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countries*, Nor does its authority seem to have extended farther; for we find numerous Christian writers, after this time, discussing the question, “ What books were entitled to be received as Scripture?” with great freedom, upon proper grounds of evidence, and without any reference to the decision at Laodicea.
These considerations are not to be neglected ; but of an argument concerning the genuineness of ancient writings, the substance, undoubtedly, and strength, is ancient testimony.
This testimony it is necessary to exhibit somewhat in detail: for when Christian advocates merely tell us, that we have the same reason for believing the Gospels to be written by the evangelists whose names they bear, as we have for believing the Commentaries to be Cæsar's, the Æneid Virgil's, or the Orations Cicero's, they content themselves with an imperfect representation. They state nothing more than what is true, but they do not state the truth correctly. In the number, variety, and early date of our testimonies, we far exceed all other ancient books. For one; which the most celebrated work of the most celebrated Greek or Roman writer can allege, we produce many. But then it is more requisite in our books, than in theirs, to separate and distinguish them from spurious competitors. The result, I am convinced, will be satisfactory to every fair inquirer : but this circumstance renders an inquiry necessary.
* Lardner, Cred. vol. viii. p. 291, et seq.
In a work, however, like the present, there is a difficulty in finding a place for evidence of this kind. To pursue the detail of proofs throughout, would be to transcribe a great part of Dr Lardner's eleven octavo volumes: to leave the argument without proofs, is to leave it without effect; for the persuasion produced by this species of evidence depends upon a view and induction of the particulars which compose
The method which I propose to pyself is, first, to place before the reader, in one view, the propositions which comprise the several heads of our testimony, and afterwards to repeat the same propositions in so many distinct sections, with the neces sary authorities subjoined lọ each *.
The following, then, are the allegations upon the subject, which are capable of being established by proof :
I. That the historical books of the New Testament, meaning thereby the four Gospels and the · Acts of the Apostles, are quoted, or alluded to, by a series of Christian writers, beginning with those who were contemporary with the apostles, or who immediately followed them, and proceeding in close and regular succession from their time to the present.
II. That when they are quoted, or alluded to, they are quoted or alluded to 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.
* The reader, when he has the propositions before him, will observe that the argument, if he should omit the sections, proceeds connectedly from this point,
III. That they were, in very early times, collected into a distinct volume.
IV. That they were distinguished by appropriate names and titles of
V. That they were publickly read and expounded in the religious assemblies of the early Christians.
VI. That commentaries were written upon them, harmonies formed out of them, different copies carefully collated, and versions of them made into different languages.
VII. That they were received by Christians of different sects, by many heretics as well as catholics, and usually appealed to by both sides in the controversies which arose in those days.
VIII. That 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
IX. That the Gospels were attacked by the early adversaries of Christianity, as books containing the accounts upon which the religion was founded.
X. That formal catalogues of authentic Scriptures were published ; in all which, our present Sacred Histories were included.
XI. That these propositions cannot be affirmed of any other books claiming to be books of Scripture; by which are meant those books which are commonly called apocryphal books of the New Testament.