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A Scheme of the times, places, and occasions of writing the
For the use of the Gentile Christians in Egypt, Greece, and
To refute some heretics who had begun to disturb the peace of the Christian church.
His Gospel was written before the other three. The author of it was an eye-witness of most of the facts he relates, having been early called to the office of apostle by Christ himself. Besides the name of Matthew he had also that of Levi. He was by profession a publican, or collector of the Roman taxes; his office consisted in receiving the dues for such articles as came by the sea of Galilee, and the tribute from such passengers as went by water. This profitable post he chearfully resigned for the sake of Christ. St. Matthew wrote his Gospel for the service of the Jews in Palestine, with a view to confirm those who believed, and convert, if possible, those who believed not: he wrote in a time of persecution, both to comfort and support the suffering Christians, and soften the resentment of the persecuting Jews.
Was the person whom St. Peter affectionately calls his son, and selected for his familiar companion. He is believed to have been the John, surnamed Mark, to whose mother's house, mentioned in the Acts, St. Peter retired, when released by the angel out of prison, and who accompanied Paul and Barnabas in their first travels among the Gentiles, but soon separated from these apostles; which occasioned a division among them, when Barnabas took St. Mark along with him another journey. His mother dwelt at Jerusalem, and the Christians met at her house; he was the cousin of Barnabas. In the time of Paul's imprisonment he lived at Rome; the apostle reckons him among his fellow-labourers, and intended to send him to Colosse.
St. Mark wrote his Gospel after St. Matthew, and, it is probable, after St. Luke. It was written at the request, and for the benefit of the Christian church at Rome, which was at that time the metropolis of all civilized nations. It is written in a simple form, and adapted to the use of Christians in general.
Is allowed to be that "beloved physician," Col. iv. 14, who St. Paul asserts was a Gentile. He travelled with that apostle to Rome, and there assisted him; afterwards went into Africa and preached the Gospel at Thebes in Egypt. St. Matthew's Gospel being intended for the use of the Jews, it was not less proper a Gospel should be written that was adapted to the Gentile or Heathen converts. This appears to have been the peculiar motive of St. Luke for writing his Gospel. Hence he gives the genealogy of Christ according to his natural descent from the Virgin Mary, and carries it up to Adam; shewing he was the seed of the woman, who was promised for the redemption of the whole world.
Is agreed to have written his Gospel after all the rest, and completed whatever he found deficient. He was, it is supposed, of our Saviour's near kindred. Before he became acquainted with our Lord he was a disciple of John the Baptist, and probably one of those two whom he sent to Christ. Our Saviour honoured him with the most intimate confidence, and loved him beyond his other disciples. He and Peter and James were (exclusive of the rest) witnesses of the raising of Jairus' daughter, of Christ's transfiguration, and of his agony in the garden. He was the only apostle who stood under the cross when Christ was crucified. We are to consider this Gospel not only as an historical narrative, but a treatise designed to refute various heresies, which prevailed most in Asia. At the request of the Asiatic Bishops St. John composed his Gospel, with a view to put those heretics to shame, and to shew there is one God, who by Christ, his Word, made all things, and that the Creator and Father of our Lord were not, as they pretended, distinct beings.
Of the Jewish Sects or Parties which occur in the Gospels.
Were a sect among the Jews, that had subsisted at least above a hundred and fifty years before Christ. The word PHARISEE is derived from a verb in the Hebrew, which signifies to DIVIDE, or SEPARATE. They separated themselves both from Pagans and Jews that were not of their own sect. They professed a regard for the Law of God and the sacred Books, but were superstitiously observant of certain modes of human invention, under the pretence of being the traditions of the elders. This sect not only held the soul to be immortal, but believed in a resurrection, and that on some occasions the soul might re-animate a body.
Appear not to have constituted any particular sect, but a body of men who made the Law of Moses, and the prophetical and sacred books their peculiar study, so as to enable them to comment upon them, and instruct the people. The office however was chiefly confined to the descendants of Levi.
Were the most ancient sect among the Jews. They held the Pentateuch, or five books of Moses, in superior estimation to all other compositions in the sacred collection. They denied the resurrection of the dead and the existence of angels, and believed that the soul and body of man die together, never to live more. They acknowledged the being and providence of God, but were of opinion that rewards and punishments were not extended beyond this world. Yet with all these loose and profane notions they had a bigoted attachment to the Law of Moses.
Are looked upon not as a religious sect, but a political party, who became eminent in the days of Herod the Great, as favouring his claims and those of his patrons, the Romans, to the sovereignty of Judea.