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will remember was about one hundred and fifty years after the scriptures were published, many dissensions subsisted amongst Christians, with which they were reproached by Celsus; yet Origen, who has recorded this accusation without contradicting it, nevertheless testifies, that the four gospels were received without dispute by the whole church of God under heaven*.
VIII. Paul of Samosata, about thirty years after Origen, so distinguished himself in the controversy concerning the nature of Christ, as to be the subject of two councils, or synods, assembled at Antioch, upon his opinions. Yet he is not charged by his adversaries with rejecting any book of the New Testament. On the contrary, Epiphanius, who wrote a history of hereticks a hundred years afterwards, says, that Paul endeavoured to support his doctrine by texts of scripture. And Vincentius Lirinensis, A. D. 434, speaking of Paul and other hereticks of the same age, has these words: "Here, perhaps, some one may ask, whether hereticks also urge the testimony of scripture. They urge it indeed, explicitly and vehemently; for you may see them flying through every book of the sacred lawt."
IX. A controversy at the same time existed with the Noëtians or Sabellians, who seem to have gone into the opposite extreme from that of Paul of Samosata and his followers. Yet, according to the express testimony of Epiphanius, Sabellius received all the scriptures. And with both sects Catholick writers constantly allege the scriptures, and reply to the arguments which their opponents drew from particular texts.
We have here, therefore, a proof,that parties, who were the most opposite and irreconcileable to one another, ac
Lardner, vol. iv. p. 642.
† Ib. vol. xi. p.
knowledged the authority of scripture with equal deference.
X. And as a general testimony to the same point, may be produced what was said by one of the bishops of the council of Carthage, which was holden a little before this time:"I am of opinion that blasphemous and wicked hereticks, who pervert the sacred and adorable words of the scriptures, should be execrated*." Undoubtedly
what they perverted, they received.
XI. The Millennium, Novatianism, the baptism of hereticks, the keeping of Easter, engaged also the attention and divided the opinions of Christians, at and before that time (and, by the way, it may be observed, that such disputes, though on some accounts to be blamed, shewed how much men were in earnest upon the subject); yet every one appealed for the grounds of his opinion to scripture authority. Dionysius of Alexandria, who flourished A. D. 247, describing a conference or publick disputation, with the Millennarians of Egypt, confesses of them, though their adversary, "that they embraced whatever could be made out by good arguments from the holy scripturest." Novatus, A. D. 251, distinguished by some rigid sentiments concerning the reception of those who had lapsed, and the founder of a numerous sect, in his few remaining works quotes the gospel with the same respect as other Christians did; and concerning his followers the testimony of Socrates, who wrote about the year 440, is positive, viz. "That, in the disputes between the catholicks and them, each side endeavoured to support itself by the authority of the divine scriptures+."
XII. The Donatists, who sprung up in the year 328, used the same scriptures as we do. Produce," saith Au
*Lardner, vol. ix. p. 839. † Ib. vol. iv. p. 666. Ib. vol. v. p. 105. VOL. II. 20
gustine, "some proof from the scriptures, whose authority is common to us both*."
XIII. It is perfectly notorious, that, in the Arian controversy, which arose soon after the year 300, both sides appealed to the same scriptures, and with equal professions of deference and regard. The Arians, in their council of Antioch, A. D. 341, pronounce, that, " if any one, contrary to the sound doctrine of the scriptures, say that the Son is a creature, as one of the creatures, let him be an anathemaţ.' They and the Athanasians mutually accuse each other of using unscriptural phrases; which was a mutual acknowledgment of the conclusive authority of scripture.
XIV. The Priscillianists, A. D. 378‡, the Pelagians, A. D. 405§, received the same scriptures as we do.
XV. The testimony of Chrysostom, who lived near the year 400, is so positive in affirmation of the proposition which we maintain, that it may form a proper conclusion of the argument. "The general reception of the gospels is a proof that their history is true and consistent; for, since the writing of the gospels, many heresies have arisen, holding opinions contrary to what is contained in them, who yet receive the gospels either entire or in part¶." I am not moved by what may seem a deduction from Chrysostom's testimony, the words ' entire or in part;' for, if all the parts, which were ever questioned in our gospels, were given up, it would not affect the miraculous origin of the religion in the smallest degree: e. g.
Cerinthus is said by Epiphanius to have received the gospel of Matthew, but not entire. What the omissions were, does not appear. The common opinion, that he re
* Lardner, vol. vii. p. 243.
Ib. vol. ix. p. 325.
Ib. vol. x. p. 316.
† Ib vol. vii. p. 277.
$ lb. vol. xi. p. 52.
jected the two first chapters, seems to have been a mistake*. It is agreed, however, by all who have given any account of Cerinthus, that he taught that the Holy Ghost (whether he meant by that name a person or a power) descended upon Jesus at his baptism; that Jesus from this time performed many miracles, and that he appeared after his death. He must have retained therefore the essential parts of the history.
Of all the ancient hereticks the most extraordinary was Marciont. One of his tenets was the rejection of the Old Testament, as proceeding from an inferiour and imperfect deity; and in pursuance of this hypothesis, he erased from the New, and that, as it should seem, without entering into any critical reasons, every passage which recognized the Jewish scriptures. He spared not a text which contradicted his opinion. It is reasonable to believe, that Marcion treated books as he treated texts: yet this rash and wild controversialist published a recension, or chastised edition, of St. Luke's gospel, containing the leading facts, and all which is necessary to authenticate the religion. This example affords proof, that there were always some points, and those the main points, which neither wildness nor rashness, neither the fury of opposition nor the intemperance of controversy, would venture to call in question. There is no reason to believe that Marcion, though full of resentment against the Catholick Christians, ever charged them with forging their books. "The Gospel of St. Matthew, the Epistle to the Hebrews, with those of St. Peter and St. James, as well as the Old Testament in general, (he said) were writings not for Christians but for Jews." This
* Lardner, vol. ix. ed. 1788, p. 322.
Ib. sect. ii. c. x. Also Michael. vol. i. c. 1. sect. xviii.
+ I have transcribed this sentence from Michaelis (p. 38), who has not, however, referred to the authority upon which he attributes these words to Marcion.
declaration shows the ground upon which Marcion proceded in his mutilation of the scriptures, viz. his dislike of the passages or the books. Marcion flourished about the year
Dr. Lardner, in his General Review, sums up this head of evidence in the following words: "Noëtus, Paul of Samosata, Sabellius, Marcellus, Photinus, the Novatians, Donatists, Manicheans*, Priscillianists, beside Artemon, the Audians, the Arians, and divers others, all received most or all the same books of the New Testament which the Catholicks received; and agreed in a like respect for them as written by apostles, or their disciples and companionst."
The four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen Epistles of St. Paul, the first Epistle of John, and the first of Peter, were received without doubt by those who doubted concerning the other books, which are included in our present Canon.
STATE this proposition, because, if made out, it shows that the authenticity of their books was a subject amongst the early Christians of consideration and inquiry; and that, where there was cause of doubt, they did doubt; a circumstance which strengthens very much their testimony to such books as were received by them with full acquiescence.
I. Jerome, in his account of Caius, who was probably a presbyter of Rome, and who flourished near the year 200,
* This must be with an exception, however, of Faustus, who lived so late as the year 384.
† Ib. vol. xii. p. 12. Dr. Lardner's future inquiries supplied him with many other instances.