« PrécédentContinuer »
him not fully warranted by these passages. While he has made it a rule to notice, in some degree, almost every thing contained in the verses under consideration, he has, nevertheless, often selected prominent points, to be expatiated on and pressed, at considerable length. The practical improvement has sometimes been introduced in going along, and sometimes reserved till the conclusion, according as the one arrangement or the other appeared to him the more advisable. Such, at least, was the plan he proposed to himself, however much he may have failed in its execution. The work has extended to a greater length than, in one view, may be thought desirable; and yet, every such work must be but flimsy, unless reasonable space be allowed; and it seemed impracticable to go through the whole Gospel according to Luke, in the full, and what may be called the Scottish, style of lecturing, in much shorter compass.
Conscious that much imperfection adheres to his work, notwithstanding his having bestowed on it all the care which his other engagements permit; he yet hopes for the kind indulgence of those who are capable of judging of the difficulties attending an undertaking of such a nature, and of so great an extent. At the same time, however conscious he is of his own insufficiency, he has no hesitation in asserting the paramount importance of the facts, and doctrines, and precepts, which he has endeavoured to illustrate and apply, in thus tracing the history of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. He humbly trusts, that his gracious Master will accept of this attempt to show forth the honour of his name, and to recommend the riches of his grace; and it is his earnest prayer that the Holy Spirit may so far bless the work as to render it, in some degree, instrumental in leading thoughtless persons to attend to the things which belong to their peace, and in “building up believers in holiness and comfort, through faith unto salvation.”
ABERDEEN, August, 1838.
THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE.
LUKE I. 1-4.
"Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration of those things which are most surely believed among us, 2. Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eye-witnesses, and ministers of the word; 3. It seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write unto thee in order, most excellent Theophilus, 4. That thou mightest know the certainty of those things, wherein thou hast been instructed.
WITH what a treasure has God intrusted us, in putting into our hands the Holy Scriptures! "They have God," says one, "for their author, salvation for their end, and truth without any mixture of error for their contents." Apart from what is their most important purpose, where are there to be found histories so curious, delineations of customs so graphical, or compositions so poetical, so beautiful, and so sublime? Surely the man of literature, taste, and general information, should be ashamed to be ignorant of these writings; and the plain man, of ordinary curiosity, can nowhere else expect such gratification. But they come to us possessed of far higher claims on our regard: they come to us as a communication from the living God, to instruct us what we are, and whither we are tending; they come to show us how we may be delivered from condemnation and ruin, and entitled and prepared to enter on eternal life. It is in them that, "through the tender mercy of our God, the day-spring from on high hath visited us, to give us light, when we are sitting in darkness, and in the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace." How deeply, then, does it concern us to whom they are addressed, and of
whom an account of our reception of them will be required, under the promise of life, or under the penalty of death, how deeply does it concern us, to take heed to their contents, and to submit ourselves to their guidance!
The whole Inspired Writings now most commonly go under the name of the Bible; that is, the Book. They constitute the Book, by way of eminence, the Book of books, the best of books. He who is ignorant of this book, whatever other books he may be familiar with, will find at last that he is ignorant indeed: but he who rightly knows this book, however unlearned he may be in other respects, will find that nothing farther is necessary to his safety and happiness. There are vast multitudes of books in the world, and many of them are useful in their own way; but this is the book which God has promised to bless for our spiritual good; and it is only in so far as other books are imbued with its spirit, and lead men to consult its pages, that they can be of any use to our souls. Luther declared that he should wish all his books to be burned, if he could know that they would have any effect in keeping men from reading the Scriptures.
This book consists of a great number of separate, and, in one sense independent, but harmonious and mutually illustrative writings, composed at very distant periods, and collected and bound up together. It is divided into two great parts-the Old and the New Testaments. Some are for confining the meaning of the word Testament to that of a covenant, or contract, or agreement, between two parties; and others incline rather to the sense of a latter will. The original word is of more extensive meaning than either covenant or latter will, and, literally rendered, signifies a dispositionthat is, a conveyance; and this, in the affairs of common life, is usually done by a contract or will, or some solemn deed or transaction.
The New Testament, or the division of these writings which contains the new form of this conveyance of spiritual blessings, is naturally divided into the four Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles, and the Revelation-the word "Gospel," signifying good news, or the glad tidings of salvation; the four Gospels are four distinct accounts of these good news, drawn up in the form, chiefly, of a history of Jesus Christ, by whom alone it is that the blessings reported and offered in the Gospel have been procured. The writers of these four histories are commonly called the four Evangelists: not, however, in the exact sense in which the
word is used when it is joined, in Eph. iv. 11, with apostles, prophets, pastors, and teachers, and when it is applied to such men as Philip and Timothy; but, in order to designate these writers as evangelical historians. Of these four, two were apostles, namely, Matthew and John; and the other two, Mark and Luke, were distinguished disciples. The nature and the degree of the correspondence between these four historians furnish a strong proof of the credibility of them all. Mark, indeed, has been supposed by some to abridge from Matthew; but the other three, at least, are quite original historians. The whole take notice of most of the leading events of our Lord's life, presenting, generally speaking, an obviously harmonious account, but containing, in a few instances, some apparent discrepancies, which a little attention reconciles, and which, if the evangelists had had any design of imposing a forgery on the world, they would have taken care to avoid. Should it be asked why so many accounts of the same transactions have been handed down to us?—it is obvious to reply, that while each contains many circumstances nowhere else recorded, the whole united, present the substance of the history in a very commanding way, according to the ordinary rule of evidence, that" at the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word shall be established." Were two out of the four Gospels to be selected for lecturing, which should give the most comprehensive view, and yet have the least interference, or repetition, they must be either those of Matthew and John, or those of Luke and John. With the view, if spared, of proceeding in order, through the Gospel according to Luke, the first four verses now read will furnish us with ground for some introductory observations. Here we shall consider, in reference to this Gospel, its author, its divine authority, the time at which it was written, its language, the person to whom it was dedicated, and some of its peculiar advantages: after which we shall again read over these verses, in order to notice what may not have been included under any of these heads.
1. The author of this Gospel has been universally acknowledged to be Luke. As Providence gave him an opportunity of being much in the society of the Apostle Paul, there can be no doubt that he profited greatly by it in general, and may even have consulted with him as to the writing of this book; it appears, however, to be altogether an extreme, to attribute much in this respect to that apostle,
and still more to represent him in any sense as the author of it. There are some circumstances with regard to Luke's history which are ascertained; and there are others which it might be desirable to know, but which are either altogether hidden, or uncertain, and on which, therefore, discussions which could not be brought to any satisfactory conclusion, would be here quite out of place. There is a tradition that Luke was born at Antioch in Syria; but it is not agreed whether he was by birth a heathen or a Jew. Nor can anything be affirmed, with certainty, with respect to his early history, or conversion to Christianity. We read nothing of him till he is mentioned among the companions of the apostle Paul. From the 16th chapter, to the end of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke repeatedly writes in the first person plural, using the word we; which shows that he was the companion of the apostle Paul in many of his journeys and in his voyage to Rome. Luke is believed by some to have been one of the seventy, whom our Lord sent out, two and two; but this is questioned by others.
We are informed by the apostle Paul, in the 4th chapter to the Colossians, 14th verse, that Luke was a physician. He is there styled "Luke, the beloved physician." He had endeared himself, we may believe, to the apostle and others, both by his exertions in the cause of the gospel, and by the affectionate exercise of his medical skill. Irrational and superstitious ideas long prevented this profession from occupying that honourable place in public estimation which, in modern times, it most deservedly holds. There seem, however, in very early times, to have been a few who proceeded on more sensible principles. The earliest mention of physicians is towards the end of Genesis, where it is said that Joseph commanded his servants, the physicians, to embalm the body of his father Jacob. The following passage of the son of Sirach, from Ecclesiasticus, at once speaks with proper respect of the human instruments, and justly ascribes useful inventions and success in medicine to the providence and blessing of God: "Honour a physician with the honour due unto him, for the uses which you may have of him; for the Lord hath created him. For of the Most High cometh healing, and he shall receive honour of the king. The skill of the physician shall lift up his head, and in the sight of great men he shall be in admiration. The Lord hath created medicines out of the earth, and he that is wise will not abhor them." It was, doubtless, very