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does it follow, that the Deity has never developed the events of futurity to his creature man, to answer great and comprehensive purposes ? Because I laugh at the wonderful cures pretended to be performed by the quack doctor, must I consider the skilful physician as a liar and a cheat, and the whole medical art to be an imposition ? If I reckon th man who pretends to determine my destiny by the stars, a knave or a fool, am I to treat with contempt the calculations of the astronomer, who ascertains at a distance of time, the situations and conjunctions of the heavenly bodies? or because I light my candle with the hieroglyphic of Moore's Almanack, must I shut my eyes to the remarkable predictions of my Bible, which are fulfilling every day, and in every civilized country of the earth :- This is asking too much, A. B. !!
In casting the eye down the next page of this communication, we observe a number of loose and rambling conjectures, intended, as it should seem, to invalidate the authenticity of the scriptures, in which the prophecies in question are to be found. But mere unsupported fancies about corruptions and interpolations-insinuations, without proof-and accusations, without evidence-are totally incompatible with the dignity of legitimate and enlightened discussion. What is it to Christophilus about what A. B. is “ not quite sure," and “not quite certain 2” Of one thing Christophilus must be both sure and certain ; namely, that such drivelling is not meeting him fairly, or attending in any way to the proposed principles of the argument.
A. B. makes it a matter of surprize, that the Jews themselves should not have anticipated the events of their prophecies (page 300), and accordingly argues, that their original meaning must have been distorted. The writer has not made human nature his study, or he would see nothing marvellous in a people blinded by their prejudices, being insensible of their approaching calamities, and less conscious of their probable fate, than the dispassionate reader of their history, or the calm spectator of their mad career. If, as A. B. asserts, the Jews considered all their prophecies were verified, cept the promises of their prince,” this must have made any anticipation of their dispersion less within the range of probaBility; and one cannot help asking, what becomes of a former insinuation on this subject, as to predictions carrying with them the means of their own fulfilment ? 66 Tell an infatuated people that Fate decrees their downfal, and they thereby become enervated and half conquered."
After all that has been advanced, the naked fact presents ita self with unabated force, of a numerous people being scattered
over the earth, remaining separated and distinct from all the kindreds and associations of men, amongst which necese sity, persecution, or interest has driven them, and becoming “ an astonishment, a proverb, and a bye-word, among all nations ;' and all this has happened agreeable to certain predictions, which were given many ages back. For such predictions, can any sufficient or adequate cause be assigned but Divine interposition ? Without appearing dogmatizing, A. B. must excuse me, if I say, the task remains yet to be performed.
The next paper of Christophilus' is intended to prove the authenticity of the books of the New Testament, by converting an objection against them to an argument in their favour; and in this he has most happily succeeded. The objection itself, though urged by Paine, in the most triumphant manner, is, perhaps, among the weakest that have been brought against the New Testament. It is the circumstance of the various books of the New Testament having been selected into one volume, by the council of Nice, and their genuineness having been determined upon by the mere show of hands, of a corrupt and interested assembly--the objection, I repeat, is weak, and could only have been adduced by a person unacquainted with the nature of the evidence, on which the ge. nuineness of the sacred writings depends. The vote of a synod of bishops, or an assembly of knaves, would only receive cor. tempt from the enlightened Christian, if such vote was contrary to reason and evidence. The genuineness of the New Testament writings cannot be affected by adventitious or accidental circumstances, which may have befallen them in their passage down to our own times. Thus, if Paul wrote the let. ter to the Romans, he is equally the author of it, whether a council vote him so or not; or if he did not write the letter to the Hebrews (which is my opinion), the vote of the Nicene assembly cannot make him the writer of it; nor does their error in this instance destroy the apostle's title to bis other works. Again, though the various books of the New Testament tend to corroborate each other, yet do they in reality stand separate and independent. Suppose that Mate thew is not the author of the history which bears his name, and that the council bad erred in fixing that book in the cas non of scripture, what then! is the narrative of Luke or of John in the least affected thereby ? Certainly not--the purport of these remarks is to sbew that we do not receive these writings, because they were determined to be the word of God by a show of holy bands; but because they appear to be the word of truth, by their own internal evidence.
Mr. Paine had argued in his Age of Reason, that at the eguncil of TM Nice, as the object of the church (as is the case in
all national establishments of churches) was power and revenue, and terror the means it used ; it is consistent to suppose, that the most miraculons and wonderful of the writings they had collected, stood the best chance of being voted.' Christophilus readily admits the whole force of the objection; but it has happened, that the fact has turned out just the reverse of what might have been expected; for the most miraculous and wonderful of these writings were rejected, and the most pure and simple receired. That this was the true state of the case is indisputable. Now then for this fact, the author of the Evin dences demands an adequate cause.
It is not within the com. pass of a review to do justice to an argument so connected, so elear, and so fully expressed as this which we are noticing. The writer shews, that from the character of the age in which the books of the New Testament were declared to be the canon of scripture--from the propensity of the people to the marvellous--the general ignorance of the times, and the corruption and cupidity of the priesthood- the books which were rejected were just of the description to have been received, as they suited the superstitious, and favoured the purposes of the artful, whilst those which were received werə hostile to the interest and repugnant to the principles of the assembly, which voted them as genuine ; and to make out this case more clearly, a number of passages are selected from the spurious writ. ings of the second and third centuries, and opposed to quotations from the New Testament. The reader is at once struck with the contrast, and ready to exclaim-how is it that priests have acted against themselves, and signed their own condempation ?
For the paradox then of an assembly of the clerical order declaring in favour of reason, truth, and simplicity, Christophilus presents a very natural and easy solution. He considers that such was the evidence in favour of the authenticity of the books yoted, that with every disposition to the contrary, the council of Nice could not but determine as they did ; and in deciding against their own wishes, they evidently adopted a line of policy which appeared to them the most prudent. This is natural—it is obyious—it is agreeable to all we know of men and manners; for there is a degree of fearful caution, generally speaking, attendant on fraud; and there is a point of deception to which the boldest chicanery dare not approxi. mate. Here then the difficulty jis cleared up, and Priests appear still consistent--still themselves. If the cause which Christophilus bas assigned be sufficient to account for the effect, what a mass of evidence must have appeared in favour of the books of the New Testament, to have caused even priests to shrink from the task of adding another attempt to
impose upon the deluded multitude! Let us hear what can be said by those who think differently.
In the first number of this year's Magazine, a writer, under the signature of J. R-s, in a short letter, written with much appearance of candour, bas the following passage (page 33)— "I am no advocate for Mr. Paine; but I think that Christophilus (in the tenth number), has not fairly answered him; for not withstanding these books militated against the then corruptions of the church and her priests, they (the priests) could do no otherwise than adopt them, as they had been long before received by the churches; and as all churches contain some good men, and as all religions are endeavoured to! be founded on the best moral principles, consequently the (then) priests could not declare against the general will of the churches; though these books were not congenial to the practices of the (then) priests. Take away the ridiculous assertion, which nobody believes but J. R-8, that “all religions are endeavoured to be founded on the best moral principles ;” and the whole paragraph, instead of being a reply to, is, in substance, the very argument of Christophilus, wbo, in assigning the reasons why the Nicene assembly did not reject these books, observes (vol. i. p. 468), “ In the first place those writings which were received were very exteysively diffused--they were read in every Christian society--they were valued and preserved with care by the first Christians; particularly by those who had escaped the general contaminationthey had been quoted by all the early writers, and brought with them such evidence, that though they condemned all their doctrines and practices, they did not dare to reject them;" or as J. R--s has it, “ they could do no otherwise than adopt them, as they had been long before receired by the churches ;” and “ consequently the (then) priests could not declare against the general will of the churches." And here it may not be amiss to call the attention of the reader to our friend 1. B., who, in speaking on this subject, seems to admit that the decision of the council (vol. ii, page 301) " might indeed support an inference, that they acted conformably to the will of the majority of Christians, in making the choice they did.” But he asks very gravely, “what proof have we, that this majority among the Christians, at the end of three centuries, and amid the contagion of the times, was free froin contamination : -None at all!-The proof is, that they were not free from the contagion of the times! History declares, that they were degraded into an ignorant veneration for the arrogated authority of the bishops, and that (to use the language of Mosheim) true religion was almost entirely superseded by horrid superstition.
. B. does not appear to understand the argument, as it is this very circumstance which gives it double force; for notwithstanding the credulity and infatuation of the multitude had extended the priestly influence, and predisposed them for fraudulent imposition-though the spurious writings, with which the age abounded, were consonant with the puerile notions of the people, yet the council of Nice could not reject the apostolic writings; for had they dared to have done it, as all churches contain some good men” (as J. R-S says), they, no doubt, would have been able to have confronted them, with the varied, the deafening proofs that were at hand; and corrupt as were the times, it would have been declaring “against the general will of the churches.”
Considering then as I do, with A. B. that the majority of Christians were contaminated with the general contagion of the times, the conclusion of Christophilus forces itself upon us, like a torrent broad and deep, that “ had there been a shadow of doubt against the writings of the New Testament, these men must and would have rejected them--their disposition and interest calling so loudly for it.'
A. B. has thrown together an argument, which seems to possess some originality; it will be but justice to give it in his own words—the whole paragraph certainly has a good deal of the ornamental :
“ When we picture to our minds the bulky heaps of scrips and scrolls, that the imperial edict would cause to be accumulated; when, in our thought, we survey the many bundles of mouldy manuscripts, that on this occasion there would be collected; when we consider that, perhaps, none of these writings were, or at most, that but few of them could be genuine'; when we reflect upon the commixed nature of these writings ; when we consider that they comprised all forms, all shades, every degree of aspect, from the nearest semblance, to the most distorted feature, that is conceivable; when these things are thought upon, can credulity or easy faith so far usurp
the functions of our reason, as to induce us to believe, without the utmost scruple, that the compilers of the sacred writings, the voters of the word of God, were even capable of extracting the simple, the unadulterated truth from such a mass (I had alınost said) of variegated falsehood? For my own part, if I had reason to believe that they were men of the utmost probity; and could I be convinced that all, or even more than all, the sagacity, discernment, and wisdom that ever yet adorned the mind of man, were centered in them, as in one common focus, still I should want a proof of their be. ing adequate to such a point ; and I will contend, that in the absence of a proof of their infallibility, it is highly irrational