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thentic. It seems, therefore, certain, that some account of Christ and his actions was transmitted by Pilate to the emperor. “ For,” to use the words of an eminent man,

“ Tertullian, though a Christian writer, durst never have presumed to impose upon the Senate themselves, with such a remarkable story, if he was not able to prove it; and that he was, is evident from Justin Martyr, who often appeals to the Acts of Pilate, concerning the history of our Saviour—that Pilate did send such Acts is evident, for scarce any man, much less such a man as Justin Martyr, would have been so foolish, or so confident, as to affirm a thing in which it would be so easy to convict him of falsehood."*

And another, speaking of the same thing, says, “ They were men of excellent learning and judgment; but no man who could write an Apology, can be supposed to have so little understanding as to appeal to that account which Pilate sent to Tiberius, concerning the resurrection of Christ, in Apologies, dedicated to the Roman Emperor himself, and to the Senate, if no such account had ever been sent." +

It does not follow, however, that these Fathers had ever seen these Acts, or that they were ever seen by any Christian. During the reigns of heathen emperors, Christians could have no access to the archives of the nation; but the fact of the existence of such a record, might have been, and probably was, a matter of public notoriety; otherwise, we never can account for the confident appeal of these learned and respectable writers. There is no difficulty in conceiving how such a fact might have been certainly known to these Fathers, without supposing that they had seen the record. As the learned Casaubon says, “ Some servants, or officers, of one of the Cæsars, who were converted to Christianity, and had opportunity of searching the public records at Rome, gave this account to some Christians, from whom Justin and Tertullian had it.”

It may seem to be an objection to the existence of Acts, that they were never made public, when the emperors became Christains; but it is altogether probable, that they were destroyed through the malice of the Senate, or of some Roman Emperor who was hostile to Christianity. They who took so much pains to destroy the writings of Christians, would not suffer such a monument of the truth of Christianity to remain, in their own palace.

But as to those Acts of Pilate which are now extant, no one supposes that they are genuine. They have every mark Dr Parker.

+ Dr Jenkin.

of being spurious. The external and internal evidence is equally against them; and it would be a waste of time to enter into any discussion of this point.

It may, however, be worth while to inquire into the motives which, probably, led some mistaken Christian to forge such a narrative. And there seems to have been two; first, to have it in his power to show the record to which the Fathers had so confidently referred. The heathen adversaries might say, after the destruction of the genuine Acts of Pilate, where is the document to which this appeal has been made ?-let it be produced. And some man thinking that he could serve the cause of Christianity, by forging Acts under the name of Pilate, was induced, through a mistaken zeal, to write this narrative.

But there was another reason, which, probably, had some influence on this fact. About the close of the third century, the heathen had forged and published a writing, called The Acts of Pilate, the object of which was, to render the Christians odious and contemptible to the public, by foul calumnies against their Founder, and his Apostles. Of this fact, EuseBIUS gives us express and particular information: “From whence,” says he, “the forgery of these is manifestly detected, who have lately published certain Acts, against our Saviour. In which, first, the very time which is assigned to them, discovers the imposture; for those things which they have impudently forged to have come to pass at our Saviour's crucifixion, are said to have occurred in the fourth consulship of Tiberius, which coincides with the seventh of his reign; at which time, it is certain, Pilate was not yet come into Judea, if any credit is due to Josephus, who expressly says, that Pilate was not constituted governor of Judea, until the twelfth year of Tiberius.”

And in another place, he says, “ Seeing, therefore, that this writer (Josephus), who was himself a Jew, has related such things in his history concerning John the Baptist and the Saviour, what can they possibly say for themselves, to prevent being convicted of the most impudent forgery, who wrote those things against John and Christ?”

And in the ninth book of his Ecclesiastical History, this writer gives us information, still more particular, respecting this malicious forgery. “ At length (the heathen), having forged certain Acts of Pilate, concerning our Saviour, which were full of all sorts of blasphemy against Christ, they caused them, by the decree of Maximinus, to be dispersed through

· Euseb. Ecc. Hist. Lib. i, c. 9, 11..

all parts of the empire; commanding, by letters, that they should be published to all persons, in every place, both in cities and country places; and that schoolmasters should put them into the hands of their children, and oblige them to learn them by heart, instead of their usual lessons."

Here it may be observed, that while this impudent forgery clearly shows with what malicious efforts the attempt was made to subvert the Gospel, it proves, at the same time, that there had existed a document, under the name of The Acts of Pilate.

Now, the circulation of such an impious piece of blasphemy, probably, instigated Charinus, or whoever was the author of these Acts, to counteract them by a work of another kind, under the same name.

How this book came to be called The Gospel of Nicodemus, will appear by the subscription annexed to it, in which it is said, “ The Emperor Theodosius the Great, found at Jerusalem, in the hall of Pontius Pilate, among the public records --the things which were transacted in the nineteenth year

of Tiberius Cæsar, Emperor of the Romans; being a History written in Hebrew, by Nicodemus, of what happened after our Saviour's crucifixion." And if this subscription be no part of the original work, still it may have occasioned this title; or, it may have originated in the fact, that much is said about Nicodemus, in the story which is here told.

But even if we had the original Acts of Pilate, or some History of Nicodemus, it needs no proof, that they could have no just claim to a place in the Canon.

VII. The last Apocryphal book, which I shall mention, is that entitled The Acts of Paul and Thecla.

There is no doubt, but that this book is Apocryphal. It was so considered by all the Fathers who have mentioned it.

TERTULLIAN says, respecting it—“ But if any read the Apocryphal books of Paul, and thence defend the right of women to teach and baptize, by the example of Thecla, let them consider, that a certain presbyter of Asia, who forged that book, under the name of Paul, being convicted of the forgery, confessed that he did it out of respect to Paul, and so left his place." *

And JEROME, in his life of Luke, says, The Acts of Paul and Thecla, with the whole story of the baptized lion, I reckon among the Apocryphal Scriptures.”

And in the decree of Pope Gelasius, it is asserted, “ That the Acts of Thecla and Paul are Apocryphal."

• Tertull. de Baptismo.

By a dis

It is manifest, however, that the primitive Christians gave credit to a story respecting Paul and Thecla, on which this book is founded; for it is often referred to, as a history well known, and commonly believed.

Thus CYPRIAN, or some ancient writer under his name, says, “Help us, O Lord, as thou didst help the Apostles in their imprisonments, THECLA amidst the flames, Paul in his persecutions, and Peter amidst the waves of the sea.” And again,

Deliver me, O Lord, as thou didst deliver Thecla, when, in the midst of the amphitheatre, she was in conflict with the wild beasts."

Eusebius mentions a woman by this name, but he places her long after the Apostle Paul, and she is therefore supposed to be another person.

EPIPHANIUS relates, “ That when Thecla met Paul, she determined against marriage, although she was then engaged to a very agreeable young man.

AUGUSTINE refers to the same thing, and says, course of Paul's, at Iconium, he incited Thecla to a resolution of perpetual virginity, although she was then actually engaged to be married.”

Many others of the Fathers speak of Thecla, as of a person whose history was well known.

And among the moderns, Baronius, Locrinus, and Grabe, look upon this history as true and genuine, written in the Apostolic age, and containing nothing superstitious, or unsuitable to that time. But none have ventured to assert, that these Acts ought to have a place in the Canon.

No doubt, the book now extant is greatly altered from that ancient history, referred to by the Fathers; and, probably, the original story was founded on some tradition, which had a foundation in truth; but what the truth is, it is impossible now to discover among such a mass of fables, and ridiculous stories, as the book contains. As it now stands, it contains numerous things, which are false in fact; others, which are inconsistent with the Canonical Scriptures; and some, totally incompatible with the true character of Paul. Moreover, it is favourable to several superstitious practices, which had no existence in the Apostles' days; and finally, the forgery was acknowledged, as it relates to the ancient Acts; and those now existing cannot be more genuine than the original; but to these many things have been added, of a silly and superstitious kind.

Epiph. Hær. Ixviii.

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SECTION XVI.

NO PART OF THE CHRISTIAN REVELATION HANDED DOWN BY UNWRITTEN

TRADITION.

In the former part of this work, it was seen, that it was not only necessary to show that the Apocryphal writings had no right to a place in the Sacred Volume, but that there was no additional revelation which had been handed down by oral tradition. The same necessity devolves upon us, in relation to the New Testament; for while it is pretty generally agreed by all Christians what books should be received into the Canon, there is a large Society which strenuously maintains, that besides the revelation contained in the divine record, written by the Apostles and their assistants, by the plenary inspiration of the Holy Spirit, there is a farther revelation, consisting of such things as were received from the mouth of Christ himself, while upon earth, or taught to the churches by his inspired Apostles, which were not by them, nor in their time, committed to writing, but which have come down to us by unbrokerr tradition.

The importance of this inquiry is exceedingly manifest; for if, in addition to the written word, there are important doctrines and necessary sacraments of the church, which have come down by tradition, it would be a perilous thing for us to remain ignorant of those things, which God has enjoined, or to deprive ourselves of the benefits to be derived from those means of grace which he has instituted for the edification and salvation of the church. But, seeing traditions are much more liable to alteration and corruption than written documents, it is very necessary that we should be on our guard against imposition; and if it is a duty to exercise much care and diligence, in distinguishing between inspired books and such as are spurious, it cannot be less incumbent to ascertain, first, whether any part of God's revealed will has been handed down by tradition only; and next, to learn accurately, what those things are which have been thus communicated. And as there are Apocryphal books which claim a place in the Canon ; so, doubtless, there would be Apocryphal traditions, if any truths had been con

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