« PreviousContinue »
if not impracticable of all imitations and the more as the idioms in question, instead of being simply inserted in the volume, are obviously incorporated or interwoven therewith. It is an infusion rather than a mixture; and what altogether precludes the theory of a fabrication, as aggravating tenfold the unlikelihood of its ever being realized, is the distinct and characteristic variety of style, which appears in each of the individual writers—another coincidence, by the way, between the internal character of the volume and its external history. There is no mistaking, for example, the signatures of one and the same hand in the gospel of John and in the epistles which are ascribed to him. And the same remark is applicable to the obvious mannerism of Paul-in whose writings we cannot fail to recognize the same energy, and affection, and argumentative vehemence, and abrupt transitions of a mind fired by its subject, and overflowing with its fulness every new channel which every new suggestion opens up to him. The argument is all the more enhanced by the peculiarities that obtain in the writings of Luke; and by the circumstance that Paul, notwithstanding the peculiarities of his style, gives abundant evidence of that more accomplished literature and general erudition, which harmonize with the accounts that are handed down to us by ecclesiastical history, of his superior education and opportunities to those of the other apostles.*
17. And we have to remark in this department
Michaelis' Introduction to the New Testament by Marsh, Edition 4th. Part I. chap. ii. sect. x.
too_in the external harmonies of scripture with other and separate testimony, as well as in its internal harmonies with itself—a great and general coincidence, between the whole history which it unfolds to us, and all that is known beside of the history of the world. And the history in the Bible is the history of the world; but under the peculiar aspect, in the language of Butler, of its being God's world.* He deduces a strong argument for the truth of scripture, from the immense number of places at which it lies open to comparison with profane history; and yet the manner in which it stands its ground, and bears to be confronted with all the informations and documents of antiquity. This argument for the general truth of scripture grows in strength and intensity, the more intensely it is reflected on. This book professes to be an account of the world regarded as the dominion and property of God; and, both in its commencement and its conclusion as well as its intermediate contents, there is a greatness altogether commensurate to this object—beginning as it does with the creation of the species, and ending with an account of the two distinct and everlasting destinies which await the two great divisions of the human family, In the conducting of this sublime narrative, there are references to beings and places external to our world, arising from the interchanges which are said to have taken place between the visible and the invisible—the occasional visits from heaven to earth, actual or alleged—the inspirations which descended
Analogy, Part II. chap. vii.
upon men; and, in the course of these allusions we have not only repeated notices of God, but of other orders of intelligence beside ourselves and of the relations in which we stand to them. Now, in the glimpses which are thus afforded of an extended moral economy, we are unable to confront the informations of scripture, with any independent knowledge of our own. We have no director personal observation of angels and spirits; and we are not in circumstances, either for obtaining a con
a firmation of the Bible, or of detecting, in its statements any marks of imposture—by comparing what it tells of things supernal to the world, with aught that we previously or originally know of these things.
18. But the Scripture not only offers notices and allusions in regard to matters external to the world; it offers these notices far more abundantly in regard to matters that are within the compass of the world, but external to the church and all which matters, unlike to the former, were within the compass of human observation, and many of which have been derived by historical transmission to ourselves in the present day. The truth is, that the Bible may be said to present us with a general outline of the world's history—as consisting in the movement of nations, in the rise and fall of earth's great empires, in the most noted chronological eras; and adventuring, as it does, both on the names of countries, and the monarchs that ruled over them, and the manners that characterised their people—never did imposture, if imposture indeed it be, so expose herself to a thousand lights of cross-examination, or so multiply
her vulnerable points, by the daring and extended sweep, that she has thus taken among the affairs
There is something incredible in a compact or conspiracy of deceivers, the scheme and spirit of which were handed down from one to another through a whole millenium; but that one and all of them should have sustained such a general historic consistency through the whole of that period, that no glaring contradiction has yet been detected, between the multitude of incidental notices that the penmen of Scripture have made to the countries around Judea, and at a great distance from it, and the actual state of the world—that sacred and profane history should so have harmonized, as that a consistent erudition, made up of an immense variety of particulars, has actually been raised and established out of the connection* between them—that there should be such a sustained coincidence from the first dawnings of history, and extended by means of prophetic anticipation to the present day—truly, apart from the peculiar evidence of prophecy altogether, there is much in the artless and unforced agreements which are everywhere spread over so broad a surface of comparison, as to stamp the strongest appearance of truth both on the general narrative of the bible, and by implication, on the miraculous narrative, that, without the slightest appearance of ingenuity or elaborate design, is so incorporated therewith.
* See Shuckford, Prideaux, and Russel on the connections between sacred and profane History.
On the Moral Evidence for the Truth of the
1. The argument of the last chapter is of frequent application in questions of general criticism; and upon its authority alone many of the writers of past times have been admitted into credit, and many have been condemned as unworthy of it. The numerous and correct allusions to the customs and institutions, and other statistics of the age in which the pieces of the New Testament profess to have been written, give evidence of their antiquity. The artless and undesigned way in which these allusions are interwoven with the whole history, impresses upon us the perfect simplicity of the authors, and the total absence of every wish or intention to palm an imposture upon the world. And there is such a thing, too, as a general air of authenticity; which, however difficult to resolve into particulars, gives a very close and powerful impression of truth to the narrative. There is nothing fanciful in this species of internal evidence. It carries in it all the certainty of experience, and experience too upon a familiar and well-known subject, the characters of honesty in the written testimony of our fellow-men. We are often called upon, in private and every-day life, to exercise our judgment upon the spoken testimony of others, and we both feel and understand the powerful