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taught; let no man add to them, or take any thing from them?.”
III. About twenty years after Athanasius, Cyril, bishop of Jerusalem, set forth a catalogue of the books of Scripture, publicly read at that time in the church of Jerusalem, exactly the same as ours, except that the “ Revelation” is omitted.
IV. And fifteen years after Cyril, the council of Laodicea delivered an authoritative catalogue of canonical Scripture, like Cyril's, the same as ours, with the omission of the “ Revelation.”
V. Catalogues now became frequent. Within thirty years after the last date, that is, from the year 363 to near the conclusion of the fourth century, we have catalogues by Epiphanius“, by Gregory Nazianzen", by Philaster bishop of Brescia in Italy", by Amphilochius bishop of Iconium, all, as they are sometimes called, clean catalogues (that is, they admit no books into the number beside what we now receive), and all, for every purpose of historic evidence, the same as ours?
VI. Within the same period, Jerome, the most learned Christian writer of his age, delivered a catalogue of the books of the New Testament, recognising every book now received, with the intimation of a doubt concerning the Epistle to the Hebrews alone, and taking not the least notice of any book which is not now received
2 Lardner, Cred. vol. viii. p. 223. 3 Ib. p. 270. ' " Ib. p. 368. ,-5 lb. vol. ix. p. 132.
6 Ib. vol. ix, p. 373. 7 Epiphanius omits the Acts of the Apostles. This must have been an accidental mistake, either in him or in some copyist of his works; for he elsewhere expressly refers to this book, and ascribes it to Luke.
8 Lardner, Cred, vol. x. p. 77.
VII. Contemporary with Jerome, who lived in Palestine, was St. Augustine, in Africa, who published likewise a catalogue, without joining to the Scriptures, as books of authority, any other ecclesiastical writing whatever, and without omitting one which we at this day acknowledge.
VIII. And with these concurs another contemporary writer, Rufen, presbyter of Aquileia, whose catalogue, like theirs, is perfect and unmixed, and concludes with these remarkable words: “ These are the volumes which the fathers have included in the canon, and out of which they would have us prove the doctrine of our faith 10.”
These propositions cannot be predicated of any of those
books which are commonly called Apocryphal Books
of the New Testament. I do not know that the objection taken from apocryphal writings is at present much relied upon by scholars. But there are many, who, hearing that various Gospels existed in ancient times under the names of the apostles, may have taken up a notion, that the selection of our present Gospels from the rest was rather an arbitrary or accidental choice, than founded in any clear and certain cause of preference. To these it may be very useful to know the truth of the case. I observe, therefore,
I. That besides our Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, no Christian history, claiming to be written by an apostle or apostolical man, is quoted within three
9 Lardner, Cred. vol. X. p. 213. 10 Ib. p. 187.
hundred years after the birth of Christ, by any writer now extant, or known; or, if quoted, is quoted with marks of censure and rejection. . · I have not advanced this assertion without inquiry; and I doubt not but that the passages cited by Mr. Jones and Dr. Lardner, under the several titles which the apocryphal books bear; or a reference to the places where they are mentioned as collected in a very accurate table, published in the year 1773 by the Rev. J. Atkinson, will make out the truth of the proposition to the satisfaction of every fair and competent judgment. If there be any book which may seem to form an exception to the observation, it is a Hebrew Gospel, which was circulated under the various titles of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Nazarenes, of the Ebionites, sometimes called of the Twelve, by some ascribed to St. Matthew. This Gospel is once, and only once, cited by Clemens Alexandrinus, who lived, the reader will remember, in the latter part of the second century, and which same Clement quotes one or other of our four Gospels in almost every page of his work. It is also twice mentioned by Origen, A. D. 230; and both times with marks of diminution and discredit. And this is the ground upon which the exception stands. But what is still more material to observe is, that this Gospel, in the main, agreed with our present Gospel of St. Matthew 1.
Now if, with this account of the apocryphal Gospels, we compare what we have read concerning the canonical Scriptures in the preceding sections; or even
In applying to this Gospel, what Jerome in the latter end of the fourth century has mentioned of a Hebrew Gospel, I think it probable that we sometimes confound it with a Hebrew copy of St. Matthew's Gospel, whether an original or version, which was then extant.
recollect that general but well founded assertion of Dr. Lardner, “ That in the remaining works of Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, who all lived in the two' first centuries, there are more and larger quotations of the small volume of the New Testament than of all the works of Cicero, by writers of all characters, for several ages?;" and if to this we add, that, notwithstanding the loss of many works of the primitive times of Christianity, we have, within the abovementioned period, the remains of Christian writers, who lived in Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, Egypt, the part of Africa that used the Latin tongue, in Crete, Greece, Italy, and Gaul, in all which remains, references are found to our evangelists; I apprehend that we shall perceive a clear and broad line of division between those writings and all others pretending to similiar authority.
II. But beside certain histories which assumed the names of apostles, and which were forgeries properly so called, there were some other Christian writings, in the whole or 'in part of an historical nature, which, though not forgeries, are denominated apocryphal, as being of uncertain or of no authority.
Of this second class of writings, I have found only two which are noticed by any author of the first three centuries, without express terms of condemnation; and these are, the one, a book entitled the Preaching of Peter, quoted repeatedly by Clemens Alexandrinus, A. D. 196; the other, a book entitled the Revelation of Peter, upon which the abovementioned Clemens Alexandrinus is said, by Eusebius, to have written notes; and which is twice cited in a work still extant, ascribed to the same author.
? Lardner, Cred. vol. xii. p. 53.
I conceive therefore, that the proposition we have before advanced, even after it hath been subjected to every exception, of every kind, that can be alleged, separates, by a wide interval, our historical Scriptures from all other writings which profess to give an account of the same subject. We may be permitted however to add,
1. That there is no evidence that any spurious or apocryphal books whatever existed in the first century of the Christian era, in which century all our historical books are proved to have been extant. “ There are no quotations of any such books in the apostolical fathers, by whom I mean Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp, whose writings reach from about the year of our Lord 70 to the year 108 (and some of whom have quoted each and every one of our historical Scriptures); “ I say this,” adds Dr. Lardner,“ because I think it has been proved.”.
2. These apocryphal writings were not read in the churches of Christians;
3. Were not admitted into their volume; *
6. Were not alleged by different parties as of authority in their controversies;
7. Were not the subjects, amongst them, of commentaries, versions, collations, expositions.
Finally, Beside the silence of three centuries, or evidence, within that time, of their rejection, they were, with a consent nearly universal, reprobated by Christian writers of succeeding ages.
Although it be made out by these observations, that the books in question never obtained any degree of
3 Lardner, Cred. vol. xii. p. 158.