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THE LIVES AND WRITINGS OF THE FOUB EVANGELISTA.
Introductory remark--- Matthew---his life---the date of his gospel---the language in which
it was written---to whom it was addressed---life of Mark---his gospel-o-when written--whether an epitome of Matthew---peculiarities in Mark-life of Luke---his gospel-when it was written---plan of the four evangelists---life of John---date of his gospel--his design in writing ito--remarks on its last chapter---the moderation of the evangelists in speaking of our Lord's enemies---their means of information---credibility of their testimony---preaching and death of Matthew---the labours of Mark--his death--Luke writes the Acts.--accounts of his death uncertain---John writes his first epistle--evidences of its authenticity---his design in writing it--when and where it was written, and to whom it was addressed---who is to be understood by antichrist---remarks on the second and third of John---the apocalypse---continuation of the life of John---remarkable story of his conduct towards a young man---his death.
In whatever point of view we consider the conduct of our adorable Redeemer, wè shall discover the most striking controversy between the spirit by which he was actuated, and the motives that influenced the '
most celebrated conquerors. Alexander, Cæsar, and the mighty Timur, were men formed of the same clay with ourselves, exposed to all the infirmities incident to human nature, and possessed of a legal authority over the persous and properties of comparatively but a few of mankind. They extended their command by acts of violence and deceit, waded through slaughter to the throne of empire, and then, in too many instances, shut the gates of mercy upon their fellows. Yet, as they fancied that there was something honorable in their crimes, they were anxious to find able and eloquent historians, who might transmit to posterity the memory of their achievments. Christ, on the coutrary, though by nature he was rich, for our sakes became poor. Being in the form of God, he thought it no robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men ; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He was, indeed, a king, having an unquestionable right to universal dominion ; yet he asserted not this claim by the battles of the warrior, but by the preaching of his word, and confirmed it by miracles of mercy, which were performed as well on his enemies as on his friends. Not one transaction of his spotless life shrinks from the severest scrutiny of impartial justice ; but as he did not wish the propagation of his religion
to result from the cxertion of distinguished human abilities, he was content to have bis history recorded by the most artless writers, all of whom, Luke only excepted, were plain untutored men, who simply noted down such of the words and actions of their Master as they either witnessed or were credibly informed of, leaving them to make their own impressiou on the mind of the reader.
Concerning Matthew We have here but little to observe. He was originally a publican; and not only cursook a gainful employment for the sake of Christ, but made a feast to testify his joy on account of his conversion. He does not appear to have been at all distinguisfied from his brethren, but associated regularly with them from the time of his being called by Jesus to the descent of the Spirit at the feast of Pentecost.
The time when the gospel of Matthew was written has been much disputed. Eusebius only says, that when Matthew was about to go to other people, he delivered bis gospel to the Hebrews in their own language, without telling us when it was that Maithew left Judea. Dr. Lardner ol serves, that Theophylact, in the eleventh century, and Futhymius, in the twelfth, say that Matthew writ in the eighth year after our Saviour's ascension; Nicephorus Callisthi, in the fourteeth century, says that Matthew writ about fifteen years after Christ's ascension ; and the Paschal Chronicle, in the seventh century, intimates the same thing. None of those writers expressly refer to more antient authors for their opinion. But it may be reckoned probable, that they collected it from the history in the Acts, and from the forementioned passage in Eugebius. They who thought that Matthew and the other apostles left Judea soon after the conversion of Cornelius, supposed his gospel might be writ in the eighth year of our Lord's ascension. And they who think that the apostles did not leave Judea to go to the Gentiles till the council of Jerusalem, [Acts xv.] supposed Matthew's gospel to have been writ in the fifteenth year of our Lord's ascension, of the vulgar account, forty-nine ; but neither had for their opinion the express authority of Eusebius, or any other very antient writer. It is well known to be very common to insert articles in chronicles and such-like works. This article concerning the time of Matthew's gospel is probably a late edition.
According to the testimonies of most of the antients, as Papias, A. D. 116, Ireneus, in 178, Origen, in 230, Eusebius, in 315, Athenasius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Epiphanius, Gregory Nazianzen, Theodore Mopsuestia, Jerome, Chrisostom, &c. this gospel was written in the Hebrew or Syriac language, which was then common in Judea ; but the Greek version of it, which now passes for the original, is said to be as cld as the apostolical times. However, many learned moderns, as Erasmus, Calvin, Le Clerc, &c. are of opinion that this gospel was first written in Greek, which was much used at that time throughout all the Roman empire, and particularly in Judea ; and it is alledged, that Papias, who first advanced this opinion, was a weak and credulous man.
Le Clerc, Jones, Basnage, Lardner, &c. are of this opinion. Dr. Lardner observes on this point, that if St. Matthew did not write till about thirty years after our Lord's ascension, which he thinks most probable, he would use the Greek language ; but if he wrote his gospel within the space of eight years after Christ's ascension, it is most likely that he wrote in the Hebrew. He adds further, that there was very early a Greek gospel of St. Matthew cited and referred to by Clement of Rome Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, and others ; that many of the antients do not seem to have fully believed that Matthew wrote in Hebrew, because they have shewo very little regard to the Hebrew edition of it ; that there are not, in our Greek gospel of St. Matthew, any marks of a translation ; that there is no where any probable account who translated this gospel into Greek; and, besides, as the Greek gospel was translated into Hebrew
in very early days of Christianity, many, not examining it particularly, nor indeed being able to do it for want of understanding the language, might conjecture that it was first writ in llebrew. Hence, according to Dr. Lardner, sprung the opinion that Matthew published his gospel at Jerusalem or in Judea, for the Jewish believers, and at their request, before he went abroad to other people : whereas, he apprehends that this gospel, as well as the others, were writ and intended for believers of all nations ; and that the Nazarenc gospel was St. Matthew's gospel transłated from Greek, with the addition of some other things taken from the other gospels, and from tradition. Allowing the date of the gospel already assigned, he cannot conceive the reason why Matthew should write in Hebrew any more than any other of the evangelists ; for it may be reckoned highly probable, or even certain, that he understood Grcek before be was called by Christ to be an apostle. Whilst a publican, he would have frequent occasions both to write and to speak Greek, and could not discharge his office without understanding that language. Lardner's credibility, &c. vol. xv. chap. 5.
In whatever language this gospel was written, the author appears to have considered himself as one who addressed a people well acquainted with the subjects of its history. For, notwithstanding the particulars which are mentioned by him are of the most wonderful nature, hic evidently takes no pains to obviate those objections that he must le sensible would occur to persons who were upacquainted with those remarkable events. He has given no explication of the manners and customs of the Jews. Throughout the whole of his history he has not given us so much as one date, whereby the reader can form a judgment of the age in which the transaciions happened which he has recorded ; so that the time when these events took place can only be fixed from his mentioning the names of Herod, Archelaus, and Pilate. Thus it pretty plainly appears that Matthew wrote immediately for the Jews.
There is little reason to doubt but that the evangelist Mark was the same as John Mark, the son of a pious woman called Mary, who lived at Jerusalemi, and was an early convert to the religion of Christ. Wo find, from the history of the Acts, that the disciples used frequently to meet at her housc for religious exercises; and that Peter, being well acquainted with this practice, immcdiately repaired thither after his miraculous release from imprisonment. She was the sister of Barnabas, as appears from Col. iv. 10. Therefore, when Barnabas and Paul went to preach to the Gentiles
, Barnabas took with him hiš nephew Mark, in quality of their minister or assistant, [Acts xiii. 5.] When, however, they had arrived at Perga, Mark, discouraged by the difficulties of the way, forsook the apostles, and returned to Jerusalem. On this account, Paul refused to accept of bim as a companion on a second journey, notwithstanding Barnabas so vehemently urged it, that their dispute led to their pursuing separate plans. [Acts xv. 36..41.) A complete reconciliation afterwards took place between Mark and Paul, as is certain from the terms in which the evangelist is men. tioned in several epistles. He was, probably, a Levite, as his uncle Barnabas was of that order.
Concerning the gospel of Mark, Eusebius, gives us the following account, in the second book of his Ecclesiastical History. - When, therefore, the divine word had come to them, (i. c. to the inhabitants of Rome) thc power of Simon became immediately extinct, and, together with the man himself, utterly perished But so great a splendor of piety shined upon the minds of the hearers of the divine word, that they did not rest satisfied with having once heard him, nor with having enjoyed the unwritten instruction of the celestial word; but intreated with much importunity Mark, to whom the gospel was ascribed, who was then a follower of Peter, that he would leave with them some written memorial of that doctrine which they had heard preached, nor did
They desist till they had prevailed upon the man, and thus gave occasion for the writing of the gospel according to Mark. They say also that Peter, being informed by the Holy Spirit of what was done, was exceedingly delighted with the ardent desire of the men, and authorized the writing to be publicly read in the churches. Clement relates this story, in the sixth book of his Institutes, to whom Papias, bishop of Hierapolis, may be joined as a witness. Peter also mentions Mark in his first epistle, which is reported to have been written at Rome, as he himself intimates, calling it, hy a tigure, Babylon, when he says, the church which is at Babylon chosen, together with you, and Marcus my son, salute you."
lo confirmation of this account of Eusebius, it is observed, that many circumstances tending to Peter's honour are omitted in this gospel, though mentioned by other evangelists. Some have supposed it was written in Latin, but it is most generally admitted to have been composed in Greek. It is remarkable, that some of the antient heretics were more partial to this gospel than to any other.
Jerome was of opinion that Mark abridged Matthew's gospel. But the characters of an abridgement 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 bad 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.J more distinctly and with morc circumstances than Matthew or even Luke. Thirdly, Mark has recorded things which Matthew has omitted 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 : [viii. 22.)-the person who followed 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-witress of our Lord's life ; at least, they render it certain 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 wbich 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 doue by Christ; for he neither heard nor followed Christ; but was a companion of Peter, and wrote 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, he is more particular still; for lae tells , es he was one of those who were offended at the words of Christ, [Joho vi. 44.] aud who forsook him ; but that he was afterwards reclaimed by Peter, and, being filled with the Spirit, wrote a gospel. • Eusebius and Jerome assert that Luke was a Syrian, a native of Antioch, but do not determine whether he was of Jewish or Gentile extraction. This has been a subject of much dispute. They who believe him to have been a Jew, urge, in defence of their opirion, that the apostle Paul was possessed of too much prudence to have employed him as he did in preaching the gospel in Judea, and even in Jerusalem, if he had not undergone circumcision, a rite which was expressly forbidden to the Gentile converts. Others conclude him to have been a Gentile, because that Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, [chap. iv. 10, 11, compared with verse 14.] expressly distinguished Luke from his fellow-labourers of the circumcision. . To this it has been thought sufficient to reply, that Timothy is spoken of in a similar way, and that in both instances no more seeins to be meant than that they were not Hebrews of the Hebrews, but had one of their two parents a Gentile.
Many learned men have supposed that Lucius, mentioned Rom. xvi. 21, is the same with Lucius of Cyrene, spoken of Acts xiii. 1, and that, in both passages, the evangelist Luke is intended. If these suppositions may be admitted, we shall obtain some knowledge both of Luke's character and history. From Acts xi. 19..21, xiii. 1..4, it appears he was an early Jewish believer ; and, together with others, was very serviceable in propagating the gospel both among the Jews and Gentiles out of Judea. It is also thought that his native place, Cyrene, gives reason to think that one of his parents might be a Greek.
Some have supposed that Luke was one of Paul's converts, and others, that he was one of the seventy disciples; but nothing decisive has been advanced in support of either position.
It is generally believed that Luke was a physician, because [Col. iv. 14.] the apostle says, Luke, the beloved physician, and Demas, greet you. But some call this in question, pretending that if the apostle had been there speaking of the evangelist, it would have been superfluous to have mentioned the occupation of a person so well known. They affirm, therefore, that Luke the physician was a different person from Luke the evangelist. But those who espouse the common potion support it by this argument, that though Luke be here styled by his profession, yet, being joined with Demas, he must be the evangelist ; because, in the other passages wherein the opinion of all the evangelist is spoken of, he is joined with Demas, and both are called Paul's fellow-labourers. [Philemon, verse 24, 2 Tim. iv. 10, 11.] This argument is the more to be regarded, that the epistle to the Colossians, in which Luke is styled the physician, was sent at the same time with that to Philemon, who was an inhabitant of Colosse.
What is certain concerning this evangelist, from his own history of the Acts, is, that be often attended Paul in his travels, and was his fellow-labourer in the gospel.: The first time he speaks of himself as Paul's companion, is Acts xvi. 10, where, using in his narration the first person plural, he intimates that he was one of Paul's company at Troas, before he took ship to go into Macedonia. He went with him, therefore, from Troas to Samothrace, then to Neapolis, and after that to Philippi. But it is observable, that, having finished his account of the transactions at Philippi, he changes inis style from the first to the third person plural, [chap. xvii. 1.] nor does he any more speak of himself, till Paul was departing from Greece with the collection for the saints in Judea. [Acts xx. 6.] Here, therefore, he joined him again, accompanying him through Macedonia to Trons, and from thence to Jerusalem, where be aboda