Page images

would understand the nature of the reign or spiritual dominion to be established; for this is what few or none did ; but that they would immediately understand it to relate to the accession of the Messiah, their great deliverer, to that sovereignty with which they had learnt from the Prophets, and from the scribes, that he was to be invested. The dispensation, therefore, is properly ushered in with an authoritative call to all men to amend their lives, and prepare for the reign of the Messiah, the expectation and joy of God's people, just about to commence. Nothing, therefore, could be more suitable, and, though alarming to the wicked, nothing could be more consolatory to the pious, at the time the nation was in subjection to a foreign and oppressive yoke, than such seasonable information. Nothing, consequently, can be better accommodated to what must have been the sentiments and prospects of the people at that time, or can more accurately express the full import of the original, κηρυσσων το ευαγγελιον ons Bacinelas T8 8, than this literal and plain version, Proclaiming the glad tidings of the reign of God. This conveys to us, at this moment, the same ideas which, in those circumstances, must have been conveyed by the words of the sacred historian, into the mind of every Jewish reader at the time.

§ 13. On the contrary, the expression in the vulgar translation, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, must have been to such a reader unintelligible; as even to us, when we abstract from the fa.

miliarity occasioned by custom, which is apt to impose upon us, 'it appears both obscure and improper. Castalio, in one place ?, departs, if possible, still farther from the sense, rendering it regium publicans evangelium,“ publishing the royal gospel.” Not to mention the futility of the term royal, applied in a way which' renders it'a mere expletive ; the very subject published, å Baginela, the reign, is justled out to make room for a splendid but unmeaning epithet. Our Lord, we find from the

evangelists, spoke to his countrymen in the dialect of their own Scriptures, and used those names to which the reading of the Law and the Prophets, either in the original, or in the versions then used, had familiarized them. Our translators, and indeed, most European translators, represent him as using words which, even in their own translations of the Old Testament, never occur, and to which, in fact, there is nothing there that corresponds in meaning. The people had all heard of the reign of the Messiah, to be established in the latter times, and considered the arrival of that period as the happiest tidings with which they could be made acquainted. But of the Gospel they had never heard before. “ What is this you call “the Gospel ?” they would naturally ask ; “ what does the Gospel of a kingdom mean?” These are words to which our ears are strangers. No mention is made of such things in the Law, in the Prophets, or in the Psalms.

66 and

21 Matth. ir. 23.

§ 14. Now, if the terms must have been altogether unintelligible to Jews, they are, even to us Christians, both obscure and improper. First, obscure, because indefinite. It does not appear easy in such circumstances, as those under consideration, to assign a precise meaning to the word Gospel

. We commonly understand by it the whole religious institution of Jesus, including both doctrines and precepts. Nothing can be plainer than that this is not the meaning of the term here. The very words which were preached or promulgated, are expressly mentioned, and comprised in a single sentence : Μετανοειτε, ήγγικε γαρ η βασιλεια των ερανων. Besides, the Apostles, who, in our Lord's lifetime, received this commission, were not yet qualified for teaching the system of doctrine implied under the name gospel, because, in fact, they did not know it themselves. They had then no notion of a Messiah, but as a temporal prince, and mighty conqueror, or of his kingdom, but as a secular monarchy, more extensive than, but of the same nature with, those, which had preceded, to wit, the Assyrian, the Persian, the Macedonian empires, or, that which was in being at the time, the Roman. Not one of their hearers could have been more prejudiced, than the Apostles themselves were, at that time, against a suffering Saviour, who was to expire, in agonies and infamy, on a cross.

Now, let people but coolly reflect, and then put the question to themselves ; If we set aside these im. portant truths, the death, and consequently the re



surrection of Jesus Christ, his victory over the enemies of our salvation, and his purchase of spiritual and eternal blessings, by his blood; of all which the Apostles were then ignorant, and against most of which, when first informed of them, they were as much prejudiced as any Pharisee, what will remain of that which we denominate the Gospel, in contradiction to Judaism ? The doctrine of the Gospel is, manifestly, what the Apostles were not qua. lified to teach, till they were enlightened by the descent of the Holy Ghost, on the day of Pentecost, after our Lord's ascension. Nay, they were, after

his resurrection, when they knew more than former. ly, expressly commanded, before they should at

tempt to teach that doctrine, to wait the promised il. lumination from above 25. But they had been, long before, sufficiently qualified to announce the approach of this dispensation, and to warn men to forsake their sins, and to prepare for the appearance of their Lord and King. Further, if the term gospel here be rather indefinite, how does this addition, of the kingdom, serve either to illustrate or to limit the im. port of that term ? And an addition, which answers neither of these purposes, cannot fail still farther to darken it.

15. But, secondly, that expression in our language is, in those instances, also improper ; because there is no meaning which use has affixed to the Eng

25 Acts, i. 4. 8.

lish word gospel, that expresses the sense of the original. And, as it has been shown that our term does not there suit the word ευαγγελιoν, I mean afterwards to show that the word preaching does not exactly convey the sense of xnpuoowv. At the same time, it is acknowledged, on the other hand, that the word evayyehov is, in many places, in the Epistles of Paul, rightly rendered Gospel. But this is manifestly, as has been shown, a secondary sense of later date.


16. I observed that, when the word evayyealov is construed with a noun serving to limit or explain 'its nature, it ought to be rendered good

But every regimen is not to be understood as serving this purpose. Thus, when it is followed with Ιησε Χριςο, with το Κυριά, or τα Θεο, which denote the author, it is justly regarded as a name for the dispensation, and properly rendered Gospel. In the phrase to evayyehlov to Xpi58, not preceded by Inos, the regimen may denote either the author or the subject. In the first view, it is the Gospel of Christ, that is, instituted by him ; in the second, the good news of the Messiah, that is, concerning him. There are, perhaps, a few other cases in which the choice may be a matter of indifference. But, in most cases, the regimen ascertains the sense. Thus, To evayyehov TNS Eypnuns can be no other than the good news of peace. The addition

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »