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Philippians, directly contrary to what the true Polycarp had told them before; and which, by consequence, would be sure to discover the fraud, and frustrate the design of it.
22. So little appearance of reason is there in this suggestion, which yet these learned men insist upon, as their main argument against the latter part of this epistle. As for the other objection which they bring against it, viz. that St. Polycarp must have concluded at the twelfth chapter, because of the vow which he there makes for those to whom he wrote; I reply, First, That this is at the best but a very uncertain guess; seeing it is notorious to all that have ever read the Epistles, either of the apostles or those that followed after, that nothing is more common than to meet with such kind of conclusions, not only in the end, but in the' beginning and middle; in short, in all the parts of their epistles. To look no farther than the Epistle, with which we have begun this collection, of St. Clement to the Corinthians, how many of these sort of stops may we find in the progress of it? I am sure there are not less than seven or eight of them. But I suppose he would be thought very ridiculous, who should therefore reject all that followed the first of these, as none of St. Clement's, but pieced on to the end of his epistle by some other hand, merely because the doxology seemed to imply his having concluded there.
23. But to lay aside conjectures, and proceed to that which will put a final end to this difficulty, I observe, secondly, that this passage, which these men deny to be St. Polycarp's, and suppose to have been added to it by some latter hand, is
1 See 1 Tim.i. 17.
Ephes. iii. 20. Rom. xv. 33. Dr. Hammond Annot. in Rom. xiv.
expressly quoted by Eusebius', in his Ecclesiastical History, as a part of this epistle. If therefore it be the addition of some other hand, it is evident it was made to it before Eusebius's time, that is to say, within two hundred years after the time of St. Polycarp's writing of it; and whether this be probable, we will now more particularly inquire.
24. For the better clearing of which, I must observe, that this Epistle of St. Polycarp, like that of St. Clement foregoing, was for several hundreds of years wont to be publickly read in the churches of Asia: so St. Jerome informs us; or as his interpreter Sophronius renders him, in the synod or convention of Asia: by which a learned man supposes we are to understand some common meetings of the Christians in those parts, answerable to the like assemblies of the Gentiles there; and that in these, this epistle was wont to be read to them.
25. Hence Irenæus speaks of it as an epistle that was in every body's hand, and obvious to be read by any, for the benefit of their faith and manners; which being so, it can hardly be supposed but that so inquisitive a searcher into antiquity as Eusebius was must needs have been very well acquainted with it, and doubtless have had a true and genuine copy of it. Seeing then he produces this passage as a part of this epistle, which was generally received as authentic in his days; and that the epistle itself, being spread into all hands, and publickly read in the Eastern churches immediately after the death of its great author, could not have been corrupted or altered but the cheat must needs have
been discovered, (of which yet we have not the least intimation in all antiquity); I think it cannot be doubted but that this, as well as the rest of that epistle, was written by St. Polycarp himself; and not added to his epistle by some later hand, as is suggested, not only without all ground, but against such plain and unanswerable evidence to the contrary.
26. Having said thus much in vindication of this epistle, and to clear it from those prejudices that have of late been raised against it, it remains only for me to observe, that though the following translation was truly made from the Greek and Latin copies of it, set out by bishop Usher first, and since reprinted by Cotelerius in his Collection of the Apostolical Fathers, yet this is not the first time that this epistle has appeared in our language. For our most diligent and learned countryman Dr. Cave', having a just respect to the worth of a piece so highly applauded among the ancients, and so well deserving the esteem of all good men, thought it would be no unuseful digression to present to his reader so venerable a monument of the primitive Church; and therefore subjoined it entirely to his account of the Life of St. Polycarp, in a most accurate English translation of it.
27. It would no doubt have been more to the reader's satisfaction, to have met with that translation of this epistle here, than to find another, which he may have just reason to suppose can never equal that which was finished by so great a hand. And indeed I could have been glad to have rendered the following Collection more considerable, by the reputation of a translation made by so eminent an author. But however, as it now is, I hope it may not be unacceptable to the pious
1 Dr. Cave's Lives of the Apostolical Fathers, in St. Polycarp.
peruser of it; who, whatever other defects he may find in it, may yet, I am pretty confident, depend upon the exactness of the translation; seeing I perceive, by an after collation of it, that it does not differ, in any thing that is material, from that of the judicious and worthy Dr. Cave.
ON THE EPISTLES OF ST. IGNATIUS.
Of the different editions of St. IGNATIUS's Epistles; which are here translated from that of ISAAC VOSSIUS, and according to the enumeration made by EUSEBIUS of them-The authority of these Epistles vindicated, against the objections raised of late against them--The Epistle to St. POLYCARP one of those mentioned by EUSEBIUS-The exception against it taken from the substance of the Epistle itself answered-A short account of the following translation of all of them.
1. BEFORE I enter upon that account which I am to give of the Epistles of St. Ignatius (the next that follow in the present Collection), it will be necessary for me to observe, that there have been considerable differences in the editions of the epistles of this holy man, no less than in the judgment of our latter critics concerning them. To pass by the first, and most imperfect of them; the best that for a long time was extant, contained not only a great number of epistles falsely ascribed to this author, but even those that were genuine so altered and corrupted, that it was hard to find out the true Ignatius in them.
2. The first that began to remedy this confusion, and to restore this great writer to his primitive simplicity, was our most reverend and learned archbishop Usher, in his edition of them at
Oxford, anno 1644. But still we wanted a correct copy of the original Greek; the epistles set out by him, though exceedingly more sincere than any we had seen before, yet consisting only of the old Latin translations of them. Now this was in great measure performed by the learned Isaac Vossius, in the edition printed by him at Amsterdam, anno 1646: in which, from the Florentine Manuscript, he published six of the epistles of this holy martyr mentioned by Eusebius, in their ancient and pure Greek; and the seventh so happily amended from the ancient Latin version, that there was but little doubt to be made of the integrity of that too. But to remove all scruple concerning this one epistle, Mr. Ruinart has also published that from a Greek uninterpolated copy, in the Acts of the Martyrdom' of this holy man, set forth by him at Paris, anno 1689. And concerning these Epistles of St. Ignatius, enumerated by Eusebius, and set out according to their primitive purity by those learned men whom I have before mentioned, and from them translated into the following collection, there are two things to be considered, and proved by me in this place: First, that St. Ignatius did write such epistles as those I have here translated; and, secondly, that those epistles we here have, are the very epistles which he wrote.
3. That Ignatius did, in general, write such epistles to the churches about him, however it has been denied by some, is yet I think now universally allowed, even by those who are the greatest opposers of these epistles which we affirm to be his. That he wrote to those particular churches to which the epistles here subjoined are addressed, we
1 Acta Martyr. Sincera et Select. Paris, 1689.
3 Vid. Vindic. Pearson. in Proœm. p. 20.