appearance of agreement with the received account of the Lord's supper, I should not know how to repel the insinuation. In like manner, the description which St. Paul gives of himself 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; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless”-is made up of particulars 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 St. 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, named Timothéus, the son of a certain woman which was a Jewess ;" and when, in an epistle addressed to Timothy, 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: I conceive that I remark a coincidence which shows, by its very obliquity, that scheme was not employed in its formation. In like manner, if a coincidence depend upon a comparison of dates, or rather of circumstances from which the dates are gathered--the more intricate that comparison shall be ; the more numerous the intermediate steps through which the conclusion is deduced: in a word, the more circuitous the investigation is, the better, because the

agreement which finally results is thereby farther removed from the suspicion of contrivance, affectation, or design. And it should be remembered, concerning these coincidence, that it is one thing to be minute, and another to be precarious ; one thing to be unobserved, and another to be obscure; one thing to be circuitous or oblique, and another to be forced, dubious, or fanciful. And this distinction ought always to be retained in our thoughts.

The very particularity of St. Paul's epistles; the perpetual recurrence of names of persons and places; the frequent allusions to the incidents of his private life, and the circumstances of his condition and history; and the connexion and parallelism of these with

the same circumstances in the Acts of the Apostles, so as to enable us, for the most part, to confront them one with another; as well as the relation which subsists between the circumstances, as mentioned or referred to in the different epistles-afford no inconsiderable proof of the genuineness of the writings, and the reality of the transactions. For as no advertency is sufficient to guard against slips and contradictions, when circumstances are multiplied, and when they are liable to be detected by cotemporary accounts equally circumstantial, an impostor, I should expect, would either have avoided particulars entirely, contenting himself with doctrinal, discussions, moral precepts, and general reflections*; or if, for the sake of imitating St. Paul's style, he should have thought it neces


This, however, must not be misunderstood. A

person writing to his friends, and upon a subject in which the transactions of his own life were concerned, would probably be led in the course of his letter, especially if it was a long one, to refer to passages found in his history. A person addressing an epistle to the public at large, or under the form of an cpistle delivering a discourse upon some speculative argument, would not, it is probable, meet with an occasion of alluding to the circumstances of his life at all; he might, or he might not; the chance on either side is nearly equal. This is the situation of the catholic epistle. Although, therefore, the presence of these allusions and agreements be a valuable accession to the arguments by which the authenticity of a letter is maintained, yet the want of them certainly forms no positive objection.

sary to intersperse his composition with names and circumstances, he would have placed them out of the reach of comparison with the history. And I am confirmed in this opinion by the inspection of two attempts, to counterfeit St. Paul's epistles, which have come down to us; and the only attempts of which we have any knowledge, that are at all deserving of regard. One of these is an epistle to the Laodiceans, extant in Latin, and preserved by Fabricius in his collection of apocryphal scriptures. The other purports to be an epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, in answer to an epistle from the Corinthians to him. This was translated by Scroderus from a copy in the Armenian language which had been sent to W. Whiston, and was afterwards, from a more perfect copy, procured at Aleppo, published by his sons, as an appendix to their edition of Moses Chorenensis. No Greek copy exists of either : they are not only not supported by ancient testimony, but they are negatived and excluded; as they have never found admission into any catalogue of apostolical writings, acknowledged by, or known to, the early ages of Christianity. In the first of these I found, as I expected, a total evitation of circumstances. It is simply a collection of sentences from the canonical epistles, strung together with very little skill. The second, which is a more versute and specious forgery, is introduced with a list of names of persons who wrote to St. Paul from Corinth; and is preceded by an account sufficiently particular of the manner in which the epistle was sent from Corinth to St. Paul, and the answer returned. But they are names which no one ever heard of: and the account it is impossible to combine with any thing found in the Acts, or in the other epistles. It is not necessary for me to point out the internal marks of spuriousness and imposture which these compositions betray; but it was necessary to observe, that they do not afford those coincidences which we propose as proofs of authenticity in the epistles which we defend.


Having explained the general scheme and formation of the argument, I may be permitted to subjoin a brief account of the manner of conducting it.

I have disposed the several instances of agreement under separate numbers; as well

« VorigeDoorgaan »