Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

This point deserves a full and fair discussion.

What is the difference between the genuineness and the authenticity of a book? I answer, in the words of the Bishop of Landaff, in his Apology for the Bible.-" A genuine book is that which was written by the person whose name it bears, as the author of it. An authentic book is that which relates matters of fact, as they really happened. A book may be genuine without being authentic; and a book may be authentic without being genuine. The books written by Richardson and Fielding are genuine books, though the histories of Clarissa and Tom Jones are fables." Let this distinction be strictly attended to, and then we shall proceed without any confusion of ideas.

1

What proofs then have we of the genuineness of the Bible? I answer, the same that we have for the genuineness of any profane author. "What proofs," asks St. Austin, "have we that the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other profane authors, were written by those whose names they bear, unless it be that this has been an opinion generally received at all times, and by all those who have lived since those authors."i Is there any other way whatever? None. The nature of the case will not admit of any other. Would you give mathematical proof? It is absurd. Will you give moral demonstration? It is also absurd. Would you give the evidence of your senses? Still absurd. Would you say, it has been revealed to you from heaven? Folly and enthusiasm. In the name of common sense, then, what evidence can you give but testimony? And what testimony but that of the primitive writers? A man would be deemed out of his senses, that would advance any thing but testimony to prove that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, wrote the four Gospels. And yet I am to be pitied for asserting, that we cannot prove the genuineness of the Scriptures but by the testimony of the fathers. I mean, of course, the Scriptures of the New Testament; those of the Old are proved in the same manner, by the testimony of the Jewish Church. Your pity then is misplaced; I want none of it. You are the proper object of that milky virtue.

But although we cannot prove the genuineness of the Bible but by the testimony of the Church, yet, if we did not know who were the penmen, still the sacred writings might be authentic. For, as Bishop Watson justly observes, "a history may be true, though it should not only be ascribed to a wrong author, but though the author of it should not be known; anonymous testimony does not destroy the reality of facts, whether natural or miraculous."

Now, Sir, how do you prove that the facts recorded in the New Testament are authentic? How do you prove, for instance, that CHRIST was crucified, rose the third day, and afterwards ascended into heaven? You certainly would not say, the Gos

i Bishop WATSON'S Apology.

[ocr errors]

pels declare that these things happened as they are related; for that would do no more than open a way for the question in another form. The question then would be, How do you know that the Gospels speak truth? Would you not say, or, at least, ought you not to say, there were many eye-witnesses of those events, who, on the evidences of their own senses, communicated them to others, and they again to others, as we learn from the universal history of the Church?

Suppose, further, that you should assert that the miracles recorded in the Scriptures are a sufficient proof of their authenticity; might you not be asked, 'How do you know that those miracles were wrought? Would not the answer be, 'Thousands saw them, and were convinced by them, and declared their reality to others on whose testimony we receive them?" But if the bare assertions of Scripture, without any collateral proof whatever, are enough to convince us that miracles were wrought, then we have nothing to do in our disputes with Deists, but to refer them to the books themselves, and on their sole authority require them to believe. But unbelievers would laugh at this, and ask us, 'Who believed those pretended miracles? The answer is, 'Jews believed them, and, in consequence, became Christians; Gentiles believed them, and became the disciples of CHRIST.' Nay, some believed them, and yet did not embrace the gospel of CHRIST. So that we have friends and foes bearing testimony to those facts. And what would be the consequence if we had not those testimonies? Bad enough-we could not prove the authenticity of the sacred Scriptures.

Again: we have a book called the New Testament; how do you prove that its contents are the same as the four original Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and the Revelations? Would you say, 'The book, as we have it, bears the stamp of divinity? That would be begging the question. I want the proof that it is a divine book. It was written by inspired men, who proved their inspiration 'by their miracles.' 'This is undoubtedly an unanswerable proof. But what was written by those inspired men? Surely not our present copy; but the originals. How then does it appear that our present copy contains what the originals contained? 'It is taken from the oldest and best manuscripts that could be obtained? So far, so good. But how do we know that those manuscripts are authentic? Not, certainly, by comparing them with the originals as they came out of the hands of the Apostles and Evangelists. How then? 'By the testimony of the Church that they are faithful copies of still older manuscripts, and so on, up to the originals.' This is undoubtedly correct; for, in the nature of things, we can have no other evidence than the testimony of all ages for the authenticity of manuscripts. And thus we have fairly and completely come to our conclusion, that without the testimony of the fathers, or, in other words, of the Church, we cannot prove the genuineness and authenticity of the sacred Scriptures.

But perhaps you will ask, 'Is it necessary for all Christians to have clear and distinct ideas of this mode of reasoning, of this progression of proof?' I answer, No; for you yourself, for one, do not appear to know any thing about it; and yet I believe you to be a Christian. 'How then are they to be satisfied?" By the authority of the learned, or of the Church, that our present Scriptures are genuine and authentic, and then by the influence of those sacred books on their hearts and lives: for they must believe the Scriptures to be authentic, and in consequence to be the word of GOD, before they can produce in them the fruits of righteousness. But Is not this resting the conviction of the common people, that our present Scriptures are genuine and authentic, too much upon authority?' No; no more than their confiding in authority for the fidelity of our present translation. Here they must rest altogether on authority; and the authority is as much to be depended upon in the one case as in the other. There is not the least danger of being deceived; for Christians are divided into such a multiplicity of sects, all keeping a watchful eye on one another, that it is impossible for any sect to corrupt the Scriptures without immediate detection. This is the best security the common people ean possibly have for the fidelity of a translation, or for the authenticity of manuscripts; and in both cases, they must altogether depend upon authority.

Where now, Sir, is room for your pity? Where, for your affected lamentation on account of the precarious foundation on which I rest my hopes? Who would thank a man for his pity that has not discernment enough to select a proper object? The misapplication of pity, as well as of charity, may indicate a soft heart, but it is no proof of a correct mind. It proves feeling, but if affords no evidence of judgment.

We have now got to that point in this argument, that we can with propriety introduce the subject of the divinity of the Scriptures. When their genuineness authenticity are established on the firm ground of universal and successive testimony, then the question may be asked, 'What are the proofs that those writings possess divine authority? The proofs are numerous. The miracles prove the commission of the worker; consequently, what he delivers claims our belief; whatever he enjoins in the name of GOD demands our obedience. The prophecies, when fulfilled, are another proof of divine inspiration. The influence of Christianity on the heart and life is, I think, a circumstance of great weight; but I do not think that it can be deemed a direct proof. It may give confidence to the individual, but I am not certain that it can be urged in fair reasoning as a positive proof, that the principles whence purity flows are from heaven. Be this as it may, the authenticity of the Bible, on sufficient testimony, must first obtain our assent, before its contents can influence our lives, There are other considerations of some weight that might be mentioned; but it is needless; I have said enough.

[ocr errors]

These, Sir, are the strong grounds on which I rest my 'character as a divine, and as a Christian-on which I rest the whole weight of my salvation. If you have any stronger grounds than these, it would really be an act of charity to communicate them; for I can say very truly, that I wish to rest on the firmest ground possible. But if you have not, I shall consider your pity as impertinent, and your declamation as ridiculous.

There is, however, some advantage in this kind of management. When a writer does not choose, or is not able to answer his opponent's arguments, affected pity, or the usual exclamations Amazing! Strange! How weak! Who would suppose the writer to be in his senses! have great influence on the minds of many readers. So far you display acuteness. You find a weak part in human nature, and you apply to it; but a display of candour and forcible reasoning would be much more creditable and dignified.

I have now, I flatter myself, fully established my assertion, that we cannot prove the genuineness and authenticity of the sacred writings but by testimony; and if this kind of proof be conclusive, in respect to those writings, it must be equally so in respect to episcopacy. For both being matters of fact, both can be proved in no other way than by testimony. The testimony for episcopacy has brought us up to the apostolic age; nay, has brought us far into that age; for Ignatius, as I have more than once observed, spent nearly the whole of a long life in that age; and he asserts that the government of the Church by Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, is of divine appointment; and, consequently, that at no time did parity exist.

I should now proceed to examine what you have said in answer to my Scriptural proofs for imparity; but it may be well before I view this part of the controversy, to notice what you have further advanced in favour of Ruling Elders.

LETTER IX.

REV. SIR:

BEFORE I began to examine your proofs for Ruling Elders I observed, in my eighth letter,That were I to admit such an order, diocesan episcopacy would not at all be affected by it. As Bishops have not the sole power in ecclesiastical affairs; as Presbyters are their counsellors and assistants in the administration of Church discipline; so Ruling Elders, even supposing them to have an equal share in the government with preaching Presbyters, would by no means invade the negative power of Bishops.' Episcopacy then is safe, whatever may be the decision of the question.

I also observed, that almost the whole Christian world is against this order of the Church. The Roman, Greek, and Coptic Churches are against it. The Churches of England, Sweden, and Denmark are against it. The numerous sect of Independents in this country, and in Great-Britain, are against it. Nay, even Presbyterians are divided upon this subject. I quoted Bishop Sage as observing that "Chamier, Salmasius, Blondel, Ludovicus Capellus, Moyses Amiraldus, and many others, all Presbyterians, are against it." I quoted him as asserting, that "the whole tribe of the Belgic Remonstrants (keen parity men) are against it in their Confession of Faith ;" and that Baxter, in his preface to his Five Disputations of Church Government, says expressly, that, " as far as he could understand, the greatest part, if not three for one of the English Presbyterian ministers, were as far against Lay Elders as any prelates of them all." He confesses himself to be one, and he cites Mr. Vines for another. Now, on this testimony from almost the whole Christian world against your favourite Lay Elders, you make no observations, but very prudently pass it over; although of this kind of auxiliary you generally avail yourself, when you think you can get any thing by it; but I suppose, in this case, it must be considered as a mere cypher. Well, Sir, let it be so; I will take you on your own ground precisely.

You first endeavour to show from presumptive evidence, that the office of Ruling Elder must have been instituted by the Apostles. The amount of your observation is, that the pastor cannot individually perform all the duties which are included in maintaining government and discipline in the Church, as well as ministering in the word and sacraments. And you say, 'We can hardly have a better comment on these remarks than the practice of those Churches which reject Ruling Elders. Our Episcopal brethren reject them, but they are obliged to have their Vestrymen and Church-Wardens, who perform the duties belonging to such Elders. Our Independent brethren also reject this class of Church officers; but they are forced to resort to a Committee, who attend to the numberless details of parochial duty, which the Ministers cannot perform. Now, is it probable, is it credible, that the Apostles, acting under the inspiration of CHRIST, the King and Head of the Church, should entirely overlook this necessity, and make no provision for it? It is not credible.'

Now, Sir, is it possible that you should not know, that there is a wide difference between your Ruling Elders, and our Vestry, and the Independents' Committee? Let us see what the office of a ruling Elder is, from your own Form of Government.

Sect. i. chap. viii. "The Church Session consists of the Minister or Ministers, and Elders of a particular congregation."

Sect. ii. "The Church Session is competent to the spiritual government of the congregation," &c. Is this the business of

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »