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5439. Ann. Don. 30, &c.
Vulg. Fr. 28.
A. M. 4034, ting by the way-side, when &c. or be they heard that Jesus passed by, cried out, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And the multitude rebuked them, because they should hold their peace but they cried the more, saying, Have mercy on us, O Lord, thou Son of David. And Jesus stood still and called them, and said, What will ye that I should do unto you? They say unto him, Lord, that our eyes may be opened. So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes; and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him."
St Matth. xx. 29-35.
of people, blind Bartimeus,
St Mark x. 46, &c.
begging: And hearing the
St Luke xviii. 35, &c.
These three narratives agree as completely as could be expected if written by inde pendent authors at a distance from each other; and considered in that light their harmony is a strong proof that they were all written under the superintendence of the Spirit of God; but if the author of the second wrote with the first lying before him, and the author of the third copied from both the first and the second, their discrepancies are such as cannot be reconciled, I think, to the notion of their having written by inspiration. I allude not here to the circumstances, with respect to place, under which this miracle is said to have been performed; for though in our version St Luke is made to say, that it was "as they came nigh to Jericho," whilst the other two expressly affirm, that it was as they departed from that town, the original rightly understood exhibits no such disagreement among them. The verb yy, made use of by St Luke, does indeed often signify to approach or draw near; but motion seems not to be included in its radical meaning, as it is unquestionably derived from tyys, near; and it is accordingly often used in the New Testament to denote nearness of place, and nothing more (a). The phrase therefore-'Eyéveto di iv tộ eyyíseir aùtòv eis 'Ix-might be rendered" And it came to pass while he was near to Jericho ;" and in this sense it is understood by Whit
(a) See Scapula and Schleusner on the word.
Matth. ix. 8.
Luke vi. 1.
by, who justly observes, that it might be said of a man at a small distance as well from From the bethe town which he had just left, as from that into which he was about to enter. There ginning of the is in this circumstance therefore no real difference among the evangelists; though it is probable that, had St Matthew's and St Mark's Gospels been lying before St Luke, he would have mentioned, as they have done, both our Lord's entry into Jericho and his departure from it in his way to Jerusalem; but how came both he and St Mark, with St Matthew's Gospel lying before them, to say that only one blind man was restored to sight, when the apostle-evangelist affirms that there were two? and how came they to omit the interesting circumstance of our Lord's touching the eyes of the blind men? If the three evangelists were perfectly independent writers, all this is easily accounted for. One of the blind men seems to have been so much more conspicuous than the other as to have been generally known by his name, and not only so, but as the son of a man likewise of some note. He was probably the person who spoke for himself and his companion. He would, of course, draw the attention of the whole company chiefly to himself; and as it was of no importance to the cause for which our Lord's miracles are so faithfully recorded, whether he gave sight to two blind men or only to one in the neighbourhood of Jericho, St Luke, and St Mark or St Peter, recollected only what had fixed their own attention at the time, and recorded only what they distinctly re membered.
The omission, however, of such circumstances, if St Matthew's Gospel was lying before them, can be accounted for only by their considering his narrative as not perfectly correct; but if they supposed him capable of inserting what did not really take place, it is obvious that they could not have believed his Gospel to have been written under the very lowest degree of inspiration. Though there is no reason to suppose that the Spirit of God brought to the recollection of the evangelists every incident, however unimportant, which they had witnessed in the life of their Divine Master, or to each individual among them, all the circumstances of every miracle which they had seen him perform; yet if he superintended their writing at all, it is impossible that he would permit any of them to relate as truth what was in reality falsehood. If therefore there was but one blind man restored to his sight by the miracle at Jericho, St Matthew has recorded what was not true; but the same charge cannot be brought against the other two evangelists on any supposition; for though they might, when writing their Gospels, have forgotten the case of the other blind man, one had certainly his sight given to him on that occasion; and the restoration of sight to one blind man by a miracle is just as complete a proof of the Divine mission of him by whom that miracle was wrought, as if it had operated upon a thousand blind men. St Luke and St Mark mention but one blind man to whom our Saviour gave sight at Jericho; but they do not say that he gave sight to one only. If, however, they mentioned but one, with St Matthew's Gospel lying before them, it follows, I think undeniably, that they did not believe that he had given sight to two, nor of course that the apostle had written under the influence of the Spirit of God, which they knew well would have prevented him from asserting, on so solemn an occasion, a direct falsehood, however unimportant in itself had it occurred in the work of a mere human historian. But if St Luke and St Mark considered St Matthew as thus occasionally liable to err, and of course not writing by Divine inspiration, what security can we have that, in all those places in which they seem to contradict him or each other, they were not at least as liable to err as he? or what security can we possibly have that any one of them wrote under any other superintendence of the Spirit of God, than that under which every honest historian has written since the beginning of the world? On the common hypothesis that they wrote at a distance from each other both in time and place, their occasional discrepancies may be easily accounted for, whilst their wonderful harmony is it
A. M. 4031, self a proof that they wrote by inspiration, since nothing else conceivable by us could
&c. or 5439. have produced a harmony so perfect under such circumstances as theirs.
But it has been affirmed, with the utmost confidence, that no other account can be Vulg. Ær. 28. given of the exact agreement of the different Gospels, in a variety of passages, than
that each evangelist, when writing his own Gospel, had in his hand the works of him or
Mr Churton is the author who is here said to have made it undeniably evident that the writers of the historical books of the Old Testament quoted each other's works without acknowledgment; and it must be confessed that he has urged very convincing evidence (b), that the writers of those books often record the same events in nearly the same words; but from this fact, which must have been known to every reader of the Old Testament before Mr Churton was born, it does not necessarily follow that the writers of the books of the Old Testament which have come down to us, quoted from each other. They may all have quoted, and I have no doubt did quote, from the annals or records of the kingdom, in which every important event, related to the theocracy, appears to have been inserted with religious care and accuracy (c): and there is one observation made by Mr Churton himself, which might have convinced him that this is the real source of the verbal harmony which prevails occasionally among the historical tracts of the Old Testament, and not that dishonourable mode of quoting from each other without acknowledgment, which he attributes to the authors of those tracts.
Speaking of the account which we have in the first book of Kings, and the second of Chronicles, of the consecration of Solomon's temple, and of the excellence of the prayer pronounced by the monarch on that occasion, he says, (d) that the prayer" is preserved, as it deserved to be in both books; but, strictly speaking, by a copious extract only, as neither book separately delivers the whole prayer." This is true; but where, let us ask, did the author of the second book of Chronicles find that part of the prayer which is not in the first book of Kings, if the writer of one of these copied from the other? The books of Chronicles were certainly not written till the return of the Jews from the Babylonish captivity; and in the opinion of some of the most eminent critics, the books of Kings themselves were written during the captivity. If this last opinion be admitted, where did the writers of the books of Kings themselves find the materials of their histories? I will not however insist upon this point, since the parts of Solomon's prayer, which are found only in the second book of Chronicles, furnish a complete proof that the writers of the historical books of the Old Testament must have had access to some source of information different from the works of each other; and what could that be but the records of the kingdom, from which, if each transcribed what suited his own purpose, they would almost inevitably relate the same events in nearly the same words?
This leads me to consider the hypothesis that the evangelists transcribed their seve(b) See his Sermon prefixed to the Works of Dr Townson. (c) See the Introduction to the History of the Old Testament prefixed to the First Volume of this Work. (a) Introduction to Dr Townson's Works.
(a) British Critic, vol. xl. p. 291.
Luke vi. I.
ral memoirs of our Saviour from one common record; and were we as certain that the From the be apostles, before they separated, had really met for the purpose of drawing up a copious Gospels to ginning of the and authentic history of their Divine Master's life and doctrines, as we are that an au- Matth. ix. 8. thentic record was kept at Jerusalem, of the reigns of the different kings, the state of Mark ii. 23. religion under each, and the preaching of the prophets, this would be by much the easiest and perhaps the most satisfactory method of accounting as well for the harmony as for the discrepancies, which we find among the several abridgments made by the three first evangelists. But that the apostles met for such a purpose as this, before they left Jerusalem, has never been supposed; and indeed the bypothesis, had it even been made and supported by the most unexceptionable testimonies of the earliest uninspired writers of the church, would deserve no regard whatever, unless these writers had each declared, without collusion among themselves, that he had possessed a copy of the original record. Even then, unless a copy of it were still in existence from which we might, from internal evidence, decide on its claims to an apostolical origin, I would hesitate, after the imposture of the book called The Apostolical Constitutions, to admit the authenticity of such a record. The apostles, in a state of persecution, had not the same facilities for publicly recording the actions of their Lord as the ministers of state called the scribe and the recorder, possessed in the kingdoms of Judah and Israel, for writing registers of the deeds of their respective sovereigns; nor do we ever find the evangelists appealing to any such record, as the writers of the historical books of the Old Testament frequently appeal to the annals or chronicles of the kingdom (a). A common record from which all the evangelists selected the materials of their histories must therefore be abandoned as an hypothesis perfectly groundless, notwithstanding all the learning and ingenuity which has lately been displayed, I am sure with the best intentions, in support of that hypothesis. Indeed, were I under the necessity of adopting either Dr Marsh's or Dr Townson's hypothesis, I think I would prefer the former to the latter, because it does not represent the evangelists, as the other unquestionably doth, as tacitly censuring each other for inaccuracy With respect to evidence, the two hypotheses are on the very same footing; for the ingenious authors, in support of them, urge nothing but the supposed necessity of that which each has adopted, to account for coincidences of language and of facts among the different evangelists,-coincidences which, all parties seem to think, require some solution.
But may not all the coincidences, both in thought and in words, which appear so striking in the three first Gospels, be sufficiently accounted for, without having recourse to either of these hypotheses! I think they may; and had either Dr Townson or Dr Marsh, instead of suffering himself to be carried away by the fascination of a dar ling and ingenious theory, considered the case coolly, and paid attention to what passed within his own mind when recollecting the particulars of a striking event, which he had formerly witnessed, we should have had from either of them such a solution of this difficulty as would have carried conviction to every unprejudiced reader. Without presuming to draw any kind of comparison between these two eminent men and myself, I will take the liberty to suggest such a solution of this difficulty as has long been satisfactory to my own mind; and should it not give equal satisfaction to others, it may perhaps induce some man better qualified to do justice to the subject, either to improve on the hints which I shall venture to throw out, or to substitute in their stead something more conclusive.
It is admitted on all hands, that the most remarkable coincidences of both language and thought that occur in the three first Gospels, are found in those places in which the several writers record our Lord's doctrines and miracles; and it will likewise be admitted, that of a variety of things seen or heard by any man at the same instant of
(a) See, among a variety of such appeals, 1 Kings xiv. 19, and 1 Chron, xxvii. 24.
A. M. 4034, time, those which made the deepest impression are distinctly remembered long after all traces of the others have been effaced from the memory. It will also be allowed, I think, that of a number of people witnessing the same remarkable event, some will be Vuig. Er. 28. most forcibly impressed by one circumstance, and others by a circumstance which,
&c. or 5439. Ann. Dom.
though equally connected with the principal event, is considered by itself perfectly different. The miracles of our Blessed Lord were events so astonishing, that they must have made on the minds of all who witnessed them, impressions too deep to be ever effaced; though the circumstances attending each miracle must have affected the different spectators very differently, so as to have made impressions, some of them equally indelible with the miracle itself on the mind of one man; whilst by another, whose mind was completely occupied by the principal event itself, these very circumstances may have been hardly observed at all, and of course been soon forgotten.
That this is a matter of fact which occurs daily, every man may convince himself by trying to recollect all the particulars of an event which powerfully arrested his attention many years ago. He will find that his recollection of the event itself, and of many of the circumstances which attended it, is as vivid and distinct at this day as it was a month after the event occurred; whilst of many other circumstances, which he is satisfied must have accompanied it, he has but a very confused and indistinct recollection, and of some, no recollection at all. If the same man take the trouble to inquire at any friend who was present with him when he witnessed the event in question, he will probably find that his friend's recollection of the principal event is as vivid and distinct as his own; that his friend recollects likewise many of the accompanying circumstances which were either not observed by himself, or have now wholly escaped from his memory; and that of the minuter circumstances, of which he has the most distinct recollection, his friend remembers hardly one. That such is the nature of that intellectual power by which we retain the remembrance of past events, I know from experience; and if there be any man who has never yet made such experiments on himself, let him make them immediately, and I am under no apprehension, that if they be fairly made, the result will not be as I have always found it. Let it be remembered too, as an universal fact, or a law of human nature as certainly as gravitation is a law of corporeal nature, that in proportion as the impression made on the mind by the principal object in any interesting scene is strong, those produced by the less important circumstances are weak, and therefore liable to be soon effaced, or if retained at all, retained faintly and confusedly; and that when the impression made by the principal object is exceedingly strong, so as to fill the mind completely, the unimportant circumstances make no im pression whatever, as has been a hundred times proved by the hackneyed instance of a man absorbed in thought, not hearing the sound of a clock when striking the hour beside him. If these facts be admitted, (and I cannot suppose that any reflecting man will call them in question) it will not, I think, be necessary to have recourse to hypotheses, to account either for that degree of harmony which prevails among the three first evangelists, when recording the miracles of our blessed Lord, or for the discrepancy which is found in what they say of the order in which those miracles were performed, or of the less important circumstances accompanying the performance. In every one of them the principal object was our Lord himself, whose powerful voice the winds and waves and even the devils obeyed. The power displayed by him on such occasions must have made so deep an impression on the minds of all the spectators as never to be effaced; but whether one or two demoniacs were restored to a sound mind in the land of the Gadarenes; whether one or two blind men miraculously received their sight in the neighbourhood of Jericho; and whether that miracle was performed at one end of the town or at the other, are circumstances which, when compared with the miracles themselves, are of so little importance, as may easily be supposed to have made but a slight impression on the minds of even some of the most attentive observers, whose