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lides, "If they had assigned any reasons," says
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 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 first two centuries of the Christian era; 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
Lardner, vol. xiv. p. 458.
7 Ibid. vol. i. p. 313.
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," says Irenæus, speaking of Marcion, "falso scientiæ nomine inflati, scripturas quidem confitentur, interpretationes vero convertunt."
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 Revelation of St. John; the doubts that appeared 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
avavτippηra, 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 spurious." What were the shades of difference in the books of the second, or of those in the third class; or
Iren. advers. Hær. quoted by Lardner, vol. xv. p. 425.
what it was precisely that he meant by the term spurious, it is not necessary in this place to inquire. 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 inquire after and consider the testimony of those who lived near the age of the apostles9.
IV. That 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 betray to "authentic history," to "true epistles," to the "real sentiments or circumstances of the author whom they personate 10," which authentic history, which true epistles, which real sentiments themselves, are no other than ancient documents, whose early existence
• Lardner, vol. viii. p. 106.
To See the tracts written in the controversy between Tunstal and Middleton, upon certain suspected epistles ascribed to Cicero.
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 ours. 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 called11, 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 era, 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 books 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 books. He mentions some of them, but
" I believe that there is a great deal of truth in Dr. Lardner's observation, that comparatively few of those books which we call apocryphal were strictly and originally forgeries. See Lardner, vol. xii. p. 167.
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 quoted no such books in any of his works. He has mentioned them indeed, but how? Not by way of approbation, but to show that 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, "that in the works of three only of the abovementioned 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 authorized 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