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Gospel according to Matthew, or St. Matthew. Under this appellation it is cited by those early writers who, living close to the time of the Evangelist, could neither be ignorant of the real author, nor have any common motive inducing them to conspire in the groundless assumption of this disciple's name. Further, it contains none of those discrepancies in unessential matters from the usages of the time in which it
professes to have been written, or from the manners and polity of the people of which it treats, from whence forgeries are invariably detected by the scrutinizing eye of criticism. Its authenticity is sustained by the testimony of enemies as well as friends; for though there were some early heretics in the Church, (the Marcionites and Cerdonians,) who denied the paramount authority of this Gospel, as refuting their peculiar tenets, none ever denied that it was written by the hand of him whose name it bore. That it is essentially unaltered, that it has descended to us as its author first sent it forth into the world, is rendered indisputably evident by the quotations from it, to be found in ecclesiastical writers of different countries through every age, from the very era of its promulgation to the invention of that art which now places it in the hands of the humblest Christian. It is further
8 We learn from Epiphanius that Marcion, who was the disciple of Cerdon, came to Rome after the death of Pope Hyginus, that is, according to the computation of Baronius, A.D. 157. Tertullian is more doubtful, and assigns two dates for the occurrence. The difference of four
years is not worth discussing here.
proper to remark, that the value of this, and the other Scriptures, was greatly enhanced to their first possessors by the danger to which they were exposed who retained them in their possession during seasons of persecution : and that which men guard with imminent peril from external violence, they will with equal care protect from internal change or corruption. Various persecutions have been raised against the sacred writings themselves, and the converts to Christianity have been ordered, on pain of death, to deliver up the records on which their faith was founded, in order to be destroyed. The Emperor Diocletian, a man
of no mean capacity for effecting his purpose, was most strenuous in this work". But the disgraceful term of “ traitors," imposed by the Christians themselves on those of their timid brethren who betrayed the sacred deposit of the word of God, diffused greater terror than the threat of martyrdom denounced by the Pagan prince, and his object was defeated'.
h The order of the three kinds of persecution to which Christianity was subjected by this Emperor is accurately arranged by Joseph Scaliger. “Nam edictum Diocletiani “ de tradendis codicibus prius est ecclesiarum eversione. “ Eversio ecclesiarum prior cæde martyrum. Felix Africa“ nus episcopus et socii ejus supplicio in Campaniâ affecti “ideo, quod CODICES Deificos, id est Sacram Scripturam, “ tradere noluissent *.” The first persecution of this reign was raised for guarding the sacred books. Gibbon allows that at the time of this persecution (which may be assumed as occurring A.D. 301,) “ The copies as well as the ver“ sions of Scripture were so multiplied in the empire, that “ the most severe inquisition could no longer be attended “ with any fatal consequences t.
." i “ Id quidem certissimum est, a Diocletiano sacros “libros Novi Testamenti studiose conquisitos et combustos “fuisse, adeo ut qui libros tradere negarent'martyrio affice
* Scaligeri de Emendatione Temporum Proleg. p. xviii.
Vol. ii. p. 616.
Now whoever considers how many noble writings of antiquity have been irrecoverably lost in the mere lapse of time, and amidst the revolutions of the world, and observes further, that in addition to these natural causes, still operative, the most active malice of man, aided by unbounded power, not been able to effect any material change in the sacred writings, much less to destroy them, but that they remain as they first fell from the hands of their authors, cannot, I should think, but perceive the finger of God in a preservation so unexampled.
It is clear, then, that the Gospel according to St. Matthew was written by him whose name it bears, and that it has descended to our hands essentially as it left his; for we can trace its identity down the stream of time from the era of its publication to the present period. You have heard what was the original occupation of the writer, and may readily conjecture what were his natural means of acquiring knowledge. I turn to the work of this publican, and there I find a discourse attributed by him to a mysterious and holy person on the resurrection of the dead, and on a day of judgment and final retribution in a future world. I read the following words:
"rentur,qui vero traderent traditores à primis Christianis “ dicerentur * ; sed quo magis tyrannus in sacras paginas “ grassabatur, eo sanctius eædem a Christianis servaban
* Augustinus, lib. vii. de Bapt. contra Donat. c. 2.
66 When the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with “ Him, then shall He sit upon the throne
of His glory, and before Him shall be ga“ thered all nations : and He shall separate “ them one from another, as a shepherd di“ videth his sheep from the goats; and He
shall set the sheep on His right hand, but “the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on His right hand,
blessed of my Father, inherit “the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. Then shall He
say “ also unto them on the left hand, Depart “ from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire,
prepared for the devil and his angels. “ And these shall go away into everlasting