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whom the one flourished in the third, and the other in the fourth century. The first account did not appear till near two hundred years after his death, when the author was at liberty to say what he pleased. Hence you perceive, that the question respecting the genuineness of the writings of the New Testament is connected with their authenticity. The subject of inquiry is, whether they were written in the age when Jesus Christ is said to have appeared, and to have performed the miracles which are ascribed to him, or were composed and published at a subsequent period. I shall proceed to give you an account of the books.


I begin with the gospel of Matthew. That he was the writer of this book, and that it was the first which appeared, are facts supported by the uniform testimony of antiquity. With respect to the time of its publication, there has been a considerable diversity of opinion. It has been assigned by some to the year 61, 62, 63, or 64; by others, to the year 41, 43, or 48; and by others, to the year 37, or 38. As there is nothing in the book itself, or in the writings of the early Christians, by which the date can be settled, we must content ourselves with probability; and there appears to be considerable force in the reasoning of Bishop Tomline, who prefers the year 38. "It appears very improbable that the Christians should be left any considerable number of years without a written history of our Saviour's ministry. It is certain that the apostles, immediately after the descent of the Holy Ghost, which took place only ten days after the ascension of our Saviour into heaven. preached the Gospel to the Jews with great success; and surely it is reasonable to suppose that an authentic account of our Saviour's doctrines and miracles would very soon be committed to writing for the confirmation of those who believed in his divine mission, and for the conversion of others." "We may conceive that the apostles would be desirous of losing no time in writing an account of the miracles which Jesus performed, and of the discourses which he delivered, because the sooner such an account was published, the easier it would be to inquire into its truth and accuracy; and, consequently, when these points were satisfactorily ascertained, the greater would be its weight and authority." There has been much controversy, in modern times, concerning the language in which this gospel was written. By the ancients, Papias, Irenæus, and Origen, and by others who followed them, it was said to have been written in Hebrew; but many learned men contend that the original was Greek. Much credit is not due to the testimony of Papias, who was a weak and credulous man. The works of Irenæus have been understood to import, that besides the Greek, Matthew published also a Hebrew gospel. Origen, in some passages, seems to proceed upon the supposition, that if Matthew wrote in Hebrew, he wrote also in Greek. To reconcile the opposite opinions, we may say, that Matthew published his gospel both in Hebrew, or the mixed dialect which then bore that name, and in Greek: in Hebrew, for the use of the Jews living in Judea, to whom that language was vernacular; and in Greek, for the use of Jews and Gentiles in other countries. Or we may reconcile them by supposing that his gospel was translated into Hebrew, and, as it was generally believed to have been designed for the inhabitants of Judea. in process of time the translation was mistaken for the original. It is altogether improbable that this single book should have been written in Hebrew, or in Hebrew alone, while all the rest are in Greek; and if it be inspired, as Christians believe, that there should exist only a version by an unknown hand, of whose competence and fidelity we have no assurance. If it were a mere translation, I do not see that any dependence could be placed upon it, except so far as it agrees with the other


* Introduct. to the Study of the Bible, part ii. chap. ii.

The next gospel was written by Mark, who is commonly supposed to be the sister's son of Barnabas, and was called first John, and afterwards Mark; but some have entertained doubts whether this was the person. He was not an apostle, but is said to have been the constant attendant of Peter, and to have composed his narrative with his approbation. The following account is given by Eusebius. He tells us, that Peter having preached at Rome, the people were so pleased with his instructions, that they anxiously desired to have them in writing; that by their earnest entreaties they prevailed upon Mark to draw up a memoir of them; and that Peter approved of what was done, and authorized the writing to be introduced into the churches.* It was even sometimes called the gospel of Peter, because it was believed that he had revised it and given it his sanction. These traditions are not absolutely certain; but there is universal consent respecting the publication of the book at an early period, and the name of the author. According to Eusebius and others, it appeared at Rome; but others assign to it a different place, Alexandria in Egypt. It is not so certain as is commonly supposed, that the apostle Peter was ever in Rome; but if we admit, upon the authority of antiquity, that he did preach in that city, and that the occasion of writing this gospel was such as has been related, it is probable that the date should be fixed somewhere about the year 60. It is the voice of antiquity that it was written in Greek; but some authors in the Romish church have maintained that the original was Latin; and give this reason for their opinion, that, as it was drawn up for the use of the Romans, it must have been presented to them in their own language. But the argument proves too much, and therefore proves nothing; for it is acknowledged by all, that the epistle sent by Paul to the Romans was not written in Latin, but in Greek. It was long asserted that the original in Latin was preserved in Venice; but it has been discovered that it is the fragment of a manuscript, which has no pretension to be the autograph of the evangelist. It has been affirmed that the gospel of Mark is a mere abridgment of the gospel of Matthew, and consequently is not an independent testimomy to the facts of the evangelical history. But although this notion has obtained currency, it has been proved by different persons, and particularly by Mr. Jones in his work on the canon, to be without foundation. There is a resemblance between the two gospels, but at the same time, there is such a difference as shows that they are both original compositions. "For the most part the accounts by Mark are much more large and full, and related with many more particular circumstances than the same accounts are by Matthew." "The disagreement which seems to be between the two evangelists in relating several circumstances of their history, is a clear and demonstrative evidence that the one did not abridge or copy the other." "Lastly, Mark's gospel is not an epitome of Matthew's, because he has related several very considerable histories of which there is not the least mention made by Matthew."t

The writer of the third gospel was Luke, who is supposed to have been a native of Antioch, descended from Jewish parents, and by profession a physician. What is most certain is, that he was the companion of Paul in his travels, and a witness of many of the things which he relates concerning that apostle in the Acts. The time when he published his gospel is not ascertained, some referring it to the year 53, and others to the year 63, or 64; and so also is the place, there being no evidence to determine whether it was written in Achaia, or Syria, or Palestine. All antiquity agrees in ascribing it to Luke. The superiority of the style, which approaches nearer to the cla sical standard, has given rise to the idea that he had been better educated than the other evangelists. The occasion of writing his gospel is thus stated by himself. For

Euseb. Hist. lib. ii. c. 14, 15.

†Jones on the Canon, vol. iii. pp. 56. 70.76.


asmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word; it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those things wherein thou hast been instructed."* These words might almost lead us to think that the gospel of Luke was the first, were it not for the unanimous testimony of antiquity to the contrary. It was natural that the Christians should be desirous to have an accredited account of the actions and sayings of our Lord: and this would be an inducement to different individuals to come forward with their narratives. It is true that the gospels of Matthew and Mark were already in circulation; but some of the accounts might have appeared before them; and even after those gospels were published, the curiosity or the wishes of the public would not be immediately satisfied, as copies could not be so rapidly multiplied as they now are by the press, and there was still room for the labours of others. But, as it happens in cases of this kind, their narratives would be imperfect, and, it may be, inaccurate. Luke, indeed, does not directly charge them with unfaithfufness or mistake, but speaks of them merely as "declarations of the things which were believed among Christians," founded on the report of eyewitnesses. It is evident, however, that he considered his new narrative as called for; and he seems to intimate, when he says that he "had a perfect understanding," or had accurately traced "all things from the first," that his information was more extensive and correct.

The last gospel, it is acknowledged by all the ancients, was written by John. He was one of the sons of Zebedee, is frequently mentioned in the evangelical history, and is distinguished from the other apostles as "the disciple whom Jesus loved." We may conceive him, therefore, while employed in compiling this book, not only to have obeyed the impulse of inspiration, but to have experienced the melting tenderness of heart with which a person records the actions and sayings of a friend. While his thoughts were elevated to Jesus Christ reigning on the throne of heaven, he could not but remember that this was he with whom he had lived on familiar terms, and on whose bosom he was once permitted to lean. It is peculiar to this gospel that it gives us the name of the writer, or what is equivalent, refers to the well-known affection which subsisted between him and our Saviour; while the names of the other evangelists are known only by tradition. "This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things." The date of it is as uncertain as that of the other gospels. Some have assigned the year 68, 69, or 70; and as a proof that it was prior to the destruction of Jerusalem, these words have been appealed to: "Now there is at Jerusalem, by the sheep-market, a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue, Bethesda, having five porches." He does not say there was, but there is such a pool. There are some authorities in favour of instead of ; but not to lay any stress upon these, we may remark that, although the walls and houses of Jerusalem were demolished, the pool might remain, and the porches might have been left standing to afford accommodation to the Roman garrison, and to others who occasionally visited the ruins; so that the mention of it, as in existence, determines nothing respecting the date of the gospel. Notwithstanding this passage, it is by many considered as posterior to the fall of the holy city, and supposed to have been written about the year 97, after John had returned from Patmos, to which he was banished by the emperor Domitian.

If this be the true date, the apostle must have been very old. It is probable

* Luke i. 1-4.

† John xxi. 24.

+ John v. 2

that he was about the same age with our Lord; and since his ascension, between sixty and seventy years had elapsed. In other words, the year 97 marks both his age and the date of his book. I add, that if we adopt this date, the gospel is the last book of the New Testament, and not the Revelation, as is commonly thought. John is reported to have spent much of his time during the latter part of his life in Asia Minor, and it is the general opinion that his gospel was published there. The narrative is in a great measure new he omits most of the facts which are mentioned by the other evangelists, and relates particulars which they have left out; and hence it would seem that his narrative appeared after theirs, and was intended to be supplementary to them. We are informed, too, by Irenæus, Jerome, and others, that one important design which he had in view, was to confute the erroneous dogmas of various heretics, the Ebionites, the Cerinthians, and the Nicolaitans, concerning the person of Christ. Accordingly, while Matthew, Mark, and Luke begin with an account of his human birth, the gospel of John opens with a solemn testimony to his pre-existence and divinity. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."* The subject is repeatedly brought forward more fully and explicitly than by the other evangelists. Eusebius quotes the words of Clement of Alexandria to the following effect, "that John, the last of the evangelists, observing that corporeal things had been explained in the other gospels, and being impelled by his acquaintances, and moved by the Spirit, composed a spiritual gospel." With respect to the composition in general, Dr. Campbell says, that it bears marks more signal than any of the gospels, that it is the work of an illiterate Jew; and other critics have remarked upon the homeliness and inaccuracy of the style. On the other hand, Michaelis has pronounced the style to be better than that of the other gospels, and ascribes this superiority to the skill in the Greek language, which the apostle had acquired by a long residence in Ephesus."§ In such uncertainty are we left, when we depend upon the opinions of others. It is somewhat strange that so distinguished a scholar should prefer the style of John to that of Luke.

Irenæus, in his work Adversus Hæreses, has assigned reasons why there are four gospels, and there could not be more. You will readily anticipate that they are fanciful, and will be convinced that they deserve this character when you hear that these are two of them;-there are four regions of the world in which the gospel was to be preached, and the cherubims between whom Jesus Christ sits had each four faces. We cannot tell why four were published, and not three only; but we may safely suppose the reason for more than one to have been, that at the mouth of two or three witnesses, the history of our Lord might be established.

If the gospel of Luke is acknowledged to be genuine, it follows that he was the writer of the Acts of the Apostles. This appears from the introduction to the latter book. "The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which he was taken up."|| As the two treatises were composed by the same author, and addressed to the same person, it has been supposed that they were drawn up and published at the same time. At any rate, if the date which we have assigned to his gospel be correct, the interval between its appearance and the publication of the Acts could not be long. The history in the Acts comes down to the end of the two years of Paul's imprisonment at Rome; soon after which, he was set at liberty in the year 63. It is probable, that about this time, this second

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treatise was sent to Theophilus. You will observe that Luke gives no account of the martyrdom of Paul; undoubtedly because he composed this narrative before it; and it is understood, that after having enjoyed his liberty for a short period, the apostle was again brought before the tribunal of Nero, and condemned. The design of Luke was not to give a complete account of the propagation of the gospel, but to show that in obedience to the command of our Saviour, it was published first to the Jews, and then to the Gentiles. Accordingly, having recorded the events of the day of Pentecost, and some subsequent proceedings of the apostles in Jerusalem and Samaria, he enters upon the history of Paul, and sets before us a summary of the labours of that zealous and indefatigable servant of Christ among the Gentiles. With the exception of Peter and John, we hear little or nothing of the other apostles, although there can be no doubt that they were equally faithful and diligent in publishing the religion of their divine Master.

I proceed to speak of the epistles which have been divided into two classes, the epistles of Paul, and the Catholic epistles. Those of Paul are fourteen in number, but are not placed in our Bibles in the order in which they were written. The epistle to the Romans stands first, because it was addressed to the inhabitants of the capital; and then follow two epistles to the Christians of Corinth, a large and flourishing city of Greece. If they had been arranged according to their respective dates, the two epistles to the Thessalonians would have stood first, because they preceded all the rest. The epistles of James and Jude, the two epistles of Peter, and the three of John, were called Catholic, because they are not addressed to particular churches and individuals, but to Christians in every part of the world. But there is an obvious error in this statement; the second and third epistles of John ought to have been excluded from the number, since the former is addressed to a person whom he calls the elect Lady, or, as some think, the Lady Eclecta, and the latter to Gaius. Even then, the classification would have been inaccurate. The first epistle of Peter is addressed to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia; not to the whole society of Christians in the world, but to that part of them which resided in those countries; and the epistle of James was sent to the twelve tribes scattered abroad, and consequently, is not more catholic than the epistle to the Hebrews. Thus you see, that this ancient division of the epistles is destitute of any foundation.

There is no difficulty in ascertaining the writer of the epistles which are ascribed to Paul, because he gives his name in the superscription, and sometimes introduces it towards the end. Thus, he says, in the second epistle to the Thessalonians, "The salutation of Paul, with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write."* It appears, that for some cause not mentioned, perhaps because his handwriting was not good, he commonly employed an amanuensis; not always, however, for he says to the Galatians, "Ye see how large a letter I have written to you with mine own hand."t But when he did use the pen of another, he wrote the salutation himself to authenticate the epistle, or that those to whom it was sent might be satisfied that it was genuine.

It is not my business at present to give a summary of the contents of the epistles; and I shall satisfy myself with a brief notice of the time when each is supposed to have been written. The most probable date of the Epistle to the Romans is the year 57 or 58. The first Epistle to the Corinthians was written in the year 56 or 57, and the second in the following year. It has been made a question, whether Paul wrote any other epistle to the Corinthians, and it is founded upon these words in his first epistle, "I wrote to you in an

† Gal. vi. 11.

*2 Thess. iii. 17.

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