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Pagan testimonies. The Jews call the historical books of the Old Testament, as Joshua, &c. the former Prophets, as being written by such, who wrote no books of prophecies; Josephus says, the prophets wrote the history of their own times; and that their history was written by inspired men from the time of Moses to that of Artaxerxes Longimanus, and that it was not worthy of 80 much credit afterwards, as being written by men not inspired, as himself, &c. Historical, moral, proverbial, apocryphal works were preserved, while scientific ones, as Solomon's natural philosophy, were lost, though translated into Greek, and read by Aristotle, and his disciple Theophrastus. All public examplars were examined and approved, or rejected by the senate, sanhedrim, or the 120 men of the great synagogue, and condemned as apocryphal, like the apocryphal or spurious gospels, by the Chris. tian church councils, if not destroyed. The Christians were as careful about settling their canon as the Jews, admitting none but divine or inspired books; for the epistles of Ignatius a most renowned disciple of the Apostle John, and an eminent Christian martyr, and even the Apostolical Constitutions were rejected, as the Wisdom of the Wise Son of Sirach, &c. were by the Jewish council. The apocryphal book entitled the Wisdom of Solomon, was written by a Jew, supposed to be Philo, later than the Septuagint version. If errors were found in a copy of the Bible written for public use, the author was excommunicated; and it is only such MSS. as are known to have been publicly read in the church, that can be depended on. Joshua, &c. to the middle of Ezra, were written by national authority, by inspired scribes, (chiefly Levites). All that were authentic, or canonical, as being written under the guidance of the Divine Spirit, were kept in the library, at the temple. All the additions te Deuteronomy, Joshua, Samuel, &c. after the death of Moses and the others, were made by the senate, or national council, or sanhedrim. . Moses wrote thirteen copies of the law, one for each tribe, and one laid up in the ark as a test copy, for a pattern or example for the Levites to keep. Judah's was carried to Babylon and back from it, &c. and existed in Adrian's time, a century after Christ. Pirki Aboth, i. e. the fragments of the Hebrew fathers, chap. i. R. Moses Ben-Maimon Prefat. Seder Zeraim, i. e. the order of insertion, Prefat. Pocokii Portæ Mosis. No books were added or inserted in the canon of the Old Testament as inspired, after the prophets the principal judges ceased, but the latter, post captivity prophets, who were undoubtedly known to be such, and whose divine authority is acknowledged in the New Testament, of whom Malachi is the last. And Jolin, the New Testament prophet, revised the Gospels, and all the other books, at the desire of the Asiatic churches, and confirmed them by his apostolic authority, as Eusebius shews, from the testimony of the most famous writers of those times. Tertullian shews, that the autographs of the evangelists and apostles were extant in his time; the Syriąc
version was made in the first century. John wrote the last of the New Testament books, whose number is reckoned as we still do, by the early writers; as the learned Tertullian and Origen, about the end of the 2d century, or the beginning of the 3d; the learned historian Eusebius, and the famous Athanasius, 315; the most learned Jerome 382; and the learned Augustine 39t; and many others prior or posterior; as Irenæus, who was cotemporary with Polycarp and Ignatius, St. John's disciples. See Calmet's Dictionary, and Dupin's History of the Canon.
The least degree of inspiration has divine authority and veracity; thus the authors of sacred history of such things as they saw and heard, and of the simple, plain, moral instructions for youths, as precepts and proverbs, were moved to write, and infallibly guided; and herein lies the difference between Ecclesiastes and Ecclesiasticus, which was written without divine direction, though these apocryphal books, as to the subject matter, are good as the others. The gospel scheme, and doctrines, prophecies, promises of rewards, and threatenings of punishments, are entirely from supernatural revelation of the highest degree. The subject matter, or sense of the Scripture only, is generally held to be inspired, except some messages, &c. given in express words; and the authors used their own style, composition, and manner of reasoning, or the way of writing in their own age and country, as the figures and allusions they used, shew. In all these they greatly differ, expressing the same things in different words, and a differ rent order, Eccles. xii. 10. some use a tedious round about way, with repetitions, as most of the Old Testament authors do: others a short comprehensive way like the Ten Commands, and the Lord's Prayer, as Paul does. Their chief care was to express the matter fully and strongly, and their faculties were sometimes elevated far above their ordinary pitch. Some were learned men, as Moses, (Acts vii. 22.) Job, Solomon, (3d Kings iv. 31, &c.) Isaiah, Daniel i. 4. and other prophets, Luke a physician, and Paul, who learned the Greek philosophy, and Rabbinic literature, and many other learned men, in the Apostles' times, were, commissioned by them; so the objection to the use of human learning in religion, saying the unlearned only were inspired, and commissioned to propagate it, is a mistake. All the prophets were chosen out of the academies or colleges instituted by Sa. muel, but Amos and Elisha. The apostle tells us that all scripture is given by inspiration of God, (see the very learned Dr. Finlay's Refutation of Dr. Geddes) (2 Tim. iii. 16.) and it is written for our instruction, (Rom. xv. 4.) yet some are only as a history of the times and manners, or customs, speeches, &c. Much of Moses' books, Job, the Prophets, Epistles, &c. relate to the particular times, circumstances, and occasions for which they were primarily designed. All impartial historians, sacred or civii, relate such horrible and indecent actions, as are not fit to be read in society; and a great author thinks history should not be read by youth, as being a scene of the grossest vices; but it is a mirror to see the world in, and know human nature and human life, and how to avoid dangers.
It is generally granted, by the learned and judicious, that various errors, transpositions, omissions, and insertions or repetitions of letters, words and sentences, by transcribers, are discovered by comparisons of MSS. copies, ancient versions, &c. See Sept. and Volg. Kennicot's, De Rossi's, Mill's, Wetstein's, Griesbach's, &c. Collections. The Chaldee, Syriac, Samaritan, Arabic, Persian, Ethiopic, &c. versions, and their different editions, and ignorant expositors, have given absurd expositions of errors, as Psalm xxiv. 6. Acts xx. 28. 1 John iii. 16. The like happens still, even in printing, notwithstanding all the care, and repeated revising of correctors. But as Bishop Louth observes, no book has suffered more by the ravages of time, than Aristotle's Treatise on Poetry, and yet it is still the great code of criticism. But it is observed, that none of these errors affect important doctrines, and one place can be corrected, supplied, and cleared by another, so that the general system, or great body of scripture doctrine, continues still complete.--It shows a total ignorance of the Eastern figurative manner of instruction, to think there is no intimation, of a future state of happiness and misery in the Old Testament. The Egyptian bondage under Pharaoh and the taskmasters, was a figure of man's natural state, to Israelites; the Passover, and the passage of the Red Sea, of propitiatory remission and purification; the wilderness, of the pilgrimage through the world; the tabernacle-sanctuary, of the church on earth; Jordan, of death; the promised land, and also the most holy place, of heaven. Paul shews that the patriarchs before the Mosaic dispensation, looked for it, Heb. iv. 11. xi. 16. and Christ shews, Matth. v. 22. that the continual fire burning the filthy trash of the city in the valley of Hinnom, prefigured the wicked's perpetual punishment in hell, (Gia Hinom, Gehenna) as Isaiah also does, lxvi. 24. Christ shews that the resurrection was taught to Moses, Exod. iii. 15. Matth. xxii. 31. Daniel also foretells it, xii. 2. Farmer shews the worship of departed spirits long before Moses, as Nimrod's, &c. deified. Bishop Louth on Isaiah xxvi. 19. ob. serves, that the resurrection must have been a popular or common doctrine in Isaiah's time, as allusions are always made to common or well known customs, usages and tenets; and Enoch foretold the last judgment, Jude 15. See Law's admirable demonstra. tion of the existence of a Creator, and of the natural immortality of the soul, from the nature of man; and of the blessed life and immortality unvailed by the gospel; and Warburton wandering in darkness, bewildered by the blindness of his understanding, as unable to see the sense of the divine oracles, as the mole is to be a star-gazer or astronomer; Letter to the Bishop of London; John xviii. 36. Rom. viji. 9. 1 John v. 12.
The Author being engaged, during a number of years, in the study of Eastern learning and medical science, and interested in no place nor party, being a farmer's son, (P. A. B. S.) and so not brought up on an ecclesiastical benefice; like a citizen of the world at large, he entirely eradicated all the prejudices of edu. cation, in the natural, civil, and religious life, and speculated freely on the nature of things; the origin of the universe; the constitution and course of nature; the present state of the world, the natural and moral providence, or laws by which the universe is governed. He published an examination of the various systems of philosophy and religion among patriarchs, pagans, Mahomedans, Jews and Christians, and their various parties, from the creation to the present time, and addressed it to a very learned, ingenious, and just patron, the first who came out of India without bringing a fortune from it, a baronet who trained his family in the simplicity and integrity of primitive times; and he evidently observed that materialism and deisna are inconsistent and impossible, to any not blindfolded by ignorance, immorality, the passion for novelty or singularity, without going into atheism; but anatomical science has rendered that impossible to all that understand it, since Galen, who was converted by it. The structure of plants, animals, &c. is as strong an evidence of an Author of nature, as any fabric is of an architect; and the continual accomplishment of the prophecies contained in the scripture, from almost the one end to the other, and in every age, is a series of standing miracles to all ages, and as strong an evidence of inspiration, as the prognosis of eclipses, and the phases of the moon, are of the certainty of the planets revolving round the sun, though contrary to the vulgar opinion, as the inspiration of the canonical books is to the deistical opinion; when part of the eclipses have come to pass as foretold, we cannot doubt of the rest, and the case of the prophecies is parallel.
From an extensive and comprehensive view of the frame and order of nature, and the conduct of providence, as the different climates, weather, kinds, and conditions of creatures, &c, we see boundless wisdom, power, and goodness, &c. in many instances, and hence conclude that the whole is framed and ordered thereby; and the analogy of scripture is entirely parallel, see on Lev. xxii. 24.
“ All nature is but art unknown to thee;
POPE. The histories of Joseph, Job, and Mordecai, are finished pieces of Providence, wherein one thing seemed to be a-doing, and a contrary designed. The government of the world by Providence, as exhibited in the course of nature and scripture, must seem incon sistent, while incomplete, before the whole plan is finished. The parts of a machine, or any plan, spem odd and strange to those who know not their use and design, in connexion with the whole. The objections of atheists, deists, materialists, and all infidels and sceptics, may easily be solved from the true sources; they arise from ignorance, partial or imperfect views, mistakes, stupidity prejudice, vice, and folly.
He will show in the philosophical speculations on religion and revelation, demonstrating their authenticity and necessity, and in the critical observations, and parallels of nature, providence, and scripture, that they all have similar intricate, strange, odd, unaccountable things, and as an ingenious philosopher, A. Wilson, M. D. observes, the whole works of God are such a mysterious maze, that unless he gives us a clue to lead us through it, or a key to open up the secret springs, we shall never be able to unfold or unravel the complicated scenes, or understand the seeming inconsistencies and oppositions in the sytems of nature, providence and scripture, in the present state of things; but when all the parts are finished, and the whole plan completed, we have sufficient reason to conclude, that it will be ope harmonious whole, like the lot of Joseph, any part of which, separate, or by itself, would appear very strange, as in slavery or prison. The events and actions ordained in scripture, which are the great bugbears of the deists, took place, or were brought to pass by Providence, so their carping at these, is cavilling at the providential government of the world; which is, as the philosophic poet says, " to re-judge his justice, and be the god of God.” Some vices are punished in the present state, to evidence the moral government of the world, but not all, to shew that a future state is to be expected, which will set all to rights. In the early ages of the world, notorious vices were visibly punished by temporal judgments, to establish the belief of the world's being governed by Providence, but Christianity refers rewards and punishments to a future state; yet visible judgments being necessary to restrain wickedness, are still inflicted, though they are not noticed by superficial observers of Providence, as they are usually inflicted by providential means. Though earthquakes, elementary fire, water, famine, pestilential diseases, &c. are appointed or used by Providence, to punish the wicked, yet wars are most used, as it is most grievous to be punished by men like themselves, 2 Kings xxiv. 14. The Israelites who were appointed to punish the Canaanites and Amalekites, were warned that they would be also punished, if they became wicked like them, which has happened oftener than once. The belief of a moral providence to punish immorality was general, see Jonah i. 7. Acts xxviii. 4. That evil should overcome good, is no more strange, than that the plentiful crop produced by a fine spring and summer, should be destroyed by a bad harvest; or that a child should die as soon as it is brought into the world, and so the parent's hope be destroyed. Nor can such things be