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epistles*; that is, they rejected these epistles, not because they were not, but because they were St. Paul's; and because, adhering to the obligation of the Jewish law, they chose to dispute his doctrine and authority. Their suffrage as to the genuineness of the epistles does not contradict that of other Christians. Marcion, an heretical writer in the former part of the second century, is said by Tertullian to have rejected three of the epistles which we now receive, viz. the two Epistles to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus. It appears to me not improbable, that Marcion might make some such distinction as this, that no apostolic epistle was to be admitted which was not read or attested by the church to which it , was sent; for it is remarkable that, together with these epistles to private persons, he rejected also the catholic epistles. Now the catholic epistles and the epistles to private persons agree in the circumstance of want ing this particular species of attestation. Marcion, it seems, acknowledged the Epistle to Philemon, and is upbraided for his inconsistency in doing so by Tertulliant, who asks “ why, when he received a letter
* Lardner, vol. ii. p. 808. ' † Lardner, vol. xiv. p. 455.
written to a single person, he should refuse two to Timothy and one to Titus composed upon the affairs of the church?”. This passage so far favours our account of Marcion's objection, as it shows that the objection was supposed by Tertullian to have been founded in something, which belonged to the nature of a private letter.
Nothing of the works of Marcion remains. Probably he was, after all, a rash, arbitrary, licentious critic (if he deserved indeed the name of critic), and who offered no reason for his determination. What St. Jerome says of him intimates this, and is beside founded in good sense : speaking of him and Basilides, “ If they had assigned any reasons," says he, “ why they did not reckon these epistles,” viz. the First and Second to Timothy and the Epistle to Titus, “ to be the apostle's, we would have endeavoured to have answered them, and perhaps might have satisfied the reader: but when they take upon them, by their own authority, to pronounce one epistle to be Paul's, and another not, they canonly be replied to in the same manner*.” Let it be remembered, however, that Marcion received ten of these epistles. His au
* Lardner, vol. xiv. p. 458.
thority, therefore, even if his credit had been better than it is, forms a very small. excep
tion to the uniformity of the evidence. Of · Basilides we know still less than we do of Marcion. The same observation, however, belongs to him, viz. that his objection, as far as appears from this passage of St. Jerome, was confined to the three private epis, tles. Yet is this the only opinion which can be said to disturb the consent of the first two centuries of the Christian æra: for as to Tatian, who is reported by Jerome alone to have rejected some of St. Paul's epistles, the extravagant or rather delirious notions into which he fell, take away all weight and credit from his judgement.-- If, indeed, Jerome's account of this circumstance be correct; for it appears from much older writers than Jerome, that Tatian owned and used many of these epistles*. ..
II. They, who in those ages disputed about so many other points, agreed in acknowledging the Scriptures now before us. Contending sects appealed to them in their controversies with equal and unreserved submission. When they were urged by one side, however they might be interpreted or
* Lardner, vol. i. p. 313.
misinterpreted by the other, their authority was not questioned. “ Reliqui omnes,” says Irenæus, speaking of Marcion,“falso scientiæ nomine inflati, scripturas quidem confitentur, interpretationes vero convertunt*.”
III. When the genuineness of some other writings which were in circulation, and even of a few which are now received into the canon, was contested, these were never called into dispute. Whatever was the objection, or whether in truth, there ever was any real objection to the authenticity of the Second Epistle of Peter, the Second and Third of John, the Epistle of James, or that of Jude, or to the book of the Revelations of St. John, the doubts that appeared to have been entertained concerning them, exceedingly strengthen the force of the testimony às to those writings, about which there was no doubt: because it shows, that the matter was a subject, amongst the early Christians, of examination and discussion; and that, where there was any room to doubt, they did doubt.
What Eusebius hath left upon the subject is directly to the purpose of this observation. Eusebius it is well known, divided the ec
. * Iren. advers. Hær.quoted by Lardner, vol. xv. p. 425.
clesiastical writings which were extant in his time into three classes : the “ avartiponra, uncontradicted,” as he calls them in one chapter; or,“ scriptures universally acknowledged,” as he calls them in another : the “ controverted, yet well known and approved by many;” and “ the spurious.” What were the shades of difference in the books of the second, or of those in the third class; or what it was precisely that he meant by the term spurious, it is not necessary in this place to inquire. It is sufficient for us to find, that the thirteen epistles of St. Paul are placed by him in the first class without any sort of hesitation or doubt. ...
It is farther also to be collected from the chapter in which this distinction is laid down, that the method made use of by Eusebius, and by the Christians of his time, viz. the close of the third century, in judging concerning the sacred authority of any books, was to inquire after and consider the testimony of those who lived near the age of the apostles*
IV. That no ancient writing, which is attested as these epistles are, hath had its authenticity disproved, or is in fact ques* Lardner, vol. viii. p. 106. .