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taken it for granted, and sought to build up their particular opinions upon the assumption. “They all suppose the dignity of our Lord's person, and a power of working miracles, together with a high degree of authority, as having been conveyed by him to his
That apocryphal books should have been published in the name of the apostles, is precisely what was to be expected from the wide circulation, great popularity, and eminent reverence which their authentic writings had obtained. Current notes soon awaken a disposition to counterfeit them. Popular medicines soon bring into the market apocryphal inventions wearing their names. The effort to pass off the latter is the best proof of the estimation of the former.
The New Testament writers have been treated in this respect precisely like others. So writes Augustine: “No 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.”+ Such also has been the case with many others. Several spurious orations were published under the names of Lysias and Demosthenes. Works were ascribed to Plautus and Virgil and Horace, which had no title to Lardner, vol. 3, p. 131.
# Ibid. 3, 134.
But it was no difficult matter for the Greek and Roman critics to separate the genuine from the apocryphal works of those authors. Thus it was also with the early Christians. They proved all things, and held fast that only which was good. “We receive Peter and the other apostles as Christ,” said Serapion, bishop of Antioch; "but as skilful men, we reject those writings which are falsely as. cribed to them."
Here we might safely leave the question of authenticity; for if the evidence adduced does not prove the New Testament books to have proceeded from the apostles, no book of a past age has any pretension to authenticity: that Milton wrote Paradise Lost must be considered unworthy of credit; that the orations bearing the name of Cicero were composed or delivered by that orator, must be condemned as one of the apocryphal inventions of some age of monks and darkness. “I find more sure marks of authenticity in the New Testament,” said Sir Isaac Newton, “than in any profane history whatever."
But inasmuch as your minds cannot be furnished with too much information on this fundamental subject, I will reserve some important views for a subsequent lecture.
There is a lesson for the believer in what has been exhibited of great practical interest. It is manifest from the testimonies adduced, that the scriptures of the New Testament were treated among the primitive Christians, not only as true and possessed of inspired authority in reference to all questions of doctrine and
obedience, but as very precious—more to be desired than gold." They loved them as an inestimable treasure; they kept them, consulted them, and exalted them in their hearts and houses and assemblies, as a companion for every trial, a guide in every difficulty, a gift of God, for the preservation and honor of which they were ready to shed their blood. They felt them to be "profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” How does all this rebuke the lukewarmness with which the Scriptures are regarded by too many professing Christians of the present day. In primitive times, believers would read them, though they paid for the privilege with their lives. In these days, multitudes who call themselves believers can hardly be persuaded to search the Scriptures, though every facility is afforded and the Bible is in honor. What a tremendous account must he give to God, who neglects his word! Let us imitate not only the affectionate devotion with which the primitive Christians read the Bible, but also the diligent zeal with which they surmounted innumerable obstacles in circulating copies of its books through the world. We possess facilities for such an object which they had not.
The press is placed in our hands for this very purpose. It is our gift of tongues. Let us realize the responsibility we are under for the improvement of so rich a talent, and speed its work and multiply its branches of application, till the sound of the gospel has gone out into all the earth, and the words of Jesus to the ends of the world, and there is nothing hid from the light thereof.
AUTHENTICITY. AND INTEGRITY OF THE NEW TESTA
Our attention was exclusively occupied, during the last lecture, in tracing up the line of testimony by which the church of Christ in these days is certified that her sacred books, composing the volume of the New Testament, are those very books which were written by the apostles of the Lord Jesus. A series of attestations was followed up, by which we were conducted into the very age and presence of the apostles, and enabled to inquire of those who, having been their contemporaries and in habits of intercourse with them, must necessarily have known what books they wrote. A mass of evidence was obtained, by which the authenticity of the New Testament was placed on the most immovable basis. But, inasmuch as we are now laying the foundation of our subsequent and more direct arguments for the truth of Christianity as a divine revelation, it is of the greatest importance, that in respect to this preliminary subject, every mind be well assured, and that nothing of importance to the impressiveness as well as sufficiency of the evidence be omitted. In the present lecture therefore, we pursue still further the question to which the last was devoted.
From the whole tenor of the previous lecture, it is evident that THE CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENTin other words, the collection of those books which were considered as the inspired and authoritative writings of the apostles and evangelists, to the exclusion of all others- WAS NOT MADE WITHOUT GREAT CARE, AND THE MOST DELIBERATE, INTELLIGENT INVESTIGATION. Such is the witnessing of an eminent writer of the fourth century. “Our canonical books," says Augustine, “which are of the highest authority among us, have been settled with great care: they ought to be few, lest their value should be diminished; and yet, they are so many, and written by so many persons, that their agreement throughout is wonderful."* The method pursued by the early Christians in determining what books had a just claim to the character of canonical scriptures, was precisely that by which we have been investigating the same subject. It was not enough, for the reception of a writing, that it came to them under the name of an apostle, and was considered by some as justly entitled to that honor. Its descent was carefully traced. How was it regarded by the preceding generation, and by the generation before that? Was it known by those who lived nearest the time and the person associated with its claims? Had it been received by the churches-referred to and quoted, as possessing canonical authority, by Christian writers since the period of its general publication? Had it been handed down by the general and concurrent tradition of the church, written
* Lardner, vol. 2, p. 596.