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Bible. N.T.pocryphal books. English
THE GOSPELS, EPISTLES,
OTHER PIECES NOW EXTANT,
ATTRIBUTED IN THE FIRST FOUR CENTURIES TO
HIS APOSTLES, AND THEIR COMPANIONS,
AND NOT INCLUDED IN
THE NEW TESTAMENT
BY ITS COMPILERS.
TRANSLATED FROM THE ORIGINAL TONGUES, AND NOW
PRINTED FOR WILLIAM HONE,
AFTER the writings contained in the New Testament were selected from the numerous Gospels and Epistles then in existence, what became of the Books that were rejected by the compilers?
This question naturally occurs on every investigation as to the period when, and the persons by whom, the New Testament was formed. It has been supposed by many that the volume was compiled by the first council of Nice, which, according to Jortin,* originated thus:
Alexander, bishop of Alexandria, and Arius, who was a presbyter in his diocese, disputed together about the nature of Christ; and the bishop being displeased at the notions of Arius, and finding that they were adopted by other persons, 'was very angry.' He commanded Arius to come over to his sentiments, and to quit his own: as if a man could change his opinions as easily as he can change his coat! He then called a council of war, consisting of nearly a hundred bishops, and deposed, excommunicated, and anathematized Arius, and with him several ecclesiastics, two of whom were bishops, Alexander then wrote a circular letter to all bishops, in which he represents Arius and his partisans as heretics, apostates, blasphemous enemies of God, full of impudence and impiety, forerunners of Antichrist, imitators of Judas, and men whom it was not lawful to salute, or to bid Go
speed. There is no reason to doubt of the probity and sincerity of those who opposed Alexander and the Nicene Fathers; for what did they get by it besides obloquy and banishment? Many good men were engaged on both sides of the controversy. So it was in the fourth century, and so it hath been ever since. Eusebius of Nicomedia, and Eusebius the historian, endeavoured to pacify Alexander, and persuade him to make up the quarrel; and Constantine sent a letter by the illustrious Hosius of Corduba to Alexander and Arius, in which he reprimanded them both for disturbing the church with their insignificant disputes. But the affair was gone too far to be thus composed, and Socrates represents both sides as equally contentious and refractory. To settle this and other points, the Nicene council was summoned, consisting of about three hundred and eighteen bishops,
-a mystical number* of which many profound remarks have been made. The first thing they did was to quarrel, and to express their resentments, and to present accusations to the emperor against one another. So say Socrates, Sozomen, and Rufinus. Theodoret favours his brethren in this affair, and seems to throw the fault upon the laity. But the whole story, as it is related by them all, and even by Theodoret, shows that the bishops accused one another. The emperor burnt all their libels, and exhorted them to peace and unity; so that if they had not been restrained by his authority, and by fear and respect, they would probably have spent their time in altercations.
Barnabus, viii. 11, 12, 13.
This council of Nice is one of the most famous and interesting events presented to us in ecclesiastical history; and yet, what is surprising, scarcely any part of the History of the Church has been unfolded with such negligence, or rather passed over with such rapidity. The ancient writers are neither agreed with respect to the time or place in which it was assembled, the number of those who sat at council, nor the bishop who presided in it. No authentic acts of its famous sentence have been committed to writing, or a least none have been transmitted to our time.*
Although it is uncertain whether the books of the New Testament were declared canonical by the Nicene Council, or by some other, or when or by whom they were collected into a volume, it is certaint that they were considered genuine and authentic, (with a few variations of opinion as to some of them) by the most early Christian writers; and that they were selected from various other Gospels and Epistles, the titles of which are mentioned in the works of the Fathers and the early historians of the church. The books that exist, of those not included in the canon, are carefully brought together in the present volume. They naturally assume the title of the Apocryphal New Testament; and he who possesses this and the New Testament, has in the two volumes, a collection of all the historical records relative to Christ and his Apostles, now in existence, and considered sacred by Christians during the first four centuries after his birth.
Mosheim, Eccl. Hist., c. v. § 12.
† See Table II. at the end of this work. See Table I. at end.