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johYd, by Persons of all Sects and OpiI nions' to the rest of the Books, which we esteem Canonical.
We readily grant again, that, in the The Cafe primitive Times,there were other Books Mother besides the Holy Scriptures, wrote by Books. pious and learned Men, and held in such high Esteem, as to be read in Christian Assemblies j but then we are to consider, that * how justly soever we may value them, yet, upon Enquiry, we shall find, that there is something Humane, something of Infirmity, something of Fallibility in them, which makes them inferior to what is Apostolical; that the best approv'd Piece of them all (I mean the Epistle of Clemens to the Corinthians) \vas,fot many Ages, supposed to be lost, and though, upon its appearing again, the best Criticks thought they had good Reason to pronounce it Genuine, yet, they could not be sure, that it was entirely free from Corruption or Interpolation j that though these Ecclefiafical Writers (as they were called) were, for sometime, read in Churches, yet they were not read as Canonical Scripture, but only in the Nature of Homilies, and Exhortations to Virtue and Piety j and that in Process of Time, even this Practice came to be laid aside, and noE 4 thing
: CUrh's, Reflections on Amyntor.
thing allow'd to be read publickly, but what was of undoubted apoftolick Authority.
The f he This is.the truc History of the Canon
New of Scripture, in some of the earliest Testa- Times of Christianity: And that it con"„"-4°"_" tinued the fame in succeeding Ages, tire. without any Addition or Mutilation, its being translated into so many Tongues, in the four first Centuries, and difpers'd into so many Hands, in so many different Countries, as well as T the Copies of great Antiquity still extant among us, are a convincing Argument; especially considering, that the several Sects of Christians were, all along, so jealous and watchful over each other, that no spurious Piece could be introduced, or genuine Piece suppressed, without their Knowledge and Remonstrance; nor can we imagine, how any Catalogue of
1 Such are the Cambridge Copy, in Greek and Latin, containing the four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles; that in the French King's Library, containing St.P^«/'s tpistles; and that in the Library of the Benediclins of St. Germains, all supposed to be above a thousand Years old. The Alexandrian Copy is believed to have been written by Thecla, above 1300 Years ago; a Syriack Manuscript, ia the Library of the Duke of Florence, and a Gothick Translation, of the four Evangelists, formerly belonging to the Abbey of Werdin, are each of them of above a thousand Years Antiquity; besides many more, which are in private Hands. Jenkins Reasonableness, vol. 2.
Books should be received, (exclusive of all others,) but upon the clearest Evidence and. Conviction of their containing the true, and only authentick Rule of Faith and Practice.
We acknowledge once more, thatNotwiththe Number of various Lections in the standil>g New Testament is far from being small; ousRerfbut then it ought to be considered, ing. . z either that most of the/e are of no moment, consisting chiefly of Jynonimous "Words, or expletive Particles j or, that if they be, they are such apparent Errata, as may easily be diicover'd and corrected; that there is hardly one Text, which contains any Article of Faiths subject to such various Readings, as are contrary to sound Doctrine; or that, if there be, there is such a multitude of other Places, wherein the fame Doctrines are plainly and undoubtedly taught, that the different Readings of' one or two Places can be no Prejudice to the constant Tenour of the .whole. Considering, then, what a multitude of Copies and Versions have been made of the New Testament, more certainly than of any other Book extant, instead of wondering at the Differences found among them, which were occasion'd, in 9 great Measure, by the Ignorance or
Negligence of the rfrmjlators, or 'sranfcribers, we ought to account it no imall Instance of Providence, that it has eseap'd, with so inconsiderable Variations, from those Corruptions and Alterations, which are so frequent in humane Writings. A Reca- Upon a Review then of what has been pitulati- said on this Subject, we may resolve °nh°fetheour selves in this Question—" What Answer. " Security, at this Distance of Time, "have we, that the true and authentick "Canon of the New Testament has "descended to us?" For if the primitive Christians had sofficient Means and Opportunities of knowing what Books were Genuine, or of apojiolich Writing j if, in the latter End of the first Century, the Canon of the New Testament was settled by St. John, a Person every way qualified for that Purpose, and, not long after that, recommended to the Churches every where, and recogniz'd by Synods and Councils; if these apostolick Books were mention'd and recited in the Works of the most ancient Fathers, and acknowledg'd to be soch, in the Writings of those, who bore no good Will to the Christian Cause; if some t few of these, whose Pretensions were at first disputed, were allowed to be Genuine by the best Judges j were receiv'd
into the Canon much sooner than is
S £ C T. IV.
The Evidence of Miracles and
"~T> UT be the Canon of Scripture Theob"iJ never so entire, and its Authors Jeaion' u never so honejt, and never so much u inspir'd; yet how shall we know the "Truth of the Christian Religion, and