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Master promised them very early. For when he sent them out on their first mission, he told them they were to be brought before kings and rulers for his name's sake ; and forbade them to meditate before-hand what or how they should speak, assuring them that the Spirit would inspire them to make proper defences in behalf of themselves, and of the cause they were engaged to support. “
Matt. x. 18. * And ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles. 19. But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak, for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak. 20. For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.” This promise Jesus renewed to his apostles a little before his passion, Mark xii. 11. < But when they shall lead you and deliver you up, take no thought before-hand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate; but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye : for it is not ye that speak but the Holy Ghost.” Nay, on another occasion, he seems to have extended the promise of inspiration to all the disciples, who at that time were to be employed in preaching the gospel, and who thereby might be exposed to persecution. See Luke xii. 1. 11, 12. The whole of these promises were punctually fulfilled. For, about ten days after our Lord's ascension, the disciples received the Holy Ghost, while they tarried in Jerusalem according to their Master's order, in expectation of being endued with power from on high. Thus we are told, Acts ii. 3. that while the disciples were gathered together, the Spirit descended in the visible symbol of fire, which rested upon each of them, to denote the indwelling of the Spirit with them : “ And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost :” they were inspired with the knowledge of the Christian religion, and had all things that were either said or done by their Master brought to their remembrance, according to his promise. From that moment forth the Spirit gave clear indications of the reality of his presence with the disciples; for he enabled them all at once to speak the various languages under heaven, as fluently as if they had been their native tongues, and thereby qualified them to preach the gospel in all countries immediately upon their arrival, without the necessity of submitting to the tedious and irksome labour of learning the languages of those countries. Moreover, he gave them the power of working all manner of miracles; nay, he enabled them to impart unto those whom they converted, the power of working miracles also, and the faculty of speaking with tongues, and of prophecying, and of preaching by inspiration. The apostles of the Lord having such convincing proofs of their inspiration al. ways abiding with them, they did not fail, on proper occasions, to assert it, that mankind might every where receive their doctrine and writings with that submission which is due to the dic
tates of the Spirit of God. Hence we find them calling the gospel which they preached and wrote, “ The word of God, 'The commandment of God, The wisdom of God, The testimony of God; also, The word of Christ, The gospel of Christ, The mind of Christ, The mystery of God the Father, and of Christ.”—Wherefore Matthew and John being apostles, and having received the gifts of the Spirit with the rest of their brethren, there can be no doubt of their inspiration. Their gospels were written under the direction of the Holy Ghost who resided in them; and upon that account they are venerated by all Christians as the word of God, and have deservedly a place allowed them in the sacred canon.
§ 5. The characters of Mark and Luke come next to be considered. They were not apostles, it is true, yet they were qualified to write such a history of our Lord's life as merits a place in the canon of Scripture. For as they were in all probability early disciples, they may have been eye witnesses of most of the things which they have related; nay, they may have been in the apostles company on the day of Pentecost, and may have received the gifts of the Spirit together with them, consequently they may have wrote by inspiration also. The tradition mentioned above from Epiphanius, seems to favour these suppositions.—However, if they are not admitted, this must be granted, that the evangelists we are speaking of, accompanied the apostles in their travels. The matter is certain with respect to Luke : for, in his history of the Acts, he speaks of himself as Paul's companion ; and, in the preface to his Gospel, he expressly mentions the information of the ministers of the word, as distinct from that of the eye-witnesses, to lead us, I imagine, to think of Paul, with whom he had long travelled, and who had not the knowledge of Christ's history by personal acquaintance, but by revelation. See Gal. i. 11, 12. i Cor. xi. 23.- As for Mark, he is generally reported by antiquity, and currently believed, to have been Peter's assistant. And in conformity to this opinion, all interpreters, both ancient and modern, suppose that Peter speaks of Mark the evangelist, 1 epist. v. 13. « The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, salutes you, and so does Marcus my son.” This appellation Peter gives to Mark because of the great intimacy and friendship which subsisted between them, agreeable to the apostle Paul's description of Timothy's affection. Philip. ii. 22. “ But ye know the proof of him, that as a son with the father he hath served with me in the Gospel.” If Mark was Peter's companion and fellow-labourer in the Gospel, although he was neither an apostle nor an eye-witness, he must have been well acquainted with our Lord's history, because he could not but learn it from the conversation and sermons of Peter, who was both. Wherefore, to use the words of Luke, Since these evangelists took in hand to write the history of our Lord's life, according to the informations which they had received 1
from the eye-witnesses and ministers of the word, and executed their design while they accompanied the persons from whom they received those informations, we may reasonably suppose they would submit their works to their examination. Accordingly, Clemens Alexandrinus, quoted by Eusebius, vi. 14. tells us, that Mark's gospel was revised by Peter. And Mr Jones, in support of this opinion, has collected eight particulars from the other gospels, all tending to the honour of Peter, which are entirely omitted by Mark, because Peter's humility, as he supposes, would not allow him to tell these things to that historian. But if it be true that Mark and Luke wrote according to the information of the apostles, and had their gospels revised by them, it is evidently the same as if their gospels had been dictated by the apostles.
I cannot but observe, however, that though none of all the suppositions just now mentioned should be granted, there is one unquestionable matter of fact which fully establishes the authority of the two gospels under consideration ; namely, that they were written by the persons whose names they bear, and while most of the apostles were alive. For in that case they must have been perused by the apostles and approved, as is certain from their being universally received in the earliest ages, and handed down to posterity as of undoubted authority. The apostolical approbation was the only thing, without the inspiration of the writers, which could give these books the reputation they have obtained. And had it been wanting in any degree, they must have shared the fate of the many accounts which Luke speaks of in his preface; that is, must have been neglected, either as imperfect or spurious, and so have quickly perished. But if the gospels of Mark and Luke were approved by the apostles immediately upon their publication, and for that reason were received by all Christians, and handed down to posterity as of undoubted authority, it is the same as if they had been dictated by the apostles. Hence they are justly reckoned of equal authority with the other books of Scripture, and admitted into the canon together with them.–Such proofs as these, drawn from the sacred writings themselves, are sufficient to make all Christians reverence the gospels as the word of God. And therefore they are fitly produced for the confirmation of our faith. But in arguing with infidels, who look on the sacred writings as the works of impostors, the reasoning must proceed upon different topics: which leads me to the eighth observation.
Concerning the credibility of the gospel-history. The history of Jesus Christ, contained in the writings of the evangelists, is credible for the following reasons.
1. These writings were published very near the times in VOL. I. K
which Jesus Christ, whose history they contain, is said to have lived. There are three arguments which prove this :- 1. The writers of the age immediately following that in which our Lord lived, and of the subsequent ages down to our own times, have mentioned the four gospels expressly by their names, have cited inany passages out of them, and made numberless allusions both to facts and expressions contained in them, as unto things known and believed by all Christians ; which they could not possibly have done, had the gospels not been extant at the time we affirm. Farther, by the same succession of writers still remaining, it appears, that at and from the time when we suppose the gospels were published, peculiar regard was paid to them by all Christians : they believed them to contain the only authentic records of Christ's life, and read them with the other scriptures in all their public assemblies. Hence translations of them were very early made into many different languages, some of which are still remaining. Moreover, exhortations to the people were drawn from them, every doctrine claiming belief was proved out of them, whatever was contrary to them was rejected as erroneous, they were appealed to as the standard in all the disputes which Christians had among themselves, and by arguments drawn from them they confuted heretics and false teachers. That we learn these particulars concerning the gospels from the writings of Christians, does not weaken the argument in the least ; because if those writings are as ancient as is commonly believed, be their authors who they will, they necessarily prove the gospels to have been written at the time we suppose. If it is replied, that the writings appealed to for the antiquity of the gospels are themselves forged, the answer is, that being cited by the writers of the age which immediately followed them, and they again by subsequent writers, they cannot be thought forgeries, unless it is affirmed that all the books that ever were published by Christians are such, which is evidently ridiculous and imposs sible. Besides, an affirmation of this kind will appear the more absurd, when it is considered that the enemies of Christianity themselves bear testimony to the antiquity of the gospels ; particularly Porphyry, Julian, Hierocles, and Celsus, who draw several of their objections against the Christian religion from passages of our Lord's history contained in the gospels. (See § 34. and 94. of the Paraphrase.) The truth is, these books being early written and of general concernment, were eagerly sought after by all, the copies of them multiplied fast, spread far, and came into the hands both of friends and foes; which is the reason that we have more ancient manuscript copies of the gospels still remaining, than of any other part of the sacred writings, or even of any other ancient book whatsoever.–2. The gospels were published very near the times in which Jesus is said to
have lived, because the authors of the gospels call themselves his contemporaries, and affirm that they were eye and ear witnesses of the transactions which they relate, that they had a chief hand in several of them, and that all of them had happened but a few years before they wrote. Had these things been false, as soon as the books which contained them came abroad, every reader must at once have discovered the fraud, and by that means the books themselves must have been universally condemned as mischievous forgeries, and altogether neglected. Whereas it is well known that they gained universal belief, that they were translated into many different languages, and that copies of them were preserved with the greatest care by those into whose hands they came.—3. In every instance where the evangelists had occasion to mention the manners and customs of the country which was the scene of their history, they have accurately described them; and, as often as their subject led them to speak of Jewish affairs, they have done it in such a manner as to shew that they were perfectly acquainted with them. But considering how extremely fluctuating the posture of affairs among the Jews was in that period, by reason of their intercourse with the Romans, such an exact knowledge of all the changes which happened, could not possibly have entered into the supposititious work of any recent impostor. To have acquired such knowledge, the historian must both have been on the spot, and have lived near the times that are the subject of his history; which is what we contend for in behalf of the evangelists.
These arguments prove that the gospels were published very near the time wherein they say our Lord lived. If so, they must te acknowledged to contain a true history of his life. For had any thing been told of him that was not consistent with the knowledge of his countrymen then living, it was in every one's power to have discovered and exposed the fraud. The great transactions of Christ's life, as they stand recorded in the gospels, were of the most public nature, and what the whole inhabitants of Judea were concerned in, especially the rulers and priests. His miracles are affirmed to have been performed openly, ofttimes before crowds, and in the great towns, as well as in remote corners; nay, in the temple itself, under the eye of the grandees, and that during the space of four years. Persons of all ranks, and of all sects, are introduced acknowledging the truth of them. His enemies, however bitter, did not deny them, but ascribed them to the assistance of demons. Even the chief priests and pharisees themselves are said to have confessed to one another that he did many miracles; and that, if they let him alone, all men would believe on him. In some instances, the subjects of his miracles were carried before the magistrates, whose examination rendered those miracles more public and unquestion