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HERE have been three different periods of Chris- The study of sub-apostolitian thought when the writings of the sub-apos- cal writings tolical Fathers have been read with special interest. The early Church found in them additional sources of testimony as to historical facts and apostolical doctrines; the importance attached to these writings is shown by the number of quotations from them in later works, and still more, by the continued use of them for public reading. Again, in the hundred and fifty years of controversy which succeeded the Council and modern of Trent, attention was once more turned to them, but rather in this case as dogmatic authorities, than witnesses for Christian facts: this was the interest in which the texts were studied by Jesuits and Anglicans alike, and numerous printed editions are mementos of their labours. Now once more, when men have recognised that no true estimate of the divine revelation is possible, unless we understand the characteristics of the age in which it was given to the world, a new interest arises in these early writings, as reflecting the life of their time: hence the critical study of our own day. In

Questions which arise.

the recent editions we find that the attention is chiefly turned to the passages which may help us to determine the design of the writer, the class of readers he had in view, the resources at his command, and the various influences of time and place which seem to have affected his work.

Although the purpose with which these works have been read has been so varied, there are certain questions which have presented themselves to all students. What title has the book to be regarded as the work of the man whose name it bears? is it authentic, and if so, what claims had it to be acknowledged as canonical? Why and when was it written? And what, amid the conflicting testimony of various manuscripts, is the most accurate text? Some attempt at answers to these questions preceded both the evidential and dogmatic use of the epistle, meeting however with very partial success, until in our day they became the main object of investigation.

The value of

of the Fathers.

There are, on this account, comparatively few critical the labours results to be gleaned from the writings of the Fathers, though there are two ways in which their evidence is important. The quotations which they make enable us, at times, to correct the text of the epistle, by giving us an additional source from which to draw. The Apostolical Constitutions, the works of the Alexandrian Clement and of Origen, are the principal aids of this kind which we have. Still more interesting is the evidence which may be adduced from their writings as to the value which was put upon the epistle by these men, as well as by Eusebius and S. Jerome, who explicitly discuss the question; while the mention of its name in stichometries appears to show a very general recognition of its worth. From the time of

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