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have mercy and not sacrifice. As for these, they. are sick; they need a physician, and I must heal them; ye yourselves say that they are sinners, and why shall I not call them to repentance, and save them?"
With what has been now told from the Gospels concerning Matthew, we must rest contented; but even from these slight memorials we shall gain a highly favorable impression of his character. In his depressed condition as a publican, he seems to have learned the valuable lesson of humility; and thus to have become “almost a Christian, before he was a follower of Christ. Among his vile companions, whom public obloquy had made yet more vile than their habits and their occupation would have made them, he was upright, honest, merciful, uncontaminated. His integrity appears doubly bright by contrast, amidst the dark examples and fearful temptations which were all around it like clouds; and his virtue, reared among quicksands and waves, proved, simply by its being and standing there, how very deeply and strongly its foundations were laid. It is further to be remarked, that though he was the writer of one of the Gospel histories, he says nothing more of himself than that he was called to follow Jesus, while he was sitting in his office, and that he
afterwards entertained his Master at his house; and this latter circumstance he only mentions in order that he may introduce the answer of Jesus to the Pharisees. We could have no better evidence than this, of his disinterestedness and modesty.
His Gospel is every where distinguished by plain good sense and manly simplicity. It was written, as some of the ancients say, fifteen years after the ascension of our Saviour, or as others affirm, yet seven years earlier, or, according to yet others, at a considerably later period than the latest of these two dates, that is, about the year 60, or between 60 and 70 of our era, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome. Although some critics have advanced the opinion that Luke's Gospel was the first which was written, the general voice of antiquity is against them, and a majority also, I believe, of the moderns. So that the Gospel of Matthew really stands, in all probability, where a place is given to it in our Bibles, the first in order of the four evangelical histories.
Another circumstance respecting this Gospel, which the earliest ecclesiastical authors record, and which, though it has been controverted, is most probably a fact, is, that we do not possess it in the language in which it was originally composed. It was written by Matthew, according to the best testimony, at Jerusalem, on purpose for the Jewish converts, and in that modern dialect or species of Hebrew which was the common language, at that time, of Palestine. The Gospel in that language has been lost, it is supposed, irretrievably. That which we have, is a translation of it into Greek, made very soon after the original was composed. There is no reason to challenge its exact faithfulness to the original; and some have even supposed that Matthew himself was the author of this Greek rendering of his own Hebrew Gospel. The predominant opinion is, however, that the name of the translator, and the Gospel which he translated, are alike unknown and undiscoverable. Though we may be allowed to regret that we cannot look on the very words which this excellent apostle used in narrating, for our exceeding benefit, the life and actions of his Master, yet our faith ought not to be in the least disturbed by the loss, while there remains to us a translation of his history, so manifestly ancient, complete, and true.
I am well aware that there are great names to be brought against the commonly received opinions of the priority of Matthew's Gospel, and its
having been originally written in Hebrew. There are also great names in favor of those opinions. And I confess I am somewhat surprised that the name of Lardner stands in the former class. Irenæus, on whose authority, as being the most ancient, he justly relies, expressly says that the Gospel was written in Hebrew; and though he seems to assign the latest of the three dates to its composition, he evidently means to leave the impression that it was written before the other Gospels. I will now give the passage from Ire
who wrote about the year 178— precisely as it is given in Lardner's own immortal work.
“ Matthew then among the Jews wrote a gospel in their own language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel at Rome, and founding for establishing] the church there. And after their
] . exit (that is, death, or departure] Mark also, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, delivered to us in writing, the things that had been preached by Peter And Luke, the companion of Paul, put down in a book the gospel preached by him. Afterwards John, the disciple of the Lord, who leaned upon his breast, likewise published a gospel, whilst he dwelt at Ephesus, in Asia.”
And the next authority cited by Lardner, is that of Origen, who says, about the year 230, " that according to the tradition received by him, the first gospel was written by Matthew, once a publican, afterwards a disciple of Jesus Christ; who delivered it to the Jewish believers, composed in the Hebrew language.” To the same purpose is the testimony of Eusebius, the third cited authority.
Although Dr. Lardner's arguments against the Hebrew original of Matthew's Gospel, are learned and ingenious, they cannot convince me in opposition to such authorities. And let it be observed, that the date assigned by Irenæus to its composition, is not a fixed and certain date, because the period of the preaching of Peter and Paul at Rome is not a fixed or certain year. But the priority of the Gospel is a fixed and certain fact, according to that father, and so is the language in which it was written.
Matthew is said to have carried the religion of Jesus into Parthia and Ethiopia, and to have suffered martyrdom at Naddaber, in the latter country, but by what death is uncertain. We are told also that his remains were brought to Bithynia, and from thence to Salernum, in the kingdom of Naples, where they were discovered in the year 1080, and where a church was built for them by duke Robert, in the pontificate of