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In certain of Clement's works, now lost, but of which various parts are recited by Eusebius, there is given a distinct account of the order in which the four gospels were written. The gospels, which contain the genealogies, were (he says) written first; Mark's next, at the instance of Peter's followers; and John's the last; and this account he tells us that he had received from Presbyters of more ancient times. This testimony proves the following points; that these gospels were the histories of Christ then publickly received, and relied upon; and that the dates, occasions, and circumstances of their publication, were at that time subjects of attention and inquiry amongst Christians. In the works of Clement which remain, the four gospels are repeatedly quoted by the names of their authors, and the Acts of the Apostles is expressly ascribed to Luke. In one place, after mentioning a particular circumstance, he adds these remarkable words 66 : We have not this passage in the four gospels delivered to us, but in that according to the Egyptians:" which puts a marked distinction between the four gospels and all other histories, or pretended histories, of Christ. In another part of his works, the perfect confidence, with which he received the gospels, is signified by him in these words: "That this is true appears from hence, that it is written in the gospel according to St. Luke;" and again, " I need not use many words, but only to allege the evangelick voice of the Lord." His quotations are numerous. The sayings of Christ, of which he alleg many, are all taken from our gospels; the single exception to this observation appearing to be a loose* quotation of a passage in St. Matthew's gospel.
* "Ask great things and the small shall be added unto you." Clement rather chose to expound the words of Matthew (Chap. vi. 33.) than literally to cite them; and this is most undeniably proved by another place in the same Clement, where he both produces the text and these
XII. In the age in which they lived*, Tertullian joins on with Clement. The number of the gospels then received, the names of the evangelists, and their proper descriptions, are exhibited by this writer in one short sentence:"Among the apostles, John and Matthew teach us the faith; among apostolical men, Luke and Mark refresh it." The next passage to be taken from Tertullian, affords as complete an attestation to the authenticity of our books, as can be well imagined. After enumerating the churches which had been founded by Paul, at Corinth, in Galatia, at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Ephesus; the church of Rome established by Peter and Paul, and other churches derived from John; he proceeds thus :-"I say then, that with them, but not with them only which are apostolical, but with all who have fellowship with them in the same faith, is that gospel of Luke received from its first publication, which we so zealously maintain :" and presently afterwards adds ; "The same authority of the apostolical churches will support the other gospels, which we have from them, and according to them, I mean John's and Matthew's ; although that likewise, which Mark published, may be said to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was." In another place Tertullian affirms, that the three other gospels were in the hands of the churches from the beginning, as well as Luke's. This noble testimony fixes the universality with which the gospels were received, and their antiquity; that they were in the hands of all, and had been so from the first. And this evidence appears not more than one hundred and fifty years after the publication of the books.
words as an exposition ;—“ Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness, for these are the great things; but the small things, and things relating to this life, shall be added unto you." Jones's New and
Full Method, vol. i. p. 553.
* Lardner, vol. ii. p. 561.
The reader must be given to understand that, when Tertullian speaks of maintaining or defending (tuendi) the gospel of St. Luke, he only means maintaining or defending the integrity of the copies of Luke received by Christian churches, in opposition to certain curtailed copies used by Marcion, against whom he writes.
This author frequently cites the Acts of the Apostles under that title, once calls it Luke's commentary, and observes how St. Paul's epistles confirm it.
After this general evidence, it is unnecessary to add particular quotations. These, however, are so numerous and ample, as to have led Dr. Lardner to observe," that there are more and larger quotations of the small volume of the New Testament in this one Christian author, than there are of all the works of Cicero in writers of all characters for several ages. "*
Tertullian quotes no Christian writing as of equal authority with the scriptures, and no spurious book at all; a broad line of distinction, we may once more observe, between our sacred books and all others.
We may again likewise remark the wide extent through which the reputation of the gospels, and of the Acts of the Apostles, had spread, and the perfect consent in this point of distant and independent societies. It is now only about one hundred and fifty years since Christ was crucified; and within this period, to say nothing of the apostolical fathers who have been noticed already, we have Justin Martyr at Neapolis, Theophilus at Antioch, Irenæus in France, Clement at Alexandria, Tertullian at Carthage, quoting the same books of historical scriptures, and, I may say, quoting these alone.
* Lardner, vol. ii, p. 647.
XIII. An interval of only thirty years, and that occupied by no small number of Christian writers,* whose works only remain in fragments and quotations, and in every one of which is some reference or other to the gospels, (and in one of them, Hippolytus, as preserved in Theodoret, is an abstract of the whole gospel history,) brings us to a name of great celebrity in Christian antiquity, Origent of Alexandria, who, in the quantity of his writings, exceeded the most laborious of the Greek and Latin authors. Nothing can be more peremptory upon the subject now under consideration, and, from a writer of his learning and information, more satisfactory, than the declaration of Origen, preserved, in an extract from his works, by Eusebius: "That the four gospels alone are received without dispute by the whole church of God under heaven" to which declaration is immediately subjoined a brief history of the respective authors, to whom they were then, as they are now, ascribed. The language holden concerning the gospels throughout the works of Origen which remain, entirely corresponds with the testimony here cited. His attestation to the Acts of the Apostles is no less positive: "And Luke also once more sounds the trumpet relating the Acts of the Apostles." The universality with which the scriptures were then read, is well signified by this writer, in a passage in which he has occasion to observe against Celsus, "That it is not in any private books, or such as are read by a few only, and those studious persons, but in books read by every body, that it is written, the invisible things of God from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by things
* Minucius Felix, Apollonius, Caius, Asterius, Urbanus, Alexander Bishop of Jerusalem, Hippolytus, Ammonius, Julius Africanus.
Lardner, vol. iii. p. 234.
that are made." It is to no purpose to single out quotations of scripture from such a writer as this. We might as well make a selection of the quotations of scripture in Dr. Clarke's sermons. They are so thickly sown in the works of Origen, that Dr. Mill says, "If we had all his works remaining, we should have before us almost the whole text of the Bible*."
Origen notices, in order to censure, certain apocryphal gospels. He also uses four writings of this sort; that is, throughout his large works he once or twice, at the most, quotes each of the four; but always with some mark, either of direct reprobation, or of caution to his readers, manifestly esteeming them of little or no authority.
XIV. Gregory Bishop of Neocesarea, and Dionysiusof Alexandria, were scholars of Origen. Their testimony, therefore, though full and particular, may be reckoned a repetition only of his. The series, however, of evidence, is continued by Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, who flourished within twenty years after Origen. "The church (says this father) is watered, like Paradise, by four rivers, that is, by four Gospels." The Acts of the Apostles is also frequently quoted by Cyprian under that name, and under the name of the "divine scriptures." In his various writings are such constant and copious citations of scripture, as to place this part of the testimony beyond controversy. Nor is there, in the works of this eminent African Bishop, one quotation of a spurious or apocryphal Christian writing.
XV. Passing over a crowd of writers following Cyprian, at different distances, but all within forty years of his
*Mill, proleg. cap. vi. p. 66.
Novatus, Rome, A. D. 251; Dionysius, Rome, A. D. 259; Commodian, A.D. 270; Anatolius, Laodicea, A. D. 270; Theognotus, A. D. 282; Methodius, Lycia, A. D. 290; Phileas, Egypt, A. D. 296.