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SETTLING THE CANON
A general dissertation, or proof, concerning the canonical au
thority 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 be 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,
1. 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, 6 and confirmed the truth of them ; but [owned] that they
• Των προαναγραφέντων τριών εις πάντας φησί τον απόστολος Ιωάννην, τον υπό των ήδη και εις αυτόν διαδεδομένων, αποδέξασθαι προτέρων ευαγγελιστών παρασιωπηθέντα μεν φασίν αλήθειαν αυτούς επιμαρτυρήσαν- χρόνον, και τα κατά τούτον πεπραγμένα τα μόνην δε άρα λείπεσθαι τη γραφή την τώ Σωτήρι (ταύτα δ' ήν τα προ της του περί των εν πρώτοις και κατ' αρχήν του κη- Βαπτιστού καθείρξεως) το κατ' αυτόν ευρύγματος υπό του Χριστού πεπραγμένων δι- αγγελία παραδούναι. Ηist. Eccl. 1. 3. ήγησιν-Παρακληθέντα δή ούν τούτων ένεκα
“ were defective as to the account of those things which were “ done by our Saviour at the beginning of his ministry“ For which reason John, being desired by his friends, sup
plied 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 universally 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, entitled, Maptupov Toléou TOŰ 'ATOOTómov, i. e. the Martyrdom of Timothy the Apostle, of which we have an extract in Photius, (Cod. 254;) “That when, after the death of Domi“ tian, Nerva became emperor, John returned to Ephesus, “.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 certainly determine the age of this book. There is a book extant, entitled, the Martyrdom of Timothy, which goes under the name of Polycrates, a bishop of Ephesus, 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 inquire.
2. St. POLYCARP. II. The testimony of Polycarp, who, according to Irenæus b, 5 Και Πολύκαρπος δε ου μόνον υπό άπο- πολλούς τους τον Χριστόν έωρακόσιν, αλλά στόλων μαθητευθείς, και συναναστραφείς και υπό αποστόλων κατασταθείς εις την
“ was not only instructed by the apostles, and acquainted with
many who had seen Christ, but placed by the apostles in “ Asia, as bishop of Smyrna, whom,” says he, “ I also saw “ when I was young." He (Polycarp) expressly mentions together our four Gospels and their authors thus: “c It was not “ without reason that the evangelists began their Gospels dif“ferent ways; though the design of each of them was the same. “ Matthew, because he wrote to the Hebrews, began with the
genealogy of Christ, that he might evidence Christ to be de“ scended 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, began “ his Gospel with an account of the cause of our redemption, 66 viz. that God would have his Son become incarnate for our “ salvation. Luke begins with the priesthood of Zacharias, " that by the account of his son's miraculous birth, and his “ being so considerable a preacher, he might evidence the di
vinity of Christ to the Gentiles. Mark began his Gospel “ with the explication of some ancient prophecies relating to “ the coming of Christ, that his Gospel might appear no new
thing, but the same as had been of old.” For this fragment of Polycarp we are obliged to Feuardentius, who in his notes on Irenæus, l. 3. c. 3. published it with some other fragments of Polycarp out of a very ancient manuscript of Victor Capuanus's Catena, upon the four Evangelists, which Catena he there promises to publish ; but whether he did or no, I know not. Victor Capuanus lived, according to Feuardentius, in the year of Christ 480. Johan. Jacob. Grynæus (Præfat. in Orthodoxographa) places him sooner, viz. A. D. 455; but Bellar'Ασίαν εν τη εν Σμύρνη εκκλησία επίσκοπος, tus, qui legem tanquam ex Gentibus δν και ημείς έωράκαμεν εν τη πρώτη ημών ignorabant, a causa nostræ redemptiohaoxią. Adv. Hæres. 1. 3. c. 3. et apnd nis Evangelii sumpsit exordium ; quæ Euseb. I. 4. C. 14.
causa ex eo apparet, quod Filium suum c Rationabiliter Evangelistæ princi- Deus pro nostra salute voluit incarpiis diversis utuntur, quamvis una ea- nari. Lucas vero a Zachariæ sacerdemque evangelizandi eorum probetur dotio incipit, ut ejus filii miraculo naintentio. Matthæus, ut Hebræis scri. tivitatis, et tanti prædicatoris officio, bens, genealogiæ Christi ordinem tex- divinitatem Christi gentibus declararet. uit, ut ostenderet ab ea Christum de- Unde et Marcus antiqua prophetici scendisse progenie, de qua eum nasci. mysterii competentia adventui Christi turum universi prophetæ cecinerant. declarat, ut non nova, sed antiquitus Joannes autem ad Ephesum constitu- prolata ejus prædicatio probaretur.