« PreviousContinue »
confirm. Could the deist find opposition here, he might justly triumph. But he can produce none. The concord is without an exception, as to principles, precepts, desires, wants, and expectations. The gospel is, indeed, fuller, and reveals many things which the other does not contain. But this is naturally to be expected in a revelation made for the use of guilty and depraved creatures, who need a remedy beyond the power of natural religion to provide.
Another part of the subject is the harmony of this book with the Old Testament, which is to be considered as the first volume of the work, and so closely interwoven with it, as to be incapable of separation without a material injury to both. When a book is entirely the production of one man, the harmony is more easy: where many are concerned in writing it, the difficulty is increased. When the persons live in different ages, in different countries, in different conditions and employments, and in different states of society, a difference of ideas and sentiments on many subjects, especially the highest and most comprehensive, is the natural result; and harmony, if it be found, may be considered as very remarkable. There are cases where art could not possibly produce it. For example, where the earlier writers not only look back to what is past, but likewise predict what is to come, and publish the institution of ceremonial rites, which are to meet with their accomplishment in a following dispensation that they are designed to prefigure, collusion becomes impossible, and harmony is nowise to be accounted for, but by supposing a divine interposition and inspiration of the writers.
Such is the harmony to be found between the penmen of the Old Testament and of the New. They were men of different ages, countries, and stations. They wrote on the most difficult subjects. They had all one plan in view. Each added something as his part. The latter fill up what the former had sketched out; and both volumes confirm each other by their agreement, and exactly correspond to each other. What merits particular notice, the most ingenious and complicated part came first, the simplest and easiest last; that it might be seen that artifice is not necessary to make the systems fit, and fit in a way which no ingenuity could have devised. The agreement is not in one point only, but in hundreds ; so that the harmony between the predictions, types, sacrifices, and purifying rites of the Old Testament, and the person, office, kingdom, and benefits of the Messiah, in whom they had their accomplishment, can be considered in no other light, than as
the effect of deep design, and an extensive premeditated plan. So remarkable has this appeared to some opposers of Christianity, that they have asserted that the books of prophecy were composed after the predicted events took place. But the antiquity of the Old Testament rests on so firm a foundation, that the man who would attempt to shake it would find all his efforts vain.
Among the different writers of the New Testament, and in its different parts, the harmony is equally clear and pleasing. Not to insist on that between the evangelists, where the coincidence might be expected to be more evident, there is an agreement in things which are apparently more incidental, and where a collusion is not readily thought of, nor so easily effected. The letters to the Christian societies, which make a part of the New Testament, are closely connected with the “ Acts of the Apostles,” which may be called its ecclesiastical history; and are in a manner formed upon it.
In these letters very frequent allusions are made to events in the history. The allusions are so minute, so incidental, so much depending on circumstances which had occurred, and so naturally arising out of the subject, that no art of man could produce agreement in such a multitude of things, if either the letters, or the history, or both, were forgeries. Had the letters been forged, we might expect to find them couched in general terms, and cautiously avoid the mentioning of every particular which could lead to a discovery. But nothing can be more directly opposite. They are full of business. They are continually urging some serious and useful topic. They are making frequent references to particular societies, persons, places, things, and events. While these furnish a convincing internal proof that they are genuine, the agreement of the references in them with the history, gives additional strength to the evidence, that they are what they profess to be.
There is another branch of this harmony which should not pass unnoticed. The writers both of the New Testament and of the Old, have occasion to advert to the history of other nations, and to record circumstances arising from their connexion with the Jews, or with the Christians. This is done without the remotest appearance of art or design. However unimportant at first sight this may seem, it enters so deeply both into the knowledge and veracity of the persons, that imposture could not escape detection. But no such charge can be adduced; for whenever a reference is made in the New Testament to the affairs of surrounding countries, profane his
tory confirms the credibility of the sacred writers, and sanctions their claims of being men of truth and integrity.
The harmony just displayed in its various bearings, is not that of false witnesses, who have learned their lesson, but of honest men, who relate what they saw and knew, each in his own way, and what particularly struck him. Frequently one mentions one circumstance of an action or event, and another, another. This is not the harmony of men who combine to deceive the human race.
If in a book of such extent there be some apparent contradictions, it is nothing more than we have reason to expect. But a considerable part of them will vanish, by granting what an impartial reader cannot well refuse, that in an ancient book, so long and so often copied, there will be errors of transcribers, especially with respect to the names of persons and places, and to chronological computations. For when we find writers accurate in things of greater moment, and greater difficulty, it is but fair to argue that they could not have erred in matters comparatively easy; and to charge the fault on them, and not on the transcribers, is unworthy of that candour which should distinguish the liberal mind.
To the progress of knowledge, and the application of it to the study of the sacred Scriptures, we are indebted for satisfactory answers to other objections against the harmony of its parts. While there are some things in the works of creation, and in the moral government of God, which display the divine perfections with the brightness of demonstration, there are others which seem in direct opposition to their existence and exercise. But however contradictory these may seem to be, we are certain, and deists will own, it is but in appearance, and cannot be so in reality; and the discoveries which have been made in science have, in many instances, reconciled the difficulties to our perfect satisfaction. This is precisely the case as to divine revelation, which bears in this, as in other respects, a close analogy to the other works of God. By profound investigation, by the collation of manuscripts, by more perfect knowledge of eastern manners, by a more thorough acquaintance with history, by improvements in sacred criticism, and by attention to occurring events, many difficulties and apparent contradictions have been removed; and the harmony rendered clear as the light of day. If some difficulties still remain, view them as you do those of creation and providence, and they will form no obstacle to the reception of the gospel. There is little doubt, but that, like the others, with increasing knowledge, and the light of events, they also will be dispelled.
Those who deny the truth and divinity of the Christian religion (for they are closely allied), will find it extremely difficult, on their hypothesis, to account for the various analogies and the complicated harmonies which have been just presented to their view. Let them have but their due weight in the investigation of the subject, and the writer desires no
OF THE EVIDENCES FOR THE DIVINE AUTHORITY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT,
ARISING FROM THE TESTIMONY OF THE APOSTLES.
Some subjects are capable of being rendered certain by mathematical demonstration; others, which are of still greater importance to the happiness of mankind, admit only of moral evidence, or of the evidence of testimony. This is the case with respect to all historical facts, and the administration of justice in every form. This evidence of testimony rests on a certain moral order, which gives stability to reasoning, and renders things as certain as by any other kind of proof. That there is such a city as Rome I am as fully convinced, as that the three angles of a triangle are equal to two right angles. Yet I never saw Rome: I rest on the testimony of others. But I think my own mind as likely to be mistaken in its operations, in passing from one link in the chain of mathematical demonstration to another, as that the moral evidence on which I found
belief should be false. On what does this certainty rest? It rests on that moral order which has just been mentioned. Wherein it consists shall be briefly shown; and it will form a proper avenue to the field of testimony.
In the natural world God has established a certain order of things, which I perceive uniformly takes place; as the vicissitudes of day and night, the power of attraction, and gravitation. Hence I am enabled to judge with certainty concerning the phenomena of nature. But is there not a similar order in the moral world; and are there not laws established, from the knowledge of which we may determine, though not with absolute certainty, yet with such a degree of precision as will answer sufficiently for directing our judgment in matters of testimony? This is of still greater importance than the other: we may therefore expect it with confidence.
There are certain general principles in the human heart to which all have regard in the conduct of life; such as the pur