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of the holy apostles. These worthless productions would have worked great confusion and would have rendered both the history and the religion of Christ uncertain, had not the rulers of the churches seasonably interposed, and caused the books which were truly divine and which came from apostolic hands to be speedily separated from that mass of trash, into a volume by themselves."*
[The historian (Mosheim) who speaks thus, does not, however, pretend that we have the means of knowing when "the rulers of the church" took the matter in hand. He merely conjectures, from the fact of the multiplicity of spurious writings which were in existence so early, that they must have "seasonably interposed."]
GIESELER. "There was as yet [early in the second century] no generally received collection of the evangelical histories, and such as there were (comprehending, besides our four canonical Gospels, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Egyptians, &c.) were not read publicly. But now the churches were led by their new connexions and interests to communicate to each other the genuine writings of the Apostles, and thus in the first half of the second century the canon began to be formed, being distinguished into two parts. Still, in each church there continued to be OTHER WRITINGS, which were held almost, if not altogether, in the SAME VENERATION with these."†
*Mosheim's Eccl. Hist., First. Cent., Part 2d, ch. ii. § 17.
+ Gieseler's Text-Book of Ecclesiastical History, First Period, Second Division, chapter iii. § 49.
It is well known to all who are in any degree conversant with ancient ecclesiastical history, that the genuineness of some parts of the four Gospels now reckoned as canonical, was questioned by some persons during some of the first centuries of the church; particularly, by a sect called Manicheans, or followers of Mani, who arose about the middle of the third century.
Augustine, one of the Christian Fathers, (who flourished during the latter part of the fourth, and first of the fifth century, and who was himself at one time a Manichean, but who afterwards became very bitterly opposed to that sect) bears the following testimony respecting their belief:
"The scriptures of the New Testament they receive, but say they are interpolated, taking what they like, and rejecting the rest, and preferring to them some apocryphal scriptures as containing the whole truth. They pretend to take offence at the representations given of God in the Old Testament, as if he had bodily parts and human passions; as if he was ignorant of some things, and envious and cruel and passionate."*
Lardner adds the following statement concerning them:
"They pretended that the Law and the Gospel were contrary to each other, and therefore they were not from one and the same being."+
It should be remembered, in justice to the Mani
* Extract from Augustine, quoted in Lardner's Works, Vol. I. chapter Ixiii. section 6. + Ibid.
cheans, that nearly all the representations of them which we now have, proceeded from their avowed enemies; and are probably about as fair and impartial as the portraitures of each other which the contending sects of the present day are wont to draw. Considerable abatement must therefore be made from the vituperative and contemptuous phraseology which some of the Fathers adopt in relation to the sect just alluded to;-for, according to the testimony of their most friendly historians, some of those self-same Fathers (of whom Augustine may be mentioned in particular) were none too charitable or too honest.
It has by some been charged against the Manicheans, that they believed in two Gods. But Lardner shows conclusively that this is untrue. They believed in one God, and in an opposite being or principle which they called Hyle, or the devil. To the former they attributed all good influences, and to the latter all evil. In this respect wherein did they differ from the majority of Christendom now? They believed that Christ was God, or the supreme good being; and that he died, and subsequently arose from the grave, not actually, but in appearance only. They could not see in the Old Testament any prophecies of Jesus, nor were they able to perceive how an established claim to royal descent from David could add anything to Christ's greatness, especially as he himself frequently averred that he came directly from heaven. One of the most distinguished of their number, Faustus, said of them, that "being Gentiles by
nature, and not Jews, they came directly to Christ, excited by the fame of his virtues and wisdom."*
The common English version of the Bible, which is received by Protestants generally, is not the identical canon formed and pronounced authoritative by any general council, or assembly. The last ecclesiastical council which pretended to determine what was and what was not canonical scripture, was the Council of Trent, which first met in the year 1545, and continued its existence by adjourned sessions until 1563. It was a convocation of Roman Catholics; and the scriptures pronounced authoritative by its edict, included the Old Testament Apocrypha, which is now received by the Romish Church, but by Protestants denied all authoritative sanction. It appears that the canon was not settled until after some conflict of divers opinions. Concerning the doings of the members of this body, in relation to scriptural matters, I extract the following from a history of high repute:†
"They all agreed in this, that a Catalogue should bee made, (as it was in former times) of the Canonicall bookes, in which all should bee registred which are read in the Romane Church, even those of the Old Testament, which were never received by the Hebrews. And for the proofe of this, they all alledged the Councell of
* Lardner, Vol. i. ch. lxii. § 4, ¶ 20.
+ As a matter of some little curiosity, the mode of spelling some words, which was in vogue at the time the book referred to was printed, and which to us appears a little quaint, is here retained.
Laodicea, Pope Innocence the first, the third Councell of Carthage, and Pope Gelasius. But there were foure opinions. Some would have two rankes made; in the first, onely those should be put, which without contradiction have beene received by all: in the other, those which sometime have beene rejected, or have had doubt made of them; and it was said, though formerly this was never done by any Councell or Pope, yet always it was so understood. For Austin maketh such a distinction, and his authoritie hath been canonized in the chapter In Canonicis. And Saint Gregorie, who was after Gelasius, writing upon Job, sayeth of the Maccabees, that they are written for edification, though they bee not Canonicall.
Some thought it better to make no distinction at all, but to imitate the Councell of Carthage and others, making the Catalogue, and saying no more. Another opinion was that all of them should bee declared to bee in all partes, as they are in the Latine Bible, of divine and equall authoritie."*
This last opinion was their final decision. They adopted, as the canon, the old Latin translation of the Bible, called the Vulgate, including the Apocrypha of the Old Testament. And from that time to the present, no general council has been convened to decide what is holy scripture. Yet the majority of the older Protes
"The Historie of the Councell of Trent. Conteining Eight Bookes. Written in Italian by Petro Souie Polano, and faithfully translated into English by NATHANIEL BRENT." London, 1729. pp. 152, 153.