Edward Evanson.

The dissonance of the four generally received evangelists, and the evidence of their respective authenticity, examined; with that of some other scriptures deemed canonical online

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Online LibraryEdward EvansonThe dissonance of the four generally received evangelists, and the evidence of their respective authenticity, examined; with that of some other scriptures deemed canonical → online text (page 6 of 18)
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the worldly pomp and splendour of a tempo-
ral prince ; and to prevent their furnishing
the Rulers of the Jews, with the very pretence
they sought for, of accusing him to the Ro-
mans, as one who proclaimed himself their
King ;) that before he, whose only character
at present was that of the Son of Man, or an
human prophet, could appear in the glorious
character of the Christ, or anointed sovereign
of the Jews, promised by their prophets, he
" must suffer much, be rejected of the elders,
" chief priests, and scribes," as it is repeated
in the 44th verse of this chapter, and still
more circumstantially, c. xviii. 31 34 " be
" delivered into the hands of men, of the
" Gentiles, and be slain, and rise again the
" third day/' Nay, he even described unto
them, the particular mode of his suffering
death, by adding, that if they were resolved
to be his followers, they must learn self-de-


nial, and imitate him, by being daily pre*
pared to undergo the death of the cross*
To these clear and explicit prophecies of
his own death and resurrection, the vision
of angels, recorded in the 24th chapter,
referred the women, who caitie to embalm
Jais body on the third day after his death ;
and though, being prophecies penned by
the historian after the event, they afford
tis no satisfactory evidence in themselves, yet
to his disciples, who well recollected the
tvords of these predictions, though they did
not, at the time, comprehend their meaning,
and who tlien saw them so literally and won*
derfully accomplished, they must have af*
fojded the most convincing as well as asto-
nishing proof of the divine authority of their
master's mission, that can be imagined.

In the conclusion of the same discourse with
his disciples, in which he assures them, that
after being put to death he should appear ia
the glorious character of the predicted Christ,
or King, and be invested with heavenly
power and authority, he adds, " I tell you of
* 6 a truth, there be some standing here which
" shall not taste of death till they see the
" kingdom of God." In ordev to understand
our Lord's meaning in this prediction, that


the kingdom of God would appear even
before the death of some of those disciples
to whom he was then speaking, it is necessary
to observe, that though a different sense is
sometimes given to these words in other
scriptures, and consequently by commenta-
tors upon those scriptures, yet in the writings
of Luke and Paul, and in the book of the
Revelation; the phrase, Kingdom of God,, or of
Christy is invariably used to signify only the
state of the present world under the New
Covenant of the Gospel, or the establishment
of true Christiaoity amongst mankind. For
this reason, when the Pharisees, with ideas of
a very different kind, of earthly kingdom,
which they expeetedifrom the Messiah, asked
our Saviour,* when the kingdom of God should
come?. hQ answered, that the kingdom of God
would not be an object of external shew and
observation, but the faithful, obedient sub-
jection of the internal disposition and hearts
of men to the will of God. Ye shall not be
abio to point it out when it comes, saying,
" lo, here! or, lo,. there! for behold the king-
v dom of God is within you." But that, after
his resurrection, he was actually invested with
the heavenly glory and power, of the pre-

* Luke xvii. 2O.


dieted Son' of God, the Christ, or Messiah*
promised to the Jews, was manifested to
the eleven apostles and all his other disciples,
in his miraculous ascension from off the earth;
in the prophetic revelation of the future state
of his Church, to his apostle Johti; in his
glorious personal appearances, many times
vouchsafed to his twelfth, posthumous, apos-
tle Paul; and more extensively , in the display
of those supernatural powers, with which he
endowed the first preachers of his Gospel to
the world. And with respect to the estab-
lishment of the religion of the New Covenant
amongst mankind, there are but two ways of
its being effected, suggested to us, in the sacred
scripture. One of these is the conviction and
conversion of the different nations of the
world, to the rational religion of the Gospel,
by the preaching to them that word of God,
attested to the first ages by the supernatural
evidence of miraculous acts, as well as by
completed predictions, and to all succeeding
generations, by the continually increasing
weight of evidence arising from a long series
of prophecies; which predication of the
truths of the Gospel, in the figurative lan-
guage of the Apocalypse, is called* a sharp

* Apoc. xix. 15.
G 2


smrd proceeding out of the mouth of Christ,
a weapon that we are assured will, at length,
prove invincible, and entirely extirpate super-
stitious error, deceit and falsehood, howsoever
powerfully supported : the other, by the sig-
nal, providential destruction pf those earthly
powers which oppose, and endeavour to sup-
press, its progress. By the first of these
means, most of the Apostles and first preachers
of Christianity saw the kingdom of God take
place, in a very considerable degree, before
their death, in the conversion of great num-
bers* not of Jews only, but of Pagans, both in
Asia and Europe; and by a very memorable
and signal instance of the second, in the pre-
dicted destruction of the temple and city of
Jerusalem, the desolation of the country of
Judea, ,and the entire dispersion of the whole
natioa <of tlje Jews, those first malignant op-
posers of the Gospel, and persecutors of the
followers of Christ, (an event, which, as it
"took place within forty years after the cruci-
fixion of Jesus, some of his disciples must have
lived to see,) the rites and ceremonies of the
Mosaic religion, were rendered absolutely
impracticable for the time to come ; the Old
Covenant made with that people by the
mediation of Moses, cancelled and abolished ; t


and no other left subsisting between the
Deity, and any of his creatures, except the
New Covenant of the kingdom of God, pro^
posed to all mankind in the Gospel.

In the eleventh chapter, verse 29? c. and
again in the conclusion of the same chapter,
our Saviour, like the Baptist, expressly limits
the predicted destruction of Jerusalem, and
the calamities that were coming upon that
nation, in consequence of their impenitence,
and obstinate, inhuman rejection of him,
their last and greatest prophet, to that gene-
ration to which he was then speaking ; and
in verse 29 and 30, specifies the precise num-
ber of years that were to intervene between
his preaching to them and that dreadful ca-
tastrophe. " Thi^ evil generation/' says he,
" seeketh a sign ; and there shall be no sign
" given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.
" For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites,
" so shall the Son of Man be to this genera-
" tion," The writer usually called Matthew,
without the least reason or propriety, makes
this similitude, between Jonas and our Sa-
viour, to consist in the time that the former
was in the whale's belly, and the latter in
the grave ; but if the fabulous interpolation
of the two first chapters of the Book of Jo*

G 3


nah, (to which Mendelsohn,* the late learned
Jew of Berlin, assures 'us no reasonable Jew
ever pays the least regard) could be true ; yet
whosoever compares the geographical situa-
tion of Nineveh, with respect to the Mediter-
ranean sea, will be convinced that nothing
transacted upon that sea could fall under
the notice of the inhabitants of Nineveh, nor,
consequently, be any sign to them at all.
The only sign that Jonas was to the Ninevites,
was his being a prophet, commissioned by
God, to preach to them repentance and righ-
teousness; to upbraid them with their vicious
immoralities ; and to denounce, if their wic-
kedness was continued, the destruction of
their city, within forty days^ that is, (according
to the tmiform meaning of that expression in
prophetic language) forty years, from the time
of his preaching. Such a preacher of re-
pentance and righteousness, only in a much
superior and more distinguished character,
was Jesus Christ, to the nation of the Jews ;
he repeatedly assured them, that "except
<c they repented, like those Galileans, whose
" blood Pilate had mingled with their sacri-
'" fices, and those upon whom the tower of

* See the Letter prefixed to his Dialogue- on the Immortality of
the Soul


14 Siloain fell and slew them, they should all
" likewise perish ;" and by 'this sirnilitiute
between the denunciation of Jonah and his
own, he plainly declares, that the destruc-
tion of Jerusalem would be ' accomplished
within forty years after his death; for that
they would not hearken to his preaching, and
repent, as the men of Nineveh did at the
preaching of Jonas, and that, therefore,, the
destruction of their city would not be post-
poned beyond the then existing generation,
like that of Nineveh, and that, in the judg-
ment which was so soon coming upon them,
they would stand condemned by the striking
contrast between the behaviour of the people
of Nineveh and - t their owu. Agreeably to
this prophetic denunciation of our Saviour,
from his crucifixion, that is, from the seven-
teenth of the emperor Tiberius, to the final
destruction of the city and temple of Jerusa-
lem, by Titus, in the second year of the reign
of Vespasian, is a period of exactly forty

* Luke informs us, that the ministry of John the Baptist began in
the fifteenth year of Tiberius j and as the Jewish year commenced
only/ fourteen days before the Passover, at which time it was the duty,
both of John himself, and the nation of the Jews, in general, to be
engaged at Jerusalem in the celebration of that feast, it is next to
certain, that he did not begin to preach and baptise, till after the feast
of the Passover of that year; If any time at all, therefore, be allowed
for the ministry of John, before Jesus began to preach the new covenant

G 4


The thirteenth chapter of the Gospel ac-
cording to Luke, verse 18- 21, contains two
prophetic similitudes of the kingdom of God,
that is of the state of true Christianity in the
world, which are plain predictions, that the
religion of the Gospel, of however small ex-
tent and influence at the beginning, will in
time become sufficiently extensive to aiFord
refuge and consolation, to the various nations
.of the earth; and that though its influence
may be slow, and for some time scarcely pcr-

of the kingdom of God, the harvest, previous to which our Lord's dis-
ciples robbed the ears of corn for food, must have been the harvest of
the sixteenth year of that emperor j and his public ministry, which pre-
peded that circumstance but a short time, must have begun soon after
the Passover of that year, and after Herod had imprisoned John,
through a jealous fear of his popularity. Consequently, the succeed-
ing Passover, at which, Luke tells, our Saviour was crucified, was in
the seventeenth year of the reign of Tiberius. Now Tiberius reigned
twenty-two years and almost seven months, and died March 16th ;
so thaYfrofh the Crucifixion to the Passover, which, followed th$
death of

Y. M. D.

Tiberius, was just ........ s . 6

Caligula reigned 3 10 8

Claudius - - 1 13 8 20

Nero f - 13 8

Galba ........> 7 13

Qtho , 3 4

Vit;clHus > about o 8 o

38 9 15

So that from our Lord's death to the first Passover after Vespasian was
made Emperor, was thirty-nine years j and consequently to the same
festival, in the second year of his reign, when his son Titus laid
the fatal siege to that devoted city, was exactly forty. years.


eeived, yet it will assuredly at length, spread
itself over the whole globe. These prophecies
still remain to be completed, and therefore,
at present afford no satisfactory evidence of
the truth and divine authority of the Gospel.
They naturally suggest, however, some very
important reflections to the observing mind,
which is desirous to distinguish truth from
error, and to avoid embracing the latter for
the former.

It is natural for many sorts of seeds, which,
at length, rise to the size of extensive trees, to
lie long in the ground, before their vegetation
is perceptible, and to increase very slowly for
a considerable length of time ; a very small
quantity of leaven also, inclosed within a
great bulk of meal, must necessarily operate
very slowly, and require a long time before
much effect from it can be discerned, and a
cold, unfavourable season would naturally
restrain the vegetation in the one case, and
check the fermentation in the other ; yet in
process of time both might be completely per-
fected : but when a seed is once grown to
the dimensions of a large tree, it is contrary
to the whole course of nature for it to de-
crease ; and dough once leavened cannot be-
come unleavened. We may, therefore, pro-


nounce with certainty, upon the credit of'
these prophetic similitudes, that," notwith-
standing its being called, and professing to be>
Christian, the religion which spread so rapidly
in the second and third centuries, which, in
the fourth century was established, by the au-
thority of the Roman emperors, under the ti-
tle of the orthodox and holy catholic church,
and which, for some ages, prevailed exclu-
sively in every country in Europe, and in a
very large part of Asia and Africa, was not
the church of Christ, nor the religion of his
Gospel. For, besides that it did not make
its progress in the slow, gradual manner here
described, in the seventh century, upon the
rise of the Mahomedan superstition, it soon
decreased, ,and became diminished in its ex-
tent, and continued gradually losing ground,
till at length, it was supplanted by it out of
all Asia, Africa, and a considerable part of
Europe, that is, particularly out of all those
regions of the world, where it originated, and
was first established ; and the fabulous reli-
gion of the pretended Ai'abian prophet, at
this day, occupies a much larger extent of
the earth, than ever was occupied by the re-
ligion of the orthodox church, in its most
flourishing condition. As the members of


that church make a merit of foregoing the
use of their reason, in questions concerning
their religion, it is no wonder that difficulties
like these, affect them not with the slightest
impression, though they acknowledge that
the constant over-ruling providence of God
restrains or promotes every important change
in the affairs of men : but a disinterested, un-
prejudiced observer will easily discern suffi-
cient reason for God's so conspicuously de-
claring his preference of the Maliomedan to
the orthodox superstition. If we compare
them only in two striking features, the one
respecting the Deity himself, the other as in-
fluencing the morals of mankind, we shall
find that Mahomedanism, by teaching the
undivided uncompounded unity of almighty
God, gives its professors a just and rational
idea of the purely spiritual, incorporeal na-
ture of the author of their existence, and the
only proper object of their adoration; and,
as it prohibits and prevents idolatry of every
kind, it so far coincides with the first great
purpose and design of all revealed religion,
and must so far, therefore, meet with the
approbation of the immutable God of truth;
whilst the orthodox church, on the contrary,
represents God as of a compounded nature,


so monstrous and irrational, that she herself
declares her own definition of him to be un-
intelligible, though it must be believed; and
by addressing distinct and separate worship
to each of the three different agents, that
compose her triform Deity, and to one of
them as incarnate in an human body like our
own, she directly contradicts the voice of the
Almighty, concerning himself,, and estab-
lishes, as a religious duty, every species of
idolatry forbidden by divine Revelation. The
Koran also, by the single prohibition of the
use of strong drink, whilst it effectually en-
forces on its disciples a rigid observance of
the Gospel precepts of continual temperance,
by constantly preserving the temperament of
their bodies cool and undisturbed, and their
rational faculties clear and unclouded, can-'
not fail of having a powerful influence, highly
favourable to their bodily health, and the
moral virtue of their minds;* whereas, in
Christendom, the constant, copious use, and
very frequent intemperate and excessive

* I was, many years ago, assured by an intimate friend, an intel-
ligent, worthy man, who had traded largely, both in the northern
parts of Africa, and in many different countries of Europe, that he
lyas never once deceived in cpnfiding in the honour and integrity of
a Mahomedan 5 Hat that, through the perfidy and dishonesty of some

'of thosi he dealt with, he had been defrauded and injured in every

, *atio of "prof&sed Christians.


abuse, of fermented liquors, has effects fatally
pernicious both to the bodily health and mo-
rals of its inhabitants.

It is true, the orthodox church preaches the
pure ethics of the Gospel, and the virtue of
temperance amongst the rest; but she has, at
the same time, ingeniously and impiously,
contrived to render her own, and what is still
worse, all the preaching of the Gospel, of none
effect, by her doctrine of the death of Jesus,
considered as a propitiatory sacrifice of infi-
nite efficacy, and an universal atonement for
sin. Even the protestant subdivisions of that
church, in their most sacred and solemn acts
of devotion, as well as in the sermons of their
preachers, declare that, by his death, afull^
perfect and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and
satisfaction, hath been made to the divine jus-
tice, for the sins of the whole world. Gracious
God, have mercy upon the presumptuous
folly and madness of thy erring creatures}
By this single doctrine, she has erected an
universal asylum, as far as another life is con-
cerned, not for intemperance alone, but for
every other vice and crime, of which human
nature is capable. The miserable, quibbling
supplement to this shocking doctrine, fliat
repentance and a proper faith is necessary,


fer the particular application of the benefits
of this atonement, can be of no avail; for no
sinner can believe that a .just Being will
inflict any punishment on -account of offences
for which he has already actually received
perfect and sufficient satisfaction: and, besides,
since the people are also taught, that a sinner
may effectually recur to this saving faith and
repentance, even on his death-bed, or in the
condemned dungeon of Newgate, what reli-
gious motive can any man have to curb and
restrain his natural passions or inclinations,
so long as he hath it in his power to gratify
them, at any rate, when he knows, that to the
last moment of his lite, he can hope to screen
himself against the deserved consequence of
his wickedness, by taking refuge at the cross
of Christ ? If any reflecting person can
doubt of the dreadfully pernicious influence,
which such a persuasion as this, must have
upon the morals of the people in general,*

* I say, in general, because, so congeninl is moral virtue to our
uncorrupted nature, that the world hath, at all times, produced ex-
emplary, virtuous individuals, even amidst the grossest abuses of
superstition of every kind. Without doubt there are, and always
have been, many good and amiable characters amongst the members
jOf the orthodox Church, in spite of the. naturally evil tendency of
her doctrines ; as Pagan Athens, even in the libertine and vicious
age of Alcibiades and Aristophanes, could boast a Socrates and a


wheresoever it is embraced, let him, for a
moment, consider what would be the certain
effect, should the Legislature set up an asy-
lum for murder, in every parish in the king-
dom, to which, if the wilful murderer could
flee before he was apprehended, he should be
exempt from punishment. Society would
soon experience the evil consequences of such
a policy, in the centuple multiplication of in-
stances, even of that crime the most shock-
ing to human nature. And, to complete
his conviction of the similar effects, which
this doctrine has, and ever hath had, upon
the morals of professed Christians, he needs
only to review the moral history of Christen-
dom, from the beginning of the fourth, and
attend to the vicious immoralities every
where continually practised by persons of all
stations, within the sphere of his own obser-
vation, in this first decade of the nineteenth
century of the Christian

* To maintain a religious establishment, whose main object is the
preaching up this pernicious asylum to the people, according to the
estimate of the Lord Bishop of Landaff,* costs this country two mil-
lions sterling every year. But, on a supposition that the amount
of ajl the landed estates in our own country, which may be justly
deemed ecclesiastical, are equivalent to all the Lay impropriations or
tithes in Lay hands, which, I persuade myself, cannot be far from the
truth, it is easy to shew that the value of our ecclesiastical revenue,
.* Sec his Charge to the Clergy, 179L,'


In the answer which our Lord gives, verse
2<i 30, to the question, whether there were
few that should be saved from the woes he

is above double what the learned and liberal minded Prelate takes it
to be. For since, in the cases of new inclosures, the smallest pro-
portion of land allotted to the Clergy, by the Legislature, in lieu of
tythes, is one seventh, the value of the tithes of the whole kingdom
must be equal to, at least, one seventh of the land. Now, from
the calculations of Sir John Sinclair, and other the most able
estimators, it appears, that die anmial rental of the whole kingdom
amounts to full si j ty millions j but as houses, except in the city of
London, are not subject to any kind of tithe, supposing the rental of
all the rest of the houses to be equal to that of the land, the titheable
property will then amount to thirty millions yearly, the seventh part
of which is rather more than four millions and a quarter. A sum
which, whenever the thiie arrives when our Rulers, thinking it
right to prove themselves the impartially equitable, common parents
of the whole national family, by favouring the tenets and opinions of
no one sect or party above the rest, instead of vainly attempting to
controul and regulate the minds of their subjects, in matters concern*
ing only God, and their own consciences, shall content themselves
with restraining and regulating their overt actions and civil conduct,
by the vigorous and equal execution of wise and "wholesome laws, and
leave every man, like the various sects of dissenters of the present
day, to chuse his owu mode of worshipping the Deity, and remune-
rating his own religious instructor, will be sufficient, by selling the
tithes to the several proprietors of land, at only twenty-five years'
purchase, and the estates to the highest bidder, greatly to reduce the
present immense national debt, and thereby exonerate the people of
between three and four millions of taxes. In the fortunate, affluent
circumstances of this nation, should Administration have wisdom,
and equity, and true Christian piety enough, to adopt such a plan of
religious reformation, without waiting till it is forced upon them, bjr
the tumultuous, violent paroxysm of some convulsion of the state,
it might be quietly effected, in the course of a few years, without the
smallest injury to any one individual, by a gradual abolition of the
present ecclesiastical establishment, and a proportional diminution
of the public burthens, on the voidance of every benefice, either by
the death or voluntary resignation of the several incumbents,


denounced against the faithless and disobe-
dient, by being admitted members of the
kingdom of God, that is of the society of
true and faithful Christians? he advises his
hearers to endeavour to enter into that king-
dom through the lowly, narrow entrance of
the persecutions, difficulties* and discourage-
ments which awaited them, for that great
numbers would seek to obtain the name of
Christians by very different means, but that
though they should call themselves his dis-
ciples, and plead that his Gospel had been

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Online LibraryEdward EvansonThe dissonance of the four generally received evangelists, and the evidence of their respective authenticity, examined; with that of some other scriptures deemed canonical → online text (page 6 of 18)