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by some as evidences of His Divinity, but the testimony to these miracles is Scripture, which, as I shall presently shew, will not bear such pressure put upon it. Supposing that the four Gospels were written by those under whose names they pass, the evidence is not in that case of the most complete description. It is evidence which we should unhesitatingly reject in profane history; and which Protestants do reject, when they refuse to believe the miracles wrought by the saints, by relics and by privileged images, many of which rest on better evidence and stand the test of criticism more surely than do those of the Gospel. Take the miracle of Cana of Galilee for instance. No names are given of the parties at the feast; we do not know whether the writer describing the incident was present himself, or whether he heard it from an eyewitness. The transformation of the water can only have been known to the servants, for they filled the water-pots and poured them out in wine; but we have not their evidence. Whether they really drew out wine, when they had poured in water, or whether they produced wine from some other source, we have no opportunity of knowing. And what is remarkable also, is that the president of the feast and the bridegroom did not know that a miracle had been performed; the ruler charged the bridegroom with having reserved the best wine till the first supply was exhausted, and the charge was not denied.
The miracle of the recovery of the nobleman's son, again, —and the same may be said of almost all others—rests on no evidence. We have not the testimony of the father to the cure, we do not know what the sickness really was, and the recovery might have been a coincidence.
Nor is the argument from prophecy more satisfactory, for it may be urged with equal justice, on the opposite side, that the narrative was accommodated to the prophecies.
The miraculous conception was believed by Joseph on the authority of a dream, evidence which would not satisfy any one now, if offered to prove identity, say in the case of a natural birth. The Virgin conceives and bears a son. Why? Because, it may be very fairly argued, of the Messiah of prophecy, it was announced by Isaiah, or rather was thought to be announced, that a virgin should do so;' and the compiler of the narrative desired to adapt the history of Jesus to the prophetic sketch. A star heralds the birth of Jesus. Why? Because Balaam the soothsayer had foretold there should rise a star out of Jacob. Wise men come from the East with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh for the young child. Why? Because in Isaiah it had been proclaimed that “Gentiles shall come to thy light and kings to the brightness of thy rising;” “all they from Sheba shall come: they shall bring gold and incense.” Why was there a flight into Egypt? The Evangelist gives the reason, because of the prophecy “Out of Egypt have I called My Son.” Why was the potter's field bought? The Evangelist says, because Jeremiah the prophet had said, “ they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of Him that was valued, whom they of the children of Israel did value; and gave them for the potter's field, as the Lord appointed me.” In the first place, it was Zachariah, and not Jeremiah, who acted thus, and, in the second place, the verbal ambiguity in the Hebrew, the word translated “potter" really meaning "treasury,” suggested the notion of purchasing the potter's field.
1 The prophecy of the Maiden's son in Isaiah relates to a child in whose nonage the land of the two kings, whose alliance was su dreaded by Ahaz, was to be deserted; and the Hebrew “ The young woman" points her out to be some maiden known to Isaiah and Ahaz.
When, in addition to this, it is argued that most of the assigned prophecies are irrelevant, forced, and fanciful, or may be, and are still explained by the Jews in an entirely different sense, the proof drawn from the prophecies is left without demonstrative value.
Nor is the historical evidence much more conclusive.
Justus of Tiberias, who was born about five years after our Lord's death, wrote a Jewish History, and if the miracles of Christ, His death, and resurrection, had created much interest, Justus would probably have alluded to them; but Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who read the book, tells us that it contained “no mention of the coming of Christ, nor of the events concerning Him, nor of the prodigies He wrought.” 1
The statement in Josephus that Christ rose the third day, as had been predicted by the prophets, as also His other prodigies, is an interpolation. It occurs in the middle of a chapter, and has no connexion with the context. It is preceded by the account of chastisement administered to the Jewish populace by the soldiers of the Roman governor, and is followed by an indelicate story of a lady whom the priests of Isis sold to a debauchee, and persuaded that she was receiving the embraces of the god Anubis.
Two authorities are assumed to establish the truth of the Incarnation, if we set miracles and prophecy aside. These are the Church and Scripture.
Properly speaking, Scripture is merely an early expression of the belief of the Church, but as it has been by some supposed to be a distinct, and even an antagonistic, authority, we shall consider it separately.
1 Mupóßißlov, Cod. xxxiii. Rouen, 1653. ? Antiquities, bk. 18, c. 3.
In the first place, the objections to regarding Scripture as an infallible authority are weighty and hardly to be evaded.
1. Scripture makes no claim to be considered as a book. It is a fascis, not a rod; neither does it claim, in whole or in part, to be inspired. The writer of the third Gospel plainly speaks of his undertaking as suggested by like undertakings on the part of many others; he thinks himself justified, as well as they, in “compiling his narrative,” åvarácarbai dińynoiv, by reason of the opportunities he had, referring obviously to human opportunities. He does not claim to be inspired, to have had a revelation, nor even a knowledge of the facts at first hand.
There is one passage which is repeatedly quoted as conclusive for Bible authority, and that is 2 Tim. iii. 16, “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction," &c. But the important word in this sentence, on which the proof depends, is by no means certain. It rests on the authority of some MSS. codices, but not on all; and the real meaning of the passage seems to be “every sacred writing given by inspiration of God is profitable for teaching," &c., and we are left in the dark as to what writings are inspired, and as to the extent to which inspiration goes. We call Dante and Shakespeare inspired, and their writings may be also applied with authority to teaching, reproof and correction, if that text be our sole guide.
If the Scriptural Infallibility doctrine be true, the Bible ought to contain an inspired catalogue of the sacred writings, and a statement of the limits by which inspiration was bounded. An authorized copy ought also to have been
preserved, that all might know exactly what the words are of which Holy Scripture consists.
But, on the contrary, the canon of Scripture was not settled till late; some of the works now contained within its covers were rejected by some Churches and received by others, and certain works received by some Churches have been cast out of the Canon. On what authority, except that of the printer, do men claim inspiration for “Solomon's Song" and refuse it to the " Book of Wisdom?” Why are the Epistles of S. Paul quoted as canonical and the Epistle of his fellow-labourer S. Barnabas rejected ?
There is not extant a single original of any of the Old or New Testament writings. We possess copies only, made by men who had no claims to infallibility, which do not agree together, and in some places are at variance, so that it is impossible to pronounce with certainty what is the original and correct text of any book. If the Divine Spirit prevented the authors of our Scriptures from falling into any error, surely it was leaving the work incomplete, if those infallible writings were left to the inaccuracy or carelessness of copyists. It is well known that the Puritan divine, Dr. Owen, clung with desperation to the theory of the antiquity and inspiration of the Hebrew punctuation as the only safeguard for the certainty of the sense. We know that in India the most scrupulous care has been taken to preserve every word of the Vedas, its true signification, and its pronunciation; and treatises, called Vedângas, were composed to the number of six to preserve the Vedas in all their purity. Of these the first four, Sekshâ (pronunciation), Chhandas (metre), Vyâkarana (grammar), Nirukta (explanation of words), and the last, Kalpa (ceremonial), are the most important.
Nothing of the sort supplements the Christian Scriptures;