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are told that there were differences in the Bible, not only in pointing, which is most important, for the sense depends upon it, but in whole words and verses, and that it is impossible to secure a book free from faults, that has to be copied or printed. We may judge from this of the condition of our English Bibles, which have not only been copied and printed, but which have undergone a great many translations, besides being subject at various times to the additions and retrenchments of parties connected with the Church, as
was shown from extracts in Letter II. And again Du Pin says:
“ It is not necessary that all the writings and discourses of a prophet, should be inspired by the Holy Ghost. For this reason St. Agustine very judiciously observes, that though the books cited in the Holy Scriptures had been written by prophets whom the Holy Ghost did inspire, yet it does not from thence follow that they were always divinely inspired. For, says he, these prophets might sometimes write as private men with an historical accuracy, and at other times as prophets who followed the dictates of the Holy Spirit.”
This, my Lord, is important; for if the writers of the Old Testament might sometimes write as private men, and sometimes from the dictation of the Holy Spirit, how was it possible to distinguish between the two writings ? How could any body tell which was from the dictation of the Holy Spirit, and which was not? And unless they could tell this, how could they discriminate between the word of God and the word of man? And again the the same writer says:
“ Nor can it be said for certain, That all those books which are cited in the Holy Scriptures, were of divine inspiration. 'Tis a medium and middle way that ought to be followed, according to the opinion of the Fathers, who have acknowledged, That there may be some books divinely inspired, and others of human composition, among those that are cited in the canonical books. '
It is a sorry way of discrimination to talk about a medium and middle way, between the writings of man and the writings of God. I imagine that if God had written any thing, that writing would not only have been indestructible, seeing that it was for the instruction and guidance of His creatures, but He would have impressed upon it some indelible mark, that it would be impossible for His creatures to mistake it. But instead of this, according to learned Christian Theologians, God has left His creatures in a wilderness of doubt and conjecture, that out of a bundle of books, some written by God and some by man, they are to adopt a medium and middle course; that is to say, not to reject too many as the word of man, nor adopt too few as the word of God. My idea of the goodness of the Deity induces me to believe, that if such a power had written any thing, and especially if it had been for the benefit of His creatures, that writing would have been as indestructible as all other of His works. To
that it would not, would be to suppose that the Deity would leave the eternal happiness of his creatures in the hands of a few individuals, and that whether the human race were damned or saved would altogether depend as to whether these individuals might be pleased to destroy God's books or preserve them. If Christians think proper to impeach the goodness of the Deity, it only shows their little regard for His character.
“ Theodoret (says Du Pin) in his preface upon the Psalms observes, There are indeed those who assert, that all the Psalms were not penned by David, but that several of them were composed by other hands. Upon this subject I shall be silent, and it signifies little to me, whether other persons composed some of them, since 'tis evident that they were all written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.”
The expression of Theodoret's, “ Upon this subject I shall be silent” shows the amount of evidence he had to prove that all the Psalms were composed by David. But as to his language “ 'tis evident that they were all written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost", it is singular indeed. May I ask, my Lord, if the Holy Ghost informed him of it? How else could he know it? He was ignorant of the parties who did write the Psalms, at least a number of them, and so was every body else, yet
“ 'tis evident that they were all written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost.” Strange evidence in support of the divine character of the Bible. And again
Du Pin says:
"St. Gregory, in his preface to his Commentary on the book of Job, says, 'Tis needless to enquire who composed the book of Job, since none of the faithful question but that the Holy Ghost was the author of it.
Singular as the logic of the last quotation was, this is a great deal more so. Because none of the faithful question the book of Job, therefore the book of Job is the word of God; that is to say, because none , of those who believe in the book of Job, lisbelieve in the book of Job, therefore the book of Job is the word of God. Why, my Lord, none of the faithful question the Koran, the word of God of the Mahometans; that is to say, none of those who believe in the Koran, disbelieve in the Koran, but is that any evidence that the Koran is the word of God? Who could believe that the divine character of the Bible rested on such evidences!
You will be aware, my Lord, that the whole of the extracts which I have yet submitted to your attention, have had direct reference to the Old Testament, although same might apply to both; but those which I am now about to quote, will apply directly to the New Testament.
“It cannot be said (says Du Pin) that no fault has crept into the Scriptures by the negligence or inadver
tency of the transcribers, or even by the boldness of those who have ventured to strike out, add, or change some words which they thought necessary to be omitted, added or changed. This is the common fate of all books, from which God has not thought fit to exempt even the sacred writings. From hence have proceeded those various and different lections between the Greek copies of the books of the New Testament, which began to appear in the first ages of the Church, and are still continued.
This, my Lord, is important. The New Testament is here referred to, that book upon which the Christian religion is based; and here we are told, that parties have ventured to strike out, add, or change words which they thought necessary to be omitted, added or changed. That is to say, God said something which He ought not to have said, and left unsaid something which He ought to have said; and these defects in the word of God WERE REMEDIED BY PRIESTS. They have struck out, added, or changed words which THEY THOUGHT NECESSARY to be omitted, added or changed. That is to say, they have struck out God's words, and put in words of their own. And this we are told, not by an Infidel, but one of the highest authorities of the Church, and one of the most learned of Christian writers. Is this not of service, my Lord, in deciding the question, Whether or not the Bible is the word of God?
In order that the readers of these Letters may judge of the condition of the New Testament, in the early ages, and in order that they may have an idea of the mangling and mutilation to which it has been subject, I will here insert, from the work of Du Pin, St. Jerome's Preface to the four Gospels, which he corrected by order of pope Damasus. St. Jerome describes the condition the New Testament was at that time in, (the year 390) and the manner in which he corrected it. It is well calculated to enhance our confidence in divine revelation.
“You enjoin me (says St. Jerome, addressing himself to pope Damasus) to make a new work out of an old one, and to be, as it were, judge between the copies of the Holy Scriptures, dispersed through all the earth; and since they differ from one another, to determine which of them agree with the Greek verity. 'Tis a religious task, but withall a dangerous undertaking to change the language of the world, which is in its old age, and to recall it, when it begins to turn grey, to those very principles and rudiments that we teach children. For who is there, whether learned or unlearned, who upon taking up the Bible into his hands, and seeing that what he reads is different from what he has been always used to, would not immediately cry out that I was a forgerer and a sacrilegious person, who had the boldness to make such additions, alterations, and corrections in those ancient books? Two things are my comfort under such a reproach: first, That 'tis you, the Supreme Pontif, that have put me upon the task; and secondly, That by the confession even of the most envious, there must needs be some falsity where there is so much variety. If they say, That the Latin copies are to be credited; let them tell me which? For there are almost as many different copies, as there are manuscripts: and if the truth be searched for among so many, why should not we rather have recourse to the Greek originals in order to correct the faults that have proceeded, either from the bad translations of the interpreters, or from unreasonable corrections that have been made by unskilful critics, or from the additions and alterations that have happened through the carelessness of the copiers? At present I say nothing of the Old Testament, but am only speaking of the New, which is doubtless all Greek, except St. Matthew's gospel, which at first was published in Judea in Hebrew. The New Testament, I say, being full of varieties in the Latin versions, which are as so many small streams, 'tis necessary to have recourse to the fountain-head, which is but only one.
I pass over in silence the copies that go under the name of Lucian and Hesychius, which some