Page images

one," 1, viii, 16. Whereas it is well known that no such form of government ever existed among the Romans.

Finally, it is manifest that these books were not inspired, and therefore not Canonical, because they were not written by Prophets, but by men who speak of their labours in a way wholly incompatible with inspiration.

Jerome and Eusebius were of opinion, that Josephus was the author of the books of the Maccabees; but it has never been supposed by any that he was an inspired man; therefore, if this opinion be correct, these books are no more Canonical than the Antiquities or Wars of the Jews, by the same author.

It has been the constant tradition of Jews and Christians, that the spirit of prophecy ceased with Malachi, until the appearance of John the Baptist. Malachi has, on this account, been called by the Jews the seal of the prophets..

Josephus, in his book against APION, after saying that it belonged to the prophets alone to write inspired books, adds these words: “ From the time of Artaxerxes there were some among us who wrote books even to our own times, but these are not of equal authority with the preceding, because the succession of prophets was not complete.”

Eusebius, in giving a catalogue of the leaders of the Jews, denies that he can proceed any lower than Zerubbabel; “ because," says he, “after the return from captivity until the advent of our Saviour, there is no book which can be esteemed sacred.”

AUGUSTINE gives a similar testimony_“ After Malachi, the Jews had no prophet, during that whole period which intervened between the return from the captivity, and the advent of our Saviour.”

Neither does GENEBRARD dissent from this opinion—“From Malachi to John the Baptist,” says he, “no prophets existed.”

Drusius cites the following words from the compiler of the Jewish History --" The rest of the discourses of Simon and his wars, and the wars of his brother, are they not written in the book of Joseph, the son of Gorion, and in the book of the Asmoneans, and in the books of the Roman Kings?” Here the books of the Maccabees are placed between the writings of Josephus and the Roman history.

The book of Wisdom does indeed claim to be the work of Solomon, an inspired man; but this claim furnishes the strongest ground for its condemnation. It is capable of the clearest proof, from internal evidence, that this was the production of :some person, probably a Hellenistic Jew, who lived long after the Canon of the Old Testament was completed. It contains manifest allusions to Grecian customs, and is tinctured with the Grecian philosophy. The manner in which the author praises himself is fulsome, and has no paralled in any inspired writer. This book has been ascribed to Philo Judæus; and if this conjecture be correct, doubtless it has no just claim to be considered a Canonical book. But whoever was the author, his endeavouring to pass his composition off for the writing of Solomon, is sufficient to decide every question respecting his inspiration. If Solomon had written this book, it would have been found in the Jewish Canon, and in the Hebrew language. The writer is also guilty of shameful flattery to his own nation, which is entirely repugnant to the spirit of all the prophets. He has also, without any foundation, added many things to the sacred narration, contained in the Canonical history; and has mingled with it much which is of the nature of poetical embellishment. And, indeed, the whole style of the composition savours too much of artificial eloquence, to be attributed to the Spirit of God; the constant characteristic of whose productions are simplicity and sublimity.

Ecclesiasticus, which is superior to all the other Apocryphal books, was written by one Jesus the Son of Sirach. His grandfather, of the same name, it seems, had written a book, which he left to his son Sirach; and he delivered it to his son Jesus, who took great pains to reduce it into order; but he nowhere assumes the character of a prophet himself, nor does he claim it for the original author, his grandfather. In the prologue, he says, “ My grandfather Jesus, when he had much given himself to the reading of the Law and the Prophets, and other books of our fathers, and had gotten therein good judgment, was drawn on also himself to write something pertaining to learning and wisdom, to the intent that those which are desirous to learn, and are addicted to these things, might profit much more, in living according to the law. Wherefore, let me entreat you to read it with favour and attention, and to pardon us wherein we may seem to come short of some words, which we have laboured to interpret. For the same things uttered in Hebrew, and translated into another tongue, have not the same force in them; for in the eight-andthirtieth year, coming into Egypt, when Euergetes was king, and continuing there for some time, I found a book of no small learning: therefore, I thought it most necessary for me to be stow some diligence and travail to interpret it; using great watchfulness and skill in that space to bring the book to an end,” &c. Surely there is no need of further arguments to prove that this modest author did not claim to be inspired.

The author of the second book of the Maccabees professes to have reduced a work of Jason of Cyrene, consisting of five volumes, into one volume. Concerning which work he says, “ Therefore, to us that have taken upon us this painful labour of abridging, it was not easy, but a matter of sweat and watching,” ii, 26. Again, “ Leaving to the author the exact handling of every particular, and labouring to follow the rules of an abridgement.- To stand upon every point, and go over things at large, and to be curious in particulars, belongeth to the first author of the story; but to use brevity, and avoid much labouring of the work, is to be granted to him that maketh an abridgement,” ii, 30, 31. Is any thing more needed to prove that this writer did not profess to be inspired? If there was any inspiration in the case, it must be attributed to Jason of Cyrene, the original writer of the history; but his work is long since lost, and we now possess only the abridgement which cost the writer so much labour and pains. Thus, I think it sufficiently appears that the authors of these disputed books were not prophets; and that, as far as we can ascertain the circumstances in which they wrote, they did not lay claim to inspiration, but expressed themselves in such a way as no man under the influence of inspiration ever did.

The Popish writers, to evade the force of the arguments of their adversaries, pretend that there was a twofold Canon; that some of the books of Scripture are protocanonical, and others deuterocanonical. If, by this distinction, they only meant that the word Canon was often used by the Fathers with great latitude, so as to include all books that were ever read in the churches, or that were contained in the volume of the Greek Bible, the distinction is correct, and signifies the same, as is often expressed, by calling some books Sacred and Canonical, and others Ecclesiastical. But these writers make it manifest that they mean much more than this. They wish to put their deuterocanonical books on a level with the old Jewish Canon; and this distinction is intended to teach, that, after the first Canon was constituted, other books were from time to time added: but when these books thus annexed to the Canon have been pronounced upon by the competent authority, they are to be received as of equal authority with the former. When this second Canon was constituted, is a matter concerning which they are not agreed: some pretend that, in the time of Shammai and Hillel, two famous Rabbies, who lived before the advent of

the Saviour, these books were added to the Canon. But why, then, are they not included in the Hebrew Canon? Why does Josephus never mention them? Why are they never quoted or alluded to in the New Testament? And why did all the earlier Fathers omit to cite them, or expressly reject them? The difficulties of this theory being too prominent, the most of the advocates of the Apocrypha suppose that these books, after having remained in doubt before, were received by the supreme authority of the church in the fourth century. They allege that these books were sanctioned by the councii of Nice, and by the third council of Carthage, which met A.D. 397. But the story of the method pursued by the council of Nice, to distinguish between Canonical and spurious books, is fabulous and ridiculous. There is nothing in the Canons of that council relative to these books; and certainly they cited no authorities from them, in confirmation of the doctrines established by them. And as to the third council of Carthage, it may be asked, what authority had this provincial synod to determine any thing for the whole church, respecting the Canon? But there is no certainty that this council did determine any thing on the subject; for, in the same Canon, there is mention made of Pope Boniface as living at that time, whereas he did not rise to this dignity until more than twenty years afterwards, in which time three other Popes occupied the See of Rome; so that this Canon could not have been formed by the third council of Carthage. And in some copies it is inserted as the fourteenth of the seventh council of Carthage. However this may be, we may be confident that no council of the fourth century had any authority to add to the Canon of Scripture, books which were not only not received before, but explicitly rejected as Apocryphal by most of the Fathers. Our opponents say that these books were uncertain before, but now received confirmation. How could there be any uncertainty, in regard to these books, if the church was as infallible, in the first three ages, as in the fourth? These books were either Canonical before the fourth century, or they were not; if the former, how came it to pass they were not recognised by the Apostles? How came they to be overlooked and rejected by the primitive Fathers? But if they were not Canonical before, they must have been made Canonical by the decree of some council: that is, the church can make that an inspired book which was never given by inspiration. This absurdity was before mentioned, but it deserves to be repeated, because, however unreasonable it may be, it forms the true, and almost the only, ground on which the doctrine of the Romish church, in regard to these Apocryphal books, rests. This is, indeed, a part of the Pope's supremacy. Some of their best writers, however, deny this doctrine; and whatever others may pretend, it is most certain that the Fathers, with one consent, believed that the Canon of Sacred Scripture was complete in their time—they never dreamed of books, not then Canonical, becoming such by any authority upon earth. Indeed, the idea of adding to the Canon, what did not from the beginning belong to it, never seems to have entered the mind of any person in former times. If this doctrine were correct, we might still have additions made to the Canon, and that, too, of books which have existed for hundreds

of years.

This question may be brought to a speedy issue, with all unprejudiced judges. These books were either written by divine inspiration, for the guidance of the church in matters of faith and practice, or they were not_if the former, they always had a right to a place in the Canon—if the latter, no act of a Pope or council could render that divine which was not so before. It would be to change the nature of a fact, than which nothing is more impossible.

It is alleged, with much confidence, that the Greek Bibles, used by the Fathers, contained these books; and therefore, whenever they give their testimony to the Sacred Scriptures, these are included. This argument proves too much, for the third book of Esdras, and the prayer of Manasses, were contained in these volumes, but these are rejected by the Romanists. The truth, however, is, that these books were not originally connected with the Septuagint; they were probably introduced into some of the later Greek versions, which were made by heretics. "These versions, particularly that of Theodotion, came to be used promiscuously with that of the LXX; and to this day the common copies contain the version of the book of Daniel by Theodotion, instead of that by the LXX.

By some such means, these Apocryphal books crept into the Greek Bible; but the early Fathers were careful to distinguish between them and the Canonical Scriptures, as we have already

That they were read in the churches is also true; but not as Scripture—not for the confirmation of doctrine, but for the edification of the common people.

Some of the Fathers, it is true, cited them as authority, but very seldom; and the reason which rendered it difficult for them to distinguish accurately between Ecclesiastical and Canonical books, has already been given. These pious men were


« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »