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there exist throughout Europe and in various parts of Asia and Africa, manuscript copies of the Bible, that were written before the art of printing was invented. These manuscripts are exceedingly numerous. The learned men of Europe have examined between 600 and 700 manuscript copies of the New Testament in Greek. Some of these are very ancient. There is one callrian MS. ed the Alexandrian Manuscript, which is now preserved in the British Museum, London, and which is as old as the seventh century, or, according to some eminent scholars, still older. There is another celebrated manuscript preserved in the Vatican palace at Rome, which is believed to have been written before the end of the fifth century. You observe that, in this way, we are at once. carried back fourteen hundred years,-for here is actually a copy of the New Testament which can be demonstrated to be of that antiquity.


Tests of the


You will naturally inquire how it is that learned men are able to ascertain the age of ancient manuantiquity of scripts. You will ask whether the reckoning can be depended on, or whether this judging of the age of manuscripts is not mere guess-work But there is far less uncertainty connectThere are va

to some extent.

ed with it than you might at first suppose. rious means of judging respecting the age of manuscripts, such as the substance on which the writing is, whether it is vellum or paper, what sort of paper,—the ink, its composition and durability,-the character of the penmanship,the forms of the letters, and so on. This whole subject has been carefully investigated,* and perfect confidence may be reposed in the conclusions to which learned men

* There is a very interesting work by Mr. Isaac Taylor devoted especially to the consideration of this subject, entitled On the transmission of Ancient Books.

have come. But the point which I particularly wish you to notice is this, that precisely the same principles are applied in deciding on the antiquity of the manuscripts of the Bible, as are applied in determining the age of the manuscripts of Greek, Latin, and other authors. We test the antiquity of a manuscript copy of New Testament, just in the same manner as we test the antiquity of a manuscript copy of Homer's Iliad, or Cicero's Orations. If we are wrong as to the age of the New Testament manuscripts, we are wrong as to the age of all the other manuscripts. If we are right in regard to Greek and Latin manuscripts in general, we are right in regard to the manuscripts of the New Testament.

So much as to the age of the manuscripts, and the evidence they afford respecting the antiquity of the New Testament. Observe how they also establish its genuineness and uncorruptedness. The various manuscripts of the New Testament are found to agree in a remarkable manner. I do not say they agree in every word and letter. Slight differences exist, which are known by the name of Various will easily understand how these arise.


Readings. You Suppose you take a paper and hand it to twenty clerks in succession, to be copied out by them. Probably, not a single man out of the twenty will copy the paper exactly in every particular. One will misspell, another will leave out a word, and so on. So here we shall have twenty manuscripts, and these will contain Various Readings. You see, then, how various readings arise. Observe now how far they are important. Probably each of the twenty copies of the paper is wrong in some points. Would it be correct, then, to say that no dependence can be placed on these transcripts? Let us suppose the original paper lost and that only the twenty copies remain, not one of which is quite faultless. Still the exact wording of the original paper can be known.

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For, on examining the transcripts, we see that one copy has a word in one place which we find in none of the rest. Here, we should say the one manuscript is wrong, and the nineteen are right. Errors exist in all the copies, but not the same errors; and thus one copy corrects another. We go on in this way, through the whole paper; and, at the end, we feel no doubt that we know exactly the wording of the original document.

This is precisely the way learned men take with the copies of the New Testament. They compare the various manuscripts that are found in all parts of the world, note their differences, and decide what is the true reading. The differences among the various manuscripts are exceedingly unimportant. The very worst manuscript does not corrupt one principle of the faith, or destroy one moral precept. In the vast majority of cases, the various readings consist merely of different ways of spelling words, just as we see the same English word spelled in one book honor, and in another honour.

Lastly, it is very important to recollect that the works of no ancient author, Greek or Latin, have come down to us with so exceedingly few variations as the Christian Scriptures. With regard to most Oriental writings-Indian, Persian, and Arabic-the variations in the manuscripts are infinitely greater than those that occur in the Christian Scriptures.

III. We have a third proof of the antiquity and References genuineness of the New Testament, in the and quotaReferences to it and Quotations from it made Christians. by early Christians.

tions by

You are aware how frequently modern Christian authors, particularly writers on theology, make quotations from the Bible. In the works of the theological authors who have flourished since the Reformation, probably every part of the New Testament has been

quoted, many parts have been so innumerable times. In like manner, we find, in the works of the authors of the middle ages, an immense number of quotations from the Christian Scriptures. We can, in this manner, proceed backwards to an exceedingly early period. For instance, there is a celebrated writer called Augustine, who flourished in the end of the fourth and beginning of the fifth century, whose works are quite as much filled with extracts from the Bible as the writings of any modern author. A century earlier (about A. D. 315) flourished Eusebius, a very voluminous writer, who studied the New Testament with critical accuracy, and who very frequently quotes from it. During the space of about two hundred years that intervened between this date and the completion of the New Testament near the end of the first century, there arose more than thirty authors, whose compositions are still extant. All of them quote from the Bible, and some of them very largely. These writers in many cases lived in places far apart from each other, such as Lyons, Carthage, Alexandria, Antioch, &c. This last circumstance shews how widely the knowledge of the Christian Scriptures had already extended. It also shews that the testimonies which can be drawn from these authors in favour of the genuineness of the Bible, are independent of each other.

IV. We have a fourth proof of the antiquity and genuReferences ineness of the New Testament in the Referand quota- ences and Quotations made by the early unbelievbelievers. ers.

tions by un

The authors to whom I have been referring, were Christians. They wrote in explanation or defence of the Bible, But there were at the same time various Heathen authors who published books against the religion of Christ. The three most celebrated opponents of Christianity, in early times, were Celsus, Porphyry, and Julian. Julian flou

rished in the middle of the 4th century, Por

Julian, Porphyry,


phyry in the middle of the 3rd, and Celsus near the end of the 2d.

As Celsus* is the earliest of the three, we shall attend more particularly to his writings. It has been computed that there are at least eighty quotations from the New Testament in the fragments of his work that have been preserved. The great facts of Christ's birth, baptism, preaching, miracles, death, and resurrection, are all referred to by him, as mentioned in the writings of Christians; indeed, an abridgement of the history of Christ may be found in Celsus.† “We have quoted these things," says he, "out of your own writings."

Chrysostom, a Christian writer of the fifth century, justly remarks: "Celsus and Porphyry are sufficient witnesses to the antiquity of our books. For the writings which they attack, certainly could not have been published after them."§

The exact coincidence between our Bible and the quotations from it by Celsus, proves it to be the same as the one he perused about the year 176. He not unfrequently uses such forms of expression as this: "Jesus with his own mouth expressly declares these things, as you have recorded."|| Such words clearly involve the genuineness of the New Testament writings.

I think, my young friend, that these proofs will satisfy you. A good deal more might be urged in attestation of

* Celsus flourished about the year of Christ 176. His work against Christianity was entitled, "The true Word." He was answered by Origen about the year 246. The work of Celsus is lost; but copious extracts from it are found in Origen's reply. It is marked by a most bitter spirit.

+ This is a remark of Doddridge's.

See this and many striking quotations from Celsus in Lardner's Jewish and Heathen Testimonies, chap. xviii.

§ Hom. vi. Epist. I. ad Cor.

Lardner, as above, ch. xviii. Sect. 3.

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