« PreviousContinue »
or tidings. In the New Testament the word denotes the doctrine of salvation, taught by Jesus Christ and his apostles: which indeed is gospel by way of eminence, as it is the best tidings that ever were published in this world. Says Theodoret upon Rom. i. 1, · Hed calls it gospel, as • it contains assurance of many good things. For it
proclaims peace with God, the overthrow of Satan, • the remission of sins, the abolishing of death, the re.surrection of the dead, eternal life, and the kingdom of • heaven.
Says St. Matthew, iv. 23, “ And Jesus went all about Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom.” Και κμρυσσων το ευαγγελειων της Baoidetas. Mark xiii. 10, “ And the gospel [To evayyencor] must first be preached to all nations. Ch. xvi. 15, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.” Knpuţate to evayyełlov. It is called “ the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation,” Eph. 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 history of Christ's preaching and miracles. The word seems also to be so used by St. Mark, i. I, “ The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ." Which may be understood and paraphrased thus : · Here e begins the history of the life and doctrine • of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and Saviour of man• kind.'
St. Luke, referring to the book of his gospel, says, Acts i. 1, 2, “ The former treatise bave 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 tbe principal part for the whole. For he has therein written also the history of our Lord's miraculous birth, and divers extraordinary events attending it : and likewise the history
Ευαγγελιον δε το κηρυγμα προσηγορευσεν, ώς πολλων αγαθων υπισχναμενον χορηγιαν. . Ευαγγελιζεται γαρ τας το θεα καταλλαγας, την το διαβολο καταλυσιν, των αμαρτηματων την αφεσιν, το θανατο την παυλαν, των νεκρων την ανασασιν, την ζωην την αιωνιον, την βασιλειαν των ερανων. Ιn ep. ad Rom. T. iii. p. 10. B.
e That is Dr. Clarke's paraphrase. But I am sensible it will not be allowed by all. Ecumenius says, that by Gospel Mark does not intend his own writing, but Christ's preaching. Μαρκος, Αρχη, φησι, το ευαγγελιε Ιησε Χρισ8' αλλα και την εαυτο συγγραφην καλει ευαγγελιον, αλλα το το Χρισε κηρυγua. Ecum. in Act. Ap. He proceeds to say, that the faithf afterwards called the writings of the evangelists gospels, as truly containing the gospel, that is, the doctrine of Christ. See Vol. v. p. 155.
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 history of Jesus Christ, bis doctrine, miracles, resurrection and ascension: not excluding the history of his forerunner, who' 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 history of Jesus Christ, as written by those several evangelists.
General observations upon the Canon of the New Testament.
I. THE canonical books of the New Testament received by christians 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.
11. There may be different canons of the New Testament among christians.
Indeed, there have been in former times, and still are, different sentiments among christians, concerning the number of books to be received as canonical. Thea canon of the Syrian churches is not the same as ours. Jerom tells us, that in his time some of the Latins rejected the epistle to the Hebrews, and some of the Greeks the book of the Revelation. From Chrysostom's works we perceive, that he did not receive the second epistle of St. Peter, nor the second and third of St. John, nor the epistle of St. Jude, nor the Revelation. And there is reason to think, that d Theo
. Mat. iii. 1, 2, “ In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying: Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Compare Mark 4; Luke iii. 1, 2. And says St. Luke, iii. 18, "And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people." Πολλα μεν εν και έτερα παρακαλων, ευηγγελιζετο τον λαον. Which may be literally rendered thus: “ And exhorting many other like things, he evangelized (or preached the gospel to] the people.”
a See Vol. iv. ch. ciii. and Vol. v. ch. cxlviü. num. ii. 9. • Vol. iv. ch. cxiv, num. viü. 5.
c The same, ch. cxviii, num. x.
d Vol. v. p. 19.
doret's canon likewise was much the same with Chrysostom's, and that of the churches in Syria. Nevertheless, we bave observed in the course of this work, that about the same time the Egyptians, and the christians in divers other parts of the world, had the same number of canonical books that we have.
But to come nearer our own time, Calvin, e Grotius, Le Clerc, & Philip Limborch, and some other learned muderns, have not admitted the epistle to the Hebrews to have been written by St. Paul: though they were willing to allow it to be the work of an apostolical man, and a valuable part of sacred scripture. But I cannot say, that they were in the right in so doing. For it appears to me to have been a maxim of the ancient christians not to receive any doctrinal or preceptive writing, as of authority, unless it were known to be the work of an apostle. Consequently, the epistle to the Hebrews, if written by an apostolical man only, should not be esteemed canonical.
Grotius k likewise supposed the second epistle ascribed to Peter, not to have been written 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 crucified 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 scripture,
The same learned man supposeth the second and third
Ego, ut Paulum agnoscam auctorem, adduci nequeo. Calvin. Argum. in ep. ad Hebr.
Facillima refutatu est postrema hæc opinio, ideo quod Paulinæ epistolæ inter se sint germanæ, pari charactere ac dicendi modo; hæc vero manifeste ab iis discrepet, selectiores habens voces Græcas, leniusque fluens, non autem fracta brevibus incisis, ac salebrosaGrot. Proæm. in ep. ad Hebr. 8 Hist. Ec. Ann. 69. p. 455-461.
Prolegom. in ep. ad Hebr. Hisce argumentis utrinque attente expensis, dicendum videtur, Paulum epistolæ hujus scriptorem non videri-Quis vero illius scriptor sit, incertum est. Alii eam Lucæ, alii Barnabæ, alii Clementi adscribunt - Interim divinam hujus epistolæ auctoritatem agnoscimus, multisque aliis, quas ab apostolis esse scriptas constat, ob argumenti quod tractat præstantiam, præferendam judicamus. Limb. ibid. Vid. et Calvin. ubi supra.
* Jam olim veterum multi credidere non esse apostoli Petri, argumento tum dictionis ab epistola priore multum diversæ, quod agnoscunt Eusebius et Hieronymus, tum quod multæ olim ecclesiæ hanc non receperint-Scriptorem autem hujus epistolæ arbitror esse Simeonem, sive Simonem, episcopum post Jacobi mortem Hierosolymis, ejusdemque Jacobi, cujus epistolam habemus, successorem et imitatorem - Unde etiam constat, vixisse hunc post excidium Hierosolymitanum ad Trajani tempora, et tunc pro nomine Christi crucifixum. Annot. in Ep. Petri secund.
| Hanc epistolam, et eam quæ sequitur, non esse Johannis apostoli veterum multi jam olim crediderunt a quibus non dissentiunt Eusebius et Hieronymus.
epistles, called St. John's, not to have been written by John the apostle, but by another John, an elder or presbyter who lived about the same time, and after him at Ephesus.
And the epistle called St. Jude's, be thought m to have been written by one of that name, who was bishop of Jerusalem in the time of the emperor Adrian, and not till after there had been several other bishops of that church, since the death of the fore-mentioned 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. Whiston, whose canon consisted of the " Apostolical Constitutions, and divers other books, as sacred, beside those generally received: ando the Constitutions, in
particular, as the most sacred of all the canonical books of the New Testament,
Concerning which I beg leave to observe; First, that the receiving the Constitutions 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 apology: Secondly, Mr. Whiston's canon is not the canon of the christian churches in former times; as is manifest
Et magna sunt in id argumenta. Nam duos fuisse Johannes Ephesi, apostolum, ac presbyterum ejus discipulum, semper constitit ex sepulcris, alio hujus, alio illius ; quæ sepulcra vidit Hieronymus. Grot. Annot. in ep. Joan. secund.
m Quare omnino adducor, ut credam esse hanc epistolam Judæ episcopi Hierosolymitani, qui fuit Adriani temporibus, paulo ante Barchochebam. Id. in Annot. ad ep. Judæ.
The sacred books of the New Testament still extant, both those in the • 85th canon, and those written afterwards, are the same which we now re
ceive; together with the eight books of the Apostolical Constitutions, and • their epitome, 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 Esdras, with the Epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp.' Essay on the Apostolical Constitutions, ch. i. p. 70, 71.
• • If any one has a mind to sort the several books of the New Testament, • he may in the first place set the Apostolical Constitutions with its extract, or • Doctrine of the Apostles, as derived from the body, or college of the apos• tles met in councils. In the next place he may put the four gospels, with • their appendix, the Acts of the Apostles. The Apocalypse of John also can‘not 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 stand the epistles
and writings of the companions and attendants of the apostles, Barnabas, • Clement, Hermas, Ignatius, Polycarp. All which, with the addition per• haps of apocryphal Esdras, and of the Apocalypse of Peter, and the Acts of • Paul where now extant, I look upon, though in different degrees, as the sa• cred books of the New Testament.' Ibid. p. 72, 73.
from the large collections made by us in the preceding volumes, from ecclesiastical writers of every age to the beginning of the twelfth century. Thirdly, Mr. Whiston, 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 study of ecclesiastical antiquity will be always needful, and may be of use to defeat various attempts of ingenious, but mistaken and prejudiced men. III. A short canon of scripture is most eligible.
Religion is the concern of all men. A few short bistories and epistles 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 justly entitled to that distinction : otherwise men may be led into errors of very
bad consequence. If any books pretend to 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 pretensions of writings placed in high authority, to which great credit is given, ought to be well attested.
Þr. Jortin, speaking of the work called Apostolical Constitutions, says : • The P authors of them are, it is pre
tended, the twelve apostles and St. Paul, gathered to• gether, with Clement their amanuensis.
• If their authority should appear only ambiguous, it • would be our duty to reject them, lest we should adopt as • divine doctrines the commandments of men. For since * each gospel contains the main parts of christianity, and
might be sufficient to make men wise to salvation; there • is less danger in diminishing, than in enlarging the num• ber of canonical books: and less evil would bave ensued • from the loss of one of the four gospels, than from the ad• dition of a fifth and spurious one.
In my opinion, that is a very fine and valuable observation.
And I shall transcribe again an observation of Augustine, formerly 9 taken notice of: Our canonical books of scrip• ture, which are of the highest authority with us, have • been settled with great care.
They ought to be few, • lest their value should be diminished : and yet they
p Dr Jortin's Remarks on Ecclesiastical History, Vol. I. p. 229. 4 See Vol. iv. ch. cxvii. num. xvii.