« PreviousContinue »
passage:-"Let us, therefore, beware lest it come upon us, as it is written, There are many called, few chosen.' From the expression "as it is written," we infer with certainty, that, at the time when the author of this epistle lived, there was a book extant, well known to Christians, and of authority amongst them, containing these words" Many are called, few chosen." Such a book is our present Gospel of St. Matthew, in which this text is twice found3, and is found in no other book now known. There is a further observation to be made upon the terms of the quotation. The writer of the epistle was a Jew. The phrase," it is written," was the very form in which the Jews quoted their Scriptures. It is not probable, therefore, that he would have used this phrase, and without qualification, of any books but what had acquired a kind of scriptural authority. If the passage remarked in this ancient writing had been found in one of St. Paul's Epistles, it would have been esteemed by every one a high testimony to St. Matthew's Gospel. It ought, therefore, to be remembered, that the writing in which it is found was probably by very few years posterior to those of St. Paul.
Beside this passage, there are also in the epistle before us several others, in which the sentiment is the same with what we meet with in St. Matthew's Gospel, and two or three in which we recognise the same words. In particular, the author of the epistle repeats the precept, "Give to every one that asketh thee*;" and saith that Christ chose as his apostles, who were to preach the gospel, men who were great sinners, that he might show that he came "not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance"."
II. We are in possession of an epistle written by
3 Matt. xx. 16, xxii. 14. 4.Matt. v. 42.
5 Matt. ix. 13.
Clement, bishop of Rome, whom ancient writers, without any doubt or scruple, assert to have been the Clement whom St. Paul mentions, Phil. iv. 3; "with Clement also, and other my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life." This epistle is spoken of by the ancients as an epistle acknowledged by all; and, as Irenæus well represents its value, "written by Clement, who had seen the blessed apostles, and conversed with them; who had the preaching of the apostles still sounding in his ears, and their traditions before his eyes." It is addressed to the church of Corinth; and what alone may seem almost decisive of its authenticity, Dionysius, bishop of Corinth, about the year 170, i. e. about eighty or ninety years after the epistle was written, bears witness, "that it had been wont to be read in that church from ancient times."
This epistle affords, amongst others, the following valuable passages:-"Especially remembering the words of the Lord Jesus which he spake, teaching gentleness and long suffering; for thus he said: "Be ye merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; forgive, that it may be forgiven unto you; as you do, so shall it be done unto you; as you give, so shall it be given unto you; as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; as ye show kindness, so shall kindness be shown unto you; with what measure ye mete, with the same shall it be measured to you.' By this command, and by these rules, let us establish ourselves, that we may always walk obediently to his holy words."
Again: "Remember the words of the Lord Jesus,
6 Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 62, et seq.
7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." Matt. v. 7.—“ Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given unto you." Luke, vi. 37.—“ Judge not, that ye be not judged; for with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." Matt. vii. 1, 2.
for he said, 'Woe to that man by whom offences come; it were better for him that he had not been born, than that he should offend one of my elect; it were better for him that a millstone should be tied about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the sea, than that he should offend one of my little ones 8."
In both these passages, we perceive the high respect paid to the words of Christ as recorded by the evangelists: Remember the words of the Lord Jesus; -by this command, and by these rules let us establish ourselves, that we may always walk obediently to his holy words." We perceive also in Clement a total unconsciousness of doubt, whether these were the real words of Christ, which are read as such in the Gospels. This observation indeed belongs to the whole series of testimony, and especially to the most ancient part of it. Whenever any thing now read in the Gospels is met with in an early Christian writing, it is always observed to stand there as acknowledged truth, i. e. to be introduced without hesitation, doubt, or apology. It is to be observed also, that as this epistle was written in the name of the church of Rome, and addressed to the church of Corinth, it ought to be taken as exhibiting the judgment not only of Clement, who drew up the letter, but of these churches themselves, at least as to the authority of the books referred to.
It may be said that, as Clement has not used words of quotation, it is not certain that he refers to any book
8 Matt. xviii. 6. "But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were cast into the sea." The latter part of the passage in Clement agrees more exactly with Luke, xvii. 2: “It were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than he should offend one of these little ones."
whatever. The words of Christ, which he has put down, he might himself have heard from the apostles, or might have received through the ordinary medium of oral tradition. This has been said: but that no such inference can be drawn from the absence of words of quotation is proved by the three following considerations:-First, that Clement, in the very same manner, namely, without any mark of reference, uses a passage now found in the Epistle to the Romans; which passage, from the peculiarity of the words which compose it, and from their order, it is manifest that he must have taken from the book. The same remark may be repeated of some very singular sentiments in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Secondly, that there are many sentences of St. Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians standing in Clement's epistle without any sign of quotation, which yet certainly are quotations; because it appears that Clement had St. Paul's epistle before him, inasmuch as in one place he mentions it in terms too express to leave us in any doubt: "Take into your hands the epistle of the blessed apostle Paul." Thirdly, that this method of adopting words of Scripture without reference or acknowledgment, was, as will appear in the sequel, a method in general use amongst the most ancient Christian writers.-These analogies not only repel the objection, but cast the presumption on the other side, and afford a considerable degree of positive proof, that the words in question have been borrowed from the places of Scripture in which we now find them.
But take it if you will the other way, that Clement had heard these words from the apostles or first teachers of Christianity; with respect to the precise point of our argument, viz. that the Scriptures contain what the
9 Romans, i. 29.
apostles taught, this supposition may serve almost as well.
III. Near the conclusion of the Epistle to the Romans, St. Paul, amongst others, sends the following salutation: "Salute Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermas, Patrobas, Hermes, and the brethren which are with them."
Of Hermas, who appears in this catalogue of Roman Christians as contemporary with St. Paul, a book bearing the name, and it is most probable rightly, is still remaining. It is called the Shepherd 10, or Pastor of Hermas. Its antiquity is incontestable, from the quotations of it in Irenæus, A. D. 178; Clement of Alexandria, A. D. 194; Tertullian, A. D. 200; Origen, A. D. 230. The notes of time extant in the epistle itself agree with its title, and with the testimonies concerning it, for it purports to have been written during the lifetime of Clement.
In this piece are tacit allusions to St. Matthew's, St. Luke's, and St. John's Gospels; that is to say, there are applications of thoughts and expressions found in these Gospels, without citing the place or writer from which they were taken. In this form appear in Hermas the confessing and denying of Christ"; the parable of the seed sown 12; the comparison of Christ's disciples to little children; the saying, "he that putteth away his wife, and marrieth anothe mitteth adultery 13," the singular expression, "having received all power from his Father," in probable allusion to Matt. xxviii. 18; and Christ being, "the gate," or only way of coming "to God," in plain allu
10 Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 111.
Matt. x. 32, 33; or, Luke, xii. 8, 9.
Matt. xiii. 3; or, Luke, viii. 5.