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The Acts of Paul and Thecla, though ranked among the apocryphal Scriptures by the primitive Christians (by whom several things therein related were credited) were in part the forgery of an Asiatic Presbyter, at the close of the first or at the beginning of the second century, who confessed that he had committed the fraud out of love to Paul, and was degraded from his office; and have subsequently been interpolated.
3. When any book is cited, or seems to be appealed to, by any Christian writer, which is not expressly and in so many words rejected by him, there are other sufficient arguments to prove that he did not esteem it to be canonical. For instance, though Origen in one or two places takes a passage out of the Gospel according to the Hebrews, yet in another place he rejects it, under the name of the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, as a book of the heretics, and declares that the church received only FOUR GOSPELS. Further, though several of these apocryphal books are mentioned by Clement of Alexandria, as well as by Origen, yet Clement never does it as attributing any authority to them, and sometimes he notices them with expressions of disapprobation. In like manner, though Eusebius mentions some of them, he says that they were of little or no value, and that they were never received by the sounder part of Christians. Athanasius, without naming any of them, passes a severe censure upon them in general; and Jerome speaks of them with dislike and censure.
4. Sometimes the fathers made use of the apocryphal books to shew their learning, or that the heretics might not charge them with partiality and ignorance, as being acquainted only with their, own books. Remarkable to this purpose are those words of Origen: The church receives only four Gospels; the heretics have many; such as that of the Egyptians,
Thomas, &c. These we read, that we may not be esteemed ignorant, and by reason of those who imagine they know something extraordinary, if they know the things contained in these books. To the same purpose says Ambrose; having mentioned several of the apocryphal books, he adds, We read these, that they may not be read (by others); we read them, that we may not seem ignorant; we read them, not that we may receive them, but reject them, and may know what those things are of which they (heretics) make such boasting.
5. Sometimes perhaps these books may be cited by the fathers, be cause the persons against whom they were writing received them, being willing to dispute with them upon principles out of their own books.
6. It may perhaps be true, that one or two writers have cited a few passages out of these books, because the fact they cited was not to be found in any other. St. John tells us (xxi. 25), that our Lord did many other things, besides those which he had recorded; the which, says he, if they should be written every one, I suppose the world itself could not contain the books which should be written. Some accounts of these actions and discourses of Christ were unquestionably preserved, and handed down to the second century, or farther by tradition; which, though inserted afterwards into the books of the heretics, may be easily supposed to have been cited by some later writers, though at the same time they esteemed the books which contained them uninspired, and not of the canon. This was the case with respect to Jerome's citing the Hebrew Gospel, which he certainly looked upon as spurious and apocryphal.
FAMILY SERMONS.-No. CLVII. 2 Cor. v. 1.-For we know, that if our earthly house of this taber nacle be dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the
IN the preceding chapter St. Paul had been giving an affecting account of the afflictions which had befallen himself and his brethren for the sake of the Gospel. Nevertheless, he adds, "we faint not; for though our outward man perish, our inward man is renewed day by day; for our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh out for us an exceeding and eternal weight of glory." As though he had said, True our sufferings are great; so great indeed that, if we had no hope beyond this life, we should be of all men the most miserable: but we are not disheartened; for we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eter nal." The trial will soon be over, but not so the glory that is to follow death that ends the one, will be but the gate of admission to the other. Suppose, then, the worst; suppose that these pains and perils which we endure for the cause of Christ, should end in death itself; suppose, that in addition to the lingering torture of a life of sorrow, and vicissitude, and reproach, we should be called to sustain even the pains of martyrdom, still is our faith unshaken, still is our hope undaunted, still is our rejoicing unsubdued: " for we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."
In these words, the Apostle presents us, first, with an affecting representation of our present frail and mortal condition; which be contrasts, secondly, with that building of God, that house not made
with hands, which is eternal in the illustrate these two descriptions, heavens. We shall endeavour to and then, in the third place, point rested that certainty of which he out on what grounds the Apostle speaks in the text.
fore us an affecting representation First, We have in the words beof our present frail and mortal condition.-The body is called a dwelling-place of the soul, and is "house" or " tabernacle:" it is the furnished with various organs and senses for its accommodation. But it is at best but an "earthly" house, and shall soon be dissolved." Our origin was humble: "the. Lord God formed man out of the dust of the ground:" in this respect we stand on a level with the beasts erected as a temporary dwelling, that perish; our bodies are only and, when the purpose for which they were formed is accomplished, they will mix again with their na tive dust, till the morning of the resurrection, when they shall be reunited to the soul, and remain for ever either in heaven or in hell.
mortal frame as an earthly house, The Apostle's description of our shews us, by a lively image, how frail we are. We cannot long endure the shock of accidents, or the wasting hand of time; we are inevitably hastening to dust: in vain do we lavish much care, and toil, and expense on this outward tenement: in vain do the young boast of their youth, or the strong of their strength, or the vigorous of their health. These bodies which are now their pride must soon decay, and turn to loathsome defor mity. All earthly distinctions and possessions are likewise fast hasting away: the world is full of change: uncertainty is inscribed on all joy them, and death is rapidly earthly things even while we enapproaching to put an end to our short-lived possession.
earthly house as being but a "ta-
a season, or for occasional shelter, those blessed abodes of which but not intended to abide for ages. our Lord said, "In my Father's Thus our bodies are but slightly house are many mansions: I go to compacted: they are subject to prepare a place for you." "While pain and sickness, and from our very at home in the body we are absent infancy are silently hastening to de- from the Lord;" "but," continues cay. The image in the text is also the Apostle, we desire to be calculated to impress on our minds absent from the body, and to be that we are strangers upon earth; present with the Lord." Here we for a tabernacle denotes a state of have no certain dwelling place; but pilgrimage, and such is our condi- there we trust to enter a city that tion in the present world: we have hath immoveable foundations, and no abiding city; we are exposed to to be fixed as pillars in the temple the inconveniencies and dangers of of God, to go no more out. a waste and howling wilderness, and as Christians we profess to be looking forward to a better, even a heavenly, country. We pitch our tent here only as soldiers on their march: earth is not our rest; it is an enemy's land; and we need ever to live in it with watchfulness and prayer, as faithful servants of Jesus Christ; taking unto us the whole armour of God, and fighting the good fight of faith, that we may lay hold of eternal life.
Secondly, We are to contrast the frail and mortal condition whch has been described with that building of God, that house no made with hands, which is eterna in the heavens.
The Apostle, in the words, may refer to that glorius and incorruptible body wia which the saints shall be cloth at the resurrection of the just, and the bearing of the text word seem naturally to lead us to coclude, that he had in view the catrast between the vile bodies fich we now inhabit, and those elestial bodies which shall be fasioned like unto Christ's glorious Jody, according to the mighty orking whereby he is able to sube all things to himself. Or he my intend to refer generally 10 t heavenly state, which is often cal in Scripture a house, a sion, a city, in distinction to perishing tabernacles which we w inhabit. When these feeble odies shall be dissolved, the soul of the believer shall be housed in a brighter clime: it shall inhabit
It is a
This heavenly building is further described by the Apostle as eternal: it is not exposed to the violence of storms or accidents, but is situated in a pure and peaceful region, far beyond the reach of whatever can molest or endanger its blissful inhabitants. It is an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; purchased by the inestimable price of the blood of Jesus Christ, who, by his meritorious obedience unto death, hath opened the gate of heaven to all believers. building "of God:" his hands formed it, and his glory enlightens it; it is the land in which he resides in his unveiled presence; where he hath fixed the throne of his glory; where "the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them; and they shall be his people, and he will be with them and be their God; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, for the former things are passed away."
Thirdly, We are to inquire into the grounds on which the Apostle rested the certainty of which he speaks in the text. He says, "We know." His was no vain suggestion of the imagination, but a settled conclusion of his mind and understanding. We may consider him either as expressing generally his assured belief in a future state of happiness to the faithful in Christ Jesus, or as referring in a particu
lar manner to his own hopes and those of individual Christians,
1. We may understand the Apostle, as expressing generally an assurance that there is a state of happiness in reserve for true believers. He might indulge a hope to this effect, from a consideration of the afflictions which he had been describing in the last chapter. For he might reasonably argue, that the moral Governor of all things would make a distinction between the righteous and the wicked; between those who serve him and those who rebel against him; and since this is not always done in the present world, he might justly conclude that there would be a future state of rewards and punishments. He might also further gather some hope of such a state from that desire after immortality which is common to all men, and which he proceeds to describe, in the verses that follow the text, as operating with such peculiar strength upon sincere Christians. "We know," he says, "that we have a building of God;" for in this tabernacle we groan earnestly, desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven." And he adds; "He that hath wrought us to this self-same thing is God," who would not have put such a desire into our minds, and have prepared us for its accomplishment, if he had intended to frustrate our hopes. "The earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. The whole creation travaileth in pain together until now; and not they only, but ourselves also, who have the first fruits of the Spirit; even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, even the redemption, of the body."
But besides these natural arguments for the resurrection, at which the Apostle may seem indirectly to glance, he brings forward a scriptural and convincing proof from the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
"We believe," he says, "knowing that He which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus." Or, as he remarks elsewhere; "Now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept;"-"If we believe, that Jesus died and rose again, even so them who sleep in Jesus will God bring with him." Thus, what reason rendered credible, the resurrection of Jesus Christ has verified; in addition to which, we have the frequent promises of God in his word to the same effect; so that the Apostle had the strongest possible ground for expressing his firm belief in the fundamental doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.
2. But he seems also, in the words under consideration, to express a strong persuasion not only of the resurrection generally, but of his own interest and that of the faithful to whom he was writing, in the happiness of a future life. His confidence rested on the propises of God, united to a humble hoe that he had a scriptural warrantto apply to them his own case, and that of his fellow-converts. And how is uch a hope to be attained? Doubtles, by examining ourselves whether or character is such as is pourtrayed the descriptions which accompany tose promises. Thus, "Blessed are the pure in heart; for they," and they only, "shall "Ghath given us exceeding great a precious promises, that by then we might be partakers of a divinemature, having escaped the polluts that are in the world through lu» Again;
Having these promise let us," both in devout gratitude f and as the test of our intest in them, them, "cleanse ourselves fr all filthiness of the flesh and rit, perfecting holiness in the fea of the Lord." The more we abou in the fruits of righteousness, t more justly may we cherish a scrip tural confidence of our own final happiness. If our characters are not such as become the Gospel of
Christ, instead of presumptuously such frequent deadness to God,
taking to ourselves the assurance in the text, let us rather lay to heart the exhortation of the Apostle, to "fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into rest, we should come short of it." The sure and certain hope of a resurrection to eternal life which the Scriptures teach, and which our church expresses so strongly in the Burial Service, will not profit us, unless we are ourselves heirs of everlasting blessedness. We must examine then the ground of our hopes: we must beware of self-deception: we must inquire, whether our souls are prepared for the enjoyments of the future world; whether we have already begun to maintain spiritual communion with God; whether we love his word and his worship; whether we conform to the mind that was in Christ Jesus; and whether we are living in a spirit of affection to our fellow-Christians, and of justice and benevolence to all mankind.
The confidence expressed by the Apostle, is not to be viewed as of sudden growth; or to be expected by means of any miraculous reve lation, or fanciful impression on the mind. No; it must be the product of much prayer, and vigilance, and self-examination. We must not suppose, the moment we feel some hopeful symptom of repentance and turning to God, that the work is at once completed; we must bring forth fruits meet for repentance; we must be fully proved; we must give much diligence to make our calling and election sure, before we may venture on strong expressions of confidence and even then, our confidence must be not in ourselves, not in our supposed attainments, but in our Saviour alone, and in his willingness to receive and pardon all who repent and turn to him, however evil may have been their past characters. The most advanced Christian will still feel so much remaining imperfection, CHRIST. OBSERV. No. 241.
such indolence in duty, such inward temptations, such attachment to self and the world, as often to awaken painful fears in his mind, lest after all he should prove a cast-away. How suspicious then must be the self-confidence of those who take up their assurance of final salvation lightly and hastily; and who build their hopes on their supposed conversion, while they are destitute of that best evidence of its reality, a humble and longcontinued course of prayer and inward scrutiny, and devout obedience to the commands of God! Our Heavenly Parent is indeed willing to receive his prodigal child the very moment he returns; but to judge of our own sincerity in returning, requires a longer experience of our hearts. The work of repentance must be deep and continued; our faith must be put to the test; and our conversion must shew itself in an habitual temper of soul, devoted to the love and the service of God. The only safe evidence of our interest in the blessedness which has been described is, that qualification for admission into the glorious presence of God which arises from an assimilation to his character; that holiness without which no man shall see the Lord. We must have renounced all known sin; we must be growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and be bringing forth the fruits of a Christian life, before we can scripturally adopt the personal confidence which the Apostle seems to express in the text. The right way to maintain the hope of the Christian is to exemplify the Christian's temper. While we remain careless in our frame of mind, any hope which we may profess is but a delusion; we are building not on a rock but on the sand, Even should some show of religion mix itself with our vain confidence, the case is not at all altered for the better; for the religion that renс