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reading the books. Both accounts may appear consistent, and it is only, or chiefly, by external evidence that we can know that one of them is inspired. Who could undertake to say, that from internal evidence alone, he could determine that the book of Esther, or the Chronicles, were written by divine inspiration ? Besides, some books are obscure and not easily understood ; now, how could any one discern the internal evidence of a book, the meaning of which he did not yet understand?
The evidence arising from a general view of the Scriptures, collectively, is most convincing, but is not so well adapted to determine whether some one book, considered separately, was certainly written by divine inspiration.
It is necessary, therefore, to proceed to our destined point in a more circuitous way. We must be at the pains to examine into the history of the Canon, and, as was before said, to ascertain what books were esteemed Canonical by all those who had the best opportunity of judging of this matter; and when the internal evidence is found corroborating the external, the two, combined, may produce a degree of conviction which leaves no room to desire any stronger evidence.
The question to be decided is a matter of fact. It is an inquiry respecting the real authors of the books of the New Testament, whether they were written by the persons whose names they bear, or by others under their names. The inspiration of these books, though closely allied to this subject, is not now the object of inquiry. The proper method of determining a matter of fact, evidently is, to have recourse to those persons who were witnesses of it, or who received their ipformation from others who were witnesses. It is only in this way that we know that Homer, Horace, Virgil, Livy, and Tully, wrote the books which under their names.
The early Christians pursued this method of determining what books were Canonical. They searched into the records of the church before their time, and from these ascertained what books should be received, as belonging to the Sacred Volume. They appealed to that certain and universal tradition which attested the genuineness of these books. IRENÆUS, TERTULLIAN, EUSEBIUS, CYRIL, and AUGUSTINE, have all made use of this argument, in establishing the Canon of the New Testament.
The question is often asked, when was the Canon of the New Testament constituted? and by what authority? Many persons who write and speak on this subject, appear to enter
tain a wrong impression in regard to it; as if the books of the New Testament could not be of authority, until they were sanctioned by some ecclesiastical council, or by some publicly expressed opinion of the Fathers of the church; and as if any portion of their authority depended on their being collected into one volume. But the truth is, that every one of these books was of authority, as far as known, from the moment of its publication; and its right to a place in the Canon is not derived from the sanction of any church or Council, but from the fact, that it was written by inspiration. And the appeal to testimony is not to prove that any Council of bishops, or others, gave sanction to the book, but to show that it is indeed the genuine work of Matthew, or John, or Peter, or Paul, whom we know to have been inspired.
The books of the New Testament were, therefore, of full authority, before they were collected into one volume; and it would have made no difference if they had never been included in one volume, but had retained that separate form in which they were first published. And it is by no means certain, that these books were, at a very early period, bound in one volume. As far as we have any testimony on the subject, the probability is, that it was more customary to include them in two volumes; one of which was called the Gospel, and the other, the Apostles. Some of the oldest MSS. of the New Testament extant, appear to have been put up in this form; and the Fathers often refer to the Scriptures of the New Testament, under these two titles. The question, When was the Canon constituted ? admits therefore of no other proper answer than this--that as soon as the last book of the New Testament was written and published, the Canon was completed. But, if the question relates to the time when these books were collected together, and published in a single volume, or in two volumes, it admits of no definite answer; for those churches which were situated nearest to the place where any particular books were published, would, of course, obtain copies much earlier than churches in a remote part of the world. For a considerable period, the collection of these books, in each church, must have been necessarily incomplete; for it would take some time to send to the church, or people, with whom the autographs were deposited, and to write off fair copies. cessary process will also account for the fact, that some of the smaller books were not received by the churches so early, nor so universally, as the larger. The solicitude of the churches to possess, immediately, the more extensive books of the New
Testament, would, doubtless, induce them to make a great exertion to acquire copies; but, probably, the smaller would not be so much spoken of, nor would there be so strong a desire to obtain them without delay. Considering how difficult it is now, with all our improvements in the typographical art, to multiply copies of the Scriptures with sufficient rapidity, it is truly wonderful, how so many churches as were founded during the first century, to say nothing of individuals, could all be supplied with copies of the New Testament, when there was no speedier method of producing them than by writing every letter with the pen! The pen of a ready writer must then, indeed, have been of immense value. The idea entertained by some, especially by DODWELL, that these books lay for a long time locked up in the coffers of the churches to which they were addressed, and totally unknown to the rest of the world, is in itself most improbable, and is repugnant to all the testimony which exists on the subject. Even as early as the time when Peter wrote his second Epistle, the writings of Paul were in the hands of the churches, and were classed with the other Scriptures. And the citation from these books by the earliest Christian writers, living in different countries, demonstrates, that from the time of their publication, they were sought after with avidity, and were widely dispersed. How intense the interest which the first Christians felt in the writings of the apostles can scarcely be conceived by us, who have been familiar with these books from our earliest years. How solicitous would they be, for example, who had never seen Paul, but had heard of his wonderful conversion, and extraordinary labours and gifts, to read his writings ! And probably they who had enjoyed the high privilege of hearing this apostle preach, would not be less desirous of reading his Epistles! As we know, from the nature of the case, as well as from tesm timony, that many uncertain accounts of Christ's discourses and miracles had obtained circulation, how greatly would the primitive Christians rejoice to obtain an authentic history from the of an Apostle, or from one who wrote precisely what was dictated by an Apostle! We need no longer wonder, therefore, that
church should wish to possess a collection of the writings of the Apostles; and knowing them to be the productions of inspired men, they would want no further sanction of their authority. All that was requisite was, to be certain that the book was indeed written by the apostle, whose name it bore. And this leads me to observe, that some things in
* 2 Pet. üi, 14, 15.
Paul's Epistles, which seem to common readers to be of no importance, were of the utmost consequence. Such as —56 I. Tertius, who wrote this Epistle, salute you.'— The salutation of me, Paul, with mine own hand. T_Ye see how large a letter I have written to you with mine own hand. 1_ The salutation by the hand of me, Paul. The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every Epistle: so I write.s” This apostle commonly employed an amanuensis; but that the churches to which he wrote might have the assur. ance of the genuineness of his Epistles, from seeing his own hand-writing, he constantly wrote the Salutation himself; so much care was taken to have these sacred writings well authenticated, on their first publication. And on the same account it was, that he and the other apostles were so particular in giving the names, and the characters, of those who were the bearers of their Epistles. And it seems, that they were always committed to the care of men of high estimation in the church; and commonly, more than one appears to have been intrusted with this important commission.
If it be inquired, what became of the autographs of these sacred books, and why they were not preserved; since this would have prevented all uncertainty respecting the true reading, and would have relieved the Biblical critic from a large share of labour? It is sufficient to answer, that nothing different has occurred, in relation to these autographs, from that which has happened to all other ancient writings. No man can produce the autograph of any book as old as the New Testament, unless it has been preserved in some extraordinary way, as in the case of the manuscripts of Herculaneum; neither could it be supposed, that in the midst of such vicissitudes, revolutions, and persecutions as the Christian church endured, this object could have been secured by any thing short of a miracle. And God knew, that by a superintending providence over the Sacred Scriptures, they could be transmitted with sufficient accuracy, by means of apographs, to the most distant generations. Indeed, there is reason to believe, that the Chris tians of early times were so absorbed and impressed with the glory of the truths revealed, that they gave themselves little concern about the mere vehicle by which they were communicated. They had matters of such deep interest, and so novel, before their eyes, that they had neither time, nor inclination, for the minutiæ of criticism. It may be, therefore, that they * Rom. xvi, 22. + 1 Cor. xvi, 21. | Gal. vi, 11.
| Col. iv, 18. $ 2 Thes. iii, 17.
to be di' did not set so high a value on the possession of the autograph ch as- of an inspired book as we should, but considered a copy, made The use with scrupulous fidelity, as equally valuable with the original. 1972 And God may have suffered these autographs of the sacred -Thes writings to perish, lest, in process of time, they should have
Paula become idolized, like the brazen serpent; or lest men should isele: be led, superstitiously, to venerate the mere parchment and ink, manic and form and letters, employed by an Apostle. Certainly, the the history of the church is such, as to render such an idea far ghi from being improbable. imax But, although little is said about the originals of the Aposli 201 tles' writings, we have a testimony in Tertullian, that the au
thentic letters of the Apostles might be seen by any that would are take the pains to go to the churches to which they were ad
dressed. Some, indeed, think that Tertullian does not mean
to refer to the autographs, but to authentic copies; but why che then send the inquirer to the churches to which the Epistles
were addressed? Had not other churches, all over the world,
authentic copies of these Epistles also? There seems to be of good reason, therefore, for believing, that the autographs, or iziet i original letters of the Apostles, were preserved by the churches
to which they were addressed, in the time of Tertullian.
CATALOGUES OF THE BOOKS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT-CANONICAL BOOKS
ONLY CITED AS AUTHORITY BY THE FATHERS, AND READ IN THE CHURCHES,
Having declared our purpose, to place the settling of the Canon of the New Testament on the footing of authentic testimony, we will now proceed to adduce our authorities, and shall begin with an examination of the ancient catalogues of the New Testament.
The slightest attention to the works of the Fathers will convince any one that the writings of the Apostles were held, from the beginning, in the highest estimation; that great pains were taken to distinguish the genuine productions of these inspired
* See note B in the Appendix.