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upon us ? On the other hand, does not the story of Matthew seem to be quite essential to the satisfying of our minds, how the youth and early manhood of Jesus could have been spent in the silence and quietude in which it evidently was? The Bethlehem massacre had quieted the fears of the enemies to the claims of Jesus ; it appears also to have extinguished the rising hopes of friends. Subsequent to this, Joseph and Mary, admonished of danger, and aware of the importance of shunning jealousy on the one part and popular expectation on the other, lived in an obscure and despised place, from which, as Nathaniel intimates (John 1: 46), no good thing was expected to come. There they peaceably acquired the means of subsistence by bodily labour; and there Jesus pursued the same occupation as his foster-father, and was quietly and peacefully subject to his authority. There he did not develope himself as differing from others apparently his equals in age and condition, until the fulness of time had corne. In this way, envy, jealousy, malignity, and (what was no less dangerous to the youthful Saviour) popularity and applause, were neither excited nor occasioned.' Premature development would have called forth premature persecution and early death. As matters were arranged by an allwise and over-ruling Providence, every thing went quietly on “ until the fulness of time had come.'
One might dwell here with great satisfaction, on the lovely character which the Saviour exhibited, during so long a period, and in such a humble condition. Conscious of a heavenly origin and of a dignity above that wbich belongs to any creature named in heaven or on earth; knowing that he possessed power to fill Palestine with adıniration of his deeds and astonishment at his wonderful attributes ; conscious also of a power which could easily sumnion countless hosts of angels to his aid, in case he should fall into danger through the malice of bis enemies; yet he forbore any development of himself, kept on in his humble, patient, daily toil for bis sustenance, and all this for years after he had come to a vigorous maturity. This is indeed a part of his character which bas seldom been considered, and of which little has been said. To my mind, however, it is not less wonderful, and scarcely less attractive, than the god-like benevolence which he displayed in the garden of Getlisemane and on the cross.
I find myself insensibly drawn to moralizing on this shining and lovely trait in the character of Jesus. Let us return to our critical investigations.
I must make a remark on one thing more which Mr. Norton has said, in connection with the history of the visit to Bethlehem by the Magi. This is, that a divine interposition in respect to giving them an intimation of the birth of a Saviour is “ pretended,” and that “no purpose worthy of the Deity can be assigned for it ;” p. lix.
If such a visit did take place on this occasion, a divine interposition seems to be something more than pretence. We find it, indeed, actually indispensable; or, in other words, we cannot well account for it, considering the time and manner in which it happened, in any other way.
Mr. Norton seems to think, that the affair of the star was merely a business of astrology, and that it is incongruous to suppose an interposition on the part of heaven in aid of such a science. My view of the case is very different. I am not compelled to believe that these Magi were really astrologers, in case they were Jews, any more than I am obliged to believe that Daniel was an astrologer because he was a Magus. I must and do believe, that on the appearance of the star, a divine admonition was given to the minds of the Magi respecting the design of it; just as one was given to Abraham, to leave his country and kindred and go to Palestine and sojourn there. The whole account leads to this impression; and I know of no more reason to reject divine interposition here, than in the cases of it mentioned by Luke, in his Gospel of the Infancy.
And is there “no purpose worthy of the Deity” in all this? Is it nothing, that this homage was paid to the new-born King, by distinguished persons from a distant land ? Nothing—that the Jews of the eastern region should be advertised in this way of the birth of a Saviour, as well as those of Palestine ? Nothing -that his high prerogatives and exalted state should thus be taught, as well as by the choir of angels on the plains of Bethlehem, or by the devout exclamations of Simeon and Anna ? And even if we could not perceive at once, as doubtless we cannot, all the purposes to be answered by such an event, can we not find as much in it that is explicable, as we can in the miracle of the water which was turned into wine, or of the withering of the fig tree which was cursed; or of the destruction of the swine on the borders of the lake? Mr. Norton admits the truth of these miracles; does he see a purpose of God in them more explicable and more worthy of the Deity, than in the visit of the Magi? If he does, I can only say that it seems more easy to me, to explain the latter than the former.
I have said enough, as I would hope, to remove some of the difficulties which Mr. Norton has thrown in our way, in regard to this part of Matt. I. II. I come, therefore, to another portion of his remarks.
The beginning of Matt. ΙΙΙ. εν εκείναις ταις ημέραις, he apprehends, may be thought to throw some objections in the way of commencing the Gospel of Matthew here. In order to remove this difficulty, however, he supposes, first, that the translator of Matthew into Greek, or the compiler who added the two first chapters to his Gospel, inserted these words as “a form of transition” from the one narration to the other. The original Gospel, he thinks, began thus : John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea ; for this, he says, is the manner in which the Gospel of Mark begins.
If the reader, however, will take the pains to open bis New Testament at the beginning of Mark, he will find there a natural introduction to a Gospel
, the design of which was only to give an account of the public ministry of Jesus ; and a very different one it is, from that which Mr. Norton would here lead us to suppose. Indeed, the beginning of a Gospel by the words which he suggests, would be so abrupt, so unintelligible to a reader who was a stranger to the course of events in Palestine, that the bare recital of it is a sufficient refutation of it.
Mr. Norton himself seems to feel this ; for he immediately suggests another beginning : In the days of Herod, meaning the tetrarch of Galilee. So the Gospel of the Ebionites began; only it ran on in such a way as to create no small difficulty in the sequel. “In the days of Herod, King of Judea," was its commencing clause. Unfortunately for this clause, however, this same Herod (the King) had been dead some twenty-eight years, when John the Baptist made his appearance in public, as immediately stated in the sequel. Mr. Norton thinks that Epiphanius, who tells the story of this notable commencement of the Gospel of the Ebionites, “ by a blunder of his own added the words King of Judea.” This is an easy way, to be sure, to dispose of at least a part of the difficulty. But who does not see, that it is merely cutting the knot, not untying it? If we are at liberty to reason thus, and conjecture whatever facts we please, (how can I call this reasoning ?) then, deducere aliquid er aliquo is fully within the power of every controvertist.
After all, the beginning of Matthew's Gospel, according to Mr. Norton, would be a wonderful beginning-entirely unique. In the days of Herod? What Herod ?-exclaims the reader at once. Herod the tetrarch, says Mr. Norton. But how is the reader of this Gospel, fifty or more years after all the Herods were dead, to know that the tetrarch was meant? There is no context, no previous matter to give him a hint of this. There is no like thing, moreover, in all the Scriptural records. When the days of a person are mentioned as a point in chronology, the person meant must necessarily be designated ; above all, where many persons
about the same time had the same name, must this be done ; as it is always both in the Old Testament and in the New. But if we are to credit Mr. Norton, nothing of this kind was done by Matthew. Quodcunque mihi narras sic
* But we have a more serious difficulty still,' according to Mr. Norton. “If we allow chap. I. II. to be genuine, the last events mentioned are Archelaus's reign and Joseph's residence at Nazareth. ... It was not in those days, but thirty years afterwards, that John the Baptist was preaching in the wilderness of Judea.'
Indeed! Archelaus's reign is to be sure mentioned in Matt. 2: 22, and as a reason why Joseph repaired to Nazareth, rather than to Bethlehem. But the chapter ends with an account of Joseph's fixing the abode of himself and family at Nazareth, and the third chapter begins with the clause, in those days, i.e. plainly and simply, during the period of the abode of his family at Nazareth. This comports with simple fact. It was really and truly what happened, viz., that John entered on his public ministry while they abode at Nazareth. What “ serious difficulty " there can be in all this, I am not able to see. I am sure Mr. Norton has not succeeded in presenting any. It is not to Archelaus's reign, but to Joseph's sojourn at Nazareth, to which those days refers.
Mr. Norton says, at the close, that' he thinks these reasons ought to satisfy us that the two chapters in question did not proceed from the apostle Matthew.' He then turns to the examination of the two first chapters of Luke ; and “ although," he suggests," the style is rather poetical than bistorical ;" although, “ with its real miracles, the fictions of oral tradition had probably become blended;" although," with our present means of judging we cannot draw a precise line between the truth and what has been added to the truth ;" yet we may on the whole, as he concludes, regard the account of this Evangelist as being substantially correct.
What kind of faith we can have in a Gospel which we regard in such a light, is for Mr. Norton to tell us. With such a faith I am sure we could say nothing more appropriate than “ Lord, help our unbelief !” But—to our
purpose. I may now be permitted to ask, at the close of this examination, by what kind of evidence or process Mr. Norton has laboured to establish his cause ? What, I ask, is the question before us ? A question simply of lower criticism; one which respects the mere fact, whether there is evidence that Matthew 1. II. is genuine. And how are such questions to be decided ? By a priori reasoning; by objections of a theological cast; by our mere estimate of the probability or improbability of events related ? Surely not. Whether the story in Matthew I. II. is probable or improbable, strange or a thing of common occurrence; whether it teaches Unitarian or Trinitarian theology; has nothing at all to do with the question of criticisın, which is simply and only, whether critical witnesses speak for or against it.
And what is the result of our inquiries with regard to this last point? The result is so clear, that not a doubt of a critical nature can be sustained. All the known Mss. and Versions on the face of the earth speak but one language. All the Christian writers of the primitive ages speak but one language. We can trace the contents of these chapters in Justin Martyr, in Celsus, in the Syriac Peshito; we find Cerinthus using the matter of them about A. D. 80, before the apostolic age had passed away. No part of the church, except a small insignificant sect of the Ebionites, has ever ventured to doubt their genuineness, or to tamper with them. We have now as it were word for word and letter for letter, in the Syriac Version (made in the second century as we have good reason to believe), the very text which lies in the canonical Greek Matthew before us. A critical doubt on this subject, can scarcely be less than a critical heresy.
Yet Mr. Norton, passing by all this, suggests internal difficulties. We have also examined them. We have seen that a very different estimate from bis may be made out from all the facts as they lie before us. And if it could not, his proof is not legitimate. We cannot betake ourselves to theologizing, on a mere subject of lower criticism. The deductions which might be made out in our own way of reasoning, cannot be shewn to have been made out by the mind of Matthew. Even if chap. I. II. of his Gospel have given us erroneous statements, (which Vol. XII. No. 32.