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The prophet and the apostle, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, wrote each in the style that belonged to him as an individual. Undoubtedly each had a peculiar fitness for the work to which he was called; but this fitness lay in the sum of his qualifications, rather than in his separate individualities taken one by one. It would be a superfluous inquiry whether the involved style in which the great apostle of the Gentiles sometimes wrote was per se an excellence, and as such constituted one of his special qualifications. It belonged, rather, to the very texture of his mind. A man of such rapidity and compass of thought, of such compactness and depth of argument, cannot be followed without much earnest and vigorous thinking. Had the ordering of the matter been left to some modern preachers, doubtless we should have had epistles in a very different style, and of a very different character. Instead of a giant striding along the Andes, stepping only on the highest peaks, and summoning the world to follow as fast and as well as it could, we should have had a very gentle pedagogue, carefully leading his pupils along, step by step, and pausing to cut up every little bush that grew in the path, lest it should hurt their feet or tear their clothes. The grand object would have been not to elicit hard thinking, but to supersede its necessity. But the foolishness of God is wiser than man. It was his pleasure that the apostle Paul should be a man whom none but earnest thinkers could follow in all his reasonings. He took him, if not for the above-named peculiarity of his style, yet certainly with it, as inseparably belonging to his mental constitution; foreseeing that, on the broad scale, it would be no detriment to the cause of divine truth.1
1 A friend has suggested as a pertinent illustration of the powerlessness of exact definitions to exclude scepticism, the scriptural utterances respecting the eternal punishment of the wicked. These are as explicit and unambiguous as we can well conceive them to have been made. Yet we find men continually calling into question the truth of the doctrine on a priori grounds. They first assume that it cannot be consistent with the divine goodness, and then set themselves resolutely at work to explain away the declarations of God's word upon
3. A third limitation which the Divine Spirit has prescribed to himself relates to unessential circumstances; such, for example, as the exact chronological order of events, and various details connected with the truths revealed. We do not mean that such matters are left to chance. They come within the purview of the Omniscient Spirit, and, so far as needful, are defined with accuracy. But it has pleased him to leave them oftentimes undetermined; because, as we may reverently suppose, he saw that this was best for the general interests of truth. If, for example, we compare the three synoptic Gospels with each other and with the fourth Gospel, we find that no one author professes to give a complete history of our Lord's life, or to arrange all the incidents which he relates in the exact order of time. Under the guidance of the Divine Spirit, each one pursues his own course, independently of the others, here inserting what one or more of the rest have omitted, or omitting what one or more of them have inserted. Sometimes the order of time is exactly indicated; at other times it is left indefinite, with only some general prefatory remark-"At that time," "and he began again," "and it came to pass," etc. Hence, in the attempt to exhibit in chronological order the entire text of the four Gospels arranged in parallel columns, the harmonist often finds himself baffled. It is certain that the evangelists do not always follow the exact order of time, and it is sometimes impossible to decide between the different arrangements of events in their records. A notable example of this we have in the Sermon on the Mount. The identity of the discourse as recorded by Matthew and Luke must be admitted as a fact raised above reasonable doubt. Yet Matthew inserts it almost at the beginning of his account of
which it rests. Simplicity and perspicuity are good in their place; but men need something deeper than these as a basis for true faith; namely, the "honest and good heart," which the Saviour makes the indispensable condition of spiritual fruitfulness.
1 See on this point Robinson's Harmony of the Gospels, notes to § 41. Tholuck, Bergpredigt, Einleitung, § 1. Andrew's Life of our Lord, pp. 247–253; Alford, Wordsworth, and the commentators generally in loco.
our Lord's ministry; with prefatory words, however, from which we gather that Jesus, before its delivery, "went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people." Luke, on the contrary, informs us that it was delivered immediately after the choice of the twelve apostles, thus assigning to it its proper place in the order of events.2 This one instance may stand as a representative of the indefiniteness which often appears in the evangelic narratives in respect to the chronological sequence of events. With regard to the four narratives of the resurrection, Alford remarks, with much justice: "Supposing us to be acquainted with everything said and done, in its order and exactness, we should doubtless be able to reconcile, or account for, the present forms of the narratives; but not having this key to the harmonizing of them, all attempts to do so in minute particulars must be full of arbitrary assumptions, and carry no certainty with them." 8
What is true of the chronological order of events holds good, also, in respect to various historic incidents. The Sermon on the Mount (its identity in the two evangelic narratives being assumed) affords here, also, a pertinent example. Matthew, after mentioning the multitudes that followed the Saviour "from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan," simply adds that, "seeing the multitudes, he went up into the mountain; and when he was set, his disciples came to him."4 Luke informs us that "he went out into the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God"; that in the morning he chose the twelve apostles, of whom the names are given; that then he came down with them, and stood on a level place, where,
1 Matt. iv. 23 seq.
2 Luke vi. 12 seq. * Matt. iv. 23 seq.
8 Commentary on Matt. xxviii. 1-10.
6 'Eπl Tóπov Tedivou, the exact rendering of which words is: upon a level place, not: upon the plain, for which sense the article would have been required, as in the Sept. version of Deut. iv. 43, èv tỷ yộ tỷ medwn, that is, in the plateau, that namely, east of the Jordan; and Josh. ix. 1, év Tŷ wedwỷ, in the plain of the Mediterranean. The words do not necessarily imply that the Saviour descended
surrounded by great multitudes, he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: "Blessed be ye poor," etc.1 We see here how one evangelist omits incidents carefully detailed by the other. Another striking illustration is furnished by the three notices of the robbers who were crucified with Jesus. Matthew, after describing the mocking to which our Saviour was subjected by the bystanders, adds that "the robbers who were crucified with him reviled him after the same manner";2 Mark, that "they who were crucified with him reviled him." 3 But Luke informs us that while one mocked, the other prayed. Now, whichever of the proffered explanations we adopt here, the difference in the details of the narrative remains. We may say that Matthew and Mark use the so-called plural of category, referring not to the number, but to the class. But, had we not Luke's account, the impression would be left on our minds that both of the malefactors reviled the Saviour. Or, we may say (without any warrant, however, from the evangelic narratives) "that at first both the malefactors railed on him; but afterwards one of them (Luke xxiii. 40), moved by the prodigies which he saw (the darkness and the earthquake, etc.), was penitent, and rebuked the other." Or, we may assume, with Alford, that neither Matthew nor Mark is in possession of the more particular account given by Luke."? Upon either mode of explanation it must be admitted that
to the plain country lying at the foot of the mountain. We do not, however, stake the truthfulness of the two narratives on this, or any other particular solution of the apparent discrepancy between Matthew and Luke.
1 Luke vi. 12 seq.
2 Matt. xxvii. 44.
8 Mark xv. 32.
4 Luke xxiii. 39-43.
So Augustine, De Consensu Evang. iii, 16: “Matthaeum et Marcum, breviter perstimgentes hunc locum, pluralem numerum pro singulari posuisse"; Ambrose, Expositio Evang. Luc. Lib. x. 122: “Potuit etiam de uno pluraliter dicere"; Jerome on Matt. xxvii. 44: "Hic per tropum qui appellatur σúλAmis, pro uno latrone uterque inducitur blasphemasse." Though each of these writers gives also as an alternative the explanation next referred to.
• Wordsworth on Matt. xxvii. 44, following the language of Jerome. Alford on Matt. xxvii. 44.
the Holy Spirit was not careful to secure agreement in the letter of the narrative. We add one more illustration drawn from the account given in the three synoptic Gospels of the miracle performed by our Lord in the vicinity of Jericho. According to Matthew, as Jesus with his disciples and the accompanying multitude was departing from Jericho, two blind men, sitting by the wayside, heard that he was passing by, applied to him for help, and were healed.1 Mark, like Matthew, states that the miracle was performed as Jesus was departing from Jericho, but names only one blind man, Bartimeus, the son of Timaeus.2 Luke agrees with Mark in the mention of a single blind man, but says that the event occurred as Jesus was coming nigh to Jericho. We assume the identity of the miracle in all three of the narratives, although it is sufficient for our present purpose to remark that concerning the identity of the transaction as recorded by Mark and Luke there can be no reasonable doubt. That the miracle took place in the vicinity of Jericho all three writers are agreed. But the two former record it as having been performed when Jesus was departing from Jericho; the latter, when he was entering that city. For reconciling the letter of the narratives various hypotheses have been proposed. Augustine assumes two miracles, - one upon our Saviour's entrance into Jericho; the other, upon his departure from the place. Calvin promptly rejects this hypothesis, and proposes the following solution of the difficulty: "My conjecture is, that, when Christ was approaching the city, a blind man called to him; but that, when he could not be heard on account of the tumult, he sat down by the wayside at the egress of the city, and then, at length, was
1 Matt. xx. 29-34.
2 Mark x. 46-52.
8 Luke xviii. 35-43. His words are: Εγένετο δὲ ἐν τῷ ἐγγίζειν αὐτὸν εἰς 'Iepix; and, in accordance with this statement, after recording the miracle, he adds (xix. 1), that Jesus "entered and passed through Jericho." Here are all the marks of circumstantial accuracy.
+ "Duo similia similiterque miracula fecisse Jesum." - De consensu Evang., Lib. iii. 126 [LXV.]