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Gospels.”* Eusebius had before him the writings both of Quadratus himself, and of many others of that age, which are now lost. It is reasonable, therefore, to believe, that he had good grounds for his assertion. What is thus recorded of the Gospels, took place within sixty, or, at the most, seventy years after they were published : and it is evident that they must, before this time (and, it is probable, long before this time), have been in general use, and in high esteem in the churches planted by the apostles, inasmuch as they were now, we find, collected into a volume; and the immediate successors of the apostles, they who preached the religion of Christ to those who had not already heard it, carried the volume with them, and delivered it to their converts.
III. Irenæus, in the year 178,7 puts the evangelic and apostolic writings in connexion with the Law and the Prophets, manifestly intending by the one a code or collection of Christian sacred writings, as the other expressed the code or collection of Jewish sacred writings. And,
IV. Melito, at this time bishop of Sardis, writing to one Onesimus, tells his correspondent,# that he had procured an accurate account of the books of the Old Testament. The occurrence, in this passage, of the term Old Testament, has been brought to prove, and it certainly does prove, that there was then a volume or collection of writings called the New Testament.
V. In the time of Clement of Alexandria, about fifteen years after the last-quoted testimony, it is apparent that the Christian Scriptures were divided into two parts, under the general titles of the Gospels and Apostles ; and that both these were regarded as of the highest authority. One, out of many expressions of * Lardner, part ii. vol. i. p. 236.
# Ib. vol. i. p. 331.
Clement, alluding to this distribution, is the following: _“There is a consent and harmony between the Law and the Prophets, the Apostles and the Gospel.
VI. The same division, “Prophets, Gospels, and Apostles," appears in Tertullian,t the contemporary of Clement. The collection of the Gospels is likewise called by this writer the “Evangelic Instrument;"# the whole volume, the “ New Testament;" and the two parts, the “Gospels and Apostles.”S
VII. From many writers also of the third century, and especially from Cyprian, who lived in the middle of it, it is collected that the Christian Scriptures were divided into two codes or volumes, one called the 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 St. 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.
In the Diocletian persecution, in the year 303, the Scriptures were sought out and burnt :** death rather than deliver them up; and those who betrayed them to the persecutors were accounted as lapsed and apostate. On the other hand, Constantine, after his conversion, gave directions for multiplying copies of the Divine Oracles, and for magnificently adorning them at the expense 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, vol. ii. p. 516. + Ib. p. 631. I Ib. p.
574. § Ib. p. 632.
|| Ib. vol. iv. p. 846. Ib. vol. viii. p. 90. ** Ib. vol. vii. p. 214, et seq.
Our present Sacred Writings were soon distinguished by
appropriate names and titles of respect. POLYCARP. “I trust that ye are well exercised in the Holy Scriptures ;-as in these Scriptures it is said, Be ye angry and 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 St. Matthew's, and, probably, St. 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 firstborn of Satan.”g– It does not appear what else Polycarp could mean by * Lardner, vol. vii. p. 432.
+ Ib. vol. i. # Ib. p. 223.
s Ib. p. 222.
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, 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 Irenæus, bishop of Lyons in France, they are called “Divine Scriptures,” _“Divine Oracles,”—“Scriptures
— of the Lord,”—“Evangelic and Apostolic Writings."S 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. St. Matthew's Gospel is quoted by Theophilus, bishop of Antioch, contemporary with Irenæus, under the title of the “Evangelic Voice;"|| and the copious works of Clement of Alexandria, published within fifteen * Lardner, vol. i. p. 271.
+ Ib. p. 298. I The reader will observe the remoteness of these two writers in country and situation.
ỹ Lardner, vol. i. p. 343, et seq.
years of the same time, ascribe to the books of the New
"Scriptures of the Lord,”—“the true Evangelical Canon."*
VI. Tertullian, who joins on with Clement, beside adopting most of the names and epithets above noticed, calls the Gospels “our Digesta,” in allusion, as it should seem, to some collection of Roman laws then extant.+
VII. By Origen, who came thirty years after Tertullian, the same, and other no less strong titles, are applied to the Christian Scriptures : and, in addition thereunto, this writer frequently speaks of the “Old and New Testament,”—“the Ancient and New Scriptures,” " the Ancient and New Oracles.”
VIII. In Cyprian, who was not twenty years later, they are “ Books of the Spirit,”—“ Divine Fountains,'
“ Fountains of the Divine Fulness.”
The expressions we have thus quoted, are evidences of high and peculiar respect. They all occur within two centuries from the publication of the books. Some of them commence with the companions of the apostles; and they increase in number and variety, through a series of writers touching upon one another, and deduced from the first age of the religion.
Our Scriptures were publicly read and expounded in the
religious assemblies of the early Christians. Justin Martyr, who wrote in the year 140, which was seventy or eighty years after some, and less, probably, * Lardner, vol. ii.
630. Ib. vol. iii. p. 230.
s Ib. vol. iv. p. 844.