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These instances excepted, the evangelists seem uniformly rather to suppress than to particularize names, when what truth compels them to say is to the disadvantage of the persons. Thus, they omit the name of the officer who smote our Lord on the face at his trial, adding insult to cruelty and injastice; of the false witnesses againft him ; of the malefactor who upbraided him while hanging on the cross. Thus also in the Acts, those who first disputed with "Stephen, and afterwards fuborned false witnesses to take away his life; the * forty Jews who conspired to affafsinate Paul, are all passed by without specification.Now it is most evident; that this conduct in our Lord's historians did not arise from a fear of making enemies. The unvaried steadiness of their preaching, and the noble firmness of their martyrdom, supply proofs of fortitude too clear to be disputed; and the fame fpirit appears even in the circumstances now alluded to, for they have in fact named most of those who were possessed of such an authority, or actuated by such a disposition, as could render their resentment an object of terror; no, their referve was evidently in the true spirit of their divine Master. They do not, without some evident necessity, bring forward the names of those whom they must mention only to disgrace; they direct our contempt and hatred against the crimes, not the persons of men ; against the vices not against the vicious. Aware that this last direction would be of the most dangerous tendency to genuine charity, they shew no disposition to hold up any man to the Christians of their own time as an object either of their fear or their abhorrence, or to transmit his name with infamy, to posterity ;-while on the contrary they chearfully particularize those to whose faith and gratitude, love and piety, they can bear honourable testimony, thus to excite a noble emulation
u Acto vi.
* Afts xxiii. 12.
would y A&s xiv. 50.
Still, more strongly to evince the candour and impartiality of the sacred writers, qualities so inconsistent with the violence and presumption of enthusiasm, it is worthy of remark, that they not only never load their enemies with any. opprobrious epithets, but that they sometimes speak of them in honourable and respectful terms. Thus at Antioch, in Pisidia, when the Jews raised such a persecution against, Paul as to drive him from the city, the inhabitants whom they prevailed on to join in this perfecution are fpoken of, not, with abuse or bitterness, but '“ as devout and honourable women, and the chief
men. of the city.” The title of philosopher is not denied to those Athenians who spoke of Paul as a babbler, and dragged him, as a violator of the laws, before the court, of Areopagus ; and the priests and rulers who were most active in the persecution of the apostles, are always denoted by the honourable titles
which officially belonged to them, without any remark on the depravity of their personal character, or its inconsistency with their official duty.
The strongest proof of the candour and humility of the sacred writers, is however found in the manner in which they speak of their own characters, and their own weaknesses and faults; here all is open and undisguised; no secret is made of the names or the transgressions of any of the apostles; the flowness of their understanding, their prejudices and bigotry, their temporal views and contentions for power, their defertion of their divine Master in the hour of distress, the accidental differences which occurred in the course of their ministry, are all fully and plainly related. The crime of Peter in denying his Lord, and that of Paul in his bitter persecution of the church, are not suppressed, though their reputation must have seemed so essential to the Christian cause, and their transitory, though great offences, were followed by a whole life of penitence.-Not to multiply instances, enough surely has been said, to shew that the historians of the New Testament were wholly free from the heat, and bigotry, and prefumption, which fo generally characterise fanaticism. Let me not, however, be understood to affert, that the evangelists never speak of offenders with severity; far otherwise. I am well aware, there are instances which may seem exceptions to the general principles I have endeavoured to establish ; but I am confident
a little well
a little attention will prove they only seem to be ex-
well deserved the severe rebuke of St Peter; thy
money perish with thee, because thou hast thought “ the gift of God could be purchased with money; " thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter, for “ thy heart is not right with God; repent there“ fore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if “ perhaps the thought of thine heart may be for
given, for I perceive thou art in the gall of bitter“ ness, and the bond of iniquity.”
Elymas, a man of a similar character, for he also was a sorcerer, withstood the preaching of St. Paul, seeking (doubtless from selfish motives) to turn away the Roman governor from the faith ; his malignant and interested opposition wrung from the apostle the feverest rebuke which he ever pronounced; but its justice was attested by the mịraculous blindness which divine Power enabled him to inflict : thus the occafional severity of the apostles was wholly free from the violence of enthusiasm ; it was dictated by truth and approved by heaven. .
But, except in these instances, we perceive, that on the most trying occasions the apostles imitate the unexampled benignity of their divine Lord, who, in the agonies of death, prayed for his murderers, “ Father forgive them, for they know not what “ they do.” The apostles also alledge this the only extenuation of their enemies guilt, which the eye
b Acts xiii.