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lower works of the material creation-but ás manifested without a veil in the face of the Saviour; so that this reflected light beaming upon their souls, may gradually transform their characters into a resemblance of His, from one degree of glory to another, till the conformity commenced on earth 'be perfected in heaven, where he shall be seen no longer in the mirror of the Word, but “ as He is,”-“ and they who see him shall be like Him."
Feb. 27, 1824.
THE DIAT ESSAR O N.
WHEN we consider in how many respects our own times differ from those of our Lord, and that we read his actions and discourses in a translation, it will not surprise us that the unlearned reader finds difficulties in the Gospels. To him many passages are obscure, some perplexing, a few unintelligible; but these are of subordinate importance: the moral precepts and leading doctrines are recorded in language too plain for the well-disposed believer, however ignorant, to mistake. This ought, then, not to shake his faith but to stimulate his industry; for he may be assured, for his encouragement, that this obscurity will vanish before increasing knowledge; that what was unmeaning will grow intelligible, what he already understood will become more interesting. The field of inquiry, however, is vast, and almost every branch of knowledge may be laid under contribution : time, therefore, may be saved by taking a guide who has already gone over the ground. I propose, accordingly, (previous to our reading the Diatessaron,) to consider briefly :
I. THE AUTHORITY UPON WHICH THE NEW TESTAMENT RESTS.
I say briefly, because these subjects have been treated by a multitude of authors, and the works of many of them are voluminous : our purpose, therefore, will be better answered, by stating the more important results of their inquiries, than by a critical examination of their authorities and arguments, which would occupy too much of our time, and may be studied hereafter in their own writings to more advantage.
The volume of the Christian Scriptures is called in the original language, in contradistinction to the Jewish, Kairn Anxn. The precise date of this title is unknown ; it first occurs in a work of Origen. St. Paul applies it to the Christian dispensation in opposition to the Mosaic, which he calls the old :* and by a common metonymy the appellation was transferred, in process of time, from the covenant itself to the writings in which it is recorded. The Greek word was rendered into Latin by testamentum ; and therefore in modern languages is translated Testament. As this covenant was ratified by the death of him with whom it was made, both terms are equally proper ; but the word testa nt, when applied to the Hebrew Scriptures, conveys a wrong meaning, though custom has reconciled us to the expression. If it should be asked, why then testamentum was chosen in preference to fædus, the answer is that in popular though not in classical Latin, testamentum bears the meaning of covenant. f It should be added, to prevent misconception, that in classical Greek, Anxo does mean a testament, though transferred to a covenant by the Septuagint translators. The proper Greek word for covenant is EurInxn, which is not found in the New Testament, and only three times in the Septuagint, where it never corresponds to niya berith, the Hebrew for covenant.
Eurys.lv, or good news, from being expressive of a characteristic quality of the Christian dispensation, soon came to serve as the name for the dispensation itself. Hence the term was transferred by ecclesiastical writers, to the books
* 2 Cor. iii. 6, 14. Origen [was born A. D. 185.] TigeAgxwy, iv. 1.
+ In one passage only, Heb. ix. 16, 17, can this translation be justified ; yet, where it occurs in the very same context, v. 15, and 20, it manifestly denotes a covenant, for the new and old covenants are there contrasted ; and the old we know was not ratified by the death of either of the contracting parties, but by the blood of bulls and goats. If therefore the idea of a testament is introduced at all, which several eminent Commentators deny, it is only superadded to the original idea of a covenant, which word it would have beeu better that our translators should have invariably used.
Thus in the old Italic it is used of the covenant made with Noah, signum testamenti æterni interme et inter terram,” Gen. ix. 17. ; and even St. Jerome in his correction of that version, though he sometimes for precision substitutes for it pactum, retains it in other places, as in Ps. xlix. 6 and 17.; and even in his own translation of the New, Acts vii. 8. Campbell, vol. i. p. 214_216.
$ In this, as in other instances, the retaining wbat has become a technical term, bas obscured the meaning of several texts. Thus, Eph. vi. 15, Good news of peace, would have been preferable to “ the gospel of peace." See also, Acts xx. 24. Eph, i, 13. Gal. ii. 7. Rom. xvi. 25. See Campbell, i. p. 186-213.
which contained “ the good tidings,” that is, to the lives of Christ; and their authors received the titles of evangelists, which, in Scripture, means the preacher, not the writer of the gospel. The English word, derived from Anglo-Saxon, means God's word.
The Number of these books is well known to be four, and that two were written by apostles, the Gospels according to Matthew and John, and two by the companions of the apostles, those according to Mark and Luke. Thus we have four original writers, for even if we allow with the German critics, that all had access to one common document, still there is (even in Matthew and Mark, which most nearly resemble each other) sufficient difference to shew that they are independent writers, adding or omitting circumstances according to their own judgment. It appears from the introduction to Luke's Gospel, that even at that early period many had undertaken to write such works, but that their inaccuracy had been bis chief motive for drawing up his own. All these have perished; for the apocryphal gospels, fragments of which are extant, are the fabrication of a later age, and were never acknowledged. Origen declares that the Church received only four.* Irenæus,t as early as the second century, gives some fanciful reasons for there being that precise number; but though his remarks are not worth noticing, the fact he records is important. As persons bearing for the first time, that various gospels formerly existed under the names of the Apostles, may conceive that the admission into the canon of the four received ones, was rather an arbitrary choice than grounded upon any just cause of preference, I observe on the authority of Lardner, I who has fully investigated the subject, that, 1. There is no evidence that any spurious or apocryphal books whatever, existed in the first century; 2. That they were never read in the churches ; 3. That they were not admitted into the volume of Scripture ; 4. alleged as authority by different parties ; or, 5. noticed by their adversaries. The internal evidence against them is decisive, for, 1. They support doctrines or practices contrary to the truth; as the sanctity of relics, and an undue respect for the Virgin Mary. 2. They abound in absurd and frivolous details, and useless and improbable miracles. 3. They mention things later than the time of the
* Comment, in Matt. i. Philocalia, 5.
f Irenæus adv. Hæres. iii. 11. I mention one of these, the analogy he fançied between them and the animals in Ezekiel's vision, because it has given rise to the well known symbols of the evangelists, the man, the lion, the calf, and the eagle.
Credibility of the Gospel History, vol. xii.
authors whose numes they bear. 4. They contradict authentic history both sacred and profane. 5. They contain studied imitations of passages in the genuine Scripture. And, 6, make statements repugnant to the character, principles, and conduct, of the inspired writers. Indeed so marvellous and absurd are their contents, that they carry with them their own confutation; nor should I even have mentioned them, had they not been lately reprinted, together with the works of the apostolical fathers, in an insidious form, for the purpose of undermining the credit of the genuine Scriptures. Undesignedly, however, they have served the cause of religion, for their puerilities and absurdities are strikingly in contrast with the authentic gospels; and if the latter had been like these, the productions of artifice or delusion, they would have resembled them in their defects.
They also decidedly corroborate the evangelical history, for they are written in the names of those whom authentic Scripture states to be apostles, and companions of the apostles, and they all suppose the dignity of our Lord's person, and that a power of working miracles together with a high degree of authority was conveyed by him to his apostles. Lardner in his elaborate work, a summary view of which is presented by Paley,t traces back the external evidence of the canonical books to the apostolic age, and that through the writings of heretics as well as the orthodox. “There are, says he," I in the“ remaining works of Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, who all lived in the two first centuries, more and larger quotations of the small volume of the New Testament, than of all the works of Cicero, by writers of all characters for several ages, notwithstanding the loss of so many works of those times.” Nor are they only quoted, but quoted as Scripture that is appealed to as conclusive authority. They are accredited also by the opponents of Christianity, for neither Celsus in the second century, Porphyry in the third, nor Julian in the fourth, ever suspected their authenticity. Copies were multiplied and disseminated; translations were made of them as early as the second century; commentaries were soon written; they were not only studied at home, but read out, from the be
* Thus in the Acts of Paul and Thecla, St. Paul is made to utter a deliberate lie. The few apocryphal pieces which are still extant, have been published, together with notices of the lost pieces, by Fabricius, in his Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti. The greater part of which has been translated by Jones, in bis “ New and full Method of settling the canonical Authority of the New Testament,” who gives an alphabetical catalogue of them, with references to the fathers by whom they were first mentioned. + Evidences of Christianity, vol. i. p. 178—319.
Lardner, ii. p. 647.