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their vices and errors without unnecessarily inflaming their prejudices. The apostles, with Paul in the number, strictly conformed to this wise injunction of their Divine Master. Questions that came within the province of reason, they left to the progress of reason to determine. They neither disputed with the Heathen philosophers respecting the nature of God, of the human soul, or of a future state ; nor with the Pagan priests about the vanity and immoral tendency of their worship. On the contrary, by holding forth a few grand points, for the truth of which they had the evidence of their senses,
and which constituted the fundamental principles of the gospel, they sought to supersede the whole mass of Heathen superstition with as little violation as possible to the previous habits and prepossessions of its votaries,
The Disciples at first did not expect to be called upon to pub
lish Memoirs of their Divine Master.—Luke wrote his Gospel to set aside certain false Gospels circulated in Egypt.— The miraculous Birth of Jesus taught in those
Gospels and contradicted as false by Luke. THE disciples of Jesus had at first, it is probable, no idea of giving to the world memoirs of their Divine Master. For some time they cherished, in common with others, the fond hope of temporal dominion. When this dream was dissipated by the death of Christ, they looked forward for a while to his speedy return to restore Israel: and when this delusion also was at length rectified, they were so much occupied with the toils and dangers of preaching as to have little leisure for publishing a mere history to the world. But the propagation of error is often a means in the hand of providence for calling forth the truth. Thus the false doctrines and misrepresentations, circulated by mistaken friends or disguised enemies respecting the person and works of Christ, rendered it indispensable that some of the most competent among his followers should present to the several churches to which they belonged, authentic records calculated to regulate their faith and practice.
This was the state of things which called forth the Gospel of Luke, whose introduction is to this effect : “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to relate the things which have been accomplished among us, as they who from the beginning were eye-witnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, as having from the commencement accompanied all the particulars with close attention, to write to thee, most excellent Theophilus, that thou mightest know the certainty of those doctrines in which thou hast been instructed.”
This short preface is full of important matter. “Many, it seems, undertook to relate things little calculated to satisfy persons who wished to know the truth. Otherwise Luke had good reasons for determining not to write, as many of good authority had already written on the subject.
The Prophets predicted, the symbols of the Law presignified, several circumstances respecting Christ; which, when realized in his advent, were properly said to have been accomplished_accomplished in the midst of us. By us, is meant the whole body of the Jewish believers, and the word stands opposed to the “many' who undertook to compose narratives of Christ that were unworthy of credit. Luke appears to have written his Gospel in Egypt; and the deceivers here alluded to, were, it seems probable, the authors of the celebrated Egyptian and other spurious Gospels, which were extant in an early period of the Apostolic age. When Luke says that the things which he relates respecting Christ were accomplished in the midst of us, he intimates, and that not obscurely, that he was himself a spectator of them; and this he positively asserts in the clause that follows : “ It seemed good to me also to write, as having from the commencement accompanied all the particulars axgibws, accurately, or with minute attention.'” For the verb tapaxonou@cc * means, to attend close behind or at the side : and it is observable that it is not the present participle, or the future, that is here used, as if the author meant that he was about, when going to write, to follow the train of events which had been delivered to him by eye-witnesses,--but the past participle, intimating that he had already accompanied the particulars which he was going to record ; and his reason for the determination was the circumstance that he had so accompanied them during their accomplishnient t.
Another circumstance of great importance recognised in this preface is, that the Apostles, here called " eyewitnesses and ministers of the word,” had delivered
* See Jones's Greek and English Lexicon, under this verb. Theophrastus, when going to write his characters, invites his friend Polycles to accompany him, and examine if his descriptions were just. The verb he uses is the same as that bere used by Luke. Timothy attended the preaching of Paul, and this attendance is expressed by the same verb, 1 Tim. iv. 6.
+ “Luke,” says Michaelis, Part I. vol, iii. p. 231. was neither an apostle nor an eye-witness to the facts which he has recorded in his Gospel." The bishop of Landaff repeats the same gross mistake in his Answer to Paine. “ You ought to have known that Luke tells you himself in the preface to his Gospel, that he wrote from the testimony of others. This mistake originated with Irenæus, and learned men have adopted it as true, without due examination.” See Lard. vol. vi. p. 125. The cause of this mistake lies in the phrase radws Tagsdorur spīv, as they have delivered them to us, taking sure to mean me ; whereas it means, as is evident from the preceding verse, the whole of the Jewish believers, of whom Luke was one. This Evan: gelist inculcates these two things, namely, that he accompanied all the transactions recorded by him, and that he moreover heard those transactions afterwards related by the Apostles.
in their discourses to those whom they converted to Christianity, the works and sayings of Christ, before Luke had penned his Gospel. It is remarkable that learned men have, as it were, agreed to misinterpret this paragraph greatly to the disadvantage of their cause, as they suppose us, in the second verse, to mean Luke himself, whereas it means, as in the preceding verse, the whole body of believers of whom Luke was one, in contradistinction to suoi, me, in the next verse. Hence it was erroneously concluded, that this Evangelist had not been himself a spectator of the transactions which he records, having only received an account of them from others. This is an important concession, of which the enemies of Christianity readily availed themselves.
The author of the New Trial of the Witnesses asserts, on the authority of a passage from Locke, that Luke's testimony is not worthy of credit, because his record is only a copy of another record, having not been himself an eye-witness of its contents. This assertion, however, is utterly groundless : for the Evangelist positively declares that he had attended with close inspection, the things related by him; and he confirms this narrative by the authority of those who, like himself, were eye-witnesses of the word, and who delivered the same to their converts, in the number of whom he was himself a hearer. The style and manner of Luke's Gospel are in unison with his assertion; many parts bearing evident marks that he had been present on the occasion. Nor could he, without the consciousness of his competence in this respect, call upon Theophilus to put full reliance on the truth of his narrative, to the rejection of those, who, because they had not been eye-withesses of what they published, were not worthy of credit.
The “many” to whom the Evangelist alludes, were, as we shall presently see, “ wolves in sheep's clothing," enemies of the gospel in the garb of friendship. They taught that Jesus was not the son of Joseph ; and, imputing to him a supernatural birth, sent him to be educated in Egypt, with no other end than to be able to account for his miracles on the principles of magic. It is not to be supposed that Luke, having in view such deceivers as these, would not take proper means to set aside their falsehoods; and we find that he has supplied facts calculated to do this in the most effectual manner. For he states the time from which the narrative is to commence from the beginning, from the time in which Jesus began to preach, and in which the eye-witnesses and ministers of the word were called to be his disciples, see John xv. 27-from the first, avwbev, literally from above, that is, from the time when he was announced as the Son of God by a voice from heaven. This refer. ence to men who pretended to give a more early account of their divine master, is still more pointedly made in the Acts, a book known to have been written by this Evangelist. “It is fit, therefore, that of those who accompanied us during the whole time in which the Lord Jesus sojourned with us, having begun with the baptism of John, and continued so to do till the day in which he was taken up from us; one of these should with us become a witness of his resurrection." Two assertions are here implied, namely, that Jesus began with the baptism of John; that he appeared as the Messiah then, and not till then ; that no intimation had been given of him, till he was so announced at his baptism. The second assertion is, that none of the twelve Apostles bore any testimony to Jesus, or gave any information of him, before his baptism. This assurance is given to us by Luke himself: and hence we have his authority for saying that the first two chapters now found in his Gospel, never came from his hands, but are a forgery ascribed to him in after days.