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epistle, not to keep company with fornicators."*
Learned men are divided
in opinion, some contending that there was an epistle which has not been preserved, and others that he refers to the epistle which he was at that moment writing. There is no doubt that the apostles wrote many letters which are not in existence, and might not be intended for the general use of the church; but tradition makes mention of only two epistles to the Corinthians, although the words naturally suggest that there was another which has not come down to us. The date of the Epistle to the Galatians is very uncertain, and it has been assigned almost to every year between 48 and 52. The Epistle to the Ephesians was written during his imprisonment in Rome, probably in the year 61. Some learned men have contended that this epistle was sent, not to the Ephesians, but to the Laodiceans. The reasons which they give are so insufficient, that we cannot conceive how any person of discernment should have been satisfied with them. Paul says to the Colossians, "When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea." But how this passage proves the point, it is not very easy to see. It is not a clear inference, that an epistle from Laodicea is an epistle which Paul had sent to Laodicea. We do not know what it was; it may have been a letter from the Laodiceans to Paul, about matters in which the Colossians were concerned, and of which, therefore, he transmitted a copy to them. There is certainly not the slightest evidence that it was the epistle to the Ephesians. It is not so called in a single manuscript, and Ephesus is named as the place to which it was sent, in all manuscripts now extant, except one in which it is omitted. The Epistle to the Philippians was written while Paul was a prisoner in the year 62 or 63; and the same date may be assigned to the Epistle to the Colossians. The two epistles to the Thessalonians were earlier, and were written about the year 52. There is much dispute about the date of the first Epistle to Timothy, which has been fixed to the years 57 and 64. The second was written while Paul was in bonds, but whether during his first or second imprisonment, is doubtful. It has been referred to the year 65. It is not known when, or where, the Epistle to Titus was composed; and several years have been mentioned from 52 to 65. Paul was in Rome when he sent his letter to Philemon, and probably wrote it in the year 62.
Of the epistles of Paul, there remains only to be considered that which is addressed to the Hebrews. But, although its antiquity is acknowledged, its genuineness has been disputed, on account, not only of the omission of the name, but of the difference of the style. Jerome says, in his catalogue of ecclesiastical writers, that it was believed not to be Paul's, because the style was different; and that it was attributed to Barnabas, to Luke, or to Clement, bishop of Rome, who arranged and expressed, in his own words, the senti ments of Paul. Some thought that Paul wrote in Hebrew, and that another person translated it into Greek. Origen affirms, that the epistle does not exhibit the simple and humble form of speech which is usual to Paul, but is composed in purer Greek; that the sentiments, however, are admirable, and not inferior to those of his acknowledged epistles. "I would say," he adds, "that the sentiments are Paul's; but that the language is that of another person, who committed them to writing; but who wrote the epistle, God only knows." At the same time, he admits that it may be received as an epistle of Paul. It is attributed to him, at an earlier period, by Clemens Alexan drinus, and finally was acknowledged as his production by the Catholic church. Some learned men have denied that there is such a difference of
1 Cor. v. 9.
+ Quoted by Euseb. Eccl. Hist. lib. vi. c. 25. VOL. I.-7 E
† Col. iv. 16.
style as warrants the supposition of a different author. There are also internal proofs that it was written by him, consisting in its similarity to his other epistles, in expressions, allusions, and modes of interpreting and applying passages of the Old Testament. It was sent from Italy; and, as he proposed soon to visit the Hebrews, in company with Timothy, then restored to liberty. it must have been written after his own release from prison, in the year 62 or 63.
There remain to be considered the Catholic epistles. The genuineness of them all, with the exception of the first epistle of Peter, and the first of John, was, for a time, called in question by some; but, upon accurate examination, they were finally received as the productions of those to whom they were ascribed. The first, according to the order in our Bibles, is the Epistle of James, who has prefixed his name to it, and addressed it to the twelve tribes. scattered abroad. There was another person of this name, who was the brother of John, and was put to death by Herod; but this James was the son of Alpheus, or Cleophas, and is called the brother of our Lord, because he was nearly related to him. He is sometimes called James the Just; this honourable title having been given to him, for the distinguished holiness of his life. He is said to have resided much in Jerusalem, where he wrote this epistle, it is supposed, in the year 61, and suffered martyrdom in the year 62. The first epistle of Peter was sent from Babylon; but learned men are not agreed what city is meant; some of the ancients supposed, and several of the moderns concur with them in thinking, that it is the mystical Babylon, or the city of Rome. Their reasons I consider as by no means satisfactory. Rome is, indeed, called Babylon in the Revelation of John, but we have no evidence that it had received that name in Peter's time, and still less that it was so common as, without any danger of mistake, to suggest the proper sense to the Christian reader. It is impossible to conceive any reason why, in a plain epistle and a common salutation, Rome should be called Babylon. In whatever place it was written, the epistle is assigned to the year 64. The second epistle seems to have been written not long after, for the apostle signifies that his death was near, which is said to have taken place in the year 65. Although no name is prefixed to the first epistle of John, it was received by the ancient church as genuine, and contains internal evidence that it was written by him, in its striking similarity to his gospel, both in sentiment and in language. Various dates have been assigned to it, from the year 68 to 92. From the expression, "It is the last time,"* it has been inferred, that it was written when the Jewish state was drawing to an end, or shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem; but the expression has been understood of the close of the apostolic age. The second and third epistles have been referred to the year 69. It was some time before they were acknowledged as genuine; and as they were addressed to individuals, it is probable that some time elapsed before they were generally known. Jude, who is also called Lebbæus and Thaddeus, was a son of Alpheus, and like James the Less, the brother or near relative of our Lord. His short epistle, which was addressed to the saints in general, has been assigned to the year 70. The quotation of a prophecy of Enoch, which is not found in the Scriptures, is no argument against the genuineness or the authenticity of the epistle, because it was a true prophecy, in whatever way he came to the knowledge of it. We have no reason to believe that the Apocryphal book, called the prophecy of Enoch, from which some have supposed it to be taken, was then in existence; and we may presume that the forgery was suggested by the passage in Jude.
The last book of the New Testament is the Revelation of John. Its
genuineness was called in question by some in the third and the fourth centuries, but it was received at an early period as the work of the apostle. Polycarp, who was his disciple, has cited it once. Justin Martyr, in a. D. 140, acknowledges it as his; and Irenæus, who was the disciple of Polycarp, repeatedly quotes it as the production of John the disciple of the Lord. To these may be added, in the second century, Athenagoras, Theophilus, Apollonius, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, who defends the book against Marcion and his followers. Several objections against the genuineness of the Revelation were advanced by Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, about the middle of the third century, who ascribed it to another John, an elder of the church of Ephesus; but most of them are trifling, and none of them is sufficient to invalidate the testimony in its favour. The suspicions of some were founded on a fancied resemblance between the prediction of the reign of Christ with his saints for a thousand years, and the doctrine of Cerinthus, that our Saviour would establish a kingdom upon earth, in which his subjects would be admitted to the unrestrained enjoyment of carnal delights. We Ican only wonder at the stupidity of those who confounded things totally different. The Revelation was omitted in several of the catalogues of the canonical books; but the reason seems to have been, that on account of its obscurity, it was not deemed proper to be publicly read. The prophetic visions recorded in it, were seen in Patmos, to which John had been banished by Domitian, and from which he was permitted to return after the death of that emperor. This happened in the year 96, and about that time the book may be dated.
There were many books in former times which pretended to be the productions of the persons to whom the acknowledged books are ascribed. They are so numerous, that it would be a waste of time to go over them all. A few of them remain, but the greater part have perished. I may mention the Gospel according to the Hebrews, the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel according to the Egyptians, the Gospel of Thomas, the Revelation of Paul, the Revelation of Peter, and some books under the name of Christ. Of all these, nothing is left but the names and a few fragments. But we have still the Gospel of Mary, the Protevangeleum of James, the Gospel of our Saviour's infancy, the Gospel of Nicodemus or the Acts of Pilate, the Acts of Paul and Thecla, a Letter of our Lord to Abgarus, king of Edessa, and letters of Paul to Seneca. All these books have been rejected as spurious, because they contain histories and doctrines contrary to those which were known to be true; because the matter is silly, and evidently fabulous; because things are related in them which were posterior to the times in which those lived under whose names they were published; because the style is different from that of the authors to whom they are ascribed; and because they breathe a different spirit from that of the persons by whom they claim to have been written. No mention is made of them by the Christian authors of the first century, Barnabas, Hermas, and Clemens; or by Ignatius and Polycarp, of the second; succeeding writers rarely refer to them, and then speak of them in terms expressive of disrespect; they were forbidden to be read in the churches, and were not appealed to as authorities in matters of doctrine and controversy. They were treated as human compositions, and as forgeries. and those which have survived the wreck, are such wretched compositions, that only the most stupid of mankind could deem them worthy of a place among the books of the New Testament.
The question, Whether any books have been lost? will admit of different answers, according as the question is stated. We have no reason to think that any book which the evangelists or apostles wrote for the permanent use of the church, has disappeared, because no hint of this kind is given by those
who, living near their time, had the best opportunities of knowing. Much that was spoken by inspiration was never recorded, for the apostles, we believe, were assisted by the Spirit in preaching as well as in writing; and it is not to be doubted, that they sent letters to individuals and to societies, which did not long survive the occasions which they were intended to serve. There were many prophets under the Jewish dispensation, of whom we have no memorial but their names, although it may be presumed that their predictions were sometimes committed to writing. It is said of Jeroboam, son of Joash, king of Israel, "he that restored the coast of Israel, from the entering of Hamath unto the sea of the plain, according to the word of the Lord God of Israel, which he spake by the hand of his servant Jonah, the son of Amittai the prophet, which was of Gath-hepher."* Now, here is a prediction which was preserved, but of which there is not a vestige in the Old Testament, till it is incidentally mentioned at the time of its fulfilment. There may have been, and there must have been, many other prophecies written down and fulfilled, of which no trace remains. The gospels contain only a small specimen of the miracles and discourses of our Saviour; the greater part is irrecoverably gone-"The world itself could not contain the books which might have been written." What we contend for is, not that all the writings of the apostles have been transmitted to us, but that those have been preserved which were designed to convey the religion of Christ to succeeding generations. And hence it follows, that although the inference were true, which some have drawn from a passage in the first Epistle to the Corinthians, formerly quoted, that there was another epistle addressed by Paul to that church, which has perished, there would be nothing in the idea to startle us and to disturb our faith, because we have no reason to suppose that all that inspired men wrote was to be preserved, any more than all that they spoke. It is enough that we possess all the books which were considered by the Christians in the early ages, as constituting the perpetual rule of faith and manners to the church.
This historical account of the books of the New Testament is intended to assist us in the inquiry whether they are genuine; an inquiry which may appear to some, but I trust to none of you, to be superfluous, or perhaps impious, because it may be understood to imply a state of mind approaching to infidelity. What!' it may be said, shall we dare to doubt that the New Testament is the work of the evangelists and apostles?' To this question we would answer, that the inquiry does not proceed from any suspicion, but is instituted for the purpose of satisfying ourselves, or, if we are already satisfied, of convincing others, who are not so well informed, that the books really possess the authority which is commonly ascribed to them. We are bound to give a reason of our faith; and it is particularly incumbent upon those to be able to do so, who are the appointed guardians of religion, and are officially called to defend it against the attacks of its adversaries. The subject, howeverdoes not meet with all the attention which it deserves. There may be ministers of the gospel who are very slightly acquainted with it; and among the private members of the church, it is rare to find any who have thought of it at all. It was long ago observed by Mr. Baxter, that "few Christians among us have any better than the popish implicit faith on this point, nor any better arguments than the papists have, to prove the Scriptures the word of God. They have received it by tradition; godly ministers and Christians tell them so; it is impious to doubt of it; therefore they believe it. Though we could persuade people never so confidently, that Scripture is the very word of God, and yet teach them no more reason why they should believe this than any
* 2 Kings xiv. 25.
† John xxi. 25.
other book to be that word; as it will prove in them no right way of believing, so it is in us no right way of teaching.' Many ministers never give their people better ground than their own authority, or that of the church, but tell them that it is damnable to deny it, but help them not to the necessary antecedents of faith."*
It has been said, that "we receive the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament as the only sacred and canonical books, not because the church receives them as such, but because the Holy Ghost witnesses to our consciences that they proceed from God, and themselves testify their authority." Similar assertions have been made by other learned and pious individuals, but they require to be explained. We do not deny that a man may be convinced of the truth of the gospel by internal evidence. He may have the witness in himself, because it has come to him with such power and demonstration, that he could no more doubt that it was the word of God, than if it had been proclaimed by a voice from heaven. Many have firmly believed the truth, and led a holy life, and submitted to death for Christ, who had no other evidence. But observe, that this evidence could go no farther than to satisfy them that those doctrines and promises were from God, by which they were enlightened, sanctified, comforted, and inspired with more than human courage, and with the triumphant hope of immortality. How could it convince them that all the books of the Bible are divine? How could it enable them to distinguish, as the French church pretends, between the canonical and the apocryphal books? There is more reason and truth in the words of Baxter:-"For my part, I confess, I could never boast of any such testimony or light of the Spirit, which, without human testimony, would have made me believe that the book of Canticles is canonical, and written by Solomon, and the book of Wisdom apocryphal, and written by Philo. Nor could I have known all or any historical books, such as Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chro nicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, to be written by divine inspiration, but by tradition."
EVIDENCES OF CHRISTIANITY.
General Evidence of the Genuineness of the New Testament-Testimony of early Writers; Of early Heretics, and Infidels: The Syriac Version-Force of these Testimonies-Internal Marks of Genuineness; The Style; The Nature of the Composition, and Narrative: Discrepancies and Coincidences-Paley's Hore Paulinæ.
HAVING given an account of the books of the New Testament, I proceed to lay before you the evidence by which it is proved that they were written by the persons whose names they bear. This work has been already performed with great diligence and learning by different authors, among whom I refer you, in particular, to Jones, in his new and full method of settling the canonical authority of the New Testament; and to Lardner, in the second part of his Credibility of the Gospel History. The subject may be said to have been exhausted by them; and nothing is left to others, but to verify their references by consulting the original authors, or now and then, perhaps, to add a passage which had escaped their observation.
* Baxter's Saints' Rest, part ii. chap. ii. § 1.