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from which we are entitled to conclude that they were then conformable to each other.
I have said, that the testimony of Irenæus in favour of our Gospels is exclusive of all others. I allude to a remarkable passage in his works, in which, for some reasons sufficiently fanciful, he endeavours to show, that there could be neither more nor fewer Gospels than four. With his argument we have no concern. The position itself proves that four, and only four Gospels were at that time publicly read and acknowledged. That these were our Gospels, and in the state in which we now have them, is shown from many other places of this writer beside that which we have already alleged. He mentions how Matthew begins his Gospel, how Mark begins and ends his, and their supposed reasons for so doing. He enumerates at length the several passages of Christ's history in Luke, which are not found in any of the other evangelists. He states the particular design with which St. John composed his Gospel, and accounts for the doctrinal declarations which precede the narrative. . To the book of the Acts of the Apostles, its author and credit, the testimony of Irenæus is no less explicit. Referring to the account of St. Paul's conversion and vocation, in the ninth chapter of that book, “ Nor can they,” says he, meaning the parties with whom he argues, “show that he is not to be credited, who has related to us the truth with the greatest exactness.” In another place, he has actually collected the several texts in which the writer of the history is represented as accompanying St. Paul; which leads him to deliver a summary of almost the whole of the last twelve chapters of the book.
In an author thus abounding with references and allusions to the Scriptures, there is not one to any apocryphal Christian writing whatever. This is a broad line of distinction between our sacred books, and the pretensions of all others.
The force of the testimony of the period which we have considered is greatly strengthened by the observation, that it is the testimony and the concurring testimony of writers who lived in countries remote from one another. Clement flourished at Rome, Ignatius at Antioch, Polycarp at Smyrna, Justin Martyr in Syria, and Irenæus in France.
XI. Omitting Athenagoras and Theophilus, who lived about this time 31; in the remaining works of the former of whom are clear references to Mark and Luke; and in the works of the latter, who was bishop of Antioch, the sixth in succession from the Apostles, evident allusions to Matthew and John, and probable allusions to Luke (which, considering the nature of the compositions, that they were addressed to heathen readers, is as much as could be expected); observing also, that the works of two learned Christian writers of the same age, Miltiades and Pantænus 39, are now lost; of which Miltiades, Eusebius records, that his writings “ were monuments of zeal for the Divine Oracles;" and which, Pantænus, as Jerome testifies, was a man of prudence and learning, both in the Divine Scriptures and secular literature, and had left many commentaries upon the Holy Scriptures then extant; passing by these without further remark, we come to one of the most voluminous of ancient Christian writers, Clement of Alexandria 33. Clement fol
lowed Irenæus, at the distance of only sixteen years, and therefore may be said to maintain the series of testimony in an uninterrupted continuation.
In certain of Clement's works, now lost, but of which various parts are recited by Eusebius, there is given a distinct account of the order in which the four Gospels were written. The Gospels which contain the genealogies were (he says) written first; Mark's next, at the instance of Peter's followers; and John's the last : and this account he tells us that he had received from presbyters of more ancient times. This testimony proves the following points : That these Gospels were the histories of Christ then publicly received, and relied upon; and that the dates, occasions, and circumstances of their publication, were at that time subjects of attention and inquiry amongst Christians. In the works of Clement which remain, the four Gospels are repeatedly quoted by the names of their authors, and the Acts of the Apostles is expressly ascribed to Luke. In one place, after mentioning a particular circumstance, he adds these remarkable words :,“ We have not this passage in the four Gospels delivered to us, but in that according to the Egyptians;" which puts a marked distinction between the four Gospels and all other histories, or pretended histories of Christ. In another part of his works, the perfect confidence with which he received the Gospels is signified by him in these words: “That it is true appears from hence, that it is written in the Gospel according to St. Luke;" and again, “I need not use many words, but only to allege the evangelic voice of the Lord.” His quotations are numerous. The sayings of Christ, of which he alleges many, are all taken from our Gospels; the single exception to this observation appearing to be a loose 34 quotation of a passage in St. Matthew's Gospel.
XII. In the age in which they lived 35; Tertullian joins on with Clement. The number of the Gospels then received, the names of the evangelists, and their proper descriptions, are exhibited by this writer, in one short sentence:-“ Among the apostles, John and Matthew teach us the faith ; among apostolical men, Luke and Mark refresh it.” The next passage to be taken from Tertullian affords as complete an attestation to the authenticity of our books as can be well imagined. After enumerating the churches which had been founded by Paul at Corinth, in Galatia, at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Ephesus; the church of Rome established by Peter and Paul, and other churches derived from John; he proceeds thus:-“I say then, that with them, but not with them only which are apostolical, but with all who have fellowship with them in the same faith, is that Gospel of Luke received from its first publication, which we so zealously maintain:” and presently afterwards adds; “The same authority of the apostolical churches will support the other Gospels which we have from them, and according to them, I mean John's and Matthew's; although that likewise which Mark published may be said to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was.” In another place Tertullian affirms, that the three other Gospels were in the hands of the churches from the beginning, as well as Luke's. This noble testimony fixes the universality with which the Gospels were received, and their antiquity; that they were in the hands of all, and had been so from the first. And this evidence appears not more than one hundred and fifty years after the publication of the books. The reader must be given to understand, that when Tertullian speaks of maintaining or defending (tuendi) the Gospel of St. Luke, he only means maintaining or defending the integrity of the copies of Luke received by Christian churches, in opposition to certain curtailed copies used by Marcion, against whom he writes.
34 “ Ask great things, and the small shall be added unto you." Clement rather chose to expound the words of Matthew (chap. vi. 33.) than literally to cite them; and this is most undeniably proved by another place in the same Clement, where he both produces the text and these words as an exposition:-“Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness, for these are the great things: but the small things, and things relating to this life, shall be added unto you.” Jones's New and Full Method, vol. i. p. 553.
35 Lardner, vol. ii. p. 561.
This author frequently cites the Acts of the Apostles under that title, once calls it Luke's Commentary, and observes how St. Paul's epistles confirm it.
After this general evidence, it is unnecessary to add particular quotations. These, however, are so numerous and ample, as to have led Dr. Lardner to observe,
that there are more and larger quotations of the small volume of the New Testament in this one Christian author, than there are of all the works of Cicero in writers of all characters for several ages 36.”
Tertullian quotes no Christian writing as of equal authority with the Scriptures, and no spurious books at all; a broad line of distinction, we may once more observe, between our sacred books and all others.
We may again likewise remark the wide extent through which the reputation of the Gospels, and of the Acts of the Apostles, had spread, and the perfect consent, in this point, of distant and independent societies. It is now only about one hundred and fifty years since Christ was crucified; and within this pe
36 Lardner, vol. ii. p. 647. i