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John, vi. 25. “And when they had found him on the other side of the sea, they said unto him, Rabbi, when camest thou hither? Jesus answered them, and said, Verily I say unto you, ye seek me not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you.
John, iv. 12. “Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle? Jesus answered, and said unto her (the woman of Samaria), Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again; but whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
John, iv. 31. “In the meanwhile his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat; but he said unto them, I have meat to eat that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him aught to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is, to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish his work."
John, ix. 1–5. “ And as Jesus passed by he saw a man which was blind from his birth: and his disciples asked him, saying, Who did sin, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus, answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him. I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
John, ix. 35–40. “ Jesus heard that they had cast him (the blind man above mentioned) out: and when he had found him he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? And he answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe; and he worshiped him. And Jesus said, For judgment I have come into this world, that they which see not, might see; and that they which see, might be made blind.”
All that the reader has now to do, is to compare the series of examples taken from St. John, with the series of examples taken from the other evangelists, and to judge whether there be not a visible agreement of manner between them. In the above quoted passages, the occasion is stated, as well as the reflection. They seem, therefore, the most proper for the purpose of our argument. A large, however, and curious collection has been made by different writers' of instances, in which it is extremely probable that Christ spoke in allusion to some object or some occasion then before him, though the mention of the occasion or of the object be omitted in the history. I only observe, that these instances are common to St. John's Gospel with the other three.
I conclude this article by remarking, that nothing of this manner is perceptible in the speeches recorded in the Acts, or in any other but those which are attributed to Christ, and that, in truth, it was a very unlikely manner for a forger or fabulist to attempt; and a manner very difficult for any writer to execute, if he
1 Newton on Daniel, p. 148, note a. Jortin, Dis. p. 213. Bishop Law's Life of Christ.
had to supply all the materials, both the incidents and the observations upon them, out of his own head. A forger or a fabulist would have made for Christ discourses exhorting to virtue and dissuading from vice in general terms. It would never have entered into the thoughts of either to have crowded together such a number of allusions to time, place, and other little circumstances as occur, for instance, in the sermon on the Mount, and which nothing but the actual presence of the objects could have suggested?.
II. There appears to me to exist an affinity between the history of Christ's placing a little child in the midst of his disciples, as related by the first three evangelists”, and the history of Christ's washing his disciples' feet, as given by St. John*. In the stories themselves there is no resemblance. But the affinity which I would point out consists in these two articles: First, that both stories denote the emulation which prevailed amongst Christ's disciples, and his own care and desire to correct it; the moral of both is the same. Secondly, that both stories are specimens of the same manner of teaching, viz. by action; a mode of emblematic instruction extremely peculiar, and, in these passages, ascribed, we see, to our Saviour by the first three evangelists, and by St. John, in instances totally unlike, and without the smallest suspicion of their borrowing from each other.
III. A singularity in Christ's language, which runs through all the evangelists, and which is found in those discourses of St. John that have nothing similar to them in the other Gospels, is the appellation of “ the Son of man;" and it is in all the evangelists
2 See Bishop Law's Life of Christ.
Matt. xviii. 1. Mark, ix. 33. Luke, ix. 46.
* Chap. xiii. 3.
found under the peculiar 'circumstance of being applied by Christ to himself, but of never being used of him or towards him by any other person. It occurs seventeen times in Matthew's Gospel, twenty times in Mark's, twenty-one times in Luke's, and eleven times in John's, and always with this restriction.
IV. A point of agreement in the conduct of Christ, as represented by his different historians, is that of his withdrawing himself out of the way whenever the behaviour of the multitude indicated a disposition to tumult.
Matt. xiv. 22. “And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side while he sent the multitude away. And when he had sent the multitude away, he went up
into a mountain apart to pray.
Luke, v. 15, 16. . “But so much the more went there a fame abroad of him, and great multitudes came together to hear, and to be healed by him of their infirmities : and he withdrew himself into the wilderness, and prayed.”
With these quotations compare the following from St. John: Chap. v. 13.
" And he that was healed wist not who it was; for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place. Chap. vi. 15.
“When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
In this last instance St. John gives the motive of Christ's conduct, which is left unexplained by the other evangelists, who have related the conduct itself.
V. Another and a more singular circumstance in
Christ's ministry, was the reserve which, for some time, and upon some occasions at least, he used in declaring his own character, and his leaving it to be collected from his works rather than his professions. Just reasons for this reserve have been assigned But it is not what one would have expected. We meet with it in St. Matthew's Gospel (chap. xvi. 20): “ Then charged he his disciples, that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.” Again, and upon a different occasion, in St. Mark's (chap. iii. 11): " And unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him, and cried, saying, Thou art the Son of God; and he straitly charged them that they should not make him known.” Another instance similar to this last is recorded by St. Luke (chap. iv. 41). What we thus find in the three evangelists appears also in a passage of St. John (chap. x. 24, 25): “Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” The occasion here was different from any of the rest; and it was indirect. We only discover Christ's conduct through the upbraidings of his adversaries. But all this strengthens the argument. I had rather at any time surprise a coincidence in some oblique allusion than read it in broad assertions.
VI. In our Lord's commerce with his disciples, one very observable particular is the difficulty which they found in understanding him when he spoke to them of the future part of his history, especially of what related to his passion or resurrection. This difficulty produced, as was natural, a wish in them to ask for further explanation; from which, however, they appear to
5 See Locke's Reasonableness of Christianity.