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fathers before that date. But in either case their genuineness is doubtful.

And as to this test of the genuineness of any passage in the New Testament, viz. its having been quoted by the early fathers of the Church, it may be remarked that the alleged quotations, those of the second century, for example, differ so considerably from the existing manuscripts, that in many cases it is a subject of dispute among the critical schools as to whether they are quotations from our books at all or not, it being asserted by many that they are from other books not now existing.

Now, regarding the early date at which corruption of the New Testament abounded, we have the express testimony of Origen, who flourished some 120 years before the earliest of our manuscripts was written. The following is quoted from Dr. Scrivener, in Mr. Sanday's "Gospels in the second century." "Origen's is the highest name among the critics and expositors of the early Church; he is perpetually engaged in the discussion of various readings of the New Testament, and employs language in describing the then state of the text which would be deemed strong if applied even to its present condition with the changes which sixteen more centuries must needs have produced. Respecting the sacred autographs, their fate, or their continued existence, he seems to have had no information, and to have entertained no curiosity: they had simply passed by and were out of his reach. Had it not been for the diversities of copies in all the



Gospels on other points, he writes, he should not have ventured to object to the authenticity of a certain passage (Matt. xix. 19) on internal grounds. But now,' saith he, 'great in truth has become the diversity of copies, be it from the negligence of certain scribes, or from the evil daring of some who correct what is written, or from those who in correcting add or take away what they think fit.'”

It is, then, at least highly probable that even the earliest manuscripts we possess differ in many particulars from those written by the authors themselves. This is so, especially with the Gospels, and the result is that we can scarcely, in a single instance, be quite sure that we have had preserved to us a faithful transcript of the original record, whether of the sayings of Jesus or of the circumstances attending his actions.

But though this uncertainty exists, and will continue to exist respecting minor details, it does not follow that we need remain in a state of similar ignorance respecting what the Evangelists wrote of the more important matters.

If we except the first chapters of Matthew and Luke, relating to the birth and infancy, since opinions are somewhat divided as to whether or not those chapters formed part of the original Gospels, we may safely affirm, without fear of contradiction from quarter, that if we had perfect translations of the original text of each of the Gospels, we should find no material difference between these and the four Gospels of the Revised or even the Authorized Version in respect of their statements regarding these main features alleged of Jesus' life and work, viz. :

1. That he was morally stainless.*

2. That he was the Christ predicted, the Son of God.

3. That he wrought many miracles (all or nearly all those recorded in the respective Gospels).

4. That he was a God-inspired preacher of righteousness, and as such ought to be obeyed.

5. That he was raised from the dead.

As to each and all of these important groups there is a general agreement, amongst those who ought to know, that our present Gospels are substantially faithful to the original texts, that is to say, each to each.

The same may be said of the following amplifications of Nos. 2, 5, and 3:—That his advent was foreseen hundreds of years before his birth by Isaiah and other supernaturally inspired Hebrew prophets, who foretold that a Divinely Anointed king of the Israelitish people should appear, and that these Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. That Jesus, having been raised from the dead and having ascended into heaven, is the Lord, and will be the final judge of mankind. That

That among the miracles which he wrought when on earth are to be reckoned the feeding and satisfying of several thousand persons with a few loaves and fishes; and the

* We do not allege, however, that the moral perfection of Jesus is distinctly affirmed in every Gospel of our versions.

healing, by a word, of diseases (as leprosy, for instance) hitherto pronounced incurable.

Whatever differences of opinion may exist on other points as to the teaching of our Gospels, there is almost, if not entire unanimity in this, that at least they teach the particulars above named, and that in so doing they truly represent the original text.

Reverting now to our remarks at the beginning of this chapter as to the need of cautious inquiry before accepting as true the statements of historians, those remarks apply with greatly increased force to the extraordinary narratives of the New Testament. First, because, as we have seen, it is of great moment that we should know the truth about them, if it can be known; and secondly, because of their extraordinary,

; not to say miraculous, character.

We will again name two or three of the New Testament statements, which possess, in a striking degree, both characteristics, viz. of grave importance and of marvellousness, as

First, That the advent of Jesus was proclaimed centuries before his birth ; secondly, That by his Word alone he caused the multiplication of loaves and fishes to an enormous extent; and thirdly, That his dead body was, by divine power, reanimated.

As regards importance, the first and third of these are well known to be the corner-stone and chief support of the whole structure of Christian doctrine of Christianity as a doctrinal system. And as to their extraordinary nature, without entering on the question

of miraculous or not miraculous, we affirm that they are quite contrary to--utterly at variance with our life-long experience of nature and human nature ; so different from our daily and hourly experience of the course of events for all the years of our life, and from the experience also of all others, so far as we are acquainted with them, that we do not know whether such occurrences are even possible or not.

We cannot, therefore, accept them as true—we ought not—without rigorous scrutiny of the evidence in their favour. It is an ancient maxim that, in reference to events admittedly possible, two or three witnesses are necessary to establish a disputed fact; but, to prove such statements as we have singled out from the New Testament, we must at leastin the first place, have the testimony of several actual witnesses of the occurrences, agreeing in all important points ; secondly, we must know these witnesses to be of unimpeachable character; and thirdly, we must be fully acquainted with the circumstances, to judge whether the witnesses could possibly have been mistaken as to what really occurred.

Have we, then, such evidence ? Have we in the New Testament–i.e. in its writers—the undoubted testimony of a sufficient number of such witnesses, under such circumstances as preclude the possibility of mistake? We shall have to see what answer can be truly made to this inquiry. And, while doing so, we are free from little questions of translation, interpolation, and so forth, for no one doubts that the three

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