« السابقةمتابعة »
reverence the primitive Christians had for every thing that came from the hands of such holy and excellent men, and such glorious martyrs of Christ, to determine.
13. We read in the Acts' of the Martyrdom of this blessed Saint, with what a mighty care those who went with him to Rome, and were the eyewitnesses of his sufferings, gathered up the few hard bones of his body which the lions had left; and how they brought them back in a kind of triumph to his Church at Antioch. And we are told with what pomp they were many ages after taken up from the place where they were first buried, and carried by the command of the Younger Theodosius within the city; insomuch that, as our historians observe, there was a festival solemnity established upon that occasion, and annually observed to the very time in which they wrote, in remembrance of it. x But was the Church then so careful of a few dead bones of such a saint as this, and did they esteem them as so great a treasure; and yet had they so little regard to his writings, the last testimonies of his affection to the churches to which he wrote, as to suffer them within two hundred years to be so utterly lost, as not to be once known or heard of by the greatest and most curious searchers into antiquity? This is, I confess, to me so very improbable, that I could almost as easily believe the holy Scriptures themselves to have been upon a sudden changed into some other epistles than what St. Peter or St. Paul wrote, as that such epistles as these could be so totally defaced, as some pretend, and new ones set out in the room of them, and yet nobody
1 See his Martyrdom, num. xii.
Evagrius, lib. i. cap. 16. Nicephor. lib. xiv. cap. 44.
know any thing of the doing of it. But such impossibilities as these must learned men be content to please themselves and to impose upon others withal, who resolve to be wiser than any that went before them: and to be able to know better at fifteen hundred years distance what Ignatius wrote, than those did who lived within two centuries of him.
14. For to press our argument yet more closely: since it is allowed that Ignatius did write some epistles, and I think sufficiently evident that St. Polycarp did make a collection of them, and send them, together with his own, to the Philippians, I presume it will not be questioned, but that he most certainly had the genuine writings of that holy martyr, his dear friend and fellow-disciple. Now St. Polycarp suffered not, according to the earliest computation of our accurate bishop Pearson', till the year of our Saviour 147, and others suppose it to have been yet later. Hitherto therefore it is certain that the true Epistles of Ignatius continued in the Church: it being by no means probable that they should have been changed whilst the men lived to whom Ignatius wrote; while Polycarp was living, who collected them together; and whilst those of the Church of Philippi remained, to whom he sent them.
15. To St. Polycarp let us add his scholar and admirer, Irenæus, and, as himself professes, a most diligent collector of whatever fell from that holy man. That he had the Epistles. of St. Ignatius, Eusebius' assures us; who particularly takes notice of his quoting several passages out of them ;
3 Pearson. Dissert. Chron. ii. cap. 14, ad 20.
4 Usher, anno 169. Euseb. et in eum Vales. 167. Petitus, 175, &c. See below.
3 Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. v. cap. 8.
and mentions one of his quotations' out of the Epistle to the Romans, which is still extant in the works of Irenæus, and agrees with the copy published by Monsieur Ruinart; only that this hath ἄρτος Χριστοῦ, whereas it ought to be read ἄρτος Θεοῦ, as appears from the old interpretation both of Irenæus, and of Ignatius's Epistles; which, however, is no greater a difference than that of Acts xx. 28, where some copies have 'EKKλnoíav OɛOÙ, others Κυρίου, others Χριστοῦ; not to mention any other places of the New Testament. And it must be allowed that the other passages of which Eusebius' speaks were also to have been found in the epistles as he had them; because, otherwise, the difference between what the one quoted and the other read in his copy of those epistles would presently have discovered the fraud, and shewn that his epistles were not the same with those which Irenæus mentioned.
16. And this puts the matter yet more out of doubt for if Eusebius had the same epistles that Irenæus had, we must allow one of these two things; either that he had a genuine copy of them, as we affirm; or that Irenæus, the disciple and contemporary of St. Polycarp, had not; which would be very unreasonable to suppose.
17. For not to say any thing as to this matter, that Irenæus lived too near the time, both in which Ignatius wrote, and St. Polycarp collected his Epistles, to have been imposed upon in this particular; seeing he himself tells us how careful he was to gather up whatever came from the hand of that holy man, and that he not only had the
Euseb. Hist. Eccles. lib. iii. cap. 36. 2 Irenæus, lib. v. cap. 28.
Comp. Euseb. loc. cit. with the Epistle to the Romans and other epistles here translated,
Epistles of Ignatius, as appears by his citing of them, but, as himself declares, had also the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, at the end of which the Epistles of Ignatius were subjoined; what can we conclude, but that the copy he had of both was taken from that of his master Polycarp, which being to be sure authentic, it must remain that Irenæus's was so too?
18. Were it needful to add any thing yet farther, to shew that Eusebius, who is confessed to have had the same copy of St. Ignatius that we have now, had no other than that of St. Polycarp so often mentioned, I might to the testimony of Ire næus, before alleged, add that of Origen', who began to live some time before the other died: for this father has not only spoken of these Epistles, but has left us two quotations out of them; and both to be found in our copies, which we affirm to be true and authentic. Now from him to Eusebius was not above half a century; too little a while for so great an alteration to have been made in writings spread up and down into so many. hands; read by all the learned and pious men of those days; and upon all these accounts utterly incapable of such a change as is, without the authority of one single writer, only upon I know not what conjectures, supposed to have been made in them.
19. But I enlarge myself too much in so plain a matter; and which I should hardly have thought worth the examining thus distinctly, had it not engaged the pens of so many learned men of the reformed religion, that it might have seemed too great an omission in such a discourse as this not to have given some account of it. As for what
4 Apud Euseb. Epist. ad Florin. Hist. Eccles. lib. v. cap. 20. Orig. Homil. vi. in Luc. et in Cantic. Pro.eg.
we find a late learned writer' advancing in opposition to the authority of these Epistles, that our copies, though exceedingly more perfect than any that were ever extant before those great men Bishop Usher and Isaac Vossius set out,—the one the old Latin Versions, the other the original Greek, from the Manuscript which he found of it in the Florentine Library,―yet there may be reason still to suspect that they are not so free from all corruptions as were to be wished: I reply, that if he means that the same has happened to these Epistles as has done to all other ancient writings, that letters, or words, have been mistaken, and perhaps even the pieces of some sentences corrupted, either by the carelessness or ignorance of the transcribers; I see no reason why we should deny that to have befallen these Epistles, which has been the misfortune of all other pieces of the like antiquity. It has been often declared, therefore, that neither do we contend about this; nor can any one, who reads the best copies we have of them with any care or judgment, make any doubt of it. But as for any larger interpolations, such as were those of the copies before extant; for any changes or mistakes that may call in question either the credit or authority of these Epistles as we now have them, we' utterly deny that there are any such in these last editions of them; nor has that learned man offered any thing to induce us to believe that there are.
20. And here I should have concluded these reflections, but that there is yet one thing more to be taken notice of, which must by no means be passed by; namely, that our most learned
1 Ernest. Tentzel. Exercit. select. iii. num. xi. xii. p. 67.
* Vossii Annot. passim. Pearson. Vind. Ignat. Proleg. p. 20.
3 See the Objections of Tentzelius fully answered by the learned Dr. Grabe, Spicileg. sec. ii. p. 227, &c.