« הקודםהמשך »
ad, as collected in a very accurate table, published in the year 1773, by the Rev. J. Atkinson, will make out the truth of the proposition to the fatisfaction of every fair and competentjudgment. If there be any book which may seem to form an exception to the observation, it is a Hebrew, gospel, which was; circulated under the various titles of the gospel according to the Hebrews, the gospel of the Nazarenes, of the Ebionites, sometimes called of the twelve, by sonje ascribed to St. Matthew. This gospel is once and only unce, cited by Clement Alexan-. drinus, who lived, the reader will remember, in the latter part of the second century, and which fame Clement quotes one or other of our four gospels in almost every page of his work. It is also twice mentioned by Origen, A. D. 230 ; and both times with marks of diminution and difcredit. And this is the ground upon which the exception stands. But what is still more material to observe, is, that this gospel, in the main,, agreed with our prefent gospel of St. Matthew.a
Now if, with ehis account of the apocryphal gospels, we coma pare what we have read, concerning the canonical scriptures in the preceding sections ; or even recollect that general; but well-founded affertion of Dr. Lardner's, “ that in the remaining: works of Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian, who all lived in the two first centuries, there are more, and larger quotations of the small volume of the new Testament, than of all the works of Cicero, by writers of all characters, for feveral ages ;”?and if to this we add, that notwithstanding the loss, of many works of the primitive times of Christianity, we have, within the above-mentioned period, the remains of Christian writers, who lived in Paleltine, Syria, Alia Minor, Egypt, the part of Africa that used the Latin tongue, in Crete, Greece, Italy, and Gaul, in all which remains, references are found to our evangelists ; I apprehend, that we shall perceive a clear and broad line of division, between those writings, and all others, pretending to a similar authority.
II. But befide certain histories which affumed the names of apostles, and which were forgeries properly so called, there were fome other Christian writings, in the whole or in part
å In applying to this gospel, what Jerome in the latter end of the fourth century has mentioned of a Hebrew gospel, I think it probable that we sometimes confound, it with a Hebrew copy of St. Matthew's gospel, whether an original or verfion, which was then extant.
b. Lard, Cred. vol. XII. p. 53,
historical nature, which, though net forgeries, are denominated apocryphal, as being of an uncertain, or of no authority.
of this second class of writings, I have found only two, which are noticed by any author of the three first centuries, without express terms of condemnation ; and these are, the one, a book entitled the Preaching of Peter, quoted repeatedly by Clemerit Alexandrinus, A. D. 196 ; the other, a book en. titled the Revelation of Peter, upon which the above-mentioned Clement Alexandrinus is faid, by Eusebius, to have written notes ; which is twice cited in a work still extant, ascribed to the same author.
I conceive therefore, that the propofition we have before advanced, even after it hath been fubjected to every exception, of every kind that can be alleged, separates, by a wide interval, our historical fcriptures, from all other writings which profess to give an account of the same subject.
We may be permitted however to add,
1. That there is no evidence, that any fpurious or apocryphal books whatever, existed in the first century of the Chrifzian era ; in which century all our historical books are proved to have been extant. " There are no quotations of any such books in the apostolical fathers, by whom I mean Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius and Polycarp, whofe writings reach from about the year of our Lord 70, to the year 108 ;" (and fome of whom have quoted each and every one of our historical feriptures) “I say this," adds Dr. Lardner, « becaufe I think it has been proved.??a
2. These apocryphal writings were not read in the churches of Christians ;
3. Were not admitted into their volume ;
6. Were not alleged by different parties, as of authority in their controversies;
7. Were not the fubjects amongst them, of commentaries, versions, collations, expolitions.
Finally ; befide the silence of three centuries, or, evidence within that time of their rejection, they were, with a consent Dearly universal, reprobated by Christian writers of fucceeding ages.
a Ib. vol. XII. p. 258.
Although it be made out by these observations, that the books in question never obtained any degree of credit and notoriety, which can place them in competition with our scriptures, yet it appears
from the writings of the fourth century, that many such existed in that century, and in the century preceding it. It may be difficult at this distance of time to account for their origin. Perhaps the most probable explication is, that they were in general composed with a design of making a profit by the fale. Whatever treated of the subject would find purchasers. It was an advantage taken of the pious curiosity of unlearned Christians. With a việw to the same purpose, they were many of them adapted to the particular opinions of particular fe&ts, which would naturally promote their circulation amongst the favourers of those opinions. After all, they were probably much more obscure than we imagine. Except the gospel according to the Hebrews, there is none, of which we hear more, than the gospel of the Egyptians ; yet there is good reason to believe that Clement, a presbyter of Alexandria in Egypt, A. D. 184, and a man of almost universal reading, had never seen it. A gospel according to Peter, was another of the most an. cient books of this kind ; yet Serapion, bishop of Antioch, A. D. 200, had not read it, when he heard of such a book being in the hands of the Christians of Rhoffus in Cilicia ; and speaks of obtaining a sight of this gospel from some sectaries who used it. Even of the gospel of the Hebrews, which confessedly stands at the head of the catalogue, Jerome, at the end of the fourth century, was glad to procure a copy by the favour of the Nazareans of Berea. Nothing of this fort ever happened, or could have happened, concerning our gospels.
One thing is observable of all the apocryphal Christian writings, that they proceed upon the same fundamental history of Christ and his apostles, as that which is disclosed in our scrip
The mission of Christ, his power of working miracles, his communication of that power to the apostles, his passion, death and resurection, are assumed or asserted by every one of them. The names under which some of them came forth, are the names of men of eminence in our histories What these books give, are not contradictions, but unauthorized additions. The principal facts are supposed, the principal agents the fame ; which shews that these points were too much fixed to be alter.ed or disputed.
a Jones, vol. I. p. 243.
b Lard. Cred. vol. II. p. 557.
If there be any book of this description, which appears to have imposed upon some confiderable number of learned Chrif. ciaos, it is the Sybellyne oracles; but, when we reflect upon the circumstances which faci itated that imposture, we shall cease to wonder either at the attempt, or its success. It was at that time universally understood that such a prophetic writing existed. Its contents were kept fecret. This lituation afforded to some one a hint, as well as an opportunity, to give out in writing under this name, favourable to the already eltablished perfuafion of Christians, and which writing, by the aid and recommendation of these circumstances, would in Tome degree, it is probable be received. Of the ancient forgery we know but little ; what is Dow produced could not, in my opinion, have imposed upon any one : it is nothing else than the gospel history, woven into Latin verse ; perhaps was at first rather a fiction, than å forgery; an exercise of ingenuity more than an attempt to deceive.
СНАР. Х. THE reader will now be pleafed to recollect, that the two points which form the subject of our present discussion, are, first, that the founder of Christianity, bis affociates and immediate followers, passed their lives in labours, dangers, and sufferings secondly, that they did fo, in attestation of the miraculous hiftory recorded in our fcriptures, and solely in consequence of their belief of the truth of that history.
The argument, by which these two propositions have been maintained by us stands thus :
No historical fact, I appreliend; is more certain, than that the eriginal propagators of Christianity voluntarily subjected themselves to lives of fatigue, danger, and fuffering, in the profecution of their undertaking. The nature of the undertaking; the character of the persons employed in its the opposition of their tenets to the fixed opinions and expectations of the country, in which they first advanced them their undissembled condemnation of the religion of all other countries; their total want of power, authority, or force, render it in the highest de
e probable that this must have been the case. The probav is increased, by what we know of the fate of the founder of the institution, who was put to death for his attempt; and by what we also know, of the cruel treatment of the converts to the institution, within thirty years after its commencement ; both which points are attested by heathen writers, and being once admitted, leave it very incredible, that the primitive emilsaries of the religion, who exercised their ministry, first, amongst the people who had destroyed their master, and, afterwards, amongst those who persecuted their converts, should themselves escape with impunity, or pursue their purpose in ease and safety. This probability, thus sustained by foreign testimony, is advanced, I think, to historical certainty, by the evidence of our own books ; by the accounts of a writer, who was the sompanion of the persons whose sufferings he relates ; by the letters of the persons themselves ; by predictions of persecutions ascribed to the founder of the religion, which predictions would not have been inserted in his history, much less have been studioully dwelt upon, if they had not accorded with the event, and which, even if falsely ascribed to him, could only have been se ascribed, because the event suggested them ; lastly, by inceffant exhortations to fortitude and patience, and by an earnestness, repetition, and urgency upon the subje&, which were unlikely to have appeared, if there had not been, at the time, fome extraordinary call for the exercise of these virtues.
It is made out also, I think, with sufficient evidence, that both the teachers and converts of the religion, in consequence of their new profeflion, took up a new course of life and behaviour.
The next great question is, w.bat they did this for. That it was for a miraculous story of some kind or other, is to my apprehension extremely manifelt; because, as to the fundamental article, the defignation of the person, viz. that this particular person, Jefus of Nazareth, ought to be received as the Meffiah, or as a messenger from God, they neither had, nor could have, any thing but miracles to stand upon. That the exertions and sufferings of the apostles were for the story which we have. now, is proved by the confideration, that this ltory is transmitted to us by two of their own number, and by two others personally connected with them ; that the peculiarity of the narratives prove, that the writers claimed to posless circumstantial information, that from their fituation they had full opportunity of acquiring such information, that they certainly, at least, knewy what their colleagues, their companions, their masters taught;