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to deceive, and more concerned that their writings should not be corrupted, than any men are, or have reason to be, respecting other writings. So that we must renounce all certainty of the authenticity of any record, or grant that it is certain these are the genuine records of the Christian faith. Again: The corruption of the word of God, or the substitution of any other doctrine in the place of that which had been delivered by the apostles, could not have been effected by any part or sect of Christians, without its being soon discovered by those who had embraced the Christian faith, and used the true copies of the word of God, in other churches of the Christian world. And, therefore, this supposed corruption, if it could at all have taken place, must have been the work of the whole body of Christians. But surely it cannot be reasonably supposed that the ages immediately succeeding the apostles should universally conspire to substitute their own inventions in the place of the word of God, and yet continue steadfast in, and suffer so much for, that faith which denounced the severest judgments against them who should corrupt his word; or that so many men should, with the hazard of their lives and fortunes, avouch the gospel to be the truth of God, and yet make such a change even in the frame and constitution of its doctrine, as rendered it ineffectual, both to their own salvation and that of their posterity. Lastly, that these sacred records of the word of God have not been so corrupted as to cease to be an authentic and sufficient rule of faith and practice, may be argued from the providence of God. For nothing seems more inconsistent with his wisdom and goodness, as the Governor of the world and of his church, than to influence his servants to write the Scriptures, to be a rule of faith and manners for all future ages, and to require the belief of the doctrines, and the practice of the duties contained therein, and yet to suffer this divinely-inspired rule to be corrupted in things necessary to faith and practice. Who can imagine that God, who sent his Son into the world to declare this doctrine, and inspired his apostles to indite and preach it, and who by so many miracles confirmed it, should suffer any weak or ill-designing persons to corrupt or alter any of those terms on which the salvation of the world depended? Surely none can think this rational but such as are of opinion that it is not absurd to say that God repented of his goodness and love to mankind in vouchsafing them the gospel; or that he was so unkind to future generations, that he suffered wicked men to rob them of all the benefits intended them by this new declaration of his will. For since those very Scriptures, which have been received as the word of God, and used by the church as such, from its first ages, profess to contain the terms of our salvation; to be Scriptures indited by men commissioned from Christ, and such as avouched themselves “ apostles by the will of God, for the delivery of the faith of God's elect, and for the knowledge of the truth, which is after godliness, in hope of eternal life;" they must either be the word of God in reality, or providence must have permitted such a forgery as renders it impossible for us to perform our duty in order to salvation; for if the Scriptures of the New Testament should be corrupted in any essential requisite of faith or practice, they must cease to be "able to make us wise unto salvation," and so they must fail of answering the end which God intended they should answer when he indited them.
Now the authenticity of the gospels being thus demonstrated, or that they are the genuine and uncorrupted writings of the persons whose names they bear, their truth and divine inspiration follows For, first, with respect to the evangelists Matthew and John, we may observe with Dr. Macknight, as they were apostles," they were eye-witnesses of most of the things they have related They attended our Lord during his ministry; they heard him preach all his sermons, and saw him perform the greatest part of his miracles; they were present at his crucifixion; they conversed with him after his resurrection; and they beheld his ascension. Besides, as apostles, they possessed the gifts of illumination and utterance. By the former they were absolutely secured from falling into error, in any point of doctrine, or matter of fact, relating to the Christian scheme. By the latter they were enabled to express themselves clearly and pertinently upon every subject of Christianity which they had occasion to treat of, either in their sermons or writings. These gifts our Lord had expressly promised to all his apostles. See John xiv. 25, 26." He also promised that, when they should be brought before governors and kings, it should be given them what they should speak; that he would give them a mouth and wisdom which their adversaries should not be able to gainsay or resist; yea, that the Spirit of their Father should speak in them. Matt. x. 18, 20; Luke xxi. 15. The whole of these promises were punctually fulfilled. For, about ten days after our Lord's ascension, the disciples received a glorious effusion of the Holy Ghost, while they tarried in Jerusalem, according to their Master's order, in expectation of being "endued with power from on high." See Acts ii. 3.
"From that moment forth the Spirit gave clear indications of the reality of his presence with them; for he enabled them, all at once, to speak the various languages under heaven as fluently as if they had been their native tongues, and thereby qualified them to preach the gospel in all countries immediately upon their arrival, without the necessity of submitting to the tedious and irksome labour of learning the languages of those countries. Moreover, he gave them the power of working all manner of miracles; nay, he enabled them to impart unto those whom they converted the power of working them, and the faculty of speaking with tongues, and of prophesying or preaching by inspiration. The apostles of the Lord, having such convincing proofs of their inspiration always abiding with them, did not fail on proper occasions to assert it, that mankind might everywhere receive their doctrine and writings with that submission which is due to the dictates of the Spirit of God. Hence we find them calling the gospel which they preached and wrote, "the word of God, the commandment of God, the wisdom of God, the testimony of God;" also, "the word of Christ, the gospel of Christ, the mind of Christ, the mystery of God the Father, and of Christ." Wherefore, Matthew and John being apostles, and having received the gifts of the Spirit with the rest of their brethren, there can be no doubt of their inspiration. Their gospels were written under the direction of the Holy Ghost, who resided in them; and upon that account they are venerated by all Christians as the word of God, and have deservedly a place allowed them in the sacred canon.
2. "The characters of Mark and Luke come next to be considered. They were not apostles, it is true, yet they were qualified to write such a history of our Lord's life as merits a place in the canon of Scripture." For as they were, in all probability, early disciples, it is not unlikely that they were eye-witnesses of most of the things which they have related; and were even in the apostles' company on the day of pentecost, and then received the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit together with them; consequently they wrote by divine inspiration also. But, if that were not the case, it must be granted that these two evangelists accompanied the apostles in their travels. "The matter is certain with respect to Luke; for, in his history of the Acts, he speaks of himself as Paul's companion; and, in the preface to his gospel, he expressly mentions the information of the ministers of the word, as distinct from that of the eye-witnesses, to lead us, probably, to think of Paul, with whom he had long travelled, and who had not the knowledge of Christ's history by personal acquaintance, but by revelation. See Gal. i. 11, 12; 1 Cor. xi. 23. As for Mark, he is generally reported by antiquity, and currently believed, to have been Peter's assistant. And, in conformity to this opinion, all interpreters, both ancient and modern, suppose that Peter speaks of Mark the evangelist in 1 Peter v. 13: 'The church that is at Babylon salutes you, and so does Marcus my son.' This appellation Peter gives to Mark, because of the great intimacy and friendship which subsisted between them, agreeable to the Apostle Paul's description of Timothy's affection. See Phil. ii. 22. If Mark was Peter's companion and fellow-labourer in the gospel, although he was neither an apostle nor an eyewitness, he must have been well acquainted with our Lord's history, because he could not but learn it from the conversation and sermons of Peter, who was both. Wherefore, to use the words of Luke, since these evangelists took in hand to write the history of our Lord's life, according to the informations which they had received from the eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, and executed their design while they accompanied the persons from whom they received those informations, we may reasonably suppose they would submit their works to their examination. Accordingly, Clemens Alexandrinus, quoted by Eusebius, vi. 14, tells us that Mark's gospel was revised by Peter. And Mr. Jones, in support of this opinion, has collected eight particulars from the other gospels, all tending to the honour of Peter, which are entirely omitted by Mark, because Peter's humility, as he supposes, would not allow him to tell these things to that historian. But if it be true that Mark and Luke wrote according to the information of the apostles, and had their gospels revised by them, it is evidently the same as if their gospels had been dictated by the apostles.
"I cannot but observe, however," proceeds the doctor, "that though none of all the suppositions just now mentioned should be granted, there is one unquestionable matter of fact, which fully establishes the authority of the two gospels under consideration; namely, that they were written by the persons whose names they bear, and while most of the apostles were alive. For, in that case, they must have been perused by the apostles, and approved; as is certain from their being universally received in the early ages, and handed down to posterity as of undoubted authority. The apostolical approbation was the only thing, without the inspiration of the writers, which could give these books
the reputation they have obtained. And had it been wanting in any degree, they must have shared the fate of the many accounts which Luke speaks of in his preface; that is, must have been neglected, either as imperfect or spurious, and so have quickly perished. But, if the gospels of Mark and Luke were approved by the apostles immediately upon their publication, and for that reason were received by all Christians, and handed down to posterity as of undoubted authority, it is the same as if they had been dictated by the apostles. Hence they are justly reckoned of equal authority with the other books of Scripture, and admitted into the canon together with them. Such proofs as these, drawn from the sacred writings themselves, are sufficient to make all Christians reverence the gospels as the word of God. And, therefore, they are fitly produced for the confirmation of our faith."
It must be observed further, here, that while we believe the sacred historians have recorded nothing but what is true, we must not suppose they have related all the things which with truth they might have related. "Each of them, indeed, has delivered as much of Christ's doctrine and miracles as is necessary to our salvation. Nevertheless, many important sermons and actions are omitted by each, which, if the rest had not preserved, the world must have sustained an unspeakable loss. We have even reason to believe that it is but a small part of our Lord's history which is preserved among them all;" for John has said expressly, that "there were many other things which Jesus did, which, if they had been written every one," he supposed " that even the world itself could not contain the books that would have been written." The other evangelists affirm, in effect, the same thing, in the summaries which they give of such discourses and miracles as they did not think proper to relate particularly. Thus we read, "Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy, and he healed them," Matt. iv. 23, 24. In Luke vii. 21 it is said, "And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and to many that were blind he gave sight." See also Matt. xiv. 35, 36; xv. 30, 31; xix. 1,2; John ii. 23; and iii. 2; and the passages referred to above in the paragraph respecting the insufficiency of tradition, page 6.
And, as the evangelists did not intend to relate all the sermons and actions of Christ, so it was not their purpose to mention every circumstance of those which they undertook to relate. Each evangelist, directed by the Spirit, makes his own choice. This circumstance is mentioned by one, and that by another, as they judged most proper." And " we must by no means urge omissions, whether of facts, or circumstances of facts, in such a manner as to fancy that the inspired authors rejected all the things they have omitted, or even that they were ignorant of them. For, from the summaries above mentioned, it is plain they have passed over many particulars with which they were well acquainted.”
But it must be observed, though Jesus performed many miracles, which the evangelists have not recorded, and probably many equal in greatness to those which they have recorded; yet, it is likely "that those recorded were more remarkable than the rest, either for the number of the witnesses who were present at them; or for the character and quality of those witnesses; or for the places where they were performed; or for the consequences which they gave rise to; or for the reports which went out concerning them, and fame which accrued to Jesus from them. This observation, which may be applied likewise to our Lord's sermons, deserves the rather to be attended to, because it accounts for what would otherwise be very difficult to be understood, namely, how the evangelists, notwithstanding they had such an infinity of sermons and miracles to make a choice from, came all of them, except John, who designed his gospel as a supplement to the rest, to mention, in most instances, the same sermons and miracles; I say, in most instances, because in a few cases each evangelist has departed from this rule, omitting things, which on account of their importance, their notoriety, their consequences, and other reasons, are recorded by the rest; while he has taken notice of particulars which, to appearance, are not so material. Thus, Mark xiv. 51, the cure which our Lord performed on the high-priest's slave, whose ear Peter cut off, is omitted; while the young man who followed him with a linen cloth cast round his naked body, is mentioned. In these, and such like instances, the evangelists seem not to have considered how their readers would be affected with the transactions recorded by them. If that had been a matter of care with them, they would, in every
case, have made choice of those particulars only which might have prejudiced their readers in favour of their Master, or led them to form a high idea of him. 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.
"According to this view of the matter, it appears that the evangelists, in their histories, have given only a faint sketch, as it were, of our Lord's life, and not a full delineation. However, though the miracles and sermons which they have recorded be few in respect of the whole, it is certain that the miracles mentioned do put Christ's mission beyond all reasonable possibility of doubt; and the sermons related give a just idea of his doctrine. Nay, such is the importance of the things related, that each evangelist must be acknowledged singly to have comprehended in his gospel as much of the knowledge of Christ as is sufficient to the salvation of the world. At the same time, by confining themselves to the principal miracles which our Lord performed, and to some select sermons which he preached in the course of his ministry, they made their histories such small books, that every Christian had it in his power to purchase some one of them. And although at first sight this may seem but a matter of little moment, it was, in reality, a singular benefit to mankind, especially in those ancient ages, before printing was invented, when a book of any considerable bulk amounted to a large Brandt, in his History of the Reformation in the Low Countries, (vol. i., p. 23,) tells us, that for one copy of the Bible, tolerably written on vellum, it was usual to pay four or five hundred crowns; and, even after the invention of printing, sixty for a printed copy, till the art grew more common. We may therefore presume, that it was not without the particular direction of the Spirit, that the evangelists, in writing their histories, thus consulted the benefit of the poor; who, if they got any one of the gospels into their own possession, could be at no loss for the knowledge of Christ necessary to eternal life.
"Concerning the words and phrases which the inspired writers have made use of," it may not be improper to subjoin the following observations from the same judicious author. "If two or more evangelists, on any occasion, ascribe to our Lord the same words, we may safely believe they have preserved the words which he uttered on that occasion. However, when they introduce him speak. ing, they do not always mean to repeat the precise words, but to give the sense of what he said; nothing more being intended oftentimes by those who undertake to relate what was spoken by another. This, I think, is plain, from Acts x. 4, compared with verse 31. In the former of these passages, the angel says to Cornelius, 'Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God;' in the latter, Cornelius, rehearsing the angel's words to Peter, delivers them thus: "Thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God.' Wherefore, both Cornelius and the historian thought the angel's words were repeated, when the sense of them was delivered. This observation reconciles all those passages in the gospels, wherein our Lord is introduced expressing his sentiments in different words on the same occasion. Nevertheless, where different expressions are found, it is possible that all of them may have been uttered by him, especially if they convey different thoughts, and, when joined together, make a connected discourse. In most cases, however, the former is the more natural solution; because, if the evangelists have given the true meaning of what our Lord said on every occasion, they have certainly delivered what may be called the words of Christ, though the expressions in each gospel should be different, or even to appearance contradictory. A remarkable example of this we have Matt. x. 9, where Jesus is introduced speaking to his apostles thus: 'Provide-neither shoes nor yet a staff;' but, in the parallel passage, Mark vi. 8, which exhibits the repetition of those instructions, he commanded them, that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; words in sound contradictory to the former, though in sense perfectly the same. Such of the apostles as had staves in their hands might take them, but those who were walking without them were not to provide them; for, as the providence of God was to supply them with all necessaries, to have made the least preparation for their journey would have implied a disbelief of their Master's promise. In like manner, the words of the voice at Christ's baptism, Matt. iii. 17, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,' though different as to sound from the words Mark i. 11, 'Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased;' yet being the same in sense, they are truly repeated. So likewise are the words of institution in the history of the sacrament, and the words of the title that was affixed to our Lord's cross.
"By the way, these principles afford an easy solution of the difficulties which arise upon comparing
the citations in the New Testament with the passages of the Old, from whence they are taken; for, if the meaning of the passage is truly given, we must allow that the quotation is justly made. Hence, though the words, 'He shall be called a Nazarene,' Matt. ii. 23, are not to be found in the writings of the prophets, yet, as the thing meant by these words frequently occurs in them, the application is made by the evangelist with sufficient propriety.
“But further, it ought to be considered, that our Lord's discourses were all delivered, and his conferences managed, in a language different from that wherein they are handed down to posterity, namely, the Syro-Chaldaic, called 'the Hebrew tongue,' Acts xxi. 40, because it was a dialect thereof. For which cause, though all the evangelists had remembered the precise words of every person introduced in their histories, when they related them in a different language, they could hardly avoid making use of different expressions, even on supposition that they wrote by inspiration, unless that inspiration absolutely deprived them of the use of their own faculties; or unless the Holy Spirit, who inspired them, could not suggest different words to each, equally proper for conveying the sentiment he designed to express.
"According to this view of the matter, the four evangelists differ from one another no otherwise than any of them might have differed from himself, had he related the same passage of the history twice. Both narrations would have been the same as to the sense, though different words might have been made use, of in each. Wherefore, it can be no good argument against the inspiration of the evangelists, that their accounts are different. Let the reader compare the two histories of our Lord's ascension, given by Luke, the one in the end of his gospel, the other in the beginning of the Acts; also the three accounts which the same historian gives of Paul's conversion, the first in the ninth, the second in the twenty-second, the third in the twenty-sixth chapter of the last-mentioned book; and he will acknowledge the truth of what I have been saying."
In the mean time, let him observe that, while these apparent inconsistencies, thus rightly understood, are easily reconciled, they prove undeniably that the evangelists were in no combination to make their histories and deceive the world: so far from it, that these inconsistencies are of such a kind, as would lead one to believe the subsequent historians did not so much as compare the accounts of particular transactions, which they were about to publish, with those that were already abroad in the world, but that each evangelist represented the matters which are subjects of his history, as his own memory, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, suggested them to him, without considering how far they might be agreeable to the accounts which his brethren historians had already given. And as this admirably discovers the sober spirit of truth by which those writers were guided in every part of their narrations, so the modesty wherewith they have written their histories is very remarkable. For not only none of them singly has related all the transactions of our Lord's life, or affected to give a complete history thereof, but, "such things as they have thought fit to mention, though great and wonderful above measure, they have not painted with the gaudy colourings of rhetoric, nor heightened with the magnificence of pompous language, but have told them with a simplicity unexampled in so great a subject. And as they have not studied human eloquence in the composition of their histories, so they have not followed human prudence in the choice of their subjects. For although they must have been sensible that the transactions they were about to relate were not likely to be believed by the generality, being many of them opposite to the established course of nature, it is evident they were at no pains to consider what particulars were least liable to exception, nor so much as to obviate the difficulties which arose from them. This thought a late writer has well expressed. 'It does not appear,' says he, 'that it ever came into the mind of the evangelists to consider how this or that other action would appear to mankind, or what objections might be raised against them. But, without attending at all to this, they lay the facts before you, at no pains to think whether they would appear credible or not. If the reader will not believe their testimony, there is no help for it. They tell the truth, and attend to nothing else.' To conclude, it is remarkable that through the whole of their histories, the evangelists have not passed one encomium upon Jesus, or upon any of his friends, nor thrown out one reflection against his enemies, although much of both kinds might have been, and no doubt would have been done by them, had they been governed either by a spirit of imposture or enthusiasm. Christ's life is not praised in the gospels, his death is not lamented, his friends are not commended, his enemies are not reproached, nor even blamed, but every thing is told naked and unadorned, just as it happened; and all who read are left to judge and make reflections for them