Imágenes de páginas
[merged small][ocr errors]

and statements which are contradicted by the narratives of those writers
who were contemporary with the supposed authors of them.
Thus, in the fourth of Seneca's epistles to Paul, we read that,

the emperor (Nero) was delighted and surprised at the thoughts and sentiments in Paul's epistle to the Churches ; and in the fourth of Paul's epistles to the philosopher,2 that the emperor is both an admirer and favourer of Christianity. These assertions are notoriously false, and contrary to the unanimous relations of heathen and Christian writers concerning Nero and his regard to the Christians. The Gospel of Mary contains at least two gross falsehoods and contradictions to historical fact; and not fewer than seven equally glaring instances exist in the pseudo-gospel or prot-evangelion of James ; 3 six others occur in the two gospels of Christ's infancy, 4 which relate things notoriously contrary 20 the benevolent design of Christ's miracles, and to his pure and holy doctrine, which prohibited revenge, and promoted universal charity and love. Lastly, for it would exceed the limits of this article (already perhaps too much extended) to specify all the absurd falsehoods contained in the spurious writings which we have been considering; -the Acts of Paul and Thecla directly falsify the doctrines and practice of the apostle, concerning the unlawfulness of marriage (which he is here said to have taught, though the reverse is evident to the most cursory reader of his epistle); and concerning the preaching of women :- Thecla being said to be commissioned by him to preach the gospel, though it was not only contrary to the practice of both Jews and Gentiles, and also to St. Paul's positive commands in his genuine epistles. But what proves the utter spuriousness of these Acts of Paul and Thecla—if any further proof were want. ing,—is the fact that Paul, whose life and writings bespeak him to have been a man of unimpeachable veracity, is introduced in them as uttering a wilful and deliberate lie. That he is so introduced, is evident ; for after an intimate acquaintance between Paul and Thecla, 6 and their having taken a journey together to Antioch, he is presently made to deny her, and to tell Alexander, I know not the woman of whom you speak. nor does she belong to me. But how contrary this is to the known and true character of St. Paul, every one must see. He, who so boldly stood up for the defence of the Gospel against all sorts of opposition, who hazarded and suffered all things for the sake of God and a good conscience, which he endeavoured to keep void of offence towards God and men, most unquestionably never would so easily have been betrayed to so gross a crime, as to make a sacrifice of the credit of his profession, and the peace of his conscience at once upon so slight a temptation and provocation. Nor will it be of any force to object here, that in the received Scriptures, Abraham is said twice to have denied his wife, viz. Gen. xii. 19. and xx. 2. &c., as also Isaac is said to have denied his, Gen. xxvi. 7., &c.; and in the New Testament that Petor denied his master, and declared he did not know him, Matt. xxvi. 72. ; for the circumstances are in many cases different, and especially in this, that Paul appeared now in no danger if he had confessed her ; or if he had been in danger might have easily delivered himself from it; to which we must add, that he had undergone a thousand more difficult trials for the sake of God and a good conscience, and never was by fear betrayed into such a crime.8

« Such are the compositions which attempted to gain credit, as the real productions of the Apostles and Evangelists; and so striking is the contrast between them and the genuine writings, whose style they have so unsuccessfully endeavoured to imitate. It deserves the most serious consideration of every one, who is unhappily prejudiced against Christianity, or (what is almost as fatal), who has hitherto not thought the subject worthy his attention, whether, if the canonical books of the New Testament had been the productions of artifice or delusion, they would not have resembled thoso, which are avowedly so, in some of their defects. Supposing it, for a moment, to be a matter of doubt, by whom the canonical books were written; or allowing them the credit, which is granted to all other writings having the same external authority, that of being written by the authors whose names they have always borne ; upon either of these suppositions, the writers of the New Testament could not, either in situation or attainment, have had any advantages, humanly speaking, which the authors of the

1 Epist. viii. in Apoc. New Test. p. 76. 2 Ibid. p. 76. epist. ix. 3 See them specified, and the falsehoods detected, in Jones on the Canon, vol. ii.

4 Ibid. vol. ii. pp. 249–251. 5 Jones on the Canon, vol. ii. pp. 400—402. 6 Ch. xiv. xvii.ii. vi. of Apoc. New Test. pp. 80. 84. 7 Ch. xix.-vii. 3. of Apoc. Now Test. p. 84.

8 Jones on the Canon, vol. ii. p. 401., additional proofs of the spuriousness of the apocryphal writingo, ascribed to the apostles, are given by Dr. Maliby, Ilust. pp. 57-65.

PP. 147-15).

apocryphal books were not as likely to have possessed as themselves : consequently, if the first books had been founded upon the basis of fiction, it is surely most probable, that subsequent attempts would have equalled, if not improved upon, the first efforts of imposture. If, however, it appears, upon a candid and close investigation, that one set of compositions betrays no proofs of a design to impose upon others, and no marks that the authors were themselves deceived ; while on the contrary, the others evince in every page the plainest symptoms of mistake and fraud ; is it fair, is it reasonable, to ascribe to a common origin, productions so palpably and essentially different ? or rather, is it not more just, and even philosophical, to respect truth in those performances, which bear the fair 'stamp of her features; and to abandon those, and those only to contempt, which have indubitable traces of imposture ?"]

IV. From the preceding view of the evidence concerning the apocryphal productions, which have lately been reprinted, the candid reader will readily be enabled to perceive how little cause there is, lest the credibility and inspiration of the genuine books of the New Testament should be affected by them. “ How much soever we may lament the prejudice, the weakness, the wickedness, or the undefinable hostility of those who enter into warfare against the interests of Christ; whatever horror we may feel at the boldness or the scurrility of some anti-christian champions; we feel no alarm at the onsets of infidelity in its attempts against the Gospel. We know that the cause of Revelation has sustained already every species of assault which cunning could contrive, or power direct. It has bad its enemies among the ignorant and among the learned, among the base and among the noble. Polite irony and vulgar ribaldry have been the weapons of its assailants. It has had its Celsus, and its Porphyry, and its Julian. And what were the effects of their opposition ? The same as when the rulers and elders and scribes' united against it,-its purification and increase. It has had its Bolingbrokes and its Woolstons, its Humes and its Gibbons; and what disadvantages has it sustained, what injuries has it received ? Has it lost any of its pretensions, or been deprived of any portion of its majesty and grace, by their hatred and their hostility ? Had they a system more credible, more pure, better comporting with the wants of man, and with the anticipations of everlasting existence, to enlighten and sanctify man, and to effect the regeneration of the world, for which they were able to prevail on mankind to exchange the system of Jesus of Nazareth? We gain but little from our reading, but little from our observation, if we shake with the trepidations of fear, when truth and error are combatants. All facts connected with the history of the Christian religion are confirmations of a Christian's faith, that the doctrine which he believes, will resist every attack, and be victorious through all opposition. No new weapons can be forged by its enemies: and the temper and potency of those which they have so often tried, they will try in vain. They may march to battle; but they will never raise their trophies in the field."*2

The apocryphal pieces which have thus been considered, have beenin circulation for ages, as were many others of a similar kind, which have perished, leaving only their titles behind them, as a memorial that they once existed. Many of them, indeed, soon became extinct, the interest which was felt in them not affording the means of their preservation. But we think that it is of special importance, that some of the spurious productions which either the mistaken zeal of Christians, or the fraud of persons who were in hostility to the Gospel, sent abroad in the

1 Maltby's Illustrations p. 65.

2 Eclectic Review, N. S. vol. xv. p.


[ocr errors]

primitive or in later times, should have been saved from destruction. Such books as the “ Gospel of Mary,” the “Prot-evangelion,” the * Gospel of the Infancy," the “Gospel of Nicodemus," " Paul and Thecla,” &c. &c. are not only available as means of establishing the superior excellence of the Books of the New Testament, in the composition of which there is the most admirable combination of majesty with simplicity, strikingly in contrast with the puerilities and irrationalitiesof the others:—but they are of great service in augmenting the evidences and confirming the proof of Christianity.' So far indeed

are these books from militating in any degree against the evangelical history, that, on the contrary, they most decidedly corroborate it: for they are written in the names of those, whom our authentic Scriptures state to have been apostles and companions of apostles ; and they all suppose the dignity of our Lord's person, and that a power of working miracles, together with a high degree of authority, was conveyed by him to his apostles. It ought also to be recollected that few, if any of these books, were composed before the beginning of the second century. As they were not composed before that time, they might well refer (as most of them certainly do) to the commonly received books of the New Testamet : and therefore, instead of invalidating the credit of those sacred books, they really bear testimony to them. All these books are not properly spurious, that is, ascribed to authors who did not compose them : but, as they were not composed by apostles, nor at first ascribed to them, they may with great propriety be termed apocryphal : for they have in their titles the names of apostles, and they make a specious pretence of delivering a true history of their doctrines, discourses, miracles and travels, though that history is not true and authentic, and was not written by any apostle or apostolic man. Further, we may account for the publication of these apocryphal or pseudepigraphal books, as they were unquestionably owing to the fame of Christ and his apostles, and the great success of their ministry. And in this respect, the case of the apostles of Jesus Christ is not singular: many men of distinguished characters have had discourses made for them, of which they knew nothing, and actions imputed to them which they never performed; and eminent writers have had works ascribed to them of which they were not the authors. Thus, various orations were falsely ascribed to Demosthenes and Lysias ; many things were published in the names of Plautus, Virgil, and Horace, which never were composed by them. The Greek and Roman critics distinguished between the genuine and spurious works of those illustrious writers. The same laudable caution and circumspection were exercised by the first Christians, who did not immediately receive every thing that was proposed to them, but admitted nothing as canonical that did not bear the test of being the genuine production of the sacred writer with whose name it was inscribed, or by whom it professed to have been written. On this account it was that the genuineness of the Epistle to the Hebrews, of some of the Catholic Epistles, and of the Apocalypse, was for a short time doubted by some, when the other books of the New Testament were universally acknowledged. Upon the whole, the books which now are, and for a long time past have been termed apocryphal, whether extant entire, or only in fragments,-together with the titles of such as are lost,--are monuments

1 Eclectic Review, N. S. vol. xv. p. 164.


of the care, skill, and judgment of the first Christians, of their presiding ministers, and their other learned guides and conductors. The books in question afford no valid argument against either the genuineness or the authority of the books of the New Testament, which were generally received as written by the apostles and evangelists; but, on the contrary, they confirm the general accounts given us in the Canonica Scriptures, and thus indirectly establish the truth and divine authority of the Everlasting Gospel.

1 Lardner's Works, vol. v. pp. 412_419. 8vo.; or vol. ii. pp. 121-134. 4to


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »