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High Priest of our Salvation and Exemplar of perfect righteousness cannot be held up to their view at too early a period for the object of their faith and imitation.
He surely renders an important service to the cause of religion, who exhibits the portrait of the Divine Original in the most agreeable light, and by a just and pleasing representation adds to it new charms, and captivates the affections with the "beauty of holiness." I would indulge a hope that the present performance will be found peculiarly calculated, in this view, to yield pleasure and instruction to readers of every age and description.
The exclusive advantages it possesses will appear obvious, if we direct our attention to the form and manner in which the Scriptures are handed down to us.
The Four Gospels were written by separate independant witnesses, who, though inspired, were at liberty to pursue each his own plan, and record in his own way the occurrences of our Saviour's life. Hence we may account for the want of uniformity and congruity of design in the composition of the Gospels. Hence we find one Evangelist preserving in his narrative the order of time, whilst another attends only to the connexion of facts; the omission of entire discourses and important events in St. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which are amply supplied by St. John; circumstances slightly touched upon or inverted by St. Matthew, which are more minutely detailed, and placed in more luminous order by St. Mark and St. Luke; and parallel passages, in the same words, which occur in all the Evangelists. Nor perhaps is the modern division into chapters and verses, however convenient for the purpose of reference, the best calculated to elucidate the sense, or gratify the taste of readers in general.
Whereas the following harmony, which is compiled from the Four Gospels, and the words of the sacred historians, professes to arrange the events in due order of time, to mark the scenes in which they took place; to point out the duration of our Lord's ministry; to digest his life in regular series, and into one continued narrative; to supply the omissions of one gospel with the materials of another; to fill up the sketches of St. Mark with the nicer touches and finishing strokes of St. Matthew; to pass over no circumstance that is recorded, and at the same time to avoid a repetition either of the matter or the words; and lastly to regulate the division of the history by the nature and number of the subjects, and exhibit it in a form more popular and agreeable.
I beg leave however to disclaim, in distinct terms, the most remote intention of weakening in the smallest degree the impressions of the value and dignity of the Gospels, as they have been transmitted down to us. The four Evangelists wrote them under the immediate inspiration of Heaven, in a form the best adapted, not only to facilitate their success and propagation, but also to confirm their credibility, authenticity and divine origin. The very circumstances which justify the expediency, and point out the advantage of a new arrangement, supply the strongest evidences of their truth, and tend in the fullest manner to establish our faith. An harmony, which may be entitled to high encomiums, when considered in the light of a human compilation, would be liable to the most weighty objections as an original revelation of the divine will. The four gospels are separate independant edifices, designed with infinite wisdom and constructed with exquisite beauty and simplicity, whilst they may be considered collectively the joint materials of a still more magnificent building, wrought and polished to the hands of the human architect to consolidate and fitly frame together.
It has occurred that it would be a material improvement of the work to subjoin a few notes, with a view to explain the most difficult passages. In these I have considered bre'vity and precision. Upon the merit and usefulness of the selection it does not become me to offer an opinion; thus far however I may venture to observe, the profound scholar and fastidious critic will find but little gratification. The notes are intended for the instruction of a different class, have been drawn from the most approved authorities, and adopted only after the most attentive and mature consideration.
I have been induced by the same motive of utility to abridge from Dr. Percy's Key to the New Testament, and prefix, by way of introduction, a brief account of the four Evangelists and the different sects which are mentioned in the following history. The scheme of the Gospel is principally borrowed from the Elements of Christian Theology,* by the Bishop of Lincoln. To this are added a Map of the Holy Land, and a table of contents. At the end is given. an index of references to those passages of the gospels which compose the HARMONY.
The minute accuracy, patient research, and correct judg ment of the Learned Professor have left but little room for improvement. The passages which are interwoven in the text, with a view to heighten the interest of the history, are so few, and comparatively unimportant, that to dwell on them might perhaps subject me to the charge of assuming a province to which they allow no pretensions.
* In my humble opinion the Abridgment of this excellent work, lately pub lished by the Rev. Samuel Clapham, M. A. the Scripture Biography, by John Watkins, LL.D. and the Lectures on St. Matthew's Gospel, by the Bishop of London, ought to occupy a place in every school and family.
In this Edition will be found two additional engravings, intended to illustrate a very interesting period of the History. The one consists of the HOLY SEPULCHRE with the ground plan; the other of PART OF JERUSALEM. For the observations upon them I am indebted to Dr. TOWNSON'S Discourse on the Evangelical History, from the interment to the ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, a work which cannot be too strongly recommended to those who wish for a clear apprehension of this part of our Lord's history.
It may be proper to acquaint the public that another edition is published in DUODECIMO size, in smaller type, for the use of Schools, and of those who may think proper to give it the preference.
I should reproach myself with great ingratitude were I to conclude without acknowledging my obligations, on the present, as well as on a former occasion, to the Rev. E. ROBSON, M. A. CURATE of WHITECHAPEL, who to a sound knowledge of the Scriptures, and a zealous regard for the advancement of true religion, unites superior talents and the most ready disposition to impart the benefit of them.
THE writings of the Old and New Testament, which Christians receive as divinely inspired, are called in general SCRIPTURE, or the SCRIPTURES; a word which signifies WRITING or the WRITINGS. The whole collection of these sacred writings is called the BIBLE, or the Book, as superior to all others in the world. The Old Testament contains the books written under the Old Dispensation of the Law of Moses. The New Testament contains the books that were published under the New Dispensation of the Gospel. The New Testament is so termed, as being that wherein the death of Christ as a testator, is related, and applied to our benefit; and the inheritance is sealed to the Christian, as the Son and heir of God.
It is however more properly a NEW COVENANT, as containing the terms of the NEW COVENANT between God and Man.
The word GOSPEL signifies any joyful tidings, and in the New Testament is confined to the glad Tidings of the actual coming of the Messiah.