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 7 of 18)
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preached amongst them, he would reject them
as strangers to his religion, because they had
been zvorkers of iniquity : yet that the mem-
bers of his Church and faithful subjects of
God's earthly kingdom should be composed
of people of the different nations from every
quarter of the globe. And, in the 28th verse,
he seems to predict;, that at the prophetic
period, denominated Christ's coming, to de-
stroy the opposers of his Gospel and to estab-
lish his promised kingdom over the earth, not
only those faithful Christians who have suf-
fered persecutions and violent deaths, for his
sake, shall miraculously be restored to life
again before the rest of the dead, as the pro*
phets Paul and John assure us, but that the



three great Patriarchs also, and all the distin-
guished Jewish prophets, will partake of the
feame happy, glorious pre-eminence. To this
honourable, happy event the Angel seems also
to allude, when, at the close of the prophetic
visions vouchsafed to Daniel, he says to the
Prophet, " But go them thy way till the end be :
" for thou shalt rest^ and stand in thy lot at the
" end of the days/' But the force of the testi-
mony of these, like that of all other unaccom-
plished prophecies, cannot be felt before the
time of their actual completion shall arrive.

In the conclusion of this thirteenth chap-
ter, our blessed Saviour, replying to some
who advised him to depart out of Galilee for
fear of Herod, assures them, that he should
securely continue working miracles in that
district for three days longer, for that his
death could be accomplished only at Jerusa-
lem; and apostrophizing the inhabitants of
that metropolis, in a pathetic commiseration
of the desolation so soon to come upon them
in consequence of their obstinate incredulity
and rejection of his mission, he adds, that,
nevertheless, they should not see him till they
should say, Blessed is he that cometh in the
name of the Lord. When he predicted this
cirfeumstanee^ he was at a considerable dis-


tance from Jerusalem, attended only by the
Apostles and a few other disciples who fol-
lowed him from Galilee; but as he approached
the metropolis, we may easily conceive what
crowds of its inhabitants the fame of such an
extraordinary prophet would draw forth, to
see him and his wonderful works, and to hear
his instructions ; and upon his entry into the
city, Luke informs us*, that this whole mul-
titude burst forth into a spontaneous comple-
tion of this prediction, exclaiming, Blessed is
the king that comet h in the name of the Lord:
peace in heaven and glory in the highest. To
those who had heard his words in Galilee, this
event must have afforded a convincing proof
of the divine gift of prophecy with which
their master was endowed from heaven : but
since this history was penned, long after
that event had come to pass, it can, in itself,
be of no important use to ws, except to shew
that the Apostles and first disciples of Jesus
Christ, having received proofs of his heavenly
mission, by means of completed prophecy as
well as miracles, had every requisite and pos-
sible means of being fully and rationally con-
vinced of the truth and divine authority of
that Gospel, which they preached after his

* Chap. xix. 38.
H 2


death, and for which they willingly sacrificed
all their interests in the present world.

V. WE have seen that in the llth chapter,
our Lord predicted that the total destruction
of Jerusalem would happen within forty
years from his preaching the Gospel to the
Jews ; and in the 17th chapter, from verse
22 to the end, he foretells, that its destruc-
tion, which is here described as one instance
of his corning with power to establish his pro-
mised kingdom, by the signal, providential
extirpation of the first inveterate enemies
and opposers of his religion should be sudden
and unexpected, like the flash of lightning
that frequently begins a widely destroying
storm ; and when the people should as little
think of the fatal danger impending over
them, as the men of Noah's age thought of
being overwhelmed by the deluge, or the in-
habitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, of perish-
ing by sulphureous showers of fire. Accord-
ingly, Joseplius informs us, that such a cala-
mity was so little expected at the time when
it befel them, that Jerusalem was then filled
with multitudes who were come from every
quarter to celebrate the Passover ; and that
Titus himself, far from intending to destroy


the city, much less with the shocking circum-
stances with which the siege was attended,
took every measure in his power to prevent
it, till impelled to it by the irritating, wicked
conduct of that miserable, devoted people.
In the last verse of this chapter, to the ques-
tion, where is this unexpected slaughter and
devastation to happen ? our Lord replies;
&herc the great carcase of the nation, their
metropolis, is 9 there will the eagles, a phrase
peculiarly expressive of the Romn armies, be
gathered together to its destruction. That
this prediction, respecting the actual destroy-
ers of the city of Jerusalem, within so short a
space as forty years, was literally accom-
plished, we all know, and many of those who
heard it uttered, must have lived to see : but
according to all appearances, at the time
when it was given, nothing could be more
improbable. Judea was already a Roman
province, and the Jews, in peaceable submis-
sion to the mild yoke of their conquerors, en-
joyed tranquillity and prosperity; and their
chief magistrates were upon so good terms
with the Roman Governors, that, to comply
with their earnest solicitations, after having
in vain repeatedly endeavoured to dissuade
them from their request, Pilate sacrificed, not

ii 3


only the common feelings of humanity, but
all sense of the honour and justice of a ruler,
by ordering a man to be crucified, whom he
himself declared to .be without fault : and one
of his successors, above twenty-five years af-
terwards, even in the moment of quitting his
government, for the very same purpose of
doing the Jews a pleasure, left Paul in bonds
and imprisonment, though fully satisfied of
his -innocence. When, therefore, we consider,
that it w#s jthe great body of the Jewish na-
tion assembled at Jerusalem, to keep the fes-
tival of the Passover, who, having accused
him to the Roman power, as one who endea-
voured to excite a rebellion against Caesar,
rejoiced in having unjustly accomplished the
ignominious, cruel death of the meek and inno-
cent Jesus, the messenger of heaven, and the
mediator of that new covenant, which God,
by Moses and the old prophets, had assured
thek fathers he would make with their poste-
rity; and that it was at the very same national
assembly forty years afterwards, that they
themselves, on account of their ow r n atrocious-
ly criminal, infatuated conduct, and being in
actual rebellion against Caesar, began to suf-
fer every possible destructive cruelty of a siege,
in the end of which, Jerusalem was rased and


levelled with the ground, by that very Roman
power ; not only the completion of a pro-
phecy, which, at the time of its prediction,
seemed so unlikely to come to pass, but so
signal an instance of retributive justice, in
the course of the divine providence over the
affairs of men, must surely strike every ra-
tional mind with the most awful and import-
ant reflections.

In the beginning of the 18th chaptejv which
is a continuation of the conversation we
have just been considering, a parable is in-
troduced, by way of instructing his disci-
ples that they should never fail to offer up
their daily prayers to almighty God : and the
inference deduced from it is in these words :
" Hear what the unjust judge saith. And
" shall not God avenge his own chosen ser-
" vants, who cry day and night unto him,
" though he bear long with them ? I tell you
" that he will avenge them speedily/' or ra-
ther suddenly. The sudden and hasty de-
struction of the Jewish nation, just mentioned
above, was one memorable instance of God's
severely avenging the unmerited sufferings
and cruel persecution of Jesus himself, and
his apostles and first faithful followers, after
bearing with them for forty years ; and is an

H 4


earnest of the full completion of the divine
vengeance, according to this and many other
predictions, upon the enemies of his Gospel,
and the persecutors of his conscientious dis-
ciples, at that now not very distant period,
which the scriptures denominate his coming.

This prophetic assurance is immediately
followed by an affecting, tender exclamation.,
recorded only by Luke, but of a nature
equally "prophetic, and so peculiarly expres-
sive of the present state of true and rational
Christianity in the world, that it affords a
most convincing testimony, both of the divine
authority of the prophet, and the correct
fidelity of the historian. " Nevertheless,"
exclaims our blessed Lord, " when the son of
" man cometh, shall he find faith on the
" earth ?" The extreme paucity of his faith-
ful disciples to be found in the world at that
great predicted .sera, so clearly foretold in thia
pathetic ejaculation, is very strongly marked
also in the Apocalypse, by the expression,
" my two witnesses,"* that is, a number only
]ust sufficient to bear legal and credible tes-
timony to the truth of his Gospel; for under
the law of Moses, the regulation ordained by
God himself, Avas, " at the mouth of two or

* Apoc. xi. 3.


*< three witnesses, shall every matter be estab-
" lished."* If indeed those professed Chris-
tians, the members of the orthodox imperial
church of Constantine, have really adopted
the true Christian Faith, our Lord, when he
cometh, can have no difficulty in finding what
he so feelingly prelaments the want of. He may
find it tolerated by the Mahomedans in Asi-
atic and European Turkey, and reigning tri-
umphantly under the protection of the civil
powers in all the rest of Europe, from Lap-
land to Gibraltar, and from Muscovy to the
Azores ; he may find it in Africa, America,
and in the Indies of the East ; and the wit-
nesses in favour of the orthodox Faith, appear
upon the earth, not by twos and threes, but
by millions ; so that, on this supposition,
there is not the least foundation for our Sa-
viour's sorrowful foreboding ; and, as far as
predictions of the scarcity of his faithful dis-
ciples are concerned, he must be pronounced
a false prophet : but the truth is, the religion
of that imperial church is so far from being
the faith of his Gospel, that it is diametrically
opposite to it i and when we deduct in our
investigation Jews, Pagans, Mahomedans,
the members of the orthodox church, and all

* Deut, xix. 15.


those speculative, reflecting minds, whom
the gross absurdities and contradictions,
which that church represents to them as the
doctrines of Revelation, have driven to the
entire rejection of all revealed religion as fa-
bulous and false, well indeed may we adopt
Ihe words of our Lord's pathetic ejaculation,
and exclaim, " where shall we find Faith on
" the earth ?"J!

The parable of the ten pounds, recorded in
the succeeding chapter, is said to have been
delivered expressly to teach his disciples,
(who, notwithstanding his having repeatedly
foretold them of his death, with all the parti-
cular circumstances attending it, still per-
suaded themselves that he would immediately
assume the sovereignty of the predicted king-
dom of God) that he must first go into a re-
gion far from the limits of the earthly globe,
to receive from the supreme Majesty of Hea-
ven, the earthly kingdom promised him, and
was not to lake possession of it till his return ;
hut that then he will cause all his enemies to
be destroyed, who refuse to acknowledge his
authority, and will reward those faithful ser-
vants, who, waiting patiently, in full confi-
dence of his actually returning again, invest-
ed with supreme power and glory, have made


the best improvement they could of those mo-
nil instructions with which he hath furnished

W hen -our Lord spoke that parable, he had
passed through Jericho and was journeying
towards Jerusalem ; and when he came within
view of the city, the historian informs us, he
could not refrain from weeping over it, at the
contemplation of those calamities, which, as
a prophet, he foresaw, and 'so repeatedly de-
nounced against it ; saying, "if thou hadst
"known, even thou, at least in this thy day,
" the things which belong to thy peace! but
" now they are hid from thine eyes. For the
" days shall come upon thee, that thine ene-
" mies shall cast a trench about thee, and
" compass thee round and keep thee in on
" every side, and shall lay thee even with the
'- ground, and thy children within thee: and
" they shall not leave in thee, one stone upon
" another: because thou knewest not the time
" of thy visitation." In the 21st chapter,
this last circumstance is again repeated : and
both that and the entire circumvallation of
Jerusalem, two things, quite unusual with the
Romans in their sieges, were literally accom-
plished by them, in the case of that unhappy
city. Nay, the whole prediction of the de-


struction of Jerusalem, expressly limited to
the experience of that generation of the Jews,
as it is recorded by Luke, contains so many
singular, extraordinary circumstances, pre-
ceding ,and attending that siege, not men-
tioned by Moses, nor any of the old prophets,
though some shocking circumstances pre-
dicted by them, are (no doubt, for that very
reason) omitted by our Saviour, which, who-
ever has read the history of that fatal period,
knows to have exactly come to pass, that the
Jews themselves have no way of eluding such
an incontestable testimony of his divine mis-
sion, according to the criterion laid down for
them by Moses,, but by refusing to admit the
authenticity of this evangelical history, saying,
that no satisfactory proof is given them, that
the history itself was not written, after the
event had taken place : but that Luke's his-
tory was not so written, is evidenced by every
circumstance, that can combine to prove the

From the age of the Apostles to the present
time, professed Christians have received, and
transmitted down, this history and the Acts of
the Apostles, as written by Luke, an early
convert to. Christianity, and the friend and
.companion of Paul; and in the second of


these histories, we, accordingly, find the
author describing the travels of Paul, as being
himself a partaker of them, and speaking,
casually, in so circumstantial a manner, of
times, places, and persons, as is scarcely pos-
sible for any writer to do, who was not living
at the time of the transactions which he re-
cords. This second history? relates the situa-
tion of the primitive Christian Church, as low
as about the fourth year of the emperor Nero,
and no lower; and as the author wrote both
his histories, avowedly for the use and perfect
information of a friend, amongst the converts
to the religion of Jesus, if he had written his
latter history, after the reign of that emperor,
he must have mentioned many later occur-
rences; particularly the unmerited, cruel
treatment of the Christians, at Rome, on ac-
count of that conflagration, of which, every
body was convinced, Nero himself was the
real incendiary. So little ground is there,
therefore, to imagine that even the Acts was
written, after the siege and destruction of Je-
rusalem, and the dispersion of the Jews, that
there is not the least reason to believe, the au-
thor was living after those events; and, to
suppose that book to have been written later
than the fourth or fifth year of Nero, is to con-


clud6 directly contrary to every degree of ra*
lional probability: yet in. that work, he refers
his friend Theophiius, to his history of the
public ministry of Jesus, which contains this
wonderful prediction, as to a. work already in
his possession. But there appears, one par-
ticular purpose of that prophecy, which it
would not only have been useless, but absurd,
to have penned after the event; especially
since the accomplishment of that purpose, is
no where expressly recorded, and is disco-
verable only, by fair inference, from the very
silence of the historians of that siege. I mean,
that it was intended as a timely warning to our
Lord's disciples, amongst the Jews, to preserve
them from sharing in the dreadful evils, so
soon to befall their country. To. this end, the
prediction, as far as it relates to circum-
stances, previous to the siege, is not expressed
in the usual, figurative language of prophecy |
but, in the plainest and most literal terms,
they are warned against the pretended Mes-
siahs, whom artful imposture or visionary en-
thusiasm should produce; are bidden not to
be too much alarmed at those wars and com-
motions, which would, for some years, pre-
cede the final destruction he was predicting;
but that, as soon as they should see Jerusalem


itself invested with armed forces, they should
hasten to quit both the metropolis, and coun-
try of Judea; for that then, they might be
certain the time was come, when the predicted
vengeance would be inevitably inflicted oa
that people; and since no historian mentions
any of the Jewish Christians, as involved in
the cruel fate of that dreadful calamity,
though Josephus repeatedly enumerates all
the other sects, and parties, amongst them, <it
that critical time, we must conclude, that the
Christians, of whom Luke informs us there
had always been a considerable church, at
Jerusalem from the resurrection of Jesus, to
the reign of Nero, and which undoubtedly
subsisted still later, profiting by these timely
admonitions, and observing the prophetic to-
kens of their danger, by separating themselves
from their nation, and native country in time,
escaped the complicated distresses of the ge-
neral ruin. That this deliverance of his dis-
ciples, was one main purpose of the prophecy,
is still more evident from the reflections which
our Lord himself makes upon it, as a matter
of consolation to them, under the previous per-
secutions they were to suffer, from their Jewish
brethren, described v. 11 19, assuring them,
that when the tokens he has described, begai


to come to pass, they might then take comfort
and courage; for that their redemption, that is*
their deliverance from their most rancorous
and inveterate enemies, drew nigh, and that^
as they could judge, by the natural progress
of vegetation, when summer was nigh at hanci^
so likewise, when they should see these things
come to pass, they might be certain, that the
establishment of the new covenant of the
kingdom of God amongst men, would very
soon commence, in the signal destruction of
its first great opposers, and the consequent
entire abolition, of the old covenant of

But there remains unnoticed another cir-
cumstance of this prophecy, which could not
be written after the event, because it is at
this day fulfilling, and as surely as it is the*
dictates of divine truth, will continue to be
so for some time longer. " Jerusalem," says
the prophet, " shall be trodden down of the
" Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be
" fulfilled/' The meaning of this last ex-
pression no Jew can be at a loss to under-*
stand ; he knows that it always signifies, till
the measure of their iniquities is fu-ll y accord-
ing to the ordinary course of God's providen-
tial forbearance with mankind. Thus the


times of the Canaanites were not fulfilled till
400 years after God had promised Abraham,
that he \vould give their land to be an inheri-
tance to his posterity ; the times of the Jews
themselves were fulfilled 40 years after their
crucifixion of Jesus Christ: and, according
to the prophecies of the Gospel, the times of
the Gentiles will be fulfilled 1260 years after
the perfect establishment of the fabulous and
blasphemous superstition, ordained by the
Emperor Constantine, in those European
states, which compose what once was the
body of the Roman Empire. That Jerusa*
lem hath hitherto continued in the state here
described for full seventeen centuries, every
Jew can testify, who must so far bear testi-
mony, even against his will, to the truth of
this prediction ; and there is not the least ap-
parent probability, that its condition will be
altered, till the world shall see that grand re-
volution in human affairs take place, at the
period denominated, in all the Christian scrip-
tures, the coming of Jesus Christ, and the
establishment of the kingdom of God upon
the earth.

The parable of the vineyard and husband-
men also, in the twentieth chapter, is evi-
dently prophetic of . the same event, viz. thai



in return for their fathers' cruel treatment
of the old prophets, and for that death which
he knew awaited himself at their hands, God
would extirpate their nation from their native
land, and give it up to be possessed by other
people ; teaching them that he was the ob-
ject of the prophecy of David, contained in
the 118th Psalm, and, though rejected by
them, who ought to have been the willing
builders, would be made the head corner
stone of that new religious edifice, which the
Almighty had decreed, should be erected
amongst men ; and adding, according to the
constant tenor of his prophecies on the same
subject, " whosoever shall fall on that stone
" shall be broken, and on whomsoever it shall
" fall, it will grind him to powder/' that is,
will utterly destroy him.

The last prophecy of our blessed Saviour,
recorded in the Gospel according to Luke,
being, together with the history of its won-
derful accomplishment, within ten days after
the prediction, professedly written long after
the event, can, of itself, afford no satisfactory
evidence to us of his veracity, or divine autho-
rity, as a prophet ; but to his disciples, who
were the objects of it, it could not fail to yield
the fullest conviction of the truth and hea-


venly origin of that new religion, they were
commanded to preach to the world, at the
same time, that it peculiarly qualified them
for their commission ; I mean the promise of
their being baptised, according to the decla-
ration of God, by his prophet the Baptist,
with the holy inspiration and with fire ; for so
Luke himself explains it, in the first chap-
ter of the Acts, where the transactions of Je-
sus, from his resurrection to his ascension, are
related more particularly and at large. " Be-
" hold," says he, c. xxiv. v. 49, " I send the
" promise of my father upon you : but tarry
" ye in Jerusalem, until ye be endued with
" power from on high."

The candid reader is in treated to observe,
that, in the conversations between our Lord
and his disciples, previous to this prophetic
promise of the effusion of the holy inspira-
tion, wherein Luke informs us he pointed out
to them the completion of those predictions
in the Old Testament, which related person-
ally to himself and to the preaching the New
Covenant of the Gospel, it is particularly
insisted on, that its promulgation was des-
tined to begin at Jerusalem ; that, on the day
of his resurrection, he manifested himself to
Peter, at Jerusalem, and to the two disciples.


as they went to Emmaus ; and that, on the sub-
sequent evening, that is, according to the Jew-
ish computation of time, on the beginning of the
second day of the week, he appeared to all the
eleven apostles, and the hundred other disciples
who accompanied them, in the city of Jeru-
salem ; that he continued to instruct and con-
verse with them, in the same city and its
neighbourhood, for forty days after his resur-
rection, and, immediately before his miracu-
lous ascension, commanded them to tarry in
the city of Jerusalem till they received the
promised gift of supernatural inspiration ;
and that they accordingly did so, and conti-
nually frequented the temple, to offer their
praises and thanksgivings to Almighty God,
for all the wonders of which they had been
witnesses. The apostles, therefore, never
departed from Jerusalem, from the resurrec-
tion to the day of Pentecost.

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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 7 of 18)