Page images
PDF
EPUB

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 hissituation 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 * lived about the year 290: and in a commentary upon this text of the Revelations, 66 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.

* Lardner, vol. v. p. 214.

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, 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.

* Lardner, vol. vii. p. 43, 201.

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 voluminoys 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 three first centuries of its wra ; and who had read many which are now lost. In a passage of his evangelical der monstration, Eusebius remarks, with great nicety, thę delicacy of two of the evangelists, 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 exaclness. 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.”

* Lardner, vol. viii. p. 33.

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 Scripture could only prove that they never lost their character or authority.

« PreviousContinue »