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this command," and he then refers and partly (though in different words) quotes the passage in Genesis, adding his own inference (in the form of precept) as in St. Matthew and here, according to St. Mark, the conversation with the Pharisees ended; and Christ's final opinion or declaration is by him stated to have been delivered to his disciples in the house into which he had entered with them, and consequently when the Pharisees were no longer present: and to have been given in answer to the enquiry of the disciples, who had evidently been surprised and staggered by a doctrine so at variance with established usage, and which went to annul the Law of Moses; and it was natural for them to ask for explanation of what appeared so difficult to understand, since it implied, that the original law of marriage still remained in force, notwithstan ding the liberty of divorce granted by the Law of Moses.

But in St. Matthew, Christ's final sentence or opinion is addressed to, and a continuation of the conversation with the Pharisees. The difference of the terms in which the opinion is expressed need not be here repeated.

Either these narratives cannot be relations of the same transaction, or else one of them must be erroneous.

The difference remarked in the question of the Pharisees, essential as it is in itself, is the less material, since our Lord may be considered as having given no direct or specific answer to either; and because, with reference to his doctrine, whether the latitude of the construction of the Law was greater or less, was of no consequence, since it forbid to his followers the use of the privilege altogether.

But whether in point of fact the final opinion was as stated by

without producing still worse consequences; for if they could not get rid of their wives by fair means, they would not scruple to do it by foul ones. He judged it therefore expedient not totally to prohibit the practice, but to allow it under certain circumstances, and then under a condition in favor of the dismissed wife, by restoring her, as nearly as practicable, to her condition before marriage, and qualifying her for entering into another marriage. This was the meaning and intended effect of the bill of di


Moses, in the terms of his Law, allows this proceeding in one specified case only, the precise meaning of the terms be used to describe which, in after times became misunderstood, and the subject of all the variety of interpretations of the different schools of the Rabbins; but whatever were their opinions, the practice of arbitrary divorce became general and unlimited, as appears by the prophet Malachi, and is to be inferred from the language in which our Saviour condemns it. Moses seems to have allowed it in one case only. The Jews allowed it to themselves ad libitum--so rooted was the habit even in our Saviour's time, that when he wholly forbid it to those who were candidates for his kingdom, his own disciples considered the married state itself, under such a prohibition, intolerable.




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St. Matthew, addressed to the Pharisees, or whether according to St. Mark, to his own disciples only, after he and they had withdrawn from the presence of the former; and whether it was in fact expressed in the terms in which it is described by the one, or those narrated by the other, are questions of fact materially different, and affording different conclusions.

Christ's declaration, if addressed to the Pharisees, will bear considering in a different view, and admit of a different construction from that to be put upon it, if delivered to his own disciples only..

If addressed to the Pharisees, it may be considered as a part or continuation of his answer to their original question, which was "whether it was lawful," and not whether it was moral, to put away a wife.

Therefore, in answer to their question, he referred to the Law and its modification by Moses, and in the whole of his answer to their question, he must be considered to be declaring what was the law ; consequently, when he says, whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another commits adultery, (which was forbidden by the decalogue, and made a capital offence by the subsequent law) he by necessary implication denies the validity of the precept of Moses in Deuteronomy, as being contrary not only to the original law, on the creation, but also that of the decalogue penned by God himself.

If, on the other hand, his declaration was addressed to his own disciples only, it may be construed to leave the law of Deuteronomy in all its force, and whether the liberty it gave, of putting away, was limited or unlimited, was immaterial; for the new and pure morality, which was to qualify for admission into his kingdom, forbid any departure from the original Law of God, and consequently any putting away whatsoever; and that from a principle of conscience. The Law of Moses, therefore, became inapplicable to them, whatever might be its construction, for they would never avail themselves of it.

When he says, that the liberty was granted by that Law to the hard-hearted only, and that to prevent their falling into still greater crimes; it followed by necessary inference, that his people had no concern with it, since hardness of heart alone was a bar to admission into his kingdom, for which a kind and tender heart he had declared to be an essential qualification.

If the two discourses could be supposed to have been held at different times, the striking difference between them, in the insertion in the one, and omission in the other, of the exception, might admit of another explanation, or by possibility be otherwise accounted for.

It is to be observed, that it is inserted in St. Matthew, where

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the discourse is stated to be held with the Pharisees, and is omitted in St. Mark, wherein it is stated to have passed with the disciples.

There was an obvious reason for its insertion in the former, viz. to avoid the charge of a total denial of the Law of Moses, of which they would immediately have laid hold. The exception had evident reference to that Law, and the term Fornication, probably was intended to fix its true construction, which the Pharisees found themselves unprepared to dispute, and therefore departed in silence; it being a different construction from that of any of the schools of the Doctors or Rabbins.

On the other hand, if, according to St. Mark, the part of the discourse in question was held with his own disciples only, there was no need of the same caution, or any reference to the exception, which, as to them, was quite immaterial, as they were forbid to have recourse to the Law in question in any case.

It must not escape remark, that the quotations of the Law in both passages do not accord with the text of Deuteronomy.

In St. Matthew, the Pharisees say, "Why then hath Moses commanded to put away a wife, giving her a bill of divorce


ment ?"

In St. Mark: "Moses hath suffered a man to put away his wife, giving her a bill of divorcement."

From both these passages it would be inferred, that the Law allowed a putting away ad libitum, whereas the precept in Deuteronomy confines it to the particular case it states, as before observed upon.

Christ in neither place takes exception to the correctness of the quotation, and but for the exception above noticed, he appears to have admitted by implication, that the liberty given by the Law was unlimited.

It is difficult to reconcile this discrepancy. The only conjecture that occurs to account for it is, that in the reference to the Mosaic Law, they spoke of it in short and general terms, the particulars being equally known and understood on both sides; and when they said, is it lawful to put away, &c. they meant in the case, or on the terms the Law prescribes.

As it is clear, that if the two Evangelists are considered to relate the same transaction, one of them must be incorrect; it is desirable to ascertain which of them is to be depended upon where they differ.


It is observable, that the narrative of St. Matthew is the most full and circumstantial-it reads like that of a by-stander of what he witnessed and heard; that of St. Mark, as compared with the other, reads like the account of one who reports from the information of others: the one seems to be the testimony of an eye and ear

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witness; the other, is the evidence of hearsay: the first is accordingly minute and particular; the other, shorter, broken, or imperfect, omitting some circumstances and varying others.

On the face of the two narratives, that of St. Matthew bespeaks the greater credit; and when it is recollected that as an Apostle he must have been present, and that St. Mark, not being an Apostle, but a convert of St. Peter, probably was not presentthat circumstance strongly confirms the title of St. Matthew to superior credit. St. Luke, like St. Mark, was not an Apostle, and composed his gospel from the information of those who werechiefly St. Paul.

On this ground, therefore, we may venture to conclude, that the facts were as St. Matthew states them, and consequently, that on that occasion, as well as in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ laid down his doctrine with the exception of the case of fornication. On the other hand, this inference is justifiable from the omission of the exception in St. Mark and St. Luke, viz. that they received and understood, and therefore declared to those churches or converts to whom their gospels were addressed, and for whose instruction they were designed, Christ's doctrine to be-that Christians were to hold marriage to be an indissoluble bond, and were in no case at liberty to put their wives away, or attempt to avail themselves of the Law of Moses. This must be granted, because otherwise those two Evangelists must be chargeable with misleading their different congregations of converts, by not stating truly and correctly the doctrine they were recording, for the future government of the Christian world to the end of time. It can neither be believed that they did not understand the doctrine rightly, or that they did not record our Lord's true meaning.

If they did express his true meaning, it follows that the passages in St. Matthew had the same meaning and no other; but such a construction of St. Matthew can only be sustainable by the supposition, that the term fornication was used in the sense before ascribed to it.

It is probable, that St. Mark's gospel was of ulterior date to that of St. Matthew, and that St. Luke's was a still later period and it must be beyond all doubt, that at the time they wrote, the doctrine, as they expressed it, must have been the settled doctrine of the Christian world, or at any rate, of all the churches of which they were teachers; and it seems impossible to imagine that St. Matthew and they could mean to express themselves or teach differently.


St. John is supposed to have written his gospel after the publication of those of the three other Evangelists, and with a knowledge of the contents of the latter. His gospel is therefore a ratification of the authority of the others, and consequently the doctrine of the passages under consideration, in St. Mark, and St. Luke, must have been recognised and sanctioned by him, as much as if he had written them with his own pen. And it follows, that these passages, as well as those in St. Matthew, must equally contain the truth, and nothing but the truth. And as truth is single, the real meaning in all the passages, must in substance be the same, though expressed in different forms of words, and they must be reconcileable to each other. Consequently the exception in the passages in St. Matthew, in its true sense, cannot be inconsistent with the passages in St. Mark and St. Luke, in which it is omitted; which seems impossible by any other construction than that which has been proposed.

But there ought to exist, and there must in fact have existed, a reason to be given, why the exception appears in St. Matthew, and why it does not in the other Evangelists.

Its introduction in St. Matthew, and its omission in St. Mark and St. Luke, may be accounted for by the following circumstances St. Matthew was a Jew, and his gospel was addressed to, and written in Judea, for the use and instruction of the Jewish converts. It was originally written in Hebrew, the language then spoken in Palestine. Throughout his narratives he pointedly refers to the Jewish laws and customs, and notes the fulfilment, by each event, of the types and prophecies more than any other of the sacred historians. As he, and those whom he addressed, were born and living under the Law, it was necessary to satisfy their minds that the doctrine of our Lord was not inconsistent with, but a fulfilment of it, of which he carefully records our Lord's own assurance consequently, in declaring the marriage bond to be indissoluble, the exception in the case in which it was allowed by the Law of Moses, was, with regard to the Jews living under that Law, indispensable. But that Law, as before observed, extended its privileges no further than its obligations; and as the latter were confined to the Jewish people only, and had no relation to the heathen converts living without its Pale, it was to the former only that the exception had any relevancy.

On the other hand, the gospels of St. Mark and St. Luke were written for the use of, and addressed to, the heathen converts and nations; and as the dispensation of Moses from the original law of marriage did not concern them, and they could have no pretence

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