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to have gone into the opposite extreme from that of Paul of Samosata and his followers. Yet, according to the express testimony of Epiphanius, Sabellius received all the Scriptures. And with both sects Catholic writers constantly allege the Scriptures, and reply to the arguments which their opponents drew from particular texts.
We have here, therefore, a proof, that parties, who were the most opposite and irreconcilable to one another, acknowledged the authority of Scripture with equal deference.
X. And as a general testimony to the same point, may be produced what was said by one of the bishops of the council of Carthage, which was holden a little before this time :—“ I am of opinion that blasphemous and wicked heretics, who pervert the sacred and adorable words of the Scripture, should be execrated*." Undoubtedly what they perverted, they received.
XI. The Millennium, Novatianism, the baptism of heretics, the keeping of Easter, engaged also the attention and divided the opinions of Christians, at and before that time (and, by the way, it may be observed, that such disputes, though on some accounts to be blamed, showed how much men were in earnest upon the subject); yet every one appealed for the grounds of his opinion to Scripture authority. Dionysius of Alexandria, who flourished A. D. 247, describing a conference or public disputation with the Millennarians of Egypt, confesses of them, though their adversary, "that they embrace whatever could be made out by good arguments from the Holy Scriptures t." Novatus, A. D. 251, distinguished by some rigid sentiments concerning the reception of those who had lapsed, and the founder of a numerous sect, in his few remaining works quotes the Gospel with the same respect as other Christians did; and concerning his followers, the testimony of Socrates, who wrote about the year 440, is positive, viz. "That in the disputes between the Catholics and them, each side endeavoured to support itself by the authority of the Divine Scriptures ‡.” XII. The Donatists, who sprang up in the year 328, used the same Scriptures as we do. "Produce," saith Augustin, "some proof from the Scriptures, whose authority is common to us both §."
XIII. It is perfectly notorious, that, in the Arian controversy, which arose soon after the year 200, both sides appealed to the same Scriptures, and with equal professions of deference and regard. The Arians, in their council of Antioch, A. D. 341, pronounce, that, "if any one, contrary to the sound doctrine of the Scriptures, say, that the Son is a creature, as one of the creatures, let him be an anathema ||." They and the Athanasians mutually accuse each other of using unscriptural phrases; which was a mutual acknowledgment of the conclusive authority of Scripture.
XIV. The Priscillianists, A. D. 378 q, the Pelagians, A. D. 405**, received the same Scriptures as we do.
XV. The testimony of Chrysostom, who lived near the year 400, is so positive in affirmation of the proposition which we maintain, that it may form a proper conclusion of the argument. "The general reception of the Gospels is a proof that their history is true and consistent; for, since the writing of the Gospels, many heresies have arisen, holding opinions contrary to what is contained in them, who yet receive the Gospels either entire or in part ++." I am not moved by what may seem a deduction from Chrysostom's testimony, the words, "entire, or in part;" for, if all the parts, which were ever questioned in our Gospels, were given up, it would not affect the miraculous origin of the religion in the smallest degree: e.g.
Cerinthus is said by Epiphanius to have received the Gospel of Matthew, but not entire. What the omissions were, does not appear. The common opinion, that he rejected the first two chapters, seems to have been a mistake‡‡. It is agreed, however, by all who have given any account of Cerinthus, that he taught that the Holy Ghost (whether he meant by that name a person or a power) descended upon Jesus at his baptism; that Jesus from this time performed many miracles, and that he appeared after his death. He must have retained therefore the essential parts of the history.
Lardner, vol. xi. p. 839.
§ Ibid. vol. vii. p. 243.
Ibid, vol. xi. P. 52.
+ Ibid. vol. iv. p. 666.
Ibid. vol. v. p. 105.
¶ Ibid, vol. ix, p. 325.
Of all the ancient heretics, the most extraordinary was Marcion*. One of his tenets was the rejection of the Old Testament, as proceeding from an inferior and imperfect deity; and in pursuance of this hypothesis, he erased from the New, and that, as it should seem, without entering into any critical reasons, every passage which recognised the Jewish Scriptures. He spared not a text which contradicted his opinion. It is reasonable to believe that Marcion treated books as he treated texts: yet this rash and wild controversialist published a recension, or chastised edition, of Saint Luke's Gospel, containing the leading facts, and all which is necessary to authenticate the religion. This example affords proof, that there were always some points, and those the main points, which neither wildness nor rashness, neither the fury of opposition nor the intemperance of controversy, would venture to call in question. There is no reason to believe that Marcion, though full of resentment against the Catholic Christians, ever charged them with forging their books. "The Gospel
of Saint Matthew, the Epistle to the Hebrews, with those of Saint Peter and Saint James, as well as the Old Testament in general," he said, were writings not for Christians but for Jews." This declaration shows the ground upon which Marcion proceeded in his mutilation of the Scriptures, viz. his dislike of the passages or the books. Marcion flourished about the year 130‡.
Dr. Lardner, in his General Review, sums up this head of evidence in the following words: "Noëtus, Paul of Samosata, Sabellius, Marcellus, Photinus, the Novatians, Donatists, Manicheans, Priscillianists, besides Artemon, the Audians, the Arians, and divers others, all received most or all the same books of the New Testament which the Catholics received; and agreed in a like respect for them as written by apostles, or their disciples and companions."
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.
I STATE this proposition, because, if made out, it shows that the authenticity of their books was a subject amongst the early Christians of consideration and inquiry; and that, where there was cause of doubt, they did doubt; a circumstance which strengthens very much their testimony to such books as were received by them with full acquiescence.
I. Jerome, in his account of Caius, who was probably a presbyter of Rome, and who flourished near the year 200, records of him, that, reckoning up only thirteen epistles of Paul, he says the fourteenth, which is inscribed to the Hebrews, is not his: and then Jerome adds, "With the Romans to this day it is not looked upon as Paul's." This agrees in the main with the account given by Eusebius of the same ancient author and his work; except that Eusebius delivers his own remark in more guarded terms: "And indeed to this very time by some of the Romans, this epistle is not thought to be the apostle's ¶."
II. Origen, about twenty years after Caius, quoting the Epistle to the Hebrews, observes that some might dispute the authority of that epistle; and therefore proceeds to quote to the same point, as undoubted books of Scripture, the Gospel of Saint Matthew, the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians **." And in another place, this
*Lardner, vol. ix. ed. 1788, sect. ii. c. x. Also Michael. vol. i. c. i sect. xviii.
I have transcribed this sentence from Michaelis (p 38), who has not, however, referred to the authority upon which he attributes these words to Marcion.
Cf Marcion, who appears to have been a heretic of sufficient importance to annoy and provoke the anathemas of the early Christian authors, our principal accounts are necessarily derived from his enemies. He appears to have been originally a sailor, and had many of the profligate habits incident to such a profession. He was born at Sinope, a city on the Black Sca, most probably about the
year 100 of the Christian era, and went to Rome in 127. The period of his death is uncertain. Polycarp denounced him as "the firstborn of Satan ;" and Tertullian informs us that he lived long enough to renounce his heresies, and abandon his sect, which, under the name of Marcionites, long continued to exist.-Mosheim. Milner. Cave.-ED.
§ This must be with an exception, however, of Faustus, who lived so late as the year 384.
Lardner, vol. xii. p. 12.-Dr. Lardner's further inquiries supplied him with many other instances. Lardner, vol. iii. p. 240.
** Ib. p. 246.
author speaks of the Epistle to the Hebrews thus: "The account come down to us is various; some saying that Clement, who was bishop of Rome, wrote this epistle; others, that it was Luke, the same who wrote the Gospel and the Acts." Speaking also, in the same paragraph, of Peter, " Peter," says he, "has left one epistle, acknowledged; let it be granted likewise that he wrote a second, for it is doubted of." And of John, "He has also left one epistle, of a very few lines; grant also a second and a third, for all do not allow these to be genuine." Now let it be noted, that Origen, who thus discriminates, and thus confesses his own doubts, and the doubts which subsisted in his time, expressly witnesses concerning the four Gospels, "that they alone are received without dispute by the whole church of God under heaven*."
III. Dionysius of Alexandria, in the year 247, doubts concerning the Book of Revelation, whether it was written by Saint John; states the grounds of his doubt, represents the diversity of opinion concerning it, in his own time, and before his timet. Yet the same Dionysius uses and collates the four Gospels in a manner which shows that he entertained not the smallest suspicion of their authority, and in a manner also which shows that they, and they alone, were received as authentic histories of Christ.
IV. But this section may be said to have been framed on purpose to introduce to the reader two remarkable passages extant in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History. The first passage opens with these words: -“Let us observe the writings of the apostle John which are uncontradicted; and first of all must be mentioned, as acknowledged of all, the Gospel according to him, well known to all the churches under heaven." The author then proceeds to relate the occasions of writing the Gospels, and the reasons for placing Saint John's the last, manifestly speaking of all the four as parallel in their authority, and in the certainty of their originals. The second passage is taken from a chapter, the title of which is, "Of the Scriptures universally acknowledged, and of those that are not such." Eusebius begins his enumeration in the following manner :- "In the first place are to be ranked the sacred four Gospels; then the book of the Acts of the Apostles; after that are to be reckoned the Epistles of Paul. In the next place, that called the First Epistle of John, and the Epistle of Peter, are to be esteemed authentic. After this is to be placed, if it be thought fit, the Revelation of John, about which we shall observe the different opinions at proper seasons. Of the controverted, but yet well known or approved by the most, are, that called the Epistle of James, and that of Jude, and the Second of Peter, and the Second and Third of John, whether they are written by the evangelist, or another of the same name." IIe then proceeds to reckon up five others, not in our canon, which he calls in one place spurious, in another controverted, meaning, as appears to me, nearly the same thing by these two words ¶.
It is manifest from this passage, that the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles (the parts of Scripture with which our concern principally lies), were acknowledged without dispute, even by those who raised objections, or entertained doubts, about some other parts of the same collection. But the passage proves something more than this. The author was extremely conversant in the writings of Christians, which had been published from the commencement of the institution to his own time: and it was from these writings that he drew his knowledge of the character and reception of the books in question. That Eusebius recurred to this medium of information, and that he had examined with attention this species of proof, is shown, first, by a passage in the very chapter we are quoting, in which, speaking of the books which he calls spurious, "None," he says, "of the ecclesiastical writers, in the succession of the apostles, have vouchsafed to make any mention of them in their writings;" and secondly, by another passage of the same work, wherein, speaking of the First Epistle of Peter, "This," he says, "the presbyters of ancient times have quoted in their writings as undoubtedly genuine**;” and then, speaking of some other writings • Lardner, vol. iii. p. 234.
Ib. vol. iv. p. 670.
Ib. p. 89.
Ib. vol. viii. p. 90.
That Eusebius could not intend, by the word rendered "spurious," what we at present mean by it, is
evident from a clause in this very chapter, where, speak-
bearing the name of Peter, "We know," he says, "that they have not been delivered down to us in the number of Catholic writings, forasmuch as no ecclesiastical writer of the ancients, or of our times, has made use of testimonies out of them." "But in the progress
of this history," the author proceeds, we shall make it our business to show, together with the successions from the apostles, what ecclesiastical writers, in every age, have used such writings as these which are contradicted, and what they have said with regard to the Scriptures received in the New Testament, and acknowledged by all, and with regard to those
which are not such *."
After this it is reasonable to believe, that when Eusebius states the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles, as uncontradicted, uncontested, and acknowledged by all; and when he places them in opposition, not only to those which were spurious, in our sense of that term, but to those which were controverted, and even to those which were well known and approved by many, yet doubted of by some; he represents not only the sense of his own age, but the result of the evidence which the writings of prior ages, from the apostles' time to his own, had furnished to his inquiries. The opinion of Eusebius and his contemporaries appears to have been founded upon the testimony of writers whom they then called ancient and we may observe, that such of the works of these writers as have come down to our times, entirely confirm the judgment, and support the distinction, which Eusebius proposes. The books which he calls "books universally acknowledged," are in fact used and quoted in the remaining works of Christian writers, during the 250 years between the apostles' time and that of Eusebius, much more frequently than, and in a different manner from, those, the authority of which, he tells us, was disputed.
Our historical Scriptures were attacked by the early adversaries of Christianity, as containing the accounts upon which the Religion was founded.
NEAR the middle of the second century, Celsus, a heathen philosopher, wrote a professed treatise against Christianity. To this treatise, Origen, who came about fifty years after him, published an answer, in which he frequently recites his adversary's words and arguments. The work of Celsus is lost; but that of Origen remains. Origen appears to have given us the words of Celsus, where he professes to give them, very faithfully; and, amongst other reasons for thinking so, this is one, that the objection, as stated by him from Celsus, is sometimes stronger than his own answer. I think it also probable, that Origen, in his answer, has retailed a large portion of the work of Celsus: "That it may not be suspected,” he says, "that we pass by any chapters, because we have no answers at hand, I have thought it best, according to my ability, to confute every thing proposed by him, not so much observing the natural order of things, as the order which he has taken himself+."
Celsus wrote about one hundred years after the Gospels were published; and therefore any notices of these books from him are extremely important for their antiquity. They are, however, rendered more so by the character of the author; for, the reception, credit, and notoriety, of these books must have been well established among Christians, to have made them subjects of animadversion and opposition by strangers and by enemies. It evinces the truth of what Chrysostom, two centuries afterward, observed, that "the Gospels, when written, were not hidden in a corner, or buried in obscurity, but they were made known to all the world, before enemies as well as others, even as they are now ‡."
1. Celsus, or the Jew whom he personates, uses these words:" I could say many things concerning the affairs of Jesus, and those, too, different from those written by the disciples of Jesus; but I purposely omit them§." Upon this passage it has been rightly observed, that it is not easy to believe, that if Celsus could have contradicted the disciples upon good evidence in any material point, he would have omitted to do so, and that the assertion is, what Origen calls it, a mere oratorical flourish.
Lardner, vol. viii. p. 111.
In Matt. Hom. 1. 7.
+ Orig. cont. Cels. 1. i. sect. 41.
Lardner, Jewish and Heathen Test. vol. ii. p. 274.
It is sufficient, however, to prove, that, in the time of Celsus, there were books well known, and allowed to be written by the disciples of Jesus, which books contained a history of him. By the term disciples, Celsus does not mean the followers of Jesus in general; for them he calls Christians, or believers, or the like; but those who had been taught by Jesus himself, i. e. his apostles and companions.
2. In another passage, Celsus accuses the Christians of altering the Gospel*. accusation refers to some variations in the readings of particular passages: for Celsus goes on to object, that when they are pressed hard, and one reading has been confuted, they disown that, and fly to another. We cannot perceive from Origen, that Celsus specified any particular instances, and without such specification the charge is of no value. But the true conclusion to be drawn from it is, that there were in the hands of the Christians, histories, which were even then of some standing: for various readings and corruptions do not take place in recent productions.
The former quotation, the reader will remember, proves that these books were composed by the disciples of Jesus, strictly so called; the present quotation shows, that, though objections were taken by the adversaries of the religion to the integrity of these books, none were made to their genuineness.
3. In a third passage, the Jew, whom Celsus introduces, shuts up an argument in this manner:-" These things then we have alleged to you out of your own writings, not needing any other weapons." It is manifest that this boast proceeds upon the supposition that the books, over which the writer affects to triumph, possessed an authority by which Christians confessed themselves to be bound.
4. That the books to which Celsus refers were no other than our present Gospels, is made out by his allusions to various passages still found in these Gospels. Celsus takes notice of the genealogies, which fixes two of these Gospels; of the precepts, Resist not him that injures you, and, If a man strike thee on the one cheek, offer to him the other also; of the woes denounced by Christ; of his predictions; of his saying, that it is impossible to serve two masters§; of the purple robe, the crown of thorns, and the reed in his hand; of the blood that flowed from the body of Jesus upon the cross ||, which circumstance is recorded by John alone; and (what is instar omnium for the purpose for which we produce it) of the difference in the accounts given of the resurrection by the evangelists, some mentioning two angels at the sepulchre, others only one ¶.
It is extremely material to remark, that Celsus not only perpetually referred to the accounts of Christ contained in the four Gospels **, but that he referred to no other accounts; that he founded none of his objections to Christianity upon any thing delivered in spurious Gospels.
II. What Celsus was in the second century, Porphyry became in the third. His work, which was a large and formal treatise against the Christian religion, is not extant. We must be content therefore to gather his objections from Christian writers, who have noticed in order to answer them; and enough remains of this species of information, to prove completely, that Porphyry's animadversions were directed against the contents of our present Gospels, and of the Acts of the Apostles; Porphyry considering that to overthrow them was to overthrow the religion. Thus he objects to the repetition of a generation in St. Matthew's genealogy; to Matthew's call; to the quotation of a text from Isaiah, which is found in a psalm ascribed to Asaph; to the calling of the lake of Tiberias a sea; to the expression in Saint Matthew, "the abomination of desolation;" to the variation in Matthew and Mark upon the text, "The voice of one crying in the wilderness," Matthew citing it from Isaias, Mark from the Prophets; to John's application of the term "Word;" to Christ's change of intention about going up to the feast of tabernacles (John vii. 8); to the judgment denounced by St. Peter upon Ananias and Sapphira, which he calls an imprecation of death ++.
The instances here alleged, serve, in some
* Lardner, vol. ii. p. 275.
Ib. vol. ii. 276.
Ib. p. 280, 281.
+ Ib. p. 276.
Ib. p. 282.
measure, to show the nature of Porphyry's
**The particulars, of which the above are only a few, are well collected by Mr. Bryant, p 140.
tt Jewish and Heathen Test. vol. iii. p. 166, et seq.