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2. The same learned man says, likewise, theb canonical scriptures of the New Testament ' lay hid in the cabinets of 'particular churches and private persons, till the reign of 'Trajan, and perhaps till the reign of Adrian.'
But I presume we have now sufficiently shown the falsehood of this, and that the gospels, and other books of the New Testament, were written and published with a design to be read and made use of, and that they were soon divulged abroad, and not purposely hid by any.
3. Farther says Mr. Dodwell: 'Thec epistles of Paul 'were well known soon after they were written. His many 'travels, and the mark of his hand at the end of them, oc'casioned this.'
We readily acknowledge it. It is very true. We think also, that the gospels, the Acts, and other books of the New Testament, were well known soon after they were written: and that in a short space of time many copies were taken of them, and thus they were divulged abroad. The first three gospels were well known to St. John, and to many others, before he wrote his gospel. Which must have been written before the end of the first century, and, probably, a good while before the end of it.
4. The same learned writer, speaking of the apostolical fathers, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Hennas, Ignatius, Polycarp, says, theyd several times quote apocryphal books. And he so expresseth himself, as if he intended to affirm this of all of them.
To which I must answer, that so far as I am able to perceive, after a careful examination, there are not any quotations of apocryphal books in any of the apostolical fathers. They who are desirous of farther satisfaction therein, are referred to their several chapters in the second volume of this work, and toe some additional observations in the Recapitulation of the second part of the Credibility, which is in the fifth volume.
b Latitabant enim usque ad recentiora ilia seu Trajani, seu etiam fortasse Hadriani tempora, in privatarum ecclesiarum, seu etiam hominum scriniis, icripta ilia canonica, ne ad ecclesiae catholics notitiam pervenirent. Ibid, num. 38. p. 66. c Sequuntur epistolae Paulinae, quas a
prima usque scriptione celeberrimas fecere ipsius apostoli tam crebrae peregrinationes, et nota ejus in omni epistola manus.—Proinde meminit eorum et Petrus, meminit S. Clemens, meminit Ignatius, et Polycarpus. Ibid. num. 41. p. 73. d Habemus hodieque horum temporum scriptores
ecclesiasticos luculentissimos, Clementem Romanum, Bamabam, Hermam, Ignatium, Polycarpum.—Sed et apocrypha adhibent iidem aliquoties, quae certum est in hodiemis non haberi evangeliis. Ibid, n* 39. p. 67»
e See Vol. v. p. 188, 244, &c.
5. Once more. The same learned writer says, 'thatf * before the reign of Trajan, the pseudepigraphal books of * heretics had not been rejected. Nor had the faithful * been cautioned not to make use of them.'
Which appears to me an observation of little or no importance. If those pseudepigraphal books were not in being before the reign of Trajan, how should they be rejected before that time? That they were not sooner in being, has beens sufficiently shown. They are the productions of heretics, who arose in the second century: who asserted two principles, had a disadvantageous opinion of marriage, and denied the real humanity of our Saviour. In that second century many pseudepigraphal gospels, Acts, travels, or circuits of apostles, were composed. Which were afterwards made use of by the Mattichees, the Priscillianists, and some others.
But those pseudepigraphal books of heretics never were joined with the genuine writings of the apostles and evangelists. They were always distinguished from them, and were esteemed by all catholic christians in general to be of little value, and no authority. As appears from our collections out of ancient authors, and particularly from the accounts given of those books by h the learned bishop of Caesarea at the beginning of the fourth century.
The question considered, whether any sacred Books of the New Testament have been lost.
THERE is a question which has been proposed by some learned men: whether any sacred books of the New Testament, or any epistles of apostles and evangelists, written by divine inspiration, have been lost? And some have taken the affirmative, particularlya Mr. John Ens,
f See before, p. 350, note a. * Vol. v. p. 247, 248.
h See Vol. iv. p. 97,98; and Vol. v. p. 244, 245.
* Et certe, pace et incolumi amicitia dissentientium id dictum sit, affirmativa nobis eligi debere videtur sententia, et concedi, quod multi divini libri perierint. Joh. Ens, Bibliotheca Sacra, cap. 4. sect iv. p. 19. Amst. 1710.
and b Mr. C. M. Pfaff, in a work published by him in the early part of his life. Herman Witsius likewisec has argued on the same side in several of his works.
I. Here, in the first place, I observe, that some suppositions have been made, and propositions laid down by learned men, which may form a prejudice in favour of the affirmative side of the question, but afford no proof. Such things should not be advanced by fair disputants.
As first, thatd the apostles of Christ were ever ready to serve all the exigences of the church; which is very true. And yet it does not follow that any epistles, or other writings, were composed by them for the general use of christians, beside those which we have. And, secondly, thate it is unlikely that all the apostles of Christ should have written no more letters than now remain: as it is also, thatf Paul should have written no more than fourteen epistles. These, and such like observations, though adopted by s Witsius, as well as some others, I choose to dismiss without a particular discussion, as they contain not any real argument.
Itaque hoc misso, inspiciamus et rite perpendamus, quid probation! inserviat, ad evincendum, quodapostoli plura exararint scripta vere QeoTrvewza etdivina, quam nunc extant. Id. ib. sect. vi. p. 22.
b Chr. Matth. Pfaffii Dissertatio Critica de genuinis Librorum N. T. Lectionibus. p. 46—48. Amst. 1709.
c Coccejus asseveranter dicit, Judam, prater hanc epistolam, non scripsisse, neque necesse habuisse scribere, neque a Spiritu Sancto impulsum fuisse ut scriberet. Id mihi non videtur certum, imo nec probabile. Apostoli enim, quum universalis ecclesiae doctores et directores essent, et corpore ubique preesentes esse non possent, et frequenter sine dubio ab ecclesiis consulerentur,
necesse habuerunt frequenter scribere. Non autem magis opus fuit
omnes apostolorum epistolas superstites manere, quam omnes sermones Christi. Sufficiunt quos habemus, ad perfectum canonem. Wits. Comment, in Ep. S. Jud. sect. xii. p. 463. Vid. Id. De Vita Pauli apostoli. sect. 7. n. xi. sect. 8. n. xxi. et sect. 12. n. xvi.
d Prima observatio est, quod alacres et paratissimi fuerint apostoli ad omnia conferenda, quae usui et utilitati ecclesiae inservire poterant. Ens, ubi supr. sect. xx. p. 35. e Porro attendamus, secundo, quod
quatuordecim habcamus epistolas a solo Paulo conscriptas: et judicet unusquisque, an sibi probabile videatur, Bartholomaeum, Thomam, Jacobum, Alphaei Andream, Philippum, et Simonem Zelotem, quorum nulla habemus scripta, ne unicam quidem ad ecclesiae aedificationem epistolam scripsisse, atque Jacobum et Judam unicam tantum, Petrum duas, et Joannem tres exarasse; quum Paulustoties scripserit. Ens, ib. sect, xxxiii. p. 38.
f Immo nec illud veritatis speciem habet, ipsum Paulum non plures quam quatuordecim epistolas scripsisse. Quod tertio observari velim. Id. sect. xxv. p. 41. g Nullus equidem dubito, quin apostoli omnes pro
singulari sua diligentia frequentissimas literas ad ecclesias curse suae commissas dederint: quibus praesentes semper adesse non licebat, et quibus multa tamen identidem habebant inculcanda. Wits. De Vita Pauli, sect. 7. num. xi. p. 98. Laudanda profecto Dei benignitas est, quod ex tot Paulinis epistolis. quae perierunt, hanc tamen [ad Philem.] mole exiguam, et de re domestica agenlem, superare voluerit. Id. ib. sect 12. num. xvi.
VOL. VI. 2 A
A man who thinks of our Lord's great character and the unparalleled excellence of his discourses, and the great number of his miraculous works, and that he had twelve apostles, and seventy other disciples, employed by him, all zealous for the honour of their Master, and the good of his people, might be disposed to say: Certainly, there were many gospels, or authentic histories of his life, written before the destruction of Jerusalem. And yet, if there is any credit to be given to ecclesiastical history, when John was desired to write his gospel, about the time of that event, or after it, there were brought to him no more than three gospels, to be confirmed by him, or to have some additions made to them. One of which only had been written by an apostle, even Matthew's. And it is the concurrent testimony of all christian antiquity, that there were but four gospels, written by apostles, and apostolical men. And yet we have no reason to say that the true interest of mankind has not been duly consulted.
II. I observe, secondly: it is generally allowed by learned men, and by h Mr. Ens, and' Witsius, that the epistles to the Thessalonians are among the first of St. Paul's epistles that remain, or were written by him. And I think, that the conclusion of the first epistle to the Thessalonians suggests a very probable argument, that it is the first epistle which was written by him with divine and apostolical authority for the edification of christians. The words intended by me, are those of 1 Thess. v. 27," I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren." This, ask was formerly observed, I take to be the first instance of enjoining the reading of a christian writing in their religious assemblies, as a part of their worship. Christian people had before now, very probably, read in that manner the books of the Old Testament. St. Paul, who knew the fulness of the apostolical inspiration, asserts his authority, and requires that the same respect should be now shown to his epistle, and that it should be publicly read among them for their general edification. If any such thing had been done before, there would not have been occasion for so much earnestness as is expressed in this direction. This epistle is supposed to have been written in the year 52, consequently not till near twenty years after our Lord's ascension. If this be the first epistle of Paul, written with apostolical authority, there were no sacred writings of his of a more ancient date to be lost. And his other remaining epistles are as many as could be reasonably expected.
h Ens, ubi supra, sect, xxviii. p. 45. 'At nobis de Paulinis
epistolis nunc est agendum; quarum, quae supersunt, primas esse constat utramque ad Thessalonicenses, Corinthi, ut initio dixi, scriptas. Ubi supra, sect. 7. num. xii. p. 99. k See before, p. 6.
III. There are many considerations, tending to satisfy us that no sacred writings of the apostles of Christ are lost.
1. The four gospels, which we have, were written 1 for the sake of those who certainly would receive them with respect, keep them with care, and recommend them to others. And if any other such authentic histories of Jesus Christ had been written by apostles, or apostolical men, they would have been received, and preserved in the like manner, and would not have been lost.
2. We can perceive from the testimony of divers ancient christian writers, thatm the book of the Acts, which we still have, was the only authentic history of the preaching of the apostles after our Lord's ascension, which they had in their hands, or had heard of; consequently, there was no other such history to be lost.
3. The epistles of Paul, James, Peter, John, Jude, were sent to churches, people, or particular persons, who would show them great regard, when received, and would carefully preserve them, and readily communicate them to others, that they might take copies of them, and make use of them, for their establishment in religion and virtue. If those apostles had written other epistles, and if other apostles had sent epistles to churches planted by them, or to particular persons, their disciples, or christian friends, the case would have been much the same. Those epistles would have been esteemed, preserved, and frequently copied, and could not easily have been lost.
4. Moreover, the apostles and evangelists, who drew up any writings for the instruction or confirmation of christian people, must have been careful of them. The same princi
Ele of zeal for the doctrine taught by them, and for the welire of christian people, which induced them, amidst their many labours, fatigues, and difficulties, to compose any writings, would lead them to take due care that they should answer the ends for which they were composed. Proofs of such care we evidently discern in divers of the epistles of apostles, which we have. A like care, probably, was taken of the rest, and would be taken of epistles written by any
1 See Vol. iv. p. 109, 110.
m See particularly Vol. ii. p. 174, 280; Vol. v. p. 142, 143, &c.