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INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPELS,
be for ever at rest. As to the particular books, scriptures, or scripture facts, to which objections have been made, I have carefully considered them as they occur in their respective places; and I hope, I have fully removed every such objection, and have exhibited the doctrines of the Gospel, and the facts of the evangelical history, in their own certain and steady light: at least, I have carefully laboured to do it; and, like the woman in the Gospel, I have done what I could..
When the great difficulty of my Work is considered, no one will suppose that mistakes were avoidable ; general consistency and correctness are all that candour can require. I have met with difficulties in every part of my undertaking, such as a Commentator only can feel and estimate. On the Acts of the Apostles alone, I have spent many months of almost incessant labour. Difficulties occurred in every page; and I could not proceed till I had made the way plain before me, and left it open to those who might come after. This alone is sufficient to account for the delay in this part; and for any casual mistakes into which I may have fallen: mistakes, if such there be, over which, the candid Reader will find little difficulty, gently to draw the pen of correction; remembering, that it is much more easy to find faults than to mend them.
§ I. Concerning the MANNER in which divine INSPIRATION was granted to the sacred writers.
The manner in which the Divine Inspiration has been granted to the sacred writers, is a question of more than mere curiosity. As every work of God is done in an orderly, rational manner, so must this also: but we must take heed not to confine him to one particular form, and say, it must be thus and thus, or not at all. God is sovereign of his own ways; and so does his wondrous works, that they may be had in everlasting remembrance. As he has spoken at sundry times to our fathers and predecessors, by the prophets and other inspired men; so has he done this in divers manners; ever adapting the manner to time, place, circumstance, &c. Hence we are not to look for a uniformity in the manner of communicating his inspirations, any more than we are to look for identity of time, place, and persons. He has done great things; and he has done all things WELL. On the inspiration of the Scriptures themselves, I must therefore refer my Readers to those who have written professedly on the subject; but on the mode of communicating that Inspiration, I beg leave to make a few extracts from Dr. Whitby, who has written excellently on this point. After asserting, that the apostles and evangelists indited these scriptures by the assistance of the Holy Ghost; and that as the immediate succeeding ages did, so we at present securely may, rely upon them as a rule of faith, he proceeds to shew, "I. How this assistance may fitly be explained.
"For explication of this Divine assistance, let it be considered,
"1. That prophecy is sometimes represented as the word of the Lord, and he is said to speak to the prophet ; and suitably to this metaphor, some illustration of the assistance of the Holy Spirit may be made from the analogy it bears to human conversation; thus, that as we convey our thoughts one to another by such words as, by the organs of Kearing, make such a motion on their brain to whom we speak, as gives them an idea of the words we utter, and by them of the things which by those words are signified; and so it is, the impression made upon their brain, which doth communicate our thoughts to them; so, when it pleased God to reveal his will to any person, it seems only necessary that he talk inwardly with them, that is, that he make such a motion on their brain, as gives them a deep and clear idea of that, which he intended to make known unto them only the impression must then be made in such a manner and degree, and with such circumstances, as may make it certain to the inspired person, that it derives from God. Now seeing, when we hear the voice of any one, or receive a letter from him, we may be certain from the knowledge we have of his voice, or his hand-writing, that it is he indeed who speaks or writes to us; we may very well conceive, that God can easily give such distinctive marks of what he inwardly speaks to us, or writes upon the tables of our hearts, as shall enable us to discern what he imprints upon them, from any impression that shall otherwise be made upon them.
"2. Sometimes the prophet is in Scripture styled a seer, and his word a vision; and then the parallel, or the analogy, runs thus: As we see, by virtue of a light reflecting the species of things upon the retina of the eye, and thence deriving a peculiar motion to, and making a distinct impression on the brain; so may the prophet be supposed to see what God reveals unto him, by a like motion of the Holy Spirit made upon his brain concerning it. And as it is as easy to propose a material object to the view, as to describe it by our words; so must it be as easy for God to dart such an impression or inward light upon the brain of the prophet, or spiritual man, as shall give him a more bright and sensible idea of things, than if he did perceive them by the ear, or even view them by the eye. And as we more exactly discern a sensible object by the view, than we know it by a description of it without that view; so the Jews say, that prophecy A in vision, is more excellent than that which comes only on by dream, or in a dream, in which we seem to hear one talking with us.
"Now though this impression may be sufficient to convince the prophet and inspired person, that his revelation did indeed derive from God; yet, since this revelation was intended not for himself, but for the use of others, he, with the revelation, must be enabled, by some convincing proof, to evidence to those, who were concerned to embrace it, that he was sent indeed by God with such a message to them. Now, of this, they only could be satisfied by some outward marks or notes, of which they, by their senses, were enabled to judge, viz. The miracles wrought for confirmation of his testimony, or some prophetical prediction of something future, and contingent, exactly verified in the event. And thus, saith the apostle, was their preaching confirmed to the world; God bearing witness to them, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his will, Heb. ii. 4.
"The ways of prophecy, under the Old Testament, seem to be comprehended under these four heads, viz. Either the prophets received their revelation in a dream or trance, or in a vision, or by a voice from heaven, or by the secret suggestions of the Holy Ghost.
"Now some of the apostles had their visions, 1st. either by DAY, as Peter; for an ecstasy fell upon him, and he saw the heavens opened, and he heard a voice saying unto him, arise, Peter, kill and eat, Acts x. 11. And this is called ́ópaμa, a vision, ver. 17. And by this, saith he, God taught me to call no man common, or unclean, ver. 28. Or by NIGHT: Thus a vision of the night was seen by Paul, and a man speaking to him, in the vision of the night, Acts xvi. 9. 2dly. They had also the Spirit speaking to them; for the Spirit said to Peter, Behold, three men seek thee: arise, therefore, and go with them, nothing doubting, for I have sent them, Acts x. 20, 21. 3dly. And sometimes they had visions and revelations of the Lord, either by way of rapture to them, 2 Cor. xii. 2. or of conversation with them; as when Christ said to St. Paul, My grace is sufficient for thee, ver. 9. Here then are three kinds of revelation granted to the apostles; but then these things were mostly occasional, and accidental to them, in respect of their apostolical functions.
"Only the case of the apostle Paul must here admit of an exception; for it being necessary for an apostle, that is, a witness of Christ's resurrection, to have seen the Lord risen from the dead, according to those words, Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen the Lord? 1 Cor. ix. 1. And for an apostle, not of man, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, Gal. i. 1. to receive his message immediately from the Lord Jesus; Christ speaks thus to him, I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness, both of those things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee, Acts xxvi. 16. Which words contain a promise of an immediate instruction from Christ in his apostolical function. Whence this apostle declares, confirming that his declaration with an oath, the gospel which was preached by me, was not after man; for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught (by man), but (only) by the revelation of Jesus Christ, Gal. i. 11, 12. He therefore had his message from Christ, as Moses had from God, Christ speaking to him mouth to mouth, &c. See Numb. xii. 7.
"But yet, that which enabled them for the inditing of these writings, as a rule of faith to all succeeding ages, was the internal and powerful assistance of the Holy Spirit.
INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPELS,
"To proceed then to the consideration of the distinction made by some, viz. Of inspiration by suggestion, and inspiration of direction only: I say then,
"First, Where there is no antecedent idea, or knowledge of the things written for the good of others, to be obtained from reason, or a former revelation, there, an inspiration of suggestion must be vouchsafed to the apostles, to enable them to make them known unto the world. But where there is an antecedent knowledge of the things to be indited, it can only be necessary that God should, either immediately, or by some speciał occasions, excite them to indite those things, and should so carefully preside over, and direct their minds, whilst writing, as to suggest, or bring into their memories such things as his wisdom thought fit to be written; and should not suffer them to err in the delivery of what was thus indited in his name, or which they had written, as apostles of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.
"Secondly, In all their revelations of mysteries, or things which could not otherwise be made known to them, either by natural reason or antecedent revelation, they must be acknowledged to have had them by an immediate suggestion of the Holy Spirit. Hence, of these things, the apostle says, negatively, that the natural man (who only judges of things by his natural reason) cannot know them, because they are spiritually discerned, 1 Cor. ii. 14. i. e. they being mysteries, can only be discerned by the revelation of the Spirit; and positively, that they spake the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the wisdom hid from former ages, which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor had it entered into the heart of man to conceive, 1 Cor. ii. 7. And that because God had revealed these things to them by his Spirit, ver. 9. they having received the Spirit of God that they might know the things which are freely given to us of God, ver. 10. Thus was the mystery of the calling of the Gentiles into an equality of privileges with the believing Jews, made known unto them; for God by revelation, saith St. Paul, made known to me the mystery of Christ, which in other ages was not made known, as it is now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ, by the gospel, Eph. iii. 3, 4, 5, 6. chap. i. 9. vi. 19. Col. i. 26, 27. ii. 2. iv. 3, 4. So they knew the mystery of the recalling of the Jews, Rom. xi. 25, 26. The mystery of the resurrection, i. e. the quality of the bodies to be raised, and the order of it, with all the other special circumstances mentioned, 1 Cor. xv. 1 Thes. iv. and the apostasy of the latter times; for the Spirit speaketh expressly, saith the apostle, that in the latter days men shall depart from the faith, 1 Tim. iv. 1. This inspiration of suggestion must also be allowed to St. John, the author of the Revelations; for he, speaking only what was represented to him in visions, or by angelical discourses, or apparitions, must have that assistance which suggested these ideas to him.
"Thirdly, As for those things, which they did know already, either by natural reason, education, or antecedent revelation, they needed only such an assistance, or direction in them, as would secure them from error in their reasonings, or in their confirmation of their doctrines by passages contained in the Old Testament; and, therefore, a continual suggestion must be here unnecessary. And, indeed, one great work they had upon their hands, both in preaching the gospel, and writing these gospels and epistles, being to convince the unbelieving Jew, or to confirm the wavering Jew, or rectify the errors of the Judaizing Christian, the gift of knowledge of the scriptures of the Old Testament, was very necessary for them, and therefore is deservedly reckoned among the primary gifts of the Holy Ghost; and, being so, we have reason to believe that, either the Holy Ghost suggested to their memory those scriptures which they used in these sacred writings to convince them; or else presided so over them, as not to suffer them to make any inferences from them, which were not agreeable to the true intent and meaning of them; though, at this distance of time, we may not always be able to discern the strength and clearness of the consequence.
"Fourthly, In writing the historical parts of the New Testament, or matters of fact relating to themselves, or others, it is only necessary, that what is there delivered as matter of fact, should be truly performed, as it is said to have been done: but it is not necessary that they should be related in that order of time in which they were performed, unless that also be affirmed of them; for this must be sufficient to assure us of the truth of what they thus delivered.
AND ACTS OF THE APOSTLES.
Moreover, in writing the discourses contained in these books, it is not necessary that the very words should be suggested, or recorded, in which they were first spoken, but only that the true intent and meaning of them should be related, though in diversity of words. Though the promise made to the apostles by our Lord, That the Holy Spirit should bring to their remembrance, navra, all things which he had said unto them, John xiv. 20. doth fairly plead for this exactness in what they have delivered of our Saviour's sermons; it being scarcely imaginable that their memory, without Divine assistance, should exactly give us all that was spoken in such long discourses.
"And hence we may account for the objections against this Divine assistance, arising from the viith of Acts; for, though I have shewed, in the note on ver. 15, 16. that there is no real mistake in the words of the Protomartyr; yet were it granted, that there is an error in his account of the sepulchres of the patriarchs, that affects not the authority of St. Luke at all, provided he have exactly related what was then said by St. Stephen, who was not chosen to be a pen-man of the Holy Scriptures.
"Lastly, From what is thus discoursed, it may appear, that I contend only for such an inspiration, or Divine assistance of the sacred writers of the New Testament, as will assure us of the truth of what they wrote, whether by inspiration of suggestion, or direction only; but not for such an inspiration as implies, that even their words were dictated, or their phrases suggested to them by the Holy Ghost: this, in some matters of great moment, might be so; St. Paul declaring, that they spake the things which were given them of God in the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth, 1 Cor. ii. 13. if that relate not to what the Holy Ghost had taught them out of the Old Testament. But that it was not always so, is evident, both from the consideration that they were hagiographers, who are supposed to be left to the use of their own words, and from the variety of the style in which they write, and from the solecisms, which are sometimes visible in their compositions; and more especially from their own words, which manifestly shew that, in some cases, they had had no such suggestion from the Holy Ghost, as doth imply, that He had dictated those words unto them. For instance, when St. Paul declares his will or purpose to do what he was hindered by the providence of God from doing; as, when he says to the Romans, When I go into Spain, I will come to you, chap. xv. 24. I will come by you into Spain, ver. 28. For though he might, after his enlargement, go into the west, where St. Clement (Ep. ad. Cor. § 6.) says, he preached. And even into Spain, as Cyril, (Catechis. 17. p. 204. C.) Epiphanius, (Hær. 27. p. 107. C.) and Theodoret, (in 2 Tim. iv. 17. and Præfat. in Psalm cxvi.) say he did; yet it is certain he did not designedly go to Rome, in order to an intended journey into Spain: and when he says to the Corinthians, I will come to you when I pass through Macedonia, 1 Cor. xvi. 5. and yet confesses in his second epistle, 2 Cor. i. 15, 16, 17. that he did not perform that journey; for it is not to be thought the Holy Ghost should incite him to promise, or even to purpose what He knew he would not perform. This also we learn from all those places in which they do express their ignorance, or doubtfulness of that which they are speaking of; as when St. Paul says, I know not whether I baptized any other, I Cor. i. 16. And again, ruxo mapapɛvw, perhaps, I will abide, yea, and winter with you, 1 Cor. xvi. 6. And when St. Peter saith, By Sylvanus, a faithful brother as I suppose, have I written to you, 1 Pet. v. 12. for these words plainly shew that, in all these things, they had no inspiration, or Divine assistance. This, lastly, may be gathered from all those places in which they only do express their hope, and that conditionally, of doing this or that; as in these words, I hope to see you in my journey, Rom. xv. 24. I will come unto you quickly, if the Lord will, 1 Cor, iv. 19. I hope to stay some time with you, if the Lord permit, 1 Cor. xvi. 7. I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy quickly to you, Phil. ii. 19, 23. And, I trust that I myself also shall come quickly, ver. 24. These things I write, hoping to come to thee quickly, but if I should tarry, that thou mayest know how to behave thyself in the church of God, 1 Tim. iii, 14, 15. I hope, by your prayers, to be given to you, Philem. 22. This will we do, if the Lord permit, Heb. vi. 3. I hope to come to you, St. John, 2 Ep. ver. 12. 3 Ep. ver. 14. For, spes est incertæ rei nomen, the word hope, implies an uncertainty, whereas the Holy Spirit cannot be uncertain any thing; nor can we think he would inspire men to speak so uncertainly. And (2) There can be no
INTRODUCTION TO THE GOSPELS,
necessity, or even use of a Divine assistance to enable a man to express his hopes, seeing all men do, by natural reflection, know them.
"II. Having thus premised these things, for the right stating and explication of the controversy, I proceed to lay down the arguments, which prove that in these writings the apostles were assisted and preserved from error by the Spirit of God; and therefore were enabled to deliver to us an unerring rule of faith.
"And 1st. I argue for the Divine assistance of the inditers of these sacred records, from what they do assert concerning their own writings; and what they say touching the declarations made, the doctrines delivered, and the directions given in them.
"As for the writers of the gospel, St. Luke declares he writes his gospel to Theophilus, that he might know the certainty of those things in which he had been instructed; and St. John declares, his gospel was written, that they might believe that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God: Now it is plain, that neither Theophilus could be certain of the truth of what he had been taught by any writing which was not absolutely certain in itself; nor could others be induced, by what St. John had written, to believe that Jesus was the Christ, unless they could be certain that he spake the truth throughout his gospel. Now, if we do consider how many things contained in the beginning of St. Luke's gospel, he must have by hear-say; and how many long discourses, both he, St. Matthew, and St. John, deliver as spoken by our Lord and others; of which we can have no assurance, after so many years before the writing of them, on the mere strength of human memory, so as to ground an article of divine faith upon the very words in which they were delivered; we must be forced to conclude that, upon this account, we cannot depend upon the very letter, and minute circumstances of every discourse related by them; unless, according to Christ's promise, they had the assistance of the Holy Ghost, to bring these things to their remembrance: wherefore this promise is made to them in very general and comprehensive terms-viz. the Holy Ghost shall bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you, John xiv. 26. And then there being nothing considerable in St. Mark, which is not also in St. Matthew or St. Luke, or both, the certainty of all that is contained in them, must make us also certain of the truth of what St. Mark delivers in his gospel. Moreover, the word spoken and indited by them, is styled the wORD of GOD: men, saith the apostle, could not believe the gospel unless they heard it preached to them; nor could they hear it preached, unless some were commissioned to preach the gospel; for faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, Rom. x. 14, 15, 16, 17. And, for this cause, says he, thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God, which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is, in truth, the word of God, 1 Thess. ii. 13. I am made a minister of Christ, saith he, according to the dispensation of God, which is given to me to fulfil, (i. e. fully to preach) the word of God, Colos. 1. 25. (2) It is called the COMMANDMENT of GOD; for my gospel, says St. Paul, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, is made manifest, and, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known unto you for the obedience of faith, Rom. xiv. 25, 26. which faith is always built on a divine testimony. And, again, If any man be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord, 1 Cor. xiv. 37. (3) It is declared to be the WISDOM. of God, 1 Cor. i. 24. For, we preach Christ to you that are called, both Jews and Greeks, the power of God, and the wisdom of God; we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even that wisdom which God has revealed to us by his Spirit, 1 Cor. ii. 7, 10. (4) It is the TESTIMONY of God, for I came not to you, saith he, in excellency of speech, declaring to you the testimony, 1 Cor. ii. 1. (5) It is the GOSPEL of GOD; for St. Paul styles himself the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, ministering the gospel of God to them, Rom. xv. 16. We preach, says he, the gospel of God freely, 2 Cor. xi. 7. We were bold to preach to you the gospel of God; we were willing to have imparted to you not the gospel of God only, but also our own lives, 1 Thess. ii. 2, 8, 9. the glorious gospel of the blessed God committed to my trust, 1 Tim. i. 10. (6) It is the GOSPEL of CHRIST ; for I came, says he, to Troas, to preach Christ's gospel, 2 Cor. ii. 12. We sent Timotheus, our fellow labourer. in the gospel of Christ, 1 Thess. iii. 2. (7) It is the MYSTERY of his WILL, Eph. 1. 9. The mystery of God the Father and of Christ, Col. ii. 2. The mind of Christ made known to the apostles, 1 Cor. ii. 16. And the word of Christ which must dwell richly in believers, Col. iii. 16.