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christian societies, or particular persons. St. Luke's gospel, and the Acts, were sent to the most excellent, or most noble Theophilus. St. John intended his gospel for some whom he had in his eye. As appears from ch. xx. 30, 31, and from ch. xxi. 24, 25. And it is very likely, that St. Matthew and St. Mark also wrote for some, who would gladly receive and highly value their books, and get them copied for the use and satisfaction of others. 3. In several of the books of the New Testament directions are given, which would tend to make them well known. St. Paul, at the end of his first epistle to the Thessalonians, one of his first written epistles, enjoins, “ that it should be read to all the holy brethren,” I Thess. v. 27. The same method, undoubtedly, was observed with regard to the second epistle, sent to the same Thessalonians, and written not long after. Probably, the same practice obtained in all the christian churches, to which St. Paul afterwards sent any epistle. , And the christian people of other churches, beside those who had letters sent to them, would be desirous to see the epistles of their great apostle, by whom they had been converted, and would therefore get them transcribed for their own use. At the end of the epistle to the Colossians, ch. iv. 16, he directs: “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read in the church of the Laodiceans, and that ye read the epistle from Laodicea :” meaning, probably, the epistle to the Ephesians, which was to come round to Colosse from Ephesus, by the way of Laodicea. The apostle therefore was willing, and even desirous, that his epistles should be read by others, beside those to whom they were sent, for the sake of general edification. And can it be questioned, whether other Gentile churches in these parts, all which were of his own planting, would not thankfully embrace the encouragement hereby given them to look into his epistles, and to get them transcribed, and read in their assemblies also 2 4. St. Peter writes to this purpose in his second epistle, which we may suppose to have been written in the year 64. “And account, that the long-suffering of the Lord is salvation, even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, has written unto you. As also in all his epistles, speaking of these things, in which there are some things hard to be understood. Which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do the other scriptures, unto their own destruction,” 2 Pet. iii. 15, 16. Here are several things to be observed. First, Peter speaks of epistles of Paul sent to the same christians, to
whom himself was writing. Secondly, he speaks of other epistles of Paul: as also in all his epistles. }.i. Peter therefore had a knowledge of several epistles of Paul, sent to the christians of those countries, and likewise of divers others, which he intends in the phrase “all his epistles.” Fourthly, the christians, to whom Peter writes, were well acquainted with the epistles which Paul had written to them, and with the rest of his epistles, or divers of them. Fifthly, it is supposed, and implied, that all, or at least many of Paul's epistles, were well known and much read. For Peter speaks of some, whom he calls unlearned, and unstable, who wrested Paul's epistles, or some things in them, to their own destruction. And very probably there were other readers of the same epistles, who improved them to their edification and salvation. It seems to me, that what Peter says here, affords reason to think, that at the time of writing this epistle, Paul's epistles (most, or all of them) were well known among christians, and that Peter had good evidence of it. When Peter says, “as our beloved brother Paul has written unto you :” some learned men, Mill " in particular, have supposed, that thereby Peter intended the epistle to the Hebrews. But I think without reason, as Mr. Hallett" has largely shown. St. Peter’s epistles are addressed to “ the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia.” It is not unlikely, therefore, that St. Peter intends Paul’s epistles to the Galatians, and the Ephesians, and the Colossians, all situated in those countries: and likewise the two epistles to Timothy, who resided much at Ephesus, and must have received the epistles written to him, when in that city, and the epistle to Philemon, who was of Colosse. And in the expression, “ all his epistles,” some others must be intended, and included: such as the epistles to the Thessalonians, the Corinthians, Romans, Philippians, Titus: so many, however, as the apostle Peter was then acquainted with. Mill has observed passages in “ the first epistle to the Thessalonians, and in " the epistle to the Romans, and in " that to the Philippians: in which are “some of those things hard to be understood,” to which St. Peter may be supposed to have an eye. These marks and characters there are in the books of the New Testament, which may induce us to believe, that
* Prolegom. num. 86. * See his introduction to the epistle to the Hebrews, p. 21, &c. * Prolegom, num. 5. * Ib. num. 28. * Ib. num. 70.
they were soon dispersed among christians, and well known to them. This is also manifest from testimony. 1. The accounts, which we find in the ancients, concerning the occasions of the several gospels, lead us to think, that they were soon spread abroad after they were written. Matthew is said to have written his gospel at the request of the believers in Judea : and Mark his, at the desire of the christians at Rome, for the assistance of their memories. When therefore those gospels had been written, divers coo would be soon taken, that the ends, for which they ad been written, might be answered. The several defective and imperfect accounts, which had been published of our Lord’s words and works, induced St. Luke to write. And when his fuller and exacter account was published, it must have been attended to, and would be transcribed, and communicated to many. Before St. John wrote, he had seen the other three gospels. And the christians in Asia, where he resided, were acquainted with them. Therefore they were well known, and joined together. And when his gospel was written, undoubtedly it was added to them, and they were all joined together in one volume, for general use. That the first three gospels were well known in the world, before St. John wrote, is supposed by Eusebius of Caesarea, who was well acquainted with the writings of christians before his time. These are the words of that eminent man. Having spoken of St. Matthew's gospel he goes on : “And ‘when Mark and Luke had published the gospels accord‘ing to them, it is said that John, who all this while had “preached by word of mouth, was induced to write for this ‘reason. The three first-written gospels being now deliver‘ed to all men, and to John himself, it is said, that he ap‘proved them.’ And what follows. Before this last evangelist wrote, the ‘other three gospels had been delivered ‘ unto all men, and to John.” He therefore had seen them before, and they were in the hands of many people. What has been now said of the gospels, is applicable, in a great measure, to the Acts, and the epistles of the New Testament: as may be perceived by all, without my enlarging any farther. 2. Ignatius, who was honoured with the crown of martyrdom about the year 107, does, in his epistles, use expressions, denoting & two codes, or collections, one of gospels,
f See Vol. iv. p. 95.
the other of epistles of apostles. Such volumes there were then, and may have been some good while before. I shall here remind my readers of a few other like instances. In the epistle to Diognetus, certainly very ancient, and by some ascribed to Justin Martyr, are these expres– sions: ‘The fear of the Lord h is celebrated, and the grace ‘ of the prophets is known, the faith of the gospel is esta‘blished, and the tradition of the apostles is kept.” By these last expressions denoting, as is reasonable to think, a volume of the gospels, and another of epistles of apostles. Irenaeus speaks of the evangelic and apostolic writings, in a passage, which will be alleged presently. Tertullian speaks' of ‘the sayings of the prophets, the gospels, and ‘the apostles.’ And in another place says: ‘This " I per‘ceive both in the gospels, and the apostles.’... I go no lower, my intention at present being only to allege a few writers of the earliest times. 3. As before shown from Eusebius, they who in the reign of Trajan, about the year 112, travelled abroad to teach the christian religion in remote countries, ‘took with “ them the scriptures of the divine gospels.” Nor can there be any reason to doubt, that our ecclesiastical historian here speaks of the four gospels, so well known in his own time. 4. By Justin Martyr, about the year 140, in his account of the christian worship, which is in his apology to the emperor and senate of Rome, the whole world was assured, that " the gospels which he calls Memoirs of the apostles, and their companions, were publicly read in the assemblies of christians every Lord’s day. Certainly, the gospels were then well known, and had been so for some while before. 5. Tatian, who flourished some time before and after the year 170, composed a harmony of the four gospels. We " have full assurance of it. Is not this sufficient evidence, that the gospels were then, and had been for a good while, generally known, and in common use ? And does it not also afford reason to believe, that it was then, and had been for some while, an established, or generally received opinion
* See Vol. ii. p. 144. * Compendiis paucorum verborum, quot attinguntur edicta prophetarum, evangeliorum, apostolorum? De Oratione, cap. 9. p. 125. C. quoted Vol. ii. p. 299. * Ibid. P. 115; and Vol. v. p. 189. * See Vol. ii. p. 131, 132; and Vol. v. p. 190. " Vol. ii. p. 148, 149,439; and Vol. v. p. 190.
among christians, that there were four, and no more than four authentic memoirs or histories of Jesus Christ? 6. I forbear to allege any thing from Clement of Alexandria, Irenaeus, or Tertullian, for showing the notoriety of the books of the New Testament in early times, because I now insist only upon writers of the highest antiquity. But I shall take notice of some things, which we have in the accounts of the heresies of the second century. However, that this argument may not be too prolix, I entirely pass by Basilides. 7. Valentinus is placed by Cave" as flourishing about the year 120. By Basnage P. he is placed at the year 124. By Mill 1 between 123, and 127. And by Irenaeus we are assured, ‘ that the Valentinians endeavoured to support ‘their opinions from texts of the evangelic and apostolic ‘scriptures, or of the gospels and apostles, that is, both ‘parts of the New Testament: , and that they argued ‘especially from the gospel according to John.’ And Tertullian allows, that Valentinus used the books of the New Testament entire, without altering them, as Marcion did. Mr. Wetstein says, the " Valentinians rejected the Acts of the Apostles. And he thinks this appears from Irenaeus. But to me it appears manifest from Irenaeus, that they received the Acts. For in his confutation of them, in his third book against heresies, he "argues against them largely, first from the gospels, then from the book of the Acts, and lastly from the epistles of apostles. And Massuet, the learned Benedictine editor of Irenaeus, allows, that " accord
• Hist. Lit. p. 50. P Ann. 124. num. vii. * Proleg. num. 265. * Kat ov Povov čk Tov Svayyekukwu, kat Twy atrosoxtkov reupovrat Tag aroöstésug Tolsto0at. Iren. l. i. c. 3. n. 6. p. 17. * Hi autem qui a Valentino Sunt, eo quod est secundum Joannem plenissime utentes, ad ostensionem conjugationum Suarum, ex ipso detegentur, nihil rectedicentes. Id.l. 3. cap. xi. n. 7. p. 190. * Alius manuscripturas, alius sensus expositione, intervertit. Neque enim si Valentinus integro instrumento uti videtur, non callidiore ingenio, quam Marcion, manus intulit veritati. Marcion enim exerte et palam machaerä, non stylo, usus est; quoniam ad materiam Suam caedem Scripturarum confecit. , Valentinus autem pepercit; quoniam non ad materiam scripturas, sed materiam ad scripturas, excogitavit. De Præsc. Haer. cap. 38. p. 246. * Acta Apostolorum rejecerunt Valentiniani. Quod constat ex Irenaeo. Haer. iii. 2. Wetsten. N. T. tom. ii. p. 455. * Vid. Iren. contr. Haer. I. 3. cap. xi. xii. " At ipsi Valentino nihil simile usquam adscribit Irenaeus. Imo cum loco mox citato, tum lib. 1. cap. viii. et ix. et alibi passim, satis significat Valentinianos sibi coaovossic canonem scripturarum novo evangelio auxisse, ut nih.l quidquam, nullum librum integrum, nullam ejusdem partem, (quod Mar