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cited the now-received books of the Canon, and others promiscuously. But as I shall hereafter shew this to be a mistake, so it will be enough here to observe, that they were generally agreed in receiving the fatne books for Canonical, which we do now; and this appears, I say, from their agreement to cite them, as every one must acknowledge, who has but cast an eye upon the writings of the first centuries. To say nothing of the Apostolic Fathers, such as Clemens, Barnabas, &c. it is evident, that Justin Martyr at Neapolis, Theophilus at Antioch, Irenæus in France, Clemens at Alexandria, Tertullian at Carthage, &c. (who all lived within 120 or 130 years after our Lord's Ascension, and some of them much sooner, and but a very short time after the writing of the books) have all, though in very remote countries, quoted many, or most, if not all the same bouks as Scripture. The same might be obferved concerning Origen, Cyprian, and other writers of the next century. But, to omit thefe, I observe,
2. That several of the first writers of Christianity have left us, in their works, catalogues of the sacred books of the New Testament, which, though made in countries at a vast distance from each other, do very little differ. A particular account of all the catalogues, I shall give hereafter in this volume; I fhall only instance now in those of Origen“ and Eusebius, which he who will be at the pains to compare, will easily perceive to be very nearly the fame. So great was the pains and care of those early Christians, to be well assured what were the genuine writings of the Apostles, and to distinguish them from all the pretended Revelations of designing men, and the forgeries they published under sacred titles. Thus when the Presbyter of Asia abovementioned f had published a spurious piece under the name of Paul, he was immediately convicted, and notice of the forgery was foon conveyed to Carthage, and the Churches of Africa.
Coroll. I. Hence it follows, that Mr. Dodwell's opinions,
d Comment. in Matth. init. et Comment. in Joan. I. 5. apud Eu. feb. Hift. Eccl. 1. 6. c. 25.
e Euseb. Hift. Eccl. 1. 3. c. 25.
f Vid. fupr. p. 40.
espoused with fo much zeal by Mr. Toland in his Amyntor h, is utterly false, viz. That the books of the present Canon lay concealed in the coffers of particular Churches, or private men, till the later times of Trajan, or perhaps of Adrian, not known to the Clergy or Churches of those times, nor yet distinguished from the spurious pieces of the Hereticks. For besides that it has been already proved, by Mr. Nye' and Mr. Le Clerc *, that the writers of the Apoftolic age were well acquainted with, because they frequently cite several books of, our present Canon; I add, from what has been said, that if these books had not been well known in Adrian's time, but then lay concealed, it would have been impossible for them to have spread so much by the middle of the second century, as to have been quoted by all the writers of it, in whatever countries they lived 1.
Coroll. II. Hence it also follows, that the primitive Christians are proper judges, to determine what book is Canonical, and what not ; for nothing can be more absurd, than to fuppose, in those early ages, an agreement fo universal, without a good and solid foundation; or, in other words, it is next to impossible, either that so great a number of men should agree in a cheat, or be imposed upon by a cheat. The celebrated Huetius takes this for granted, and lays it down as his first axiom, That every book is genuine, which was esteemed genuine by those, who lived nearest to the time when it was written, and by the ages fucceeding in a continued series. This, says he, is an axiom that cannot be disputed by those, who will allow any thing at all to be certain in history. Demonstr. Evang. Axiom. I. But there are some particular circumstances, which will make the inference more clear as to the Christian books, than others, such as the prodigious esteem the books at first were received with, the constant use that was made of them in their religious afsemblies, the translations made of them very early into other lan
n Amynt. p. 69:
I Answer to Amyntor, p. 47, &c. See my Vindic. of St. Matth. p. 225, &c.
k Differt, 3. at the end of his
i Justin Martyr unquestionably lived in Adrian's time, and Irenæus not long after. Vid. Euseb. Chronic.
guages; thele, I say, and many other such circumstances there, are, which all concur to make an impofture in this case almost impossible.
CH A P. VI. The various Sentiments of learned Men concerning the Methods of determining the Canonical Authority of any Book, enquired into, and particularly discussed.
PRO P. III. •
The main and principal Method, by which we are now able
to determine the Canonical Authority of any Book, or Books, is by searching into the most antient and authentic Records of Christianity, and finding out the Testimony or Tradition of thofe, who lived nearest the Time in which the Books were written, concerning them.
THE preceding Corollary evidenced the first Christians to
I be proper judges; the design of this proposition is to shew, that they are the main and principal judges, by whom we must determine the question concerning the Canon of the New Testament. Though the proposition may at first seem clear and evident, the disputes of many, both foreign and English divines, have made it necessary more largely to be discussed: for the truth is, it has happened here, as in many other cases, the clearest truths have become strangely perplexed and confounded. Such is the zeal of the contending parties among Christians, that because they differ in some things, they think themselves obliged to differ in all they can, and so arise disputes about questions, which are in themselves plain, and the fiercest contention about things, in which both sides would most certainly agree, if they had but patience and impartiality enough to know each other's meaning. This is in a great measure the case in the present question, concerning
werful infu. Spirit evidence laitly are
the authority of the Scriptures : some tell us, they derive their authority from the Church; others, that they can only rightly appear to be true from their own internal evidence, and their powerful influence on the heart; others add to this, the inward teftimony of the Spirit evidencing their divinity, and consequently their genuineness; others lastly are persuaded, we have no other way of knowing whether any book was written by the person whose name it bears, and consequently whether it be of the authority it pretends to derive from its author, but by well-approved testimonies of those, who lived in or near the time of its being first written. I shall first give some brief account of each of these opinions, and then endeavour to thew what is most probable upon the whole.'
1. The first is the opinion of the Papifts, who have generally affirmed, in their controversies with the Protestants, that the authority of the Scriptures depends upon, or is derived from, the power of their Church : i. e. It is in the power of the Pope, or Council, or both, to determine what books shall be received as Cam nonical. This is a matter so well known, that I shall not produce many instances to prove it. Hermannus, in the abundance of his zeal, affirms m the Scriptures are of no more value than Æfop's Fables, without the authority of the Church; and Bailius ", that he should give no more credit to Saint Matthew, than Livy, unless the Church obliged him. Tiletanus, bishop of Ypres, says, This is the only way of distinguising between Canonical and Apocryphal Scriptures. To the fame purpose Pighius, Eckius, Bellarmine, and many of their most celebrated writers P. By the authority of the Church, these authors plainly mean a power lodged in the Church of Rome, and her synods, of determination, what books are the word of God; than which nothing can be more absurd, or contradictory to common sense : for if so, it is possible, nay it is easy for them, to make a book, which is not divine, to be so; and (to make use of Hermannus's instance) it is possible Æsop's Fables may in time become as good a part of Scripture, as Saint Paul's Epistles: nay, once more, it is very possible the books of Celsus, Julian, and Porphyry, were they extant, might become a part of the New Testament, though they were designedly written against it. But the folly of the Popish arguments in this instance, has been so well exposed by Whitaker, Chemnitius, Rivet, and many others of our Reformers, that I think it sufficient to refer the Reader, who has a mind to know more of this controversy, to their books cited in the margin.
m Apud Whitaker. Controv. de Script. Quæft. 3. c. 1. et Chemnit. Exam. Conc. Trid. Par. 1. p. 85.
* Rivet. Ilag. ad Script. Sacr, c. 3. §. 4. &c.
• Ibid. c, 3. §. 3.
Ibid. c. 3. $. 3,4, &c. Whitaker. Controv. de Script. Sacr. Quæft. 3. c. I. Amyrald. Ther. de Auctor. Script. inter Thes, Sal. murienses. Calvin. Initit, Christ. Rel. l. 1. 6.7. §. I.
2. Others are of opinion, that there are inward, or innate evidences in the Scriptures, which, applied by the illumination or testimony of the Holy Spirit, are the only true proofs of their being Canonical, or the word of God. To avoid the tedious and prolix difputations, that have been on this head between Papists and Protestants, and even between Protestants themselves, I fall only give some account of the sentiments of our Reformers on it, out of their own writings, and then examine how far they are true.
Among the Protestants who have declared their opinion against the Papists on this head, I place first our learned countryman Whitaker, who, in his controversy about the Scripture against Bellarmine, gives us this account of the reformed doctrine in this matter 9 : The fum, says he, of our opinion is, that the Scriptures have all their authority and credit from themfelves; that they are to be acknowledged and received, riot because the Church has appointed or commanded fo, but because they came from God: but that they came from God, cannot be certainly known by the Church, but from the Holy Ghost. So Calvin?: All must allow, that there are in the Scriptures manifest evidences of God Speaking in them. The majesty of God in them will presently appear to every impartial examiner, which will extort our assent : so that they act preposterously, who endeavour by any argument to beget a solid credit to the Scrip
9 Controv. de Script. Quæst. 3. Instit. Christ. Relig. l. 1. c. C. I.
- 7. §. 4, 5.