صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

uniformly treated with the reverence belonging to inspired books, and entitled, "The sacred Scriptures;' "The Oracles of the Lord." Their testimony having been given incidentally, without any view to its being testimony, does not apply to all the books. They had no design of enumerating for posterity, or for their contemporaries, the books of Scripture. There was no controversy on that subject in their age. It would have seemed a needless waste of words, had they attempted to decide a question which no one asked. It is very natural therefore, considering the brevity of their remaining works and the incidental character of their quotations, that some of the shorter writings of the New Testament should not be alluded to; while the fact that by one or another almost every book is quoted or alluded to, and that the whole number of quotations or allusions is upwards of two hundred and twenty, accompanied with every mark of reverence and submission, is a most impressive proof that the authenticity and inspired authority of the New Testament books were then notorious and unquestioned among Christians.

Thus we have ascended the line of testimony into the presence of the apostles. Our evidence has been collected from only a few out of the many witnesses that might have been cited. It has been derived from writers of different times, and of countries widely separated from philosophers, rhetoricians, and divines, all men of acuteness and learning in their days, all concurring in their testimony that the books of the New Testament were equally known in distant regions,

and received as authentic by men and churches that had no intercourse with one another. The argument is now, therefore, reduced to this. The apostles and disciples of Christ are known to have left some writings. That those writings have been lost, none can give a reason for believing. It is not pretended that any other volume than that of the New Testament contains them. The books contained in this volume were considered to be the writings of the apostles, by the whole Christian church, as far back as those who were their contemporaries and companions, being continually quoted and alluded to as such. It was impossible that such witnesses should be deceived. Contemporaries and companions must have known. whether they quoted the genuine works of the apostles, or only forgeries pretending to their names. Our evidence, therefore, is complete. What I have presented exceeds, above measure, the evidence for the authenticity of any other ancient book. Should the fiftieth part of it be required for the proof of the authenticity of any book of ancient Grecian or Roman origin, it could not abide the trial.

Before relinquishing this department of evidence, there are certain very important particulars which, though embraced in what has been already advanced, require a more special notice.

1. It is worthy of distinct remark, that when the books of the New Testament are quoted or alluded to by those whose testimony has been adduced, they are treated with supreme regard, as possessing an authority belonging to no other books, and as con

clusive in questions of religion. For example, Irenæus, born about A. D. 97, calls them "Divine Oracles;" "Scriptures of the Lord." He says that the gospel was "committed to writing, by the will of God, that it might be, for time to come, the foundation and pillar of our faith.”* "He fled to the gospels, which he believed no less than if Christ had been speaking to him; and to the writings of the apostles, whom he esteemed as the presbytery of the whole Christian church." Origen, born about A. D. 184, says, "Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God, in a sense not to be explained and made known to men, by any but by that Scripture alone which is inspired by the Holy Ghost; that is, the evangelic and apostolic Scripture, as also that of the law and the prophets." Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, born about the end of the second century, earnestly exhorts "all in general, but especially Christian ministers, in all doubtful matters to have recourse to the gospels and epistles of the apostles, as to the fountain where may be found the true original doctrine of Christ." "The precepts of the gospel," he says, "are to be considered as the lessons of God to us; as the foundations of our hope, and the supports of our faith."

2. The books of the New Testament were united at a very early period in a distinct volume. Not to mention, in evidence of this, that in all the earliest writers, the gospels and epistles are spoken of as constituting a well-known collection of sacred authorities,

*Lardner 1. 372. † Ibid. 1. 545. + Ibid. 2, 27, 592-3.

divided into those two parts; we have Tertullian, born only fifty years after the death of St. John, calling the collection of the gospels the "Evangelical Instrument;" the whole volume, the "New Testament;' and the two parts, the "Gospels and Apostles.'

3. The books of the New Testament were, at a very early period, publicly read and expounded in the congregations of Christians. Chrysostom, born about A. D. 347, testifies that "the gospels, when written, were not hid in a corner or buried in obscurity, but made known to all the world, before enemies as well as others, even as they are now." Irenæus, about two hundred years earlier, says, that in his time, "all the Scriptures, both prophecies and gospels, are open and clear, and may be heard of all."* Still earlier, we find Justin Martyn giving the emperor an account of the Christian worship, in which it is written, "The memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read, according as the time allows; and when the reader has ended, the president makes a discourse, exhorting to the imitation of so excellent things." The custom here mentioned is evidently spoken of as notorious and universal. This was about the year 140. But a practice thus general and familiar could hardly have grown up in less than forty years before the writing of this last witness. Thus we reach the life of St. John, and may therefore consider it as satisfactorily proved, that at a period as early as the last years of St. John, the Scriptures of the New Testament were *Lardner 1, 372. + Ibid. 1, 345.

publicly read and expounded in the churches of Christians. Such is the natural inference, from many passages in the works of Augustine, of the fourth century. For example, "The canonical books of Scripture being read everywhere, the miracles therein recorded are well known to all people." "The epistles of Peter and Paul are daily recited to the people. And to what people? And to how many people? Listen to the Psalm, Their sound hath gone out into all the earth.'" Again, "The genuineness and integrity of the same Scriptures may be relied on, which have been spread all over the world, and which from the time of their publication were in the highest esteem, and have been carefully kept in the churches."

[ocr errors]

4. During the primitive ages of Christianity, commentaries were written upon the books of the New Testament; harmonies of them were formed, copies diligently compared, and translations made into different languages. In proof of these assertions, it is needless, after the citations already made, to call up testimony. It may be found abundantly in Paley's Evidences; where it is well said, that "no greater proof can be given of the esteem in which these ancient books were holden by the ancient Christians, or of the sense then entertained of their value and importance, than the industry bestowed upon them. Moreover, it shows that they were then considered as ancient books. Men do not write comments upon publications of their own times; therefore * Lardner 2, 593-4.

+ Page 1, ch. 9, sec. 6.

« السابقةمتابعة »