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men, from all other books; that they were sought out with uncommon diligence, and read with profound attention and veneration, not only in private, but publicly in the churches; and that they are cited and referred to, universally, as decisive on every point of doctrine, and as authoritative standards for the regulation of faith and practice.
This being the state of the case when the books of the New Testament were communicated to the churches, we are enabled, in regard to most of them, to produce testimony, of the most satisfactory kind, that they were admitted into the Canon, and received as inspired, by the universal consent of Christians, in every part of the world. And as to those few books, concerning which some persons entertain doubts, it can be shown, that as soon as their claims were fully and impartially investigated, they also were received with universal consent. And that other books, however excellent as human compositions, were never put upon a level with the Canonical books of the New Testament; that spurious writings, under the names of the Apostles, were promptly and decisively rejected, and that the churches were repeatedly warned against such Apocryphal books.
To do justice to this subject, will require some detail, which may appear dry to the reader, but should be interesting to every person who wishes to know assuredly, that what he receives as Sacred Scripture, is no imposture, but the genuine, authentic productions of those inspired men, whom Christ appointed to be his witnesses to the world, and to whom was committed the sacred deposit of divine truth, intended for the instruction and government of the church in all future ages.
In exhibiting the evidence of the Canonical authority of these books, we shall first attend to some general considerations, which relate to the whole volume, and then adduce testimony in favour of each book now included in the Canon.
And here, as in the case of the Old Testament, we find, that at a very early period, Catalogues of these books were published, by most of the distinguished Fathers whose writings have come down to us; and that the same has been done, also, by several Councils, whose decrees are still extant.
These catalogues are, for the most part, perfectly harmonious. In a few of them, some books now in the Canon are omitted, for which omission a satisfactory reason can commonly be assigned. In the first circulation of the Sacred Scriptures, there was great need of such lists; as the distant churches and common Christians were liable to be imposed on by spu
rious writings, which seem to have abounded in those times. It was, therefore, a most important part of the instruction given to Christians, by their spiritual guides, to inform them accurately, what books belonged to the Canon. Great pains were taken, also, to know the truth on this subject. Pious bishops, for this single purpose, travelled into Judea, and remained there for some time, that they might learn, accurately, every circumstance relative to the authenticity of these writings.
The first regular Catalogue of the books of the New Testament, which we find on record, is by ORIGEN, whose extensive Biblical knowledge highly qualified him to judge correctly in
He had not only read much, but travelled extensively, and resided a great part of his life on the confines of Judea, in a situation favourable to accurate information from every part of the church, where any of these books were originally published. Origen lived, and flourished, about one hundred years after the death of the Apostle John. He was, therefore, near enough to the time of the publication of these books, to obtain the
most certain information of their authors. Most of the original writings of this great and learned man have perished, but his catalogue of the books of the New Testament has been preserved by Eusebius, in his Ecclesiastical History." It was contained in Origen's Homilies on the Gos pel of Matthew; and was repeated in his Homilies on the Gospel of John.
In this catalogue, he mentions, The four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, Fourteen Epistles of Paul, Two of Peter, Three of John, and The book of the Revelation. This enumeration includes all the present Canon, except the Epistles of James and Jude, but these were omitted by accident, not design; for in other parts of his writings, he acknowledges these Epistles as a part of the Canon. And while Origen furnishes us with so full a catalogue of the books now in the Canon, he inserts no others; which proves, that in his time the Canon was well settled among the learned, and that the distinction between inspired writings and human compositions was as clearly marked, as at any subsequent period.
In the work entitled Apostolical Constitutions, ascribed to Clement of Rome, there is a catalogue of the books of the New Testament; but as this work is not genuine, and of an uncertain author and age, I will not make use of it.
So, also, the catalogue ascribed to the Council of Nice, is not genuine, and is connected with a story which bears every
• Lib. vi, c. 25.
mark of superstitious credulity. This, therefore, shall be likewise omitted. We stand in no need of suspicious testimony on this subject. Witnesses, of the most undoubted veracity, and distinguished intelligence, can be found in every successive age.
2. The next catalogue of the books of the New Testament to which I will refer, is that of EUSEBIUS, the learned historian of the church; to whose diligence and fidelity, in collecting Ecclesiastical facts, we are more indebted, than to the labours of all other men, for that period which intervened between the days of the Apostles and his own times. Eusebius may be considered as giving his testimony about one hundred years after Origen. His catalogue may be seen in his Ecclesiastical History.f In it, he enumerates every book which we have now in the Canon, and no others; but he mentions that the Epis of James, the second of Peter, and second and third of John, were doubted by some; and that Revelation was rejected by some, and received by others; but Eusebius himself declares it to be his opinion that it should be received without doubt.
There is no single witness, among the whole number of ecclesiastical writers, who was more competent to give accurate information on this subject than Eusebius. He had spent a great part of his life in searching into the antiquities of the Christian church; and he had an intimate acquaintance with all the records relating to ecclesiastical affairs, many of which are now lost; and almost the only information which we have of them has been transmitted to us by this diligent compiler.
3. ATHANASIUS, so well known for his writings, and his sufferings in defence of the divinity of our Saviour, in his Festal Epistle, and in his Synopsis of Scripture, has left a catalogue of the books of the New Testament, which perfectly agrees with the Canon now in use.
4. CYRIL, in his Catechetical work, has also given us a catalogue, perfectly agreeing with ours, except that he omits the book of Revelation. Why that book was so often left out of the ancient catalogues and collections of the Scriptures, shall
The story is briefly this. The Fathers of the Council of Nice put all the books, which claimed a place in the Sacred Canon, under the commu. nion table of the Church, and then prayed that such of them as were inspired might be found uppermost, and the Apocryphal below; whereupon the event occurred agreeably to their wishes; and thus a clear line of distinction was made between Canonical books and such as were not Canonical. This story is related in the Synodicon of Popus, an obscure writer, and is undeserving of the smallest credit.
+ Euseb. Ecc. Hist. I. iii, c. 25, comp. with c. 3.
be mentioned hereafter. Athanasius and Cyril were contemporary with Eusebius; the latter, however, may more properly be considered as twenty or thirty years later.
5. Then, a little after the middle of the fourth century, we have the testimony of all the bishops assembled in the Council of Laodicea. The catalogue of this Council is contained in their sixtieth Canon, and is exactly the same as ours, except that the book of Revelation is omitted. The decrees of this Council were, in a short time, received into the Canons of the universal church; and among the rest, this catalogue of the books of the New Testament. Thus, we find, that as early as the middle of the fourth century, there was a universal consent, in all parts of the world to which the Christian church extended, as to the books which constituted the Canon of the New Testament, with the single exception of the book of Revelation; and that this book was also generally admitted to be Canonical, we shall take the opportunity of proving in the sequel of this work.
6. But a few years elapsed from the meeting of this council, before EPIPHANIUs, bishop of Salamis, in the Island of Cyprus, published his work on Heresies, in which he gives a catalogue of the Canonical books of the New Testament, which, in every respect, is the same as the Canon now received.
7. About the same time, Gregory NAZIANZEN, bishop of Constantinople, in a poem, on the True and Genuine Scriptures, mentions distinctly all the books now received, except Revelation.
8. A few years later, we have a list of the books of the New Testament in a work of PhilASTRIUS, bishop of Brixia, in Italy, which corresponds in all respects with those now received; except that he mentions no more than thirteen of Paul's Epistles. If the omission was designed, it probably relates to the Epistle to the Hebrews.
9. At the same time lived JEROME, who translated the whole Bible into Latin. He furnishes us with a catalogue answering to our present Canon, in all respects. He does, however, speak doubtfully about the Epistle to the Hebrews, on account of the uncertainty of its author. But, in other parts of his writings, he shows, that he received this book as Canonical, as well as the rest.
10. The catalogue of Rufin varies in nothing from the Canon now received. 11. AUGUSTINE, in his work on Christian Doctrine, has inEpist. ad Paulinum.
Expos. in Symbol. Apost.
serted the names of the books of the New Testament, which, in all respects, are the same as oars.
12. The Council of Carthage, at which Augustine was present, have furnished a catalogue, which perfectly agrees with ours. At this council, forty-four bishops attended. The list referred to, is found in their forty-eighth Canon.
13. The unknown author, who goes under the name of DIONYSIUS THE AREOPAGITE, so describes the books of the New Testament, as to show that he received the very same as are now in the Canon.
Another satisfactory source of evidence, in favour of the Canon of the New Testament, as now received, is the fact, that these books were quoted as Sacred Scripture by all the Fathers, living in parts of the world the most remote from each other. The truth of this assertion will fully appear, when we come to speak particularly of the books
which compose the Canon. Now, how can it be accounted for, that these books, and these alone, should be cited as authority, in Asia, Africa, and Europe? No other reason can be assigned, than one of these two: either, they knew no other books which claimed to be Canonical; or, if they did, they did not esteem them of equal authority with those which they cited, On either of these grounds the conclusion is the same, that the books quoted as Scripture are alone the Canonical books. To apply this rule to a particular case, The first Epistle of Peter is Canonical, because it is continually cited by the most ancient Christian writers, in every part of the world; but the book called The Revelation of Peter is Apocryphal, because none of the early Fathers have taken any testimonies from it. The same is true of the Acts of Peter, and the Gospel of Peter. These writings were totally unknown to the primitive church, and are therefore spurious. This argument is perfectly conclusive, and its force was perceived by the ancient defenders of the Canon of the New Testament. Eusebius repeatedly has recourse to it; and, therefore, those persons who have aimed to unsettle our present Canon, as Toland and Dodwell, have attempted to prove that the early Christian writers were in the habit of quoting indifferently, and promiscuously, the books which we now receive, and others which are now rejected, as Apocryphal. But this is not correct, as has been shown by NYE, RICHARDSON, and others. The true method of deter. mining this matter, is by a careful examination of all the passages in the writings of the Fathers, where other books besides those now in the Canon have been quoted. Some progress