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of all sorts, about this time, the second century, pay tribute to the received books of the New Testament, and bear witness, that they were the only authentic records of Jesus Christ and his doctrine.
The Sibylline oracles (whatever were the particular views of the composer) owe all their pretended prophecies concerning our Saviour's nativity, baptism, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension, to our evangelists.
The unknown author of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs bears a large testimony to the facts, principles and books of the New Testament; and, so far as was consistent with his assumed character, he declares the canonical authority of the Acts of the apostles and St. Paul's epistles.
4. All these books are not properly spurious, though they are fitly called apocryphal.
A spurious' work is that which is ascribed to any man as author who did not compose it. In this sense the Recognitions are spurious, because they are ascribed to Clement of Rome, who did not write them. The like may be said of many cther books; but I do not think that the gospels and Acts abovementioned are spurious in this sense. One of our universally acknowledged books of the New Testament is entitled, " The Acts of the apostles ;' but none thereby understand, that they were composed by the apostles. We are assured that they were written by the evangelist Luke; but supposing that no name were affixed to that book, we should not ascribe it to the apostles as authors. Though there were no account in antiquity of the author of the Acts of Paul and Thecla, we should not have imagined that they were written either by St. Paul or Thecla. It is not easy to think that the book, called the Traditions of Matthias (the * same as his gospel) was composed by Matthias himself, or pretended to be so; nor were the Acts of Peter, Andrew, and other apostles, ascribed to them as authors. Acts,' in ancient writers, is sometimes equivalent to · Travels,' or Circuits.' The Acts of Paul and Thecla are called their Travels by• Jerom; and the Acts of Peter are sometimes called his Travels or Circuits: that book was so called from the subject matter of it, as containing an account of his travels, discourses, and miracles, in several places; and it would be absurd to suppose him to , have written that account himself; nor is there any reason to think it was at first ascribed to him as author. The same, as I apprehend, ought to be supposed likewise of those books called Gospels and Preachings of Peter and Paul.
These books bear, in their titles, the names of apostles. We often say, that they are written • in the names of apostles,' and we call them pseudepigraphal;' but it is said chiefly for the sake of brevity, and for avoiding long circumlocutions. For preventing mistakes, that way of speaking might sometimes be declined. In a sense, these books are pseudepigraphal: many things in them are imputed to the apostles, which they neither said nor did ; the histories of them, related in those gospels and acts, are false, fictitious, romantic; but the works themselves were not composed by apostles ; nor were they at first ascribed to them, as I apprehend.
But they are fitly called • apocryphal ;' for they have in their titles the names of apostles, and they make a specious pretence of delivering a true history of their doctrine, discourses, miracles, and travels; though that history is not true and authentic, and was not written by any apostle or apostolical man.
5. The publication of these apocryphal or pseudepigraphal books, may be accounted for; it was very much owing to the fame of Christ and his apostles.
The many • narrations, or short histories, referred to by St. Luke, in the introduction to his gospel, were owing probably to an honest zeal for Christ and his honour; and the composers supposed, that their histories would be acceptable to many, who had heard of Jesus, and believed in him: but being defective, they were soon laid aside ; and the gospels of the four evangelists, when published, were universally received by the faithful, as the authentic histories of Jesus Christ.
The apocryphal gospels and acts published afterwards, were also owing to the fame of Christ · and his apostles, and the great success of their ministry. By the end of the first, or the beginning of the second century, there were in the church many learned men converts from the several sects of philosophy, especially in the eastern part of the empire. These read the scriptures of the New Testament, but they did not rightly interpret them : bringing with them their philosophical principles, and having been used to schemes of philosophy, they formed to themselves a scheme • Vol. i. p. 452-454. • Ib. p. 465. • Vid. Grabe Spicileg. T. i. p. 117, 118. d Vol. i. p. 435.
e Ib. p. 467.
of religion, different from that commonly received among Christians. These peculiar opinions they endeavoured to support by philosophical reasonings; and in order to recommend them, they also laid hold of such traditions concerning Christ and his apostles, though groundless, as were at all favourable to them. These, with fictitious discourses and histories of their own inven. tion, they, or some of their admirers, inserted into a volume; which they published with the title of the Gospel, Acts, or Travels, of some Apostle. To this it is owing, that` in so many of this sort of books may be observed the doctrine of two principles, the evil nature of matter, a wrong notion concerning the person of Christ as man in appearance only, a disadvantageous opinion of marriage, and the like.
6. The case of the apostles of Christ is not singular.
Many men of distinguished characters have had discourses made for them, which themselves knew nothing of; and actions imputed to them, which they never performed; and eminent writers have often had works ascribed to them, of which they were not the authors. Nevertheless, very few impostures of this kind have prevailed in the world, all men being unwilling to be deceived, and many being upon their guard, and readily exerting themselves to detect and expose such things. Says Augustine, in his argument with the Manichees, • Noo writings ever had a
better testimony afforded them, than those of the apostles and evangelists : nor does it weaken * the credit and authority of books received by the church from the beginning, that some other • writings have been without ground, and falsely, ascribed to the apostles; for the like has • happened, for instance, to Hippocrates; but yet his genuine works have been distinguished • from others, which have been published under his name.' Many other such instances might be alleged. Divers orations were falsely ascribed to Demosthenes, and" Lysias, as is observed by Dionysius of Halicarnassus. The same critic and historian has' catalogues of the genuine and spurious orations of Dinarchus. Many things' were published in the name of Plautus which were not his. Some works were ascribed to Virgil
, and 5 Horace, which were not theirs. The Greek and Roman critics distinguished the genuine and spurious works of those famous writers. The primitive Christians acted in the like manner : they did not presently receive every thing proposed to them; they admitted nothing which was not well recommended. Says Serapion, bishop of Antioch, in his examination of the gospel of Peter, : We' receive Peter, and the other • apostles, as Christ; but as skilful men we reject those writings which are falsely ascribed to them.' We have seen many proofs of the caution and circumspection of Christians in former times. For a good while, the epistle to the Hebrews, some of the catholic epistles, and the Revelation, were doubted of by many, when other books of the New Testament were universally acknowledged. The titles of the numerous Gospels and Acts above-mentioned, and the remains of them, whether entire, or fragments only, are monuments of the care, skill, and good judgment of the primitive Christians, and of the presidents of the churches, and their other learned guides and conductors; and we have all the satisfaction which can be reasonably desired, that the books received by them were received upon good ground, and that others were as justly rejected.
If these observations are right (as I hope they are) they may be sufficient to shew, that the books now, and for a long time, called apocryphal,' or pseudepigraphal,' afford no valid argument against either the genuineness or the authority of the books of the New Testament, generally received, as written by apostles and evangelists.
• See Vol. ii.p. 230, 231. and likewise Vol. i. p. 415. hujus poëtæ, quam Varius edidit pro suâ, et alia hujuscemodi ; • Vol.ii. p. 226.
tamen Bucolica Virgilii esse minime dubitandum est. Donat. Dionys. de admirandâ vi dicendi in Dem. sect. 57. Tom. in Vilâ Virgil. ii. p. 320.et alibi. Ed. Huds.
b Venerunt in manus et Elegi sub titulo ejus, et Epistola De Lysia Judic. sect. 12. p. 135. Ibid.
prosâ oratione, quasi commendans se Mæcenati. Sed utraque • De Dinarch. Jud. sect. 9, 10, 11. T. ii. p. 184., 186. falsa puto. Nam elegi vulgares, Epistola etiam obscura. Quo Aul. Gell. Noct. Att. I. 3.
vitio minime tenebatur. Sueton. in Vitá Horat. 8 Quamvis igitur multa 4 Eudeniypapa, id est, falsa inscrip
1 Vol i. p. 414. tione, sub alieno nomine sint prolata, ut Thyestes tragedia
APOSTLES AND EVANGELISTS,
WRITERS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT.
Denominations of the Collection of sacred Books received by Christians. I. Scripturc. II. Bible. III. Canon. IV. Old and New Testament. V. Instrument. VI. Digest. VII. Gospel.
i. One of the general denominations of the sacred books is Scripture, or Scriptures, literally or primarily signifying writing. But by way of eminence and distinction the books in highest esteem are called Scripture, or the Scriptures.
This word occurs often in the New Testament, in the gospels, the Acts, and the epistles. Whereby we perceive, that in the time of our Saviour and his apostles this word was in common use, denoting the books received by the Jewish people, as the rule of their faith. To them have been since added by Christians the writings of the apostles and evangelists, completing the collection of books, received by them as sacred and divine.
Some of the places, where the word scripture is used in the singular number for the books of the Old Testament, are these : 2 Tim. iii. 16, “ All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” And Luke iv. 21. John ii. 22. Acts i. 16; viii. 32, 35. Rom. iv. 3. Gal. iii. 8. James ii. 8, 23. 1 Pet. ii. 6. 2 Pet. i. 20. Scriptures, in the plural number, in these following, and many other places. Matt. xxi. 42; xxii
. 29; xxvi. 54. Luke xxiv. 27, 32, 45. John v. 39. Acts xvii. 2, 11; xviii. 24, 28. 2 Tim. iii. 15.
2 Tim. iii. 15. 2 Pet. iii. 16. St. Peter applies this word to the books of the New as well as of the Old Testament, to St. Paul's epistles in particular : 2 Pet. iii. 16....“ as also in all his epistles...which they that are unlearned wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Plainly denoting, that * St. Paul's epistles are scriptures in the highest sense of the word.
II. Bible is another word, which has now been long in use among Christians, denoting the whole collection of writings received by them as of divine authority.
The word, primarily, denotes book : but now is given to the writings of prophets and apostles by way of eminence.
This collection is the Book or Bible, the book of books, as superior in excellence to all other books. The word seems to be used in this sense by Chrysostom in a
• Hac parte (quod bene notandum est) Petrus canonizat, sicut & cæteras scripturas,' utique significat, se etiam illas in nt ita loquar, id est, in canonem sacrarum scripturarum ascri- scripturarum numero habere. De sacris autem scripturis eum bit, atque canonicas facit, epistolas Pauli. Dicens enim, loqui, in confesso est. Est. in loc. VOL. III.