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because it is treating the subject with much greater indifference than the nature or importance of it will admit; and, as if the case was quite otherwise than what it really is, it is treating those books as if they had been written by the finger of God, and had come to us immediately from him ; or else, that they had come from God to us through such a medium as rendered it imposible for them to have sustained any injury through the conveyance; whereas the truth is, they were written by fallible peccable men, and they have passed to us through a most dangerous medium ; and therefore, the case most evidently requires that they should be Cautiously admitted, and under

proper

limia tations. Such a prudent conduct is allowed to be proper, and even necessary, in all other cases where our interest is concerned

i and therefore, it must be much more so in this ; and accordingly, it is practised in cases of infinitely less concern; especially such caution seems to be necessary to us, the una learned, who may be supposed to be more exposed to danger, and therefore we ought to be so much the more upon our guard: Tho', indeed, the most learned (according to some learned men) cannot attain to any great fatis

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faction,

faction. Their learning will inform them, that there was such a colletion of books as the New Testament, so far back as our most ancient manuscripts were written ; it will likewise inform them, that those several books have been quoted and referred to, by many Chriftian writers, in many parts of Christendom, , in times more remote, perhaps, up to the second century : but then, such learning will farther inform them, that, in those early times, there were a great number of other books, besides those we have, that were ascribed to the Apostles, and were received as such by some party of Christians or other ; that the books we have were not seleEted, but mixed with the croud of writings then in being, some of which were supposed to be forged and spurious ; that the genuineness of those books we have was controverted, or, at least, this was the case with some of them; that whilst one Church or party of Christians maintained one to be genuine, another party maintained the contrary; fo that who was the real author could not be determined with any certainty; and if that was the case in those early days, then much less can greater certainty be attained now. And tho', when this affair was in the con

fused

fused perplexed state as abovementioned, a prevailing party did, by their bishops in council, collect the books we now have into a volume, and thereby separate them from the rest ; and did likewise stamp the character of being genuine upon them, which has been since called settling the Canon of the New Testament ; yet this was done wholly by their own authority, who do not appear to have been better qualified for that work than other men ; who, probably, (if of a different faction) would have made a different collection from this, according as their party views would have directed them, had they entered upon such an undertaking; nor does it appear that these collectors had any other rule, whereby to distinguish books that were genuine, from those that were forged and spurious, but as they favoured the tenets of the prevailing party, or the contrary ; party zeal being then carried to a very great height. Thus stands the cafe with respect to the books themselves, as some men, learned in antiquity, have maintained ; and as to the subject matter of those books, the great variety and contrariety that appears from the multitude of copies, translations, versions, &c. now in being, this shews the great uncertainty the

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most learned must be under, with respect to what was originally written by those authors. And, supposing the books we have to be a true transcript of the most ancient manuscripts now in being, which, I think, some learned men do not admit ; yet this will yield very little satisfaction because our most ancient manuscripts were not written 'till after the man of fin, or the mystery of iniquity had appeared, and had, as it were, triumphed over all opposition ; and therefore, possibly, (if not probably) not till after the books referred to had been greatly, corrupted and depraved. So that, whether we regard who were the real authors of those books, or what was originally written by those authors, very little certainty seems to attend the case ; and this, surely, ought to be a reason, as well to the learned as the unlearned, to admit them with caution, and under proper limitations. But, admitting that those books were written by the authors respectively whose names they bear, and that the books we have are a true transcript of what was originally written by those authors; then the question will be, whether those authors (may they have been Apostles or otherwise) were proper for

us absolutely to rely upon. Where such confidence as this is properly reposed, there are two things that are the proper grounds of it, except where the necessity of the case requires it to be otherwise, viz. that the confidant should be absolutely secure from error in judgment himself, and that he should be absolutely secure from impofing upon others; and where these are, there such high trust is properly placed. The authors referred to were part of a species of beings called men, who, in the gross, are both fallible and peccable, are liable to think wrong and act wrong ; and if this be the case of the species at large, then it must be supposed to be so of each individual, until the contrary is proved ; but whereas the contrary cannot be proved of those authors, therefore they seem to be improper objects of such confidence as is referred to. Besides, the author of the history of the Acts of the Apostles has informed us, that when the Apostles entered upon their ministry, they both thought wrong and eated wrong ; they founded Christianity upon such principles as they themselves afterwards plucked up and destroyed. The same historian also informs us, that St. James and the Elders proposed, I 4

and

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