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LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS CHRIST
AS the whole revelation of the will of God to mankind is usually called the BIBLE, from the Greek
Bibλos, Biblos, that is, the Book, by way of eminence; so this sacred code with us Christians is usually divided into the OLD and NEW TESTAMENT, or rather New Dispensation, Law, or Covenant, as the original expression, n kain dianen, might be more properly translated. The latter word, indeed, rendered “testament," originally and primarily signifies "a disposition" or "appointment of things:" and, because among men things are ordered, disposed, or appointed, by a law, or by contract or covenant, or by will and testament, the word has been often used to signify any of these. But, inasmuch as a testament is of no force until the testator be dead, and Christ did not die, nor indeed come into the world, till after the law and the prophets (that is, the writings containing the law of Moses, and what other holy men, termed prophets, delivered by inspiration from God) were finished, it does not appear to be quite proper to call those ancient records by the name of "testament ;" especially considering that one part of them, namely, the ceremonial law, was abolished by the testator's death, and another great part of them fulfilled in his coming and dying. The name of "testament,” however, belongs more properly to the books of the evangelists, the Acts of the Apostles, and the Epistles, which not only contain the "New Law," (so far as it is new, either in respect of the full and proper interpretation of the moral law, or in regard of the law concerning the worship of God under the gospel, and the government of the church,) but also the new covenant, or "New Dispensation" of the covenant of grace. For, whereas the covenant of grace was first made with, and revealed to Adam, and in and by him to the following patriarchs, and through them to the ages in which they lived; and was declared and set forth a second time, chiefly in types and shadowy representations, to Israel by Moses; it is much more clearly and fully revealed in these books, which contain a third, and more perfect, and indeed the last dispensation of it, and are also the last will and testament of our blessed Lord and Saviour.
It may be observed further here, nearly in the words of Dr. Campbell, that although the expression, n kain diadn«n, by which the religious institution of Christ is frequently denominated, “is almost always in the writings of the apostles and evangelists rendered by our translators, the New Testament;' yet the word dialnкn by itself, except in a very few places, is always there rendered, not testament, but covenant; and is the Greek word whereby the LXX. have uniformly translated the Hebrew, л, berith, which our translators in the Old Testament have invariably rendered 'covenant.' That the Hebrew term corresponds much better to the English word 'covenant,' though not in every case perfectly equivalent, than to 'testament,' there can be no question; at the same time it must be owned, that the word diavŋên, in classical use, is more frequently rendered 'testament;' the proper Greek word for covenant being ovvŋkn, which is not found in the New Testament, and occurs only thrice in the Septuagint. But that the Scriptural sense of the Greek word is more fitly expressed by our term 'covenant,' will not be doubted by any body who considers the constant application of the Hebrew word, so rendered in the Old Testament, and of the Greek word, in most places at least, where it is used in the New. What has led translators, ancient and modern, [sometimes,] to render it 'testament,'" seems to be, "the manner wherein the author of the epistle to the Hebrews argues,
chapter ix. 16, 17, in allusion to the classical acceptation of the term. But however much it was necessary to give a different turn to the expression in that passage, in order to make the author's argument as intelligible to the English, as it is in the original to the Greek reader, this [certainly] was not a sufficient reason for giving a version to the word in other places that neither suits the con text, nor is conformable to the established use of the term in the sacred writings.
"The term, 'new,' is added to distinguish it from the old covenant,' that is, the dispensation of Moses." It may be observed here, by the way, "that often the language of theological systems, so far from assisting us to understand the language of holy writ, tends rather to mislead us. The two covenants are always in Scripture the two dispensations, or religious institutions; that under Moses is the 'old,' that under the Messiah is the 'new.' It is not denied that, in the latitude wherein the term is used in holy writ, the command under the sanction of death, which God gave to Adam in paradise, may, like the ordinance of circumcision, with sufficient propriety be termed a 'covenant;' but it is pertinent to observe that it is never so denominated in Scripture; and that when mention is made in the epistles of the two covenants, the 'old' and the 'new,' or the first and the second, (for there are two so called by way of eminence,) there appears no reference to any thing that related to Adam. In all such places, Moses and Jesus are contrasted, the Jewish economy and the Christian, mount Sinai, in Arabia, whence the law was promulgated, and mount Sion in Jerusalem, where the gospel was first published. It is proper to observe further, that, from signifying the two religious dispensations, they came soon to denote the books wherein what related to these dispensations was contained; the sacred writings of the Jews being called n mahaia dianin, and the writings superadded by the apostles and evangelists, n kain dianкn. We have one example in Scripture of this use of the former η καινη διαθηκη. appellation. The apostle says, speaking of his countrymen, 'Until this day remaineth the veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament,' 2 Cor. iii. 14, eñi în avaɣvwoɛi тns mahaias diadŋêns. The word, in this application, is always rendered in our language, 'testament.' We have in this followed the Vulgate, as most modern translators also have done. In the Geneva French, the word is rendered both ways in the title, that the one may serve for explaining the other, in which they have copied Beza, who says, Testamentum novum, sive Fœdus novum, 'the New Testament,' or 'the New Covenant.' That the second rendering of the word is the better version, is unquestionable; but the title appropriated by custom to a particular book is on the same footing with a proper name, which is hardly considered a subject of criticism. Thus we call Cesar's Diary, 'Cesar's Commentaries,' from their Latin name, though very different in meaning from the English word.”
The title of this part of the Scriptures, in some of the original or Greek copies is, rns kains dɩadnêns añavra, all the books, or rather, all the things of the New Covenant: a title which, according to Dr. Hammond, refers to "the consent of the catholic church of God, and the tradition which bears testimony to these books as those, and those only, which complete the canon of the New Testament;" or all the books which have been handed down to the church so as to be received into the number of writings confessedly endited by the apostles and disciples of Christ. "I cannot indeed find,” says Dr. Whitby, “that this title is of any considerable antiquity, but the more ancient title of ʼn kaivn diadnên, the New Covenant, prefixed to these books, doth plainly intimate the full and general persuasion of the ancient church, that in these books was comprised the whole new covenant, of which the blessed Jesus was the Mediator, and the apostles were the ministers and dispensers; and therefore they must surely contain all that is requisite for Christians to believe and do in order to salvation." It It may be proper to observe here, that in this latter dispensation, the divine authority of the former is presupposed and built upon; and "the knowledge of what is contained in that introductory revelation is always presumed in the readers of the New Testament, which claims to be the consummation of an economy of God for the salvation of man; of which economy the Old Testament acquaints us with the occasion, origin, and early progress. Both are, therefore, intimately connected. Accordingly, though the two Testaments are written in different languages, the same idiom prevails in both; and in the historical parts at least, nearly the same character of style." The books of the New Testament obviously divide themselves into the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles of the Apostles, and the Apocalypse or Revelation of St. John. The evangelists, through whom we have the gospels, are four, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. Their histories are termed ɛvayyɛhia, gospels, or good tidings, as the word signifies, because they contain tidings of the appearance of the Messiah, and a circumstantial account of his birth, life, doctrine, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection ascension, and
exaltation to God's right hand, as the Redeemer and Saviour, the Mediator, Advocate, and Forerunner of his people. These sacred writers are therefore not called evangelists in the sense in which the same expression is used Eph. iv. 11, where it signifies a certain class of extraordinary officers in the Christian Church, such as Philip, Acts viii. 5-29; and xxi. 8; Timothy, 2 Tim. iv. 5; and many others but as they were evangelical historians. Of those, however, Matthew and John were apostles, and preachers of the gospel, the other two were only disciples of the apostles; but, nevertheless, they doubtless occasionally laboured "in the word and doctrine.”
That these four persons were the inspired authors of the four narratives which bear their names, we have, as Dr. Whitby shows at large, the clear and decisive testimony of the ancient fathers of the Christian Church. 1. A passage from Polycarp, (who, as Irenæus informs us, was made bishop of Smyrna by the apostles, and conversed with many who had seen the Lord,) is cited by Victor Capuanus, in which we have the names of these four gospels, as we at present have them, and the beginning of their several histories. 2. Justin Martyr, who, according to Eusebius, lived, μɛr' & Tohv Twv añosoĥwv, not long after the apostles, shows that these books were then well known by the name of "gospels," and were read by Christians in their assemblies every Lord's day. Yea, we learn from him that they were read by Jews, and might be read by heathens; and that we may not doubt that, by the "Memoirs of the Apostles, which," says he, "we call Gospels," he meant these four, received then in the church, he cites passages out of every one of them, declaring that they contained the words of Christ. 3. Irenæus, in the same century, not only cites them all by name, but declares that there were neither more nor fewer received by the church, and that they were of such authority that though the heretics of his time complained of their obscurity, depraved them, and endeavoured to lessen their authority, yet they durst not wholly disown them, or deny them to be the writings of those apostles whose names they bore. Moreover, he cites passages from every chapter of St. Matthew and St. Luke, from fourteen chapters of St. Mark, and from twenty chapters of St. John. 4. Clemens of Alexandria, having cited a passage from "the Gospel according to the Egyptians," informs his readers, "that it was not to be found in the four gospels delivered by the church." 5. Tatianus, who flourished in the same century, and before Irenæus, wrote ovvagɛlav Tiva kai ovvaywyŋv Twv evayyɛhuv, a chain or harmony of the gospels, which he named, ro dia reccapwv, the gospel gathered out of the four gospels. And the "apostolical constitutions" name them all, and command "that they be read in the church, the people standing up at the reading of them 6. Inasmuch as these gospels
written," says Irenæus, "by the will of God, to be the pillars and foundation of the Christian faith," the immediate successors of the apostles, who, says Eusebius, did great miracles by the assistance of the Holy Ghost, and performed the work of evangelists in preaching Christ to those who had not yet heard the word, made it their business, when they had laid the foundation of that faith among them, TMηv Twv dεiwv evayyeλtwv rapadıdovai ypaøny, to deliver to them the writing of the holy gospels.
If it be objected here, that other gospels, bearing the names of other apostles, or gospels used by other nations, are mentioned as having existed in the early ages of Christianity, it may be answered, that this is so far from being derogatory from, or tending to diminish, the tradition of the church concerning these four gospels, that it tends highly to establish and confirm it, as will be evident from these considerations: 1. That we find no mention of any of these gospels until the close of the second century, and of few of them till the third or the fourth century; that is, not until long after the general reception of these four gospels by the whole church of Christ. For Justin Martyr and Irenæus, who cite large passages from these four gospels, take not the least notice of any other gospels, mentioned either by the heretics or by the orthodox. 2. They who speak of them in the close of the second, or in the following centuries, do it still with this remark, that "the gospels received by the tradition of the church were only four," and that the others belonged not to them, nor to the evangelical canon. For authorities the reader must be referred to Dr. Whitby, from whom the two last paragraphs are taken. He sums up the argument as follows: "Seeing, then, 1. That these four gospels were received without any doubt or contradiction by all Christians from the beginning, as the writings of those apostles and evangelists whose names they bear; and that these first Christians both acknowledged and testified that these writings were delivered to them by the apostles as the pillars or fundamental articles of their faith: seeing, 2. That these same gospels were delivered by the immediate successors of the apostles to all the churches which they converted or established, as the rule of their faith: seeing, 3. They were read from the beginning, as Justin Martyr testifies, in all
assemblies of Christians, on the Lord's day, and so must have been early translated into those languages, in which alone they could be understood by some churches; namely, the Syriac and Latin: seeing, 4. They were generally cited in the second century for the confirmation of this faith, and the conviction of heretics, and the presidents of the assemblies exhorted those who heard them to practise and imitate what they heard: seeing, 5. We never hear of any other gospels till the close of the second century, and then hear only of them with a mark of reprobation, or a declaration that they were yɛudeñɩуpapa, falsely imposed upon the apostles, that they belonged not to the evangelical canon, or to the gospels delivered to the churches by a succession of ecclesiastical persons, or to those gospels which they approved, or by which they confirmed their doctrines, but were to be rejected as the inventions of manifest heretics :-All these considerations must afford us a sufficient demonstration that all Christians then had unquestionable evidence that these four gospels were the genuine works of those apostles and evangelists whose names they bear, and so were worthy to be received as the records of their faith. What reason, then, can any persons of succeeding ages have to question what was so universally acknowledged by those who lived so near to that very age in which these gospels were endited, and who received them under the character of the holy and divine Scriptures ?"
To this general and uncontrolled tradition respecting the authenticity of the gospels, we may add further strength from the following considerations: 1. That since our Jesus was a Prophet or Teacher sent from God, he must have left to his church some records of his doctrines and his Father's will; since he was a King, and was to reign for ever, he must have left some laws by which his subjects were to be for ever governed; as the Saviour of the world, he must have delivered to the world an account of the terms on which they might obtain the great salvation purchased by him; otherwise, he must have been a Prophet, Priest, and King in vain. Hence we infer that some certain records of those doctrines, laws, and conditions of salvation, must be extant. Now, unless these gospels and other scriptures of the New Testament contain those records, they must be wholly lost, and we must all be left under a manifest impossibility of knowing, and, therefore, of doing the will of God. For to say tradition might supply the want of writing is to contradict experience; since the traditions of the Jews made void that word of God they had received in writing; and how much more would they have done it had no such writing been delivered! Moreover, our blessed Lord spake many things which were not committed to writing. He taught the multitude" by the sea;" Mark ii. 13; "beyond Jordan;” Mark x. 1; "in the synagogues of Galilee;" Luke iv. 15; "at Nazareth;" Luke iv. 22; Capernaum;" Luke iv. 31; "out of Simon's ship;" Luke v. 3; "out of Simon's ship;" Luke v. 3; and very often "in the temple John vii. 14; viii. 2. He interpreted to the two disciples going to "Emmaus, throughout all the Scriptures, the things concerning himself;" Luke xxiv. 27. He discoursed to his disciples, after his resurrection, "touching the things of the kingdom of God;" Acts i. 3; and St. John assures us there were exceeding many miracles which Jesus did that were not written; John xx. 30. Now, whereas accounts of all those miracles and sermons which were written are entirely preserved, and firmly believed, tradition hath not preserved an account of one miracle or sermon which was not written; and, therefore, tradition can be no sure record or means of making known the doctrine or the laws of Christ. In a word, it is evident that even the church catholic hath lost a tradition delivered to her by St. Paul; for he says, "I told you these things," (namely, concerning antichrist,) "when I was with you; and now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time;" 2 Thess. ii. 5, 6. He also intimates, in the same chapter, at verse 15, where he exhorts them to hold fast these traditions, that they were of great moment to be known and retained; and yet these traditions have neither been retained by the Roman, nor by the catholic church, and it is confessed by Anselm and Esthius on the place, that, "though the Thessalonians knew, yet that we know not what they were;" so that the tradition which the church received touching this matter is wholly lost. How then can the church be relied on as a sure preserver and true teacher of unwritten tradition, since she has confessedly lost one of great moment deposited with the Thessalonians, and the primitive church.
2. That it was necessary that the Christian doctrine or revelation should be preserved in some writing, may be fairly concluded from the Holy Scriptures themselves. For, if St. Paul thought it necessary to write to the church at Rome, "to put them in remembrance of the grace of God given to them," Rom. xv. 15, as also to send to his Corinthians in writings "the things they had heard and
did acknowledge,” 2 Cor. i. 13, and to write "the same things" which he had taught to his Philippians; Phil. iii. 1;-if St. Peter thought it needful to write to the Jewish converts, " to stir up their sincere minds by way of remembrance, that they might be mindful of the commands of the apostles," 2 Pet. iii. 1, 2, though they at present knew them, and were "established in the truth;" 2 Pet. i. 12, 13; and St. Jude to write to the same persons, to remind them " of the common salvation ;" verse 3 ;—if the beloved evangelist closes his gospel with these words, "These things were written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, and believing ye might have life through his name;" surely these persons could not but think it necessary that the essential doctrines of Christianity should be recorded in writing; and yet we are sure they have only been so recorded in those gospels and other writings contained in the canon of the New Testament; and, therefore, we cannot reasonably doubt of the authority of these gospels and other writings. Add to this, the apostles, and the Holy Spirit, who influenced them in the inditing of these gospels for the church's use, would certainly not be wanting in causing them to be transmitted to those Christians for whose use they were intended, because they would not be wanting to pursue the end for which these gospels were written; and they were therefore written, that the disciples "might know the certainty of those things in which they had been instructed," Luke i. 4, and might be engaged more firmly to believe that Jesus was the Christ.
3. It is evident that the age immediately succeeding could not be ignorant of what was thus delivered to them by the church from the apostles, as the pillar and ground of their faith; nor is it easy to conceive, that either they would have thus received these gospels, had not the apostles given them sufficient authority and indication of their duty so to do; or that these writings would have been esteemed so readily as the charters of the Christian faith, had not the apostles delivered them unto the churches under that character.
And lastly. We have good reason to suppose that the providence of God, which was so highly interested in the propagation of the Christian faith, and making it known to the world, would not permit false records of that faith to be so early and so generally imposed upon the Christian world.
From the same consent and suffrage of the primitive church, we may conclude, with the strongest evidence of reason, that these four gospels, and the other Scriptures, received then without doubt or contradiction by the church, were handed down to them uncorrupted in the substantial articles respecting faith and practice. For, 1. These records were generally dispersed through all the Christian churches, though at a great distance from each other, from the beginning of the second century. 2. They were universally acknowledged and consented to by men of great parts and learning, and of different persuasions. 3. They were preserved in the originals in the apostolical churches, among whom, says Tertullian, authenticæ eorum literæ recitantur," their original letters are recited;" it being not to be doubted that they who received the originals from the apostles, and who had authentic copies of them given to them by their immediate successors, would carefully preserve them to posterity. 4. They were multiplied into divers versions, almost from the beginning, as we may rationally conclude, because the Church of Rome, and other churches which understood not the original Greek, having been founded in the apostles' days, cannot be reasonably supposed to have been long without a version of those Scriptures which were to be read by them in public and private. 5. They were esteemed by them as digesta nostra, "our law books," says Tertullian; libri deifici deifica Scripturæ, "divine books of God's inditing," or, "books which instruct men to lead a divine life,” say the martyrs; and believed by all Christians to be vɛiai ypapaι, “divine Scriptures,” says Origen, and, therefore, as the records of their hopes and fears. 6. They were so constantly rehearsed in their assemblies by men whose office it was to read, explain, and enforce them, and exhort to the performance of the duties they enjoined, and so diligently read by the Christians, that they were riveted in the memories of many, and, according to Eusebius, some had them all by heart. 7. They were so frequently referred to in their writings, and passages of them so often cited by Irenæus, Clemens of Alexandria, and Origen, exactly as we now have them;-that it must be certain, from all these considerations, they were handed down to succeeding generations pure and uncorrupt.
And, indeed, from these considerations, we may with greater certainty infer, that the Scriptures were preserved entire from any designed corruption, than any person can, that the statutes of the land, or any other writings, histories, or records whatsoever, have been so preserved; because the evidence thereof depends upon more persons, and those more holy, and of consequence more averse