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To conclude, if any person should feel inclined to at: tempt to refute the Book, let him do it like a man; . without evading the question, or equivocating, or caviling about little things. Let him consider the principal Question, and the main arguments on which he perceives that the Author relies, and not pass over these silently, and hold up a few petty mistakes and subsidiary arguments as specimens of the whole Book. Such a mode of defence would be very disengenuous, and with a discerning reader perfectly futile, and insufficient. It would be as if a man prostrate, and bleeding under a Lion whose teeth and claws were infixed in his throat, should tear a handful of hairs out of the animal's mane, aud hold them up as proofs of victory.
In fine, let him, before his undertaking, carefully consider these pungent words of Bishop Beveridge, 66. Opposite answers, and downright arguments advantage a cause, but when a disputant leaves many things untouched, as if they were too hot for his fingers ; and declines the weight of other things, and alters the true state of the Question: it is a shrewd sign, either that he has not weighed things maturely, or else (which is more probable,) that he maintains a desperate Cause."
SEE Cotelerius “ Patres Apostolic," Tom. 1, p. 602..
Extract of a letter from Peter to James prefixed to the Clementines. - For if this be not done (says Pe- -ter, after entreating James not to communicate his preachings to any Gentile without previous examination,) our speech of Truth will be divided into many opinions, nor do I know this thing as being a Prophet; but as seeing even now the beginning of this evil. For some from among the Gentiles have rejected my legal Preaching; embracing the trifling, and lawless Docotrine of a man who is an enemy. And these things some have endeavoured to do now in my own life time, trans. forming my words by various interpretations, to the destruction of the Law; as if I had been of the same mind, but dared nut openly professit; [See Gal. ii. 11, 12, &c.] which be far from me! For this were to act against the Law of God spoken by Moses, and which has the Testimony of our Lord for its perpetual dura. tion; since he thus has said, “ Heaven and Earth shallpass away, yet one jot, or one tittle shall not pass from the Law.” But these, I know not how, promising to de- . liver my opinion, (see Gal as above,] take upon them". to explain the words they heard from me, better than I that spoke them; telling their Disciples, my sense was that of which I had not so much as thought; now if in my own life time they daré feign such things, how much more will those that come after do the same."
Extract from Dodwell's Dissertations on Irenæus, Diss. 1. p. 38, 39.66 The Canonical writings [i. e. of the New Testament,] lay.concealed in the eotters of prio
vate Churches, or persons, till the latter times of Tra. jan, or rather perhaps of Adrian ; so that they could not come to the knowledge of the Church. For if they had been published, they would have been overwhelmed under such a multitude as were then of Apocryphal, and suppositious Books, that a new examination and a new testimony would be necesary to distinguish them from these false ones. And it is from this new Testimony (whereby the genuine writings of the Apostles were distinguished from the spurious pieces which went under their names,) that depends all the authority which the truly Apostolick writings have formerly obtained, or which they have at present in the Catholic Church. But this fresh attestation of the Canon is subject to the same inconveniences with thoset raditions of the ancient persons that I defend, and whom Irenæus both beard and saw ; for it is equally distant from the original, and could not be made except by such only as had reached those remote times. But it is very certain that before the period I mentioned of Trajan's time, the Canon of the sacred Books was not yet fixed, nor any certain number of books received in the Catholic Church, whose authority must ever after serve to determine inatters of faith; neither were the spurious pieces of hereticks yet rejected, nor were the faithful admonished to beware of them for the future. Likewise the true writings of the Apostles used to be so bound up in one volume with the Apocryphal, that it was not manifest by any mark of publick censure which of them should be preferred to the other. We have at this day certain authentick writings of Ecclesiastical Authors of those times, as Cle. mens Romanus, Barnabas, Hermas, Jgnatius, and Polycarp, who wrote in the same order wherein I have named them, and after all the other writers of the New Testament, except Jude, and the two Johns. But in Hermas you shall not meet with one passage, or any mention of the New Testament ; por in all the rest is any one of the Evangelists called by his own name. And if sometimes they cite any passages like those we read in our Gospels, yet you will find them so much changed and for the most part so interpolated, that it cannot be known, whether they produced them out of ours, op:
some Apocryphal Gospels. Nay they sometimes cite passages which it is most certain are not in the present Gospels. From hence therefore it is evident that no difference was yet put between the Apoc.. ryphal and canonical Books of the New Testament, especially if it be considered, that they pas sno censure on the Apocryphal, nor leave any mark whereby the reader might discern whether they attributed less authority to the sparious than to the genuine Gos. pels; from whence it may reasonably be suspected, that if they cite sometimes any passages conformable to ours, it was not done through any certain design, as if dubious things were to be confirmed only by the canonical Books, so as it is very possible that both those and the like passages may have been borrowed from other Gospels besides these we now have. But what need I mention : Books that are not canonical, when indeed it does not appear from those of our canonical Books which were last written, that the Church knew any thing of the Gos- pels, or that the clergy made a common use of them.The writers of those times do not chequer their works with texts of the New Testament, which yet is the cus- · tom of the moderns, and was also theirs in such Books as they acknowledge for Scripture ; for they most frequently cite the Books of the Old Testament, and would doubtless have done so by those of the New if they had . then been received us canonieal.”
So far Mr. Dodwell, and (exepting the genuineness of the writings of Barnabas and the rest, for they are » incontestably ancient. It is certain that the matters of fact with regard to the New Testament are all true. Whoever has an inclination to write on this subject is · furnished from this passage with a great many curious disquisitions wherein to show his penetration and his judgment, as -how the immediate successors, and disciples of the Apostles eould so grossly confound the genuine writings of their masters with such as were falsly attributed to them ; or, since they were in the * dark about these matters so early, how come such as followed them by a better light ; why all those Books which are cited by the earliest Fathers with the same respect as those now received should not be accoupled :
equally authentic with them; and what stress should be laid ou the testimony of those Fathers, wlio not only contradict one another, but are often inconsistent with themselves in relating the very same facts ; with a great many other difficulties which deserve a clear solution from any capable person.
I have said the ancient Hereticks asserted, that the present Gospels were forgeries. As an example of this take the following, from the works of Faustus, quoted by Augustine, contra Faustum Lib. 32. c. 2. “ You think. (says Faustus to his adversaries,) that of all the Books in the world the Testament of the Son only could not be corrupted; that it alone contains nothing which ought to be disallowed: especially when it appears, that it was not written by the Apostles, but a long time after them by certain obscure persons; who, lest no credit should be given to the stories they told of what .they could not know, did prefix to their writings the names of the Apostles, and partly of those who succeeded the Apostles, affirining, that what they wrote themselves was written by these. Wherein they seem to ine to have been the more heinously injurious to the Disciples of Christ, by attributing to them what they wrote ihemselves so dissonant, and repugnant ; and that they pretended to write those Gospels under their names which are so full of mistakes, of contradictory relations, and opinions, that they are neither coherent with themselves, nor consistent with one another. What is this therefore but to throw a calumny on good men, and to fix the accusation of Discord on the unanimous Society of Christ's Disciples."