« PreviousContinue »
A.M. o. For what a lamentable thing is it, that the two evangelists, Matthew (a) and Luke, &c. or 5439. - - - - - - - A. L. (b), in deducing our Saviour's lineage, should almost in every article disagree and
vo. thwart one another; or, (were it possible to reconcile them) that they should both make ulg. Ær. **.
-and not in Jesus himself, as born of the Virgin Mary, from whom alone he had his hu
man nature, and whose genealogy in this case was only to be regarded ? What a plain
contradiction is it that St Matthew (c) should introduce our Lord as affirming to his
disciples that Elias was already come in the person of John the Baptist; and St John
(d) put it in the mouth of the Baptist to assert the very contrary, which he certainly
would not have done had he been the person predicted by the (e) prophet? And what
a sad mistake in point of chronology, that St Luke should make the taxation, appointed
by Augustus, which happened before our Saviour's birth, fall out when Cyreneus was
governor of Syria, though (according to the account of all other historians) he did not
succeed Quintilius Varus in that government, (f) till about twelve years after.
Isaiah makes mention indeed of a virgin's (g) conceiving and bearing a son, which St
Matthew (h) has applied to the conception and birth of our Blessed Saviour; but as the
word Alma, used by the prophet, does not necessarily denote a virgin, but sometimes a
young woman, that has had knowledge of man; there is reason to believe, that it should
bear this signification when referred to the mother of Jesus, because it is difficult to ima-
gine how a woman should conceive and bear a son, and still preserve her virginity.
And indeed, if this be not the proper acceptation of the word, we can hardly assign any
reason why our Saviour should make choice of a woman to be his mother, who was be-
trothed and married to a man, rather than a pure virgin who had no such engagements
Whoever looks into the writings of the prophets, must observe, that all along down
from the time of David, the Messiah is foretold under the character of a very powerful
prince, who was to reign “over the house of Jacob for ever;' and therefore it is absurd
to put the Son of Mary (who was born meanly, lived poorly, and died ignominiously)
upon the world for that person who is represented as one of the most glorious Kings that
ever was, or ever shall be, in the universe. It is absurd to tell us, that the ‘fulness of
the Godhead dwelt in him bodily,” and yet to relate the story (i) of the descent of the
Holy Spirit upon him; unless we can suppose that this accession of the third person in
the Trinity could enable him to do more than the Divinity which always resided in
him; but much more absurd is it, upon the like supposition, to talk of (k) his being
tempted by the devil, when the devil, if he knew him, would not have dared to do it;
and if he did not, the Divinity wherewith he was armed must have made him impregna-
ble to all his assaults; so that the only end of this transaction must have been to shew,
that God was able to sustain and overcome the temptations of the devil. -
Miracles are generally supposed to be the manifestation of this Divinity residing in
our Saviour, and the curing of demoniacs is always accounted one of the greatest of this
kind; but as it is difficult to assign any reason why demons at this time were more nu-
merous in Judea than in any country we ever read of, we have reason to think, that
the persons represented in the New Testament as demoniacs, were only such as were
afflicted with strange diseases, fits of the mother, convulsions, falling-sickness, and the
like; which the sacred penmen (according to the idiom of the Hebrew language) ex-
press in this awful manner.
The first miracle that our Saviour did, was his turning water into wine at a marriage.
feast. But how he who is all along represented as a very grave and sedate person, should
(a) Luke i. 1. (b) Chap. iii. (c) Chap. xvii. 11, 12. (d) Chop. i. 21. e) Mal iv 5, 6. (f) J., ephus's Antiq. lib. xviii. c. 1. and Prudeaux's Connection, part i. iib. ix. § Chap. vii. 14. (h) Chap. i. 22, 23. (i) Matth. iii. 16. (4) Chap. iv. 1.
their pedigrees terminate in Joseph, who was no more than the reputed father of Jesus,.
vouchsafe his presence at a wedding, which is usually a scene of levities and excess;
how he came to give his mother so rough and undutiful an answer, that interpreters
have been at some trouble to put a tolerable construction upon it; and, above all, how
he came to supply the company, which had already drunk enough, with such a large
quantity of wine as almost denotes him an encourager of intemperance,—are points
that the evangelists have left to the perverse conjectures of unbelievers.
The completion of prophecies, in the person and actions of our Blessed Lord, is cer.
tainly (a) a strong evidence of his being the Messiah; but in the application which the
evangelists make of several of these, their scope is commonly so perverted, their words
so corrupted, and their sense so wrested from its plain and obvious meaning; such
shreds and loose sentences are culled out for this purpose, as have no manner of relation
to the Messiah, but such as had received their completion in some other person many
ages before; and upon every pinch, such figurative and mystical interpretations, as
quite expound away the true importance of the prophecies, are fled to for shelter, that
all that the Gospel writers seem to have done upon this head, is only to impose upon
the world by a parcel of citations, and applications of prophecies, which, upon exami-
nation, will be found nothing to the purpose. -
(b) St Matthew, for instance (to name one evangelist for all), having given an account
of the conception of the Virgin Mary, and the birth of Jesus, informs us, (c) ‘That all
this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Be-
hold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his
name Immanuel!' But the words, as they stand in Isaiah, (d) relate to a young woman
in the days of Ahaz, as appears by their context, and cannot, in any tolerable construc-
tion, have relation to the birth of our Saviour, whose name was not Immanuel, but
The same evangelist informs us, that Jesus was carried into Egypt, from whence he
returned after the death of Herod, (e) ‘that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of
the Lord by the prophet, out of EGYPT HAve I called My son,” which words are no
where to be found but in the prophet (f) Hosea; and yet, (g) according to their plain
and obvious sense, they are no prophecy, but relate to a past action, viz. the conducting
the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt. -
Again, the same evangelist, (h) having given us the account of the slaughter of the
children in Bethlehem, and in the coasts thereof, immediately subjoins, that “then was
fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah (i) the prophet, saying, in Rama was there
a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning; Rachel weeping for her
children, and would not be comforted, because they are not; whereas it is plain from
the context, that this lamentation, in its primary sense, does not relate to the massacre
of the children in Bethlehem, but to the ten tribes being carried away into captivity,
and cannot, without manifest violence, be applied to the other.
Once more, the same evangelist, having given us a short account of the return and
settlement of our Lord's parents in the city of Nazareth, acquaints us farther, that the
reason of their doing so was, (k) “that it might be fulfilled which is spoken by the pro-
phet, he shall be called A NAZARENE, which is directly forging a quotation upon us,
because there is no one of the prophets that ever said or wrote any such thing. They
no where tell us, that the Messiah was to dwell at Nazareth, nor can his dwelling at
Nazareth, supposing they did, be any ground for his being called a Nazarene.
The place foretold by the prophet for his birth and habitation was Bethlehem, and
thither the wise men were directed to repair; but now, what sort of persons these wise
(a) 2 Pet. i. 19. (b) Collins's Grounds and Reasons. (c) Matth. i. 22, 23. (d) Chap. vii. 14. (e) Matth. ii. 15. (f) Chap. xi. 1. (g) Collins's Grounds and Reasons. (h) Matth. ii. 17. (i) Chap. xxxi. 15. (k) Matth. ii. 23.
From the be.
ginning of the
Matth. ix. 8.
Mark ii. 23.
A. M. 4034, men were, and from what part of the world they came, what kind of star that was *... ... which conducted them, and how they could know that it portended the ‘birth of the so, &c. King of the Jews; how the justice and mercy of God can be assoiled in suffering so Yoo many harmless babes to be massacred at Bethlehem upon the account of Christ; or how Christ's conduct may be accounted for, in discovering himself so freely to the Samaritan woman, wben he had all along given such strict charge to his apostles to conceal what they knew of his being the Messiah and Son of God;—these, and some other points in this period, the evangelists have given us no manner of satisfaction in, and have therefore left us at large, either to form conjectures of our own, or to call in question
the truth of their narrations.”
ANSWER, That the evangelists were persons of too much probity to deal in lies, and “cunningly devised fables,” is evident from their writings, wherein we find, not only the strictest prohibitions against guile and dissimulation, both in words and deeds, but such evident tokens of their “simplicity and godly sincerity,” as shew that they would not be prevailed upon to conceal truth, even though it might tend to their lasting dishonour. For, let any one tell me, how they can be supposed capable of forging anything for the advancement of their cause, (a) who have not been wanting to record the obscurity of their master's birth and life, the poverty and reproaches he endured in his ministry, the ignominy of his passion and death, and the terrors and agonies of his mind upon the approach of them; nay, who have not dissembled their own faults and failings, their mean extraction and employments, their ignorance and mistakes, their cowardly desertion of their Lord, and many unsuccessful attempts to convert others by their preaching. Men, that were thus frank and open in their proceedings, could never designedly palm any falsehoods upon the world; and if they were mistaken in some passages, it must be esteemed their misfortune, not their crime. They were indeed illiterate men all, except St Luke, and brought up in mean employments; so very mean, that we cannot suppose them capable of writing a regular history of any kind, had they not been directed in it by the Spirit of truth; * but then to frame such an excellent system of morality as is contained in the Gospels; to give such an extraordinary account of the satisfaction for sin, and of the nature and office of a Mediator; to feign the life and actions of a Messiah, which should agree so exactly with the predictions of the prophets, and the types and prefigurations of the Mosaic law; this they were no more able to do, without the assistance of the same Divine spirit, than they were to create a world: And yet, notwithstanding the great variety and difficulty of this Providence, it is wonderful to observe how all the four evangelists, who wrote at different times and in distant places, agree, not only in the main topics, but sometimes in the most minute circumstances, (b) insomuch, that whenever they seem to disagree, (which chiefly arises from their not confining themselves to the same words or the same order of time) it looks as if the Spirit of God designed on purpose that it should be so, not only that they might be distinct witnesses of the same things, but that all succeeding ages of the Christian world might see with their eyes, that they had neither transcribed from one another, nor combined together like crafty knaves. t (c) The truth is, though the evangelists no where contradict themselves or one another, yet they were not so solicitous to prevent their being suspected of doing so by injudicious and rash men, as they would have been, had they recorded anything but truth; because it is suitable to the simplicity of truth, not to be over nice and curious about every punc
(a) Stanhope's Sermons at Boyle's Lectures. - * [This is probably true. To write a regular history is no easy task; but St Matthew cannot have been utterly illiterate, as we find him at the receipt of custom.] (b) Grew's Cosmolog. sac, pag. 304, (c) Jenkins's Reasonabless of the Christian Religion, vol. ii. c. 8. -
tilio, and smaller circumstance, (as the manner of falsehood is) but to speak fully and in-
telligibly, and then leave it to men whether they will believe or not. Instead of criti-
cising therefore upon some difficult parts of the evangelical writers, we ought to con-
sider their whole design, method, and contrivance; and if in these we find them rational
and uniform, the common candour of mankind will hinder us from thinking them ca-
pable of any gross mistakes or inconsistences, and where we perceive the appearance
of any such, put us upon the charitable office of adjusting and reconciling them.
There is indeed a great and uncommon difference between St Matthew and St Luke
in their genealogies of our Saviour; but to accommodate this, we may observe, 1st,
That these two evangelists were men of different nations, and in that respect had dif-
ferent designs. For (a) St Matthew was by birth a Jew, wrote his Gospel for the benefit
of the Jewish converts, and wroté it very probably in their language: And, as he adhered
to the received custom of the Jews in this matter of genealogy, he began his deduction
no higher than Abraham, the father of the Hebrews: But St Luke was a Gentile, and
may truly be called the evangelist as St Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles; and
therefore when he comes to relate the pedigree of Jesus, he takes a different method,
and carries it up as far as Adam, the father of all mankind.
2d, We may observe likewise, that St Matthew (b) intends only to set down our
Lord's f political or royal pedigree, by which he had a right to the crown of the Jews;
but St Luke shows his natural descent through the several successions of those from
whom he took flesh and blood: And to this purpose we find St Matthew (as we said
just now) beginning his reckoning only from Abraham, (c) to whom the first promise
of the kingdom was made ; whereas St Luke runs his line up to Adam, the first head
and fountain of human nature; which plainly shows, that the one deduced only his title
to the crown, and the other the natural descent of his humanity.
3d, We may observe farther, that as David had several sons by former wives, so by
Bathsheba likewise he had three besides Solomon, whereof the eldest, next to him, was
Nathan, and that Christ descended naturally from David, not by Solomon, but by Na-
than : For though it be frequently said in Scripture that the Messiah should spring
from David, it is never said that he should descend from Solomon ; for which reason
St Luke only deduces Nathan's line, which came into the possession of the throne (upon
Jeconiah's captivity and want of issue) in the person of Salathiel.
4th, We may observe again, that the crown of Judah being now come into the line
of Nathan in the person of Salathiel, and after him in the great and renowned Zoro-
babel; forasmuch as the two evangelists agree from Jeconiah to Zorobabel, and after
him, divide (each ascribing to him a different successor, viz. the former Abiud, and the
latter Rhesa) we may rationally suppose that these two were the sons of Zorobabel,
and that from Abiud, the elder bother, lineally descended Joseph, according to the com-
putation of St Matthew, and from Rhesa, the younger brother, descended Mary, of
whom Jesus was born, according to the description of St Luke.
.5th, Once more we may observe, that it was a custom of the Jews not to reckon the
woman by name in her pedigree, but to reckon the husband in right of his wife; for
which reason we are not to think it strange that we find Joseph twice reckoned, first
in his own right by St Matthew, and then in his wife Mary's right by St Luke; for it
(a) Bishop Kidder's Demonstration of the Messiah, part ii. c. 14. (b) South's Sermons, vol. iii. + That St Matthew uses the word begat only in a olitical sense, is clear from hence:—That he applies it to him who had no child, even to Jeconiah, of whom it is expressly said, Jer. xxii. 30. that God “wrote him childless;” whereupon, being deposed by the king of Babylon, Zedekiah his uncle was made king, and afterwards, upon the removal of him like
wise (there remaining no more of the line of Solomon)
Salathiel being next of kin, was declared king of the
Jews; which Salathiel upon that account is said by
St Matthew, chap. i. 12. to have been begotten by
Jeconiah, not because he was naturally his son, but
only legally or politically so, as succeeding in the
kingdom during Jeconiah's captivity. South's Ser-
mons, vol. iii.
(c) Gen. xviii. 8.
From the beginning of the Gospels to Matth. ix. 8. Mark ii. 23. Luke vi. 1.
A. M. 4034, is certain, that Mary was properly the daughter of Eli, and that Joseph, who in the ac*. . : count succeeds him, is so reckoned, not as his natural son, but as his son-in-law, instead &." of his wife Mary, as the manner of the Jews was: And accordingly it is remarked by
30, &c. Vulgor. * some learned men, that St Luke (a) does not say of Joseph that he was the son of Eli, but only roo Hai, he was of Eli, i.e. related to him, and belonging to his family as his son-in-law. Fit however it was that the genealogy of Jesus should be deduced from Joseph, because it was so generally received by the Jews, that Jesus (b) was the son of the carpenter, (c) the son of Joseph; so that if Joseph had not been acknowledged to have been of the tribe of Judah, and of the family of David, (d) since, according to the reeeived rule of the Jews, that “the family of the mother is not called a family,” they would not have failed to have objected this as a just prejudice against all our Lord's pretences of being the Messiah.
The sum of these observations, in short, is this, (e) That the royal line of David by Solomon being extinct in Jecomiah, the crown and kingdom passed into the next younger line of Nathan (another son of David), in Salathiel and Zorobabel; which Zorobabel having two sons, Abiud and Rhesa, the royal dignity descended, of right, upon the line of Abiud, of which Joseph was the last; and he marrying the Virgin Mary, who sprung from the line of Rhesa, the younger son of Zorobabel, and (as some imagine) having no issue himself, his right passed into the line of Mary, being next of kin, and by that means upon Jesus her Son; so that he was both naturally the Son of David, and also legally the king of the Jews, the latter of which is accounted to us by St Matthew, as the former is by St Luke.
This seems to be a pretty clear deduction of our Saviour's pedigree, and is capable of giving a fair solution to a great many of those objections which arise from the different names, or the unequal numbers in the names, or the unequal distances from each other, which are discernible in the two genealogies. But perhaps interpreters might save themselves the trouble of giving a reason for several difficulties occurring therein, by saying, that St Matthew (f) (concerning whom the main dispute is) recites his account as he found it in the authentic copies of the Jews, who doubtless in every family had preserved some known and approved genealogy of their descent from Abraham, the father of their nation, in whom they so much gloried, and from whose loins they ex
pected the promised Messiah *.
(a) Chap. iii. 24.
(c) John vi, 42.
(e) South's Sermons.
(f) Bishop Kidder's Demonstration, part. ii. c. 14.
* [All this is very well, on the supposition that both
the evangelists give the genealogy of Joseph—the re-
puted father of Jesus; but I have not a doubt but
that this is a mistake, and such a mistake as has been
the source of all the objections that have been urged
against this part of the Gospel-history.
“There are, says Dr Hales, two distinct geneolo-
gies given in the introductions of St Matthew's and
St Luke's gospels: the former principally designed
for the Jews, traces Christ's pedigree as the promi-
sed seed, down from Abraham to David, and from
him through Solomon's line, to Jacob the father of
Joseph, who was the reputed or legal father of Christ,
(St Matt. i. 1–16.) The latter designed for the
Gentiles also, traces it upwards from Heli the father
of Mary, to David, through his son Nathan's line,
and from David to Abraham, concurring with the
former, and from Abraham up to Adam, who was the
immediate son of God.” (St Luke iii. 23–38.)
(b) Matth. xiii. 55. (d) Whitby's Annotations.
That Luke gives the pedigree of Mary, the real mother of Christ, may be collected from the following reasons:—1. The angel Gabriel, at the annunciation, told the virgin, that “ God would give her Divine Son the throne of his father David, (St Luke i. 32.); and this was necessary to be proved by her genealogy afterwards. 2. Mary is called by the Jews byna, “the daughter of Eli' (Lightfoot on Luke iii. 23.); and by the early Christian writers, the daughter of Joakim and Anna. But Joakim and Eliakim (as being derived from the names of God nin" and on Jahoh and Æl) are sometimes interchanged, as in 2 Chron. xxxvi. 4. Eli therefore, or Heli, is the abridgment of Eliakim ; nor is it of any consequence that the Rabbins call him *y, instead of hn, the aspirates alph and ain being frequently interchanged. 3. A similar case in point occurs elsewhere in the genealogy. After the Babylonish captivity, the two lines of Solomon and Nathan-the sons of David—unite in the generations of Salathiel and Zorobabel, and thence diverge again in the sons of the latter, Abiud and Resa. Hence, as Salathiel in St Matthew was the son of Jechoniah or Jehoiachin, who was carried away into captivity by