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because the testimony which this writer affords to the historical books of the New Testament, to their authority, and to the titles which they bear, is express, positive, and exclusive. One principal passage, in which this testimony is contained, opens with a precise assertion of the point which we have laid down as the foundation of our argument, viz. that the story which the Gospels exhibit, is the story which the apostles told. "We have not received," saith Irensus, "the knowledge of the way of our salvation by any others than those by whom the Gospel has been brought to us. Which Gospel they first preached, and afterwards, by the will of God, committed to writing, that it might be for time to come the foundation and pillar of our faith.—For after that our Lord rose from the dead, and they (the apostles) were endowed from above with the power of the Holy Ghost coming down upon them, they received a perfect knowledge of all things. They then went forth to all the ends of the earth, declaring to men the blessings of heavenly peace, having all of them, and every one, alike, the Gospel of God. Matthew then, among the Jews, wrote a Gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel at Home, and founding a church there: and after their exit, Mark also, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, delivered to us in writing the things that had been preached by Peter; and Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the Gospel preached by him (Paul). Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon his breast, he likewise published a Gospel white he dwelt at Ephesus in Asia." If any modern divine should write a book upon the genuineness of the Gospels, he could not assert it more expressly, or st ,te their original more distinctly, than Irenae\.s hath done within little more than a hundred years after they were published.
The correspondency, in the days of Irenaeus, of the oral and written tradition, and the deduction of the oral tradition through various channels from the age of the apostles, which was then lately passed, and, by consequence, the probability that the books truly delivered what the apostles taught, is inferred also with strict regularity from another passage of his works. "The tradition of the apostles," this father saith, " hath spread itself over the whole universe; and all they, who search after the sources of truth, will find this tradition to be held sacred in every church. We might enume
rate all those who have been appointed bishops to these churches by the apostles, and all their successors, up to our days. It is by this uninterrupted succession that we have received the tradition which actually exists in the church, as also the doctrines of truth, as it was preached by the apostles."* The reader will observe upon this, that the same Irenagus, who is now stating the strength and uniformity of the tradition, we have before seen recognising, in the fullest manner, the authority of the written records; from which we are entitled to conclude, that they were then conformable to each other.
I have said, that the testimony of Irenaeus in favour of our Gospels is exclusive of all others. I allude to a remarkable passage in his works, in which, for some reasons sufficiently fanciful, he endeavours to show, that there could be neither more nor fewer Gospels than four. With his argument we have no concern. The position itself proves that four, and only four, Gospels were at that time publicly read and acknowledged. That these were our Gospels, and in the state in which we now have them, is shown, from many other places of this writer beside that which we have already alleged. He mentions how Matthew begins his Gospel, how Mark begins and ends his, and their supposed reasons for so doing. He enumerates at length the several passages of Christ's history in Luke, which are not found in any of the other evangelists. He states the particular design with which Saint John composed his Gospel, and accounts for the doctrinal declarations which precede the narrative.
To the book of the Acts of the Apostles, its author, and credit, the testimony of Irenaeus is no less explicit. Referring to the account of Saint Paul's conversion and vocation, in the ninth chapter of that book, "Nor can they," says he, meaning the parties with whom he argues, "show that he is not to be credited, who has related to us the truth with the greatest exactness." In another place, he has actually collected the several texts, in which the writer of the history is represented as accompanying Saint Paul; which leads him to deliver a summary of almost the whole of the last twelve chapters of the book.
In an author thus abounding with references and allusions to the Scriptures, there is not one to any apocryphal Christian
* Iren. in Hot. 1. iii. c. 2.
writing whatever. This is a broad line of distinction between our sacred books, and the pretensions of all others.
The force of the testimony of the period which we have considered, is greatly strengthened by the observation, that it is the testimony, and the concurring testimony, of writers who lived in countries remote from one another. Clement flourished at Rome, Ignatius at Antioch, Polycarp at Smyrna, Justin Martyr in Syria, and Irenaeus in France.
XI. Omitting Athenagoras and Theophilus, who lived about this time ;* in the remaining works of the former of whom are clear references to Mark and Luke; and in the works of the latter, who was bishop ot Antioch, the sixth in succession from the apostles, evident allusions to Matthew and John, and probable allusions to Luke (which, considering the nature of the compositions, that they were addressed to heathen readers, is as much as could be expected); observing also, that the works of two learned Christian writers of the same age, Miltiades and Pantaenus, t are now lost; of which Miltiades, Eusebius records, that his writings "were monuments of zeal for the divine Oracles;" and which Pantaenus, as Jerome testifies, was a man of prudence and learning, both in the Divine Scriptures, and secular literature, and had left many commentaries upon the Holy Scriptures then extant: passing by these without further remark, we come to one of the most voluminous of ancient Christian writers, Clement of Alexandria, t Clement followed Irenaaus at the distance of only sixteen years, and therefore may be said to maintain the series of testimony in an uninterrupted continuation.
In certain of Clement's works, now lost, but of which various parts are recited by ( Eusebius, there is given a distinct account , ,„.,of the order in which the four Gospels were written. The Gospels which contain the genealogies, were (he says) written first; Mark's next, at the instance of Peter's followers; and John's the last: and this account he tells us that he had received from presbyters of more ancient times. This testimony proves the following points; that these Gospels were the histories of Christ then publicly received, and relied upon; and that the dates, occasions, and circumstances of their publication, were at that
* Lardner, vol. i. p. 400 Ibid. 422.
t Ibid. vol. i. p. 413. 450.
time subjects of attention and inquiry amongst Christians. In the works of Clement which remain, the four Gospels are repeatedly quoted by the names of their authors, and the Acts of the Apostles 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 Saint 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.
XII. In the age in which they lived, t 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 enumerating the churches which had been founded by Paul, at Corinth, in Galatia, at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Ephesus; the church of Rome established by Peter and Paul, and other churches derived from John; he proceeds thus :—" I say then, that with them, but not with them only which are apostolical, but with all who have fellowship with them in the same faith, is that Gospel of
* " 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 same 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." Jonet's New and Full Method, vol. i. p. 553.
t Lardner, vol. ii. p. 561.
Luke received from its first publication, which we so zealously maintain:" and presently afterwards adds; " The same authority of the apostolical churches will support the other Gospels, which we have from them and according to them, I mean John's and Matthew's; although that likewise which Mark published may be said to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was." In another place Tertullian affirms, that the three other Gospels were in the hands of the churches from the beginning, as well as Luke's. This noble testimony fixes the universality with which the Gospels were received, and their antiquity; that they were in the hands of all, and had been so from the first. And this evidence appears not more than one hundred and fifty years after the publication of the books. The reader must be given to understand, that when Tertullian speaks of maintaining or defending (Juendi) the Gospel of Saint Luke, he only means maintaining or defending the integrity of the copies of Luke received by Christian churches, in opposition to certain curtailed copies used by Marcion against whom he writes.
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.
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
foint, of distant and independent societies, t 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, Irenaeus in France, Clement at Alexandria, Tertullian at Carthage, quoting
* Lardner, vol. ii. p. 647.
the same books of historical Scriptures, and, I may say, quoting these alone.
XIII. An interval of only thirty years, and that occupied by no small number of Christian writers,* whose works only remain in fragments and quotations, and in every one of which is some reference or other to the Gospels (and in one of them, Hippolytus, as preserved in Theodoret, is an abstract of the whole Gospel history,) brings us to a name of great celebrity in Christian antiquity, Origent of Alexandria, who, in the quantity of his writings, exceeded the most laborious of the Greek and Latin authors. Nothing can be more peremptory upon the subject now under consideration, and, from a writer of his learning and information, more satisfactory, than the declaration of Origen, preserved, in an extract from his works, by Eusebius; " That the four Gospels alone are received without dispute by the whole church of God under heaven:" to which declaration is immediately subjoined, a brief history of the respective authors, to whom they were then, as they are now, ascribed. The language holden concerning the Gospels, throughout the works of Origen which remain, entirely corresponds with the testimony here cited. His attestation to the Acts of the Apostles is no less positive: "And Luke also once more sounds the trumpet, relating the acts of the apostles." The universality with which the Scriptures were then read is well signified by this writer, in a passage in which he has occasion to observe against Celsus, "That it is not in any private books, or such as are read by a few only, and those studious persons, but in books read by 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 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."t
Origen notices, in order to censure, certain apocryphal Gospels. He also uses four writings of this sort; that is, throughout his
* Minucius Felix, Apollonius, Caius, Asterius, TJrbanuB, Alexander bishop of Jerusalem, Hippolytus, Ammonius, Julius Africanus.
t Lardner, vol. iii. p. 234.
X Mill, Proleg. cap. vi. p. 60.
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.
XIV. Gregory bishop of Neocaesarea, and Dionysius of Alexandria, were scholars of Origen. Their testimony, therefore, though full and particular, may be reckoned a repetition only of his. The series, however, of evidence, is continued by Cyprian bishop of Carthage, who flourished within twenty years after Origen. "The church," says this father, " is watered, like Paradise, by four rivers, that is, by four Gospels." The Acts of the Apostles is also frequently quoted by Cyprian under that name, and under the name of the " Divine Scriptures." In his various writings are such constant and copious citations of Scripture, as to place this part of the testimony beyond controversy. Nor is there, in the works of this eminent African bishop, one quotation of a spurious or apocryphal Christian writing.
XV. Passing over a crowd* 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 bishop t 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.
XVI. Arnobius and Lactantius,J about
* 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. 290; Philcas, Egypt, A. D. 296.[
t Lardner, vol. v. p. 214.
J Ibid, vol. vii. p. 43, 201.
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, the credit of these historians; 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 Caesarea, 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 diligent collector of the writings of others, beside a variety of large works, composed a history of the affairs of Christianity from its origin to his own time. His testimony to the Scriptures is the testimony of a man much conversant in the works of Christian authors, written during the first three centuries of its era, and who had read many which are now lost . In a passage of his Evangelical Demonstration, Eusebius remarks, with great nicety, the delicacy of two of the evangehsts, in their manner of noticing any circumstance which regarded themselves; and of Mark, as writing under Peter's direction, in the circumstances which 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
* Lurdncr, vol, viii.. p. 33.
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 wnters being as full of texts of Scripture, and of references to Scripture, as the discourses of modem divines. Future testimonies to the books of Scripture could only prove that they never lost their character or authority.
When the Scriptures are quoted, or alluded to, they are quoted 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.
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
* Lardncr, Cred. part ii. voL i. p. 420.
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 agaiust Artemon, t who may be supposed to come about one hundred and fifty-eight years after the publication of the Scripture, in a passage quoted by Eusebius, uses these expressions: " Possibly what they (our adversaries) say, might have been credited, if first of all the Divine Scriptures did not contradict them; and then the writings of certain brethren more ancient than the times of Victor." The brethren mentioned by name, are Justin, Miltiades, Tatian, Clement, Irenaeus, Melito, with a general appeal to many more not named. This passage proves, first, that there was at that time a collection called Divine Scriptures; secondly, that these Scriptures w ere esteemed of higher authority than the writings of the most early and celebrated Christians.
III. In a piece ascribed to Hippolytus.i who lived near the same time, the author professes, in giving his correspondent instruction in the things about which be inquires, " to draw out of the sacred fountain, and to set before him from the Sacred Scriptures, what may afford him satisfaction." He then quotes immediately Paul's Epistles to Timothy, and afterwards many books of the New Testament. This preface to the quotations carries in it a marked distinction between the Scriptures and other books.
IV. " Our assertions and discourses, saith Origen,§ " are unworthy of credit; we must receive 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
* Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 448.