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the story, though the insertion of it in the gent ine Gospel should be discovered.
Again, in the foregoing letter it is said, that Matthew intended the book should be kept secret; that it should be trusted to none but the most faithful, and that these handed it down from one generation to another. Now these are assertions no less remarkable in themselves than conformable to truth. From the first fabrication of these Gospels to the age of Jerome, they were kept in profound secrecy. Neither Justin Martyr, nor Irenæus, nor Clement of Alexandria, nor Tertullian, has taken any notice of them, though they appear from facts, which they have copied, to have been well acquainted with their exist ence and contents. Origen, in express terms, acknowledges that he had read them, and his words imply that there were those who valued themselves upon knowing some secret of importance respecting them. The secret was of importance indeed, and it was no other than that the narratives, now extant in the genuine Gospels, were really taken from that book. The above writers, therefore, as well as Jerome, were all aware of the forgery. Had Justin or Irenæus, or Origen, or Clement, or Tertullian made the same use of those spurious Gospels, which Jerome did, the fraud probably would have been detected; and this is what they were sensible of. They therefore had the prudence, or rather the cunning, to pass over them in silence. But the lapse of four hundred years, as it had obliterated from the minds of men all knowledge of the original forgery, and its base authors, permitted the champions of this extraordinary imposture to act
differently from their predecessors. Accordingly we see the author of this letter stepping forward, and with a fraud equalled only by audacity, imposing on the ignorance and credulity of the age in which he lived, as the productions of an holy Evangelist, writings which he well knew origi nated in Egyptian duplicity and wickedness.
Moreover, we see the reason why the contents of the two spurious Gospels above examined, have been received and attested as true, in every age of the church *. Thus Origen, Tertullian, and others, state it as matter of fact, though they dared not produce their authority for such assertions, that Christ, was born in a neighbouring cave, and not in the town of Bethlehem; that his brothers and sisters were the children of Joseph by a former wife; and that IIerod murdered Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, in the entrance of the temple. When the progress of time rendered it safe to bring these Gospels to light, the supporters of error and superstition, even while they were afraid to maintain their genuineness, persisted in asserting and propagating the truth of those things which they contain. Hence we see the opinions that Mary was the daughter of Joachimi and Anua; that she was conceived in their advanced age; that miracles attended her birth; that she was devoted by her parents for the service of the temple; and that, though espoused to Joseph, she continued a virgin through life, prevail in the Catholic church
* See Jones on the Canon, vol. ii. 169.
through successive generations almost to the present day.
It has been supposed that Jerome is not the author of the letter addressed to Chromatius; but the supposition is not worthy of attention. The single circumstance, that he employed his time to translate the Gospels, is a sufficient presumption that he was the author of the letter. He says that his object, by this labour, was to disprove the falsehoods of heresy. The heretics to whom he refers, were those who denied the miraculous birth of Jesus, and maintained that the divinity descended upon him at his baptismn. In order to prove that Jesus had a divine power before that period, Jerome brings forward the miracles which, in this Gospel, he is said to have performed while yet a child. Epiphanius throws. much light upon this epistle of Jerome, as to his object in translating the books. After asserting in the most positive manner, that our Lord wrought his first miracle in Cana, he presently recalls himself, and affects to credit his juvenile niracles, adding: "It was fit that these things should have been done by Jesus while yet a boy, that no pretext should be left for those heresies which say, that the Christ descended upon him in the form of a dove after his baptism," Epiph.
vol. i. 442.
THE JEWISH BELIEVERS REJECTED DIVINITY, THE MIRACULOUS BIRTH, AND THE ATONEMENT OF CHRIST,
IN deciding on the truth or falsehood of these doctrines, the opinion of the Jewish believers. cannot well be overlooked. They were a numerous and intelligent body of people, who had the best opportunity to know, and every possible motive to profess the truth. Many of them had been personally acquainted with Jesus, most of them had been instructed by him, and converted by his apostles; and as they could not have been mistaken on any essential question, they were raised by their integrity and honour above the temptation of rejecting, or of garbling the articles of their faith. Philo represents them as a body of people, in whose judgment or opinion we might repose with perfect assurance. He
represents them as the champions of virtue, professing the noblest philosophy without the parade of Grecian oratory; as practising humility, though distinguished by all the virtues human and divine; as convinced that falsehood is the root of pride, and freedom from pride the offspring of truth.
Though Philo has not recorded the religious opinions of the Jewish believers, he has given
us data to infer what they were. He was himself of the number; and his own notions in the main, were assuredly those of the men whom he has so eloquently described. First, it appears that the Esseans believed in one God, the author and governor of the world; whose nature they considered as more unmixed than one, more uncompounded than unity.* It was their opinion on the other hand, that he who deified or worshipped an inferior created being, is infatuated, and guilty of the greatest impiety. Secondly, they distinguished between the person of Christ and his office; in the former view, they considered him as a mere man, born of men; in the latter, as having neither father nor mother, being appointed the son of God, by his commission from God; or, to use figurative language, having for his father God, who is the father of all, and divine wisdom for his mother, by whom all things came into being. Thirdly, the Jewish christians believed that the son of God came into the world to wash away the impurities of sin, and thus to qualify men for a divine inheri
Εκ φύσεως και ίερων νόμων επαιδεύθησαν θεραπεύειν το ον, ὁ και αγαθου κρειττον εςι, και ένας ειλικρινέςερον, και μονάδος αρχεγονώτερον. Philo, vol. ii. 472, p. 890.
† Εαν δε τις την του αιδίου και ποιητου αλλῳ προσνεμη θεραπειαν νεωτερῳ η γενητώ, φρενοβλαβης αναγεγεγραφθώ, και ενοχος ασεβειᾳ τῇ μεγιση. Philo, Vol. ii. 214, p. 813.
† Διοτι, οίμαι, γονεων αφθαρτων και καθαρωτατών ελαχεν, πατρος μεν θεού, ός και των συμπαντων εξι πατης, δε σοφίας, δι' ἧς τα ὅλα ἦλθεν εις γένεσιν. Philo, μητρος Vol. i, 661, 662, p. 464.