« VorigeDoorgaan »
THE RIGHT REVEREND
JOHN LAW, D.D.
LORD BISHOP OF KILLALA AND ACHONRY,
AS A TESTIMONY OF ESTEEM
FOR HIS VIRTUES AND LEARN
AND OF GRATITUDE
FOR THE LONG AND FAITHFUL FRIENDSHIP
THE AUTHOR HAS BEEN HONOURED
THIS ATTEMPT TO CONFIRM THE EVIDENCE
OF THE CHRISTIAN HISTORY
BY HIS AFFECTIONATE
AND MOST OBLIGED SERVANT,
The volume of Christian Scriptures contains thirteen letters purporting to be written by St. Paul; it contains also a book, which, amongst other things, professes to deliver the history, or rather memoirs of the history, of this same person. By assuming the genuineness of the letters, we may prove the substantial truth of the history; or, by assuming the truth of the history, we may argue strongly in support of the genuineness of the letters. But I assume neither one nor the other. The reader is at liberty to suppose these writings 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.
Agreement or conformity between letters bearing the name of an ancient author, and a received history of that author's life, does not necessarily establish the credit of either: because,
1. The history may, like Middleton's Life of Cicero, or Jortin's Life of Erasmus, have been wholly, or in part, compiled 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 imposture wbich 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 upon 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 be the effect of design. 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 p:oduction 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