About the end of the second century, the Gospels were reverenced as sacred books by a community dispersed over the world, composed of men of different nations and languages. There were, to say the least, sixty thousand copies of them in existence; they were read in the churches of Christians; they were continually quoted, and appealed to, as of the highest authority; their reputation was as well established among believers, from one end of the Roman empire to the other, as it is at the present day among Christians in any country. But it is asserted, that, before that period, we find no trace of their existence; and it is therefore inferred, that they were not in common use, and but little known, even if extant in their present form. This reasoning is of the same kind as if one were to say that the first mention of Egyptian Thebes is in the poems of Homer. He, indeed, describes it as a city which poured a hundred armies from its hundred gates; but his is the first mention of it, and therefore we have no reason to suppose, that, before his time, it was a place of any considerable note.

Andrews Norton, Evidences of the Genuineness of the Gospels, abridged ed. (Boston: American Unitarian Society, 1868), pp. 110-11.