Page images
[ocr errors]

different, although the similar circumstances mentioned occurred in both. For the order of time in which these miracles are said to have happened, and the series of the history, are better arguments to prove them different, than the likeness of two circumstances, which might naturally happen in both, can be to prove them the same. The cure of the demoniac, recorded Matt. ix. 32. and that mentioned chap. xii. 22. being found in the same evangelist, are universally acknowledged to be different, though the circumstances attending both are similar, viz. the amazement of the multitude, and the calumny of the Pharisees, "This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils." Yet it is for no better reasons that the demoniac, mentioned Matt. xii. 22. has generally been thought the same with him, recorded Luke xi. 14. It is true, in those passages there is also the defence whereby Jesus vindicated himself from that calumny; which, by reason of its length, and variety, and general agreement, has dazzled the eyes of most readers, and led them to think that the occasions on which it was spoken, must certainly have been the same. But as it cannot be doubted that the Pharisees attempted more than once to blacken Christ's character by this calumny, it is natural to find the answer to it more than once; because what was a proper answer to it on one occasion, must have been so on every other occasion. Those answers therefore, though perfectly the same, will not prove the miracles the same at which they were introduced. Neither will the other similar circumstances prove this, viz. the admiration and amazement of the multitude, and the reflection of the Pharisees; because we find these attending the cures of the demoniacs that were undeniably different, being found in the same evangelist. The two miracles therefore may be, and the order of the history obliges us to believe that they must be, really different.


2. The following are examples of the same questions proposed, and things said to our Lord on different occasions, to which he returned

the same answers.

Matt. viii. 19. As Jesus was standing beside the sea of Galilee, a scribe said to him, "Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest." Another person said the same thing to him on the highway, as he was travelling through Samaria, Luke ix. 57. The answer which he gave to both is the same; "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests," &c. What renders these instances very remarkable is, that after both, particular disciples are said to have excused themselves from following Christ, on pretence of burying their fathers, and to have received from Christ the same answer. Matt. viii. 21. "And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 22. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead."


Luke ix. 59. " And he said unto another, Follow me; but he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. 60. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead; but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." These are strong resemblances; yet the circumstances of time and place, so clearly marked by both evangelists, oblige us to believe them different events.-The sign from heaven demanded by the Pharisees, Matt. xii. 38. is evidently different from that demanded chap. xvi. 1. 4. though the answers that were returned are the same.-Luke x. 25. A lawyer asked Christ, what he should do to inherit eternal life? This question was put to him at another time by a ruler, chap. xviii. 18. and the answers returned were no otherwise different than the same answer might be, related on different occasions.-Luke xvii. 20. The Pharisees asked when the kingdom of heaven should come? The disciples proposed the same question in different words, Matt. xxiv. 3. "What shall be the sign of thy coming?" Jesus answered both, by predicting the destruction of the Jewish state, which was the chief obstacle to the erection of his kingdom.

3. The following are examples of ordinary occurrences in the life of Christ, materially the same, but different in respect of persons and


He dined with Pharisees thrice, Luke vii. 36. xi. 37. xiv. 1.He lamented the approaching ruin of Jerusalem three times, Luke xiii. 34. xix. 41. Matt. xxiii. 37.—He was anointed three times by pious women while at meat, Luke vii. 37. John xii. 3. Matt. xxvi. 7. The two latter anointings resembled each other in several respects. The first and last happened in the houses of two persons, who had the common name of Simeon.-The Jews attempted twice to stone Christ, John viii. 59. x. 31.-The disciples contended thrice about the chief posts in their Master's kingdom once as they entered into Capernaum, Mark ix. 54.; a second time as they were going up to celebrate the last passover, Matt. xx. 24.; and a third time immediately after the institution of the sacrament, Luke xxii. 24. In the two latter instances, Jesus composed their strife by the very same arguments. And to name no more examples of this sort, our Lord, the night in which he was betrayed, renewed at Jerusalem the promise of the thrones, Luke xxii. 30. which he had formerly made to the apostles in Ephraim, Matt, xix. 18.

4. The following are examples of extraordinary occurrences in our Lord's life, materially the same, but different in respect of time.

He drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple, at the passover which was celebrated in the first year of his ministry, John ii. 13. He made the like reformation there a second time, a little before his death, Matt. xxi. 12. This example deserves par


ticular attention, as the whole circumstances of both actions were perfectly the same.-He was honoured with the testimony of a voice from heaven three times: first at his baptism, then at his transfiguration, last of all a few days before his passion, John xii. 28. The miraculous draught of fishes in the first year of Christ's ministry, Luke v. 4. and that which was caught after his resurrection, John xxi. 3. were certainly different, though the events themselves, and their circumstances, are in several respects like to each other. Both were great draughts of fishes caught by miracle; both were caught at the Lord's desire, with Simon's boat and nets; and both were caught after the disciples had toiled the whole night without success. These are strong resemblances; yet because the times of the miracles are so different, the one having happened in the beginning of our Lord's ministry, and the other after his resurrection, it has not as yet entered into any one's mind to fancy them the same.-The feeding of the five thousand, recorded Matt. xiv. 15. and the feeding of the four thousand, chap. xv. 29. though evidently different miracles, have several circumstances remarkably similar. In the first place, Both miracles were performed on a desert mountain, beside the sea of Galilee: In the second place, Our Lord's discourses with his disciples, by which the two miracles were introduced, are no otherwise different than the same discourse might be if related by different historians; Thirdly, The posture in which the people were fed, was the same in both: Lastly, After both, when the multitude was dismissed, Jesus and his disciples passed over the sea of Galilee by boat. The circumstances on account of which many have thought the sermon on the mount, Matt. v. 1. the same with the sermon recorded Luke vi. 20. do not more exactly resemble each other than these; yet because the two miracles are found in one and the same evangelist, nobody has ever attempted to confound them. Nevertheless, if the one of them had been found in one evangelist, and the other in another, the composers of harmonies, according to their usual way of reasoning, might have proved them to be the same by the following argument. At the miracle recorded Matt. xv. when Jesus talked of feeding his hearers, the apostles were exceedingly surprised, thinking the proposal impossible. 23. "Whence should we have so much bread in the wilderness, as to fill so great a multitude!" This surprise they would have affirmed was impossible, on supposition that the apostles had seen him but a few weeks before, feed a greater multitude with less provision. The connection in which the two miracles might have stood with the precedent and subsequent articles of the several histories, would, as in other cases, have been disregarded. And though the numbers said to have been fed at those meals were unequal, it would have occasioned no great difficulty. For it might have been urged, that there were a thousand heathens



present, whom the one evangelist omitted, because he gave an ac count of Israelites only; but that they were reckoned by the other, who had a mind to mention the full number of those who were fed. And so, if the miracles had happened to be related by different historians, it might have been concluded, with great show of argument, that they were certainly the same, by which means the true order of the history would have been so far perverted.

4. Upon the whole it must be acknowledged, that in the life of Jesus Christ, who performed so many miracles, preached so many sermons, and had so many people continually flocking after him from all places, a number of things may have happened, which, although they might be the same in kind and circumstances, must have been really different, because done at different times. But in writing an account of such a life, if the historian proposed to relate a few of the principal transactions only, he would not record very many of the similar particulars. The brevity which he studied constraining him to make a choice, he would naturally pitch upon things different in kind, that there might be as much variety in his work, as its narrow compass would admit. And if a subsequent historian undertook to give another account of the same life, in order to make his work the more useful, he would mention some of the particulars which the former had omitted; and if he also studied brevity, while he took notice of these, he would omit the similar ones mentioned by his predecessors, at least as far as the order and perspicuity of his work would admit. The most superficial inspection of the Gospels will shew the truth of this branch of the observation. Ex. gr. Because Luke had related the parable of the marriage-supper, as it was first delivered in Perea, chap. xiv. 16. he does not give the repetition of it in the temple, recorded Matt. xxii. 1. In like manner, because he had told how Jesus was anointed in the house of Simon the Pharisee, chap. vii. 37. he omits the anointing in the house of Lazarus, six days before the passover, being unwilling to swell a book too much, which it was the interest of every Christian to have in his possession. On the other hand, Matthew and Mark relate the anointing in the house of Simon the leper, because it was omitted by Luke, but speak nothing of the anointing in the house of Simon the Pharisee, which that historian had recorded. See more examples in the second section of Observation VII.

From the

5. By this observation it is proposed to settle the harmony, and establish the natural order of all the Gospels, which, in many instances, has been disturbed, I think, without cause. above induction of particulars, we may easily understand why the similar occurrences in the history have been kept distinct in some cases, and in others confounded. When like things were found in the same evangelist, the composers of harmonies were obliged


to acknowledge them different. But when they happened to be related by different historians, they have almost always confounded them. Yet since there are so many undeniable instances of miracles, doctrines, parables, prophecies, &c. to be met with in the Gospels, which, though they may have been similar in their nature and circumstances, were different in respect of time, what reason can be assigned for admitting this difference only in cases where the similar particulars happen to be related by the same evangelist? The order and connection of the several narrations, together with the credit and veracity of the inspired writers, are, I should think sufficient reasons for admitting the difference in other cases also: for undoubtedly these are better arguments to prove such facts distinct, than any likeness in a few circumstances can possibly be to prove them the same. And we need not be afraid of multiplying our Lord's actions and miracles too much by this scheme; for the apostle John has declared, chap. xxi. 25. that if all the things which Jesus did had been written, "the world itself could not contain the books that should be written :" an expression which perhaps is not altogether so figurative as people imagine; for in the space of one hour, when the Baptist's disciples were present, Jesus cured "many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits, and unto many that were blind he gave sight," Luke vii. 21. And doubtless there were many such hours in his life, which the historians have passed over in silence. See Observation II.

§ 6. The whole of this observation will receive additional light, and the plan of the following harmony be not a little confirmed, if we can discover from whence the common method of harmo nizing the Gospels took its rise. Many of the fathers thought our Lord exercised his ministry only for the space of one year; building their notion on this, among other reasons, that Isaiah, predicting the ministry of Christ, calls it the acceptable year of the Lord. This was the opinion of Tertullian. For in his book against the Jews, chap. viii. he tells us Jesus suffered the same year that he entered upon his ministry, viz. the 15th of Tiberius, being about thirty years old. Of this opinion also was Origen, Philocal. p. 4. (Ενιαυτον γας πε και μήνας ολιγες εδιδαξίν) σ He (Christ) taught a year and a few months.' In like manner, Clemens Alexandrinus, Strom. lib. 1. p. 340. A. (Kai ėti iviautov μovov de autov ngužα) And that he was to preach only one year.' Lactantius Institut. iv. c. 10. Cujus (Tiberii Cæsaris) anno quinto dècimo, i. e. duobus Geminis consulibus, ante diem septimam [other copies have decimam, the tenth day; others, decimam septimam, the seventeenth] calendarum Aprilium, Judæi Christum crucifixerunt." Eusebius, lib. iii. 24. giving the reason which induced John to write his Gospel, has the following words, (Tes as guy tęÙis ευαγγελίσας συνιδών παρεσί, μόνα τα μετα την εν τω δεσμωτίξια Ιωαννά τε Βαπ



« PreviousContinue »