« PreviousContinue »
was the appearance of Aristarchus' name in the epistle, seems to be unaccountable.
“Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas." Does not this hint account for Barnabas' adherence to Mark in the contest that arose with our apostle concerning him ? “And some days after Paul said unto Barnabas, Let us go again and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they do: and Barnabas determined to take with them John, whose surname was Mark; but Paul thought not good to take him with them, who departed from them from Pamphylia, and went not with them to the work; and the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other; and so Barnabas took Mark and sailed unto Cyprus." The history which records the dispute has not preserved the circumstance of Mark's relationship to Barnabas. It is no where noticed but in the text before us. As far, therefore, as it applies, the application is certainly undesigned.
“ Sister's son to Barnabas.” This woman, the mother of Mark, and the sister of Barnabas, was, as might be expected, a person of some eminence amongst the Christians of Jerusalem. It so happens that we hear of her in the history. “When Peter was delivered from prison, he came to the house of Mary the mother of John, whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.” Acts xii. 12. There is somewhat of coincidence in this; somewhat bespeaking real transactions amongst real persons.
The following coincidence, though it bear the ap
pearance of great nicety and refinement, ought not, perhaps, to be deemed imaginary. In the salutations with which this, like most of St. Paul's epistles, concludes, we have “Aristarchus and Marcus, and Jesus, which is called Justus, who are of the circumcision” (iv. 10, 11). Then follow also “Epaphras, Luke the beloved physician, and Demas.” Now as this description, “who are of the circumcision,” is added after the three first names, it is inferred, not without great appearance of probability, that the rest, amongst whom is Luke, were not of the circumcision. Now can we discover any expression in the Acts of the Apostles, which ascertains whether the author of the book was a Jew or not? If we can discover that he was not a Jew, we fix a circumstance in his character, which coincides with what is here, indirectly indeed, but not very uncertainly, intimated concerning Luke: and we so far confirm both the testimony of the primitive church, that the Acts of the Apostles was written by St. Luke, and the general reality of the persons and circumstances brought together in this epistle. The text in the Acts, which has been construed to show that the writer was not a Jew, is the nineteenth verse of the first chapter, where, in describing the field which had been purchased with the reward of Judas's iniquity, it is said, “ that it was known unto all the dwellers at Jerusalem; insomuch as that field is called, in their proper tongue, Aceldama, that is to say, the field of blood." These words are by most commentators taken to be the words and observation of the historian, and not a part of St. Peter's speech, in the midst of which they are found. If this be admitted, then it is argued that the expression, "in their proper tongue,” would
not have been used by a Jew, but is suitable to the pen of a Gentile writing concerning Jews.* The reader will judge of the probability of this conclusion, and we urge the coincidence no farther than that probability extends. The coincidence, if it be one, is so remote from all possibility of design, that nothing need be added to satisfy the reader upon that part of the argument.
No. IV. Chap. iv. 9 : “ With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you."
Observe how it may be made out that Onesimus was a Colossian. Turn to the Epistle to Philemon, and you will find that Onesimus was the servant or slave of Philemon. The question therefore will be to what city Philemon belonged. In the epistle addressed to him this is not declared. It appears only that he was of the same place, whatever that place was, with an eminent Christian named Archippus.
“Paul, a prisoner of Jesus Christ, and Timothy our brother, unto Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-labourer; and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church in thy house.” Now turn back to the Epistle to the Colossians, and you will find Archippus saluted by name amongst the Christians of that church. 'Say to Archippus, Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (iv. 17). The necessary result is, that Onesimus also was of the same city, agreeably to what is said of him, “he is one of you.” And this result is the effect, either of truth which produces consistency without the
• Vide Benson's Dissertation, vol. i. p. 318 of his works, Ed. 1756.
writer's thought or care, or of a contexture of forgeries confirming and falling in with one another by a species of fortuity of which I know no example. The supposition of design, I think, is excluded, not only because the purpose to which the design must have been directed, viz. the verification of the passage in our epistle, in which it is said concerning Onesimus, “he is one of you,” is a purpose which would be lost upon ninety-nine readers out of a hundred; but because the means made use of are too circuitous to have been the subject of affectation and contrivance. Would a forger, who had this purpose in view, have left his readers to hunt it out, by going forward and backward from one epistle to another, in order to connect Onesimus with Philemon, Philemon with Archippus, and Archippus with Colosse ? all which he must do before he arrive at his discovery, that it was truly said of Onesimus“ he is one of you.”
The First Epistle to the Thessalonians.
It is known to every reader of scripture, that the first Epistle to the Thessalonians speaks of the coming of Christ in terms which indicate an expectation of his speedy appearance: "For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds—But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief” (iv. 15, 16, 17; v. 4).
Whatever other construction these texts may bear, the idea they leave upon the mind of an ordinary reader, is that of the author of the epistle looking for the day of judgment to take place in his own time, or near to it. Now the use which I make of this circumstance, is to deduce from it a proof that the epistle itself was not the production of a subsequent age. Would an impostor have given this expectation to St. Paul, after experience had proved it to be erroneous? or would he have put into the apostle's mouth, or, which is the same thing, into writings purporting to come from his hand, expressions, if not necessarily conveying, at least easily interpreted to convey, an opinion which was then known to be founded in mistake? I state this as an argument to show that the epistle was cotemporary with St. Paul, which is little less than to show that it actually proceeded from his pen. For I question whether any ancient forgeries were executed in the life-time of the person whose name they bear; nor was the primitive situation of the church likely to give birth to such an attempt.
No. II. Our epistle concludes with a direction, that it should be publicly read in the church to which it was addressed: “I charge you by the Lord, that