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Julian Pe.. St. Luke about the time of the Neronian--and if the Gospel of Asia Minor.
riod, 4799. St. John was written, and the canon of Scripture completed, in
Vulgar Æra, anticipation of the Trajanian porsecution, the blood of the
martyrs in a new and more impressive sense, may be justly
called the seed of the Church.
Eusebius is generally considered as affording decisive evidence
that the canon of Scripture was completed by St. John. In the
third book of his Ecclesiastical History, this historian gives an
account of the bishops who presided over the Churches of Rome,
Jerusalem, and Alexandria. From mentioning Ignatins, Bishop
of Antioch, and Simeon, Bishop of Jerusalem, he proceeds to
relate some traditional stories of St. John, who was the cotem-
porary of both. He then goes on to mention the writings of the
apostle, and informs us that St. John wrote his Gospel to relate
the circumstances which had been omitted by the other evan-
gelists, particularly those which occurred at the commence-
ment of our Lord's ministry. The apostle approved of all that
had been said by the three evangelists; he confirmed their de-
clarations by bis own testimony, and added his own Gospel to
complete wbatever in theirs might be deficient.
This testimony of Eusebius does not appear, to Mosheim, to be sufficient to convince us that St. John completed the canon of the New Testament. He certainly says nothing of the Acts or the Epistles; as these, however, were undoubtedly and unanimously received as inspired books by the great majority of Christians, and as the Acts were written by St. Luke, and formed as it were the second part of the Gospel; and the Epistles of St. Paul were so interwoven with the history of his travels, by St. Luke, that they could not be separated, it is diffi. cult to believe that the apostle should have sanctioned the Gospels alone, and not have confirmed also the authority of their inseparable and inspired appendages. It is true, that Eusebius confines his testimony to the Gospels; but he does not do this in such a manner that we are necessarily led to suppose that he omitted to approve of the remainder of the sacred writings. The general and ancient tradition may supply the place of more demonstrative evidence with those, who are contented with the authority of antiquity, with out decided evidence of another kind ; provided there be nothing which is absurd in itself, inconsistent with Scripture, nor opposite to authentic evidence. It is not, however, improbable that those Epistles, wbich were not received by all Christians into the canon, immediately on their first publication, bad been neglected by the Gentile Christians, because they were principally addressed to the converts from among the Jews, or to the Hebrews generally. Should this conjecture be well founded, they might not have been known to the Church at Ephesus at this time, and possibly, therefore, were not in. cluded in the collection of inspired writings which were submitted at Ephesus to St. John, and received the sanction of that apostle.
It has been supposed, by many, that the New Testament contains internal evidence that the canon of Scripture was now fixed by St. John; or that the Gospels, the Acts, the Apocalypse, and the universally received Epistles, were sanctioned by his authority. The passage, Apoc. xxii. 18, 19. in which a blessing is pronounced upon all wbo hear the words of this book, &c. &c. &c. is said to refer not merely to the Apoca. lypse, but to the whole word of God; this opinion, however, does not seem to be supported by the context. Augustine, (ap Lampe,) asserts that the canon of Scripture was confirmed from the times of the apostles, by the episcopal successions and early
Julian Pe. Churches. Lampe quotes also Jerome and Tertullian, wbo do Asia Minor.
riod, 4799. not, however, speak with decision. The prolonged life of the
Vulgar Æra, apostle, after whom no inspired book could be expected by the
96. Churches-his certain knowledge of the books which had al.
ready been so universally received-and the necessity of his
approbation, or condemnation, combine to render him the one
individual who was called upon to decide the authority of the
books, and to complete the canon. Irenæus seems to allude to
the completed canon, when, soon after the death of St. John,
he says concerning Polycarp, “ He always taught those things
which he had learned from the apostles, which the Church had
delivered, and which alone are trne."
The last writer who has studied the subject, was the late la
mented and learned Mr. Rennell, who has been so prematurely
removed from the scene of his useful labours. In his observa-
tions on the compilation of the apocryphal writings of the
apostolic age, publisbed by Mr. Hone, he observes
" When was the canon of Scripture determined? It was determined immediately after the death of St. John, the last sur. vivor of the apostolic order. The canon of the Gospels was determined indeed before his death, for we read in Eusebius that he gave his sanction to the three other Gospels, and completed this part of the New Testament with his own. By the death of St. John the catalogue of Scripture was completed and closed. We have seen from the testimony both of themselves, and of their immediate successors, that the inspiration of writing was strictly confined to the apostles, and accordingly we find that no pretensions were ever made by any true Christian to a similar authority.
“ By whom was the canon of Scripture determined ? It was determined, not by the decision of any individual, nor by the decree of any council, but by the general consent of the wbole and every part of the Christian Church. It is indeed a very remarkable circumstance, that among the various disputes which so early agitated the Chureh, the canon of Scriptore was never the subject of controversy. If any question might be said to have arisen, it bad reference to one or two of those books which are included in the present canon; but with respect to those which are out of the canon, no difference of opi. pion ever existed.
“The reason of this agreement is a very satisfactory one. Every one who is at all versed in ecclesiastical history is aware of the continual intercourse which took place in the apostolic age between the various branches of the Church Universal. This communication, as Mr. Nolan has well observed, arose out of the Jewish polity, under which the various synagogues of the Jews, which were dispersed throughout the Gentile world, were all subjected to the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem, and maintained a constant correspondence with it. Whenever then an epistle arrived at any particular Church, it was first authenticated; it was then read to all the holy brethren, and was subsequently transmitted to some other neighbouring Church. Thus we find that the authentication of the Epistles of St. Paul was the salutation with his own hand,' 2 Thess. iii. 17. by which the Church, to which the letter was first addressed, might be assured that it was not a forgory. We find also a solemn adjaration of the same apostle, that his epistle should be read to all the holy brethren,' i Thess. v. 27. ; and again, that his epistles should be transmitted to other Christian communities.
When this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans, and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea, Col. iv. 16. From this latter pas.
Julian Pe- sage we infer, that the system of transmission was a very Asia Minor.
riod, 4799. general one; as the epistle, which St. Paul directs the Colos.
Vulgar Æra, sians to receive from the Laodiceans, was not originally ad-
dressed to the latter, but was sent to them from some other
Church. To prevent any mistake or fraud, this transmission
was made by the highest authority, namely, by that of the
bishop. Through him official communications were sent from
one Church to another, even in the remotest countries. Cle-
ment, the Bishop of Rome, communicated with the Church at
Corinth; Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, wrote an epistle to
the Philippians; Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, corres-
ponded with the Churches of Rome, of Magnesia, of Ephesus,
and others. These three bishops were the companions and im-
mediate successors of the apostles, and followed the system of
correspondence and intercourse which their masters had begun.
Considering all these circumstances, we shall be convinced how
utterly improbable it was, that any authentic work of an
apostle should have existed in one Church, without baving
been communicated to another. It is a very mistaken notion
of Dodwell, that the books of the New Testament lay concealed
in the coffers of particular Churches, and were not known to
the remainder of the world until the late days of Trajan. This
might have been perfectly true with respect to the originals,
which were doubtless guarded with peculiar care in the custody
of the particular Churches to which they were respectively ad-
dressed. But copies of these originals, attested by authority of
the bishop, were transmitted from one Church to another, with
the utmost freedom, and were thus rapidly dispersed through-
out the whole Christian world. As a proof of this, St. Peter,
in an epistle addressed generally to the Churches in Asia, speaks
of all the Epistles' of St. Paul, as a body of Scripture univer-
sally circulated and known.
« The number of the apostles, including Paul and Barnabas,
was but fourteen-to these, and to these alone, in the opinion
of the early Church, was the inspiration of writing confined
out of these, six only deemed it necessary to write-what they
did write was authenticated with the greatest caution, and cir.
culated with the utmost rapidity-what was received in any
Church as the writing of an apostle was publicly read-no
Church was left to itself or to its own direction ; but was fre-
quently visited by the apostles, and corresponded with by their
successors-all the distant members of the Church universal, in
the apostolic age, being united by frequent intercourse and
communication, became one body in Christ. Taking all these
things into our consideration, we shall see with what ease and
rapidity the canon of Scripture would be formed, there being
no room either for fraudulent fabrication on the one hand, or
for arbitrary rejection on the other. The case was too clear to
require any formal discussion, nor does it appear that there
was any material forgery that could render it necessary. The
writings of the apostles, and of the apostles alone, were re-
ceived as the word of God, and were separated from all others,
by that most decisive species of authority, the authority of a
general, an immediate, and an undisputed consent.
“ This will appear the more satisfactory to our minds, if we take an example from the age in which we live. The letters of Junius for instance, were published at intervals within a certaiu period. Since the publication of the last authentic letter, many under that signature bave appeared, parporting to have been written by the same author. But this circunstance throws no obscurity over the matter, nor is the canon of Junius, if I may transfer the term from sacred to secular writing, involved
Tub APOSTOLIC WRITINGS EARLY AND ONIVERSALLY RECEIVED. Julian Pe. thereby in any difficulty or doubt. If it should be hereafter Asia Miss. riod, 4799. enquired, at what time, or by what authority the authentic letVulgarÆra, ters were separated from the spurious, the answer will be, that 96. such a separation dever took place; but that the canon of Ju.
nius was determined immediately after the date of the last letter.
To us who live so near to the time of publication, the line of
distinction between the genuine and the spurious is so strongly
marked, and the evidence of authenticity on the one side, and
forgery on the other, is so clear and convincing, that á formal
rejection of the latter is unnecessary. The case has long since
been determined by the tacit consent of the whole British nation,
and no man in his senses would attempt to dispute it.
“ Yet how much stronger is the case of the scriptural canon. The author of Junius was known to none, he could not therefore of himself bear any testimony to the authenticity of his works; the authors of the New Testament were known to all, and were especially careful to mark, to authenticate, and to distinguish their writings. The author of Junius bad no personal character which could stamp his writing with any high or special authority: whatever proceeded from the apostles of Christ, was immediately regarded as the offspring of an exclusive inspiration. For the canon of Junius we have no external evidence, but that of a single publisher: for the canon of Scripture we have the testimony of Churches which were vi. sited, bishops who were appointed, and converts innumerable, who were instructed by the apostles themselves. It was neither the duty nor the interest of any one, excepting the publisher, to preserve the volume of Junius from spurious additions : to guard the integrity of the sacred volume was the bounden duty of every Christian who believed that its words were the words of eternal life.
* If, then, notwithstanding these and other difficulties, which
might be adduced, the canon of Junius is established beyond
controversy or dispute, by the tacit consent of all who live in
the age in which it is written: there can be no reason why
the canon of Scripture, under circumstances infinitely stronger,
should not have been determined in a manner precisely the
same; especially when we remember, that in both cases the
forgeries made their appearance subsequently to the determi.
nation of the canon. There is not a single book in the spurious
department of the Apocryphal volume which was even known,
where the canon of Scripture was determined. This is a fact
which considerably strengthens the case. There was no diffi-
culty or dispute in framing the canou of Scripture, because
there were no competitors, whose claims it was expedient to
examine, no forgeries whose impostures it was necessary to
detect. The first age of the Church was an age of too much
vigilance, of too much communication, of too much authority
for any fabricator of Scripture to hope for success. If any al-
tempt was made, it was instantly crushed. When the authority
of the apostles and of the apostolic men had lost its immediate
influence, and heresies and disputes had arisen, then it was
that forgeries began to appear. But by this time the canon of
Scripture had taken such firm root in the minds of men, that it
resisted every effort to supplant it. Nothing, indeed, but the
general and long determined consent of the whole Christian
world could have preserved the sacred volume in its integrity,
unimpaired by the mutilation of one set of heretics, and unin-
cumbered by the forgeries of another.”
The time of St. John's death is very uncertain. Jerome, in
Covin. lib. i. c. 14, affirms that he died worn out with age.
Irenæus, I. ii. c. 39. I, iii. c. 3. tells us that he survived to the
lian Pe. reign of Trajan. Usher and Beveridge, de Martyr. Igoat. Asia Minor
d, 4799. p. 177. in Canon Apost. 1455, refer his death to the second year
ilgarÆra, of Trajan. Eusebius, with a great number of the fathers, Jerome,
Tertullian, Origen, and others, place it in the third. The
Paschal Chronicle assigns it to the seventh year of that em-
peror. He died at Ephesus, in expectation, says the Arabian
author, of his blessedness: by which expression we may inser,
that he met the last enemy of man with that serene and peace.
ful, and well founded hope, which is the best assurance of the
happy immortality of every privileged Christian.
it is needless to repeat the eulogies with which affection and
admiration have upited to commemorate the death of this ami-
able apostle. The Protestant theologian will require more
authentic evidence than the reporters of the wonderful tales, to
which I allude, can produce, before he can credit-that St.
John never died-that he only lay sleeping in bis grave, as
appeared from the boiling or bubbling up of the dust, which
was moved by his breath; and many other gravely related
histories, which excite but our smiles. His body is buried in
peace, but bis name liveth for evermore. So long as the pre-
sent dispensation shall coutinue, and the Christian Church be
commanded to pursue its painful way through the wilderness
of this world, to that land of peace and rest, where the spirits
of the prophets and apostles await their companions and fol.
Jowers from among mankind-so long as a blasphemer against
the divinity of the Son of God shall laugh to scorn our prayers
to a crucified Redeemer, so long shall the inspired pages of this
beloved disciple erect in our hearts the best monument to bis
(a) Sic Amesius Theol. lib. i. c. 34. 9 35. Canonem V.T. constituerunt Prophetæ, et Christus ipse testimonio suo approbavit. Canonem N. T. una cum veteri comprobavit, et obsignavit Apostolus Joannes auctoritate divina instructus, Apoc. xxii. 18, 19. Idem videtur Pareo, Pigneto, et aliis ad h. 1. Heideggerus Corp. Theol. loc. ii. p. 61. addit, Joannem canonem N. T. claussisse, dum solenni voto; etiam veni, Domine Jesu! Scripturem N. T. cum ultimo Christi adventu ita conjuxit, uti olim MaJachias Scripturam N. T. cum Ministerio Joannis Baptistæ connexuit. Sed et vetustiores Apocalypsin pro sigillo universæ Scripturæ habuerunt. Anonymus quidam græcus apud Allatium diss. I. de libris Eccles. Græcorum, p. 48.
θεολογική δ' αποκαλύψις πάλιν
Σφραγίς πέφυκε της δε της βίβλο πασης. .
Theologica Apocalypsis sigillum universi libri, et totius Sacræ Scripturæ
est.-Lampe Prolog. ad Joban. lib. i. cap. 5. § 13. note.
The theological student, who is desirous of pursuing this subject, is
referred to Dr. Cozios' work on the Canon of Scripture; a very useful
work, which was written while the learned author was expelled from his
living by the Parliament-to Jones on the Canon-Lardner's Sapple-
ment to his Credibility-Horne's Crit. Introduct.—and to the prefaces of
commentators in general.
Brief View of the Condition of the Jews, the Stations of the
Sanhedrim, and its Labors, before the final, and total
Dispersion of their Nation ; with an Outline of the History
of the visible Church
from the closing of the Canon of Scrip-
ture, to the present Day; and the Prospects of the perma-
nent Happiness of Mankind, in the present and future
So closed the most eventful century in the apnals of the