« AnteriorContinuar »
A third writer', and of the same date, exhorts those whom he addresses to study diligently the Prophets, and the Gospel, in which Gospel, he says, “the passion of our “ Saviour is described, and his resurrection perfected.”
There can be no doubt therefore that we essentially possess the Scriptures as those possessed them who lived in the Apostolic times, that is, as they came from the hands of their inspired authors; that we stand, as to the secure enjoyment of this sacred lore, in the place of the contemporaries and immediate successors of the disciples and apostles themselves. From this, the Apostolic age, till the establishment of Christianity under the Roman emperors, the several books of the New Testament were so incessantly the subject of dispute, or comment, or recommendation, that any material change, either by addition or retrenchment, would have been as impossible as during the lives of the original authors, when each could claim his own work : and the great ecclesiastical writer to whom I have so often referred, and who flourished at the distance of three centuries and a half from the birth of our Saviour, testifies that they were in his day translated into all the known languages
lib. iii. c. 36. It is remarkable that no notice is taken of this passage by Dr. Lardner, though it remains in the original Greek. The following which is cited by him is only to be found in the ancient Latin version: “But I “ have neither perceived nor heard any such thing to be “ in you, amongst whom the blessed Paul laboured, who “ are in the beginning of his Epistle, for he glories in you “ in all the Churches, which then alone knew God *."
I have cited some of the writers of the first century, or of contemporaries with the Apostles themselves. In the second century are six Christian writers, in the third eight, all whose works, as they remain to the present day, abound in quotations from or allusions to the Holy Scriptures.
of the earth. Be assured, then, that it is not for a slight purpose that so much care has been taken by Providence to convey the sacred bequest unimpaired to our possession. Whatever else we see here is connected with stale and perishable objects, but the word of God relates to things eternal and unchangeable. Send forth your hopes
and wishes, and fix them upon whatever temporal objects you please; of love, or avarice, or ambition; they will still return and find the bosom from whence they sprang unsatisfied and craving; till, like Noah's dove, they are sent forth again and alight on the new world; and there they will rest in calm assurance or secure enjoyment. What hold have we of earthly possessions, even if they were capable of imparting unmingled pleasure, and unsatiating enjoyment ? The hand no sooner grasps them than it becomes palsied with age, and the whole frame sinks into the dust; but the soul endures for ever, it is subject to no decay; and for that immortal portion of us it is that God has provided“ such good things as pass man's “ understanding." Covet those things, my brethren.
2 Tim. iv. 6.
For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my de
parture is at hand.
THESE are the words of St. Paul, addressed to his convert and fellow-labourers; and the
person of whom they speak is the writer himself: that he is ready to be offered, that is, to suffer martyrdom; and that the time at which he is to suffer is at hand. Considered in this point of view, the words are at least striking : perhaps they are more than striking; they are calculated to produce permanent feelings of awe and reverence for the author of them, and the doctrines which he has promulgated : for you will observe there is nothing of enthusiasm in them : there is no courting of death : no braving of torments: no exultation over the defeated malice of persecutors. They are calm as the breath of old age: “I am now ready to be
a 1 Tim. i. 2.
offered, and the time of my departure is at “ hand.” Other religions, as I have stated or allowed before, have had their martyrs : and here is one of ours, at the approach of his execution. It is granted that a disposition to suffer martyrdom is only a proof of the sincerity of the sufferer, and cannot be alleged as any evidence of the truth of the cause for which he suffers, except so far as he
may have been competent to judge of it by the mere perception of his senses, by natural ability or education.
He, then, who thus professes his readiness to die for Christianity, is Paul of Tarsus, a man acquainted with the learning of Greece, and instructed in the theology of the Hebrews. Other religions may have had such martyrs : but I have not heard of them. I shall only therefore assert (and the pretension is perhaps more humble than the case might warrant) that the Christian religion cannot be exceeded in the qualities and