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SEC T. III.
Of the Canon of the New Testament.
<c T3 UT how well qualified and The ob
"i3 assisted soever these Evangeli- Jection
'* cal Penmen might be, yet by what
"means ihaii we be able to know, whe
<c ther one authentick Copy of all they
"wrote has ever descended to us, since
** the Transmutations in them have been
** so many, and their Genuineness so of
"ten disputed } » since some Pieces,
** which were at first received, were
"afterwards rejected, as spurious, and
"others, which were at first rejected,
11 were afterwards receiv'd as canonical,
"and Matters, in short, were reduc'd
"to such uncertainty, that there was
"no single Book of the New Testa
K ment, which was not refus'd by some
"of the Ancients, as unjustly father'd
"upon the Apojlles? k Several of these
u Books, we cannot but acknowledge,
'Vid. Toltincfs Amyjator. "Vid. The Ground* and Reasons of the Christ. Religion.
are piously written, and upon Subjects of great Concern to Salvation, and were therefore, in Process of Time, made canonical by* the Church; but then this was plainly an accidental Event, which befel those Books gra"dually, after long Disputes about "their Authority, and might have be"fallen other pious Books, which, l< though deem'd Scripture, and declar'd "canonical by the Ancients, have been "since rejected, as Supposition and "Apocryphal. The Epistles of Bar11 nabas, for Instance, the Pastor of *' Hermas, the Epistles of Polycarp, a of Clemens, of Ignatius, were, all "held in great Esteem, and publickly "read in the primitive Church, whilst "the Epistle to the Hebrews, that of "James the second of Peter, these-<
• cond and third of John, &c- were, tt for a long time, universally rejected; *' and now what Reason can be givenj
* why they should have such different w Fates. Why the former mould be
postpon'd, and the latter received M with so much Veneration, fctit'thc "pure Caprice of those, who had "the u Establishment of the present CanorV; "and who were many hundred Years "Wrangling and disputing, before they *' could adjust this mighty Matter. So :,., « that,
"that, upon the whole, we, who live
** at this Distance of Time, must labour
ct under great Uncertainty, and have
<c some Reason to doubt, whether, af
"tei so many Changes and Chances,
"we have one Word of the Apostles
"genuine Works, in the whole New
The Word Canon is originally Gretk, Answerand, in its common Acceptation, signi- ed, fies a Rule; and therefore when we employ it in an Eccle/jaflical Sense, we understand by the Canont or Canonical JBooks, those -Books, which, confin'd to a certain Number, were design'd by God to be the Rule of our Faith and Practice. ....?,
That the primitive Christians had By fhewiufficient Means and Opportunities to ing, thac distinguish the genuine and inspired Wri- th.e.Pri* tings, from what were Jpochryphal or. ChristiSpurious, no one can doubts who con- a»«h.a<l siders, that the Original Writings of the Sppom' Apostles themselves (whose Hands they nicies of were not unacquainted with) were in khneov^n8 their Custody; that though the Apostles' °k*
wrote to whole Churches, yet particu- Books of lar Men are frequently nam'd in their Testa-6* Epistles, which was a great means to as- ment. certain their Authority; that no sooner
were these Epistles sent Q as is plain in the Case of St. Pauss) to particular Churches, but they were published and ready with other sacred Scriptures, in their open Assemblies; that Copies authentically attested were immediately taken of them, sufficient to answer the Number of the Churches and ChurchOfficers, which the Apostles had every where settled; and (what is more than all) that at this time, there Hill remained the miraculous Giftm of discerning Spirits, whereby Persons, who were endued with it, were enabled to distinguish true Revelation from Impostures. That the ^s rea^°naDle t0 suppose therefore, camn of that, during this Period of Time, wherethe New jn the Efelps and Advantages attending menrwas the Church were so many, God mould fettled by provide himself with a proper InstruSt. John. ment> to fettle and determine the Rule
of our Faith, and thereby preserve the Christian World from' all future Uncertainty. And, accordingly, some * have observ'd, that St. "John> who wrote
his Gospel and Epistles against those Hereticks chiefly, who were the most notorious Forgers of spurious, and corrupters of the true Books of the Scripture, had his Life prolong'd by
Provi'Col. iv. \i. : Pet. iii \6. ;i Cor. xii. i*.
Providence, that he might be able both to vindicate and compleat *the whole Canon thereof: 'Tis certain from Ease. him, that he reviled the three Golpels, before he wrote his own 5 and Photius tells us another Circumstance, viz. That the Versions of the Golpels were appro v'd by him, as well as the Originals; nor can we doubt, but that, in so long a Life, he had seen the Works of the rest of the Apostles, and given them his Approbation : As what indeed could be more worthy his Care, or more necessary at that Juncture, than that he should ascertain the Authority of those Writings, which were to be the Churches great Preservative against those Heresies, which, even then, became too numerousj and which, he could not but foresee, would occasion no small Scandal and Disturbance in future Ages?
What gives a farther Confirmation of ThN
second Century, about the Time of^Hf. St. John's Death, or immediately after onlfk it, there were great Numbers'of Per-*"'"• sons, Disciples of the Apostles, who traveii'd over the World, building up E Churches,
; Lib. 3. ch. 37.