« AnteriorContinuar »
spicuity, which are so essential to a complete view of the sacred history.
To mention Dr. Doddridge, my second guide, is to recall to the recollection of those who interest themselves in these delightful studies, the name of an amiable, learned, and pious man, whose praise is in all the Churches. If I have not uniformly adopted his arrangement, I have been always edified by his devotional reflections. Where his reasoning did not convince, his piety instructed. Where his decisions appeared to be accurate, the union of every quality which can adorn the theological critic, rendered his labours doubly grateful. The pride and ornament of the Independent Dissenters, his anxiety to avoid offence never betrayed him into indifference for truth. His liberality never induced him to confound truth with error, (a custom which is now extolled as freedom from prejudice,) for it was confined to persons, and not to sentiments. Whatever he believed to be true, he enforced with a patient gentleness; which was sometimes mistaken for timidity by those who esteem violence or declamation to be one criterion of ministerial faithfulness, and Christian zeal. An active partizan of that system of religion, which makes the ground of our acceptance with God to consist of a certain train of feelings, as well as in repentance, faith, and obedience; he has not proceeded to the extremes which generally characterise the commentators of this school. His opinions on the formation and government of Christian Churches will not, and cannot, meet with the approbation of the observers of the circumstances related in the Gospels and Acts, and referred to in the apostolic epistles. He appears to have been fettered by the theory which he had imbibed in early life, and had not rejected in his maturer years. I was not able to receive many of the proposed alterations of this amiable, great, and good man. They sometimes appeared too arbitrary, and abrupt.
Pilkington's Evangelical History is my third principal aid in this difficult labour. Pilkington was a country Clergyman, and he devoted himself to his work with much patience, for many years. He considers St. Mark as the best guide to a Harmonizer. Forsaking the old plans of placing the various passages in parallel columns, or in separate paragraphs, he divided the narrative in the manner which I have adopted in the first of these volumes. His omissions of important clauses, I found to be very numerous ! He has not given the whole contents of the Gospels, but rather formed a continuous narrative, on the plan of a diatessaron, with the Scripture references in the margin. He supposes, too, that our Lord's ministry lasted through five passovers.
Archbishop Newcome's Harmony appears to be generally and deservedly considered the best work of this kind ever submitted to the public. It has received the sanction of the University of Oxford. It was made the foundation of White's Diatessaron, with some few exceptions. The learned professor has followed West and Townson, in the order of the narrative of the resurrection. He rejects the Archbishop's double institution of the Eucharist, and otherwise varies in the numbering of the sections from 126 to 130. I venture to depart from Archbishop Newcome with great reluctance, and adhere as much as possible to his general order of circumstances.
My fifth, and most inaccurate guide, is Michaelis, whose brief work, as Bishop Marsh has justly observed, must be considered rather as an index than a harmony. I have, however, chosen him as one of my helpers, because he is the last arranger. He is considered also of high authority among the admirers of the German theologians; and among all who mistake novelty for talent, and the rejection of old opinions for exemption from bigotry.
The plan upon which I have endeavoured to render my consulting of the oracles of God useful to the Christian world, is the only point which requires our further attention.
All the Harmonies which have hitherto been submitted to the world, have been formed on one of two plans. The contents of the four Gospels have been arranged in parallel columns, by which means the whole of the sacred narrative is placed at one view before the reader-or they have been combined into one unbroken story, in which the passages considered by the Harmonizer to be unnecessary to the illustration of the narrative are arbitrarily rejected. The former produces great confusion in the mind of the student; the latter appears to place the reader too much at the disposal of the author. The former is the Harmony strictly so called ; the latter is the mere Diatessaron, or Monotessaron. To avoid the inconveniences of both these systems, I have endeavoured to save the reader that embarrassment, which is occasioned by four parallel columns; and at the same time to combine the Gospels into one order, without leaving the reader to depend entirely on the judgment of the arranger, in the choice of the interwoven passages. My object has been to unite the advantages of both plans. Every text of Scripture is preserved, as in the first, while the evangelical narratives are formed into one connected history, as in the second ;- every passage which is rejected from the continuous history being placed at the end of each section, to enable the reader to decide on the propriety of the order which has been adopted by the Arranger. These passages will appear too often, as broken and disjointed sentences; and the conviction of the utility of this plan, and its rendering such evident satisfaction to the laborious, or inquiring student,—could alone have rendered me patient, under the minute care, and anxious fatigue, which enabled me to persevere till it was completed.
In harmonizing the accounts of the inscriptions on the cross, and the narrative of the resurrection, I have been guided by Townson, West, and Cranfield.
Having decided on the method of disposing the contents of the four Gospels, another question remained with respect to the various periods of time included in the whole of the New Testament. I was not satisfied with the usual mode of dividing the actions of our Lord, according to the number of the passovers during which he lived upon earth. This plan did not seem to convey any definite idea of the peculiar propriety of the several actions, which are recorded of our Saviour. The beauty of the narrative, and the proofs of design and wisdom which are every where discoverable in the sacred Scriptures, seemed obscured or neglected by harmonizing the several Gospels with reference only to the number of passovers-or the various journeys of our Lordor even the perfect arrangement of the events themselves, if they were considered only as a collection of wonderful facts. Much higher and nobler views ought to be taken of the contents of the sacred writings. The Christian Revelation is the completion of that great system of religion which began at the Fall, and will continue till this our state of trial is over. The principal object of an Arranger of the New Testament, therefore, ought to be, to place before his readers the gradual developement of that dispensation of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, which began with the revival of miracle immediately before the birth of Christ, and terminated with the closing of the Canon of the Scriptures of the New Testament, and the cessation of the miraculous gifts.
It will, I think, appear evident, that an arrangement of the New Testament will be most usefully formed upon this view of the gradual discovery of God to the world. God has imparted the knowledge of his will to the world, as men were able to bear it. Without Revelation there would have been no Religion : neither is there any proof whatever, that man could have invented for himself a system of religious belief. There has never been a Religion of Nature, since the world was created. When men were few in number, and had not yet collected in large cities, their reason might have confirmed their conviction of the truth which had been originally revealed to them, respecting the existence and unity of God. The relations of life might have instructed them in the necessity of the observance of certain moral duties. When they had become assembled in cities, and had acquired opulence and security, the necessities of society might have taught them various other moral duties, as well as some system of civil polity; and all these may in one sense be called Natural Religion. But there is no proof whatever, either from the nature of man, from the probable origin of human society, or from the testimony of Scripture, that man was capable of framing for himself a consistent scheme of religion; and all that Wollaston and other laborious writers have proved on this point, is their own ingenuity and talent. The conclusions of philosophical inquirers, in an advanced state of refined society, when they are unsupported by undeniable facts, must be received as speculations, and not as history. I shall briefly dwell on this point : and more fully explain the plan of this arrangement.
The one only true religion which derived its origin from God alone, began at the Fall, and will be completed only in another state of existence. It is characterised throughout by one peculiar doctrine; the continued superintendence of the affairs of mankind by a Divine Being, who was repeatedly manifested before his permanent incarnation as a manwho is now living in an invisible state, where he is interested in all that concerns the human race--and from which he will again become manifested, in a more glorious manner, than at any preceding time. This Being was called by the ancient Jews, and by the Evangelist St. John, and by the early Fathers, the Word of God. In the Old Testament he is called the Angel Jehovah; in the New Testament he is revealed to us as Jesus Christ. The world in which we live is Christ's world. As he led the Israelites from Egypt to Canaan, so is he leading the family of man into the Paradise of God, from which they have fallen.
This Divine Being was present at the creation and the fall of man, and conversed with our parents in Eden. Unless they were, then, instructed in the use of language and the