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CONTROVERSY, when conducted with candour and suitable information, has a tendency to heal prejudice and elicit truth : innumerable obstacles, moral and physical, impede the progress
of the human mind,—to remove and rectify which, requires the most persevering industry and research : hence the labours of the learned are invaluable ; by unlocking the stores of antiquity, and contributing the improvements of modern days, they are enabled, on satisfactory principles, to discuss matters of science and history, and arrive at conclusions which tend to confirm and establish particular facts. The questions for present discussion are, whether certain writings • (by which we mean the canonical Scriptures,) existed from high antiquity ?—and whether
· Various opinions have been held respecting the method of ascertaining the Canonical authority of the different books of Scripture. 1st. The Papists maintain that they derive their authority from the power of their Church, which would render the Word of God dependent on the Pope or Council. 2dly. Others that they appear true from their own internal evidence and powerful influence on the heart, which doctrine is not quite satisfactory, for excellent as the books are, yet had some Apocryphal pieces been inserted in the Canon, it is not likely that every Christian would have distinguished between them and the books we receive, when we consider how various and divided the sentiments of Christians are who agree in the same Canon. St. Paul, though he knew his own writings from God, yet cautions the Thessalonians to distinguish his real ones from what were supposititious. 3rdly. Some add the testimony of the Spirit, which may be an argument to a man's self, but could not well be employed to convince another, for instance, an Heathen or Unbeliever. The main and principal method of determining the point, is by searching into the most ancient and authentic records of Christianity, and finding out the testimony or tradition of those who lived nearest the time in which the books were written.--See Jones' new and full Method, &c.
they have come down to us, in the main, pure and uncorrupted ?
The first question will be easily disposed of : few, if any, will be found hardy enough, in opposition to the mass of evidence which can be produced, to controvert the existence of such writings; but, as the admission of an adversary may be deemed conclusive, and Mohammed concedes the point; our attention is particularly required to the second question, whether they have been transmitted to us, in the main, pure and uncorrupted ? Mohammed and his followers reply in the negative, we have powerful reasons for embracing the contrary opinion.
First, then, it may be premised, there was a violent motive for Mohammed's endeavouring to impeach the integrity of the sacred text, because in proportion to the benefit which his cause might have derived from testimony there borne in his favour, so much the
greater must have been his anxiety to counteract the injurious impressions likely to result from total silence respecting his claims. Mohammed found it necessary to allow the prophetical characters of Moses and Jesus : policy dictated the measure as essential to the success of his enterprise; but it would not do to hazard his cause on their testimony, and an alternative remained, to which (dreadful as it was) he was compelled to resort. The feuds and endless disputes of Jews and Christians furnished him with a plausible pretext for imputing corruption to the sacred writings, and the Koran would readily vouch his veracity b. Such a mode of procedure might suffice at a dark and troublesome period, when access to proper sources of information was difficult, and his power intimidating, but
• Mohammed boldly charges both Jews and Christians with altering the text, and expunging the passages favourable to his pretensions.
conceding its temporary efficacy, never could succeed, when information should prevail, and a spirit of investigation be excited. These artifices, doubtless, facilitated his views, and strengthened the system in its incipient state, but those motives, either of interest or fear, which led men to embrace a cause without examining its evidence, have long since ceased to operate : the merits remain precisely the same, and are to be candidly and fairly appreciated. To
suppose a confederacy among Jews and Christians, for the purposes of erasing from their Scriptures testimony favourable to Mohammed, involves absurdity and impossibility. Scattered as they were throughout all the world, and armed with mutual jealousy and hatred, it cannot for a moment be imagined that they would unite for such an object, or alter their respective copies in these particular places. Such hardy assertion, de