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ference; but let us honestly and faithfully endeavour to reconcile what we read."*

Victorin, bishop of Pettaw, in Germany, who wrote comments upon St. Matthew's Gospel.+

Lucian, a presbyter of Antioch; and Hesychius, an Egyptian bishop, who put forth editions of the New Testament.

IX. The fourth century supplies a catalogue # of fourteen writers, who expended their labours upon the books of the New Testament, and whose works or names are come down to our times; amongst which number it may be sufficient, for the purpose of showing the sentiments and studies of learned Christians of that age, to notice the following:

Eusebius, in the very beginning of the century, wrote expressly upon the discrepancies observable in the Gospels, and likewise a treatise, in which he pointed out what things are related by four, what by three, what by two, and what by one evangelist. This author also testifies what is certainly a material piece of evidence, “that the writings of the apostles had obtained such an esteem, as to be translated into every language both of Greeks and Barbarians, and to be diligently studied by all nations.”|| This testimony was given about the year 300; how long before that date these translations were made, does not appear. * Lardner, vol. iv.

+ Ib. I Eusebius, A. D.

315 | Didimus of Alex. Juvencus, Spain,

330 | Ambrose of Milan, Theodore, Thrace,

334 | Diodore of Tarsus, Hilary, Poictiers, .

354 Gaudent. of Brescia, Fortunatus,

340 | Theodore of Cilicia, Apollinarius of Laodicea, 362 Jerome, Damasus, Rome,

366 Chrysostom, Gregory, Nyssen, . § Lardner, vol. viii. p. 46.

|| Ib. p. 201.







370 374 378 387 394 392 398

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Damasus, bishop of Rome, corresponded with St. Jerome upon the exposition of difficult texts of Scripture; and, in a letter still remaining, desires Jerome to give him a clear explanation of the word Hosanna, found in the New Testament; "he (Damasus) having met with very different interpretations of it in the Greek and Latin commentaries of Catholic writers which he had

This last clause shows the number and variety of commentaries then extant.

Gregory of Nyssen, at one time, appeals to the most exact copies of St. Mark's Gospel ; at another time, compares together, and proposes to reconcile, the several accounts of the Resurrection given by the four Evangelists; which limitation proves, that there were no other histories of Christ deemed authentic beside these, or included in the same character with these. This writer observes, acutely enough, that the disposition of the clothes in the sepulchre, the napkin that was about our Saviour's head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself, did not bespeak the terror and hurry of thieves, and therefore refutes the story of the body being stolen.t

Ambrose, bishop of Milan, remarked various readings in the Latin copies of the New Testament, and appeals to the original Greek;

And Jerome, towards the conclusion of this century, put forth an edition of the New Testament in Latin, corrected, at least as to the Gospels, by Greek copies, “and 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 * Lardner, vol. ix. p. 108.

+ Ib. p. 163.

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 Alexandria 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 two hundred 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, besides 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.*

* Jones on the Canon, vol. i. c. 14.


Our Scriptures were received by ancient Christians 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 the age, 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.t He rejected the

* The materials of the former part of this section are taken from Dr. Lardner's History of the Heretics of the first two 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. + Lardner, vol. ix.

p. 271.

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Jewish institution, not as spurious, but as proceeding from a being inferior to the true God; and in other

l respects advanced a scheme of theology widely different from the general doctrine of the Christian church, and which, as it gained over some disciples, was warmly opposed by Christian writers of the second and third century. In these writings, there is positive evidence that Basilides received the Gospel of Matthew; and there is no sufficient proof that he rejected any of the other three : on the contrary, it appears that he wrote a commentary upon the Gospel, so copious as to be divided into twenty-four books.*

II. The Valentinians appeared about the same time.t Their heresy consisted in certain notions concerning angelic natures, which can hardly be rendered intelligible to a modern reader. They seem, however, to have acquired as much importance as any of the separatists of that early age. Of this sect, Irenæus, who wrote A. D. 172, expressly records that they endeavoured to fetch arguments for their opinions from the evangelic and apostolic writings.[ Heracleon, one of the most celebrated of the sect, and who lived probably so early as the year 125, wrote commentaries upon Luke and John. Some observations also of his upon Matthew are preserved by Origen.|| Nor is there any reason to doubt that he received the whole New Testament.

III. The Carpocratians were also an early heresy, little, if at all, later than the two preceding. Some of their opinions resembled what we at this day mean by Socinianism. With respect to the Scriptures, they

* Lardner, vol. ix. ed. 1788. p. 305, 306.

+ Ib. p. 350, 351. I Ib. vol. i.

s Ib. vol. ix. ed. 1788. p. 352. || Ib. p. 353.

Ib. p. 309.

p. 383.


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