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as to the Gospels, by Greek copies, those (he says) ancient.”
Lastly, Chrysostom, it is well known, delivered and published a great many homilies, or sermons, upon the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles..
It is needless to bring down this article lower ; but it is of importance to add, that there is no example of Christian writers of the first three centuries composing comments upon any other books than those which are found in the New Testament, except the single one of Clement of Alex, andria, commenting upon a book called the Revelation of Peter.
Of the ancient versions of the New Testament, one of the most valuable is the Syriac. Syriac was the language of Palestine when Christianity was there first established. And although the books of Scripture were written in Greek, for the purpose of a more extended circulation than within the precincts of Judea, yet it is probable that they would soon be translated into the vulgar language of the country where the religion first prevailed. Accordingly, a. Syriac translation is now extant, all along, so far as it appears, used by the inhabitants of Syria, bearing many internal marks of high antiquity, supported in its pretensions by the uniform tradition of the East, and confirmed by the discovery of many very ancient manuscripts in the libraries of Europe. It is about 200 years since a bishop of Antioch sent a copy of this translation into Europe, to be printed ; and this seems to be the first time that the translation became generally known to these parts of the world. The Bishop of Antioch's Testament was found to contain all our books, except the second epistle of Peter, the second and third of John, and the Revelation; which books, however, have since been discovered in that language in some ancient manuscripts of Europe. But in this collection, no other book, beside what is in ours, appears ever to have had a place. And, which is very worthy of observation, the text, though preserved in a remote country, and without communication with ours, differs from ours very little, and in nothing that is important*
Our Scriptures were received by ancient Chris
tians of different sects and persuasions, by many Heretics as well as Catholics, and were usually appealed to by both sides in the controversies which arose in those days.
The three most ancient topics of controversy amongst Christians, were, the authority of the Jewish constitution, the origin of evil, and the nature of Christ. Upon the first of these, we find, in very early times, one class of heretics rejecting the Old Testament entirely; another contending for the obligation of its law, in all its parts, throughout its whole extent, and over every one who sought acceptance with God. Upon the two latter subjects, a natural, perhaps, and venial, but a fruitless, eager, and impatient curiosity, prompted by the philosophy and by the scholastic habits of
which carried men much into bold hypotheses and conjectural solutions, raised, amongst some who professed Christianity, very wild and unfounded opinions. I think there is no reason to believe that the number of these bore any considerable proportion to the body of the Christian church; and amidst the disputes which such opinions necessarily occasioned, it is a great satisfaction to perceive, what, in a vast plurality of instances, we do perceive, all sides recurring to the same Scriptures.
* I. Basilides lived near the age of the apostles, about the year 120, or, perhaps, sooner ti He rejected the Jewish institution, not as spurious, but as proceeding from a being inferior to the true God; and in other respects advanced a scheme of theology widely different from the general doctrine of the Christian church, and which, as it gained over some dis
* The materials of the former part of this section are taken from Dr Lardner's History of the Heretics of the two first Centuries, published since his death, with additions, by the Rev. Mr Hogg of Exeter, and inserted into the ninth volume of his works, of the edition of 1778.
+ Vol. ix. p. 271.