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sequent to that event. But what individual, or what assemblage of persons collected them-where and precisely when the work was done, we may indulge in plausible conjecture, but cannot certainly ascertain. But what connection have such matters with the question of apostolic origin? If the epistle to the Romans or the gospel of Matthew was written by the disciple whose name it bears, it surely matters little that we should know when it became the companion of other authentic books in the formation of a separate volume, or who arranged its place in that volume, or when an assemblage of Christian fathers inserted its name in a catalogue, and published it to the churches as a canonical writing. It was canonical as soon as it was composed. It was a part of the New Testament from the moment of its birth. Had the books of Scripture never been collected into a volume, but kept in separation, as they were first published, the present time, although their preservation would have been more difficult, their authority would have been the same, and the canon of the New Testament complete. Had no father of the church, nor any ecclesiastical council ever issued a declaration of opinion as to what writings should be included in the list of canonical scriptures, we should have wanted indeed much valuable testimony now possessed from such sources; but the essential claim of each inspired book to a place in the canon would have remained unaltered. To substantiate the title of any portion of the New Testament to so honorable a place, we need only the proof that it was written by the apostle or evan
gelist to whom it is ascribed. For this we require the testimony of primitive antiquity. So far as the opinion of ancient councils or authors is deserving of attention as a matter of testimony, it is of value in the settlement of the canon; and in this view, such opinion is unquestionably of the highest importance; and what we have already exhibited of this kind deserves the greatest consideration. But the point to be especially noted is, that the proof of authenticity in the subject before us, is the proof of canonical authority; that the canon began when the first gospel or epistle was published; that it increased with every additional publication by inspired men, and was complete and closed the moment the last writing of the New Testament was issued to the churches; though at the same time but few of them may have been acquainted with it, though no ecclesiastical assembly may have sanctioned it, and no union had been made with other inspired books, so as to present them to the churches as a collection of canonical writings under the general name of the New Testa
As to the arrangement of these books in a single volume, it must have been a work of time, according to the relative situation and intercourse of any particular region of Christianity. "Those churches which were situated nearest to the place where any particular books were published, would of course obtain copies much earlier than churches in remote parts of the world. For a considerable period the collection of these books in each church must have
been necessarily incomplete, for it would take some time to send to the church or people with whom the autographs were deposited, and to write off fair copies. This necessary process will also account for the fact, that some of the smaller books were not received by the churches so early, nor universally, as the larger. The solicitude of the churches to possess immediately the more extensive books of the New Testament, would doubtless induce them to make a great exertion to acquire copies; but probably the smaller would not be so much spoken of, nor would there be so strong a desire to obtain them without delay. Considering how difficult it is now, with all our improvements in the typographical art, to multiply copies of the Scriptures with sufficient rapidity, it is truly wonderful how so many churches as were founded during the first century, to say nothing of individuals, could all be supplied with copies of the New Testament, when there was no speedier method of producing them than by writing every letter with the pen. Even as early as the time when Peter wrote his second epistle, the writings of Paul were in the hands of the churches, and were classed with the other scriptures.* And the citation from these books by the earliest Christian writers living in different countries, demonstrates that from the time of their publication they were sought after with avidity, and were widely dispersed." "How intense the interest which the first Christians felt in the writings of the apostles can scarcely be conceived by us, who have * 2 Peter, 3: 14, 15.
been familiar with these books from our earliest
* Alexander on the Canon, p. 138, etc.
From the authorities quoted in the previous lecture, it must be full in your recollection that while the agreement of the ancient churches may be considered to have been complete, so far as is important to the argument for the divine origin of Christianity; still, there was a difference of opinion as to the authenticity and canonical authority of the epistle to the Hebrews, of the epistle of James, the second of Peter, the second and third of John, the epistle of Jude, and the book of Revelation. This diversity was not by any means so great or important as some suppose. Had it not been for the great care and candor of those early Christians, from whom we learn the fact, it would have seemed of too limited an extent, and too inconsiderable in its origin, to merit any more than a very transient notice in their writings. But we have no reason to regret the publicity they have given it. They have thus put into our hands a very strong proof of the discriminating care and jealous vigilance with which the primitive churches investigated the title of any book to admission into the canon of the New Testament. That some were doubted, though afterwards universally acknowledged, exhibits in a very strong light the certain authenticity of all those of which there was never a question.
The canonical authority of the six epistles abovenamed, as well as of the Apocalypse, has no material connection with the argument of the ensuing lectures. The evidence of the divine origin and revelation of Christianity is entirely independent of the question of