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with the strictest justice, be affirmed that a large portion of professed believers are not merely ignorant of the method employed for settling the canon of scripture, and of the principles on which the literal integrity of the text is to be determined, but that they evince an utter distaste for such inquiries, and a contemptuous indifference to the invaluable labors of the men who critically pursue them. Few Christians among us,' says the admirable Baxter,* for aught I find, have any better than the popish implicit ' faith in this point, nor any better arguments than the papists have, 'to prove the scriptures the word of God. They have received it
by tradition, godly ministers and Christians tell them so; it is impious to doubt of it; therefore they believe it. Though we could persuade people never so confidently, that scripture is the very word of God, and yet teach them no more reason why they should believe this than any other book, to be that word, as it will prove in them no right way of believing, so it is in us no right way of teaching. It is strange to consider how we all abhor that piece of popery, as most injurious to God of all the rest, which resolves our faith into the authority of the church; and yet that we do, for the generality of professors, content ourselves with the same kind of faith; only with this difference, 'the papists believe scripture to be the word of God, because
their church saith so; and we, because our church, or our leaders say so. Yea, and many ministers never yet gave their people better grounds, but tell them that it is damnable to deny it, but help them not to the necessary antecedents of faith. It is to be understood, that many a thousand do profess Christianity, and ' zealously hate the enemies thereof, upon the same grounds, to the same end, and from the same inward corrupt principles, as the Jews did hate and kill Christ. It is the religion of the 'country, where every man is reproached that believes otherwise ; ot they were born and brought up in this belief, and it hath increased in them upon the like occasions.
the like occasions. Had they been born and bred in the religion of Mahomet they would have been as zealous for him. The difference betwixt him and a Mahometan is more ' that he lives where better laws and religion dwell, than that he hath more knowledge or soundness of apprehension.'
The ground that still exists for applying these severe strictures, even very extensively, to the Christian church, must be our apology for entering somewhat at length into this subject. Though we feel fully persuaded that the dissenting communities are more awake to its importance, and contain a larger measure of acquaintance with it, than is to be found among the same number and the same rank of persons within the Established Church, yet we are deeply impressed with the necessity of inviting to it more
• Saints' Rest, part ii. sect. 1.
attention. Great good might be effected by popularizing a subject, unacquaintedness with which is undoubtedly one of the chief advantages permitted to infidelity, of which it has but too effectually and too disastrously availed itself, to the irreparable injury of souls, and the deep disgrace of the Christian cause.
It shall be our endeavor to present as concise a view as possible of the manner in which the canon of the scriptures has been settled, with some prefatory observations on their authority.
The two testaments are placed in widely different circumstances both as to their integrity and divine authority. The separate existence of the Jewish people, as a nation, through the whole period of their history to the present time, affords a sort of selfperpetuating guarantee, a permanent living witness, both to the general integrity, and divine inspiration, of their sacred books. Let us divest ourselves of all ideas both of the genuineness and authenticity of the Mosaic writings, and just take them up as we should works which we receive for the first time, an ancient copy of which is well known to have been long preserved. On the perusal of this professedly sacred book, we should say, if this is a true history, and bears the name of its real author, we shall find ample means of ascertaining its veracity, arising out of the events and circumstances which it records—for these profess to be national documents—a national theory of religion, a national code of laws-a national history, and all these so unique, so unlike every other thing of the kind, that, if false, nothing will be easier than the detection of imposture in matters of so public a nature; while, if true, their corroboration and establishment cannot be difficult. If the writer has composed a fabulous history, a fabulous code of laws, and theory of religion-or, if the whole be partly true and partly fabulous, then nothing could be more absurd than for the author to put this forth to his countrymen as veritable, because every one of them would be able to detect the imposture, while every surrounding nation would be able to confront it as mere fable. It would have been utterly impossible for such a complicated system as that contained in the Mosaic writings ever to have gained any credit, or to have preserved it, if gained, through a single generation, upon the supposition that it had wanted its counterpart in the existence, the history, the civil and ecclesiastical polity of a real people. Again, supposing the record in question not to have been made public at the time to which it relates, not during the generation that could alone have accredited or discredited its statements, but long after, then the total absence of all collateral testimony, the silence of contemporary writers upon the events it records, the complete unconsciousness among neighbouring nations of the facts it professes to relate, or even of its professed author, as the legislator and general of the people whose origin and history it pretends to recite-would go far to
prove it, either a mere fabrication of recent times, or, if really ancient, yet certainly fabulous. But if the document be incontestibly ancient, that is, of or near the very age to which it relates, then, from its peculiar nature as a public record, a national history, and a national code of law, and system of religion, there will be discoverable, without much labour of research, ten thousand collateral circumstances which will attest its credibility.
Now this book attributes itself to a certain person as its author, who represents himself as having been brought up in Egypt, though of a race distinct from the
native inhabitants, that he was educated in the court of one of its kings, that at a certain time he emancipated himself with a vast multitude of slaves of his own race from the thraldom in which they were held, led them out of the country, kept them in a migratory state for about forty years, carried on certain wars during that period with various neighbouring nations, and at length settled his people, or was the means of causing them to settle, under his successor in a certain possession, which they continued to hold for many centuries, in defiance of all the hostile attacks of powerful enemies, and all the casualties incident to a small and semi-barbarous people. These few facts, to say nothing of the rest, and of the more extraordinary ones contained in the record, supply various points of contact with other sources of information, by which the general truth or falsity of the work may
be ascertained. If this author was known at or about the time, as the leader and legislator of the Jews; if among the Jews and among other nations there remain traditions of these events accordant with the writings of Moses, if his name and character appear to have been familiarly known to his contemporaries of other nations, and if there is every internal as well as external evidence, that he was the author of the work ascribed to him, evidence at least equal to that on which we concede the genuineness of any other ancient writings, then we cannot reasonably refuse to accept these as the works of the Jewish legislator.
The Mosaic books profess to be a public record, and to contain mainly well known and public facts, though for a special religious purpose it extends its communication beyond the people to whom it particularly refers, and even beyond the sphere of tradition, to events and circumstances, concerning which no source but revelation could afford certain knowledge. But leaving what is strictly matter of revelation, we may find in that portion of its contents which related to the Jewish nation sufficient means of testing its credibility. We wish it to be particularly observed, that it did not first come to light as an ancient document; it did not come forth, professing to have been written at a certain remote period, and to detail extraordinary events, of which nobody bad ever heard till it announced them; it had not remained buried, or locked up in some tomb, or cabinet, or in an unknown language,
through many centuries, till some discoverer brought it to light. But it was written and made public, and generally appealed to during the lifetime of its author, and in fact had become, long before his death, the law of the people over whom he ruled. The whole nation of the French are not more certain of the genuineness of the Code Napoleon, nor the English of their Magna Charta, than the Jews of that age, and of every succeeding age, of the genuineness of their Mosaic history, their civil and ecclesiastical code. From the time of its first promulgation, during the life of their founder and legislator, the whole nation were either in possession of the record, or fully informed of its contents; had read it, or were accustomed to hear it read, and recognized it, both as a true history of their public affairs, and an exact account of that peculiar religion which they had observed and practised from the date of their sojourn in the wilderness. At the time of their first reception of this work of Moses, there were alive a large proportion of the parties concerned in the history. It was in fact the history of themselves, and the main part, therefore, of the circumstances related in it, were as familiarly known to themselves as to their legislator. The publicity of the recorded events, as well as the publicity of the record itself—followed by its immediate reception by the whole people at the time, and succeeded by its unquestioned authority through all their future generations, afford to us an ample guarantee, both of its genuineness and authenticity. The whole nation of the Jews were the witnesses to the authenticity of the detail contained in the books of Moses, as well as to the authorship—and they are accordingly often and openly appealed to, as the still living witnesses to the truth of the matters therein narrated.
The generations that immediately succeeded that first race, which witnessed the transactions and attested the truth of the public records, were competent judges of these two points, first, whether such a public document had been in existence before their time, had been spoken of by their fathers, and taught to themselves as containing both their law and their religion, or whether it had first been heard of in their own day. The total silence of their predecessors or elders upon the record or the matters contained in it would afford a convincing proof that it could not have had any previous existence, and certainly could not have been known as a public document, the only accredited standard of law and religion. It would be hard indeed to conceive that the first generation after that contemporary with Moses, could ever have been deceived into the belief, that their law had existed as a written document before their age, if it bad only arisen to notoriety and been established in the times that themselves had witnessed. A nation may be persuaded to believe a thing on the credit of others-concerning which they could pretend to no
knowledge themselves. But no people, we suppose, were ever yet persuaded to believe that a law, enacted in their own days, · was enacted before they were born, or that an event they had themselves witnessed, had really not taken place in their own age, but properly belonged to that of their ancestors. It would hence be impossible to gain general credit for any public document under such circumstances. The obvious fallacy of its statements would effectually preclude its reception. No nation would suffer itself to be imposed upon by a record so utterly false. Its authority never could be established, even among barbarians. The attempt to persuade them that they had received their religion from their fathers, and had heard them tell of a law, a religion, and a history, all of which had first been divulged and published in their own times, would be rejected as too absurd even for fable. But the Jews of the time of Moses did receive his writings, as containing an account of facts which themselves had witnessed, and of the religious observances which commenced in their own age, as well as of the national polity by which they were first incorporated.
But the case is greatly strengthened when we advert to the nature of the facts recorded; for their being extraordinary, and in some instances miraculous, and yet all alleged to have taken place openly and before the eyes of the whole people, it would become still more incredible to suppose that an immense number of persons who had never witnessed any of them, should be persuaded to believe and admit they had. Can any one believe it possible for a living writer to produce, and cause to be universally accepted as true, a history which should state that all the contemporaries of his own nation, and of about his own age, had formerly lived in a state of slavery to a neighbouring nation; and that about forty years since, he had delivered them in a certain manner from that vassalage, and brought them into the possession of the land they inhabited ;—that in their course they had witnessed the miraculous dividing of a large body of waters to admit their passage ; that they had for a number of years been living on a peculiar kind of food, which fell in the night upon the ground, and was gathered every morning for their daily supply ? Not only would it be found impracticable to persuade a whole people that they had seen and experienced things so strange, when nothing of the kind had really occurred, but the very attempt would be ridiculed, and if it did not bring upon its author the indignation of his people, it would at least defeat itself, by sinking into immediate contempt and forgetfulness. It is not in the nature of things that it could be respected as true, or that the law combined with it could have exercised any authority over the understandings and consciences of men. The whole must have been instantly scouted as a barefaced attempt at imposition. It