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Hebrews, and those of the catholic epistles, which had been doubted of by some, and the Revelation, adds,' But though 'there were for a while doubts about these, we know that at length they have been received by all the churches. under heaven with a firm assent.' And he says, that all others were rejected from being part of sacred scripture. By which we are assured, that all the books of the New Testament which are now received by us were generally received in those times; and that there were not then, nor ever had been, any books of authority among christians beside them.
And now I hope that there needs not any long harangue to show the force of our argument. In the first part of this work it was shown, that there is not any thing in the books of the New Testament, however strictly canvassed, inconsistent with their supposed time and authors; which alone (as was formerly shown at large) affords good reason to believe, that they were written by persons who lived before the destruction of Jerusalem, which happened in the seventieth year of our Lord's nativity, according to the common computation.
In this second part we have had express and positive evidence, that these books were written by those whose names they bear, even the apostles of Jesus Christ, who was crucified at Jerusalem in the reign of Tiberius Cæsar, when Pontius Pilate was governor in Judea, and their well known companions and fellow-labourers. It is the concurring testimony of early and later ages, and of writers of all countries in the several parts of the known world, Europe, Asia, and Africa, and of men of different sentiments in divers respects; for we have had before us the testimony of those called heretics, especially in the third and fourth centuries, as well as catholics. These books were received from the beginning with the greatest respect, and have been publicly and solemnly read in the assemblies of christians throughout the world in every age from that time to this. They were early translated into the languages of divers countries and people: they were quoted by way of proof in all arguments of a religious nature, and were appealed to on both sides in all points of controversy that arose among christians themselves; they were likewise recommended to the perusal of others as containing the authentic account of the christian doctrine; and many commentaries have been written upon them, to explain and illustrate them; all which affords full assurance of their genuineness and integrity. If these books had not been written by those to whom they
are ascribed, and if the things related in them had not been true, they could not have been received from the beginning: if they contain a true account of things, the christian religion is from God, and cannot but be embraced by serious and attentive men, who impartially examine, and are willing to be determined by evidence.
Much has been said by some in late times about spurious and apocryphal books, composed in the early days of christianity. I hope, that all objections of that sort have been answered or obviated in the preceding volumes; nevertheless, I shall put together some observations, concerning them, in this conclusion.
1. Those books were not so much used by the primitive christians.
There are no quotations of any of them in the apostolical fathers; by whom I mean Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp; whose writings reach from about the year of our Lord 70, to the year 108. I say this confidently, because I think it has been proved.
Irenæus quotes not any of these books: he mentions some of them, but he never quotes them. The same may be said of Tertullian: he has mentionedd a book, called Acts of Paul and Thecla,' but it is only to condemn it. Clement of Alexandria and Origen have mentioned and quoted several such books; but never as of authority, and sometimes with express marks of dislike, as may be seen at large in their chapters. Eusebius quotes no such books in any of his works. He has mentioned them indeed; but how? Not by way of approbation; but to show, that they were of little or no value, and that they never were received by the sounder part of christians. Athanasius mentions not any of them by name; he only passeth a severe censure upon them in general: nor do these books ever come in the way of Jerom but he shows signs of his displeasure. I may not allow myself to go any lower; nor can it be expected.
I only farther add here, that these books were always obscure, and little known. That the gospel according to the Egyptians was very obscure, appears from Clement's manner of quoting it; and we saw manifest proof of the
See particularly, beside other places, the history of the Manichees, vol. iii. p. 430-436. and the chapter of Eusebius of Cæsarea, vol. iv. p. 128–132. See here, p. 188. and vol. ii. p. 53, 54, 56, 91, 92.
c Vid. Iren. lib. i. cap. 31. [al. 35 ] lib. iii. сар. 11. p. 192.
d See vol. ii. p. 305.
Ch. xxxviii. num. xxiv.
■ Vol. ii. p. 250.
e Ibid. p. 250-258.
See here, p. 219. and vol. iv. p. 155.
obscurity of the gospel of Peter ini Serapion's censure of it. Eusebius, having given an account of the two epistles of St. Peter, proceeds, But the book entitled his Acts, and that called the Gospel according to him, and that styled 'his Preaching, and the Revelation under his name, we 'know that they have not been delivered down to us in the 'number of catholic writings, forasmuch as no ecclesiasti'cal writer of the ancients, or of our time, has made use of 'testimonies out of them.' In another place he says, • He'
had given a catalogue of such books of scripture as, according to the ecclesiastical tradition, are true, genuine, ' and universally acknowledged, and of others that are con'troverted, and yet appear to have been known to many; that by this means we may know these from such as have been published by heretics under the names of apostles, 'as containing the gospels of Peter, and Thomas, and Mat'thias, and some others; and the Acts of Andrew and John, ' and other apostles: which books none of the ecclesiastical 'writers in the succession of the apostles have vouchsafed to mention.' Our author's expressions are very strong: but we may hence conclude, that little notice had been taken of these books by ancient writers.
2. These books do not overthrow the evangelical history, but confirm it.
As formerly said, 'These apocryphal books confirm the history of the genuine and authentic scriptures of the 'New Testament. They are written in the names of such, as our authentic scriptures say were apostles, or companions of apostles. They all suppose the dignity of our 'Lord's person, and a power of working miracles, together 'with a high degree of authority, to have been conveyed by him to his apostles.'
Every one who observes that these books are called Gospels, or Preachings of Peter, Paul, Thomas, Matthias, Bartholomew, or Acts of Paul, Andrew, John, and other apostles, must suppose that the composers did not intend to disparage them, whatever they might do in the event. No, they had great respect for them, and knew that other christians had the like: therefore by recording traditions, which they pretended to have received, concerning the discourses and miracles of Christ and his apostles, they endeavoured to recommend some particular opinions, which they had i Ib. p. 264, 265.
cap. 3. p. 72. A.
* Cited vol. iv. p. 98, from H. E. 1. iii.
1 Cited vol. iv. p. 97, from Euseb. H. E. l. iii. cap. 25. p. 97.
See vol. iii. p. 435.
embraced. The presbyter, who was convicted of having composed the Acts of Paul and Thecla, as we are assured byn Tertullian, alleged, that he had done it out of love to Paul. Serapion, bishop of Antioch, about the year 200, in his censure of the gospel of Peter, says: Having read it 'over, we have found, that the main part of the book is ' agreeable to the right doctrine of our Saviour. But there are some other things, which we have noted.' In the Recognitions, which probably are the same as the Acts, Travels, Circuits of Peter, are references to the gospels, the Acts, and some of the epistles of the New Testament; and the truth of the principal facts of it is supposed; as may be seen in our extracts out of that work. It is now generally supposed upon the ground of some things said by Irenæus and the author of the additions to Tertullian's book of Prescriptions, that the Valentinians had a book called the Gospel of Truth,' or the Gospel of Valentinus:' nevertheless the Valentinians received all the books of the New Testament, as we are assured both by Tertullian and "Irenæus. Mill thinks, that Valentinus was singular in this: I rather think it was the common method. Jerom mentions a book entitled the Gospel of Apelles:' and yet it cannot be questioned, that Apelles received the scriptures of the New Testament; though, perhaps, after the manner of his master Marcion, with razures and inutilations. The Anabaticon, or Revelation of Paul, was founded upon what the apostle says, 2 Cor. xii. 1, 2, as Epiphanius supposeth. I make no question but that the composers of these writings received the books of the New Testament, and allowed the truth of the things contained in them, though they understood them differently from other christians. Some of the authors of these works might reject the scriptures of the Old Testament, but it is likely, that most of them received the same books of the New Testament which were received by the catholic christians of their times, and allowed them a like authority. Accordingly the Manichees and Priscillianists,
n See vol. ii. p. 305.
• P. 265.
P P. 364-366. Iren. 1. iii. cap. 11. p. 192.
Neque enim, si Valentinus integro instrumento uti videtur, non callidiore ingenio, quam Marcion, manus intulit veritati. Præscr. Hær. cap. 38. p. 246. - Και 8 μονον εκ των ευαγγελικών και αποτολικων πειρώνται τας αποδείξεις
ποιεισθαι-αλλα και εκ νόμων και προφητων. Iren. l. i. cap. 3. p. 17.
▾ Peculiare autem Valentino id erat, quod unâ cum evangelio proprio, ' in'tegro instrumento' uteretur, teste Tertulliano. Prol. num. 266.
Præf. in Comm. sup. Matth. T. iv. p. 1.
* Hær. 38. num. ii. p. 177. C.
who made use of apocryphal books, received all the books of the New Testament which other christians did; at least this is allowed of the Priscillianists. They therefore, who, out of a regard to these books, or the great number of them, attempt to set aside, or diminish the authority of the books of the New Testament, now commonly received, are not countenanced by those who in ancient times made the most of them, and showed them the greatest respect, and go beyond the intention even of the authors themselves.
3. Few or none of these books were composed before the beginning of the second century.
There should be an exception made for the gospel according to the Hebrews; which, probably, was either St. Matthew's gospel, in his original Hebrew, with some additions of no bad tendency; or, as I rather think, a Hebrew translation of St. Matthew's Greek original, with the additions before mentioned: undoubtedly that gospel appeared in the first century.
The Acts of Paul and Thecla likewise must have been composed before the end of the first century, or in the very beginning of the second, if the presbyter who composed them was censured for so doing by St. John, as y Jerom says: but that particular is not mentioned by Tertullian.
St. Luke speaks of many,' who before him, had ' under'taken' to write histories of our Saviour; but those histories, being slight and defective, presently disappeared, as I imagine, after the publication of St. Luke's gospel, and those of the other two evangelists, who wrote about the same time with him. I do not think that those histories or narrations are quoted by any remaining author.
The gospel according to the Egyptians is first quoted by Clement of Alexandria, near the end of the second century. The same gospel is supposed to be quoted, or referred to, in the fragment of an epistle ascribed to Clement of Rome; but I think it manifestly not his, and not written before the third century.
It is not needful for me to enlarge any farther now; but if there were occasion, I suppose it might be shown to be probable, that none of the other apocryphal books, of which we are now speaking, were composed until after the beginning of the second century.
As they were not composed before that time, they might well refer to the commonly received books of the New Testament, as most of them certainly do; and particularly the
y Vol. ii. p. 305.
a Ibid. p. 56.
* Ibid. p. 251.