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people an account of having ordained two persons, who were before confessors, to be readers ; and what they were to read, appears by the reason which he gives for his choice: “ Nothing,” says Cyprian, “ can be more fit than that he, who has made a glorious confession of the Lord, should read publickly in the church ; that he who has shown himself willing to die a martyr, should read the Gospel of Christ, by which martyrs are made *"
V. Intimations of the same custom may be traced in a great number of writers in the beginning and throughout the whole of the fourth century. Of these testimonies I will only use one, as being, of itself, express and full. Augustine, who appeared near the conclusion of the century, displays the benefit of the Christian religion on this very account, the public reading of the Scriptures in the churches, “where," says he, “ is a confluence of all sorts of people of both sexes; and where they hear how they ought to live well in this world, that they
* Lardner, Cred. vol. iv. p. 842.
may deserve to live happily and eternally in another. And this custom he declares to be universal : “ The canonical books of Scripture being read everywhere, the miracles therein recorded are well known to all people *."
It does not appear that any books, other than our present Scriptures, were thus publickly read, except that the epistle of Clement was read in the church of Corinth, to which it had been addressed, and in some others; and that the Shepherd of Hermas was read in many churches. Nor does it subtract much from the value of the argument, that these two writings partly come within it, because we allow them to be the genuine writings of apostolical' men. There is not the least evidence, that any other Gospel, than the four which we receive, was ever admitted to this distinction.
* Lardner, Cred. vol. x. p. 276, et seq.
Commentaries were anciently written
the Scriptures; harmonies formed out of them; different copies carefully collated ; and versions made of them into different languages.
No greater proof can be given of the esteem in which these books were holden by the ancient Christians, or of the sense then entertained of their value and importance, than the industry bestowed upon them. And it ought to be observed, that the value and importance of these books consisted entirely in their genuineness and truth. There was nothing in them, as works of taste, or as compositions, which could have induced any one to have written a note upon them. Moreover it shows that they were even then considered as ancient books. Men do not write comments upon publications of their own times : therefore the tes
timonies cited under this head, afford an evidence which carries
the evangelic writings much beyond the age of the testimonies themselves, and to that of their re
I. Tatian, a follower of Justin Martyr, and who flourished about the year 170, composed a harmony, or collation, of the Gospels, which he called Diatessaron, Of the four *. The title, as well as the work, is remarkable; because it shows that then, as now, there were four, and only four, Gospels in general use with Christians. And this was little more than a hundred years after the publication of some of them.
II. Pantænus, of the Alexandrian school, a man of great reputation and learning, who came twenty years after Tatian, wrote many commentaries upon the Holy Scriptures, which, as Jerome testifies, were extant in his time t.
III. Clement of Alexandria wrote short
* Lardpcr, Cred. vol. i. p. 307. . + Ib. vol. i. p. 455.
explications of many books of the Old and New Testament *
IV. Tertullian appeals from the authority of a later version, then in use, to the authentic Greek
V. An anonymous author, quoted by Eusebius, and who appears to have written about the year 212, appeals to the ancient copies of the Scriptures, in refutation of some corrupt readings alleged by the followers of Artemon I.
VI. The same Eusebius, mentioning by name several writers of the church who lived at this time, and concerning whom
6 There still remain divers monuments of the laudable industry of those ancient and ecclesiastical men,”. (i. e. of Christian writers who were considered as ancient in the year 300), adds, “ There are besides, treatises of many others, whose names we have not been able to learn, orthodox and ecclesiastical men, as the
* Lardner, Cred. vol. ii. p. 462. # Ib. vol. iii. p. 46.