« PreviousContinue »
near a hundred years after his ascension, was probably pretty well known by the Gospels, and the common narratives called διαγησεις and παραδοσεις. - He wrote ! chiefly to correct mistakes in DOCTRINE; giving at the same time a narrative for the use of those who might still be uninformed in the history. He wrote against a * heresy. He had to set men right as to the dignity of Christ. Therefore there are many things in this Gos- • ple on which the others are SILENT; and he, on the other hand, is silent on many things, because repetition of what they had given the world would have been either of little use, or quite superfluous, to the persons whom he immediately addressed. ,
By thus fairly considering the different times, places, persons, and other circumstances, in which the several Gospels were written, we shall not be at a loss to account rationally, and to the satisfaction of every GOOD MIND, for omissions, variations, and additions, in the evangelical histories; and the cavils of unbelievers will never it is to be hoped, prevail upon serious, humble Christians, who love truth, and seek it with simplicity of heart, unbiassed by politics, or worldly motives, to renounce the WRITTEN WORD, much less the SPIRIT of Christianity. '
But though the written word were proved to contain many marks of human infirmity, lapses of memory, and terrors of judgment, yet the good Christian, having the witnESS IN HIMSELF, would go on his way, rejoicing, hoping, and believing to the end. If no other event had been announced in the written WORD, than that (agreeably to general and uniform TRADITION) the Holy Ghost was sent to reside among men, after our Lord's ascension, this alone would be GLAD TIDINGS, or an evangelium sufficient to make him exult in the name and privileges of a Christian. If the four Gospels
¢ ¢ 2
are uninspired, yet the writers as good men and firm be ievers, were certainly under the ordinary influence of the Holy Spirit, and related the truth as exactly as their abilities qualified them for narration. They had most evidently, no intention to deceive. Impostors could never have written with such simplicity. So that though their histories should be found not quite exempt from human errors, as no other history ever was exempt, yet still the main point of revelation is clear. The gift of the Spirit is announced by them. It has in all ages of the church been EXPERIENCED; and tho' all the books in the world were destroyed, it would remain. The tradition is now too extensive to be ever lost. And what mortal, who, as the poet says, comes into the world “just to look about him and to die,” will presume to say, that the ETERNAL God cannot make his will known to man, by constant and immediate revelation, without the aid of the penman or the prin. ter? Disputants, indeed, contending for praise and preferment, will wrangie on this, and all other points; but while they wrangle, the humble Christian believes, and is happy.
There are two particulars of variation, which Mr. Paine lays great stress upon, and which, therefore, I shall take under cursory consideration.
Ist. “ Not any of these writers,” says he, “ agree in 46 reciting exactly the written inscription, short as it is, « which they tell us was put over Christ when he was « crucified. Matthew says it was, This is Jesus, the “ King of the Jews; Mark, The King of the Jews ; Luke, - This is the King of the Jews ; John, Jesus of Nazareth, « the King of the Jews,"
This objection has no more claim to novelty than importance; and I only consider it, to shew the unlearned reader how easily it may be obviated. Let him conclude, as he may fairly do, that most of Mr. Paine's
objections, however plausible, may, upon impartial examination, be removed.
The words on the cross were in THREE languages; Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. St. Matthew, writing to · the Hebrews, probably selected that which was in their own language, in which the word JESUS signifies a Saviour. As this was intended to be read by the Jews, it might be designed, by Pilate's advisers, to heighten the insult and mockery, by calling Christ a Saviour, as well as a king: in Hebrew, it certainly admitted of that interpretation, while it also stood for a proper name.
St. Mark, writing at Rome, probably selected the Latin words.-Latin was Pontius Pilate's own language; and he, probably, as it is well known was the case with the Romans, prided himself in not using any other language than his own; so he omits, in this inscription, which being Latin, may be supposed to be of his own dictation, the Hebrew words Jesus and Nazareth, and inserts, consistently with the usual brevity of Latin inscriptions, Rex Judæorum--the King of the Jews.-Indeed the words, This is, were in course understood, and might be supplied by the Evangelists; but they were inserted by St. Matthew, and were common to all the inscriptions. St. Luke, like St. Mark, took his from the Latin Rex Judæorum.
St. John's is probably from the Greek inscription, and he says, “ Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews,” which, there is no doubt, was an exact translation of the Greek words. He says, addressing foreigners, as the inscription itself also did, “ Jésus of Nazareth." The word Jesus would not convey the idea of a Saviour to the Greeks; it was to them only a proper name, therefore he adds the Nazarene, or “ of Nazareth,” as a matter of historical information. The Jews knew the native place of Jesus but the Greeks did not, as Nazareth was an inconsiderable town. This addition might
be intended as a mark of contempt, and to shew the Greeks or foreigners in general, that the Jews disdained a king who originated from so paltry a place as Nazareth. Nathaniel's question in St. John is, “ Can any “ good thing come out of Nazareth?” Thus it appears, that the inscription being in three different languages, might, for very good reasons, in the opinion of those who placed it over the cross, have some variations adapted to the various readers, and consistent with the views of the various writers.
Mr. Paine adds, that “ Mark says Christ was cruci“ fied at the third hour-nine in the morning; and John 66 says, it was the sixth hour—twelve at noon.” Here a note is added in the margin; “ According to St. John, “ sentence was not passed till the sixth hour, (noon,) “ and consequently the execution could not be till, the " afternoon; but Mark says expressly, he was crucified « at the third hour-nine in the morning.
Here certainly is a difficulty; but the learned have informed us that St. John parted the days as we do, at midnight*, contrary both to the Roman and Jewish custom; the sixth hour, therefore, is not noon, but six o'clock in the morning, when sentence was passed; and various circumstances might take place, added to the slowness of the procession, to retard the execution till nine, the very time fixed by St. Mark. St. John's method of dividing the day was not Jewish or Roman, as it has been said, but ASIATIC. St. John either learned or taught this method in Asia Minor, where were seven churches, which differed from others in the time of keeping Easter; and affirmed, that they fola lowed, in this variation of times and seasons, the institution of St. John; a circumstance which is very matee
2. According to the Neucbthemeron.
rial, as it shews that St. John had turned his attention to the regulation of time.
Dr. Townson, to whom every student of the LITERAL Gospel is much indebted, advances other arguments on this head, for which I refer to his Discourses.
It is inconsistent with my ideas of propriety to quote many of Mr. Paine's objections*; and indeed my limits will not admit a full examination of his book, if I were inclined to go through it, or, on the present occasion, thought it necessary.
In answer to what Mr. Paine has said against that part of the evangelical history which relates to the interment, resurrection, and ascension of our Saviour, I refer the reader to another volume of Dr. Townson's, expressly written on these subjects, if any one thinks it necessary to re-consider them, on account of Mr. Paine's objections. My opinion is, that they who have the witness of the Spirit, will not be at all concerned about Mr. Paine's cavils, except from the benevolent · motive of endeavouring to prevent their ill effect on the
thoughtless and malignant part of mankind, who may be confirmed in their neglect or hatred of Christianity, by his virulent invective against it.
Those who believe, not only with an historical faith, but with the FAITH THAT GOD GIVETH; not only in the letter, written on perishable materials, but also, in the Spirit, the everlasting Gospel of immediate grace, will not be in the least danger of WAVERING, even if the infidels could prove that the scriptures are merely human narratives, with the errors of humanity.
It is presumptuously said by Hosius, bishop of Warmia in Poland, “ We have now bid adieu to the scrip“ tures, having seen so many, not only different, but
* I would not cull the flowers of those weeds, whose roots I .. wish to destroy