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however so slight an infusion, of things human with things divine, all the friends of the Bible should join heart and hand, against so foul and fearful a desecration,
On the Internal Evidence as a Criterion for the
Canon and Inspiration of Scripture.
1. In arguing for the inspiration of scripture, the right order of proof seems to be the following. There is a collection of sacred writings, acknowledged as such both by Jews and Christians, which, from the days of Christ and His apostles, has been designated by certain titles, appropriated to that collection, and to it exclusively-insomuch that these titles have in them all the force and distinction of a proper name.
It is under one or other of its proper names, by which it is individualized and separated from all other writings, that this collection is so often referred to in the New Testament—where the properties of infallibility and inspiration are distinctly and repeatedly awarded to them. This forms the main proof of the inspiration of a certain aggregate or collection of writings~after which, the question of the inspiration of any particular book or writing resolves into the question, whether or not it had a place in this collection, or whether or not at the commencement of the Christian era, it formed part
of the canon of the Old Testament. This last is a question which we might either be prepared with beforehand; or which we might determine afterwards, when our proofs for the inspiration of that general book, termed scripture or scriptures, have been completed. The inspiration of scripture in the gross, rests chiefly on the testimony of Christ and His apostles. The inspiration of particular books or portions now in scripture rests chiefly on the evidence that they belong to the canon, or in other words, that they were also then in scripture; for then they must have been included in the sanction given by the founders of the Christian religion to scripture, and to all scripture. When any particular book is thus sanctioned, and so admitted to speak for itself, there is often a mighty addition given to the evidence for its inspiration, in its own averments now
made credible—when it tells, as is frequently done, in a variety of forms and expressions, not that thus saith the human author, but that “thus saith the Lord.” Beside then the general question of inspiration, the question of the canon is indispensable, to ascertain what the particular books are, to which the credit of inspiration should be given. The question of inspiration determines the homage which is due to scripture in the general; and the question of the canon determines what the particular books are. to which this homage should be rendered. We must have recourse to the one question, when we want to establish the amount of deference or submission, that we owe to scripture at large, We must have
recourse to the other question, when we want to establish, whether this deference be due to any certain specified book, whether in or out of our present scriptures. The two questions of the inspiration and the canon stand related to each other as do the members of the foilowing syllogism. -All scripture is given by inspiration of God: The book of Proverbs is part of scripture: Therefore the book of Proverbs is given by inspiration of God. It is by rightly determining the general question of the inspiration, that we are enabled to state rightly the major proposition. The minor proposition is determined by the canon.
2. The evidence, then, on which the canonicity of any book in scripture rests, is clearly an external evidence—that is external, if not to the whole Bible, at least to the particular book in question. We derive our information and belief of its place in scripture, from the testimony of others beside its own author,-from the various references which can be found to it whether scriptural or exscriptural—from the authority of ancient catalogues -or, lastly, from the concurrence, both of Jews and Christians, even to this present day, in its favour. Now all these proofs for the canon of the Old Testament are clearly external; and that evidence is still more palpably so by which we establish the canon of the New Testament. When we look to the goodly succession of those testimonies, which have determined the canon of these later scriptures-We find that one and all of them are external; and this character applies to each distinct head of argument given on this subject by
Dr. Paley. Let us exhibit them in order, only extending what he says of the historical to all the books of the New Testament. “Ist, The books of the New Testament, are quoted, or alluded to, by a series of Christian writers, beginning with those who were contemporary with the apostles, or who immediately followed them, and proceeding in close and regular succession from their time to the present.” “ 2d, When the scriptures are quoted or alluded to, they are quoted with peculiar respect, as books sui generis ; as possessing an authority which belonged to no other books, and as conclusive in all questions and controversies amongst Christians.” “3d, The scriptures were in very early times collected into a distinct volume." “ 4th, Our present sacred writings were soon distinguished by appropriate names and titles of respect." “5th, Our scriptures were publicly read and expounded in the religious assemblies of the early Christians.” “6th, Commentaries were anciently written upon the scriptures ; harmonies formed out of them; different copies carefully collated; and versions made of them into different languages.” “7th, Our scriptures were received by ancient Christians of different sects and persuasions, by many heretics as well as catholics, and were usually appealed to by both sides in the controversies which arose in those days.” “8th, The four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen epistles of St. Paul, the first epistle of John, and the first of Peter, were received without doubt by those who doubted concerning the other books which are included in our present canon.” “ 9th,
Our historical scriptures were attacked by the early adversaries of Christianity, as containing the accounts upon which the religion was founded." “ 10th, Formal catalogues of authentic scriptures were published, in all of which our present sacred histories were included, till at length when the information respecting them had spread sufficiently, and their claims were acknowledged throughout the church at large, all our present New Testament scriptures were included also.”
“ 11th, These propositions cannot be predicated of any of those books which are commonly called apocryphal books of the New Testament.”—The reader will not fail to perceive that each of these considerations forms an external argument, or bears upon it the character of external evidence for the canon of the Old Testament.
3. But many writers, in arguing whether for the canonical rank or the inspiration of particular books, have appealed to internal evidence also. That is, over and above the statement which the author makes of a supernatural communication which he had received from God, they appeal to the scriptural quality of the communication itself. They reason for its being a divine production, from the nature of the product; as if it were competent for man to discern such characters of truth and majesty and sacredness in the work itself, as bespeak the high and heavenly origin from which it has descended. They seem as if shut up unto this conclusion by a sort of felt necessity—as if the common people, who should have a reason also for the hope that is in them,