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every one interpreted as he was able'. Here we
§ 3. The first of these testimonies has never, as far as I know, been controverted. On the contrary, it has been confirmed, and still supported by all subsequent Christian authors who have touched the sub. ject. The second of these testimonies, that this Evangelist wrote his Gospel in Hebrew, had a concurrence equally uniform of all succeeding writers in the church for about fourteen hundred years.
In the last two centuries, however, this point has been hotly disputed. Erasmus, who, though an eminent scholar, knew little or nothing of Hebrew, was among the first who called in question a tradition which had so long, and so universally, obtained in the Church. “ The faults of Erasmus,” says Simon”, “ were blindly followed by cardinal Cajetan, “ who, not knowing either Greek or Hebrew, was “ incapable of correcting them.” The cardinal has since been almost deserted by the Catholics; nd the principal defenders of this new opinion have
1 Ματθαιος μεν εν Εβραιδι διαλεκτω τα λογια συνεταξατο ηρμηνευσε δ' αυτα ως ηδυνατο έκασος. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. lib. iii,
been Protestants. It is very unlucky for the discovery of truth, when party-spirit, in any degree, influences our inquiries. Yet, it is but too evident that there has been an infusion of this spirit, in the discussion of the present question. “If we give up,' says the staunch polemic, the originality of the Greek text, we have no Gospel by Matthew which can be called authentic; for, to admit that the * translation of one book of Scripture may be so de' nominated, is equally absurd as to admit it of them all ; and, if we admit this point, what becomes of our controversy with the Romanists about the decree of the council of Trent, asserting the authenticity of the Vulgate ?' Whitby, who enters warmly into this dispute, urges`, amongst other things, the improbability that Providence, which has preserved all the other canonical books in their original languages, should have suffered the original of this Gospel to be so soon lost, and nothing of it to remain in the church but a translation. That all the books are extant which have been written by divine inspiration, is not so clear a case as that author seems to imagine. It will hardly be pretended that it is self-evident, and I have yet seen no attempt to prove it. The book of the wars of the Lord", the book of Jasher, the book of Nathan the Prophet, the book of Gad the Seer", and several others, are
4 Prefatory Disc. to the Four Gospels.
5 Numb. xxi. 14. 6 Jos. x. 13,
71 Chron. xxix. 29.
referred to in the Old Testament, manifestly as of equal authority with the book which refers to them, and as fuller in point of information. Yet these are, to all appearance, irrecoverably lost.
Other Epistles, beside those we have, there is reason to think the 'Apostles wrote by the same Spirit. Paul, in what is called his first Epistle to the Corinthians ®, plainly refers to what he had written to them, in a former epistle now not extant. The artificial methods which have been adopted, for eluding the ma. nifest sense of his words, serve only to demonstrate, how unfriendly the spirit of the controvertist is to the discernment of the critic. And, if we regard the authority of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John, Paul wrote more epistles than one to the Philippians, as this venerable father expressly tells us, in his letter to that church'. Further, is not what is spoken, equally valuable with what is written, by inspiration? Yet how small a portion of the words of Him who spake as never man spake, has it pleased Providence to cause to be committed to writing? How little, comparatively, is recorded of the discourses of these poor fishermen of Galilee, whose eloquence, in spite of all its disadvantages, baffled the wisdom of the learned, the power of the mighty, and the influence of the rich, converting infidels and idolaters, by thousands, to a doctrine to which all their education, prejudices, and passions, rendered them most reluctant, the doctrine of the
8 1 Cor. v. 9.
9 ch. iii.
crucified Messiah ? God bestows his favours, both spiritual and temporal, in various measures, to different individuals, nations, and ages, of the world, as he thinks fit. Those of former times enjoyed many advantages which we have not, and we enjoy some which they had not. It is enough for us, that this only is required as our duty, that we make the proper use of the Scriptures, and of all the other advantages which, through the goodness of God, we enjoy: for every man is accepted according to what he hath, and not according to what he hath not '.
But, indeed, this mode of arguing with regard to Providence, appears to me quite unsatisfactory, as proceeding on the notion that we are judges in matters which, in my opinion, are utterly beyond the reach of our faculties. Men imagining themselves to know perfectly what it is Ruler of the universe, in any supposed circumstance, to do, conclude boldly, that he has done this or that, after such a particular manner, or such another: a method which, in a creature like man, can hardly be accounted either modest, or pious. From the motives by which men are commonly
in. fluenced, we may judge, with some likelihood, what, in particular circumstances, their conduct will be. This is level to our capacity, and within the sphere of our experience. But let us not presume to measure the acts of Omnipotence, and of Infinite Wisdom, by our contracted span. Were we, from
is proper for the
10 2 Cor. viii. 12.
our notions of convenience, to determine what God, in possible cases, real or hypothetical, has done, or would do, we should, without hesitation, pronounce that the autographies, the identical writings of the sacred penmen (which are, in strictness, the only originals or perfect standards), would have been preserved from accidents, that they might serve for correcting all the corruptions which should, in process of time, through the mistakes, the carelessness, or the bad intention, of transcribers, be introduced. For who can deny that the sense of a writing may be as much injured by the blunders of a copyist, as by those of a translator? But if those have not the Gospel, who cannot have recourse to some copy in the original language, not the ten thousandth part of those called Christians, have yet partaken in that inestimable blessing. For how small, comparatively, is the number of those who can read the sacred wri. ters in their own languages ? If, therefore, it is truth we desire, and not the confirmation of our prejudices, let us renounce all such delusive reasonings a priori from supposed fitnesses, of which we are far, very far indeed, from being competent judges ; and let us satisfy ourselves with examining, impartially, the evidences of the fact.
4. The proper evidence of ancient facts is written testimony. And for this fact, as was observed before, we have the testimony of Papias, as Eusebius, who quotes his words, assures us. For a fact of this kind, a more proper witness than Papias