Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

as churches of Lyons and Vienne, in France, sent a of relation of the sufferings of their martyrs to the

churches of Asia and Phrygia.* The epistle is preserved entire by Eusebius. And what carries in some measure the testimony of these churches to a higher age, is, that they had now for their bishop, Pothinus, who was ninety years old, and whose

early life consequently must have immediately I joined on with the times of the apostles. In this

epistle are exact references to the Gospels of Luke and John, and to the Acts of the Apostles; the form of reference the same as in all the preceding articles. That from Saint John is in these words : " Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the Lord, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doeth God service."

X. The evidence now opens upon us full and clear. Irenæust succeeded Pothinus as bishop of Lyons. In his youth he had been a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John. In the time in which he lived, he was distant not much more than a century from the publication of the Gospels ; in his instruction, only by one step separated from the persons of the apostles. He asserts of himself and his contemporaries, that they were able to reckon up, in all the principal churches, the succession of bishops from the first.|| I remark these particulars concerning Irenæus with more formality than usual ; because the testimony which this writer affords to the historical books of the New Testament, to their authority, and to the titles which they bear, is express, positive, and exclusive, One principal passage, in which this testimony is contained, opens with a precise assertion of the point which we have laid down as the foundation of our argument, viz. that the story which the Gospels exhibit, is the story which the Apostles told. We have not received," saith Irenæus,“ the knowledge of the way of our salvation by any others than those by whom the gospel has been brought to us. Which gospel they first preached, and afterward, by the will of God, com

**Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 332.

Larduer, vol. i. p. 344.

# John Ivi. 2.
11 Ady. Hæres. 1. ilj. c 3.

mitted to writing, that it might be for time to come the foundation and pillar of our faith. For after that our Lord rose from the dead, and they (the apostles) were endowed from above with the power of the Holy Ghost coming down upon them, they received a perfect knowledge of all things. They then went forth to all the ends of the earth, declaring to men the blessing of heavenly peace, having all of them, and every one, alike, the Gospel of God. Matthew then, among the Jews, wrote a Gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel at Rome, and founding a church there : and after their exit, Mark also, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, delivered to us in writing the things that had been preached by Peter ; and Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the gospel preached by him

(Paul). Afterward John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon his breast, he likewise published a Gospel while he dwelt at Ephesus in Asia." If any modern divine should write a book upon the genuineness of the Gospels, he could not assert it more expressly, or state their original more distinctly, than Irenæus hath done within little more than a hundred years after they were published.

The correspondency, in the days of Irenæus, of the oral and written tradition, and the deduction of the oral tradition through various channels from the age of the Apostles, which was then lately passed, and, by consequence, the probability that the books truly delivered what the apostles taught, is inferred also with strict regularily from another passage of his works. “The tradition of the aposiles," this father saith, “ hath spread itself over the whole universe ; and all they who search after the sources of truth, will find this tradition to be held sacred in every church. We might enumerate all those who have been appointed bishops to these churches by the apostles, and all their succes. sors up to our days. It is by this uninterrupted succession that we have received the tradition which actually exists in the church, as also the doctrines of truth, as it was preached by the apostleg."* The reader will observe upon this, that

Iten. in Her. l. iii. f. 3.

the same Irenæus, who is now stating the strength and uniformity of the tradition, we have before seen recognising, in the fullest manner, the authority of the written records; from which we are entitled to conclude, that they were then conformable to each other.

I have said, that the testimony of Irenæus in favour of our Gospels is exclusive of all others. I allude to a remarkable passage in his works, in which, for some reasons sufficiently fanciful, he endeavours to show, that there could be neither more nor fewer Gospels than four. With his argument we have no concern. The position itself proves that four, and only four, Gospels were at that time publicly read and acknowledged. That these were our Gospels, and in the state in which we now have them, is shown, from many other places of this writer beside that which we have already alleged. He mentions how Matthew begins his Gospel, how Mark begins and ends his, and their supposed reasons for so doing. He enumerates at length the several passages of Christ's history in Luke, which are not found in any of the other Evangelists. He states the particular design with which Saint John composed his Gospel, and accounts for the doctrinal declarations which precede the narrative.

To the book of the Acts of the Apostles, its author, and credit, the testimony of Irenæus is not less explicit. Referring to the account of Saint Paul's conversion and vocation, in the ninth chapter of that book, “ Nor can they,” says he, meaning the parties with whom he

argues, show that he is not to he credited, who has related to us the truth with the greatest exactness.” In another place he has actually collected the several texts, in which the writer of the history is represented as accompanying Saint Paul; which leads him to deliver a summary of almost the whole of the last twelve chapters of the book.

In an author thus abounding with references and allusions to the Scriptures, there is not one to any apocryphal Christian writing whatever. This is a broad line of distinction between our sacred books, and the pretensions of all others,

[ocr errors]

The force of the testimony of the period which we have considered, is greatly strengthened by the observation, that it is the testimony, and the concurring testimony, of writers who lived in countries remote from one another. Clement flourished at Rome, Ignatius at Antioch, Polycarp at Smyrna, Justin Martyr in Syria, and Irenæus in France.

XI. Omitting Athenagoras and Theophilus, who lived about this time ;* in the remaining works of the former of whom are clear references to Mark and Luke; and in the works of the latter, who was bishop of Antioch, the sixth in succession from the apostles, evident allusions to Matthew and John, and probable allusions to Luke (which, consider: ing the nature of the compositions, that they were addressed to heathen readers, is as much as could be expected ;) observing also, that the works of two learned Cl.ristian writers of the same age, Miltiades and Pantænus,t are now lost ; of which Miltiades, Eusebius records, that his writings

were monuments of zeal for the divine oracles;" and which Pantænus, as Jerome testifies, was a man of prudence and learning, both in the divine Scriptures and secular literature, and had left many commentaries upon the Holy Scriptures then extant : passing by these without further remark, we come to one of the most voluminous of ancient Christian writers, Clement of Alexandria. Clement followed Irenæus at the distance of only sixteen years, and therefore may be said to maintain the series of testimony in an uninterrupted continuation.

In certain of Clement's works, now lost, but of which various parts are recited by Eusebius, there is given a distinct account of the order in which the four Gospels were written. The Gospels which contain the genealogies, were (he says) written first; Mark's next, at the instance of Peter's followers; and John's the last : and this account he tells us that he had received from presbyters of more ancient times. This testimony proves the * Lardoer, vol. i. p. 400—422. t Ibid. p. 413. 450.

Lardner, vol. ii. p. 469.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

f-llowing points; that these Gospels were the his, firies of Christ then publicly received, and relied upon; and that the dates, occasions, and circumstances, of their publication were at that time subjects of attention and inquiry amongst Christians. In the works of Clement which remain, the four (rospels are repeatedly quoted by the names of their authors, and the Acts of the Apostles is expressly ascribed to Luke. In one place, after mentioning a particular circumstance, be adds these remarkable words : “ We have not this passage in the four Gospels delivered to us, but in that according to tho Egyptians; which puts a marked distinction between the four Gospels and all other histories, or pretended histories, of Christ.” In another part of his works, the perfect confidence with which he received the Gospels, is signified by these words : “ That this is true, appears from hence, that it was written in the Gospel according to Saint Luhe;": and again, “ I need not use many words, but only to allege the evangelie voice of the Lord.” ilis quotations are numerous. The sayings of Christ, of which he alleges many, are all taken from our Gospels; the single exception to this observation appearing to be a loose* quotation of a passage in Saint Matthew's Gospel.

XII. In the age in which they lived,t Tertullian joins on with Clement. The number of the Gospels then received, the names of the evangelists and their proper descriptions, are exhibited by this writer in one short sentence :-Among the apostles, John and Matthew teach us the faith; among apostolical men, Luke and Mark refresh it." The next passage to be taken from Tertullian, affords as commlete an attestation to the authenticity of our books, as can be well imagined. After enumerating the

[ocr errors]

* "Ask great things, and the small shall be added unto you." Clement rather chose to expound the words of Matthew (cbap. vi. 33.) than literally to cite them; and this is most undeniably proved by another place in the same Clement, where he both produces the text and these words as an exposition :-" Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness, for these are the great things, but the small things, and things relating to this life, shall be added unto

Jones's New and Full Method; vol. i. p. 553.
Lardner, vol. it. p. 56).

01 e

Vou."

« ZurückWeiter »