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Edward Evanson.

The dissonance of the four generally received evangelists, and the evidence of their respective authenticity, examined; with that of some other scriptures deemed canonical online

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Online LibraryEdward EvansonThe dissonance of the four generally received evangelists, and the evidence of their respective authenticity, examined; with that of some other scriptures deemed canonical → online text (page 18 of 18)
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Thessalonians to correct their misapprehen-
sion upon that very point, and to assure them,
that before that predicted period would ar-
rive, true Christianity would be shamefully
corrupted, and a lamentable, sinful apostasy
from the faith of the Gospel would be estab-
lished in the world; w r hich John told them
would continue to prevail for near thirteen
centuries. At the tenth verse, he tells them,
to " take the prophets who have spoken in
" the name of the Lord," (without doubt
meaning the Apostles) ; ' for an example of
" suffering affliction and patience ;" which
proves that he was not himself an Apostle.
The origin also of extreme unction, for which
a direction is given, v. 14, is a demonstration
that the writer himself was not endowed with
the gift of healing ; and that he wrote after
those miraculous powers had ceased in the
Church. The shocking doctrine also, v. 15,



THE EVANGELISTS. 33*

that a wicked Christian, upon the bed of sick*
ness, may receive forgiveness of, his sins by
means of the prayers of the Kldcrs of the
Church; and the institution of auricular con-
fession, v. 16, afford much more convincing
proofs that this Epistle is one of the many
spurious writings of the third century, than it
is possible to produce in favour of its authen-
ticity.

V. TH E Epistle called the first of Peter, is
supposed also to have been addressed to the
Jewish converts to Christianity, that were dis-
persed throughout the several countries of
.Asia Minor ; and, if so, it is liable to the ob-
jections already urged against the two last-
mentioned Epistles. But, in c. ii. v. 10,
speaking of those to whom the Epistle is di-
rected, the author says, " which, in time past,
" were not a people, but are now the people
" of God ;" words which, in the prophecy of
Hosea, from whence they are quoted, are
spoken particularly of the conversion of the
Gentiles, and could never, with any propriety,
be applied to the Jews. However, whether
it be supposed to be written to the Jewish or
the Gentile converts, since the countries men-



9SO THE DISSONANCE OF

tioned are precisely those where it was pecu-
liarly allotted to Paul to preach the Gospel,
whilst the province of Jadea and Palestine
was as peculiarly allotted to Peter, it cannot
be believed, without much better evidence
than is produced in favour of this Epistle,
that Peter wrote it ; especially when we find
the author professing himself, c. iv. v. 3, to
liave been, in the former part of his life, a
lascivious, lustful, drunken, riotous, and abomi-
nably idolatrous Gentile. Peter also could
not have been so ignorant of the sense of the
Christian prophecies as to affirm, as this
writer does, c. iv. v. 7 5 that when he wrote,
the end of all things was at hand. The au-
thor professes too to write from Babylon,
where, whether we understand Assyrian or
Egyptian Babylon, there is not the least rea-
son to believe Peter ever went. Could any
Apostle of Jesus Christ write such nonsense
as we find, c. iii. v. 19 and 20, about Christ's
going by the spirit, and preaching to the spi-
rits in prison, who were disobedient at the
time of Noah's flood? And what is said, c.
ii. v. 12, of the Christians being accused as
evil-doers, which, we know from Pliny's testi-
mony, was not the case in the beginning of the



THE EVANGELISTS. SCI

second century, is another proof that this
Epistle also, was not the work of any man of
the Apostolic age, but of the third century.

Of the second Epistle of Peter, and the
Epistle of Jude, which were both evidently
written with the same view, viz. to condemn
those who opposed the ambitious growth of
Clerical power and authority, that advanced
apace and to a very unchristian height, in the
third century and beginning of the fourth,
and both, as seems probable from the style
and similarity of expressions, by the same
author, it is sufficient to remark, that they
have no one testimony of their authenticity,
of the least weight, either internal or external;
and that they were generally rejected as spu-
rious, from the time of their first appearance
till the fifth century: that the author of the
second epistle of Peter, c. iii. v. 15 and 1(5,
speaks of Paul's Epistles as being collected
together, and universally known in his time ;
professes to have read them all; and says,
there are some things in them hard to be un-
derstood; not one of which circumstances can
be reasonably supposed of Peter: that both
these Epistles refer to the fabulous legend of
the fallen angels, and the story of Balaam's
#ss; and to some apocrypha] fiction of a con-



$33 THE DISSONANCE OF

test between Michael and the Devil about
the body of Moses ; for the truth of all whiclu
whether any other person be able to find faith,
I cannot tell; but I am sure such a belief is
utterly out of my power.

VI TH E three remaining canonical Epis-
tles are attributed to the Apostle John, the
author of the Apocalypse, although the style
is very different. Of these, the two last are
too insignificant to merit much attention; it
is, therefore, sufficient to observe concerning
them, that all the writers of the fourth cen-
tury, who are the first that mention them, in-
form us they were spoken against, and by
many rejected as spurious. As to the first
and most important of the three, it is evidently
the work of the same hand as the Gospel at-
tributed to the same Apostle; for, like a
staunch disciple of the Platonic School, he
speaks of our Saviour in his introduction, as
he had clone before in the introduction to his
Evangelical History, as the Divine Logos of
Plato, manifested to the world in human form.
But he very satisfactorily discovers that he
was not John; and that he did not write this
Epistle till a considerable time after the Apo-
olic a*; foiyc'. ii..v. 18, he says, " Little



THE EVANGELISTS. SSS

** Children, it is the last time: and as ye 1 -ve
l*eard that Antichrist shall come, eve iv now
" are there many Antichrists, w herein we
" know that it is the last time." In this extra-
ordinary assertion are several circumstances
deserving particular attention. First, 'the
term Antichrist, which is no where to be fonnd
in any other scripture, is here, and again,
c r iv.- V, , mentioned by this writer as a de-
nomination well known by the 'Christians of
his time to express the fatal object of the
hief prophecies of the Gospel, which they
had heard .should come. Now, since no suck
wrd as this is to be met with, either in the
prophecies of the Apocalypse or in' Pauls pre- H
dictions of the same event, it is plain that the
term Antichrist could not become commonly
used and understood by Christians in general,
till, being accustomed to reflect, and talk,
and write about the Revelation of John,
and more especially about Paul's prophecy
contained in 2 Thessalonians, chap, ii. they
had agreed to call by that peculiar name the
'sinful human poVver, or that man of siu, as
Paul expresses it, who should oppose his au-
thority to that of God and Christ, and con-
tinue in some degree till our Lord's glorious
coming; but it is not possible, that this should



8*4 THE DISSONANCE OF

have been the case with Christians in gencfai$
till those books had been in common use, and
been often read and commented upon ; which
it is in the highest degree improbable should
happen till long after the death of both Paul
and John. Secondly, the writer deems all the
heterodox teachers of his own time to be
Antichrists, in the sense of these prophecies ;
though it is manifest from the prophecies
themselves, that the opposition to God and
Christ, which they describe, is of a very dif-
ferent kind. Thirdly, he declares that the
predicted opposer of Christ was then already
in the world> though Paul expressly affirms,
that he would not appear till after there had
been a general apostasy of professed Chris-
tians from the true and rational faith of the
Gospel; an event which did not take place for
above a century after the death of all the Apos-
tles, and which, indeed, Paul tells Timothy,
1 Ep. c. iv. v. 1, Avould happen at some distant
period, saying, it would come to pass in the
latter times, or, as it should rather have been
translated, in succeeding or future times Last-
ly, the author of this Epistle affirms the time
in which he wrote to be the last time, and says,
that by the Antichrists which then existed,
he knew it to be the last tune ; an assertion



THE EVANGELISTS. 335

winch we, who live 1700 years after the death
of John, and 15(X) years after the appear-
ance of this Epistle, know to be an absolute
falsehood, because the last time is not yet
come. We know also, that the prophetic
author of the Apocalypse could nev 7 er have
uttered such an assertion, because he him-
self, as well as Paul, hath assured us, that
the last time of Christianiy is the time when
the spirit and power of Antichrist will be an-
nihilated, and the pure uncorrupted religion
of the Gospel prevail amongst mankind,
which he repeatedly assures us, will not be ac-
complished till full 1260 years after the com-
plete establishment of a fabulous, blasphe-
mous superstition in every country of Eu-
rope, by means of that predicted anti-chris
tian power, which did not begin to shew itsel
any where before the fourth century of th
Christian aera.

I have thus, as concisely as 1 could, (for to
their attainment of truth in such inquiries as
these, it is much more necessary to make peo-
ple think than to make them read,) stated the
grounds and reasons of my own rejection of
so large a number of those Epistles, which the
orthodox and holy Catholic Church hath thought



336 THE DISSONANCE OF

fit to adopt as genuine, authentic -scriptures
of the Apostles of Jesus Christ; and of the
strength or weakness of my arguments every
reader must determine for himself. ] have on] y
further to remark, that not one of these Epis-
tles contains in it that necessary internal tes-
timony of the divine authority of the writer,
the spirit of prophecy ; whilst Paul's Epistles
to the Corinthians, Thessalonians, Galatians,
and Timothy, have the historic testimony in
their favour, strongly corroborated by that
and every other internal evidence of authen-
ticity.

VII. It remains for me to explain my rea-

*"

son's for objecting also to the Epistles to the
seven Churches of Asia, as a spurious inter-
polation of the important book of the Apo-
calypse.

In the introduction to those prophetic vi-
sions, John calls them " the Revelation which
1 God gave unto Jesus Christ, to shew unto
his servants things, which must shortly come
to pass, and which he sent and signified hij
" his angel unto his 'servant John." Agreeably
to this annunciation of the contents of the
book, we find, after the beginning of the



THE EVANGELISTS. 537

visions in the fourth chapter, that an angel
is the constant mystagogue of the Apostle
through every scene ; but the interposition
of these seven unimportant, and to us scarce-
ly intelligible. Epistles, occasions a most un-
accountable inconsistency in the writer, as it
makes him, immediately after the above de-
claration, introduce a vision, in which, not an
angel sent by Jesus Christ, but Jesus Christ
himself* is represented as the sole personage
of the vision* appearing under a very extra-
ordinary figure, attended with very extraor-
dinary emblems* for no other purpose, that I
can discover, than to condemn the heresy of
the Nicolaitanes, and those Who scrupled not
to eat things offered to idols. Now John's
original book, of the Apocalypse must have
been written before Paul wrote his above-
mentioned genuine Epistles, because in them
he several times refers to it; tod from them,
and that part of his history which is subse-
quent to his writing some of them, we learn
both that he himself spoke of eating things,
which had been offered to idols as innocent
in itself, and also that he knew nothing of
these disciples of Nicolaus, though these seven
churches were all of his own planting; and

y



338 THE DISSONANCE OF

though these visionary Epistles represent
the heresy as subsisting at the time wheil
they were written. The only prophetic
part of them also, if any part can pro-
perly be called so* is absolutely false; for
whilst some are threatened with having
their candlestick, that is their church, re-
moved out of its place, and others with other
signal punishments and marks of his resent-
ment, the churches of Smyrna and Philadel-
phia are favoured and approved ; and the lat-
ter is particularly assured, that, " because she
" had kept the word of his patience, he would
" also keep her from the hour of temptation,
* c which should come upon all the world to
" try them that dwell upon the earth/' '-Yet
the churches of Smyrna and Philadelphia
have been both involved in the same common
sufferings and calamities with all the other
churches of Asia; and have had their candle-
sticks removed out of their places, and sup-
planted by the lamps of Mahomed. Besides,
in order to predict the leading circumstances
6f the subsequent prophetic vision, our Savi-
bur must have known, that the church of
"Philadelphia and of Smyrna, and all the other
Churches in Asia, would unite, under the de-



THE EVANGELISTS. 339

nomination of the Greek church, to form the
predicted apostasy from his religion ; and, by
means of an Hierarchy established by the
Emperor Constantine, become, at no very
distant period, the first grand object of the
chief prediction of this very Apocalypse: he
therefore could never have dictated Epistles
to those churches in such terms as these.



CONCLUSION,



, candid Reader, are the arguments
which have long ago induced the Author
of these pages, to regard so large a part of
the canonical scriptures as spurious fictions,
of no authority, and undeserving the attention
of a disciple of Jesus Christ. What effect
they may have upon the minds of his readers
in general, is not in his power to determine.
But it is great satisfaction to him, that, be-
sides the demand of the Public for v a new edi-
tion, he has received from many individuals,
in different and distant parts of the kingdom,
the most unequivocal testimony of their ap-
probation. And whosoever will attentively
examine those writings, which, thus convinced,
lie refuses to adrnit into, his Creed, will find,
that they alone have given cause for that
voluminous inundation of school-divinity, and
those endless theological controversies, that
have for so many ages oppressed the literature



THE EVANGELISTS. 34*

i



and fatigued the patience of Europe; that
they alone have been the source of those wild,
irrational systems, which have so long misled
people from the plain, straight, perspicuous
paths of true religion, into the manifold, devi-*
ous wanderings of that obscure labyrinth of
fabulous superstition, whose impious doctrines,
having nothing to ^o with reason, and apply-
ing only to the passions, have so exasperated
tli minds of men against each other, and so
inhumanly, as well as unchristianly, hardened
their hearts, as to produce frequently, in every
nation of Christendom, under the plea of godly
eal, scenes of the most barbarous violence
and brutal cruelty. Doctrines, which (since
statesmen have btfen wise enough to discou-
rage the spirit of religious persecution,) have
filled the nominally Christian world with a
continually increasing variety of sects, both
the teachers and disciples of which, according
to the prophetic description long since given
of them by the Aipostle Paul, though from
infancy to old age they are ever learning, are
never able to attain a rational, satisfactory in-
tdligence of the religion they continue to pro-
fess, nor to cQme t<) the knowledge of the obvious
and sjjmple, but important, truths pf the New



34i? THE DISSONANCE OF

IT

Covenant of the Gospel. Doctrines which, well
knowing them to have had their origin only
in the second and third centuries, and finding
them to be pointed out by the finger of God
himself, as the falsehoods and fabulous fic-
tions of the predicted Antiehristian Apostasy,,
which, when supported by the power of the
civil magistrate* would for so many centu-
ries supplant the genuine Religion of the New
Covenant, preached by Christ and his Apos-
tles, the Author glories in having strenuously
combated, for near thirty years, by argu-
ments which have never yet been refuted.
And now, having attained the advanced age
of his seventy-fifth year, amidst the increas-
ing bodily infirmities and debility, which
he reasonably considers as admonitions of
Iiis approaching dissolution, he blesses God
for his gracious goodness, in having con-
tinued to him the entire preservation of his
mental faculties, which has enabled him to
give 'the Ptiblic a Second Edition of this
Work; in which he hopes they will find
many arguments considerably improved and
strengthened. A'nd now, being conscious of
having faithfully discharged his duty to God,
Iris Saviour, and to his fellow-creatures, ta



THE EVANGELISTS. . r>4$"

the best of the abilities that God has given
him, he chearfully resigns himself to his mor-
tal fate, in a firm confidence of inheriting ia
another life the blessed rewards of that Co-
venant, in the cause of which he has so long
coatended almost .alonc.'-










W*lk&r t Printer.



ERRATA.



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161 Note Line 5 .For repentanc, read repentance,-

162 Line 27 For Pharisess, read Phariee.

176 Line 4 Dele up.

299 Line 3-^Defc fron*.



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Online LibraryEdward EvansonThe dissonance of the four generally received evangelists, and the evidence of their respective authenticity, examined; with that of some other scriptures deemed canonical → online text (page 18 of 18)