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'I will only make this one observation upon this long quotation from Eusebius: That it contains not only the opinion of Porphyry, but the testimony of their Gods, or if you please, of their priests, who did not dare to deny the excellence of the character of Jesus. These Oracles cannot be called the forgeries of Christians. And whatever may be justly said against those of the Sybils, these must have their weight with all, who regard the authority of Porphyry, or the testimony of our adversaries.'
"This work is also approved by Mr. Mosheim and Dr. Chapman.
"It is also much approved by Colonia, who, besides other things, says, 'Porphyry declares, and makes our greatest mysteries to be declared by the Oracles of Apollo.' Again: 'He makes the Goddess Hecate say, and he acknowledgeth himself, that Jesus Christ is a man illustrious for piety, and that he is more powerful than Aesculapius, and all the other Gods.'
"This work is quoted with approbation by many other learned men.
"Dr. Doddridge observes: 'Porphyry also, though an inveterate enemy to Christianity, not only allowed, there was such a man as Christ, but honoured him, as a most wise and pious man, translated into heaven, as being approved by the Gods, and accordingly quotes some Oracles, referring to his sufferings, and virtues, with their subsequent rewards.'
"Dr. Macknight says: The same Porphyry gives a most honourable testimony to the character of Jesus, which must not be omitted here. It is preserved by Eusebius, in his Evangelic Demonstration.'
The preceding quotation from Dr. Lardner, will give us some idea of the immense service of the Philosophy of Oracles, in the way of proving the "truths of our Holy
religion. The whole of the writers above referred to, evidently valued this book most highly. Yet it was a downright forgery, or a rank forgery, to use the language of Dr. Warburton, in relation to the forgery in Josephus. And I shall show this, from the reasoning and testimony of Dr. Lardner. One writer says, the Oracles of Porphyry, MUST HAVE THEIR WEIGHT. That is to say, FORGERIES MUST HAVE THEIR WEIGHT! Another says, he [Porphyry] acknowledgeth Jesus Christ to be man illustrious for piety, and more powerful than Aesculapius, and all the other Gods. Another says, he honoured Jesus as a most wise and pious man, translated into heaven; and so they go on. Were these men knaves, or were they labouring under a most egregious mistake? Were they joining in the fraud commenced by the Fathers, with regard to this book, and deceiving people; or were they monstrously mistaken as to the character of this book? One or the other of these, they must have been, and whichever it is, their authority in favour of the Christian religion is not worth a straw. I shall proceed with this subject in my next Letter.
I am, my Lord, respectfully,
Hulme, November 13th 1840.
C. J. HASLAM.
All communications must be addressed in future, 65, Stott-Street, George-Street, Hulme, Manchester.
PRINTED BY C. J. HASLAM, HULME.
TO THE BISHOP OF EXETER:
MATERIALS FOR DECIDING THE QUESTION,
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THE BIBLE IS THE WORD OF GOD?
BY C. J. HASLAM.
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In the passage which I transcribed in my last Letter from Dr. Lardner, respecting the Philosophy of Oracles, we saw that a number of learned men referred to, and quoted from that work, for the purpose of convincing people of the truth of the Christian religion. Whether these men were honest or not, that is to say, whether they were following the example of the Fathers, and other ancient advocates of the Christian religion, and deceiving people with regard to this book, or whether they were mistaken as to its character, is a question which might be discussed. I have no doubt but arguments could be advanced on either side. But I decline entering into this discussion, seeing that whichever way
it be, the result is the same: for if they were mistaken, their authority is worth nothing; and if they were deceiving people, it is worth less, if it be possible. If they were mistaken, they might be mistaken with regard to other books as well as this; and if they were deceiving people, they were dishonest men, and unworthy of confidence in both cases. My argument is the same, whether these men were honest or dishonest; and your lordship can take which side you please.
Before I proceed with the testimony of Dr. Lardner, with regard to this book, I will just transcribe here a passage from Du Pin, which bears upon the question here noticed; namely, whether the Fathers, and other advocates of the Christian religion, in using spurious - writings for the purpose of advancing that religion, were dishonest men, or whether they were mistaken men? That is to say, whether they really deceived people designedly, with spurious writings, or whether they were mistaken as to the character of those writings ? As to those Fathers, and other advocates, who forged the writings, there can be no doubt as to their dishonesty. Their fraud and imposture must be apparent to the dullest comprehension. And with respect to those who did not forge them, but merely made use of them for the purpose of convincing people of the truth of the Christian religion, I am quite satisfied in my own mind, that the great majority of them, were decidedly dishonest men ; that they were conscious of the spurious character of the writings they made use of, and consequently, by imposing them upon the people as genuine, they deceived people designedly. In my preceding Letters, on several occasions, I have advanced arguments to show, that this must have been the case. And those arguments I regard as beyond the power of your lordship to contravert. But for the sake of allowing the best explanation that can be given, of proceedings so disgraceful to the character of priests, I quote the following passage from Du Pin, wherein he wishes to produce an impression, that the
Fathers, in citing spurious writings, were not guilty of imposture designedly, but that they were mistaken as to the character of the writings they used:-
"The Fathers are excusable in having cited the Sibylline verses as genuine, because they had not examined them... It is very well known, that they wholly applied themselves to matters of greater consequence for that time, and that they often happened to be mistaken in prophane Histories, and to cite spurious writings, such as the books of Hystaspes, and Mircurius Trismegistus, which for the most part they joined with the Sibylline Oracles; as also the Acts of Pilate, the Apocryphal Gospels, several Acts of the Apostles, and a great many other records which were apparently supposititious." History of the Canon &c. vol. II. page 158.
Charity dictates that we allow the priesthood to defend themselves in the best manner they are able, and to wipe off the black and indelible stains upon their character, by any explanation they can give. But my impression is, that this explanation of Du Pin, is a sorry defence indeed. It is a lame excuse for the conduct of the Fathers; and much to the disadvantage of Du Pin's own cause, and also the cause of your lordship. My argument remains as stiff and as strong, as if Du Pin had declared that the Fathers were downright impostors. And this I shall now show.
The Fathers (says Du Pin) are excusable in having cited the Sibylline verses as genuine, because they had not examined them.
And is this an excuse for the Fathers, because they had not examined them? Was it not their duty to have examined them? And if it was their duty to have examined them, how are they excusable? Is a man excusable for neglecting his duty? And was it becoming in the Fathers, to take any book that was put into their hands, and impose it upon the people as genuine,