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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,* 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,f 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 the apostles; and that both these were regarded as of the highest authority. One, out of many expressions of Clement, alluding to this distribution is the following;-"There is a consent and barmony between the law and the prophets, the apostles and the gospel."+
VI. The same division, "prophets, gospels, and apostles," appears in Tertullian, 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."**
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 inIb. vol. II p. 516. ** Ib. p. 632.
Ib. vol. I. p. 383.
+Ib. p. 331.
contestably, 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 Dioclesian 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 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.
Our present sacred writings were soon distinguished by appropriate names and titles of respect.
1. 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 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 † Ib, p. 432.
Ib. vol. VII. p. 214. et. seq.
Ib. vol. I. p. 203.
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."t
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."§ 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 appella
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 years of the same time, ascribe to the books of the New Testament the various titles of "sacred books," "divine scriptures," "divinely inspired scriptures,"" 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 lawstt then extant.
VII. By Origen, who came thirty years after Tertullian, the same, and others 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
VIII. In Cyprian who was not twenty years later, they are books of the spirit,"-" divine fountains,"—" fountains of the divine fullness.”§§
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.
I. JUSTIN MARTYR, who wrote in the year 150, which was seventy or eighty years after some, and less, probably, after others of the gospels were published, giving in his first apology an account to the emperor of the Christian worship, has this remarkable passage:
"The memoirs of the apostles, or the writings of the prophets are read according as the time allows, and when the reader has ended, the president makes a discourse, exhorting to the imitation of so excellent things."
A few short observations will show the value of this testimony.
1. The "memoirs of the apostles," Justin in another place expressly tells us are what are called "gospels ;" and that they were the gospels which we now use, is made certain by Justin's numerous quotations of them, and his silence about any others.
2. Justin describes the general usage of the Christian church.
3. Justin does not speak of it as recent or newly instituted, but in the terms in which men speak of established
II. Tertullian, who followed Justin at the distance of about fifty years, in his account of the religious assemblies of Christians as they were conducted in his time, says, "We come together to recollect the divine scriptures; we nourish our faith, raise our hope, confirm our trust, by the sacred word."†
III. Eusebius records of Origen, and cites for his authority the letters of bishops contemporary with Origen, that, when went into Palestine about the year 216, which years after the date of Tertullian's testimony, by the bishops of that country to discourse
and expound the scriptures publicly in the church, though he was not yet ordained a presbyter.* This anecdote recognizes the usage, not only of reading, but of expounding, the scriptures; and both as subsisting in full force. Origen also himself bears witness to the same practice: "This (says he) we do, when the scriptures are read in the church, and when the discourse for explication is delivered to the people." And, what is a still more ample testimony, many homilies of his upon the scriptures of the New Testament, delivered by him in the assemblies of the church, are still extant.
IV. Cyprian, whose age was not twenty years lower than that of Origen, gives his 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 publicly in the church; that he who has shown himself willing to die a martyr, should read the gospel of Christ, by which mar. tyrs 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 may deserve to live happily and eternally in another." And this custom he declares to be universal: "The canonical books of scripture being read every where, the miracles therein recorded are well known to the people."§
It does not appear that any books, other than our present scriptures, were thus publicly read, except that the epistle of Clement was read in the church of Corinth, to which it was addressed, and in some others; and that the Shepherd of Hermas was read in many churches.
Nor does it substract 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 apos
*Ib. vol. III. p. 68. Ib. vol. IV. p. 842.
+Ib. p. 302.