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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,
* Lardner, Cred. part. ii. vol. i. p. 429.
“ In the beginning was the 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 against Artemont, who may be supposed to come about one hundred and fifty-eight years after the publication of the Scriptures, 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,
* Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 418.
+ Ib. vol, iii. p. 40.
Clement, Irenæus, 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 were esteemed of higher authority than the writings of the most early and celebrated Christians.
III. In a piece ascribed to Hippolytus *, who lived near the same time, the author professes, in giving his correspondent instruction in the things about which he 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 Origent, “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 of the peculiar and exclusive aúthority which the Scriptures possessed.
* Lardner, Cred. vol, iii. p. 112. + Ib. p. 287, 288, 289.
V. Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage*, whose age lies close to that of Origen, earnestly exhorts Christian teachers, in all doubtful cases, “ to go back to the fountain; and if the truth has in any case been shaken, to recur to the Gospels and apostolic writings.” _“ The precepts of the Gospel,” says he in another place,
“ are nothing less than authoritative divine lessons, the foundations of our hope, the supports of our faith, the guides of our way, the safeguards of our course to heaven.”
* Lardner, Cred. vol. iv. p. 840.
VI. Novatus *, a Roman, contemporary with Cyprian, appeals to the Scriptures, as the authority by which all errors were to be repelled, and disputes decided. « That Christ is not only man, but God also, is proved by the sacred authority of the Divine Writings.”—“ The divine Scripture easily detects and confutes the frauds of heretics.”—“ It is not by the fault of the heavenly Scriptures, which never deceive.” Stronger assertions than these could not be used.
VII. At the distance of twenty years from the writer last cited, Anatolius, a learned Alexandrian, and Bishop of Laodicea, speaking of the rule for keeping Easter, a question at that day agitated with much earnestness, says of those whom he opposed, “ They can by no means prove, their point by the authority of the Divine Scripture."
* Lardner, Cred. vol. v. p. 102. + Ib. vol. v. p. 146.