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There are alfo fome proprieties, as they may be called, obfervable in the gospels; that is, circumstances feparately fuiting with the fituation, character, and intention of their respective authors.
St. Matthew, who was an inhabitant of Galilee, and did not join Chrift's fociety until fome time after Chrift had come into Galilee to preach, has given us very little of his history prior to that period. St. John, who had been converted before, and who wrote to fupply omiffions in the other gofpels, relates fome remarkable particulars, which had taken place before Christ left Judea to go into Galilee*.
St. Matthew (xv. 1.) has recorded the cavil of the Pharifees against the difciples of Jefus, for eating "with unclean hands." St. Mark has alfo (vii. 1.) .recorded the fame tranfaction (taken probably from St. Matthew), but with this addition, "For the
* Hartley's Obf. vol. ii. p. 103.
Pharifees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands often, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market, except they wash they eat not; and many other things there be which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups and pots, brazen veffels, and of tables." Now St. Matthew was not only a Jew himself, but it is evident, from the whole ftructure of his gofpel, especially from his numerous references to the Old Teftament, that he wrote for Jewish readers. The above explanation therefore in him would have been unnatural, as not being wanted by the readers whom he addreffed. But in Mark, who, whatever ufe he might make of Matthew's gospel, intended his own narrative for a general circulation, and who himself travelled to diftant countries in the fervice of the religion, it was properly added.
Identity of Christ's character,
THE argument expreffed by this title I
apply principally to the comparison of the three first gospels with that of St. John. It is known to every reader of fcripture, that the paffages of Chrift's hiftory preserved by St. John, are, except his paffion and refurrection, for the most part different from those which are delivered by the other evangelifts. And I think the ancient account of this difference to be the true one, viz. that St. John wrote after the rest, and to supply what he thought omiffions in their narratives, of which the principal were our Saviour's conferences with the Jews of Jerufalem, and his difcourfes to his apoftles at his laft fupper. But what I obferve in the comparison of thefe feveral accounts is, that, although actions and discourses are afcribed to Chrift by
St. John, in general different from what are given to him by the other evangelifts, yet, under this diverfity, there is a finilitude of which indicates that the actions and difcourfes proceeded from the fame person. I should have laid little ftrefs upon a repetition of actions fubftantially alike, or of difcourfes containing many of the fame expreffions, because that is a fpecies of refemblance, which would either belong to a true history, or might eafily be imitated in a falfe one. Nor do I deny, that a dramatic writer is able to fuftain propriety and diftinction of character, through a great variety of separate incidents and fituations. But the evangelifts were not dramatic writers, nor poffeffed the talents of dramatic writers; nor will it, I believe, be fufpected, that they ftudied uniformity of character, or ever thought of any fuch thing, in the perfon who was the fubject of their hiftories. Such uniformity, if it exift, is on their part casual ; and if there be, as I contend there is, a perceptible resemblance of manner, in paffages, and between difcourfes, which are in them
felves extremely diftinct, and are delivered by historians writing without any imitationof, or reference to, one another, it affords a just presumption, that these are, what they profefs to be, the actions and the difcourfes of the fame real person; that the evangelists wrote from fact, and not from imagination.
The article in which I find this agreement moft ftrong, is in our Saviour's mode of teaching, and in that particular property of it, which confifts in his drawing of his doctrine from the occafion; or, which is nearly the same thing, raising reflections from the objects and incidents before him, or turning a particular discourse then paffing into an opportunity of general inftruction.
It will be my business to point out this manner in the three firft evangelists; and then to inquire whether it do not appear alfo, in feveral examples of Chrift's dif courses, preferved by St. John.
The reader will obferve in the following quotations,