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SECTION IX.

THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES—LUKE THE AUTHOR—CANONICAL AUTHORITY UNDISPUTED BY THE FATHERS—REJECTED ONLY BY HERETICS.

THAT the Acts of the Apostles is the writing of Luke the evangelist, is manifest from the dedication to Theophilus, in which reference is made to his gospel, which was first written. And it is also evident from the uniform testimony of all antiquity; the fact never having been once questioned by any member of the catholic church. All that has been argued in vindication of the inspiration and canonical authority of Luke’s gospel, is applicable to the Acts of the Apostles, and need not be here repeated.

But it is pleasant to read the explicit testimonies of the Fathers to the sacred books of the New Testament: I will, therefore, bring forward the most important. Irenæus repeatedly cites passages from this book, saying, “Luke, the disciple and follower of Paul, says thus.” “Luke, the inseparable companion and fellow labourer of Paul, wrote thus.” He takes particular notice of Luke’s using the first person plural, “we endeavoured—we came—we went—we sat down—we spoke,” &c.; and enters into some discussion 201to prove “Luke’s fitness for writing a just and true history.”

In another place he shows, “That Luke’s Acts of the Apostles ought to be equally received with his gospel; for that in them he has carefully delivered to us the truth, and given to us a sure rule for salvation.” Again he says, “‘Paul’s account of his going to Jerusalem exactly agrees with Luke’s in the Acts.”

Clemens Alexandrinus citing Paul’s speech at Athens, introduces it thus, “So Luke in the Acts of the Apostles relates.” Tertullian cites several passages out of the Acts of the Apostles which he calls, “Commentarius Lucæ, The Commentary of Luke.” Origen ascribes the Acts of the Apostles to Luke. Eusebius says, “Luke has left us two inspired volumes, The Gospel and The Acts.” Jerome expressly asserts, “That the Acts was the composition of Luke.” The Syriac Version of the New Testament ascribes the Acts to Luke; and in some very ancient manuscripts of the New Testament his name is prefixed to this book.

To this uniform body of ancient testimony there is nothing which can be objected, except that the author of the Synopsis, commonly ascribed to Athanasius, says, “Peter dictated the Acts of the Apostles, but Luke wrote them.” But if this were true it would not in the least detract from the authority of the book, but rather increase it. One testimony, however, can be of no avail against so many; and we know that Luke knew most of the facts recorded in this book by his own personal observation, and needed no one to dictate them to him. Besides, Peter was not an eye-202witness of the greater number of the facts related in this book.

The time when the Acts of the Apostles was written may be determined pretty accurately, by the time when the history which it contains terminates; that is about A. D. 62; for no doubt he began to write soon after he left Rome.

That the Acts of the Apostles is of canonical authority, is proved from its having a place in all the ancient catalogues of the books of the New Testament. The same is evinced by the numerous citations from this book by the early Fathers, who explicitly appeal to it as of divine authority—as an inspired book. It is plainly referred to in more instances than one by Clement of Rome, the fellow-labourer of Paul. Polycarp the disciple of John also cites a passage from the Acts, in his Epistle to the Philippians. It is cited by Justin Martyr in his Exhortation to the Greeks. It is distinctly cited by Irenæus more than thirty times, in some of which instances it is expressly called Scripture; and the credit and authority of the book are largely discussed in his work against heretics.

The citations of Tertullian from this book are too numerous to be particularized. He also quotes it expressly under the name of Scripture; “Which part of Scripture,” says he, “they who do not receive, must deny the descent of the Holy Ghost, and be ignorant of the infant state of the Christian church.”6868De Præscriptione.

This book was also constantly read as Scripture in the weekly assemblies of Christians all over the world. From the testimonies adduced above it will appear, 203with convincing evidence, how unfounded is the opinion of some learned men, that the Acts in the early period of the church was very little known comparatively, and very little esteemed. This opinion has been favoured by such men as Father Simon and Dr. Mill; and has no other foundation than a passage in the Prolegomena to the Acts, ascribed to Chrysostom, the genuineness of which is very doubtful. But if Chrysostom was the author of this passage, how little can it weigh against such a host of witnesses? The passage referred to is, “This book is not so much as known to many; they know neither the book nor by whom it was written.” Now the same might be asserted respecting all the books in the Canon. There are many persons ignorant of what they contain and unacquainted with their object. But there is no need to dwell longer on this objection.

The Acts of the Apostles, therefore, has an indisputable claim to a place in the sacred Canon. No better or stronger evidence can be desired. It is true that some of the earliest heretics did not receive this book as canonical. Tertullian informs us that it was rejected by Cerdo, the master of Marcion, and some others whom he does not name, but whom he refutes.

Philastriuss informs us that the Cerinthians did not receive this book. And Augustine tells us, that the Manichees did not, because they considered Manes to be the Paraclete, promised by the Saviour; but in the Acts, it is declared to have been the Holy Ghost which descended on the apostles on the day of Pentecost.

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“But,” says Father Simon, “let us leave these enthusiasts, who had no other reason for rejecting the books received by the whole church, except that they did not suit with the idea which they had formed of the Christian religion.”

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