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« teacher, but as one of you, shall lay before you a few things, that you « may be joyful."
And somewhat lower: “ Again, (e) I entreat you, as one of you."
He writes as a man, who had gifts of the Spirit, but not that full measure which was a prerogative of Apostles. “ He (f) who put the “engraffed gift of his doctrine in us, knows, that no man has received
(or learned] from me a truer word. But I know, that you are << worthie.”
I shall add a few more very modeft expressions, not suitable to an Apoftle.
« Thus (g) as much as in me lies, I have writ to you with great « plainnesse. And I hope, that according to my ability, I have omit“ ted nothing conducive to your salvation in the present circum« stance.”
In the last chapter: “I (h) beseech you: I ask it as a favour of you, « whilst you are in this beautiful vessel of the body, be wanting in none a of these things."
And still nearer the conclufion. « Wherefore (i) I have endeavoured " to write to you, according to my ability, that you might rejoice.”
Upon the whole, this epistle well answers the character given of Barnabas in the Aets, particularly, ch. xi. 24. He was full of the Holy Ghost. The writer of this Epistle had the gift of the Spirit, though not that measure, which was peculiar to Apostles. He was full of faith. The writer of this epistle had an earnest zeal for the truth and fimplicity of the gospel. He was also a good man. In this epistle we observe the mildnesle and gentlenesse, by which Barnabas seems to have been distinguished. But we do not discern here the dignity and authotity of an Apostle.
Consequently, this epistle may afford edification, and may be read with that view. But it ought not to be esteemed by us, as it was not by the ancients, a part of the rule of faith.
(e) Adhuc & hoc rogo vos, tamquam unus ex vobis. Ib. cap. 4.
(1) Οίδες και την άμφιτον δωρεαν της διδαχής αυτό έμενον εν ήμεϊν έδεις γνησί. ωτε ον έμαθεν απ' εμέ τόγον. Αλλά διδα, ότι άξιοι έσέ υμείς. Cap. 9.
(g) Εφ' όσον ήν εν δυνατω και απλότητι δη ωσαι υμίν ελπίζει με ή ψχνη τη π θυμία με μη ταραλελοιπέναι με τι των ανηκόων υμών εις σωτηρίαν, εεσωτων, Cap: 17.
(1) Γρωτή υμάς, χάριν αντέμενος. κ. λ. Cap. 21. (i) Asà pãrãos és nedvou reál cos, áp av induradav, sis sò suqjão em iusz. Ibid.
c H A P.
Of the Method, in which the Canon of the New Testament has been formed.
HE canon of the New Testament is a collection of books,
writ by several persons, in several places, and at different times. It is therefore reasonable to think, that it was formed gradually. At the rise of the Christian Religion there were no written systems or records of it
. It was first taught and confirmed by Christ himself in his most glorious ministrie: and was still farther confirmed by his willing death, and his resurrection from the dead, and ascension to heaven. Afterwards it was taught by word of mouth, and propagated by the preaching of his Apostles and their companions. Nor was it fit, that any books should be writ about it, till there were converts to receive and keep them, and deliver them to others.
If St. Paul's two epistles to the Thessalonians were the first written books of the New Testament, and not writ till the year 51. or 52, about twenty years after our Saviour's ascension, they would be for a while the only sacred books of the new dispensation.
As the Christians at Thessalonica had received the doctrine taught by Paul, not as the word of men, but, as it is in truth, the word of God. 1 Theff. ii. 13. they would receive his epistles, as the written word of God. And himself taught them so to do, requiring, that they should be folemnly read unto all the holy brethren. 1 Thesl
. v. 27. He gives a like. direction, but more extensive, at the end of his epistle to the Calotsians. iv. 16. requiring them, after they had read it amongst themfelves, to cause it to be read also in the church of the Laodiceans : and that they likewise read the epistle, that would come to them from Laodicea.
All the Apostle Paul's epistles, whether to churches or particular persons, would be received with the like respect by those to whom they were sent, even as the written word of God, or sacred fcriptures. And in like manner the writings of all the Apostles and Evangelists.
They who first received them would, as there were opportunities, con> vey them to others. They who received them, were fully assured of their genuinnesie by those who delivered them. And before the end of the first centurie, yea not very long after the middle of it, it is likely, there were collections made of the four Gospels, and most of the other books of the New Testament, which were in the hands of a good number of churches and persons.
From the quotations of Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, and other writers of the second centurie, of Origen in the third, and of Eusebius in the fourth centurie, it appears, that the greatest part of the books, which are now received by us, and are called canonical, were universally acknowledged in their times, and had been so acknowledged by the elders and churches of former times. And the reft, now received by us, though they were then doubted of, or controverted by fome, were (a) well known, and approved by many. And Athanafius, who lived not long after Eusebius, (having flourished from the year 326. and after
wards) (a) See Eufebius, Vol. viii. p. 96. 97,
wards) received all the same books, which are now received by us, and no other. Which has also been the prevailing sentiment ever since.
This canon was not determined by the authority of Councils. But the books, of which it consists, were known to be the genuine writings of the Apostles and Evangelists, in the same way.and manner that we know the works of Cesar, Cicero, Virgil, Horace, Tacitus, to be theirs. And the canon has been formed upon the ground of an unanimous, or generally concurring testimonie and tradition.
In the course of this long work we have had frequent occafion to observe, that the canon of the New Testament had not been settled by any authority universally acknowledged, particularly, not in the time of (6) Eufebius, nor of (c) Auguftin, nor of (d) Caffiodorius : but that nevertheless there was a general agreement among Christians upon this head.
That the number of books to be received as sacred and canonical had not been determined by the authority of any Council, or Councils, universally acknowledged, is apparent from the different judgements among Christians, in several parts of the world, concerning divers books, particularly, the epistle to the Hebrews, and the Revelation : which were received by some, rejected, or doubted of by others. Not now to mention any of the Catholic Epistles. There was no catalogue of the books of Scripture in any canon of the Council of Nice. Augustin (e) giving directions to inquisitive persons, how they might determine, what books are cononical, and what not, refers not to the decisions of any Councils. Caffiodorius, in the fixth centurie, has () three catalogues, one called Jerome's, another Augustin's, another that of the ancient version. But he refers not to the decree of any Council, as decisive. And it seems to me, that in all times Christian people and churches have had a liberty to judge for themselves, according to evidence. And the evidence of the genuinnesle of most of the books of the New Testament has been so clear and manifeft, that they have been universally received.
The genuinnesle of these books, as before said, is known in the same way with others, by testimonie or tradition. The first testimonie is that of those who were contemporarie with the writers of them. Which testimonie has been handed down to others.
That in this way the primitive Christians formed their judgement concerning the books proposed to be received as sacred scriptures, appears from their remaining works. Says Clement of Alexandria : « This
(8) we have not in the four Gospels, which have been delivered to us, « but in that according to the Egyptians." Tertullian may be seen largely to this purpose. Vol. ii. 576...581. I pass on to Origen, who says: “ As (b) I have learned by tradition concerning the four Gospels, «'which alone are received without dispute by the whole Church of God “ under heaven.” So Eusebe, in his Ecclesiastical History, often observes, what books of the New Testament had been quoted by the ancients, and what not. And having rehearsed a catalogue of books uni
(6) Vol. viii. p. 105. () Vol. 4. 207. ..211.
(d) Vol. xi. 279. (6) Vol. x. p. 207.
() Vol. xi. p. 303. . . 306. (8) Vol. i. p. 496. and 529. (1) Vol. iii. p. 235.
versally received, and of others controverted, he says: “ It (i) was nece. « ful to put down these also; distinguishing the scriptures, whicu ac“cording to ecclefiaftical tradition are true, genuine, and univerfaliy ac" knowledged, from those which are controverted, and yet appear to have “ been known to many: that by this means we may know them from « such as have been published by heretics, under the names of Apostles, “ Which books none of the ecclesiastical writers in the succession from u the times of the Apostles have vouchsafed to mention in their writ.
ings.” I may not transcride, but only refer to (k) Athanafius in his Feftal Epistle, to (2) Cyril of Jerusalem, (m) Rufin, and (n) Augustin.
However, beside observing the testimonie of writers in former times, they criticised the books, which were proposed to them : examining their stile and contents, and comparing them with those books, which had been already received as genuine upon the ground of an unanimous teftimonie, and undoubted tradition. Says honelt Serapion, Bishop of Antioch, in an epistle to some, who had too much respect for a writing, entitled the Gospel of Peter : “ We (6) brethren, receive Peter, and the other “ Apostles, as Christ : but as įkilful men, we reject those writings, which " are falsly ascribed to them : well knowing, that we have received no "such.” And he adds, that upon perusing that work, he had found the main part of it agreeable to the right doctrine of our Saviour : but there were some other things of a different kind. And Eusebe adds in the place transcribed above: “ The () ftile also of thefe books is en
tirely different from that of the Apostles. Moreover the sentiments « and doctrine of these writings differ from the true orthodox Christianity. "All which things plainly shew, that they are the forgeries of heretics.
It has been sometimes said, that the Council of Laodicea first settled the canon of the New Testament. But it may be justly said to have been settled before. At left there had been long before a general agreement among Christians, what books were canonical, and what not: what were the genuine writings of Apostles and Evangelists, and what not. From the decree of the Council itself it appears, that there were writings already known by the title of canonical. That Council does nothing in their last canon, but declare, “ That (9) private psalms ought not to be "read in the church, nor any books not canonical, but only the cano“nical books of the Old and New Testament.” After which follows a catalogue or enumeration of such books. The same may be said of the third Council of Carthage, whose 47. canon is to this purpose : “ Morea "over (r) it is ordained, that nothing beside the Canonical Scriptures be “ read in the church, under the name of Divine Scriptures.
I shall now transcribe below a long and fine passage of Mr. Le Clerc, wherein he says: “ We (s) no where read of a Council of the Apostles,
(i) Vol. viii. p. 97.98. See likewise p. 99.. 102.
(1 P. 268.
(n) P. 207. 208. 6) Vol. ii. p. 558.
(0) Vol. vii. p.98. (9) Vol. vii. p. 291.292.
fr) Vol. x. p. 193. (si Nufquam quídem legimus, Collegium Apoftolicum, aut cætum ullum Rectorum Ecclefiarum Chriftianarum coactum effe, qui pro auctoritate defi
« or of any assemblie of the Governours of Christian churches, conven“ed, to determine by their authority, that such a number of Gospels, “ neither more nor fewer, should be received. Nor was there any need “ of it, since it is well known to all from the concurring testimonie of “contemporaries, that these four Gospels are the genuine writings of “ those whose names they bear: and since it is also manifest, that there “is in them nothing unworthie of those, to whom they are ascribed, nor
any thing at all contrarie to the revelation of the Old Testament, nor “ to right reason. There was no need of a synod of Grammarians, to « declare magisterially what are the works of Cicero, or Virgil. .. In « like manner the authority of the Gospels has been established by gene“ral and perpetual consent, without any decree of the Governours of « the Church. We may say the same of the Apoftolical Epistles, which
owe all their authority, not to the decisions of any ecclefiaftical aflem“blie, but to the concurring testimonie of all Christians, and the things “themselves, which are contained in them.”
Mr. James Bafuage (t) has several chapters, shewing how the canon of the New Testament was formed, without the authoritative decisions of Councils. I likewise refer to (2) Mr. Jones upon this subject. I must also remind my readers of (x) Augustin's excellent observations, in his arguments with the Manicheans, concerning the genuinnefle and integrity of the books of the New Testament. I shall transcribe from him here a few lines only, which are very much to the present purpose. « We (y) know the writings of the Apostles, says he, as we know the « works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and others. And as we know « the writings of divers ecclesiastical authors : forasmuch as they have “ the testimonie of contemporaries, and of those who have lived in suc“ ceeding ages."
Upon the whole, the writings of the Apostles and Evangelists are received, as the works of other eminent men of antiquity are, upon the
nierint hunc numerum Evangeliorum efle admittendum, non majorem, nec minorem. Sed nec opus fuit, cum omnibus conftaret, ex teftimonio et confenfu æqualium, quatuor hæc Evangelia eorum vere fuisse, quorum nomina praferunt: cumque nihil in iis legatur quod fcriptoribus dignum non fit, vel revelationi Veteris Testamenti, rectæve rationi, vel minimum adversetur : aut quod inferius ævum, recentiorumque manus ullo modo recipiat. Non opus fuit fynodo Grammaticorum, qui, pro imperio, pronunciarent ea scripta, verbi caufla, Ciceronis et Virgilii, quæ eorum esse non dubitamus, re verâ tantorum ingeniorum fætus fuiffe, et pofteritati ea in re consulerent. Omnium confenfus, non quæfitus, non rogatus, fed fponte fignificatus, prout occasio tulit, resque ipfæ omnibus, qui poftea vixere, dubitationem omnem anteverterunt. . . Sic et Evangeliorum auctoritas merito conftituta ett, et invaluit, perpetuo consensu, fine ullo Rectorum Ecclefiæ decreto.
Idem dixerimus de Epiftolis Apoftolicis, quæ nullius ecclesiastici conventus judicio, fed conitanti omnium chriftianorum teftimonio, rebusque ipfis, quas complectuntur, auctoritatem omnem fuam debent. Cleric. H. E. ann. 100. num. iii. iv. Fidl. et. ann. 29. num. xcii.
(ti Hist. de l'Eglise. l. 8. ch. v. vi. vii.
G) P. 379.