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Ebionites, an early, though inconsiderable Christian sect, rejected St. Paul and his epistles * ; that is, they rejected these epistles, not because they were not, but because they were St. Paul's; and because, adhering to the obligation of the Jewish law, they chose to dispute his doctrine and authority. Their suffrage as to the genuineness of the epistles does not contradict that of other Christians. Marcion, an heretical writer in the former part of the second century, is said by Tertullian to have rejected three of the epistles which we now receive, viz. the two Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus. It appears to me not improbable, that Marcion might make some such distinction as this, that no apostolic epistle was to be admitted which was not read or attested by the church to which it was sent; for it is remarkable that, together with these epistles to private persons, he rejected also the catholic epistles. Now the catholic epistles and the epistles to private persons agree in the circumstance of wanting this particular species of attestation. Marcion, it seems, acknowledged the Epistle to Philemon, and is upbraided for his inconsistency in doing so by Tertulliant, who asks

why, when he received a letter written to a single per

son, he should refuse two to Timothy and one to Titus “ composed upon the affairs of the church?” This passage so far favours our account of Marcion's objection, as it shows that the objection was supposed by Tertullian to have been founded in something, which belonged to the nature of a private letter.

Nothing of the works of Marcion remains. Probably he was, after all, a rash, arbitrary, licentious critic (if he deserved indeed the name of critic), and who offered no reason for his determination, What St. Jerome says of him intimates this, and is beside founded in good sense ; speaking of him and Basilides, “ if they had assigned any “ reasons," says he,“

says he,“ why they did not reckon these epistles,” viz. the First and Second to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus, “to be the apostle's, we would “ have endeavoured to have answered them, and perhaps “ might have satisfied the reader ; but when they take

* Lardner, vol. ii. p. 808.

+ Ibid. vol. xiv. p. 455.

upon them, by their own authority, to pronounce one epistle to be Paul's, and another not, they can only be replied to in the same manner." *

Let it be remembered, however, that Marcion received ten of these epistles. His authority, therefore, even if his credit had been better than it is, forms a very small exception to the uniformity of the evidence. Of Basilides we know still less than we do of Marcion. The same observation however belongs to him, viz. that his objection, as far as appears from this passage of St. Jerome, was confined to the three private epistles. Yet is this the only opinion which can be said to disturb the consent of the two first centuries of the Christian æra; for as to Tatian, who is reported by Jerome alone to have rejected some of St. Paul's epistles, the extravagant or rather delirious notions into which he fell, take away all weight and credit from his judgment. If, indeed, Jerome's account of this circumstance be correct; for it appears from much older writers than Jerome, that Tatian owned and used many of these epistles.

II. They, who in those ages disputed about so many other points, agreed in acknowledging the scriptures now before us. Contending sects appealed to them in their controversies with equal and unreserved submission. When they were urged by one side, however they might be interpreted or misinterpreted by the other, their authority was not questioned : “ Reliqui omnes,

Reliqui omnes,” says Irenæus, speaking of Marcion, “ falso scientiæ nomine inflati, “ scripturas quidem confitentur, interpretationes vero con“ vertunt." I

III. When the genuineness of some other writings which were in circulation, and even of a few which are now received into the canon, was contested, these were never called into dispute. Whatever was the objection, or whether, in truth, there ever was any real objection to the authenticity of the Second Epistle of Peter, the Second and Third of John, the Epistle of James, or that of Jude, or to the book of the Revelations of St. Jo * Lardner, vol. xiv. p. 458.

+ Ibid. vol. i. p. 313. # Iren. advers. Hær. quoted by Lardner, vol. xv. p. 425.

the doubts that appear to have been entertained concerning them, exceedingly strengthen the force of the testimony as to those writings, about which there was no doubt ; because it shows, that the matter was a subject, amongst the early Christians, of examination and discussion, and that, where there was any room to doubt, they did doubt.

What Eusebius hath left upon the subject is directly to the purpose of this observation. Eusebius, it is well known, divided the ecclesiastical writings which were extant in his time into three classes ; the “ αναντίρρητα “ uncontradicted,” as he calls them in one chapter ; or

scriptures universally acknowledged,” as he calls them in another; the “ controverted, yet well known and approved by many ;” and the “

” and the “ spurious.” What were the shades of difference in the books of the second, or in those of the third class; or what it was precisely that he meant by the term spurious, it is not necessary in this place to enquire. It is sufficient for us to find, that the thirteen epistles of St. Paul are placed by him in the first class without any sort of hesitation or doubt.

It is farther also to be collected from the chapter in which this distinction is laid down, that the method made use of by Eusebius, and by the Christians of his time, viz. the close of the third century, in judging concerning the sacred authority of any books, was to enquire after and consider the testimony of those who lived near the age of the apostles.*

IV. No ancient writing, which is attested as these epistles are, hath had its authenticity disproved, or is in fact questioned. The controversies which have been moved concerning suspected writings, as the epistles, for instance, of Phalaris, or the eighteen epistles of Cicero, begin by showing that this attestation is wanting. That being proved, the question is thrown back upon

internal marks of spuriousness or authenticity; and in these the dispute is occupied. In which disputes it is to be observed, that the contested writings are commonly attacked by arguments drawn from some opposition which they

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betray to “authentic history,” to “true epistles,” to “ the " real sentiments or circumstances of the author whom

they personate*;" which authentic history, which true epistles, which real sentiments themselves, are no other than ancient documents, whose early existence and reception can be proved, in the manner in which the writings before us are traced up to the age of their reputed author, or to ages near to his. A modern, who sits down to compose the history of some ancient period, has no stronger evidence to appeal to for the most confident assertion, or the most undisputed fact, that he delivers, than writings, whose genuineness is proved by the same medium through which we evince the authenticity of

Nor, whilst he can have recourse to such authorities as these, does he apprehend any uncertainty in his accounts, from the suspicion of spuriousness or imposture in his materials.

V. It cannot be shown that any forgeries properly so called t, that is, writings published under the name of the person who did not compose them, made their appearance in the first century of the Christian æra, in which century these epistles undoubtedly existed. I shall set down under this proposition the guarded words of Lardner himself: “ There are no quotations of any of them (spurious “ and apocryphal books) in the apostolical fathers, by “ whom I mean Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas,

Ignatius, and Polycarp, whose writings reach from the year of our Lord 70 to the year 108. I say this confidently, because I think it has been proved.Lardner, vol. xii. p. 158.

Nor when they did appear were they much used by the primitive Christians. “ Irenæus quotes not any of these s books. He mentions some of them, but he never ' quotes them.

The same may be said of Tertullian : he “ has mentioned a book called • Acts of Paul and Thecla ;' “ but it is only to condemn it. Clement of Alexandria and “ Origen have mentioned and quoted several such books, “ but never as authority, and sometimes with express “ marks of dislike. Eusebius quotes no such books in “ any of his works. He has mentioned them indeed, “ but how ? Not by way of approbation, but to show that

* See the tracts written in the controversy between Tunstal and Middleton upon certain suspected epistles ascribed to Cicero.

+ I believe that there is a great deal of truth in Dr. Lardner's observations, that comparatively few of those books, which we call apocryphal, were strictly and originally forgeries. See Lardner, yol. xii. p. 167.

they were of little or no value ; and that they never “ were received by the sounder part of Christians.” Now if with this, which is advanced after the most minute and diligent examination, we compare what the same cautious writer had before said of our received scriptures,

66 that “ in the works of three only of the above-mentioned “ fathers, there are more and larger quotations of the “ small volume of the New Testament, than of all the “ works of Cicero in the writers of all characters for “ several ages ;” and if, with the marks of obscurity or condemnation, which accompanied the mention of the several apocryphal Christian writings, when they happened to be mentioned at all, we contrast what Dr. Lardner's work completely and in detail makes out concerning the writings which we defend, and what, having so made out, he thought himself authorised in his conclusion to assert, that these books were not only received from the beginning, but received with the greatest respect ; have been publicly and solemnly read in the assemblies of Christians throughout the world, in every age from that time to this ; early translated into the languages of divers countries and people; commentaries writ to explain and illustrate them ; quoted by way of proof in all arguments of a religious nature; recommended to the perusal of unbelievers, as containing the authentic account of the Christian doctrine ; — when we attend, I say, to this representation, we perceive in it, not only full proof of the early notoriety of these books, but a clear and sensible line of discrimination, which separates these from the pretensions of any others.

The epistles of St. Paul stand particularly free of any doubt or confusion that might arise from this source. Until the conclusion of the fourth century, no intimation

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