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tries remarkably agreed in receiving them as canonical : for the proof of which I observe,
1. That in the few genuine writings of the first ages now extant, the same books are cited as scripture. It is indeed, without just reason, commonly presumed, that the first writers cited the now-received books of the canon, and others promiscuously. But as I shall hereafter shew this to be a mistake, so it will be enough here to observe, that they were generally agreed in receiving the same books for canonical, which we do now; and this appears, I say, from their agreement to cite them, as every one must acknowledge, who has but cast an eye upon the writings of the first centuries. To say nothing of the apostolic fathers, such as Clemens, Barnabas, &c. it is evident, that Justin Martyr at Neapolis, Theophilus at Antioch, Irenæus in France, Clemens at Alexandria, Tertullian at Carthage, &c. (who all lived within 120 or 130 years after our Lord's ascension, and some of them much sooner, and but a very short time after the writing of the books) have all, though in very remote countries, quoted many, or most, if not all the same books as scripture. The same might be observed concerning Origen, Cyprian, and other writers of the next century. But, to omit these, I observe,
2. That several of the first writers of Christianity have left us, in their works, catalogues of the sacred books of the New Testament, which, though made in countries at a vast distance from each other, do very little differ. A particular account of all the catalogues, I shall give hereafter in this volume; I shall only instance now in those of Origent and Eusebius y, which he who will be at the pains to compare, will easily perceive to be very nearly the same. So great was the pains and care of those early Christians, to be well assured what were the genuine writings of the apostles, and to distinguish them from all the pretended revelations of designing men, and the forgeries they published under sacred titles. Thus when the presbyter of Asia above mentioned * had published a spurious piece under the name of Paul, “ he was immediately convicted, and “ notice of the forgery was soon conveyed to Carthage, and 66 the churches of Africa."
t Comment, in Matth. init. et Comment. in Joan. I. 5. apud Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 1. 6. c. 25.
u Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 1. 3. c. 25. x Vid. supr. p. 36.
Coroll. I. Hence it follows, that Mr. Dodwell's opinion Y, espoused with so much zeal by Mr. Toland in his Amyntor?, is utterly false, viz. “ That the books of the present canon lay “ concealed in the coffers of particular churches, or private “men, till the later times of Trajan, or perhaps of Adrian, “ not known to the clergy or churches of those times, nor yet
distinguished from the spurious pieces of the heretics.” For besides that it has been already proved, by Mr. Nyea and Mr. Le Clerc b, that the writers of the apostolic age were well acquainted with, because they frequently cite several books of, our present canon; I add, from what has been said, that if these books had not been well known in Adrian's tin but then lay concealed, it would have been impossible for them to have spread so much by the middle of the second century, as to have been quoted by all the writers of it, in whatever countries they lived c.
Coroll. II. Hence it also follows, that the primitive Christians are proper judges, to determine what book is canonical, and what not ; for nothing can be more absurd, than to suppose, in those early ages, an agreement so universal, without a good and solid foundation; or, in other words, it is next to impossible, either that so great a number of men should agree in a cheat, or be imposed upon by a cheat. The celebrated Huetius takes this for granted, and lays it down as his first axiom, “That every book is genuine, which was esteemed ge« nuine by those, who lived nearest to the time when it was “ written, and by the ages succeeding in a continued series.
This,” says he, “is an axiom that cannot be disputed by “those, who will allow any thing at all to be certain in his
tory.” Demonstr. Evang. Axiom. 1. But there are some particular circumstances, which will make the inference more clear as to the Christian books, than others, such as the prodigious esteem the books at first were received with, the con
y In Iren. Dissert. 1. §. 38. 2 Amynt. p. 69.
a Answer to Amyntor, p. 47. &c. See my Vindic. of St. Matth. p. 225. &c.
& Dissert. 3. at the end of his Harmony.
c Justin Martyr unquestionably lived in Adrian's time, and Irenæus not long after. Vid. Euseb. Chronic.
stant use that was made of them in their religious assemblies, the translations made of them very early into other languages; these, I say, and many other such circumstances there are, which all concur to make an imposture in this case almost impossible.
CHAP. VI. The various sentiments of learned men concerning the methods
of determining the canonical authority of any book, inquired into and particularly discussed.
PROP. III. The main and principal method, by which we are now able to
determine the canonical authority of any book, or books, is by searching into the most ancient and authentic records of Christianity, and finding out the testimony or tradition of those, who lived nearest the time in which the books were
written, concerning them. THE preceding corollary evidenced the first Christians to be proper judges; the design of this proposition is to shew, that they are the main and principal judges, by whom we must determine the question concerning the canon of the New Testament. Though the proposition may at first seem clear and evident, the disputes of many, both foreign and English divines, have made it necessary more largely to be discussed: for the truth is, it has happened here, as in many other cases, the clearest truths have become strangely perplexed and confounded. Such is the zeal of the contending parties among Christians, that because they differ in some things, they think themselves obliged to differ in all they can, and so arise disputes about questions, which are in themselves plain, and the fiercest contention about things, in which both sides would most certainly agree, if they had but patience and impartiality enough to know each other's meaning. This is in a great measure the case in the present question, concerning the authority of the scriptures: some tell us, they derive their authority from the church; others, that they can only rightly appear to be true from their own internal evidence, and their powerful influence on the heart; others add to this, the inward testimony of the Spirit evidencing their divinity, and consequently
their genuineness ; others, lastly, are persuaded, we have no other way of knowing whether any book was written by the person whose name it bears, and consequently whether it be of the authority it pretends to derive from its author, but by wellapproved testimonies of those, who lived in or near the time of its being first written. I shall first give some brief account of each of these opinions, and then endeavour to shew what is most probable upon the whole.
1. The first is the opinion of the papists, who have generally affirmed, in their controversies with the protestants, that the authority of the scriptures depends upon, or is derived from, the power of their church : i. e. It is in the power of the pope, or council, or both, to determine what books shall be received as canonical. This is a matter so well known, that I shall not produce many instances to prove it. Hermannus, in the abundance of his zeal, affirmsd “the scriptures are of no more value “ than Æsop's Fables, without the authority of the church ;" and Bailius, “ that he should give no more credit to Saint “ Matthew, than Livy, unless the church obliged him.” Tiletanus, bishop of Ypres, says, “ This is the only way of distin
guishing between canonical and apocryphal scripturesf.” To the same purpose Pighius, Eckius, Bellarmine, and many of their most celebrated writers. By the authority of the church, these authors plainly mean a power lodged in the church of Rome, and her synods, of determination, what books are the word of God; than which nothing can be more absurd, or contradictory to common sense: for if so, it is possible, nay it is easy for them, to make a book, which is not divine, to be so; and (to make use of Hermannus's instance) it is possible Æsop's Fables may in time become as good a part of scripture, as Saint Paul's Epistles: nay, once more, it is very possible the books of Celsus, Julian, and Porphyry, were they extant, might become a part of the New Testament, though they were designedly written against it. But the folly of the popish arguments in this instance, has been so well exposed by Whitaker, Chemnitius, Rivet, and many others of our reformers, that I think it sufficient to refer the reader, who has a mind to know more of this controversy, to their books cited in the margin.
d Apud Whitaker. Controv. de Script. Quæst. 3. c. 1. et Chemnit. Exam. Conc. Trid. Par. 1. p. 85.
e Rivet. Isag. ad Script. Sacr. c. 3.
8 Ibid. c. 3. §. 3, 4. &c. Whitaker, Controv. de Script. Sacr. Quæst. 3. c. 1. Amyrald. Thes. de Auctor. Script. inter Thes. Salmurienses. Calvin. Instit. Christ. Rel. 1. 1. c. 7. $.1.
§. 4. &c.
f Ibid. c. 3. §. 3.
2. Others are of opinion, that there are inward, or innate evidences in the scriptures, which, applied by the illumination or testimony of the Holy Spirit, are the only true proofs of their being canonical, or the word of God. To avoid the tedious and prolix disputations, that have been on this head between papists and protestants, and even between protestants themselves, I shall only give some account of the sentiments of our reformers on it, out of their own writings, and then examine how far they are true.
Among the protestants who have declared their opinion against the papists on this head, I place first our learned countryman Whitaker, who, in his controversy about the scripture against Bellarmine, gives us this account of the reformed doctrine in this matter h: “ The sum,” says he,“ of our opinion “ is, that the scriptures have all their authority and credit “ from themselves ; that they are to be acknowledged and re“ceived, not because the church has appointed or commanded
so, but because they came from God: but that they came “ from God, cannot be certainly known by the church, but “ from the Holy Ghost.” So Calvini: “ All must allow, that “there are in the scriptures manifest evidences of God speak“ing in them. The majesty of God in them will presently
appear to every impartial examiner, which will extort our “ assent: so that they act preposterously, who endeavour by
any argument to beget a solid credit to the scriptures, The “ word will never meet with credit in men's minds, till it be “ sealed by the internal testimony of the Spirit, who wrote it.” Much the same we meet with in the public Confessions of faith set forth by the reformed churches; for instance, in the Dutch Confession, published in French in 1566, in the name of all the Belgian churches, after having recited a catalogue of the scriptures, “ These," say they, “ we receive as the only sacred
h Controv. de Script. Quæst. 3. c. I.
Instit. Christ. Relig. 1. 1. c. 7. §. 4, 5.