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History;" the application of the argument in proof of the “ Authenticity of the Apostolical Epistles;" and the “ Hints towards an analysis of the Christian Evidences.” This last chapter alone contains stock enough of elementary thoughts, to furnish a large number of those, too often, dull and innutritive books, which are continually inflicted on the Christian public, under the title of Evidences of Christianity.
In general the statements are clearly made, and the arguments arranged in lucid and logical order. There is, however, we must say, a tendency in some instances, which we need not stop to particularize, to over-statement, and to an assumption of the tone and bearing of an advocate, which are unwise and out of place, and only serve, with a careful thinker, to invalidate the strength of the author's positions. And the style too, and with this remark we leave the unwelcome task of excepting to the great and prevailing value of the works, is often too elaborate, ornate, rhetorical and intensive for our taste, and particularly so, in a subject of cool and dispassionate inquiry. The strength of all arguments, in such cases, lies in the facts, and the more simply these are stated, and the more they are left to tell their own stories, the better.
The specific design to which we now propose to address ourselves does not allow us to indulge in any further remarks on these volumes. And we dismiss them with a grateful acknowledgment of the interest and instruction we have derived from their perusal, and with an earnest recommendation of them to all who wish to see the subjects, of which they profess to treat, learnedly and ably discussed.
That branch of the “ process of historical proof,”, on which we now proceed to offer some remarks, is the method of ascertaining the Genuineness and Integrity of writings purporting to be ancient.
Many of the facts and arguments involved in this inquiry are, of course, adverted to, in all research pertaining to the age and authenticity of classical manuscripts, charters, records, and similar monuments of antiquity; and are particularly brought into view, in all attempts to authenticate the claims of the sacred Scriptures. But within the last three hundred years, the subject has assumed the form of a distinct science,
* Father Mabillon in his epistolary dedication to Colbert of the first edition of his great work“ De Re Diplomatica,” (fol. Paris, 1681,) says of the
under the name of Diplomatics, or the Diplomatic Science, and has called to its aid, particularly on the continent of Europe, a vast amount of laborious and learned investigation. It is an inquiry, it must be confessed, not very inviting in its first aspect, but will be found, nevertheless, to connect itself, in its results, with very interesting topics of illustration.
But whatever may be thought of the interest of the inquiry, it is one of inherent and manifest importance. The comprehensive language of Mr. Taylor on this point is strictly true, - "that the credit of literature, the certainty of history, and the truth of religion are all involved” in the discussion before us. And it has, as Mr. Astle justly observes, a direct " influence on politics, morality, literature, canon and civil law, and even on divinity itself. The divine and lawyer labor to little purpose, unless they can show that the testimonies which they adduce, are accompanied by all the necessary marks of authenticity. For if the rules of criticism adopted by learned antiquarians were arbitrary, and the epochas established by them false, ancient writings would be of as little authority as fictions ; and were it impossible to ascertain the dates or ages of documents, all their labors would be idle and fruitless, and their productions really be, what ignorance has often asserted them to be, nothing better than the works of mere sportive fancy." None, it may be supposed, at this day, will adopt the very strange, though ingeniously supported, theory of the French Jesuit Hardouin,t that all the remains of the Greek and Roman writers, with the exception of the works of Cicero, Pliny's Natural History, Virgil's Georgics, and the Satires and Epistles of Horace, were forged and imposed upon the world by some Italian monks of the thirteenth century. Yet the remark is probably true, that, “ from a want of acquaintance with the facts and principles on which a rational conviction of the Genuineness and Integrity of ancient writings is to be founded, many persons, otherwise well informed, feel that they have hardly an alternative between a simple acceptance, or an equally indiscriminate suspicion of the whole."
science, that before his time, “tamen jacebat illa inculta sine regulis, sine legibus, præter eas a quas pro suo quisque captu ac genio confingebat. And Father Montfaucon, in his splendid Palæographia Græca (fol. Paris, 1708,) observes of the subject matter of his book, --" Certi rem utilitate non minus, quam ipsa novitate jucunditateque acceptam fore.”
† John Hardouin, born at Quinper in Bretagne, 1646 or 7. The work referred to in the text, is his Chronologiæ ex nummis antiquis restitutæ Pro. lusio de Nummis Herodiadum. Among other strange things, he asserts that Horace and Virgil are two allegorical writers, who under the names of Lalage and Æneas, have shadowed forth Christianity, and the life of its author. He publicly recanted his errors, and afterwards repeated them in other forms. He died at Paris, 1729.
Nor is the inquiry as abstruse and difficult as is often apprehended. It is true, that when carried into minute details, it involves much recondite and various learning. But the general facts and principles, which are connected with the transmission of ancient literature to modern times, apart from any controverted application of them to particular writings, are easily understood and appreciated. They are the same in kind as we are conversant with, and constantly recognise and act upon, in every-day life. Now, it is these general facts and principles which are admitted by all inquirers, and which are not embarrassed by controversies, and considered as separate from all minute criticism, or specific applications, that we shall proceed to lay before our readers. And this we shall attempt to do in the plainest and simplest manner possible. We are not ambitious of that cheap parade of learning which is furnished by numerous quotations and references, and take leave to say, on this point, once for all, that we shall avail ourselves of all the resources within our reach, and, in an especial manner, of the first named book of Mr. Taylor, without any particular acknowledgment, unless some circumstance may seem to render such an acknowledgment expedient. Any show of learning that we may be, or may seem, to be guilty of, we shall refer to the foot notes, that the most plain and “way-faring" of our readers need not stumble thereat.
We have one further preliminary remark to make, before entering upon the subject. We advert to a distinction, the neglect of which has always involved the discussion before us, in perplexity and confusion. The inquiry we propose to pursue is concerning the genuineness of ancient records ; not concerning their authenticity. These two subjects are entirely distinct in their nature, and are to be determined by entirely different modes of proof. Writings are said to be genuine, when it can be satisfactorily established that they were written by the persons, and of course, at the time assigned, and that they have not undergone any material change in the course of transmission to us. Writings, on the other hand, are said to be authentic, when they can be shown to be trust-worthy in regard to the facts they state. Evidence in support of the former proposition will prove that the writings in question are not forged, either in the whole or in part; and evidence in support of the latter proposition will show that they are not falsehoods or fictions. It is plain, moreover, that these propositions may be entirely independent of each other. Thus, it may be ascertained that a certain writing or record was written by the
person whose name it bears, but, at the same time, it may be conclusively shown that he is not entitled to the least credibility in his statements. It may be proved that he is overcredulous, or that he is a romancer or a falsifier. And again, it may be established that a writing or record contains a credible statement of facts, though, at the same time, it may be proved, that it could not have been written by its alleged author, or even at the time alleged. Thus, for example, an ancient book called the Cyopædia, is attributed, on satisfactory evidence, to a certain Greek who lived at Athens, about four centuries before the Christian Era ; but it will be admitted, probably, that it is entitled to little more credit, as a record of facts, than one of the Waverley novels. Its genuineness is well enough established; its authenticity is not. So too, we can have no doubt, that a book, now familiarly known, entitled Telemachus, was written by a certain author, named Fenelon, an Archbishop of Carnbray, and in the seventeenth century, but no one believes that the events therein des. cribed, really took place. It is a genuine, but not an authentic production. And on the other hand, a book may have come down to us from a former age, which from independent sources of proof, we may be satisfied contains an accurate statement of certain facts or events, but whose author is unknown. This would be an authentic, but not a genuine production.
We have said that these questions are not necessarily connected with each other. There may be instances, however, in which the admission of genuineness involves also the admission of authenticity. If, for example, there be found in ancient writings, of an epistolary character, admitted to be genuine, certain allusions to facts, as familiarly known both to the writer and his correspondents, and these too, of a character that do not admit the supposition of mistake or artifice; these allusions are to be taken as a sufficient proof of the reality of the facts, and this, for the plain reason, that they cannot be accounted for on any other supposition. Thus, is the genuineness of the
Apostolic Epistles be admitted, it must also be admitted that the writers had the power of working iniracles, and of enabling others to do so, since they refer to these as facts well known and admitted by both parties, and it is inconceivable that they should have thus written, if the facts did not exist. This point is very well illustrated and enforced in chapter sixth of the “ Process of Historical Proof,” by Mr. Taylor, and applied afterwards in chapter thirteenth, with peculiar and irresistible power to the alleged “ gift of tongues.”*
Now, as we have already observed, it is to the question of genuineness of ancient writings, that our remarks will be confined. And our precise object is to furnish as satisfactory a reply as our resources and limits may permit, to the following inquiry, namely; — What are the facts and arguments by which it is determined, that books and writings purporting to be ancient, were really written by the authors to whom they are severally attributed, and in consequence in the age assigned, and that they have not suffered material corruption, in the course of their subsequent transmission to our tinies?
The remains of ancient literature exist in two distinct forms, that of printed books, and that of manuscripts. Our reply in answer to the question we have now stated, will have reference to this fact.
And let it be supposed, in the first place, that we knew nothing of the manner in which the literary remains of antiquity have been transmitted to us, but that they existed now only in the form of printed books, and there were not such a thing as an ancient manuscript in existence, what proof should we then possess of the Genuineness and Antiquity of these writings ? We answer, proof of a very satisfactory character. And it is that which is furnished by internal evidence alone, that is, evidence found in the writings themselves. And this is of several kinds.
1. That a work, purporting to be ancient, exists, furnishes a presumptive argument of some force, that it is what it professes to be ; since, whatever we may think of the alleged depravity of the human race, a regard for the truth, and a tendency to believe in the trust-worthiness of others, are instinctive principles of our natures. Hence, if a writing exists, claiming to be the work of a former age, this fact alone, is to be taken
* See also Marsh's Michælis Int. &c, Vol I. Chap. ii. Sec. 1.