« PreviousContinue »
them in shining garments,” &c.—We have more instances, Matt. xxvii. 52. Luke xxii. 40, 41. See the Harmony.
Examples might be produced likewise from profane historians, to illustrate and confirm the foregoing observation. I shall mention a few. Xiphilinus, giving an account of the death of the emperor Otho, tells us, that having heard of the defeat of his forces, he exhorted his friends to provide for their own safety ; then withdrew into his chamber, and there ran himself through with a dagger; as if these things had followed one another in close succession. Nevertheless, from Suetonius and Tacitus we learn, that several things intervened, and that Otho did not dispatch himself till next morning. Tacitus in particular informs us, that his death did not happen till he returned into his chamber a second time. For having rested a little after his first going in, he came out upon an uproar in the camp, then returned and rested till early next morning, when he ran bimself through the body. This example from Xiphilinus deserves particular notice, as it bears so near a resemblance to the omissions found in the accounts, which particular evangelists have given of the transactions of the disciples at our Lord's resurrection, and to the connections whereby they have joined the several parts of their narration. In like manner, Polybius, having mentioned Scipio's defeating Indibilis, adds, that he came to Arragon, without taking notice of any intermediate event. Nevertheless it is certain from Livy's account of this expedition, that after the defeat of Indibilis, and before Scipio went to Arragon, he marched a number of miles to have an interview with Massinissa : an event which, though Polybius has passed it over in silence, certainly merited a place in the history.—But the most remarkable example is, the account given by Tacitus of Vitellius offering to resign the government, compared with the relation of the same event found in Suetonius. For the latter tells us, that Vitellius made the offer publicly three several times, and relates what he said upon each of those occasions; whereas, Tacitus mentions only his appearing once in public, bringing in on that occasion every thing spoken by him at the three appearances, and adding at the same time certain particulars overlooked by Suetonius altogether. This. I think as extraordinary an instance as any to be met with in the Gospels.
From the examples produced out of the Gospels, it cannot, I think, be inferred, that the sacred historians have connected facts together, as happening in succession, which really were distant from one another, through ignorance or mistake. In particular, there is no reason to suspect Luke of either; for it is he who has informed us, that Jesus continued on earth forty days after his resurrection, Acts i. 3. And therefore, though in his Gospel he has connected the discourse spoken at the ascension, with what
our Lord said on the evening of the day whereon he arose, we cannot suppose that he thought Jesus did ascend then, or that he • meant to say so. The same conclusion may be drawn, in behalf of all the evangelists in like cases.
The examples produced from profane historians shew, that even the most elegant authors did not, in ancient times, write with that accuracy, method, and art, which is required in modern coinpositions. If so, that defect is excusable in such illiterate authors as the evangelists; and the rather, that in the ancient histories of their own nation, which they daily read, the same sort of narration is found, as might be proved by many examples from the histories of Moses, Samuel, and the rest, if there was any doubt of the matter.
This observation shews us the proper force of the connections, by which the several parts of the evangelical history are united. In most cases, their meaning is no more than this; the next particular to be related is such and such a thing. Generally indeed those connections imply, that the particular connected, happened in order of time posterior to that which is related before it, and prior to that which is related after it ; but by no means do they imply, that it happened either immediately after or before it, without any other matter coming between, unless there be somen thing said directing us to make this supposition.
OBSERVATION IV. Concerning the similar particulars occurring in the Sacred History,
ộ l. It is almost universally agreed, that our Lord's ministry lasted more than three years. But, in the course of so long a period, having preached perhaps once every day, or oftener as OC-casion required, we may naturally suppose that he would repeat such of his sermons, parables, precepts and prophecies, as were of the greatest importance. Let any person suppose himself a teacher, who in the several parts of a wide country has frequent occasions to instruct different assemblies of people, whose prejųdices, reigning vices, and general characters are the same, and let him judge whether he would find it either practicable or expedient to avoid this. Upon reflection, I believe he will acknowledge the justness of the observation; nay, will scarce help thinking that our Lord must have repeated his discourses much oftener than appears by the history. The people he had to teach were dull, and ignorant, and averse from receiving the truth. Even the disciples themselves were of this character. Their hearts were hard, and their understandings slow. It was therefore necessary that Jesus should repeat his instructions often, in order to make them sink deep into the hearts of his hearers; but especially those doctrines that were of the greatest importance, or most
opposite to the prejudices of the persons to whom they were delivered. The following are examples of doctrines, parables, and precepts,
repeated by onr Lord in the course of his ministry. The parable of salt is delivered, Matt. v. 13. It is repeated, Mark ix. 50. It is made use of a third time, Luke xiv. 34.The parable of the lighted lamp, makes part of the sermon on the mount, Matt. v. 15. It was delivered again, as the improvement of the parable of the sower, Luke viii. 16. It was spoken a third time, when Jesus confuted the calumny of the Pharisees, Luke xi. 33.—The precept concerning cutting off the right hand and plucking out the right eye, found in the sermon on the mount, Matt. v. 29. was repeated afterwards, Matt. xviii. 8, 9.The discourse concerning prayer delivered in Galilee as part of the sermon on the mount, Matt. vi. 5,–13. was repeated about a year after, in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, Luke xi. 1,–13. - The necessity of forgiving our brother his trespasses, in order to our praying with acceptance, enjoined Mitt. vi. 14. was again inculcated at the conclusion of the discourse occasioned by the withering of the fig-tree, Mark xi. 25.--The aphorism in the sermon on the mount, which runs thus, " The light of the body is the eye,” Matt. vi. 22. was spoken again when the calumny of the Pharisees was confuted, Luke xi. 34.–The discourse against anxiety, Matt. vi. 25. is found again, Luke xii. 22.—The proverb, “With what measure ye mete,” &c. found in the sermon on the mount, Matt. vii. 2. was repeated after the parable of the sower, Mark iv. 24.—The counsel, “ Enter ye in at the strait gate,” Matt. vii. 13. was given again, Luke xiii. 24. when one asked if few should be saved. On that occasion also, he spake what he had said formerly, Matt. viii. 11. when commending the centurion's faith, “ Many shall come from the east,” &c.-Before the twelve apostles were elected, Jesus told his disciples, “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few. Pray ye,” &c. Matt. ix. 37, 38. He made the observation, and gave
the same direction to the seventy, when they were appointed, Luke x. 2. « Thierefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few. Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest.”—The instructions and exhortations given to the twelve after their election, Matt. X. 16, 32. were inculcated upon the seventy after their election, Luke x. 3,-12. and upon the disciples in general a little before Christ's Crucifixion, Luke xii. 1,-12. See also Luke ix. 3, 4, 5.—The necessity of self-denial, privately inculcated upon the twelve after their election, Matt. x. 37, 38. was publicly taught in the audience of the multitude more than a year after that, Luke xiv. 26, 27.The cities in which he had wrought many miracles are bewailed, VOL.I. E
Matt. xi. 20,-24, after which, 25. “ He thanked the Father that his doctrine was hid,” &c. The cities are bewailed again, a little before the conclusion of his ministry in Galilee, Luke x. 13. and soon after that, when the seventy returned and gave an account of their success, Jesus thanked the Father a second time, that his doctrine was hid, &c. Luke x. 21.-The description of the power of faith, first given on occasion of the epileptic boy, whom the disciples attempted to cure without success, Matt. xvii. 20. was produced again, when they marvelled at the withering of the figtree, Matt. xxi. 21.-The parable of the marriage-supper was delivered first in Perea, while Jesus was dining with one of the rulers, Luke xiv. 16. then in the temple before a great number of the chief priests and Pharisees, Matt. xxii. 1.---The parable of the talents was delivered in the house of Zaccheus, Luke xix. 12. also on the mount of Olives, as Jesus went from Jerusalem to Bethany, a little before his passion, Matt. xxv. 14.-The woes against the Pharisees were twice denounced; once at dinner with a Pharisee, in the hearing of the guests, Luke xi. 42. and again publicly in the temple before all the people, Luke xx. 46.— The proverb, Whosoever exalteth himself,” &c. was spoken no less than seven different times, Matt. xviii. 4. XX. 26. xxiii. 12. Luke xiv. 11. xviii. 14. xxii. 26. John xiii. 14.
§ 2. This observation may be applied with equal propriety to Christ's prophecies ; for he might judge it expedient to repeat them also to different asseinblies, and on different occasions. The following are a few examples—The prediction, that the apostles were to be brought before kings and rulers, delivered among the instructions previous to their first mission, Matt. x. 179–22. was repeated in the prophecy concerning the destruction of the temple, Mark xii. 9. 13.-The prediction, that by our Lord's appearing on earth, great animosities should be occasioned, delivered also among the instructions given to the twelve, was repeated in the charge to the disciples in general, Luke xii. 49.-- The prophecy concerning the destruction of the Jewish state, was first delivered in Samaria, in answer to one who asked when the kingdom of heaven should come, Luke xvii. 20. It was repeated on the mount of Olives a little before Christ's passion, Matt. xxiv. 1.-To conclude, Jesus predicted his own sufferings no less than nine different times, John ii. 19. Matt. xvi. 21. xvii. 12. 22. xx. 18. xxvi. 1. Mark xiv. 22. Luke xvii. 23. xxii. 15. And his resurrection from the dead six different times, John ii, 19. Luke ix. 22. Matt. xvii. 9. xvii. 23. xx, 19. John xiv. 32.
$ 3. This observation may also be applied to our Lord's miracles, and to the other occurrences of his life, whether more ordinary or extraordinary. For as great multitudes every where crowded after him to be cured, it is not impossible that persons afflicted with like diseases, might at different times accost him in
the same forms of address, and be answered by him in one and the same manner. If so, it cannot by any means be thought incredible, that he should have wrought like miraculous cures more than once, and with like circumstances. Farther, as many persons of all sorts and conditions came to hear him preach, he might at different times, and in different places, meet with men of the same tempers and ways of thinking. It must therefore be acknowledged worthy of belief also, if we find the same insidious questions frequently put to him, the same objections frequently made to his doctrine, and the same calumnies frequently thrown out against his character and mission. In a word, during the course of a life so full of action as Christ's, many similar occurrences, both ordinary and extraordinary, may be expected to have happened which were really different, although attended with similar circumstances. The conclusion from hence, I think, is undeniable, viz. that when we meet with things in our Lord's history like to one another, we must beware of hastily fancying that they are the same. 1. The following are examples of miraculous cures, that were
really different, because performed upon different persons, and at diferent times, though they be the same in kind and circumstances.
Mark i. 24. v. 7. We have the histories of different demoniacs, cured at different times, who make speeches before their cures, no otherwise different, than the same speech might be in the writings of different historians. One of them, on seeing Jesus, cried, i. 24. “ What have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth ? Art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the holy one of God :" the other, v. 7. “ What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the Most High God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.”—Matt. ix. 27. Luke xviii. 38. we find different men, at different times, making the same speech to Jesus: "Son of David, have mercy on us." Also Luke xvii. 13. we iind lepers saying to him: “ Jesus, master, have mercy on us."--Matt. viij. 4. Jesus orders the leper he had cured to go and shew himself to the priest. This is a circumstance that may have happened in every cure of lepers performed by him. Accordingly, when he cleansed ten lepers at once in Samaria, we find him giving them all this injunction, Luke xvii. 14. “ Go, shew yourselves unto the priests.” Wherefore we shall argue weakly, if, from this circumstance occurring in both miracles, we infer that the cure of the leper, Matt. vii. 4. is the same with that recorded Mark i. 40. From the examples mentioned, it is evident that the speeches which the lepers made before their cures, “ Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean,” night come from different persons at different times. We may therefore believe that the cures were