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M ARCH, . 1781.
Art. I. A Harmony of the Evangelifts in Englifo ; &c, By Joseph
Priettley; LL. D. F.R.S. Concluded. See Review for last Month
HE publication under review affords a striking instance of
the different opinions, which learned and judicious men, with the same means of information before them, and an equal love of truth, may form upon the fame subject. Dr. Prieftley has subjoined to the Critical Dissertations prefixed to his Harmony, A Jewish and Julian Calendar for the Time of the Public Ministry of Chrift, confifting of thirteen months. By this Calendar it appears, that, according to his view of the evangelical history, so far from a year and a few months not being a fuffie cient space of time for the events occurring between the baptism and the death of Christ, as the generality of Harmonists and Commentators have imagined, there are three whole months out of the thirteen, to which he supposes our Saviour's public ministry to have been confined, and much the greater part of three more, in which we have no account of what Jesus did.
In our former Article, we acquainted our Readers with the general plan and design of this English edition of Dr. Priestley's Harmony; and gave several specimens of the manner in which he has corrected our common version of the Gospels. We shall now, as we proposed, make some extracts from the Notes and Paraphrase subjoined, annexing fuch remarks as may affist our Readers in forming a judgment of the ability with which this part of the work is executed.
In the Preface to this edition, Dr. Priestley has endeavoured to prevent his Readers from giving way to that difguft which an unusual interpretation of words and phrases is apt to excite an Yol. LXIV. м
the mind, and instanced in one particular as likely as any to alarm their prejudices :
• With respect,' says he, both to the Paraphrase and Notes, I would only give my Readers one caution, which is, that they would not reject my interpretation of particular passages, because, at first fight, they may appear not to be natural : for this first impression may arise from nothing more than former fixed associations of ideas, which may have no foundation in truth. And, judging from myself, I can assure my Readers, that those interpretations which for some time appear the most unnatural and forced, may in time come to appear perfectly natural, and indifputably the true sense. A Papist thinks any other interpretation of the words, This is my body, than the most literal one, or that which implies the doctrine of Transubstantiation, to be exceedingly unnatural.
• I have every where supposed what is called Satan, or the Devil, in the Gospels, to be an allegorical personage, or the Principle of Evil personified. This will, in some cases, appear unnatural; but let those persons who now think so, only confider the repeated and ftrong perfonification of the Holy Spirit, or Comforter, as a being sent by the Father or the Son, and by some thought to be the third person in the Trinity, and yet that it is now generally supposed to mean, nothing more than a divine power or energy, and perhaps they will not think the personification stronger or harsher in the one case than in the other.'
Perhaps Dr. Priestley would have expressed himself more unexceptionably, if he had said that the Holy Spirit is, with reason, thought to intend merely a divine power, or energy, instead of faying, that it is generally supposed to mean nothing more. The propriety of the remarks in the former of these paragraphs, upon the difficulty with which we bring ourselves to affix a dif ferent meaning to words and phrases from that to which we have been accustomed, must be allowed by all who reflect upon what paffes in their own minds. The latter paragraph deserves in a particular manner the attention of those, who do not believe the perfonality of the Holy Spirit, and yet feel a reluctance, on account of the Scripture phraseology, to give up the notion that the Devil is a real personage, a great wicked being, able to con troul the laws of the material world, permitted to corrupt the innocence and destroy the happiness of other intelligent beings, introducing disorder and confusion into the works of God, and perpetually counteracting the benevolent designs of Providence.
It is with pleasure we observe, that Dr. Priestley has enriched his collection with many valuable Notes from the late learned Bifhop Pearce's Commentary ; to which we may venture to prophesy, that every future expositor will be not a little indebted, The Notes communicated by Mr. Turner, for the purpose of this publication, discover great judgment and ingenuity, true libetality of mind, and a perfect acquaintance with the language
and spirit of the New Testament. We fincerely regret, with Dr. Priestley, that his age and infirmities should prevent him from pursuing such commendable and useful studies.
The Paraphrase, we are to remember, is occasional: the design of it being to illustrate those discourfes of our Saviour recorded by John, and other passages of the Gospels, which;' in the Author's opinion, the mode of paraphrasing is better adapted to explain than any criticisms in the form of Notes. Besides the greater part of the discourses recorded by St. John, Dr. Prielley has paraphrased the beginning of St. John's Gospel, the Lord's Prayer, and some other parts of the Sermon on the Mount, Matth. xi. 25-28. xvi. 17-19. xviii. 10. 17.
xxvi. 26–29. Luke iv. 23, 24. xvi. 9, 10 xxiii. 31. and several other, both short passages and single texts.
We begin our extracts and remarks with a Note by Mr. Turner, on Luke i. 78:
Here seems a plain allufion to Malachi iv. 2. therefore" avatwin should rather be rendered fun-rihing than day-Spring'
Dr. Priestley adds, . The word avatoan also signifies a branch, and therefore some suppose that it is a reference to Ifa. iv. 2. and other prophecies of the Mefliah, which speak of him as a branch of the house of Felje, or David.'
He thould rather have referred to Jer. xxiii. 5. and Zech. iii. 8. and vi. 12.: passages in which the Septuagint have used the word avatoan for branch, and which are as likely to point at the Meiliah as Isa. iv. 2. or any other in which a doublesense is admitted.
Dr. Priestley had acknowledged in his Dissertations, p. 77, that he was not able to reconcile Matth. iii. 23. with John i. 33 Mr. Turner, in a Note on the former of these paffages, fupposes that the premonition given to John, respecting the defcent: of the Holy Spirit, would keep up an expectation in his mind of seeing the great personage, whose fore-runner he was; and that the gravity and dignity in the appearance of Jesus, and the wisdom and piety of his discourse, when he came to be baptized, might lead him to think that he was the person expected, and induce him to speak and act in the manner related by Matthew; and yet he might say very truly afterwards to the Pharisees, I knew him-not, &c. A somewhat different and still more satisfactory solution of the difficulty has been communi. cated to Dr. Priestley in a letter from the Rev. Mr. Palmer, late of Macclesfield, which, with the Writer's consent, he has prefixed to this edition of his Harmony. Mr. Palmer is justly of opinion, that Joh'n, who was the cousin of Jesus, must have been acquainted with him before his baptism, and have learned from his mother Elizabeth, that he was a personage much fuperior to himself; but did not know him (to be the MESSIAH).
till he saw the Spirit descending and remaining upon him. In fupport of this argument, Mr. Palmer observes, that no person appears to have known Jesus, to be the Messiah, till John bore witness of him. After the declaration of the shepherds, it is faid, Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. After the prophecy of Simeon, both Joseph and Mary marvelled at these things which were spoken of him. When he was twelve years old, they knew not what he meant by being about his Father's business, or rather, in his Father's house; and Mary still kept all these fayings in her heart, as uncertain of their import. And even after his baptism, his brethren did not believe him to be the Mefiah. The remark with which Mr. Palmer closes his observations, is too ingenious and interesting to be omitted:
. From the uncertainty of Mary,' says he, and the infidelity of the brothers, I infer, that those lofty expressions in Luke the first and second concerning Jesus, were not understood as necesarily implying, that he was che Mesliah ; and of course that the application of texts of Scripture among the Jews at this time was not descriptive, but merely allufive;, which I think it of confiderable importance to demonItrate.'
Dr. Priestley has the following Note on John i. 29. : the latter part of it appears to us to point out the true meaning of the Baptist :
• The Lamb of God'vhich taketh away, the fan of the world.] This seems to be an allusion to the facrifices of lambs under the Law, for the removal of ceremonial uncleannesses, &c. And since the moral precepts and promises of the Gospel, which was confirmed by the death and resurrection of Christ, are a means of reforming the world, or removing the sins of men, there is a sufficient resemblance to justify the comparison. But perhaps the only circumftance that suggested the comparison of Christ to a lamb, in the mind of John, might be his innocence, connecting with it that of his preaching, and thereby producing a great reformation in the world, of which he certainly was apprized. For I do not think it at all probable, that Lohn was apprized of the death of Christ; and therefore he could not allude to it. His message from the prison seems to imply the contrary ; viz. that he, like the rest of the Jews, expected a glorious and triumphant Messiah.'
On John iv. 25. we have the following ingenious remark by Dr. Jebb:
• This woman appears to have had a juster conception of the Meffiah's character than the Jews, because the Samaritans admitted only the Pentateuch, wherein the Mesliah is spoken of as a Prophet. Whereas in the consequent books the Messiah is spoken of as a King, which was the source of
mistakes.? In a Note on Matth. v. &c. Dr. Priestley obferves, 'This difcourse, called The Sermon on the Mount, was delivered to the peculiar disciples of Christ, and not to the mixed multitude, who followed him on account of his miracles. These he purposely avoided by retiring into the mountainous part of the country, whither his disciples
only followed him.' This, we apprehend, is not consistent with the assertion of St. Matthew, ch. vii. 28. that the people, oi gekos, the multitudes, were astonished at his doctrine ; or with Luke vii. 1. Novo when the bad ended all his Sayings in the audience of the people, tcū acoữ,
&c. The account which is given in the remainder of the Note of the leading design of the discourse, is very rational and judicious, “The great object of it seems to have been to inculcate the principles of a better morality than was taught by the Doctors of the Jewish Law in that age, and also gradually to andermine some of their notions concerning the outward fplendor of the Meffiah's kingdom. For, in oppofition to the pride and haughtiness which thofe notions could not fail to inspire, he begins his discourse with pronouncing bleflings upon persons of a quite different temper and disposition, as the poor in spirit, as the humble, the mourners, the meek, the merciful, &c. and especially the perfecuted for righteoufnofs fake, of which they who expected a triumphant Mefi ab could have no apprehension.'
The followingis Dr. Priestley's paraphrafe of the Lord's Prayer, which, on account of its plainness and fimplicity, may be of more service to common Christians, and lead them more easily into the meaning of a form of words, which fo frequently makes a part of their devotions, than a longer or more elegant difcourre :
• O God, our heavenly Father, the Author of our 'being, whe knowest all our wants, and whose care and goodness we daily experi
It is our earnest with and prayer, that thy being, attributes, and providence, may be universally known and reverenced, and that the pure worship of thee may prevail over the whole world. May thy kingdom under the Messiah, a kingdom of truth and righteousness, be firmly eftablished ; that thy will may be done by all men, with the utmost chearfulness and readiness, as it is done by the angels in heaven. Grant unto os as much of the good things of this life as may be sufficient for our present use; but for this and all our future fupplies we chearfully rely on thy infinite wisdom and goodness. Forgive, we beseech thee, our offences against thee, as we from our hearts forgive those who offend vs. Bring us into no trials or temptations that Mall be too hard for us ; but may all the difcipline of life be such as thall exercise and improve us, and be a means of delivering us from all vice, and establishing us in the practice of vir.
These our requests we address unto thee, as supreme and perpetual Governor of the Universe, who canst do more for us, than we can alk'
Dr. Priestley has the following Note on Luke xi. 7.:
"It is cullomary for a whole family to sleep in the same room, but not in the same bed: fo chae Neering in the same room was probably all that was meant by being with him in bed.' Perhaps it may be rendered, My servants as well as-myself are in bed; since wasdios, as well as wak, may fignify a fervant.'
Bishop Pearce, if we mistake not, has proved from other pafsages, in which the fame mode of expression occurs, that the proper import of the original, in this text, is merely, My children, or servants and I are in bed.