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parts of the New Testament history, I nevertheless hope to point out features of truth, numerous and significant enough to create a lively sense of reality; and to induce an impartial mind to draw no conclusions from any portions of these books, however obscure and difficult, which do not go to establish powerfully their substantial credit.

2. In the exposition of that beautiful argument for the truth of the Scripture History of St. Paul, stated with so much felicity by Dr. Paley in his Hora Paulinæ, he has this language: "The reader is at liberty to suppose these writings (the Epistles of Paul and the Book of Acts,) to have been lately discovered in the library of the Escurial, and to come to our hands, destitute of any extrinsic or collateral evidence whatever; and the argument I am about to offer is calculated to show that a comparison of the different writings would, even under these circumstances, afford good reason to believe the persons and transactions to have been real, the letters authentic, and the narration in the main to be true." I am ready to make a similar concession-to suppose that the four Gospels, as they are called, have just been discovered under some ancient ruins-that the names even by which they are designated, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have been obliterated-that they are anonymous. Even if the reader incline to the idea that the four gospels are only different versions of one story-one original gospel, it will not materially affect the present argument. Still I trust it will appear that these books are the productions of truth and honesty that the accounts they contain were drawn

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ANTIQUITY OF THE GOSPELS ASSUMED.

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from persons present on the spot-in fine, that they are not legends, fictions, romances, but true histories of real persons and real events.

There is one thing, however, respecting these writings, which, it is obvious, I intend to assume, their antiquity; not, however, because even this point may not be very satisfactorily made out from their internal structure. If they were now suddenly placed before us for the first time, from what quarter we knew not, there would be incontestable evidence that they were not the productions of any recent period. There is no work so general and abstract that it is not in innumerable particulars indelibly impressed by the age in which it appears. A biographical or historical work, abounding in notices of places, persons, manners, customs, and sentiments, in certain modes of thought and expression, furnishes on its very face, the means of fixing its date with some approach to correctness. This is the case with the writings which we are now to consider. They are antique in their whole cos

tume. They could not have been written in this age, nor at any time very far removed from that at which they are generally believed to have been composed, because they bear none of the impressions of any such time. I do not insist that their date can be fixed with precision merely from internal marks, but that they show beyond all doubt that they were written very near the time to which they are usually referred. It is not the direct notices of time, found here and there in these writings, which constitute indubitable signs of antiquity, because such notices might

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THE ANTIQUITY OF THE GOSPELS.

easily have been forged and interwoven with these narrations, even had they been produced at a much later period. It is their numerous and familiar references to the customs and opinions of a certain age, their peculiar forms of expression and thought, connected with the absence of all allusions to modes of thinking and speaking prevalent in all subsequent ages, that help us so effectually to determine the period to which they should be assigned. But it is unnecessary to undertake an enumeration of the evidences of antiquity abounding on every page of the New Testament, because there are hardly any so ignorant or so captious as to question the age of these writings. And if there are, there is one consideration at hand which seems to me must be decisive. You need not go back to the past to inquire about the existence of these books; consider a fact that presents itself before your eyes-the wide, and I may say superstitious veneration with which these books are now regarded. They lie at the bottom of the faith of many nations, and a complicated structure of forms and institutions rests upon their professed authority. How does their influence pervade the whole fabric of society-our public establishments, our systems of education, our modes of thought and language! The feelings of awe and sacredness which have gathered round these books cannot have been the growth of any brief period. The religious prejudices and associations of the human mind are not the offspring of a day, but the slow formation of centuries. The extensive circulation of the New Testament-the present fact that

THE ANTIQUITY OF THE GOSPELS.

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it is every where a familiar, household book, proves, I say, not its truth, but its age. The gospels must be hundreds of years old at all events.

But decisive as is the inference in favour of their antiquity from the position which they now occupy, it is not all. Their existence can be traced back some fourteen hundred years, to go no further, by a chain of historical evidence as strong and uninterrupted as the most sceptical can demand. And the earliest notices we have of them are not as of books then first published, just appearing, but of works even then extensively received and copiously quoted. A great portion of the literature that existed ages ago, bears incidental evidence not only to the existence, but to the influence of these writings. So abundant are the quotations from them in the works of early Christian writers, that it has been said that if they had been lost in their present forms, they might have been restored from the writings of the Fathers. At the commencement of the fourth century, Christianity was the religion of the Roman Emperor. The gospels must have had an existence antecedent to this event, the conversion of Constantine. Now, if we know that so long ago these books were extensively read, quoted, and vene. rated, the conclusion is inevitable that they were in existence years and years before. To have won their way into so wide a circulation-to have become possessed of so large a space and so weighty an authority, when no art of printing was known, and the means of intercourse and communication were so imperfect, must have been a

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METHOD OF THE WORK.

work of time. So that the Christian records must have been old, even when we find the first notices of them in early writings.

Assuming the antiquity of these writings, without further remark, I proceed to the proposed examination of their style and contents, upon the principle, that from every written composition, we may infer, more or less confidently, the character and credibility of its author. Every narrative, by the manner in which it is put together, enables us to form some conception of the intelligence, the amount of information, the spirit and the particular motives and prepossessions of the individual from whom it has proceeded. So that every history is unconsciously and unavoidably a history of its author. It is a virtual account of his mind and character, a representation of his moral and intellectual lineaments, of his qualifications for the work he has produced, of his claims to be believed,-in fine, of the source whence the history has emanated; whether it be the offspring of Truth, of Imposture, or of Delusion. It is true the motives which a writer professes, the sentiments he expresses, may not be his real motives and sentiments. Still Affectation is one species of Falsehood, and, as such, though it may not be as readily, yet is it as truly distinguishable from Truth as any other form of error. To different writings these remarks apply with different degrees of force. A work may be so brief, so general and so obscure, as to afford us but a very dim idea of the spirit of the writer. I hope, however, to make it appear that the books now to be examined are, to a re

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