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John xi. 45, 46.
many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done.
The things which the sacred historian refers to, as done by Jesus, which had produced such different dispositions in these men, were what had within a few moments passed before their eyes, in that astonishing event of his raising Lazarus from the dead. I
propose to consider the circumstances of credibility which attended it, and which justify the belief of it, and its attestation to the character of Christ as a divine messenger; and shall also endeavour to account for the contrary effect which it had
others. But I must beg leave first to premise a few M 2
remarks on the manner of the evangelists in relating these great things done by Jesus ; as it will serve both to illustrate and confirm the matter and argument before us.
Now, in perusing the history of Christ in the New Testament, every one must have observed with pleasure those singular marks of veracity and integrity in the writers of it, who were among his first followers ;—that they never say any thing in praise of their divine Master; contenting themselves with telling plain facts, leaving you to draw your own conclusions from them; never show any eagerness or design to set him off by enlarging upon the great things wrought by him ; but, on the contrary, use great modesty and reserve in speaking of them.
Very many of his miracles they have all of them omitted. (John xxi. 25.) There are good grounds to believe that he raised other dead persons to life, besides those recounted by them. And of the three persons only, whom they have mentioned,—the ruler of the synagogue's daughter, the widow of Nain's son, and Lazarus, Matthew and Mark take
notice only of the former, omitting the widow of Nain's son cited by Luke alone ; and the account of Lazarus is given us only by the apostle John.
It was necessary to recite and record the miracles which Jesus did, because they were the proofs of his divine mission, of his being the Messiah, the great expected prophet of God. But the sacred historians show no disposition to aggrandize him in this respect. They seem to have had chiefly in view, to tell such extraordinary facts as might serve for the confirmation of that excellent doctrine that leads to eternal life, and to bring men to listen to him, (John iii. 2.) as a teacher come from God.
We have good historical evidence to believe, that one design of St. John's composing his Gospel, was to supply what had been omitted by the other evangelists, who wrote some little time before him, and whose writings he had
which may account for his inserting this narrative, concerning Lazarus's being raised to life, which the three others had omitted. But there is another reason to be given for
it, and which is also a satisfactory solution of the entire silence of the three former evangelists, about a fact of such great notoriety.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke, appear to have chosen only to give an account of our Lord's most public ministry, thinking that to be sufficient. They therefore take no notice of many things in the former and more private part of it, mentioned by John ; but begin their history after the imprisonment of John the Baptist. They have also for the same reason passed slightly over what happened from our Lord's arrival beyond Jordan, till he went up to his last passover, (Comp. Matt. xix. 1, 2, 3. XX. 17. and John x. 22–39, 40, 41. xi. 54.) where he lived more privately, to be more out of the way of his enemies, who were seeking his life ; yet receiving all that came to him. It was during this interval that he came to Bethany and raised Lazarus to life. It did not therefore lie in the way of the other evangelists to mention this transaction. It fell not within the compass of their design, and was not to be expected from them. We now proceed to consider the well-known
narrative which is given by our evangelist, who was an eye-witness of it.
II. In a miracle of such an important nature, it yields satisfaction to observe the names of the person and of his relations, their place of abode, their acquaintance and connections, and the time when the event happened. These are marks of authenticity very necessary to be inserted, and never omitted by good historians, when treating of any thing out of the common road.
Lazarus did not die suddenly ; but of a lingering disease that came on and grew worse by degrees. He and his sisters were a family that were honoured and distinguished by the particular friendship of Jesus :—for which we cannot help honouring them ourselves, as most amiable and worthy. His sisters therefore, we are told, sent a message to him, (v. 3.) “ Lord, he whom thou lovest is sick :” hoping he might arrive time enough to cure him. Had our Lord been
spot, and not saved his friend's life, it might have been attributed to his want of power or affection.