Billeder på siden

version. 3. That it is quoted by Tertullian, Cyprian Marcus Celedenfis, Phabadius, Jerome, Eucherius and Vigilius between the second and the fifth centuries. 4. That it was appealed to in a protest, entered by the diffentient party in the Arian council of Carthage, held in the year 484.-The objections of those, who controvert the authenticity of the text, undergo a striet investigation from Mr. Travis, and the result seems to be as follows.

In the first instance, no doubt every one would be apt to feel à decided preference for the testimony of his senses. The evidence of Valla, Stephens and Beza can never be put upon a par with it; because on this fide there is a previous question, that of their veracity, which may be more or less involved. The & honeft bigotry” as Mr. Gibbon styles it, of former ages, is apt to force itself upon our minds; and we recollect the various frauds, which “ to do God service" have been palmed upon the world. The question however, that lay before these critics, is of a very direct and precise nature; and we can scarcely refuse credit, particularly to the indefatigable accuracy and the disinterested exertions of Robert Stephens. But how comes it, it will be asked, that all thefe manuscripts, that contained the verse in question, are now loft? To this Mr. Travis gives an answer, in part fatisfactory, by showing that there was a middle period, between that of the first printed editions of the New Testament, and the more enlightened and insatiable curiosity of a latter age, when manuscripts being conceived to have done their duty, were thrown by as useless lumber, and perished by thousands without animadversion. And he argues; since the manuscripts of Stephens, Ximenes and Valla were felected at random as it were from the boundless multitude ; that it is plain, that the bulk of the manuscripts then existing read the disputed text.-What would Mr. Travis say, if some unlucky antagonist were to rejoin : Since all the manuscripts that can now be found, with the exception of two, do not read the disputed text; it is plain, that the bulk of the manuscripts, of which they are the remnant, were also without it? There arose no Arian Conftantius, no Vandal Huneric upon the revival of letters, to decide the preference ; and it can at best only be said, that the argument is exactly of the same value, whichever way you take it.

With respect to the most considerable of the ancient verfions, Mr. Travis demonstrates, that the Syriac and the Coptic are extremely erroneous, and that the Arabic, the Ethiopic and the Persic are only copies of the Syriac. The validity of the third objection, from the passage not



being quoted by the bulk of the more ancient fathers, is in fome measure admitted, But our author endeavours to diminish its force, by observing; that a part only of their works remains; the text may have been cited in the

part which is loft. It happens however, that in the works which Semain the quotation would have been apt and natural, True, says Mr. Trayis, if the fathers in question were of opinion that the unity spoken of was an unity of nature ; but if they thought it meant an unity of testimony only, the most obvious method was to pass it over in silence. But this observation is rather unfortunate. The fathers were full of mysticism and allegory. Many a text have they forced into a service for which nature never designed it'; but it would be difficult to show, where they have been induced to give upanapposite and well-founding passage, through a critical refinement upon the direct scope of its Author.

This filence however of the majority is further confirmed with the direct evidence of others. The stress of the question here lies upon Tertulian and Cyprian, as the more ancient. Mr. Trayis seems sufficiently to have established a quotation in the case of Cyprian ; in that of Tertullian he has failed, The words “three are one,” are too obvious and unavoidble a form of expressing the doctrine of the Trinity, for it to be at all necessary for us to believe them borrowed from St. John. "The fame observation applies to the supposed quotations of Marcus Celedensis and Phæbadius. The authenticity of the preface of Jerome, which has been alledged in this controversy, is doubtful.

The last objection of the oppugners of the text seems to be of too' vague a nature to deferve much attention.

It is well known that the apostles did not construct their compofitions by the rules of Aristotle and Cicero. When a great and striking truth occurred to them in the course of their performance, they seldom scrupled to suspend their argument though it were for a longer space than that of a single verse, to impress it upon their readers. The two latter of the terrestrial witnefles, (the water and the blood. v.8.) are usually interpreted of the ichor flowing from our Saviour's wounded fide. From such a passage it will scarcely be denied that some obscurity is inseparable. And how easy is it in that case, for a man of any ingenuity, to discover a thousand links of possible connection, which, if they would never have occurred to the illiterate reader, cannot howa ever be refuted by the most subtle ? Accordingly in this very case a paraphrase, in our opinion perfectly adequate to the difficulty, is given by the ingenious Mr. Travis, the

idea of which is borrowed from the more ingenious Erafa inus.

The performance 'before us is entitled to considerable applaufe. There runs through it an accuracy of arrangement, a juftnefs of discrimination, and a folidity of judgment,, that have seldom been excelled. Nor is the style inercly that of a logician; it is also various, energetic, and even rhetorical. It intrenches unexpectedly upon the unappropriated borders of the poetical art; and the nervous and spirited manner, in which his antagonists are foinetimes arraigned, might'well communicate unpleasant feelings to the boldett breast. In a word, the colder fübjects of theology have feldom been treated in so masterly a manner; and the barřen regions of polemics havé rarely worn so beautiful an attire.

And here, and with some extract, by which we should have been able amply to confirm so favourable a decision; had we consulted only our feelings for 'Mr. Travis, we mould have closed our account. But it will not be. Mr. Travis is a distinguished and an atrocious criminal. Justice, moderation, benignity, and every consideration that em braces the general weal of the literary républic, forbid that he should escape with impunity. To borrow the language of a recent publication (and it may be applied with the greatest justice in the example before us) “ few instances of the kind so striking can be produced, at least in the present century.”

Our readers, we are persuaded, are not to be informed of the confideration and respect that is due from us, to the ancient and illustrious champions of intellectual merit, to the great restorers of learning, to the men (some of them poffeffed of very superior abilities) who submitted to the laborious task of clearing away the rubbish of literature, that we might 66 enter into the fruits of their labours." It is fometimes however defirable, that men should be reminded of duties, of which they are not abfolutely ignorant. For the present we will devolve the task upon another; and it cannot be placed in better hands than those of Mr. Travis.

It has been disputed, in our opinion, with plaufibility, not with solidity, whether the manuscripts of Robert Stephens did really contain the verse in question. Mr. Gibbon, who, upon a subject fo little analogous to the general course of his studies, we imagine rather followed the excellent scholars 'who had already discussed the controversy, than went to the original authorities himself, talks of the “ typographical fraud, ci error, of Robert Stephens, in the


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

placing a crotchet; and the deliberate falsehood, or stränge misapprehension of Theodore Beza.” The charge is thius parried by our Author.-Thefe great men either retained the verfe" on purpose, or by mistake. Not by mistake," as may well be concluded froin their fingular accuracy; and the exact agreement of all their éditions. " The confequence is inevitable : They retained it on pürpose.

" And, unless we are now, at length to suppote, that Robert Stephens first advanced an intentional falsehood in the face of the whole Chrifi tian world, as to the existence of this verle in his MSS, and, that afterwards, Brza, who had those verý MSS put into his hands which enabled him to detect the falsehood, did, instead of betraying, abet, and support, him in it ; unless we are now, at length, to detpoil them both of thote characters of learning, and worth, of probity, and honor, with which their meinories have been lo long adorned, and confecrated, and to conclude that they conspired to act, in cončert, the infamous (and, in the present cate, impiutis) part of cheats, and impostors : Unless we are now become desperately determined to speak, and act, in contradiction to the voice of all Europe, in defiance of the testimony of agés, past, and present, as well as in utter fubverfion of every principle of literary candor, and Christian charity, we must feel ourselves, of neceffity, compelled to acknow, kedge, that what Robert Stephens thus did intentionally, he also did conscientiously; that he, and Theodore Beza, have a right to command our full affent, when they only affirm a plain fact, which lay within their own knowledge, and which, therefore, they were compleatly competent to ascertain ; that Robert Stephens did not place the latter femi-circle

wrong, either by mistake, or on purpose :--and that when it is affected to teach us, either by Dr. Benson, or by Mr. Gibbuni of the " typographical fraud or error, of Robert Stephens," in the present instance, at least ; or of the deliberate falseisood, or Arange misapprehenfion of Theodore Beza ;" such tcaching is in vain!"

For the character of that great philologift, Robert Stephens we profefs, in common with Mr. Travis, the profoundeft veneration. But there is a name belonging to the fame period, that stands higher, infinitely higher, than that of Stephens. There is a man who was to the body of that great adventure, by which the human mind was for evet freed from its shackles, the informing soul., This man joined to the brightest genius and the moit unrivalled wit, an un, wearied industry. His tempèr was so mild, his genius so humane and conciliating, his manners so simple and candid; that he won the affection and good will of all mankind. Without the resolution of a martyr, and without the courage of a hero, by the lustre of his abilities, the pointedness of his fatire, and the honeft policy of his conduct, he did more to subserve the best interests of mankind, than either Luther and Calvin. If then the Character of Stephens be treat


[ocr errors]

ed with this commendable tenderness and consideration, what is not due to Erasmus ?

Erasmus was the first person, who “cast the public imputation of impofture" on the disputed verse. In the two first editions of his Greek testament the verse was not inserted; it made its appearance in his third edition. Upon this occasion he declared, “ as his apology for having left it out of the two former, that he had not found it in five Greek MSS, which he had then consulted; but that he had now replaced it, because he found that it did exist in a very ancient Greek MS. in England." “ It appears however,” says Benson, " that lie had a bad opinion of this MS. For he “ fais, Quanquam et hunc Jupicor ad Latinorum codices cafli

gatum fuisse. And he planely acknowledges, that what

induced him to insert the disputed text, was, ne fit ansa ne calumniandi, thathe might not give an handle to any, to 66 call him an Arian, or suspe& him of hæresie.” This conduct Mr. Gibbon had styled “the prudence of Erasmus.” It is thus treated by Mr. Travis.

“ It seems impossible to account for the behaviourof Erafmus in this matter, taking the whole of it into contemplation at once, but more upon one of those suppositions : Either he could not produce the five MSS, in which he had alledged the verse to be omitted ; or he had other authorities, much superior to the testimony of a single MS, for replacing the verse, which he was not, however, ingenious enough to a nowledge. Upon the face of his own apology, then, the conduct of Erafmus, in this instance, was mean ; upon the fuppofition (which however, exhibits the real folution of the affair) of his having kept back from the world his true motives of action, it was highly disingen nous, and grofly unworthy.

Let me however, Sir, try to agree with you in ascribing the conduct of Erasmus to its true fource. His pruilence" you affirm has contributed, among other causes, to "establish tbe three" (viz, heavenly) " witnesses in our Greek Testament.". Perhaps it inay. But when your communications had proceeded thus far, it would have been. well if they had taken one step more, and not left, to me, the unwelcome task of pointing out the nature, the fort, of that prudence, which governed Erasmus upon this occafion. It was not inerely, a prudent fear of being " fufpected of hærefie," as Dr. Benson afferts, --but a more awakened fear, a fear of this discovery ; it was not the bare apprehenfion of being " called an Arian," but the serious dread of ftanding proved guilty of dishoneit concealments, in order to serve the cause of Arianism; which "induced him to insert this disputed text” in his edition of A. D. 1522. It was prudence, then, Sir, if you will have it so, which governed the mind of Erasmus in this matter. But it was a prudence, which will reflect no honour up: on those who practise it. It was a prudence, which was difingenu.

[ocr errors]
« ForrigeFortsæt »