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THE word Canon properly signifies a rule: and it is used in this sense several times in the New Testament, as Gal. vi. 16; “As many as walk according to this rule.” Phil. iii. 16; “Let us walk by the same rule.”11   The word Κανων literally signifies a reed, by which the dimensions of anything were measured; and hence it came figuratively to signify a rule.
   The word was used by the Greek grammarians to designate those authors who were considered as authority in matters of criticism: Vid. Wordsworth on the Canon, p. 5.
But in these passages there is no reference to the Scriptures as a volume.

The word Canon, however, was early used by the Christian Fathers to designate the inspired Scriptures. Irenæus, speaking of the Scriptures, calls them “the Canon of truth.” Clement of Alexandria, referring to a quotation of the gospel according to the Egyptians, says, “But they follow anything, rather than the true canonical gospels.”22Strom. Lib. iii. p. 453.

Eusebius says of Origen, “But in the first book of his commentaries on the gospel of Matthew, observing the ecclesiastical Canon, he declares that he knew of four gospels only.”

Athanasius, in his Festal Epistle, speaks of three sorts of books; the canonical—such as were allowed to 18be read—and such as were Apocryphal. By the first he evidently means such as we now call canonical.

The Council of Laodicea ordained, “that none but canonical books should be read in the church; that is, the books of the Old and New Testaments.”

Rufin, after enumerating the books of the Old and New Testaments, goes on to mention three classes of books. 1. Such as were included in the Canon. 2. Ecclesiastical, or such as were allowed to be read. 3. Apocryphal, such as were not permitted to be publicly read.33   Expositio in Symbolum Apostolorum, p. 26.
   After giving a catalogue both of the books of the Old and New Testaments, he says, “Hæc sunt quæ patres inter Canonem concluserunt.

Jerome often speaks of the Canon of Scripture, and mentions books which might be read, but did not belong to the Canon.44Prolog. Gal. in multis locis.

The third Council of Carthage ordained, “That nothing beside the canonical Scriptures be read in the church, under the name of the divine Scriptures.”

Augustine often makes mention of the canonical Scriptures, and the whole Canon of Scripture, meaning to designate all the sacred books of the Old and New Testaments. “We read of some,” says he, “that they searched the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so. What Scriptures, I pray, except the canonical Scriptures of the Law and the Prophets? To them have been since added, the Gospels, the Epistles of the Apostles, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Revelation of John.”55De Doctrina Christiana, vol. iii. Lib. ii. pt. 1, p. 47. Ed. Paris. Epist. ad Hieron, 19. Ad Paulinum, 112.


Chrysostom says, “They fall into great absurdities, who will not follow the Canon of the divine Scripture, but trust to their own reasoning.”

Isidore of Pelusium observes, “That these things are so, we shall perceive, if we attend to the Canon of truth—the divine Scriptures.”

And Leontius of Constantinople, having cited the whole catalogue of the books of sacred Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, concludes, “These are the ancient and the new books, which are received in the church as canonical.”

Eusebius informs us that Origen, in his Exposition on Matthew, “enumerates the books of Scripture according to the Canon of the Church.”66Eus. Hist. Lib. VI. c. 25.

Epiphanius, speaking of certain heretics, says, “They received the apocryphal Acts of Andrew and Thomas, rejecting the Canon received by the Church.”77Hæres. 61.

Philastrius speaks of the distinction of Canonical and Apocryphal as well known in his time.88De Hæresibus, 40.

From the authorities cited above, it will evidently appear, that at an early period the sacred Scriptures were carefully distinguished from all other writings, and formed a rule, which all Christians considered to be authoritative: and that this collection of sacred writings received the name of Canon.99It cannot be denied, however, that the word Canon is not always used by the Fathers in the same definite sense. Sometimes, under this name, they include books not inspired, and this has given some plausibility to the Popish doctrine respecting the Apocrypha.

The division of the sacred books which is most ancient and universal, is, into the Old Testament, and the New Testament. The apostle Paul himself lays 20a foundation for this distinction; for, in his second epistle to the Corinthians, 2 Cor. iii. 14, he uses the phrases Old Testament and New Testament; and in one instance, designates the Scriptures of the Law, by the former title: “For until this day,” says he, “remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament.”

It is our object, in this work, to inquire into the Canon, both of the Old and New Testament, and to discuss all the principal questions connected with this subject.

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