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In the outset of this inquiry, the reader was directed to consider the Acts of the Apostles and the thirteen epistles of St. Paul as certain ancient manuscripts lately discovered in the closet of some celebrated library. We have adhered to this view of the subject., External evidence of every kind has been removed out of sight; and our endeavours have been employed to collect the indications of truth and authenticity, which appeared to exist in the writings themselves, and to result from a comparison of their different parts. It is not however necessary to continue this supposition longer. The testimony which other remains of cotemporary, or the monuments of adjoining ages afford to the reception, notoriety, and public estimation of a book, form no doubt the first proof of its genuineness. And in no books whatever is this proof more complete, than in those at present under our consideration. The inquiries of learned men, and, above all, of the excellent Lardner, who never overstates a point of evidence, and whose fidelity in citing his authorities has in no one instance been impeached, have established, concerning these writings, the following propositions :
I. That in the age immediately posterior to that in which St. Paul lived, his letters were publicly read and acknowledged.
Some of them are quoted or alluded to by almost every
Christian writer that followed, by Clement of Rome, by Hermas, by Ignatius, by Polycarp, disciples or cotemporaries of the apostles; by Justin Martyr, by the churches of Gaul, by Irenæus, by Athenagoras, by Theophilus, by Clement of Alexandria, by Hermias, by Tertullian, who occupied the succeeding 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 conclusion does not, in any degree, rest upon the judgement or character of the author making such reference. Proceeding by this rule, we have, concerning the First Epistle to the Corinthians in particular, within forty years after the epistle was written, evidence, not only of its being extant at Corinth, but of its being
known and read at Rome. Clement, bishop of that city, writing to the church of Corinth, uses these words : “ Take into your hands the Epistle of the blessed Paul the apostle. What did he at first write unto you in the beginning of the Gospel? Verily he did by the spirit admonish you concerning himself and Cephas, and Apollos, because that even then
you did form parties*.” This was written at a time when probably some must have been living at Corinth, who remembered St. Paul's ministry there and the receipt of the epistle. The testimony is still more valuable, as it shows that the epistles were preserved in the churches to which they were sent, and that they were spread and propagated from them to the rest of the Christian community. Agreeably to which natural mode and order of their publication, Tertullian, a century afterwards, for proof of the integrity and genuineness of the apostolic writings, bids “ any one, who is willing to exercise his curiosity profitably in the business of their salvation, to visit the apostolical churches, in which their
authentic letters are recited, ipsæ authenticæ literæ eorum recitantur.” Then he goes on :
* See Lardner, vol. xii. p. 22.
“ Is Achaia near you? You have Corinth. If you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi, you have Thessalonica. If you can go to Asia, you have Ephesus ; but if
you are near to Italy, you have Rome*.” I adduce this passage to show, that the distinct churches or Christian societies, to which St. Paul's Epistles were sent, subsisted for some ages afterwards; that his several epistles were all along respectively read in those churches ; that Christians at large received them from those churches, and appealed to those churches for their originality and authenticity.
Arguing in like manner from citations and allusions, we have, within the space of a hundred and fifty years from the time that the first of St. Paul's Epistles was written, proofs of almost all of them being read, in Palestine, Syria, the countries of Asia Minor, in Egypt, in that part of Africa which used the Latin tongue, in Greece, Italy, and Gault. I do not mean simply to assert, that within the space of a hundred and fifty years, St. Paul's Epistles were read in those countries, for I believe that they were read
* Larduer, vol. ii. p. 598. + See Lardner's Recapitulation, vol. xii. p. 53.
and circulated from the beginning; but that proofs of their being so read occur within that period. And when it is considered how few of the primitive Christians wrote, and of what was written how much is lost, we are to account it extraordinary, or rather as a sure proof of the extensiveness of the reputation of these writings, and of the general respect in which they were held, that so many
testimonies, and of such antiquity, are still extant. “ In the remaining works of Irenæus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian, there are perhaps more and larger -quotations of the small volume of the New Testament, than of all the works of Cicero, in the writings of all characters for several ages*." We must add, that, the Epistles of Paul come in for their full share of this obsera vation; and that all the thirteen epistles, except that to Philemon, which is not quoted by Irenæus or Clement, and which probably escaped notice merely by its brevity, are severally cited, and expressly recognised as St. Paul's by each of these Christian writers, The Ebionites, an early though inconsiderable Christian sect, rejected St. Paul and his
* See Lardner's Recapitulation, vol. xii. p. 53.