Orville Dewey.

Anniversary address before the American Unitarian Association online

. (page 7 of 18)
Online LibraryOrville DeweyAnniversary address before the American Unitarian Association → online text (page 7 of 18)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


That Mark was writing, for the benefit of other than Jew-
ish readers must be obvious from this example alone. But
there is another remark to be made in respect to the forego-
ing, (quotation* So much of mere comment and explanatioA

Digitized by VjOOQIC


from the writer is nowhere else to be ibuod in the Gospels.
This single fact is a proof how little these writers ever speak
in dieir own names. They always retire behind the facts
they record, anxious that you should look at these alone. It
is this circumstance which makes this long comment of Mark
noticeable ; and at first we may wonder why he should hfive
put it forward. But when we read on fi little farther, what
do we find ^ That Mark immediately gives the long sermon
of Christ, in which he shows that there is but one thing that
can truly defile a man, namely, his own evil heart. A mo*
ment's study of the passage leads us to see that the whole
force of this sermon depends upon a knowledge of this Jew*
ieih custom, which was the text and explanation of the db-
course. The Saviour^s doctrine would not have been com*
prehended, if the contrast which he draws between ceremo-
nial washing and inward purity had not been preserved.
This instance, requiring him to step so far aside from his
iisual way of narration, is a striking one of Mark^s great
care to adapt his Gospel to the comprehension of those for
whose benefit it was composed.

We see the sao^e care, also, in the selection of the mi^te-
riajs for his Gospel. Mark, doubtless, bad knowledge,
through the Apostle Peter, of all t)ie important events in the
Ufe of Christ. But many facets which we find in Matthew
are wholly omitted in Mark. The reason is, he knew they
would be of less consequence to his readers at Rome. Of
Ais character were the genealogy of Christ, notices of hi?
parents, the time and circumstances of his birth, of the ve^ry
place of which — the little town of Bethlehem — probably
the most of these at Rome had never heard. All th^se par-
ticulars Mark properly passes by. For the same reason is
another fact, before noticed, that Mark gives us in a few
words the discourses against the Scribes and Pharisees.

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


There is one other observation respecting Mark's Gospel,
which suggests a peculiarly interesting light in which to sur-
vey it. If it was composed of materials furnished to Mark
by Peter, we shall naturally expect to find Peter in it, that is
to say, traces of his independent knowledge and of his pecu-
liar character.

Such traces are found. We shall be able to notice only
a few of the many particulars upon which the testimony of
Peter in this Gospel throws a new and important light. The
conduct of our Saviour, when he was told that his mother
and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him,
appears singular and unnatural in Matthew's account of it.
Matt xii. 48. The Saviour gave no attention to their re-
quest, and does not appear to have noticed them. In Mark,
a circumstance unrecorded by the other writers is added,
which explains and justifies the course which Jesus took.
We are here told, that " his kinsmen went out to lay hold on
him ; for they said. He is beside himself." Mark iii. 21.
Jesus, therefore, knew what they wanted of him, and would
not permit their false view to interrupt him.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record, that, as Jesus was
going to be crucified, the soldiers compelled one Simon, a
Cyrenean, to bear the cross. In Mark's Gospel alone we
read that this Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus.
Mark xv. 21. Why should Mart have added this fact ^
Because, as we incidentally learn from the Epistle to the
^Romans, Rufus was then living in Rome. Romans xvi. 13.
That the Saviour's cross was borne by the father of one then
living in that city was a fact interesting to Mark's readers,
and to his alone. It is probable that Peter, in narrating the
crucifixion of his Master to his Roman hearers, often referred .
to this Rufus, then living among them, as one who could
testify that his own father was a mtness and an unwilling

Digitized by VjOOQIC


abetter of that awful scene. A man, poQsoious that every
word he uttered could be coBfirmed, would naturally make
such an appeal as this to a present witness ; and here is an
instance of a coincidence between the Gospels and the Epis-
ties, which myst have beeo undesigned, and which, as we
should acknowledge weje we legally ei^mining these docu-
ments, casts a convincing light on the question of their

We find, also, in this Gospel, traces of Peter's peculiar
character. This Appstle was one of the most distinguished
companions of Christ, who was at times both conmiended
and severely reproved by his Master. In giving an account
to Blark of the life and words of Jesus, Peter must often
^)eak of himself, and a man will betray his character by the
manner in which he does this. What accounts, then, of
Peter do we find in this Gospel of Mark ? Precisely the
same accounts 4hat we find in the Gospels of Matthew and
Luke. It is the same Peter in all ; ^he same bold, over-con-
fident, impulsive, denying, yet quickly repentant and deeply
afiectionate di^ciple. The ^ts stand in all their bald sim-
plicity in this Gospel, just as they stand in the others. Peter
puts in not one word of explanation, not one whisper of
apology or palliation. In relation to that event which was
so full of unmitigated grief and remorse, the denial of his Mas-
ter, it is Peter's own account of it that makes us most deeply
feel its folly and its guilt. The circumstances that preceded
it, the prediction of Jesus that Peter would forsake him, and
the solemn assurance of the Apostle that he would not, are
related with more distinctness and impressiveness in Mark's
Gospel than in either of the others. The reason how na^ur
ml ! Those were words which sunk depp iptp Peter's heart,
which he never forgot, ai?4. which, though they tpld such an
(wful tale against him, it was not for h,im to suppre^

VOL. XXII. — NO. 254. 5


by Google


Grenerous and devoted disciple ! With all the weaknesses
and sins into which he was betrayed, who of us does not love
him ? How can we lay up any thing against any human
being, however erring and sinful, who, only by a look of
reproval, is made to go out and weep bitterly ?

While, then, Peter keeps not back an account of that bit-
ter rebuke, does it appear that he was equally forward to
make mention of the praise which he received from his
Master's lips ? Here, too, we have an indication of charac-
ter both beautiful and delicate. You remember those em-
phatic words of Jesus, pronouncing Peter blessed, declaring
him to be the rock of the church, and to possess the keys
of heaven. You remember it was supposed that these words
conferred some preeminence upon Peter, and that therefore
they created offence in the little band of equal disciples.
You will find these words in the Gospel of Matthew. Matt,
xvi. 17 - 19. They are not found in the Gospel of Mark.
The occasion on which they were uttered is named, and
other conversation which was then held is narrated. Mark
viii. 27 - 29. The words of praise are not repeated ; and
yet could Peter have forgotten them ?

Thus, in reading our four Gospel histories, there is hardly
any thing with which we may be more deeply impressed,
than with the fact ths^t their writers must have been them-
selves influenced by the doctrines which they taught. These
doctrines, the veriest infidel allows, are adapted to make
men love honesty, sincerity, and truth. So far, then, as we
see that they had effect upon those who taught them, so far
must we also see the moral impossibility that these men
could all the while be engaged in a dark work of forgeries
and lies. Who is credulous enough to believe that ? By
all that their^ Master taught them they were made humble,
forgetful of themselves, indifferent to the world's favor or

Digitized by VjOOQIC


reproach, in love only with the truth ; they were holy men,

and could not speak otherwise than as they were moved hy
the spirit of sincerity and truth*



These are hut few, and for the most part unsatisfactory.
The author of two important hooks, the Gospel and the Acts
of the Apostles, Luke had the self-forgetfulness so character-
istic of the first disciples, who did not deem any thing relat-
ing to their own history worthy the slightest notice in con-
nection with Him whose life and words they were called to
record. Luke has never, in either of his histories, mentioned
himself hy name. In giving an account of PauPs labors and
travels, whose companion and assistant Luke was, he yet
says no more of the part which he acted than such expres-
sions as these imply : — " «« journeyed," " toe sailed," " we
abode." Paul, in his epistles, makes occasional allusion to
Luke by name, and from these sources, and from what we
learn from credible historians, almost contemporaneous, we
gather the materials for the following sketch.

He was bom in Antioch, about fifteen years before the
birth of Christ. Of the converts made to the new religion in
the age of the Apostles, he was the oldest of whom we have
any account. Antioch was at this time one of the most
celebrated cities of the East, the capital of Syria, and the
residence of the Roman governors. Here all religions were
tolerated, and the population was composed of Greeks, Ro-

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


ittans, Macedonians, and Jews. Luke was born, it is prob*
able^ of Gentile parents. Paul, in his Epistle to the Colos-
sians (iv. 14), implies that he was not of the circumcision,
as he gives his name after the names of those whose Jewish
descent is expressly affirmed. See Col. ii^. 7-11. He
doubtless received a Gentile education, and was trained up
to the profession of a physician. He was, therefore, a man
of some learning. Those who followed this profession re-
ceived more instruction than nlost men, both in their partic-
ular art and in general literature. They obtained, besides,
that practical knowledge which may be acquired by an ex-
tensive intercourse with society. These qualifications were
not of a low order, it is likely, in a city so learned as thdt
of Luke's birthplace, where the Greek language in its purity
had long prevailed, and letters had long been cultivated, and
where people of the first distinction resided. At what time
Luke was made a convert to the Jewish religion is not
knowii. ft is probable he became such early in life, as
throughout his Gospel and the Acts he shows the utmost
familiarity with its doctrines and ceremonies, with the Ian*
gdage of its saci*ed bodes, and with places and customs of

Here, then, at Antioch, Luke lived, as is stippbsed. Until
he was about fifty years of age, dischafging the duties of
his profession, and enjoying his religioii ad a proselyte Jew.
Meantime all the events had been transpiHng, in th6 neigh-
bouring prbvince of Judea, of which we read in the Grospels,
-^— the birth of the Saviour, his baptism, his ministry, his
wonderful work^, his arrest, trial, drucifixioA, resurrection,
and ascension ; and how worthy of our notice is it that God
should now raise Up, in this enlightened city of AntiOch,
another historian of all these facts, in the person of such a
mail as Lukfe,-^a man of age and attainments, whose char-
acter was well formed and was probably well known !

Digitized by VjOOQIC


Of the time and manner in which Luke first became ac-
quainted with the Grospel, we have not been informed. We
know clearly only what he has told us in the preface to his
Gospel, that he was not an eyewitness of the events of the
Saviour^s life, but obtained a knowledge of them from those
who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word ; and also
what we learn from the Acts, that, soon after PauPs con-
version, Luke joined that Apostle, as his companion and
assiErtant It seems probable that Luke was converted to
the Christian faith on the day of Pentecost This was an
oocasion, when, as a Jewish believer, he would naturally be
present at Jerusalem ; and wliat more probable than that he
-Wfs one of the great number of devout persons, out of every
nation, who had then come together in that city ? Here,
convinced by the miracles which on that day converted three
thousand to the Christian faith, he made this the subject of
his careful inquiry, and availed himself of all opportunities
to hear the preachers of the new religion. During the
years they spent in Jerusalem, Luke lived with them, as we
have reason to conclude, and took part himself in their work
of repeating to others the story of the life and words of
Christ. Thus we see the sources of his information, and
how his narrative also became influenced by the style of the
Apostle^s oral accoimts.

We now pass several years down the course of events.
The Apostles had fulfilled their ministry in Jerusalem, ac-
cording to His word who told them to tarry for a time in
that city, their number had been greatly enlarged, and that
bold and able advocate, Paul of Tarsus, had been raised up
lo their cause. The mart3nrdom of Stephen and the im-
prisonment of Peter were soon followed by days of perse-
cution, that separated the Apostles and early preachers from
one another, and sent them everywhere abroad as mission-

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


aries of the hew ftiith. In this dispersion Paul went to An-
tioch, to which place Luke had before repaired. Here the
acquaintance between the Apostle and Evangelist probably
commenced. Here Paul established a churchy of which
Luke was, doubtless, a pi'ominent memben It was in this
city, also, and at this time, that the disciples Were first called
Christians. Adts xi. 26.

Not long after this, we find that Luke hais detetmined to
devote himself to th^ Work of Spreading a knowledge of
these glad tidings abroad in the world. What the young
disciple Mark did when he connected himself with Peter,
what Matthisw the publican did when the Saviour met him
at the receipt of custom, this the older and more experi-
enced Liike now does, -— he leaves all to follow the call of
Christ. So strong was the sense of duty in the hearts of
these iiien ! They broke away from every attachment of
kindred and (iouiitrjr and habit and home, that they might
everywhere bear witness to what they knew was for the
healing and salvation of the worlds Itx the case of Luke,
this is particularly remarkable. He had now reached a
period in life when meti oftener think of retiring from its
cares, than of turning their feet to a new and perilous pur-*
suit. Tlie fervors of youth had passed away* and all his
tastes and attachments must have confined him, ki his de-
clining years, to the city where he Was born, and where for
so long a time he had followed the duties of his profession.
But All these he now overcdmes^ And joins himself, as a
companion and fellow-laborer^ to the Apostle Paul.

We have before seen how iaatural it was that Peter and
Mtirk should unite together in their labors as missionaries
and preachers of the word. They both sprang from the
i3&me humble station in life, they had for a long time been
previously acquainted with one another, they had sustained

Digitized by VjOOQ IC

9i TUB GOSP£t NAR&ATlTtB. 55

to edcb other the relation of teacher and pupil. Equally
natural was it that two such men as Paul and Luke should
unite together as companions and fellow-laborers. The
former was brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, and Was
learned in the wisdom of the ancients, and in the sacred
books of the Jews ; the latter, likewise, from education, pro*
fession, and the intercourse of his whole lifb with intelligent
society, was a man of considerable attainments, accustomed
to close examination and careAil thought. Among all the
early converts to the new religion, we know of no other one
like these two men. HoW natural, then, that they should
labor together, to bear one another's burdens and to help one
another's joys !

Luke was with. Paul, more or less, for many years. The
account of their journeys, preachings, and many trials, he
has recorded in the book of the Acts. It is evidence of the
great minuteness and exactness with which he has done this,
that, with a common ancient map before us, we can trace
the course of their voyages, see the islands at which they
touched, and the places where they preached. In all these
pefUs and labors, what particular part Luke himself bore we
can only conjecture. It is noticeable that Paul does hot call
Luke his minister, as he did Mark. Luke was a fellow-
laborer, an equal, the beloved physician,-^ one on whose
wisdom and experience Paul leaned for support. Paul was
younger, more active, a more gifted, and a more remarkable
man^ whose education, habits, wonderful conversion, and
bold temperament qualified him to be prominent in action
smd address. Such he appears throughout the narrative ; it
k of what Paul said, and did, and snfiered, that Luke chiefly
speaks. Luke himself was declining in years, from the
habits of his profession he was unused to public harangues,
Und although in his modesty he has hardly said a word of

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


himself, we know at least this much, that he minutely oh*
served and carefully recorded every thing that came under
his notice, that he was Paul's judicious, confidential coun-
sellor, and steady and supporting friend.

With the imprisonment of Paul at Rome, the history in
the hook of Acts concludes. Here, also, terminate Luke's
incidental notices of his own life. The most credible ac-
count which has been handed down of the remaining part
of the life of this Evangelist leads us to conclude that he
soon left Rome and settled in Greece. It is said that he
here wrote his Grospel and the Acts, and soon after died, at
the venerable age of eighty-four.



From these brief notices of the Ufe of Luke, we are now
to turn to the Gospel which bears his name. We are struck
at once with the manner in which he begins his narrative, it
is so difierent from that of the other Evangelists. Accord-
ing to the taste of the Greeks and Romans, which he doubt-
less acquired in his Gentile education, he opens his history
with a preface, from which we learn his intentions in writ-
ing, the sources of his knowledge, and the name of the per-
son for whose benefit the work was undertaken. It is a
long, carefully written, and well-balanced sentence, of pure
and well-chosen words. How would it have sounded, had it
been placed at the beginning of the narrative of Matthew or
of Mark ! Neither of them appears to have given a thought

Digitized by VjOOQIC


to the selection of language, or to have ciired any thing tot
style. Luke^s prefaee is appix^ate to no pktce hot to that
wh^re it is. Hete it is in perfeet keeping with the man.
- The title " most excellent " was bestowed upon those who
held offices of considerable importance under the Roman
emperors, such offices as superintendents of sacred edifices,
overseers of public revenue, deputy governors in the prov*-
ifices ; and as Luke gives geographical noticed of places not
in the neighbourhood of Greece, it is probaUe that Theophi«
las resided in that country, and was some distinguished man
converted and instructed by Luke, when he went there ta
spend the few last yean of his old age. The following are
references, in Luke^s Gospel, to descriptions which would
have been unnecessary had he been writing to one well ac-
<luainted with Jlidea: L 26; iv. 31; viii. 26; xxiii. 51;
X}dv. 13. So, too, in the Acts, we find that places in Judea
and in Asia Minor are named as if they were less kno^im
than those in Greece and those between Greece and Rome,
with which a public officer of Greece would imturally be
Acquainted. These facts sufficiently indicate the residence
of TheopMlus.

One other thing in this preface deserves our notice, as it
throws light upon the state of feeling whichv Uien exbted in
regaird to the Christiaii religion. Luke menticms, as one rea*
ten why he wrote his Gospel, that many had taken in hand
to give account of the Saviour^s lifb and words. Had these
accoimts been entirely trustworthy and satisfactory, hi^ OWn
labor would have been unnecessary. No doubt these we^
brief and contradictory relations. Of course, he does not
refer to the Gk)spels of Matthew, Mark, and John. He would
not so allude to the narratives of three writerar, two of whom
had better opportunities of information than himself, while;
the other Md opportunities equally to good< Besides thisi

Digitized by VjOOQ IC


JoWs Gospel was not at this time written, while the Gospels
of Matthew and Mark, if then composed, of which there is
much reason to douht, were published in countries remote
from Greece, and were not then, it is probable, familiarly

, There were, then, other, but imperfect, accounts of Christ's
life and words, known in Greece before Luke prepared his
Crospel. How natural that such accounts should have ex-
isted ! Thirty years had elapsed since the events of the
Saviour's life transpired in Judea. A knowledge of them
must have been carried to all parts of the world by Jews and
others. What could have been more natural than that brief,
incorrect, and contradictory accounts of events so wonderful
should have been frequently committed to writing, and that
they should awaken much curiifeity, and should be sought
after by persons of various descriptions ? The fact named
by Luke is of much importance, as it shows that the Chris*
tian religion attracted the attention <^ mankind at the very
time when its pretensions could be easily exposed if they
were false. Our Gospels were not presented to the world
at a time when an absolutely dead indifference prevailed as
to their contents. They had acquired ho sanction of age,
nor had opportunities to test their authenticity passed by,
before their merits were discussed. On the contrary, at the
very time they were written, men were asking what might
be depended upon for truth. They were composed and
published for this very purpose, to distinguish and preserve
what was certain and worthy of reliance. And time, that
trieth all things, has consigned to oblivion those accounts of
the many^ to which the occurrence of marvellous events
always gives birth, and which were doubtless written in
haste and from mere rumor, while it has safely handed
down to us the carefully written narratives of those who

Digitized by VjOOQIC


embalmed their words in the ever-living spirit of deep sin-
cerity and truth.

Of Luke's Grospel as a book, the most striking peculiarity
is the great research which it betrays, and the surprising
care, precision, and fulness of detail with which it is written.
Luke tells us that he had accurately informed himself of all
things from the beginning (L 3); and that he had taken
great pains to do this is evident throughout Indeed, Luke
t^pears to have been a man who heartily loved dates, and
names, and a statement of facts. A trait of character like
diis rarely belongs to such men as Matthew and Mark ; but
how very natural to find it in the old age of a man who had
long followed that profession which, more than any other,
creates habits of observing and recording facts ! A quo-
tation of a verse or two from his Gospel will illustrate this
trait of his character. It is found at the beginning of the
third chapter. " Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of
Tiberius Csesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and
Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip
being tetrarch of Iturea and of the region of Trachonitis,
and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caia-
phas being the high-priests, the word of God came unto
John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.'' Could any
man take greater pains to insure precision and fix a date ?
He wishes to settle the precise time when a certain man
began to preach ; he tells his name, the name of his father,'
the neighbourhood where he first appeared, who were high-'
' priests at the time, the name of the offices and of the officers
of the three highest civil stations in the country, the name of

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Online LibraryOrville DeweyAnniversary address before the American Unitarian Association → online text (page 7 of 18)