« PreviousContinue »
“surance of many good things. For it proclaims peace with God, the « overthrow of Satan, the remiffion of sins, the abolishing of death, the “ refurrection of the dead, eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven."
Says St. Matthew iv. 23. And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom. Kas angúsowy od ευαγγέλιον της βασιλείας Mark xiii. 1ο. And the gospel [ Tò evayyidsoy] must first be preached to all nations. Ch. xvi. 15. Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Κηρύξατε το ευαγγέλιον. . It is called the word of truth, the gospel of our salvation. Epi. i. 13. And in like manner, in other places.
But by gospel, when used by us concerning the writings of the Evangelists, we mean the historie of Christ's preaching, and miracles. The word seems also to be so used by St. Mark, i. 1. The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Which may be understood, and paraphrased thus: “Here (A) begins the Historie of the life and doctrine of Jesus Christ, “the Son of God, and Saviour of mankind."
St. Luke, referring to the book of his Gospel, says: Acts i. 1. 2. The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day in the which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the Apostles, whom he had chosen, But St. Luke, as it seems, there puts the principal part for the whole. For he has therein writ also the historie of our Lord's miraculous birth, and divers extraordinarie events attending it: and likewise the historie of the birth of John the Baptist, and divers circumstances of it, and his preaching and death.
In this sense the word Gospel is frequently understood by us. A Gospel is the historie of Jesus Christ, his doctrine, miracles, resurrection, and ascension : not excluding the historie of his fore-runner, who (B) also is said to have preached the gospel, that is, the doctrine of the gospel, or the kingdom of God.
The Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, is the historie of Jesus Christ, as writ by those several Evangelists.
(A) That is Dr. Clarke's Paraphrafe. But I am sensible it will not be allowed by all. Oecumenius says, that by Gospel Mark does not intend his own writing, but Christ's preaching. Máznos, d'exnoonoi, iš iu compoyétus inca χεις αλλά και την εαυτό συγγραφής καλεί ευαγγέλιον, αλλά το τα χεις κήρυγpa. Oecum. in Ac. Ap. He proceeds to say, that the faithful afterwards called the writings of the Evangelifts Gospels, as truly containing the gospel, that is, the doctrine of Christ. See Vol. xi. p. 413.
(B) Matt, iii. 1. 2. In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wildernesje of Judea, and saying : Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Compare Mark i. 4. Luke iii. 1. 2. And says St. Luke iii. 18. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people. [lorná pày ăn sej itefca παρακαλών, ευαγγελίζετο τον λαόν. Which may be literally rendered thus ; And exhorting many other like things, he evangelized (or preached the gospel to] the people,
General Observations upon the Canon of the New Testament.
tians in this part of the world, are the Four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, Fourteen Epistles of St. Paul, Seven Catholic Epistles, and the Revelation.
II. There may be different canons of the New Testament among
Indeed, there have been in former times, and still are, different fenti-
(a) See Vol. ix. p. 221. Vol. xi. P. 270... 275.
(c) The fame. P. 341.
V) Facillima refutatu est poftrema hæc opinio, ideo quod Paulinæ episto12 inter fe fint germanæ, pari charactere ac dicendi modo : hæc vero manifelte ab iis discrepet, selectiores habens voces Græcas, leniusque fuens, non autem fracta brevibus incisis, ac talebrofa .... Grot. Prooem. in ep. ad
(3) Hill. Ecc. Ann. 69. p. 455...461.
Hisce argumentis utrinque attente expenfis dicendum videtur, Paulum epistolæ hujus scriptorem non videri . . Quis vero illius fcriptor fit, incertum est. Alii eam Lucæ, alii Barnabæ, alii Clementi adscribunt. Interim divinam hujus epistola autoritatem agnofcimus, multisque aliis, quas ab Apostolis esse feriptas, conftat, ob argumenti quod tractat præstantiam præferendam judicamus. Limb. ibid. Vid. di Calviri, uli fupra.
an Apoftle. Consequently, the epistle to the Hebrews, if writ by an apoftolical man only, should not be esteemed canonical.
Grotius (4) likewife fupposed the second epistle ascribed to Peter, not to have been writ by the Apostle Simon Peter, but by Simeon; chosen Bishop of Jerusalem after the death of James the Just, whose epistle we have. Which Simeon lived to the time of Trajan, when he was crucifed for the name of Christ. Upon which I only observe at present, that if this Simeon be the writer of this epistle, it should not be a part of canonical fcripture.
The fame learned man supposeth (1) the second and third epistles, called St. John's, not to have been writ by John the apostle, but by another John, an Elder or Presbyter who lived about the fame time, and after him, at Ephesus. And the epistle called St. Jude's,
he thought (m) to have been written by one of that name, who was Bishop of Jerusalem in the time of the Emperour Adrian, and not till after there had been several other Bishops of that church, since the death of the forementioned Simeon. If so, I believe all men may be of opinion, that this epistle ought not to be placed in the canon of the New Testament..
It may not be thought right, if I should here entirely omit Mr. Whiffon, whose canon confifted of the (n) Apoftolical Conftitutions, and divers other books, as facred, beside those generally received: and (c) the
(2) Jam olim veterum multi credidere, non effe apoftoli Petri, argumento tum dictionis ab epistola priore multum diversæ, quod agnofcunt Eufebius &c Hieronymus, tum quod multæ olim ecclefiæ hanc non receperint .. Scriptorem autern hujus epiilolze arbitror effe Simeonem, five Simonem, epifcopum poft Jacobi mortem Hierofolymis, ejufdemque Jacobi, cujus epistolam habe, mus, fuccefforem & imitatorem . : . Unde etiam conftat, vixisse hunc poft excidium Hierofolymitanum ad Trajani tempora, & tunc pro nomine Christi crucilizum. Annot. in Ep. Petri fecund.
(1) Hanc epiftolam, & eam quæ fequitur, non effe Johannis Apoftoli, veterum multi jam olim crediderunt, a quibus non dissentiunt Eusebius & Hiero,
Et magna funt in id argumenta. Nam duos fuiffe Johannes Ephefi, Apoltolum, ac Presbyterum, ejus difcipulum, semper constitit ex fepulchris
, alio hujus, alio illius: quæ fepulchra vidit Hieronymus. Grot. Annot, in 9. Joan. fecund.
(n) Quare omnino adducor, ut credam effe hanc epistolam Judæ Episcopi Hierofolymitani, qui fuit Adriani temporibus, paullo ante Barchocliebam. Id. in Annoi. adep. Jude.
(r:) “ The sacred books of the New Testament ftill extant, both those in the 85. canon, and those written afterwards, are the same which we now receive : together with the eight books of Apostolical Constitutions, and their epitone, the Doctrine of the Apostles, the two epistles of Clement, the epistle of Barnabas, the Shepherd of Hermas ; and perhaps the second book of apocryphal Efdras, with the epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp.” Ejay on the 1lpoftolical Conftitutions. ch.i. p. 70.71.
(a) “If any one has a mind to fort the several books of the New Testament, he may in the first place set the Apoftolical Conítitutions, with its ex. tract, or Doctrine of the Apostles, as derived from the body, or College of the Apostles, met in Councils. In the next place he may put the four Gol. pes, with their appendix, the Acts of the Apoilles. The Apocalypse of
Constitutions, in particular, as the most facred of all the canonical books of the New Testament.
Concerning which I beg leave to observe, first, that the receiving the Conftitutions as a sacred book, and part of the rule of faith, would make a great alteration in the Christian scheme. Some might be induced to think it no great blessing to mankind, and scarcely deserving an apologie. Secondly, Mr. Whifton's canon is not the canon of the Christian churches in former times: as is manifest from the large collections, made by us in the preceding volumes, from ecclefiaftical writers of every age, to the beginning of the twelfth centurie. Thirdly, Mr. Whifton, notwithstanding all his labours, made few converts to this opinion. Which I impute to the knowledge and learning of our times. And as the Christian Religion is built upon facts, the studie of Ecclefiaftical Antiquity will be always needful, and may be of use, to defeat various at, tempts of ingenious, but mistaken and prejudiced men.
III. A short canon of Scripture is moft eligible.
Religion is the concern of all men. A few flort histories and epiAtles are better fitted for general use, than numerous and prolix writings, Besides, if any writings are to be received as the rule of faith and manners, it is of the utmost importance, that they be juftly entitled to that distinction. Otherwise men may be led into errours of very bad consequence. If any books pretend io deliver the doctrine of infallible and divinely inspired teachers, such as Jesus Christ and his Apostles are esteemed by Christians : great care should be taken to be well satisfied, that their accounts are authentic, and that they are the genuine writings of the men, whose names they bear. The pretentions of writings, placed in high authority, to which great credit is given, ought to be well attested.
Dr. Jortin, speaking of the work called Apoftolical Constitutions, says : « The (o) authors of them are, it is pretended, the twelve “ Apostles and St. Paul gathered together, with Clement their ama
“ If their authority should appear only ambiguous, it would be our “ duty to reject them, left we should adopt as divine doctrines the com“ mandments of men,
For since each Gospel contains the main parts “ of Christianity, and might be sufficient to make men wise to falva« tion; there is less danger in diminishing, than in enlarging the number “ of canonical books : and less evil would have ensued from the loss of
of the four Gospels, than from the addition of a fifth and spurious one,”
In John also cannot be reckoned at all inferior to them, though it be quite of another nature from them. In the third rank may stand the Epistles of the Apostles, Paul, Peter and John. In the fourth rank may stand the Epistles of the brethren of our Lord, James and Jude. In the fifth and last rank may ftand the epistles and writings of the companions and attendants of the Apostles, Barnabas, Clement, Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp. All which, with the addition perhaps of apocryphal Efdras, and of the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Ads of Paul, were they now extant, I look upon, though in different degrees, • as the sacred books of the New Testament.” Ilid. p. 72. 73.
(1) Dr. Jortin's Remarks on Ecclefiaftical History. Vol. i. p. 229.
In my opinion, that is a very fine and valuable observation.
And I shall transcribe again an observation of Augustin, formerly (0) taken notice of. “Our canonical books of scripture, which are of the “ highest Authority with us, have been settled with great care. They « ought to be few, left their value should be diminished. And
yet they are so many that their agreement throughout is wonder« ful."
IV. I have been sometimes apt to think, that the best canon of the New Testament would be that, which may be collected from (r) Eujebe of Cefarea, and seems to have been the canon of some in his time.
The canon should consist of two classes. In the first should be those books, which he assures us were then universally acknowledged, and had been all along received by all catholic Christians. These are the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, thirteen epistles of St. Paul, one epistle of St. Peter, and one epistle of St. John. These only should be of the highest authority, from which doctrines of religion may be proved.
In the other class should be placed those books, of which Eufebe speaks, as contradicted in his time, though well known: concerning which there were doubts, whether they were writ by the perfons, whose names they bear, or whether the writers were apostles of Christ. These are the epistle to the Hebrews, the epistle of James, the second of Peter, the second and third of John, the epistle of J ude, and the Revelation. These should be reckoned doubtful, and contradicted: though many might be of opinion, that there is a good deal of reason to believe them genuine. And they should be allowed to be publicly read in Christian afsemblies for the edification of the people : but not be alleged, as affording, alone, sufficient proof of any doctrine.
That I may not be misunderstood, I must add, that there should be no third class of sacred books : forafmuch as there appears not any reason from Chriftian antiquity to allow of that character and denomination to any Christian writings, beside those above-mentioned.
In this canon the preceding rule is regarded. It is a short canon. And it seems to have been thought of by some (A) about the time of the Reformation.
V. Nevertheless that, which is now generally received, is a good canon,
For () See Volx.
(v) Vol viii. p. 90. 195. (A) We learn from Paul Sarpi's History of the Council of Trent, that one of the doctrinal articles concerning sacred scripture, extracted, or pretended to be extracted out of Luther's works, was this ; “ that no books îhould be " reckoned a part of the Old Testament, beside those received by the Jews : rs and that out of the New Teltament should be excluded the epistle to the “ Hebrews, the epistle of James, the second of Peter, the second and third of “ John, the epistle of Fude, and the Revelation.” And there were some Bishops in that Council, “ who would have had the books of the New Testa“ ment divided into two classes : in one of which should be put those books " only which had been always received without contradiction : and in the “ other those, which had been rejected by some, or about which at least “ there had been doubts.” And Dr. Courayer, in his notes, seems to favour this proposal. See bis French translation of The Historie of the Council of Trent. Liv. 2. ch. 43. Tom. 1. p. 235. and ch. 47. p. 240. and note (i).