Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

such moving eloquence too, that I cannot imagine what could have been desired in such an Epistle more proper for the end for which it was composed : what could have been written more becoming an Apostoli cal age, and the pen of one of the most eminent Bishops of it.

But that it may be the better understood by those who shall now think fit to peruse it; there are a few things which it will be necessary for me in this place to observe concerning it.

12. And the first is, the occasion that was given for the writing of this Epistle. For however we have no particular account what it was, yet may we from the subject of it give a very probable guess at it. When St. Paul wrote his first Epistle to the Corinthians, the two great things that seemed to have especially called for it, were, first, the divisions of that church upon the account of their teachers, and through their vain conceit of their own spiritual gifts: and, secondly, the great mistake that was getting in among them concerning the nature of the future resurrection. And however the Apostle by his writing and authority did for the present put a stop to the one, and set them right as to the other; yet it seems after his death, they began again to fall not only into the same contentions, but into the same error too, that had caused them so much trouble before.

13. Now this gave occasion to St. Clement to write the present Epistle to them: in which having first taken notice of the rise of those new seditions that were broke out among them, and exhorted them to a Christian composure of them, he in the next place goes on, by many arguments to establish the undoubted truth and certainty of the future resurrection; which was the other thing in which St. Paul had before observed them to have been greatly and dangerously mistaken.

14. This then was the occasion, and is the main subject and design of the following Epistle. But now about what time it was written, it is not so easy

to determine. Junius(x) supposes it was written by St. Clement in the name of the Church of Rome, about two years before his martyrdom, and that from the place of his banishment: which also seems to have been the opinion of our learned Mr. Burton(y) in his notes upon this Epistle. Baronius(x) places it six or seven years sooner, about the twelfth year of Domitian. With him Cotelerius(a) agrees, only he supposes the persecution was then drawing towards an end; it being otherwise unlikely that such an embassy could have been sent from Rome with the Epistle, as by the close of it we find there was. But Mr. Dodwell(6) with much greater probability, thinks it to have been written yet sooner, viz. immediately after the end of Nero's persecution: and to that refers those trouwles complained of by St. Clement in the very begining of his Epistle ;(c) and in which he elsewhere(d) speaks of St. Peter and St. Paul, as some of the latest instances of any that had died for the sake of their religion.

15. Now that which seems yet more to countenance this opinion is, that St. Clement in another part of his Epistle(e) speaks of the temple service not only as still continuing, but as being in such a state as necessarily supposes all things to have been yet in peace and quiet at Jerusalem, from whence that learned man(f) with great reason concludes, that this Epistle must have been written somewhat before the 12th year of Nero, in which the Jewish wars first broke out. Let us add to this, that in the close of this Epistle we find mention made of Fortunatus(g) as the person whom the Church of Corinth had probably sent to Rome

(x) Vid. in Annot. in Epist. Clem. in princip. (y) Annot. 2. p. 41. (z) Baron. Annal. ad Ann. xcv. Num. 1. (a) Coteler. Not. in Clem. Epist. p. 82. (6) Dodwell. Append. ar', cap. vi. Dissert. 2. Pearson. pag. 219. Num. 24.

(c) Epistle, c. i. (d) Ibid. c. v. (e) Chap. xii.
IŠ). Dodwel. loc. supr. cit.
(8) Epist. c. lix.

with an account of their disasters, and by whom to. gether with the two delegates of their own, the Roman Church returned this Epistle to the Corinthians. Now Fortunatus is expressly said by St. Paul to have been an old disciple in his time; insomuch that he places him with Stephanus who was the first fruits of Achaia, 1 Cor. xvi. 15, 17. And therefore we must conclude that this Epistle could not have been written so late as some would have it, seeing this man was not only still alive, but in a condition of undertaking so great a journey as from Corinth to Rome: for from thence it is most likely he was sent with the letter of that Church to Rome; and so became the bearer of this Epistle, which was written in the name of the Church of Rome in answer to it.

16. I conclude then that this Epistle was written shortly after the end of the persecution under Nero, between the 64th and 70th year of Christ :(g) and that as the learned defender of this period supposes, in the vacancy of the See of Rome; before the promotion of St. Clement to the government of it. But of this last circumstance, as there is no certainty, so the express authority of Tertullian, (h) that St. Člement was made Bishop of Rome by St. Peter; and this delivered as the tradition of the Roman Church in the days that he lived, has inclined others(i) rather to think that he must have been Bishop of that Church when he wrote this Epistle ; though neither can this be affirmed as certain and indubitable.

17. But this is not all: there is still a difficulty remaining, and that of much greater consequence than any I have hitherto mentioned : namely, whether the Epistle we now have, be, after all, the genuine Epistle of St. Clement, so much applauded by the antients ; so long looked upon as lost to us, and so lately discov

(8) Dodwel loc. supr. cit. add. Cave Hist. Literat in Clement. p. 18. Convare Dr. Grabe Spicileg. Tom. i. pag. 255, &c.

(1) De Præscript. adv. Hæres. cap. 32. (i) See Dr. Grabe, loc. cit. p. 259.

ered in the last age? and this I mention, not that I think there is any real occasion offered to incline us to doubt it; but because I find there are some(k) who would seem still to make a question of it.

18. And here, I would in the first place ask these wary men, what mark they can propose whereby to distinguish the true work of any antient writer, from a false and suppositious, that does not occur in the present piece ?

19. That St. Clement(1) wrote an Epistle to the Corinthians; that he wrote it on the same occasion that we find expressed in this we now have; that this Epistle was of great reputation, so as to be publickly read in the churches heretofore; all this the authority of the antient Fathers will not suffer us to doubt. That the copy we now have of this Epistle was taken from the end of a manuscript of the New Testament, written, as is supposed, not long after the first general council of Nice, about three hundred years after St. Clement's death, and at the very time that it was yet wont to be so read in the Churches; both the learned editor(m) of it assures us, and the manuscript itself sufficiently declarez. Now how can it bé supposed, that an Epistle so famous in those days, so well known to every Christian at that time, when the very copy was written, which we at this day have of it; should have been alone concealed from the transcriber of this Manuscript Bible, and a spurious piece introduced to supply the place of it?

20. Nor is this all : for if we have not now the true copy of this Epistle, it is manifest that then neither had the antient Fathers of those first ages, a true copy of it, for the passages(n) which they have quoted are the very same in our Epistle ; and so they too were

(k) Callovius Bibl. illustr. N. T. To. ii. Exam. præf. Grot, in 1 Cor. p. 250. Voetius Paralip. p. 1167, &c. Vid. Tentzel. Exercit, select. 2. de Phænice.

() Vid. Collov. Opcr. Socin. To. ii. p. 487.
(m) Vid. Jun. Præfat. in Epist. Clem.
(n) Vid. Baron. Annal. Anne. xcv. Num. iii. &c.

imposed upon, no less than we are in this matter.And can this be rationably supposed ? can we think that those great men, and diligent searchers into antiquity, were ignorant of an Epistle, not only in every bodies hand, but almost in every bodies memory, through their constant reading and hearing of it.

21. Yet farther; let me ask those who call in question the credit of this excellent piece; what do they find in it either unworthy of St. Clement, or disagreeale to those times in which we suppose it to have been writien ? certainly, if this be a counterfeit piece, it was not only exceedingly well done; but without any design to serve any party or interest by it; there being nothing in the whole Epistle that might not have become as excellent an age, and as holy a man as that age, and that man were, in which we have all the reason in the world to beleive it was composed.

22. But what then is it that makes these learned men so unwilling to own this Epistle to be the genuine work of that holy Bishop to whom we ascribe it? it is in short this ;(0) that the author of this Epistle, in proof of the possibility of a future resurrection, reports the story of the Phoenix's reviving out of his own ashes; which is not only a thing false in itself, but unworthy of such a person, as St. Clement, to mention.

23. now not to say any thing as to this matter, first, that Photius,(e) a severe critic of the antient Fathers, who first started it as a fault in St. Clement that he made use of this as a true observation, which it seems the other looked upon as a mere fable; yet did not think it any objection against the authority of this Epistle, which he nevertheless acknowledged to be St. Clement's : to pass by, secondly, that the generality of the antient Fathers have made use of

pag. 45.

(a) Tentzelius Dissert, Select, de Phænice, p. 33. Et Num. xvi. (1) Photii. Biblioth. Tmem. cxxvi. p. 306,

« ForrigeFortsett »