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Scriptures say, that the Son is a creature, as one of the creatures, let him be an anathema 23.” They and the Athanasians mutually accuse each other of using unscriptural phrases; which was a mutual acknowledgment of the conclusive authority of Scripture.
XIV. The Priscillianists, A. D. 378 24, the Pelagians, A. D. 40525, received the same Scriptures as we do.
XV. The testimony of Chrysostom, who lived near the year 400, is so positive in affirmation of the proposition which we maintain, that it may form a proper conclusion of the argument. “The general reception of the Gospels is a proof that their history is true and consistent; for, since the writing of the Gospels, many heresies have arisen, holding opinions contrary to what is contained in them, who yet receive the Gospels either entire or in part 26.” I am not moved by what may seem a deduction from Chrysostom's testimony, the words “entire or in part;" for, if all the parts which were ever questioned in our Gospels were given up, it would not affect the miraculous origin of the religion in the smallest degree: e. g.
Cerinthus is said by Epiphanius to have received the Gospel of Matthew, but not entire. What the omissions were does not appear. The common opinion that he rejected the first two chapters seems to have been a mistake 27. It is agreed, however, by all who have given any account of Cerinthus, that he taught that the Holy Ghost (whether he meant by that name a person or a power) descended upon Jesus at his baptism; that Jesus from this time performed many miracles; and that he appeared after his death. He must have retained therefore the essential parts of the history.
23 Lardner, vol. vii. p. 277.
24 Ib. vol. ix. p. 325.
Of all the ancient heretics the most extraordinary was Marcion 28. One of his tenets was the rejection of the Old Testament, as proceeding from an inferior and imperfect deity: and in pursuance of this hypothesis he erased from the New, and that, as it should seem, without entering into any critical reasons, every passage which recognised the Jewish Scriptures. He spared not a text which contradicted his opinion. It is reasonable to believe that Marcion treated books as he treated texts; yet this rash and wild controversialist published a recension or chastised edition of St. Luke's Gospel, containing the leading facts, and all which is necessary to authenticate the religion. This example affords proof that there were always some points, and those the main points, which neither wildness nor rashness, neither the fury of opposition, nor the intemperance of controversy, would venture to call in question. There is no reason to believe that Marcion, though full of resentment against the Catholic Christians, ever charged them with forging their books. “The Gospel of St. Matthew, the Epistle to the Hebrews, with those of St. Peter and St. James, as well as the Old Testament in general,” he said, “ were writing's not for Christians but for Jews 29.” This declaration shows the ground upon which Marcion proceeded in his mutilation of the Scriptures, viz. his dislike of the passages or the books. Marcion flourished about the year 130.
Dr. Lardner, in his general Review, sums up this 28 Lardner, sect. ii. c. X. Also Michael. vol. i. c. i. sect. xviii.
29 I have transcribed this sentence from Michaelis (p. 38), who has not, however, referred to the authority upon which he attributes these words to Marcion.
head of evidence in the following words: “ Noëtus, Paul of Samosata, Sabellius, Marcellus, Photinus, the Novatians, Donatists, Manicheans 30, Priscillianists, beside Artemon, the Audians, the Arians, and divers others, all received most or all the same books of the New Testament which the Catholics received; and agreed in a like respect for them as written by apostles, or their disciples and companions 31.”
SECT. VIII. The four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen
Epistles of St. Paul, the First Epistle of John, and the First of Peter, were received without doubt by those who doubted concerning the other Books which
are included in our present Canon. I STATE this proposition, because, if made out, it shows that the authenticity of their books was a subject amongst the early Christians of consideration and inquiry; and that, where there was cause of doubt, they did doubt; a circumstance which strengthens very much their testimony to such books as were received by them with full acquiescence.
I. Jerome, in his account of Caius, who was probably a presbyter of Rome, and who flourished near the year 200, records of him, that, reckoning up only thirteen epistles of Paul, he says the fourteenth, which is inscribed to the Hebrews, is not his : and then Jerome adds,“ With the Romans to this day it is not 'looked upon as Paul's.” This agrees in the main with
30 This must be with an exception, however, of Faustus, who lived so late as the year 384.
31 Lardner, vol. xii. p. 12.—Dr. Lardner's future inquiries supplied him with many other instances.
the account given by Eusebius of the same ancient author and his work; except that Eusebius delivers his own remark in more guarded terms: “And indeed to this very time, by some of the Romans, this epistle is not thought to be the apostle's ?.”
II. Origen, about twenty years after Caius, quoting the Epistle to the Hebrews, observes that some might dispute the authority of that epistle; and therefore proceeds to quote to the same point, as undoubted books of Scripture, the Gospel of St. Matthew, the Acts of the Apostles, and Paul's First Epistle to the Thessalonians ?. And in another place this author speaks of the. Epistle to the Hebrews thus:—“The account come down to us is various; some saying that Clement, who was bishop of Rome, wrote this Epistle; others, that it was Luke, the same who wrote the Gospel and the Acts.” Speaking also, in the same paragraph, of Peter, “Peter," says he, “ has left one epistle acknowledged ; let it be granted likewise that he wrote a second, for it is doubted of.” And of John, “He has also left one epistle, of a very few lines; grant also a second and a third, for all do not allow them to be genuine.” Now let it be noted that Origen, who thus discriminates, and thus confesses his own doubts, and the doubts which subsisted in his time, expressly witnesses concerning the four Gospels, " that they alone are received without dispute by the whole church of God under heaven 3.”
III. Dionysius of Alexandria, in the year 247, doubts concerning the Book of Revelation, whether it was written by St. John; states the grounds of his doubt; represents the diversity of opinion concerning 1 Lardner, vol. iii. p. 240.
? Ibid. vol. iii, p. 246. 3 Ibid. vol. iii. p. 234.
it in his own time, and before his time. Yet the same Dionysius uses and collates the four Gospels in a manner which shows that he entertained not the smallest suspicion of their authority, and in a manner also which shows that they, and they alone, were received as authentic histories of Christ”.
IV. But this section may be said to have been framed on purpose to introduce to the reader two remarkable passages extant in Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History. The first passage opens with these words: “Let us observe the writings of the apostle John, which are uncontradicted ; and first of all must be mentioned, as acknowledged of all, the Gospel according to him, well known to all the churches under heaven.” The author then proceeds to relate the occasions of writing the Gospels, and the reasons for placing St. John's the last, manifestly speaking of all the four as parallel in their authority, and in the certainty of their original 6. The second passage is taken from a chapter, the title of which is, “Of the Scriptures universally acknowledged, and of those that are not such.” Eusebius begins his enumeration in the following manner: - In the first place are to be ranked the sacred four Gospels; then the book of the Acts of the Apostles ; after that are to be reckoned the Epistles of Paul. In the next place, that called the First Epistle of John and the Epistle of Peter are to be esteemed authentic. After this is to be placed, if it be thought fit, the Revelation of John, about which we shall observe the different opinions at proper seasons. Of the controverted, but yet well known or approved by the most, are that called the Epistle of James, and that of Jude,
Lardner, vol. iv. p. 670. . s Ibid. vol. iv. p. 661. 6 Ibid. vol. viii. p. 90.