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us nothing ;—their meaning and value can only be fully under-ries of our earliest teachers, to acquiesce without examination stood from a previous examination of God's word,--and it is by in the fame of whatever was wonderful; and, from previous this book alone which his Spirit first dictated and now puts superstition, to admit the more readily a claim to supernatural into our hand, that the same good Spirit either guides us into power, from ignorance of those natural secrets which have truth, or shows us things to come, or pleads the cause of become obvious even to the vulgar. To detect the falsehood (if Christ against the malice of the enemy and blasphemer. It any deception really lay hid) in the acts which the early is, then, as Dispenser of Supernatural truth, and as Teacher Christians through Christ's name pretended to perform, was of the Doctrine of Redemption that the Holy Ghost sustains not a task which demanded the skill of an experimental phiand has sustained his character as the Comforter which should losopher, inasmuch as the removing of an obstinate malady is come. And we conclude as Warburton concluded, (though a fact of which the reality may be ascertained by the poorest he arrived at the same truth by a process somewhat different, villager. And of the prevailing parties into which the world and though he incumbered its definition with circumstances was then divided, there were two at least who had every which I have shown to be irrelevant,) we conclude that this possible interest and inclination to unmask if possible the instruction is now conveyed to the world, in the Scriptures claims of a new religion, the heathen priests and the Epicuof the New Testament.
rean philosophers. The first of these were disturbed in that To this, however, two objections will be made: the first monopoly of wonders which they had for so many ages against the authority of those writings which are accepted peaceably enjoyed: the second, opposed, as they were from by us as divine; the second against their sufficiency to pro- principle, to every thing which marked a superintending Provide for those spiritual necessities, to which the Church of vidence, had already, in no small degree, succeeded in making Christ and the individuals of which it is composed, are col- the altars of Jupiter ridiculous; and were little inclined to lectively and severally liable. The first of these objections suffer a new divinity to interrupt their dance of atoms. A proceeds from those various misbelievers who deny the authori- time of general irreligion (and such was, undoubtedly, the ty or inspiration of the several treatises which our canon of prevailing characteristic of that period of which I now am Scripture comprises; the second from such as maintain, that speaking) is, of all others, least favourable to a belief in the Scriptures, though divine, are of themselves a rule of miraculous powers, inasmuch as where attention is refused, wax which the prejudices and passions of mankind may warp all possibility of faith is taken away. to any system which pleases them; and, who seek, accord- Nor can a stronger proof be required of the prodigious seningly, in the jurisdiction of the Church at large, or of some sation which the wonderful works of the early Christians single ecclesiastical officer, a permanent and perceptible produced in all the civilized countries of the world, than the throne, wherein the Spirit of the Lord may dwell as the in- total and practical change, a change extending beyond the terpreter and administrator of those laws of which he is him- bounds of the Church, to the shrines and courts and schools self the Author.
of heathenism itself, from that general indifference to all reli'The first of these objectors deny the law to which we gion which distinguished the world from the days of Augustus appeal to be itself of sacred authority; the second demand to those of Nero; to that spirit of fanaticism which raised some aid beyond the original promulgation of the law, in up in Apollonius and lamblichus and Vespasian himself, the order, as they tell us, to render the law effectual. But the imitators at most humble distance of those works which inspiration of the Scriptures and their sufficiency to answer (they could not deny) were, in the case of the Apostles, genthe promise of our Saviour, are necessarily implied in an uine. Had not Moses first turned the waters of Egypt into hypothesis which makes that sacred volume the instrument blood, we should never have heard of Jannes and Jambres whereby the Holy Ghost continues to instruct and console essaying to do the like by their enchantments. the Church; and I am therefore concerned to maintain both Above all, however, there is an internal evidence of the the one and the other of these assertions, against the open strongest kind in those works which are ascribed to the enemies or injudicious friends of Christianity.
Apostles, which shows that their supernatural gifts were And, in the first, there are three propositions contained circumstances of general notoriety; and that they were of a which will require to be severally defended. First, the per- nature which, had they been so inclined, it would have been soual inspiration of the reputed authors of our sacred volume: utterly impossible to counterfeit. For not only did they assecondly, that the works which bear their names are with sert the power in their own persons of healing the sick, of good reason received as their composition: thirdly, that the speaking with unknown tongues, of foretelling things to come; authors were actually inspired at the time of composing the they asserted also, (and, in all the Epistles of St. Paul, we treatises in question, and that the rules of faith and practice find incidental references to this fact,) that others, through which they contain are, consequently, entitled to be received them and by the imposition of their hands, became partakers as the living dictates of Almighty Wisdom.
of the same Spirit with themselves, and performed the same On all these subjects I am well aware, indeed, that, as or greater miracles. And many of those Epistles contain from the multitude of my precursors but little of novelty is to specific and detailed directions for the use and improvement be expected, so the approaching termination of the present of such extraordinary powers, addressed to those who, in Lectures affords a very insufficient scope for doing justice common with the writer, possessed and employed them. even to any single branch of the inquiry. But, if it be allow- Now, supposing it to be possible, that a religious empiric ed me to conduct those doubts, which I want room to satisfy, might so far impose on the credulity of his admirers as to into channels where satisfaction may be best obtained, if instil into their minds the notion that he was himself a prosome principles of inquiry may be, at least, established, which phet and a worker of miracles; yet is it utterly preposterous may be improved by future diligence; neither my pains nor to suppose, that such a deceiver would attempt at all, much your attention will be altogether ill bestowed. It is some more that he should attempt successfully, to make his folibing to point the way to truth, though it be a path which we lowers believe that they themselves were inspired with mimust travel separately.
raculous faculties. To persuade me into an erroneous opinion, The first of those assertions, which our former proposition that Paul has the gift of tongues, is not beyond the compass contains, has been often and satisfactorily proved from the of possibility; but it is neither in the power of Paul nor of an miraculous powers with which the Apostles are said to have angel from heaven to induce me to believe, in contradiction been endued, and to the reality of which not Christian writers to my own sensations and experience, that I myself have such only, but the earliest and most formidable antagonists of a faculty. But the greater part of Paul's addresses to the Christianity appear to have borne an ample testimony. Thus Corinthians proceed on the supposition that those whom he Celsus does not deny the fact that the fonnders of Christiani- addresses, had, since their conversion to Christianity, both ty had a power of working miracles; he only argues against possessed and exercised this faculty or faculties equally wonthe inference which, from this acknowledged fact, the Chris- derful. So that either St. Paul, if he were an impostor, must tian sought to establish. The same admission is made by have done that which would have immediately detected his Julian the Apostate, as quoted by St. Cyrill. And the “Tol- imposition; or the miracles of the ancient Christian Church dos Jeschu," of all the Jewish libels on our faith the most are established as perfectly authentic. virulent and outrageous, which (though in its present form it Is it supposed that the Corinthian converts were accomdoubtless belongs to a far later period) contains some tradi- plices with the Apostles in their deceptions on the ignorant tions not unknown to Celsus himself, is full of the miracles majority of mankind? To what purpose then does St. Paul both of Jesus and the Apostle Peter.
thus gravely address them in a letter intended for their priNor can the credence which was given to these early mir- vate instruction, as if those powers were real which both he acles by the converts and even the enemies of our religion be and they sufficiently knew to be counterfeit ? Do not conjustly ascribed to any peculiar readiness in the contempora- federates, when together in private, make haste to lay aside
the mask? or do the kings and prophets of tragedy address ourselves the utter incompetency of Clemens or Hermas or each other in ordinary life with the same lofty language Polycarp to have counterfeited the narrations of St. Luke, which they employ on the public theatre ?
St. Matthew, or St. John; or the masterly train of reasoning For, the Epistles of St. Paul are none of them, we may which runs through the polemical writings of St. Paul! observe, immediately intended to enlarge the fame of Chris- What monstrous fables would have filled our Gospel history, tianity among those who were as yet without its pale, or to had Papias been its compiler! What endless refinements of attract from the Synagogue or the Academy an increasing allegorical and cabbalistic learning would have disfigured the harvest of converts. They are not, like the apologies of a Epistles, if the Fathers of the second century had palmed later age, designed to obviate the objections and remove the their own compositions on the world as the works of St. prejudices which the Heathen entertained against Christian- Peter and St. John! ity; but they are addressed exclusively to those by whom that I will go yet farther: when we find the Apostolic Scripreligion had been already adopted. Their differences are to tures so greatly superior to all other Christian writings of be appeased; their errors to be corrected; their firmness in the any sect or period whatever, can we forbear inquiring, from faith to be encouraged and preserved ; and their exertions di- what peculiar circumstance should this pre-eminence arise, rected in the proper path to victory. The Epistles to the unless from that inspiration in which only the Barbarian Corinthians, in particular, (though they contain truths which teachers of our faith can be supposed to have excelled their are interesting to all, and counsels by which all may profit,) Grecian converts ? do not seem to apply in the first instance to the whole body On the nature and extent, however, of this inspiration, a of the Achæn Church, but are a series of private instructions great but very natural difference of opinion has, in every age for the conduct of the Bishops and Presbyters in that opulent of the Church, prevailed: and not only have the open eneand factious province.
mies of our faith attempted to reduce the Apostolic writings And so little do we find of empirical ostentation in the tone to the level of merely human productions; but men, whom it with which the Apostle speaks of these extraordinary facul- would be uncharitable and unjust to accuse of disaffection to ties, that the object of his address is expressly to lower the the general cause of Christianity, have sought, nevertheless, high opinion which such persons entertained of the gift of to further the views of their particular party by diminishing, tongues and prophecy; to remind them that these powers, as far as possible, the authority of such parts of Scripture as however extraordinary and brilliant, were of an utility only have appeared least favourable to their claims; or, in their temporary; and that it was better and more blessed to excel in controversies with the infidel, have so greatly narrowed the common virtues of mutual temper and forbearance, than their definitions of the Divine assistance accorded to the to attract by their miracles the gaze of mankind, and to win earliest preachers of the Gospel, as to deprive our hope of over others to salvation, while their own hearts continued un- the corner-stone of its foundation, and to leave hardly more improved.
of efficacy to the written oracles of everlasting truth, than to If
, then, the writings of the New Testament be really the the dictates of earthly prudence, and the recollection of mortal production of those whose names they bear, the fact is cer- and fallible witnesses. tain, that their authors were men approved by God as in- It is not, on the other hand, to be concealed, that this low structors of mankind, and designated by him, through signs opinion of inspiration is the consequence, in some degree, of and wonders, to be prophets of his Son and organs of his that natural revulsion which an opposite and overstrained inspiration.
hypothesis is apt to occasion in acute and inquiring minds; And that these writings are really genuine, is a fact which and that, if modern Christians be in the habit of receding too rests on the united authority of internal evidence at once the much, the claims and language of some earlier doctors were most minute and pervading; of tradition primitive and uni- considerably too high and unbending. To state and to mediversal; of the acknowledged reluctance which Christians ate between the several schemes which have, on this imhave, in every period of their history, exhibited to affix, portant subject, excited and divided the attention of mankind, without long examination and accumulated weight of testi- must be the work of a future Sermon. mony, to works laying claim to divine authority, the seal of approbation and reverence. It is in this manner that the rejection by the Church of those numerous pretended Acts and Gospels, and Epistles, reckoned up by Beausobre, and the very difficulty with which some of the works contained in our present canon were admitted to that honourable station,
LECTURE VIII. may prove not only the indisputable authority of those in whose reception all ages and parties agree, but will also I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I show that none, even of those which were longest doubted, go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I dewere received without probable testimony.
part, I will send him unto you.—John xvi. 7. . Nor is this all: the Scriptures are yet more satisfactorily distinguished from the productions of more recent imposture Having established, from the fact of those miraculous by the weight of argument, the simplicity of narration, the gifts wherewith the power of God endued the earliest teachdignity of devotion, the peculiar grace of candour and au- ers of Christianity, the consequent fact of their prophetic thority, which every where may be seen to shine through mission, it might seem, at first sight, to follow as a necessary the rudeness of their Hellenistic dialect; and which, as they corollary, that to all their assertions, whether oral or comwould have baffled the imitation of the most artful impostor, mitted to writing, no less à deference was due than to the so none of those impostors whose works have descended to sacred oracles of God; that the entire New Testament, as our time have, in reality, attempted to copy.
their undoubted and genuine composition, must be received We have yet some spurious works which were offered, in as the embodied dictates of eternal truth and wisdom; and their day, to the reverence of the world, as productions of that, by this single present to the Christian world, the Holy Apostles and Evangelists; and we have fragments of many Ghost has sufficiently redeemed his gracious pledge of bemore, which the lapse of time and the merited contempt of coming through every succeeding age our Guide, our Guardthe Church have long since consigned to oblivion. But of ian, and our Comforter. how different materials are these composed from those which For, though two of the Gospels, and the narration of the distinguish the books of our present canon! Unnecessary Acts of the Apostles, are composed, indeed, by men who and childish miracles; discourses tedious and ill-constructed"; were not themselves of that number, and to whom we have and a temper altogether alien from that which is displayed no sufficient grounds for ascribing the gift of personal inspiin the genuine New Testament; sufficiently mark out the in- ration, yet were Mark and Luke the companions and amanofinite difference between the authentic oracles and human enses of the two most considerable elders, and the histories counterfeits of inspiration; and evince their hopeless daring, which bear their name were written, if we believe the almost who, with mortal flames, would strive to emulate the force universal voice of antiquity, under Apostolic dictation and and brightness of Heaven's own inimitable lightning. revisal. They even bore, among the writers, of the primi
When we compare, indeed, the acknowledged composi- tive Church, the names respectively of those two illustrious tions of the uninspired though primitive Fathers of the Church, teachers whose sentiments they were supposed to convey; themselves distinguished ornaments of Christianity, the pupils and were known no less as the Gospels of St. Peter and St. of the Apostles, and possessed, in all but supernatural aid, Paul than as the works of their familiar attendants. of equal or even superior advantages to the Apostles them- Had the case, indeed, been different, we have every reason selves; when we compare their writings with those ascribed to suppose, from the acknowledged conduct of the Christian to their illustrious teachers, is it possible to conceal from world in other and similar instances, that these works would
never have been received as standard histories by the great possessed, the image of those sounds must, on every principle majority of believers, nor have been placed on the same of reason and precedent, retain. If the Prophet himself delevel of reverence and authority with the corresponding pro- clare with accuracy those ideas which the Almighty suggests ductions of persons confessedly inspired. There were, we to his soul, it can make no difference whether he declare know, many other distinguished teachers, who were, as well them by the conventional sign of spoken or of written lanas Mark and Luke, the contemporaries and companions of guage. the twelve; and some of whom, no less than these Evangel- But this perpetual and pervading inspiration of the Aposists, have left behind them written relics of their zeal in the tles is unfortunately the very subject in dispute; and I have service of Jesus. Such was Clement, the “ fellow-labourer” shown, in my Seventh Lecture, that the divine assistance, of St. Paul; such was Hermas, whom the same great Apos- which we believe the Apostles to have enjoyed, may be more tle salutes by name; such Ignatius, who has been himself, plausibly regarded as a limited and occasional
assistance however truly, accounted as, no less than the Apostles, an only, a conductor not into all truth abstractedly considered, eye-witness of our Lord's resurrection.
but into every truth which was necessary to be known to the Yet where can we find in the annals of primitive religion Founders of the new religion of grace and pardon ; to the that the acknowledged writings of these men, or men like missionaries of a certain definite creed, which at various these, were appealed to by the Church as the charters of her times, and with various degrees of clearness, was communiprofession, or any otherwise rnade use of by the assembled cated to them by vision or inspiration. But if it be granted, faithful than as human sources of instruction ?
and I own I do not see on what principle either of reason or Again, there are certain treatises in our present canon, revelation it can be denied, that the guidance of the Spirit, as and many others which have at different times pretended to a vouchsafed to the Apostles, was, indeed, thus occasional and place in it, whose right to that eminent station has been limited, it must be an inquiry of the utmost delicacy and imseverely contested, both by ancient and modern criticism. portance to ascertain the occasions on which, and the bounds But the authority of such works has been contested, on the within which it was accorded. And so far as the Scriptures single ground that they were not in truth composed by the of the New Testament are concerned, it will be demanded, Apostles, to whose writing or dictation they were ascribed. first, what reason we have to ascribe any part of them to the That they are, many of them, of antiquity equal to the dictation of the Holy Ghost; and, secondly, how much of Apostolic writings themselves, that they are the productions them is to be received as proceeding from a source so sacred, of men who lived with the Apostles, and were the preachers and what is our criterion for distinguishing between the falof a common faith with them, as their strongest opposers lible opinion and the authoritative command, between the imhave admitted, so has not this admission been accounted by perfect recollection of an earthly witness, and the all-sufficient their most cager defenders as sufficient to establish their can- testimony of that glorious Being, to whom the past, the preonical authority. The dispute has been restricted by common sent, and the future are eternally and equally known? consent to their authenticity, and their authenticity only; nor If all was not inspired which an Apostle wrote or uttered, are they quoted as Scripture by any of the Christian Fathers, how many and of what nature were the orations or treatises who did not, as it should seem, believe them to have been the composed under celestial influence? How can we be sure work either of an Apostle, or his amanuensis. And so perfectly that those works of theirs which have been handed down to has the authority of this last been in every age identified with our times were indeed among the favoured number? Nay that of the Saint to whom he ministered, that, among the various more, what reason have we for supposing that any of their sects whose errors and controversies have deformed the face written compositions were inspired at all? What internal of religion, while some are not wanting who have professed marks of heavenly aid do they present? Where do they to build their faith on the testimony of Luke alone ; yet have themselves lay claim to a privilege so extraordinary? or where none been found who, receiving the Gospels of John and is the promise of our Lord, which would lead us to expect Matthew, have ascribed to their authority a higher rank than that such aid would be accorded? The Son of God, indeed, that of the two other Evangelists. A deference this, which assures them that, on certain solemn occasions of peculiar there could be no reason for paying to Mark and Luke, rather alarm and peril, when they were called before kings and rulers than to their companions and contemporaries, to Apollos and for his sake, and for the sake of the Gospel, their unpremeditatHermas and Clemens, if it were not that the former had been ed eloquence should be prompted and sustained by the internal in every age regarded as the channels of Apostolic inspira- aid of the Spirit. But we find, it may be urged, no similar netion, the official transcribers of facts or doctrines delivered cessity or promise in the case of such labours as were carried on by infallible anthority.
in the tranquil solitude of the study or the oratory, or which But though the writers or dictators of the entire New Tes-were addressed to private friends. But, are they their public tament are respected by the great majority of Christians as and official communications which only are to be received as messengers of the will of Heaven, yet, in the application of divine? At what point does the distinction between public this common principle to the authority of the works which and private begin? Are the letters to Timothy, to Titus, and bear their names, so great a difference of opinion has prevail- Philemon official ? The writings of St. Luke, which are ed, as may lead us to suspect that those who use the term of also addressed to an individual, can they or can they not be inspiration, have not been always agreed as to the idea which said to answer this description ? Such are some of the leadthey meant to convey by it.
ing difficulties which, on the question whether the ScripIn the language of the ancient Fathers, and in the ordinary tures of the New Testament were inspired, have been a opinion which, from feeling rather than conviction, has con- subject of triumph to the infidel, and to the weak believer, of tinued since their time to pass current with the Christian perplexity and alarm. That both the triumph and the alarm world, the gift of inspiration is to a considerable extent iden- have been alike premature, may appear, perhaps, from the tified with omniscience and infallibility. It has not been sup- following observations. posed to consist in a succession of distinct revelations, com- First, it was, a priori, highly probable, that the supernatural municated at various times to the person whom the Almighty assistance of the Almighty, which informed, on certain occaselected as his messenger; but it has been considered as a sions, the oral and extemporaneous effusions of the Apostles, continual and pervading obsession of the Deity, inspiring should direct, on others, their pens no less than their tongues to every thought and prompting every action, in conformity with the instruction and benefit of mankind. It was to be expecttruth and wisdom, and establishing the favoured individual ed that some of their writings, as well as some of their as a living oracle of God most High, whose lips were the speeches, should proceed from the inspiration of God. And fountain of universal knowledge, and whose earthly sentence this may be shown from the necessity of the case; from the was faithfully registered in heaven. And, if such were the analogy of the Mosaic dispensation ; from the promises of fact, no doubt could be entertained that, in their writings no Christ in the Gospel ; and from the assertions of the Apostles less than their words, and in every fact, every doctrine, every themselves. argument which their genuine writings contain, we are bound That the comforts and lessons of Christianity were intendto reverence and obey the declarations of the Almighty, no ed as a common benefit to every nation and every age of less than if we had received them graven on stone by his hand, mankind, it is altogether unnecessary to prove. It is a disor heard them proclaimed in accents of thunder from the pensation in which all are concerned, and which was destinsmoking summit of Mount Sinai.
ed, therefore, to be made known to all. The truths which it Between the tongue and the pen, as organs of expression, reveals are tidings of great joy, which the Apostles were to no difference can be conceived, which should render the last communicate to all people, and of which the knowledge was less proper than the former to convey celestial knowledge to to proceed both conquering and to conquer, till the universal mankind. If the inspired oration of a prophet be faithfully earth should be covered with the glory of the Lord, and till committed to writing, whatever authority the sounds at first the annointed Son should descend again in power to reap tho harvest of his sufferings. But, that to the extension and per- that for any point of faith the assertions of Scripture are not petuity of religious truth the existence of written documents sufficient authority; if St. Paul, for instance, were mistaken is a circumstance of the first necessity, will be allowed by all or insincere in his expressions as to the existence of evil who have, in common life, appreciated the uncertainties of spirits, or the immaterial nature of the soul of man; what popular fame, and the corruptible nature of oral tradition. reason have Christians for their confidence, that a future state Unless indeed, (what no religion, either false or true, has as of retribution may not be a faulty inference from insufficient yet pretended to,) the truth were in every successive age di- grounds, or a compliance with Jewish error? How are we vulged and guarded by, a never-ending line of inspired to be sure that, on the Unity of God himself, the apostles instructors; unless such instructors, too, were in every age themselves may not have mistaken their Master, or that the sufficiently numerous to be accessible by every believer; it Son of God has not, in this instance, conformed (as, they is apparent that the knowledge which mankind might retain blush not to tell us, he, in the case of the Demoniacs, conmust be more and more imperfect and impure in proportion as formed his manner of expression) to the established usages of it receded from the parent fountain; and that, without some speech, and the popular superstition of his countrymen ? storehouse of original principles, which might confirm the Nor is the case much bettered by supposing with Simon weak, recal the wandering, and expose and repress the wilful and Warburton, that, though of the New Testament, only a innovator, the religious opinions of the world would be little few conspicuous truths are immediately prompted by the less fluctuating and unstable than the fashions of our attire Holy Ghost, yet in all the rest the human recollection and and the varying idioms of our language.
reason of the apostles were so restricted by a superintending But that such a rule of practice and belief could be afforded Providence, that nothing can be found in their volumes by by the compositions of human and unassisted wisdom will which a material error can be introduced into faith or practice. be asserted, I apprehend, by none. A rule must, in itself, be For that is, indeed, a wretched sanction of a law, to plead that absolute and definitive, for it would, otherwise, be no rule at no harm can arise from following its letter; nor does any all. But human authority can never be definitive, since what- man obey the Scriptures as a rule of faith and conduct, beever right Augustin may possess to propose his sentiments cause there is no danger in such obedience, but because we as most agreeable to truth and virtue, the same right, un- incur the greatest of all dangers by a contrary course of bedoubtedly, has Jerome or Epiphanius to question the propriety haviour, a danger no less than that of disobeying Him whose of his decision. If the apostles thought fit, on their own detailed and definite injunctions are made known by these his authority, to recommend to their own followers the practice testimonies. We cannot, if we would, disguise it from ourof celibacy, it was not beyond the authority of any one among selves; if the general inspiration of the Scriptures be not those followers to declare himself of a contrary opinion. Or, conceded, the Scriptures are not the word of God; and, if not supposing the recommendation to have been a command, yet, the word of God, then have they no rational hold on our faith, provided that command was given in their capacity of ecclesi- our practice, our hopes, or our fears. They are the law of astical rulers only, their successors in the government of the the Most High, or denouncing, as they do, the vengeance of church would have, at least, an abstract right to reverse that God against all wilful transgressors of their precepts, that decree when it seemed to them expedient. Wherefore, in- holy name is used by them without authority, and their condeed, do we appeal in controversy to the apostolic writings, tents are imposture and blasphemy. rather than to the more learned volumes of Origen, of Cle- If, then, a written law be necessary to the extension and mens, of Augustin, of Chrysostom, if we do not appeal to perpetuity of religion; and if the qualities of a religious law them as the dictates of God himself? It is in vain to say, can be only possessed by a rule of God's dictation, it is nor will it, I apprehend, be urged in answer, that because beforehand to be strongly presumed, that a law which corPeter or James or John are in certain cases inspired, what- responds both to one and the other of these particulars has ever falls from their mouth is therefore to be received as sa- not been withheld from the followers of Jesus of Nazareth. cred, whether they are at that time inspired or no. Such an And this probability is yet farther increased by a consideraanswer would be obnoxious to all the difficulties attendant on tion of the analogy of God's previous conduct with the Israthe old hypothesis of a permanent inspiration, with the addi-elites under the Mosaic dispensation. It is no essential part tional and yet more portentous absurdity of ascribing that of my present purpose (though it is a task which, on a proper weight to human authority which the other only imputed to occasion, I should certainly not decline) to demonstrate the Divine. Who is Paul ? Who is Barnabas? Who are general inspiration of the Scriptures of the elder Covenant: James or John or Peter, that we should put our trust in them, but it is sufficient for my argument to adduce the acknowledged if our trust be not reposed in them as the accredited messen- fact, that certain written laws were given by divine inspiragers of the Allwise and Alltrue ? But, is it the messenger tion to the Hebrew Church; that Moses was commanded by himself whom we honour and obey; or is it not rather that Jehovah to write down his words in a book; and that the royal message which he bears to all the nations of the world, Prophets announce their volumes to the world as the express the subjects and children of Him who sitteth on the throne, and infallible dicta of the Most High. But, if a written code the redeemed of the Lamb that was slain? If, then, the of faith and morals be as necessary to the followers of Christ speech or the epistle on which we are commanded to build our as to those who were taught by Moses, it is probable that the faith, be not the authentic message of God, the only claim is advantage, which was graciously accorded to the introductory gone which the messenger possessed on our belief, our obe- and less perfect dispensation, would be, a fortiori, conceded to dience, and our attention ; and the sentiments of John, of those on whom the adoption and the ends of the world are Peter, and of Paul will possess no more authority than the come. private opinion of an herald or ambassador, abstracted from In vain, indeed, was it promised by the Messiah to his that law or treaty which only speaks his master's will. And chosen Twelve, that the Comforter which was to come, should these observations may suffice to show the weak and incon- guide them into all religious truth, if the truths thus resistent conduct of those who restrict the inspired commission vealed were to perish with themselves, or their cotemporaof the apostles to the delivery of certain important truths, ries and immediate audience. In vain did the Spirit implant which they style the essentials of Christianity. With them in the minds of his messengers a perfect remembrance of every it is indeed a frequent boast, that by renouncing the plenary word which their departed Lord had spoken, if those blessed inspiration of Scripture, they deprive, in many instances, the words were again to be entrusted to the dubious recollection, common enemies of the Faith, of that vantage ground from or still more dubious integrity, of their human and unassisted which they have been long accustomed to assail it. And it successors. I do not mean, that the leading facts on which is, certainly, convenient, in their controversies with other and our Christian faith is grounded might not continue in full more orthodox Christians, to reply to such texts as are force of evidence, and deserve by their native dignity our fulurged against their peculiar opinions, that the apostles have lest reverence and wonder, though the writings in which they in these instances spoken without authority; or that, how- are recorded were degraded from the rank which they now ever they themselves may have been enabled to think with maintain to the level of human compositions. In point of fact the wise,” it was no part of their commission to do otherwise this is even now the case, inasmuch as no one in his senses than “talk with the vulgar.”
would begin to prove the life, and death, and miracles, and reBut it is the misfortune of the Scythian mode of warfare, surrection of our Lord from the previous assumption, that the that it is only suited to a territory, which, like Scythia, is lit- histories which we possess of those occurrences were inspired tle worth preserving; and that the practice once begun, of and infallible compositions : but, as unfolding to us the seabandoning to the pursuer whatever parts of Scripture it does cret springs of Providence, by which those facts were caused, not exactly suit us to defend, no means of defence will at and the results to which those facts conducted; as affording length remain for those tenets themselves which we now re- an authoritative rule of life, and, on certain conditions, a no gard as of vital importance. If it be advanced and admitted, less infallible assurance of immortality; if the Scriptures are reduced to the level of a human composition, their force and professes to have written, by the express dictation of the efficacy are gone.
Spirit, to the churches of Asia Minor. That objection, then, We might still believe that Christ was born, and wrought is no less futile than common, which was first advanced by miracles, and died, and rose again : but those awful scenes of Spinoza against the doctrine for which I contend, that the power and suffering and victory would present, in such a Apostles themselves make no claim to inspiration in favour case, no further and no better practical results to the soul, of their writings. And, indeed, as it is a distinction utterly than the tale of Agamemnon or of Edipus. It would not immaterial, whether a man say, “This is the Lord's mesmore necessarily follow from the resurrection of one man, sage," or, “ I the messenger of the Lord speak this to you;": that all mankind should be raised from the dead, than it would the ordinary superscription of “ Apostle of Christ,” which follow from the manner of his death, that all mankind should, precedes the greater number of the treatises contained in the like him, be crucified, or that they should rise, if they rose, on New Testament, is an assertion no less absolute of official the third day after their dissolution. It was for God alone to and inspired authority, than if they were explicitly entitled declare, (and, if the Scriptures be not inspired, I know not " The Word of the Lord which came to his servant Paul,” where he has declared it,) it was for God to declare, in what or introduced themselves to our attention and reverence by the respect and for what reason our Lord was the representative old prophetic formula of " Thus saith Jehovah." of the universal human race. And, if this declaration has With still less reason has Spinoza urged, in answer to been nowhere made, we are dust and ashes still.
such claims as these, that St. Paul himself has, on a certain And, this probability that some written law would be given occasion, expressed himself as doubtful whether he spake to men, which arises from the necessity of such an assistance, by inspiration or no; and that, in another and yet more reis materially increased by the circumstance of that inspiration markable passage, he cautions his hearers against receiving which, we know from Scripture, was, at times accorded to that particular sentence as any other than his private opinion. the unpremeditated discourses of the apostles. There were, The first of these passages has been very clearly explained we know, occasions, when it was not the preachers of the to be no otherwise than an ironical reproof of those who gospel who spake, but the Holy Ghost who dwelt within affected to doubt his apostolic powers. With the solution them; and, if those orations whereby they themselves alone which Horbery has given of the second, I acknowledge that, were delivered from violence; if that preaching by which the ingenious as it is, I am not altogether satisfied. But, in immediate hearers only were benefitted, were instinct with truth, on the principle that exceptio probat regulam, this passuch a sacred power, it might be expected, on still stronger sage, as it is usually understood, is among the strongest grounds, that the same good guidance would not abandon proofs of the general inspiration of Scripture ; inasmuch as them in the composition of those writings which were to edify no one would state in his discourses or leiters that for such or a people yet unborn, and to convey the glad tidings of salva- such particular expressions he was himself to answer
, unless tion to the extremest corners of the earth, and to the latest he intended to imply, that in the remainder of his address he march of time. If the xbūp> x* #Turci nóg. were not suf- spoke from another and a higher authority. Nor is the same fered to go forth without a peculiar and supernatural Provi-objector much more fortunate, when he urges against the indence, is it probable that those documents which are the spired authority of the Christian Scriptures, that the Aposxráuzte és id of believers, the xsipešnox of our faith, our hope, tles, by their frequent appeals to human reason, surrender our daily practice, our apology and our crown among men, tacitly the character of God's heralds and instruments, for should not be stamped with the same broad seal of Almighty that of human doctors and disputants. “It is the part,” he truth, the same credentials of infallibility ?
tells us, “ of the Almighty, as it is the part of any absolute It was naturally, therefore, to be expected, that some cer- sovereign, to command, not to argue: since not only where tain writings of the Apostles would be sent forth under the the will of a sovereign is expressed is argument on the exdirection of God's Spirit; and, if this be once conceded, it pediency of that will superfluous; but since the very use of will not be easy on any ground of reason or likelihood to argument or persuasion to induce men to obey implies, in itdeny this sacred character to those treatises which are come self, a deficiency of power to compel obedience." down to us under their names. They are marked by every
But all these circumstances, so inconsistent, as we are character of official and authoritative documents; they are told, with the notion of a celestial command, are found in addressed by inspired men in their prophetic capacities, the writings of our New Testament; and it is therefore coneither to the general Church of Christ, or to the particular cluded, that whatever value they may possess as faithful branches into which that Church was divided, or to individ-histories of supernatural facts, or judicious expositions of uals who fitly represented considerable bodies of Christians. natural and moral duties, they can have none as authoritative And whether immediately addressed to individuals or no, declarations of the will of Him whose will alone is suffithey are alike on subjecis of public importance; subjects cient ground of obligation and obedience. where, of all others, the aid of the Holy Ghost was most I have given this objection thus at length, because it is, I needful and most to be expected; the exposition, namely, of believe, the foundation, in many instances, of that reluctance the doctrines of the Christian faith, or the regulation of the which has been so prevalent, to ascribe to our Scriptures the Christian republic. Nor, however slightly it has been of late honour which they may justly claim; and because, from its years usual to appreciate the value of tradition, can it be plausibility, it calls for a more satisfactory answer than the denied, that the universal prejudice (if it deserved no better learned Simon, in whose Critical History I first saw it, has, name) which, in the very earliest ages of the church, re- in my opinion, supplied. His answer may be reduced to the ceived as Divine those writings which they then esteemed following assertions : “ That prophecy is not to be confounded authentic, must lead us to suppose that these solemn instruc- with enthusiasm; that the Spirit of God which supplied the tions were communicated by the Apostles themselves, and Apostles with supernatural knowledge did not extinguish or received by those for whose benefit they were intended, with overpower their natural reason or their previous human acsome very perceptible and striking difference from such of quirements; and that it was permitted them to employ both their communications, if any such there were, as were dic- the one and the other of these lights for the purpose of pertated by their human reason or their private friendship only: suading the people.” and that, (as St. Paul is acknowledged to have done, in one Now this is nothing else than to admit that, though the remarkable passage of his Epistle to the Corinthians,) they subject matter of the argument be divine, and though the facts observed in every instance a broad and constant line of de- which is intended to illustrate be communicated absolutely marcation between the dictates of the Most High, and the and infallibly, the arguments and illustrations arise from the opinion or request of a simple fellow-creature.
Apostles themselves, and are, properly speaking, no part of And that the Apostles themselves Jaid claim to a divine God's revelation. But this, while it is an admission of the authority for the principles and precepts laid down in the utmost delicacy and danger, is by no means a sufficient anseveral works which are read in the assemblies of the faith-swer to the objection advanced by the unbeliever; since, if ful, is apparent from many expressions in those works them- it became, as he supposes, the Almighty, on all occasions selves. "In one of them Št. Paul addresses the Corinthians, where he taught his creatures at all, to teach them dogmatias "an ambassador for Christ,” “ as though God did beseech cally and peremptorily; it became him no less to direct the them by him.” “If any man,” he observes, “think him- tongue or pen of his inspired Apostles in the manner most self to be a Prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge those suitable to his dignity. And, above all, it would have been, things which I write unto you, that they are the command- on their part, a frantic presumption, to endeavour to supply, ments of the Lord.” Nor should we omit that the Epistles by their own glosses or observations, any supposed deficiency of Paul are mentioned by St. Peter on the same footing, and in the message of him by whom they were employed. It is in the same manner, with the avowedly inspired writings of more to the purpose to show, (and the means of doing so are the Old Testament, and that the author of the Apocalypse fortunately in the Christian's power), that it is unworthy nei