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composure agree not among themselves, is very evident; and it is less to be wondered at if we consider,
to the apprehension of the reader in any other way, than by sending him to the books themselves.".
“ If it be true that we are in possession of the very letters which St. Paul wrote, let us consider what confirmation they afford to the Christian bistory. In my opinion they substantiate the whole transaction. The great object of modern research is to conie at the epistolary correspondence of the times. Amidst the obscurities, the silence, or the contradictions of history, if a letter can be found, we regard it as the discovery of a land mark; as that by which we can correct, adjust, or supply the imperfections and uncertainties of other accounts. One cause of the superior credit which is attributed to letters is this, that the facta which they disclose generally come out incidentally, and therefore without de. sign to mislead the public by false or exaggerated accounts. This reason may be applied to St. Paul's Epistles with as much justice as to any letters whatever. Nothing could be further from the intention of the writer than to record any part of his history. That his history was in fact made public by these letters, and has by the same means been transmitted to future ages, is a secondary and unthoughtof effect. The sincerity therefore of the apostle's declarations cannot reasonably be disputed; at least we are sure that it was not vitiated by any desire of setting himself off to the public at large. But these letters form a part of the muniments of Christianity, as much to be valued for their contents, as for their originality. A more inestimable treasure the care of antiquity could not have sent down to us. Beside the proof they afford of the general reality of St. Paul's history, of the knowledge which the author of the Acts of the Apostles had obtained of that history, and the consequent probability that he was, what he professes himself to have been, a companion of the apostle's; beside the support they lend to these important inferences, they meet specifically some of the principal objections upon which the adversaries of Christianity have thought proper to rely. In particular they show,
Ľ. That Christianity was not a story set on foot amidst the confusions which attended and immediately preceded the destruction of Jerusalem; when many extravagant reports were circulated, when men's minds were broken by terror and distress, when amidst the tumults that surrounded them enquiry was impracticable. These letters show incontestably that the religion had fixed and established itself before this state of things took place.
II. Whereas it hath been insinuated, that our gospels may have been made up of reports and stories, which were current at the time, we may observe that, with respect to the Epistles, this is impossible. A man cannot write the history of his own life from reports; nor, what is the same thing, be led by reports to refer to passages and transactions in which he states himself to have been immediately present and active. I do not allow that this insinuation is applied to the historical part of the New Testament with any colour of justice or probability; but I say, that to the Epistles it is not applicable at all.
OL These letters prove that the converts to Christianity were not drawn from the barbarous, the mean, or the ignorant set of men, which the representations of infidelity would sometimes make then. We learn from letters the character not only of the writer, but, in some measure, of the persons to whom they are written. To suppose that these letters were addressed to a rude tribe, incapable of thought or reflection, is just as reasonable as to suppose Locke's Essay on the Human Understanding to have been written for the instruction of savages. Whatever may be thought of these letters in other respects, either of diction or argument, they are certainly removed as far as possible from the habits and comprehension of a barbarous people.
IV. St. Paul's history, I mean so much of it as may be collected from his letters, is so implicated with that of the other apostles, and with the substance indeed of the Christian history itself, that I apprehend it will be found impossible to admit St. Paul's story (I do not speak of the miraculous part of it) to be true, (1.) That men are naturally blind and unacquainted with the things of God; and therefore their writings will hardly be con
and yet to reject the rest as fabulous. For instance, can any one believe that there was such a man as Paul, a preacher of Christianity in the age which we assign to him, and not believe that there were also at the same time, such men as Peter and James, and other apostles, who had been companions of Christ during his life, and who after his death published and avowed the same things concerning him which Paul taught ? Judea, and especially Jerusalem, was the scene of Christ's ministry. The witnesses of his miracles lived there. St. Paul, by his own account, as well as that of his historian, appears to have frequently visited that city; to have carried on a communication with the church there; to have associated with the rulers and elders of that church, who were some of them apostles; to have acted, as occasions offered, in correspondence, and sometimes in conjunction with them. Can it, after this, he doubted, but that the religion and the general facts relating to it, which St. Paul appears by his letters to have delivered to the several churchés which he established at a distance, were at the same time taught and published at Jerusalem itself, the place where the business was transacted; and taught and published by those who had attended the founder of the institution in his iniraculous, or pretendedly miraculous, ministry?
It is observable, for so it appear's both in the Epistles and from the Acts of the Apostles, that Jerusalem, and the society of believers in that city, long continued the centre from which the missionaries of the religion issued with which all other churches maintained a correspondence and connexion, to which they referred their doubts, and to whose relief, in times of public distress, they remitted their charitable assistance. This observation I think material, because it proves that this was not the case of giving our accounts in one country of what is transacted in another, without affording the hearers an opportunity of knowing whether the things related were credited by any, or even published, in the place where they are reported to have passed.
V. St. Paul's letters furnish evidence (and what better evidence than a man's own letters can be desired ?) of the soundness and sobriety of his judgment. His caution in distinguishing between the occasional suggestions of inspiration, and the ordinary exercise of his natural understanding, is without example in the his. tory of enthusiasm. His morality is every where calan, pure, and rational : adapt. ed to the condition, the activity, and the business of social life, and of its various relations ; free from the over-scrupulousness and austerities of superstition, and from, what was more perhaps to be apprehended, the abstraetions of quietism, and the sourings and extravagancies of fanaticism. His judgment concerning besitating conscience ; his opinion of the moral indifferency of many actions, yetof the prudence and even the duty of compliance, where non-compliance would produce evil effects upon the minds of the persons who observed it, is as correct and just as the most liberal and enlightened moralist could form at this day. The accuracy of modern ethics has found nothing to amend in these determinations."
“Broad, obrious, and explicit agreements prove little ; because it may be suggested, that the insertion of such is the ordinary expedient of every forgery; and though they may occur, and probably will occur, in genuine writings, yet it cannot be proved that they are peculiar to these. Thus what St. Paul declares in chap. xi. of 1 Cor. concerning the institution of the eucharist, “ For I have receiv. * ed of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the «« same night in which he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given " thanks, le brake it, and said, Take, cat; this is my body, which is broken for " you; this do in remembrunce of me,” though it be in close and verbal conformity with the account of the same transaction preserved by St. Luke, is yet a conformity of which no use can be made in our argument ; for if it should be object. ed that this was a mere recital from the Gospei, borrowed by the author of the epistle, for the purpose of setting off his composition by an appearance of agreement with the received account of the Lord's supper, I should not know low to repeł the insinuation. In like manner, the description which St. Paul gives of hin
sistent with themselves, much less with one another, as they are oftentimes inconsistent with the standard of truth, by which they are to be tried ; nothing is more common than for inen to betray their weakness, and cast a blemish on their composures, by contradicting themselves, especially if they are long, and consist of various subjects.
(2.) Men are much more liable to contradict one another when any scheme of doctrine is pretended to be laid down by different persons; for when they attempt to represent matters of fact, they often do it in a very different light: this may be more especially observed in those accounts that are given of doctrines that are new, or not well known by the world, or in historical accounts, not only of general occurrences, but of particular circumstances attending them, where trusting to their memory and judgment, they often impose on themselves and others.
(3.) This disagreement of human writings will more evidently appear, when their authors were men of no great natural wisdom, especially if they lived in different ages, or places remote from one another, and so could have no opportunity to consult one another, or compare their writings together ; we shall scarće ever find a perfect harmony or agreement in such writings; neither should we in scripture, were it not written by divine inspiration.
self in his epistle to the Philippians (iii. 5.)-—" Circumcised the eighth day, of " the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews. as * touching the law, a Pharisee ; concerning zeal, persecuting the church ; touch"ing the righteousness which is in the law, blameless”—is made up of particulu's so plainly delivered concerning him, in the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistle to the Romans, and the Epistle to the Galatians, that I cannot deny but that it would be easy for an impostor, who was fabricating a letter in the name of $t. Paul, to collect these articles into one view. This, therefore, is a conformity which we do not adduce. But when I read, in the Acts of the Apostles, that " when Paul came to Derbe and Lystra, behold a certain disciple was there, nain"ad Timotheus, the son of a certain woman which was a Jewess ;” and when, in an epistle addressed to Timotby, I find him reminded of his “having known the * Holy Scriptures from a child, which implies that he must, on one side or both, have been brought up by Jewish parents : 1 conceive that I remark a coincidence which shews, by its very obliquity, that schemie was not employed in its forma. tion."
"An assertion in the Epistle to the Colossians, viz. that “ Onesimus was one of
them," is verified by the Epistle to Philemon; and is verified, not by any mention of Colosse, any the most distant intimation concerning the place of Phule. mon's abode, but singly by stating Onesimus to be Philemon's servant, and by joining in the salutation Philemon with Archippus,; for this Archippus, when we ku back to the Epistle to the Colossians, appears to have been an inhabitant or that city, and, as it should seem to have held an office of authority in that church. The case stands thus. Take the Epistle to the Colossians alone, and no circumstance is discoverable which makes out the assertion, that Onesimus was “one of "them." Take the Epistle to Philemon alone, and nothing at all appears concerning the place to which Philemon or his servant Onesimus belonged. Forany thing that is said in the epistle, Philemon might have been a Thessalonian, a Philippian, or an Ephesian, as well as a Colossian. Put the two epistles together and the matter is clear. The reader perceives a junction of circumstances, which ascertains the conclusion at once. Now, all that is necessary to be added in this place is, that this correspondency evinces the genuineness of one epistle, as well as of the other. It is like comparing the two parts of a cloven tally. Coincidence proses ille authenticity of both.”
This will appear, if we consider that the penmen thereof were in themselves as liable to mistake as other men; and had they been left to themselves herein, they would have betrayed as much weakness, confusion, and self-contradiction, as any other writers have done ; and it may be more, inasmuch as many of them had not the advantage of a liberal education, nor were conversant in human learning, but were taken from mean employments, and made use of by God in this work, that so we may herein see more of the divinity of the writings they were employed to transmit to us : besides, they lived in different ages and places, and so could not consult together what to impart, and yet we find, as we shall endeavour to prove, that they all agree together : therefore the harmony of their writings is an evident proof ... they were inspired by the same spirit, and consequently that they are the word of God.
Ve might here consider the historical parts of scripture, and the account which one inspired writer gives of matters of facts as agreeing with what is related by another; and also the harmony of all the doctrines contained therein, as not only agreeing in the general scope and design thereof, but in the way and manner in which they are laid down or explained: but we shall more particularly consider the harmony of scripture, as what is foretold in one part thereof, is related as accomplished in another. And,
1. There are various predictions relating to the providential dealings of God with his people, which had their accomplishment in an age or two after. Thus the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others, foretold the captivity and the number of years they should be detained in Babylon, and their deliverance by Cyrus, who is expressly mentioned by name. These prophecies, and the accomplishment thereof are so obvious, that there is no one who reads the Old Testament but will see an harmony between them; so that what in one place is represented as foretold, in another place, is spoken of as accomplished in its proper time, Isa. xliv. 28. and Chap. xlv. 1, 4. compared with Ezra i.
And the revolt and apostacy of Israel, their turning aside from God, to idolatry, which was the occasion of their desolation, was foretold by Moses, Deut. xxxi. 29. and by Joshua, Chap. xxiii. 15, 16. and Chap. xxiv. 19. And every one that reads the book of Judges, will see that this was accomplished ; for when Moses and Joshua were dead, and that generation
who lived with them, they revolted to idolatry and were punishcd for the same in various instances, Judg. ii. 8, 10, 11, 14.
And the prophecy of the great reformation which Josiah should make, and in particular, that he should burn the bones of the idolatrous priests on the altar at Bethel, 1 Kings xiii. 2. was exactly accomplished above three hundred years after, 2 Kings xxii, 15, 16.
2. There are various predictions under the Old Testament relating to our Saviour, and the New Testament church, many of which have had their accomplishment, and others are daily accomplishing. It is said, Acts X. 43. To him gave all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him, shall receive remission of sins; and we shall find, that what is foretold concerning him in the Old Testament, is related as accomplished in the New ; particularly,
(1.) That he should come in the flesh, was foretold in the Old Testament, Hag. ii. 7. Mal. iii. 1. Isa. ix. 6. and is mentioned as accomplished in the New, John i. 14. Gal. iv. 4.
(2.) That he should work miracles for the good of mankind, and to confirm his mission, was foretold, Isa. Xxxv. 5, 6. and accomplished, Matth. xi. 4, 5.
(3.) That he should live in this world in a low and humbled state, was foretold, Isa. lii. 14. and chap. liii. 3. and the whole account of his life in the gospels bears witness that those predictions were fully accomplished.
(4.) That he should be cut off, and die a violent death, was typified by the brazen serpent in the wilderness, viz. that he should be lifted up upon the cross, Numb. xxi. 9. compared with John iii. 14. and foretold in several other scriptures, Isa. lüi. 7. and Dan. ix. 26. and this is largely insisted on, as fulfilled in the New Testament.
(5.) That after he had continued some time in a state of humiliation, he should be exalted, was foretold, Isa. lii. 13. chap. liji. 11, 12. Psal. lxviii. 18. and fulfilled, Acts i. 9. Phil. ii. 9.
(6.) That his glory should be proclaimed and published in the preaching of the gospel, was foretold, Isa. xi. 10. Psal. cx. 2. Isa. lx. 1, 2, 3. and fulfilled, 1 Tim. iii. 16. Mark xvi. 15. as appears from many scriptures.
(3.) That he should be the spring and fountain of all blessedness to his people, was foretold, Gen. xxii. 18. Psal. lxxii. 17. Isa. xlix. 8, 9. and fulfilled, 2 Cor. vi. 2. Acts iii. 26. In these, and many other instances, we may observe such a beautiful consent of all the parts of scripture, as proves it to be the very word of God.
But since it will not be sufficient, to support the divine authority of scripture, to assert that there is such a harmony, as we have observed, unless we can prove that it doth not contra