Page images

"Gospels or Scriptures of the Lord," the other, the "Apostles, or Epistles of the Apostles*"

VIII. Eusebius, as we have already seen, takes some pains to show, that the Gospel of Saint John had been justly placed by the ancients "the fourth in order, and after the other three." These are the terms of his proposition: and the very introduction of such an argument proves incontestably, that the four Gospels had been collected into a volume, to the exclusion of every other; that their order in the volume had been adjusted with much consideration; and that this had been done by those who were called ancients in the time of Eusebius.

[ocr errors]

In the Diocletian persecution, in the year 303, the Scriptures were sought out and burnt; many suffered death rather than deliver them up; and those who betrayed them to the persecutors, were ac

* Lardner, Cred. vol. iv. p. 846.

+ Ibid. vol. viii. p. 90.

Ibid. vol. vii. p. 214, et seq.

counted as lapsed and apostate. On the other hand, Constantine, after his conver-, sion, gave directions for multiplying copies of the Divine Oracles, and for magnificently adorning them at the expence of the imperial treasury * What the Christians of: that age so richly embellished in their prosperity, and, which is more, so tenaciously preserved under persecution, was the very volume of the New Testament which we now read.

* Lardner, Cred. vol. vii. p. 432.


Our present Sacred Writings were soon distinguished by appropriate names and titles of respect.


I. POLYCARP: "I trust that ye are well exercised in the Holy Scriptures ;—as in these Scriptures it is said, Be ye angry sin not, and let not the sun go down upon your wrath*” This passage is extremely important; because it proves that, in the time of Polycarp, who had lived with the apostles, there were Christian writings distinguished by the name of “ Holy Scriptures," or Sacred Writings. Moreover the text quoted by Polycarp is a text found in the collection at this day. What also the same Polycarp hath elsewhere quoted in the same manner, may be considered as proved to belong to the collection; and this comprehends Saint Matthew's, and, probably,

* Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 203.

Saint Luke's Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, ten epistles of Paul, the First Epistle of Peter, and the First of John*. In another place, Polycarp has these words: "Whoever perverts the Oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says there is neither resurrection nor judgment, he is the first born of Satan +."-It does not appear what else Polycarp could mean by the " Oracles of the Lord," but those same "Holy Scriptures," or Sacred Writings, of which he had spoken before.

II. Justin Martyr, whose apology was written about thirty years after Polycarp's epistle, expressly cites some of our present histories under the title of GOSPEL, and that not as a name by him first ascribed to them, but as the name by which they were generally known in his time. His words are these: For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered it, that Jesus commanded them to take bread, and give thanks + " There exists no doubt, but that,

* Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 223. † Ib. p. 222. Ib. p. 271.

by the memoirs above mentioned, Justin meant our present historical Scriptures; for throughout his works, he quotes these, and no others.

III. Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, who came thirty years after Justin, in a passage preserved in Eusebius (for his works are lost), speaks of "the Scriptures of the Lord *."


IV. And at the same time, or very nearly so, by Ireæus, bishop of Lyons in France, they are called "Divine Scriptures,"" Divine Oracles,”—" Scriptures of the Lord,”— Evangelic and Apostolic Writings. "The quotations of Irenæus prove decidedly, that our present Gospels, and these alone, together with the Acts of the Apostles, were the historical books comprehended by him under these appellations.

V. Saint Matthew's Gospel is quoted by Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, contempo

* Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 298.

The reader will observe the remoteness of these two writers in country and situation.

Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 343, et seq.

« PreviousContinue »