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strongly tinctured with Gnosticism, and the perfect counterparts of those against whom St. Paul so strongly inveighs in several of his Epistles. These Gospels are referred to by Ignatius, Origen, Jerom, and others; and it was their very antiquity which led them probably to conclude them to be transcripts, more or less corrupted, of the supposed Matthew's Gospel according to the Hebrews, or, what is the same, the Hebrew-Aramean “Gospel according to St. Matthew.” It is, however, a remarkable fact, that none of the fathers had ever seen this alleged uncorrupted Gospel of St. Matthew. Its disappearance ought also to be accounted for. This has been done by some modern critics, by considering it as the consequence of the dispersion of the Jews after the taking of Jerusalem, and the disuse of their vernacular language. But this ought rather to have diffused so precious a work as an original Gospel written by an apostle, and of course of equal authority with his Gospel in Greek, which was universally received. Such a work ought to have been found among the faithful Hebrew Christians in various places into which they fled for shelter, under the special protection of Christ, who had warned them to escape on the first approach of the Roman armies to Jerusalem. Had such a work been required from St. Matthew, on the ground of general usefulness to the Palestinian Jewish believers, numerous copies of it must have been taken, both in Judea and in Syria ; and yet “Origen obtained no trace of it; he could nowhere find anything but the book xa?? Eßparous, the value of which he left to each individual's judgment; yet the discovery of Matthew in his original language was of no less consequence to him, as his perseverance in investigations of this nature was indefatigable. In the same manner as he laboured upon the Old Testament for the sake of restoring the Septuagint, by reference to the original text and the other existing critical aids, so also was he occupied with a recension of the New Testament. The many faults which had crept into Matthew, of which he expressly complains, were to be remedied in no more effectual way than by consulting the original text, as he had done in the Old Testament. He made, during twenty-eight years, various journeys for critical purposes; he drew many unused and forgotten manuscripts out of their obscurity, in which they would perhaps have decayed, for the sake of leaving no means unessayed to amend the Biblical text. His journeys were directed through Palestine and Syria, and at Tyre he laboriously formed his critical appa
In spite of these troublesome and voluntary investigations, which this scientific man made, he nowhere discovered any trace of such an
original Gospel of Matthew. Pamphilus, a Phenician from Barut, famed as a martyr, as the teacher of Eusebius, and, on account of his Biblical learning, as a scholar, established, for the church at Cæsarea, a library, celebrated among the ancients, to furnish books, for which he most carefully explored every direction. The treasure there provided in Biblical literature attracted Jerom, also, who made use of it to advantage. But for this collection Pamphilus had obtained no Hebrew copy of Matthew : it
was only the Nazaræan book that he could procure, which Jerom, who - translated it, here examined. So fruitless were the endeavours of the
ancients to obtain a sight of the pretended original text of the evangelist, that its existence seems to have been a mere report, and it nowhere appears to have existed." *
But another subject has been largely discussed by the persevering critics of modern times, and especially in Germany; and has led to the most patient and acute investigations, which, however, as in most similar cases, have terminated by ranging those who have engaged in them on different sides. The chief benefit has been an instructive display of the different principles upon which the learned conduct such inquiries, and the eliciting of much information, which, if it does not serve the main point, is often useful in others not at first intended. The remarkable agreement among the three first evangelists, not only in facts, but in words; the use of the same expression for many verses together; the differences which then arise, and which again subside into the same exact correspondence; are circumstances which, it is supposed, can only be accounted for by assuming, 1. That each evangelist embodies many of the same oral traditions common among the immediate disciples of our Lord; or, 2. That the later evangelists saw and copied partially the writings of the preceding; or, 3. That there was one original document, from which Archetypus Evangeliorum, or apwtEuayyedsov, each selected at pleasure. In this country, Bishop Marsh has adopted and largely defended this hypothesis of a common document. “Whoever," says he, “ thinks it possible that three texts so closely allied, could have been formed independently of each other, may easily convince himself of the contrary by translating a page from any language, and then comparing his own version of it with any other; for he will find, that, though the same in substance, they are not identically alike. The argument is strengthened, if we find three authors not only making choice of identical words in common use, but such as are
* Hug's Introduction, vol. ii. 58, 59.
unusual, and which they do not employ themselves on other occasions." These discussions have unhappily been carried on both in Germany and England, either in entire forgetfulness, or with too little consideration, of the inspiration of the evangelists. These writers have been treated as mere human authors; and this has led to the misapplication, and, indeed, often the impertinent obtrusion, of a vast mass of acute and laboured criticism. But a reference to the original circumstances of the case will always serve to clear our way out of the labyrinths in which bold but theory-loving critics often entangle themselves and their readers. As to the public actions of Christ, they would be remembered by multitudes; but would be stated with great variety by different persons; and, through human infirmity, where there was no ill design, would often be greatly altered in their transmission from those who witnessed them, to those who did not. Many of the sayings of Christ were at the time designedly enigmatical, and could not be understood until after his ascension; and even then only by those who had received the gift of the Holy Spirit ; and as for his longer discourses, human memory was so inadequate to retain them faithfully, that one of his own promises to his apostles was to send the Spirit to bring them “ to remembrance.” Thus a large body of facts and conversations were floating, so to speak, for some years in the minds and discourses of his disciples, all correct as to substance, but more or less confused as to their full import and exact character, until the day of Pentecost; when what had been accurately remembered was explained, what was forgotten was revived, and what was feebly apprehended was fully seized by the mind. These gifts were bestowed on many, and especially upon those who were appointed to preach the gospel, and convert others. Every apostle, and every teacher, and no doubt many of the more immediate disciples of our Lord who had followed him from the beginning, were therefore qualified to write one of those accounts which we call a Gospel ; as he was qualified, by his miraculous endowments, to declare them orally: and among them the agreement in substance, and very often in words, must have been obvious; a circumstance which could only create surprise, provided the special gift and office of the Holy Spirit, to take of “the things of Jesus and show to them,” were denied or left out of the argument. From this inspiration it would not, indeed, follow that each of the apostles in his preaching should express the same truth always in exactly the same words; though, as that might in many cases be necessary for the clear enunciation of a doctrine delivered by their Lord, that would be
provided for by Him under whose influence they were: and it is therefore quite probable that these primitive preachers, without any concert with each other, and in distant places, did sometimes deliver the same thing in various phrase, and sometimes in the same, as we see it done in the writings of the evangelists. So as to the oral information concerning facts in the history of our Lord, with which they furnished the new converts in different places, they would impart some more copiously and circumstantially than others, as the case of the people, and many other circumstances, seemed to require ; some laying more stress upon one, some upon another, and some giving the same relation more copiously, others more curtly; still influenced in all by that Spirit which was always with them. Of this primitive preaching, so far as it related to the instruction of inquirers or new converts, before any Gospel had been published, or where copies had not reached, the Gospels themselves may be considered as an exact counterpart; only with this difference, that as all the first inspired preachers were not directed to write, those who were appointed to this office were placed under special superintendence, that each writing should be fitted to answer its end as to the persons for whom it was immediately designed, as that of St. Matthew, in the first instance, for the Jews; those of Mark, the companion of St. Peter, and Luke, the companion of St. Paul, for the churches generally, but the latter rendered more copious than the former ; and that of St. John, to counteract the growing Gnostic errors as to the person of Christ, and to preserve his longer discourses; whilst the whole, when collected and preserved, as in the intention of their divine Author they were always designed to be, should be for the benefit of the whole world, Jews and Gentiles, and be adapted to refute every species of fundamental error to the end of time.
If the MATTER of the Gospels be inspired, we must conclude that the FORM was determined by the same authority, but still under a rule; that whilst man was made use of by the Holy Spirit, the character and circumstances of the writer should be preserved, not displaced. There would be therefore, in these writings, a substantial agreement, and there would often be an entire similarity ;-a substantial agreement, because in such writings there can be nothing but truth; and this would chiefly apply to those things which they had known “ accurately from the beginning,” and which were remembered by them ;—and an entire similarity, as to those things which had been specially “ brought to their remembrance," because that would be done, probably, as to all the disciples at the day of Pentecost, in the same words; and, if so, in the same words, or nearly so, afterwards, as to those inspired to write the Gospels, which words would be in the same language in which they wrote. There appears, therefore, not the least force in the circumstance of their frequent verbal agreement to impel us to either of the conclusions which has been considered inevitable; that the evangelists copied from each other; or that they each copied from a common original Gospel, the Archetypus Evangeliorum, as it has been called. “I admit, indeed,” says Bishop Randolph, “ of a common document; but that document was no other than the preaching of our blessed Lord himself. In looking up to him, the author of their faith and mission, and to the very words in which he was wont to dictate to them, which not only yet sounded in their ears, but were also recalled by the aid of his Holy Spirit, promised for that very purpose, they have given us their Gospels, often agreeing in words, though not without much diversification, and always in sense.”
Harmonies of the Gospels, or attempts to form one consecutive account out of the four in chronological order, have but ill repaid the labour bestowed upon them, because almost all harmonists have attempted too much.
In different languages, they approach to near two hundred in number; and, still disappointed, one has followed another into the same field of hopeless toil. One mischievous effect has, indeed, sometimes resulted. Discrepancies among the evangelists have been often complained of, when the real discrepancy has not been between evangelist and evangelist, but between them and the false schemes of the harmonists themselves. As it has been remarked, the evangelists manifestly never intended, either together or separately, to give an exact and full chronological and historical account of our Lord's life and ministry ; but to state those particulars which should display his character, and show the fulfilment of prophecy in him; to record the substance of his teaching, and those events of his birth, life, death, and resurrection, which form the basis of his religion. The order of time was with them, therefore, but a secondary consideration, and, in several instances, appears to have been thought of no importance. Such a general order and succession as the case required is, however, sufficiently manifest; and by considering this, several passages derive illustration and force. This is generally within the power of every reader, as he may be easily assisted by lists of parallels. It may be useful, however, to remark, that Harmonies may be divided into two general classes,—those which assume that the chronological order has