« AnteriorContinuar »
tles is expressly ascribed to Luke. In one place, after mentioning a particular circumstance, he adds these remarkable words: "We have not this passage in the four Gospels delivered to us, but in that according to the Egyptians;" which puts a marked distinction between the four Gospels and all other histories, or pretended histories, of Christ. In another part of his works, the perfect confidence, with which he received the Gospels, is signified by him in these words: "That this is true, appears from hence, that it is written in the Gospel according to St. Luke;" and again, "I need not use many words, but only to allege the evangelic voice of the Lord." His quotations are numerous. The sayings of Christ, of which he alleges many, are all taken from our Gospels; the single exception to this observation appearing to be a loose * quotation of a passage in Saint Matthew's Gospel.
We may again likewise remark the wide extent through which the reputation of the Gospels, and of the Acts of the Apostles, had spread, and the perfect consent, in this point, of distant and independent societies. It is now only about one hundred and fifty years since Christ was crucified; and within this period, to say nothing of the apostolical fathers who have been noticed already, we have Justin Martyr at Neapolis, Theophilus at Antioch, Irenæus in France, Clement at Alexandria, Tertullian at Carthage, quoting the same books of historical Scriptures, and, may say, quoting these alone.
XII. In the age in which they lived, † Tertullian joins on with Clement. The number of the Gospels then received, the names of the evangelists, and their proper descriptions, are exhibited by this writer in one short sentence: "Among the apostles, John and Matthew teach us the faith; among apostolical men, Luke and Mark refresh it." The next passage to be taken from Tertullian, affords as complete an attestation to the authenticity of our books as can be well imagined. After XIII. An interval of only thirty years, and that enumerating the churches which had been found- occupied by no small number of Christian writers t ed by Paul, at Corinth, in Galatia, at Philippi, whose works only remain in fragments and quo Thessalonica, and Ephesus; the church of Rome tations, and in every one of which is some reestablished by Peter and Paul, and other churches ference or other to the Gospels, (and in one of derived from John; he proceeds thus:-"I say them, Hippolytus, as preserved in Theodoret, is an then, that with them, but not with them only abstract of the whole Gospel history,) brings us which are apostolical, but with all who have fel- to a name of great celebrity in Christian antiquity, lowship with them in the same faith, is that Gos-Origen ‡ of Alexandria, who in the quantity of pel of Luke received from its first publication, his writings, exceeded the most laborious of the which we so zealously maintain:" and presently Greek and Latin authors. Nothing can be more afterwards adds; "The same authority of the peremptory upon the subject now under considerapostolical churches will support the other Gospels, ation, and, from a writer of his learning and inwhich we have from them and according to them, formation, more satisfactory, than the declaration I mean John's and Matthew's; although that of Origen, preserved, in an extract from his works, likewise which Mark published may be said to be by Eusebius; "That the four Gospels alone are Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was." In another received without dispute by the whole church of place Tertullian affirms, that the three other God under heaven:" to which declaration is imGospels were in the hands of the churches from mediately subjoined a brief history of the respectthe beginning, as well as Luke's. This noble ive authors, to whom they were then, as they are testimony fixes the universality with which the now, ascribed. The language holden concerning Gospels were received, and their antiquity; that the Gospels, throughout the works of Origen they were in the hands of all, and had been so which remain, entirely corresponds with the tesfrom the first. And this evidence appears not timony here cited. His attestation to the Acts of more than one hundred and fifty years after the the Apostles is no less positive: "And Luke also publication of the books. The reader must be once more sounds the trumpet, relating the acts given to understand, that when Tertullian speaks of the apostles." The universality with which of maintaining or defending (tuendi) the Gospel the Scriptures were then read, is well signified by of Saint Luke, he only means maintaining or this writer, in a passage in which he has occasion defending the integrity of the copies of Luke re- to observe against Celsus, "That it is not in any ceived by Christian churches, in opposition to cer- private books, or such as are read by a few only, tain curtailed copies used by Marcion, against and those studious persons, but in books read by whom he writes. every body, that it is written, The invisible things of God, from the creation of the world, are clearly seen, being understood by things that are made." It is to no purpose to single out quotations of Scripture from such a writer as this. We might as well make a selection of the quotations of Scripture in Dr. Clarke's Sermons. They are so
This author frequently cites the Acts of the Apostles under that title, once calls it Luke's
Commentary, and observes how Saint Paul's epistles confirm it.
After this general evidence, it is unnecessary to add particular quotations. These, however, are so numerous and ample, as to have led Dr. Lardner to observe, "that there are more, and larger quotations of the small volume of the New Testament in this one Christian author, than there are of all the works of Cicero in writers of all characters for several ages."
Tertullian quotes no Christian writing as of equal authority with the Scriptures, and no spurious books at all; a broad line of distinction, we may once more observe, between our sacred books and all others.
Ask great things, and the small shall be added
unto you." Clement rather chose to expound the words of Matthew (chap. vi. 33,) than literally to cite them; and this is most undeniably proved by another place in the saine Clement, where he both produces the text and these words as an exposition:-" Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness, for these are the great things; but, the small things, and things relating to this life, shall be added unto you."-Jones's New and Full Method, vol. i. p. 553.
Lardner, vol. ii. p. 561.
Lardner, vol. ii. p. 647.
Minucius Felix, Apollonius, Caius, Asterius, Urbanus, Alexander bishop of Jerusalem, Hippolytus, Aminonius, Julius Africanus.
Lardner, vol. iii. p. 234.
thickly sown in the works of Origen, that Dr. Mill says, "If we had all his works remaining, we should have before us almost the whole text of the Bible."*
Origen notices, in order to censure, certain apocryphal Gospels. He also uses four writings of this sort; that is, throughout his large works he once or twice, at the most, quotes each of the four; but always with some mark, either of direct reprobation or of caution to his readers, manifestly esteeming them of little or no authority.
the credit of these historlans; observing, that they were eye-witnesses of the facts which they relate, and that their ignorance of the arts of composition was rather a confirmation of their testimony, than an objection to it. Lactantius also argues in defence of the religion, from the consistency, simplicity, disinterestedness, and sufferings of the Christian historians, meaning by that term our evangelists.
XVII. We close the series of testimonies with that of Eusebius,* bishop of Cæsarea, who flourished in the year 315, contemporary with, or posterior only by fifteen years to, the two authors last cited. This voluminous writer, and most di
XV. Passing over a crowdt of writers following Cyprian at different distances, but all within forty years of his time; and who all, in the imperfect remains of their works, either cite the historical Scriptures of the New Testament, or speak of them in terms of profound respect; I single out Victorin, bishop of Pettaw in Germany, merely on account of the remoteness of his situation from that of Origen and Cyprian, who were Africans; by which circumstance his testimony, taken in conjunction with theirs, proves that the Scripture histories, and the same histories, were known and received from one side of the Christian world to the other. This bishopt lived about the year 290: and in a commentary upon this text of the Revelation, "The first was like a lion, the second was like a calf, the third like a man, and the fourth like a flying eagle," he makes out that by the four creatures are intended the four Gospels; and to show the propriety of the symbols, he recites the subject with which each evangelist opens his history. The explication is fanciful, but the testimony positive. He also expressly cites the Acts of the Apostles.
XIV. Gregory, bishop of Neocæsarea, and Dionysius of Alexandria, were scholars of Origen. Their testimony, therefore, though full and particular, may be reckoned a repetition only of his.ligent collector of the writings of others, beside a The series, however, of evidence, is continued by variety of large works, composed a history of the Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, who flourished with- affairs of Christianity from its origin to his own in twenty years after Origen. "The church," time. His testimony to the Scriptures is the tessays this father, "is watered, like Paradise, by timony of a man much conversant in the works of four rivers, that is, by four Gospels." The Acts Christian authors, written during the first three of the Apostles is also frequently quoted by Cy- centuries of its era, and who had read many prian under that name, and under the name of the which are now lost. In a passage of his Evange "Divine Scriptures." In his various writings are lical Demonstration, Eusebius remarks, with great such constant and copious citations of Scripture, nicety, the delicacy of two of the evangelists in as to place this part of the testimony beyond con- their manner of noticing any circumstance which troversy. Nor is there, in the works of this emi-regarded themselves; and of Mark, as writing unnent African bishop, one quotation of a spurious der Peter's direction, in the circumstances which or apocryphal Christian writing. regarded him. The illustration of this remark leads him to bring together long quotations from each of the evangelists; and the whole passage is a proof, that Eusebius, and the Christians of those days, not only read the Gospels, but studied them with attention and exactness. In a passage of his Ecclesiastical History, he treats, in form, and at large, of the occasions of writing the four Gospels, and of the order in which they were written. The title of the chapter is, "Of the Order of the Gospels;" and it begins thus: "Let us observe the writings of this apostle John, which are not contradicted by any; and, first of all, must be mentioned, as acknowledged by all, the Gospel according to him, well known to all the churches under heaven; and that it has been justly placed by the ancients the fourth in order, and after the other three, may be made evident in this manner."-Eusebius then proceeds to show that John wrote the last of the four, and that his Gospel was intended to supply the omissions of the others; especially in the part of our Lord's ministry, which took place before the imprisonment of John the Baptist. He observes, "that the apostles of Christ were not studious of the ornaments of composition, nor indeed forward to write at all, being wholly occupied with their ministry."
This learned author makes no use at all of Christian writings, forged with the names of Christ's apostles, or their companions.
We close this branch of our evidence here, because, after Eusebius, there is no room for any question upon the subject; the works of Christian writers being as full of texts of Scripture, and of references to Scripture, as the discourses of modern divines. Future testimonies to the books of Scrip ture could only prove that they never lost their character or authority.
XVI. Arnobius and Lactantius, about the year 300, composed formal arguments upon the credibility of the Christian religion. As these arguments were addressed to Gentiles, the authors abstain from quoting Christian books by name; one of them giving this very reason for his reserve; but when they come to state, for the information of their readers, the outlines of Christ's history, it is apparent that they draw their accounts from our Gospels, and from no other sources; for these statements exhibit a summary of almost every thing which is related of Christ's actions and miracles by the four evangelists. Arnobius vindicates, without mentioning their names,
*Mill, Proleg. cap. vi. p. 66.
† Novatus, Rome, A. D. 251; Dionysius, Rome, A. D. 259; Commodian, A. D. 270; Anatolius, Laodicea, A. D. 270; Theognostus, A. D. 282; Methodius, Lycia, A. D. 200; Phileas, Egypt, A. D. 296.
Lardner, vol. v. p. 214. § Ib. vol. vii. p. 43. 201.
When the Scriptures are quoted, or alluded to, they are quoted with peculiar respect, as books
*Lardner, vol. viii. p. 33.
sui generis; as possessing an authority which belonged to no other books, and as conclusive in all questions and controversies amongst Christians.
BESIDE the general strain of reference and quotation, which uniformly and strongly indicates this distinction, the following may be regarded as specific testimonies:
I. Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, the sixth in succession from the apostles, and who flourished little more than a century after the books of the New Testament were written, having occasion to quote one of our Gospels, writes thus: "These things the Holy Scriptures teach us, and all who were moved by the Holy Spirit, among whom John says, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God." Again: "Concerning the righteousness which the law teaches, the like things are to be found in the Prophets and the Gospels, because that all, being inspired, spoke by one and the same Spirit of God."+ No words can testify more strongly than these do, the high and peculiar respect in which these books were holden.
II. A writer against Artemon, who may be supposed to come about one hundred and fiftyeight years after the publication of the Scripture, in a passage quoted by Eusebius, uses these ex- VIII. The Arians, who sprung up about fifty pressions: "Possibly what they (our adversaries) years after this, argued strenuously against the say, might have been credited, if first of all the use of the words consubstantial and essence, and Divine Scriptures did not contradict them; and like phrases; “because they were not in Scripthen the writings of certain brethren more ancient ture." And in the same strain one of their adthan the times of Victor." The brethren men-vocates opens a conference with Augustine, after tioned by name, are Justin, Miltiades, Tatian, the following manner: "If you say what is reaClement, Irenæus, Melito, with a general appeal sonable, I must submit. If you allege any thing to many more not named. This passage proves, from the Divine Scriptures, which are common to first, that there was at that time a collection called both, I must hear. But unscriptural expressions Divine Scriptures; secondly, that these Scrip- (quæ extra Scripturam sunt) deserve no regard." tures were esteemed of higher authority than the writings of the most early and celebrated Chris
Athanasius, the great antagonist of Arianism, after having enumerated the books of the Old and New Testament, adds, "These are the fountain of salvation, that he who thirsts may be satisfied with the oracles contained in them. In these alone the doctrine of salvation is proclaimed. Let no roan add to them or take any thing from them."s
lies close to that of Origen, earnestly exhorts Chris-
VI. Novatus, a Roman, contemporary with
VII. At the distance of twenty years from the writer last cited, Anatolius,† a learned Alexandrian, and bishop of Laodicea, speaking of the rule for keeping Easter, a question at that day agitated with much earnestness, says of those whom he opposed, "They can by no means prove their point by the authority of the Divine Scripture.'
III. In a piece ascribed to Hippolytus, who lived near the same time, the author professes, in giving his correspondent instruction in the things about which he inquires, "to draw out of the sacred fountain, and to set before him from the Sa- IX. Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, who wrote cred Scriptures, what may afford him satisfaction." about twenty years after the appearance of ArianHe then quotes immediately Paul's epistles to ism, uses these remarkable words:"Concerning Timothy, and afterwards many books of the New the divine and holy mysteries of faith, not the Testament. This preface to the quotations car- least article ought to be delivered without the Diries in it a marked distinction between the Scrip-vine Scriptures." We are assured that Cyril's tures and other books. Scriptures were the same as ours, for he has left
IV." Our assertions and discourses," saith us a catalogue of the books included under that Origen," are unworthy of credit; we must re-name. ceive the Scriptures as witnesses." After treating of the duty of prayer, he proceeds with his argument thus: "What we have said, may be proved from the Divine Scriptures." In his books against Celsus, we find this passage: "That our religion teaches us to seek after wisdom, shall be shown, both out of the ancient Jewish Scriptures, which we also use, and out of those written since Jesus, which are believed in the churches to be divine." These expressions afford abundant evidence of the peculiar and exclusive authority which the Scriptures possessed.
V. Cyprian, bishop of Carthage,¶ whose age
*Lardner, Cred. part ii. vol. i. p. 429.
† Ib. vol. i. p. 448. Ib. vol. iii. p. 112.
Ib. vol. iv. p. 840.
1 Ib. vol. iii. p. 40.
Ib. vol. iii. p. 287-239.
X. Epiphanius, twenty years after Cyril, challenges the Arians, and the followers of Ori-. gen, "to produce any passage of the Old and New Testament, favouring their sentiments."
XI. Pabadius, a Gallic bishop, who lived about thirty years after the council of Nice, testifies, that "the bishops of that council first consulted the sacred volumes, and then declared their faith."**
XII. Basil, bishop of Cæsarea, in Cappadocia, contemporary with Epiphanius, says, "that hearers instructed in the Scriptures ought to examine what is said by their teachers, and to embrace
* Lardner, Cred. vol. v. p. 102.
Ib. vol. xii. p. 182.
Ib. vol. vii. p. 283, 284.
what is agrecable to the Scriptures, and to reject | pel, for he expected to be delivered up as the what is otherwise."* Lord also did. And in another place, "We do not commend those who offer themselves, forasmuch as the Gospel teaches us no such thing."t In both these places, what is called the Gospels, seems to be the history of Jesus Christ, and of his doctrine.
If this be the true sense of the passages, they are not only evidences of our propositions, but strong and very ancient proofs of the high esteem in which the books of the New Testament were holden.
II. Eusebius relates, that Quadratus and some others, who were the immediate successors of the apostles, travelling abroad to preach Christ, car
XIV. If we add Jerome to these, it is only for the evidence which he affords of the judgment of preceding ages. Jerome observes, concerning the quotations of ancient Christian writers, that is, of writers who were ancient in the year 400, that they made a distinction between books; some they quoted as of authority, and others not: which ob-ried the Gospels with them, and delivered them servation relates to the books of Scripture, com- to their converts. The words of Eusebius are: pared with other writings, apocryphal or heathen. "Then travelling abroad, they performed the work of evangelists, being ambitious to preach Christ, and deliver the Scripture of the divine Gospels." Eusebius had before him the writings both of Quadratus himself, and of many others of that age, which are now lost. It is reasonable, there
The Scriptures were in very early times collected fore, to believe, that he had good grounds for his into a distinct volume. assertion. What is thus recorded of the Gospels, took place within sixty, or, at the most, seventy years after they were published: and it is evident that they must, before this time (and, it is proba ble, long before this time,) have been in general use, and in high esteem in the churches planted by the apostles, inasmuch as they were now, we find, collected into a volume; and the immediate successors of the apostles, they who preached the religion of Christ to those who had not already heard it, carried the volume with them, and delivered it to their converts.
XIII. Ephraim, the Syrian, a celebrated writer of the same times, bears this conclusive testimony to the proposition which forms the subject of our present chapter: "The truth written in the Sacred Volume of the Gospel, is a perfect rule. Nothing can be taken from it nor added to it, without great guilt."+
IGNATIUS, who was bishop of Antioch within forty years after the Ascension, and who had lived and conversed with the apostles, speaks of the Gospel and of the apostles in terms which render it very probable that he meant by the Gospel, the book or volume of the Gospels, and by the Apostles, the book or volume of their Epistles. His words in one place are,$ "Fleeing to the Gospel as the flesh of Jesus, and to the apostles as the presbytery of the church;" that is, as Le Clerc interprets them, "in order to understand the will of God, he fled to the Gospels, which he believed no less than if Christ in the flesh had been speak-Law and the Prophets, manifestly intending by ing to him; and to the writings of the apostles, the one a code or collection of Christian sacred whom he esteemed as the presbytery of the whole writings, as the other expressed the code or colChristian church." It must be observed, that lection of Jewish sacred writings. And, about eighty years after this, we have direct proof in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, that these two names, 66 Gospel," and "Apostles," were the names by which the writings of the New Testament, and the division of these writings, were usually expressed.
III. Irenæus, in the year 178,5 puts the evangelic and apostolic writings in connexion with the
IV. Melito, at this time bishop of Sardis, writing to one Onesimus, tells his correspondent, that he had procured an accurate account of the books of the Old Testament. The occurrence, in this passage, of the term Old Testament, has been brought to prove, and it certainly does prove, that there was then a volume or collection of ex-writings called the New Testament.
V. In the time of Clement of Alexandria, about fifteen years after the last-quoted testimony, it is apparent that the Christian Scriptures were divided into two parts, under the general titles of the
And a third: "Ye ought to hearken to the Prophets, but especially to the Gospel, in which the passion has been manifested to us, and the resur-Gospels and Apostles; and that both these were rection perfected." In this last passage, the Pro-regarded as of the highest authority. One, out of phets and the Gospel are put in conjunction; and many expressions of Clement, alluding to this as Ignatius undoubtedly meant by the Prophets a distribution, is the following:-"There is a concollection of writings, it is probable that he meant sent and harmony between the Law and the Prothe same by the Gospel, the two terms standing phets, the Apostles and the Gospel."¶ in evident parallelism with each other.
This interpretation of the word "Gospel," in the passages above quoted from Ignatius, is confirmed by a piece of nearly equal antiquity, the relation of the martyrdom of Polycarp by the church of Smyrna. "All things," say they," "that went before, were done, that the Lord might show us a martyrdom according to the Gos
VI. The same division, "Prophets, Gospels, and Apostles," appears in Tertullian,** the contemporary of Clement. The collection of the Gospels is likewise called by this writer the Evangelic Instrument;"++ the whole volume, the New Testament;" and the two parts, the "Grospels and Apostles."‡‡
Another passage from Ignatius is the following: -" But the Gospel has somewhat in it more cellent, the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ, his passion and resurrection."T
Ignat. Ep. c. i.
Ib. vol. i. p. 383.
Ib. p. 331. ** Ib. p. 631.
It Ib. p. 632.
VII. From many writers also of the third cen- pressly cites some of our present histories under tury, and especially from Cyprian, who lived in the title of GOSPEL, and that not as a name by the middle of it, it is collected that the Christian him first ascribed to them, but as the name by Scriptures were divided into two codes, or volumes, which they were generally known in his time. one called the "Gospels or Scriptures of the Lord," His words are these:-"For the apostles in the the other, the " Apostles, or Epistles of the Apos-memoirs composed by them, which are called tles." Gospels, have thus delivered it, that Jesus commanded them to take bread, and give thanks."* There exists no doubt, but that, by the memoirs above mentioned, Justin meant our present historical Scriptures; for throughout his works, he quotes these, and no others.
III. Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, who came thirty years after Justin, in a passage preserved in Eusebius, (for his works are lost,) speaks of " the Scriptures of the Lord."+
IV. And at the same time, or very nearly so, by Irenæus, bishop of Lyons in France, they are called "Divine Scriptures,"" Divine Oracles,"-" Scriptures of the Lord,"-" Evangelic and Apostolic Writings." The quotations of Irenæus prove decidedly, that our present Gospels, and these alone, together with the Acts of the Apostles, were the historical books comprehended by him under these appellations.
In the Diocletian persecution, in the year 303, the Scriptures were sought out and burnt: many suffered death rather than deliver them up; and those who betrayed them to the persecutors, were accounted as lapse and apostate. On the other hand, Constantine, after his conversion, gave directions for multiplying copies of the Divine Oracles, and for magnificently adorning them at the expense of the imperial treasury. § What the Christians of that age so richly embellished in their prosperity, and, which is more, so tena-Alexandria, published within fifteen years of the ciously preserved under persecution, was the very same time, ascribed to the books of the New Tesvolume of the New Testament which we now tament the various titles of "Sacred Books," read. "Divine Scriptures,"" Divinely inspired Scriptures,"" Scriptures of the Lord,"-" the true Evangelical Canon." ¶
V. Saint Matthew's Gospel is quoted by Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, contemporary with Irenæus, under the title of the " Evangelic Voice;" and the copious works of Clement of
VIII. Eusebius, as we have already seen, takes some pains to show, that the Gospel of Saint John had been justly placed by the ancients "the fourth in order, and after the other three. These are the terms of his proposition: and the very introduction of such an argument proves incontestably, that the four Gospels had been collected into a volume, to the exclusion of every other; that their order in the volume had been adjusted with much consideration; and that this had been done by those who were called ancients in the time of Eu
VI. Tertullian, who joins on with Clement, beside adopting most of the names and epithets above noticed, calls the Gospels "our Digestia,"
Our present Sacred Writings were soon distin-in allusion, as it should seem, to some collection of guished by appropriate names and titles of Roman laws then extant. ** respect.
POLYCARP. "I trust that ye are well exercised in the Holy Scriptures;-as in these Scriptures it is said, Be ye angry and sin not, and let not the sun go down on your wrath." This passage is extremely important; because it proves that, in the time of Polycarp, who had lived with the apostles, there were Christian writings distinguished by the name of "Holy Scriptures," or Sacred Writings. Moreover, the text quoted by Polycarp is a text found in the collection at this day. What also the same Polycarp hath elsewhere quoted in the same manner, may be considered as proved to belong to the collection; and this comprehends Saint Matthew's, and, probably, Saint Luke's Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, ten epistles of Paul, the First Epistle of Peter, and the First of John. In another place, Polycarp has these words: "Whoever perverts the Oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says there is neither resurrection nor judgment, he is the first-born of Satan."**-It does not appear what else Polycarp could mean by the "Oracles of the Lord," but those same "Holy Scriptures," or Sacred Writings, of which he had spoken before.
VII. By Origen, who came thirty years after Tertullian, the same, and other no less strong titles, are applied to the Christian Scriptures: and, in addition thereunto, this writer frequently speaks of the "Old and New Testament," Ancient and New Scriptures,"-"the Ancient and New Oracles." +
VIII. In Cyprian, who was not twenty years later, they are "Books of the Spirit,"-"Divine Fountains, "-" Fountains of the Divine Fulness." +
The expressions we have thus quoted, are evidences of high and peculiar respect. They all occur within two centuries from the publication of the books. Some of them commence with the companions of the apostles; and they increase in number and variety, through a series of writers touching one upon another, and deduced from the first age of the religion.