Page images

he gave the last edition of his Introduction, &c. to the public, lost much of their relish for such employment, from the little that they had gained by the labours of Wetstein and Griesbach. Both these critics are known to have had a strong bias to the doctrine of the Unitarians; but their labours have tended rather to confirm than render doubtful, the faith, which was once delivered to the saints.]

[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

To The completion of THE CANoN of THE New TESTAMENT,

IN ALL AbouT 97 YEARs.



[ocr errors][merged small]

:*::::: As soon as the time, foretold by the prophets, it for the incarnation of the Son of God, From the be:

[blocks in formation]

ginning of the - Gospels to destruction of the second temple, (even when the . 8.

sceptre was departed from Judah, Gen. xlix. 10.) the Mark ii. 33.
“Desire of all Nations should come,” and, by his lukevi. 1.
frequent personal appearance in the temple, make the
“glory of that latter house much greater than that
of the former,” chap. ii. 7, &c.

A. M. spoo, began to draw near, t the evangelist St Luke gives us this account of the birth of his

[ocr errors]

great forerunner, John the Baptist to.

While his father to Zacharias (who was a priest of the eighth course, viz. the course

+ The word ‘Evayyixiew signifies, in general, good news, and is of the same import with our Saxon word gospel; only, in the sacred use of them both, there seems to be a metonymy, whereby the words that denote good news, are set to signify the history of that good news, viz. of the birth and life, the miracles and doctrine, the death and resurrection, of our Saviour Christ; all of which put together do make up the joyful tidings which we call the Gospel; and from this etymology of the words, the persons who have recorded the life and actions of our Saviour, are called evangelists, or writers of the Gospel. The works of this #. which are received as canonical, are but four, viz. that of St Matthew, St Mark, St Luke, and St John; but the spurious pieces which are handed down to us, even though several of them be lost, do exceed the number of forty. The truth is, the ancient heretics began generally with attacking the gospels, in order either to maintain their errors or excuse them. To this purpose, some rejected all the genuine gospels, and substituted others that were spurious in their room. This produced the gospels of Barnabas, Apelles, Basilides, Cerinthus, the Ebonites and Gnostics. Others corrupted the true gospels, by suppressing whatever gave them any trouble, and inserting whatever might favour their erroneous doctrines. Thus the Nazarenes corrupted the original gospel of St Matthew, as the Marcionites did that of St Luke ; while the Alogians rejected St John, as the Ebonites did St Matthew ; and the Valentinians only acknowledged St John, as the Cerinthians did St Mark. Hammond's Annotations, M. Fabricius's Codex Apo. cryphus N. Test. Calmet's Dictionary under the word Gospel, and White's Bampton Lectures.

+* There are two places in the prophets referred to, both by our Saviour and his evangelists, wherein the Baptist is described under this character. The former is in the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert an highway for our

. God,” chap. xl. 3. and the latter (which is more plain

and express) is in Malachi, “Behold I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me,” &c. chap. iii. 1. Both the passages allude to harbingers, and such other officers as, upon the journeys of princes, are employed to take care that the ways should be levelled and put in order, and all such ob

structions removed, as might hinder their passage, or render it less commodious; and the manner in which the Baptist thus prepared the way of the Lord was by his preaching and by his baptism. By his preaching, he endeavoured to bring the Jews to a due sense

of their sins; to abate their confidence in being of

Abraham's seed, and punctual observers of the ceremonial law; and to forewarn all of the dreadful effects of God's anger, who did not bring forth fruits worthy of repentance: And by his baptism, when administered to such persons as were under the obligation of the law, he plainly shewed, that he was therein admit

ting them to some privileges which they had not before, viz, the remission of their sins upon their faith and obedience to him, who was the “Messenger of the covenant.” Since therefore the Baptist was born six months before our Saviour, and entered upon his ministry six months before our Saviour began his; and since no part of his doctrine terminated in himself, and his baptism referred every one to Christ for acceptance and salvation; he is very properly said to be his harbinger, “a messenger sent to prepare his way before him,” or to set all things in readiness for his approach, by putting an end to the old, and making an entrance into the new dispensation; in which sense he is represented by the fathers, as a kind of middle partition between the law and the Gospel; of the law, as a thing now come to a period, and of the Gospel, as commencing under him who was shortly to make his appearance. Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. i. +* Some of the fathers were of opinion, that this Zacharias was at this time high priest, upon a false supposition, that the offering of incense was reserved to the high priest only : But besides the testimony of Josephus, who tells us expressly, that Simon, the son of Boethus, was high priest this year, it appears from St Luke himself, that Zacharias was no more than an ordinary priest, of the family or course of Abia, which, of the four and twenty courses appointed by David for the service of the temple when it should be built, was the eighth, 1 Chron. xxiv. 10. For though it was the high priest's prerogative, on the great day of expiation, to enter into the holy of holies, and there burn incense, which no ordinary priest might do, Levit. xvi. 12.; yet, in the common service of the day, each priest, whose lot it was, went every morning and evening into the Sanctum, or body of the temple, and there burnt the daily incense upon the altar, which was placed before the veil of the most holy place, Exod. xxx. 6, &c. For these, and several other reasons which annotators have produced, it seems plain, that Zacharias could not possibly be high priest at this time; and whatever credit may be given to the tradition,--That, by the order of Herod the Great, he was put to death between the porch and the altar, viz. in the inclosure that surrounded the altar of burnt offerings; and that, when every one was ignorant of his murder, a certain priest, thinking that he staid too long, entered into the temple, and found him dead, and his blood congealed upon the ground, and, at the same time, hearing a voice, that it should never be wiped out until his revenger came; —whatever credit, I say, may be given to this tradition, it was doubtless upon this foundation that many of the ancients thought that Zacharias, the father of John the Baptist, was that Zachariah, son of Barachiah, mentioned by our Saviour in the Gospel, whose blood was shed “between the temple and the altar.” Pool's and Whitby's Annotations, and Calmet's Dictionary. -

of Abia) was executing his office at Jerusalem (which was in the latter part of the reign from the be. of Herod the Greatty, it came to his lot f° to go into the temple with his censer in . .” his hand, in order to burn incense, while the people without were f3 offering up their ... s. supplications in the court that was called the court of Israel. At the altar of incense ...;; +* he was greatly surprised with the sight of an angel standing on the right side of it; on but the angel soon dissipated his fears with the joyful news, that God intended to bless him with a son, whose name should be John, who would prove a person of uncommon merit, and be appointed to the office of harbinger f* to the Messiah, who in a short time

was to make his appearance.

The sense of his own great age, as well as his wife's long sterility, made Zacharias ||

+ St Luke, in particular, takes notice, that the time when our Lord's forerunner was to be conceived was in the reign of Herod, son of Antipater (for it was Herod Antipas that put him to death), commonly called the Great, who, under the Romans, fought his way to the government of the Jews, and came to his throne by the slaughter of their sanhedrim, by which means he extinguished all the dominion which, till that time, they held in the tribe of Judah, not in a single person indeed (for that was extinguished in the Asmonaean family), but in a select number out of that royal tribe, and so verified the prophecy of old Jacob, Gen. xlix. 10. “that the sceptre, or government, was departed from Judah, and the lawgiver from his feet,” which was a certain sign that Shiloh, i.e. the Messiah, was shortly to come. Pool's Annotations.

+* The several courses of the priests began on the Sabbath-day, and continued to serve till the Sabbath following; but because they were now encreased to a great number (Josephus tells us that there were no less than a thousand in each course), there were several parts of the priestly office (whereof burning of incense was one), which the course that then ministered seems to have divided among themselves, for the week that they were to attend, by lot. Pool's and Whitby's Annotations. .

+* A Jewish congregation, for the most part, consisted of all the priests of the course, which was then in waiting, of the Levites, and of certain stationary men, as they called them, who represented the body of the people, besides some other accidental worshippers; and, when the priest went into the sanctuary, or within the first veil, to offer incense, notice was given, by the sound of a bell, that it was then the time of prayer, whereupon every one present offered up his supplications to God silently : And though this silent prayer was not commanded, yet there seems a manifest allusion to it in those words of St John, where, “at the offering of incense, with the prayers of the saints,” it is said, “there was silence in heaven for half an hour,” Rev. viii. 1, &c. Nor is that passage in Ecclesiasticus, chap. l. 19, 20. any bad representation of this part of the Jewish worship, “And the people besought the Lord, the Most High, by prayer, before him that is merciful, till the solemnity of the Lord was ended; and then he went down (viz. Simon the high priest), and lifted up his hands over the whole congregation of the children of Israel, to give the blessing of the Lord with his lips. Hammond's and Whitby's Annotations.

+* The Jews had a peculiar notion, that such like apparitions were always fatal to those that had them, and a sure token of their instantaneous death, Gen. xvi. 7. xxii. 11, 15. Exod. xx. 19, &c.; but if this were not, it is natural for men to be affrightened at sudden and unusual things, especially at any divine appearances, whether of God himself taking a visible shape, or authorizing an angel so to do. For though God does not make the appearances to affrighten us, yet such is the imbecility of our nature, that we cannot but be startled at them; and reason good there is, that God, by this means, should both declare his own glory and majesty, and humble his poor creatures, in order to make them more susceptible of his Divine Revelations. Pool's Annotations, and Calmet's Commentary.

+* This word is derived from the Hebrew Mashach, to anoint, and is the very same with xeges, the anointed, in Greek. It is a name sometimes given to the kings and high priests of the Hebrews, 1 Sam. xii. 5, &c. Psal. cv. 15, but principally, and by way of eminence, it belongs to that Sovereign Deliverer who was expected by the Jews, and whom they vainly expect even to this day, since he is already come at the appointed time in the person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The Jews were used to anoint kings, high priests, and sometimes prophets. Saul, David, Solomon, and Joash, kings of Judah, received the royal unction; Aaron and his sons received the sacerdotal; and Elisha received the prophetical, at least God ordered Elijah to give it to him. But now, though Jesus Christ united in his own person all the offices of prophet, priest, and king, yet we no where find that he received any outward or sensible unction; and therefore the unction, which the prophets and apostles speak of with regard to him, is the spiritual and internal unction of grace and the Holy Ghost, of which the outward unction was no more than a figure and symbol. Calmet's Dictionary.

| The words of Zacharias to the angel are, “Whereby shall I know this 2 For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years,” Luke i. 18. much of the same import with those of Abraham upon a like occasion, “Whereby shall I know that I shall inherit the land of Canaan 2" Gen. xv. 8. How then came it to pass, that Abraham was gratified with a sign in the same request for which Zacharias was punished with dumbness 2 Now, though there may be a great similitude in the words which are spoken by several persons, yet there may, at the same time, be a very

A.M. 3999, express a kind of diffidence in this promise, and, for his farther satisfaction, desire some *...*, * miracle in confirmation of it: whereupon the angel let him know, “That he was no

Ant. Chris. - - "..." less than Gabriel, a special attendant on God's throne, and dispatched on purpose to W.;: inform him of this great happiness; but that, since he was so incredulous as to require _*_ a sign, he should have such an one as would be both a punishment of his unbelief, and

a confirmation of his faith ; for, until the birth of the child, he should be both deaf 4 and dumb ;” which accordingly came to pass: for when he came out to the people, (who waited to (a) receive his benediction) he made signs that he was not able to speak

to them, and they thence inferred that he

had seen some extraordinary vision within.

After the time of his ministration, however, was over, he returned home, and it was not long before his wife Elizabeth perceived herself with child, though her modesty made

her conceal it for the space of five months.

Six months after Elizabeth's conception, the same angel Gabriel + was sent to Nazareth, a city of Galilee, to a virgin named f Mary, (a near relation to Elizabeth, and of the house of David) who had lately been f° espoused to one Joseph, a person of the

considerable difference in the heart and habit of mind from whence they proceed, which, we must all allow, God can see much better than we can perceive by words. rit bears him testimony, that “he staggered not at the promise through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; being fully persuaded, that what he had promised he was able to perform,” Rom. iv. 19, 20, &c.; and therefore if he asked a sign, it was not to beget, but to nourish and confirm this faith in him. But in Zacharias, the asking of a sign savoured of perfect infidelity, in that he believed not an angel appearing to him in the name of the Lord, and in a place where evil angels durst not come: An angel,

" telling him his prayer was heard, which evil angels

could not know; and acquainting him with things which tended to the glory of God, the completion of his promises, and the welfare of mankind, which evil angels would not do. His punishment therefore was the just result of his unbelief; but (what shews the mercy of God in inflicting it) it was a punishment of such a nature as carried with it an answer to his desire, being no more than a privation of speech until the words of the angel were fulfilled. Pool’s and Whitby's Annotations.

* [The original word zwră, does not anywhere else in the New Testament signify a deaf person, and surely the context does not require that it should be taken in that sense here. The punishment of Zacharias's incredulity must have been more striking, and, I should think, better calculated to serve its purpose, if he was permitted to hear what was said to him, whilst he was rendered unable to answer. See Schleusner on the word.]

(a) Numb. vi. 24.

† Nazareth was a city of the lower Galilee, situate in the south part of that province, and so not far from the confines of Samaria to the south, and nearer to the territories of Tyre and Sidon to the north-west. According to Mr Maundrell's account, in his journey from Aleppo, it is at present only an inconsiderable village, lying in a kind of round concave valley, on the top of an high hill. Here is a convent built over what is said to be the place of the annunciation, or

In relation to Abraham, then, the Holy Spi

where the Blessed Virgin received the joyful message brought her by the angel. It is built over the place, I say, because the chamber where she received the angel's salutation was above four hundred and fifty years ago removed from Nazareth, and, according to the Roman legends, transported by angels to Loretto, then a small village in the pope's dominions, but now become a city and bishop's see. Here is likewise the house of Joseph, the very same (as the friars of the convent tell you) wherein the Son of God lived for near thirty years in subjection to man ; and, not far distant from thence, they shew you the synagogue, wherein our blessed Saviour preached that sermon, (Luke iv. 16.) whereby his countrymen were so exasperated, that they rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill, whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong, Luke iv. 28, 29. for which reason that brow is to this day called the mountain of precipitation. . Wells's Geography of the New Testament. † In our translation, the words in the text run thus: —“To a virgin, espoused to a man, whose name was Joseph, of the house of David”; but, in my opinion, they might better be placed in this manner:—“To a virgin, of the house of David, espoused to a man, whose name was Joseph, and the virgin's name was Mary;” because this agrees better with the words of the angel, “the Lord God shall give him the throne of his father David.” For, since the angel had plainly told the virgin that she should have this son without the knowledge of any man, it was not Joseph’s, but Mary's being of the house of David, that made David his father. Of her immediate parents, however, the Scripture tells us nothing, not so much as their names; but from tradition we learn, that she was the daughter of Joachim and Anna, of the royal tribe of Judah, and yet related to the race of Aaron, because Elizabeth, the wife of Zacharias, was her cousin. Whitby's Annotations, and Calnet’s Dictionary under the word. [See however the Answer to the ensuing Objection.] +* Espousing or betrothing was nothing else but a solemn promise of marriage, made by two persons, each to other, at such a distance of time as they

« PreviousContinue »