Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

of scripture with itself, on the characteristics of honesty which may be more or less obviously discerned in it, and perhaps on the pure and right morality whether of its sentiments or precepts. It will be found of most other evidence that, instead of being drawn exclusively from either that which is without or that which is within the Bible, it is in fact elicited by the comparison of the one with the other. In estimating the force of the argument, for example, founded on the references of the early fathers to scripture, and even on their testimonies to the miracles which are recorded there, there is the comparison of that which is said out of the Bible, with that which is said in it; and the mind must have respect to the contents of the book, when attending to the credentials by which they are thus verified. Again, when a credibility is founded on the accordance which there is between the Bible and history, in those numerous allusions which it makes to the state and customs and various circumstances of the age in which it was writtenthis too, though perhaps commonly ranking as an internal evidence, pre-supposes a comparison between that which is within and that which is without the record. Even that credibility so commonly spoken of as internal, which is drawn from the accordance of Bible statements with the felt state of man and of all his moral and spiritual necessities, rests on the comparison of the scriptural with the ex-scriptural—of that which is graven on the tablet of revelation, with that which is graven on the tablet of the human heart. The evidence too that lies in the suitable representations which

the Bible gives of the character and ways of God, requires that we should look not only to that which is in the book, but also to that which is separate from the book; to compare the notions of God which are drawn purely from revelation, with the notions which are drawn from other sources of human opinion or knowledge. Notwithstanding the current and familiar style in which we talk of external and internal evidences for the truth of revelation, as if we perfectly understood what we were saying, there is a real difficulty in tracing the precise line of demarcation between them.

3. But we are not bound to task ourselves with the labour of bringing about an adjustment between the real state of the case on the one hand, and the arbitrary names or distinctions which our predecessors may have devised in the work of investigating it. Yet, in vindication of the title which we have prefixed to this book, it will be necessary to explain in what sense the various matters discussed in it should be brought within the department the internal evidences. They all agree in this, that they have respect to the subject-matter of the Bible; but to a great deal more regarding this subject-matter, than to the consistency of its various parts with each other. Beside this, we found an argument on the consistency of that which is within the record, with that which is external to the record of which last, however, it is necessary that we should have the distinct and independent knowledge. There may be a perfect consistency between what the Bible tells us of angels, and what is objectively or externally true in regard to them

1

But we have no independent knowledge of this order of beings, and can found no evidence therefore on this information of the Bible—to which our only access is through the pages of the Bible itself. Whenever an evidence is founded on the harmony which obtains, between the depositions of scripture respecting certain things and the actual state of these things, we must have other means by which we know of these things than scripture itself; and so the argument is made to rest on the coincidence which obtains between the statements of the Bible, and what we know of the truth of these statements from other sources. Yet one of these sources must be excepted, else we shall lose the distinction between the internal and the external evidences. The Bible announces to us its own miracles, beside furnishing us with certain traces both of its own antiquity, and of the authors by whom it was penned. Its testimony in these matters is corroborated by the testimony of other and ex-scriptural authors; and the strength of this latter testimony forms the main strength of the external evidence for the truth of the christian revelation. Let us exclude this, and there remains an internal evidence a great part of which is grounded, like the external, on a comparison between what we learn in the Bible, and what we know apart from the Bible; yet distinguished from the external, in that the knowledge is ours through another medium than the testimony of authors, deponing historically, either to the antiquity and genuineness and reception of the Bible, or to those miracles which constitute the first and most palpable vouchers for its authority.

Our knowledge of God, our knowledge of the morally right and wrong, our knowledge of our own hearts, our knowledge even of human life and character as grounded chiefly on personal observation, are all otherwise derived than from the testimony of historians; and on the consistency between all this knowledge and the subject matter of the bible, there is founded a great part of what is commonly recognised as internal evidence. It seems in most instances to receive this appellation of internal, when the subject matter of the Bible is brought immediately to the tribunal of a man's own sense and a man's own judgment—whether it is to the light of conscience and consciousness, or to the light of a well-exercised discernment into human character and affairs. Were we to avail ourselves of the distinction here between the truths of instruction and those of information, we should say of all the argument which is founded on the harmony between scripture and the former class of truths, that it belongs to the department of the internal -whereas when founded on the harmony between scripture and the latter class of truths, it belongs to the department of the external evidences. Yet such is the difficulty of framing an unexceptionable definition on this subject, that, on the one hand, the agreement between the subject-matter of the Bible and the informations of Josephus and other Jewish or profane authors, is referred to the head of the internal evidences; and on the other hand, though a stronger argument for the miracles of the New Testament may be gathered, as we have abundantly endeavoured to show, from within than

from without the canon, from the original testimony of scriptural than from the subsequent testimony of ex-scriptural writers-yet is the whole of this argument referred to the department of the external evidences.

4. But whether we succeed or not in this work of classification, it does not affect the substantive reality and strength of the various branches of evidence, however they may have been grouped when we view them separately. There is however one general remark applicable to almost all the evidence for Christianity, and which we are unwilling to pass over. It is well known that the defenders of Christianity have often been led to certain walks of argument and investigation, on which they might not otherwise have entered by some hostile assault or other of the enemies of the faith.

When a combatant has pointed the finger of scorn to some alleged weakness; some vulnerable quarter, whether in the outworks or in the substance itself of Christianity—it has often ended with the counter-demonstration of a strength in that very quarter, of which neither the church nor the public had any conception before. The objection of adversaries first drew to it the attention of friends ; and they have achieved a great deal more than simply displaced the objection. They have built up a strong affirmative evidence in its room. They have not been content with the overthrow of that hostile argument which first led them to the ground, and there set them on some specific walk of reasoning or of inquiry. They have generally chosen to prosecute that walk further; and the fruit has been,

« ZurückWeiter »