Page images
PDF
EPUB

decifive of the point I have fo long endeavoured to establish, I have referved them for the laft; because it is next to impoffible to prove their reality otherwife than by referring the reader to the epistles themfelves, and forming on them a continued comment. Detached paffages, feparated from the entire context, would be very inconclufive proofs; because thus feparated that coherence becomes indifcernable, which in the original was confpicuous; or fhould it be apparently preferved, it might be suspected that it was only apparently, as a connection might feem to be given to the quoted paffages, which the context perhaps would fhew to be imaginary and, overstrained. But the existence of fuch coherence and consistency is not lefs real, or their conclusiveness, as to the apostle's total freedom from fanaticifm, lefs certain, because they cannot be drawn out in words, or fhewn any other way than by a reference to the epiftles themselves.

I would remark however that all the characters we have hitherto noticed, which were moft capable of being illustrated by particular examples, lead us to prefume that these alfo would be found. Clofe reafoning, and confiftent doctrines, are no more than we should expect from a writer, who, as has been fhewn, adapts his manner exactly to the relation he bears to thofe whom he addreffes; who never affumes an authority beyond what he may justly claim, and fafely exercife-who cloaths even his feverest rebukes, and ftricteft prohibitions, in language the

moft

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

most mild and conciliating-who, though warm, and zealous, and vehement, is ever softened by charity, and controuled by discretion; and such undoubtedly was St. Paul.

It seems to me almost wholly unneceffary to multiply further proofs of St. Paul's freedom from enthufiafm; I will only remind my reader of his caution to preferve his epiftles from being counterfeited, and to fecure them an immediate reception from the churches to which they were addreffed. By writing

them

g 1 Cor. xvi. 21. The falutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand.

Gal. vi. 11. Ye fee how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand.

Ephef. vi. 21. But that ye alfo may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother, and faithful minifter in the Lord, fhall make known to you all things; whom I have fent unto you, for the fame purpose, that ye might know our affairs, and that he might comfort your hearts.

Phil. iv. 15. Now, ye Philippians, know alfo, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me in giving and receiving, but ye only; for even at Theffalonica ye fent once, and again, to my neceffity-and verfe 18, I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things from you. Coloff. iv. 7. All my affairs fhall Tychicus declare unto you, whom I have fent for the fame purpose. Ib. 16. When this epiftle is read amongst you, caufe that it be read alfo in the church of the Laodiceans, and that ye read the epiftle from Laodicea. The falutation by the hand of me, Paul. Remember my bonds. i Thef. v. 27. I charge you by the Lord, that this epiftle be read unto all the holy brethren. 2 Thef. iii. 17. The falutation of Paul, with mine own hand, which is the token in every epiftle. 2 Tim. iv. 9. Do thy diligence

them with his own hand-or by annexing a fignature and clofing falutation, in his own hand-by charging

ligence to come fhortly unto me:-verfe 10. Demas hath forfaken me, &c. only Luke is with me; take Mark and bring him with thee. The cloak that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest bring with thee, and the books; but especially the parchments and 21. Do thy diligence to become before winter, &c. The whole chapter fhould be read, as a proof of the genuineness and natural ftrain of the epiftle. Tit. i. 5. For this cause left 1 thee in Crete, &c. Tit. iii. 12. When I fhall fend Artemas unto thee, or Tychicus, be diligent to come unto Nicopolis, for I have determined there to winter; bring Zenas, the lawyer, and Apollos, on their journey diligently, that nothing be wanting unto them.

Philemon 22. Withal prepare me a lodging; for I trust that through your prayers I fhall be given unto you.

Thefe circumstances, and a variety of others, ftated in this chapter; and above all, thofe coincidences fo lately brought into notice by the critical ingenuity of Archdeacon Paley, in his Hora Paulinæ, feem to prove, I had almost said to demonftration, the genuineness of St. Paul's epiftles, and the reality of the tranfactions to which he alludes, and by confequence the truth of the whole history of the first promulgation of Christianity.

The epiftle to the Hebrews, in which fuch particulars as thefe do not occur, was probably on that account, not univerfally received by the caution of fome early Christians, though on enquiry it was afterwards received on fufficient proof. As it was not, however, neceffary for my purpose, I have made little or no use of it in my arguments on this subject. The absence, however, of any direct avowal of St. Paul's, being himself the writer, and of fuch particulars as might difcover him to the readers, may have been defigned, according to the opinion of Clement of Alexandria, as cited by Eufebius," writing to the "Hebrews, who had conceived a prejudice against him, and "were ever fufpicious of him, he wifely declined fetting his

66 name

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

charging that his epiftles be read publicly to all the holy brethren, and carried to be read from one church to another-by joining in the superscription and the falutation, the names of the chief minifters, and most respectable individuals of the church from whence he wrote, and of the church to which he wrote, and fending them by chofen meffengers, whom he names-by his mixing private and domestic circumstances and counfels with his religious inftructions to his friends: fuch circumstances as these strongly confirm the freedom of the apostle from that wild enthusiasm, which, wrapt up in exta çies and mysteries, neglects all precautions, and despises all concerns neceffary to be attended to in the common course of life: but they serve a still more valuable purpose, they establish beyond doubt, that these epistles could never have gained any credit in the Christian world, if they had not been acknowledged by the respective churches, to which they were addreffed, from the very period when they were faid to have been sent to them; and that thefe churches could not poffibly be deceived in attributing them to the apostle at that period. If they confifted only of

name at the beginning, least he fhould offend them.”—Vid. Lardner, vol. 6, p. 411, edit. of 1788. Hence, as it appears. to me, he gives them fcarce any intimation of the author till. towards the clofe of the epiftle, and even then obfcurely, and. with apparent apprehenfion. "I befeech ye brethren fuffer the "word of exhortation; for I have written a letter unto you in

66

[ocr errors]

a few words: know ye that our brother Timothy, is fet at liberty, with whom, if he come fhortly, I will fee you."

general

general advice and exhortations, we might, perhaps, admit a poffibility of deception; but when they were addreffed to particular perfons, faid to be at one time at a particular place-carried by a special meffenger, who is named-marked with a certain fignature, supposed to be known to the people .addreffed, specifying certain particulars which they are requested to perform, and referring to letters received from, and conversations held with them, how utterly impoffible a forgery should gain credit with these immediate proofs of its own falfity! If it appeared at the time it was faid to be written, would not the perfons to whom it was addressed immediately reply, we see not the meffenger by whom it is faid to be broughtwe know not this fignature-we will wait till the apostle performs these promises here made, in perfon

-we know nothing of the letters from us, and the converfations with us, to which he alludes. If we suppose it to be produced at a period fubfequent to that at which it ftates itself to be written, the difficulties against it would encrease a thousand fold; what would be the obvious anfwer? we never heard of this before; if it was written, and fent by the apostle from a particular place, by a special meffenger, fo long ago, where has it lain fince? In fhort, the epiftles of St. Paul carry with them internal marks of authenticity and fobriety, which render it utterly inconceivable they fhould be the offspring of forgery or fanaticism.

Of

« PreviousContinue »