Chapter 4 

OF the three classes of text which exist in the Greek manuscripts, it is, I trust, by this time apparent, that the Vulgar Greek is entitled to the preference, as that alone which is supported by the uninterrupted tradition of the Eastern and Western Churches. Much, however, remains to be advanced in favor of this text before it can be offered as a perfect rule of faith and manners. To qualify it for this end, its integrity must admit of a perfect vindication. This undertaking is indeed imperative, as its credit is involved in the impeachment of three remarkable texts; which relate to points so essential to our religion as the doctrine of the Incarnation, Redemption, and Trinity. The defence of the Greek Vulgate, more particularly on these points, is of the greater importance, as involving that of the doctrinal integrity of the Sacred Canon.  

On the facilities afforded the first Bishops of Rome and Ephesus to form perfect copies of the Scriptures of the New Testament, I have already spoken. That a dispersion of the sacred books, commensurate with the diffusion of the Gospel, took place from this period is rendered not merely probable from the reason of the case, but is deducible from many facts expressly recorded.

A brief inquiry into the state and history of the primitive Church will be sufficient to convince the most skeptical inquirer of the constant and intimate intercourse which was preserved between the particular branches of the Catholic Church, which were dispersed in the remotest regions. Those habits of communication were the necessary result of the Christian Polity having arisen out of the Jewish. The ceremonial observances of the synagogues which were dispersed through the Gentile world, were subject to the control of the Sanhedrim at Jerusalem; and the obligation laid on the Jews to visit the Holy City periodically, facilitated the means of communication between the great council and its most distant dependencies. That this intercourse was strictly maintained in the apostolical age is rendered unquestionable by many passages in the apostolical history. Explicit mention is made of “devout men out of every nation under heaven,” who visited Jerusalem at the feast of Pentecost; the number of the Jews who were not disqualified from joining in that festival having been computed from a census made by the priests at the requisition of the Romans, to have been nearly three millions. We consequently find, that, while the Jews confessed on St. Paul’s arrival at Rome, that they were acquainted with Christianity as “a sect which was every where spoken against,” they expressed surprise that they had “not received letters out of Judea, concerning” the apostle. This negligence, however, was soon remedied, when the rapid and extensive diffusion of the Gospel rendered Christianity formidable to the Jewish nation. The concurring testimony of Christian and Jewish writers, places it beyond a doubt, that as early as the reign of the Emperor Claudius, when the new converts were known under the appellation of Nazarenes, a circular letter was sent from Jerusalem, enjoining the dispersed Jews to excommunicate the Christians, under that title, in all their synagogues.

At how early a period the Christian Church adopted this mode of communication from the Jewish Polity must be apparent from the first council held in the reign of the same Emperor at Jerusalem, after the model of the Jewish Sanhedrin. On that great revolution which took place in the divine economy, on the formal abrogation of the Jewish ceremonial, and the emancipation of the new converts from legal observances, that strong line of distinction was drawn between the Christians and Nazarenes, which gave to the new religion a new appellation, and exhibited Christianity in its extrinsic purity. On this occasion “it pleased the apostles and elders and the whole church,” assembled in council, “to send chosen men,” and “to write letters by them;” in which a general dispensation was granted from Jewish ceremonies, and precautions were used to obviate some excesses, which might arise from the unlicensed abuse of Christian liberty.

In such habits of intercourse the Christian Church had already existed for half a century on the completion of the New Testament Canon: from the reign of Claudius in the middle of the first age, to that of Domitian near the beginning of the second. That in the latter period, this intercourse was still strictly maintained is rendered certain by documents of unquestionable authority. St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp, who lived at this period, and who enjoyed the intimacy, and succeeded to the labors, of the apostles, explicitly mention the custom of convening synods for the purpose of ordaining persons to convey circular letters through the different churches: and in this manner they took especial care that their epistles should be generally dispersed through the Christian world. Accounts of the martyrdom of those primitive bishops were thus transmitted to the most distant provinces, in epistles attested with that care, which I formerly had occasion to remark, was observed until the middle of the third century.

After this view of so remarkable a part of the primitive Ecclesiastical Polity, it must be nugatory to enter into a detailed proof that the particular churches dispersed throughout the Christian world must have been possessed of correct copies of the Canonical Scriptures from the earliest period. We are expressly assured by one who perused a collection of those epistles preserved at Jerusalem that numbers of the primitive pastors, who succeeded to the charge and labors of the apostles, traversed those distant regions which had been converted by the apostles, established churches in them, and delivered to them copies of the Gospels. The Epistles, which constitute the remaining part of the Canon, had been addressed to particular churches, but the attention which the inspired penmen had employed to authenticate and to disperse their writings, and the care which the primitive churches used in obtaining and circulating the commonest documents, renders it morally certain that the whole Scripture Canon of the New Testament must have been dispersed as widely as the Chris­tian name, within a short period of its first publication.

As we derive our proofs of the authenticity of the Scriptures from the tradition of the Church, we deduce those of their integrity from the universal dispersion of the sacred writings. From the constant communication which was maintained between the churches which had been planted by the apostles, and were the immediate depositories of their writings, it was impossible that any authentic work which proceeded from them could have existed in one church, without having been communicated to another. The intercourse between the Syriac Greek and Roman Church, was of the closest kind, under the immediate successors of the apostles; some of whom were vested with the government of particular churches at the very time in which the Scripture Canon was perfected. St. Clement, the companion of St. Paul, communicated with the Corinthian Church from Rome; St. Polycarp, the disciple of St. John, visited Rome and corresponded with the Syrian Church from Smyrna; and St. Ignatius, his contemporary and friend, not only communicated with the churches of Ephesus and Rome, but visited both in person. In the epistles addressed by those primitive bishops to those different churches, much more is implied than that they were possessed of the inspired writings. St. Polycarp speaks of the Philippians as versed in the Scriptures, while he quotes the Old and New Testament; and St. Ignatius, in impugning some tenets of the early heretics, appeals to the “Gospels” and the “Apostles,” under which terms the whole of the Christian Canon may be properly included. If we may now assume what it seems vain to deny, that any two of those churches possessed perfect copies of the Scriptures, which were apparently possessed by the Catholic Church; we have thus a sufficient security in the testimony which they respectively bear to the integrity of the sacred text, that it could not be corrupted. Admitting that all the members of any particular church had entered into a compact to corrupt the inspired writings, and without this unanimity any attempt of the kind must have been liable to be defeated by a few dissentient members, still they must have lacked authority to influence other churches to become a party in the conspiracy. But the different interests which divided every particular congregation must have rendered such an undertaking wholly impracticable. Within less than a century after the publication of the apostolical writings, the sect of the Montanists arose, in the very bosom of the church, and spread itself from Phrygia to Gaul and Africa. As these heretics were every where mingled with the Catholics, and used the same Canonical Scriptures, they must have discovered any attempt to corrupt their integrity. Nor could they have lacked the inclination to expose it; as the Catholics convened synods against them, condemned their doctrines, and expelled them from their communion. But, in the mutual recrimination to which their differences gave rise, the heretics nowhere accuse the Catholics, who derided their “New Prophecies” of corrupting the sacred oracles. Let us even suppose this difficulty surmounted, and that the Catholics and heretics, forgetting their mutual animosities, had agreed to corrupt the Scriptures; still the disagreements which arose between different churches, must have rendered any attempt on the integrity of Scripture wholly abortive, by leaving it open to detection. A difference of opinion, respecting the time of keeping Easter interrupted the unanimity which had long subsisted between the Greek and Roman Churches; and to such an extent was their mutual animosity carried, that the Western Church proceeded to the extremity of excommunicating the Eastern. A like diversity of opinion, at a period somewhat later, divided the Roman and African Churches on the subject of baptizing heretics. Had there existed any ground of accusation against any of those churches on this head, it seems wholly inconceivable that it could have escaped being urged: no such charge however is insinuated even obliquely against any of those churches.

Though the proofs which are here adduced in favor of the integrity of the sacred text, are merely negative; they must be allowed to be fully adequate to its vindication. On the present subject, positive proofs cannot be easily produced, and cannot be required in reason; any formal defence of the integrity of the inspired writings, in the primitive age, would indeed defeat its object, by conveying a suspicion that it needed vindication. But as no ground of suspicion existed, we find no defence undertaken. That which was unquestionable from the first was received without exciting a doubt; and silence on this subject conveys a sufficient proof of integrity.

It may be shown, however, that the integrity of the inspired writings was an object of attention and research at a period so early, that if it had been at all suspicious it could not have escaped detection. The extraordinary circumstances which attended the ministry of our Lord and his immediate followers, had given rise to many narratives founded on traditionary accounts, in which some truth was retained with a great admixture of error. A number of spurious works of this description were composed, particularly by the heretics, who infested the Church from the earliest age; and under the title of Gospels and Acts, were inscribed with the names of different apostles. Besides these, many of the writings of the apostles’ companions, had been read in different churches; and had thus become a part of the authorized text, though not of the Canonical Scriptures. In discriminating between these apocryphal works and the authentic Scriptures, the ancients have stated the grounds on which they rejected the former and admitted the latter; they have thus enabled us to judge of the adequacy of that evidence, on the authority of which they established the Canon.

In selecting a period out of the primitive ages which is best calculated to afford us satisfactory information on this subject, our attention is immediately attracted to that which produced the controversy relative to Easter. As this is a period in which party spirit ran high, it is a crisis which is likely to put us in possession of the truth, by exhibiting both sides of the question. It is likewise distinguished by the number of learned and inquisitive men, who adorned Christianity by their lives, and supported it by their writings; by many whose works have descended to our times. The synods which were convened almost simultaneously in the most remote provinces would constitute a sufficient proof of the close communication which was maintained by the Christian Pastors at this early period: if the remains of their circular letters which have been preserved did not put it out of dispute, that they considered it a matter of conscience to make a provision that the result of their deliberations should be communicated to the remotest branches of the Catholic Church. At this period Narcissus, who at an advanced age, had Alexander for his suffragan, was bishop of Jerusalem; Polycrates, Serapion, Demetrius, Victor, and St. Irenaeus, respectively settled at Ephesus, Antioch, Alexandria, Rome, and Lyons, were vested with the government of the principal churches in the Asiatic, Syriac, Egyptian, Italic, and Gallican provinces. Among the writers celebrated at that period, we particularly distinguish Pantaenus and Clement, of Alexandria; Origen, afterwards presbyter, of Palestine; Caius, presbyter of Rome; St. Irenaeus, then bishop of Lyons; and Tertullian, presbyter of Carthage. From the joint testimony of witnesses thus competent, and thus widely dispersed, the most unanswerable body of evidence may be deduced in favor of the integrity of the Canonical Scriptures.

In the first place, the integrity of the sacred writings was, at this period, the subject of particular investigation. The Marcionites, a sect which was particularly opposed by St. Irenaeus and Tertullian, had rejected the principal part of the Canon, and corrupted the remainder; and the Theodotists, who had been excommunicated by Victor and refuted by Caius, had systematically corrupted the sacred writings. From the remains of Caius and the works of Tertullian, it appears that both these ancient fathers had carefully collated the genuine and the adulterated copies. Alexander and Origen, who were friends and correspondents, were professed collectors of books; the former founded, at his own expense, the library at Jerusalem, and the latter laid the foundation of that at Caesarea. Pantaenus and Clement, who had been intimates of Alexander and Origen, were travelers and curious enquirers into the subject under discussion. The former, in a mission undertaken to India, on which he was deputed by Demetrius, successor to Julianus in the see of Alexandria, there saw the Gospel of St. Matthew as originally written in Hebrew, which was preserved from the times of St. Bartholomew, the apostle of India. And the latter, who was Alexander’s messenger from Jerusalem to Antioch, has perpetuated the tradition, which he received from an elder named Macarius, respecting the Epistle to the Hebrews; that it was originally written by St. Paul, in the same language, but afterwards translated into Greek by St. Luke the Evangelist. These facts will sufficiently evince the wide dispersion of the sacred writings, and the attention which was devoted to the subject before us, at this truly primitive period. With respect to Origen, his testimony would be of itself sufficient to establish all that it is my object to evince. Through motives of curiosity he visited Rome, and was deputed on a mission to Arabia; and from the discovery which he made of some obscure versions of the Hebrew Scriptures, it might be inferred, that he was a diligent inquirer into the authority of the New Testament. But his testimony may be collected not merely by implication, but from his express declarations. He has drawn the justest line between the canonical and the apocryphal books has ascribed the former their due and exclusive weight; and has deduced their authority from the immemorial tradition of the Catholic Church; which his profound learning and local researches furnished him with ample means of investigating.

If we now take the works of Clement, Origen, and Tertullian, and compare them with our Scriptures, as preserved in the original Greek, and in the Latin translation, it is impossible to resist the conviction, that the sacred writings must have retained their integrity since the times of those primitive fathers. We find them collectively quoted by those early fathers, under their proper titles, and on all occasions where their authority could be adduced. Of Tertullian it has been observed, that he contains more numerous and extensive extracts from the New Testament, than all the writers of antiquity, for a long succession of ages, have adduced from the voluminous writings of Cicero; though his works have formed a standard, by which succeeding writers have endeavored to model their stile. The writings of Clement and Origen have undergone a severer scrutiny than those of Tertullian; all the scripture quotations which are discoverable in such of their works as are extant, have been extracted from them, and have been disposed in their proper order. They contain ample and connected quotations from all the books of Scripture, which not only evince the general integrity of the sacred writings, but demonstrate, by the most extraordinary coincidence with the vulgar Greek, that the texture of the phrase and purity of the language have remained uncorrupted for the vast period which has intervened, since the age of those primitive fathers.

Ample and satisfactory as the testimony is, which is thus borne to the integrity of the sacred Scriptures, it seems possible to connect it by a few steps with the age of the inspired writers. Origen was the disciple of Clement, and Clement the disciple of Pantaenus; and all of them were the intimates of Alexander, bishop of Jerusalem: but Pantaenus is expressly said to have been a disciple of those who were the immediate auditors of the Apostles. Alexander represents Narcissus, who was likewise bishop of Jerusalem, as having been an hundred and sixteen years old, when he acted as his suffragan in that see, at Jerusalem; he of course must have enjoyed the same opportunities of conversing with the immediate disciples of the apostles, which were possessed by Pantaenus. Tertullian is referred to a period near that of the apostles, by St. Jerome, who drew his information from one who was informed by an acquaintance of St. Cyprian, his disciple. St. Iranaeus mentions his having been acquainted with St. Polycarp, who was placed in the see of Smyrna by St. John the Evangelist; and gives an affecting description of the accounts which he heard that venerable old man deliver of the apostle, and of the impression which, while he was yet a boy, they had made upon his recollection. With these facilities of arriving at the opinions of the apostolical age, on a subject of such paramount importance as that of the sacred canon, it remains to be observed, that the apostolical tradition, as preserved by the succession of bishops throughout the Catholic Church, was at this period an object of curious investigation. Polycrates, bishop of Ephesus, expressly appeals to it in the controversy respecting Easter; and on this subject of comparatively minor importance, states the traditionary customs, as derived from St. Polycarp and St. John, in the churches of Smyrna and Ephesus. Similar appeals are made to it, by St. Irenaeus and Tertullian, on the rule of faith which had been delivered to the Church by its original founders, and preserved by their successors. The former states, that the apostolical tradition was preserved in every church throughout the world; the latter appeals to the apostolical writings as preserved in the particular churches, where they were deposited by their inspired authors.

As the early period in which those apostolical fa­thers flourished is thus easily connected with the age of the apostles; it may be no less easily connected with that in which the Latin Vulgate was made, and the Alexandrian manuscript written; the joint testimony of which contains a sufficient evidence of the integrity of the canonical scriptures from the latter period down to the present day.

St. Jerome, who formed the Latin Version, drew his information respecting Tertullian from one who had conversed with a notary of St. Cyprian. St. Athanasius, who lived when the Alexandrian manuscript was written, was present in the Council of Nice, and [had] the acquaintance of St. Epiphanius, the friend of St. Jerome. But the great Athanasius must have conversed with many who had known the disciples of Origen. Demetrius, who was contemporary with the latter, governed the church of Alexandria forty-three years; and his successors, Heraclas and Dionysius, who occupied the same see for thirty-three years subsequently to his times, were the disciples of Origen. But Dionysius was summoned to the Synod, held at Antioch, which was convened against Paul of Samo­sata; and Lucianus, the martyr, who revised the Byzantine text, was contemporary with Paul, who was deposed by the Synod of Antioch. As he survived this period, until the persecution of Maximin, and was not martyred until within thirteen years of the Council of Nice, he must have been a contemporary of St. Athanasius, and would have been doubtless present in that Synod, had he not been prematurely cut off among the martyrs of Palestine. By the intervention of Dionysius and Lucianus, the tradition is thus connected from the times of Origen to those of St. Athanasius, St. Epiphanius, and St. Jerome.

The testimony of St. Athanasius, who stands at the end of this succession; is adequate to decide all that it is my object to establish. He has given a list of the canonical and apocryphal books, in his Festal Epistle, which forms a sufficient evidence of the integrity of the vulgar edition; in proving the same books to be now in use, which were re­ceived at the time of the Nicene Council. What adds still greater weight to his authority, is the explicit appeal which he makes to the tradition of the Church, while employed in enumerating the Canonical Scriptures. As he was present in the Council of Nice, where the Bishops of the Catholic Church were assembled together, and as he visited the churches of Greece, Syria, Gaul, and Italy, and governed that of Alexandria, he not only possessed the means of tracing the tradition to its source, but of ascertaining how far it was Catholic. The different editions which are incorporated in the Alexandrian manuscript, contain a sufficient proof that even the verbal niceties of the text, did not wholly escape his attention. Having intended his revisal should become the Received Text, he embodied the three editions, which existed in his age, into one: he thus took the most effectual means of introducing uniformity into the Church, on a subject, in which a difference of opinion must have been productive of greater ills, than could arise from merely verbal inaccuracies in the authorized Scriptures. Regarded with these limitations, this celebrated manuscript may be considered a full exposition of St. Athanasius’s testimony to the integrity of the Sacred Text.

To the testimony of St. Athanasius, as fully set forth in the Alexandrian manuscript, we may now add that of St. Jerome, as delivered in the Latin Vulgate; in order to confirm the evidence of the Eastern Church by that of the Western. Not to insist on the explicit testimony which he has borne to the different books of the Canonical Scriptures, his Vulgate contains a sufficient voucher for the testimony borne by the Latin Church to the general integrity of the Sacred Canon. St. Jerome’s alterations extended to little more than verbal corrections; he supplied some passages, and he expunged others, in the received text of his age: but he translated no new book, he removed no old one, from the authorized version. From the New Vulgate, of course, we may ascertain the state of the Old; and thence collect the testimony of the Latin Church from the earliest period. As St. Jerome’s version, however, agrees with the list of St. Athanasius, in possessing the same authorized books, the testimony of both forms a sufficient evidence of the integrity of the Greek Vulgate; which contains the same Scriptures which those early fathers agree in pronouncing Canonical.             

As the testimony of the Alexandrian manuscript and the Latin Vulgate, is generally corroborated by that of the great body of manuscripts, containing the original Greek, as well as the Oriental and Western translations, their united evidence contains an irrefragable proof of the general integrity of the Sacred Canon. The certainty of this conclusion may be now summarily evinced, from a recapitulation of the foregoing deductions.

From the constant intercourse which subsisted between the different branches of the Catholic Church, the wide and rapid circulation of the Scriptures must be inferred by necessary consequence. From their universal dispersion must be inferred their freedom from general corruption. Verbal errors might have arisen in the text, and have been multiplied by the negligence of successive transcribers: and the destruction of the sacred books in particular regions might have afforded opportunity to particular revisers, to publish editions of the text with fancied improvements. But, from the different interests which divided the Church, these alterations must have been confined to unimportant points; and, from the general dispersion of the Scriptures, must have been limited to particular districts, or have continued but for an inconsiderable period. The state and history of the text furnishes numerous confirmations of these several positions. The testimony and quotations of the primitive fathers who lived at the time of the Paschal controversy prove, that the Scriptures which were then generally used in the Church, were those which were published by their inspired authors; and as far as the testimony of those early witnesses extends, that they are the same which are still in use in our churches. The testimony of those primitive fathers is connected with that of St. Athanasius and St. Jerome by a very few links, which prove that the tradition which was preserved in the times of the former, could not have been interrupted in the times of the latter. Their evidence is, however, as clearly as it is plenarily set forth in the Alexandrian manuscript, and the Latin Vulgate, which, as delivering the same testimony at different times, and under different circumstances, furnish, by their coincidence an unanswerable proof of the integrity of the Canonical Scriptures.

But the same positions admit of a different establishment, from some antecedent observations. The Alexandrian manuscript contains an evidence of the existence of three classes of text as early as the year three hundred and sixty-seven; and consequently a proof of the permanence of the text of Byzantium from that time to the present. The existence of this peculiar text for fourteen centuries involves no inconsiderable proof of its permanence since the times of the Apostles. This presumption, which is so strongly corroborated by the multiplicity of the copies of this edition, and by their extraordinary coincidence with each other, is finally confirmed by the testimony of the primitive Latin version; which, as obviously made in the earliest age, furnishes, by its coincidence with the Greek Vulgate, a demonstrative proof of the permanence of the Received Text or vulgar edition.

In fine, the coincidence of the Greek and Latin Vulgate, which contain the positive testimony of the Eastern and Western Church, constitutes a sufficient evidence of the integrity of the Canonical Scriptures. They prove, by their unity of consent, that the Sacred Canon is complete; without any deficiency or superabundance of books; and without any diminution or increase of their parts or members. Their point testimony consequently furnishes an adequate test by which we may, in most cases, correct their variations from themselves, and rectify the imperfections of other texts and editions. Hence, in the first instance, they sufficiently establish the authority of those canonical books, which have been question­ed by private persons, or by particular Churches. In the next place, their conspiring testimony establishes the authority of particular passages, which have been omitted in particular versions, or cancelled in particular editions. The private testimony of individuals, the testimony of national churches, to which the evidence of fathers and versions, as well as of particular manuscripts, is necessarily reducible, can have no weight against the conspiring testimony of the two great Churches in the Eastern and Western world, which were the depositaries of the apostolical writings. We may very easily account for the suppression of particular passages, or even books, in a limited number of copies; but their occurrence in the great body of manuscripts, which properly contain the testimony of the Church, is not to be accounted for, otherwise than by admitting them to have possessed that authority from the first, which procured them a place among the Canonical Scriptures.

A closer examination of this point will, however, place the integrity of the text beyond all reasonable ground of controversion. Of the different books which are numbered among the Canonical Scrip­tures, the Apocalypse and Epistle to the Hebrews have excited the most serious opposition. Of the various passages which constitute those books, Mark xvi. 9-20. John viii. 1-11, have been exposed to the most formidable objections. If, however, the canonical authority of the sacred volume be groundlessly questioned in these respects, we may a fortiori conclude, that it is not to be shaken by any objections.

In vindication of the Apocalypse and Epistle to the Hebrews, it must be observed, that the objections urged against them are merely confined to a doubt respecting the name of the inspired persons by whom they were written. The former was conceived to have proceeded from John the Elder, whose tomb was shown at Ephesus, together with that of St. John the Evangelist; the latter was conceived to have proceeded from St. Luke, St. Clement, or St. Barnabas, the companions of St. Paul the Apostle. The particular objections urged against those books from the internal evidence I shall consider hereafter; the following con­siderations appear to me to remove all doubt of their authority as constituting a part of the sacred Scripture.

In the first place it is not disputed, by the most strenuous oppugners of those books, that they constituted a part of the Canon. Admitting thus much, which, by the way, is all that is worth contesting, the point in dispute may be brought to a speedy determination. It has been urged in objection to those books, that the one introduces the name of St. John, the other omits the name of St. Paul, contrary to the practice of those Apostles in their genuine writings. This distinction seems decisive of the question, and directly identifies the true authors of the Apocalypse and the Epistle. The introduction of the name of the inspired writer implies an authoritative declaration of the apostolical function: such a designation is, of course, as properly abandoned by both Apostles in dictating epistles to the whole church, or to particular congregations not in their jurisdiction: as it was properly assumed by them, in addressing those churches over which they assumed an immediate authority. St. John, in his Catholic Epistle, and St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Hebrews, declines using the title; for this obvious cause, that the one was no universal Bishop, the other not an Apostle of the Hebrews, but of the Gentiles. But in addressing the particular churches of Rome and Corinth, or the seven churches of Asia, both St. John and St. Paul, in in­troducing their names, assert their apostolical authority. With respect to the Apocalypse, of course the controversy must be now at an end; for it is as certain that John the Elder possessed no authority over the seven churches, as that those churches were governed by St. John the Evangelist until the reign of the Emperor Trajan. And with respect to the Epistle to the Hebrews it may be as briefly decided. Though St. Paul has declined introducing his name into this Epistle, he has asserted that authority over Timothy in deputing him on a mission, which is irreconcilable with the notion of its having proceeded from any person of inferior authority; or is indeed clearly demonstrative of the fact that it was written by the great Apostle.

As these considerations, deducible from the internal evidence, seem to annihilate the force of the objections raised to those canonical books; the external testimony of two witnesses, who are above all exception, fully confirms the authority which they derive from the ecclesiastic tradition. St. Irenaeus, who was but one remove, in the line of succession, from St. John, having heard his disciple St. Polycarp, expressly ascribes the Revelation to the Evangelist; and speaks of the apocalyptic vision as having been seen in his own age, towards the end of the reign of Domitian. And a contemporary of St. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, whose authority Eusebius represents as decisive, relates that the Epistle to the Hebrews was written by St. Paul in his vernacular tongue, but translated into Greek by Luke the Evangelist. To the testimony which St. Irenaeus bears to the work of St. John, we may add that of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Melito, Theophilus, Apollonius, and Clemens Alexandrinus, who flourished in the age of St. Irenaeus; and Origen, who flourished at the beginning of the subsequent era. And to the testimony which Clement has borne to the Epistle of St. Paul, we may add that of St. Clemens Romanus in the same age, and of Origen and Dionysius Alexandrinus; in the succeeding, Eusebius of Caesarea, who flourished at the beginning of the following century, and whose opinion must be allowed to possess great weight, though he speaks rather dubiously in assigning the Apocalypse to St. John ascribes the Epistle to the Hebrews to St. Paul  without hesitation. And St. Athanasius and St. Jerome, at the close of the same century, speak in the same terms, without limitation or exception; these extraordinary men may be allowed to deliver the opinion of the Eastern and Western Churches, if the testimony of either may be collected from the statement of individuals. Of this “cloud of witnesses,” each of whom is a host in himself, the earlier part lived at that period, when the true state of the question could have been scarcely missed by the most careless inquirer; and the testimony of those primitive fathers is connected by a very few intermediate links with that of the last witnesses to whose authority an appeal has been made on the subject under discussion.

As far as respects the number of the canonical books, the Vulgate, which is in use in the Eastern and Western Churches, admits of the clearest vindication. If even those books, which are represented as of doubtful authority, admit of so full and satisfactory a defence, we may necessarily infer the unquestionable authority of those which have never excited suspicion. The works of Clement and Origen in the East, of Tertullian and Cyprian in the West, who generally quote from all the canonical books, are sufficiently declaratory of the testimony of both Churches, as derived from immemorial tradition. The evidence of Lucianus and Eusebius, to whom St. Athanasius and St. Jerome respectively refer; will connect the traditionary chain, as extending from the apostolical age to the final establishment of Christianity under the Emperor Theodosius. After this period it must be unnecessary to search after proofs in support of the integrity of the Canonical Scripture.

At the last-mentioned period, two remarkable passages, as I have already observed, had been partially withdrawn from the sacred text; though now admitted almost without exception into the vulgar text of the Eastern and Western Churches. The testimony of those Churches, not less than the integrity of the sacred Canon, is involved in the fate of those passages; since their authority must be impeached if either passage prove spurious. A few considerations, however, in addition to what has been already advanced, will place their authority beyond all reasonable exception.

The objection to those passages lies in the cir­cumstance of their being absent from some copies of St. Jerome’s times, and from some which have descended to the present period. But this consideration falls infinitely short of proving them spurious, or more than expunged from the text of Eusebius, and, after his example, omitted in the text of the orthodox revisers. That they were absent from the former edition, is evident from the testimony of the Eusebian Canons, in which they do not appear; that they were absent from the latter, appears from the positive testimony of St. Jerome, confirmed by that of St. Epiphanius. The determination of the question must therefore turn on this alternative; their having been suppressed in the received text of St. Jerome’s age, or inserted in that of the subsequent period. The entire circumstances of the case tend to establish the former, and disprove the latter supposition.

The probabilities that Eusebius suppressed those passages in his edition, have been already calculated, and, until disproved, I am free to conclude, have been established from the circumstances under which his edition was published. That they were omitted also in the text of the orthodox revisers, is, I conceive, evident, from the testimony of St. Jerome; as he lived in the age when both these editions prevailed, and declares; that those passages were absent from the generality of copies extant in his times. Two witnesses will be now sufficient to establish the authenticity of those passages, and to connect the chain of tradition from which their authority is derived; one to prove that they were removed from the prevailing text of the age; and one, to show that they existed in the antecedent edition. For the first position St. Epiphanius, who describes the text of the orthodox revisers, is the best voucher. He, however, declares that these persons positively omitted some exceptionable passages: and we find the passages. in question omitted in those copies which lack the passage which he declares was suppressed. For the second position, the best voucher must be his contemporary St. Jerome, who has inserted those passages in his translation. He has thus implicitly asserted their existence in the old copies of the original, by which he corrected his version. As his testimony to the existence of these passages is, consequently, antecedent to the only grounds of suspicion on which they are impeached; it is adequate to remove any objection to which they have been exposed, as filling up that breach in the ecclesiastical tradition, by which their canonical authority is properly supported.

Clear as the case is in which it is conceived that these passages were suppressed; that in which it is supposed that they were interpolated is involved in inextricable difficulties. On reviewing, however casually, the internal evidence, it seems as fully to establish the former, as to invalidate the latter position. The history of the adulteress, contained in St. John, would be likely to offend some over scrupulous readers; as liable to be misrepresented by persons waywardly inclined to pervert the sacred oracles. The narrative of the resurrection, contained in St. Mark, would he likewise liable to exception; as containing some circumstances in the account of that event, apparently different from that of the other Evangelists. These considerations would operate as strongly in obtaining the suppression of those passages, as in preventing their insertion in the Sacred Canon. If we suppose them authentic, they contain no difficulty which may not be easily cleared up; if we suppose them spurious, it is as impossible to account for their being so exceptionable, as they thus appear, as it is to account for their having been admitted, with all their imperfections, into the vulgar text of the Eastern and Western Churches. No object appears to exist which could have induced any person to invent such passages, no influence which could have induced those Churches collectively to incorporate them in the Canon.

When we inspect more narrowly the purpose which the different Evangelists had in view, we find those passages more than reconcilable with the object of their different narratives. The proof of the resurrection was indispensable to the completion of the Gospel history, by whatever person it might be written; this being the great miracle on which the truth of Christ’s mission depended, and the proper object of the apostolical testimony. This proof was given, by the express appointment of our Lord, in Galilee; and by manifesting himself by the most infallible evidence to his apostles, “showing them his hands and his side.” Let it be however observed, that St. Mark records the promise, which foretold this plenary revelation of our Lord to the disciples; and that his account of the accomplishment of it is contained only in the suspected passage. From its being thus indispensably necessary, not merely to complete the general purpose of an Evangelist, in writing a Gospel; but to complete the express object of St. Mark, it must be considered a part of the authentic canonical text.

With respect to the questionable passage in St. John, the proofs of its authenticity, though more remotely sought, are not less decisive. According to the tradition of the primitive Church, St. John composed his Gospel, with the express view of opposing the rising heresies of the Nicolaitans and Corinthians. Of those heretics the apostle declares; “thou halt them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught—to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitanes, which thing I hate. Repent, or else I will come unto thee quickly,” &c. Marriage had been condemned and rejected by those abandoned miscreants; who asserted the lawfulness of the most promiscuous intercourse of the sexes. And by this doctrine, which was but too well suited to the low state of morals in the times of heathen superstition, they had seduced numbers from the severe discipline of the primitive church. It was therefore required, by the express object which the Evangelist proposed to himself, in writing against them, that he should provide a remedy for both evils; to prevent the inroad of vice on the one hand and to provide for reclaiming it on the other. With this view he selects out of the incidents of our Lord’s life the remarkable circumstances of his having sanctioned a marriage by his presence; and par­doned a penitent adulteress, on the condition of her “sinning no more.” Viewed with reference to those circumstances, these narratives are corroborative of each other; and are illustrated by the declarations of our Lord, which the Apostle relates; “they teach to commit fornication—repent, or I will, come unto thee,” &c. In this view they are necessary to complete the object of the Evangelist; whose intentions in writing are in a great measure frustrated, if we suppose them suppressed.

The testimony which the Eastern and Western Churches bear to the authenticity of Mark xvi. 9-20, John viii. 1-11, in adopting those passages in the great body of manuscripts of the Greek and Latin, is consequently most amply confirmed by the internal evidence, and nothing weakened by negative testimony, by which they have been condemned. Conceiving those passages spurious, it is above the reach of ordinary comprehension to discover an adequate cause for their having been generally received; considering the immense number, and wide dispersion of the Scriptures, and the obvious objections to which those passages were exposed from the earliest period. That they occur in the vulgar edition of the Greek and Latin is indisputable; and the only mode of accounting for this circumstance is by conceiving them part of the original text, as published by the inspired writers.

With respect to John viii. 1-11, it is indeed less constantly retained in the Greek than Mark xvi. 9-20; but while the cause of this circumstance is sufficiently apparent, we can trace the tradition in favor of this passage to a period so remote as to place its authenticity beyond controversion. It will be readily granted, that if this passage be an interpolation, it must have been invented by some one. But of those persons, who possessed the power of introducing it into the sacred Canon as having revised the Scriptures, there is not one to whom it can be ascribed with the smallest appearance of reason.

  1. As this passage occurs in the Greek, it cannot be ascribed to Athanasius or the last revisers. As far as we possess any knowledge of their editions, they omitted this passage: it is quoted by antecedent writers, and St. Jerome, in introducing it into the Latin Vulgate, has implicitly declared that it was found in the copies antecedent to their revisal. Nor can it be ascribed to Eusebius Caesariensis; it does not occur in his text or canons, and is apparently glanced at in his history, as entitled to little credit. Nor can it be assigned to Lucianus or Hesychius; for their real or imputed interpolations were rejected, on the credit of the same copies, by St. Jerome, in whose Vulgate this passage is certainly retained. As it exists, however, in the Egyptian and Byzantine text and was not invented by those persons by whom these editions were first revised, it must have necessarily existed in the original text from which they were respectively derived.

  2. As occurring in the Latin, this passage cannot be ascribed to St. Jerome, the last reviser. He expressly states it existed in the old Italic version, which preceded his revisal; and in it we consequently find it at this day. Nor can it be ascribed to Philastrius of Brescia, or Eusebius of Verceli, for it does not occur in those manuscripts in which alone their respective texts can be supposed to exist. As it, however, occurs in the Old Italic translation, in which it existed in the times of St. Jerome, the only inference is that it must have existed in this version when it was originally formed.

Thus following up the tradition of the Eastern and Western Churches until it loses itself in time immemorial, we find their united testimony as delivered in the Received Text fully establishes the authenticity of the passage under consideration. And this evidence is finally confirmed by the explicit testimony of early ecclesiastical writers. Wherever we might expect any traces of this passage to exist, we find it specifically noticed. It occurs in the Harmony of Tatian, who wrote in little more than fifty years of the death of St. John; it is noticed in the Synopsis of Scripture, which is generally ascribed to St. Athanasius; and in the Diatessaron, which is ascribed to Ammonius, by Victor Capuanus. Nor was it unknown to Eusebius, to St. Ambrose, to St. Chrysostom, and St. Augustine. But the testimony of St. Jerome is definitive in establishing the authenticity of this passage. While he expressly states that it existed in the old version of the Latin, he has implicitly admitted that it existed in the ancient copies of the Greek, by giving it a place in his Vulgate. Taking therefore the testimony of the Eastern and Western Churches, as contained in the Received Text and Version; as supported by the uninterrupted chain of tradition, and as expressly avouched by St. Jerome; we must acknowledge this passage as a part of the genuine text of Scripture, or reject that testimony, on which the Sacred Canon is proved authentic.

The determination of the integrity of the Greek Vulgate now turns on the decision of this question, whether those texts relative to the doctrine of the Incarnation, Redemption, and Trinity, which have been already mentioned, as impugned by the advocates for a more correct text than exists in our printed editions, must be considered authentic or spurious.

I have hitherto labored to no purpose if it is not admitted that I have already laid a foundation sufficiently broad and deep for maintaining the authen­ticity of the contested verses. The negative argument arising in their favor, from the probability that Eusebius suppressed them in his edition, has been already stated at large. Some stress may be laid on this extraordinary circumstance, that the whole of the important interpolations, which are thus conceived to exist in the Received Text, were contrary to his peculiar notions. If we conceive them cancelled by him, there is nothing wonderful in the matter at issue; but if we consider them subsequently interpolated, it is next to miraculous that they should be so circumstanced. And what must equally excite astonishment, to a certain degree they are not more opposed to the peculiar opinions of Eusebius, by whom I conceive they were cancelled, than of the Catholics, by whom it is conceived they were inserted in the text. When separated from the sacred context, as they are always in quotation, the doctrine which they appear most to favor is that of the Sabellians; but this heresy was as contrary to the tenets of those who conformed to the Catholic as of those who adhered to the Arian opinions. It thus becomes as improbable that the former should have inserted, as it is probable the latter suppressed those verses; and just as probable is it, that both parties might have acquiesced in their suppression when they were once removed from the text of Scripture. If we connect this circumstance with that previously advanced, that Eusebius, the avowed adversary of the Sabellians, expunged these verses from his text, and that every manuscript from which they have disappeared is lineally descended from his edition, every difficulty in which this intricate subject is involved directly vanishes. The solution of the question lies in this narrow space, that he expunged them from the text, as opposed to his peculiar opinions: and the peculiar apprehensions which were indulged of Sabellianism by the orthodox, prevented them from restoring those verses or citing them in their controversies with the Arians.

Thus far we have but attained probability, though clearly of the highest degree, in favor of the authenticity of these disputed verses. The question before us is, however, involved in difficulties which still require a solution. In order to solve these, and to investigate more carefully the claims of those verses to authenticity, I shall lay them before the reader as they occur in the Greek and Latin Vulgate; subjoining those various readings, which are supposed to preserve the genuine text.  

(The following verses are then quoted in Greek and in Latin; Acts 20:28; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 5:7-8.) 

As the Byzantine text thus reads, in Act. xx. 28. evkklhsi,an tou/ qeou/, and in I Tim. iii. 16. Qeo.j evfanerw,qh, the Palestine, or Alexandrian, according to M. Griesbach, reads, in the former place,  evkklhsi,an tou/ kuri,ou, and in the latter, o]j evfanerw,qh. In 1 John v. 7. the Byzantine and Palestine texts agree, while they differ from the common reading of the Latin Vulgate;—omitting en tw/| ouvranw/|( opath,r( o lo,goj( kai. to. {Agion Pneu/ma\ kai. ou-toi oitrei/j e[n eivsiÅ 8  kai. trei/j eivsi.n oi marturou/ntej evn th/| gh/|, which occurs in the Received Text of our printed editions; and answers to “in coelo, Pater, Verbum, et Spiritus Sanctus: et hi tres unum sunt. Et tres sunt qui testimonium dant in terra,” in the Latin Vulgate. Such are the prin­cipal varieties of those celebrated texts.

In proceeding to estimate the respective merit of these readings, the first attention is due to the internal evidence. In reasoning from it we work upon solid ground. For the authenticity of some part of the verses in dispute we have that strong evidence which arises from universal consent; all manuscripts and translations supporting some part of the context of the contested passages. In the remaining parts we are given a choice between two readings, one only of which can be authentic. And in making our election, we have in the common principles of plain sense and ordinary language, a certain rule by which we may be directed. Gross solecisms in the grammatical structure, palpable oversights in the texture of the sense, cannot be ascribed to the inspired writers. If of any two given readings one be exposed to such objections, there is but the alternative, that the other must be authentic.

On applying this principle to the Palestine Text, in the first instance, it seems to bring the point in dispute to a speedy determination. The reading which it proposes in the disputed texts is not to be reconciled with sense, with grammar, or the uniform phraseology of the New Testament.

  1. In Acts xx. 28, the phrase evkklhsi,an tou/ kuri,ou is unknown to the language of the Greek Testament, and wholly irreconcilable with the use of ivdi,ou ai[matoj for ai[matoj auvtou, in the context, as leading to a false or absurd meaning. The phrase evkklhsi,an tou/ qeou is that uniformly used by the evangelical writers, and that used above ten times by St. Paul, to whom the expression is ascribed by the inspired writer. And qeou is absolutely necessary to qualify the subjoined ivdi,ou, as the latter term, if used with kuri,ou, must imply that our Lord could have purchased the Church with other blood than his own: which is apparently absurd and certainly impertinent.

  2. In 1 Tim. iii, 16, the phrase o]j evfanerw,qh is little reconcilable with sense or grammar. In order to make it Greek, in the sense of “he who was manifested,” it should be ov fanerwqei.j; but this reading is rejected by the universal consent of manuscripts and translations. The subjunctive article o]j is indeed used indefinitely; but it is then put for o]j a]n, o]j eva.n, o[jij a]n, wa/j o[jij; as in this state it is synonymous with whoever, whosoever, we have only to put this term into the letter of the text, in order to discover that it reduces the reading of M. Griesbach and of the Palestine Text to palpable nonsense.

  3. In 1 Joh. v. 7, three masculine adjectives, trei/j oi` marturou/ntej are forced into union with three neuter substantives, to. Pneu/ma( kai. to. u[dwr( kai. to. ai-ma; a grosser solecism than can be ascribed to any writer, sacred or profane, And low as the opinion may be which the admirers of the Corrected Text may hold of the purity of the style of St. John; it is a grosser solecism than they can fasten on the holy Evangelist, who, in his context, has made one of these adjectives regularly agree with its correspondent substantive in the neuter. There seems to be consequently as little reason for tolerating this text as either of the preceding.

From the alternative to which the question has been reduced, it might now be inferred, that the reading of our printed editions, which is supported, in 1 Tim. iii. 16 by the Greek Vulgate, in 1 Joh. v.7 by the Latin Vulgate, and in Act. xx. 28 by both the Greek and Latin Vulgate, contained the genuine text of Scripture. As the reading of those passages, however, admits of more than a negative defence; I proceed to examine how far this testimony of the Eastern and Western Churches is confirmed by the internal evidence of the original. An admirable rule is laid down by M. Griesbach for determining, between two readings, which is the genuine. I am wholly mistaken, or it may be shown, that every mark of authenticity which he has pointed out, will be found to exist in those readings which he has rejected as spurious.

Directing our attention in the first place, to the structure of the phrase, the tenor of the sense and language as fully declares for the received reading, as against the corrected.

  1. In Act. xx. 28. the apostolical phrase, evkklhsi,an tou/ Qeou/, is not only preserved, but its full force consequently assigned to the epithet ivdi,ou. This term, as used by the apostle, has an exclusive and emphatic force; an exclusive, in limiting the sense to “God,” the subject of the assertion;—an emphatic, in evincing the apostle’s earnestness in using so extraordinary an expression. “Feed the Church of God, which he purchased with no other blood than his own,” is the literal meaning of the phrase; and this meaning is not more clearly expressed, than we shall see it was required by the object of the apostle, in writing.

2: In 1 Tim. iii. 16. there can be little doubt that the “Great Mystery,” of which the apostle speaks, and that whereby some one “was manifested in the flesh,” must be the Incarnation. If we take the account given of this “mystery” in John i. 1. 14. it marks out “God” as the divine person who “was manifested.” And putting this term into the letter of the text, it renders the apostle’s explanation answerable to his purpose and to the solemn mode of his enunciation. For, as the manifestation of no person, but the incomprehensible and divine, can be a mystery, any “manifestation” of “God,” as “in the flesh,” must be a “Great Mystery.” So far, the apostle’s phrase is as just as it is sententious.

  1. In 1 John v. 7. the manifest rent in the Corrected Text, which appears from the solecism in the language, is filled up in the Received Text; and opath,r( o lo,goj, being inserted, the masculine adjectives, trei/j oi` marturou/ntej, are ascribed suitable substantives; and by the figure attraction, which is so prevalent in Greek, every objection is removed to the structure of the context. Nor is there thus a necessary emendation made in the apostle’s language alone, but in his meaning. St. John is here expressly summing up the divine and human testimony, “the witness of God and man;” and he has elsewhere formally enumerated the heavenly witnesses, as they occur in the disputed passage. In his Gospel he thus explicitly declares, “I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me; and when the Comforter is come, even the Spirit of truth, he shall, testify of me.” And yet, in his Epistle, where he is expressly summing up the testimony in favor of Jesus, we are given to understand that he passes at least two of these heavenly witnesses by, to insist on three earthly; which have brought the suppressed witnesses to the remembrance of almost every other person who has read the passage for the last sixteen centuries! Nay more, he omits them in such a manner as to create a gross solecism in his language, which is ultimately removed by the accidental insertion, as we are taught, of those witnesses, from a note in his margin. Nor is this all, but this solecism is corrected, and the oversight of the Apostle remedied, by the accidental insertion of the disputed passage from the margin of a translation; the sense of which, we are told, it embarrasses, while it contributes nothing to amend the grammatical structure! Of all the omissions which have been mentioned respecting this verse, I. call upon the impugners of its authenticity to specify one, half so extraordinary as the present? Of all the improbabilities which the controversy respecting it has assumed as true, I challenge the upholders of the Corrected Text to name one, which is not admissible as truth, when set in competition with so flagrant an improbability as the last. Yet, on the assumption of this extravagant improbability as matter of fact, must every attack on the authenticity of this verse be built, as its very foundation !

From viewing the internal evidence of the disputed texts, let us next consider the circumstances under which they were delivered; and here, I am wholly deceived, or the investigation will lead to the ultimate establishment of the same conclusion.

It is of the last importance in deciding the present question, to ascertain the subject which was before the apostles, in delivering themselves on the occasion before us. Some light arises to direct us in this enquiry from the consideration, that the words of both apostles were addressed to the Church at Ephesus, in which the Gnostic heresy had made some progress before the close of St. John’s ministry. With respect to St. Paul, the point is directly apparent. Acts xx. 28 occurs in the exhortation delivered to the bishops and presbyters assembled in that city: and 1 Tim. iii. 16 occurs in the Epistle addressed to Timothy, who was resident in the same place and was, for some time subsequent, bishop of Ephesus. With respect to St. John, the matter before us is not involved in greater difficulty. His Epistle was written towards the close of his life, which was ended at Ephesus, in which city he had an interview with Cerinthus, the leader of the Gnostic heresy, against whom it was partly directed.

It is further deserving of remark, that both apostles are expressly engaged on the subject of those early heresies with which the Church of Ephesus was menaced, if not infected. With regard to St. Paul, the context of the passages before us puts the matter out of dispute. “Feed the Church of God,” he declares to the Ephesian pastors, “which he has purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing, shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” To the same purpose he delivers himself in his Epistle to Timothy; “And without controversy great is the Mystery of Godliness; God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory. Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times, some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” The early tradition of the Church, confirmed by the internal evidence of St. John’s Epistle, fully justifies our forming a like conclusion with respect to it, and the Epistle to Timothy, to which it appears to allude. “Little children,” declares the Evangelist, “it is the last time, and as ye have heard, that Antichrist shall come, even now are there many anti­christs. They went out from us, but they were not of us—Who is a liar, but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ. He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son—Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every Spirit that confesseth Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God; and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of  antichrist—Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and be in God.”

In order to determine the question before us, it is still necessary that we should acquire a precise knowledge of the fundamental tenets of those heretics whom the apostles opposed. St. John has very expressly declared, that they “denied the Father and the Son;” having disputed that “Jesus was the Son of God,” and that “he was come in the flesh.” With this representation, exactly accords the account which we receive of the tenets of the Nicolaitans and Cerinthians; those heretics whom the apostles expressly opposed. They “denied the Father,” not merely disputing his paternity, in denying his only-begotten Son, but representing him as a being who was removed from the care and consideration of earthly things; who had permitted the creation of. the world by beings of an inferior and angelical nature, and had consigned it to their superintendence. They “denied the Son,” as disallowing his eternal filiation, and degrading him into the order of secondary and angelical existences. Thus far the Nicolaitans and Cerinthians agreed. They agreed also in “denying that Jesus was the Christ;” though they maintained this doctrine under different modifications. The Cerinthians, dividing the person of Jesus Christ, considered Jesus a mere man; born in the natural manner from Joseph and Mary; but mystically united with the angelical being Christ, who descended upon him at the time of his baptism. This union, they conceived, was dissolved at the time of the crucifixion; the man Jesus having suffered on the cross, while the impassible Christ ascended into the heavens. The Nicolaitans “denying that Jesus was come in the flesh,” considered Jesus Christ a mere phantasm, having a form which resembled flesh, but which consisted of an ethereal essence. At the time of the crucifixion, they held, that he secretly with­drew himself, while Simon the Cyrenean suffered in his likeness.

While these heretics thus denied the Divinity and rendered void the Incarnation and Redemption of Christ, they seemed not to have erred so grossly on the doctrine of the Trinity. As they were respectively descended from the Jews, though their notions were warped by the peculiar opinions of Simon Magus, they must have derived from both sources some knowledge of this mystic doctrine. Hence it is of importance to observe that the Jews expressed their belief in this doctrine in the identical terms which occur in the suspected passage; “and the three are one. It is likewise observable, that as these notions had descended to the heretics; the Nicolaitans, in particular, expressed the same belief in similar language. And the Hebrew Gospel, which was used by the Ebionites, if not by the Cerinthians, both of which sects were opposed by St. John, not only retained the same doctrine, but inculcated it in the terms which were used by the Jews. It is therefore indisputable, whatever becomes of the text of the heavenly witnesses, that the doctrine which it inculcates was forcibly obtruded upon the attention of St. John, in the very words in which the suspected passage is expressed.

From viewing the state of the subject as before the apostles, let us now consider the manner in which they have discussed the points at issue between them and the heretics. The determination of this matter is decisive of the true reading of the contested passages. With respect to the heretics who were opposed by St. Paul, as it has been already observed, it was not only a fundamental article of their creed to deny the divinity of the Logos, and to degrade him into the order of secondary and angelical existences; but a leading doctrine to deny that Christ became incarnate and suffered; otherwise than in appearance, for the redemption of mankind. The opposition of these notions to the explicit declarations of St. Paul, in the contested verses, must be directly apparent; and they appositely illustrate the strong emphasis with which the apostle insists on the Incarnation and Redemption in both passages: “God,” he declares, “was manifested in the flesh;” and “feed the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.” But what is more immediately to our purpose, those heretical tenets evince the obligation which was laid on the apostle to assert the divine nature of our Lord as strenuously as he asserted his human. This we observe to be as effectually done in the Received Text, where the term God is expressly introduced; as the contrary is observable in the Corrected, where that term is superseded by “the Lord,” or “he who was manifested.” Of consequence, the circumstances under which those verses were delivered as fully confirm the reading of the one, as they invalidate that of the other. The apostle expressly undertakes to warn the Church against those heretics whose errors he is employed in refuting. “Therefore watch,” he declares to the Ephesian pastors, “and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. To Timothy he declares, “If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ.”—”Take heed unto thyself,” subjoins the apostle, “and to thy doctrine; continue in them'”,” &c. But if we omit “God,” with the Corrected Text, St. Paul is so far from delivering any warning on the subject of those heretics, even while he expressly alludes to the doctrines which they had corrupted, that he rather confirms their errors by passing them over in silence. And this is the more inadmissible, as it is contrary to the usual practice of the apostle, who on similar occasions when he was less imperatively called upon to deliver his sentiments, asserts the Divinity of our Lord in terms the most strong and explicit.

These conclusions are further supported by collateral evidence. St. Ignatius, an auditor of St. John, who impugned the errors of the Nicolaitans respecting the divinity of the Logos, adopts the identical expressions of St. Paul in an Epistle addressed to the same church at Ephesus, and insists on the divinity, incarnation, and passion of Christ, in language the most full and explicit. Had all antiquity been silent on the subject of these contested verses, which are supported by the most full and unexceptionable evidence, the single testimony of this apostolical father would determine the genuine reading beyond controversion.

With respect to 1 John v. 7,8 it has been already observed, that it was directed against the peculiar errors of the Nicolaitans and Cerinthians. Of those sects it has been likewise observed, that they respectively denied that Jesus was “the Son of God,” and “came in the flesh,” though they mutually expressed their belief in a Trinity. Such are the fundamental errors which the apostle undertakes to refute, while at the same time he inculcates a just notion of the Trinity, distinguishing the Persons from the substance by opposing trei/j in the masculine to e]n in the neuter.

Against those who denied that “Jesus was the Son of God,” he appeals to the heavenly witnesses; and against those who denied that he “was come in the flesh,” he appeals to the earthly. For the admission of the one, that the “three,” including the Word, were “one” God, as clearly evinced the divinity of Christ, as identifying him with the Father; as “the spirit” which he yielded up, and “the blood and water” which he shed upon the cross, evinced his humanity as proving him mortal. And this appeal to the witnesses is as obvious, as the argument deduced from it is decisive; those who abjured the Divinity of our Lord, being as naturally confuted by the testimony of the heavenly witnesses, as those who denied his humanity by the testimony of the earthly. Viewed with reference to these considerations the apostle’s argument is as full and obvious, as it is clear and decisive; while it is illustrated by the circumstances under which his epistle was written. But let us suppose the seventh verse suppressed, and he not only neglects the advantage which was to be derived from the concession of his opponents, while he sums up “the witness of men,” but the very end of his epistle is frustrated, as the main proposition is thus left unestablished, that “Jesus is the Son of God.” And though the notions of the heretics on the doctrine of the Trinity were vague and unsettled, the Church was thus left without any warning against their peculiar tenets, though the apostle wrote with the express view of countervailing their errors. Not to insist on the circumstances of the controversy, the object of the apostle’s writing, not less than the tenor of his sense, consequently require that the disputed passage should be considered an integral part of his text.

The reader must be now left to determine how far the internal evidence, supported by the circumstances of the controversy in which the sacred writers were engaged, may extend in establishing the authenticity of the disputed verses. As interpolations, we must find it as difficult to account for their origin, by considering them the product of chance as design. For assuming the reading of the Corrected Text to be genuine, is it not next to miraculous that the casual alteration introduced into the Received Text should produce so extraordinary an effect in each of the passages, and attended by consequences so various and remote, that it should amend the solecism of the language, supply the defective sense, and verify the historical circumstances under which they were written? But how is the improbability diminished by conceiving them the product of design; while they appear to be unsuit­able to the controversies agitated in the primitive Church? The early heretics did not subscribe to those parts of the canon in which they occur; and they did not meet the difficulties of those disputes which were maintained with the latter. In order to answer the purposes of those controversies, Christ, in two of the contested passages, should have been identified with “God,” who “was mani­fested in the flesh,” and “purchased the Church with his own blood.” And instead of “the Father, Word, and Spirit,” the remaining passage should have read, “the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.” Otherwise, the interpolated passages would have been direct concessions to the Gnostics and Sabellians, who, in denying the personal difference of the Father and Son, were equally obnoxious to those avowed adversaries, the Catholics and the Arians. Nor did the orthodox require these verses for the support of their cause; they had other passages which would accomplish all that they could effect; and without their aid, they maintained and established their tenets. Admitting the possibility of an interpolation, in the three instances, we must be still at a loss to conceive with what object it could have been attempted.

On taking the reverse of the question, and supposing the Byzantine text preserves the genuine reading, every difficulty in the subject under discussion admits of the easiest solution. The circumstances which induced Eusebius, of Caesarea to suppress those passages, which apparently favored the errors of the Sabellians, have been already specified. And the alterations which they underwent in his edition, as contained in the Palestine text, were effected with as little violence as possible to the context or meaning. Kuri,ou, as a word nearly synonymous with qeou/, was inserted in Act. xx the Sabellian tendency of the passage was thus obviated, and the harshness of the phrase, which ascribed blood to God, was removed. After the analogy of a similar passage in Col. i. 26, 27  to. musth,rion to. avpokekrumme,non avpo. tw/n aivw,nwn kai. avpo. tw/n genew/n\ nuni. de. evfanerw,qh toi/j agi,oij auvtou/(  oi-j hvqe,lhsen o Qeo.j gnwri,sai ti, oplou/toj th/j do,xhj tou/ musthri,ou tou,tou evn toi/j e;qnesin( o[j evsti Cristo.j evn umi/n( h` evlpi.j th/j do,xhj\, 1 Tim. iii. 16. was changed into mi,ga evji musth,rion( o]j evfanerw,qh: o]j being preserved in the masculine to denote a person, and in this form agreeing with cristoj, sylleptically implied in musth,rion. Out of this reading, musth,rion o] evfanerw,qh  naturally arose, merely by correcting the false concord. 1 Joh. v. 7. presented fewer difficulties to the corrector; the iteration in the sentence made it merely necessary that the obnoxious passage should be erased; and it was consequently expunged by Eusebius, as little conducive to the doctrine of the church, from being calculated to support the Sabellian errors. Regarded in this view, there is little more on the subject before us which needs a solution. The last evidence of authenticity, which is specified in the rule proposed by M. Griesbach for determining a genuine from a spurious reading is thus clearly made out in favor of the text of Byzantium, for thus all the varieties in the passages before us are easily accounted for on considering them corruptions of the genuine text, as preserved in that edition.

Thus reasoning on the very grounds chosen by the adversaries of those texts, the question of their authenticity is easily decided; as far, at least, as respects the internal evidence. It is now merely necessary, that the testimony of competent witnesses should be adduced, to corroborate the internal evidence, with external.

Of the manuscripts which have been cited on this subject, 1. the Vatican, and fifteen of the Greek Vulgate, read in Act. xx. 28 qeou/; in which reading they are supported by the manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate, without a single exception. About fifty Greek manuscripts of the same edition also read qeou/, but in conjunction with kuri,ou.

  1. The Alexandrian, and all known manuscripts, except two of the Palestine, and one of the Egyptian edition, read in 1 Tim iii. 16 qeo.j; the Latin Vulgate reading “quod,” in opposition to every known manuscript but the Clermont.

  2. The whole nearly of the manuscripts of the Latin Vulgate contain 1 Joh. v. 7; which is not found in any Greek MS. but the Montfort; a manuscript which has been obviously corrected by the Latin translation.

Of the Christian fathers who have been quoted on this subject, the following have been cited in favor of the reading of the Received Text, or Greek Vulgate.

  1. On Act. xx. 28. St. Ignatius, in the apostolical age; and Tertullian, near the same period. At the distance of a century and upwards from those primitive times, St. Athanasius, St. Basil, St. Epiphanius, St. Ambrose, and St. Chrysostom, deliver the same testimony. In the following age occur Ibas and Coelestinus; and in the succeeding, Fulgentius, Ferrandus; and Primasius. In the next age we meet Antiochus, and Martin I, and in the subsequent, Bede, who is followed, after some distance of time, by Etherius, OEcumenius, and Theophylact. 

To these we may add some anonymous authorities, whose age is not easily determined.

  1. On 1 Tim. iii. 16 we may quote St. Ignatius; in the apostolical age; and Hippolytus, in the age which succeeded. The next age presents St. Athanasius, St. Gregory Nyssene, and St. Chrysostom; and the following age, St. Cyril, of Alexandria, Theodorit, and Euthalius. At a considerable distance of time, occur Damascene, and Epiphanius Diaconus; who are followed by Photius, OEcumenius, Theophylact, and others, at different intervals.

  2. On 1 Joh. v. 7. we may cite Tertullian in the age next the apostolical, and St. Cyprian in the subsequent era. In the following age, we may quote Phoebadius, Marcus Celedensis, and Idatius Clarus; and in the succeeding; age, Eucherius, Victor Vitensis, and Vigilius Tapsensis. Fulgentius and Cassiodorus occur in the next age, and Maximus in the subsequent; to whom we might add many others, or indeed the whole of the Western Church, who after this period generally adopted this verse in their authorized version.

With respect to 1 Tim. iii 16 and Acts xx 28 it is, I trust, unnecessary to add another argument in support of their authenticity. Admitting that. there exists sufficient external evidence to prove that those verses constituted a part of Scripture; the internal evidence must decide whether we are to consider them genuine or must reject them as spurious. The point at issue is thus reduced to a matter of fact on which there is no room for a second opinion. It has been, I trust, sufficiently shown that the one text is supported by the testimony of the Eastern Church and the other by that of the Eastern and Western. The inference is of course obvious, without a formal deduction.

With respect to I John v. 7. the case is materially different. If this verse be received, it must be admitted on the single testimony of the Western Church, as far at least as respects the external evidence. And though it may seem unwarrantable to set aside the authority of the Greek Church, and pay exclusive respect to the Latin, where a question arises on the authenticity of a passage which properly belongs to the text of the former; yet when the doctrine inculcated in that passage is taken into account, there may be good reason for giving even a preference to the Western Church over that of the Eastern. The former was uncorrupted by the heresy of the Arians, who rejected the doctrine of the passage in question; the latter was wholly resigned to that heresy for at least forty years, while the Western Church retained its purity. And while the testimony borne by the latter on the subject before us, is consistent and full; that borne by the former is internally defective. It is delivered in language, which has not even the merit of being grammatically correct; while the testimony of the latter is not only unexceptionable in itself, but possesses the singular merit of removing the aforementioned imperfection on being merely turned into Greek and inserted in the context of the original. Under these circumstances there seems to be little reasonableness in allowing the Western Church any authority, and denying it, in this instance, a preference over the Eastern.

But numberless circumstances conspire to strengthen the authority of the Latin Church in supporting the authenticity of this passage. The particular Church on whose testimony principally we receive the disputed verse, is that of Africa. And even at the first sight, it must be evident, that the most implicit respect is due to its testimony.

  1. In those great convulsions which agitated the Eastern and Western Churches for eight years, with scarcely any intermission, and which subjected the sacred text to the greatest changes through that vast tract of country which extends round the Levant, from Libya to Illyricum, the African provinces were exposed to the horrors of persecution but for an inconsiderable period. The Church, of course, which was established in this region neither required a new supply of sacred books nor received those which had been revised by Eusebius and St. Jerome, as removed out of the range of the influence of those ancient fathers.

  2. As the African Church possessed this competency to deliver a pure unsophisticated testimony on the subject before us; that which it has borne is as explicit as it is plenary, since it is delivered in a Confession prepared by the whole church assembled in council. After the African provinces had been overrun by the Vandals, Hunneric, their king, summoned the bishops of this church and of the adjacent isles to deliberate on the doctrine inculcated in the disputed passage. Between three and four hundred prelates attended the Council which met at Carthage; and Eugenius, as bishop of that see, drew up the Confession of the orthodox, in which the contested verse is expressly quoted. That a whole church should thus concur in quoting a verse which was not contained in the received text is wholly inconceivable; and admitting that 1 John v 7 was thus generally received, its universal prevalence in that text is only to be accounted for by supposing it to have existed in it from the beginning.

  3. The testimony which the African church has borne on the subject before us is not more strongly recommended by the universal consent, than the immemorial tradition of the evidence which attests the authenticity of the contested passage. Victor Vitensis and Fulgentius, Marcus Celedensis, St. Cyprian, and Tertullian, were Africans, and have referred to the verse before us. Of these witnesses, which follow each other at almost equal intervals, the first is referred to the age of Eugenius, the last to that nearly of the Apostles. They thus form a traditionary chain, carrying up the testimony of the African Church until it loses itself in time immemorial.

  4. The testimony of the African Church, which possesses these strong recommendations, receives confirmation from the corroborating evidence of other churches, which were similarly circumstanced. Phoebadius and Eucherius, the latter of whom had been translated from the Spanish to the Gallican Church, were members of the latter; and both these churches had been exempt, not less than the African, from the effects of Dioclesian’s persecution. Both those early fathers, Phoebadius and Eucherius, attest the authenticity of the contested passage; the testimony of the former is entitled to the greater respect as he boldly withstood the authority of Hosius whose influence tended to extend the Arian opinions in the Western world, at the very period in which he cited the contested passage. In addition to these witnesses we have, in the testimony of Maximus, the evidence of a person who visited the African Church, and who there becoming acquainted with the disputed passage wrote a tract for the purpose of employing it against the Arians. The testimony of these witnesses forms a valuable accession to that of the African Church.

  5. We may appeal to the testimony of the Greek Church in confirmation of the African Churches. Not to insist at present on positive testimonies, the disputed verse, though not supported by the text of the original Greek, is clearly supported by its context. The latter does not agree so well with itself, as it does with the testimony of the African Church. The grammatical structure which is imperfect in itself, directly recovers its original integrity on being filled up with the passage which is offered on the testimony of this witness. Thus far the testimony of the Greek Church is plainly corroborative of that of the Western.

  6. In fine, as Origen and Eusebius have both thought that one church becomes a sufficient voucher for one even of the sacred books of the Canon; and as Eusebius has borne the most unqualified evidence to the integrity and purity of the Church of Africa, we can have no just grounds for rejecting its testimony on a single verse of Scripture. And when we consider the weight of the argument arising in favor of this verse from the internal evidence; how forcibly the subject of it was pressed upon the attention of St. John; and how amply it is attested by that external evidence which is antecedent, though deficient in that which is subsequent, to the times of the apostles, our conviction must rise that this passage is authentic. But when we add the very obvious solution which this lack of subsequent evidence receives, from the probability that Eusebius suppressed this passage in the edition which he revised; and which became the received text of the Church, which remained in subjection to the Arians for the forty years that succeeded; I trust nothing further can be lacking to convince any ingenuous mind that 1 John v. 7. really proceeded from St. John the Evangelist.

I shall now venture to conclude, that the doctrinal integrity of the Greek Vulgate is established, in the vindication of these passages. It has been my endeavor to rest it upon its natural basis; the testimony of the two Churches, in the eastern and western world, in whose keeping the sacred trust was reposed. In two instances alone, which are of any moment, their testimony is found to vary; and in these the evidence is not discovered to be contradictory, but defective, and this merely on one side. To direct us, however, in judging between the witnesses the internal evidence at once reveals that an error lies on the side of that testimony which is less full, as it is not consistent when regarded alone. Hence, on confronting the witnesses, and correcting the defective testimony by that which is more explicit, every objection to which the former was originally exposed directly disappears. As this is a result which cannot be considered accidental, there seems to be no possible mode of accounting for it, but by supposing, that there was a period when the witnesses agreed in that testimony which is more full and explicit. However inadequate therefore either of the witnesses may be considered, when regarded separately, yet when their testimony is regarded comparatively it is competent to put us in possession of the truth in all instances, which are of any importance.

It is scarcely necessary any further to prolong this discussion by specifying the relative imperfection of those systems, to which the present scheme is opposed. Those of Dr. Bentley and M. Griesbach are fundamentally defective in sacrificing the testimony of the Eastern Church for the immense period, during which the Greek Vulgate has prevailed; that of M. Matthaei is scarcely less exceptionable, in rejecting the testimony of the Western Church for the still greater period during which it has been a witness and keeper of Holy Writ.

In fact, whoever saps the basis on which the integrity of the inspired Word is properly sustained, must necessarily build on a foundation of sand. Whether we build on the authority of Origen, or of the Ancient Manuscripts, or that of the Versions of the Oriental or of the Western Church, all our documents must be taken subject to the testimony of tradition. But it seems to be a strange perversion of reason which will lead any man to give a preference to such vouchers over the proper witnesses of the inspired Word. For while the testimony of the former is subject to the same casualties as that of the latter, in having the stream of tradition rendered turbid in its course; it is exposed to infinitely greater chances of corruption from external sources. Particular Manuscripts, not to speak of the sacred writings, yet of the ancient Fathers are liable to gross and willful corruption at the first; and Versions may be made, for aught we can determine, from corrupt copies, or by unskillful hands. In these possible cases, we are possessed of no certain criterion to arrive at the truth. But we must be assured, that the Sacred Writings were delivered in immaculate purity, to those churches, to whom they were committed; that they were guarded from corruption by commanding that veneration which has never been excited by any human work; and that they have been dispersed to a degree which rendered their universal corruption utterly impossible, and consequently not likely to be attempted. It seems therefore to savor of something worse than paradox to proceed on the supposition that the copies of Scripture are generally corrupted; and that the true reading may be acquired in other and suspicious sources.