« ΠροηγούμενηΣυνέχεια »
the testimonies cited under this head afford an evidence which carries up the evangelic writings much beyond the age of the testimonies themselves, and to that of their reputed authors." There is but a single example of a Christian writer during the three first centuries, composing comments upon any other books than those in the New Testament. Clement of Alexandria is mentioned by Eusebius as having written short notes upon an apocryphal book called the Revelation of Peter; but that he did not consider it as having authority, may be inferred from the fact mentioned by Eusebius, that in his other works it was nowhere quoted.*
5. From the view we have taken of primitive testimony, it appears that the agreement of the ancient church as to what were the authentic books of the New Testament is complete. Out of twelve catalogues, the earliest of which was furnished by Origen, living within a hundred years of St. John, and all of which were drawn up either by solemn councils or distinguished heads of the church residing in various and widely remote parts of the world-out of twelve, seven, including the earliest, agree exactly with our New Testament list; three others differ only in the omission of the book of Revelation, for which they had a special reason not implicating its authenticity; and in the two which remain, the books omitted, and spoken of as doubtful in the estimation of some, were acknowledged and quoted as authentic by the framers of the catalogues. The fathers, in all their writings. *Lardner 1, 410.
and of all ages and countries, appeal to the same Scriptures as infallible authority. The consent of the ancient church was therefore universal. So far as the argument for the divine revelation of the gospel is connected with the authenticity of any of the books, it was without exception. The books omitted in some writers and catalogues, have no essential reference to the great question whether the gospel of Christ is of divine revelation.
6. The agreement among the various sects of heretics in the earliest centuries, is as entire as that of the orthodox fathers. The authenticity of the books of the New Testament was acknowledged even by those to whose sectarian interest their authority was extremely detrimental. Instead of venturing to dispute their having been written by their reputed authors, they sought refuge in arbitrary interpretations of such passages as opposed their favorite views. Some among the Gnostics, for example, unable to escape the apostolic character of the sacred books, maintained the necessity of giving an allegorical turn to their declarations. And when, in the course of time, heretics did undertake to question the authenticity of some portions of the New Testament, their accusation was not based upon any historical or testimonial objections, but confined to some trifling and pretended internal causes of exception, which only their own convenience could discover. Some of these later heretics, being opposed to the doctrine of the influences of the Holy Spirit, denied the gospel of St. John, because it contains the promise of that divine
Teacher and Comforter. But with regard to those of an earlier date, Irenæus of the second century writes, "So great is the certainty in regard to our gospels, that even the heretics themselves bear testimony in their favor; and all acknowledging them, each endeavors to establish from them his own opinions." Origen, on account as well of his candor and acquaintance with the heresies of his times as of the early age in which he lived, should be considered a competent witness on this head. He states that the heretics endeavored to impose upon people by alleging texts of Scripture for their particular tenets, though they quoted them in a very unfair and mutilated manner; and that they appealed to them because they were the only writings whose authority was universally allowed. Testimony more impressive than this, to the apostolic authorship of the New Testament books, cannot be demanded.
7. The several heads of evidence which have now been made out in proof of the authenticity of the New Testament, cannot be pretended to with regard to any of those writings which are called Apocryphal Scriptures. To some who are aware that in the early ages of Christianity there existed a variety of apocryphal gospels and other compositions pretending to have been written by the apostles, it may be difficult to imagine by what rule the true works of the inspired writers were separated, without embarrassment and with sufficient confidence, from all
* Storr and Flatt's Bib. Theol. 1, 67.
+ Lardner 4, 521-2.
mere pretenders to that high original. But it greatly enhances one's sense of the prodigious weight of evidence in support of the true Scriptures, to learn how broad and unquestionable was the distinction.
Among the apocryphal writings, there are two classes. One is that of histories which assumed the names of the apostles, but were literally forgeries and therefore spurious, as well as apocryphal. The other consists of certain writings of a Christian character, and either entirely or in part historical, which are not spurious, but called apocryphal because their age and authors are unknown, or their authority is of no weight.
Of the first class it may be asserted, without any hazard, that none are quoted within three hundred years after the birth of Christ, by any writer now extant or known; or if any are quoted, it is invariably with marks of censure and rejection. The only possible exception is "the gospel according to the Hebrews;" "which," says Lardner, "was probably either St. Matthew's gospel in his original Hebrew, with some additions, or, as I rather think, a Hebrew translation of St. Matthew's Greek original, with the additions above-mentioned." But this is quoted nowhere, without marks of discredit, except in one place in the works of Clement of Alexandria.
Of the second class, none but a book called the "Preaching of Peter," and another entitled the "Revelation of Peter," are quoted, without positive condemnation, by any writer of the three first centuries. * Paley's Evidences.
These are spoken of only by the same Clement of Alexandria. Compare with these facts, the immense mass and variety of concurrent testimonies to the books of the New Testament in the writers of the three first centuries-testimonies from all countries and all classes, or thodox orheretics: remember, for example, that you may find in the extant works of Tertullian, or of Irenæus, or of Clement of Alexandria, more and larger quotations of the small volume of the New Testament, than you can find in writers of all characters, for several ages, of the works of Cicero, though voluminous and always so universally popular; and it will be evident that the apocryphal writings could have presented no difficulties in ascertaining the authentic books of the apostles. None of them were read as having apostolic authority in the churches of Christians, nor admitted into their sacred volume, nor included in their catalogues, nor noticed as authentic by the adversaries of Christianity, nor appealed to by all parties calling themselves Christians, as authority in their controversies, nor treated with sufficient respect to be made the subjects of commentaries, collections, or translations, unless the brief notes on the Revelation of Peter, by Clement of Alexandria, should merit exception. So wide was the contrast between the true and the false; so easily were the true Scriptures distinguished from all unauthorized pretenders to that honorable name.
But this is capable of being exhibited still more impressively. We have stated several important evi