The Gospels

(Volume 5 of the Numerical Bible: The Fifth Pentateuch of the Bible)

Third Edition.

F. W. Grant.


In sending out the present volume of the Numerical Bible, it is a joy to realize that it is another witness to that which in our day is assailed on every hand, the absolute perfection of the Inspired Word. This very perfection renders, indeed, every testimony of this kind so feeble in comparison that it must make every attempt to show it forth in some sense a matter of humiliation. It will ever remain its own only-competent witness; and a large part of our work has to be simply the removal of that which through the incompetence of its friends, much more than the wanton malice of its foes, has obscured for many the light which shines forth from it. Nor can one pretend that even while seeking to do this, there may not be the adding of fresh mistakes to the number of those that have gone before. One's comfort only can be that after all, it is the nature of light to shine; and that that which has this self-evidence for oneself may be trusted to manifest it also to the eyes of others. The perfection of the Word cannot of course be demonstrated by that which is confessedly itself imperfect; yet so much may be seen as to produce conviction in the soul as to what is not seen. We have the highest witness that can be, that "Scripture cannot be broken;" and it is joy to know that every attempt to show the contrary has always resulted in ampler confirmation of its truth. But there is more than this: for God has ordained that we should in the reception of even the Word of truth, be helpers to one another; and thus it is that the Spirit of God testifies to our need of one another, and to His own abiding Presence in the Church. I have for my own part sought to keep this in mind, and have not willingly neglected any available means of knowledge. My indebtedness to those who have gone before me is far too great to be even realized, much as I have desired, without despising any help, to read Scripture for myself in dependence on that "Unction from the Holy One," by which even the "babes" may be delivered from helpless dependence upon any mere human teacher. That those who take up the present volume may do it in this spirit also is my heartfelt desire.

The references are here, as in all these volumes, the work of Mr. Samuel Ridout, to whom its readers, with myself, are also indebted for many helpful suggestions as to the translation, as in other ways. F. W. Grant. Plainfield, N. J. June, 1899.


The New Testament.

The meaning of the title given to the latter and distinctively Christian portion of the inspired Word is not in dispute. The Greek word (diatheke) means both "covenant" and "testament," and apparently in this very relation (compare Heb. 9:15-16); though, as in contrast with the "Old Covenant," the law, we naturally find most emphasis laid upon the former significance. "Covenant," says Fausset, "expresses its obligatory character, God having bound Himself by promise. 'Testament' expresses that, unlike other covenants, it is not a matter of bargaining, but all of God's grace, just as a testator has absolute power to do what he will with his own. Jesus' death brings the will of God in our favor into force."

Old Covenant and New Covenant are, as law and grace, completely opposed to one another. As the apostle argues, so absolutely is this true here that when the latter comes in the former must give way, to disappear before it (Heb. 8:13); and yet they are two parts of one testimony, both necessary to the Scripture rule with regard to testimony, and answering, in their very contrast to each other to the inherent reason for its being twofold. "Who that has considered it in the least but must appreciate the power of this for conviction? For such power in twofold witness proceeds largely from the diversity of character and interest that they present. They are otherwise different, ― contrasted; yet here they agree: different in such sort that you realize there is no collusion between them, ― no treachery. Nothing but the necessary unity of truth could make them one. And how will this be strengthened in proportion as the contrast is manifold, and yet the unity pervasive: and this in the two Testaments is what so demonstrates them to be of God.

"The Old Testament is in Hebrew, the language of a special people, with whose history it has grown up, and to whom it addresses itself. It is the religion of a nation, one of the families of the earth, its horizon earthly, its sanctuary a worldly one, its services ritualistic, ornate, elaborate, entrusted to a special priesthood. God is here behind a veil which none can penetrate; man ― all men ― are shut out; none can see Him and live; for, merciful as He is, He cannot clear the guilty, and who (let him do his best) is not guilty?

"This legal, sacerdotal, exclusive system, the incarnation of conscience, but a bad conscience, in what utter contrast is it to the free, spiritual, all-embracing spirit of Christianity! 'The Lord has said that He would dwell in the thick darkness,' says Solomon on the day of the dedication of the temple. (1 Kings 8:12.) 'We walk in the light as God is in the light,' answers the apostle. (1 John 1:7.) 'Who can by no means clear the guilty,' says the Old Testament voice. (Ex. 34:7.) 'That justifieth the ungodly,' says again the New Testament. (Rom. 4:5.) 'No man can see Me and live,' is the elder utterance. (Ex. 33:20.) 'He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,' are His words who is Himself the spirit incarnate of the New. (John 14:9.)

"Here are two witnesses how diverse: can it be that, after all, under these statements, so seemingly conflicting, there is yet a perfect unity? can there be a fullness of truth which embraces and harmonizes all? Yes, surely; admit what the Old Testament so abundantly confirms and illustrates, the essential opposition between law and grace, yet that the first is handmaid to the other; ― then, on the basis of law, all the Old Testament utterances are but the sentence of God upon the self-righteousness of man; while the New Testament reveals the heart of God in grace, upon the basis of a righteousness, by which the law also is magnified and made honorable, and able to forego its penal claim."*

{*"Spiritual Law in the Natural World," pp. 32-34.}

Thus this diverse testimony is all the more conclusive for being diverse. And the number two in itself speaks of diversity, as is plain. The foundation also of the new covenant or New Testament is the Cross; and the Cross receives and unites these diverse elements. It is curse and blessing, — the curse of the law taken and removed. It is humiliation and glory. It is the sin of man at its worst, and the love of God in its fullest display. The shed blood of Christ is the "blood of the new covenant," and the cup at His supper is "the new covenant (or testament) in His blood." (Matt. 26:28; Luke 22:20.) Thus the New Testament holds up the Cross as its emblem; and from Matthew to Revelation it is ever before us.

Clearly, the New Testament stands as a second part of the Bible, in contrast with yet confirmation and interpretation of the first. It is the substance of former shadows, but thus also in contrast with them. It is for men at large instead of a single nation; for the family of faith, who are now as such brought into a place of recognized relationship with God, and as called out of the world become a heavenly and not an earthly people.

But it is also a fifth Pentateuch, the Old Testament being made up of four Pentateuchs, as we have elsewhere seen. Nor is this number 5 in contradiction to the other number which it bears: for every 5 is also a two: it is made up of two numbers 4+1, and these two are in perfect contrast with one another, though coming thus together. Four is the number of frailty ― of the creature. One is the number of strength and of God. Five brings these together in itself, and is the number of Immanuel therefore ― "God with us"* This is surely the very meaning of the new covenant: "I will be their God;" and our Immanuel, Jesus, is the personal fulfillment of it. He is the "Mediator of the new covenant," the Reconciler of God and man. Thus, as a fifth Pentateuch, the New Testament is perfectly in agreement with its character as the second part of Scripture. The numbers two and five both speak of Jesus, and as no other numbers do. It is no wonder that here they should come together. For Scripture has its own arithmetic as Nature has: and nothing that is, save man, can be ever wanting in its Maker's praise.

{*See the appendix for all numerical symbolism or the former volumes.}

The Pentateuchal Structure.

Taking up the New Testament now, to look deeper into it, we find it has twenty-seven books in all, as the Old Testament has really thirty-six; the three double historical books of the latter being not originally so divided.* The one is therefore 3X12; the other is 3^3. The number of revelation (or divine manifestation), 3, enters into both; but in the Old Testament it is in connection with the number of manifest government: it is God upon the throne throughout, as "Law" means; whereas in the New Testament we have only the 3 itself, but cubed, which speaks of solidity ― of contents. God is manifest all through; there are no clouds and darkness round about Him, to hide the glory of what He is: He is "Light," and He is "in the light."

{*The division is due to the Septuagint.}

Thus as the manifestation of God to man, Father, Son and Spirit are now fully revealed. Beautifully we find this first, where, at His baptism by John, Christ comes forward to take up His work among men, ― the whole Godhead in wondrous fellowship in that salvation.

Answering to this also, and as the necessary response on man's part, the full sanctification of the Spirit is announced and realized. The things which Moses had to suffer for the hardness of men's hearts are now refused: "perfection" has in this sense come, that which "made nothing perfect" has (dispensationally) passed away.

Thus the numerals still bring out the character of what is here before us. But there is more than this: for these twenty-seven books fall into five divisions, ― in fact a Pentateuch, of Gospels, Acts, Pauline epistles, Catholic epistles, Revelation. The divisions are not based upon their form: for, in that case, the Gospels and Acts would go together as history, just as the Pauline and Catholic would all be epistles. There are epistles also in the book of Revelation. It is plain that we could not, therefore, divide them in this way; we must look more deeply into what is so presented to us, and then we shall find that they are a Pentateuch in contents as well as form, and that the structure is here as elsewhere in Scripture, throughout numerical.

1. The Gospels.

The Gospels are, in that case, of course, the Genesis. They are the new "beginning," which the apostle John in his first epistle refers to constantly as that. In Christ, "that Eternal Life which was with the Father" shines here, without fleck or stain, ― "the Light of men." Head of new creation, He is the "Father of eternity" ― of that which, as approved of God, abides. The Gospels are the foundation upon which the whole superstructure of Christian truth is reared, and they have always opened the canon of the New Testament. No other place would be possible to them at all.

2. The Acts.

As indisputably as the Gospels are the Genesis, the book of the Acts is the Exodus of the New Testament. It is that redemption from legal bondage of the people of God, (not now a nation but the family of faith,) of which the epistle to the Galatians speaks doctrinally. In the Acts we have the history of the deliverance, the large part of it being taken up with the labors of Paul, the instrument mainly used of God in bringing it about. Beginning with Jerusalem and its rejection of the risen and ascended Christ, it shows us thereupon the reception of the Samaritans, and then of the Gentiles in the persons of Cornelius and his household; the apostle of the circumcision being made to open the door to them. We have then the conversion of Saul, the scattering of the Jerusalem saints by persecution, the new Gentile assembly formed at Antioch, and the going forth from thence of Saul and Barnabas on their mission to the nations.

The question is then raised, Is the law to put its yoke upon these new converts? and that is decided in the negative at Jerusalem itself. The second missionary journey of the apostle follows, the Gentile work enlarging continually. But the Jewish disciples are still zealous for the law, and from the hostility of the unbelievers in Jerusalem the apostle of the Gentiles finds refuge only in a Roman prison. The last chapter narrates the final interview of the apostle with the Jews at Rome, closing with his definitive word, that "the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it."

3. The Epistles of Paul.

The order of the epistles varies somewhat in different MSS.; and in the east, as it would seem, the epistles styled "catholic;" because not addressed to any distinct churches or individuals, preceded those of Paul. In the west, on the other hand, the order was in this respect as found in our common Bibles.

But if the numerical (and Pentateuchal) system has any claim to be considered divine, the Pauline epistles, and not the Catholic, must stand as the third division of the New Testament books. Paul it is who by his doctrine establishes the soul before God, opening for us the heavenly sanctuary itself, to bring us in there in the Person of our Representative, the Lord Jesus Christ. He is thus, as he claims to be (Col. 1:23) in an especial sense the minister of the gospel; which answers to the place in which we have seen him in the Acts. He is in fact the first to proclaim "justification," as recorded in the Acts itself (Acts 13:39), going beyond the forgiveness of sins, as preached by the other apostles; and both this and the Christian place in Christ he alone of all the Scripture writers formally declares.

As it is Leviticus that gives typically the different features of the Lord's great offering, the measure of our acceptance and sanctification to God, so it is Paul who interprets this into the plain speech of the New Testament. His epistles are evidently, then, the third division.

But he claims to be not simply "minister"* of the gospel, but of the Church also as the body of Christ (verse 25), of which again no one but himself speaks; and even its character as the house of God, indwelt of the Spirit, it is his fully to bring out: in both respects the effect of the coming of the Spirit, as found in Christianity. Every way, therefore, he fills the third place.

{*We must not read merely "a" minister in either of the verses in question (Col. 1:23, 25) for he is speaking of the special dispensation committed to him.}

4. The Catholic Epistles.

On the other hand, the "catholic" or general epistles, are the work of four writers (Peter, James, John and Jude), and in this have the numerical stamp of their division. They have also all as their theme that practical path through the world which is brought out typically in the book of Numbers, and which comes under the number four. This is not hard to be realized as to them, while in many respects they are quite diverse from each other. For this reason I shall defer any further characterization of them until we may, in the goodness of God, be called to consider them in detail.

5. The Revelation.

And so we come now to Revelation, the one book of New Testament prophecy, but which goes entirely beyond the Old. In the Old Testament, however, prophecy is a third division, not a fifth, ― a place which it fills here for a very beautiful and obvious reason.

In the Old Testament prophecy alone could lead the people of God into things which could not yet be proclaimed as present. Even then they could be only feebly entered into: as Isaiah says: "Eye hath not seen nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him." But the apostle quoting this, can add for his Christian hearers: "but God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (1 Cor. 2:9-10.)

Most fittingly, therefore, do the epistles of Paul, in which the fullness of such truth is given, ― truth which opens heaven itself for us, as even Old Testament prophecy could not do ― take the place in the New Testament held by prophecy in the Old. But the place of Revelation itself is none the less a significant and blessed one. On the one hand, it is indeed a Deuteronomy, a magnificent summing up, solemn, yet glorious, of the divine ways with man and in view of man's ways of the history of the Church and of the world alike while beyond ― as Israel from the plains of Moab could view their inheritance ― our glorious city, the heavenly Jerusalem, is shown us. And there, and by and by upon the new earth also, "God with us," the full power of the name Immanuel, is seen in accomplished blessing. From this side also the closing book of prophecy fills completely its numerical place.

The Time Between the Testaments.

The New Testament, as every one knows, was not given in quiet continuity with the Old. Inspiration had long lapsed, and after Malachi no prophet had arisen in Israel for over 400 years, when suddenly the "Messenger" before Jehovah, of whom he had spoken, broke the long silence, preaching in the wilderness of Judea. There had been much and stirring history, and Israel herself had seemed for awhile to have a resurrection in the kingdom of the Maccabees. But it had proved, as to the nation, to be but as the galvanizing of a corpse, which does not preserve it from increasing corruption. The sceptre, which from the prophetic point of view had never been a legitimate one, tumbled helplessly at last into the hands of the open usurper and Edomite, Herod and it was in a land under his cruel sway that the true King was born.

Prophecy had already fixed the time of His coming, in the "seventy weeks" foretold to Daniel, which must be given up as a genuine prediction, if Christ were not the "Messiah the Prince," therein declared. The general expectation also fastened itself upon this or similar predictions. "That the testimony of Jesus was the Spirit of prophecy,'" says Geikie,* "was only the Christian utterance of a universal Jewish belief respecting the Christ. 'All the prophets,' says Rabbi Chaja, 'have prophesied only of the blessedness of the days of the Messiah.' But it was to Daniel especially, with his seeming exactness of dates, that the chief regard was paid. It was generally believed that the 'times' of that prophet pointed to the 20th year of Herod the great, and when that was past, not to mention other dates, the year 67 of our reckoning was thought the period, and then the year 135; the war which ended in the destruction of Jerusalem arising from one calculation, and the tremendous insurrection under Hadrian from the other."

{*"Life and Words of Christ" (chap. 6.)}

Alas, they had not known Messiah when He came and the forfeiting in this way, for so many generations, of all their hopes, the prophet had fully declared. He would "be cut off, and have nothing" (verse 26, marg.); and the destruction of the city and the sanctuary would follow, as it did follow, as the result.

The rejection of Christ was the inevitable consequence of the self-righteousness in which the people were steeped. They had rejected the testimony of the old covenant against them, and the judgment of God because of the breach of it on account of which they were already scattered in all lands, and in their own were under the feet of the heathen. The very temple to which they outwardly devoted themselves, and which had been rebuilt by the bloody hands of the unscrupulous tyrant Herod (contrast the prohibition of David from building it because he was a man of war) bore witness against them in its empty sanctuary. There was no ark of the covenant within the veil ― no true mercy-seat, therefore, on which the blood of the covenant could be sprinkled on the day of atonement, ― no "Urim and Thummim," by which the high-priest obtained answers from God ― finally, no manifestation of God at all in connection with it. It was round this hollow shell that all the ritualistic system now revolved, ― a type of the heartless formalism of the mass of the people.

The sentence of Lo-ammi was upon the nation (Hosea 1:9), and it was in strange but real accordance with this that never did they value themselves so highly. In the measure of one's distance from God is this self-estimation practicable, and we see by the Baptist's warning words to them how far in this way they had attained. The higher their religious claim, the more emphatically would they refuse also alike the stern preacher of repentance and the evangelist of divine grace. Thus the Pharisee could ask with assurance as to the answer, "Which of the Pharisees have believed on Him?" and with perfect conviction that that settled the matter as to the claim of Him whom they refused.

Thus to the condemnation of the broken law they added the condemnation of a rejected Gospel to the "ungodly and without strength" which the former proved as to them, they added the last and worst count of the indictment against men, "the carnal mind is enmity against God." (Rom. 5:6 Rom. 8:7.)

The Cross was thus in this sense the end of the trial of man, the "end of the" (probationary) "ages" (Heb. 9:26, Gk.) but only leaving God to show Himself now, as man had done himself. The world lies indeed under its shadow; but God is in the light, and the eternal counsels ― the mind and heart of God ― are told out in the new revelation of Christ, His manifestation.

The Cross itself lay in this gap of time between two revelations; t hey new revelation waited, as far as its Scriptures were concerned, for t he advent of the witnessing Spirit, the Witness of the glory of Christ in His accomplished work. His coming into the world to take the place of the absent Christ, marked at its commencement with the abundant bestowal of spiritual gifts, but perfectly distinct from this, is what characterizes for us the new epoch. And the promise of the Lord in connection with His coming, He shall guide you into all truth," is emphasized by the apostle as in present accomplishment: "the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God." (1 Cor. 2:10.)

This slight indication may suffice to introduce us to what we shall have almost immediately to look at more in detail under the guidance of the inspired Word. I shall not here anticipate what will be much better treated in this connection. The object we have before us is not a history, but (if I may call it so) an inductive study of the word of God. We shall, for this, commence with as few presuppositions as possible, and, even in the statement of facts, while not neglecting any sources of help that may be open to us, shall let these come into use, as Scripture itself may suggest. Wisdom is in them as well as knowledge, and we desire that it may make its impression upon us, and that all our thoughts may be absolutely moulded by it. We come now at once therefore to the study of the Gospels.

The Gospels.

It is simple enough to understand why the books which give us the fourfold history of the Lord's life on earth should be called by way of eminence the "Gospels." The opening words of Mark may have given rise to it, and be its formal justification; but apart from this, all the facts which the gospel proclaims and in which it is enwrapped are here. The development and application we find afterwards rather; and yet the man who was above all entrusted with this, at the beginning of that which is the most elaborate statement of the "glad tidings" to be found in Scripture, carries us back to what is recorded in the Gospels, for that which he preached (Rom. 1:3-4): "the gospel of God concerning His Son Jesus Christ, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by resurrection of the dead." These things remain ever the gospel, however great the development may be afterwards.

That there would be such development, the Lord Himself plainly assures His disciples: "I have many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now; howbeit, when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He shall guide you into all truth … He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall show it unto you" (John 16:12-14).

We see then that it is mere unbelief of the Gospels which would make men turn from the words of the Apostles to find their all even in the words of the Lord Himself. It is the Lord who assures us that things which could not be uttered by Himself would be uttered afterwards; and that these would be still, moreover, His own things. In the Gospels we find the germinant truths and facts, which imply all else; but it would be impossible for any less qualified than the apostles to have developed them. The history of this in measure we have in the Acts: enough to show us that it did in fact take place, and that it was even a slower process than we would have imagined. As to doctrines, Paul was given to complete* the word of God" (Col. 1:25); and only in Colossians and Ephesians, from his prison at Rome, does he seem to do this.

{*Or "fill up," not as in the common version, "fulfil."}

On the one hand, if we must not expect in the Gospels the fullness of Christian doctrine, on the other we must not limit them to the expression of what is distinctively Christian. It is again Paul himself who reminds us that the gospel is about One who was "made of the seed of David according to the flesh," and that, as this implies, that He "was minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers" (Rom. 15:8). We shall find in the Gospels, therefore, Christ in necessary relation to Israel and the fulfilment of the Old Testament predictions as to them, ― predictions and promises not set aside by the unbelief of the nation when He came, however much they might be delayed by it. The true understanding of the "Sermon on the Mount" (Matt. 5 ― 7), of the prophecy upon Olivet (Matt. 24, 25), and much else, depends upon the apprehension of this.

We must rid ourselves of the short-sighted and narrow application of everything to our special interests, which has perplexed so long the interpretation of Scripture; or rather, we must lay hold believingly of the astonishing grace which has made all that concerns Christ our interest and communicates as unto "friends" the divine thoughts and counsels which have for their centre Him by whom and for whom all things were made. In this way alone can we get to the heart of revelation anywhere, and find the true Life-centre of the universe of God.

It has been little enough realized till of late, and even now is it too little discerned, that each book in Scripture has its own specific purpose, ― its dominant truth or truths, therefore, which give individuality to it, and with which all other truths connect themselves. We apprehend in the works of man the specific purpose of every book and every chapter of a book which is written by him, and yet are slow to credit the Lord with equal distinctiveness of plan and method. The variety of the instruments He has been pleased to use has hidden the One author who has used them; and despite the general unity of design which runs through them, we have failed to realize the perfect way in which each fills the place appointed for him. We have scarcely even allowed to the word of God the symmetry of a woman's patchwork, ― which is, in fact, the only appropriate figure for the views long current as to the four Gospels, in which each writer was supposed to be making up as best he could the deficiencies of the one preceding him, and, as this implies, with but partial success. No wonder if this suggested to the later critics to apply the patchwork theory to the composition of the individual books, ― a task which has been found to be proportionally easier, according to the multiplication of the patches.

For the intelligent Christian, however, such theories of origin are, we may trust, passed away, and we have been returning (at least with regard to the Gospels) to what the faith of Christians anciently accepted as the truth, that each Gospel presents a distinct aspect of the Lord's person and work. It is true, that they strangely differed among themselves about these, and we may even smile at the quaintness and extravagance of some of their arguments; all the more do their conflicting voices seem to represent the uncertain transmissions of some primitive teaching which tradition had been, as usual, unable accurately to preserve. Thus Irenaeus "argues that the Gospel is the pillar of the Church; the Church is spread over the whole world; the world has four quarters; therefore it is fitting there should also be four Gospels. Again, the Gospel is the divine breath, or wind of life for men; there are four chief winds: therefore four Gospels. He builds another argument on the fourfold appearance of the cherubim. The cherubim, he says, are fourfold, and their faces are images of the activity of the Son of God. The first beast was like a lion, signifying His commanding and kingly dignity; the second, like a calf, signifying His priestly office; the third like a man, denoting His incarnation; the fourth like an eagle, denoting the Holy Spirit flying over the Church. Like these are the Gospels. John, who begins with the Godhead and descent from the Father, is the lion; Luke, who begins with the priesthood and sacrifice of Zacharias is the calf; Matthew, who begins with His human genealogy is the man; Mark the eagle, who commences with the announcement of the prophetic spirit ― "the beginning of the Gospel as it is written by Isaiah the prophet."

Crude enough are these applications, and not one of them really right: John is not the Gospel of the Kingship, but of incarnate Deity. The genealogy in Matthew is not to show the Lord's humanity, but His royal title; the application of the calf to Luke is trivial and wholly wrong; and that of the eagle to Mark no less so. No wonder that Dr. Salmon,* from whom I have quoted, tells us that "this is not the apportionment of the four beasts to the Gospels which ultimately prevailed in the West: John being usually represented as the eagle; Matthew as the man; Luke as the ox; and Mark as the lion."

{*"Introduction to the New Testament:" p. 33.}

This is better in the first case only; and Lange has amended this, though again with only partial advantage, by regarding "Matthew under the symbol of the ox and Luke under that of the man."

All this would be taken by most as instancing merely the folly of such fanciful comparisons, and Dr. Salmon seems to cite them for this purpose. Yet in fact, the application of the cherubic figures to the Gospels only fails for want of a full induction and strict rigor of argument. The truth in it is fuller than any of the ancients seem to have understood, and lies not in casual or partial resemblances, but touches the essential difference in each of the evangelic histories.

Even the number of the Gospels connects itself with the analogies first pointed out by Irenaeus; though that does not guarantee the application made of them. Here we are upon the ground of the numerical structure with which we are already familiar. Four is the number of the world as the place of trial, of the four corners of the earth and the four winds of heaven; and the Lord is seen in the four Gospels in the scene of what He Himself calls His "temptation;" facing the sins and sorrows and needs of men. Himself Man, and hiding Himself from nothing human, all the perfection of His Person is thus revealed to us. He is not only heard but seen, gazed upon, and handled by the hands of men. All forms of proof that can be given are given, that they may know the meaning and certainty of the vision accorded them ― of the gift of God that is put into the possession of faith in Him. This is the first necessity for us, not a system of doctrine to be learned, but a living Person to be occupied with. And for this, with scarcely a word of comment, He is made to walk and live before us in an atmosphere of crystalline purity, which never detains or diverts the sight from the one sacred Figure who is to engage our attention and lay hold upon our hearts. All other forms that pass before us are but in contrast with Himself, not excepting the disciples that follow Him, or the greatest of woman-born, who goes before Him.

The division of the four Gospels is also in accord with the scriptural manner, where all is according to God. It is not the 2+2 which is true division, and seems always suggestive of evil in some way; it is 3+1, the number of manifestation and of supreme Godhead: together, therefore, showing us Him who is "God manifest in the flesh." The first three are, as thus going together, called "synoptic" Gospels, as uniting, with all their differences, in a common view of the Lord, very different from that of John, in which all His divine glory is at last displayed. The three agree together, and contrast with John in this, that in them, as in the parable of the vineyard which they all give, Christ is seen as God's last testimony to Israel ― His Son, sent after the rejection of all previous messengers, as His last resource. "Having therefore yet one Son, His well-beloved, He sent Him also last unto them, saying, they will reverence My Son." The whole character of the "synoptics" is affected by this. Testimony, as in the previous dispensations, is still going on. The demonstration of the "mind of the flesh" as "enmity against God" is not complete in them till the Cross. Israel is not yet set aside but is addressed by this last Divine Messenger, who, finding God's treasure hid in the field of the world, goes and sells all that He has to possess Himself of it. Man is not yet seen in them as "dead in sins;" and the decidedly Christian truths of new birth and eternal life are not yet brought out. With all this John's Gospel, coming after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and the setting aside publicly of Judaism by the government of God, is in direct contrast. All three of the synoptic gospels, moreover emphasize the Lord's humanity; John's, as already said, most clearly and emphatically proclaims His Deity.

This distinction is at once seen in the cherubic figures of the Apocalypse before referred to, and which it will be well for us now to take up for full determination of whether and how they apply to the Gospels. That the "beasts" of the fourth chapter of Revelation ― which the Revised Version more properly calls the "living creatures" ― are in fact cherubic forms, no question has, I suppose, been ever raised, and could hardly be by any one who has compared them with the cherubim of Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:5-10). There are differences, into which it is not needful to inquire here, but the essential forms are the same. In Revelation the four forms are given in order and numbered; and the order is exactly that of the Gospels to which they respectively apply: the first like a lion; the second like a calf ― or young ox;* the third with the face of a man; and the fourth, like a flying eagle.

{* Moschos is so applied in the Septuagint, and in fact in Heb. 9:12, 19.}

Here at once we realize a distinction between the first three and the fourth, which is the bird of heaven: this clearly answers, as the Western interpreters saw, to the Gospel of John; as the kingly lion to Matthew; the laborer ox to Mark; and the face of a man to Luke ― the gospel of the Manhood. These applications will bear the most thorough scrutiny; and the cherubim themselves will be found embroidered upon the veil of the holiest, which we have divine authority for understanding to be the "flesh" of Christ. (Heb. 10:20). We can see, therefore, that the cherubim may have this relation to the Christ of the Gospels. In fact they speak of the government of God, and are thus "in the midst of the throne and round about the throne," and in the tabernacle were out of, and of one piece with, the mercy-seat. (Ex. 25:19.) In their different forms they convey to us the different features of divine government, features naturally derived from Him with whom the government is found; and thus again we need not wonder in them to have Christ before us.

We see, then, that the ancient view is true; even while those from whom we get it did not know how true it was, and were at a loss when they came to the application of it. It thus seems as I have said, a specimen of apostolic tradition, which tradition (as so constantly) proved itself unable to keep, but which God has restored to us. Let us now look at these living creatures in the order in which Revelation presents them to us, and compare them with the Gospels in the order in which we find them in our Bibles.

1. The Lion. ― There is a passage in Proverbs (Prov. 30:29-31) which singularly connects together four things which seem to have the closest relationship with the Gospel of Matthew: "There be three things that are good in stepping; yea, four that are good in going: a lion which is strongest among beasts, and turneth not away from any; a war-horse; or a he-goat; and a King against whom there is no rising up." I give what is only a slight correction of the common version. The first three things spoken of here are distinguished from the fourth, as so often in Scripture, and for a reason with which we are acquainted. The writer does not say "step well" of the King, nor would it be so suitable; but the more hidden meaning of the first three comes to the surface in the last ― the King: and the King above all characterizes Matthew. It is as this that Christ is worshiped by the magi; and it is as this that the genealogy introduces Him. Moreover, He is in the first place Son of David, ― King of Israel; and here the lion symbol comes to the front, as in the very scene in Revelation in which we find the cherubic creatures, and in which He is announced as the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" ― the One now going to take up the cause of the Jew on earth.

This naturally introduces, again, the second symbol in Proverbs, ― the war-horse.* When the Lamb opens the first seal of the book which He alone can open, we see a war-horse and its rider going forth; and in the closing visions of the 19th chapter He Himself is seen on the warhorse too. "In righteousness He doth judge and make war."

{*In the common and revised versions, "a grey-hound;" literally, "girt in the loins," in Gesenius (Thesaur) "war-horse," girt about with trappings, as seen in the sculptures of Persepolis.}

The third symbol in the passage in Proverbs seems in contrast, however, with these thoughts. "A he-goat" may be of stately carriage, but if that be all, the thought would be merely trivial. In fact, it is a word that is used which somewhat more approaches the previous thoughts: tayish means the "butter," or "striker;" but still there is nothing additional in this to what has gone before, and the thought is manifestly weaker than in preceding cases. What is there that can supplement it? I believe, that which the goat typically so perfectly suggests ― the thought of substitutionary sacrifice. Israel must have the scapegoat in order to have her King. And the book of Psalms brings again and again (see Ps. 20, Ps. 21, Ps. 102, etc. notes) these things together. Matthew shows us in a parable of the Kingdom, and in the history of the King, that He who finds the treasure in the field must sell all that He hath to buy the field. Thus then all four thoughts perfectly unite and fill out the picture of the first Gospel.

The Lion as a symbol unites but the thoughts of power and royalty, and thus emphasizes what is the chief character of the book. Christ the Son of David, the Lion of Judah, ― this, though far from being all that is in the book, is its central feature.

2. How any thoughtful mind could have regarded Mark as symbolized by the lion is hard to realize and yet this, though it was not the view of Irenaeus, had the most general consent among those that followed him. But the power displayed in Mark is of another order, and the ox has strength, but which is spent in service. In this way the apostle interprets it as the type of the laborer (1 Cor. 9:10), as it is also the fullest sacrifice known under the law. And in Mark we have this Servant character of the Lord, whether in active labor or in patient offering of Himself. Hence the introductory portions which are found in Matthew and Luke are here omitted, and we come at once to His active service. Hence too His titles are in general absent from Mark, save that He is Son of God, which makes His service so full and wonderful. This character of the Gospel is plain all through, but we are going to look at it more fully presently.

3. The "face of a man" greets us very certainly in Luke. It is emphatically the Gospel of the Manhood and the face of a man is that unto which you look naturally to learn what he is, and what is in his heart towards you. You are never nearer to Christ than in the Gospel of Luke and while His divine glory does not shine out as in the fourth Gospel, yet you are made assuredly to know that in Him you draw near to God. It is here that we learn of the Shepherd's quest of the lost sheep, and of the Father's reception of a returning prodigal. Our hearts will at once recall sufficiently the tenderness and intimacy which are everywhere manifest in this Gospel while every trait of complete manhood in Him is carefully delineated for us.

4. The resemblance fails most ― from the necessity of the case, probably, must fail most in the case of John: where yet the bird of heaven can hardly be mistaken in its reference to Him who speaks of Himself in it as "the Son of man who is in heaven." We should hardly have anticipated here, no doubt, of all the birds of heaven, the "flying eagle." We must notice particularly, however, that it is just "the way of the eagle in the air" of which the writer of Proverbs once more speaks, as of one of the "things too wonderful for him" (Prov. 30:19). It is the soaring character of truth in John that is here pointed out to us: truth that penetrates to regions quite outside of human ken. It reminds us of His own words in direct reference to this, that "no man hath ascended up to heaven but He that came down from heaven," so that here we must be debtors to Himself alone, if He reveal to us that of which there can be no other witness except His.

But the "flying eagle" can yet suggest other thoughts, ― thoughts not only of divine strength or of divine wisdom, but also of divine tenderness no less and ministering care. "Ye have seen," says the Lord to His people of old, "how I have borne you upon eagle's wings, and brought you to myself." (Ex. 19:4.) And again, "As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings so the Lord alone did lead him." (Deut. 32:11-12.) Here then under this figure we may think not merely of heights that surpass our powers, and of ways too wonderful for us, but of divine love that would enable us to soar, and support our feebleness in it with divine omnipotence. And of this character truly is the fourth Gospel.

This may serve as a first introduction to these blessed books, and assure us of the reality of the provision made for our understanding them. But this is only an encouragement to enter more deeply into the work of comparison, and realize the harmonies that are in these differences, and the fullness of blessing that the Gospels have for us in leading us into the adoring contemplation and apprehension of Christ. Let us go on then into a fuller examination of them in this relation that they have to one another and to ourselves, and may the Spirit of Christ who is with us to take of the things of Christ and show them unto us, lead, control, and enlarge every faculty, and make room for Him less unworthy of Him in our hearts.

The Gospels in Their Internal Relationship to One Another.

The Gospels then are four, not one and there is no accident or mistake in this. There is, of course, a deep inward unity which belongs to them: because truth is one but the apprehension of this does not depend upon our ability to put them together into one perfect narrative, nor even to expunge from them as four all appearance of contradiction to one another. The Evangelists are not to be treated as if under arraignment as false witnesses, lest we find them do as He did before a human bar ― open not their mouths. They have written, without any possibility of denial of it, four books the like of which the world cannot produce beside and they have pictured for us such a Person as has never been found but once: we must credit them, then, with knowing better than any wisdom of any age could teach them, how to do the work which they have so admirably done and we must seek to be learners only of their method, and disciples at their feet.

There are four Gospels, then, not one and these four are three and one. This division is surely significant, for the simple reason that it exists. In the word of God nothing exists in vain; and the more we inquire in this faith into every detail of it, apparently the most trifling, the more we shall be rewarded. We have then in these four Gospels, first, a trinity of Gospels, ― a three that in some sense ― some sense of value to us ― are one: the Synoptics. The last Gospel stands by itself as a second division.

1. The Synoptic Gospels.

We have already glanced at the unity of the "synoptic" Gospels, ― the name generally given to them since Griesbach employed it: but long before seen in some measure, though in a different way from that in which we have considered them. Ordinarily it is apprehended more as arising from there being in them essentially a common narrative, which has been sought to be accounted for, either by their all being fashioned out of some still more primitive, and perhaps unwritten Gospel, or by their growing out of one another by abridgement or addition.

Now this, to which so much importance is attached, is in fact of the very smallest importance to us. It belongs, with all these theories of the "how" of origin, to the region of speculation merely, which as such gives no firm ground to build upon; and then, if it were as certain all of it, as it is all uncertain, it would still remain that we have the three Gospels and not one, and with all needful assurance of divine intention as to their being three.

The similarity of the three Gospels is, however, not to be mistaken. They give us largely the same incidents, often in quite similar language, sometimes in the same words. With all this, characteristic differences of style are plainly to be detected, and differences otherwise, which only force themselves the more on our attention, as being divergences from what might seem a common narrative. Since God has given them to us as three, not one, it is plain that the differences are the very things which will guide us to the meaning of this; and oftentimes the worst difficulties for unbelief will be fullest of meaning to believing inquiry.

After all, this unity of the three Gospels seems to yield little or nothing as to the division of the Gospels by their subject-matter, and we shall be compelled to look elsewhere to find a meaning.

Even what has been previously said as to their common character does not characterize the presentation of the Lord Himself in them, and correspondingly seems to have nothing to say as to numerical structure. That which must characterize a division of the Gospels can only be something inherent in the life of the Lord Himself, and a broad feature of it too, and in looking for this, light will soon break in upon us.

The Gospels are essentially a glorious Life lived in the world ― a "Life" which was the "Light of men." If it is John's Gospel that gives us the doctrine, the reality of it cannot be confined to this: every Gospel is a witness of it. Nor in speaking of them as a life displayed, is it meant at all to separate it in this character from that marvellous Death, which however in so many ways contrasted with this, was (in the way in which we are speaking of it now) nothing but the fruitage of that Life itself, and without which it could have profited us nothing.

But this Life ― which was in character always "that Eternal Life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us" (1 John 1:2) ― necessarily displayed itself in two essential characters, which together answers to the twofold revelation of God which has been given us as Light and Love. (1 John 1:5; 1 John 4:8, 16). Now Love is the full divine energy; Light is the necessary character of its display. The apostle can say as to believers (Eph. 5:8), "now are ye light in the Lord;" but he does not and could not say, "now are ye love in the Lord." "Love," therefore, finds a pre-eminent place in the Gospel of John, which is, as we know, the home of it, and thus the Gospel of the Deity of Christ.

Are then the Synoptic Gospels, which we may certainly call in this emphatic way the Gospels of His humanity, those which more occupy themselves with "light," as the complemental revelation of God? This, at first sight, seems hard to realize: for "light," too, is undoubtedly a word that is characteristic of John, and love cannot be revealed without it. "Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ;" and these are love and light in application to the need of man, and cannot be separated from one another.

Light is here also as always, the revealing power: "that which doth make manifest is light." (Eph. 5:13). But the "fruit of the light is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (ver. 9); and the apostle, when showing how eternal life, or the divine nature, is exhibited in those that are born of God, makes its display to be in righteousness and love: "whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother" (1 John 3:10).

Righteousness, as consistency with relationship, may be even used, and is used in Scripture, in a broader sense than this: so that the "righteous" may be the full expression for the people of God; and the "righteousness of the law" cover the thought of love itself. (Rom. 13:8, 10). But we could not speak of God's righteousness in this way. Thus righteousness cleaves more to the human, as love to the divine order: though God who is love is righteous; and the man who is righteous loves.

Thus we can understand how the first division of the Gospels, emphasizing the humanity of the Lord Jesus, is characterized by righteousness, which as consistency with relationship finds threefold expression in the three synoptics: in Matthew in the King; in Mark the ministering Servant of man's need; in Luke, the Man, who as Priest with God opens the sanctuary for us. Here the first division finds numerical significance in Him whose righteousness was one harmonious whole, full-rounded and complete; the unique Man, Christ Jesus.

We must now look more closely at the separate Gospels.

(1) Matthew.

It was an old idea that our present Matthew was either a translation, or at least derived from a "Gospel according to the Hebrews." This is now discredited, and it would at any rate, if proved, be of no possible use to us. But it derives all the semblance of truth it ever had from the very obvious connection with the Old Testament in this first of the Gospels which approves also its place among them as the first. Not only are the quotations from the Old Testament comparatively more numerous than in the other; but these, where made by the evangelist himself, are fresh translations from the Hebrew original, while, where in the mouths of others, they are from that ordinarily in use, the Greek Septuagint. His own style is full of Hebraisms, and he anticipates with those for whom he writes a knowledge of Jewish customs and of the law, such as only Jews might be expected to possess.

But apart from all this, his primary theme is the connection of the Lord with Israel's Messianic hopes and promises; and though on that very account he has to show also how "He came to His own and His own received Him not," and how consequently the "kingdom of heaven would be taken from them," and assume the mystery-form in which it was unknown to the prophets of Israel, yet still we are not left in uncertainty as to the final issue, when at the coming of the Son of man from heaven, the "elect" nation will be gathered from the four winds to their ancient land again. (Matt. 24:30-31.) This connection with Daniel and the prophets is indeed little more than indicated. The destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersion of her people are an immediate prospect, and with this the Gentile Christianity, for us now nearing its predicted end. Matthew is the first book of the New Testament, and the field of view widens accordingly.

Matthew is in this way the dispensational Gospel, and even the Church is contemplated in it (Matt. 16:18). Thus there is a new expansion of the ancient promise; and that Christ is the Seed of Abraham gains a new significance: we shall see how in the genealogy with which the book opens this is already indicated.

But King and kingdom are the governing thoughts in Matthew throughout, and the characteristic phrase, "the kingdom of heaven" is found in it two and thirty times. This is divine rule, though it may be entrusted to human hands, and is: for Christ is the King of it. In His absence as rejected by His own, and administered by men on earth, it assumes forms foreign to His mind, and must itself be purged when He comes again. This implies present discipline for His own, and final judgment for the earth; and these, which are the fruits of His own rejection, pervade the book with a certain shadow, and an unmistakable feeling of distance. There is indeed a Father in heaven, and without whom not a sparrow falls to the ground; but there is not nearness of intimacy. The work of salvation is intimated as to be accomplished, but there is not as yet the joy of it. Forgiveness of sins is found, as in the Lord's parable of the kingdom (Matt. 18:23-35), not absolute but conditional and revocable. Discipleship and its responsibility in walk and life are emphasized; but man's heart is not yet awakened in response to the outflow of the heart of God as yet it will be. Over all these is a certain restraint and reserve, which in the other Gospels we find more and more lifted, until we reach in John what can be called in the full sense communion with the Father and with the Son.

All this suits and illustrates a character of things which we call governmental, and which Moses on the mount at the second giving of the law very precisely pictures to us, but which may go and does go on, apart from any legal covenant whatever. When we have known God as now fully revealed in grace in the Person of His Son, and are with Him also upon that footing, that does not prevent His governmental ways being, as always, largely encompassed with the mystery that attaches itself necessarily to the throne of the Majesty on high. Providentially, as we term it, "clouds and darkness are round about Him" still nor in His dealings with us do we meet Him face to face; but rather (safely covered with His hand as Moses was, and hid in the cleft of the Rock) we realize His glory passing by; then we look after Him and behold the glory that has passed by ― as the apostle distinguishes between the present affliction, which is "not joyous but grievous," but which "afterwards yields the peaceable fruits of righteousness to those that are exercised thereby" (Heb. 12:11). It is this exercise which the very mystery of His ways secures to us, while it draws out faith in us and reminds us of our feebleness and ignorance and of the holiness of Him with whom we have to do.

That we know Him in Christ, and know Him to be for us, is another thing, in no wise in contradiction with this, and which it is the part of faith never to account of as if it were contradiction. For us it is a Father's hand which is over us: "we call on Him as Father who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man's work," (1 Peter 1:17); so that the revelation of the Father which we find in Matthew, the necessary effect of God's speaking to us "in the Son" (Heb. 1:2), does not interfere with this, but only gives it Christian instead of legal character. The New Testament stamp is upon Matthew throughout; but we are in it only upon the threshold of the New Testament. Naturally therefore, it is just in Matthew that we find "branches that run over the wall" for Israel also, and a link maintained with the remnant of a future day, when His ancient people in the day of famine shall turn to seek their rejected Joseph, so long unknown.

We see, then, that the thought of the Kingdom and the King is the controlling one in Matthew. At first sight we may not so readily see how the truth of atonement connects itself with these. Yet the Cross in Matthew is not simply the sign of the rejection of the King, but as in the other Gospels it is distinctly atoning. The cry of desertion, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani," expresses this in the fullest way. This was not man's forsaking at all, nor his persecution: it was the judgment of God upon sin, and the endurance of this was that which was the very essence of atonement.

But, as I have said, we do not readily connect this with the thought of the King. Sacrifice was exclusively priestly work and the Priest is found rather in Luke than Matthew. Yet in the Old Testament, apart from ritual law, the King is no less distinctly the Redeemer. In that verse in Proverbs which we have already seen to associate together in so striking a way the different characters of Matthew, the "goat" is the very symbol of substitutionary sacrifice. The King is the natural representative of his people: the divine King still more so: and Psalm 20 and Psalm 102, though with different degrees of clearness, alike connect His Kingship with His sacrificial sufferings (see notes on the Psalms). Even by the hands of His enemies, it is as the King of the Jews that the Lord is put upon the cross, and it is in parables of the kingdom which are peculiar to Matthew that, twice over, the unique figure is presented of One who to acquire the object upon which his heart is set, goes and sells all that he has, to purchase it (Matt. 13:44-46).

The symbolism here is quite in accordance with Matthew elsewhere. In the prayer taught to the disciples, we find in Matthew "debts," where in Luke we have "sins" and this again agrees entirely with that view of the work of sacrifice which the Cross presents in Matthew ― the governmental aspect of the trespass-offering. But this we must consider with more attention.

As the Gospels give us a fourfold view of the Person of the Lord, so they do also of His sacrificial work and this is precisely the fourfold view of the opening chapters of Leviticus. Omitting the meat (or meal-) offering, which is not sacrificial, we have there four offerings in which life is taken and the blood of atonement offered to God, ― offerings which are really sacrifices the "burnt," "peace," "sin" and "trespass-offerings."

These are divided into two classes: the burnt and peace offerings are of "sweet savor." The peace-offering speaks of peace with God accomplished and communion attained the burnt-offering, which all goes up as sweet savor, of the perfection of the work which accomplishes this, ― of obedience found in absolute devotedness to the will of God. These we shall have in Luke and John respectively and of their application to these we shall have to speak by and by. In the two other offerings, the sin and trespass, the judgment of sin is the side dwelt upon, the necessary result of divine holiness, but which cannot be (as judgment) a sweet savor to God. Between these, again, there is this difference: that in the sin-offering sin is dealt with fully as that in the trespass-offering, whether as regards God or man, it is treated rather as injury, the exact amount of which is estimated by the priest as having the mind of God, and made up with overpayment. In the sin-offering the thought is of expiation in the full sense in the trespass-offering of reparation.

The Gospels of Matthew and Mark undoubtedly give the aspect of the offering which is not sweet savor. This is evident by that cry of forsaken sorrow which the Lord utters on the cross in both these Gospels, but in these only. But there is a difficulty connected with this very fact: for the sin-offering alone (as given in Leviticus) shows the full judgment of sin in that outside place in which ― away from all that is owned as in relationship to God ― the victim is burnt upon the ground without an altar: but both Gospels show our blessed Lord in this outside place: the cry of abandonment is in one as much as the other. What then is the difference between them? or is there in this respect a difference?

Now, in fact, in the cry itself there is a difference, and for which there must be a reason: it is "Eli" in Matthew, "Eloi" in Mark and though both are names of God, there is a difference of meaning. "Eloi" is the ordinary expression for "my God;" while "Eli" speaks rather of power ― "my Mighty One." And this last is found, just where such a difference is most intelligible, in the "lion" Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of the Kingdom and the Throne. "Eloi," as in the Gospel of Mark, would evidently suit better the thought of the sin-offering, as what is in view of the holiness of God, or His nature. And if so, Mark will give the sin-offering aspect, and Matthew that of the trespass-offering.

But to this, which is in fact the true view, an objection may be made, which at first sight would seem a fatal one. In the 22nd psalm, from which the words are taken, and which without doubt gives the sin-offering aspect (see notes on the Psalms), "Eli" and not "Eloi" is the word we find. How then can this be the true view?

I think, nevertheless, that this is not decisive. Scripture is not written in one stereotyped language, however accurate and in its flexibility of speech it knows how to preserve the most perfect accuracy, while gaining by it a fuller meaning than such rigidity would allow. Any one who will turn to the 22nd psalm will find that the agonizing question, "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" is not only asked but answered there. It is because "God is holy, and dwelling amid the praises of Israel." If a holy God is to be able to dwell amid the praises of a sinful people, it can only be through such atonement as the cry expresses. Thus the question, why is the Mighty One forsaking the blessed Sufferer, is answered by the declaration of His holiness and grace. Here, plainly, "Eli," "my Mighty One," is more suited to the psalm, because the answer it is that contains the thought, which in Mark, where there is no answer, is suggested in the question itself. Thus there need be no contradiction between the language of the psalm and what has been suggested as to that of the Gospels.

That Matthew's is the trespass-offering aspect of the Cross may be seen in a still clearer way if it is considered that the trespass-offering is, as has already been said, the governmental offering. Reparation, restitution, and in legal phrase the giving damages, are plainly governmental requirements but the sin-offering, as shown in the forsaking of God, is a question of His nature. God is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity, and cannot look on sin: hence the horror of that cry from Him whose delight God ever was: though, as we have seen, the full expression of this is scarcely given in Matthew. While yet the trespass-offering can put on, as here, something of the sin-offering character, because the claim of divine government requires yet a witness to the holiness of the divine nature.

In Matthew we find also the double answer of God to the work of Christ. Having gone for us into the darkness which that which fell upon the Cross only symbolized, the darkness is for us dispelled: God dwells no more in it. The veil of the temple is rent in twain from the top to the bottom: the glory of God can shine out the way in to God is opened for man.

But the Lord gives up His spirit also: the double portion of man is death and judgment. Judgment He takes first, and having exhausted this, dies. The answer to His death is seen in the resurrection of many of those who slept, who after His resurrection go into the holy city and appear to many. Now death is the stamp of divine government upon a fallen creature, a thing not in itself necessary, for in order to the proper judgment resurrection must come in. And while Matthew and Mark alike give the rending of the veil, Matthew alone gives the resurrection of the saints. All is perfectly ― divinely fitting.

Again, in Mark there is no prophetic Aceldama, the field of blood bought for themselves by the people with the money of Christ's betrayal the cry, "His blood be on us and our children" is omitted there is no judgment even of the traitor. In Matthew as the governmental Gospel, these things have their right and necessary place, and their omission would be as much a defect in Matthew, as it is a perfection in Mark.

Before we close the brief review of this Gospel, let us notice that, as it begins with the genealogy which is the King's human and legal title, so it shows that He has another and higher one, inasmuch as the kingdom He rules is greater far than David's whose Son is no less his Lord. Matthew thus connects with John by the emphasis that it puts on the Divine Sonship, and on Jesus being truly Immanuel ― "God with us." At the close we find accordingly all authority given to Him, in heaven as on earth. All through, the theme is one, although the "Lion of the tribe of Judah" is seen also, as in the prophet's vision, as the "Lamb slain."

(2) Mark.

We have already partly anticipated the subject of Mark's Gospel. Mark is the cherubic "ox" ― the Laborer: Christ as the Servant of man's need and of the divine goodness in this way in entire contrast with Matthew, of which in some respects it might seem, as it has been declared by some to be, an abridgment. He is at the very outset declared to be the "Son of God," but this to give blessed character to that ministry of His which it is the purpose of the writer to describe. The "kingdom of God" we have naturally often still, but no more, as in Matthew, that of "Christ" or "of the Son of man." Save as accusation on the Cross, He is never explicitly the "King of the Jews." Even when He rides into Jerusalem it is only the "kingdom of our father David" that is announced. His title of "Lord" is very seldom taken. But He is the Son of God in service, with divine power and riches in His hand, servant in love which requires nothing but power to entitle it to serve. On this account no genealogy is given or needed.

The earnestness of His service is marked by the frequency of the word "immediately" occurring in connection with it. Half of all the occurrences in the New Testament (40 out of 80) are found in Mark,* but these, of course, in various connections, the enemies of His Person and work being busy also. The singleness of His service is seen in that characteristic word of His (Mark 13:32) which must be read in the light of John 15:15, to be understood aright. Even the Son as Servant knows nothing of His Father's business, save that which is given Him to communicate. Again what tenderness is seen in all the details of His service as Mark dwells upon them: how His heart, His lips, His hands, moved sympathetically in the relief of all manner of human need. Here, too, as in Luke, the ascension is given as the fitting close to His path of humiliation, and this is marked as to the place of power, "the right hand of God": which does not change the unwearied Worker, but puts as it were afresh into His hand the power to serve: for immediately we read: "And they went forth and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following."

{*In the common version variously translated as "forthwith, straightway, anon," twice "as soon as," and once "shortly."}

We need not wonder if, in connection with this we find hints of another, if not a larger audience being addressed than in Matthew's Hebraistic gospel. Mark's on the contrary, as it abounds in Latinisms, has been even affirmed (though without ground) to have been written in Latin yet scholars pronounce it "still much more akin to the Hebraistic diction of St. Matthew than to the purer style of St. Luke." (Thomson, in Smith's Dictionary). Yet the contrast with Matthew is decided: he never himself appeals to the Old Testament he never names the Law he describes Jewish customs as if writing to strangers; terms that would be offensive to the Gentiles are omitted, and the grace to them more dwelt upon. Even the temple they are reminded was to be called "a house of prayer for all nations;" and in the closing commission, the disciples are bidden, "Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature," even "the Jew first" being entirely omitted.

Yet in Mark, as in Matthew, at least until the close is reached, there is not found the nearness to God which is so manifest in Luke. The Father is mentioned as such but five times, and "your Father" only in one place (Mark 11:25-26). It is the servants', not the children's place that is here contemplated, even though it is recognized that the servants are yet children. Governmental responsibilities and rewards are emphasized, as in Matthew; but there as of disciples, here of laborers for the accomplishment of divine purposes, and after the pattern of Him who as "Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."

But in this last, as has been seen also in Matthew, we find the shadow which hangs over the book. The sin-offering aspect of the Lord's work, as shown here, is only indeed brought out in the closing chapters. The substitutionary character attaches, not to His life-work but to the Cross alone. As to this we cannot be too clear. Yet the shadow hangs over the whole in this sense that until atonement has been seen as made, the fruits of it cannot be properly enjoyed. The shadow lengthens into a terrible night, which with a sudden break is scattered and the day comes; for those brought into it, never to give place again.

(3) Luke.

In Luke's picture of the Lord we have indeed "the face of a man." Luke's is the Gospel of the Manhood. Thus we have His birth as in Matthew, but with more circumstantial detail than in Matthew; and instead of the King, hailed by the worship of the magi, we have the gospel preached to the poor, and from the opened heavens by the joyful lips of angels, who proclaim God's good pleasure to be in men. The presence of Christ on earth is at once the assurance and the justification of this: and the manger at Bethlehem shows how fully He has assumed manhood in its lowliest and neediest conditions. We see Him in childhood, growing in wisdom as in stature; and after thirty years of the fulfilment of His own personal responsibility, taking at last His place of priestly service openly before God and man at His baptism by John. There the Father's voice attests His satisfaction, and the descent of the Spirit endows Him for His work.

It is here, and not at His birth as in Matthew, that His genealogy is given; but the stream as it were runs backward now. The line is traced to Adam and not merely to Abraham, and we do not need to know that as a Man He is descended from Adam. But we are reminded too that he was by creation a son of God, and now have the full significance of this made good in a Second Man who undoes the fall and brings in unimagined blessing. "The Second Man is of heaven." (1 Cor. 15:47, R.V.)

This shows already the character of the Gospel as that in which God and man are at last at one. A new word, "salvation," is now upon men's lips and in their heart: present salvation, known and rejoiced in; peace and forgiveness fully assured. Even from the beginning of it the voice of praise breaks out; and it ends with the triumphant worship of those who have seen the risen Saviour ascend to heaven with His hands out-spread in blessing. Between these the grace of God unfolds itself without check or hindrance, in word and deed; not simply in goodness ministering to the daily needs and sorrows which appeal to all, but in awakening the consciousness of sin, in bowing the soul in repentance, in bringing to God and assuring men of welcome to Him, while the kiss, the ring, the robe, the music of the Father's house await the prodigal, and begin for him the new life which is eternal.

In all this Luke's is the peace-offering Gospel, in which the fruits of atonement are emphasized, rather than the work itself; and this, when we look at the Cross, is quite apparent. The anguish is in the garden rather than at the Cross. There, though the darkness is spoken of, the interpreting words of the Lord Jesus are not found; while twice He cries to God as Father, ― in the first case, praying for His murderers. He is not Himself in the darkness, but in the light with God; and it is here we find Him giving sweetest assurance to the soul of the poor sinner by His side, and the door of paradise opened without question to a dying thief.

This is, all through, the manner of the Gospel; and it is in perfect accord with the grace of that humanity, which is here dwelt upon in all that characterizes it. He is the "brother born for adversity," "the Mediator, the Man Christ Jesus," the compassionate High Priest, who goes up to heaven with the uplifted hands. Luke therefore is the writer of the Acts also, which shows the fruit of His intercession in the place to which He is gone up. That Luke was also a Gentile (comp. Col. 4:11, 14), the only one among the writers of the New Testament, and writes in both cases to a Gentile, is surely significant.

2. John.

We now come to the second division of the Gospels, in which, as we have seen, John stands alone. The number of the division is that which pre-eminently speaks of Christ. It suggests at once the Second Person of the Godhead, the divine Son in full reality, the Only-Begotten and not the First-born. Not less does it suggest His two natures, The Godhead and the Manhood, which John brings fully out. The activity or descent of divine love among us might well be implied under this number.

It is peculiarly also the New Testament Gospel, the grace and truth which have come by Jesus Christ being not merely exhibited as beyond law, but in contrast with it (John 1:17). We are so outside Judaism, that its most familiar institutions (as the passover, John 6:4) have to be explained to us; while the Hebrew names and titles (even Messias, John 1:41) are given only to be translated into the language of the Gentiles. This connects with its position as the final Gospel, starting morally where the others close, with the Lord's rejection by Israel (the theme of Matthew, Matt. 1:11) and non-recognition by the world (10), and thus showing the necessity of divine work ― of new life needed by the soul, which when received brings into the relationship of children with God and capacity to receive the divine revelation.

For there is now no veil over the face of God: man tested not only by law but in the Person of Christ in perfect lowly grace, come only to be rejected, God must now act for Himself, and in a way fully worthy of Himself. The veil therefore which law had kept over the face of God, and which in the other Gospels, even in Luke, is rent only at the Cross (Matt. 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45), is absent here all through: "We beheld His glory," says the apostle, with direct contrastive reference to the tabernacle of old,* "glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

{*"The Word became flesh, and tabernacled among us: and we beheld His glory" (John 1:14, Greek).}

A contrast on the opposite side with the Synoptic Gospels makes this more impressive. All three give in detail ― Luke in the fullest manner ― the account of the transfiguration, the exceptional display of the glory of the "Son of Man, coming in His Kingdom." (Matt. 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27: comp. 2 Peter 1:16-18.) John omits this altogether, and necessarily, for the divine glory of Christ is ever before his eyes. This omission is similar to that of the ascension, which is indeed referred to, but in an exceptional chapter (6:62) in which He is seen as Son of man: "What and if ye see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?" The account of it is given in the two Gospels which speak of Him respectively as Servant and as Man; there crowning His path of humiliation with divine acknowledgment. But here it is on this account omitted. The Word has become flesh; and the blessedness of this is to remain with us, without anything to render it less near. "Grace and truth" have come to abide.

There is one special character of John's Gospel, already in part referred to, by which it is connected with the preceding ones, and which will not allow us to forget that after all it is a fourth: that is the word "world": it is the universal aspect of the grace that is come. It is that which manifests the true Light, that "it lights" ― or "shines for" ― "every man." When the sun rises, it makes no distinction of persons: when God is revealed, we can ask with the apostle: "Is He the God of the Jews only? is He not also of the Gentiles?" (Rom. 3:29). So we read here: "I am the Light of the world;" "God so loved the world;" "sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved;" my flesh which I will give for the life of the world," and so on. What makes all this more marked is that, as often observed, John's Gospel is that which gives us characteristically the Lord's Jerusalem ministry, while those before it show us rather that in Galilee. But if He is here at the centre of Jewish worship and ritual, it is only to display the hollowness of it all, and Himself as the one resource and refuge of the soul. This needs no special exemplification we shall find it all through the book.

It is that also to which the preceding Gospels have been leading on. Even in Matthew Israel is seen rejecting Him, and the Kingdom of heaven thus acquires its mystery-form. The Sower goes forth to sow His seed in the broad field of the world; but this is more anticipative of what is to be. In Mark we find what has been called the Latin Gospel and signs of a Gentile audience being contemplated. Luke is a Gentile distinctly addressing a Gentile. But in John, though salvation may come of the Jews, yet man as man, the world as the world, is fully set forth, ― in its guilt and misery alike everywhere, but thus all distinctions lost in this common ruin; amid which divine grace finds everywhere its objects and ministers to the same need.

Man must be born again: this is now for the first time explicitly declared. "I give unto them eternal life": here is the grace suited. But it rises beyond the mere supply of need in bringing those that are thus "made partakers of the divine nature" into the blessed place of relationship with God as Father, in the full enjoyment of communion with the Father and the Son.

All this can now be merely indicated: it can only be developed when we come, if the Lord will, to the study of the book itself. There is, however, one character beside which has to be considered, and that is the aspect which is here presented of the Lord's sacrificial work. Even here, where least we expect to find it, His glory is shining forth. His own words about it are: "Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in Him" (John 13:31). We find at the Cross no horror of great darkness hanging about it here. There is no cry of desertion. There is no agony portrayed. If He says, "I thirst," it is not that His thirst may be met, but "that Scripture may be fulfilled." The character of the burnt-offering, which the fortieth psalm expresses, is here made manifest: "Sacrifice and offering Thou hadst no delight in: ears hast Thou digged for Me; burnt-offering and sin-offering Thou hast not demanded. Then said I, Lo, I am come: in the roll of the book it is written of ME: I delight to do Thy pleasure, my God: yea, Thy law is within my heart." (See notes on the Psalms.)

The many sacrifices of Judaism are here displaced by the one perfect Sacrifice, which in its entire devotedness to God shows the true burnt-offering character, its savor brought out by the fire of divine holiness. So in John Jesus offers Himself in the calm and perfect consciousness of acceptance: "when He had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished and He bowed His head and rendered up His spirit."

This is the witness, not merely of the strength of our salvation, but to the perfectness of our acceptance in the Beloved. How suited also to that particular aspect of truth which we have here: viz. communion in the light with God, maintained by the preciousness of that obedience in which we are accepted. The perfection of the work which He has declared is presently borne witness to by the blood and water which follow the thrust of the soldier's spear. It is the answer of divine love to man's senseless enmity, ― the divine provision for his need. The blood of atonement is here found with the cleansing water, ― guilt and impurity are both met in the Cross: that which puts away sin for men before God, reconciles them also to God: "the life which I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).

This must suffice as to the Gospels before we take them up in detail, as now at once we shall begin to do. The orderly display of these and other features can only be seen in this way. May the Lord give us happy and fruitful meditation.