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Characteristics of the Four Gospels

Characteristics of the Four Gospels

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Published by GLENN DALE PEASE
BY R. S. Storrs.
BY R. S. Storrs.

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Aug 15, 2013
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CHARACTERISTICS OF THE FOUR GOSPELSBY R. S. Storrs.I. THE EW TESTAMET.The term ew Testament unquestionably proceeds from the institution of the Lord's Sup-per. The Lord designates the Eucharist the ew Covenant in his blood, in the strict senseof the term. The writings which record the foundation of this new and eternal covenant arethemselves called the ew Covenant, the ew Testament. This designation, also, indicatesthe connection and the contrast between these writings and those of the Old Covenant. Theuniversal character of the ew or Christian Covenant as compared with the old or Jewish isindicated by the language in which each is expressed. The Greek of the ew Testament wasthe universal language of the civilized world, while the Hebrew of the Old was tbe peculiardialect of the chosen race. Lange.The ew Testament begins with the person of Christ, the facts of his manifestation in theflesh, and the words he gave from his Father ; and accustoms us by degrees to behold Lisglory, to discern the drift of his teaching, and to expect the consequences of his work. Itpasses on to his body the Church, and opens tbe dispensation of the Spirit, and carries us intothe life of his people, down into the secret places of their hearts ; and there translates theannouncements of God into the experiences of man, and discovers a conversation in heavenand a life with Christ in God. It works out practical applications, is careful in the details of duty, provides for diflSculties and perplexities, suggests the order of churches, and throws upbarriers against the wiles of the devil. It shows us things to come, the course of the spiritualconflict, the close of this transient scene, the coming of the Lord, the resurrection of the dead,the eternal judgment, the new creation, and the life everlasting. T. D. Bernard.The ew Testament consists of twenty-seven books, which may be thus classified : 1. TheFive Histoeical Books ; namely, the Four Gospels, and the Acts of the Apostles. 2. TheFourteen Epistles of Paul ; namely, Ten addressed to eight Churches, and Four to threeindividuals — Philemon, Timothy, and Titus. 3. The Seven General Epistles ; the Secondand Third of John, though addressed to individuals, being 'placed as appendices to the First.4. The Revelation of John, though in the form of an Epistle to the Seven Churches of Asia, isrightly placed in a class by itself, as the one great prophetical book of the ew Testament. S.The unanimity of Christendom on the twenty-seven books of its sacred code is permanent,universal, unalterable, and not less firm than that of the Jews for their canon. It is even aunanimity still more astonishing ; since that which we wonder at in this family of Israel,which has always kept its sacred oracles free from every mixture through thirty-four centu-ries, this very marvel we have here to admire in all the families of the nations, which equallypreserve the ew Testament in the midst of their most ardent disputes and their profoundestdivisions ; which preserve it in the most uncultivated churches, notwithstanding their igno-rance ; in the most idolatrous, notwithstanding their traditions, as in the most rationalistic,notwithstanding their infidel literature and all the wanderings of their teachers. It is a una-nimity, we may say, the more striking that it is only on this one point. It is a wonderfuland manifestly providential fact, that, on this point alone, there can be found nowhere in the8 TEE FOURFOLD GOSPEL.documents of history any account of public constraint, any collective action of counsels, anyprescription of emperors — although from the fourth century they meddled with everythingelse in the church — in a word, not an act of human authority which was intended to imposeon the churches the acceptance of a sacred code, or to force any individual conscience to admitinto the canon a single one of the twenty-seven books now constituting the ew Testament. An.
 
11. THE FOUKFOLD GOSPEL.The testimony of Christian Antiquity is clear and consistent, that the Four Gospels weredelivered by the Holy Spirit to the Church of Christ through the instrumentality of thosepersons whose names they bear ; that they were written in the order of time in which theyare now placed ; that these Four Gospels, and they alone, were received from the beginningas divinely inspired histories of our blessed Lord ; and that these Four Gospels were identicalin name, in form, and in matter, with those received by ourselves at the present day. Words-worth.It was no part of the design of the writers to secure that chronological accuracy of ar-rangement and of detail which is " essential to history, but which forms no portion of theplan of a memoir." Out of the vast array of facts and events which were crowded into thelife of Jesus, the Holy Ghost leads each writer to select those which will best serve the specialpurpose of each ; and to arrange them in accordance with his own design, now following theorder of time and now departing from it. Those facts and truths were brought forward whichsuited the practical end in view, and they were put in that order which seemed best fitted tosecure the one great result, the acceptance of Jesus as the Saviour. Gregory.God has been pleased to give us the life, as never a life was given, by those four, eachdifferent, yet each the same ; a separate mirror to take in the side presented to it, but alldisclosing in life-like harmony the one grand person, each so absorbed in his theme that hehimself is forgotten, his personality lost in the object — all eye, all ear, all heart for Christalone. If this were not divine, we might say that it is the perfection of biography ; it makesthe historian nothing ; it makes him he looks at all in all, and it puts every one of us wherethe witness himself stood, and lets us take in the great life as be did. It is one testimonyto the greatness of the life that it so burned and fused itself into these men that they can donothing but reflect it again, with this unconsciousness which is higher than the highest art.There was inspiration guiding them, true, but this inspiration took, as its most powerfulinstrument, the overmastering might of that wonderful personality. Ker.o literary fact is more remarkable than that men, knowing what these writers knew,and feeling what they felt, should have given us chronicles so plain and calm. They havenothing to say as from themselves. Their narratives place us without preface, and keep uswithout comment, among external scenes, in full view of facts, and in contact with the Uvingperson whom they teach us to know. The style of simple recital, unclouded and scarcelycolored by any perceptible contribution from the mind of the writers, gives us the scenes,the facts, and the person, as seen in the clearest light and through the most transparent atmos-phere. Who can fail to recognize a divine provision for placing the disciples of all futureages as nearly as possible in the position of these writers? "We feel that we see Jesus as hewas. o human being that ever trod the earth has left behind a representation of himself more clear and living, and more certain in its truthfulness, than is that which we possess of the Prophet of azareth in Galilee. Bernard.The truth of God was not to be presented in a fixed and absolute form, but in manifoldand peculiar representations, designed to complete each other, and which, bearing the stampat once of God's inspiration and man's imperfection, were to be developed by the activity of free minds, in free and lively appropriation of what God had given by his Spirit. Jieander.Each Gospel has its own features, and the divine element has controlled the human, butCHARACTERISTICS OF TEE GOSPELS. 9not destroyed it. But the picture which they conspire to draw is one full of harmony. TheSaviour they all describe is the same loving, tender guide of his disciples, sympathizing with
 
them in the sorrows and temptations of earthly life, yet ever ready to enlighten that life byrays of truth out of tlie infinite world. Townsend.It can be shown that the Gospel sums up in the record of the Incarnation aU that wasevolved of spiritual import in the long disciphne from the Captivity to the Advent ; that thetime at which the Gospels were written was at once most suited to their publication, and yetleast likely to have given birth to them ; that they grew up as it were spontaneously in theChurch without etfort and without design, and yet have a distinct relation in their fourfolddiversity to the past and future wants of the Church ; that in the diflference of letter there isa perfect unity of spirit ; that there is a special tendency and plan in the writing of eachEvangelist ; that the varieties of detail and succession of incidents converge to one commonpoint, and conduce to one common end ; and that in particular parts the teaching of the differ-ent Gospels may be combined into a whole of marvellous symmetry and completeness. Andherein we see a noble view opened of the relation of the Gospel to the former and futurehistory of the world, and of the Gospels to the Gospel itself. We feel that deep sense of thecontinual presence of the divine influence, and that firm conviction of the unerring truthful-ness of the sacred writers, which can only be gained by a comprehensive view of the completesubordination of every part of the Scripture to the training of man and the realization of hishopes. We find nothing superfluous in the repetitions of the Gospels, and nothing inconsis-tent in their variety, any more than in the fresh groupings and different prospects of someearthly scene. We understand, with the great master of Alexandria, that "every word, if rightly viewed, effects a special purpose ; " for revelation is not a vain thing for us ; it is ourlife. Westcott.III. THE FOUE GOSPELS:DISTICTIVE CHAKACTERISTICS OF THE WEITIGS AD WKITEES.1. MATTHEW.— This first Evangelical Record of Christ's miracles, preaching, death,resurrection, and ascension, was composed for the use of that country in which our Lord'slife was passed. The Gospel was first ofi"ered to the Jews. It was circulated in that city inwhich our Lord suffered : a striking proof of the confidence of the Apostles in the truth of Christianity. And its reception and public reading, as not only a true history but as divinelyinspired, in the church of Jerusalem at that period, is one of the strongest evidences thatcould be given of its veracity and inspiration. Wordsicorth.The Gospel by Matthew connects the Few Testament most intimately with the Old, by theOld Testament genealogy of Jesus. In this Gospel, the life of Jesus is presented as formingpart of the history and life of the Jewish nation ; and hence as the fulfilment of the he-reditary blessing of Abraham. Jesus is here set before us as the new-born King of the Jews,as the promised Messiah, and the aim and goal of every progressive stage of the Theocracy.He is the great Antitype of Old Testament history, in whom everything has been fulfilled— the types in the law, in worship, in historical events, and in gracious interpositions— in short,the fulfilment of the Theocracy. In and with him the Old Covenant is transformed into theew, the Theocracy into the kingdom of heaven, the demands of the law into the beatitudes,Sinai into the Mount of Beatitudes, the prophetic into the teaching oflBce, the priesthood intoredemption by suffering, and the kingship into the triumph of almighty grace, restoring, help-ing, and delivering a fallen world. Lange.The Gospel for the Jew Matthew wrote his Gospel for the Jewish race, the first of the three great representative races of which the civilized world of his day was made up. Arepresentative Jew, he was eminently fitted by his nature and by his experience, Jewish andChristian, for the work of preaching and embodying the Gospel for the Jewish race.

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