« PreviousContinue »
Wherefore, as they have not done so, they possess evidently the character of writers who have no distrust of their cause, but who tell the truth as it presented itself, without artifice or disguise.
1. The following are examples of references to particulars omitted by the Evangelist who makes the reference, and by all the rest.
Matt. xi. 21. Chorazin is mentioned by our Lord as having been the scene of miracles, which would have converted Tyre and Sidon from their idolatry. Yet none of the evangelists speak so much as of one miracle wrought there; they do not even say that Jesus was ever in that town.-John iv. 42. The inhabitants of Sychar, with whom Jesus tarried two days, say, “We have heard him ourselves, and know that this is indeed the Christ, the Saviour of the world." These words imply, that our Lord had preached much during the two days he staid in Sychar, though none of the sermons which he then delivered are recorded.—Luke i. 34. When Gabriel told Mary that she should conceive, and bring forth the Messiah, she replied, "How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?" As Mary knew that Messiah was to be the son of David by natural descent, she could not think herself more unlikely to be his mother, than any other daughter of that prince. She only thought it improbable, because she had not yet known man. It is evident, therefore, that the angel had said something which made her think she was to conceive Messiah forthwith; yet the words said to have been spoken by him, in the history, could not be understood by her as implying any such thing. It seems the evangelist has not related the whole of their conversation.-Luke i. 62. "They made signs to his father, how he would have him called." This implies that Zacharias was struck deaf as well as dumb; though, in the angel's speech, before the punishment was inflicted, he was told only that he should be dumb.-John ii. 3. At the marriage in Cana, the mother of Jesus told him of the wine's having run short, to insinuate that it would be very acceptable if he would provide some. It seems she had formed a just notion of his miraculous power. And though he declined her request, she ordered the servants to do whatever he should bid them. We may therefore believe, that afterwards, by some sign or other, or by something he said to her which is not recorded, he gave her reason to think he would do what she desired.-Luke viii. 35. It is said that the inhabitants of Gadara, hearing of the miracle which Jesus had performed on the demoniac, came out to meet him, and found the man" sitting at the feet of Jesus clothed." The evangelist had before observed, ver.27. that this madman "wore no clothes;" but neither he nor any of the rest inform us, how he came now to be supplied with them. We must therefore suppose, that either the disciples, or some of the multitude who came along with them in the
boats mentioned Mark iv. 38. had brought spare clothes with them, as is the custom of travellers, and had charitably bestowed them on the man to cover his nakedness.--Luke xi. 1. We are told, that as Jesus "was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples." It seems the Baptist had delivered to his disciples a form of prayer so very excellent in its kind, that it was taken notice of by Christ's followers, and moved one of them, upon whom our Saviour's prayer had made a deep impression, to beg that they might have equal advantages with the disciples of John, for performing aright this branch of their duty. For that the man did not now ask instruction concerning the nas ture of prayer, but a model to form his devotions by, like that which the Baptist had given to his disciples, is evident from our Lord's answer. Nevertheless, this prayer of the Baptist is not recorded.―John xi. 41, 42. Before Lazarus was raised, Jesus thank ed the Father that he had heard him; which implieth, that he had prayed for Lazarus' resurrection in the hearing of the bystanders, for he declares that he had prayed for their sakes; yet John has not mentioned this circumstance.-John xi. 49, 50. Caiaphas makes a speech in the council, the propriety of which cannot be understood, but on supposition that some of the members present had been opposing the resolution which the rest were forn: ing, namely, to destroy Jesus, however innocent he might be. "Ye know nothing at all; nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not."-John xx. 19. 26. We are told that Jesus came at two different times after his resurrection, and stood in the midst of his disciples, notwithstanding the doors had been fast shut for fear of the Jews; the circumstance of his having drawn the bolts by his miraculous power being omitted by the historian, as is plain from the similar instance recorded, Acts v. 23. where the officers sent to fetch the apostles out of prison, make the following report to the council: "The prison truly found we shut with all safety, and the keepers standing without before the doors; but when we had opened, we found no man within." From the circumstance of the doors being shut and the officers opening them, no one imagines that the angel, in bringing the apostles out, made them pass through the prison doors. The reason is, Luke, in the precedent part of his narration, says expressly that the angel opened them. Neither does any reader fancy that he did not shut them again, though the inspired writer does not mention it; for the officers reported that they found them shut. But had Luke, in the former part of his narration, happened to omit the circumstance of the angel's opening the prison doors, as he does of his shutting them, to have inferred from their being found shut by the officers, that the angel carried the apostles through them without opening
them, would have been absurd. It is evident therefore how weakly the Lutherans reason, who, because John has not said that our Lord opened the doors of the room where the apostles were when he appeared to them, have inferred that he passed through the doors without opening them.-Matt. xxviii. 16. We are told that "the cleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17. And when they saw him they worshipped him; but some doubted." This appointment it seems was made at a former meeting, though it is taken notice of by none of the evangelists; and it implies, that the time for the interview was fixed, otherwise the appointment of the place would have been to no purpose. But the time and place of this appearance being known before hand, the news of it must have spread among the disciples, and gathered great numbers from all quarters. Accordingly, the apostle Paul tells us, that above five hundred brethren came together on this mountain. Yet the evangelists have mentioned only the eleven apostles as present on the occasion.-To conclude, in the history of our Lord's appearances to his disciples, during the forty days he abode on earth after his resurrection, the evangelists have set down little else but the proofs which he gave them of his resurrection, such as his conversing familiarly with them, his offering his body to be handled by them, his eating and drinking with them, and his working a miracle or two. Nevertheless, from Acts i. 3. we learn, that Jesus employed the most of his time in instructing them in the doctrines they were to preach, and in explaining to them the other matters relating to the new dispensation of religion they were to erect among mankind. "To whom also he shewed himself alive, after his passion, by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.-For more examples, see Luke xxiv. 34. John xi. 28.
2. The following are Examples of References to things omitted by the Evangelist who makes the Reference, but which are recorded by some of the rest.
John xviii. 15. We are told that the disciple who was known to the high priest's family, went into the palace with Jesus; yet, in the precedent part of the history, there is no mention made of Christ's being carried thither. It is only said, that they led him away to Annas, who was father-in-law to Caiaphas the high priest. We must therefore suppose, that the soldiers, with Judas at their head, carried him to Caiaphas, after Annas had dismissed him. This circumstance is mentioned by the other historians. -The evangelist John, in the 13th chapter of his Gospel, relates our Lord's transactions at the passover, which he ate with his disciples immediately before his passion, but does not tell us direct
ly that that supper was the passover. Nevertheless, by comparing his account with those which the other evangelists have gi ven of this affair, it evidently appears to have been the passover. Besides, we cannot rightly understand the particulars which John himself has mentioned, without making this supposition.-In the history which John gives of our Lord's trial before the Roman governor, he tells us, ch. xviii. 33. that " Pilate entered into the judgment-hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the king of the Jews?" The priests, it seems, in the charge which they brought against Jesus, informed the governor that he had called himself « King of the Jews;" yet, in the precedent part of his history, the evangelist does not mention this circumstance. It is supplied indeed by Luke, who tells us, chap. xxiii. 2. that "they began to accuse him saying, We found this fellow perverte ing the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cesar, saying, That he himself is Christ a king."-Luke, chap. xxiv. 2. speaking of the journey of the women who carried the spices to the sepulchre on the morning of the first day of the week, tells us, that they found the stone rolled away from the door of the sepulchre. Yet, in the history which he has given of our Lord's burial, he does not mention any stone that was laid to fasten the door. This circumstance is supplied by Matthew, who informs us, chap. xxvii, 60. that after Joseph had laid our Lord's body in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out of a rock, " he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed."
As these instances prove, that the evangelists were acquainted with particulars of our Lord's history, which they did not think fit to mention directly, it is reasonable to believe that they omitted many things with design. Wherefore, we need not be surprised, if, on comparing their histories, we meet with large periods of Christ's life entirely passed over in silence, or which are touched upon but very slightly, while other periods appear exceedingly crowded both with actions and discourses. The whole of our Lord's public life was full of action, being spent in doing good to the bodies and souls of men, though the history exhibits but a few of the particulars. Had we a journal of his life, such as they were wont to keep in the palaces of the eastern monarchs, what an astonishing multitude and variety of sermons, sayings, precepts, admonitions, parables, miracles, and other particulars, all worthy to be recorded, read, considered, and kept in remem brance, would present themselves to our view, which are now buried in oblivion! The apostle Paul has preserved one memorable saying of the Lord, which none of the evangelists has mentioned, though it must have been a favourite saying, and often repeated: Acts xx. 35. “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring, ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give.
than to receive." The same apostle has mentioned two appearances of Christ after his resurrection, which are likewise omitted by the evangelists; I mean, the appearance to Peter first, then to James, 1 Cor. xv. 5. 7.
From these premises it follows, that although the sacred historians have not said that our Lord was at any of the feasts which happened in the course of his ministry, except four passovers, one feast of tabernacles, and one feast of dedication, we cannot from thence conclude that he was at none but these. His regard for all the divine institutions, must have carried him every year to the three festivals, which the Jewish males were ordered by the law (Deut. xvi. 16.) to attend. And, no doubt, on those occasions he both said and did many things of great importance, though the Holy Spirit has not thought fit to record them.-The gospel written by John shews us, that we should have erred grossly, if, because the other Gospels mention but one passover, we had concluded there was but one in the course of our Lord's ministry. By parity of reason, we may be in an error, if we shall conclude that there were no passovers in that period, but the four which John has taken notice of. It is certain that he himself has omitted all the feasts of pentecost, tabernacles, and dedication, at which Christ was present, except one feast of tabernacles, and another of dedication. He may therefore have omitted some of the passovers also, especially as it is he who has told us that Jesus did many things which are not written, either in his own or in the other gospels. The consequence naturally following from this is, that, for any thing we know, our Lord's ministry may have comprehended more than three years and an half, the term commonly assigned to it by harmony-writers. Gerhard, Mercator, Joseph Scaliger, Calvisius, Casaubon, Helvicus, Newton, and others, were of this opinion, supposing that there are traces of at least five passovers in the sacred history. What has been said, and what I am yet to say, will perhaps shew that these learned men, notwithstanding they have extended Christ's ministry a year beyond the ordinary limits, may have still confined it within too narrow bounds.
I think it is evident that our Lord preached a considerable time in Judea, before he entered upon his ministry in Galilee; at which period, the three evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, have commenced their histories. The description which John has given of his ministry in Judea, and the success of it, is the foundation of this opinion, chap. iii. 22 "After these things," namely, the first passover, and the conversation with Nicodemus, "came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea, and there he tarried with them and baptized." The fame and success of his ministry in that country is described, John iv. 1. "When, therefore, the Lord knew how the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized VOL. I.