« PreviousContinue »
PREFACE TO THE
trating these rites and ceremonies; and what is called the New Covenant, is the complement and perfection of the whole.
The word Aianun, from dia and Tibi, I lay down, signifies not only a covenant agreement, but also that disposal which a man makes of his secular matters during his life, which is to take place after his death. It answers to the Hebrew berith, from bar, to purify, because in making covenants, a sacrifice was usually offered to God, for the purification of the contracting parties; and hence the word berith is frequently used to express not only the covenant itself, but also the sacrifice offered on the occasion. See below under GOSPEL; and see the notes on Gen. vi. 18. xv. 18. Exod. xxix. 45. Lev. xxvi. 15. and Deut. xxix. 12. where every thing relative to this subject is largely handled.
The term New Covenant, as used here, seems to mean, that grand plan of agreement or reconciliation which God made between himself and mankind, by the death of Jesus Christ; in consequence of which, all those who truly repent, and unfeignedly believe in the great atoning sacrifice, are purified from their sins, and united to God. Christ is called Tns Aιadnung xaivns μeσiтns, The Mediator of the New Covenant, Heb. ix. 15. And referring to the ratification of this New Covenant or agreement, by means of his own death, in the celebration of his last supper, Christ calls the cup, το ποτέριον η καινη Διαθηκη εν τω αιματι μου, This cup is the New Covenant, in mu blood: i. e. an emblem or representation of the New Covenant, ratified by his blood. See Luke xxii. 20. And from these expressions and their obvious meaning, the whole Christian Scriptures have obtained this title, THE NEW TESTAMENT, OR COVENANT, OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST.
Those writings and the grand subject of them, which, previously to the New Testament times, were termed simply THE Covenant; were, after the Incarnation, called The OLD Covenant, as we have already seen, to distinguish them from the Christian Scriptures, and their grand subject, which were called The NEW Covenant; not so much because it was a new agreement, but rather a renewal of the old, in which the spirit, object, and design of that primitive Covenant were more clearly and fully manifested.
The particular title to each of the four following Books, in most Greek MSS. and printed editions, is ΕΥΑΓΓΕΛΙΟΝ κατα ΜΑΤΘΑΙΟΝ-ΜΑΡΚΟΝ-ΛΟΥΚΑΝ—IOANNHN, which we translate, The Gospel according to Matthew-Mark-Luke-John; i. e. the gospel or history of our blessed Lord, as written and transmitted to posterity by each of these writers. Our word GOSPEL, which should be always written godspel or godespel, comes from the Anglo-saxon godrpel, and is compounded of god, good, and spel, history, narrative, doctrine, mystery, or secret; and was applied by our ancestors, to signify the revelation of that glorious system of truth, which had been in a great measure, hidden or kept secret from the foundation of the world.
Among Saxon scholars, the word GOSPEL has been variously explained. Mr. Somner, who writes it god-rpell, explains it thus, Sermo Dei mysticus; Dei historia. "The mystic word of God; the history of God." But be supposes that it may be compounded of god, good, and rpell, a message; and very properly observes, that godspellian signifies, not only to preach, or proclaim the gospel; but also to foretel, or predict; to prophesy, to divine: and in this latter sense, the word spell spell, was anciently used among us, and still signifies an incantation, or a charm; which
GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW.
implies a peculiar collocation, and repetition of certain words, which were supposed to produce supernatural effects by means of spiritual influence or agency; which agency was always attracted and excited by such words, through some supposed correspondency between the words, and the spiritual agency to be employed. The word in this sense, occurs in King Alfred's Saxon translation of Boethius, De Consolatione Philosophia, chap. 38. Da ongunnon lease men pýrcan spell, Then deceitful men began to practise incantations. It is possible that our ancestors gave this title to the preaching of Christ crucified, from observing the astonishing effects produced by it, in changing the hearts and lives of sinners. And very innocently might they denominate the pure powerful preaching of the death and resurrection of Christ, God's charm: that wonderful word, which, accompanied with the demonstration and power of the Holy Ghost, produced such miraculous effects among men.
As the word rpellian spellian signifies to teach or instruct; hence our word to spell, i. e. to teach a person by uniting vowels and consonants, to enunciate words; and thus learn to read. And hence the book out of which the first rudiments of language are learnt, is termed a spelling-book, exactly answering to the rpell-boc spell-book of our ancestors, which signified a book of homilies, or plain discourses, for the instruction of the common people. We have already seen (note on Gen. i. 1.) that god among our ancestors, not only signified GOD the Supreme Being; but also good or goodness, which is his nature: godspell godspell therefore, is not only God's history, doctrine, or plan of teaching; but also the good history, the good doctrine; and hence rpellian, to preach or proclaim this doctrine: rpell-boc, the sermons that contained the rudiments of it, for the instruction of men; and rpel-boda spel-boda, the orator, messenger, or ambassador, that announced it.
The Greek word Evayyenov, from to good, and ayyınıa a message, signifies good news, or glad tidings in general; and is evidently intended to point out in this place, the good message or the glad tidings of great joy, which God has sent to all mankind, preaching peace and reconciliation by Christ Jesus, who is Lord of all: proclaiming that He, as the promised Messiah, has, by the grace of God, tasted death for every man-for he has died for their offences, and risen again for their justification: and that through his grace, every sinner under the whole heaven, may turn to God, and find mercy. This is good news, glad tidings, a joyful message; and it is such to all mankind, as in it every human spirit is interested.
But besides this general meaning, the word Euayyer, has other acceptations in the New Testament and in the Greek writers, which may be consulted here with great propriety and effect.
Thus Homer represents
1. It signifies the reward given to those who brought good news. the disguised Ulysses, claiming a reward Euayyehov, a vest and mantle, should he verify to Eumeus, the glad tidings of his master's safety. EvaTYEXIO DE MOI Erw. Let me have a reward for my good news. Odyss. xiv. v. 152.
To which Eumeus, who despaired of his master's return, replied,
Ib. v. 266.
PREFACE TO THE
Old friend! nor cloak nor vest thy gladsome news
And on the word, as thus used, Eustathius gives the following comment: EvayyexOV; dwgov UTER αγαθης ευαγγελίας. Euangelion signifies the reward given for bringing good news."
St. Chrysostom, in his xix. Homily on the Acts, gives this as a common meaning of the word. "The Gospel is this: Thou shalt receive good things: as men are accustomed in their common conversation to say to each other, τι μοι των ευαγγελίων; What reward wilt thou give me for my good news, &c." It is used in the same sense by the Septuagint. 2 Sam. iv. 10. When one told me, saying, behold Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took him and slew him in Ziglag, who thought wede μe douva Evayysia, that I would have given him A REWARD for his tidings. εδει με δουναι Ευαγγελια, CICERO uses it in the same sense, see his Epistles to Atticus, lib. 2. Ep. 3. O suaves Epistolas tuas uno tempore mihi datas duas : quibus Evayyexia quæ reddam nescio, deberi quidem, planè fateor. "O, how delightful are your Epistles! two of which I have received at one time, for which I know not what recompence to make: but, that I am your debtor, I candidly confess.”
2. It is used also to signify the prayers, thanksgivings, and sacrifices offered on the arrival of good news. So Aristophanes Μοι δοκει-Ευαγγελια θυειν, εκατον βους, τη θεω. I think I should SACRIFICE A HECATOMB to the goddess for this intelligence. ARISTOPH. in Equit. v. 653.
ISOCRATES (Areopag. initio) is supposed to use the word in the sense of supplication, Erı torautais πραξεσιν Ευαγγελια μεν δις ηδη τεθυκαμεν—“ relative to these transactions, we have purposed to make supplication twice." Xenophon uses it to denote an eucharistic offering made on account of receiving good news. Elve Ta EvaYYEXα. See Hist. Gr. I. 6, 27. It seems to be used in a similar sense by the Septuagint in 2 Sam. xviii. 20, 27.
Εθνε τα Ευαγγελια.
Other examples might be produced in which the word is used in all the above senses; but these may be deemed sufficient.
3. However illustrative the above acceptations of Evayyehov among the Greek writers, may be of the word in relation to the great doctrine of the new covenant; yet among the sacred writers, it is restricted to express the glad tidings of the coming of the Messiah, for the reasons mentioned above. See Luke ii. 10.
4. The whole doctrine of Jesus Christ comprized in the history of his incarnation, preaching, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection, ascension, and the mission of the Holy Spirit, by which salvation was procured for a lost world, is expressed by the word Euayyerov, as well as by the general title; Καινη Διαθηκη. Rom. i. 1. 3. 9. Matt. iv. 23. ix. 35. xxiv. 14. Mark i. 14. But the Sacred Writers use it with a variety of epithets, which it may be necessary to mention.
1st, It is sometimes termed The gospel of God concerning his Son. Rom. i. 1, 3. 2dly, The gospel of the Son of God. Rom. i. 9. 3dly, The gospel of the kingdom of God. Matt. iv. 23. ix. 35. xxiv. 14. Mark i. 14. 4thly, Sometimes it is simply called THE GOSPEL. Mark xiii. 10. xvi.15. 5thly, The word or doctrine (xoyos) of the Gospel. Acts xv. 7. 6thly, The Gospel of Peace. Eph. vi. 15 7thly, The Gospel of Glory, To Evayyenov tns doğns. 1 Tim. i. 11. 8thly, The Gospel of Salvation, to Ευαγγελιον της σωτηριας. Eph. i. 13.
5. In 1 Cor. ix. 23. it means the blessings and privileges promised in the New Testament.
GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW.
6. It means the public profession of the doctrine taught by Christ, Mark viii. 35. x. 29. 2 Tim. i. 8. Philem. ver. 13.
7. But in Gal. i. 6, 8, 9. the word Evayyo seems to mean any new doctrine, whether true or false.
Many MSS. have Το κατα Ματθαιον αγιον Ευαγγελιον, which is generally rendered, The Gospel according to SAINT Matthew. But the word ayov, saint, or holy, should be here applied to the Gospel, with which it properly agrees, and then the title would run, The holy Gospel according to Matthew; that is, the account of this Holy Dispensation according to the narrative composed by Matthew, an eye-witness of all the transactions he relates. But anciently the word holy was neither applied to the narrative nor to the narrator, the title being simply, The Gospel according to Matthew.
SOME ACCOUNT OF MATTHEW THE EVANGELIST.
MATTHEW, supposed to be the same who is also called Levi, son of Alpheus, was by birth a Jew. As to his office, he appears to have been a tax-gatherer, under the Romans. He was a native of Galilee, as the rest of Christ's apostles were; but of what city in that country, or of which tribe of the people of Israel, are not known.
As he sat at the custom-house, by the sea side, in, or near the city of Capernaum, Jesus called him; and as soon as he could make up his accompts with those by whom he had been employed and entrusted, he became a willing faithful disciple of Christ. After this, St. Mark tells us, he made an entertainment in his own house, where Christ and several of his disciples were present, together with many tax-gatherers, and others, of no very respectable character, in the sight of the Pharisees.
It is probable, that Matthew took this occasion of calling together his relatives and acquaintances, that he might take a friendly farewell of them; and give them the opportunity of seeing and hearing that divine Person, whose words he had already found to be spirit and life to his own soul; and to whose service he had now solemnly dedicated himself.
He was placed by our Lord in the number of his Apostles, and continued with him during his life. After the Ascension of Christ, he was at Jerusalem, and received the Holy Ghost with the rest of the disciples on the day of Pentecost.
Matthew, with Andrew, Peter, and the two sons of Zebedee, are the only disciples whose call is particularly mentioned. It is uncertain when, where, or how he died. There does not appear to be any clear evidence in the writings of the primitive fathers, that he suffered martyrdom.
St. Matthew's Gospel is generally allowed to be the most ancient part of the writings of the New Covenant. Many modern critics contend that it was written about the year of our Lord 61, or between this and 65. Others, that it was written so early as 41, or about the eighth year after the Ascension; and this is supported by the subscriptions at the end of this Gospel in many MSS.; but it must be observed, that all these MSS. are posterior to the 10th century. Michaelis has adopted a middle way, which carries much of the appearance of probability with it, viz. that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew about the 8th year after the Ascension of our Lord, or A.D. 41. and that the translation of it into Greek, was made about A. D. 61. or later.
Whether this Gospel were written originally in Hebrew or Greck, is a question by which the
PREFACE TO THE GOSPEL OF ST. MATTHEW.
most eminent critics have been greatly puzzled and divided. The balance however is clearly in favour of a Hebrew original. The present Greek text, was doubtless published at a very early period; who the translator was, cannot at this distance of time, be determined; probably it was the Evangelist himself.
As Matthew was one of the twelve disciples, his history is an account of what he heard and saw, being a constant attendant on our blessed Lord. This consideration of itself would prove, that allowing him only to be a man of integrity, he would make no mistakes in his narrative. Add to this, the influence and superintendance of the Holy Spirit, under which he constantly acted, and which our Lord had promised to his disciples, to guide them unto all truth, and bring whatsoever he had spoken to them, into remembrance, John xiv. 26. These two considerations stamp the narrative with the utmost degree of credibility.
It may be necessary to say a few words in explanation of the different ERAS introduced at the commencement of the Gospels. 1. By the Ussherian year of the World, the Reader is to understand the chronological computation of Archbishop Ussher; who supposed that 4000 years exactly, had elapsed from the creation of the world till the birth of Christ. 2. The Alexandrian Era, is that chronological computation which was used by the people of Alexandria; who began their reckoning 5502 before the vulgar year of Christ I. 3. The Antiochian Era, is a correction of the preceding, in the 4th century, by Pandorus, an Egyptian monk, and used by the people of Antioch; it differs only from the Alexandrian by subtracting ten years. 4. The Constantinopolitan Æra, is that still in use in the Greek Church, which reckons 5508 before the year I. of the Incarnation, according to the Vulgar æra. 5. The Julian Period is a factitious æra, conceived by Joseph Scaliger, to facilitate the reduction of the years of any given epoch to that of another. This Period is the result of the Lunar and Solar Cycles, and the Indictions multiplied by each other. Thus: multiply 19 the Lunar Cycle, by 28 the Solar Cycle, and the product will be 532; multiply this sum by 15 the Cycle of the Indictions, and you will have 7980 years, which constitute the Julian Period. The first year of the Vulgar Æra, is placed in the 4714th year of the Julian Period: whence it follows, that to find any year of our Lord in this Period, 4713 years must be added to that year: e. g. to find the year of this Period, answering to the present year of our Lord 1812, add 4713, and you will have 6525, which is the year of the Julian Period sought. 6. The Era of the Seleucida, sometimes improperly called the Era of Alexander, commenced 12 years after the death of Alexander the Great, 312 before the Incarnation, according to the vulgar reckoning, and was properly the first year of the Syro-Macedonian empire. 7. By the year before the Vulgar Era of Christ, is meant, that correct chronological reckoning which shewed that the vulgar or common reckoning of the A. D. or year of our Lord, is deficient not less than four years: so that the present year 1812 should be, according to strict chronological precision, 1816. 8. The mode of computing by Olympiads, derived its origin from the institution of the Olympic Games, which were celebrated every four years, for five successive days, at the time of the first full moon, after the summer's solstice. They were held on the banks of the river Alpheus, near Olympia, a city of Elis, from which they derived their name. The first Olympiad commenced 776 before the Incarnation of our Lord. It need scarcely be added that each Olympiad consists of four years; hence the first, second, third, or fourth year of any particular Olympiad. 9. Year of the building of Rome, is an important Æra among the Roman historians: it commenced 753 years before the birth of Christ. 10. The year of Augustus, or years after the Battle of Actium, is the computation of time from the commencement of the Roman Empire, which took place after the Battle of Actium, 27 years before our Lord: from this time Augustus became sole governor. 11. The Cycles introduced, require little explanation. The Solar Cycle is a revolution consisting of 28 years; the Lunur Cycle of 19; and the Paschal Cycle or Dionysian Period, is compounded of both, thus: The Solar Cycle of 28, and the Lunar of 19, multiplied by each other, produce 532, which constitutes a third Cyele, called the Paschal Cycle, because in that period, the Christian Passover or Easter, a moveable Feast, has gone through all possible variations, and the Solar and Lunar Cycles, Dominical Letters, Paschal term, Epacts, New Moons, &c. &c. all recommence exactly as they had done 532 years before. Other Eras might have been noticed, but those mentioned above were judged to be the most important. For farther particulars relative to the history of the Gospels, see the GENERAL PREFACE to the NEW TESTAMENT.