« PreviousContinue »
lusions to the incidents of his private life, and the circumstances of his condition and history; and the connexion and parallelism of these with the same circumstances in the Acts of the Apostles, so as to enable us, for the most part, to confront them one with another; as well as the relation which subsists between the circumstances, as mentioned or referred to in the different epistles-afford no inconsiderable proof of the genuineness of the writings, and the reality of the transactions. · For as no advertency is sufficient to guard against slips and contradictions, when circumstances are multiplied, and when they are liable to be detected by contemporary accounts equally. circumstantial, an impostor, I should expect, would either have avoided particulars entirely, contenting himself with doctrinal discussions, moral precepts, and general reflections;* or if, for the sake of imitating St Paul's style, he should have thought it necessary to intersperse his composition with names and circumstances, he would have placed them out of the reach of comparison with the history. And I am confirmed in this opinion by the inspection of two attempts to counterfeit St Paul's epistles, which have come down to us ; and the only attempts of which we have any knowledge, that are at all deserving of regard. One of these is an epistle to the Laodiceans, extant in Latin, and preserved.by Fabricius in his collection of apocryphal scriptures. The other purports to be an epistle of St Paul to the Corinthians, in answer to an epistle from the Corinthians to him. This was translated by Scroderus from a copy in the Armenian language which had been sent to W. Whiston, and was afterwards, from a more perfect copy, procured at Aleppó, published by his sons, as an appendix to their edition of Moses Chorenensis. No Greek copy exists of either : they are not only not supported by ancient testimony, but they are negatived and excluded; as they have never found admission into any catalogue of apostolical
* This, however, must not be misunderstood. A person writing to his friends, and upon a subject in which the transactions of his own life were concerned, would probably be led in the course of his letter, especially if it was a long one, to refer to passages found in his history. A person addressing an epistle to the public at large, or under the form of an epistle delivering a discourse upon some speculative argument, would not, it is probable, meet with an occasion of alluding to the circumstances of his life at all; he might, or he might not; the chance on either side is nearly equal. This is the situation of the catholic epistle. Although, therefore, the presence of these allusions and agreements be a valuable accession to the arguments by which the authenticity of a letter is maintained, yet the want of them certainly forms no positive objection.
writings, acknowledged by, or known to the early ages of Christianity. In the first of these I found, as I expected, a total evitation of circumstances. It is simply a collection of sentences from the canonical epistles, strung together with very little skill. The second, which is a more versute and specious forgery, is introduced with a list of names of persons who wrote to St Paul from Corinth; and is preceded by an account sufficiently, particular of the manner in which the epistle was sent from Corinth to St Paul, and the answer returned. But they are names which no one ever heard of; and the account it is impossible to combine with any thing found in the Acts, or in the other epistles. It is not necessary for me to point out the internal marks of spuriousness and imposture which these compositions betray; but it was necessary to observe, that they do not afford those coincidences which we propose as proofs of authenticity in the epistles which we defend.
Having explained the general scheme and formation of the argument, I may be permitted to subjoin a brief account of the manner of conducting it.
I have disposed the several instances of agreement under separate numbers: as well to mark more sensibly the divisions of the subject, as for another purpose, viz. that the reader may thereby be reminded that the instances are independent of one another. I have advanced nothing which I did not think probable ; but the degree of probability, by which different instances are supported, is undoubtedly very different. If the reader, therefore, meets with a number which contains an instance that appears to him unsatisfactory, or founded in mistake, he will dismiss that number from the argument, but without prejudice to any other. He will have occasion also to observe, that the coincidences discoverable in some epistles are much fewer and weaker than what are supplied by others, But he will add to his observation this important circumstance, that whatever ascertains the original of one epistle, in some measure establishes the authority of the rest. For, whether these epistles be genuine or spurious, every thing about them indicates that they come from the same hand. The diction, which it is extremely difficult to imitate, preserves its resemblance and peculiarity throughout all the epistles. Numerous expressions and singularities of style, found in no other part of the New Testament, are repeated in different epistles; and occur, in their respective places, without the smallest appearance of force or art. An involved argumentation, frequent obscurities, especially in the order and transition of thought, piety, vehemence, affection, bursts of rapture, and of unparalleled sublimity, are properties, all or most of them, discernible in every letter of the collection. But although these epistles bear strong marks of proceeding from the same hand, I think it is still more certain that they were originally separate publications. They form no continued story; they compose no regular correspondence; they comprise not the transactions of any particular period ; they carry on no connection of argument; thoy depend not upon one another; except in one or two instances, they refer not to one another. I will further undertake to say, that no study or care has been employed to produce or preserve an appearance of consistency ainongst them. All which observations show that they were not intended by the person, whoever he was, that wrote them, to come forth or be read together; that they appeared at first separately, and have been collected since.
The proper purpose of the following work is, to bring together, from the Acts of the Apostles, and from the different epistles, such passages as furnish examples of undesigned coincidence; but I have so far enlarged upon this plan, as to take into it some circumstances found in the epistles, which contributed strength to the conclusion, though not strictly objects of comparison.
It appeared also a part of the same plan, to examine the difficulties which presented themselves in the course of our inquiry.
I do not know that the subject has been proposed or considered in this view before. Ludovicus, Capellus, Bishop Pearson, Dr Benson, and Dr Lardner, have each given a continued history of St Paul's life, made up from the Acts of the Apostles and the epistles joined together. But this, it is manifest, is a different undertaking from the present, and directed to a different purpose.
If what is here offered shall add one thread to that complication of probabilities by which the Christian history is attested, the reader's attention will be repaid by the supreme importance of the subject; and my design will be fully answered.
The first passage I shall produce from this epistle, and upon which a good deal of observation will be founded, is the following:
But now I go unto Jerusalem, to minister unto the saints; for it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.' Rom. xv. 25, 26.
In this quotation three distinct circumstances are stated ; a contribution in Macedonia for the relief of the Christians of Jerusalem, a contribution in Achaia for the same purpose, and an intended journey of St Paul to Jerusalem. These circumstances are stated as taking place at the same time, and that to be the time when the epistle was written. Now let us inquire whether we
can find these circumstances elsewhere; and whether, if we do find them, they meet together in respect of date. Turn to the Acts of the Apostles, chap. xx. ver. 2, 3, and you read the following account : When he had gone over those parts, (viz. Macedonia), and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece, and there abode three months; and when the Jews laid wait for him, as he was about to sail into Syria, he purposed to return through Macedonia. From this passage, compared with the account of St Paul's travels, given before, and from the sequel of the chapter, it appears, that upon St Paul's second visit to the peninsula of Greece, his intention was, when he should leave the country, to proceed from Achaia directly by sea to Syria ; but that, to avoid the Jews, who were lying in wait to intercept him in his route, he so far changed his purpose as to go back through Macedonia, embark at Philippi, and pursue his voyage from thence towards Jerusalem. Here therefore is a journey to Jerusalem; but not a syllable of any contribution. And as St Paul had
taken several journeys to Jerusalem before, and one also immediately after his first visit into the peninsula of Greece (Acts xviii. 21.), it cannot from hence be collected in which of These visits the epistle was written, or, with certainty, that it was written in either. The silence of the historian, who professes to have been with St Paul at the time (c. xx. v. 6.), concerning any contribution, might lead us to look out for some different journey, or might induce us perhaps to question the consistency of the two records, did not a very accidental reference, in another part of the same history, afford us sufficient ground to believe that this silence was omission. When St Paul made his reply before Felix, to the accusations of Tertullus, he alleged, as was natural, that neither the errand which brought him to Jerusalem, nor his conduct whilst he remained there, merited the calumnies with which the Jews had aspersed him. “Now after many years (i. e. of absence) I came to bring alms to my nation, and offerings ; whereupon certain Jews from Asia found me purified in the temple, neither with multitude nor with tumult; who ought to have been here before thee, and object, if they had ought against me.' Acts xxiv. 17--19. This mention of alms and offerings certainly brings the narrative in the Acts nearer to an accordancy with the epistle; yet no one, I am persuaded, will suspect that this clause was put into St Paul's defence, either to supply the omission in the preceding narrative, or with any view to such accordancy.
After all, nothing is yet said or hinted concerning the place of the contribution; nothing concerning Macedonia and Achaia. Turn therefore to the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chap. xvi. 1-4, and you have St Paul delivering the following directions: Concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye: upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomsoever you shall approve by your letters, them will I send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem ; and if it be meet that I go also, they shall with me. In this passage we find a contribution carrying on at Corinth, the capital of Achaia, for the Christians of Jerusalem; we find also a hint given of the possibility of St Paul going up to Jerusalem himself, after he had paid his visit into Achaia ; but this is spoken of rather as a possibility