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SETTLING THE CANON
A general Dissertation, or Proof, concerning the Canonical Authority of the Four Gospels.
BEFORE I enter upon the proof of the Canonical authority of each of the Gospels in particular, it will be very serviceable to my design to observe and shew, that the primitive Christians have expressly acknowledged only four Gospels; and those four Gospels which we now receive under the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, to he genuine and Canonical. I shall produce the several testimonies which I have observed, according to the order of time in which the writers lived; and among these it will not be amiss to place,
Vol. in. B i. St.
i. St. John. . I. The testimony of St. John the Apostle; concerning whom we are told by Eusebius a, That when the three Gospels (of Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were published and known to every body, St. "John at length saw them, approved them, and confirmed the truth is them; but (owned) that they were defective as to the account of those things which were done by our
Saviour at the beginning of his minislry For which reason
John, being desired by his friends, supplied the defects of the three others, and wrote his Gospel to inform us of that time, and the things which were done by our Saviour in it, viz. before the imprisonment of John the Baptist. Now hence it follows;
1. That before St. John wrote his Gospel, the Christians of that first age owned and received no other than the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke; although it is certain there were many other false Gospels extant at that time, as I have elsewhere proved.
2. That these three were univerfally received and approved.
3. That they were with just reason so approved, because St. John also did approve them.
Besides this testimony of Eusebius, I find in a very old book, intitled, Ma^T^iov Ti//oS/a Tod ''hmrohv, i. e. The Martyrdom of Timothy the Apojlle, of which we have an extract in Photius (Cod. ccliv.); "That when, after the death of Domitian, "Nerva became Emperor, John returned to Ephefus, from "which place he had been banished by Domitian, he then "took the several books which contained the history of our "Saviour's sufferings and miracles and doctrines, and were "now translated into several different languages, reviewed "them, rectified them, and joined himself to the former three "Evangelists (by writing his Gospel}." I confess I cannot
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certainly certainly determine the age of this book. There is a book extant, intitled The Martyrdom of Timothy., which goes under the name of Polycrates, a Bishop of Ephefus, in the latter end of the second century, out of which Photius seems to have made this extract; and if this be true, it makes the history more valid: but it must be owned that several learned men are of opinion this book was not made by Polycrates, into which it is not my business here to enquire.
2. St. POlYCArP.
II. The testimony of Polycarp, who, according to Irenæus a, was not only injlruBed by the Apostles, and acquainted with many who had seen Christ, but placed by the Aposlles in jfsta, as Bijhop of Smyrna, whom, fays he, / also saw when I was young. He (Polycarp) expressly mentions together our four Gospels and their authors thus: "h It was not without "reason that the Evangelists began their Gospels different "ways; though the design of each of them was the fame. M Matthew, because he wrote to the Hebrews, began with the "genealogy of Christ, that he might evidence Christ to be "descended of that family, which all the Prophets had foretold "he should descend from. John being fixed among the "Ephesians, who as Gentiles were ignorant of the law, be"gan his Gospel with an account of the cause of our redemp"tion, viz. that God would have his Son become incarnate
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iAiy.ia. Adv. Hærci. 1. 3. c. 3. et apud Euseb. 1. 4. c. 14..
* Rationabiliteilivangt-listæprincipiis diversis uturffur, quamvis una eademque evangclizandi eorum probirtur intentio. Matthæus, ut Hebræis scribens, genealogiæ Christi ordinem texuit, ut ollenderet ab ea Chi ilium descend isle progenie, de
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qua eum nascittirum universi Prophetæ cecincrant. Joannes autem ad Ephesum constitutus, qui legem tanquam cx Gcntibus ignorabant, a causa nostræ redemptionis Evangelii sumpfit exordium; quæ causa ex eo apparet, quod filium siium Deus pro nostra salute voluit incarnaii. Lucas vero a Zachariæ sacerdotio incipit, ut ejus filii miraculo nativitatis, et tanti prædicatoris ossicio, Divinitatem Christi gentibus declararet. Unde et Marcus antiqua prophetici mysterii competentia adventui Christi declarat, ut non nova, fed antiquitus prolata ejus Prædicatio probaretur.