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examination and discussion; and that, where there was any room to doubt, they did doubt.


What Eusebius hath left upon the subject is directly to the purpose of this observation.. Eusebius, it is well known, divided the ecclesiastical writings which were extant in his time into three classes; the "avavтipita, uncontradicted," as he calls them in one chapter; or "scriptures universally acknowledged," as he calls them in another; the " troverted, yet well known and approved by many;" and "the spurious." What were the shades of difference in the books of the second, or in those of the third class; or what it was precisely that he meant by the term spurious, it is not necessary in this place to inquire. It is sufficient for us to find, that the thirteen epistles of St. Paul are placed by him in the first class without any sort of hesita tion or doubt.

It is further also to be collected from the chapter in which this distinction is laid down, that the method made use of by Eusebius, and by the Christians of his time, viz. the close of the third century, in judging concerning the sacred authority of any books, was to inquire after and consider the testimony of those who lived near the age of the apostles*.


IV. That no ancient writing, which is attested as these epistles are, hath had its authenticity disproved, or is in fact questioned. The controversies which have been moved concerning suspected writings, as the epistles, for instance, of Phalaris, or the eighteen epistles of Cicero, begin by showing that this attestation is wanting. That being proved, the question is thrown back upon internal marks of spuriousness or authenticity; and in these the dispute is

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occupied. In which disputes it is to be observed, that the contested writings are commonly attacked by arguments drawn from some opposition which they betray to "authentick history," to "true principles," to "the real sentiments or circumstances of the author whom they personate*;" which authentick history, which true epistles, which real sentiments themselves, are no other than ancient documents, whose early existence and reception can be proved, in the manner in which the writings before us are traced up to the age of their reputed author, or to ages near to his. A modern who sits down to compose the history of some ancient period, has no stronger evidence to appeal to for the most confident assertion, or the most undisputed fact, that he delivers, than writings, whose genuineness is proved by the same medium through which we evince the authenticity of ours. Nor, whilst he can have recourse to such authorities as these, does he apprehend any uncertainty in his accounts, from the suspicion of spuriousness or imposture in his materials.

V. It cannot be shown that any forgeries, properly so called, that is, writings published under the name of the person who did not compose them, made their appearance in the first century of the Christian era, in which century these epistles undoubtedly existed. I shall set down under this proposition the guarded words of Lardner himself: "There are no quotations of any books of them (spurious and apocryphal books) in the apostolical fathers, by whom I mean Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas, Ignatius,

* See the tracts written in the controversy between Tunstal and Middleton up on certain suspected epistles ascribed to Cicero.

I believe that there is a great deal of truth in Dr. Lardner's observations, that comparatively few of those books, which we call apocryphal, were strictly and originally forgeries. See Lardner, vol. xii. p. 167.

and Polycarp, whose writings reach from the year of our Lord 70 to the year 108. I say this confidently, because I think it has been proved*."

Nor when they did appear were they much used by the primitive Christians. "Irenæus quotes not any of these books. He mentions some of them, but he never quotes them. The same may be said of Tertullian: he has mentioned a book called Acts of Paul and Thecla :' but it is only to condemn it. Clement of Alexandria and Origen have mentioned and quoted several such books, but never as authority, and sometimes with express marks of dislike. Eusebius quotes no such books in any of his works. He has mentioned them indeed, but how? Not by way of approbation, but to show that they were of little or no value ; and that they never were received by the sounder part of Christians." Now, if with this, which is advanced after the most minute and diligent examination, we compare what the same cautious writer had before said of our received scriptures, "that in the works of three only of the above mentioned fathers, there are more and larger quotations of the small volume of the New Testament, than of all the works of Cicero in the writers of all characters for several ages;" and if, with the marks of obscurity or condemnation, which accompanied the mention of the several apocryphal Christian writings, when they happened to be mentioned at all, we contrast what Dr. Lardner's work completely and in detail makes out concerning the writings which we defend, and what, having so made out, he thought himself authorized in his conclusion to assert, that these books were not only received from the beginning, but received with the greatest respect; have been publickly and

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solemnly read in the assemblies of Christians throughout the world, in every age from that time to this; early translated into the languages of divers countries and people; commentaries written to explain and illustrate them; quoted by way of proof in all arguments of a religious nature; recommended to the perusal of unbelievers, as containing the authentick account of the Christian doctrine; when we attend, I say, to this representation, we perceive in it, not only full proof of the early notoriety of these books, but a clear and sensible line of discrimination, which separates these from the pretensions of any others.

The Epistles of St. Paul stand particularly free of any doubt or confusion that might arise from this source. Until the conclusion of the fourth century, no intimation appears of any attempt whatever being made to counterfeit these writings; and then it appears only of a single and obscure instance. Jerome, who flourished in the year 392, has this expression: "Legunt quidam et ad Laodicenses; sed ab omnibus exploditur;" there is also an Epistle to the Laodiceans, but it is rejected by every body*. Theodoret, who wrote in the year 423, speaks of this epistle in the same terms†. Beside these, I know not whether any ancient writer mentions it. It was certainly unnoticed during the three first centuries of the Church; and when it came afterwards to be mentioned, it was mentioned only to show, that, though such a writing did exist, it obtained no credit. It is probable that the forgery to which Jerome alludes, is the epistle which we now have under that title. If so, as hath been already observed, it is nothing more than a collection of sentences from the genuine Epistles; and was perhaps, at first, rather the

* Lardner, vol. x. p. 103.

Lardner, vol. xi. p. 88.

exercise of some idle pen, than any serious attempt to impose a forgery upon the publick. Of an Epistle to the Corinthians under St. Paul's name, which was brought into Europe in the present century, antiquity is entirely silent. It was unheard of for sixteen centuries; and at this day, though it be extant, and was first found in the Armenian language, it is not, by the Christians of that country, received into their scriptures. I hope, after this, that there is no reader who will think there is any competition of credit, or of external proof, between these and the received Epistles: or rather, who will not acknowledge the evidence of authenticity to be confirmed by the want of success which attended imposture.

When we take into our hands the letters which the suffrage and consent of antiquity hath thus transmitted to us, the first thing that strikes our attention is the air of reality and business, as well as of seriousness and conviction, which pervades the whole. Let the sceptick read them. If he be not sensible of these qualities in them, the argument can have no weight with him. If he be; if he perceive in almost every page the language of a mind actuated by real occasions, and operating upon real circumstances, I would wish it to be observed, that the proof which arises from this perception is not to be deemed occult or imaginary, because it is incapable of being drawn out in words, or of being conveyed to the apprehension of the reader in any other way, than by sending him to the books themselves.

And here, in its proper place, comes in the argument which it has been the office of these pages to unfold. St. Paul's Epistles are connected with the history by their particularity, and by the numerous circumstances which are found in them. When we descend to an examination


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