There was no organized universal Church, nor anything resembling such an establishment, in existence, till long after the close of the second century. There was no single ecclesiastical government which extended over Christians, or over a majority of Christians, or over any considerable portion of their number. They had no regular modes of acting in concert, nor any effectual means whatever for combining together for a common purpose. Neither the whole body, nor a majority of Christians, ever met by delegation to devise common measures. Such an event did not take place till a hundred and twenty years after the end of the second century, when Christianity had become the established religion of the Roman empire, and the first general council, that of Nice, was called together by the Emperor Constantine. At the time of which we are speaking, Christians were spread over the world from the Euphrates to the Pillars of Hercules. They were disturbed and unsettled by frequent and cruel persecution, one of which, that under Severus, was at its height just about the commencement of the third century. They were separated from each other by a difficulty and consequent infrequency of communication, of which, such are the facilities that now exist, we can hardly form a just notion. They were kept asunder by difference of language; some speaking the Greek, some the Latin, and others different languages and dialects of the East. Exclusively of those generally considered as heretics, they were disunited and alienated from each other by differences of religious opinion, and even by violent controversies; for it was before the end of the second century, that Victor, Bishop of Rome, had excommunicated the Eastern churches. This being the state of Christians at the end of the second century, the proposition on which I am remarking [that not until late in the second century did the Church establish MATTHEW, MARK, LUKE AND JOHN as the Gospel Canon] supposes that they corresponded together, and came to an agreement to select four out of the many manuscript gospels then in existence, all of which had been exposed to the license of transcribers. Of these four, no traces are to be discovered before that time; but it was determined to adopt them for common use, to the prejudice, it would seem, of others longer known, and to which different portions of Christians had respectively been accustomed. There was a universal and silent compliance with this proposal [so goes the supposition he is considering]. Copies of the four new manuscripts, and translations of them, were at once circulated through the world. All others ceased to be transcribed, and suddenly disappeared from common notice. Copiers were at the same time checked in their former practise of licentious alteration. Thus a revolution was effected in regard to the most important sacred books of Christians, and at the same time better habits were introduced  among the transcribers of those books [so some teach].

I believe that it will be seen, that I have stated nothing but what the supposition we are considering necessarily implies. But when we divest it of its looseness and ambiguity of language, and state clearly the details which it must embrace, no one can suppose that any such series of events took place at the end of the second century. It is intrinsically incredible: but, if this were not the case, we might urge against it the fact, that there is no record, nor any trace of it. It is supposed, that a change was effected in the sacred books of Christians, spread abroad, as they were, throughout the civilized world. Any change of this sort could not be effected without great difficulty, under the most favorable circumstances. Let us consider for a moment what an effort would be required, and what resistance must be overcome, in order to bring into general use among a single nation of Christians at the present day, not other gospels, but simply a new and better translation of our present Gospels. In the case under consideration, allowing the supposed change to have been possible, it must have met with great opposition; it must have provoked much discussion; it must have been the result of much deliberation; there must have been a great deal written about it at the time; it must have been often referred to afterwards, especially in the religious controversies which took place; it would have been one of the most important events in the history of Christians; and the account of the transaction must have been preserved. There would have been distinct memorials of it everywhere, in contemporary and subsequent writings. That there are no traces of it whatever is alone conclusive evidence that it never took place.

 

from pages 24- 27, Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels