« PreviousContinue »
many other things there be which they have rer ceived to hold, as the washing of cups and pots, brazen vessels, and of tables. Now Saint Matthew was not only a Jew himself, but it is evident, from the whole structure of his Gospel, especially from his numerous references to the Old Testament, that he wrote for Jewish readers. The above explanation, therefore, in him, would have been unnatural, as not being wanted by the readers whom he addressed. But in Mark, who, whatever use he might make of Matthew's Gospel, intended his own narrative for a general circulation, and who himself travelled to distant countries in the service of the religion, it was properly added.
CHAP. IV. Identity of Christ's character. The argument expressed by this title, I apply principally to the comparison of the first three Gospels with that of Saint John. It is known to every reader of Scripture, that the passages of Christ's history, preserved by Saint John, are, except his passion and resurrection, for the most part, different from those which are delivered by the other evangelists. And I think the ancient account of this difference to be the true one, viz. that Saint John wrote after the rest, and to supply what he thought omissions in their narratives, of which the principal were our Saviour's conferences with the Jews of Jerusalem, and his discourses to his apostles at his last supper. But what I observe in the comparison of these several accounts is, that, al. though actions and discourses are ascribed to Christ by Saint John, in general different from what are given to him by the other evangelists, yet, under this diversity, there is a similitude of manner, which indicates that the actions and discourses proceeded from the same person. I should have laid little stress upon the repetition of actions substantially alike, or of discourses containing many of the same expressions, because that is a species of resemblance, which would either belong to a true
history, or might easily be imitated in a false one. Nor do I deny, that a dramatic writer is able to sustain propriety and distinction of character, through a great variety of separate incidents and situations. But the evangelists were not dramatic writers; nor possessed the talents of dramatic writers; nor will it, I believe, be suspected, that they studied uniformity of character, or ever thought of any such thing, in the person who was the subject of their histories. Such uniformity, if it exists, is on their part casual; and if there be, as I contend there is, a perceptible resemblance of manner, in passages, and between discourses, which are in themselves extremely distinct, and are delivered by historians, writing without any imitation of, or reference to, one another, it affords a just presump" tion, that these are, what they profess to be, the actions and the discourses of the same real person: that the evangelists wrote from fact, and not from imagination.
The article in which I find this agreement most strong, is in our Saviour's mode of teaching, and in that particular property of it, which consists in his drawing of his doctrine from the occasion : or, which is nearly the same thing, raising reflections from the objects and incidents before him, or turn. ing a particular discourse then passing, into an op. portunity of general instruction.
It will be my business to point out this manner in the first three evangelists; and then to inquire, whether it do not appear also, in several examples of Christ's discourses, preserved by Saint John.
The reader will observe in the following quotations, that the Italic letter contains the reflection ; the common letter, the incident or occasion from which it springs.
Matt. xii. 47-50. “ Then they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without desiring to speak with thee. But he answered, and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren ? And he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren: for whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is m? brother, and sister, and mother."
Matt. xvi. 5. “ And when his disciples were come to the other side, they had forgotten to take bread; then Jesus said unto them, Take heed, and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the Sadducees. And they reasoned among themselves, say• ing, It is because we have taken no bread. - How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the Sadducees ? Then understood they, how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the DOCTRINE of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.”
Matt. xv. 1, 2, 10, 11. 15—20. “ Then came to Jesus Scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the traditions of the elders ? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.–And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear and understand : Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.-Then answered Peter, and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. And Jesus said, are ye also yet without understanding? Do ye not yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth, goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught ? but those things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and they defile the man; for out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies; these are the things which defile a man : BUT TO EAT WITH UNWASHEN HANDS DEFILETH NOT A MAN.” Our Saviour, on this occasion, expatiates rather more at large than usual, and his discourse also is more divided : but the concluding sentence brings back the whole train of thought to the incident in the first verse, viz. the objugatory question of the Pharisees, and renders it evident that the whole sprang from that circumstance.
Mark x. 13–15. " And they brought young children to him that he should touch them; and his disciples rebuked those that brought them: but when Jesus saw it, he was much displeased, and said unto them, Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not; for of such is the