صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

e than thippeared in they

Optore consistent owing to the inhaipal transa

write, are objected to the early date of his gospel. However, as Dr Lardner observes, (Supplement to the Cred. vol. i. p. 431.) « The account given by the ancients of John's motives, may have been owing to a pure mistake. Many heresies they saw miglit be confuted by John's gospel; therefore they concluded that he did not write till after they appeared in the world ; while the truth might be no more than this, that such and such heresies might be confuted out of his gospel, though they had not appeared in the world till long after.” Chap. III. Of the Plan upon which the Gospels were composed.

1. The evangelists, as was shewed above, did not intend to relate all the transactions of Christ's life. The Spirit, by whose direction they wrote, guided them into this resolution, lest their books should have swelled to too great a bulk. Accordingly, when Luke set about writing, he proposed to give little besides the history of our Lord's ministry in Galilee and Perea, because that period comprehended the principal transactions of his public life, and was less known to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. It was therefore consistent with his plan to omit what happened at the passovers and other feasts, during the period which is the subject of his history. Farther, though Jesus preached several months in Judea, and made many disciples after his baptism (John iii. 22. iv. 1.) his ministry in Galilee, properly speaking, did not begin till John's imprisonment. Before that event, his preaching was for the most part confined to Judea; as is evident from this, that the cure of the nobleman's son, after the Baptist's imprisonment, was the second miracle he performed in Galilee. Wherefore the transactions in Judea, in the beginning of our Lord's ministry, being out of the period which is the subject of Luke's history, aro omitted by him entirely; and he begins his account at John's imprisonment, bringing it down to the conclusion of Christ's ministry in Perea. He judged it necessary, however, to relate with accuracy our Lord's conception, birth, circumcision, baptism, and temptations; these being matters of great importance, and very needful to be known. He gives a particular account also of his death, resurrection, and ascension, because they are the great foundations upon which the truth of the Christian religion rests. Withal, he introduces a short sketch of the Baptist's history, for this reason, that as he was Messiah's forerunner, his ministry was $ubservient to Christ's, and had a necessary connection with it.

$ 2. Matthew and Mark seem to have adopted Luke's plan, thinking it needless to relate the transactions in Judea, before the Baptist's imprisonment, or in Jerusalem at the passovers and other feasts. For though these were matters of great importance, whether their quality or their number be considered, Jesus having gone to Jerusalem at least thrice every year, (see the note on passom

ver

ver III. $ 63.) they were abundantly well known to the inhabitants of that metropolis, and indeed to the whole nation; the Jews in general coming up to worship at those seasons. Most of them were performed in the temple before great multitudes of people, who always resorted thither. And such persons as had not the happiness to be eye-witnesses of them, being however in the town where they were done, must have been speedily informed of them, either by the eye-witnesses, or by the subjects of the miracles, who did not fail to publish them every where; or by the general reports, which no body presumed to contradict. Wherefore, as Matthew and Mark published their Gospels wbile the fame of Christ's actions in Jerusalem was every where fresh, and the witnesses of them were living in all parts of the country, they had the same reason with Luke for writing the history of the principal period only of our Lord's ministry. Moreover, composing their Gospels while the disciples had the conversion of the Jews much at heart, as a matter of great importance to the success of Christianity even among the Gentiles, it was entirely agreeable to their purpose to adopt Luke's plan, that, by supplying what he had omitted, they might make their countrymen as well acquainted as possible with that part of our Lord's history, which comprehended the substance of his public life, and which was least known. That the conversion of their own nation was long the principal object of the apostles' study, is evident from the general strain of their labours in preaching; which for a good while were confined wholly to the Jews. The evangelists Matthew and Mark indeed speak little of our Lord's ministry in Perea, which Luke has related at some length. But the reason perhaps was this, his sermons and parables in Perea being many of them the same with those preached in Galilee, which they have supplied, they judged it needless to repeat them. What they had to do, was only to inform us that those parables and sermons were delivered also in Galilee, because Luke had omitted to mention them in his account of Christ's ministry there. The three historians were directed to treat of Christ's life on so narrow a plan, and in so succinct a manner, not only that a sufficient number of Jews might be converted, (see on Matt. x. 5. $ 40 ) but for other reasons, and this among the rest, that to find the disciples silent where they might have told things greatly to the honour of their Master, adds not a little weight to their testimony, and beautifully displays the modesty with which they wrote. Wherefore the world has suffered no loss by the brevity of the first historians; especially as the Holy Spirit from the very beginning intended to raise up one to write a history of Jesus, in which some of the principal transactions of his life, omitted by the former historians, should be supplied, to the great praise of their modesty, to the recommendation of their work, and to the

edification

edification of the church. Besides, that the first three evangelists should have formed their gospels upon one and the same plan, was highly proper, in order that, by the joint concurrence of their sem veral testimonies, the accounts which they gave of him might be fully confirmed, and gain the greater credit in the world. ,

Ø 3. This account of the plan upon which the three evangelists formed their histories, is the inore probable, as it appears they composed them in Judea for the use of the Jews, and to forward their conversion. This point we proved in the first section of the preceding chapter, by observing that the three evangelists, in their accounts of things, all along suppose their readers perfectly acquainted with the Jewish attairs. For example, when they happen to speak of matters peculiar to their own country, however remote those things might be from the apprehension of fo reigners, they generally give no explication of them; besides, they are at no pains to obviate the objections which might be made to their story, by persons unacquainted with it, nor are the general circumstances of time marked by two of them. I now add, that in all their computations of the hours of the day, the three make use of the Jewish form and division of it; as was shewed in the fifth observation. It is quite otherwise with John, for he supposes his readers ignorant of the Jewish affairs, and for that reason never mentions any thing peculiar to the Jews, without giving such an explication of it, as he knew was necessary to make himself understood. Thus, chap. v. 2. speaking of Jerusas lem, he says, “ There is at Jerusalem by the sheep-market a pool, which is called in the Hebrewtongue, Bethesda, having five porches." Chap. vi. 4. speaking of the passover, he tells us that it was a feast of the Jews. In like manner, he describes the feast of tabernacles, chap. vii. 2. “ The Jews feast of tabernacles was at hand;" and, ver. 37. he informs his readers that the last day was the great day of the feast. Chap. xix. 13. he gives both the Roman and the Jewish names of the place where Jesus was tried by the governor. But as remarkable as any is the explication found chap. xix. 31. « The Jews, therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the Sabbath day (for that Sabbath day was an high day), &c.” Likewise, ver. 42. “ There laid they Jesus, therefore, because of the Jews preparation-day.” This manner of writing, every reader must be sensible, John would not have made use of, had he composed his gospel for the use of the Jews, or published it in Judea. On the other hand, the three evangelists would hardly have written in the manner they have done, had they originally designed their works for the Gentiles, or published them out of Judea.

From what has been said, it clearly appears that John wrote his gospel for the use of the world in general, and published it in some of the Gentile countries, after the writings of the other

evangelists evangelists were sent abroad. Hence, in forming his history, he followed a different plan from theirs. For as he lived to see a new generation arise in Judea, which was not personally acquainted either with our Lord himself, or with those who had heard and seen him, he judged it proper to record Christ's ministry in Judea, but especially his sermons and miracles at the great festivals, Jest the memory of these things should have died with the witnesses, who by that time were mostly taken off the stage. Moreover, he had the pleasure to see the Christian religion propagated into countries, far distant from Judea, where Jesus had lived ; in which distant countries his history could not be known but by the gospels already published, or by the reports of those who were personally acquainted with him. Wherefore the other evangelists having altogether omitted it, he judged it absolutely needful to give the world a specimen of Christ's ministry in Judea, that we might thereby know more of his doctrine and miracles, be able to form a better notion of his consummate prudence, and behold with admiration the courage and zeal wherewith he acted in the capital, under the eyes of the great men, the priests, the scribes, and the elders, before whom he was not afraid to assume the character of one sent by God, and to act accordingly.-- Such were the plans upon which the four gospels were composed, and such the views with which they were published. Taken together, they contain as complete an account of our Lord's life, as was necessary to be left on record; and each in its order was adapted to the circumstances of mankind at that time, the subsequent gospels supplying what was wanting in the precedent ones, till the history was completed.

$ 4. Jerome was of opinion that Mark abridged Matthew's gospel. But the characters of an abridgment do by no means agree to that work for in the first place, the order observed in it, is different from the order found in Matthew.-Secondly, Mark is sometimes more full in his accounts of things than Matthew, For example, he relates the storm at sea, chap. iv. 35.—the cure of the demoniac of Gadara, v. 1.--the healing of the woman that had the flux of blood; the resurrection of Jairus' daughter, v.21.

-the Baptist's death, vi. 14.-the conversation with the Pharisees in Galilee about eating with unwashen hands, vii. 1.—the cure of the epileptic boy after the transfiguration, ix. 14.-the miracle wrought on the blind beggars at Jericho, X. 46.—the cursing of the fig-tree, xi. 12.--and the question concerning the great commandment in the law, xii. 28. more distinctly, and with more circumstances than Matthew, or even than Luka Thirdly, Mark has recorded things which Matthew has omited altogether : such as the parable of the seed which sprang up silently, iv. 26.-the miracles wrought on the stammerer of Decapolis, vii. 31. and on the blind man of Bethsaida, viti 22.--the person who followed

not

not Jesus as his disciple, and yet cast out devils in his name, ix. 38.--the histories of the widow that cast two mites into the treasury, xii. 41.--and of the young man that followed Jesus when he was apprehended, xiv. 51.-Lastly, our Lord's appearance to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection, and his ascension into heaven, both of them omitted by Matthew, are related Mark xvi. 9.-These things duly considered, cannot but incline one to believe, that Mark was himself an eye-witness of our Lord's life; at least they render it certain, that he had the fullest information thereof from those who were the eye-witnesses : so far was he from transcribing or copying the work of another. "

Eusebius, lib. iii. cap. 39. mentions a tradition of Papias, in which John the presbyter is said to have affirmed, « That Mark, Peter's interpreter, wrote faithfully whatever he heard, but not in the order wherein the things were said and done by Christ; for he neither heard nor followed Christ, but was a companion of Peter, and composed his Gospel rather with a view to the people's profit, than with a design to give a regular history.” If this tradition is true, the order observed in Luke being the same with that in Mark, cannot be the right order. But the truth of the tradition may justly be doubted, because it is contradicted not only by Luke, who in his preface tells us that he designed to give a regular history; but by Mark also, who frequently asserts the order of his own narration. Besides, Epiphanius affirms, that Mark was one of the seventy disciples. Nay, lue is more particular still ; for he tells us he was one of those who were offended at the words of Christ, John vi. 44. and who forsook him; but that he was afterwards reclaimed by Peter, and being filled with the Spirit wrote a Gospel. See page 69. of this volume.

Chap. IV. Of the persons by whoin the Gospels were written.

$1. Eusebius and Jerome tell us that Luke was a Syrian, and a native of Antioch. But if, by this description, they mean that he was a Gentile both by religion and birth, they must have been in a mistake. For there is one particular known to all, which proves that by religion at least, Luke was originally a Jew. He was Paul's fellow-labourer in Judea. This circumstance fixes his religion. For considering Paul's prudence, we may be sure he would allow no person to assist him in preaching the Gospel in Judea, and much less in Jerusalem, who was not circumcised, (see Acts xvi. 3.) a ceremony which he expressly forbade to the Gentile converts. It is true, the apostle, in his epistle to the Colossians, chap. iv. 10, 11. compared with ver. 14. expressly distinguishes Luke from his fellow-labourers of the circumcision. But from this, we can only infer that Luke was not a Jew by birth, which is what Paul meant by those of the circumcision, as is plain from the following argument. Timothy was with the apostle,

VOL. I.

and

« السابقةمتابعة »