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3. Sometimes the fathers made use of the apocryphal books to shew their learning, or that the heretics might not charge them with partiality and ignorance, as being acquainted only with their own books. Remarkable to this
those words of Origen h, “ The church receives only four Gospels, “ the heretics have many; such as that of the Egyptians, “ Thomas, &c. These we read, that we may not be esteemed “ignorant, and by reason of those who imagine they know
something extraordinary, if they know the things contained “ in these books.” To the same purpose says Ambrosei; having mentioned several of the apocryphal books, he adds, “We “ read these, that they may not be read [by others]; we read “ them, that we may not seem ignorant; we read them, not “ that we may receive them, but reject them, and may know “ what those things are of which they (heretics) make such " boasting.”
4. Sometimes perhaps these books may be cited by the fathers, because the persons against whom they were writing did receive them, being willing to dispute with them upon principles out of their own books ; though I believe there are no instances of this within my time.
5. It may perhaps be true, that one or two writers have cited a few passages out of these books, because the fact they cited was not to be found in any other. St. John tells us, chap. xxi. 25. that our Lord did many other things, besides those which he had recorded; the which, says he, if they should be written every one, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books which should be written. Some accounts of these actions and discourses of Christ were unquestionably preserved, and handed down to the second century, or further, by tradition, which though inserted afterwards into the books of the heretics, may be easily supposed to have been cited by some later writers, though at the same time they esteemed the books which contained them uninspired, and not of the canon. This was the case as to Jerome's citing the Hebrew Gospel,
b Legimus, ne quid ignorare videremur, propter eos qui se putant aliquid scire, si ista cognoverint. Homil. in Luc. i. 1.
i Legimus, ne legantur; legimus,
ne ignoremus; legimus non ut teneamus, sed ut repudiemus, et ut sciamus qualia sint in quibus magnifici isti cor exultant suum. Comment. in Luc.
which he certainly looked upon as spurious and apocryphal, as I shall hereafter prove.
CHAP. II. A general proof that no book, once canonical, is lost, from the
ordinary conduct of Providence, the zeal of the Christians, and the early dispersion of the sacred books into most remote countries. A considerable objection answered.
canon, is lost.
BEFORE I enter upon the particular examination of the above-mentioned apocryphal books now lost, it may be necessary to premise some general proof of this matter.
Every one who is acquainted with the writings of our first reformers, must often have observed, that it was a question very warmly disputed between them and the advocates of the Roman church, whether any inspired book, once received by the church as a part of the canon, is by any accident or injury of time lost and perished ? The papists, contending always for the insufficiency of our present revelation, thereby the better to support their ridiculous sentiments of the necessity of their pretended traditions, have generally determined in the affirmative, and would persuade us, that many of the most valuable parts of scripture, both of the Old and New Testament, are now quite lost. Thus Bellarmine k, Pineda', and many of the best writers among the Jesuits. This opinion of the papists, as it appears evidently calculated to serve a purpose, would be therefore less considerable, if many other learned men had not too unwarily espoused it, for the sake of avoiding some difficulties which they could not so easily solve without it. Hence we meet with it in the writings of Chrysostom m, Theophylact”, Calvino; and even our learned Whitaker himself, on this very question, allows P, that some of those books are now wanting, which were once constituent parts of the canon of k De verb. Dei, 1. 4. C. 4.
Vid. Calvin. Harm. Evang. in 1 De rebus Salom. I. 1. c. I. §. 8.
Matth. ii. 23. m Homil. 9. in Matth. ii.
p Controvers. I. de Scriptur. Quæst.
n In Matth. ji, in fine.
VI. c. 9.
scripture. This indeed is generally meant of some books of the Old Testament, though the papists also assert it of the New 9: I shall therefore, without entering largely into the controversy, or searching the common places of the perfection of the scriptures, offer only two or three reasons, by which it will appear at least probable, that no sacred and inspired book is now wanting ; adding only some few remarks on what has been said, which is most considerable, on the other side of the question.
1. It seems very disagreeable to the ordinary conduct of divine Providence, to suffer a book wrote under the influences of the Holy Spirit to be lost. It seems to be no small reflection on the wisdom of the divine Being, to say he first influenced the writing of a set of books, (i.e. by his own extraordinary impressions on men's minds caused them to be written,) and afterwards permitted them by chance, or the negligence of men, to be irrecoverably lost. If they were not serviceable to instruct and direct mankind in the methods of attaining the great ends of being, why were they at first given ? If they were, it seems hard to imagine, the same kind Providence that gave them, would again take them away. How high such a charge as this doth rise, both against the wisdom and goodness of divine Providence, may easily be perceived by every one who will think impartially on the matter.
This arguing may be very much strengthened, by considering the great care which the divine Being in all ages took to preserve those books, which are now received into the canon of the Old Testament, even when the persons with whom they were intrusted were under circumstances, in which, without the influence of Heaven, it would have been almost impossible for them to have preserved them. To instance only that one time when the Jews were under the tyranny of Antiochus Epiphanes', when although that monster of iniquity laid their temple and their city waste, destroyed all the sacred books he could meet with, and at length published a decree, that all those should suffer immediate death, who did not resign their
. Vid. Turretin. Instit. Theol. Loc. 2. ουτοι κακοί, κακώς απώλoντo. Joseph. Quæst. 7. 8. 3.
Antiq. Jud. lib. 12.c.7. See also i Macη 'Ηφανίζετο δή εί που βίβλος ευρεθείη
cab. i. 56, 57 ιερα, και νόμος, και παρ' οίς ευρεθείοι, και
copies ; yet was the sacred volume safely preserved, and taken care of by its Author.
2. The zeal of the faithful at all times for their sacred books was such, as would be a very effectual means to secure them from perishing This is well known both of the Jews and Christians; and indeed no less can be reasonably imagined of those, who looked upon these books as discovering the methods of obtaining eternal life, and that religion, for which they willingly sacrificed both themselves and all they had. Hence as under the barbarous persecution of the Jews by Antiochus just mentioned, so under the Christian persecution no endeavours were wanting to extirpate and abolish the scrip
It is evident, the warm zeal and diligent care of the faithful preserved them; and although the emperor Dioclesian in his imperial edict, among other cruelties, enacted, that all the sacred books should be burnt wherever they were founds; yet as the courage and resolution of the Christians baffled and frustrated the designs of his rage in all other instances, so very remarkably in this. Nor indeed could it well be otherwise, when we consider,
3. That the canonical books were, not long after their publication, dispersed into the most distant countries, and in the possession of innumerable persons. The truth of this fact has been in some measure demonstrated in the former part of this work, (Prop. II.) and the opposite opinion of Mr. Dodwell refuted. (Corol. I. Prop. II.) I shall therefore take the fact now for granted, and only hence infer, how improbable it is, nay, almost impossible, that any book, so esteemed as the Christians must be supposed to esteem those books, which they imagined to be dictated by the Holy Ghost, so diffused into the most remote countries, the copies of which would also be continually multiplying and increasing, could by any accident or chance, by any human force or power, or much less by any careless neglect, be lost and irrecoverably perish.
The most considerable, and indeed almost all the proof that has been attempted against this opinion is, that there are some books mentioned, and others referred to both in the Old and New Testament, which seem to have been composed by pro
· Euseb, Hist. Eccl. 1.8. c. 2.
phets and inspired authors, and so of consequence canonical, which are now entirely and irrecoverably lost. Among these are reckoned, The book of the Wars of the Lord, The book of Jasher 4, The book of Nathan and Gad, The book of Shemaiah and Iddo y, the prophets referred to by Matthew, chap. i. 23. The book of Enoch cited by Jude, ver. 14.
These are the instances generally produced by the popish writers, to prove the imperfection of the canon, as to some of its most valuable parts; which though I shall not here particularly consider, having only concern with the New Testament canon, yet shall make a few such remarks concerning them, as may serve to overthrow the objection, as far as it relates to my proposition of all truly canonical books being still extant. I observe then,
1. As to several of the books mentioned in the Old Testament, which are supposed to be lost, perhaps they are the very same with some of the now-reputed canonical scriptures, only under different names.
Thus the book of the Wars of the Lord (if indeed it meant any book, which may be well questioned) was probably no other than the book of Numbers, or some other part of Moses's historical writings. The books of Nathan and Gad, Shemaiah and Iddo, were perhaps the same with the books of Samuel and Kings, &c.
2. If we suppose them distinct from any now received, and the genuine writings of men who were sometimes inspired, it does not at all follow, that these books were inspired, and so received as canonical ; unless we will suppose, the same persons, who were once under the conduct of inspiration, must necessarily be always so. This thought is so well managed by St. Austin, that I shall give it the reader in his own words z. “ In the histories of the kings of Judah and Israel, several
things are mentioned, which are not there explained, and are “ referred to as contained in other books which the prophets wrote; and
sometimes the names of these prophets are men“ tioned; and yet these writings are not extant in the canon " which the church of God receives. The reason of which “ I can account for no other way, than by supposing, that + Num. xxi. 14.
y 2 Chron. xii. 15.
2 De Civit. Dei, lib. 18. c. 38. x i Chron. xxix. 29.
u Josh. X. 13