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followed them, and proceeding in close and regular succession from their time to the present.
II. That when they are quoted, or alluded to, they are quoted or alluded to with peculiar respect, as books sui generis; as possessing an authority which belonged to no other books, and as conclusive in all questions and controversies amongst Christians.
III. That they were, in very early times, collected, into a distinct volume.
V. That they were publicly read and expounded in the religious assemblies of the early Christians.
VI. That commentaries were written upon them, harmonies formed out of them, different copies carefully collated, and versions of them made into different languages.
VII. That they were received by Christians of different sects, by many heretics as well as catholics, and usually appealed to by both sides in the controversies which arose in those days.
VIII. That the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of Saint Paul, the first epistle of John, and the first of Peter, were received, without doubt, by those who doubted concerning the other books which are included in our present canon.
IX. That the Gospels were attacked by the early adversaries of Christianity, as books containing the accounts upon which the religion was founded.
X. That formal catalogues of authentic Scriptures were published; in all which our present sacred histories were included.
XI. That these propositions cannot be affirmed of any other books claiming to be books of Scripture; by which are meant those books which are commonly called apocryphal books of the New Testament.
The Historical Books of the New Testament, meaning thereby the Four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, are quoted, or alluded to, by a series of Christian writers, beginning with those who were contemporary with the Apostles, or who immediately followed them, and proceeding in close and regular succession from their time to the present.
THE medium of proof stated in this proposition is, of all others, the most unquestionable, the least liable to any practices of fraud, and is not diminished by the lapse of ages. Bishop Burnet, in the history of his Own Times, inserts various extracts from Lord Clarendon's History. One such insertion is a proof, that Lord Clarendon's History was extant at the time when Bishop Burnet wrote, that it had been read by Bishop Burnet, that it was received by Bishop Burnet as a work of Lord Clarendon, and also regarded by him as an authentic account of the transactions which it relates; and it will be a proof of these points a thousand years hence, or as long as the books exist. Quintilian having quoted as Cicero's*, that well known trait of dissembled vanity :
"Si quid est in me ingenii, Judices, quod sentio quam sit exiguum;"
the quotation would be strong evidence, were there any doubt, that the oration, which opens with this address, actually came from Cicero's pen. These instances, however simple, may serve to point out to a reader, who is little accustomed to such researches, the nature and value of the argument.
The testimonies which we have to bring forward under this proposition are the following:
I. There is extant an epistle ascribed to Barnabas †, the companion of Paul. It is quoted as the epistle of Barnabas, by Clement of Alexandria, A.D. cxcIv; by Origen,
Quint. lib. xi. c. i.
+ Lardner, Cred. 1755, vol. i. p. 23, et seq. The ader will observe from the references, that the mate
rials of these sections are almost entirely extracted from Dr. Lardner's work ;-my office consisted in arrangement and selection.
A.D. ccxxx. It is mentioned by Eusebius, A.D. cccxv., and by Jerome, A.D. cccxcII.*, as an ancient work in their time, bearing the name of Barnabas, and as well known and read amongst Christians, though not accounted a part of Scripture. It purports to have been written soon after the destruction of Jerusalem, during the calamities which followed that disaster; and it bears the character of the age to which it professes to belong. In this epistle appears the following remarkable passage::- "Let us, therefore, beware lest it come upon us, as it is written: There are many called, few chosen." From the expression, as it is written," we infer with certainty, that at the time when the author of this epistle lived, there was a book extant, well known to Christians, and of authority amongst them, containing these words :-" Many are called, few chosen." Such a book is our present Gospel of Saint Matthew, in which this text is twice found +, and is found in no other book now known. There is a farther observation to be made upon the terms of the quotation. The writer of the epistle was a Jew. The phrase "it is written," was the very form in which the Jews quoted their Scriptures. It is not probable, therefore, that he would have used this phrase, and without qualification, of any books but what had acquired a kind of scriptural authority. If the passage remarked in this ancient writing had been found in one of St. Paul's Epistles, it would have been esteemed by every one a high testimony to Saint Matthew's Gospel. It ought, therefore, to be remembered, that the writing in which it is found was probably by very few years posterior to those of Saint Paul.
Beside this passage, there are also in the epistle before us several others, in which the sentiment is the same with what we meet with in Saint Matthew's Gospel, and two or three in which we recognise the same words. In particular, the author of the epistle repeats the precept, "Give to every one that asketh thee;" and saith that Christ chose as his apostles, who were to preach the Gospel, men who were great sinners, that he might show that he came "not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance§."
II. We are in possession of an epistle written by Clement, bishop of Rome, whom ancient writers, without any doubt or scruple, assert to have been the Clement whom Saint Paul mentions, Phil. iv. 3; “with Clement also, and other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life." This epistle is spoken of by the ancients as an epistle acknowledged by all; and, as Irenæus well represents its value, "written by Clement, who had seen the blessed apostles, and conversed with them; who had the preaching of the apostles still sounding in his ears, and their traditions before his eyes." It is addressed to the church of Corinth; and what alone may seem always decisive of its authenticity, Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, about the year 179, i. e. about eighty or ninety years after the epistle was written, bears witness, "that it had been wont to be read in that church from ancient times."
This epistle affords, amongst others, the following valuable passages: "Especially remembering the words of the Lord Jesus which he spake, teaching gentleness and longsuffering: for thus he said¶: Be ye merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; forgive, that it may be forgiven you; as you do, so shall it be done unto you; as you give, so shall it be given unto you; as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; as ye show kindness, so shall kindness be shown unto you; with what measure ye mete, with the same shall it be measured to you.' By this command, and by these rules, let us establish ourselves, that we may always walk obediently to his holy words."
Jerome, or Hieronymus as he is sometimes called, one of the most accomplished and learned of the early Christian fathers, was born in 331, at Stridon, on the borders of Dalmatia; and died in his own monastery, at Bethlehem, in 422. He was an ardent and sincere Christian; was distinguished for his oratory, for his judgment, and his learning, in which he certainly excelled all those Christian fathers who preceded him; and, if it is true that he sometimes suffered his zeal to overcome his politeness and his good taste, he must still be regarded as an invaluable link in the chain of early Christian authorities. His works, which fill ten folio volumes, were reprinted at Verona in 1734-42, by Vallarsius;
to which is added an eleventh volume, containing a life, and
Matt. xx. 16; xxii. 14.
"Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Matt. v. 7.-" Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given unto you." Luke vi. 37, 38. "Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Matt. vii. 1, 2.
Again; "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, for he said, Wo to that man by whom offences come; it were better for him that he had not been born, than that he should offend one of my elect; it were better for him that a mill-stone should be tied about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the sea, than that he should offend one of my little
In both these passages, we perceive the high respect paid to the words of Christ as recorded by the evangelists: "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus;-by this command, and by these rules, let us establish ourselves, that we may always walk obediently to his holy words." We perceive also in Clement a total unconsciousness of doubt, whether these were the real words of Christ, which are read as such in the Gospels. This observation indeed belongs to the whole series of testimony, and especially to the most ancient part of it. Whenever any thing now read in the Gospels is met with in an early Christian writing, it is always observed to stand there as acknowledged truth, i. e. to be introduced without hesitation, doubt, or apology. It is to be observed also, that, as this epistle was written in the name of the church of Rome, and addressed to the church of Corinth, it ought to be taken as exhibiting the judgment not only of Clement, who drew up the latter, but of these churches themselves, at least as to the authority of the books referred to.
It may be said, that, as Clement has not used words of quotation, it is not certain that he refers to any book whatever. The words of Christ, which he has put down, he might himself have heard from the apostles, or might have received through the ordinary medium of oral tradition. This has been said; but that no such inference can be drawn from the absence of words of quotation, is proved by the three following considerations:-First, that Clement, in the very same manner, namely, without any mark of reference, uses a passage now found in the Epistle to the Romans; which passage, from the peculiarity of the words which compose it, and from their order, it is manifest that he must have taken from the book. The same remark may be repeated of some very singular sentiments in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Secondly, that there are many sentences of Saint Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians standing in Clement's epistle without any sign of quotation, which yet certainly are quotations; because it appears that Clement had Saint Paul's epistle before him, inasmuch as in one place he mentions it in terms too express to leave us in any doubt:-"Take into your hands the epistle of the blessed apostle Paul." Thirdly, that this method of adopting words of Scripture without reference or acknowledgment, was, as will appear in the sequel, a method in general use amongst the most ancient Christian writers.— These analogies not only repel the objection, but cast the presumption on the other side, and afford a considerable degree of positive proof, that the words in question have been borrowed from the places of Scripture in which we now find them.
But take it if you will the other way, that Clement had heard these words from the apostles or first teachers of Christianity; with respect to the precise point of our argument, viz. that the Scriptures contain what the apostles taught, this supposition may serve almost
III. Near the conclusion of the Epistle to the Romans, Saint Paul, amongst others, sends the following salutation: "Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them."
Of Hermas, who appears in this catalogue of Roman Christians as contemporary with Saint Paul, a book bearing the name, and it is most probable rightly, is still remaining. It is called the Shepherd, or Pastor of Hermas. Its antiquity is incontestible, from the quotations of it in Irenæus, A.D. 178; Clement of Alexandria, A. D. 194; Tertullian, A. D. 2008; Origen, A. D. 230. The notes of time extant in the epistle itself, agree
This author, the first Latin of the primitive church, whose works have been spared to us, was a native of Carthage, born in some year between 194 and 216. His father was stationed at that city as a centurion in the army under the proconsul of Africa. Born a heathen, his morals were despicable, his behaviour profligate; but
its title, and with the testimonies concerning it, for it purports to have been written during the lifetime of Clement.
In this piece are tacit allusions to Saint Matthew's, Saint Luke's, and Saint John's Gospels; that is to say, there are applications of thoughts and expressions found in these Gospels, without citing the place or writer from which they were taken. In this form appear in Hermas the confessing and denying of Christ; the parable of the seed sown† ; the comparison of Christ's disciples to little children; the saying," he that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery;" the singular expression, "having received all power from his Father," in probable allusion to Matt. xxviii. 18; and Christ
being the " gate,' or only way of coming "to God," in plain allusion to John xiv. 6;
x. 7. 9. There is also a probable allusion to Acts v. 32.
This piece is the representation of a vision, and has by many been accounted a weak and fanciful performance. I therefore observe, that the character of the writing has little to do with the purpose for which we adduce it. It is the age in which it was composed, that gives the value to its testimony §.
IV. Ignatius, as it is testified by ancient Christian writers, became bishop of Antioch about thirty-seven years after Christ's ascension; and, therefore, from his time, and place, and station, it is probable that he had known and conversed with many of the apostles. Epistles of Ignatius are referred to by Polycarp, his contemporary. Passages found in the epistles now extant under his name, are quoted by Irenæus, A. D. 178; by Origen, A. D. 230: and the occasion of writing the epistles is given at large by Eusebius and Jerome. What are called the smaller epistles of Ignatius, are generally deemed to be those which were read by Irenæus, Origen, and Eusebius.
In these epistles are various undoubted allusions to the Gospels of Saint Matthew and Saint John; yet so far of the same form with those in the preceding articles, that, like them, they are not accompanied with marks of quotation.
Of these allusions the following are clear specimens:
"Christ was baptized of John, that all righteousness might be fulfilled by
“Be ye wise as serpents in all things, and harmless as a dove.”
"Yet the Spirit is not deceived, being from God: for it knows, whence it comes, and whither it goes."
"He (Christ) is the door of the Father, by which enter in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the apostles, and the church."
As to the manner of quotation, this is observable:-Ignatius, in one place, speaks of Saint Paul in terms of high respect, and quotes his Epistle to the Ephesians by name; yet, in several other places, he borrows words and sentiments from the same epistle without
he was not so degraded by these, as to lose his perception of truth, since he became a convert to Christianity, and, according to Jerome, a priest of the church of Christ. He was not however a blind convert for he was anxious in his searches, wavering, and unsettled,-left the church, and attached himself to the austere sect of the Montanists, and finally founded one of his own called the Tertullianists. The period of his death is uncertain. His works (the best edition of which is that of Rigaltins, in 1734,) were highly commended by Eusebius and Cyprian. They have been harshly criticised by some more modern and less competent authorities. Mosheim. Dupin. Cave.-ED.
Matt. x. 32, 33; or Luke xii. 8, 9. +Matt. xiii. 3; or Luke viii. 5.
Luke xvi. 18.
§ Hermas, who is supposed to have been the same mentioned by St. Paul, Rom. xvi. 14, was surnamed "the Shepherd," from his book, which bears this title. It is the only work of this father which has escaped to us; and the authenticity of this is very doubtful. The original Greek version is lost, with the exception of some
quoted passages in other authors, which confirm however the fidelity of the Latin translation which remains to us. The best edition of his works is that of Cotelerius and Le Clerc, in 1698; afterwards translated and published, with a copious preliminary discourse, by archbishop Wake. It would seem that Hermas was the contemporary of the earliest Christians, since he belonged to the church of Rome about 65 to 80. He was rich, originally a pagan, and is supposed to have suffered martyrdom, at least the church of Rome keep the 9th of May as his anniversary. -Cave. Lardner.-ED.
Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 147.
Chap. iii. 15. "For thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness."
Chap. x. 16. " Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."
** Chap. iii. 8. "The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the Spirit."
Chap. x. 9. "I am the door; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved."
mentioning it; which shows, that this was his general manner of using and applying writings then extant, and then of high authority.
V. Polycarp* had been taught by the apostles; had conversed with many who had seen Christ; was also by the apostles appointed bishop of Smyrna. This testimony concerning Polycarp is given by Irenæus, who in his youth had seen him:-" I can tell the place,' saith Irenæus," in which the blessed Polycarp sat and taught, and his going out and coming in, and the manner of his life, and the form of his person, and the discourses he made to the people, and how he related his conversation with John, and others who had seen the Lord, and how he related their sayings, and what he had heard concerning the Lord, both concerning his miracles and his doctrine, as he had received them from the eye-witnesses of the word of life: all which Polycarp related agreeable to the Scriptures."
Of Polycarp, whose proximity to the age and country and persons of the apostles is thus attested, we have one undoubted epistle remaining. And this, though a short letter, contains nearly forty clear allusions to books of the New Testament; which is strong evidence of the respect which Christians of that age bore for these books.
Amongst these, although the writings of Saint Paul are more frequently used by Polycarp than any other parts of Scripture, there are copious allusions to the Gospel of Saint Matthew, some to passages found in the Gospels both of Matthew and Luke, and some which more nearly resemble the words in Luke.
I select the following, as fixing the authority of the Lord's prayer, and the use of it amongst the primitive Christians: "If therefore we pray the Lord, that he will forgive us, we ought also to forgive."
"With supplication beseeching the all-seeing God not to lead us into temptation."
And the following, for the sake of repeating an observation already made, that words of our Lord found in our Gospels, were at this carly day quoted as spoken by him; and not only so, but quoted with so little question or consciousness of doubt about their being really his words, as not even to mention, much less to canvass, the authority from which they were taken :-
"But remembering what the Lord said, teaching, Judge not, that ye be not judged; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; be ye merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again +."
Supposing Polycarp to have had these words from the books in which we now find them, it is manifest that these books were considered by him, and, as he thought, considered by his readers, as authentic accounts of Christ's discourses; and that that point was incontestible. The following is a decisive, though what we call a tacit, reference to Saint Peter's speech in the Acts of the Apostles:-" whom God hath raised, having loosed the pains of death."
VI. Papias, a hearer of John, and companion of Polycarp, as Irenæus attests, and of that age, as all agree, in a passage quoted by Eusebius, from a work now lost, expressly ascribes the respective Gospels to Matthew and Mark; and in a manner which proves that these Gospels must have publicly borne the names of these authors at that time, and probably long before; for Papias does not say that one Gospel was written by Matthew, and another by Mark; but, assuming this as perfectly well known, he tells us from what materials Mark collected his account, viz. from Peter's preaching, and in what language Matthew wrote, viz. in Hebrew. Whether Papias was well informed in this statement, or not; to the point for which I produce this testimony, namely, that these books bore these names at this time, his authority is complete.
The writers hitherto alleged, had all lived and conversed with some of the apostles. The
Lardner, Cred. vol. i. P. 192.
+ Matt. vii. 1, 2; v 7; Luke vi. 37, 38. Acts ii. 24.
Lardner, Cred, vol. i. p. 239.
This early Christian author is positively asserted by Irenæus to have been the disciple of St. John the evangelist and the companion of Polycarp. Of his book, "The
Exposition of the Discourses of the Lord," we have only the fragments preserved in the writings of Irenæus and Eusebius; and from these we learn, amongst other things, that Papias believed in the future temporal reign of Christ an opinion in which Irenæus and several other ancient authors concurred. He became bishop of Hierapolis, in Phrygia.- Cave. Dupin. Lardner.-ED.