Page images

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 shew kindness, so shall kindness be shewn unto you ; with what measure ye mete, with the same it shall 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, for he said, 'Wo 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


it were better for him that a mill-stone 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.'!"


[ocr errors]

“ 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, 38. 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. 2.

† Matt. xviii. 6. “ But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a mill-stone 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 mill-stone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones.”

We per

[ocr errors]

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." ceive 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 hath not used words of quotation, it is not certain that he refers to any book what

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 references, 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


* Rom. i. 29.

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 acknowledgement, 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 apostles taught, this supposition may serve almost as well.

III. Near the conclusion of the epistle to the Romans, St. Paul, amonst 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* or Pastor of Hermas. Its antiquity is incontestible, from the quotations of it in Irenæus, A. D. 178 ; Clement of Alexandria, A. D. 194;

[ocr errors]

* Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 111.

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 life-time 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 sownt; the comparison of Christ's disciples to little children; the saying, “ he that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery;" 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 allusion to John xiv. 6.—X. 7, 9. There is also a probable allusion to Acts v. 32.

This piece is the representation of a vision, and has by many been accounted a weak and fanciful performance. I therefore observe, that the character of the writing has little to do with the purpose for which we adduce it. It is the age in which it was composed that gives the value to its testimony.

IV. Ignatius, as it is testified by ancient Christian writers, became bishop of Antioch about thirty-seven years after Christ's ascension ; and therefore, from his time, and place, and station, it is probable that he had known and conversed with many of the apostles. Epistles of Ignatius are referred to by Polycarp his contemporary. Pas

* Matt. s. 32, 33. or Luke xii. 8, 9. * Matt. xiii. 3. or Luke viii. 5.

Luke xvi. 18.

sages, found in the epistles now extant under his name, are quoted by Irenæus, A. D. 178, by Origen, A. D. 230 ; and the occasion of writing the epistles is given at large by Eusebius and Jerome. What are called the smaller epistles of Ignatius, are generally deemed to be those which were read by Irenæus, Origen, and Eusebius. *

In these epistles are various undoubted allusions to the gospels of St. Matthew and St. John ; yet so far of the same form' with those in the preceding articles, that, like them, they are not accompanied with marks of quotation. Of these allusions the following are clear specimens :

r “ Christ was baptized of John, that all rightMatt.t

eousness might be fulfilled by him.

Be ye wise as serpents in all things, and (harmless as a dove."

“ Yet the spirit is not deceived, being from God : for it knows whence it comes, and whith

er it goes." John.

“ He (Christ) is the door of the Father, by which enter in Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob,

Land the Apostles, and the Church.” As to the manner of quotation, this is observable :-Ignatius, in one place, speaks of St. Paul in terms of high respect, and quotes his Epistle to the Ephesians by name; yet in several other places he borrows words and sentiments from the same epistle, without mentioning it; which shews, that this was his general manner of using and applying writings then extant, and then of high authority.

* Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 147.

† Chap. iii. 15. “For thus it becomes us to fulfil all righteousness.” Chap. xi. 16. “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves."

# Chap. iii. 8. “ The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh and whither it goeth; so is every one that is born of the spirit.” “ Chap. x. 9. “ I am the door ; by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved.”

« PreviousContinue »