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fore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall show it be left to the uncertainty of tradition, but be preserved unto you."
uncorrupted to the end of time, the Holy Ghost moved But here it must be remembered, to the honour of the certain of these divinely inspired teachers to commit their apostle Paul, that being made an apostle for the purpose doctrines to writing in epistles, some of which they adof converting the idolatrous Gentiles, he laboured in that dressed to particular churches, others to particular perdepartment more abundantly than the her apostles. and others to believers in general ; all which are After having the gospel revealed to him by Christ (Gal. still in our possession. And that nothing might be wanti. 12.), and after receiving the power of working mira. ing to the edification of the faithful, and to the convercles, and of conferring miraculous gifts on them who sion of unbelievers, Luke, the writer of one of the gosshould believe (2 Cor. xii. 12, 13.) he first preached in pels, hath also written an history of the apostles, which Damascus, then went to Jerusalem, where he was intro- he hath entitled their Acts, in which the discourses they duced to Peter and James. But the Jews in that city, delivered, and the great miracles they wrought for the who were enraged against him for deserting their party, confirmation of the gospel, not only in Judea, but in the endeavouring to kill him, the brethren sent him away to different provinces of the Roman empire where they traCilicia, his native country. From that time forth, St. velled, are faithfully narrated. In the same history we Paul spent the greatest part of his life among the Gen- have an account of the opposition which the apostles met tiles, visiting one country after another with such unre- with, especially from the Jews, and of the evils which mitting diligence, that, at the time he wrote his epistle to the preaching of the gospel brought on them, and of the Romans (ch. xv. 19.), “ from Jerusalem, and round their founding numerous churches in the chief cities of about as far as Illyricum, he had fully preached the gos- the most civilized provinces of the Roman empire. And pel of Christ.” But in the course of his labours, having as, in the course of his narration, Luke hath mentioned met with great opposition, the Lord Jesus appeared to many particulars relating to the natural and political state him on different occasions to encourage him in his work; of the countries which are the scene of his history, and and in particular caught him up into the third heaven. to the persons who governed them at that time, the accuSo that, not only in respect of his election to the aposto- racy of his narration, even in the minutest circumstances, lic office, but in respect of the gifts and endowments be- is a striking proof of the truth of his history, and of the stowed on him to fit him for that office, and of the suc author's being, what he calls himself, an eyewitness of cess of his labours in it, St. Paul was not inferior to the many of the transactions which he hath recorded. So very chiefest apostles, as lie himself affirms. I may add, that, in my opinion, all antiquity cannot furnish a narrathat, by the abundance of the revelations that were given tive of the same length, in which there are as many inhim, he excelled the other apostles as much as he exceed- ternal marks of authenticity, as in Luke's history of the ed them in genius and learning. He did not, it is true, Acts of the Apostles. attend our Lord during his ministry; yet he had so Seeing then, in the four gospels, and in the Acts, we complete a knowledge of all his transactions given him have the history of our Lord's ministry, and of the spreadby revelation, that in his epistles, most of which were ing of the gospel in the first age, written by inspiration : written before the evangelists published their histories, and seeing, in the Apostolical Epistles, the doctrines and he has alluded to many of the particulars which they have precepts of our religion are set forth by the like inspiramentioned. Nay, in his discourse to the elders of Ephe- tion, these writings ought to be highly esteemed by all sus, he has preserved a remarkable saying of our Lord's, Christians, as the rule of their faith and manners; and which none of the evangelists have recorded. Upon the no doctrine ought to be received as an article of faith, whole, no reasonable person can entertain the least doubt nor any precept acknowledged as obligatory, but what is of St. Paul's title to the apostleship. As little can there contained in these writings. With respect, however, to be any doubt concerning that high degree of illumination the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, let it be reand miraculous power which was bestowed on him to marked, that while the greatest regard is due to them, render his ministry successful.
especially to the Gospels, because they contain the words III. Because the author of the Christian religion left of Christ himself, we are not in them to look for a full nothing in writing for the instruction of the world, the account of the gospel scheme. Their professed design apostles and others, who were eyewitnesses of his vir- is to give, not a complete delineation of our religion, but tues, his miracles, his sufferings, his resurrection and as the history of its Founder, and of that illustrious display cension, and who heard his divine discourses, besides which he made of his glory as the Son of God and Sapreaching these things to all nations, have taken care viour of the world, together with an account of tho that the knowledge of them should not be left to the un- spreading of the gospel after our Lord's ascension. The certainty of a vague tradition, handed down from age to gospel doctrine is to be found complete only in the Episage. Four of these witnesses (who, I doubt not, were tles, where it is exhibited with great accuracy by the of the number of the hundred and twenty on whom the apostles, to whom the Holy Ghost revealed it, as Christ Holy Ghost fell at the first) wrote, under the direction had promised. of the Spirit, histories of Christ's ministry, to which the I have said that Paul excelled his brethren apostles, name of Gospels hath been given, being the same which by reason of the abundance of the revelations that were are in our possession at this day. In these excellent given to him. By this, however, I do not mean that his writings, every thing relating to the Lord Jesus is set discourses and writings are superior to theirs in point of forth in a plain unadorned narration, which bears the authority. The other apostles, indeed, have not entered clearest marks of authenticity. And because their mas so deep into the Christian scheme as he hath done, yet, ter's character as the Son of God was most illustriously in what they have written, being guided by the same displayed in the conclusion of his ministry, when he was Spirit which inspired him, their declarations and deciarraigned before the highest court of judicature in Judea sions, so far as they go, are of equal authority with his. for calling himself the Son of God, and was put to death Nevertheless, it must be remembered, that it is St. Paul as a blasphemer for so doing, these historians are far chiefly, who in his epistles, as shall be shown immediatemore full in their accounts of that period than of any ly, hath explained the gospel economy in its full extent, other part of his history. In like manner, that the reve hath shown its connexion with the former dispensations, lation of the gospel doctrines which was made to the and hath defended it against the objections by which inapostles by the Spirit, and which they delivered to the fidels, both in ancient and modern times, have endeavoured world in their discourses and conversations, might not to overthrow it.
In confirmation of this account of the superior illumina- ed to the antediluvians, in the promise that the seed of tion of the apostle Paul, I now observe, that the great- the woman should bruise the head of the serpent. So that ness of the mercy of God, as extending to all mankind, the gospel is not a revelation of a new method of justificawas made known to him before it was discovered to the tion, but a more full publication of the method of justificaother apostles ; namely, in the commission which he re tion mercifully established by God for all mankind from ceived at his conversion, to preach to the Gentiles the the very beginning. good news of salvation through faith, “that they might It is the apostle Paul chiefly who, by proving the prinreceive forgiveness of sin, and inheritance among them cipal doctrines of the gospel from the writings of Moses that are sanctified by faith,” Acts xxvi. 18. So that he and the prophets, hath shown, that the same God who was the first of the apostles, who, by Christ's command, spake to the fathers by the prophets, did, in the last days declared that faith, and not circumcision, was necessary of the Mosaic dispensation, speak to all mankind by his to the salvation of the idolatrous Gentiles. And as St. Son : that the various dispensations of religion, under Paul early communicated to his brethren apostles the which mankind have been placed, are all parts of one gospel which he preached among the Gentiles (Gal. ii. great scheme formed by God for saving penitent sinners; 2.), it seems to have been by him that Christ first made and, in particular, that there is an intimate connexion known to the other apostles the extent of the divine mer. between the Jewish and the Christian revelations; that cy to mankind.
For that the apostles, besides discover- the former was a preparation for the latter : consequenting to each other the revelations which they received, ly, those writers show great ignorance of the divine disread each other's writings, is plain, from the character pensations, who, on account of the objections to which which Peter hath given of Paul's epistles, 2 Peter iii. 15, the law of Moses, as a rule of justification, is liable, and 16.
on account of the obscurity of the ancient prophecies, It is St. Paul who hath informed us that sin and death wish to disjoin the Jewish and Christian revelations. were permitted to enter into the world, and pass through But all who make this attempt, do it in opposition to the to all men, by the disobedience of one man, because God testimony of Jesus himself, who commanded the Jews to determined, by the obedience of a greater man, to bestow search their own Scriptures, because “ they are they which resurrection from the dead on all men, and to give all an testify of him” (John v. 39.), who, in his conversation opportunity of obtaining righteousness and life under a with the disciples on the road to Emmaus," beginning more gracious covenant than the former, procured for them at Moses and all the prophets, expounded unto them from by the merit of that obedience.
all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself" (Luke It is St. Paul who, in his learned epistle to the He. xxiv. 27.) ; and who told them, ver. 44. “ That all things brows, hath largely explained and proved the priesthood must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and intercession of Christ, and hath shown that his death and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning him.” is considered by God as a sacrifice for sin ; not in a me. The attempt is made in opposition also to the testimony taphorical sense, and in accommodation to the prejudices of the apostle Peter, who, speaking to Cornelius of Christ, of mankind, but on account of its real efficacy in pro. said, “ 'To him give all the prophets witness, that, through curing pardon for penitents: that Christ was constituted his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remisa priest by the oath of God: that all the priests and sa sion of sins," Acts x. 43. The Jewish and Christian recrifices that have been in the world, but especially the velations, therefore, are so closely connected, that if the levitical priests and sacrifices, were emblems of the priest- former is removed as false, the latter must, of necessity, full hood, sacrifice, and intercession of Christ ; and that sa to the ground. crifice was instituted originally to preserve the memory of It is the apostle of the Gentiles who hath set the Sithe revelation which God made at the fall, concerning the naitic covenant, or law of Moses, in a proper light, by salvation of mankind through the death of his Son, after showing that it was no method of justification, even to he should become the seed of the woman.
the Jews, but merely their national law, delivered to them It is this great apostle who hath most fully explained by God, not as governor of the universe, but as king in the doctrine of justification, and shown, that it consists Israel, who had separated them from the rest of manin our being delivered from death, and in our obtaining kind, and placed them in Canaan under his own imme eternal life, through the obedience of Christ : that no diate government, as a nation, for the purpose of presinner can obtain this justification meritoriously through serving his oracles and worship amidst that universal works of law: that though faith is required as the condi- corruption which had overspread the earth. Accordingtion thereof, justification is still the free gift of God through ly, this apostle hath proved, that seeing the law of Moses Jesus Christ; because no works which men can perform, contained a more perfect account of the duties of moralinot even the work of faith itself, hath any merit with God ty, and of the demerit of sin, than is to be found in any to procure pardon for those who have sinned: that this other national law, instead of justifying, it condemned method of justification having been established at the fall, the Jows by its curse ; especially as it prescribed no sais the way in which mankind, from the beginning to the crifice of any real efficacy to cleanse the consciences of end of time, are justified: and that, as such, it is attested sinners, nor promised them pardon in any method whatboth by the law and by the prophets.
soever; and that, by the rigour of its curse, the law of It is St. Paul who, by often discoursing of the justifi- Moses laid the Jews under the necessity of seeking justication of Abraham, hath shown the true nature of the fication from the mercy of God through faith, according faith which justifies sinners; that it consists in a strong to the tenor of the covenant with Abraham, which was desire to know, and in a sincere disposition to do, the the gospel and religion of the Jews. Thus, by the lights will of God; that it leads the believer implicitly to obey which St. Paul hath held up to us, the impious railings of the will of God when made known; and that even the the Manicheans against the law of Moses, and against the heathens are capable of attaining this kind of faith, and God of the Jews, the author of that law, on the supposiof being saved through Christ. · Also, it is this apostle tion that it was a rule of justification, are seen to be withwho, by penetrating into the depth of the meaning of out foundation ; as are the objections likewise which mothe covenant with Abraham, hath discovered the nature dern deists have urged against the Mosaic revelation, on and greatness of those rewards which God taught man account of God's dealings with the Israelites. kind, even in the first ages, to expect from his goodness ; It is St. Paul who hath most largely discoursed conand who hath shown that the gospel, in its chief articles, cerning the transcendent greatness of the Son of God, was preached to Abraham and to the Jews; nay, preach- above angels and all created beings whatever; and who
hath shown, that, as the reward of his humiliation and be drawn with the greatest advantage. And, therefore, death in the human nature, he hath, in that nature, ob- all who wish to understand true Christianity ought to tained the government of the world, for the good of his study the epistles of this great apostle with the utmost church, and will hold that government till he hath put care. In them, indeed, they will meet with things hard down the usurped dominion which the apostate angels to be understood. But that circumstance, instead of have so long endeavoured to maintain, in opposition to discouraging, ought rather to make them more diligent the righteous government of God; that, as the last exer in their endeavours to understand his writings ; as they cise of his kingly power, Christ will raise the dead, and contain information from God himself concerning maijudge the world, and render to every one according to ters which are of the utmost importance to their temporal his deeds : and that, when all the enemies of God and and eternal welfare. It is true, the ministers of religion, goodness are thus utterly subdued, the Son will deliver whose office it is to instruct others, are under more peup the kingdom to the Father, that God may be over all culiar obligations to study the Scriptures with unremitin all places.
ting assiduity ; nevertheless, others, whose leisure, learnIt is this great apostle who hath made known to using, and genius, qualify them for the work, are not exmany of the circumstances and consequences of the ge- empted from that obligation. In former times, by the neral judgment, not mentioned by the other apostles. cruel persecution and obloquy which followed those who, For, besides repeating what Christ himself declured, in matters of religion, happened to go out of the beaten that he will return a second time to this earth surround- track, men of liberal minds were hindered from searching ed with the glory of his Father, and attended by a great the Scriptures, or, at least, from publishing what they host of angels ; that he will call all the dead forth from found in them contrary to the received opinions. But their graves ; and that, by his sentence as Judge, he will the darkness of bigotry is passing away, and the light of fix the doom of all mankind irreversibly, this apostle hath truth is beginning to shine. Men have acquired more taught us the following interesting particulars :—That just notions of the rights of conscience; and the fetters in the last generation of men shall not die, but that, in a which the understandings of Christians, for so many ages, moment, in the twinkling of an eye, Christ will change have been held bound by the decrees of councils and the. such of the righteous as are alive upon the earth at his establishment of creeds, are begun to be broken : so that coming. And having said nothing of Christ's changing the candid may now modestly propose the result of their the wicked, the apostle hath led us to believe that no inquiries into the word of God, without incurring either change shall pass on them ; consequently, that the dis- danger or blame. If, therefore, proper attention is paid crimination of the righteous from the wicked will be to such publications as are designed for the illustration of made by the difference of the body in which the one and the Scriptures, it is to be hoped that, in the progress of the other shall appear before the tribunal; and that no ages, the united efforts of many will dispel the obscurity particular inquiry into the actions of individuals will be which hath so long rendered some passages of Scripture needed to determine their different characters. The cha- hard to be understood; and the matters of fact above racter of each will be shown to all, by the nature of the human comprehension really made known in the word body in which he appears to receive his sentence. The of God, being separated from those which have been obsame apostle hath taught us, that, after sentence is pro- truded on it by ignorant or by worldly men, genuine nounced upon all men, according to their true characters, Christianity will, at last, shine forth in its native splenthus visibly manifested, the righteous shall be caught up dour. And thus the objections raised against the gospel in clouds to join the Lord in the air : so that the wicked vanishing, it will at length be generally received, and being left behind on the earth, it follows, that they are to acquire its proper influence on the minds and manners of perish in the flames of the general conflagration. He mankind. farther informs us, that the righteous, having joined the By attending to the various undoubted facts set forth Lord in the air, shall accompany him in his return to in the foregoing essay, every Christian must be sensible heaven, and there live in an embodied state, with God and of the divine authority of all the books of the New TestaChrist and the angels, to all eternity.
ment; and, by forming a proper judgment of the purpose It is St. Paul who hath given us the completest ac for which each of these books was written, he may easily count of the spiritual gifts which were bestowed in such learn the use he is to make of these divinely inspired plenty and variety on the first Christians, for the confir- writings. mation of the gospel. Nay, the form which the Christian visible church has taken under the government of Christ,
ESSAY II. is owing, in a great measure, to the directions contained in his writings. Not to mention, that the different offices of the Use which the Churches were to make of the of the gospel ministry, together with the duties and privi
Apostle's Epistles ; and of the Method in which these leges belonging to these offices, have all been established
Writings were published and preserved. in consequence of his appointment.
FORMERLY, books being of such value that none but Finally, it is St. Paul who, in his first epistle to the the rich were able to purchase them, the common people Thessalonians, hath given us a formal proof of the divine were seldom taught to read in any country ; and having original of the gospel ; which, though it was originally no teachers given them by the public, they were generally designed for the learned Greeks of that age, hath been of grossly ignorant of moral and religious truths. The vulthe greatest use ever since, in confirming believers in gar, however, of the Jewish nation, were better instructed. their most holy faith, and stopping the mouths of adver- For Moses having ordered his law to be read to the saries.
people at the end of every seven years, during the feast The foregoing account of the matters contained in the of tabernacles, in the year of release (Deut. xxxi. 10, writings of the apostle Paul, shows, that whilst the in- 11.), the knowledge of the doctrines contained in his spired epistles of the other apostles deserve to be read writings was, by that institution, universally diffused with the utmost attention, on account of the explications among the Jews. Besides, it gave rise to the reading of of particular doctrines and facts which they contain, and the law and the prophets in their synagogues. For, in of the excellent precepts of piety and morality with which whatever part of the world the Jews resided, they asthey abound, the epistles of Paul must be regarded as the sembled themselves every Sabbath for the worshipping of grand repository, in which the whole of the gospel doc. God, and for the reading of their sacred writings. Now, trine is lodged, and from which the knowledge of it can the Christian churches being destined for the same pur
poses of worshipping God, and diffusing the knowledge the apostle, which they had received; probably the letof religion among the people, it was natural, in forming ter which he had lately sent to the Ephesians ; for that them, to imitate the model, and follow the rules of the epistle is inscribed, not only " To the saints which are at synagogue. And therefore, seeing the reading of the Ephesus,” but also “ To the faithful in Christ Jesus.” Jewish Scriptures always made a part of the synagogue This inscription, therefore, like that of the epistle to the service, it annot be doubted that the same was practised Corinthians, implied that the Ephesian brethren were to in the church from the very beginning, especially as the send copies of their letter to the neighbouring churches, disciples of Christ, equally with the disciples of Moses, and, among the rest, to the church of the Laodiceans, with acknowledged the divine inspiration of these Scriptures, a particular order to them to send a copy of it to the Coand had been ordered, by their master, to search them as lossians. testifying of him. Besides, till the apostles and evange In the same manner, also, we may suppose the epistle lists published their writings, the Jewish Scriptures were to the Galatians was circulated. For the inscription, the only guide to which the disciples of Christ could have “To the churches of Galatia” implies, that the church in recourse for their instruction. But, after the Spirit of Galatia which received this letter from the apostle's mesGod had inspired the evangelists to write their histories senger, was to send a copy of it to the church that was of Christ's ministry, and the apostles to commit their nearest to them ; which church was to circulate it in like doctrines and precepts to writing, their gospels and epis- manner; so that, being sent from one church to another tles became a more direct rule of faith and practice to it was no doubt communicated, in a short time, to all the the brethren, than even the Jewish Scriptures themselves; churches of Galatia. In like manner, the apostle Peter's for which reason it was fit that they should be statedly first epistle being inscribed “ To the strangers of the disread in the public assemblies, to teach the brethren more persion of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithyperfectly the things wherein they had been instructed. nia,” the person or church to which that letter was deAnd, to introduce that practice, St. Paul, in the conclu- livered by Silvanus (1 Pet. v: 12.), was to communicate sion of his first epistle to the Thessalonians (which is it to the brethren nearest at hand, to be copied and dis.generally supposed to have been the first of his inspired persed till it was fully circulated among the faithful in the writings), laid the presidents and pastors of that church several countries mentioned in the inscription, unless under “an oath to cause it to be read to all the holy that service was performed by Silvanus himself. For it brethren," ch. v. 27.; that is to say, being conscious of cannot be supposed that Peter would write and send cohis own inspiration, he required the Thessalonians to put pies of such a long letter to all the churches in the widely his writings on a level with the writings of the Jewish extended countries of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, prophets, by reading them in their public assemblies for and Bythynia. The like method, no doubt, was used for worship, and by regarding them as the infallible rule of circulating all the other catholic epistles. their faith and practice. For the same purpose, John The apostles, by the inscription of their letters, having (Rev. i. 3.) declared him blessed who readeth, and them signified their desire that they should be read publicly, who hear the words of his prophecy.
not only in the churches to which they were first sent, The Thessalonian presidents and pastors being ad- but in all the neighbouring churches; and St. Paul, in jured by the apostle Paul to cause his epistle to be read particular, having given express orders to that purpose in á to all the brethren," it was to be read, not only to them his epistles to the Thessalonians and Colossians, we have in Thessalonica, but to the brethren of all the towns and good reason to believe that their epistles were read pubcities of the province of Macedonia ; and particularly to licly and frequently in the churches to which they were the brethren of Beræa and Philippi, and of every place inscribed, along with the Scriptures of the Old Testament, in their neighbourhood where churches were planted. that copies of them were sent to every church which had For that St. Paul did not intend his epistles merely for an immediate interest in them; and that, when the gosthe churches to which they were first sent, but for gene- pels were published, they, in like manner, were read daily ral use, appears from the inscriptions of several of them. in the churches: and that copies of them also were quickThus the epistle to the Galatians is directed “ To the ly multiplied. To this respect the gospels were certainly churches of Galatia ;" and the second epistle to the Co. entitled, not only on account of their authors being aposrinthians, “ To the church of God which is at Corinth, tles or evangelists, but because the matters contained in with all the saints which are in all Achaia.” Nay, the first them were of the greatest utility, both for the instruction epistle to the same church hath even a more general in- and for the consolation of the brethren. scription, being directed, not only “ To the church at Co The epistles and gospels, being the authentic record in rinth,” but “ To all them who in every place call upon which the whole doctrines, precepts, and promises of the the name of Jesus Christ."
gospel are contained, we may believe that, although no But while the churches, to which the apostle sent his injunction had been given by the apostles respecting the letters, were directed by the inscriptions to circulate them communication of their writings, the members of the as widely as possible, he did not mean, by these inscrip- churches to which their epistles and gospels were sent, tions, nor by his adjuration of the Thessalonian pastors, moved by their own piety and good sense, would be anxthat the autographs of his letters were to be sent to all ious to communicate them; and would not grudge either who had an interest in them. These divinely inspired com the expense of transcribing them, or the trouble of sendpositions, authenticated by the salutation in the apostle's ing them to all the churches with which they had any own handwriting, were too valuable to be used in that connexion. The persons likewise who were employed, manner. But his meaning was that correct copies of whether in transcribing, or in carrying these excellent his letters should be sent to the neighbouring churches, writings to the neighbouring churchos, would take great to remain with them for their own use, and to be trans- delight in the work; thinking themselves both usefully scribed by them, and circulated as widely as possible. and honourably employed. Nay, I am persuaded that The direction to the Colossians, iv. 16, “ When this epis- such of the brethren as could afford the expense, and tle hath been read by you, cause that it be read also in were capable of reading these divinely inspired writings, the church of the Laodiceans," is certainly to be under- would get them transcribed for their own use: so that stood in the manner I have explained. The apostle copies of these books would be multiplied and dispersed adds, " and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodi- in a very short time. This accounts for St. Paul's episcea.” The Laodiceans, it seems, had been directed to tles, in particular, being so generally known, read, and send to the Colossians a copy of some letter written by acknowledged by all Christians, in the very first age; as
we learn from Peter, who speaks of the epistles which his cribing them; and the persons who followed that business beloved brother Paul had written to the persons to whom being liable, through carelessness, to transpose, omit
, and he himself wrote his second epistle, chap. iii. 16. It alter, not only letters, but words, and even whole senseems, before Peter wrote that letter, that he had seen and tences, it is plain that the more frequently any book was read Paul's epistles to the Galatians, the Ephesians, and transcribed, the more numerous would the variations the Collossians. He speaks also of all Pauls other epis- from the original text be in the one that was last transtles ; from which some learned men have inferred, that cribed ; because, in the new copy, besides the errors pePaul by that time was dead, and that all his writings had culiar to the one from which it was taken, there would come to Peter's hands. Nay, Peter insinuates that they be all those also which the transcriber himself might fall were then universally read and acknowledged as inspired into through carelessness. If, therefore, the MSS. which writings; for he tells us, the ignorant and unstable remain of any ancient book are of a late date, and few in wrested them, as they did the other Scriptures also, to number, the defects and errors of such a book will be their own destruction.
many, and the various readings few; and as it is by the The writings of the apostles and evangelists being thus various readings alone that the defects and errors of parearly and widely dispersed among the disciples of Christ, ticular copies can be redressed, the imperfections of that I think it cannot be doubted that the persons who ob- book will be without remedy. Of this, Hesychius among tained copies of them, regarding them as precious trea the Greeks, and Velleius Paterculus among the Latins, sures of divine truth, preserved them with the utmost are striking examples ; for as there is but one MS. copy care. We are morally certain, therefore, that none of the of each of these authors remaining, the numerous errors inspired writings, either of the evangelists or of the apos- and defects found them are past all redress. Happily, tles, have been lost; and, in particular, that the suspicion this is not the case with the books of the New Testament, which some have entertained of the loss of certain epis- of which there are more MSS. of different ages than of tles of Paul, is destitute of probability. His inspired any other ancient writing. Wherefore, although by colwritings were all sent to persons greatly interested in lating these MSS., different readings, to the amount of them, who, while they preserved their own copies with many thousands, have appeared, the text, instead of being the utmost care, were, no doubt, very diligent in circu- rendered uncertain thereby, hath been fixed with greater lating transcripts from them among the other churches; precision : Because, with the help of sound criticism, so that, being widely dispersed, highly respected, and learned men, from the vast variety of readings, obtained much read, none of them, I think, could perish. What by comparing different copies, have been able to select, puts this matter beyond doubt is, that while all the almost with certainly, those readings which originally sacred books which now remain are often quoted by the composed the sacred text. See Gen. Pref. p. 12. note. most ancient Christian writers, whose works have come This, however, though great, is not the only advantage down to us, in none of them, nor in any other author the Scriptures have derived from the various readings whatever, is there so much as a single quotation from any found in the different MSS. of the New Testament apostolical writing that is not at present in our canon ; nor which have been collated. For as these MSS. were the least hint from which it can be gathered, that any found, some of them in Egypt, others of them in Europe, apostolical writing ever existed, which we do not at pre- the distance of the places from whence they have been sent possess.
brought give us, as Bently hath well remarked, the fullFarther, as none of the apostolical writings have been est assurance that there never could be any collusion in lost, so no material alteration hath taken place in any of altering or interpolating one copy by another, nor all by those which remain. For the autographs having, in all any one of them; and that, however numerous these probability, been long preserved with care, by the rulers readings may be, they have proceeded merely from the of the churches to which these writings were sent, if any carelessness of transcribers, and by no means from bad material alteration, in particular copies, had ever been design in any persons whatever. This important fact is attempted, for the purpose of supporting heresy, the set in the clearest light by the pains which learned men fraud must instantly have been detected by comparing. have taken in collating all the ancient translations of the the vitiated copies with the autographs. And even after Scriptures now remaining, and all the quotations from the autographs, by length of time, or by accident, were the Scriptures found in the writings of the fathers, even lost, the consent of such a number of copies as might those which they made by memory, in order to mark the easily be procured and compared in every country, was minutest variations from the originals. For although, at all times sufficient for establishing the genuine text, by this means, the various readings have been increased and for correcting whatever alteration might be made, to a prodigious number, we find but a very few of them whether through accident or design. Nor is this all: that make any material alteration in the sense of the pasthe many disputes about articles of faith which took place sages where they are found; and of those which give a in the Christian church, almost from the beginning, different sense, it is easy for persons skilled in criticism though productive of much mischief in other respects, to determine which is the genuine reading. These facts, secured ihe Scriptures from all vitiation. For the dif- which are all well known, prove, in the strongest manferent sects of Christians, constantly appealing to the sa
ner, that the books of the New Testament have, from the cred oracles in support of their particular opinions, each beginning, remained unadulterated, and that in the variwould take care that their opponents quoted the Scrip- ous readings we have the genuine text of these books entures fairly, and transcribed them faithfully. And thus tire, or almost entire; which is more than can be said o the different parties of Christians being checks on each any other writing of equal antiquity, of which the MSS. other, every possibility of vitiating the Scriptures was ab are not so numerous, nor the various readings in such solutely precluded.
abundance. See the note, Pref. p. 14, last paragraph. With respect to the various readings of the books of the New Testament, about which deists have made such
ESSAY III. a noise, and well disposed persons have expressed such fears as if the sacred text were thereby rendered uncer
Of the Apostle Paul's Style and Manner of Writing tain, I may take upon me to affirm, that the clamour of ALTHOUGH the sermons and cpistles of the apostle the former, and the fears of the latter, are without foun- Paul be much superior in sentiment to the finest orations dation. Before the invention of printing there was no and treatises of the Greeks, many who are judges of elemethod of multiplying the copies of books, but by trans- gant writing, I doubt not, will pronounce them inferior