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by William Baxter Godbey
As you are well apprised, beginning with Revelation, we have expounded the books of the New Testament in a reverse order. The primary reason for this procedure was the realization of my incompetence for the great and responsible work of expounding God’s Word, and my consequent dread of the Savior’s ministry. Feeling more freedom in an attempt to write up the ministry of the apostles, I began with them, thinking perhaps I would never be able to reach the Lord’s ministry. But now His good providence has permitted me to expound the whole New Testament in the five volumes, which (D.V.) you have read, and make this second pilgrimage to the Holy Land by way of preparation for the great and responsible work of expounding the personal ministry of our Lord.
As the Holy Spirit is really the Author of the whole Bible, speaking through the prophets and apostles, the ministry of Christ is no exception, as He never began till the Holy Ghost came down from heaven and filled Him, immediately after John, His forerunner, had, by the ordinance of baptism, initiated Him into His official Messiahship. Henceforth He ever “preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven.” While admitting these facts, we must recognize in Jesus the only absolutely perfect Man that ever trod the earth or ever will. He alone was perfectly free from all human infirmity. While in case of the apostles, though encumbered with infirmities, they were so superseded by grace as not only to be perfectly subordinated to the Holy Ghost, but doubtless, in many cases, so utilized by Him as in the end to magnify the grace of God, yet when we sit under the ministry of Jesus, there is manifest a Divine majesty, a sweetness of spirit, a depth of love, a tenderness of sympathy, a grandeur of omnipotence, and a majesty of execution, descending to profoundest depths, mounting to loftiest altitudes, broadening to grandest latitudes, and sweeping on through illimitable longitudes, thus culminating in a beauty, grandeur, sublimity, and glory transcending the possibility of all human utterances. Hence, with deepest humiliation and profoundest realization of immeasurable responsibility, I enter upon this humble attempt to expound the Gospel of Jesus, as revealed to us through the instrumentality of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Among all the commentaries that have ever been written, expository of our Lord’s ministry, no one has been harmonical. What do you mean by a Harmonical Commentary? I mean the ministry of our Lord expounded as it took place, whether given by one, two, three, or all of the inspired writers. We have wonderful favor in our Lord’s Gospel in the fact that it is so brief that almost every one may conveniently, at least substantially, commit it all to memory. Besides, we have it by four different authors, differing from each other by personal, experimental, and educational idiosyncrasies. This is a great blessing to us, as we have the same truth given from a diversity of attitudes, the style of the writer adding variety, vivacity, and simplicity.
Some things none but Matthew wrote; others, Mark alone wrote; others, Luke exclusively has given us; while John is quite isolated, running much of the time alone. Matthew wrote for the Jews in the Holy Land, fifteen years after the ascension of our Lord, being himself an eye-witness, as he was one of the original twelve apostles called by the Savior in the city of Capernaum. Mark was not an apostle, but is believed to have served as amanuensis of Peter, writing his Gospel for the Romans in Rome, as dictated by Peter, thirty years after the ascension of our Lord. Luke was a physician, in the city of Antioch, Syria, and of course practicing medicine there, during the ministry of John the Baptist and our Savior, as we have no mention of him until some time after Christianity had reached Antioch, Paul and Barnabas having preached there a whole year, and made their first great evangelistic tour through Cyprus, Pamphylia, and Lycaonia, returning back to Antioch. Setting out on a second tour, Luke is first mentioned as a comrade of Paul, along with Timothy and Silas, and serving him as amanuensis. He wrote the Gospel that bears his name for the Greeks, while with Paul in Corinth, twenty-five years after the ascension of our Lord. John, like Matthew, was one of the twelve apostles, and wrote his Gospel for the edification of the Christians while at Ephesus, about sixty-five years after the ascension of the Savior.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke all wrote historically. Hence they run much together. John did not write historically, but spiritually and experimentally, for the edification of the Christians, and especially their fortification against dangerous heresies, which had already begun to creep in.
A Harmonical Commentary is something “new under the sun,” in the simple fact that there has never been anything of the kind written and published. At least, I have made diligent inquiry, and have never been able to hear of any. You will find the advantages of a Harmonical Commentary on the Gospels decisive and inestimable; e.g., as you all know, reading Clarke, Whedon, or any other Commentary, you get along nicely, and enjoy everything through Matthew; then in Mark they are constantly turning you back to Matthew. This becomes irksome, and the subsequent expositions, to some extent, become monotonous. There is nothing of this kind in the Harmonial Commentary, as the line of exegesis does not follow Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, but Jesus only, and taking in the writers as they come, incidentally, in the order of events.
While the Harmonical Commentary will expound every deliverance of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it will give them incidentally, in the order of time, every one subsidiary to the Lord Himself.
(a) Everything revealed by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John will be expounded in the order of time as the events transpire in the ministry of our Savior.
(b) Repetitions will be diligently avoided; i.e., when the same thing is said by more than one, there will only be one exegesis given.
(c) The chronological coincidence of the items given by different writers will be diligently observed, so as to keep prominent before the eye of the reader the unbroken, consecutive history of our Lord’s ministry.
In studying the Commentary, you would do well to have the Gospels present, so you can see that everything is expounded, recognize, and keep in mind the consecutive order of the wonderful, eventful ministry of our Lord. As a matter of convenience and economy, we will use abbreviations of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Unless you bear this fact in mind, you may realize confusion, somewhat to your disadvantage. For Matthew, we will only write the single letter M.; for Mark, we will write the two letters Mk.; for Luke, we will write the single letter L.; and for John, we will only write J.
I feel sure that you will not only be interested, but much edified, in the wonderful preaching and mighty miracles of our Savior. I suppose you have not only read the other five Commentaries, but “Footprints of Jesus,” in which you find that I have been on His track, beginning at Caesarea-Philippi, the northern terminus of His ministry, and following Him round and round over the country, and two days sailing on the Sea of Galilee, the northern center of His ministry and really His home after they rejected Him at Nazareth. On His track, in that far off land, we dictated the Gospel Commentaries to our son-in-law, Rev. F. M. Hill, one of my traveling companions, who wrote them in brief; but now, in the quietude of my dear “Old Kentucky Home,” we rewrite and prepare them for the printers.
The end for which I made this second tour to the Holy Land was, that I might explore more extensively the track of our Savior, and especially that, by walking round in His footprints, and lingering at those places rendered historic and hallowed by His conception, birth, residence, baptism, crucifixion, interment, resurrection, and ascension, that God, in His mercy, might favor me with a deeper insight into Divine things; a more thorough illumination of the Holy Spirit; a clearer apprehension of Divine truth; a more vivid realization of my own momentous responsibility in my humble effort to expound His Word; a deeper crucifixion in my own interior spirit; a more thorough annihilation of the self life; a more total eclipse of the world, with all its vanities and emoluments; and a profounder humiliation of my own soul before God, thus, not only more thoroughly preparing me for the awful responsibility of expounding to immortal intelligences the Word of my Lord, but a more thorough qualification to meet the thousands of people who read these Commentaries at the judgment seat of Christ.
Now, reader, as you, in the good providence of God, shall examine the subsequent pages of this Commentary, I hope you will have but one end in view, and that is, to know the Word of Him “ who spake as never man spake.” It is understood that a Holiness Commentary is rigidly non- sectarian and undenominational, but simply an explanation of the Bible, whose central idea is “holiness, without which no one shall see the Lord.” I hope no one reading these Commentaries will endeavor to utilize them to bolster up a sectarian dogma; e.g., the baptismal controversy. The Calvinian or the Arminmanas we are reading and expounding the wonderful words and mighty works of our Lord and Savior, I hope you will see Jesus only in all these pages; the heart cry for a greater nearness to God, a deeper similitude to Jesus, and a richer enduement of the Holy Ghost may simultaneously ascend to the mercy-seat. We are sweeping with avalanche velocity into eternity. We have not time to preach anything but Jesus and His great salvation.
The great end for which these Commentaries are written is not only the salvation and sanctification of the readers, but especially the evangelization of the world. “The Lord is nigh.” We need millions of blood-washed and fire-baptized men and women to go to the ends of the earth, and preach the everlasting gospel, thus fulfilling the commission Jesus gave us before he ascended into heaven, assuring us that He will come in His glory so soon as we do this work. Not only do men and women need the sanctification and enduement of the Holy Ghost, but the Word of God is the gospel; they must understand it in order successfully to preach it to others. Hence, the explanation of God’s Word is a sine qua non to every person who would preach it to others.
The world is full of learning. Infidels, skeptics, and heretics set their traps on all sides to catch the herald of God’s truth, and run him into entanglements and sophistical dilemmas. Great human learning is not necessary to the preacher, but a knowledge of God’s Word is indispensable. Without this knowledge, and the sanctifying grace of God, the preacher gets caught and hung up, a spectacle of popular ridicule, before he is aware, and in this way is gobbled up by Satan. If these Commentaries are read, in the providence and grace of God, they will make multitudes of preachers. God has given you intellect enough to understand them.
Millions, in all lands, are perishing for the bread of life; i.e., the precious Word of God. Nothing but the Word is the gospel, and nothing but the gospel can save souls. Many Churches, this day, are starving to death for the bread of life; the multitudes in Satan’s dark world, and the heathen millions, dead and dying. The great responsibility of giving the gospel to the world devolves on the holiness people. The worldly Churches will never do it. A dead man can not help his neighbor. If you are in the swelling flood, you can not rescue others sinking into a watery grave. God needs all the holy people on the earth to go and preach the everlasting gospel to the dying millions. The evangelization of a lost world is the grand incentive for which I have devoted years of toil, and foregone the perils of sea and land, to give you these Commentaries; not simply that you may get saved, but that you may go and blow the silver trumpet amid the tombs of spiritual death, and see the resurrection power, that lost millions may be saved, heaven populated, and the return of our King expedited.
INTRODUCTION TO PART 2 OF THE GOSPELS
PURSUANT to the clamor of the holiness people from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from the Gulf to the Lakes, after long procrastination, feeling my incompetency, finally, five years ago, yielding to their importunity, I entered upon the arduous work of expounding the New Testament Scriptures exegetically for the common people, who desire to know the precious Word of the Lord and communicate it to others, hoping and praying the inspiration of the blessed Holy Spirit, Author of the everlasting Gospel, on our feeble efforts to expound His precious truth; not writing critically for the preachers, but lucidly, experimentally, and practically, sanguinely hoping that the rank and file of God’s sincere, humble, holy people, who, like the inspired Twelve, have no opportunities for collegiate learning, may study these books by the help of the Lord, go out and preach the gospel to the dying millions, not only in the home lands, but especially to those who sit in heathen darkness beyond the sea.
Deprecating the responsibility of writing up our Savior’s ministry, and assured that full salvation has steam-power enough to run up stream, I began at the end of the Book, to go back to the beginning, expounding the Apocalypse, that wonderful book of New Testament prophecy, first of all, constituting Volume 1 in the series. Volume 2, comprising Hebrews, Peter, James, John, and Jude, those wonderful books, so pregnant with perfection, fire, life, love and lightning, then followed. Now, reaching those beautiful, profound, and magnificent writings of the Apostle Paul, Volume 3, expounding Ephesians, Colossians, Philippians, First and Second Thessalonians, First and Second Timothy, Titus, and Philemon, including the Pastoral Epistles and the thrilling prophecies of Paul, setting forth the return of Jesus to this world, to translate His saints, set up His kingdom, and reign in glory, themes whose absorbing and inspiring interest will ever prove an Archimedean lever, to lift the saints into higher communion, sweeter fellowship, and broader experiences. Then those wonderful Corinthian Epistles, expounding the gifts and graces of the Holy Ghost, till the sanctified intellect grows dizzy in contemplating the transcendent possibilities attainable by the citizens of the kingdom, even in this transitory life, and Galatians, elucidating the plan of salvation, as evolved out of the Abrahamic covenant, with a beauty, symmetry, force, and perspicuity unutterably charming and superlatively edifying, constitute Volume 4; while the Acts of the Apostles, that wonderful history of the advent and mighty works of the Holy Comforter, and that wonderful book of Romans, Paul’s Imperial Epistle, so wonderful for its symmetry, profundity, altitude, latitude, and longitude, containing an epitome of the whole Bible, constitute Volume 5. These five books I wrote between my tours in the Holy Land in 1895 and 1899. Though during the last tour I actually dictated the Commentary on the Gospels stenographically to an amanuensis, after my return, January 3d, in the quietude of the rural home, I have dictated Volume 6 to the amanuenses, beginning with the New Testament Gospels, by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, following the Greek Harmony, and expounding every word in the order in which they occur, some things being written by the four, others by three and two, and a considerable quantity Of the precious Word by only one. Matthew, Mark, and Luke, writing historically, run much together; John, who wrote spiritually and experimentally, for the edification of the Church, generally going alone. As Volume 6 traverses thirty months of our Savior’s ministry, we only have six left for Volume 7, which concludes the series.
I am sure the first two and a half years of our Lord’s ministry are infinitely and even climacterically interesting and edifying to all the lovers of Jesus and His Word. Yet the valedictory period of His mission on earth, including the conspiracy of His enemies, His arrest, arraignment, condemnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and glorious ascension, constitute a series of themes, tragical and thrilling events, in point of historic interest eclipsing all the transcendent achievements of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, and Bonaparte; and the depths and heights, lengths and breadths of immortal truth, flashing out from His heroic deportment in the presence of His enemies, His imperturbable calmness and superhuman serenity when all others were tossed by the tempest and borne away on the wing of the tornado, and the unfathomable depth of that love which moved Him to die for His enemies, are destined to furnish inexhaustible soul pabulum, and hold all sincere lovers of truth, true righteousness, holiness, and heaven spell-bound, lost in unutterable bewilderment, while contemplating the tragical scenes of Calvary, the heavenly sunburst on the sepulcher, the profound mysteries of the ensuing forty days, and the ineffable glory which rolled in billows of light and beauty over Mt. Olivet, while multitudes, with mortal eyes, gazed upon the ineffable glory of His transfigured person, as He moved up the azure firmament, entering pavilions of snowy-white clouds, disappearing in the zenith of the bright Oriental firmament, while angels, robed in the splendor of snowy white, dropped down in His track, and with uplifted hands and eloquent lips, assured the electrified multitude that “this same Jesus, whom they have seen ascend, is coming back in like manner;” i. e., going up amid clouds and accompanied by angels, so He will ride down amid thronging myriads of unfallen angels, and clouds whose effulgence will illumine the world, and call His saints to meet Him in the air. While the themes of the preceding; six volumes have been interesting and edifying beyond the possibility of mortal language to portray, certainly the valedictory ministry of our Lord will climax them all. So if this volume does not interest and edify the reader, it will be the fault of the writer and not of the theme.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29