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he relates of himself, that, travelling from Palestine to Rome, he visited on his journey many bishops; and that "in every succession, and in every city, the same doctrine is taught, which the Law, and the Prophets, and the Lord. teacheth." This is an important attestation, from good authority, and of high antiquity. It is generally understood that by the word "Lord," Hegesippus intended some writing or writings, containing the teaching of Christ, in which sense alone the term combines with the other terms "Law and Prophets," which denote writings; and together with them admits of the verb "teacheth," in the present tense. Then, that these writings were some or all of the books of the New Testament, is rendered probable from hence, that, in the fragments of his works, which are preserved in Eusebius, and in a writer of the ninth century, enough, though it be little, is left to show, that Hegesippus expressed divers things in the style of the Gospels, and of the Acts of the Apostles; that he referred to the history in the second chapter of Matthew, and recited a text of that gospel as spoken by our Lord.
IX. At this time, viz. about the year 170, the churches of Lyons and Vienne in France, sent a relation of the sufferings of their martyrs to the churches of Asia and Phrygia*. The epistle is preserved entire by Eusebius. And what carries in some measure the testimony of these churches to a higher age, is, that they had now for their bishop Pothinus, who was ninety years old, and whose early life consequently must have immediately joined on with the times of the apostles. In this epistle are exact references to the gospels of Luke and John, and to the Acts of the Apostles; the form of reference the same as in all the preceding articles. That from St. John is in these words;
* Lardner, Cred. vol. i. p. 332.
"Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by the Lord, that whosoever killeth you, will think that he doeth God service*."
X. The evidence now opens upon us full and clear. Irenæust succeeded Pothinus as bishop of Lyons. In his youth he had been a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of John. In the time in which he lived, he was distant not much more than a century from the publication of the gospels; in his instruction, only by one step separated from the persons of the apostles. He asserts of himself and his contemporaries, that they were able to reckon up, in all the principal churches, the succession of bishops from the firstt. I remark these particulars concerning Irenæus with more formality than usual; because the testimony which this writer affords to the historical books of the New Testament, to their authority, and to the titles which they bear, is express, positive, and exclusive. One principal passage, in which this testimony is contained, opens with a precise assertion of the point which we have laid down as the foundation of our argument, viz. that the story which the Gospels exhibit is the story which the apostles told. "We have not received," saith Irenæus, "the knowledge of the way of our salvation by any others than those by whom the gospel has been brought to us. Which gospel they first preached, and afterwards, by the will of God, committed to writing, that it might be for time to come the foundation and pillar of our faith. For after that our Lord rose from the dead, and they (the apostles) were endowed from above with the power of the Holy Ghost coming down upon them, they received a perfect knowledge of all things. They then went forth to all the ends of the
* John xvi. 2. † Lardner, vol. i. p. 334.
earth, declaring to men the blessing of heavenly peace, having all of them and every one alike, the gospel of God. Matthew then, among the Jews, writ a gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel at Rome, and founding a church there. And after their exit, Mark also, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, delivered to us in writing the things that had been preached by Peter. And Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the gospel preached by him (Paul). Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon his breast, he likewise published a gospel while he dwelt at Ephesus, in Asia." If any modern divine should write a book upon the genuineness of the Gospels, he could not assert it more expressly, or state their original more distinctly, than Irenæus hath done within little more than a hundred years after they were published.
The correspondency, in the days of Irenæus, of the oral and written tradition, and the deduction of the oral tradition through various channels from the age of the apostles, which was then lately passed, and, by consequence, the probability that the books truly delivered what the apostles taught, is inferred also with strict regularity from another passage of his works. “The tradition of the apostles (this Father saith) hath spread itself over the whole universe; and all they, who search after the sources of truth, will find this tradition to be held sacred in every church. We might enumerate all those who have been appointed bishops to these churches by the apostles, and all their successors, up to our days. It is by this uninterrupted succession that we have received the tradition which actually exists in the church, as also the doctrines of truth, as it was preached by the apostles*." The reader will observe up
on this, that the same Irenæus, who is now stating the strength and uniformity of the tradition, we have before seen recognizing, in the fullest manner, the authority of the written records; from which we are entitled to conclude, that they were then conformable to each other.
I have said, that the testimony of Irenæus in favour of our gospels is exclusive of all others. I allude to a remarkable passage in his works, in which, for some reasons sufficiently fanciful, he endeavours to shew, that there could be neither more nor fewer gospels than four. With his argument we have no concern. The position itself proves that four, and only four, gospels were at that time publickly read and acknowledged. That these were our gospels, and in the state in which we now have them, is shown from many other places of this writer beside that which we have already alleged. He mentions how Matthew begins his gospel, how Mark begins and ends his, and their supposed reasons for so doing. He enumerates at length the several passages of Christ's history in Luke, which are not found in any of the other evangelists. He states the particular design with which St. John composed his gospel, and accounts for the doctrinal declarations which precede the narrative.
To the book of the Acts of the Apostles, its author and credit, the testimony of Irenæus is no less explicit. Referring to the account of St. Paul's conversion and vocation, in the ninth chapter of that book, "Nor can they (says he, meaning the parties with whom he argues) show that he is not to be credited, who has related to us the truth with the greatest exactness.' In another place, he has actually collected the several texts, in which the writer of the history is represented as accompanying St. Paul, which leads. him to deliver a summary of almost the whole of the last twelve chapters of the book.
In an author, thus abounding with references and allusions to the scriptures, there is not one to any apocryphal Christian writing whatever. This is a broad line of distinction between our sacred books and the pretensions all others.
The force of the testimony of the period which we have considered, is greatly strengthened by the observation, that it is the testimony, and the concurring testimony, of writ ers who lived in countries remote from one another. Clement flourished at Rome, Ignatius at Antioch, Polycarp at Smyrna, Justin Martyr in Syria, and Irenæus in France.
XI. Omitting Athenagoras and Theophilus, who lived about this time*; in the remaining works of the former of whom are clear references to Mark and Luke; and in the works of the latter, who was bishop of Antioch, the sixth in succession from the apostles, evident allusions to Matthew and John, and probable allusions to Luke (which, considering the nature of the compositions, that they were addressed to heathen readers, is as much as could be expected); observing also that the works of two learned Christian writers of the same age, Miltiades and Pantænus†, are now lost; of which Miltiades Eusebius records, that his writings were monuments of zeal for the divine oracles ;" and which Pantænus, as Jerome testifies, was a man of prudence and learning, both in the divine scriptures and secular literature, and had left many commentaries upon the holy scriptures then extant: passing by these without further remark, we come to one of the most voluminous of ancient Christian writers, Clement of Alexandria‡. Clement followed Irenæus at the distance of only sixteen years, and therefore may be said to maintain the series of testimony in an uninterrupted continuation.
Lardner, vol. i. p. 400.-Ib. 422.
† Lardner, vol. i. p. 413, 450. Lardner, vol. ii. p. 469.