Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

is manifest by fact. For, in so many ages as have now passed, no one has ever yet dared to add, or take away a letter.”

Dr. Smith says the Song is not quoted in the New Testament. This may be affirmed of other parts of the Old Testament, such as Zephaniah. Dr. Smith says the allegorical interpretation of the Song rests on no scriptural ground. But we find an acknowledged portion of scripture, the forty-fifth Psalm, exhibiting the love of Christ and the church to each other, under the figure of a bride groom and bride, which is also repeated, not only in other parts of the Old Testament, but also of the New. Now, we find among the books of the Old Testament, one that is full of the love of a certain bridegroom and bride. The church had already been taught that this was a consecrated representation of the love that exists between the Saviour and the church. Was there no scriptural foundation, then, for this interpretation of the Song, when we find it among the books of scripture? Much, I might say all, that Dr. Smith has affirmed of the allegorical interpretation of the Song, could easily be turned against the forty-fifth Psalm. A prurient fancy might comment most offensively on the words, «thon art fairer than the children of men; all thy garments smell of myrrh, &c. Hearken, O daughter: so shall the king greatly desire thy beauty, &c. She shall be brought to the king in raiment of needle-work, with virgins for her companions,” &c. But, to crown all, what, in the spirit of Dr. Smith's comment on Canticles, might be called the grossest part of the image, is here introduced, in the children that roere to be the offspring of the marriage union. “ Instead of thy fathers shall be thy children, whom thon mayest make princes in all the earth.” Now, the much censured Song does not push the allegory to this length. But Dr. Smith will plead that the forty-fifth Psalm is quoted in the New Testament. True; then, what becomes of the argument derived from his censure of the allegory ascribed to the Song? But I deny that the courtship, or marriage scene, of the forty-fifth Psalm is sanctioned by any direct reference to it in the New Testament. It is not, I believe, quoted at all by our Lord; and, by the apostles, is only appealed to, in proof of the divinity of Christ, which expresses no sanction of the allegory that forms the larger part of the psalm. But, perhaps, Dr. Smith does not admit the divinity of those verses of the psalm which exhibit the love of Christ and the church under the figure of a courtship, that is to end in a marriage productive of a progeny of princes. For his theory of an inspiration that is intermixed with non-inspired passages, like gold inlaid in wood, makes it difficult to argue with him on the scriptures, because we are uncertain what he admits as divine, and what he will reject as merely human.

Dr. Smith supposes a work of Solomon's on natural history to have come down to us, and then asks, if we should be justified in giving to this an allegorical interpretation. But how could he avoid noticing, that we do not plead for the Song as a divine allegory, because it was written by Solomon; but because it is contained in the scriptures, which our Lord and his apostles sanctioned as divine ?

The case ought to have been put thus: “ If a work of Solomon's on anatomy, or physiology, had been contained in the Bible, should we then have been authorised to interpret it, not as a mere human system, but as a way of teaching us religion, and making known the Creator by his works?” I should then answer, “ We ought to consider this, not as mere anatomy, or physiology; just as we consider Solomon's Proverbs, not as mere pithy sayings, but as divine oracles.” But, perhaps, Dr. Smith considers the book of Proverbs also as human, except where it is quoted in the New Testament, or where he can see something that is more divine than the rest of the passages with which it is surrounded.

Dr. Smith argues against Canticles, because strange fancies have been mixed up with the allegorical interpretation. He is well aware, that the Jewish rites and ceremonies have been, in the same censurable way, made significant of evangelical truths. He probably would condemn many things of this kind in Witsius' “ De mysteriis Tabernaculi Levitici.” But does this invalidate the apostles' assertion, that “ the law was a shadow of good things to come,” which he shows in several curious instances, through a large part of the epistle to the Hebrews? The quotation given from Origen only shows the same rashness of system on the allegorical, as Dr. Smith has exhibited on the opposite side.

The questions he puts concerning the indiscriminate reading of the Canticles, might be applied to many other parts of scripture, and often with much greater force. But here, again, I know not whether Dr. Smith admits such passages to be divinely inspired.

I pass over his own theory concerning the Song, which could easily be proved false ; and beg, in conclusion, to observe, that I have been reluctantly drawn into this controversy, not merely for the sake of the disputed book, but chiefly on account of Dr. Smith's general principle concerning the inspiration of the scriptures, which I regard as utterly untenable, and productive of the worst consequences. As Dr. Smith's name is appended to the article on which I have animadverted, he is entitled to the names of his opponents. I have therefore given mine. I request, for the sake of truth, that he would explicitly declare, whether he admits the Song to have formed a part of the Jewish canon in our Lord's time; and that he would consider this paper as directed, not merely against his views of Solomon's Song, but chiefly against his general theory of the inspiration of scripture. That the Spirit who inspired the scriptures may lead us into all truth, is the prayer of

Yours truly,

JAMES BENNETT.

Islington, August 1, 1837.

ON THE CHARACTER, ORIGIN, AND DESIGN OF THE FOUR

GOSPELS.

(Continued from page 302.) In addition to the evidences already furnished on the subject, Matthew is intimated to have been the anthor of the gospel which bears his name, and many of its contents are in consequence illustrated and explained, by certain traces of character naturally belonging to one who from the obscure condition of a tax-gatherer had been raised to that of an apostle. However aided by the tuition of the Holy Spirit, and by the possession of miraculous powers, such a man must have felt a deep anxiety to cultivate his talents, whether original or supernatural, in order to become better qualified for the arduous and responsible office which he was about to exercise. This anxiety accordingly appears in the ample reports which he furnishes of many of the most instructive discourses of Christ, some of them peculiar to this gospel, and of which indeed it almost entirely consists; implying the attention with which they had been heard, and the diligence with which they had been impressed on the memory, and most probably, also, in accordance with the general practice of students and disciples, committed to writing at the time of their delivery. Matt. v. vi. vii. x. xi. 20—30 end ; xiii. 10-17, 24–52; xviii. ; xx. 1-16; xxiv. 42–51 end ; xxv.

The contempt and hatred entertained by the majority of the Jewish hierarchy for the new dispensation were, doubtless, aggravated by the apparent meanness and incompetency of its appointed agents, who were regarded by their lordly opponents as vulgar and illiterate men, presumptuously advanced from the lowest ranks of society to rival a religious establishment of the most venerable antiquity, adorned with learning, rank, and opulence, and generally acknowledged to be of divine origin and authority. Among the apostles few could in this respect have been more obnoxious, especially to the Pharisees, who were the predominant party, than one who had previously been a tax-gatherer. And, without imputing to him any unworthy motives, it might naturally have been expected that, when such an apostle became an evangelist, he would be induced very fully to describe the depravity and spiritual blindness of the Jewish clergy, the deficiency of their system of morals and religion, and the severe but equitable punishment which awaited them, on account of their impenitence, and malignant persecution of Christ and his followers. Passages of this kind are frequent and conspicuous in the gospel of Matthew. Luke, indeed, relates several circumstances respecting Pharisees and tax-gatherers, which Matthew, a later and equally original writer, could not properly repeat; but, owing to the strong interest which he took in the subject, he adds others peculiar to himself. Thus, Luke gives an account of Christ's dining on three occasions at the houses of Pharisees, which Matthew omits; partly, perhaps, because, whilst other disciples were allowed to cnter with their master, he was excluded, on

Errors to be corrected in the last article. - Page 301, line 28, for several read many; page 302, line 14, for long, read strong.

the ground of his having formerly been a tax-gatherer; the objection of the scribes and Pharisees against Jesus for eating and drinking with tax-gatherers and sinners having originated at the entertainment given him by Matthew. It was probably under the influence of similar feelings that, in the passage immediately preceding this, he makes no mention of the large and brilliant company of Pharisees, and doctors of the law, who, although they declined entering the house of Matthew, readily assembled in that of Peter and his associates, to hear the discourses of Christ; and where the miraculous cure of the paralytic man, let down through the roof, was performed in their presence. Matt. ix. 1-13; Mark ii. 1-17; Luke v. 17–32; vii. 36-50 end ; xi. 37–54 end ; xiv. 1-6.

Animated by a just indignation against that haughty and selfrighteous sect, Matthew depicts more distinctly than the other evangelists their errors and vices. Thus, the severe reproof of John the Baptist, -" Offspring of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the approaching judgment ?"—is stated by Luke to have been addressed to the multitude, bnt by Matthew to the Pharisees and Sadducees. The first charge against Christ of casting ont devils through Beelzebub is by Luke ascribed to some of the people; by Mark to the scribes who came down from Jerusalem ; but by Matthew to the Pharisees; and their repetition of the charge some time afterwards, in opposition to the better feelings of the multitude, is recorded by Matthew alone. So, the first refusal of Jesus to grant an extraordinary sign is by Luke said to have been made to the people, but by Matthew to the scribes and Pharisees ; and, on the second demand of this kind, the rebuke given to the applicants, now including Sadducees as well as Pharisees, is more fully detailed by Matthew than by Mark who succeeded him. In like manner, the ignorance of the Jewish teachers respecting the meaning of a remarkable passage in the Psalms is attributed by Mark and Luke to the scribes, but by Matthew to the Pharisees; whom he alone previously mentions as united with the chief-priests in their public opposition to the Saviour. The awful denunciation of Christ against them at the close of his ministry in Jerusalem, although substantially recorded by Luke, as delivered on a former occasion, is in this connexion, also, peculiar to Matthew, and occupies a large space in his narrative. Matt. iii. 7; ix. 32–34; xii. 22-24, 38; xv. 39 end; xvi. 1-4; xxi. 45, 46 end ; xxii. 34, 41-46 end ; xxiii.; Mark iii. 22; viii. 10-12; xii. 35–40; Luke iii. 7; xi. 14–16, 29, 37-54 end ; xx. 39-47 end.

The appalling fact that, notwithstanding all their privileges and advantages, the Jewish hierarchy perverted the law, and rejected the gospel, and thereby, after exhausting the divine forbearance, drew down merited destruction on their civil and sacred institutions, rendered it necessary that for the ministry of the new covenant a different class of men should be appointed, totally unconnected with the previous system, and specially qualified for their work by the personal instructions of Christ, and the extraordinary influences of the Holy Spirit. In numerous passages more or less peculiar to themselves, and in a manner perfectly natural and characteristic, the two apostolical evangelists, Matthew and John, intimate and explain the important office with which they were invested. A large por, tion of the discourses addressed by Jesus to his apostles, both on their election, and on their first mission, and which are so much more fully reported by Matthew than in the other gospels, is occupied by declarations of the dignity and responsibility of their office, directions for their conduct, promises of divine assistance, and illustrations of the superiority of evangelical holiness over the degraded standard of religion and morality at that time generally adopted, and here termed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees,”but by the apostle Paul," the righteousness of the law.” And, while the Jewish teachers are described as blind guides, corrupting their proselytes, and conducting their followers to ruin, the apostles are represented as scribes instructed for the kingdom of heaven, the keys of which were confided to their care, and wherein they were destined to sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. The superior illumination which, in common with his brethren, Matthew had thus obtained respecting the relation between the Mosaic and Christian dispensations, the nature of the kingdom of God, the spirituality of the law, the plan of salvation, and, consequently, the true import of various passages in the Old Testament which were either not understood or mistaken by the Jewish hierarchy, is, accordingly, displayed in a prominent but unostentatious manner by this evangelist; as if to show that, however ignorant and incompetent he might originally have been, he had received from above all the ability, authority, and information which were necessary to render him a faithful and efficient apostle of the new covenant. Matt. i. 22, 23; ii. 14-18, 23 end ; iii. 3; iv. 12–17; v.; vi.; viii. 10–12, 16, 17; ix. 35-38 end; x. ; xii. 14-21; xiii. 10-17, 34, 35, 51, 52; xv. 12–20; xvi. 17-19; xviii. 18–20; xix. 27, 28; xxi. 4, 5, 43–45; xxvii. 9, 10; xxviii. 18–20 end.

Concerning John, the remaining apostolical evangelist, the testimony of the ancient Christian fathers is copious and uniform. By several of them he is distinctly described, as the son of Zebediah, the brother of James the greater, the disciple whom Jesus peculiarly loved, who reclined next to him at the last supper, and received from him, when on the cross, the charge of his bereaved and apparently widowed mother. He is acknowledged to have been the author of the gospel, epistles, and apocalypse, usually ascribed to him; in reference to which Jerome justly remarks that he sustained the triple character of prophet, apostle, and evangelist. His gospel is stated to have been composed after the three others, at the request of the Christians of Asia Minor, that is, of converted Gentiles, among whom he passed his latter days; and chiefly for the purpose of supplying deficiencies in the preceding accounts, and of refuting noxious heresies which at that time abounded. With this historical testimony the internal evidence of the books themselves perfectly coincides; since they are manifestly the production of one and the same writer, who in several parts of them is plainly intimated to have been the apostle John.

« ElőzőTovább »