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titious: the same inference will result--that either there will be no agreement between them, or the agreement will be the effect of design. Nor will it elude the principle of this rule, to suppose the same person to have been the author of all the letters, or even the author both of the letters and the history; for no less design is necessary to produce coincidence between different parts of a man's own writings, especially when they are made to take the different forms of a history and of original letters, than to adjust them to the circumstances found in any other writing
With respect to those writings of the New Testament which are to be the subject of our present consideration, I think that, as to the authenticity of the epistles, this argument, where it is sufficiently sustained by instances, is nearly conclusive ; for I cannot assign a supposition of forgery, in which coincidences of the kind we inquire after are likely to appear. As to the history, it extends to these points :—It proves the general reality of the circumstances : it proves the historian's knowledge of these circumstances. In the present instance it confirms his pretensions of having been a contemporary, and in the latter part of his history a companion, of St. Paul. In a word, it establishes the substantial truth of the narration; and substantial truth is that which, in every historical inquiry, ought to be the first thing sought after and ascertained : it must be the groundwork of every other observation.
The reader then will please to remember this word undesignedness, as denoting that upon which the construction and validity of our argument chiefly depend.
As to the proofs of undesignedness, I shall in this place say little ; for I had rather the reader's persuasion should arise from the instances themselves, and the separate remarks with which they may be accompanied, than from any previous formulary or description of argument. In a great plurality of examples, I trust he will be perfectly convinced that no design or contrivance whatever has been exercised : and if some of the coincidences alleged appear to be minute, circuitous, or oblique, let him reflect that this very indirectness and subtilty is that which gives force and propriety to the example. Broad, obvious, and explicit agreements, prove
little; because it may be suggested that the insertion of such is the ordinary expedient of every forgery: and though they may occur, and probably will occur, in genuine writings, yet it cannot be proved that they are peculiar to these. Thus what St. Paul declares in chap. xi. of 1 Cor. concerning the institution of the eucharist-" For I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus, the same night in which he was betrayed, took bread; and when he had given thanks he brake it, and said, Take, eat; this is my body, which is broken for you ; this do in remembrance of me”though it be in close and verbal conformity with the account of the same transaction preserved by St. Luke, is yet a conformity of which no use can be made in our argument; for if it should be objected that this was a mere recital from the Gospel, bor
rowed by the author of the epistle, for the purpose of setting off his composition by an appearance of agreement with the received account of the Lord's supper, I should not know how to repel the insinuation. In like manner, the description which St. Paul gives of himself in his epistle to the Philippians (iii, 5,)“ Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the Church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless”—is made up of particulars so plainly delivered concerning him in the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistle to the Romans, and the Epistle to the Galatians, that I cannot deny but that it would be easy for an impostor, who was fabricating a letter in the name of St. Paul, to collect these articles into one view. This, therefore, is a conformity which we do not adduce. But when I read in the Acts of the Apostles, that when “ Paul came to Derbe and Lystra, behold a certain disciple was there, named Timotheus, the son of a certain woman which was a Jewess;" and when, in an epistle addressed to Timothy, I find him reminded of his “having known the Holy Scriptures from a child,” which implies that he must, on one side or both, have been brought up by Jewish parents : I conceive that I remark a coincidence which shows, by its very obliquity, that scheme was not employed in its formation. In like manner, if a coincidence depend upon a comparison of dates, or rather of circumstances from which the dates are gathered—the more intricate that comparison shall be; the more numerous the intermediate steps through which the conclusion is deduced; in a word, the more circuitous the investigation is, the better, because the agreement which finally results is thereby farther removed from the suspicion of contrivance, affectation, or design. And it should be remembered, concerning these coincidences, that it is one thing to be minute, and another to be precarious ; one thing to be unobserved, and another to be obscure; one thing to be circuitous or oblique, and another to be forced, dubious, or fanciful. And this distinction ought always to be retained in our thoughts.
The very particularity of St. Paul's epistles ; the perpetual recurrence of names of persons and places; the frequent allusions to the incidents of his private life, and the circumstances of his condition and history; and the connexion and parallelism of these with the same circumstances in the Acts of the Apostles, so as to enable us, for the most part, to confront them one with another; as well as the relation which subsists between the circumstances, as mentioned or referred to in the different epistles -afford no inconsiderable proof of the genuineness of the writings, and the reality of the transactions. For as no advertency is sufficient to guard against slips and contradictions, when circumstances are multiplied, and when they are liable to be detected by contemporary accounts equally circumstantial, an impostor, I should expect, would either have avoided particulars entirely, contenting himself with doctrinal discussions, moral precepts, and general reflections*; or if, for the sake of imitating St. Paul's style, he should have thought it necessary to intersperse his composition with names and circumstances, he would have placed them out of the reach of comparison with the history. And I am confirmed in this opinion by the inspection of two attempts to counterfeit St. Paul's epistles, which have come down to us; and the only attempts of which we have any knowledge, that are at all deserving of regard. One of these is an epistle to the Laodiceans, extant in Latin, and preserved by Fabricius in his collection of apocryphal scriptures. The other purports to be an epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, in answer to an epistle from the Corinthians to him. This was translated by Scroderus from a copy in the Armenian language which had been sent to W. Whiston, and was afterwards from a more perfect copy, procured at Aleppo, published by his sons, as an appendix to their edition of Moses Chorenensis. No Greek copy exists of either : they are not only not supported by ancient testimony, but they are negatived and ex
* This, however, must not be misunderstood. writing to his friends, and upon a subject in which the transactions of his own life were concerned, would probably be led in the course of his letter, especially if it was a long one, to refer to passages found in his history. A person addressing an epistle to the public at large, or under the form of an epistle delivering a discourse upon some speculative argument, would not, it is probable, meet with an occasion of alluding to the circumstances of his life at all : he might, or he might not; the chance on either side is nearly equal. This is the situation of the catholic epistle. Although, therefore, the presence of these allusions and agreements be a valuable accession to the arguments by which the authenticity of a letter is maintained, yet the want of them certainly forms no positive objection.