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PROP. I. THE GENUINENESS OF THE SCRIPTURES PROVES THE TRUTH OF THE
PRINCIPAL FACTS CONTAINED IN THEM. FOR, first, It is very rare to meet with any genuine writings of the historical kind, in which the principal facts are not true ; unless where both the motives which engaged the author to falsify, and the circumstances which gave some plausibility to the fiction, are apparent: neither of which can be alledged in the present case with any colour of reason. Where the writer of a history appears to the world as such, not only his moral sense, but his regard to his character and his interest, are strong motwes not to falsify in notorious matters ; he must therefore have stronger motives from the opposite quarter, and also a favourable conjuncture of circumstances, before he can attempt this.
Secondly, As this is rare in general, so it is much more rare where the writer treats of things that happened in his own time, and under his own cognizance or direction, and communicates his history to perfons under the same circumstances. All which may be said of the writers of the scripture history.
That this, and the following arguments, may be applied with more ease and clearness, I will here, in one view, refer the books of the Old and New Testaments to their proper authors. I suppose then, that the Pentateuch consists of the writings of Moles, put together by Samuel, with a very few additions ; that the books of Joshua and Judges were in like manner collected by him ; and the book of Ruth, with the first part of the book of Samuel, written by him; that the latter part of the first book of Samuel, and the second book, were written by the prophets who succeeded Samuel, suppose Nathan and Gad; that the books of Kings and Chronicles are extracts from the records of the succeeding prophets concerning their own times, and from the public genealogical Tables, made by Ezra; that the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are collections of like records, some written by Ezra and Nehemiah, and fome by their predecessors ; that the book of Either was written by fome eminent Jew, in or near the times of the transaction there recorded, perhaps Mordecai ; the book of Job by a Jew of an uncertain time; the Psalms by David, and other pious perfons; the books of Proverbs and Canticles by Solomon; the book of Ecclefiaftes by Solomon, or perhaps by a Jew of latter times, speaking in his perfon, but not with an intention to make him pass for the author; the prophecies by the prophets whose names they bear; and the books of the New Testaînent by the persons to whom they are usually ascribed. There are many interval evidences, and in the case of the New Testament many external evidences also, by which these books may be shewn to belong to the authors here named. Or, if there be any doubts, they are merely of a critical nature, and do not at all affect the genuineness of the books, nor alter the application of these arguments, or not materially. Thus, if the epiftle to the Hebrews be supposed written, not by St. Paul, but by Clement or Barnabas, or any other of their contemporaries, the evidence therein given to the miracles performed by Christ and his followers will not be at all invalidated thereby.
Thirdly, The great importance of the facts mentioned in the scriptures makes it still more improbable, that the several authors should either have attempted to falsify, or have succeeded in such an attempt. This is an argument for the truth of the facts, which proves the genuineness of the books at the same time, as I shall shew below in distinct proposition. However, the truth of the facts is inferred more directly from their importance, if the genuineness of the scriptures be previously allowed. The same thing may be observed of the great number of particular circumstances of time, place, persons, &c. mentioned in the scriptures, and of the harmony of the books with themselves, and with each other. These are arguments both for the genuineness of the books, and truth of the facts distinctly considered, and also arguments for deducing the truth from the genuineness. And indeed the arguments for the general truth of the history of any. age or nation, where regular records have been kept, are lo interwoven together, and support each other in such a variety of ways, that it is extremely difficult to keep the ideas of them distinct, not to anticipate, and not to prove more than the exactness of method requires one to prove : or, in other words, the inconsistency of the contrary suppositions is so great, that they can scaree stand long enough to be confuted. Let any one try this in the history of France or England, Greece or Rome.
Fourthly, If the books of the Old and New Testaments were written by the persons to whom they were ascribed above, i.e. if they be genuine, the moral characters of these writers afford the strongest assurance, that the facts asserted by them are true. Falfhoods and frauds of a common nature shock the moral sense of coinmon men, and are rarely met with, except in persons of abandoned characters: how inconsistent then must those of the most glaring and impious nature be with the highest moral characters! That such characters are due to the sacred writers appears from the writings themselves by an internal evidence; but there is also strong external evidence in many cases; and indeed this point is allowed in general by unbelievers. The sufferings which several of the writers underwent, both in life and death, in attestation of the facts delivered by them, is a particular argument in favour of these.
Fifthly, The arguments here alledged for proving the truth of the fcripture history from the genuineness of the books are as conclusive in respect of the miraculous facts, as of the common ones.
But besides this, we may observe, that if we allow the genuineness of the books to be a sufficient evidence of the common facts mentioned in them, the miraculous facts must be allowed also, from their close connexion with the common ones. It is necessary to admit both, or neither. It is not to be conceived, that Moses should have delivered the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, or conducted them through the wilderness for forty years, at all, in such manner as the common history represents, unless we suppose the miraculous facts intermixed with it to be true also. In like manner, the fame of Christ's miracles, the multitudes which followed him, the adherence of his disciples, the jealousy and hatred of the chief priests, scribes, and
Pharisees, with many other facts of a common nature, are impossible to be accounted for, unless we allow that he did really work miracles. And the same observations hold' in general of the other parts of the fcripture history.
Sixtbly, There is even a particular argument in favour of the miraculous part of the scripture history, to be drawn from the reluctance of mankind to receive miraculous facts. It is true, that this reluctance is greater in some ages and nations than in others; and probable reasons may be assigned why this reluctance was, in general, less in ancient times than in the prefent (which, however, are presumptions that some real miracles were then wrought): but it must always be considerable from the very frame of the human mind, and would be particularly fo amongst the Jews at the time of Christ's appearance, as they had then been without miracles for four hundred years, or more.
Now this reluctance must make both the writers and readers very much
upon their guard; and if it be now one of the chief prejudices against revealed religion, as unbelievers unanimously affert, it is but reasonable to allow also, that it would be a strong check upon the publications of a miraculous history at or near the time when the miracles were said to be performed; i.e. it will be a strong confirmation of such an history, if its genuinenefs be granted previously.
And, upon the whole, we may certainly conclude, that the principal facts, both common and miraculous, mentioned in the scriptures, must be true, if their genuineness be allowed. The objection against all miraculous facts will be considered below, after the other arguments for the truth of the fcripture miracles have been alledged.
The converse of this proposition is also true ; ise. If the principal facts mentioned in the scriptures be true, they must be genuine writings. And though this converse proposition may, at first sight, appear to be of little importance for the establishment of Christianity, inasmuch as the genuineness of the scriptures is only made use of as a medium whereby to prove the truth of the facts mentioned in them, yet it will be found otherwise upon farther examination. For there are many evidences for the truth of particular facts mentioned in the scriptures ; such, for instance, as those taken from natural history, and the contemporary profane history, which no-ways presuppofe, but, on the contrary, prove the genuineness of the fcriptures ; and this genuineness, thus proved, may, by the arguments alledged under this proposition, be extended to infer the truth of the rest of the facts: which is not to argue in a circle, and to prove the truth of the scripture-history from its truth ; but to prove the truth of those facts which are not attested by natural or civil history, from those which are, by the medium of the genuineness of the scriptures.
PROP. II. THE GENUINENESS OE THE SCRIPTURES PROVES THEIR DIVINE
THE truth of this propofition, as it respects the book of Daniel, seems to have been acknowledged by Porphyry, inasmuch as he could
no-ways invalidate the divine authority of this book, implied by the accomplishment of the prophecies therein delivered, but by afferting that they were written after the event, i.e. were forgeries. But the fame thing holds of many of the other books of the Old and New Teltaments, many of them having unquestionable evidences of the divine foreknowledge, if they be allowed genuine. I reserve the prophetical evidences to be discussed hereafter, and therefore shall only suggest the following instances here, in order to illustrate the propofition; viz. Moses's prophecy concerning the captivity of the Israelites, of a state not yet erected; Isaiah's concerning Cyrus ; Jeremiah's concerning the duration of the Babylonist captivity; Christ's concerning the destruction of Jerusalem, and the captivity that was to follow; St. John's concerning the great corruption of the Christian church; and Daniel's concerning the fourth empire in its declension; which last was extant in Porphyry's time at least, before the event which it so fitly represents.
The same thing follows from the sublimity and excellence of the doctrines contained in the scriptures. These no-ways suit the supposed authors, i.e. the ages when they lived, their educations or occupations ; and therefore, if they were the real authors, there is a necessity of admitting the divine assistance.
The converse of this propofition, viz. that the divine authority of the fcriptures infers their genuineness, will, I suppose, be readily acknowledged by all. And it may be used for the same purposes as the converse of the last. For there are several evidences for the divine authority of the scriptures, which are direct and immediate, and prior to the confia deration both of their genuineness, and of the truth of the facts contained in them. Of this kind is the character of Christ, as it may
be collected from his discourses and actions related in the gospels. The great and manifest superiority of this to all other characters, real and fictie tious, proves, at once, his divine miffion, exclusively of all other confiderations. Suppose now the genuineness of St. Luke's Gospel to be deduced in this way, the genuineness of the Acts of the Apostles may be deduced from it, and of St. Paul's Epistles from the Acts, by the usual critical methods. And when the genuineness of the Acts of the Apostles, and of St. Paul's Epistles, is thus deduced, the truth of the facts mentioned in them will follow from it by the last proposition; and their divine authority by this.
PROP. III. THE TRUTH OF THE PRINCIPAL FACTS CONTAINED IN THE SCRIP
TURES PROVES THEIR DIVINE AUTHORITY. THIS proposition may be proved two ways; first, exclusively of the evidences of natural religion, such as those delivered in the last chapter ; and, 'econdly, from the previous establishment of the great truths of natural religion. And, first,
It is evident, that the great power, knowledge, and benevolence, which appeared in Christ, the prophets, and apostles, according to the fcripture accounts, do, as it were, command assent and submission from all those who receive these accounts as historical truths; and that, though B 3
they are not able to deduce, or have not in fact deduced, the evidences of natural religion ; nay, though they should have many doubts about them; the frame of the human mind is such, that the fcripture hiftory, allowed to be true, must convince us, that Christ, the prophets and apostles, were endued with a power greater than human, and acted by the authority of a Being of the highest wildom and goodness.
Secondly, If natural religion be previously established, the truth of the principal facts of the feriptures proves their divine authority in an easier and more convincing manner.
For, first, the power fewn in the miracles wrought by Christ, the prophets and apostles, the knowledge in their prophecies, and their good moral characters, shew them to be, in an eminent manner, the children, fervants, and messengers, of him who is now previously acknowledged to be infinite in power, knowledge, and goodness.
Secondly, Christ, the prophets and apostles, make an express claim to a divine mission. Now, it cannot be reconciled to God's moral attributes of justice, veracity, mercy, &c. that he should permit these persons to make such a claim falsely, and then endue them, or suffer them to be endued, with such credentials as must support such a false claim. Their claim is not, therefore, a false one, if we admit their credentials ; or, in other words, the truth of the principal facts mentioned in the scriptures proves the divine miffion of Chrift, the prophets, and apostles, i. to the divine authority of the scriptures.
The same observations may be made upon the converse of this proposition, as upon those of the two last.
And thus the genuineness of the scriptures, the truth of the principal facts contained in them, and their divine authority, appear to be so connected with each other, that, any one being established upon independent principles, the other two may be inferred from it. The first and second of these points are, indeed, more evidently subfervient to the last, than the last is to them ; for, if the laft be allowed, it is at once all that the believer contends for ; whereas some persons appear to admit, or not to reject, the first, or even the second, and yet are ranked under the title of unbelievers. It is neceffary to thew to such persons, that the first and second infer each other mutually, and both of them the laft; and it may be of some use to shew, that the last infers the two first in such a way, as to cast some light upon itself, without arguing in a circle; the divine authority of one book being made to inter the genuineness of another, or the facts contained in it, i. e. its divine authority also.
Here it may not be amiss to say something concerning the divine infpiration of the scriptures. Now there are three different fuppofitions, which may be made concerning this point.
The first and lowest is, that all the paffages delivered by Moses and the prophets, as coming from God, and by the evangelifts, as the words of Christ, also the revelation given to St. John in a divine vision, with all parallel portions of scripture, must be considered as divinely inspired, and as having immediate divine authority; else we cannot allow even common authority to these books : but that the common history, the reasonings of the apostles from the Old Testament, and perhaps some of their opinions, may be considered as coming merely