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gery by some, far-fetched indeed, but very subtle criticisms. Concerning the writings of the New Testament, no trace of this suspicion is any where to be found in him*.
Formal catalogues of authentick scriptures were published, in all which our present sacred histories were included.
HIS species of evidence comes later than the rest; as it was not natural that catalogues of any particular class of books should be put forth, until Christian writings became numerous, or until some writings showed themselves, claiming titles which did not belong to them, and thereby rendering it necessary to separate books of authority from others. But, when it does appear, it is extremely satisfactory; the catalogues, though numerous, and made in countries at a wide distance from one another, differing very little, differing in nothing which is material, and all containing the four Gospels. To this last article there is no exception.
I. In the writings of Origen which remain, and in some extracts preserved by Eusebius, from works of his which are now lost, there are enumerations of the books of scripture, in which the four Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles are distinctly and honourably specified, and in which no books appear beside what are now receivedt. The reader, by this time, will easily recollect that the date of Origen's works is A. D. 230.
* Michaelis's Introduction to the New Test. vol. i. p. 43. Marsh's Translation.
† Lard. Cred. vol. iii. p. 234, et seq. Vol. viii. p. 196.
II. Athanasius, about a century afterwards, delivered a catalogue of the books of the New Testament in form, containing our scriptures and no others; of which he says, "In these alone the doctrine of religion is taught ; let no man add to them, or take any thing from them*."
III. About twenty years after Athanasius, Cyril,bishop of Jerusalem, set forth a catalogue of the books of scripture, publickly read at that time in the church of Jerusalem, exactly the same as ours, except that the "Revelation" is omittedt.
IV. And, fifteen years after Cyril, the council of Laodicea delivered an authoritative catalogue of canonical scripture, like Cyril's, the same as ours, with the omission. of the "Revelation."
V. Catalogues now become frequent. years after the last date, that is, from the year 363 to near the conclusion of the fourth century, we have catalogues by Epiphanius, by Gregory Nazianzen§, by Philaster, bishop of Brescia in Italy¶, by Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium, all, as they are sometimes called, clean catalogues (that is, they admit no books into the number beside what we now receive), and all, for every purpose of historick evidence, the same as ours**.
VI. Within the same period, Jerome, the most learned Christian writer of his age, delivered a catalogue of the books of the New Testament, recognizing every book now received, with the intimation of a doubt concerning the epistle to the Hebrews alone, and taking not the least notice of any book which is not now received.
an accidental mistake, either in him, or in some copyist of his work, for he elsewhere expressly refers to this book,and ascribes it to Luke. tt Lard. Cred. vol. x. p. 77.
VII. Contemporary with Jerome, who lived in Palestine, was St. Augustine in Africa, who published likewise a catalogue, without joining to the scriptures, as books of authority, any other ecclesiastical writing whatever, and without omitting one which we at this day acknowledge*.
VIII. And with these concurs another contemporary writer, Rufen, presbyter of Aquileia, whose catalogue, like theirs, is perfect and unmixed, and concludes with these remarkable words: "These are the volumes which the fathers have included in the canon, and out of which they would have us prove the doctrine of our faith."
These propositions cannot be predicated of any of those books, which are commonly called apocryphal books of the New Testament.
Do not know that the objection taken from apocryphal writings is at present much relied upon by scholars. But there are many, who, hearing that various gospels existed in ancient times under the names of the apostles, may have taken up a notion, that the selection of our present gospels from the rest was rather an arbitrary or accidental choice, than founded in any clear and certain cause of preference. To these it may be very useful to know the truth of the case. I observe therefore,
I. That, beside our Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, no Christian history, claiming to be written by an apostle or apostolical man, is quoted within three hundred years after the birth of Christ, by any writer now extant, or known; or, if quoted, is not quoted with marks of censure and rejection.
*Lard. Cred. vol. x. p. 213.
+ Ib. p. 187.
I have not advanced this assertion without inquiry; and I doubt not, but that the passages cited by Mr. Jones and Dr. Lardner, under the several titles which the apocryphal books bear, or a reference to the places where they are mentioned, as collected in a very accurate table, published in the year 1773 by the Rev. J. Atkinson, will make out the truth of the proposition to the satisfaction of every fair and competent judgment. If there be any book which may seem to form an exception to the observation, it is a Hebrew gospel, which was circulated under the various titles of the gospel according to the Hebrews, the gospel of the Nazarenes, of the Ebionites, sometimes called of the twelve, by some ascribed to St. Matthew. This gospel is once, and only once, cited by Clemens Alexandrinus, who lived, the reader will remember, in the latter part of the second century, and which same Clement quotes one or other of our four gospels in almost every page of his work. It is also twice mentioned by Origen, A. D. 230; and both times with marks of diminution and discredit. And this is the ground upon which the exception stands. But what is still more material to observe, is, that this gospel, in the main, agreed with our present Gospel of St. Matthew*.
Now if, with this account of the apocryphal gospels, we compare what we have read concerning the canonical scriptures in the preceding sections; or even recollect that general but well-founded assertion of Dr. Lardner, "That in the remaining works of Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, who all lived in the two first centuries, there are more and larger quotations of the small
* In applying to this gospel, what Jerome in the latter end of the fourth century has mentioned of a Hebrew gospel, I think it probable that we sometimes confound it with a Hebrew copy of St. Matthew's gospel, whether an original or version, which was then extant.
volume of the New Testament, than of all the works of Cicero, by writers of all characters, for several ages* ;" and if to this we add, that, notwithstanding the loss of many works of the primitive times of Christianity, we have, within the above-mentioned period, the remains of Christian writers, who lived in Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, the part of Africa that used the Latin tongue, in Crete, Greece, Italy, and Gaul, in all which remains, references are found to our evangelists ;I apprehend, that we shall perceive a clear and broad line of division, between those writings, and all others pretending to similar authority.
II. But beside certain histories which assumed the name of apostles, and which were forgeries properly so called, there were some other Christian writings, in the whole or in part of an historical nature, which, though not forgeries, are denominated apocryphal, as being of uncertain or of no authority.
Of this second class of writings, I have found only two, which are noticed by any author of the three first centuries, without express terms of condemnation; and these are, the one, a book entitled the Preaching of Peter, quoted repeatedly by Clemens Alexandrinus, A. D. 196; the other, a book entitled the Revelation of Peter, upon which the above mentioned Clemens Alexandrinus is said, by Eusebius, to have written notes; and which is twice cited in a work still extant, ascribed to the same author.
I conceive, therefore, that the proposition we have before advanced, even after it hath been subjected to every exception, of every kind, that can be alleged, separates, by a wide interval, our historical scriptures from all other writings which profess to give an account of the same subject.
*Lard. Cred. vol. xii. p. 53.