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the name of that eminent and excellent man, firom whose
pen it professes to have come. That the New Testament is
also authentic and credible, we undertake to show. We
exclude the more ancient portion of the sacred volume, not
because of any deficiency in its evidence, but for the sake
of unity and clearness in our inquiries ; and because, when
the argument for the New Testament is set forth in a
conclusive form, the authenticity and credibility of the
other is rendered, as will hereafter appear, a necessary infe-
rence. The two questions will be the subjects of diflFerent
lectures. To that of authenticity om: attention will, this
evening, be confined. Let us b^in with the following :

How does it appear thai the several writings composing
the indume of the New Testament were written by the men
to whom tfiey are ascribed — the original disciples of Christ —
and are consequently authentic 7

We pursue precisely the same method in determining the
authorship of the New Testament, as in ascertaining that
of any other book of a passed age. For example j we



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possess a celebrated poem entitled Paradise Lost. It bears
the name of Milton. How. do we know that Milton com-
posed it ? The answer is easy. Our fathers received it, as
his production, from their fathers ; and they, from theirs.
By such steps, we ascend to the very year in which the book
was first published, and find it invariably ascribed to Milton.
Moreover, the history of the age in which he Uved, speaks
of it as unquestionably and notoriously his work. Writers
of every succeeding age refer to, and quote it as well known
to be his. The language of the poem bears the characteristic
marks of Milton's times. Its spirit, genius, and style, dis-
jday the distinctive features of Milton's mind and character.
And, finally, though Milton had many enemies, and lived
in a time of great divisions, and this poem redounded greatly
to his praise, and many must have been disposed, had they
been able, \o discover some fdse pretensions in his claim to
its authorship ; no other person in that age was ever men-
tioned as disputing his title, but all united in acknowledging
him as the writer of Paradise Lost. On this evidence,
although the poem professes to have been written as far back
as the year 1674, we are so perfectly certain of its authentici-
ty, that the man who should dispute it would be justly
suspected of idiocy or derangement. And had Milton lived
in the 7th, instead of the 17th century, a similar body of
evidence would have been equally satisfactory. If, instead
of the 7th century, he had lived in the first of the Christian
era, similar evidence, reaching up to his time, would still
prove, beyond a question, that he wrote Paradise Lost.
Thus it is evident that time has no eflFect to impair the force
of such proof. Whether a book be ascribed to the Christian
era or to five centuries before or after; the evidence, being
the same, is equally satisfactory. It as well convinces us
that the history ascribed to Herodotus, in the 5th century,
jofore Christ, was written by that historian, as that the
yEn^id^ was written by Virgil, a little l-)efore the birth of

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Christ ; or tlie " Faerie Queen^ by Spenser, in the 1590th
year after that event. We are no less satisfied of the authen-
ticity of' the orations of Demosthenes, than of Newton's
Principia ; — ^though between the dates of their publication,
there is an interval of more than two thousand years. So
little does the age of a book affect the evidence required to
establish its authenticity.

Now in ascertaining the authorship of the New Testa-
ment, we are furnished with evidence precisely similar to
that which settles the question so conclusively as to either of
the works above mentioned.* An unbroken chain of testi
mony ascends from the present generation to the preceding,
and thence to the next beyond, and thence onward again, till
it reaches the very age of the apostles, exhibiting an uninter-
rupted series of acknowledgments of the New Testament,
as having been written indeed by those primitive disciples to
whom its several parts are ascribed. Besides this, historians
and other writers of the age ascribed to this volume, as well
Heathen and Jewish, as Christian, not only recognise its
existence in their day, but speak of it as notoriously the
production of its reputed authors. The language is charac-
teristic of their age, nation and circumstances. The style
and spirit exhibit the well-known peculiarities of their re-
spective minds and dispositions. And again, although the
New Testament at the time of its first appearance, either in
parts or collectively, was surrounded with numerous, learned,
and ingenious, as well as most bitter enemies, both among
Heathens and Jews ; and although there arose at an early
period, many animated controversies between the real be-
lievers in gospel truth, on one side, and sundry heretical

♦ "We know," says St. Augustine, "the writings of the Apostles, as we
know the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and others ; and as we
know the writings of divers ecclesiastical authors ; for as much as they hav«
the testimony of contemporaries, and of those who have lived in succeeding


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^etenders to the christian faith, whose cause would often
have been materially served by a well sustained denial of the
authenticity of certain of the books of the New Testament ;
none in the primitive ages, whether heretics or open enemies,
ever denied that this volume contained the genuine writings
of the original apostles and disciples of Christ On the
contrary, all received, argued, and acted upon it as unques-
tionably authentic. Thus we have the same evidence that
the books of the New Testament were written by those
whose names they bear, as that Paradise Lost was written
by the man whose name it bears. The force of this evidence
is in no wise diminished by the consideration that the apos-
tles lived in the first, and Milton in the seventeenth century.

Thus have you received a general outline of the argu-
ment. We proceed to a more particular view.

I. The books of the New Testament are quoted or alluded
to by a series of writers who may be followed up in unbroken
$ucoession from the present age to that of the apostles. In
proof of this, it is unnecessary for the satisfaction of any
person of ordinary information to trace the hne of testimony
from the present time, or from any point of departure lower
down than the fourth centuiy. Whoever has the least
acquaintance with the history of the civilized world, as far
upward as the fourth century, must know that the acknow-
ledgment of the New Testament, as composed of authentic
writings, is interwoven with all the literature, science, and
political, as well as reUgious institutions, of every subsequent
age. We begin, therefore, the chain of testimony at the
fourth century.

It is a very impressive evidenceof the high estimate in which
the New Testament was universally held at this period, that
beside innumerable quotations in various writings, no less
than eleven distinct, formal catalogues of its several books,
were composed at various times, during the fourth century,
by different hands ; and two of them by large and solemn


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councils of the heads of the christian church. All of these
are still extant ; and all agree, in every particular, important
to the present argument, with the list of the New Testament
writings as at present received, la the year 397, a national
or provincial council assembled at Carthage, consisting of
forty-four bishops — ^Augustine, bishop of Hippo, was a mem-
ber. The 47th canon of that council is thus written : " It
is ordained that nothing beside the canonical scriptures be
read in the church under the name of divine scriptures ; and
the canonical scriptures are these," &c. In the enumeration,
we find precisely our New Testament books, and no more.*

About the same time Augustine wrote a book entitled " Of
Ike Christian Docirine,^^ in which is furnished a catalogue of
what he considered the authentic writings of the evangelists
and apostles, agreeing entirely with ours. " In these books
(saith he) they who fear God, seek his rvUU^t

A short time before this, Rufinus, a presb3rter of Aquileia,
published an ^^Explication of the Apostle^ Creed j^ in which
he includes a catalogue of the scriptures. It commences
thus : " It will not be improper to enumerate here, the books
of the New and Old Testament, which we find, by the monu-
ments of the fathers, to have been delivered to the churches,
as inspired by the Holy Spirit." This list differs m nothing
from ours.t

Jerome, a contemporaneous writer, universally allowed to
have been the most learned of the Latin fathers, in a letter
concerning the study of the scriptures, enumerates the books
of the New Testament in precise correspondence with our
volume. With regard to the Epistle to the Hebrews, he
states that by some it was not considered as the work of
Paul; though it is evident, from other places of his writings,
that he was satisfied of its authenticity, and numbered it
among the canonical scnptures.§

* Lardner's Credibility of the Gosp. Hist. ii. 574.

t Lardner, ii. 578. t Tb. ii. 573. S lb. ii. 548.



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In the year 380, wrote Philastrius, bishop of Brescia. In
a book " Concerning Heresies^^ he gives a catalogue iigree*
ing entirely with ours, except that it omits the Epistle to the
Hebrews, and the Book of Revelation. But it does n«)t fol-
low that these were not considered canonical. The ol »ject of
his catalogue is to enumerate the books appointed to l>e read
in the churches. The Epistle to the Hebrews, he says, was
read in the churches " sometimes." " Some pretend (he
writes) that additions have been made to it by some hetero-
dox persons, and that for that reason it ought not to Ih^ read
in the churches, though it is read by some." Philjistrius
himself received it, and frequently quoted it as the work of
St. Paul, and reckoned it a heresy to reject it. He received
also the book of Revelation, mentioning its rejection by
some among the heresies of the age, "There art*, some
(he writes) who dare to isay that the Revelation is not a
writing of John the apostle and evangelist."*

About the year 370, flourished Gregory Nazianzen, bishop
of Constantinople, who in a work " On the Trite and
Genuine ScrifturesJ^ enumerates all the present books oi
the New Testament, except that of Revelation. This howr
ever he has quoted in his other works.t

At the same time, wrote Epiphanius, bishop of Constantia,
in Cyprus ; " a man of five languages." He wrote against
heresies, and gave a list of the New Testament books which
agrees exactly with ours.t

About the year 350, another catalogue was published by
the Council of Laodicea, diflFering in nothing from ours but
m the omission of Revelation. The decrees of this council
were, in a short time, received into the canons of the imiver-
sal church ; so that as early as about the middle of the^th
century, we find a universal agreement, in all partS: of: the
world in which Christianity existed, as to the constituent

• Lardner, ii. 523. t lb 470, 71. t lb. 116.

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parts of the New Testament, with the single exception of
the h>ofc of Revelation. That this was also generally
received, and why any doubted its authenticity, will appear
in our subsequent progress.*

Athanasius and Cyril, the latter bishop of Jerusalem, a
little earlier in the century, have furnished catalogues— that
of the former agreeing entirely with ours — ^that of the lattei
in every thing but the omission of the Revelation of St

. Tho last catalogue to be mentioned in the 4th century, is
tliat of Eusebius, bishop of Csesarea, who flourished about
die yoar 315. " A man (says Jerome) most studious in the
diviiie scriptures, and very diligent in making a large collec-
tion of ecclesiastical writers." In his Eccle3iastical History,
he mentions, as belonging to the canon of scripture, all our
prestiiit books. While he speaks of the Epistle of James,
tlie second of Peter, the third of John, and the book of Re-
velation, as questioned by some, he states that they were
genojdlly received, and declares his own conviction that they
ought not to be doubted.t

The above testimonies, though capable of great multipU-
t^tioii, are amply sufficient to exhibit the universal confi-
dence of Christians, of the fourth century, in the authen-
ticity of the New Testament. Let us proceed to the third.
In this, among other important names, we find that of the
celebrated Origen, who flourished about the year 230, having
been bom A. D. 184. Jerome speaks of him, as the greatest
doctor of the churches, since the apostles — that he had the
scri]»tures by heart, and laboured day and night in studying
and explaining them.t Great numbers of all descriptions of
men attended his lectures. Heathen philosophers dedicated
their writings to him, and submitted them to his revisal. He

♦ Lanlner, ii. 414. Alexander on the Canon, p. 150.
t lb. ii. 368, &c. t lb. i. 527.

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wrote a three-fold exposition of the books of scripture, on
which he bestowed all his learning. He lived within a hun-
dred years of the death of St. John, and was therefore so
near the time of the publication of the books of the New
Testament, that he could hardly avoid obtaining the most
accurate knowledge of their origin and authors. His enu-
meration of these writings contains no other books than
those of our sacred volume, and includes all that we receive,
except the Epistles of James and Jude, which could not have
been omitted by design, as in other places he expressly
acknowledges them as part of the sacred canon.

Beside Origen, we have in the third century, Victorinus, a
bishop in Germany; Cyprian, bishop of Carthage; Gregory,
of Neo-Caesarea, and Dionysius, of Alexandria, in whose
writings are found most copious quotations from almost
every book of the New Testament.

We proceed to the second century. Here we meet with
TertuUian, a native of Carthage, bom about the year 150,
within fifty years of the last of the apostles, and renowned
in his day as a learned, vigorous, and voluminous writer in
defence of Christianity. His works abound in quotations of
the most direct kind, and with long extracts from all the
books of the New Testament, except four of the minor
Epistles, which, as he nowhere professes to give a formal
catalogue, he may easily be supposed to have passed un
quoted, without entertaining any opinion unfavourable tc
their authenticity. TertuUian's quotations occupy nearly
thirty folio pages. " There are more and larger quotations
of the small volume of the New Testament in this one
christian author, than of all the works of Cicero — in the
writers of all characters for several ages.^^*

The same is true with regard to Irenaeus and Clement, of
Alexandria, both writers of the second century. In whal

♦Lardner, i. 435.

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spirit these early Christians regarded the authority of the
New Testament books, may be judged from the manner of
their quotations. Irenaeus writes : " As the blessed Paul
says, in the Epistle to the Ephesians, v. 30 : ' For we are
members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.' " And
so C-lement, " The blessed Paid, in the first Epistle to the
Coriuthiaiis : * Brethren, be not children in understand-
ing,' " <fcc.

It deserves to be specially noted that, in this early age, the
book of Revelation is expressly ascriboi to St. John. The
testimony of Irenaeus to this effect is so full and strong, that
it may justly be considered as putting its authenticity entirely
beyond reasonable dispute.*

There is abundant evidence that, in the second century,
the books of the New Testament were open to all, and well
known in the world. In TertuUian's Apology^ addressed to
the Roman presidents, he challenges an inspection of the
scri]>tures. "Look into the words of God, our scriptures,
whioh we ourselves do not conceal, and many accidents
bring into the way of those who are not of our religion."
In this appeal, he calls the attention of the heathen rulers
to the Epistles and Gospels, as constituting, "the words of
God, our scriptures."t

There is good reason to beUeve that, in the time of Ter-
tulUim, the very autographs, or original letters of the apos-
tles, were in the possession of those churches to which tiiey
had been specially directed. " If (says this ancient writer)
you be willing to exercise your curiosity profitably in the
business of your salvation^ visit the apostolical churches, in
whivh the very chairs of the apostles still preside ; in which
iheif very authentic letters are recited, sounding forth the
voioo, and representing the countenance, of each one of
thein. Is Achaia near you ? You have Corinth. If you

♦ Lardner, i. 372, t lb. i. 434.

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are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi, you have
ITiessalonica," <fcc * If TertulHan did not mean that the
original manuscripts, but only authentic copies of the Epis-
tles to the Corinthians, Philippians, &c., were to be seen by
application to those churches, why send inquirers thither ?
Could an authentic copy oi the Epistle to the Philippians
be seen nowhere but at Philippi ; or of that to the Corin-
thians, nowhere but at Corinth ?t

The quotations from the New Testament, in the writings
of the second century, are so numerous that were the sacred
volume lost, a large part of it might be collected from them
alone. Passing by the testimonies of Melito, bishop of
Sardis, who wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation,
and of Hegesippus, converted from Judaism, and. of Tatian,
who composed a harmony of the gospels, all born about the
time of the death of St. John, we come to Justin MartyrJ
bom about ten years prior to that event. Before his conver-
sion from heathenism, he studied philosophy in the schools
of the Stoics, Peripatetics, Pythagoreans, and Platonics.
After becoming a Christian, he occupied a high stand in
learned writing and holy living. His remaining works con-
tain numerous quotations from, as well as allusions to, the
four Gospels, which he uniformly represents as containing
" the genuine and authentic accounts of Jesus Christ and of
his doctrine." The same is true in relation to the Acts of
the Apostles, and the greater part of the Epistles. The
book of Revelation is expressly said by Justin to have been
written by " John, one of the apostles of Christ." Having
lived before the death of that apostle, he had the best opportu-
nity of knowing.

We finish the second century with Papias, bishop of
Hierapolis in Asia, whom Irenseus speaks of as a hearer of
John, and a disciple of Polycarp, a pupil of John the apostle.J

♦ Lardner, i. 4'^. t Alexander on tlie Canon, p. 143. t Lardner, i. 336.

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How he obtained his information, will appear from the only
fragment of his writings remaining. It is found in Eusebius.
" If at any time, I met with one who had conversed with
the elders, I inquired after the sayings of the elders (presby-
ters): what Andrew or what Peter said; or what Philip,
Thomas, or James, had said; what John or Slatthew, or
what any other of the disciples of the Lord, were wont to
say."* Thus we have a witness who Uved near enough to
the beginning, to inquire of those who had conversed with
the apostles, if not to listen to St. John himself. Too little
remains of Ms writings to furnish many testimonies, especially
as he had it not in view to confirm the authenticity of any
part of scripture ; but still he gives a very valuable testimony
to the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and the fibrst Epistles
of Peter and John. He alludes to the Acts and the book
of Revelation.

Thus we have ascended to the apostolic age. But we
may reach still higher. We have in our possession the well
autlienticated writings of five individuals and fathers in the
primitive church, who, because they were contemporary
with the apostles, are called apostolical fathers. Three of
them, Barnabas, Clement, and Hermas, are mentioned by
name in the New Testament ;t the fourth, Polycarp, was
an immediate disciple of St. John ; the fifth, Ignatius, enjoyed
the privilege of frequent intercourse with the apostles.
There is scarcely a book of the New Testament, which one
or another of these writers has not either quoted or alluded
tx). Though what is extant of their works is very little, it
contains more than two hundred and twenty quotations, or
allusions to the writings of our sacred volume, in which
they are uniformly treated with the reverence bdonging to
inspired books, calling them " the Sacred Scriptures f' ^^the


t Acta xiii. 2, 3 ; 46, 47. I. Cor. ix. 4—7. Phil. iv. 3. Rom. xvi. 14.


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Grades of the LordP Their testimony is not universgil^
inasmuch as it is incidental. They had no design of enu-
merating for posterity, or their contemporaries, the books of
scripture. There was no controversy on that subject in their
age. It would have seemed a needless waste of words, had
they attempted to decide a question which no one asked. It
is very natural, therefore considering, the brevity of their
remaining works, and the incidental character of their quo-
tations, that some of the shorter writings of the New Testa-
ment should not be alluded to ; while the fact that, by one
or another, almost every book is quoted or alluded to, and
that the whole number of quotations or allusions is upwards
of two hundred and twenty, accompanied with every iriark
of reverence and submission, is a most impressive proof that
the authenticity and inspired authority of the New Testa-
ment books were then notorious and unquestioned among

Thus we have ascended the Une of testimony into the
presence of the apostles. Our evidence has been collected
from only a few out of the many witnesses that might have
been cited. It has been derived from writers of different
times, and of countries widely separated — from philosophers,
rhetoricians, and divines, all men of acutene^s and learning
in their days, all concurring m their testimony that the
books of the New Testament were equally known in distant
regions, and received as authentic by men and churches that
had no intercourse with one another. The argument is now,
therefore, reduced to this. The apostles and disciples of Christ
are known to have left some writings. That those writings
nave been lost, none can give a reason for believing. It is
not pretended that any other volume than that of the New
Testament contains them. The books contained in this
volume, were considered to be the writings of the apostles,
by the whole christian church, as far back as those who
were their contemporaries and companions, being continu-


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ally quoted and alluded to as such. It was impossible that
sucli witnesses should be deceived. Contemporaries and
companions must have known whether they quoted the
genuine works of the apostles, or only forgeries pretending
to their names. Our evidence, therefore, is complete. What
I have presented, exceeds, above measure, the evidence for
the authenticity of any other ancient book. Should the
fiftieth part of it be demanded for any Roman or Grecian
production, its character must be condemned as unworthy of

Before relinquishing this department of evidence, there
are certain very important particulars which, though em-
braced in what has been already advanced, require a more
special notice.

1st. It is worthy of distinct remark, that when the books
of the New Testament are quoted or alluded to by those
whose testimony has been adduced, thep are treated with
supreme regard^ as possessing an authority belonging to
no other books, and as conclusive in questions of religion.
For example; Irenaeus, bom about A. D. 97, calls them
" diinne erodes /' " scriptures of the LordP He says that
the Gospel was " committed to writing, by the will of God,
that it might be, for time to come, the foundation and pillar
of our feith.''* " He fled to the Gospels, which he believed

Online Library1265-1321 Dante AlighieriEvidences of Christianity, in their external, or historical, division ... → online text (page 5 of 36)