By Henry G. Weston, Crozer Theological Seminary.
"Assuredly," says Archbishop Trench, "Origin was right in starting with the assumption that there is nothing of haphazard in the admissions and exclusions of the several Evangelists; that a prevailing idea in each Gospel accounts for what it has and what it has not. Indeed, I am persuaded that notwithstanding all that has been already accomplished, devout students of the Scripture may, for a long time to come, find an ample, almost inexhaustible, field of study in tracing out in each Gospel, the ever acting law of exclusion and inclusion."
What is this law? What is the prevailing idea in each Gospel?
To these questions in recent years various answers have been given; a glance at some of them will show how far they come from meeting the necessities of the case. One school of commentators aver that the omissions in the Gospels result from the ignorance of the writers. But can we conceive that Matthew knew nothing of the mission of the seventy, of the resurrection of Lazarus, or of the ascension of our Lord? Is it possible that Mark had never heard of Christ's birth with its accompanying wonders? Did Luke, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, know nothing of the flight into Egypt, of the storm on the lake, of the feeding of the four thousand, of the anointing of Christ by Mary? The hypothesis of ignorance is surely inadmissable.
Another theory, presented with great rhetorical beauty, is, that the Gospel of Matthew was written to convince the Jew of the truth of Christianity, Mark to convince the Roman, Luke the Greek, while John is designed for believers — the Church. We turn to the Gospels, and are at once confronted by questions that on this hypothesis refuse to be answered. If Matthew writes specially to convince the un believing Jew, why does he constantly present a Messiah rejected by the Jews, but recognized and protected by the Gentiles? If the laws of persuasion are true, we should expect here what we find in the opening of the Gospel according to Luke. We ought to be led to the temple and, as the incense ascends to heaven, listen to the voice of the angel in the sanctuary; we ought to visit the abodes of Elizabeth and Mary, and hear the sweet Hebrew singers as they chant those inspired canticles, full of the old and the new, at once the consummation of the dispensation passing away and the welcome of the coming Messiah. To go no farther than the opening chapters, if Matthew wished to persuade the Jews, surely he and Luke ought to change places.
Mark writes, we are told, for the Romans, selecting and presenting the subject matter of the Gospel in a way specially adapted to the Roman idea and character. One book in the canon we know was addressed to the Romans. Are 'there two books in the New Testament more unlike than the Epistle to the Romans and the Gospel of Mark? The essential idea of Rome was law; but in Mark the word "law" does not once occur. The dominion of Rome was the power of an external government; in Mark, tokens of royalty attributed to Christ are singularly absent. In Rome, the individual was nothing, the government every thing; but Mark is peculiarly the individual Gospel. In the early part of both Matthew and Luke, a Roman is introduced whose wonderful recognition of Christ's authority is commended; he is welcomed as the first example of many who shall come from the East and the West and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven; it is strange, if Mark writes for the Roman, that he does not allude to this incident.
In the insertions and omissions of the Gospels, there is very much that it seems impossible to adjust to these different types of character. Why should the storm on the lake and Christ's appearance in the midst of the night be told to the Jew and the Roman and not to the Greek, while the wonderful draught of fishes is told to the Greek and not to the Roman? Why is a gradually wrought miraculous cure in such consonance with the Roman character, that these cures are found in the Gospel to the Roman and in that only? Why in the Gospel for the Greek is Christ's eschatological discourse confined to the fall of Jerusalem and its consequences, while in the Gospel for the Jew and in that for the Roman it has a far wider scope? Why in the Greek Gospel does Christ lament three times over Jerusalem, and not at all in the Gospel for the Roman? Such questions may be greatly multiplied.
Luke is commonly said to be the Gentile or Universal Gospel; careful examination will show that this Gospel be ginning and ending in the temple at Jerusalem is of all the Gospels the most restricted.
The most of the current theories proceed on the supposition that the Synoptic Gospels were written for unbelievers and that the reason for their likenesses and differences must be found outside of the Bible. There is another hypothesis: The New Testament is the Christian's book; these sacred records of our Lord's earthly life were written for those who love him and believe in him; the Bible is its own interpreter; it contains the answer to every vital question that may be asked concerning its form and contents; the true key to the Gospel will fit every ward in the lock, will account for every insertion and every omission. The Gospels give an account of the redemptive work of Christ as wrought in his life, death, burial and resurrection; they present this work in its successive aspects and stages.1
Each Gospel prepares the way for its successor, each telling afresh the story of the life, death and resurrection from its own point of view, each beginning at a higher level than the preceding. The Gospels are vitally related to one another, and the four constitute an organic whole.
Matthew is the opening book — the Genesis — of the New Testament. The Old Covenant closes with the Jewish nation looking for their long-promised King and Messiah; the Jews are the elect people, a kingdom of priests, a holy nation (Ex. 19 :5, 6). In the Christian age the Jewish nation is discarded, an ecclesia exists, whose character and principle of constitution were not revealed in the Old Testament (Rom. 16:25, 26; Eph. 3:3, 5, 6; Col. 1:26, 27). This church is selected out of all nations, in it Jewish rites are abolished; a bond of union heretofore unknown is established, while every existing distinction disappears; in this body the Gentiles form much the larger portion. How has this change been effected? If the promises of God stand, and his gifts and calling are without repentance, how are these astounding facts to be explained and justified? The Gospel according to Matthew answers these questions; it relates the coming of Jesus to the Jews as their King, their rejection of him, his consequent rejection of them, and the prospective establishment of the church and its ordinances. At every step it refers to the Old Testament for the principles on which all this has been done. The Gospel according to Matthew conducts us from the position of the Old Testament to that of the New.
Accordingly, in matter, manner, and style, this Gospel manifests its intimate relationship to the Mosaic dispensation and to ' the Old Testament. The law is a revelation from God, more real and stable than the outward universe (v. 13); Jerusalem is the holy city (iv. 5); the city of the great king (v.35); the Jewish temple is God's dwelling-place (xxiii. 21); the holy place (xxiv. 15); the temple of God (xxvi. 61); the temple and altar are sacred and sanctifying (xxiii. 1 7—21); the altar service furnishes illustrations of obedience to the divine requirements (v. 23, 24); the authority of those who occupy Moses' seat is asserted, and obedience to their official commands enjoined (xxiii. 1-3). It presents Christ in his character and office as the Jewish King; the Gospel which he preaches is the gospel of the kingdom (iv. 23); and his teaching is the word of the kingdom (xiii. 19). The parables are all of the kingdom of heaven. Christ sits on the throne of his glory, and applying to himself the august title of The King, gathers before him all the nations and pronounces the sentences of eternity (xxv. 31—46). At his death nature owns his authority, the earth is shaken, the rocks are rent, the graves are opened, the dead are raised (xxvii. 51-53).
But the nation rejects its Messiah and King. Perverting the whole purpose and intent of the Mosaic dispensation (xii. 7), refusing to fulfil the office to which they were appointed, they crucified him who was the embodiment of God's purposes for them as a people. At his birth he was doomed to death by the civil authority; in his manhood the religious rulers pursued him with an animosity which would not be satisfied short of his crucifixion. From the beginning his fate is inevitable (viii. 20). His life is a continual withdrawal from the Jewish rulers. He withdraws into Egypt (ii. 14); then into Galilee (ii. 22); his public ministry as here told begins with his withdrawal from Judea (iv. 1 2); the Pharisees follow him and hold a council against him how they may destroy him, but when Jesus knew it, he withdrew himself from thence (xii. 15); still pursued by the Sanhedrim, he withdraws into the borders of Tyre and Sidon (xv. 21); and this course continues until he goes to Jerusalem to die (xix. 1). On the cross, his only word is that desolate wail, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (xxvii. 46). No word of sympathy from any human voice is heard, the passers-by revile him, the chief priests with the elders and scribes mock him (xxvii. 39, 43); while the cry still rings in the air, " His blood be on us, and on our children " (xxvii. 25).
The result of all this is the rejection of the nation. The kingdom of God is taken from them and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof (xxi. 43). Christ declares that the unclean spirit has returned to his former habitation, bringing with him seven other spirits more wicked than him self (xii. 45). All the parables spoken in public after chapter xiii. set forth the national sin and the impending destruction (xxi. 28-33; xxii. 2). The final miracle is the blasting of the fig-tree, the emblem of the nation (xxi. 19). The closing public discourse is an arraignment of the Jewish authorities: portraying their character and history, he bids them fill up the measure of their father's iniquity, and with the inquiry, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?" (xxiii. 33); pronounces their doom and departs forever from the temple (xxiv. 1).
The rejection of the Jews and the acceptance of the Gentiles have not waited until this time for intimation. In the genealogy with which the Gospel begins are found the names of two Gentile women who by faith obtained a place in the royal line (i. 5, 6). At the birth of Christ the Gen tile magi recognize and honor him, while the rulers and religious guides of the nation pass him by without notice. Egypt furnishes the refuge which Judea refuses (ii. 14, 15). A Gentile centurion exhibits faith not found in Israel (viii. 10). A Canaanite draws from the Lord the exclamation, "O woman, great is thy faith" (xv. 28). The Roman Pilate cleanses his hands from the blood which the Jews take upon themselves (xxvii. 24; and Pilate's wife warns him to have nothing to do with that just man (xxvii. 19); while the Gen tile guards around the cross express their conviction of the blamelessness of the sufferer (xxvii. 54).
To take the place of the nation which has so signally failed to recognize the purpose of its election, a new body is chosen to be God's peculiar people — a holy nation, a kingdom of priests (1 Pet. ii. 9). This body — the church — is founded on the divinely revealed knowledge of Christ (xvi. 17, 18). To it are given a new life, a new covenant, a new constitution, a new commandment, new discipline, new ordinances. It is charged with the duty of discipling all nations, " baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (xxviii. 19). •
At this point the Gospel according to Mark commences. Whatever may be the date of its composition, there can be no question as to its place in the history. It follows logic ally the Gospel according to Matthew. In it the Christ begins his work. There is no place for kingly character and office here; no one styles him King until he stands before Pilate; even the evangelist does not call him Lord until after the ascension, nor do the disciples give him that title. Here there is no authoritative exposition of law, no adjudication before judgment thrones, no mention of the fire with which the Messiah is to baptize. No assertion is there of one greater than the temple, greater than Solomon, greater than Jonah; no argument based on Christ's ownership, as in Matthew and Luke; no ascription of power, such as the centurion utters in both those Gospels. In the other evangelists Christ speaks of his glory, but not in Mark; here it is the glory of the Father (viii. 38), with power and great glory (xiii. 26).
This is "the beginning of the Gospel of the Son of God." It presents the first aspect of sonship and the first aspect and manifestation of redemption. In John the son ship of Christ is that of eternal relationship, in Luke it arises from his conception by the Holy Spirit (Luke i. 35), in Mark's Gospel it is the sonship of consecration, obedience, and service — the privilege and characteristic of all the re deemed. Both as the beginning of the Gospel and as the Gospel of the Son of God, Mark is the Gospel of man— of man in his present constitution and condition, of man irrespective of all distinctions. " The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath" (ii. 27); "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" (xi. 17); the distinction between ceremonially clean and unclean food is abrogated: "This he said, making all food clean" (vii. 19); and here is uttered the truth that, "To love God with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices" (xii. 32, 33). The transference from the Jewish position of Matthew to the stage of the world occupied by Mark is apparent throughout the Gospel; Jewish customs (vii. 3, 4), Jewish facts (xi. 13), Jewish words (iii. 17; v. 41; vii. 11, 34) are explained. In Matthew and Luke — Jewish Gospels — repentance is emphasized; in Mark belief and unbelief; " All things are possible to him that believeth " (ix. 23). Our Lord begins his ministry with " Repent ye and believe the gospel" (i. 15), and closes with " He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (xvi. 16).
This is the beginning of the Gospel. Called out of Egypt (Matt. ii. 15), the people of God enter here on the first stage of redemption, the journey through the wilderness, in the course of which the old leaven is eliminated and a new and better generation appears. The only parable peculiar to Mark gives the course of Christianity in this dispensation:" So is the kingdom of God, as if a man were to cast seed into the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up he knoweth not how" (iv. 26, 27). To the same purport are the only two miracles peculiar to Mark: the healing of the deaf and dumb (vii. 32-37), and of the blind man at Bethsaida (viii. 22-25). I" both of them the person cured is taken aside from the multitude while the cure is wrought; in the second the cure is gradual. The same method of dealing finds expression in the statement peculiar to Mark that in the explanation of parables Christ spake the word unto them as they were able to hear it (iv. 33).
The first privilege and requirement of the child of God is service. "Israel is my son, my first-born; let my son go that he may serve me" (Ex. iv. 22). The first sacrifice in the Book of Leviticus is the offering of consecration (Lev. i). In the New Testament the first duty of those redeemed by the mercies of God is to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God (Rom. xii. 1). Our Lord's first step is to take on him the form of a servant (Phil. ii. 7). A body is prepared for him, and in that body he comes to do his Father's will (Heb. x. 5, 7). In Mark the bodily actions and gestures of Christ are specially named. The Gospels that follow Mark emphasize the impartation of the Spirit to Christ. In this Gospel his human emotions are mentioned — anger (iii. 5), compassion (i. 40), wonder (vi. $), displeasure (x. 14). The effects on the multitude are of the same character. They are astonished (i. 22), amazed (i. 27, ii. 12), beyond measure astonished (vii. 37), greatly amazed (ix. 15), they marvel at him (xii. 17). Only once do we meet the statement, which so frequently occurs in Luke, they glorified God (ii. 12). The sacrifice is spiritual as well as bodily, burning with the unceasing fire of the Holy Ghost. The Spirit driveth him into the wilderness (i. 12); his friends say, " He is beside himself," and wish to put him under restraint (iii. 21); here only are James and John named "Sons of thunder" (iii. 17). The rapid transitions of the Gospel evince its vigor and movement.
In this Gospel Christ is the Son consecrated to service. This is the one relation and character of the Gospel. It gives no account of Christ's genealogy, birth, infancy, child hood. No sermons or addresses of any length are recorded, and only four parables. In the other Gospels much space is given to his discourses, to his kinsfolk and associates, to the results of his work. This Gospel is occupied with Christ. In Luke we are introduced to the home of his parents; here to his own home (ii. I; iii. 19). Elsewhere he is the carpenter's son; here he is the carpenter (vi. 3). Not that he is without associates; his human nature is shown in the craving for companionship manifested in the continual notice of the presence of his friends. He ordained twelve that they should be with him (iii. 14). The names of his companions are given by Mark as by no other evangelist (i. 29; xiii. 3). The distinction between Mark and the other Gospels in this respect is that there the persons introduced are objects of interest, exemplifying some working of grace; here they are simply mentioned as being with him. He remains the sole object of attention. The accounts of the cure of the Syro-Phoenician's daughter (vii. 24-30) and of the anointing of Christ (xiv. 3-9) are only apparently inconsistent with this statement; for it is expressly said that the first is given as the reason why Jesus could not find the seclusion he sought, and the second is introduced, out of its chronological place, to account for the arrest of Christ during the feast, contrary to the intention of the chief priests and scribes. Christ's consecration remains the one subject of the Gospel. Work succeeds work without interruption, until the Gospel closes as it began — " And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them" (xvi. 20).
In the Gospel according to Luke we enter on another stage of redemption. We pass from the individual to consider his relations to others, together with the consequent duties and blessings. It is the priestly Gospel, the Gospel of intercession, of redemption, the social Gospel, the ethical Gospel. It opens with the priest in the sanctuary offering incense, the multitude standing without in prayer (i. 8-10); it closes with the disciples in the temple continually praising and blessing God (xxiv. 53). From the first word from heaven — "Fear not, Zacharias; thy prayer is heard " (i. 13) — through the parables of the friend rising at midnight (xi. 5—8) of the importunate widow (xviii. 1—5), of the publican (xviii. 13, 14), to the prayer of the penitent robber (xxiii. 42, 43), instances of successful petition abound; while in all the important crises of our Lord's life his prayers are specially mentioned (iii. 21, vi. 12, ix. 28). The companion of successful prayer is praise, with which this Gospel resounds. The inspired songs of Mary (i. 46-55), of Zacharias (i. 68-79), and of Simeon (ii. 29-32) are still the canticles of the church. At Christ's birth the chorus of the angels sweeps through the midnight sky (ii. 13, 14). The shepherds return, " glorifying and praising God " (ii. 20); the paralytic and all that behold the miracle " glorify God " (v. 25, 26); the blind man at Jericho, as soon as he received sight, glorified God, and " all the people, when they saw it, gave praise unto God " (xviii. 43). The Gospel of relationship from its very nature cannot be — what it is frequently called — the universal Gospel. We look in vain in Luke for expressions of universality common to all the other evangelists. In Matthew we read, "Ye are the salt of the earth;" "Ye are the light of the world" (v. 13, 14); "The field is the world (xiii. 38;" "Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden " (xi. 28); in Mark, "The Sabbath was made for man" (ii. 27); "My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations" (xi. 17); in John, "The Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" (i. 29); "God so loved the world that he gave his Son, that whosoever believeth in him should have eternal life " (iii. 16); "The bread which I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world" (vi. 51); "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me " (xii. 32); "I am the light of the world " (viii. 12); "Other sheep I have which are not of this fold " (x. 16); Jesus "should die not for that nation only, but also that he should gather together in one the children of God that are scattered abroad " (xi. 52). Luke is singularly devoid of all such ideas and expressions. The one or two (ii. 32; iii. 6), which at first sight might seem to be in conflict with this statement, will be found on examination to be consistent with it. Only at the close of the Gospel comes the command to preach repentance and remission of sins in his name among all nations and then the command is, Begin at Jerusalem (xxiv. 47). In Luke our Lord does not cross the boundary of the Holy Land; nor does any one from beyond its borders come to him for help or grace. No Syro-Phoenician woman, as in Matthew and Mark, daughter of an accursed race, cries to him for succor; no Greeks, as in John, say, " We would see Jesus;" no miracle of feeding the 4,000 is here; no blessing comes except through Israel. In the only instance of a Gentile asking a favor from the Lord — that of the Roman centurion — it is expressly stated that the rulers of the Jews were sent to intercede for him with the plea, "He loveth our nation and hath built us a synagogue " (vii. 3-5). The miracles of the Old Testament cited by Christ exhibit the same principle. The widow of Sarepta, in her penury, first makes a cake for the prophet of Israel, and then she and her house eat many days. Naaman, the Syrian, is cured by the interposition of an Israelitish maid, by applying to the king and prophet of Israel, and by dipping seven times — Israel's sacred number — in Israel's sacred river (iv. 25—27). Relationship is often expressly stated as the reason for Christ's action — "Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, to be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" (xiii. 16); salvation came to the house of Zaccheus because he was a son of Abraham (xix. 9). In chapter xv. it is the restoration of the sheep, the coin, and the son that is the ground of rejoicing. The sheep belonged to the flock from which it wandered, the coin was the woman's inheritance, the son was still a son when he took his journey into a far country. In the discussions on the Sabbath it is not "Which of you shall see," but, "Which of you shall have an ass or an ox fallen into a pit, and will not straightway pull him out on the Sabbath day?" (xiv. 5). " Doth not each of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from the stall, and lead him away to watering?" (xiii. 1 5). The widow pleads with the judge to restore what had been taken from her (xviii. 3).
To relationship belongs redemption. The Redeemer, by the law of Israel, must be the Kinsman, the Goel. Here, first in the New Testament, do we meet the word, " He hath visited and wrought redemption for his people " (i. 68). Anna spake of him to all that looked for the redemption of Jerusalem (ii. 38); in the last times the disciples are to look up for their redemption draweth nigh (xxi. 28); and in the sad dialogue after the crucifixion the disciples say, "We trusted it had been he who should have redeemed Israel" (xxiv. 21). In the genealogy given by Luke Christ is more than son of Abraham and David, he is God's Son (iii. 38). Hence appears in this Gospel the primal view of redemption — that presented in the first promise — the personal conflict for man — "He shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel" (Gen. iii. 15). Zacharias sings, "We shall be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all that hate us" (i. 71). Christ's opening commission is, "He hath sent me to preach deliverance to the captives" (iv. 18). Here Satan — the arch-enemy of man — says, "All the power and the glory of the kingdoms of the world is delivered to me, and to whomsoever I will I give it " (iv. 6). The woman healed is one whom "Satan has bound these eighteen years " (xiii. 16). In the hour of Christ's joy he beheld " Satan as lightning fallen from heaven" (x. 18). Satan desires to have the disciples that "he may sift them as wheat" (xxii. 31). The whole people and the whole land must be redeemed; if there are portions of the land under ban, or any outcast classes of people, they will be the objects of Christ's special notice and care. For this reason Samaria and Perea occupy a large space in this Gospel. The rightful position and character of the Samaritan are vindicated (x. 30, 37; xvii. 11, 19). The relation of woman to the religious leaders is intimated in John iv. 27. In Luke's Gospel woman is specially honored; before Christ's birth (i. 26-56) during Christ's ministry (viii. 2; x. 38-42), at his crucifixion (xxiii. 27, 49, 55), after his resurrection (xxiv. 1, 12). The poor, the publican, the transgressors of the Mosaic law were religious and social outcasts. Christ emphasizes the love of the woman who was a sinner (vii. 36, 50); he places a beggar in Abraham's bosom (xvi. 20, 22,); a publican's prayer in the temple is accepted (xviii. 1 1— 14); a publican is declared to be a son of Abraham (xix. 1-10); a malefactor accompanies the Lord to paradise (xxiii. 43).
In the Gospel of Luke the social relations have a place unknown to the other Evangelists. It abounds with instruction as to social duties. John the Baptist directs his disciples, " He that hath two coats let him impart to him that hath none, and he that hath food let him do likewise;" to the publican he says, " Exact no more than that which is appointed you;" and to the soldiers, " Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, but be content with your wages " (iii. 10-14). The Sermon on the Plain is in strong contrast with the Sermon on the Mount reported by Matthew; it covers our social and relative duties, the use that should be made of earthly possessions (xiv. 12, 13). To the same purport is the parable of the good Samaritan (x 30-37); that of the rich fool (xii. 16-21); that of the shrewd steward (xvi. 1-9); that of the rich man and Lazarus (xvi. 19-31); the result of the interview with Zaccheus (xix. 8).
This Gospel of Redemption is the Gospel of success. In the prophecy quoted when John the Baptist appears, Luke adds to the words cited by the other Evangelists:" Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, the crooked shall be made straight and the rough way shall be made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God" (iii. 5, 6). At the call of the first two apostles to their work we have, what we do not find in Matthew or Mark, the wonderful draught of fishes, a prediction of their success in their new calling (v 4-7). The seventy return again with joy, saying, "Even the devils are subject unto us through thy name" (x. 17), and the Gospel closes as it begins with thanksgiving and praise for what God has done (xxiv. 53).
The Gospel of John is the final Gospel. The opening sentences glow with that ineffable Light which in the Holy of Holies overhung the Mercy Seat between the cherubim; we behold " his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth " (i. 14). John begins where the other evangelists end, with the rejection of Christ by the Jewish people:" He came unto his own and his own received him not" (i. n). In the Synoptic Gospels all Christ's inter course with his disciples until his last journey to Jerusalem is designed to answer the question, Who is the Son of Man (Matt. xvi. 1 5; Mark viii. 29; Luke ix. 20)? The nature and person of Christ as the Son of the living God having been revealed, he announces for the first time the method of redemption — by his death, burial and resurrection (Matt. xvi. 21; Mark viii. 31; Luke ix. 22). But John's Gospel begins with the declaration of Christ's divine character and atoning work; in the first chapter he is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world (i. 29); on him the angels of God are ascending and descending (i. 51); he declares the character and secret actions of Nathanael (i. 47-50); he needs not that any should tell him of man, for he knows what is in man (ii. 25); he is the Son of Man who came down from heaven and is in heaven (iii. 13). The first miracle which John records is the marriage feast (ii. n); the first public act the cleansing of the Temple (ii. 16); the first discourse the revelation of the heavenlies (iii. 12); — all pertaining to an order of things which comes only at the close of the other Gospels. In Christ's discourses to the Jews, in his prayer recorded in chapter xvii., in the account of the crucifixion, the point of view is that of a finished work. The death on the cross is not so much the process of dying as the results of death; it is not defeat, but victory. In the other Gospels, when Christ speaks to his disciples of his approaching decease, he emphasizes his humiliation and suffering, his delivery to the Gentiles (Matt. xvi. 21; xx. 18; Luke xviii. 32); here his death is voluntary; "No man taketh my life from me but I lay it down of myself" (x. 18); it inheres in the relation he has assumed, " I am the good shepherd, the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep" (x. 11); it is the reason for his Father's special love, "Therefore doth my Father love me because I lay down my life that I may take it again" (x. 17, 18); and it results in universal appreciation, " And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me" (xii. 32). In this Gospel there is no account of the transfiguration with its Moses and Elias, the encouragement for the coming Calvary. There are here no apprehensions of the cross, no Gethsemane; no angels strengthening him. As the band of men and officers approach him in the garden to apprehend him, when he says, "I am he," they go backward and fall to the ground (xviii. 6). Throughout the whole scene of the crucifixion the same wonderful character is preserved. He does not receive testimony from men: no company of women bewail and lament him; no Judas confesses, "I have betrayed the innocent blood;" no Pilate's wife says, " Have thou nothing to do with this just man;" no dying malefactor testifies, "This man has done nothing amiss;" no Roman centurion says, "Truly this man was the Son of God." And he who needed no help or sympathy or testimony from men or angels would have none from nature; in this Gospel we read nothing of rocks rending, or of the earth quaking, or of the darkness covering the land. From the cross is heard no cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" no prayer, "Father, into thy hand I commend my Spirit." He speaks but three words — the first, as if on a quiet death-bed, provides for his mother; the second is a fulfilment of Scripture; the third is the shout of the conqueror.
The final Gospel is the personal Gospel. The Divine Persons, Father, Son, and Spirit, are presented in their order, each in his distinct sphere and each in his relation to the others. The personality of Christ, the personal character of the relations he sustains are everywhere emphasized. He speaks rather than acts (viii. 12). His fundamental assertion is, I am — I am the Life, the Truth, the Way, the Vine, the Door, the Shepherd, the Resurrection. Few miracles are recorded, and the discourses are occupied with the nature of God, the essential oneness of Christ with the Father, the mystical union of Christ with his people. In the person of Christ all things find their fulfilment; not only the predictions of the Old Testament but the Old Testament itself; the Shekinah and the tabernacle (i. 14); the temple (ii. 19—21); the ladder on which the angels of God ascend and descend (i. 51); the serpent in the wilderness (iii. 14); the manna (vi. 32); the paschal lamb (i. 20; xix. 36); in him all nature finds its fulfilment — life (i. 4); light (i. 9); water (iv. 10); bread (vi. 50); all offices and relationships — the vine (xv. 1); the door (x. 7); the shepherd (x. 14); the way (xiv. 6). The reason and vindication of all Christ's actions are found in himself. The eight miracles in this Gospel are, with a single exception (iv. 46-53), self-moved — wrought without any request from those to be benefited, and in that exception the cure transcends the faith of the petitioner. In the discussions on the Sabbath there is no argument, as in the Synoptics, from David or the temple, or the conduct of man: his one justification is, " My Father worketh until now, and I work" (v. 17). In the one thought of belief in Christ centre all the requirements of God (vi. 28, 29). A personal relation to a personal Being comprises all that is necessary for perfect conduct and character; this meets every possibility of the soul (i. 4); satisfies every desire (iv. 14); fills every capacity for time and eternity (vi. 35). The personality of the thought moulds the style of John; it shows itself in the avoidance of abstractions, in the absence of all reference to law as now in force, in the continual recurrence of the personal pronoun, in the precision and accuracy with which words are used, in the continual repetition of words which this precision requires, in the ever- recurring antitheses, in the scrupulous restriction of terms.
The final Gospel is the universal Gospel, "All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made" (i. 2); he "lighteth every man that cometh into the world" (i. 9); he is "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world" (i. 29). "The hour is coming in which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice and shall come forth" (v. 28).
The final Gospel is the Gospel of the essential and eternal. There is here no Sermon on the Mount, with its explanation of law; no Sermon on the Plain, with its ethical directions- Directions with regard to conduct found in all the other Gospels disappear; the heavenly, the spiritual, and eternal are the subjects of discourse. The church is viewed in the same light. Christ institutes no ordinances, ordains no apostles, appoints no officers. He breathes on the disciples the Holy Spirit which is to be the eternal life of the church (xx. 22). The Gospel begins with the declaration of the intrinsic nature of Christ, with his relation on the one hand to the Uncreated and on the other to all that comes into being. The antagonisms are the ultimate and permanent — light and darkness, life and death. The relationships are not historic, but ideal (viii. 39). Times and places disappear; God is Spirit, and is worshiped in spirit and in truth (iv. 21-24); while Christ returns to the glory which he had with the Father before the world was (xvii. 5).
Henry G. Weston.
Crozer Theological Seminary.
1) For example: Paul tells us that Christ Jesus was made unto us wisdom from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor. 1:30). A comparison of the Gospels will show that Matthew presents the special aspect of righteousness, Mark of sanctification, Luke of redemption. The Gospels begin with the Old Testament idea of righteousness (Matt. 1:19; 3:15; 6:33; 10:41; 25:46;) and end with the New Testament idea of love John 3:16; 13:1; 15:9).