Page images
PDF
EPUB

The lawyer's subtilty in running a distinction upon

the word neighbour, in the precept “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” was no less natural than our Saviour's answer was decisive and satisfactory (Luke x. 29.). The lawyer of the New Testament, it must be observed, was a Jewish divine.

The behaviour of Gallio (Acts xviii. 12—17.), and of Festus (xxv. 18, 19.), have been observed upon already.

The consistency of St. Paul's character throughout the whole of his history (viz. the warmth and activity of his zeal, first against, and then for, Christianity), carries with it very much of the appearance of truth.

There are also some properties, as they may be called, observable in the gospels that is, circumstances separately suiting with the situation, character, and intention of their respective authors.

St. Matthew, who was an inhabitant of Galilee, and did not join Christ's society until some time after Christ had come into Galilee to preach, has given us very little of his history prior to that period. St. John, who had been converted before, and who wrote to supply omissions in the other gospels, relates .some remarkable particulars, which had taken place before Christ left Judæa to go into Galilee*.

St. Matthew (xv. 1.) has recorded the cavil of the Pharisees against the disciples of Jesus for eating " with unclean hands.” St. Mark has also (vii. 1.) recorded the same transaction, (taken probably from St. Matthew,) but with this addition: “ For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands often, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders : and when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not; and many other things there

* Hartley's Observations, vol. ii. p. 103.

be which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables.” Now St. Matthew was not only a Jew himself, but it is evident, fromthe whole structure of his gospel, especially from his numerous references to the Old Testament, that he wrote for Jewish readers. The above explanation, therefore, in him, would have been unnatural, as not being wanted by the readers whom he addressed. But in Mark, who, whatever use he might make of Matthew's Gospel, intended his own narrative for a general circulation, and who himself travelled to distant countries in the service of the religion, it was properly added.

CHAPTER IV.

Identity of Christ's character. THE

HE argument expressed by this title I apply principally to the comparison of the three first Gospels with that of St. John. It is known to every reader of scripture, that the passages of Christ's history, preserved by St. John, are, except his passion and resurrection, for the most part, different from those which are delivered by the other evangelists. And I think the ancient account of this difference to be the true one, viz. that St. John wrote after the rest, and to supply what he thought omissions in their narratives, of which the principal were our Saviour's conferences with the Jews of Jerusalem, and his discourses to his apostles at his last supper. But what I observe in the comparison of these several accounts is, that, although actions and discourses are ascribed to Christ by St. John, in general different from what are given to him by the other evangelists, yet, under this diversity, there is a similitude of manner,

which indicates that the actions and discourses proceeded from the same person. I should have laid little stress upon a repetition of actions substantially alike, or of discourses containing many of the same expressions, because that is a species of resemblance, which would either belong to a true history, or might easily be imitated in a false one. Nor do I deny, that a dramatick writer is able to sustain propriety and distinction of character, through a great variety of separate incidents and situations. But the evangelists were not dramatick writers ; nor possessed the talents of dramatick writers ; nor will it, I believe, be suspected, that they studied uniformity of character, or ever thought of any such thing, in the person who was the subject of their histories. Such uniformity, if it exist, is on their part casual ; and if there be, as I contend there is, a perceptible resemblance of manner, in passages, and between discourses, which are in themselves extremely distinct, and are delivered by historians writing without any imitation of, or reference to, one another, it affords a just presumption, that these are, what they profess to be, the actions and the discourses of the same real person; that the evangelists wrote from fact, and not from imagination.

The article in which I find this agreement most strong, is in our Saviour's mode of teaching, and in that particular property of it, which consists in his drawing of his doctrine from the occasion ; or, which is nearly the same thing, raising reflections from the objects and incidents before him, or turning a particular discourse then passing into an opportunity of general instruction.

It will be my business to point out this manner in the three first evangelists; and then to inquire, whether it do not appear also, in several examples of Christ's discourses, preserved by St. John.

1

The reader will observe in the following quotations, that the Italick letter contains the reflection; the common letter, the incident or occasion from which it springs.

Mat. xii. 47-50. “ Then said they unto him, Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered, and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother ? and who are my

brethren? And he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren : For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

Mat. xvi. 5. “ And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread; then Jesus said unto them, Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the Sadducees. " And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.-How is it that ye do not understand, that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the Sadducees? Then understood they, how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the DOCTRINE of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.

Mat. xv. 1, 2, 10, 11. 17-20. “ Then came to Jesus Scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the traditions of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread. -And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear and understand : Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth

-Then answered Peter, and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, Are ye also without understanding? Do ye not understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth, goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught ? but those things which proceed out VOL. II.

34

a man.

of the mouth come forth from the heart, and they defile the man: for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies ; these are the things which defile a man ; BUT TO EAT WITH UNWASHEN HANDS DEFILETH NOT A MAN.” Our Saviour, on this occasion, expatiates rather more at large than usual, and his discourse also is more divided ; but the concluding sentence brings back the whole train of thought to the incident in the first verse, viz. the objurgatory question of the Pharisees, and renders it evident that the whole sprang from that circumstance.

Mark x. 13, 14, 15. “ And they brought young children to him, that he should touch them; and his disciples rebuked those that brought them; but when Jesus saw it

, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of God: verily I say unto you, whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein."

Mark i. 16, 17. Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers; and Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you fishers of men.

Luke xi. 27. * And it came to pass as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked ; but he said, Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep

[ocr errors]

it.

2

Luke xiii. 1-3. “ There were present at that season some that told him of the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices; and Jesus answering, said unto them, Suppose ye, that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such

« PreviousContinue »