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CHAP. XVI.

THE CONCLUSION.

TN the outfet of this enquiry, the reader ."- was directed to confider the Acts of the Apoftles and the thirteen epiftles of St. Paul as certain ancient manufcripts lately difcovered in the clofet of fome celebrated library. We have adhered to this view of the fubject. External evidence of every kind has been removed out of fight; and our endeavours have been employed to collect the indications of truth and authenticity, which appeared to exift in the writings themfelves, and to refult from a companion of their different parts. It is not however neceflary to continue this fuppofition longer. The teftimony which other remains of cotemporary, or the monuments of adjoining ages afford to the reception, notoriety, and public eftimation of a book, form no doubt the firft proof of its genuinenefs. And in no books whatever is this proof more complete, than in thofe at preient under our confederation. The enquiries of learned men, and, above all, of the excellent JLardner, who never overftates a point of evidence, and whole fidelity in citing his authorities has in no one inftance been impeached, have eftablifhed, concerning thefe writings, the following proportions:

I. That in the age immediately pofterior to that in which St. Paul lived, his letters were publicly read and acknowledged.

Some of them are quoted or alluded to by almoft every Chriftian writer that followed, by Clement of Rome, by Hermas, by Ignatius, by Polycarp, difciples or cotemporaries of the apoftles; by Juftin Martyr, by the churches of Gaul, by Irenasus, by Athenagoras, by Theophilus, by Clement of Alexandria, by Hermias, by Tertullian, who occupied the fucceeding age. Now when we find a book quoted or referred to by an ancient author, we are entitled to conclude, that it was read and received in the age and country in which that author lived. And this conclufion does not, in any degree, reft upon the judgment or

C c 2 cha

character of the author making fuch reference. Proceeding by this rule, we have, concerning the firft epiftle to the Corinthians in particular, within forty years after the epiftle was written, evidence, not only of its being extant at Corinth, but of its being known and read at Rome. Clement, bifhop of that city, writing to the church of Corinth, ufes thefe words: Take into "your hands the epiftle of the blefled Paul "the apoftle. What did he at firft write ** unto you in the beginning of the gofpel? "Verily he did by the fpirit admonifh you "concerning himfelf and Cephas and Apol"los, becaufe that even then you did form ** parties*." This was written at a time when probably fome muft have been living at Corinth, who remembered St. Paul's miniftry there and the receipt of the epiftle. The teftimony is ftill more valuable, as it fhows that the epiftles were preferved in the churches to which they were fent, and that they were fpread and propagated from them to the reft of the Chriftian community. Agreeably to which natural mode

* See Lardncr, vol. xii. p. 22.

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order of their publication, Tertullian, a century afterwards, for proof of the integrity and genuineaefs of the apoftolic writings, bids " any one, who is willing to exer"cife his curiofity profitably in the bufmels "of their falvation, to vifit the apoftolical '* churches, in which their very authentic "letters are recited, ipfae authentic^ literae •*•* eorum recitantur." Then he goes on: " Is "Achaia near you? You have Corinth. If >* you are not far from Macedonia, you have *•* Philippi, you have Theflalonica. If you •" can go to Afia, you have Ephefus; but if •" you are near to Italy, you have Rome*." 1 adduce this paflage to mow, that the diftinct: .churches or Chriftian focieties, to which St. Paul's epiftles were fent, fubfifted for fome ages afterwards; that his feveralepiftles were all along refpetlively read in thofe churches; .tbatChriftians at large received them from thofe churches, and appealed to thole .churches for their originality and authen

city.

Arguing in like manner from citations

and allufions, we have, within the fpace of a hundred and fifty years from the time

* Lardner, vol. ii. p. 598.

C c 3 that that the firft of St. Paul's epiftles was written, proofs of almoft all of them being read, in Paleftine, Syria, the countries of Afia Minor, in Egypt, in that part of Africa \vhich ufed the Latin tongue, in Greece, Italy, and Gaul*. I do not mean fimply to aflert, that, within th.e fpace of a hundred and fifty years, St. Paul's epiftles were read in thofe countries, for I believe that they were read and circulated from the beginning; but that proofs of their being fb read occur within that period. And wheir it^ is coniidere'd how few of the primitive Chriftians wrote, and of what was written how much is loft, we are to account it extraordinary, or rather as a fure proof of the extenfivenefs of the reputation of thefe writings, and of the general refpect in which they were held, that fo many teftimonies, and of fuch antiquity, are ftill extant. "In the remaining works of Ire'* iiecus, Clement of Alexandria, and Ter"tullian, there are perhaps more and *' larger quotations of the fmall volume of "the New Tcftament, than of all the works * See Lardner's.Recapitukuion, vol. xii. p. 53.

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