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mony and consistency, not only with each other and with the epistles of Paul, but with all other historians, who have written of the same times.* The miracles recorded in them,
* * Of how great importance it is to have the true Author of these histories ascertained, may be seen from the xii. Section of Michaellis's Introduction to the New Testament. For, owing to his not having observed the satisfactory information given us by the Author himself, that these histories were written by the Silas mentioned in the second of them, as being himself an inspired Prophet, delegated by James and the rest of the Apostles resident at Jerusalem, the learned Professor is led to imagine, that the Author “ was not a native of * Palesting, but, having accompanied St. Paul thither, made only a “ short stay in Jerusalem, and spent the greatest part of his time in « Cesarea." And merely on the grounds of this misapprehension, though he allows him “ to appear in all other respects to most ad. “ vantage, when put in competition with the other writers of the « New Testament," except win some particular facts which disagree, “ either really or, apparently, with the selations which have been “ given by profane Historians." And tells us, that even admitting some errors, "he ceasės not to be a most valuable Historian, espe. “ cially in the Acts of the Apostles, where he speaks either as an “ eye-witness himself, or instructed by St. Paul, the companion of st bis journey:" Yet lays a greater stress upon the difficulties supposed to be found in Luke's writings, than upon those which appear in all the rest, as being more irreconcilable to profane History. All these supposed difficulties, except one, exist in the Acts of the Apostles, which the learned Professor himself, as well as Dr. Lardner, has, in a masterly manner, shewn to be ungrounded; and that Luke's History is entitled to greater credit than that of Josephus, who chiefly contradicts him.” So that the only irreconcilable difficulty is, that, “ in the beginning of the Second Chapter of his Gospel, that Christ 56 was born during the taxation of Judea, when Quirinius was Gos vernor of Syrias when it is certain, from the Roman historians, that * Quirinius was at that period in a different country." And as I have shewn, from the testiinony of the Author himself, that Silas or
Like was not the Author of the two first Chapters of his Gospel, he - must remain, according to the testimony of the learned Professor
breathe all the same compassionate, benevolent spirit, which is so peculiarly characteristic of the religion of Jesus Christ; and they contain the requisite evidence of sundry prophecies, some for the conviction of the first disciples, fulfilled within a few days or weeks after their prediction, others, at the interval of forty years, when the writer himself, in all probability, was not alive, and others extending to all ages, from the first promulgation of the Christian Covenant to the present time, and to a period yet to come. We have here, then, every kind of evidence, whereof the nature of the case admits, to convince us of the genuine authenticity and veracity of both these histories; and with these, for my own part, I am abundantly satisfied. Others, perhaps, submitting their judgments to early prepossessions, or to the decisions of the orthodox church, may persuade themselves, with that father of the Church, Theophylact, that God has given the world just four Gospels, neither more nor less, because there are just four cardinal virtues, four seasons of the year, four quarters of the world, north, east, south
himself, a most valuable Historian; and appear in all respects to superior advantage, when compared with the writers of the other Evan- . gelical Histories.
and west; and because, as these Gospels are intended to be pillars to support the whole world, it is necessary there should be one for each of those four principal points of the compass: but these and all such ingenious, rheto. rical arguments, have so little weight with me, that I profess myself better pleased with one evangelical history, satisfactorily authenticated, than with four thousand that should be found spurious, or even of doubtful and reasonably suspicious authority.*
* “ It is very probable, that every one of the four Evangelists hath in his book the whole substance, all the necessary parts, of the Gospel of Christ. But for St. Luke, that he hath written such a perfect Gospel, in my judgment, it ought to be with them that believe him no manner of question. Consider, first the introduction to his Gospel, where he declares, what he intends to write, in these words : Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration oy" ihose things which are most surely believed amongst us, even us they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were Eye-witnesses, and Alinisters of the Word, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things, from the very first, to write to thee, in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed. Add to this place, the entrance to his History of the sets of the Apostles : The former Treatise kuve I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began, both to do and teach, antil the day in which he was taken up. Weigh well these two places, and then answer me freely and ingenuously to these demands : 1. Whether St. Luke doth not undertake the very same thing, which, he says, many had taken in hand? 2. Whether this were not to set forth in order, a declaration of those things which were most surely belisted amongst Christians 3. Whether the whole Gospel of Christ, and every necessary doctrine of it, were not surely believed among Christians ? 4. Whether they, which were Eye-witnesses and Ministers of the Nord, from the beginning, delivered not the whole Gospel of Chris? 5. Whether he doth not undertake to write in order these things, whereof he had perfect understanding from the first? 6. Whether he had not perfect understanding of the whole Gospel of Christ? 7. Whether he doth not undertake to write to Theophilus of all those things, wherein he had been instructed ? 8. And whether he had not been instructed in all the necessary parts of the Gospel of Christ? 9. Whether, in the other text, All things which Jesus began to do and teach, must not at least imply, all the principal and necessary things ? 10. Whcther this be not the very interpretation of your Rhenish Doctors, in their annotation upon this place ? 11. Whether all these Articles of the Chriscian Faith, without the belief whereof, no man can be saved, be not the principal and most necessary things which Jesus taught? 12, and lastly. Whether many things which St. Luke hath wrote in his Gospel, be not less principal, and less necessary, than all and every one of these? When you have well considered these proposals, I believe you will be very apt to think (if St. Luke be of credit with you) that all things necessary to salvation, are certainly contained in his writings alone.”
From what Lukeand other writers inform us, there is no doubt but the orthodox church, if she had chosen to preserve them, might at this hour have had forty instead of four different Gospels ; and many of them much more deserving her regard, than three of those she hath thought fit to select and save from the general wreck, in which the writings of the primitive Christians have been involved: but, as far as the providence of Almighty God is concerned in preserving sufficient notice of the Evangelical Covenant, which he hath proposed to all mankind, I can see no more reason why there should be four distinct au
-.. -am in eodem . CHILLINGWORTH, chap. iv. art. 43.
thentic histories of the very short period from the Baptism of John to the resurrection of Jesus, than that there should be four histories of the much longer, and equally important period, comprised in the Acts of the Apostles ; or than the Jews should have had four different histories of the creation and, their Patriarchs, and of the deliverance of their forefathers from the Egyptian bondage. However, since many great, learned and sagacious men have been in the habit of taking the authenticity of the other three for granted, they certainly ought not to be rejected as spurious, unless sufficient reason can be shewn for so doing. Having, therefore, in Luke's two histories, found a firm and solid basis for the genuine religion of Jesus securely to stand upon, I the more willingly and cheerfully proceed to examine the pretensions and merits of each of the other three Gospels, and to try them also by the same criterion : only remarking previously upon the Gospel according to Luke, that from the manner in which it is referred to in the introduction to the Acts, it appears not to have been written any great length of time before the latter history, which must have been composed after the fourth year of the reign of Ne