches, amounting to one hundred and nineteen, in Malayala, was informed by the inbabitants that no European had, to their knowledge, visited the place before. Their liturgy is derived from that of the early church of Antioch. They affirm too, that their version of the Scripture was copied from that used by the primitive Christians at Antioch, and brought to India before or about the council of Nice, A. D. 325, at which council some ecclesiastical historians inform us Jounnes, bishop of India, attended. These Syrian Christians allege also, that their copies have ever been exact transcripts of that version, without known error, through every age, down to this day. There is one volume found in a remote church of the mountains, which merits particular description :-it contains the Old and New Testaments, engrossed on strong vellum, and written with beautiful accuracy. The character is Estrangelo-Syriac, and the words of every book are numbered. This volume is illuminated, but not after the European manner, the initial letters having no ornament. Prefixed to each book there are figures of principal Scripture characters (not rudely drawn), the colours of which are distinguishable; and in some places the enamel of the gilding is preserved: but the volume has suffered injury from time or neglect, some of the leaves being almost entirely decayed. In certain places the ink has been totally obliterated from the page, and has left the parchment in its natural whiteness; but the letters can, in general, be distinctly traced from the impress of the pen, or from the partial corrosion of the ink. The Syrian church assigns to this manuscript a high antiquity; and alleges ihat it has been for some centuries in the possession of their bishops; and that it was industriously concealed from the Romish inquisition in 1599: but its true age can only be ascertained by a comparison with old manuscripts in Europe of a similar kind; and from such a comparison its date has been referred to the seventh century. On the margin of the drawings are some old Roman and Greek letters, the form of which may lead to a conjecture respecting the
age in which they were written. This copy of the Scriptures has admitted as canonical the epistle of Clement, in which respect it resembles the Alexandrine manuscript: but it has omitted the Revelation that book having been accounted apocryphal by some churches during a certain period in the early ages. The order of books in the Old and New Testament differs from that of the European copies,—this copy adhering less to unity of subject in the arrangement than to chronological order. The very first emendation of the Hebrew text proposed by Dr. Kennicot (Gen. iv. 8) is to be found in this manuscript. The disputed passage, 1 John v. 7, is not to be found in it: in almost every other respect, its several books agree with those which Europeans obtained ages ago through other channels 38.
38 Tilloch's Philosophical Magazine, No, 115.
108 GENUINENESS, ETC. OF THE SCRIPTURES.
I have only to add, that this most valuable and interesting manuscript is now in England. Mar Dionysius, the resident bishop of Cadanette, presented it to Dr. Buchanan, who again has presented it to the University of Cambridge, in whose public library it is now lodged. It has been lately examined with great care and skill by Mr. Yeates, who has published a more minute account of it than the above, in the Christian Observer 39. These particularities, in reference and description, will prove to you the value I attach to the discovery of this Manuscript. Its existence will compel unbelievers to drop, as broken and pointless, their favourite weapon against the genuineness of our Scriptures. I therefore consider its preservation as another interposition of Divine Providence in favour of the Christian Religion; another reward to European Chris, tians for their zeal and activity in transmitting the benefits of the Gospel to heathen nations: and I rejoice in this fresh instance in which
I may assert eternal Providence,
LETTER VI. On the Evidence deducible from the Prophecies. It is well, my dear Friend, for Christians in general, that they can arrive at a perfect conviction of the truth of the religion they profess, a well-grounded assurance of “ the hope that is in them?,” without instituting so long an investigation as that, the results of wbich were laid before you in my last letter. Such an inquiry may , serve to convince unbelievers that even the external evidences of Christianity are, in their nature, really irresistible to all those who do not voluntarily sheath their understandings against the impressions of evidence flowing from all quarters, and shut their eyes against the light of truth: but those who are willing to derive conviction from the fountain of divine knowledge, have a far shorter way to arrive at it than that we have so recently been tracing. The Bible is its own witness: the predictions scattered through it prove its divine origin. Other evidences may obtain admission to the mind, but this species demands it: others may dispel darkness, but this comes clothed in light. In the present world we are in a benighted state; but happily
39 Christian Observer, for May and June, 1810. A still fuller account of it has been recently published by Mr. Yeates in a separate volume. He has also given in the Christian Observer, for October, 1812, an interesting account of the Ethiopic Christians in Abyssinia ; who amount to many millions ; whose origin may be safely traced to the apostolic age; and who, having the same ordinances with other Christians, possessing likewise pure doctrine, and copies of the Holy Scriptures, which, though they have descended to them in an independent channel, agree in all essential points with our own,—thus furnish another powerful evidence of the genuineness of the sacred writings.
11 Peter, iii. 15.
we have a sure word of prophecy, whereunto we do dwell that we take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in our hearts?.
Prophecy, viewed in the sense we now wish to contemplate it, that is, as implying the knowledge and announcement of things, which are either secret in their own nature, as the mind and will of God, or so remote in point of space, or distant in point of time, as to be undiscoverable by human skill and foresight; or simply, as denoting the prediction of future events depending on the action of free agents, was obviously never intended as evidence of an original revelation. It is plainly unfit for such a purpose, because it is impossible, without some extrinsic proof of its divine origin, to know whether any prophecy be true or false, till the æra arrive at which it ought to be accomplished. Yet
? 2 Peter, i. 19.
3 I bere give this restricted definition, because the word is sometimes used in Scripture to denote preaching or teaching. See Nehemiah, vi. 7, 1 Cor. xiv. 1, 3, 4, &c. Indeed, we find the word prophesying in Scripture used to denote in general the speaking, or writing, by Divine revelation, whether with reference to doctrines or to matter of fact.