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to this consideration, which removes one very ma-, other, by the interchange of letters, and the jourterial class of objections to its employment, we neyings of ministers and missionaries, is equally may add another which enlarges the sphere out probable ; and to suppose that this species of inof which the writer may, with safety and honesty, I formation could be quickly lost, or that it could draw materials for his purpose ; that is to say, become so thoroughly corrupted by the intermixthere is probability on the side of tradition in re- ture of fable as to be unworthy of notice in a subspect to its biographical uses; and it can almost sequent age, is to do violence to the rules on which always be judged of by the rule of verisimilitude, all evidence must rest, which is in any way transwhen limited to this employment. It is an ac- mitted through channels not sealed and guarded knowledged fact, that the writers of the New Tes by formal testaments. tament selected the circumstances they recorded We would gather from this, that a biographer out of a much larger number of incidents than it of the apostles, and their first successors, has a came within their province to detail : were it not, wide field open to him which he may traverse therefore, a sacred duty to sacrifice every object with safety and profit; but at the same time imto the perfect preservation of Scripture from the posing on him this strict and uniformly applicable least mixture with even possible error, it might be rule, that that species of traditional information argued, that it is not probable, that the striking only is to be made use of, which is found adopted and powerfully interesting events connected with by those who lived at a period sufficiently near the the establishment of the gospel, could any of them apostolic times to judge of its origin and its authors. be lost; and that we may therefore look with Taking this as a primary principle in the selection confidence on many of those traditionary relations of incidents, and in every instance examining them which purport to be details of occurrences left by the rule of analogy and verisimilitude, there unnoticed by the inspired penmen.
will be little danger of our adopting any of those But the judicious jealousy with which the puri- weak inventions by which the superstition of forty of the gospel is watched, has raised a barrier mer ages was amused and fostered. against the introduction of such auxiliaries to the Lives of the apostles were written at an early Scripture narrative. Where this narrative ceases, period; but they are for the most part filled with the case becomes different, and the probability of accounts evidently intended to excite the attention the tradition remains without any prohibition to of weak, uninstructed minds, and possessing no its employment. The character of the period im- claim to belief. The period was favorable to such mediately succeeding the first founding of the productions; the excitement occasioned by extrachurch, was singularly fitted for the production of ordinary events requiring all those modifying prinincidents not sufficiently important to demand a ciples which are only found in the purest faith and continuance of the sacred and inspired narrative, piety; and creating, consequently, a very wide but in every way calculated to excite and secure field for the employment of invention. This is attention. When the apostles and first disciples amply shown by the rapid multiplication of wrileft the original seat of the gospel, to spread its tings, purporting to have been of apostolic origin. glad tidings over the world, they did not perform Even before the end of the first century new gostheir allotted duties with so little energy as to re- pels had been forged, and the acts of Christ and main obscure among the people to whom they mi- his apostles were described in books which, claimnistered. Fulfilling the precept of their glorified ing reverence by the nature of their contents, Master, they became beacons of truth, shining were not less calculated to interest than to defrom the eminence on which their election had ceive. Such were the gospel according to the Heplaced them, over wide regions of gloom and brews, and the gospel according to the Egyptians; sterility ; but not freed from suffering, they were both of which furnished sufficient authorities to also set forth to men and to angels a spectacle of support very numerous sects in dangerous errors : much and patient endurance. In both these re nor were they altogether deprived of their preten. spects the apostles could not fail of being scruti- sions to credit, till after the canon of Scripture had nized by large classes of observers, who moved by been some time settled by diligent and cautious their doctrines, startled by their miracles, or en- inquiry. Besides these, there were the gospel of raged by their severe rebukes, would not easily St. Peter, the gospel of Philip, the gospel of James, forget their addresses, or lose sight of the circum- and of every other apostle, not excepting the traitor stances which attended their appeals. The per- Judas himself
, whose supposed composition is said sonal appearance, the voice and gesture even of to have been received by the Gajanites, of whom, such men, would long have a permanent place in strange to relate, he was the titular saint. The the memory; and many a saying, many a minute acts of the apostles, subsequent to the time of action that had sunk deep into the hearts of retired, Christ, furnished materials for an equal number of devout converts, would, when the spirit became similar supposititious narratives. It is commonly accustomed to the new and overpowering thoughts believed that the first work of this nature was the which the gospel message had awakened, come production of a disciple of St. Paul, and that the back upon the mind with a long, fresh train of im- writer was detected in his falsehoods by the knowpressive associations.
ledge of St. John, who still survived. The chief It may fairly be concluded from these conside- source, however, of fabulous traditions, was that rations, that for some time after the apostles lived, heretical spirit which so early infected the church. the memory of Christians was richly stored with Most of the spurious gospels had their origin with particulars respecting them: that these particu- the Ebionites, the Manichæans, or some other lars would form the subject of frequent conversa- powerful sect. From the same source proceeded tion among believers : that they would be com- the Acts of the Apostles, which pretended to demunicated from one division of the church to an- 'scribe, in particular terms, the labors and jour
neyings of those devout men to the end of their of the church ere the might of Divine power dedays.
scended to present it to, and to make it one with The whole of these works were rejected by the Christ; they became, when his prayer was answerchurch; and private Christians were warned ed, " sanctify them through thy truth," the types of against their dangerous errors by the many acute Christian believers in all ages and countries of the and pious scholars who devoted themselves to the world ; and in their journeyings and sufferings they examination of whatever assumed the title of an show how, according to the language of St. Paul inspired production. Conferences between the the followers of the Redeemer were to go on, “fillbelievers of one city and another, and the succes- ing up that which is behind of the afflictions of sion of highly devout and gifted men, as bishops Christ in the flesh.” And this contemplation of of the several infant establishments, led gradually their primary calling and dignity, will conduct the to the clear and firm determination of the Scrip- mind to some apprehension of the glory they will ture canon. Numerous synods, held in subsequent be seen enjoying when, as the still supremely exages, reinvestigated with minute particularity the alted, and eldest born brethren of Christ, they reason upon which this rule was established ; and will judge, on their thrones, the twelve tribes of a line was drawn, which the boldness of heresy Israel
. has never since been able to pass. But while no The eminent writer of the following memoirs writer, of common penetration or honesty, would merits all the confidence due to distinguished worth venture to look for materials in these counterfeit and ability. His own history may be given in a narratives, there is still a source of information few lines. He was born at the close of the sixopen, to which suspicion cannot justly attach.-teenth, or beginning of the seventeenth century, at This is found in the writings of those fathers who Pickwell, in Leicestershire; the living of which lived in the first three centuries, to the end of parish was held by his father, a man of learning which period much even of the unwritten history and piety, who bore his full share in the troubles of the apostolic age might be carried by a natural endured by the clergy during the civil wars. Our and easy tradition. The epistle generally ascribed author received his education at St. John's Colto Barnabas, though evidently unimportant as to lege, Cambridge; and took the degree of Bachelor doctrine, deserves to be regarded in a much higher of Arts in 1656.' He proceeded to the degree of light when consulted simply for historical illustra- Master at the regular period ; and in 1662 obtaintion: the same may be said of the remains of ed the vicarage of Islington, and not long after Papias, whose theoretical conceits, though they the dignity of Chaplain in Ordinary to Charles the greatly diminish our confidence in the strength of Second. "In 1672 he took the degree of D. D., to his capacity, ought certainly not to deprive him which he was also admitted at the sister univerof all credit as a witness, when the circumstances sity; and in 1681, his merits as a scholar obtainhe mentions have no intrinsic improbability. To ed for him the rectory of Allhallows, and a canonrefuse to believe a writer on a matter of fact, be- ry at Windsor. But the numerous calls which cause he appears incapable of acutely discerning his London preferments made upon him were found between truth and error in theoretical or purely prejudicial to the important labors he had underintellectual subjects, would be to introduce a rule taken as an historian of Christianity; and he that would render it impossible, in most cases, to gladly accepted, in exchange for Islington and get evidence on any subject whatever. In the Allhailows, the vicarage of Isleworth, to which he fragments of such men as Clemens Romanus, Ig- retired in the year 1990; and where he continued natius, Polycarp, the least glimpses of information to enjoy for many years the leisure which he em. are of inestimable value ; nor is it to be supposed, ployed so greatly to the advantage of religion and when coming to a later period, that writers like learning. His death took place on the 4th of AuOrigen, or Cyprian, or Chrysostom, or the histo- gust, 1713; and he lies buried in the parish rian Eusebius or Theodoret, would not avail them- church of Islington, where a monument is placed selves of the most credible traditions, or that be- to his memory. fore adopting them, they would not fairly examine The works of this distinguished scholar are their claims to belief. That much uncertainty on numerous. The chief are, the “Scriptorum Ecseveral points of interest must remain, after every clesiasticorum Historia Literaria, or, a Literary source of information has been investigated, can- History of Ecclesiastical Writers;" his " Lives not be denied. But this is not to prevent our of the Apostles ;" the “Apostolici, or the History of using the utmost diligence to collect whatever lies the Lives, Acts, Deaths, and Martyrdoms of those within the reach of learning: and it will generally who were cotemporary with, or immediately sucbe found, that when the combined caution and ceeded the apostles, as also of the most eminent sound erudition of Christian scholars are taken of the Primitive Fathers for the first three hundred as a guide on this subject, that both instruction years ;" the “ Primitive Christianity, or the Reand satisfaction will follow in the track they have ligion of the Ancient Christians;" the “Tabulæ pursued.
Ecclesiasticæ, or Tables of the Ecclesiastical To reflecting minds, the biography of Christ's Writers ;" “ A Dissertation concerning the Govapostles traced out according to these rules, will ernment of the Ancient church, by Bishops, Me. afford many a refreshing and elevating theme for tropolitans, and Patriarchs; those particularly conthought. These messengers of Christ to the world cerning the Ancient Power and Jurisdiction of the were not teachers merely; they were the founda- Bishops of Rome, and the encroachment of that tion-stones of the vast spiritual edifice which Christ upon other Sees, especially the See of Constantiand the Holy Spirit will continue to enlarge, till it nople;" • Ecclesiastici, or the History of the is commensurate with the predescribed plan of the Lives, Acts, Deaths, and Writings, of the most heavenly Jerusalem : they formed the natural body eminent Fathers of the church, that nourished in 83
the fourth century: wherein, among other things, bulæ Ecclesiasticæ at Hamburgh: nor can any an account is given of the rise, growth, and pro- student of religious history fail of finding in his gress of Arianism, and all other sects of that age, works most important helps to investigation. Jor. descending from it: together with an introduction, tin, a writer more witty than acute, and better containing an Historical account of the State of skilled to perform the part of a compiler than to Paganism under the first Christian Emperor :" reason or investigate, has affected to speak sarcasand lastly, the “Charlophylax Ecclesiasticus,” tically of Cave's deep attention to the fathers : but which is a succinct summary of the principal con- the careful reader well knows how to appreciate tents of the Historia Literaria, and an improve the respective merits of these men; and even a ment on the Ecclesiastical Tables.
cursory glance of the “Historia Literaria" of the
one, and of the “Remarks on Ecclesiastical His. Cave's early estimation as a scholar on the con- tory” of the other, will at once show how little tinent is proved by the reprint of his chief work, pretensions Jortin had to act the part of a critic the Historia Literaria, at Geneva ; and of his Ta' in regard to this profound scholar.
It will not, I suppose, seem improbable to the of their doctrine, the power and conviction of their reader, when I tell him with how much reluctancy miracles, their infinite labors and hardships, and and unwillingness I set upon this undertaking, in the dreadful sufferings which they underwent; to timately conscious as I was to my own unfitness consider in what instances of piety and virtue for such a work at any time, much more when they ministered to our imitation, and served the clogged with many habitual infirmities and dis- purposes of religion and a holy life. Indeed the tempers. I considered the difficulty of the thing accounts that are left us of these things are very itself
, perhaps not capable of being well managed short and inconsiderable; sufficient possibly to exby a much better pen than mine; few of the an. cite the appetite, not to allay the hunger of an cient monuments of the church being extant, and importunate inquirer into these matters. A conlittle of this nature in those few that are. Indeed, sideration that might give us just occasion to la. I could not but think it reasonable, that all possi- ment the irreparable loss of those primitive records, ble honor should be done to those that first “preach which the injury of time hath deprived us of; the ed the gospel of peace, and brought glad tidings substance being gone, and little left us but the of good things;" that it was fit men should be shell and carcass. Had we the writings of Papias, taught how much they were obliged to those ex- | bishop of Hierapolis,* and scholar (says Irenæus) cellent persons, who were willing at so dear a rate to St. John; wherein, as himself tells us, he set to plant Christianity in the world; who they were, down what he had learnt from those who had faand what was that piety and that patience, that miliarly conversed with the apostles, the sayings charity and that zeal, which made them to be re- and discourses of Andrew and Peter, of Philip and verenced while they lived, and their memories ever Thomas, &c.; had we the ancient Commentaries since to be honorably celebrated through the world; of Hegesippus, Clemens Alexandrinus's Institue infinitely beyond the glories of Alexander, and the tions, Africanus's Chronography, and some others, triumphs of a Pompey or a Cæsar. But then how the reader might expect more entire and particuthis should be done out of those few imperfect lar relations. But, alas! these are long since pememoirs that have escaped the general shipwreck rished, and little besides the names of them transof church antiquities; and much more by so rude mitted to us. Nor should we have had most of that and unskilful a hand as mine, appeared, I con- little which is left us, had not the commendable fess, a very difficult task, and next door to impos- care and industry of Eusebius preserved it to us. sible. These, with some other considerations, And if he complained, in his time, (when those made me a long time obstinately resolve against writings were extant,) that towards the composit, till, being overcome by importunity, I yielded to ing of his history he had only some few particular do it as I was able, and as the nature of the thing accounts here and there left by the ancients of would bear.
their times, what cause have we to complain, when That which I primarily designed to myself, was even those little portions have been ravished from to draw down the history of the New Testament, us? So that he that would build a work of this especially from our Lord's death; to inquire into nature, must look upon himself as condemned to a the first originals and plantations of the Christian church by the ministry of the apostlcs, the success
* Hist. Eccl. lib. i. c. 2. p. 4.
kind of Egyptian task, to make brick without unerring spirit that presided over them. Others straw, at least to pick it up where he can find it, such, of whose faith and testimony, especially in though after all it amounts to a very slender par- matters of fact, there is no just cause to doubt ; I cel. Which as it greatly hinders the beauty and mean the genuine writings of the ancient fathers; completeness of the structure, so does it exceed- or those, which, though unduly assigned to this or ingly multiply the labor and difficu'ty. For by that particular father, are yet generally allowed to this means I have been forced to gather up those be ancient, and their credit not to be despised, belittle fragments of antiquity, that lie dispersed in cause their proper parent is not certainly known. the writings of the ancients, thrown some into this Next to these came the writers of the middle and corner, and others into that; which I have at later ages of the church, who, though below the length put together, like the pieces of a brokenj former in point of credit, have yet some particular staiue, that it might have at least some kind of advantages that recommend them to us. Such I resemblance of the person whom it designs to re-account Symeon Metaphrastes, Nicephorus Cal. present.
listus, the Menæa and Menologies of the Greek Had I thought good to have traded in idle and church, &c., wherein, though we meet with many frivolous authors, Abdias Babylonius, " The Pas- vain and improbable stories, yet may we rationalsions of Peter and Paul,” Joachim Perionius, Peter ly expect some real and substantial accounts of de Natalibus, and such like, I might have present- things; especially seeing they had the advantage ed the reader with a larger, not a better account. of many ancient and ecclesiastical writings extant But, besides the averseness of my nature to false- in their times, which to us are utterly lost. Though hoods and trifles, especially wherein the honor of even these too I have never called in, but in the the Christian religion is concerned, I knew the want of more ancient and authentic writers. As world to be wiser at this time of day, than to be for others, if any passages occur either in themimposed upon by pious frauds, and cheated with selves of doubtful and suspected credit, or borrowecclesiastical romances and legendary reports.ed from spurious and uncertain authors, they are For this reason, I have more fully and particularly always introduced or dismissed with some kind of insisted upon the lives of the two first apostles, so censure or remark; that the most easy and credugreat a part of them being secured by an unques- lous reader may know what to trust to, and not tionable authority; and have presented the larger fear being secretly surprised into a belief of doubtportions of the sacred history, many times to very ful and fabulous reports. And now, after all, I minute circumstances of action. And I presume am sufficiently sensible how lank and thin this ache wise and judicious reader will not blame me, count is, nor can the reader be less satisfied with or choosing rather to enlarge upon a story which it than I am myself; and I have only this piece of I knew to be infallibly true, than to treat him with justice and charity to beg of him, that he would those which there was cause enough to conclude suspend his censure till he has taken a little pains to be certainly false.
to inquire into the state of the times and things I The reader will easily discern, that the authors write of; and then, however he may challenge I make use of are not all of the same rank and size. my prudence in undertaking it, he will not, I hope, Some of them are divinely inspired, whose autho- see reason to charge me with want of care and rity is sacred, and their reports rendered not only faithfulness in the pursuance of it. credible, but unquestionable, by that infallible and