History & Literary - The Gospels

These four Gospels were early and constantly received by the primitive church, and read in Christian assemblies, as appears by the writings of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, who lived little more than one hundred years after the origin of Christianity; they declared that neither more nor fewer than four were received by the church. A Harmony of these four Evangelists was compiled by Tatian about that time, which he called “The Gospel out of the four.” In the third and fourth centuries there were gospels forged by divers sects, and published, one under the name of St. Peter, another of St. Thomas, another of St. Philip, etc. But they were never owned by the church, nor was any credit given to them, as the learned Dr. Whitby shows. And he gives this good reason why we should adhere to these written records: “because,” says he, “whatever the pretences of tradition may be, it is not sufficient to preserve things with any certainty, as appears by experience. For whereas Christ said and did many memorable things which were not written, tradition has not preserved any one of them to us, but all is lost except what was written; and that, therefore, is what we must abide by.”