« AnteriorContinuar »
already befallen or now coming upon them, was peculiarly suitable to the circumstances in wbích the Jewish nation was then placed. The antients assign two reasons which induced John to compose his gospel : the first was, because that in the other three gospels there was wanting the history of the beginning of our Lord's preaching, until the imprisonment of Joho the Baptist, which, therefore, he applied himself particularly to relate : the second reason was, in order to remove the errors of the Corinthians, Ebionites, and other sects. Mr. Lampe, however, and Dr. Lardner, have brought forw.urd several important reasons, to shew that John did not write his gospel against Cerinthus, or any other heretic.
The last chapter of John's gospel may be considered as a supplement, which was added principally with the view of giving the reader some account of the author. Some of the early Christians had imbibed the notion that St. John the evangelist would live till the day of judgment, a notion to which a false interpretation of a saying of Christ, and the great age which the evangelist actually attained, had given rise. For this reason, Joba has related at full length, in the last chapter, the conversation wbich took place between Christ, Peter, and himself, after the resurrection; and has shewn in what connection and in what sense Christ said of John, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?
Grotius and several other critics have contended, that the last chapter was added, not by John himself, but by some other person or persons, and, probably, by the elders at Ephesus after John's decease. Their principal argument is founded on verse twentyfour, “ This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and we know that his testimony is true." But as this inference is not supported by the testimony of the autienis, Dr. Campbell does not think it admissible. The style of the whole of the twenty-first chapter is exactly the same as that of the rest of the gospel ; and as to the twenty-fourth verse in particular, he can see no reason for supposing that even that alone is an addition ; for the phrase, “ we know that his testimony is true," is nothing jnore than a figure of rhetoric, called communicatio, and expresses the same as "every Christian knows that his testimony is true.” Besides, if this addition had been made by the Ephesian elders, they would probably have inserted their names ; for the testimony of “we know,” made by unknown persons, could add no authority to John's gospel.
The historians with whom we are here concerned, as Dr. Campbell observes, in their owu character, do neither explaiu nor command, promise nor threaten, commend nor blame; but preserve one even tenor in exhibiting the facts entirely unembellished, reporting in singleness of heart both what was said and what was done to Christ by either friends or enemies. Not a syllable of encomium on the former, or of invective against the latter. As to their Lord himself, they appear to regard his character as infinitely superior to any praise which they could bestow ; and as to his persecutors, they mingle no gall in what they write conceruing them; they do not desire to aggravate their guilt in the judgment of any man, either by giving expressly, or by so much as insinuating, through the severity of their language, their opinion concero
Nay, which is more remarkable, the names of the high-priest and his coadjutor, of the Roman procurator, of the tetrarch of Galilee, and of the treacherous disciple, are all that are mentioned of the many who had a hand in his prosecution and death. Iu regard to the four first, it is manifest that the suppression of the names, had the facts been related, would have made no difference to contemporaries ; for, in offices of 80 great eminence, possessed by single persons, as all those offices were, the official is equivalent to the proper name, which it never fails to suggest ; but such a suppression
would have made to posterity a material defect in the history, and 'greatly impaired its evidence. In regard to the fifth, it is sufficient to nbserve, that without naming the traitor, justice could not have been done to the eleven. Whereas, of those scribes and Pharisees who bargained with Judas, of the men who apprehended Jesus, of the officer who struck him on the face at his trial, of the falsc witnesses who deposed against him, of thosc who afterwards spat upon him, buffeted and mocked him, of those who were loudest in crying, Away with him! crucify him ! Not this man, but Barabbas ! of those who supplied the multitude with the implements of their mockery, the crown of thorns, the recd, and the scarlet robe, of those who upbraided him on the cross with his inability to save himself, or of the soldier who pierced his side with a spcar, no name is given by any of the historians.
Now this reserve in regard to the names of those who were the chief instruments of his sufferings is the more observable, as the names of others, to whom no special part is attributed, are mentioned without hesitation. Thus Malchus, whose ear Peter cut off, and who was immediately after miraculously cured by Jesus, is named by John ; but nothing further is told of him, than that he was present when our Lord was seized, and that he was a servant of the high-priest. Simon, the Cyrenian, who carried the cross, is named by no fewer than three of the evangelists ; but we are also informed, that in this service he did not act voluntarily, but by compulsion, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus are the only members of the sanhedrim, except the high-priest, who are mentioned by name ; but they were the only persons of that body who did nnt concur in condemning the Son of God, and who, though once fearful and secret disciples, assumed the resolution to display their affection at a timc when no one else ventured openly to acknowledge him. Our Lord's biographers, whilst they were thus far' ready to do justice to merit, avoid naming any man without nccessity, of whom they liave nothing to say that is not to bis dishonour. To the virtuous and good, they conciliate our esteem and love, an effectual mcthod of raising our admiration of virtue and goodness, and exciting in us a noble emulation ; but our contempt and hatred they direct against the crimes, not against the persons of men ; against vices, ont against the vicious; aware that this last direction is often of thc most dangerous tendency to Christian charity, and consequently to genuine virtuc. They showed no disposition to hold up any man to the Christians of their own time as an object of either their fear or their abhorrence, or to transmit his name with infamy to posterity.
The evangelists Matthew and John, being apostles, were cye-witnesses of most of the things they have related. They attended our Lord during his ministry ; they heard him preach all his sermons, and saw him perform the greatest part of his miracles ; they were present at his crucifixion; they conversed with him after his resurrection : and they beheld his ascension. Besides, as apostles, they possessed the gifts of illumi.. nation and utterance. By the former, they were absolutely secured from falling into error in any point of doctrine or matter of fact relating to the Christian scheme. By the latter, they were enabled to express themselves clearly and pertinently upon every subject of Christianity which they had occasion to treat of, either in their sermons or writings. These gifts our Lord had expressly promised to all his apostles. (John xiv. 25.] These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Conxforter, which is the Iloly Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall tcack you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance juhat socver I have said unto you. So likewise, after his resurrection, (Luke xxiv. 49.] And behold I send the promise of my Father upon you ; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalemn until ye be endued with power froni on high.
Farther, the apostles of the Lord spake by inspiration also, in all the courts of justice and assemblies where they happened to be tried. This privilege their Master promised them very early. For when he sent them out on their first mission, be told them they were to be brought before kings and rulers for his name's sake ; and forbade them to meditate beforehand what or how they should speak, assuring them that the Spirit would inspire them to make proper defences in behalf of themselves, and of the cause they were evgaged to support. [Mat, x. 18..20.] And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against then and the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak ; for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Futher which speaketh in you. This promise Jesus renewed to his apostles a little before his passion. (Mark xii. 11.] But when they shall lead you and deliver you up, take no thought beforchand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate ; but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye : for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost. Nay, on another occasion, he seems to have extended the promise of inspiration to all the disciples, who, at that time, were to be employed in preaching the gospel, and who thereby might be exposed to persecution. See Luke xii. 1, 11, 12. The whole of these promises were punctually fulfilled. For about ten days after our Lord's ascension, the disciples received the Holy Ghost while they tarried in Jerusalem, according to their Master's order, in expectation of being endued with power from on high. Thus we are told, Acts ii. 3, that while the disciples were gathered together, the Spirit descended in the visible symbol of fire, which rested upon each of them, to denote the indwelling of the Spirit with them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost: they were inspired with the knowledge of the Christian religion, and had all things that were either said or done by their Master brought to their remembrance, according to his promise. From that moment forth the Spirit gave clear indications of the reality of his presence with the disciples ; for be enabled them all at once to speak the various languages under heaven as fluently as if they had been their native tongues, and thereby qualified them to preach the gospel in all countries immediately upon their arrival, without the necessity of submitting to the tedious and irksome labour of learning the languages of those countries. Moreover, be gave them the power of working all mauner of miracles ; nay, he enabled them to impart unto those whom they converted, the power of working miracles, also, and the faculty of speaking with tongues, and of prophesying, and of preaching by inspiration. The apostles of the Lord, having such convincing proofs of their inspiration always abiding with them, they did not fail, on proper occasions, to assert it, that mankind might every where receive thréir doctrine and writings with that submission which is due to the dictates of the Spirit of God. Hence we find them calling the gospel which they preached and wrote, The word of God, The commandment of God, The wisdom of God, The testimony of God; also, The word of Christ, The gospel of Christ, The mind of Christ, Tlie mystery of God the Father, and of Christ. Wherefore Matthew and John, being apostles, and having received the gift of the Spirit with the rest of their brethren, there can be no doubt of their inspiration. Their gospels were written under the direction of the Holy Ghost, who resided in them; and, upon that account, they are venerated by all Christians as the word of God, and have deservedly a place allowed them in the sacred canon,
The characters of Mark and Luke come next to be considered. They were not apostles, it is true ; yet they were qualified to write such a history of our Lord's lite as merits a place in the canon of scripture. For as they were, in all probability, early disciples, they may have been eye-witnesses of most of the things which they have related. Nay, they may have been in the apostles' company on the day of Pentecost, and may have received the gifts of the Spirit togetber with them, consequently they may have written by inspiration also. A tradition recorded by Epiphanius, that Mark was of the number of the seventy disciples, seems to favour these suppositions. However, if they are not admitted, this must be granted, that the evangelists whom we are speaking of accompanied the apostles in their travels. This matter is certain with respect to Luke ; for, in his history of the Acts, he speaks of himself as Paul's companion; and, in the preface to his gospel, he expressly mentions the information of the ministers of the word, to lead us, as Dr. Macknight imagines, to think of Paul, with whom he had long travelled, and who had not the knowledge of Christ's history by personal acquaintance, but hy revelation. (See Gal. i. 11, 12, 1 Cor. xi. 23.] As for Mark, he is generally reported by antiquity, and currently believed to have been Peter's assistant. And in conformnity to this opinion, all interpreters, both antient and modern, suppose that Peter speaks of Mark the evangelist, 1 epist. v. 13. The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, salutes you ; and so doth Marcus, my son. This appellation Peter gives to Mark, because of the great intimacy and friendship which subsisted between them, agreeable to the apostle's description of Timothy's affection. [Phil. ji. 22.] But ye know the proof of him, that, as a son with the father, he hath scrved with me in the gospel. If Mark was Peter's companion and fellowlabourer in the gospel, although he was neither an apostle nor an eye-witness, he must have been well acquainted with our Lord's history, because he could not but learn it from the conversation and sermons of Peter, who was both. Wherefore, to uge the words of Luke, since these evangelists took in hand to write the history of our Lord's life according to the information which they had received from the eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, and executed their design while they accompanied the persons from whom they received those informations, we may reasonably suppose they would submit their works to their examination. Accordingly, Clemens Alexandrinus, quoted by Euseb. vi. 14, tells us, that Mark's gospel was revised by Peter. And Mr. Jones, in support of this opinion, bas collected eight particulars from the other gospels, all tending to the honour of Peter, which are entirely omitted by Mark, because Peter's humility, as he supposes, would not allow him to tell these things to that historian. But if it be true that Mark and Luke wrote according to the information of the apostles, and had their gospels revised by them, it is evidently the same as if the gospels had been dictated by the apostles.
However, though none of all the suppositions just now mentioned should be granted, there is one unquestionable matter of fact which fully establishes the authority of the two gospels under consideration, namely, that they were written by the persons whose names they bear, and while most of the apostles were alive. For, in that case, they must have been perused by the apostles, and approved, as is certain from their being universally received in the earliest ages, and handed down to posterity as of undoubted authority. The apostolical approbation was the only thing, without the inspiration of the writers, which could give these books the reputation they have obtained. And had it been wanting in any degree, they must have shared the fate of the many accounts which Luke speaks of in his preface ; that is, must have been neglected either as imperfect or spurious, and so have quickly perished. But if the gospels of Mark and Luke were approved by the apostles immediately upon their publication, and, for that reason, were received by all Christians, and handed down to posterity as of undoubted authority, it is the same as if they had been dictated by the apostles. Hence they are justly reckoned of equal authority with the other books of scripture, and admitted into the capon together with them. Such proofs as these, drawn from
the sacred writings themselver, are sufficient to make all Christians reverence the gospels as the word of God; and therefore they are fitly produced for the confirmation of our faith. But in arguing with infidels who look on the sacred writings as the works of impostors, the rcasoning must procecd upon different topics.
The history of Jesus Christ, contained in the writings of the cvangelists, may be proved to be credible for the following reasons.
These writings were published very near the times in which Jesus Christ, whose history they contain, is said to have lived. There are three arguments which prove this.
1. The writers of the age immediately following that in which our Lord lived, and of the subsequent ages down to our times, have mentioned the four gospels ex. pressly by their names, have cited many passages out of them, and made numberless allusions both to facts and expressions contained in them, as unto things known and helieved by all Christians, which they could not possibly have done had the gospels not been extant at the time we affirm. Farther, by the same succession of writers still remaining, it appears, that at and from the time when we suppose the gospels were published, peculiar regard was paid to them by all Christians; they believed them to contain the only authentic records of Christ's life, and read them with the other scriptures in all their public asseblics. Hence translations of them were very carly made into many different languages, some of which are still remaining. Moreover, exliortations to the people were drawn from them, every doctrine claiming belief was proved out of them, whatever was contrary to them was rejected as crroneous, they were appealed to as the standard in all the disputes which Christians bad among themselves, and by arguments drawn from them they confuted heretics and false teachers. That we learn these particulars concerning the gospels from the writings of Christians does not weaken the argument in the least ; because if those writings are as antient as is commonly believed, be their authors who they will, they necessarily prove the gospels to have been written at the time we suppose. If it is replicd that the writings appealed tn for the antiquity of the gospels are themselves forged, the answer is, that, being cited by the writers of the age which immediately followed them, and they again by subsequent writers, they cannot be thought forgeries, unless it is affirmed that all the books that ever were published by Christians are such, which is cridently ridiculous and impossible. Besides, an affirmation of this kind will appear the more absurd, when it is considered the enemics of Christianity themselves bear testimony to the antiquity of the gospels, particularly Porphyry, Julian, Hierocles, and Celsus, who draw several of their objections against the Christian religion from passages
of our Lord's history contained in the gospels. The truth is, these books, being carly written, and of general concernment, were eagerly sought after by all, the copies of them multiplied fast, sprcad far, and camc into the hands both of friends and foes ; which is the reason that we have more antient manuscript copies of the gospels still remaining, than of any other part of the sacred writings, or even of any other artiest book whatsoever.
2. The gospels were published very ncar the times in which Jesus is said to have lived ; becarise the authors of the gospels call themselves his contemporarics, and affirm that they were eye and ear-witnesses of the transactions they relate, that they had a chicf hand in several of them, and that all of them had happened but a few years before they wrote. Ilad these things been false, as soon as the books which contained them came abroad, cvery reader must at once have discovered the fraud, and, by that means, the books themselves must have been universally condemned as mischievous forgeries, and altogether weglected. Whereas, it is well koowu that they gained