« AnteriorContinuar »
been quoted from the Epistles in support of doctrines, with which they have no connexion ; but these Epistles have been stated to contain a large addition of doctrine to that, which is revealed in the Gospels. The learned Dr. Macknight endeavours to make good such a statement by the following argument.
“ The Lord Jesus before his death spake in this manner to His Apostles“. • I have yet many things
ye cannot bear them now. . Howbeit, when the Spirit of truth is come, He will guide you into all truth. From this it is evident that while on earth, Jesus did not declare the whole doctrines of the Gospel, but left them to be revealed by the Holy Ghost, to the persons, who, after His departure, were to make them known to the world. In this method of revealing the Gospel, there was both dignity and propriety. For the Son of God came from heaven, not to make the Gospel revelation, but to be the subject of it, by doing and suffering all that was necessary to procure the salvation of mankind.” “It is evident, therefore,” he adds, “ that the world is indebted to the Apostles for the complete knowledge of the Gospel scheme.” 6
Now, neither the basis, upon which this supposition is built, nor the conclusion which is drawn from it, appears to me well founded. When our Lord declared to His Apostles that He had many things to say which they could not then bear, He alluded to the necessity, which existed in the Divine counsels,
a John, xvi. 12, 13. b Translation of the Epistles, Vol. I. pp. 45, 50.
for the sufferings and death of the Messiah; He alluded to the just interpretation of the prophetic writings, in which those sufferings are foretold; He alluded to the destruction of their personal and national hopes, which were built upon the temporal sovereignty of the Messiah and the extension of the Jewish religion and power. It is perfectly clear that, upon these points, the disciples were utterly uninstructed up to the time of their Master's death); and that their prejudices were so strong, as not to permit any full explanation of them even from Him self. Whenever He attempted to prepare them for the fate that awaited Him, they listened with impatience and incredulity; after the melancholy event had taken place, they were utterly unable to reconcile this death with their previous belief in His Messiahship; and they continued incredulous about His resurrection, when they were informed that it had actually taken place. - Nay more; when He had continued with them forty days after His resurrection, "4 speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," at the very moment when He was about to complete the glorious objects of His mission, they still indulged the fond hope of earthly good, and anxiously inquired, “ Wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel ?" a
11 Again, when their blessed Master comforted them with the assurance that the Spirit should guide them into all truth, were not the admission of the Gentiles into the privileges of the new dispensation, the
a Acts, i. 6.
abrogation of the Law as respected them, and its inutility even to the Jews after the destruction of the holy city, were not these, unheard of doctrines sufficiently important to justify the assurance ; and was it not a matter of extreme difficulty to persuade the very disciples, that such was to be the effect of the new dispensation? 1]
!!! o ViNow it surely will not be contended that the clearer views and more detailed statements, which are found in the Epistles respecting the sufferings and death of the Messiah ; the rejection of the Jews; the inefficacy of the Law, and the admission of the Gentiles, constitute another system of doctrine,, differing from that of the Gospel. All these points were again and again stated with more or less of clearness during our Saviour's life-time. But the disciples were not then in a state of mind to bear the mention of them with patience, still less fully to comprehend them. It was necessary to wait till the progress of events should silently, though forcibly, awaken their understandings, still the reality of occurrences, aided by the illumination of the Holy Spirit, should gradually overcome their prejudices, and prepare their minds for the full reception of truths, which they were at first both unable and unwilling to believe.
I', il Again; when this learned Divine asserts that “the Son of God came down from heaven, not to make the Gospel revelation, but to be the subject of it,” he forgets the advantage, that has been derived from the religion being placed before us in an historical form ; he forgets that our Lord's whole life was
employed in teaching new truths, prescribing new rules of conduct, and enforcing them most effectually by the power of his own example. It is true that the doctrines of the Gospel consist very much in what our Divine Master did and suffered; but all this is so fully recorded in the Gospels, that this consideration alone might have prevented the supposition that something like another Gospel was specially revealed to St. Paul, and by him consigned to writing
Mischief surely must arise from an exaggerated view of the additions made to the doctrines of our Saviour in the Apostolic Epistles, because they will be quoted in support of tenets which really form no part of the Christian scheme, or which at least derive no confirmation from passages intended for other purposes and applied to other subjects. But besides the danger of error among Christians, a handle is unhappily furnished to the objections of unbelievers, when the contents of the Epistles are represented as such an enlargement of the Gospel scheme.
Lord Boling broke has taken upon himself to assert that the Gospel of Paul is not only different from that of Christ, but contradictory to it; and the same mistaken ground of complaint has been trodden by an anonymous writer of our own days.
We shall therefore be more just to the principles of our religion, and more effectually secure a right practice, if we represent the Epistles as deserving our utmost attention from the evidence, which they supply to the general credibility of the Gospel history; from the light they throw upon the opinions and transactions of that most interesting age; and from the clearer explanation which they occasionally furnish of truths asserted and doctrines revealed in the Gospels. But to represent them broadly and undistinguishingly as supplying a new system of doctrine, or even a very large addition to the doctrines promulged by our blessed Lord, cannot but be productive of serious, and, in some cases, fatal mistakes.
More sound, in my judgement, is that opinion of the difference between the Gospels and Epistles, which conceives “ That our Lord in the Gospels represents the doctrines and principles of the Christian religion, chiefly in an absolute sense, or, as they are in themselves. But in the Epistles, those doctrines and principles are chiefly considered in a relative view; as they respect, partly, the foregoing Jewish dispensation, and partly the future corruption of the Christian church; but principally, as they respect the different state of Jews and Heathens; shewing how just, true, and necessary they are with reference to both, and directing and exhorting both to value them, and apply them to a right use."a
It is certainly difficult either to understand the general scope and design of this Epistle to the Romans, or to perceive the bearing of particular arguments upon that scope and design, unless we place ourselves in the situation of a Jew at that period, and endeavour to fix the same notion that he did to the complex term, justification.
a Taylor, pp. cxxxix, xl.