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it appeared to him to abound with errours, in regard as well to facts as to opinions; to leave no standard for the determining on the genuineness of any passage, or of any book of what is generally received as scripture; and even to do away all certainty of there being any such volume as that of the New Testament, handed down from the time of the apostles. For this reason, he has thought himself called on, by the considerations which led to the present work, to take especial notice of the version here referred to. He neither judges of the motives of any description of people; nor does he calculate the degree of influence which unperceived prejudice may acquire, in the formation of such statements as are to be noticed. The contemplated object is independent on the characters of persons; but the discharge of pastoral duty, in pointing out what is here thought to be a depraving of the word of God; not by human reasonings only, as is common in controversy, but in many instances, by an unwarrantable alteration of the text itself.
The contemplated limits, falling far short of a full examination of the book, will allow of no more than such suggestions, as may prove a clue for the detection of the most conspicuous of its errours: which will be essayed under the following remarks.
First Remark: The liberty taken with the first two chapters of the gospel of St. Matthew, is contrary to the principles of sound criticism; and destructive of all certainty, as to the genuineness of holy scrip
The whole of the first two chapters is printed in italicks, except the first fifteen verses of the first chapter. The reason given in a note, is that they are of doubtful authority: and the note is so constructed, as to intimate the belief, that they are spurious. They are acknowledged by the Improvers, to be found in all the manuscripts and versions now extant: but they are said by the same. persons, to have been wanting in the copies which
were used by the Ebionites and the Nazarenes: and this allegation is rested on the authorities of Epiphanius and Jerome.*
The present author has consulted the works of these two fathers-he believes with sufficient care -without finding any such testimony in either of them, concerning the Nazarenes. But of this sect he finds the former father affirming-" They have the Hebrew gospel of Matthew: for this most certainly, as it was written in Hebrew letters, they keep to this time entire. But I know not whether they have cut off the genealogies, which are brought down from Abraham to Christ." Epiphanius had no doubt as to any part of the book, except the genealogy. He testifies to their retaining of all which the Improvers have omitted, on their alleged authority; and he only doubts of a few verses which the Improvers retain, although they suppose that there is not the authority of the Nazarenes, as to that exception.
The above would not be said without an apprehension, that something apparently to the effect of the version might be in the voluminous works of he said two ancient authors; were it not, that if so, t must have been overlooked by the exact and diligent Michaelis. For after giving from Epiphanius hat part of the preceding quotation which relates o the genealogy, he adds-" Jerome, who had the greatest knowledge of this subject, has no where positively declared, whether the Nazarene gospel had these two chapters, or not." This silence is ac
The Improvers might and ought to have acknowledged, that the two cha te's, besides the support of all the ancient copies and versions, have that of ancient authors also; mong whom Justin Martyr might have been particu. ularly mentioned: also Celsus, a noted enemy of Christianity, vho wrote not long after. His work, as quoted by Origen, ontains express references to the chapters in question. Jusn notices the coming of the Megi and the slaughter of the nocents in St. Matthew; and the interview between the angel abriel and the Virgin Mother, in St. Luke:
counted for from the circumstance, that Jerome had given a translation, which is lost. Michaelis goes on to exhibit certain passages of that father which show, that the second chapter at least was acknowledged by the Nazarenes. These were incidental references; and although they have a positive bearing as to one of the chapters; yet there being none such for the other, will not prove that it was wanting.
That the Ebionites rejected the first two chap. ters of the gospel of St. Matthew, is fully attested. But by what authority do the improvers call that sect and the Nazarenes, the ancient Hebrew Christians? There is not a particle of any such authority; or any evidence that either of the sects existed, before the rebuilding of Jerusalem under the name of Ælia, when about a quarter of the second century had expired. This was a juncture peculiarly favour. able to the rise of those sects; both of which were characterized by their adherence to the ritual law. The Jewish Church had subsisted under bishops of the circumcision, until the period referred to; and the names of the bishops have been handed down, beginning with that of St. James, with as much ap pearance of authenticity, as the names of the R manemperours. The prejudices of the sects in ques tion must have been the remains of the attachmert of the Jewish Christians generally, to their law; which received its first shock by the result of the council held in Jerusalem, as related in the fifteent chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. After this, the Church of Jerusalem flourished in the profession of the common faith of Christians, before the rise o' those sects, during their existence, and after the had gone to ruin. When that Church, perceiving unequivocal evidence of the destruction of the Jew ish polity, had done away all observances discrim nating between them and the Gentile Churches,it is not to be wondered at, that a secession took plac on this ground. Of these seceders, some, under tie
name of "Nazarenes,"* persevered in the common faith of Christians, while others, under the name of "Ebionites," held the simple humanity of Christ. The admission of their testimony in the present instance carries the implication, that the labours of the apostles among the Gentiles had been in vain; and that in respect to the person of the Redeemer, the truth remained with those Jews only, who could not be persuaded, that the partition wall between them and the Gentiles had been broken down, and that they were both one in Christ.
It is here believed, then, that the statement of the Improvers is erroneous as to the Nazarenes, and irrelevant as to the Ebionites. But in regard to the latter, if their sanction be of authority, why is it not acted on consistently? Why are not the other three gospels rejected in mass, after the same example? And why not the epistles of St. Paul, which were rejected also by these ancient Hebrew Christians, as they are called; and who abhorred the author of those epistles, as an apostate from their law? No rule of scripture will sustain their testimony concerning the genuineness of scripture as to the first particular, and yet invalidate it in the other instances. Especially, why was the genealogy retained? The answer given in a note is because Cerinthus and Carpocrates accused the Ebionites of expunging it. Cerinthus became a leader among the Gnostick sect; who are understood to be frequently referred to with censure, by St. John in his epistles. They held, that the world was created by a malevolent being, with other profane absurdities. As for Carpocrates, he is said to have superadded
* The author, although aware that the fact affirmed, as to the Nazarenes, has been denied, speaks according to his own convictions; the result formerly of attention to bishop Bull's writings against Daniel Zwicker, a Prussian; and in later years, bishop Horseley's writings, in answer to Dr. Priestley. The going into the question, is not necessary to the object of the present remarks on the version.
to the Gnostick system, not merely the permission, but the obligation of practising all sorts of vice. The testimony of these two men is accepted by the Improvers, even against their favourite Ebionites.
The reason is obvious: It seemed to favour the design of establishing the simple humanity of Christ. And yet there may be a question, whether the contrary be not the obvious result. Why should the Ebionites have left out the genealogy, on the principle supposed? They held the simple humanity, no less than the Gnosticks, who had superadded to it the descent of the Divinity at baptism. Accordingly the natural construction is, that the Ebionites, more consistent than the Improvers, left out the genealogy, because of its being inseparably connected with the rest of the chapter. Cerinthus and Carpocrates, in censuring them for this, bear testimony to the original integrity of the gospel.
We have not yet reached the extent of the evil; which strikes at the evidence of the whole New Testament, Some have rested this evidence on the votes of general councils; and others on testimony in the mind of every individual believer: but neither of these theories would be owned by the Improvers. The ground taken by the Church of England, and—as is here supposed by Protestant Communions generally, is the successive testimony of the Church.*
This is of the same nature with that borne by courts and legislatures, to their respective records: which is a species of evidence, found by experience to command the assent of collective bodies of men. But what
It is not here intended to deny, that there may be conviction arising from experience of the power of religion in moulding the inward character; by destroying the empire of sin in the heart, and by subjecting it to the influence of graCious dispositions and desires But this is a species of evidence, which cannot be opposed to infidelity.
Further, by the testimony of the Church, it is here supposed, that there is understood the Jewish as to the books of the Old Testament, until the beginning of the Christian æra; and of the Christian Church, both as to those of the Old and those of the New.