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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 sufpicion of fpuriousness or impofture 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 æra, in which century these epistles undoubtedly existed. I fall set down under this proposition the guarded words of Lardner him
* 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.
self: “There are no quotations ofany books of " them (spurious and apocryphal books) in “ the apostolical fathers, by whom I mean “ Barnabas, Clement of Rome, Hermas,
Ignatius, 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." Lardner, vol. xii. p. 158.
Nor when they did appear were they much used by the primitive Christians. “ Irenæus quotes not any of these books. “ He mentions fome of them, but he never
quotes them. The same may be said of 66 Tertullian : he has mentioned a book “ called “ Acts of Paul and Thecla;' but it is
only to condemn it. Clement of Alexan“dria and Origen have mentioned and
quot“ed several such books, but never as autho
rity, 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 66 of little or no value; and that they never were received by the founder part of
“ Chriftians.” Now, if with this, which is advanced after the most minute and diligent examination, we compare what the same cautious writer had before faid of our received fcriptures,
66 that in the works of " three only of the above-mentioned fa" thers, there are more and larger quota“ tions of the small volume of the New “ Testament, than of all the works of Ci
cero in the writers of all characters for 66 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 affert, that these books were not only received from the beginning, but received with the greatest respect ; have been publickly and folemnly read in the afsemblies of Christians throughout the world, in every age from that time to this; early translated into the languages of divers coun
tries and people; commentaries writ 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 authentic 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 Laodicenfes ; fed ad omnibus explo“ ditur;" 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
* Lardner, vol. X. p. 103.
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 fhów, 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 exercise of some idle pen, than any serious attempt to impose a forgery upon the public. 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 fixteen 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 scripturés. I hope, after this, that there is no reader who will think there is any competition of cre
: . * Lardner, vol. xi, p. 88.