Obrazy na stronie

from the letters; in which case it is manifest that the history adds nothing to the evidence already afforded by the letters ; or,

2. The letters may have been fabricated out of the history: a species of impofture which is certainly practicable ; and 'which, without any accession of proof or authority, would necessarily produce the appearance of consistency and agreement; or,

3. The history and letters may have been founded


some authority common to both; as upon 'reports and traditions which prevailed in the age

in which they were composed, or upon some ancient record now lost, which both writers consulted: in which case also, the letters, without being genuine, may exhibit marks of conformity with the history; and the history, without being true, may agree with the letters.

Agreement therefore, or conformity, is only to be relied upon so far as we can exclude these several suppositions. Now the point to be noticed is, that, in the three cases above enumerated, conformity must

[ocr errors]


be the effect of desgn. Where the history is compiled from the letters, which is the first case, the design and composition of the work are in general so confessed, or made so evident by comparison, as to leave us in no danger of confounding the

production with original history, or of mistaking it for an independent authority. The agreement, it is probable, will be close and uniform, and will easily be perceived to result from the intention of the author, and from the plan and conduct of his work. -Where the letters are fabricated from the history, which is the second case, it is always for the purpose of imposing a forgery upon the public ; and, in order to give colour and probability to the fraud, names, places, and circumstances, found in the history, may be studiously introduced into the letters, as well as a general consistency be endeavoured to be maintained. But here it is manifest, that whatever congruity appears, is the consequence of meditation, artifice, and design. The third case is that wherein the history and the letters, without any direct privity or communica


tion with each other, derive their materials from the fame fource ; and, by reason of their common original, furnish instances of accordance and correspondency. This is a situation in which we muft allow it to be possible for ancient writings to be placed ; and it is a situation in which it is more difficult to distinguish spurious from genuine writings, than in either of the cases described in the preceding suppositions; inasmuch as the congruities observable are so far accidental, as that they are not produced by theimmediate transplanting of names and circumstances out of one writing into the other. But although, with respect to each other, the agreement in these writings be mediate and secondary, yet is it not properly or absolutely undefigned; because, with respect to the common original from which the information of the writers proceeds, it is studied and factitious. The case of which we treat must, as to the letters, be a case of forgery; and when the writer, who is personating another, fits down to his composition--whether he have the history with which we now compare B 3


[ocr errors]

the letters, or some other record, before him; or whether he have only loofe tradition and reports to go by-he must adapt his imposture, as well as he can, to what he finds in these accounts; and his adaptations will be the result of council, fcheme, and industry: art must be employed ; and veftiges will appear of management and design. Add to this, that, in most of the following examples, the circumstances in which the coincidence is remarked are of too particular and domestic a nature, to have floated down upon the stream of general tradition,

Of the three cases which we have stated, the difference between the first and the two others is, that in the first the design may be fair and honest, in the others it must be accompanied with the consciousness of fraud : but in all there is design. In examining, therefore, the agreement between ancient writings, the character of truth and originality is undesignedness: and this test applies to every supposition ; for, whether we fuppose the history to be true, but the letters fpurious; or the letters to be genuine,


but the history false; or, lastly, falsehood 'to belong to both-the history to be a fable, and the letters fictitious; the same inference will result-that either there will be no agreement between them, or the agreement will be the effect of design. Nor will it elude the principle of this rule, to suppose the same person to have been the author of all the letters, or even the author both of the letters and the history; for no lefs design is necessary to produce coincidence between different parts of a man's own writings, especially when they are made to take the different forms of a history and of original letters, than to adjust them to the circumstances found in any other writing.

With respect to those writings ofthe New Testament which are to be the subject of our present confideration, I think that, as to the authenticity of the epistles, this argument, where it is fufficiently sustained by instances, is nearly conclusive; for I cannot assign a supposition of forgery, in which coincidences of the kind we enquire after are likely to appear. As to the history,


« PoprzedniaDalej »