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them, the greatest miracle of all, if indeed there be a difference? Is it not very reasonable to suppose, that an evangelist might content himself with the relation of one person raised from the dead, since one instance is sufficient, and is a stupendous thing?
Another very common occasion of omissions in writers is a regard to brevity. Mr. W. himself could not help thinking of this excuse, the studying brevity,' p. 9; but he would not allow it to the first evangelists. Nevertheless, I think, they have the best title to this excuse of any men that ever wrote. The four gospels bound together do not make a large volume: cach one singly is a very small book. And yet the evangelists had before them the most copious and engaging subject. Beside the miracles of our Saviour, with circumstances of time and place, the names of the persons, occasions of working them, and divers other extraordinary testimonies given to him from heaven; they have actually inserted in these pieces an account of the wonderful manner of our Saviour's birth, the dangers of his infancy, the miraculous appearances of Divine Providence in his favour, and his removals and journeyings from one place and country to another. They have recorded the substance of his doctrine in plain terms, again and again. They have set down many parables spoken by him, together with their explications. Here is a mission of his twelve apostles and other seventy disciples. They have also given the cavils and questions of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, and our Lord's answers to them; the observations and reflections of the people; our Lord's public discourses before all, and his more private instructions to his disciples; his predictions of his own sufferings, of the destruction of Jerusalem, and many other events; a long and particular account of our Saviour's prosecution, condemnation, and crucifixion, as also of his resurrection and ascension: not to mention the history of the birth, preaching, baptism, and sufferings of John the Baptist our blessed Lord's forerunner.
He who considers this great number and variety of matters contained in the gospels, (as also the engaging nature of them, by which an historian must be much inclined to dwell upon them, both for his own sake and for the pleasure and entertainment of others) must needs allow, that the evangelists have ardently desired and most carefully studied brevity, or their works had risen to a great bulk. They have certainly aimed at this all along, in almost every part of their accounts: and I have before shewn they have done this in their relations of miracles; since having given a particular history of some few, they mention many others in a summary way only. It is not at all strange then (we have here a very good reason of it) that when an evangelist had given an account of one person raised from the dead, it being a stupendous miracle, he contented himself therewith.
Nor ought the evangelists to be blamed for aiming at brevity. They deserve very high commendations both for the design itself, and for their excellent execution of it. Their intention was to give a history of Jesus, that all men might believe him to be the Christ, and might have life through his name. It was absolutely necessary therefore to put down the doctrine of Christ, and also somewhat under each one of those heads above-mentioned. But though the subject was extremely copious; these books being intended for the use of all, for the learned and unlearned, for the poor, the rich, the busy, for all ranks and orders of men in all times, it was highly needful they should be short. Great books are tedious and distasteful; many books are troublesome. And I am persuaded, that the evangelists have much more effectually consulted the benefit of mankind by their short gospels, than by writing, as they might have easily done, many more, or much larger books of the history of Jesus Christ.
I have proved a regard to brevity in general, and particularly in the account of miracles; and have also shewn that this design was necessary and reasonable. This study of brevity must certainly have obliged each one of them to observe silence upon some matters, after they had related others; that they might reserve room for some important events, essential parts of their history, still behind: lest they should proceed to a length and prolixity they had resolved to avoid. It is therefore very easy to suppose in behalf of the three former evangelists, that when they had come to some certain place or period in their history of the ministry of Jesus, they observed they had given a sufficient account of his doctrine and miracles: and since they must reserve room for an account of his last sufferings, and his resurrection; they resolved to pass over in silence what happened between that period and the time of his last journey to Jerusalem, where he suffered.
Such a period as this may be observed in the three former evangelists, by which means they had
not an opportunity of relating the resurrection of Lazarus. I will shew this particularly of St. Matthew and St. Mark.
St. Matthew says, ch. xix. 1, 2, 3. "And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of JUDEA BEYOND JORDAN. And great multitudes followed him, and he healed them there. The pharisees also came unto him tempting him," &c. From which verse, to the sixteenth verse of the next chapter follows an account of the question of the pharisees concerning divorce, Jesus's receiving little children, the young man that came to Christ, some discourses between Christ and the disciples about riches, and a parable. Then at ver. 17, of that chapter (the twentieth) are these words: “ And Jesus going up to Jerusalem, took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them," &c. From which it is plain, that Jesus was then going towards Jerusalem, a little before his last passover.
St. Mark says, ch. x. i." And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judea by the FARTHER SIDE OF JORDAN," &c. From whence to the 31st verse is an account of the pharisees' question concerning divorce, the little children brought to Christ, the young man that came to him, a discourse between Christ and the disciples about riches. Then at ver. 32, it is said: "And they were in the way going up to Jerusalem," &c.
From which it appears, that St. Matthew and St. Mark have given no particular account of any journeyings of Jesus, and have spoke but very little of any thing else concerning him (except some discourses in the place of his retirement) from the time he came into the country beyond Jordan, till they find him in his way to Jeresalem, before his last passover.
The same thing appears to me in St. Luke also. But that I may not be tedious, I will decline shewing that, particularly at present. I may the better be excused, because he has two resurrection miracles, which is one more than is sufficient.
Now the time of our Lord's coming into the country beyond Jordan, may be learnt from St. John. It was soon after the feast of dedication, John x. 22, which was observed in the winter. For he 66 says: They sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand, and went again BEYOND JORDAN into the place where John at first baptised: and there abode. And many resorted unto him," ver. 39, 40, 41. From which country (according to St. John's account) Jesus afterwards came up to Bethany, and raised Lazarus; and then "went into a country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples," John xi. 54. These removes the other evangelists have omitted for the sake of brevity, or some other reason. Therefore the resurrection of Lazarus could not be well brought into their
There is another reason of their silence about this matter, concurring with their study of brevity. The design of a writer may be collected from his work. From the three first gospels it appears, that the design of the three first evangelists was to give an account of the most public part of our Lord's ministry. They therefore entirely pass over the former part of it, and begin their relation after the imprisonment of John the Baptist. Thus Matthew, ch. iv. 2. "Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee." Mark i. 14. "Now after that John was cast into prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God." And that St. Luke also begins his account of our Lord's ministry, at about the same time, is apparent from his gospel. See ch. iv. 14, &c.
For the same reason that they omitted the former and less public part of his ministry, before the imprisonment of John the Baptist, they have also slightly passed over what happened from our Lord's arrival beyond Jordan, till he is going up to his last passover. For in this interval he lived somewhat more privately than he had done before. He received all who came to him, either for instruction, or to be healed by him; but he did not go about the cities and villages of Judea, preaching publicly, as he had done for some time before.
St. John observing what had been the method of the three former evangelists, and that they had given a very sufficient account of that part of Christ's ministry which immediately succeeded the imprisonment of John the Baptist, resolved to supply their omissions. By which means he was led to give some history of things done by Jesus between his temptation in the wilderness and the imprisonment of John the Baptist; and also of some things that happened between our Lord's going into the country beyond Jordan, and his journey to the last passover at Jerusalem, in which last interval the miracle of Lazarus was performed.
We have here (so far as I am able to judge) a fair account of the occasion of the omission of Lazarus's resurrection by the three former evangelists, and of its relation by St. John.
Once more. Since the miracles of Jesus were so numerous (according to the account of all the three first evangelists) that they could not be all particularly related without an inconvenient and unnecessary prolixity; these evangelists might very reasonably prefer some miracles before others, and in particular the miracle wrought on Jairus's daughter before that on Lazarus. If one of these miracles were to be omitted, I would ask, which of the two it should be? I can readily answer for myself; I should choose to omit that of Lazarus rather than the other. And though all men should not presently decide with me, I believe that most would waver in the choice.
The raising any person to life is an amazing and truly divine work. Jairus was a ruler of a synagogue, of an order of men generally averse to Jesus: Lazarus was a friend. The miracle therefore on Jairus's daughter is more unexceptionable in this respect than that on Lazarus. All the miracles of Jesus, considering his blameless character, and the circumstances with which they are related, are really unexceptionable. But there are degrees in all kinds of things; and one miracle, even of Jesus himself, may be more unexceptionable than another; which is an important thing in a miracle, as well as the greatness of the work itself. In this respect the raising of Jairus's daughter is preferable to that of Lazarus. I pass by the honour that results to Jesus from the earnest entreaties of so considerable a person as Jairus, that he would come and lay hands on his daughter, who was at the point of death, or even now dead.
Moreover the miracle on Jairus's daughter was performed in the very height of Christ's public ministry, when there were great numbers continually attending on him; enemies undoubtedly and spies, as well as other people. But to Bethany Jesus came privately with his disciples, and unexpectedly, to raise Lazarus. There happened indeed to be there at that time friends of the Pharisees (as I suppose there where every where) who went away and told them what Jesus had done. But his arrival at Bethany was perfectly unexpected to all, and a surprise even to the family of Lazarus. The evidences which there are in the relation, that our Lord's coming to Bethany at that time was unlooked for, shew that there was no concert between him and his friends there: but for the same reason the Pharisees might not be so well prepared to observe this miracle as some others.
To conclude this point: Mr. W. says, p. 9, If Matthew, the first writer, had recorded only • the story of Lazarus, whose resurrection was the greatest miracle; and if Luke had added that ' of the widow of Nain's son; and John lastly had remembered us of Jairus's daughter, which the other evangelists, not through ignorance or forgetfulness, but studying brevity, had • omitted, then all had been well.'
Undoubtedly, all had been well then, because there are not in the gospels any tokens of forgery or fiction, but plain marks of a real history of matter of fact, and of the strictest regard to truth. But all things are as well now. And if Lazarus's story had stood in the three first gospels in the room of that of Jairus's daughter, there might have been as much room for exceptions as there is now, as appears from what I have just said about the circumstances of these persons. Nor is there any good objection to be brought against the present order. The three first evangelists have wisely taken that miracle which occurred to them in the course of our Lord's most public ministry, and which is in all respects most unexceptionable.
Upon the whole, the reasons I have here offered of the silence of the three first evangelists about Lazarus's resurrection are such as readily offer themselves to my mind; they arise out of the gospels themselves; and they appear to me to be of no small weight. But they are not intended to the prejudice of any other probable reasons assigned by Grotius, or Dr. Whitby, or any other learned and judicious writers. And whether the reasons offered by me or others appear fully satisfactory or not, is not very material: we not being obliged, as, I said at first, to assign any reason at all for this omission.
I have endeavoured to put the force of this objection of Mr. W. into the beforementioned suppositions, which I have considered. But there are yet several particulars he has mentioned under this head of what he calls the unnatural and preposterous order of time,' which I suppose we must not pass by. He says then, p. 6, Since this [Lazarus's resurrection] is only
• See Dr. Harris's Reasonableness of believing in Christ, p. 3, 4.
⚫ mentioned by St. John, who wrote his gospels above sixty years, according to the best com'putation, after our Lord's ascension; here is too much room for cavil and question, whether 'this story be not entirely his invention.'
No wise and honest man ought to countenance cavil. It is sufficient that there be no just reason for doubt and question, as there is not here.. If any man were now to write a history (never heard of before) of some person raised from the dead, about sixty years ago, in a town not far from one of the chief cities of Europe, and should mention time and place, and names of persons concerned, as St. John has done, he would find no credit with any one. Indeed the design is so foolish and extravagant, that no one will attempt it where there is a liberty of inquiry, as there certainly was in St. John's time, the friends of Christianity being fewer than its opposers. But there is no reason to suppose, St. John first told this story now, sixty years after our Saviour's ascension. He had undoubtedly told it before an infinite number of times, in conversation, and in public discourses, before many people, when the fact might be inquired into, and easily known to be true or false. Eusebius, who took a great deal of pains to get the best information concerning the authority of all the books of the New Testament, informs us from the ancients. And when now Mark and Luke [he had spoken of Matthew before] had pub⚫lished their gospels, they say that John, who had hitherto all along preached only by word of 'mouth, was induced to write." &c.
From which we learn two things; first, that St. John had spent his time in preaching Jesus Christ, from the time of our Lord's ascension: secondly, that his gospel contains the substance of his preaching. For he wrote what he had hitherto taught only by word of mouth. Consequently he had often told his hearers this story of Lazarus's resurrection, long before he wrote his gospel.
Soon after our author says, p. 7. The first writer of the life of a hero, to be sure makes • mention of all the grand occurrences of it.-If a third or fourth biographer after him shall presume to add a more illustrious action of the hero's life, it will be rejected as fable and romance, though for no other reason than this, that the first writer must have been apprised of it, and would have inserted its story, if there had been any truth in it.'
How the lives of heroes are written, I do not know, not being read in legends and romances. But omissions are common in the lives of princes and other great men. Suetonius is allowed to be an excellent biographer, and was a very curious and inquisitive person. Yet no one doubts of the truth and credibility of several things omitted by him, concerning those emperors whose lives he has written. The three first evangelists have not related all the grand occurrences of Christ's life. They expressly say, they have omitted a great number of them. If they had professed to be particular, and to take great care to omit nothing, there had been some ground for this objection: but to make it now, a man must have first lost all modesty.
But it will be said: The objection is not, that the raising of Lazarus is another occurrence, or another grand occurrence omitted by the three former historians; but that Lazarus's resurrection is a most prodigious miracle, p. 4; a huge and superlatively great miracle,' p. 7; the 'miracle of miracles, ibid. a monstrously huge one,' (p. 11.) in comparison of the other; and especially of the first, which is an imperfect and disputable miracle in comparison of the other two,' p. 9.
This indeed Mr. W. does say, and he is obliged to say it, however contradictory it may be to what he says at other times. For if the latter miracle related by the last writer be only somewhat greater, more considerable than the former, the argument is of no force. Let us therefore see what the evangelists say. According to St. Matthew, the first writer, Jairus's daughter was dead before Jesus came to the house, for the musicians were come to make lamentations for her. And according to St. John, Lazarus had been dead four days. He mentions no longer time.
• Ηδη δε Μαρκου και Λουκα των κατ' αυτές ευαγγελιων την εκδοσιν πεποιημενων, Ιωαννην φασι, τον πανία χρονον αγραφω κεχρημένον κηρυγματι, τελεί και επί την γραφήν ελθείν, τοιασδε χαριν αιτίας. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. 1. 3. c. 24.
St. John says, ch. xi. 17. " When Jesus came he found that he had lain in the grave four days already." But, ver. 39. Martha says to Jesus: "Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days." Therefore the former four days were incomplete, and it was but the fourth day since his burial, Mr. Woolston therefore (to do him justice) is in the
right, when he says, p. 30. ' If those four days are numbered
according to the arithmetic of Jesus's three days in his grave, 'they are reducible to two days and three nights.' So it is: part of the day on which he was buried, then two whole days, and part of the day on which he was raised, and three nights. Thus, I suppose, if Lazarus died on the first day of the week, he was buried on the second, and raised on the fifth. He had been dead four days complete, or thereabouts; buried four days incomplete.
But according to Mr. W's representation of the resurrection of Lazarus, that it was a superlatively great miracle, a monstrously huge one,' in comparison of the other; one would be apt to conclude, that Lazarus had been said by St. John to have been dead at least forty or fifty years, whereas he does not say half so many days. The difference as to time between that of the widow of Nain's son and Lazarus is still less; for he was not only dead, but carried forth to burial.
I argue therefore against Mr. W. thus: St. John's miracle exceeds in degree the other two but a small matter, therefore he did not invent and forge it. For if he had had a design of forging a miracle, from a sense of the insufficiency of the former, he would have made it prodigiously or vastly greater than these, which he has not done. The reader will judge, whether this be a confutation of this objection of Mr. W. or not.
I will add farther: The miracle on Lazarus exceeds that on Jairus's daughter in but one circumstance, which is, that he had lain dead a little longer. In several other respects the miracle on Jairus's daughter is superior to that on Lazarus; for Lazarus was a friend, but Jairus was a stranger and a ruler of a synagogue; and the miracle on his daughter was performed in the most public part of our Lord's ministry. St. John therefore did not invent the story of Lazarus from a sense of the insufficiency of the former: for if he had invented, he would have related not only a history of a person dead much longer than the other (as I shewed just now) but the person to be the subject of his miracle would have been a stranger, and a Rabbi, a ruler, or a nobleman, or some other person of figure: and he would have placed it, in all likelihood, in the most public part of Christ's ministry. What I say here appears to me to be of the highest degree of probability that if St. John had contrived a miracle, because he judged the former not sufficient, he would not have taken a friend of Jesus for the subject of it; and he would have related it with several other different circumstances.
One quotation more from our author, before we leave this article. Supposing John (who ⚫ was then above a hundred, and in his dotage) had not reported this miracle of Lazarus; but that Clement (joining it with his incredible story of the resurrection of a phoenix) or Ignatius, or Polycarp, or the author of the apostolical constitutions had related it; would not your • Christian critics have been at work to expose it?' p. 12.
This argument is proposed with great airs of assurance, but I cannot see the force of it. As to Clement's story of the phoenix, we have nothing to do with it here, that I know of; it not being a Christian miracle, but an old heathen story told by many authors, though with somewhat different circumstances. If Clement, Ignatius, or Polycarp had given the history of a miracle of Jesus, written in a credible manner, with proper circumstances, I make no doubt but a due regard would be had to their authority, in proportion to their nearness to the time of Jesus.
As for John's being above a hundred, when he wrote his gospel; it shews us he was thirty years of age or more, when Jesus lived here on earth; and therefore was arrived at years of discretion, and was able to judge of things. That he was in his dotage, there is no proof. His gospel is not the work of a man in his dotage. Let Mr. W. shew me any where out of the Bible, so fine, and yet so simple, so natural a narration of a matter of fact, as that of the cure of the man blind from his birth, contained in the ninth chapter of St. John's gospel: let him shew me any where else such a prayer, as that recorded in his seventeenth chapter: let him shew me such discourses, so affectionate, so moving, so every way excellent, as those in his fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters: I say, let him shew me any where else such things as these, not written by any man in his dotage, but in the prime of life, and the full vigour of his wit and understanding.
Answer to Mr. W.'s Second Objection.
I PASS,' says Mr. W. p. 15, 'to a second observation.-What became of these three per• sons after their resurrection? How long did they live afterwards? And of what use and advantage were their restored lives to the church or to mankind? The evangelical and ecclesiastical history is entirely silent as to these questions, which is enough to make us suspect their