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Christian faith, and therefore less commonly refers to things peculiar to the Jews than the Book of St. Matthew; nay, he often explains such as he does mention for the information of those who were strangers to the Jewish customs. Mark was the nephew of the apostle Barnabas (Acts, xii. 25), whom, with others of the disciples, he attended on their different journies, while teaching the faith in distant countries. As the history given by Matthew bears a great resemblance to that of Mark, it probably was in his hands at the time he wrote, though many things are left out, and some added which the former does not mention.
St. Luke, whose Gospel next follows, also wrote the history of the Acts of the Apostles, of which I shall hereafter have occasion to speak. not one of the twelve apostles. He is, probably, the same Luke who is mentioned by St. Paul, in his Epistle to the Colossians, as being by profession a physician, and was therefore probably a man of some learning. His style shows more elegance than that of the other Evangelists. The Gospel of St. Luke is addressed, as well as his account of
the Acts of the Apostles, to Theophilus, a person probably in high esteem among the Christians of his time, and he professes, in the beginning, to have written it for the purpose of giving a correct account of our Saviour's life and ministry in place of some histories then current, which, being unauthorized by God's holy inspiration, were not worthy of credit. The history of St. Luke is considered to have been addressed to the Gentile converts, probably in Greece, for whose benefit many things are therefore explained, and was written about the same time that St. Mark's was addressed to the Roman converts. It remains only to be added, that St. Luke was the companion of the apostle Paul in those laborious journeys which he undertook for the advancement of the Christian faith, so that his Gospel is recommended to our belief on the most undoubted authority : indeed, it was the belief of the earliest Christians that St. Luke “put into his book the Gospel preached by St. Paul.”
The Gospel according to St. John was written much later than the three former, being composed
in his old age, about the year of our Lord 97. The other Gospels by that time being well known, and handed about among the societies of Christians, St. John passes over many circumstances of our Saviour's life, and rather confines his history to those particular events, of which he was himself a witness, or tells us of such things as were not noticed by the other historians. It will be remembered that John was the favourite companion and bosom friend of our blessed Saviour; that he remained with him to the last, and was the only one of the disciples who (we can certainly know) was present at his crucifixion, which he therefore describes in a very full manner.
the person to whom our Lord
gave the care of his mother upon that solemn occasion. He also, with St. Peter, was among the first witnesses of his glorious resurrection; and his evidence to all these facts is therefore of the highest authority. St. John was the brother of St. James, whom Herod afterwards destroyed. They were poor fishermen whom Christ chose out as two of the twelve apostles at the beginning of his ministry, giving them a name (Boanerges) signifying the sons
of thunder, in token of the eminent zeal they should display in his service.
In reading these Gospels with due attention, it will be your business to compare them frequently with each other; things which appear difficult, and not easily understood in one, are oftentimes very well explained by referring to the account given by another of the Evangelists; the several Gospels thus placed together throw a surprising light upon the whole of the sacred story.
You will also consider, that these writings are above 1800 years old, and that they were composed for different purposes, and for different societies of Christians. You must not look into them for what would now be considered a regular history of Jesus Christ, but rather regard them as a selection of particular facts by each of the inspired authors, relating to his life and doctrines. Neither should you expect to find a regular form and plan of instruction, or articles of belief; for though all the principles of our holy religion are contained in the New Testament, Christ's instructions are not intended so much to direct us in our conduct in particular cases as to correct our hearts, to give us those pious principles and motives which, if properly established, will regulate our inclinations and guide our actions upon all occasions.
The history of the progress of the Christian religion, after Jesus Christ had returned to that heavenly glory which for a time he laid aside for our sakes, next requires our consideration. The Acts of the Apostles, written by St. Luke, furnish us with the most satisfactory information on the subject, extending to a period of about thirty years after the ascension of our Lord. At the moment of his departure, addressing his apostles, he said, “ Behold, I send the promise of my father upon you; but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.” (Luke, xxiv. 49.)–Accordingly, when they were assembled together soon after at the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Ghost descended upon them in a most awful manner, giving them the power of speaking in every language, to the astonishment of themselves and all who heard them, who flocked to them in crowds when this surprising event was noised