« PreviousContinue »
WITH respect to the following Work, it would be more amusing than beneficial to give the reader a catalogue of the helps I have made use of in this undertaking; let it suffice, that I have had recourse to the best interpreters, critics, and commentators.
Confining myself chiefly to what is historical, I have touched only on those passages in the prophets which relate to the history, that I might not break in upon, or discontinue the series of time and action.
I have inserted those historical passages of the Apocrypha, which the Jews esteemed true history, though they did not place them among their canonical books.
From the time of Malachi to our Saviour, there is a chasm of about four hundred years; which, to make the history complete, I have filled up out of the best authors that wrote of those times, as the reader will perceive; particularly the learned Prideaux, and occasionally Rollin.
With regard to the New Testament, I shall here only assign my reason for connecting the History of the four gospels in one story.
The God of truth, willing to acquaint us with what is of the highest concern, hath provided his Spirit to enlighten our understandings, and his written word to bring those things, which were done many ages ago, and in places far distant from us, so near, as if we had seen them acted before our eyes, Gal. iii. 1. To this end, our blessed Saviour chose from among the Jews certain men, which had known his life and doctrine from the beginning, Luke i. 2, to be witnesses to the Jews and Gentiles; and selected two from among his apostles, and two more from his disciples, to commit them to writing, and transmit them to posberity: that if in other cases the witness of two or three were sufficient; this of four might abundantly satisfy us; especially having received what they delivered, not only by their own knowledge and experience; but writing, as they spake, the dictates of the Spirit of God, 2 Pet. i. 21. The writings therefore of one of those, whom we call Evangelists, being the testimony of the Holy Ghost, 2 Tim. iii. 16, is of more value, and ought
rather to be credited, than the testimony of many, nay, of all men: but all of them agreeing in one and the same truth, their testimony is so much the more binding, as implying so many several acts of one and the same Spirit, producing in divers subjects one and the same effect; for though every one of them follow his own peculiar order in the context of his History, and sometimes deliver the same thing in different words, or add some circumstance to that which another had written, or new matter altogether omitted by the rest, and now and then seem not so much to respect order and method, as faithfully to record facts; yet in the undoubted truth both of Christ's speeches and actions, there is a most admirable consent and harmony. For the more clear demonstration of this, the learned of all ages have bestowed much labour and industry in comparing their testimonies, by whose labours, the church of God hath been much enlightened and adorned. Yet this, being attempted by different writers, was performed in various ways. Some of them reduced all the four Evangelists into the method and text of one. Others placed the several texts collaterally in one page, leaving it to the reader to judge what was added; or otherwise delivered by any one of them. And this method most of latter times have followed, Calvin excepted, who harmonizeth only the three first, placing St. John by himself, as hardly reducible to the other three. Others have reduced all the four gospels into one continued text, bringing in every one in his due place and own words, delivering his part of the history of Christ. This method is observed by Jansenius and Chemnitius: but that which I have chiefly followed, is the Itinerarium of the incomparable Lucas Brugensis, before his most learned comment on the four gospels; which being so exactly performed, I thought it most proper for my rule and guide.
The advantage of this kind of harmony will be infinitely greater than I can express; for the reader will find by this perpetual and continued connexion of history, the speeches, sermons, and acts of Christ, related without interruption of circumstances differently placed. And where the circumstances of any actions are omitted by one or two of the Evangelists, they are in this method reduced to their proper place, and the history carried on entire. There are many places of the Evangelists, which seem to an
inadvertent or prejudiced reader to contradict one another; but by this connexion are more commodiously reconciled, than by any gloss whatsoever. And thus by the joint consent of the four gospels in one testimony and relation, the history of our blessed Lord and Saviour, and the whole foundation of evangelical truth and doctrine, appear more beautiful and illustrious: of which, may God give us his grace to make a right use and true improvement, for his glory and our benefit. Amen. Amen.
BOOK THE FIRST.
HE Almighty Architect having created that mass of matter out of which the Universe was to be formed*. "Commanded the light to shine out of darkness." "God "divided between the light and between the darkness: "And God called the light day, and the darkness he called "night;" for hitherto nothing but darkness had overspread the unformed earth and water, which with the other materials of the creation lay blended together without
• Various opinions were entertained by the Heathen Philosophers concerning the origin of the world, and the nature of the element or elements of which they pretended particular bodies to have been formed. Some maintained that water was the principle of all things; others gave that pre-eminence to the air, others to the fire, &c. but they all agreed in this, that the matter of the world was unproduced. They never disputed among themselves upon the question, whether any thing was made out of nothing! They all agreed that it was impossible. Bayle's Dict. under the word Epicurus. Indeed the Heathen Greeks had no correct notion of Creation, nor any proper word whereby to express it.
When it is said, Gen. i. 1, " God created the heavens and the earth," the substance, not the form, is intended; for after this, they were without form and void." v. 2.
So Gen. i. 4, is translated by some of the learned, who suppose that the diurnal motion of the earth began at this time, by means of which motion, ever since continued, the airs that were in a state of darkness all the night, were en. lightened in the morning; and the airs that were enlightened all the day, grew darker in the evening. See Pike's Philosophia Sacra..
order or distinction. The Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. No sooner had the light displayed its cheerful beams, than it gave birth to the first day, which was immediately succeeded by the first night.
And to keep this part of new-framed nature within proper limits, the Almighty made the Firmament,† which was designed to separate between "the waters which were under the expanse, and the waters which were above the expanse. In consequence of which the waters were confined to certain bounds. The dry land then appeared, which was called Earth, as the gathering of the waters was called Sea. The earth being as yet unadorned, he gave the word, and it was immediately decorated with plants, and flowers, and trees, in all their beautiful variety.
Hitherto the light, which God created the first day, was diffused throughout the universe, by the struggling of the small globes of ethereal matter, to break loose from the centre of their vortexes; but on the fourth day God made those two great luminaries of heaven, the sun and moon, the one to rule the day and the other the night; and to render them more useful, by the regularity of their motion, he appointed them for signs to distinguish the seasons, and by them divide time into days and years. He made the stars also, which he set in the firmament, where they accomplish their revolutions in their appointed periods.
God having employed the first four days in the creation of inanimate things, proceeded to that of the living creatures: Let the waters bring forth abundantly the
Spirit. The Hebrew word thus translated, is used for the Spirit of God, and the spirit of a man too; but there is reason to think that the material spirit is here intended. It is the word used for the Air. Isa. xl. 7, " The spirit of the Lord bloweth on the grass of the field:" and Ps. 104. 30, "Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created," &c. This does not exclude the agency of the Divine Spirit in the creation, but rather confirms it; for the material spirit is the type of the Holy Ghost in his various operations.
+ Firmament. The Hebrew word signifies Expansion. Moses had mentioned the spirit, which is the grosser part of the heavens, and the light which is the finer part; these two are supposed to be in a continual conflict or commotion, by which an expansion is produced, and by this expansive force nature operates.