Worship was not a means to evangelize or entertain.
Calvin and the Worship of God
Worship was an end in itself. Worship was not to be arranged by pragmatic considerations, but was rather to be determined by theological principles derived from the Scriptures. The most basic realities of the Christian life were involved. In worship God meets with his people to bless them. What could be more important? What should require more care and faithfulness? The importance Calvin placed on worship is reflected in his active involvement in reforming worship.
He not only had a theology of worship, but also a keen pastoral involvement in worship. He frequently led worship as pastor and preacher. He prepared service books or liturgies that his churches in Strassburg and Geneva followed. He eagerly promoted the preparation of the Genevan Psalter that ultimately included all of the Psalms in metrical form to be sung by the congregation. Calvin was concerned about the environment of worship. Pierre's, where he preached. All religious symbols including crosses were removed from the interior of the church.
The exterior cross on the top of St. Pierre's was not removed, but when it was destroyed by lightning, it was not replaced. As he worked on the reform of worship, several important influences played a role in the formation of his thought. The Bible was of course the most important. Calvin always sought to test his ideas against the standard of the Bible. But Calvin was no rugged individualist. He sought the wisdom and insight of other Christians into the Bible's teaching on worship. He carefully studied the ancient fathers of the church for their insights as is clear in this statement to the Roman Catholic bishop Jacopo Sadoleto:.
I will not press you so closely as to call you back to that form which the Apostles instituted though in it we have the only model of a true church, and whosoever deviates from it in the smallest degree is in error , but to indulge you so far, place, I pray, before your eyes, that ancient form of the Church, such as their writings prove it to have been in the age of Chrysostom and Basil, among the Greeks, and of Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine, among the Latins; after so doing, contemplate the ruins of that Church, as now surviving among yourselves. Of Calvin's contemporaries clearly the most influential on worship was Martin Bucer of Strassburg.
Calvin spent his years of exile from Geneva — in Strassburg, and Calvin closely followed Bucer's approach to the liturgy. Calvin's Sunday morning liturgy in Geneva was very similar to Bucer's. The basic order was as follows:. This pattern is the one regularly used by Calvin on Sunday mornings except that communion was not administered weekly. Calvin desired a weekly communion, but could never get permission from the city government to do so.
While Calvin was quite content to use form prayers and liturgies in the Sunday morning service, he also recognized a legitimate role for freedom from specific forms in worship. Calvin nowhere neatly listed his basic principles of worship. But a study of Calvin's writings and work points to several principles that flow from and reflect his theology. The first principle is, of course, the centrality of the Word of God. The Word not only directs worship, but is also very largely the content of worship.
The Word is read and preached, and the Word is also sung and seen in communion. The worshiper meets God through the Word. Criticism of Calvin's approach to worship often focuses on his stress upon the Bible. One such criticism is that Calvin is biblicistic in his approach to worship.
Language, Grammar and Literary Terms
Such a criticism declares that there is no Book of Leviticus in the New Testament and so the church has great freedom to worship as it sees best. Calvin's response would be that the absence of a Levitical book in the New Testament reflects more the simplicity of the church's worship in Christ than creative freedom.
For Calvin the teaching of the New Testament is full and complete as a guide and warrant for the simple worship of the children of God in the Spirit. No more freedom is given in the New Testament to invent forms of worship than was given in the Old. Calvin certainly recognized that incidental matters of worship are not specified in the Bible. In such areas the church has freedom under the general guidelines of the Word to reach specific decisions that will be edifying for the church.
But some time must be chosen and that choice should be based on what will best facilitate gathering for worship. Such decisions can be changed when necessary and can never be viewed as binding the conscience as if they were necessary for salvation. Another criticism of Calvin's stress on the Word is that Calvin's worship becomes too intellectual or didactic because of an excessive concentration on the Bible.
Calvin's defenders would respond that the Bible itself points to the importance of preaching and teaching, which is especially vital when knowledge of sound doctrine is at a low ebb. But defenders would also insist that his worship service is not solely or overwhelmingly intellectual. Congregational praise and prayer are key element" and in Calvin's ideal service communion weekly draws the worshiper back to the heart of the gospel. And, to speak more plainly, I rather experience than understand it.
A second basic principle for Calvin was simplicity. The maturity of the children of God in the new covenant meant that Christians were not dependent on the childish props of the old covenant. In Christ the Christian is already seated with Christ in the heavenlies and the need of visible supports for faith is greatly diminished:. What shall I say of ceremonies which, with Christ half buried, cause us to return to Jewish symbols?
Simplicity did not mean the absence of liturgical structure. Calvin's service with its movement from confession to praise to preaching to intercessions to communion shows that. Simplicity meant the removal of physical symbolism and ceremonies that were not instituted in the Bible. Simplicity is closely linked to spirituality. In the simplicity of the Spirit's power, Christ is present among his people in the preaching and sacrament. Nothing may be added to that divine arrangement. For the fault of caring more for ostentation rather than beneficial things was rife among them.
Closely related to simplicity is a third basic principle: worship is spiritual ascent. For Calvin Christians ascend into heaven while worshipping. Worship draws the Christian into heaven in communion with the ascended Christ. This ascent in worship is mysterious even for Calvin but a foundational current in his thought. The idea of ascent is part of the pattern of Christian experience flowing from Christ's saving work. Christ descended in his incarnation to lift us to heaven. Now, that the Mosaic ceremonies are abolished we worship at the footstool of God, when we yield a reverential submission to his word, and rise from the sacraments to a true spiritual service of him.
Knowing that God has not descended from heaven directly or in his absolute character, but that his feet are withdrawn from us, being placed on a footstool, we should be careful to rise to him by the intermediate steps. Christ is he not only on whom the feet of God rest, but in whom the whole fullness of God's essence and glory resides, and in him therefore, we should seek the Father. With this view he descended, that we might rise heavenward. Christ continues to help us heavenward as his Spirit descends to empower the Word and sacraments of the church.
He does not enjoin us to ascend forthwith into heaven, but, consulting our weakness, he descends to us We must not, however, imagine that the prophet suffered himself to rest in earthly elements, but only that he made use of them as a ladder, by which he might ascend to God, finding that he had not wings with which to fly thither. A visually elaborate context would interfere with our spiritual ascent binding our minds too much to earth. The reason why God holds images so much in abhorrence appears very plainly from this, that he cannot endure that the worship due to himself should be taken from him and given to them.
Averse to seek God in a spiritual manner, they therefore pull him down from his throne, and place him under inanimate things. A fourth basic principle for Calvin was reverence. Reverence is indeed a basic element of Christianity for him:. Both assume a universal fall from original holiness.
But Augustin dates it from one act of disobedience,—the historic fall of Adam, in whom the whole race was germinally included; while Origen goes back to a pre-historic fall of each individual soul, making each responsible for the abuse of freedom. Augustin proceeds to a special election of a people of God from the corrupt and condemned mass; he follows their history in two antagonistic lines, and ends in the dualistic contrast of an eternal heaven for the elect and an eternal hell for the reprobate, including among the latter even unbaptized infants horribile dictu!
He would not allow revolutions and radical changes or different types of Christianity. Flint, in his Philosophy of History in Europe, I. Its main defect is that it places in the Church an authority other than, and virtually higher than, Scripture and reason, to determine what is true and false in the development of doctrine. The present translation, the first accurate and readable one in the English language, was prepared by the accomplished editor of the Works of Aurelius Augustin, published by T.
Clark of Edinburgh. Dods by letter and in person to re-edit it for this Patristic Series with such changes and additions as he might wish to make, but he declined, partly from want of leisure, and partly for a reason which I must state in his own language. I was very much gratified to hear that you meant to adopt it into your Series; and the best reward of my labor on it is that now with your additional notes and improvements, it is likely to find a wider circulation than it could otherwise have had.
But in this expectation the reader will be disappointed. The translation is far better than I could have made it, and it would have been presumption on my part to attempt to improve it. The notes, too, are all to the point and leave little to be desired. I have only added a few. Thalhofer, but I found nothing in the occasional foot-notes which is better than those of Dr.
The present edition, therefore, is little more than a careful reproduction of that of my esteemed Scotch friend, who deserves the undivided credit of making this famous work of the Bishop of Hippo accessible to the English reader. I have included in this volume the four books of St. Augustin On Christian Doctrine. Although it is superseded as a scientific work by modern Hermeneutics and Critical Introductions to the Old and New Testaments, it is not surpassed for originality, depth and spiritual insight.
The translation was prepared by the Rev. Professor J. Shaw, of Londonderry, and is likewise all that can be desired. I have enlarged the introductory note and added a table of contents. It was this which kindled my zeal for the house of God, and prompted me to undertake the defence of the city of God against the charges and misrepresentations of its assailants. This work was in my hands for several years, owing to the interruptions occasioned by many other affairs which had a prior claim on my attention, and which I could not defer.
However, this great undertaking was at last completed in twenty-two books.
The Sixth and Seventh Books of Moses
Of these, the first five refute those who fancy that the polytheistic worship is necessary in order to secure worldly prosperity, and that all these overwhelming calamities have befallen us in consequence of its prohibition. In the following five books I address myself to those who admit that such calamities have at all times attended, and will at all times attend, the human race, and that they constantly recur in forms more or less disastrous, varying only in the scenes, occasions, and persons on whom they light, but, while admitting this, maintain that the worship of the gods is advantageous for the life to come.
In these ten books, then, I refute these two opinions, which are as groundless as they are antagonistic to the Christian religion. Of these twelve books, the first four contain an account of the origin of these two cities—the city of God, and the city of the world. The second four treat of their history or progress; the third and last four, of their deserved destinies. And so, though all these twenty-two books refer to both cities, yet I have named them after the better city, and called them The City of God.
Such is the account given by Augustin himself 2 of the occasion and plan of this his greatest work. But in addition to this explicit information, we learn from the correspondence 3 of Augustin, that it was due to the importunity of his friend Marcellinus that this defence of Christianity extended beyond the limits of a few letters. Shortly before the fall of Rome, Marcellinus had been sent to Africa by the Emperor Honorius to arrange a settlement of the differences between the Donatists and the Catholics. This brought him into contact not only with Augustin, but with Volusian, the proconsul of Africa, and a man of rare intelligence and candor.
Finding that Volusian, though as yet a pagan, took an interest in the Christian religion, Marcellinus set his heart on converting him to the true faith. The details of the subsequent significant intercourse between the learned and courtly bishop and the two imperial statesmen, are unfortunately almost entirely lost to us; but the impression conveyed by the extant correspondence is, that Marcellinus was the means of bringing his two friends into communication with one another.
Volusian accordingly enters into correspondence with Augustin; and in order to illustrate the kind of difficulties experienced by men in his position, he gives some graphic notes of a conversation in which he had recently taken part at a gathering of some of his friends. The difficulty to which most weight is attached in this letter, is the apparent impossibility of believing in the Incarnation. This letter, in short, brought out the important fact, that a removal of speculative doubts would not suffice for the conversion of such men as Volusian, whose life was one with the life of the empire.
Their difficulties were rather political, historical, and social. They could not see how the reception of the Christian rule of life was compatible Edition: current; Page: [ xii ] with the interests of Rome as the mistress of the world. From this brief sketch, it will be seen that though the accompanying work is essentially an Apology, the Apologetic of Augustin can be no mere rehabilitation of the somewhat threadbare, if not effete, arguments of Justin and Tertullian.
But it is the occasion of this great Apology which invests it at once with grandeur and vitality. After more than eleven hundred years of steady and triumphant progress, Rome had been taken and sacked. It is difficult for us to appreciate, impossible to overestimate, the shock which was thus communicated from centre to circumference of the whole known world.
It was generally believed, not only by the heathen, but also by many of the most liberal-minded of the Christians, that the destruction of Rome would be the prelude to the destruction of the world. My voice falters, sobs stifle the words I dictate; for she is a captive, that city which enthralled the world.
He sees that human history and human destiny are not wholly identified with the history of any earthly power—not though it be as cosmopolitan as the empire of Rome. He traces the antagonism of these two grand communities of rational creatures back to their first divergence in the fall of the angels, and down to the consummation of all things in the last judgment and eternal destination of the good and evil. The effect produced by this great work it is impossible to determine with accuracy.
Beugnot, with an absoluteness which we should condemn as presumption in any less competent authority, declares that its effect can only have been very slight. Certainly its effect must have been weakened by the interrupted manner of its publication. It is an easier task to estimate its intrinsic value. But on this also patristic and literary authorities widely differ. Dupin admits that it is very pleasant reading, owing to the surprising variety of matters which are introduced to illustrate and forward the argument, but censures the author for discussing very useless questions, and for adducing reasons which could satisfy no one who was not already convinced.
This popularity may be measured by the circumstance that, between the year and the end of the fifteenth century, no fewer than twenty editions were called for, that is to say, a fresh edition every eighteen months. Its importance as a contribution to the history of opinion cannot be overrated. That Augustin is a well-informed and impartial critic, is evinced by the courteousness and candor which he uniformly displays to his opponents, by the respect he won from the heathen themselves, and by his own early life.
The most rigorous criticism has found him at fault regarding matters of fact only in some very rare instances, which can be easily accounted for. His learning would not indeed stand comparison with what is accounted such in our day: his life was too busy, and too devoted to the poor and to the spiritually necessitous, to admit of any extraordinary acquisition. He had access to no literature but the Latin; or at least he had only sufficient Greek to enable him to refer to Greek authors on points of importance, and not enough to enable him to read their writings with ease and pleasure.
But the interest attaching to the City of God is not merely historical. It is the earnestness and ability with which he develops his own philosophical and theological views which gradually fascinate the reader, and make him see why the world has set this among the few greatest books of all time. The fundamental lines of the Augustinian theology are here laid down in a comprehensive and interesting form.
Never was thought so abstract expressed in language so popular. He is never more at home than when exposing the incompetency of Neoplatonism, or demonstrating the harmony of Christian doctrine and true philosophy. And though there are in the City of God, as in all ancient books, things that seem to us childish and barren, there are also the most surprising anticipations of modern speculation.
As we read these animated discussions,. Saisset says. The book has its faults; but it effectually introduces us to the most influential of theologians, and the greatest popular teacher; to a genius that cannot nod for many lines together; to a reasoner whose dialectic is more formidable, more keen and sifting, than that of Socrates or Aquinas; to a saint whose ardent and genuine devotional feeling bursts up through the severest argumentation; to a man whose kindliness and wit, universal sympathies and breadth of intelligence, lend piquancy and vitality to the most abstract dissertation.
The propriety of publishing a translation of so choice a specimen of ancient literature needs no defence. As Poujoulat very sensibly remarks, there are not a great many men now-a-days who will read a work in Latin of twenty-two books. Perhaps there are fewer still who ought to do so. With our busy neighbors in France, this work has been a prime favorite for years.
There may be said to be eight independent translations of it into the French tongue, though some of these are in part merely revisions. One of these translations has gone through as many as four editions. The most recent is that which forms part of the Nisard series; but the best, so far as we have seen, is that of the accomplished Professor of Philosophy in the College of France, Emile Saisset.
This translation is indeed all that can be desired: here and there an omission occurs, and about one or two renderings a difference of opinion may exist; but the exceeding felicity and spirit of the whole show it to have been a labor of love, the fond homage of a disciple proud of his master. The preface of M. Of English translations there has been an unaccountable poverty.
Only one exists, 3 and this so exceptionally bad, so unlike the racy translations of the seventeenth century in general, so inaccurate, and so frequently unintelligible, that it is not impossible it may have done something towards giving the English public a distaste for the book itself. That the present translation also might be improved, we know; that many men were fitter for the task, on the score of scholarship, we are very sensible; but that any one would have executed it with intenser affection and veneration for the author, we are not prepared to admit.
A few notes have been added where it appeared to be necessary. Some are original, some from the Benedictine Augustin, and the rest from the elaborate commentary of Vives. Dods indicates his associates in the work of translation and annotation as follows:. George Wilson, Glenluce; Books V. The glorious city of God 1 is my theme in this work, which you, my dearest son Marcellinus, 2 suggested, and which is due to you by my promise. A great work this, and an arduous; but God is my helper.
For I am aware what ability is requisite to persuade the proud how great is the virtue of humility, which raises us, not by a quite human arrogance, but by a divine grace, above all earthly dignities that totter on this shifting scene. And therefore, as the plan of this work we have undertaken requires, and as occasion offers, we must speak also of the earthly city, which, though it be mistress of the nations, is itself ruled by its lust of rule.
For to this earthly city belong the enemies against whom I have to defend the city of God. The reliquaries of the martyrs and the churches of the apostles bear witness to this; for in the sack of the city they were open sanctuary for all who fled to them, whether Christian or Pagan. To their very threshold the blood-thirsty enemy raged; there his murderous fury owned a limit. Thither did such of the enemy as had any pity convey those to whom they had given quarter, lest any less mercifully disposed might fall upon them.
And, indeed, when even those murderers who everywhere else showed themselves pitiless came to those spots where that was forbidden which the license of war permitted in every other place, their furious rage for slaughter was bridled, and their eagerness to take prisoners was quenched. Thus escaped multitudes who now reproach the Christian religion, and impute to Christ the ills that have befallen their city; but the preservation of their own life—a boon which they owe to the respect entertained for Christ by the barbarians—they attribute not to our Christ, but to their own good luck.
They ought rather, had they any right perceptions, to attribute the severities and hardships inflicted by their enemies, to that divine providence which is wont to reform the depraved manners of men by chastisement, and which exercises with similar afflictions the righteous and praise-worthy,—either translating them, when they have passed through the trial, to a better world, or detaining them still on earth for ulterior purposes.
Therefore ought they to give God thanks, and with sincere confession flee for refuge to His name, that so they may escape the punishment of eternal fire—they who with lying lips took upon them this name, that they might escape the punishment of present destruction. Yet now, in ungrateful pride and most impious madness, and at the risk of being punished in everlasting darkness, they perversely oppose that name under which they fraudulently protected themselves for the sake of enjoying the light of this brief life.
There are histories of numberless wars, both before the building of Rome and since its rise and the extension of its dominion; let these be read, and let one instance be cited in which, when a city had been taken by foreigners, the victors spared those who were found to have fled for sanctuary to the temples of their gods; 2 or one instance in which a barbarian general gave orders that none should be put to the sword who had been found in this or that temple. For after this they conquered and destroyed Troy with fire and sword; after this they beheaded Priam as he fled to the altars.
Neither did Troy perish because it lost Minerva. For what had Minerva herself first lost, that she should perish? Her guards perhaps? No doubt; just her guards. For as soon as they were slain, she could be stolen. It was not, in fact, the men who were preserved by the image, but the image by the men. How, Edition: current; Page: [ 3 ] then, was she invoked to defend the city and the citizens, she who could not defend her own defenders? And these be the gods to whose protecting care the Romans were delighted to entrust their city! O too, too piteous mistake!
And they are enraged at us when we speak thus about their gods, though, so far from being enraged at their own writers, they part with money to learn what they say; and, indeed, the very teachers of these authors are reckoned worthy of a salary from the public purse, and of other honors. There is Virgil, who is read by boys, in order that this great poet, this most famous and approved of all poets, may impregnate their virgin minds, and may not readily be forgotten by them, according to that saying of Horace,.
And ought prudent men to have entrusted the defence of Rome to these conquered gods? But it will be said, this was only the saying of Juno, who, like an angry woman, did not know what she was saying. If, then, Virgil says that the gods were such as these, and were conquered, and that when conquered they could not escape except under the protection of a man, what a madness is it to suppose that Rome had been wisely entrusted to these guardians, and could not have been taken unless it had lost them!
Indeed, to worship conquered gods as protectors and champions, what is this but to worship, not good divinities, but evil omens? For who does not see, when he thinks of it, what a foolish assumption it is that they could not be vanquished under vanquished defenders, and that they only perished because they had lost their guardian gods, when, indeed, the only cause of their perishing was that they chose for their protectors gods condemned to perish? The poets, therefore, when they composed and sang these things about the conquered gods, had no intention to invent falsehoods, but uttered, as honest men, what the truth extorted from them.
This, however, will be carefully and copiously discussed in another and more fitting place. In the places consecrated to Christ, where for His sake no enemy would injure them, they restrained their tongues that they might be safe and protected; but no sooner do they emerge from these sanctuaries, than they unbridle these tongues to hurl against Him curses full of hate. Troy itself, the mother of the Roman people, was not able, as I have said, to protect its own citizens in the sacred places of their gods from the fire and sword of the Greeks, though the Greeks worshipped the same gods.
Not only so, but. In other words, the place consecrated to so great a goddess was chosen, not that from it none might be led out a captive, but that in it all the captives might be immured. Into it were collected the spoils rescued from the blazing temples and snatched from the gods, not that they might be restored to the vanquished, but divided among the victors; while into these was carried back, with the most religious observance and respect, everything which belonged to them, even though found elsewhere.
There liberty was lost; here preserved. There bondage was strict; here strictly excluded. Into that temple men were driven to become the chattels of their enemies, now lording it over them; into these churches men were led by their relenting foes, that they might be at liberty. In fine, the gentle 2 Greeks appropriated that temple of Juno to the purposes of their own avarice and pride; while these churches of Christ were chosen even by the savage barbarians as the fit scenes for humility and mercy.
But perhaps, after all, the Greeks did in that victory of theirs spare the temples of those gods whom they worshipped in common with the Trojans, and did not dare to put to the sword or make captive the wretched and vanquished Trojans who fled thither; and perhaps Virgil, in the manner of poets, has depicted what never really happened?
But there is no question that he depicted the usual custom of an enemy when sacking a city. And the Roman temples were in danger of these disasters, not from foreign foes, but from Catiline and his associates, the most noble senators and citizens of Rome. But these, it may be said, were abandoned men, and the parricides of their fatherland.
Why, then, need our argument take note of the many nations who have waged wars with one another, and have nowhere spared the conquered in the temples of their gods? Or have they really done this, and has the fact been suppressed by the historians of these events? Is it to be believed, that men who sought out with the greatest eagerness points they could praise, would omit those which, in their own estimation, are the most signal proofs of piety?
Marcus Marcellus, a distinguished Roman, who took Syracuse, a most splendidly adorned city, is reported to have bewailed its coming ruin, and to have shed his own tears over it before he spilt its blood. He took steps also to preserve the chastity even of his enemy. For before he gave orders for the storming of the city, he issued an edict forbidding the violation of any free person. Yet the city was sacked according to the custom of war; nor do we anywhere read, that even by so chaste and gentle a commander orders were given that no one should be injured who had fled to this or that temple.
And this certainly would by no means have been omitted, when neither his weeping nor his edict preservative of chastity could be passed in silence. Fabius, the conqueror of the city of Tarentum, is praised for abstaining from making booty of the images. For when his secretary proposed the question to him, what he wished done with Edition: current; Page: [ 5 ] the statues of the gods, which had been taken in large numbers, he veiled his moderation under a joke.
All the spoiling, then, which Rome was exposed to in the recent calamity—all the slaughter, plundering, burning, and misery—was the result of the custom of war. But what was novel, was that savage barbarians showed themselves in so gentle a guise, that the largest churches were chosen and set apart for the purpose of being filled with the people to whom quarter was given, and that in them none were slain, from them none forcibly dragged; that into them many were led by their relenting enemies to be set at liberty, and that from them none were led into slavery by merciless foes.
Whoever does not see that this is to be attributed to the name of Christ, and to the Christian temper, is blind; whoever sees this, and gives no praise, is ungrateful; whoever hinders any one from praising it, is mad. Far be it from any prudent man to impute this clemency to the barbarians. Will some one say, Why, then, was this divine compassion extended even to the ungodly and ungrateful? And so, too, does the mercy of God embrace the good that it may cherish them, as the severity of God arrests the wicked to punish them.
To the divine providence it has seemed good to prepare in the world to come for the righteous good things, which the unrighteous shall not enjoy; and for the wicked evil things, by which the good shall not be tormented. But as for the good things of this life, and its ills, God has willed that these should be common to both; that we might not too eagerly covet the things which wicked men are seen equally to enjoy, nor shrink with an unseemly fear from the ills which even good men often suffer.
There is, too, a very great difference in the purpose served both by those events which we call adverse and those called prosperous. For if every sin were now visited with manifest punishment, nothing would seem to be reserved for the final judgment; on the other hand, if no sin received now a plainly divine punishment, it would be concluded that there is no divine providence at all. And so of the good things of this life: if God did not by a very visible liberality confer these on some of those persons who ask for them, we should say that these good things were not at His disposal; and if He gave them to all who sought them, we should suppose that such were the only rewards of His service; and such a service would make us not godly, but greedy rather, and covetous.
Wherefore, though good and bad men suffer alike, we must not suppose that there is no difference between the men themselves, because there is no Edition: current; Page: [ 6 ] difference in what they both suffer. For even in the likeness of the sufferings, there remains an unlikeness in the sufferers; and though exposed to the same anguish, virtue and vice are not the same thing. For as the same fire causes gold to glow brightly, and chaff to smoke; and under the same flail the straw is beaten small, while the grain is cleansed; and as the lees are not mixed with the oil, though squeezed out of the vat by the same pressure, so the same violence of affliction proves, purges, clarifies the good, but damns, ruins, exterminates the wicked.
And thus it is that in the same affliction the wicked detest God and blaspheme, while the good pray and praise. So material a difference does it make, not what ills are suffered, but what kind of man suffers them. For, stirred up with the same movement, mud exhales a horrible stench, and ointment emits a fragrant odor. What, then, have the Christians suffered in that calamitous period, which would not profit every one who duly and faithfully considered the following circumstances? First of all, they must humbly consider those very sins which have provoked God to fill the world with such terrible disasters; for although they be far from the excesses of wicked, immoral, and ungodly men, yet they do not judge themselves so clean removed from all faults as to be too good to suffer for these even temporal ills.
For every man, however laudably he lives, yet yields in some points to the lust of the flesh. Though he do not fall into gross enormity of wickedness, and abandoned viciousness, and abominable profanity, yet he slips into some sins, either rarely or so much the more frequently as the sins seem of less account.
But not to mention this, where can we readily find a man who holds in fit and just estimation those persons on account of whose revolting pride, luxury, and avarice, and cursed iniquities and impiety, God now smites the earth as His predictions threatened? Where is the man who lives with them in the style in which it becomes us to live with them? For often we wickedly blind ourselves to the occasions of teaching and admonishing them, sometimes even of reprimanding and chiding them, either because we shrink from the labor or are ashamed to offend them, or because we fear to lose good friendships, lest this should stand in the way of our advancement, or injure us in some worldly matter, which either our covetous disposition desires to obtain, or our weakness shrinks from losing.
So that, although the conduct of wicked men is distasteful to the good, and therefore they do not fall with them into that damnation which in the next life awaits such persons, yet, because they spare their damnable sins through fear, therefore, even though their own sins be slight and venial, they are justly scourged with the wicked in this world, though in eternity they quite escape punishment. Justly, when God afflicts them in common with the wicked, do they find this life bitter, through love of whose sweetness they declined to be bitter to these sinners.
But what is blameworthy is, that they who themselves revolt from the conduct of the wicked, and live in quite another fashion, yet spare those faults in other men which they ought to reprehend and wean them from; and spare them because they fear to give offence, lest they should injure their interests in those things which good men may innocently and legitimately use,—though they use them more greedily than becomes persons who are strangers in this world, and profess the hope of a heavenly country.
For not only the weaker brethren who enjoy married life, and have children or desire to have them , and own houses and establishments, whom the apostle addresses in the churches, warning and instructing them how they should live, both the wives with their husbands, and the husbands with their wives, the children with their parents, and parents with their children, and servants with their masters, and masters with their servants,—not only do these weaker brethren gladly obtain and grudgingly lose many earthly and temporal things on account of which they dare not offend men whose polluted and wicked life greatly displeases them; but those also who live at a higher level, who are not entangled in the meshes of married life, but use meagre food and raiment, do often take thought of their own safety and good name, and abstain from finding fault with the wicked, because they fear their wiles and violence.
And although they do not fear them to such an extent as to be drawn to the commission of like iniquities, nay, not by any threats or violence soever; yet those very deeds which Edition: current; Page: [ 7 ] they refuse to share in the commission of, they often decline to find fault with, when possibly they might by finding fault prevent their commission. They abstain from interference, because they fear that, if it fail of good effect, their own safety or reputation may be damaged or destroyed; not because they see that their preservation and good name are needful, that they may be able to influence those who need their instruction, but rather because they weakly relish the flattery and respect of men, and fear the judgments of the people, and the pain or death of the body; that is to say, their non-intervention is the result of selfishness, and not of love.
Accordingly this seems to me to be one principal reason why the good are chastised along with the wicked, when God is pleased to visit with temporal punishments the profligate manners of a community. In this service they continued personally to labor for a considerable time, first among their countrymen the Jews, and then among the other nations. During the period between the resurrection and the publication of the New Testament, the churches possessed miraculous gifts, and the prophets were enabled to explain the predictions of the Old Testament, and to show their fulfilment.
After their doctrine had every where attracted attention, and, in spite of the most violent opposition, had forced its way through the civilized world; and when churches or societies of Christians were collected, not only in Judea, but in the most celebrated cities of Italy, Greece, and Asia Minor, the Scriptures of the New Testament were written by the Apostles, and other inspired men, and intrusted to the keeping of these churches. The whole of the New Testament was not written at once, but in different parts, and on various occasions.
Six of the Apostles, and two inspired disciples who accompanied them in their journeys, were employed in this work. The histories which it contains of the life of Christ, known by the name of the Gospels, were composed by four of his contemporaries, two of whom had been constant attendants on his public ministry. The history called the "Acts of the Apostles," which contains an account of their proceedings, and of the progress of the Gospel from Jerusalem among the gentile nations, was published about the year 64, being 30 years after our Lord's crucifixion, by one who, although not an Apostle, declares that he had "perfect understanding of all things, from the very first," and who had written one of the Gospels.
This book, commencing with a detail of proceedings from the resurrection of Jesus Christ, carries down the evangelical history till the arrival of Paul as a prisoner at Rome. The Epistles, addressed to churches in particular places, to believers scattered up and down in different countries, or to individuals, in all twenty-one in number, were separately written, by five of the Apostles, from seventeen to twenty, thirty, and thirty-five years after the death of Christ. Four of these writers had accompanied the Lord Jesus during his life, and had been "eye-witnesses of his majesty.
These several pieces, which compose the Scriptures of the New Testament, were received by the churches with the highest veneration; and, as the instructions they contain, though partially addressed, were equally intended for all, they were immediately copied, and handed about from one church to another, till each was in possession of the whole. The volume of the New Testament was thus completed before the death of the last of the Apostles, most of whom had sealed their testimony with their blood.
From the manner in which these Scriptures were at first circulated, some of their parts were necessarily longer in reaching certain places than others. These, of course, could not be so soon received into the canon as the rest. These, however, though not universally, were generally acknowledged; while all the other books of the New Testament were without dispute received from the beginning.
This discrimination proves the scrupulous care of the first churches on this highly important subject. At length these books, which had not at first been admitted, were, like the rest, universally received, not by the votes of a council, as is sometimes asserted, but after deliberate and free inquiry by many separate churches, under the superintending providence of God, in different parts of the world.
It is at the same time a certain fact, that no other books, besides those which at present compose the volume of the New Testament, were admitted by the churches. Several Apocryphal writings were published under the name of Jesus Christ and his Apostles, which are mentioned by the writers of the first four centuries, most of which have perished, though some are still extant. Few or none of them were composed before the second century, and several of them were forged so late as the third century.
But they were not acknowledged as authentic by the first Christians, and were rejected, by those who have noticed them, as spurious and heretical. This agreement of Christians respecting the Scriptures, when we consider their many differences in other respects, is the more remarkable, since it took place without any public authority being interposed.
Probably the decree of this council rather declared than regulated the public judgment, or, more properly speaking, the judgment of some neighboring churches—the council itself consisting of no more than thirty or forty bishops of Lydia and the adjoining countries. Nor does its authority seem to have extended farther. The churches at the beginning, being widely separated from each other, necessarily judged for themselves in this matter, and the decree of the council was founded on the coincidence of their judgment. In delivering this part of his written revelation, God proceeded as he had done in the publication of the Old Testament Scriptures.
For a considerable time, his will was declared to mankind through the medium of oral tradition. At length he saw meet, in his wisdom, to give it a more permanent form. But this did not take place, till a nation, separated from all others, was provided for its reception. In the same manner, when Jesus Christ set up his kingdom in the world, of which the nation of Israel was a type, he first made known his will by means of verbal communication, through his servants, whom he commissioned and sent out for that purpose; and when, through their means, he had prepared his subjects and collected them into churches, to be the depositaries of his Word, he caused it to be delivered to them in writing.
His kingdom was not to consist of any particular nation, like that of Israel, but of all those individuals, in every part of the world, who should believe in his name. It was to be ruled, not by means of human authority, or compulsion of any kind, but solely by his authority. These sacred writings were thus intrusted to a people prepared for their reception — a nation among the nations, but singularly distinct from all the rest, who guarded and preserved them with the same inviolable attachment as the Old Testament Scriptures had experienced from the Jews.
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Respecting the lateness of the time when the Scriptures of the New Testament were written, no objection can be offered, since they were published before that generation passed which had witnessed the transactions they record. The dates of these writings fall within the period of the lives of many who were in full manhood when the Lord Jesus Christ was upon earth; and the facts detailed in the histories, and referred to in the Epistles, being of the most public nature, were still open to full investigation.
It must also be recollected, that the Apostles and disciples, during the whole intermediate period, were publicly proclaiming to the world the same things which were afterwards recorded in their writings. Had these Scriptures been published before societies of Christians were in existence, to whose care could they have been intrusted? What security would there have been for their preservation, or that they would not have been corrupted? In the way which was adopted, they were committed to faithful men, who, viewing them as the charter of their own salvation, and the doctrine which they contained as the appointed means of rescuing their fellow-creatures from misery and guilt, watched over their preservation with the most zealous and assiduous care.
But unless the whole manner of communicating the revelation of God, in these Scriptures, had been altered, it is not possible that, excepting the accounts of the life of Jesus Christ, they could have been earlier committed to writing. The history of the Acts of the Apostles, being carried down to about the year 63 of the Christian era, could not, it is evident, have been published sooner.
The Epistles are not addressed to men of the world, or to the whole inhabitants of particular countries, but exclusively to believers. The truth conveyed in them is not delivered in an abstract form, but in the way of immediate application to existing cases and circumstances. This practical method of communicating the doctrine, and of recording the laws of the kingdom of Christ, which commends itself to every reflecting mind, could not, it is manifest, have been adopted till societies of Christians were in existence, and till they had existed for some considerable time.
In this way, too, we have an undeniable proof of the success of the Apostles in the rapid progress of the Gospel. We are made acquainted, as we could not otherwise have been, with their zeal, resolution, self-denial, disinterestedness, patience, and meekness, and have the most convincing evidence of the extraordinary gifts they possessed. We are also put in possession of indubitable evidence of the miraculous gifts conferred on the first Christians, as well as of their sincerity, courage, and patience. Thus were the Scriptures, as we now possess them, delivered to the first churches.
By the concurrent testimony of all antiquity, both of friends and foes, they were received by Christians of different sects, and were constantly appealed to on all hands, in the controversies that arose among them. Commentaries upon them were written at a very early period, and translations made into different languages. Formal catalogues of them were published, and they were attacked by the adversaries of Christianity, who not only did not question, but expressly admitted, the facts they contained, and that they were the genuine productions of the persons whose names they bore.
In this manner the Scriptures were also secured from the danger of being in any respect altered or vitiated. If such an attempt had been made by any one, his design would have been prevented and defeated. His alterations would have been immediately detected by many and more ancient copies. The difficulty of succeeding in such an attempt is apparent hence, that the Scriptures were early translated into divers languages, and copies of them were numerous. The alterations which any one attempted to make would have been soon perceived; just even as now, in fact, lesser faults in some copies are amended by comparing ancient copies or those of the original.
If any one," continues Augustine, "should charge you with having interpolated some texts alleged by you as favorable to your cause, what would you say? Would you not immediately answer that it is impossible for you to do such a thing in books read by all Christians? Well, then, for the same reason that the Scriptures cannot be corrupted by you, neither could they be corrupted by any other people. Accordingly, the uniformity of the manuscripts of the Holy Scriptures that are extant, which are incomparably more numerous than those of any ancient author, and which are dispersed through so many countries, and in so great a variety of languages, is truly astonishing.
It demonstrates both the veneration in which the Scriptures have always been held, and the singular care that has been taken in transcribing them. The number of various readings, that by the most minute and laborious investigation and collations of manuscripts have been discovered in them, said to amount to one hundred and fifty thousand, though at first sight they may seem calculated to diminish confidence in the sacred text, yet in no degree whatever do they affect its credit and, integrity.
They consist almost wholly in palpable errors in transcription, grammatical and verbal differences, such as the insertion or omission of a letter or article, the substitution of a word for its equivalent, the transposition of a word or two in a sentence. Taken altogether, they neither change nor affect a single doctrine or duty announced or enjoined in the Word of God.
In proof that the Scriptures were published and delivered to the churches in the age to which their dates refer, we have the attestation of a connected chain of Christian writers, from that period to the present day. No fewer than six of these authors, parts of whose works are still extant, were contemporaries of the Apostles.
He is the author of an Epistle, which was well known among the early Christians. It is still extant, and refers to the Apostolic writings. He has left a long Epistle, which is extant, though not entire, written in name of the church at Rome to the church at Corinth, in which the latter is admonished to adhere to the commands of Christ. Irenaeus says that it was written by Clement, "who had seen the blessed Apostles, and conversed with them; who had the preaching of the Apostles still sounding in his ears, and their traditions before his eyes. Nor he alone, for there were then still many alive, who had been taught by the Apostles.
In the time therefore of this Clement, when there was no small dissension among the brethren at Corinth, the church at Rome sent a most excellent letter to the Corinthians, persuading them to peace among themselves. He suffered martyrdom at Rome under the Emperor Trajan. Ignatius has left several Epistles that are still extant, which give testimony to Jesus Christ and his doctrine. He declares, that he "fled to the Gospels as the flesh of Jesus, and to the Apostles as the elders of the church.
He was appointed by the Apostles Bishop of the church at Smyrna. One Epistle of his still remains, which evinces the respect that he and other Christians bore for the Scriptures. Irenaeus, who, in his youth, bad been a disciple of Polycarp, says, concerning him, in a letter to Florinus, — "I saw you when I was very young, in the Lower Asia with Polycarp. For I better remember the affairs of that time, than those which have lately happened; the things which we learn in our childhood growing up with the soul, and uniting themselves to it.
Insomuch, that I can tell the place in which the blessed Polycarp sat and taught, and his going out and coming in, and the manner of his life, and, the form of his person, and the discourses he made to the people; and how he related his conversation with John, and others who had seen the Lord; and how he related their sayings, and what he had heard from them concerning the Lord; both concerning his miracles and his doctrine, as he had received them from the eye-witnesses of the Word of Life: all which Polycarp related agreeable to the Scriptures.
These things I then, through the mercy of God toward me, diligently heard and attended to, recording them not on paper, but upon my heart. And through the grace of God, I continually renew the remembrance of them. Thus, like Ignatius, he confirmed his testimony to the Scriptures with his blood. He was the author of five books, which are now lost, but which, according to quotations from them that remain, bore testimony to the Scriptures.
The above six writers had all lived and conversed with some of the Apostles. Those parts which remain of the writings of the first five, who are called the Apostolical Fathers, are valuable by their antiquity; and all of them contain some important testimony to the Scriptures. He was born about the year 89, and suffered martyrdom about the year Originally he had been a Heathen philosopher; and, in his dialogue with Trypho the Jew, he relates the circumstances of his conversion to Christianity.
From his works might be extracted almost a complete life of Christ; and he uniformly represents the Scriptures as containing the authentic account of his doctrine. He particularly mentions the Acts of the Apostles, along with the books of the Old Testament, which were also regularly read, as in the Jewish synagogues; and he appeals to the Scriptures as writings open to all the world, and read by Jews and Gentiles.
He presented two apologies for the Christian religion; the first to the Emperor Antoninus Pius, in the year ; the second to Marcus Antoninus, the philosopher, in the year Both these apologies are still extant; the first entire; of the second, the beginning is wanting. Hegesippus relates, that, travelling from Palestine to Rome, he visited in his journey many bishops; and that "in every succession, and in every city, the same doctrine is taught, which the law, and the prophets, and the Lord teacheth.
About the year , the churches of Lyons and Vienne, in France, sent a relation of the persecutions they suffered to the churches in Asia and Phrygia. This letter, which is preserved entire, makes exact references to the Scriptures. In his youth, as has been already noticed, he had been a disciple of Polycarp, who was a disciple of the Apostle John. Thus he was only one step removed from the Apostles. Irenaeus gives a most ample testimony, both to the genuineness and the authenticity of the Scriptures. For after that our Lord rose from the dead, and they the Apostles were endued from above with the power of the Holy Ghost coming down upon them, they received a perfect knowledge of all things.
They then went forth to all the ends of the earth, declaring to men the blessing of heavenly peace, having, all of them, and every one alike, the Gospel of God. Matthew, then among the Jews, wrote a Gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel at Rome, and founding a church there. And after their exit, death or departure, Mark, also, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, delivered to us in writing the things that had been preached by Peter; and Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the Gospel preached by him, Paul.
Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon his breast, he likewise published a Gospel while he dwelt at Ephesus, in Asia. And all these have delivered to us, that there is one God, the Maker of the heaven and the earth, declared by the law and the prophets, and one Christ, the Son of God.
And he who does not assent to them, despiseth indeed those who knew the mind of the Lord: but he despiseth also Christ himself, the Lord; and he despiseth likewise the Father, and is self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as all heretics do. We might enumerate all those who have been appointed bishops to those churches by the Apostles, and all their successors up to our days.
It is by this uninterrupted succession that we have received the tradition which actually exists in the church, and also the doctrine of truth as it is preached by the Apostles. After giving some reasons why he supposed the number of the Gospels was precisely four, Irenaeus says, "Whence it is manifest that the Word, the Former of all things, who sits upon the cherubim, and upholds all things, having appeared to men, has given to us a Gospel of a fourfold character, but joined in one spirit. Matthew relates his generation, which is according to men: 'The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
The above passage distinctly ascertains, that the four Gospels, as we have them, and no more, were equally received and acknowledged by the first churches. Irenaeus further says, "The Gospel according to Matthew was written to the Jews, for they earnestly desired a Messiah of the seed of David; and Matthew, having also the same desire to a yet greater degree, strove by all means to give them full satisfaction that Christ was of the seed of David, wherefore he began with his genealogy.
For there are many, and those very necessary, parts of the Gospel, which we know by his means. The Acts of the Apostles is a book much quoted by Irenaeus, as written by Luke, the companion of the Apostles. There are few things recorded in that book, which have not been mentioned by him. Irenaeus quotes largely from the Epistles of Paul, and remarks, that this Apostle "frequently uses hyperbata," or transpositions of words from their natural order, "because of the rapidity of his words, and because of the mighty force of 'the Spirit in him.
Speaking of the Scriptures in general, he says, "well knowing that the Scriptures are perfect, as being dictated by the word of God and his Spirit. Some of their works remain, and others are lost. He was a man of great learning, and presided in the Catechetical School at Alexandria. Clement travelled into different countries in search of information. The Gospels which contain the genealogies were, he says, written first, Mark's next, and John's the last.
He repeatedly quotes the four Gospels by the names of their authors, and expressly ascribes the Acts of the Apostles to Luke. His quotations from the Scriptures of the New Testament are numerous, and he calls them "the Scriptures of the Lord," and the "true evangelical canon.
He was a man of extensive learning, and the most considerable of all the Latin writers on Christianity. He wrote a very valuable Apology for the Christians, about the year , addressed to the governors of provinces, which is still extant. He gives the most ample attestation to the Scriptures, quoting them so frequently, that, as Lardner observes, there are more and longer quotations of the small volume of the New Testament in this one Christian author, than there are of all the works of Cicero in writers of all characters for several ages. After enumerating many churches which had been gathered by Paul and the other Apostles, he declares, that not those churches only which were called Apostolical, but all who have fellowship with them in the same faith, received the four Gospels, and that these had been in the possession of the churches from the beginning.
He also declares, that the original manuscripts of the Apostles, at least some of them, were preserved till the age in which he lived, and were then to be seen. Let us then see what milk the Corinthians received from Paul, to what rule the Galatians were reduced, what the Philippians read, what the Thessalonians, the Ephesians, and also the Romans recite, who are near to us; with whom both Peter and Paul left the Gospel sealed with their blood.
We have also churches which are the disciples of John; for, though Marcion rejects his Revelation, the succession of Bishops, traced up to the beginning, will show it to have John for its author. We know also the original of other churches, that is, that they are Apostolical. I say, then, that with them, but not with them only, that are Apostolical, but with all who have fellowship with them in the same faith, is that Gospel of Luke received, which we so zealously maintain.
I mean John's and Matthew's, although that likewise which Mark published may be said to be Peter's, whose interpreter Mark was, for Luke's digest also is often ascribed to Paul. To Tertullian succeeds a multitude of Christian writers. Of the works of these authors, only fragments and quotations remain, in which several testimonies to the Gospels are found. In one of them is an abstract of the whole Gospel History. After those writers, and at the distance of twenty-five years from Tertullian, comes the celebrated O RIGEN of Alexandria, of whom it is said, that "he did not so much recommend Christianity by what he preached, or by what he wrote, as by the general tenor of his life.
In the quantity of his writings he exceeded the most laborious of the Greek and Latin writers. He gives full and decisive testimony to the Scriptures. The second is that according to Mark, who wrote it as Peter dictated to him, who therefore calls him his son in his Catholic Epistle. The third is that according to Luke, the Gospel commended by Paul, published for the sake of the Gentile converts.
Lastly, that according to John. Origen uniformly quotes the Epistle to the Hebrews as the writing of the Apostle Paul, and the book of Revelation as the writing of the Apostle John. His quotations of Scripture are so numerous, that Dr. Mill says, "If we had all his works remaining, we should have before us almost the whole text of the Bible. So it is with the Holy Scriptures; though, at the very time of reading of them, there be no sensible advantage, yet, in the end, they will be thought profitable for strengthening virtuous dispositions, and weakening the habits of vice. The greatest torment of demons is, to see men reading the Word of God, and laboring to understand the divine law.
In his Apology for the Christian Religion, in answer to Celsus the Epicurean philosopher, Origen, when giving a quotation from Scripture, says that it is written, "not in any private book, or such as are read by a few persons only, but in books read by every body. Their writings abound with copious citations from the Scriptures, to which they give their full and particular attestation.
Cyprian says, "The church is watered, like Paradise, by four rivers, that is, four Gospels. Lactantius argues in its defence, from the consistency, simplicity, disinterestedness, and sufferings of the writers of the Gospels. Arnobius vindicates the credit of the writers of the Gospels, observing, that they were eye-witnesses of the facts which they relate, and that their ignorance of the arts of composition was rather a confirmation of their testimony, than an objection to it.
He composed a History of Christianity, from its origin to his own time; and has handed down many valuable extracts of ancient authors, whose works have perished. In giving his testimony to the Scriptures, he shows himself to be much conversant in the works of Christian authors, and he appears to have collected every thing that had been said, before his own time, respecting the volume of the New Testament. He expressly affirms, that every one of the books of the New Testament that we now receive, are inspired Scriptures, which he specifies in their order, and ascribes them to the writers whose names they bear.
He represents them as constantly and publicly read in the Christian churches. Athanasius had access to every source of information, and applied himself to ascertain the canon of the Old Testament as well as of the New. It appears, that he sent to the Emperor Constance a copy of the whole Bible, which he described as the whole inspired Scriptures. Speaking of the Scriptures, he says, "These are fountains of salvation.
In them alone, the doctrine of religion is taught. Let no man add to them, or take any thing from them. It is unnecessary to carry down this chain of historical evidence any farther. The Council of Nice was called by Constantine in the year ; and as Christianity had then become the established religion of the Roman empire, its history is afterwards inseparably interwoven with everything connected with the state of the world.
From, the above numerous and early writers, we have most unquestionable attestations to the integrity and authority of the Holy Scriptures. First, we have six writers who were contemporary with the Apostles, and then eleven more who lived in distant parts of the world, regularly succeeding each other during the first hundred years after the Apostles.
From that period, the chain of evidence continues unbroken and uninterrupted. They state nothing more than what is true, but they do not state the truth correctly. In the number, variety, and early date of our testimonies, we far exceed all other ancient books. For one which the most celebrated work of the most celebrated Greek or Roman writer can allege, we produce many.
The force of the above testimony is greatly strengthened by the consideration, that it is the concurring evidence of separate, independent, and well-informed writers, who lived in countries remote from one another. The dangers which they encountered, and the hardships and persecutions which they suffered, some of them even unto death, on account, of their adherence to the Christian faith, give irresistible weight to their testimony. Nor does it weaken the credit and authority of books, received by the church of Christ from the beginning, that some other writings have been, without ground, and falsely, ascribed to the Apostles.
For the like has happened, for instance, to Hippocrates; but yet his genuine works are distinguished from others which have been published under his name. We know the writings of the Apostles as we know the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and others, to be theirs, and as we know the writings of divine ecclesiastical authors; for as much as they have the testimony of contemporaries, and of those who have lived in succeeding times.
I might, moreover, by way of illustration, produce for examples those now in hand. Suppose some one in time to come should deny those to be the works of Faustus, or those to be mine; how should he be satisfied but by the testimony of those of this time who knew both, and have transmitted their accounts to others? And shall not, then, the testimony of the churches, and Christian brethren, be valid here? In another place Augustine observes, "If you here ask us, how we know these to be the writings of the Apostles; in brief we answer, in the same way that you know the epistles, or any other writings of Mani, to be his; for if any one should be pleased to dispute with you, and offer to deny the epistles ascribed to Mani to be his, what would you do?
Would you not laugh at the assurance of the man who denied the genuineness of writings generally allowed? As therefore it is certain those books are Mani's, — and he would be ridiculous who should now dispute it, — so certain is it that the Manichees deserve to be laughed at, or rather ought to be pitied, who dispute the truth and genuineness of those writings of the Apostles, which have been handed down as theirs from their time to this through an uninterrupted succession of well-known witnesses. Should it occur to any that to prove the genuineness and authenticity of the Scriptures by the testimony of the Fathers, is to sanction the traditions of the Church of Rome, they ought to consider that there is a radical distinction between these two cases.
Testimony is a first principle, universally acknowledged as authoritative in its own province, as far as it is unexceptionable. The whole business of the world proceeds on this principle, and without it, human affairs would run into utter confusion. That historical testimony is a legitimate source of evidence, the general sentiments of mankind admit, in the universal appeal to history for the knowledge of past events.
Historical testimony may be false, but this is not peculiar to this class of first principles. We are liable to be deceived on all subjects to which our faculties are directed; but there are means by which historical evidence may be ascertained.