Bishop John Lightfoot
English scholar partially responsible for
“In fact, one of the finest intellects of the Westminster Assembly was a strong preterist: John Lightfoot.”
Volume Three (PDF) Works now complete. This is also the only complete volume three PDF available, so far as I have seen. It was missing a key part (Parergon Concerning the Fall of Jerusalem), so I had to digitize the missing pages from my 1684 edition — hence the different page styles from 368-380. Excerpt:
AND THOUGH HE SAW A FINAL “GREAT ASSIZE” , MATTHEW 24 WAS FULFILLED IN FIRST CENTURY
“Was not the judgment and sad conflagration of Jerusalem, and destruction of the Jewish church and nation, an assurance of the judgment to come ; when the expressions whereby it is described are such as, you think, meant nothing else but that final judgment? As, ‘ Christ’s coming: coming in clouds, in his glory, in his kingdom : ó the day of the Lord; the great and terrible day of the Lord : ó the end of the world ; the end of all things : ó the sun darkened ; the moon not giving light: ó the stars falling from heaven, and the powers of heaven shaken: óthe sign of the Son of man appearing in heaven: ó heaven departing as a scroll rolled together, and every mountain and hill removed out of its place,’ &c. You would think, they meant nothing but the last and universal judgment; whereas their meaning, indeed, is Christ’s coming in judgment and vengeance against the Jewish city and nation; but a fore-signification also of the last judgment.”ó Works, Vol. vi., p. 354.
(On Daniel 9:24-27 – “Weeks Prophecy”)
“Daniel knowing from Jeremies Prophecie, that the seventy years of Captivity were now fully expired, addresseth himself to God by prayer for their return: he receiveth not only a gracious answer to his desire, but a Prediction of what times should pass over his people till the death of Christ; namely, seventy weeks, or seventy times seven years, or four hundred and ninety. This space of time the Angel divideth into three unequal parts.
1. Seven sevens, or forty nine years, to the finishing of Jerusalems Walls.
2. Sixty two sevens, or four hundred thirty four years, from that time, till the last seven.
3. The last seven in the latter half of which Christ Preacheth, viz. three years and a half, and then dieth, &c.
The twenty seventh Verse therefore is to be read thus: He shall confirm the covenant with many in the one week, and in half that week he shall cause Sacrifice and Oblation to cease, &c. So that from this year to the death of Christ are four hundred ninety years; and there is no cause, because of doubtful Records among the Heathen, to make a doubt of the fixedness of this time, which an Angel of the Lord hath pointed out with so much exactness.” (Works, 1st. Ed., Vol. 1; Chronology, p. 136)
“[C]hrist now hath three years and a half to live, and to be a publick Minister of the Gospel, as the angel Gabriel had told, Dan. 9.27. that in half of the last sevens of the years there named, he should confirm the Covenant: R. Jochanan saith, Three years and an half the Divine Glory stood upon the Mount of Olives and cried, Seek the Lord while he may be found. Midr. Till. fol. 10. col. 4.” ( Works, 1st. Ed., Vol. 1; Harmony, p. 10)
(On Matthew 3:9)
“To fly from the wrath to come. These words respect the very last words in the Old Testament, lest I come, and smite the earth with a curse, (Mal. iv. 6,) and denote the most miserable destruction of the nation, and now almost ready to fall upon them. The receiving of John’s baptism signed, and fenced those that received it from the ruin that was just coming. To this belongs that of St. Peter, (1 Epis. iii. 20, 21,) in that manner as Noah and his sons were by water delivered from the flood, so also baptism now, the antitype of that type, saveth us from the deluge of divine indignation, which in a short time is to overthrow the Jewish nation. Those that are baptized are said to fly from the wrath to come; i. e. the wrath of God, that was not long hence to destroy the nation by a most sad overthrow.’ Heb. et Talm. Exerc. in toe.. ‘ Baptism was, beside other tendencies of it, as a badge, whereby those that received it and stuck to it were marked out for safety and preservation against that destruction that was to come upon that nation for unbelief. Therefore John construes their coming to be baptized, their ” fleeing from the wrath to come ; ” and Peter, (1 Epis. iii. 21,) in the same sense, doth say that ” baptism doth now save : ” as the ark hath done in the destruction of the old world, so this from the destruction now coming: and to his admonition to “repent and be baptized,” he addeth, “save yourselves from this untoward generation.” (Acts ii. 40.)” (Harm. Evan. sec ix.)
(On Matthew 3:10)
“These words seem to be taken from Isa. x. 33, 34. The destruction of the nation was to proceed from the Romans, who had now a great while held them under the yoke. The axe now laid to the root of the tree shall certainly cut it down, if, from this last dressing by the gospel, it bears not fruit. In the Talmud, those words of Isaiah are applied to the destruction of the city.’ Heb. et Talm. Exerc. in loc. Again, the same writer says, ‘ This phrase may be understood as comparing the ruin of the Jews here threatened, with those desolations they had felt before ; for then, as at the captivity of Babylon, for example, they were not utterly cut off from their land forever, but had a promise of returning, and returned, and were planted there again; but now, the vengeance threatened must strike at the very root, and quite destroy them from being a nation forever, and from all hope of returning to their country any more. By the axe being now laid to the root of the trees, may fitly be understood, ó 1. The certainty of their desolation; and, 2. The nearness ; in that the instrument of their destruction was already prepared, and brought close to them, the Romans, that should ruin their city and nation, being already masters and rulers over them.” (Harm. of Evan. sec. ix.)
(On Matthew 3:12)
“Seeing that the main intent of the verse is to show forth the destruction of Jerusalem, as is proved before, by these words might well be understood the care and charge that God took of his faithful ones in that ruin, when, by the warning of a voice in the temple, that said, migremus hinc, let us flit hence, he removed them to Pella, a place far enough distant from the danger ; ó- but that our Saviour hath taught us to understand it of the rest in heaven, in his parable of the wheat and tares.” (Harm. Evan. sec. ix.)
(On Matthew 4:17)
“Nor doth this manner of arguing, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” suit only with the Jews’ own maxim and opinion, and so might convince and win them the sooner ; but it also agrees, most properly, with the nature of the “kingdom of heaven” itself. For, 1. If by the term, be understood the coming and appearing of the Messiah, (as that, indeed, is the first sense of it,) what fitter entertainment of his appearing than repentance ? For men, when he came to save them from their sins, (Matt. i. 21,) to repent of their sins,ó and when he came as the true light, to forsake their dark ways, ó and when the Lord, by the appearance of Christ for man’s redemption, did show, as it were, that he repented of evil against man ; ó how fit was it for man to meet this great mercy, by repenting of his own evil! And, 2. If the term “kingdom of heaven” be taken for the state of the church and religion, under the appearance of Christ and the gospel, in comparison of what it was under the ceremonious administrations in the law, ó there could be no fitter entertainment of it than by repentance ; namely, by washing, purifying or sacrificing, the heart, when there was no other washing, purifying or sacrificing, in religion to be had, and such external ceremonies should be gone out of date. 3. And, lastly, if, by this phrase, be meant the ” kingdom of Christ among the Gentiles, and their calling by the gospel,” (as it also reacheth that sense,) it was a proper kind of arguing used to the Jews, to move them to repentance, ó by minding them of the calling of the Gentiles, whose calling in they knew would be their own casting off, if they repented not.” (Harm. Evan. part iii. sect. xix.)
(On Matthew 12:36)
“In Matt. xii. 36, the rema argon, or idle word, for every one of which our Saviour saith men shall give an account, (he doth not say shall be condemned or punished,) may perhaps be of the same importance with that which the Talmudists and Rabbins call, ” the talk of those who are idle,” at leisure, have little to do ; sueh as is used among people in ordinary conversation, when they meet together: as What news? how doth such a person?-or the like. Even this may be well or ill done, prudently or foolishly : and therefore even of this an account will be required.” (Works (8vo. Ed.) vol. i. pp. 27, 28.)
(On Matthew 16:28)
“Our Saviour saith, Matt. xvi. 28, “There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom:” ó which must not be understood of his coming to the last judgment; for there was not one standing there, that could live till that time:ónor ought it to be understood of the resurrection, as some would have it; for probably not only some, but, in a manner, all that stood there, lived till that time. His coming, therefore, in this place must be understood of his coming to take vengeance against those enemies of his, which would not have him to rule over them, as Luke xix. 12, 27. ‘
Perhaps it will not repent him that reads the Holy Scriptures, to observe these few things : ‘
1. That the destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state, is described as if the whole frame of this world were to be dissolved. Nor is it strange, when God destroyed his habitation and city, places once so dear to him, with so direful and sad an overthrow ; his own people, whom he accounted of as much or more, than the whole world beside,ó by so dreadful and amazing plagues. Matt. xxiv. 29, 30 ; “The sun shall be darkened, &c. Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man,” &c.; which yet are said to fall out, within that generation, ver. 34.ó2 Pet. iii. 10; ” The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,” &c. Compare with this, Deut. xxxii. 22 ; Heb. xii. 26 : and observe, that, by elements, are understood the Mosaic elements, Gal. iv. 9 ; Col. ii. 20 : and you will not doubt, that St.~ Peter speaks only of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation and the abolishing the dispensation of Moses. ‘
Rev. vi. 12, 13 ; ” The sun became black as sackcloth of hair, &c., and the heavens departed as a scroll, when it is rolled together,” &c. Where, if we take notice of the foregoing plagues, by which, according to the most frequent threatenings, he destroyed that people, viz. the sword, ver. 4,ófamine, vs. 5, 6,ó and the plague, ver. 8 ; ó withal comparing those words, ” They say to the mountains, Fall on us and cover us,” with Luke xxiii. 30 ;óit will sufficiently appear, that, by those phrases, is understood the dreadful judgment and overthrow of that nation and city. With these also agrees that of Jer. iv. from ver. 22 to 28, and clearly enough explains this phrase. To this appertain those and other expressions, as we meet with, 1 Cor. x. 11, ” On us the ends of the world are come:” ó and 1 Pet. iv. 7, ” The end of all things is at hand.” 2. With reference to this, and under this notion, the times, immediately preceding this ruin, are called the ” last days,” and the “last times,” that is, the last times of the Jewish city, nation, economy. This manner of speaking frequently occurs; which let our St. John himself interpret, 1 John ii. 13 ; ” There are many antichrists, whereby we know it is the last time : ” and that this nation is upon the very verge of destruction, when as it hath already arrived at the utmost pitch of infidelity, apostasy, and wickedness. ‘
3. With the same reference it is, that the times and state of things, immediately following the destruction of Jerusalem, are called, a ” new creation,” ” new heavens,” and a ” new earth ” ó Isa. lxv.l7; “Behold I create a new heaven and a new earth.” When should that be ? Read the whole chapter; and you will find the Jews rejected and cut off; and from that time is that new creation of the evangelical world among the Gentiles. Compare 2 Cor. v. 17, and Rev. xxi. 1,2: where, the old Jerusalem being cut off and destroyed, a new one succeeds ; and new heavens and a new earth are created. ‘
2 Pet. iii. 13; “We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth ;” ó The heavens and the earth of the Jewish church and commonwealth must be all on fire, and the Mosaic elements burnt up : but we, according to the promise made to us by Isaiah the prophet, when all these are consumed, look for the new creation of the evangelical state. ‘
4. The day, the time, and the manner, of the execution of this vengeance upon this people, are called, “The day of the Lord,” ” The day of Christ,” “His coming in the clouds, in his glory, in his kingdom.” Nor is this without reason ; for from hence doth this form and mode of speaking take its rise : ó ‘ Christ had not as yet appeared but in a state of humility; contemned, blasphemed, and at length murdered by the Jews : his gospel rejected, laughed at, and trampled under foot: his followers pursued with extreme hatred, persecution, and death itself. At length, therefore, he displays himself in his glory, his kingdom, and power; and calls for those cruel enemies of his that they may be slain before him. ‘ Acts ii. 20 : ” Before that great and notable day of the Lord come.” Let us take notice, how St. Peter applies that prophecy of Joel to those very times ; and it will be clear enough, without any commentary, what that ” day of the Lord ” is. ‘ 2 Thess. ii. 2: “As if the day of Christ was at hand,” &c. To this, also, do those passages belong, Heb. x. 37, ” Yet a little while, ó and he, that shall come, will come: ” ó James v. 9 ; ” Behold, the judge is at the door:” ó Rev. i. 7; “He cometh in the clouds : ” ó and xxii. 12 ; ” Behold, I come quickly.” With many other passages of that nature, all which must be understood of Christ’s coming in judgment and vengeance against that wicked nation : and in this very sense must the words, now before us, be taken, and no otherwise, ” I will, that he tarry till I come:”ó”For thy part, Peter, thou shalt suffer death by thy countrymen the Jews ; but as for him, I will that he shall tarry till I come and avenge myself upon this generation : and if I will so, what is that to thee ? ” The story that is told of both these apostles, confirms this exposition ; for it is taken for granted by all, that St. Peter had his crown of martyrdom, before Jerusalem fell; and St. John survived the ruins of it.’ (Exerc. in John xxi. 22.)
(On Matthew 24:14)
“[And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world.] Jerusalem was not to be destroyed before the gospel was spread over all the world: God so ordering and designing it that the world, being first a catechumen in the doctrine of Christ, might have at length an eminent and undeniable testimony of Christ presented to it; when all men, as many as ever heard the history of Christ, should understand that dreadful wrath and severe vengeance which was poured out upon that city and nation by which he was crucified.” (John Lightfootís Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations)
(On Matthew 24:27 ; The Nature of Christ’s Return)
27. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. [For as the lightning, &c.] To discover clearly the sense of this and the following clauses, those two things must be observed which we have formerly given notice of:–
1. That the destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture as if it were the destruction of the whole world, Deuteronomy 32:22; “A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell” (the discourse there is about the wrath of God consuming that people; see verses 20,21), “and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” Jeremiah 4:23; “I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form and void; and the heavens, and they had no light,” &c. The discourse there also is concerning the destruction of that nation, Isaiah 65:17; “Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered,” &c. And more passages of this sort among the prophets. According to this sense, Christ speaks in this place; and Peter speaks in his Second Epistle, third chapter; and John, in the sixth of the Revelation; and Paul, 2 Corinthians 5:17, &c.
2. That Christ’s taking vengeance of that exceeding wicked nation is called Christ’s “coming in glory,” and his “coming in the clouds,” Daniel 7. It is also called, “the day of the Lord.” See Psalm 1:4; Malachi 3:1,2, &c.; Joel 2:31; Matthew 16:28; Revelation 1:7, &c. See what we have said on chapter 12:20; 19:28.
The meaning, therefore, of the words before us is this: “While they shall falsely say, that Christ is to be seen here or there: ‘Behold, he is in the desert,’ one shall say; another, ‘Behold, he is in the secret chambers’: he himself shall come, like lightning, with sudden and altogether unexpected vengeance: they shall meet him whom they could not find; they shall find him whom they sought, but quite another than what they looked for.” (Lightfoot, vol. 2, p. 319).
“The destruction of Jerusalem is phrased in Scripture as the destruction of the whole world; and Christ’s coming to her in judgment, as his coming to the last judgment. Therefore, those dreadful things, spoken of in Matt. 24:29,30 and 31, are but borrowed expressions, to set forth the terms of that judgment the more.. v.30 – “then shall they see” – not any visible appearance of Christ, or of the cross, in the clouds (as some have imagined); but, whereas Jews would not own Christ before for the Son of Man, or for the Messias, then by the vengeance that he should execute upon them, they and all the world should see an evident sign, and it was so. This, therefore, is called “his coming,” and his coming in his kingdom.” [A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, ed. Rev. John Rogers Pitman (London: J.F. Dove, 1825), p.141]
(On Matthew 24:28)
“for wheresoever the carcase is, &c. I wonder any can understand these words of pious men flying to Christ, when the discourse here is of quite a different thing: they are thus connected to the foregoing: Christ shall be revealed with a sudden vengeance; for when God shall cast off the city and people, grown ripe for destruction, like a carcase thrown out, the Roman soldiers, like eagles, shall straight fly to it with their eagles (ensigns) to tear and devour it. And to this also agrees the answer of Christ, Luke xvii. 37; when, after the same words that are spoken here in this chapter, it was inquired, ‘Where, Lord?’ he answered, ‘Wheresoever the body is: &c.; silently hinting thus much, that Jerusalem, and that wicked nation which he described through the whole chapter, would be the carcase, to which the greedy and devouring eagles would fly to prey upon it” (John Lightfoot, vol. 2, p. 319).
(On Matthew 24:30)
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man. Then shall the Son of man give a proof of himself, who they would not before acknowledge: a proof, indeed, not in any visible figure, but in vengeance and judgment so visible, that all the tribes of the earth shall be forced to acknowledge him the avenger. The Jews would not know him: now they shall know him, whether they will or no, Isa. xxvi. II. Many times they asked of him a sign: now a sign shall appear, that he is the true Messiah, whom they despised, derided, and crucified, namely, his signal vengeance and fury, such as never any nation felt from the first foundations of the world” (Lightfoot, vol. 2, p. 320)
(On Matthew 24:34)
“This generation shall not pass, &c. Hence it appears plain enough, that the foregoing verses are not to be understood of the last judgment but, as we said, of the destruction of Jerusalem. There were some among the disciples (particularly John), who lived to see these things come to pass. With Matt. xvi.28, compare John xxi.22. And there were some Rabbins alive at the time when Christ spoke these things, that lived till the city was destroyed, viz. Rabban Simeon, who perished with the city, R. Jochanan Ben Zaccai, who outlived it, R. Zadoch, R. Ishmael, and others.” (vol 2., p. 320).
(On Mark 9:1)
“The kingdom of God coming in power. In Matthew it is the Son of man coming in his kingdom. The coming of Christ in his vengeance and power, to destroy the unbelieving and most wicked nation of the Jews, is expressed in these forms of speech. Hence this is the sense of the present place : our Saviour had said, in the last verse of the former chapter, ” Whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words, in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he shall come in the glory of his Father, with his holy angels, to take punishment of that adulterous and sinful generation.” And he suggests, with good reason, that his coming in glory should be in the life-time of some that stood there.” (Heb. and Talm. Exerc. in Mark ix. 1.)
(On Mark 13:32)
“Of what day and hour? That the discourse is of the day of the destruction of Jerusalem is so evident, both by the disciples’ questions, and by the whole thread of Christ’s discourse, that it is a wonder any should understand these words of the day and hour of the last judgment.
Two things are demanded of our Saviour, verse 4: the one is, “When shall these things be, that one stone shall not be left upon another?” And the second is, “What shall be the sign of this consummation?” To the latter he answereth throughout the whole chapter hitherto: to the former in the present words. He had said, indeed, in the verse before, “Heaven and earth shall pass away,” &c.; not for resolution to the question propounded (for there was no inquiry at all concerning the dissolution of heaven and earth), but for confirmation of the truth of the thing which he had related. As though he had said, “Ye ask when such an overthrow of the Temple shall happen; when it shall be, and what shall be the signs of it. I answer, These and those, and the other signs shall go before it; and these my words of the thing itself to come to pass, and of the signs going before, are firmer than heaven and earth itself. But whereas ye inquire of the precise time, that is not to be inquired after; for of that day and hour knoweth no man.” (vol. 2, p.442)
(On Luke 16:19)
“Whoever believes this not to be a parable, but a true story, let him believe also those little friars, whose trade it is to show the monuments at Jerusalem to pilgrims, and point exactly to the place where the house of the “rich glutton” stood. Most accurate keepers of antiquity indeed ! who, after so many hundreds of years, such overthrows of Jerusalem, such devastations and changes, can rake out of the rubbish the place of so private a house, and such a one too, that never had any being, but merely in parable. And that it was a parable, not only the consent of all expositors may assure us, but the thing itself speaks it. ‘
The main scope and design of it seems this ó to hint the destruction of the unbelieving Jews, who, though they had Moses and the prophets, did not believe them ó nay, would not believe, though one (even Jesus) rose from the dead. For that conclusion of the parable abundantly evidenceth what it aimed at: If they hear not Hoses and the prophets, &c.” (Heb. and Talm. Exerc. in Luke xvi. 19.)
(On Luke 21:24)
24. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. [Until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.] “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled“: and what then? in what sense is this word until to be understood? Let every one have his conjecture, and let me be allowed mine. I am well assured our Saviour is discoursing about the fall and overthrow of Jerusalem; but I doubt, whether he touches upon the restoration of it: nor can I see any great reason to affirm, that the times of the Gentiles will be fulfilled before the end of the world itself. But as to this controversy, I shall not at present meddle with it. And yet, in the mean time, I cannot but wonder that the disciples, having so plainly heard these things from the mouth of their master, what concerned the destruction both of the place and nation, should be so quickly asking, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Nor do I less wonder to find the learned Beza expounding the very following verse after this manner: “Then shall there be the signs in the sun, &c.; that is, after those times are fulfilled, which were allotted for the salvation of the Gentiles, and vengeance upon the Jews, concerning which St. Paul discourses copiously.” Romans 11:25, &c: when, indeed, nothing could be said clearer for the confutation of that exposition, than that of verse 32; “Verily, I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away till all be fulfilled.” It is strange this should be no more observed, as it ought to have been, by himself and divers others, when, in truth, these very words are as a gnomon to the whole chapter. All the other passages of the chapter fall in with Matthew 24 and Mark 13, where we have placed those notes that were proper; and shall repeat nothing here. Which method I have taken in several places in this evangelist, where he relates passages that have been related before, and which I have had occasion to handle as I met with them. ” (in loc.)
(On John 21:22)
“The destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state is described as if the whole frame of this world were to be dissolved. Nor is it strange, when God destroyed his habitation and city ó places once so dear to him, with so direful and sad an overthrow ; his own people, whom he accounted of as much, or more than the whole world beside, by so dreadful and amazing plagues.’ He notices Matt. xxiv. 29, 30, and 2 Peter iii. 10, and then continues thus: ó’ Rev. vi. 12, 13, The sun became black, &c. Where, if we take notice of the foregoing plagues, by which, according to the most frequent threatenings, he destroyed that peopleó-viz., the sword, verse 4, the famine, verses 5, 6, and the plague, verse 8 ó withal comparing those words, “They say to the mountains, fall on us, and cover us,” with Luke xxiii. 30 ; it will sufficiently appear, that by those phrases is understood the dreadful judgment and overthrow of that nation and city. With these also agrees that of Jer. iv. 22ó28, and clearly enough explains this phrase.” (Heb. and Talm. Exerc. in John xxi. 22.)
(On Acts 1:11)
“Then shall the Son of man give proof of himself, whom they would not before acknowledge: a proof, indeed, not in any visible figure, but in vengeance and judgment so visible, that all the tribes of the earth shall be forced to acknowledge him the avenger. The Jews would not know him: now they shall know him, whether they will or no, Isa. 26:11. Many times they asked of him a sign: now a sign shall appear, that this is the true Messiah, whom they despised, derided, and crucified, namely, his signal vengeance and fury, such as never any nation felt from the first foundations of the world.” (A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica, 4 vols. Oxford University Press, 1859; reprinted by Hendrickson, Peabody, Mass., 1979. Vol. 2, p. 320)
(On Acts 3:19)
“19. When the times of refreshing shall come. The apostle Ptter taketh his speech from Isa. xxviii. 12; where the prophet at once prophesieth of the gift of tongues, ver. 11 ; of the preaching of the gospel, ver. 12 ; and the infidelity and obduration of the Jews, ver. 13; and speaketh of these very times and occasions that are now in hand. And accordingly is the apostle to be understood, that speaketh, from him, concerning the present refreshing by the gospel, and God’s present sending Christ among them in the power and ministry of that, ó and not of a refreshing at the calling of the Jews, which is yet to come ; and God’s sending Christ personally, to come and reign among them, as some have dreamed ; and it is but a dream. For let but this text be seriously weighed in that sense, that opinion would make of it;ó” Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come,” as meaning this : ” Repent ye now, that your sins may be blotted out, two thousand, or 1 know not how many hundred years hence, when the calling of the Jews shall come.” If this be not the sense that they make of this text, that produce it to assert Christ’s personal reign on earth for a thousand years, I know not why they should then produce it; and if this be the sense, I must confess I see no sense in it. The words are facile and clear, and have no intricacy at all in them, if the Scripture may be suffered to go upon its own wheels ; and they may be taken up in this plain and undeniable paraphrase : ” Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out; so that the times of refreshing by the gospel may come upon you from the presence of the Lord ; and he may send Jesus Christ in the preaching of the gospel to you, to bless you in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.” ‘
Ver. 20. And he shall send Jesus Christ. As verse 26 : ” God, having raised his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you.” Now this cannot possibly be understood of Christ’s personally and visibly coming among them; for who, of this audience, ever saw him after his resurrection ? but of his coming among them now in this means and offer of salvation. And in the same sense is this clause in hand to be understood ; and so the twenty-second verse interpreteth it of the sending of Christ as the great Prophet, to whom whosoever will not hearken must be cut off: ó- not at the end of the world, when he shall come as a judge ; but in the gospel, which is his voice ; and which to refuse to hearken to is condemnation. Peter’s exhortation, therefore, is to repentance, that their sins might be blotted out: so that refreshing times might come upon them, and Christ in the gospel might be sent among them, according as Moses had foretold, that he should be the great instructor of the people.” (Com. in loc. )
(On I Corinthians 3:13)
“Two things shall discover every man’s work, the day and the fire. Both which you may not understand amiss of the word of God manifesting and proving all things. For the light of the gospel is very frequently called the day, and the law of God called fire. (Deut. xxxiii. 2.) ‘ But I had rather in this place understand by the day, the day of the Lord, that was shortly coming, and by fire, the fire of divine indignation to be poured out upon the Jewish nation. And I am the more inclined to this interpretation because there is so frequent remembrance of that day and fire in the Holy Scriptures.” (Heb. et Talm. Exerc. in 1 Cor. iii. 13.)
(On I Corinthians 7:29)
“Behold men prepared and sworn almost to perpetual abstinence from marriage by reason of calamiti4es. From the like cause, also, I suspect some Christian might be in doubt in the times of the apostles. Our Saviour had foretold that those times should be very rough that went before the destruction of Jerusalem, Matt. xxiv : and that not within the bounds of Judea only, but that “judgment should begin from the Temple of God,” everywhere, 1 Pet. iv. 17; and “a day of temptation should come upon the whole world,” Rev. iii.20. So that that prediction being known to the churches , and the times now inclining towards those calamities, it is no wonder if concern and care about those straits invaded the Christians, and deterred very many single persons from marriage.” (CTH, p. 217)
(On 1 Corinthians 16:22)
“The words Maran-atha are held by some to be of the form of the highest excommunication : ó but this is utterly without the warrant of any Jewish antiquity (whose language it is) at all. I believe it is impossible to show Maran-alha for a form of excommunication, or execration, in any of their writings ; nay, very hard, if not next impossible, to show the words Maranatha in their writings at all, in any sense. The phrase in the apostle refers, first, to Christ’s coming in vengeance against Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, as the execration is first to be pitched upon them : Maran-atha, “our Lord cometh.” Many and dreadful things are spoken of this his coming in the Scripture, of which we have spoken in several places, as we have come along. So that in this sentence he doth both justly doom this unbelieving and wretched nation to their deserved curse, and doth withal, in this phrase, intimate that the doomed curse was near approaching, in the Lord’s coming in vengeance against them. Now, though we construe the words in such an application to the Jews, it is not exclusively, but that their sense reacheth also to every one that loveth not the Lord Jesus, of what nation soever, and the Lord will come in time to make him an anathema.” (Harm. N. Test. in loc.)
(On 2 Thessalonians 2:8)
“The phrase, the man of sin and child of perdition, is plainly taken from that place, Isa. xi. 4ó “With the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked one ;” and the apostle makes it clear that he referreth to that place, by using the very words of the prophet at verse 8 ó ” Whom the Lord shall consume with the breath of his mouth.” The Jews put an emphasis upon that word in the prophet, the wicked one, as it appeareth by the Chaldee paraphrast, who hath uttered it, “He shall destroy the wicked Ro- mans,” and so the apostle puts an emphasis upon it, and translates it ” the man of sin ;” and in that Christ is introduced in the prophet, as having a special quarrel and vengeance against him ; he is called the ” son of perdition,” or he that is so certainly and remarkably to be destroyed. It is true this meaneth the Roman, as the Chaldee, and our Protestant divines, by the warrant of John, in the Revelation, do interpret it: but, in the first place and sense, it meaneth the Jewish nation, which proved antichrist, as well as Rome ever did, and as far as Rome ever did, and before Rome ever did, and as long and longer than Rome hath yet done. As Jews and Rome joined in the murder of Christ, so are they joined in this character of antichrist; but the Jews to be understood first, see verse 7 ó The mystery of iniquity was already working, when the apostle wrote this epistle, which cannot possibly be understood but of the Jewish nation ; and so it is explained again and again.” (Harm. New Test. in 2 Thess.)
(On Hebrews 10:39)
“As Christ’s pouring down his vengeance, in the destruction of that city and people, is called his ” coming in his glory,” and his ” coming in judgment;” and as the destruction of that city and nation is charactered, in Scripture, as the destruction of the whole world ó so there are several passages that speak of the nearness of that destruction, that are suited according to such characters. Such is that in 1 Cor. x. 11, “Upon us the ends of the world are come ;” Heb. x. 37, ” Yet a little while, and he that shall come, will come, and will not tarry.'” (Sermon on James v. 9. )
(On Hebrews 12:25-29)
“The following figures are in the same style ; 2 Pet. iii. 10 ó “The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also, and the works that are therein, shall be burnt up.” How many have no doubt that this passage is descriptive of the conflagration of the world at the day of judgment. But compare Deut. xxxii. 22ó “A fire is kindled in mine anger, and it shall burn unto the lowest hell; and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.” Hag. ii. 6 ó ” Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens. and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land.” Heb. xii. 26 ó “Ishake not the earth only, but also heaven.” Observe, by the elements, the Mosaic institutions are to be understood, Gal. iv. 9; Col. ii. 20 ; as also the apostle has spoken at sundry times ; and then you will not doubt that he has here spoken of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the subversion of the nation, and of the Mosaic economy.’ (Tract. de Spir. Proph. ß v.)
(On 1 Peter 3:20,21)
“The receiving of John’s baptism signed and fenced those that received it from the ruin that was just coming. To this belongs that of St. Peter, Epist. 1. ch. 3:20,12 :in that manner as Noah and his sons were by water delivered from the flood, ‘so as baptism now, the antitype of the type, saveth us’ from THE DELUGE OF DIVINE INDIGNATION, which in a short time is to overflow the Jewish nation. Think here, if those that came to baptism brought not their little ones with them to baptism: when, by the plain words of the Baptist, those that are baptized are said to ‘fly from the wrath to come!’ that is, ‘the wrath of God,’ that was not long hence to destroy the nation by a most sad overthrow” (Vol. 2, Page 78)
(On 1 Peter 4:17)
“Then they shall deliver you up to lie afflicted. To this relate those words of Peter, 1 Ep. iv. I7, “The time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God;” that is, the time foretold by our Saviour is now at hand, in which we are to be delivered up to persecution, &c. These words denote that persecution which the Jews, now near their ruin, stirred up, almost every where, against the professors of the gospel.’ Heb. and Talm. Exerc. on Matt. xxiv. 9.
(On II Peter 3)
“He sets forth the destruction of that cursed Nation and their City in those terms that Christ had done, Matt. 24. and that the Scripture doth elsewhere, Deut. 32.22,23.24. Jer. 4.23. namely as the destruction of the whole world, The heavens passing away, the elements melting, and the earth burnt up, &c. And accordingly speaks of a new heaven and a new earth, from Isa. 65.17. a new state of the Church under the Gospel among the Gentiles, when this old world of the Jews state should be dissolved.”
(On 2 Peter 3:7-10)
“Thus Peter placeth as parallels, the ruin of the old world, and the ruin of Jerusalem, 1 Pet. iii. 19ó21, and by such a comparison his words will be best understood. For. 1. See how he skips from the mention of the death of Christ to the times before the flood, in the eighteenth and nineteenth verses, passing over all the time between. Did not the spirit of Christ preach all along in the times under the law ? Why then doth he take an example only from the times before the flood ? namely, that he might fit the matter to his case, and show that the present state of the Jews was like theirs in the times of Noah, and that their ruin should be like also. So also, in his second epistle, chap. iii. vs. 6” (Exerc. in Matt. xxiv. 37.)
(On the New Heavens and Earth)
“That the destruction of Jerusalem is very frequently expressed in Scripture as if it were the destruction of the whole world, Deut. 32:22; “A fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase, and set on fire the foundations of the mountains.’ Jer. 4:23; ‘I beheld the earth, and lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light,’ &c. The discourse there also is concerning the destruction of that nation, Isa. 65:17; ‘Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered,’ &c. And more passages of this sort among the prophets. According to this sens, Christ speaks in this place; and Peter speaks in his Second Epistle, third chapter; and John, in the sixth of the Revelation; and Paul, 2 Cor. 5:17, &c. (vol. 2, pp. 18-19)
“With the same reference it is, that the times and state of things immediately following the destruction of Jerusalem are called ‘a new creation,’ new heavens,’ and ‘a new earth.’ When should that be? Read the whole chapter; and you will find the Jews rejected and cut off; and from that time is that new creation of the evangelical world among the Gentiles.
Compare 2 Cor. 5:17 and Rev. 21:1,2; where, the old Jerusalem being cut off and destroyed, a new one succeeds; and new heavens and a new earth are created.
2 Peter 3:13: ‘We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth.’ The heaven and the earth of the Jewish church and commonwealth must be all on fire, and the Mosaic elements burnt up; but we, according to the promise made to us by Isaiah the prophet, when all these are consumed, look for the new creation of the evangelical state” (vol. 3, p.453)
“That the destruction of Jerusalem and the whole Jewish state is described as if the whole frame of the world were to be dissolved. Nor is it strange, when God destroyed his habitation and city, places once so dear to him, with so direful and sad an overthrow; his own people, whom he accounted of as much or more than the whole world beside, by so dreadful and amazing plagues. Matt. 24:29,30, ‘The sun shall be darkened &c. Then shall appear the ‘sign of the Son of man,’ &c; which yet are said to fall out within that generation, ver. 34. 2 Pet. 3:10, ‘The heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat,’ &c. Compare with this Deut. 32:22, Heb. 12:26: and observe that by elements are understood the Mosaic elements, Gal 4:9, Coloss. 2:20: and you will not doubt that St. Peter speaks only of the conflagration of Jerusalem, the destruction of the nation, and the abolishing the dispensation of Moses” (vol. 3, p. 452).
(On Rome as the Chittim/Kittim)
“A Decree of Augustus given out at Rome, becomes an occasion of accomplishing a Decree of the Lords, namely of the Birth of the Messias at Bethlehem. He is born under a Roman taxation, and now that Prophecie of Chittim or Italy afflicting Heber, Numb. 24.24. beginneth livelily to take place.” (Works, 1st. Ed., Vol. 1; Harmony, p. 4)
(On Forty Years From Cross to Eschaton)
“The Jews speaks of divers ominous things that occurred fourty years before the destruction of the City; As it is a tradition that fourty years before the Sanctuary was destroyed the Western Lamp went out, and the scarlet list kept its redness, and the Lords lot came up on the left hand. And they locked up the Temple doors at even, yet when they rose in the morning they found them open. Jerus. in Joma fol.43.col.3. And, Sanhedr. fol.18.col.1. Fourty years before the Temple was destroyed, power of judging in capital matters was taken away from Israel: Now there are some that reckon but thirty eight years between the death of Christ and the destruction of the City; and if that be so, then these ominous presages occurred this year that we are upon. It being just fourty years, by that account, from this Passover at which Christ healeth the diseased man at Bethesda, to the time of Titus his pitching him Camp and siege about Jerusalem, which was at Passover.” (Works, 1st. Ed., Vol. 1; Harmony, p. 21)
WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID
“In fact, one of the finest intellects of the Westminster Assembly was a strong preterist: John Lightfoot (1601-1675). In his Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica (1674; rep. 1989) Lightfoot offered a fine preterist exposition of Matthew 24 (2:308-321), with allusions to 2 Thessalonians 2. Of the Thessalonian passage he argued that the “restrainer” therein “is to be understood of the emperor Claudius enraged at and curbing in the Jews” (2:312).
Lightfoot even adopted the view that Revelation 1:7 speaks of “Christ’s taking vengeance on that exceeding wicked nation” of Israel (2:319 and 422). There he interpreted Christ’s coming as a providential judgment upon “those who pierced him” (the Jews) from among “all the tribes of the land literally” (Israel). This committed Lightfoot so strongly to preterism that he suggested Revelation’s overall theme is Israel’s judgment: “I may further add, that perhaps this observation might not a little help (if my eyes fail me not) in discovering the method of the author of the Book of the Revelation” (3:210). This led him to conclude that the “judiciary scene set up in Rev. 4 and 5, and those thrones Rev. 20:1″ speak of “the throne of glory” and “is to be understood of the judgment of Christ to be brought upon the treacherous, rebellious, wicked, Jewish people. We meet with very frequent mention of the coming of Christ in his glory in this sense” (2:266).” (Back to the Future)
C. Jonathan Seraiah
“It is true that the “eschatology” of the New Testament is predominantly preterist. For those unfamiliar with the preterist perspective, it is the ancient view that many of the eschatological passages of the New Testament were fulfilled (completely) in the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70. This view may sound novel, but in reality there have been orthodox adherents to it throughout church history (e.g., Clement of Alexandria, Eusebius, John Lightfoot, John Owen, Milton Terry, Jay Adams). This interpretation does not deny the Final Coming of Christ; it merely finds that not all “coming” passages refer to that event. The preterist interpretation is actually the most faithful to the biblical text because it recognizes that Old Testament prophetic terminology was used by the New Testament authors. This recognition is helpful in distinguishing the prophecies of Christ’s coming that were near, in the first century (Matt. 10:23; 16:28; 24:30; 26:64; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 1:7; James 5:7-9; 1 Pet. 4:7; Rev. 1:3, 7; etc.) and thus fulfilled in a.d. 70, from those that were far (John 5:28-29; Acts 1:11; 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:23-24; 1 Thess. 4:16; 1 Jn. 3:2; etc.) and thus not yet fulfilled even in our day. It also helps to distinguish between a spiritual “coming” (invisible for temporal judgment, as in a.d. 70) and a physical coming (visible for eternal judgment).” (End of All Things)
Annotations Upon All the Books of the Old and New Testament 2nd edition, 2 vols, London, 1651
|One of the principal tasks of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, which met between 1643 and 1649, was to provide an authorized commentary on the scriptures to accompany the text of the English Bible which had been published in 1611. The notes of the Westminster Divines soon outgrew the margins for which they were intended, and thus had to be published separately. According to a note on the flyleaf of this copy, the annotations on Genesis were the work of John Ley (1583ñ1662), who had previously written in defence of the interpretations given in the margins of the Geneva Bible, Hartlib had petitioned the Westminster Assembly for support during the 1640s, and he seems to have approved of the work of the annotators.
James Reid, Memoirs of the Wetminster Divines (Paisley, 1811, reprinted Edinburgh, 1982), pp.50ñ4; Hartlib Papers, 29/6/9A.
- Preface to the Reader
- Some Account of the Life of the Reverend and most Learned John Lightfoot. D.D.
- An Appendix or Collection of Memorials of the Life of the Excellent Dr. John Lightfoot, most of them taken from Original Letters, or MSS. of his own. By J. Strype
- A Chronicle of the Times, and the order of the Texts of the Old Testament The Harmony, Chronicle and Order of the New Testament. (Printed by W.R. for Thomas Parkhurst, at the Bible and three Crowns in Cheapside, near Mercers Chapel. 1682)
- I. The first part. Viz. (Excerpts) The Harmony of the Four Evangilists
- II. The second part. The Chronicle and Order of the Acts of the Apostles; The Epistles, and the Revelation. Parergon.
- Concerning the Fall of Jerusalem, and the condition of the Jews in the Land after.
- The Harmony of the Four Evangelists, Among themselves and with the Old Testament. The First Part. From the Beginning of the Gospels to the Baptism of our Saviour. With An Explanation of the Chiefest Difficulties both in Language and Sense. (Printed by W.R. for Rober Scott, Thomas Basset, John Wright, and Richard Chiswell, 1682.)
The age of the World at our Saviours birth fixed.
The Harmony of the Four Evangilists. In three parts.
- A Few, and New Observations, upon the Book of Genesis. The Most of them Certain, the rest Probable, all Harmless, Strange, and rarely heard of before. Also an Handful of Gleanings out of the Book of Exodus. (Printed by W. R. for Robert Scott, Thomas Basset, John Wright, and Richard Chiswell. 1682)
A Commentary upon the Acts of the Apostles: Chronical and Critical. The Difficulties of the Text Explained, And the times of the Story cast into Annals.
- First part. Frome the Beginning of the Book, to the end of the Twelfth Chapter. With a brief Survey of the Contemporary Story of the Jews Romans. (Printed by W. R. for Robert Scott, Thomas Basset, John Wright,and Richard Chiswell. 1682.)
- A Chronical Table of the Chief Stories Contained in this Book.
Christian History, the Jewish, and the Roman, of The Year of Christ XXXIII. And of Tiberius XVIII. Being the Year of the World 3960. And of the City of Rome, 785. (Printed by W. R. for Robert Scott, Thomas Basset, John Wright, and Richard Chiswell, 1682.)
- Next part from the Year of Christ XXXIV, and of the Empror Tiberius, XIX. Being the Year of the World 3961. (Printing/Publishing data/year the same)
- Next part- for the Year of Christ XXXV. and of Tiberius XX. Year of the World 3962, and of the City of Rome 787. Continues on through the Year of Christ XLIV, and of the emperor Claudius III.
- The Temple Service As it stood in the Days of Our Saviour. Described out of the Scriptures, and the Eminentest Antiquities of the Jews. (Printing details same as above, 1682) 17 chapters.
- Erubhin or Miscellanies Christian and Judaical, And Others. Penned for Recreation At Vacant Hours. (Printing data same, 1682.) 61 chapters.
- The Temple Especially As it stood in the days of our Saviour. ( Printed by W. R. for Robert Scott in Little-Britian, Thomas Basset in Fleet-Street, Richard Chiswell in St. Paul’s Church-yard, and John Wright on Ludgate-Hill. 1684.) Contains the Foldout of the temple print, a list of the contents of the temple.
- Index or Alphbetical Tables belonging to the First Volume. 1. Errata 2. Scriptures Explained 3. An Appendix of some Places of Scripture, differently read from the ordinary Translations. 4. Authors quoted or their works in the first volume. 5. Table of Greek words in the First Volume. 6. Forth Table is of things or Principal Matters, contained in the First Volume.
Horae Hebaicae & Talmudicae, Hebrew and Talmudical Excertations upon the Acts of the Apostles. And upon some Chapters of the Epistle of Saint Paul to the Romans. (Printed by William Rawlins for Richard Chiswell at the Rose and Crown in St. Paul’s Church-yard, 1684)
- A Chorographical Century searching Out some more memorable places of the Land of Israel cheifly by the light of the Talmud. Chorography of the Land of Israel.
A Commentary of the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica
(1658 – COMPLETE)
EXCERPTS ON THIS PAGE:
- II. Upon the Gospel of Matthew (Printed by W. R. for R. C., 1684)
- III. Upon the Gospel of St. Mark, together with a Chorographical Decad. (Printing data, same)
- III. Upon the Evangilist St. Luke. (Printing data, same)
- IV. Upon the Evangilist St. John. (Printing data, same)
- V. Some few chapters of the Epistle to the Romans.,
- VI. First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians.
Second Volume. Part II.
Sermons and Discourses upon sundry Subjects and Occasions. 1684:
A Discourse upon the fourth Article of the Apostles Creed, He descended into Hell.
A Chorographical Table, of the Several Places contained and described in the Two Volumes of Dr. Lightfoots Works.
Tables or Indexes belonging to the Second Vol.
A table of Scriptures
An appendix of some places of Scripture differently read from the ordinary translations.
Table of Authors or their works quoted therein.
Table of Hebrew and Greek words
Table of things or principal matters contained in the second volume.
with a prefatory note by Brooke Foss Westcott, D.D.
ALL the friends of Bishop Lightfoot must be grateful to Mr. Murray for allowing the striking sketch of the Bishop’s character and work which appeared in the Quarterly Review in January, 1893, to be republished separately. Though the writer has not thought fit to reveal himself, it is clear that he had exceptional advantages for fulfilling the task which he undertook; and the description of the life in Durham shows throughout personal and intimate knowledge. Though my own intercourse with the Bishop during this period was necessarily less close and continuous than during earlier years, I recognise the student, the colleague, the friend whom I knew at Cambridge in every trait, but presented, so to speak, on a larger scale; and I can well believe that while Dr. Lightfoot loved his College and his University with perfect devotion, the busy episcopate, full of great designs and great achievements, was his happiest time. Cambridge, as I often said to him, seemed to be forgotten, and wisely forgotten, in the new interests of Durham; and even I, who was the chief loser, felt that I could rejoice in a greater gain.
In Bishop Lightfoot’s case the works were the man. What he did was a true expression of himself; and if I may venture to speak from my experience during the last three years, I believe that his greatest work was the brotherhood of clergy whom he called to labour with him in the Diocese, and bear his spirit to another generation–greater than his masterpieces of interpretation and criticism, greater than his masterpieces of masculine and yet passionate eloquence. I could wish indeed that there was some adequate record of his part in University affairs. When I returned to Cambridge in 1870 I found him possessed of commanding influence, trusted and revered alike by all. But from that time he withdrew more and more from public business, though his authority was never found to be less when he was pleased to use it. If he could persuade another to take up what he had prepared, that seemed to be his chief delight.
I have often spoken of the circumstances which attended my own recall to Cambridge; and perhaps I may repeat the story here, for I think that it reveals the man. As soon as it was known that the Regius Professorship of Divinity would shortly become vacant, he bade me lose no time in arranging for my candidature. I naturally replied that the office was his by right: that his past work led up to it by universal consent: that I might then aspire to be his successor as Hulsean Professor. He acknowledged the force of what I said, “but” he added, “I could not retain my fellowship with it, and that consideration is decisive: I must not give up my place on the Governing Body of the College.” I could not resist the argument, so in due time I was appointed. About three months after Dr. Lightfoot came to my rooms and put in my hands a very remarkable letter from Mr. Gladstone containing the offer of the Canonry at St. Paul’s. “What could be better,” I said, “if it were possible? But, unhappily you cannot hold your fellowship with it.” “Ah,” he replied, and I can see now his merry smile at my discomfiture, “I have done all I can for the College.”
Bishop Lightfoot’s works, I have said, show what he was, and this sketch seems to me to add just those touches of life which give to his writings a personal interest. It tells a stranger how he grew and moved among his fellows and won them, and, from a stranger, makes him also in some sense a friend.
B. F. DUNELM.
October 11, 1893.
“+ IN MEMORIAM JOSEPHI BARBER LIGHTFOOT S.T.P. EPISCOPI DUNELMENSIS NATUS A.D. MDCCCXXVIII. OBIIT A.D. MDCCCLXXXIX. QUALIS FUERIT ANTIQUITATIS INVESTIGATOR EVANGELII INTERPRES ECCLESLE RECTOR TESTANTUR OPERA UT AEQUALIBUS ITA POSTERIS PROFUTURA + AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM. AM. PON. CVR. + “
SUCH is the inscription encircling the monument which was disclosed to view in the Cathedral Church of Durham on Thursday, the twentieth day of October, 1892, when, in the presence of the Lord Chancellor of England, the Archbishop of the Province, the Bishop of the Diocese, the Speaker of the House of Commons, and a large congregation of dignitaries and commoners of all classes, lay as well as clerical, the Lord-Lieutenant of the county unveiled the effigy of the late Bishop Lightfoot. The monument itself is said to be in every way worthy of the place near the sanctuary which has been assigned to it, of the great prelate whom it commemorates, and of the great artists who devoted to it of their best. Sir Edgar Boehm is known to have worked at the model in the last hours of his life, and Mr. Gilbert has generously completed the unfinished task with a result which reflects honour alike on his master and on himself. It is not, however, with the monument but with the thoughts which the inscription suggests that we propose to deal. It is said to have come from the hand of Bishop Lightfoot’s friend and successor, and may be intended to indicate that, as while he was with us so now that he has been taken from us, the retiring man is to be known only by his works. We have seen no announcement of any forthcoming biography, but we cannot help thinking that to a large circle of readers some presentation of the main facts of this great life would be welcome; and in the absence of a fuller record we believe that such a brief sketch as the limits of an article can afford will not be unacceptable. We shall find the chief lines of this sketch in the Bishop’s works; but let us look for a moment at the boy who was father to the man. Joseph Barber Lightfoot was the younger son of Mr. John Jackson Lightfoot, a Liverpool accountant, and was born at his father’s house, 84 Duke Street, in that city, on April 13th, 1828. His mother was a sister of Mr. Joseph Vincent Barber, a Birmingham artist of considerable repute, who had married the only daughter of Zaccheus Walker, eldest son of the “wonderful” Walker of Seathwaite, who is immortalised in Wordsworth’s Excursion. Of the three other children an elder brother became a good Cambridge scholar, and was for many years Master of the Grammar School at Basingstoke. The younger brother was indebted to him for many acts of kindness which removed difficulties from his early course. One sister was married to the Rev. William Harrison, of Pontesbury, and left an only son, who is a curate in the Diocese of Durham. The other survives, and is the only Lightfoot of this branch now remaining. It has been not unnatural to seek to establish a connexion between this family and that of Dr. John Lightfoot, the seventeenth-century theologian and Hebraist, but there is, we believe, no true ground for doing so. The young ‘ Joe,’ as he was familiarly called at home and at school, was a delicate lad, and was privately educated until he was about thirteen. His first year of school life was under the care of Dr. Iliff, at the Royal Institution in Liverpool, which claims also among its distinguished pupils Dr. Sylvester the mathematician and the present Bishop of Ripon. He soon found his way to the “First Class,” which consisted of boys far beyond his own years, and among the more or less legendary stories which have gathered around the early boyhood–such as “How is Joe getting on with his German?” “Oh! he has finished German! he is now doing Anglo-Saxon”–one stands out on clear evidence. The boy’s health gave way, and under medical advice the anxious and now widowed mother had all books removed from his room. The little patient grew rapidly worse, and pleaded so earnestly for his books that the mother’s heart could not refuse to grant them. They naturally proved the best tonic for the restless mind, and the lad grew as rapidly better.
But the chief step in the boy’s education was taken in 1844, when the mother, attracted by the advantages of the Birmingham Grammar School, determined to move to the neighbourhood of her relatives in that town. The picture of the great High Master, Dr. Prince Lee, afterwards first Bishop of Manchester, surrounded by his group of brilliant pupils, has often been drawn, and we must look at it only in connexion with our immediate subject. The streams of influence which have flowed from this centre have, however, been so important in their effect upon our subject and upon the history of religious thought and action during the last and the present generations, that we must forisf one of them of whom we are now writing, he is reported to-have said, in the winter of 1869, a few days before his n death, “I should lik to livehf the three became a great teacher, and each has given a record of the way in which he was himself taught, which has all the strength of the experience of minds that have had not many equals either as learners or as teachers. The influence of Dr. Prince Lee are the following:–
“I have sometimes thought that, if I were allowed to live one hour only of my past life over again, I would choose a Butler lesson under Lee. His rare eloquence was never more remarkable than during these lessons. I have heard many great speakers and preachers since, but I do not recollect anything comparable in its kind to his oratory, when, leaning back in his chair and folding his gown about him, he would break off at some idea suggested by the text, and pour forth an uninterrupted flood of eloquence for half an hour or more, the thought keeping pace with the expression all the while, and the whole marked by a sustained elevation of tone which entranced even the idlest and most careless among us. I suppose that it was this singular combination of intelles was alien alike to his nature and to his principles. When I wrote to him, stating my intention of taking orders, but representing myself as undecided what branch of the ministry to follow out, he replied characteristically, ‘beseeching’ me ‘to decide at once: at once to seek a curacy or a mastership,’ if I looked to practical work in either line; ‘at once to begin to read and edit or write,’ if I looked to theology; ‘for’ he added, ‘Virtus in agenda constat?”
Such was the master who sent from a school small and undistinguished as compared with our present great public schools, five Senior Classics and eight Fellows of his own beloved Trinity in a period of nine years, and of whose thirteen First Classmen twelve became clergymen. Such were the powers which in master and in pupil moulded and throughout his life influenced the character and the work of Joseph Barber Lightfoot.
The Cambridge life commenced in October, 1847, when Lightfoot went up to Trinity and was placed on Thompson’s side. From the end of his first year he read with his old schoolfellow Westcott, who had preceded him to Trinity, and was Senior Classic in 1848. He obtained a Trinity scholarship in 1849, and though he is said to have been some way behind in the University scholarship examinations, his steady devotion to work and his great development of power placed him easily first in the Tripos, and men talked commonly of papers which had not been equalled and were absolutely free from mistake. In addition to being Senior Classic of his year (1851) he was thirtieth wrangler and first Chancellor’s medallist. A Fellowship of Trinity came naturally in the following year, and the Norrisian Prize was gained in 1853. It was gained but not claimed for with characteristic modesty he was dissatisfied with an essay which the examiners had decided to be first, and he never fulfilled the condition of publishing it. In 1854 the young Fellow was ordained by his old master, Dr. Prince Lee, who had now become Bishop of Manchester, at St. John’s Church, Heaton Mersey. In February, 1857, when only twenty-eight years of age, he became Tutor of the College. The impression left upon his pupils is told by such words as these, which some of them have furnished:–
“As a tutor, he was very shy, but gave assurance by his ways of readiness to help. One was certain of strong and kind assistance if one needed it.”
“Lightfoot never made any one ashamed of asking him questions.”
“He looked round at his pupils, longing for one of them to give him a chance of being kind to him, helping him out in an effort at conversation or advising him. But his temperament did not let him often take the initiative in seeking out and seizing hold of those who wanted help, restraint, or encouragement. He did not thrust his arms out to them, but stood with open arms for those who would come to him.”
“As a private tutor he had a singular power of inspiring us with a belief in the duty and the pleasure of hard work, not so much by his brilliance, but by letting us know that his great .attainments had been won by sheer diligence. At the same time he was full of humour, and ready to join in any excursion; and he never lost sight of a pupil.”
“To have known him in those lighter moods [of reading parties] is a possession for a lifetime.”
During the early years of the Trinity Fellowship the four volumes of the Journal of Classical and Sacred Philology appeared (1854-9), and they contained frequent contributions from the pen of Mr. Lightfoot, who was one of the founders and editors. Now he writes a minute criticism of the editions of Hyperides; now short notices of Schaff’s History of the Apostolic Church, and of Falkener’s “A Description of some important Theatres and other Remains in Crete;” now an article on “The Mission of Titus to the Corinthians;” now notes on M¸ller’s Denkmaler der Alten Kunst, or Webster and Wilkinson’s Greek Testament, or the translations of the American Bible Union; and in immediate contiguity with these last, a notice of Mr. Blew’s Agamemnon. To the third volume he contributes, two months before his election to the Tutorship, the remarkable article on “Recent Editions of St. Paul’s Epistles,” a review of Paley’s edition of Mschylus, and another article “On the Style and Character of the Epistle to the Galatians.” The fourth volume contains articles from the same hand on “They that are of Caesar’s household,” “On some corrupt and obscure passages in the Helena of Euripides,” “On the Long Walls at Athens,” and a review of Conybeare and Howson’s Life and Epistles of St. Paul. These exercises of the young giant in the first freshness of his full and free strength are in some respects of permanent value as contributions to their subjects; and they are of special interest both as a harvest of the seed sown by Dr. Prince Lee’s teaching, and as themselves seeds to bear a more abundant harvest of developed fruitfulness in Dr. Lightfoot’s later work. The unwearied but concealed labour, the investigation of all available sources of information–inscriptions, MSS., topography–the minute acquaintance with the literature of the subjects, foreign as well is English, the exact scholarship present everywhere and felt especially in emendations of texts, the firm grasp of the laws of language and the laws of mind, the wide outlook on the whole field, the very choice of the subjects, at once recall the schoolroom at Birmingham, and foreshadow the magna opera of the life. He is already entering on the field in which he is to gain such marked eminence. Qualis fuerit antiquitatis investigator, evangelii interpret–even these works do testify.
The ease with which the writer passes in these articles from one subject to another, from a review of commentaries on St. Paul’s Epistles to an emendation of the text of Euripides, from an investigation of the meaning of “Caesar’s household” to the position of the “Long Walls at Athens,” represents the work of the Senior Classic and Private Tutor, who at the same time, in the spirit of his own early lessons, regards the New Testament as the goal of all his studies. These articles created so profound an impression in the University that when a vacancy occurred in the Hulsean Professorship of Divinity in 1860, many of Mr. Lightfoot’s friends earnestly hoped that he might be appointed to the Chair. He consented at their entreaty to become a candidate, but he felt it was natural that one who, as he modestly said, had done much more for the interpretation of the New Testament than himself should be selected. At the same time the decision seemed to him to bring with it another decision. The time had come for his studies to concentrate and shape themselves in a definite form. The Orestean trilogy of Aeschylus had fascinated him as it has fascinated many great minds. He resolved that night to edit it. Some progress was made in this work, when in 1861 the Hulsean Chair was again vacated, and Mr. Lightfoot was chosen to fill it. We regard this selection as one of the turning-points not only in the history of the University of Cambridge, but also in the wider history of Christianity in this country, and from this country throughout the world. Few persons with competent knowledge will be disposed, we think, to challenge this opinion. If any are, we invite them to compare the attendance on the Divinity Professor’s Lectures before and after this appointment; to consider the influence on Cambridge life and work of the movements initiated by the young Professor himself, developed later on in union with his friends Dr. Westcott (who returned to Cambridge in 1870) and Dr. Hort who joined them in 1872), and carried into their present state of progress by the band of younger men whom they gathered round themselves; to estimate the effect on English thought of the works enumerated at the head of this article, and of the band of men who have gone forth year by year touched by the spirit and power of the living man who wrote them; to think of this Cambridge movement having its true source in the constant appeal to the Biblical writings as the correlative of the Oxford movement of an earlier generation, and of its sobering effect upon the agitated state of theological thought.
“When he became a Professor at Cambridge,” writes one of Dr. Lightfoot’s pupils, ” his greatness was immediately established. The immense range of his acquisitions, the earnest efforts to do his work as well as lay in his power, were at once recognized by the Undergraduates. The frequent failure of Professors to win an audience is a matter of common complaint, and men as learned in their own domain as Dr. Lightfoot have not succeeded. But there was something electric in his quick sympathy with the young, in his masculine independence in his strong practical good sense, in his matchless lucidity of exposition; and these gifts caused his lecture-room to be thronged by eager listeners. The late Master of Trinity was not given to enthusiasm, but once he did wax enthusiastic, as he described to me the passage between the Senate House and Caius College ‘black with the fluttering gowns of students’ hurrying to imbibe, in the Professor’s class-room, a knowledge of the New Testament such as was not open to their less happy predecessors, and such as would last many of them all their lives as a fountain of valuable exegesis in many a parish and many a pulpit.”
Among the subjects of the earlier courses of the Professor’s lectures was the Gospel according to St. John, and he for some time thought of publishing an edition of this Gospel, an intention which he abandoned only when he found it was entertained by one whom he considered more competent to carry it into effect.
But in the beginning of the year 1865, that is, within four years of his appointment to the Professorship, Dr. Lightfoot published his edition of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. Eight years before he had intimated in the article on ‘Recent Editions of St. Paul’s Epistles,’ not only where previous editors had signally failed, both in design and in execution, but also where they had succeeded, and he thus incidentally discloses what in his own view an edition of St. Paul’s Epistles should be.
When the man who had sketched this ideal of a Commentary, and had been afterwards appointed to the Hulsean Professorship, and had delivered courses of lectures which filled the lecture-rooms to overflowing, announced his intention to publish ” a complete edition of St. Paul’s Epistles,” and issued the first instalment of the work, the attention of Biblical students was naturally aroused, and very high expectations were widely formed. We venture to think that no expectation was raised which has not been more than fully realized. The complete plan of the edition has not, indeed, been carried out. It was from the first stated conditionally,–“If my plan is ever carried out,”–and it was so arranged that each part should be complete in itself. We are glad to be able to hope, from hints which have from time to time reached the public ear, that a large portion of the whole field was covered by Dr. Light-foot’s labours, and that some of the MSS. which are in the care of his literary executors will in due course be published; for even if they are only posthumous fragments, the student of St. Paul’s Epistles will thankfully welcome them. But the editor’s final preparation for the press was given to three volumes only,– the Galatians, which appeared in 1865, the Philippians in 1868, the Colossians and Philemon in 1875; and thus upon these volumes that any claim to have filled the ideal standard which he had himself set for the critic and commentator on St. Paul’s Epistles must ultimately rest. The verdict has been given, after most thorough examination, by the most competent judges, and in the most definite form. As each of these volumes appeared it at once took, and has ever since maintained, a recognized position as the standard work on the subject. Grammatical criticism, philological exegesis, historical presentation, philosophical perception, are combined in them as they were never before combined, as they have not been since combined. They have furnished models for others, but they have themselves remained models. With the growth of knowledge in the future they may become obsolete, and some pupil may arise to excel his master; but the present shows no signs of this, and we may safely predict that any greater commentary on these Epistles of St. Paul will owe part of its greatness to the volumes now before us. It is moreover remarkable as showing the fulness of the editor’s early knowledge, and the fixity of his principles, that while edition after edition of these volumes have appeared in quick succession for now many years, they have undergone no material change. The essays reprinted since the author’s death, in the volume entitled Dissertations on the Apostolic Age, are the essays of the early editions. In one respect important change is here noted. In the earlier editions of the Philippians it was assumed in the essay on “The Christian Ministry,” that the Syriac version, edited by Cureton, represented the original form of the Epistles of Ignatius. Later and more complete investigations of the writings of this Father, led to the conviction that the shorter Greek form is genuine, and that the Syriac is only an abridgment. An extract from the edition of The Apostolic Fathers, to which we shall presently refer, is now added, giving full reasons for the change of opinion. A full note on another subject does not, indeed, express any change of opinion, but protests against imputations of opinion which Dr. Lightfoot never held, and which are inconsistent with a fair interpretation of his essay as a whole. It is not easy to see how an essay which contained from the first such passages as these, could be interpreted as in favour of the Presbyterian as opposed to the Episcopal view of the Christian ministry. But it was natural that controversialists should endeavour to support their arguments by the authority of so great a man; and as advocates will always select their facts, we cannot think it is a matter of surprise that some of the statements have been used, perhaps even understood, in a sense which is opposed to that of the author. A great writer on such a subject is sure to be misunderstood if to be misunderstood is possible, and he should take care to make it impossible. When the sixth edition of the Philippians was published, in 1881, the Preface contained the following explanation:–
“But on the other hand, while disclaiming any change in my opinions, I desire equally to disclaim the representations of those opinions which have been put forward in some quarters. The object of the Essay was an investigation into the origin of the Christian Ministry. The result has been a confirmation of the statement in the English Ordinal, ‘It is evident unto all men diligently reading the Holy Scripture and ancient authors that from the Apostles’ time there have been these orders of Ministers in Christ’s Church, Bishops, Priests, and Deacons.’ But I was scrupulously anxious not to overstate the evidence in any case; and it would seem that partial and qualifying statements, prompted by this anxiety, have assumed undue proportions in the minds of some readers, who have emphasized them to the neglect of the general drift of the Essay.”
Even after this statement the misrepresentations continued, and soon after the close of the Lambeth Conference of 1888, Bishop Lightfoot felt it to be his duty to collect and print a series of extracts from his published writings bearing on this subject. There is nothing new in them. Their value is that they show distinctly what the author’s opinion was and had been throughout; and that they were collected by himself. His trustees have done good service in reprinting them together with the Essay and the following note:–“It is felt by those who have the best means of knowing that he would himself have wished the collection to stand together simply as his reply to the constant imputation to him of opinions for which writers wished to claim his support without any justification.” It is perhaps hardly to be expected that such misrepresentations will cease, but every vestige of justification, if any ever existed, is now removed.
We have been led by the fact that these editions of the Epistles of St. Paul could be regarded only as part of one whole to anticipate some of the events of Dr. Lightfoot’s life, and it will be convenient to depart further from chronological order so that we may have such a connected view of his literary work as is possible within the scope of this article.
Between the date of the Philippians (1868) and the Colossians (1875) are to be placed the first editions of the St. Clement in 1869, and the Revision of the New Testament in 1871. Each of these volumes represents the beginning of a stream which flowed on and gathered force until it became an important river.
The Clement was the first-fruits of Dr. Lightfoot’s studies of the sub-apostolic age, which were afterwards to yield such an abundant harvest. In 1877 followed an Appendix, giving the chief results of the discoveries by Bryennios and Prof. Bensly. Meanwhile much of the editor’s attention had been given to a contemplated edition of Ignatius, for some portions of this work were already in print, and the “whole of the commentary on the genuine epistles of Ignatius, and the introduction and texts of the Ignatian Acts of Martyrdom …. were passed through the press before the end of 1878.” Dr. Lightfoot was called early in 1879 to undertake the manifold responsibilities of the See of Durham. “For weeks, and sometimes for months together,” he tells us, “I have not found time to write a single line.” But he snatched minutes from his days of work and travel, and hours from his days and nights of rest, and it was at length published in 1885.
We invited the attention of the readers of this Review to the importance of this great work at the time, and we must now limit ourselves to a few words of comment. These shall be the words of Professor Harnack of Berlin, which are of the greater interest as he writes in part from an opposite camp:–
“… his [Dr. Lightfoot’s] edition of the Epistles of Ignatius and Polycarp, for the appearance of which we have been earnestly looking, and which we now hail with delight. We may say, without exaggeration, that this work is the most learned and careful Patristic monograph which has appeared in the nineteenth century; that it has been elaborated with a diligence and knowledge of the subject which show that Lighfoot has made himself master of this department, and placed himself beyond the reach of any rival.”
These three bulky volumes were no sooner out of hand than the editor returned to the Clement with the intention of supplying introductions and essays which should place it in form and matter on a level with what were intended to be the companion volumes of Ignatius. He devoted to this work hours that many of his friends felt were robbing the Church of his life, but as with the early days, so with the last, his books were really his strength, and up to and during his final illness, as long as consciousness lasted, the Clement was constantly in his hands. The second edition of the work was published after his death. It is not as complete as he would have made it, but, to use the language of another great teacher, who, if he writes from the same camp, writes also with fulness of knowledge and exactitude of balanced judgment:–
” …. in spite of some gaps, the book was substantially finished before the end came. He was happily allowed to treat of ‘Clement the Doctor,’ ‘Ignatius the Martyr,’ ‘Polycarp the Elder,’ in a manner answering to his own noble ideal; and the ‘Complete Edition of the Apostolic Fathers,’ such as he had designed more than thirty years before, was ready at his death to be a monument of learning, sagacity, and judgment unsurpassed in the present age. . . . and in breadth and thoroughness of treatment, in vigour and independence, in suggestiveness and fertility of resource, this new edition of Clement will justly rank beside the ‘monumental edition’ of ‘Ignatius.’ “
The Bishop had also made considerable progress with an edition of the Apostolic Fathers, in one volume, which was intended for the use of students. He had himself studied some of them in his own school-days in the edition of Jacobson, and he wished to leave as a legacy to the young an edition which should be more complete than any which had yet appeared. This he was enabled to do by the assistance of his friend and chaplain, Mr. Harmer, whose services as general editor the trustees have been fortunate enough to secure since the Bishop’s death.
But in the opinion of Dr. Lightfoot the Ignatius was the magnum opus of his patristic studies, and indeed of his life. This he tells us, “was the motive, and is the core, of the whole.” He was not unaware that in the prosecution of this work he was necessarily breaking through another, and, as many thought, a still more important plan.
“I have been reproached” he writes, “by my friends for allowing myself to be diverted from the more congenial task of commenting on St. Paul’s Epistles; but the importance of the position seemed to me to justify the expenditure of much time and labour in ‘repairing a breach’ not indeed in ‘the House of the Lord’ itself, but in the immediately outlying buildings.”
Nor did he overrate the importance of the position. It was nothing less than the chief foundation of the Tubingen school. “To the disciples of Baur,” as he expresses it in terms which are not too strong, “the rejection of the Ignatian Epistles is an absolute necessity of their theological position. The ground would otherwise be withdrawn from under them, and their reconstruction of early Christian history would fall in ruins on their heads.”
There are probably many of the Bishop’s friends who still hold the opinion that nothing can compensate for the interruption of the cherished plan of a complete edition of St. Paul’s Epistles. What would they not give for a commentary on the “Romans” and the “Ephesians,” on a scale commensurate with those on the “Galatians” and the “Colossians”? With much of this feeling all students of the New Testament will have the deepest sympathy, but we are nevertheless of the opinion that the obligations which the Bishop has conferred upon the Church are still greater than they would have been if he had confined himself to a narrower course which he might have completed. It is now with the Pauline Epistles as with the works of the writers of the second century, as with a wished-for opportunity of writing the history of the fourth century, as with many a line of thought, and with many a course of action–if he has not done all he intended, he has at least shown how it should be done. He has left the legacy of an ideal greater even than the actual which he made so great.
The Fresh Revision of the English New Testament had its origin in a paper read before a clerical meeting just before the Company appointed for the Revision held its first sitting, and it had beyond question a considerable effect both upon the work of the Revisers and upon the attitude of the public towards that work. Among the criticisms which it drew forth was one by Mr. Earle, afterwards Professor of Anglo-Saxon in the University of Oxford, which attacked what Dr. Lightfoot considered to be the impregnable position of his book. He had “laid it down as a rule (subject of course to special exceptions) that, when the same word occurs in the same context in the original, it should be rendered by the same equivalent in the Version.” He had indeed laid down the same rule in one of his early criticisms. Mr. Earle in opposing this principle, cleverly described it as substituting the “fidelity of a lexicon” for the “faithfulness of a translation,” and Dr. Lightfoot, while regarding this as a misinterpretation of his principle, replied, “My objection to the variety of rendering which Mr. Earle advocates is that it does depart from ‘the faithfulness of a translation,’ and substitutes, not indeed the fidelity of a lexicon, but the caprice of a translator.” Dr. Lightfoot’s reply was generally admitted to have established the principle–and indeed, as stated by him, it can hardly be questioned, and yet the Revised Version must have often recalled Mr. Earle’s phrase, “the fidelity of a lexicon,” which is said, we know not how truly, to have been varied by a learned scholar, who retired from the work of revision on the ground that he had been invited to “translate,” and was expected to “construe.”
To discuss the merits or demerits of the Revised Version is no part of our present subject, and the readers of this Review are not likely to have forgotten the very full and plain-speaking criticism which has already occupied its pages. Nor have we any available means of determining the extent of Dr. Lightfoot’s influence on the work. The history of the deliberations of the Revisers has not been written, and will probably never be fully known, but the glimpses afforded by Dr. Newth and others of the method of voting are not very encouraging when we think of the inequality of the voters. Surely here, if anywhere, was there place for the principle that votes should be weighed and not counted. It does not appear that Dr. Lightfoot was immediately concerned in the formation of the Company of Revisers, nor was he at the time a member of the Convocation of either Province; but it is clear that from the first nomination of the Company he was among its chief leaders; that he was consistently loyal to his colleagues, and that he was always ready to defend their common work. Perhaps indeed the most uncertain of his contests was that in which he undertook to defend against Canon Cook the rendering, “Deliver us from the evil one.” The fresh investigations of Mr. Chase go far in our opinion to confirm the view which Dr. Lightfoot championed, but our readers will remember that there is much to be said on the other side, and we can but regret that Dr. Lightfoot himself did not supply a further reply to Canon Cook’s arguments. But while the advocates of the Revised Version are fully justified in claiming Dr. Lightfoot’s strong support, we cannot help thinking that if he and a small body of men of like gifts and like knowledge of English as well as of Greek had formed the Company of Revisers, we should have now had a version practically accepted by the English-speaking peoples. It is impossible to read the notes in Dr Lightfoot’s editions of the Epistles of St. Paul without feeling that we are in a different atmosphere from that of the Revised Version, and we believe that if the Version is to gain general acceptance it will have to be again revised on the more conservative model of the work of the Revisers of the Old Testament. If that task is ever attempted, the new Revisers will find no more fitting words to express their principle than these which Mr. Lightfoot wrote as early as 1857:–
“If, then, the English of former times speaks more plainly to the heart than the English of the present day, and at least as plainly to the understanding, surely we should do well to retain it, only lopping off a very few archaisms, not because they are not a la mode, but because they would not be generally understood.”
Except indeed in the third of “The Fundamental Resolutions adopted by the Convocation of Canterbury on the third and fifth days of May, 1870:”–
“That in the above resolutions we do not contemplate any new translation of the Bible, or any alteration of the language, except where in the judgement of the most competent scholars such change is necessary.”
During the early years of the work of revision Dr. Lightfoot was engaged also upon literary work of another kind. In 1874 a writer, whose name has never been authoritatively disclosed, but is widely known, published a work entitled Supernatural Religion: an Inquiry into the reality of Divine Revelation. He professed to show that there is no miraculous element in Christianity; that miracles are indeed antecedently incredible; that the evidence which is obtainable from the apostolic period is not trustworthy; and that the Four Gospels have no sufficient warrant for their date and authorship. Many reasons combined to give the work an unmerited notoriety, the chief of them being its anonymity and the widely circulated but wholly unwarranted rumour that the author was one of the most learned and venerable of the English prelates. Dr. Lightfoot was led to examine the work publicly, not because of its merits or importance–he thought indeed “that its criticisms were too loose and pretentious, and too full of errors, to produce any permanent effect”–but because he “found that a cruel and unjustifiable assault was made on a very dear friend to whom “he” was attached by the most sacred personal and theological ties.” This accounts for a certain tone of severity which is never undeserved, but is present here only in the course of Dr. Lightfoot’s writings. The first part of the examination appeared in the Contemporary Review in December, 1874; the last in the same periodical in May, 1877. The whole covers to a considerable extent–and the author had intended that it should completely cover–“the testimony of the first two centuries to the New Testament Scriptures;” and it is in our opinion not too much to assert that if the author of Supernatural Religion had been the cause of no other investigation than the remarkable articles by Dr. Lightfoot, he would have been the indirect means of contributing the most valuable addition to apologetic literature which has been made during this generation. There was naturally a strong desire in many quarters that the articles should be collected and published in a permanent form. Year after year this was postponed because the writer designed further additions to them, and it was only in 1889, when “life was hanging on a slender thread,” that the collection was issued. We could wish indeed that the designed completion had been made, we could wish that the author had been able to abandon the polemical form and to recast the whole; but no course remained but that which has been followed. The work is a legacy as from a death-bed, and it is a legacy of permanent value.
The limits of our space forbid us to refer at greater length to Bishop Lightfoot’s literary work, the extent and variety and quality of which would have been remarkable even in a life of learned leisure. Here we have an article or rather the most complete treatise which is known to us on “Eusebius” in the Dictionary of Christian Biography; here a similar treatise on the “Acts of the Apostles” in the recently published edition of the Dictionary of the Bible; here, courses of lectures on “Christian Life in the Second and Third Centuries” and “Christianity and Paganism” delivered at St. Paul’s Cathedral; here, a speech at a meeting of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which has become a standard authority on “The Comparative Progress of Ancient and Modern Missions;” here, an edition of Dean Mansel’s treatise on The Gnostic Heresies; here, lectures delivered to artisans at Rochdale or students at Edinburgh on “Simon de Montfort and Edward I.” or “The Architecture of the Period and the University life, with special reference to Roger Bacon;” now it is the Inaugural Address to the British Archaeological Association; now it is that of the President of the Co-operative Society. Here there is the formal “Charge” delivered to his Clergy; here, the address on some public or diocesan question which formed part of his daily work. All are marked by the same characteristic features. The matter is everywhere that of the painful investigator, the principle is that of the Christian philosopher, the form is that of the artist in words.
But the four volumes of sermons mentioned at the head of this article claim at least some words of notice. Archbishop Tait, when walking with a friend one morning, said, “We have made Lightfoot a preacher;” and when asked to explain the process by which such preachers were made, added, “We have given the finest pulpit in the world to a man to whom God has given the power to use it,” and expressed his conviction that better use of it had never been made. What Canon Lightfoot himself thought of the opportunity may be read in the dedication of his Ignatius:–
“To Henry Parry Liddon, D.D., to whom God has given special gifts as a Christian Preacher and matched the gifts with the Opportunities, assigning to him his place, beneath the great dome of St. Paul’s, the centre of the world’s concourse “; and what use he made of it is to be seen in part in the volumes before us. We confess that they have taken us by surprise, and we think that our surprise will be shared by many who often heard Dr. Lightfoot preach and were fully impressed by his sermons. Very rarely have we known sermons which were so good to hear prove so much better to read. We shall not quote from them, because no quotations could adequately represent them. We commend them to any of our readers into whose hands they have not fallen, as models of what sermons should be. They are learned, they are philosophical, they are wide in grasp and firm in tread; but from first to last of these four volumes there is not a passage which is technical and not a sentence which the ordinary reader cannot understand. Their logical clearness satisfies the highest intellect, their deep pathos moves the humblest soul.
It was of course obvious that a man of Dr. Lightfoot’s remarkable gifts, and still more remarkable devotion in the use of those gifts, should appear to many persons to be specially qualified to hold many offices, and from time to time offers of preferment were made to him; but his heart was in the work of his professorship, and no suggested honour was acceptable to him which would in any way interfere with the most complete discharge of the duties of that office. He became naturally a select preacher at his own University, and also at Oxford and at Whitehall. He was appointed Chaplain to the Prince Consort, Honorary Chaplain to the Queen, and Deputy Clerk of the Closet. He was for seventeen years Examining Chaplain to Dr. Tait as Bishop of London and Archbishop of Canterbury. But the canonry of St. Paul’s was accepted with much hesitation, and only when it was seen that arrangements could be made for his London “residence” which would not break in ,upon the Cambridge terms. When the Regius Professorship of Divinity fell vacant, in 1870, he practically declined it, in order that he might bring Mr. Westcott back to Cambridge, but in 1875 he was elected to the Lady Margaret Chair. More than one Deanery, more than one Bishopric, were offered to him on the advice of more than one Prime Minister. In 1879 came the offer of the See of Durham, which, after much hesitation and much pressure from friends, he at length, and with great diffidence, accepted. He was trembling beneath the conviction that he was not fitted for the work to which nevertheless, after prayer and counsel, he felt that he was called of God; the Church was giving thanks for a decision which all men felt to be the dawn of a bright day. For more than two centuries there had been no direct nomination to the throne of the Prince Bishops of Durham, and yet such was the public estimation in which Dr. Lightfoot was held that there was probably no Churchman who did not rejoice in this nomination, except Dr. Lightfoot himself, and a band of Cambridge friends, who thought the loss to the University would be irreparable. There have always been men who thought their own circle was greater than the world.
We now enter upon the last period of Dr. Lightfoot’s work, and it is a period in which we trace the signs of an eminence which is higher even than that of his earlier course. Great he was as antiquitatis investigator, great he was as evangelii interpres, and yet greater when he united and applied the principles and continued the studies of his earlier life in the practical work of the ecclesiae rector. And here, too, qualis fuerit. . . . testantur opera ut aequalibus ita posteris profutura.
Dr. Lightfoot was consecrated in Westminster Abbey on St. Mark’s Day, 1879, and ∞ne sentence in the sermon, which was preached by Dr. Westcott, at once linked together the three old schoolfellows and re-stated for the Bishop then to be consecrated, the principle which his own heart had dictated for the third of the friends exactly two years before. Who is sufficient for these things? was the preacher’s and yet more the listener’s question. The answer now given at Westminster had been given at St. Paul’s when Dr. Lightfoot occupied the pulpit, and Dr. Benson was consecrated to be the first Bishop of Truro:–” He who lays down at the footstool of God his successes and his failures, his hopes and his fears, his knowledge and his ignorance, his weakness and his strength, his misgivings and his confidences–all that he is and all that he might be–content to take up thence just that which God shall give him.”
The new Bishop was enthroned, the first instance of this ceremony being performed in the person of any Bishop of Durham since the enthronement of Bishop Trevor in 1752, and preached in his Cathedral Church on the 15th day of May. The first words strike at once the dominant note of his life:–
“And what more seasonable prayer can you offer for him who addresses you now, at this the most momentous crisis of his life, than that he–the latest successor of Butler–may enter upon the duties of his high and responsible office in the same spirit; that the realization of this great idea, the realization of this great fact, may be the constant effort of his life; that glimpses of the invisible Righteousness, of the invisible Grace, of the invisible Glory, may be vouchsafed to him; and that the Eternal Presence, thus haunting him night and day, may rebuke, may deter, may guide, may strengthen, may comfort, may illumine, may consecrate and subdue the feeble and wayward impulses of his own heart to God’s holy will and purpose!”
The same sermon indicates two of the immediate objects which the preacher set before himself. One is the division of the Diocese, the other is the duty of the Church in social and industrial questions.
In such devotion, such resolves, such stating and strengthening of principles, passed the first day in the Diocese. The succeeding days were forthwith devoted to carrying these principles into practice. The Bishop lived at first in the Castle at Durham, the ancient home of the Prince Bishops, which had become part of the University through the munificence and foresight of Van Mildert, but in which a suite of rooms had been reserved in perpetuity for the Bishop’s use. Here the Visitor of the University was heartily welcomed alike by graduates and students, and these early weeks strengthened the attachment which he brought with him, and laid the foundations of a warm and never broken affection for what he was wont to call the University of his adoption.
It is said that among Dr. Lightfoot’s last words to some of his Cambridge friends when he took leave of them was the charge, “Send me up men to the North.” As soon as Auckland Castle was ready to receive him, he carried out his cherished project of forming a clergy-house under his own roof. Here a band of University men, seven or eight in number, were trained under his own immediate guidance for their future work in the Diocese. They were instructed by himself, by his archdeacons, and by his chaplains. The intellectual work followed the lines of a college course in theology, the practical work in Auckland itself and the pit villages which encircle the castle-grounds enabled the students to test their theories by the realities of life; but their chief lesson was the constant influence of their true Father in God, We have referred to Dr. Prince Lee’s affection for his pupils, and those who know best assert that it is at least equally true that Bishop Lightfoot loved nothing on earth more devotedly than those who were in a special sense his spiritual sons. His strong love strengthened theirs, and men in the vigour of their young manhood learned to love him, and through him to love afresh their God. To love him was to learn from him, to assimilate him, to reproduce him; and not the least of the permanent influences for good which the Bishop left to his Diocese and his Church, was the band of young men numbering more than seventy who had looked upon a life which in the power of its intellect, the devotion of its soul, the humility and self-sacrifice of its whole being was to them a daily ascension into heaven; and who, as they looked upon it had caught something at least of its spirit. Loving them and knowing them as he did, he expected them and always found them to be ready to work with entire singleness of aim and entire devotion to duty. They knew they had no claim to preferment unless to a post of unusual poverty or unusual difficulty, and to such a post only when prepared for it. Some words from an “In Memoriam” sketch in a college magazine and signed J. B. D., will show how the Bishop looked upon his sons and their work, and what manner of men they were:–
“A new district was to be formed in a much-neglected neighbourhood in —-. There was neither church nor endowment nor parochial appliances of any kind. Everything must be built up from the foundation. Only a modest stipend for a single curate-in-charge had been guaranteed. It was necessary to rely on youthful zeal, even at the cost of some inexperience I asked C—-, who was still curate at —-, to undertake the task of building up this new parish, and he accepted the call. To my great joy, B—- offered to accompany his friend as a volunteer without remuneration, though he might have had an adequate stipend elsewhere. …
“I spoke of this offer then as an inspiration, and so I regard it now. Though doubtless the work there hastened his death, who shall regret his decision? Certainly not those who loved him best. . . .
“I cannot but regard this splendid unselfishness as a chief corner-stone, on which the edifice of the new parish was raised. . . . Excellent congregations were gathered together; generous donors came forward with liberal offerings; and within two years and a few months from the time when they commenced their work in the district, a large and seemly church was finished and consecrated.
“I have had placed in my hands some extracts from a private diary which he kept. . . . I give this relating to the night before his ordination: Hn dianuktereuwn en th proseuch tou Qeou. If He, how much more I needed. So in the end I remained praying in my own room till daylight, about 3.15. It was broad day, and I went to bed.’
“Of the day itself he writes:–
“‘Sunday, Matins at 8.15. I felt calm and at peace. . . . Just broke fast and nothing more. I had no fixed idea about fasting, but thought it better to err in too literal a following of the Apostles than too free a departure from them.’
“‘The service at South Church was full of a depth of peace and love to me, such as I have never known. The Veni Creator began the climax. My heart was full of an overpowering sense of my own unworthiness and Christ’s deep love and trust in one who had done nothing but what deserved the withdrawal of love and trust; and at the actual imposition of hands the surge of mingled regrets and hopes, joys and fears, the sense of being at once infinitely humbled and exalted, broke out in lacrimas super ora surgentes [et] defluentes. Gaudebam, quia contristabar; contristabar, quia gaudebam.'”
The Bishop adds, “A ministry” [may we not add, “an episcopacy”?] “so supported, could not be otherwise than fruitful.”
With this sketch drawn from the sanctuary of the home life at Auckland Castle, it will be interesting to compare a pendant drawn from without. Among the guests entertained by the Bishop in 1882 was the Rev. Robert W. Barbour, a gifted young Free Church Minister. From a memorial volume printed for private circulation after his early death, which shows what a loss this brought to his church and his friends, we are permitted to print the following extracts:–
April 28, 1882.
“10.45.–The evening worship was very uniting. The servants came in, and we sang the psalms and hymns, and Dr. Lightfoot and a chaplain read and prayed (from the new version and the prayer book) in his own voice and with his own devout, simple soul uttering itself in all. His after talk in the drawing-room was even more charming [than that in the afternoon]. You know how a mastiff will lie down (out of sheer love for the canine race) and let a crowd of small dogs jump and tumble over him, and put them off, and egg them on with great pawings and immense ‘laps’ of his broad tongue. Even so did Dr. Lightfoot. … It is good for me to be in the midst of so much informal earnestness and Christian manliness.”
April 29, 1882.
“Then I suppose it is not taking her past out of the hands of time, to say that Butler’s seat is now filled by his nearest successor; a man as great in his work and in his day, as his great namesake (for they both are written ‘Joseph Dunelm’). I know not if there be any better test of true lastingness in any man who is yet living, than when, knowing his written works, one is able to compare them with his person, and to say that these correspond. The same judgment which you admire in Dr. Lightfoot’s commentaries meets you in his conversation. He seems, like justice in her statues, always to give his sentences, holding meantime a pair of other scales. Indeed, the analogy might be extended. Justice is but badly described in stone as being blind-folded in her decisions. But there is in the Bishop a strong cast of eye which enables him, when he speaks, to address himself to nobody in particular; although immediately after speaking, he turns on you a glance that conveys an impression of the most absolute impartiality. . . . He calls these lads (and I can imagine worse things than to feel myself, for the nonce, one of them) his family, and they treat him as frank, ingenuous English gentlemen’s sons would treat their father. He is accessible to their difficulties and their doubts, if they have any; but, a thing more remarkable, he is open to all their kittenhood of mirth and fun. To hear him alone with them is to feel you are on the edge of a circle, which tempts you almost to stand on tiptoe and look over and wish you were inside. It is a searching trial of true homeliness, to observe how it comports itself when there are strangers present. But I assert my coming in has not bated one jot of all this family joy. Last evening, after prayers, they were poking fun at the bishop. One man was asked how he was getting on with Hebrew. The fellow boldly turned the weapon round by inquiring whether his lordship was prepared to teach him. Dr. Lightfoot was gently demurring, when somebody else burst in, as if with a child’s impatience and fear of some older imcompleted promise: ‘ No, not before we have had these lectures on botany.’ Then, assuming the air of someone to whom that study was even as his necessary food, he went on to report his observations, taken daily on his walks to and from the district, of two interesting weeds. It sounded like a clever parody upon Darwin and his climbing plants trained up the bed-post. I have written all this in order to show–if it is within the power of words to show a thing which lies more in the feeling of the whole, than in any enumeration, however complete, of the details–how happy an example one has here of the spirit and the action of the English Church. Within, you have a home and a beehive both in one; without everything is plain, and simple, and strenuous. The Bishop preaches such sermons as the one I sent you. His chaplains teach, and visit, and preach. The students an earnest, and healthy set of men. Nothing is allowed in the Castle which speaks of pomp or pretension. You go down morning and evening to prayers in the chapel; I suppose it is about the finest palace chapel in Britain. A simple service is held. The Bishop and a chaplain read the lessons and lead the prayers. Another chaplain has trained a choir of boys from the neighbouring town. Behind these choristers sit the students; the bishop and servants (eight I counted) are in the back seats. One or two from the outside also seem to attend. The psalms and hymns are simply but sweetly sung. So anxious is Dr. Lightfoot that nothing should be unused, nothing rest in an empty name, that I believe he is fitting up the chapel with seats, so as to have a service every Sabbath. Much of what I have seen here, the earnestness and the manliness of the men, the order of the household, the thoroughness of the instruction, the devoutness of the prayers, the sweetness of the singing, the beauty, the learning, the goodness, the simplicity, make me hang my head for shame, both as a man and as a minister; for my whole heart consents to these things that they are right. . .”
Arrangements having been made for a supply of living agents for the work of the Diocese, two heavy tasks at once confronted the Bishop; the division of the Diocese, and the provision of additional churches and mission-rooms.
The first of these he had inherited. As long ago as 1876 Bishop Baring had submitted the question to his Ruridecanal Chapters, and “the judgment was almost unanimous as to the advisableness of creating the See.” A year later Mr. Thomas Hedley bequeathed the residue of his estate, from which some .£17,000 was ultimately realized, as the nucleus of the necessary fund. In 1878 the Act for the creation of the four Sees– Liverpool, Newcastle, Southwell, and Wakefield–was passed, and was characterized by Archbishop Tait as “one of the greatest reforms proposed by the Church of England since the Reformation.” Bishop Baring spoke for the last time in the House of Lords in favour of this measure, but he did not regard the Newcastle scheme as one which was likely to be realized at an early date. “The prospect of the accomplishment of this good work is, I fear, far remote,” he said in his Charge, which was delivered later in the same year. Soon after Bishop Lightfoot’s appointment he had an interview with the Duke of Northumberland, who promised the munificent gift of £10,000 to the fund. The Bishop thereupon pledged himself to use every endeavour to accomplish the scheme; but by the counsel of all competent advisers he for a time withheld his hand. A deep cloud of dark ness then hung over the commerce and industries of the north-eastern counties, and it seemed to be hopeless to ask for subscriptions. In December, 1880, it was possible to organize a committee. Men soon caught what one called the ” electric enthusiasm” of the Bishop’s ideas, and in nine months the work was practically done. At the Church Congress of 1881, which was held in Newcastle, the Bishop of Manchester appealed for subscriptions to complete the fund, which had reached the critical stage of near accomplishment that is often so difficult to pass. The appeal was liberally answered, but still the last thousands did not come, and the question of a house was becoming an additional difficulty, when the most happy solution offered itself through the liberality of Mr. J. W. Pease, a member of the Society of Friends, and a banker in Newcastle. It was on the i5th of October, 18 81, that the following letter was received by the Bishop through the then Archdeacon of Northumberland* We quote it as showing both the widespread influence of the Bishop and the noble spirit of the generous donor:–
” DEAR MR. ARCHDEACON,–So many people tell me that Benwell Tower is the most suitable place for the new Bishop that I think you ought to have it. Funds do not come in very quickly, and the purchase of such a house as you require must therefore be a difficulty. This being the case, I have concluded to hand the place over to the Committee, and as it is not occupied, they are very welcome to the possession at once, so that any alterations which may be considered needful may be made without loss of time, and their solicitor can communicate with mine as to the conveyance.
“Churchmen and Quakers used not to get on very well together, but these times are past, and I most sincerely trust that the important step about to be taken may be in every way successful. What I propose to instruct my solicitor to convey is the Tower, with its garden, old burial-ground, stables and lodge, and as many of the cottages near the stables as you may require. . . . Yours very truly, JOHN PEASE.”
This gift was followed by another munificent offering of ^10,000, made by Mr. Spencer of Ryton, and by a gift of the furniture for Benwell Tower through a Committee of Ladies. The fund required was thus more than realized, and the task which the Bishop had undertaken was more than accomplished. On St. James’s Day, 1882, Dr. Ernest Roland Wilberforce was consecrated in Durham Cathedral as the first Bishop of Newcastle.
When the great work of the division of the See was accomplished, the Bishop was more free to mature his plans for Church Extension in the county of Durham. Along the banks of the Tyne, the Wear, and the Tees, and in so-called “pit villages,” through a large part of the county, new and vast populations had been called into existence by the development of the coal, iron, and shipping industries. A country road, such as that along which the Bishops of Durham had driven from their castle at Auckland to the Cathedral Church, and by the side of which one house stood some fifty years ago, had become for a considerable part of its course a street, with a network of houses on either side. A seaside village, like Stranton, had developed into a great port like Hartlepool. Efforts had been made, and with much success, by former Bishops, and notably by Bishop Baring, to keep pace with this abnormal growth; but the fact remained, and stared Bishop Lightfoot in the face, that in almost every part of his Diocese the church accommodation was far from adequate to the needs of the people. The measure of the people’s need was for him the measure of the Church’s duty, and the Church’s duty was the motive power of his own immediate action. He had learnt to the full both in school and in life that Virtus in agenda constat. Cautious men pleaded now that ” times were bad,” but so they had pleaded before when the Newcastle Bishopric Fund was commenced. There was the added plea that this fund had deeply drained all available resources, but the Bishop’s one answer was in effect, “Look at these sheep: as their shepherd I must in the name of God try to provide folds for them, and in the name of God I must call upon you to help me.”
In January, 1884, a meeting was held in the Town Hall at Durham under the presidency of the Lord-Lieutenant of the county, for the purpose of hearing from the Bishop a statement of the needs of the Diocese. The Archbishop of York had generously come to help him. The nobility and gentry of the county were well represented, but the meeting was not a large one, for not a few had learned to fear the influence of an address from the Bishop. He pleaded in simple and earnest terms for funds to provide twenty-five churches and mission-rooms which he felt to be urgently needed, and supported his plea by a generous gift. Again the contagion of his enthusiasm and his munificence spread, and a sum approaching £30,000 was subscribed in the room. “Why, the Diocese has gone mad!” said a well-known layman after the meeting; but it was a madness the results of which are now written in deeds for which the most sanguine could not then have hoped, and for which thousands do and will bless God. At the end of five years–and these years a period of deep and continued commercial depression–the Bishop was enabled to report, not that the twenty-five buildings for which he had pleaded were in progress but that “no less than forty-five churches and mission-chapels had been completed, or will shortly be so, through the instrumentality of the fund.” Nor did the force of the wave spend itself there or then. It sent its impetus into many parishes, where no immediate work of church-building was needed, and its direct force can be traced to the present day. The Bishop himself offered, in thanksgiving for the completion of the decennium of his episcopate, the noble building which probably is the only instance in our own country of a dedication–and in this case a peculiarly appropriate one –to S. Ignatius the Martyr. Another church now being built in the same town of Sunderland owes its existence to his forethought and his gifts, and will be a memorial of his name and work. Gateshead also will, under similar conditions, soon have its Bishop Lightfoot Memorial Church, and these, the two largest towns in the Diocese, are but examples of the spirit and work of the whole.
Another practical scheme to which the Bishop gave much attention and which was a natural supplement to his Church Building Fund, was a Diocesan Fund. This was intended to form a combination of all the various funds in the Diocese for Churches, Schools, Provision for Insurance and Pensions for the Clergy, and so on, and in addition was to provide a fund under the direction of a representative committee, which should aid any one or more of the allied funds in case of need, and should itself provide for any special work–a mission clergyman here, a parish room there, a temporary endowment in a third place–which may from time to time arise.
“I propose the present effort,” wrote the Bishop, “to be wholly different to anything which has preceded it, both in kind and magnitude. It ought not only to supplement existing organizations, but also to plant and to maintain living agents in districts with which the Church would otherwise be unable successfully to deal. In short, as I have said on a previous occasion it will be the handmaid of the Diocese, stepping in at times and places where the need is sorest. Above all, it will teach us to feel the high privilege of acting as members of a great spiritual community, by stepping outside the limits of parochial efforts, and taking a larger conception of our responsibilities.”
Here, as in all other cases, his appeal to others was strengthened by his own munificence. Five hundred pounds was the annual subscription which he proposed to contribute personally, and it was natural that the Diocese should support him nobly, as it did. In addition to the large gifts of rich men and the apparently small gifts of poor men, came the annual collections in churches, which were made in all the parishes of the Diocese–with exceptions so few that they do but emphasize the unanimity.
It will seem, perhaps, that more than enough has been written to show how fully the Bishop’s time and thought were given to the details of his Diocesan work; but the contents of the two quadrennial Charges which fall within the period of his episcopate are so fully illustrative of this, and at the same time so suggestive, that we cannot refrain from quoting them:–
1882. I. THE DIOCESE.
(i) Territorial Rearrangements,
(i) Division of the Diocese,
(ii) New Archdeaconry,
(iii) Rearrangement of Rural Deaneries,
(iv) Subdivision of Parishes.
(2) Diocesan Institutions and Associations.
(i) Diocesan Conference,
(ii) Diocesan Societies,
(iii) Organization of Lay Help,
(iv) Lay Readers,
(v) Ministration of Women,
(vi) Girls’ Friendly Society and Young Men’s Friendly Society,
(vii) Diocesan Preachers.
(ii) Meeting of Curates,
(iv) Church Building and Restoration.
(v) Diocesan Calendar and Magazine.
(4) Retrospective and Prospective.
II. THE CHURCH.
(1) Burial Laws Amendment Act.
(2) Permanent Diaconate.
(3) Salvation Army.
(4) Revised New Testament.
(6) Church and State.
(7) Anxieties and Hopes.
I. THE DIOCESE.
(1) Church Extension.
(i) Churches, Chapels, and Parishes,
(ii) Cemeteries and Churchyards.
(2) The Services.
(i) Services in Supplementary Buildings.
(ii) Holy Communion,
(iii) Weekday Services.
(iv) Choirs and Hymns,
(v) Letting and Appropriation of Pews.
(3) The Clergy.
(ii) Junior Clergy,
(iii) Increase in the Clergy,
(iv) Canon Missioner’s Work.
(4) Lay Ministrations.
(i) Lay Readers,
(ii) Lay Evangelists,
(iii) The Church Army.
(6) Diocesan Finance.
(i) Financial Statement,
(ii) Collection of Statistics,
(iii) General Diocesan Fund.
(7) Diocesan Societies.
(i) Church of England Temperance Society,
(ii) White Cross Army,
(iii) Girls’ Friendly Society,
(iv) Diocesan Sons of the Clergy,
(v) Diocesan Board of Inspection,
(vi) Parochial Schools Society,
(vii) Diocesan Board of Education.
II. THE CHURCH.
(1) Church Patronage.
(2) Church Revenues.
(3) Ecclesiastical Courts.
(4) The Church House.
These Charges were a cause of disappointment to many of the Bishop’s friends. They had hoped that he would follow the example of some other learned men who had been called to Bishops* thrones, and had thence addressed the Church and the world on questions of the day. But he deliberately chose his line. In his opinion:–
“A visitation is a great audit time, when the Bishop and clergy alike render an account of their ministrations–the clergy by their answers to the questions of their diocesan–the Bishop by his charge summing up the work of the diocese during the few years past. It is a foreshadowing and a forecast of the great and final visitation, when the Master Himself returning shall demand an account of His talents, when the Chief Shepherd shall reappear and require His flock at our hands.”
Not that he failed to feel constantly the pulse of great movements. He never forgot that he was a Bishop of the Anglican Church, but he always remembered that he was the Bishop of Durham. The Church and the wider questions which affect the Church at large have their place in both the Charges, but the Diocese had the primary claim at a visitation of the clergy of the Diocese. And what a picture of the work of a diocese do these Charges give! In almost every detail is there ground for humble thankfulness for the progress of the past, and ground for hopeful counsel for the work of the future. What a picture, too, do we get incidentally of the work of a Bishop!
“I am thankful to say,” he writes in 1886, “that there are now only a few churches in my Diocese in which I have not officiated, and I hope before long to complete the circuit. I have preached “–and the volumes before us tell us of what kind these sermons were–“in all the churches in Gateshead, Darlington, Stockton, and Sunderland (including Bishopwearmouth and Monkwearmouth), and in nearly all in Durham, South Shields, and the Hartlepools–in the principal churches in these towns several times.”1
Some of the Bishop’s friends were also disappointed, and perhaps with more show of reason, that his voice was seldom heard in the House of Lords. But here, too, he was guided by the same principle. He never forgot that he was a lord of Parliament, but he always remembered that he was primarily Bishop of Durham. He was indeed never absent from the House of Lords at a critical division, though his presence involved the sacrifice of an important Diocesan engagement and two nights in a railway carriage; his counsel was always at the command of the leaders of the Episcopal Bench; no man was more in touch with every movement for the social as well as spiritual welfare of his countrymen; but he naturally did not attach to his own utterances the weight which others did, and he felt that the interests of the Church and the people were most safely guided by the great Archbishops, upon whom this burden naturally fell.
Nor did he shrink, when it came clearly in the path of his own duty, from expressing his opinion or offering his counsel on questions which were of universal interest. In 1881 he presided over the twenty-first meeting–the coming of age–of the Church Congress at Newcastle-on-Tyne, The British Association had just kept its jubilee in the metropolis of the Northern Province. Here is the Bishop’s happy and characteristically hopeful reference to the coincidence:– .
“The President availed himself of the occasion to sum up the achievements of the half-century past–untrodden fields opened out, fresh sciences created, a whole world of fact and theory discovered, of which men had hardly a suspicion at the beginning of this period. In this commemoration we are reminded of the revolution in the intellectual world which has taken place in our own time, as in the other, our attention was directed to the revolution in the social and industrial world.
Here again we are confronted with a giant force, of which the Church of Christ must give an account. If we are wise we shall endeavour to understand and to absorb these truths. They are our proper heritage as Christians, for they are manifestations of the Eternal Word, who is also the Head of the Church. They will add breadth and strength and depth to our theology. Before all things we shall learn by the lessons of the past to keep ourselves free from any distrust or dismay. Astronomy once menaced, or was thought to menace, Christianity. Long before we were born the menace had passed away. We found astronomy the sworn ally of religion. The heresy of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries had become the orthodoxy of the nineteenth. When some years ago an eminent man of science, himself a firm believer, wrote a work throwing doubt on the plurality of worlds, it was received with a storm of adverse criticism, chiefly from Christian teachers, because he ventured to question a theory which three centuries earlier it would have been a shocking heresy to maintain. Geology next entered the lists. We are old enough, many of us, to remember the anxiety and distrust with which its startling announcements were received. This scare, like the other, has passed away. We admire the providential design which through myriads of years prepared the earth by successive gradations of animal and vegetable life for its ultimate destination as the abode of man. Nowhere else do we find more vivid and striking illustrations of the increasing purpose which runs through the ages. . . . Our theological conceptions have been corrected and enlarged by its teaching, but the work of the Church of Christ goes on as before. Geology, like astronomy, is fast becoming our faithful ally. And now, in turn, Biology concentrates the same interests, and excites the same distrusts. Will not history repeat itself? If the time should come when evolution is translated from the region of suggestive theory to the region of acknowledged fact, what then? Will it not carry still further the idea of providential design and order? Will it not reinforce with new and splendid illustrations the magnificent lesson of modern science– complexity of results traced back to simplicity of principles–variety of phenomena issuing from unity of order–the gathering up, as it were, of the threads which connect the universe, in the right hand of the One Eternal Word?
“Thus we are reminded by these two celebrations of the twin giants, the creation of our age, with which the Church of Christ has to reckon– foes only if they are treated as such, but capable of being won as trusty allies, by appreciation, by sympathy, by conciliation and respect.”
In 1885 the Bishop presided at a meeting of the Diocesan Conference at Durham. Disestablishment was in the air and to many persons seemed nearer then than it does now. He was led to speak at some length upon it. We extract a few sentences:–
“But I cannot blink facts. The question is not sleeping; it has been definitely raised; and I should hold it culpable in anyone in my position not to express, and express definitely, his opinion on the issues involved. . . . The only schemes which are before us involve a wholesale alienation of property, a disregard of personal and corporate rights, and a violation of all the most sacred associations and feelings, such as, in the words of an eminent living statesman, would leave England “a lacerated and bleeding mass.” Of any such scheme of disestablishment I say deliberately, having carefully weighed these words and feeling the tremendous responsibility of over-statement, that it would be not only a national disaster, but also a national crime, to which it would be difficult to find a parallel in the history of England since England became a nation. I believe that a moral blow would be inflicted on this country, under which it would reel and stagger for many generations to come, even if it ever recovered.”
In October, 1889, just two months before his death, the Bishop presided over the Conference of his Diocese in Sunderland. He addressed it on many subjects, and especially on the Lambeth Conference, Christian Socialism, the White Cross Movement, the Brotherhood of the Poor. How touching in the light of what followed, how firm in the strength of faith, is this reference to himself:–
“While I was suffering from overwork, and before I understood the true nature of my complaint, it was the strain, both in London and at home, in connexion with this Pan-Anglican gathering, which broke me down hopelessly. I did not regret it then, and I do not regret it now. I should not have wished to recall the past, even if my illness had been fatal. For what after all is the individual life in the history of the Church? Men may come and men may go–individual lives float down like straws on the surface of the waters till they are lost in the ocean of eternity; but the broad, mighty, rolling stream of the Church itself–the cleansing, purifying, fertilising tide of the River of God–flows on for ever and ever. A gathering of Bishops, so numerous and so representative, collected from all parts of the globe, is an incident quite unique in the history of this Diocese. . . . For to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, what does it all mean? What activities does it not suggest in the Anglican Church of the present? What capacities and hopes for the Anglican Church of the future? What evidences of present catholicity? What visions of future diffusion? … I hold that God has vouchsafed a signal blessing to our generation in this demonstration of the catholicity of the English Church, and I consider myself happy that in my chapel at Auckland will be preserved for future generations a memorial of this chief event of my episcopate.”
How full of wisdom is this comment on the work of the Lambeth Conference:–
“But it may be said: this was a very important and very suggestive gathering, but what was the outcome? Did it leave behind any result at all proportionate to the imposing spectacle? What questions did it settle, disposing for ever of the relations between Christianity and science, or between religion and politics or social life–questions of infinite perplexity, which are troubling the minds of men in our own generation?
“Heaven be thanked, it did not lay down any formal dogma or infallible decree on any of these points. There is such a thing as hastening to be wise, even in Church Councils and Conferences. Of all the manifold blessings which God has showered on our English Church, none surely is greater than the providence which has shielded her from premature and authoritative statements, which soon or late must be repudiated or explained away, however great may have been the temptation from time to time. The Church of England is nowhere directly or indirectly committed to the position that the sun goes round the earth; or that this world has only existed for six or seven thousand years; or that the days of creation are days of twenty-four hours each; or that the scriptural genealogies must always be accepted as strict and continuous records of the descent from father to son; or that the sacred books were written in every case by those whose names they bear; or that there is nowhere allegory, which men have commonly mistaken for history. On these and similar points, our Church has been silent; though individuals, even men of high authority, have written hastily and incautiously.”
The above extracts are all taken from addresses which the Bishop delivered within the limits of his own Diocese, but it would entirely misrepresent him if the impression should be formed that his sympathies and work were confined to these limits. If space were at our command, we should like to quote other passages, which show how fully he was in touch with the work of the Church far and near. Now he gives an address at meetings of the Church Congress at Leicester and Carlisle; now he preaches the Congress Sermon at Wolverhampton; now and again he crosses the Border to show his warm sympathy with his brethren in Scotland. His voice was constantly heard in London on behalf of this or that philanthropic society; and here and there throughout the country, clergymen whose only claim was their need, asked for and obtained his help. To Cambridge he was bound by many ties, and the series of “Cuddesdon Addresses” shows that to Oxford he was no less generous.
Nor was it in public only that this help was given. Auckland Castle was almost constantly filled, as with the sons of the house who were being prepared for their future work, so with the clergy and laity from the Diocese, and from afar, who were welcomed to his hospitality and to his counsel. Few perhaps realize what the burden is which the post-bag adds to a Bishop’s daily life, and in his case it brought the scholar’s burden too; but even this was cheerfully borne, and no letter remained unanswered, whether it was that of the Southern farmer who wished to know if the Bishop could supply him with Durham cows, or that of a lady who felt sure he could find time to read a theological work in MS. before she sent it to the press–and ” may she say in her preface that it had his approval?”–or that of the student in the far West who had just begun the Greek Testament, and would like a solution of his many difficulties, and had ” heard that the Bishop was a good scholar.” In small matters, as in great, no one asked for anything which he felt that he could give, and asked in vain. And so, year after year, the hard work was done, and the noble life was lived. The mental and physical strength seemed equal to every strain. No engagement ever fell through, no weariness was ever apparent. Ignatius was refreshment from the work of the Diocese: the work of the Diocese was refreshment from Ignatius. The face was always bright; the heart was always glad. The happiest years of his life he thought these Durham years to be; and he thought that he had never been so strong. It was towards the close of the spring confirmations in 1888, when the pressure of work had been unusually heavy, and falls of snow had more than once blocked the roads by which he tried to travel, that this strength seemed for the first time to be strained. He thought, and his friends thought, that a short summer holiday would completely restore him; but the Lambeth Conference came and the visit of the Bishops to Durham came. Both brought to him great happiness, but both brought much work. The autumn holiday was too late, and the Bishop returned to his Diocese only to leave it again, under positive medical orders, for a winter in Bournemouth. He at once thought of resigning the Bishopric. It was foreign to his whole thought to have personal interests distinct from his office. He could not conceive that any man could accept an office in the Church of Christ without identifying himself with it, or would hold it a day longer than he could fully discharge its duties. One of the burdens which weighed on his soul was that instances to the contrary were not wholly wanting in his Diocese. He at least would do the one thing which was right. But he was still comparatively young; hopes of restoration to health, and strength, and work, seemed to be well grounded; and those to whom he was bound by every tie of allegiance absolutely forbade the step he wished to take. An Assistant Bishop, first welcomed and soon beloved by himself and by his Diocese, was found in the person of Bishop Sandford, and he somewhat doubtingly acquiesced in a course about which others had no doubt. The spring of 1889 seemed to bring a fulfilment of the hopes which had been formed. The Bishop was able to return to his Diocese, and on Ascension Day the Cathedral Church was crowded by a vast assembly who joined with him in a special Service of Thanksgiving. He was able to fulfil the ordinary Diocesan duties, and to devote a large amount of time to literary work during the months of the summer and autumn; and he took part in three public events of special interest. On July 2nd he consecrated the Church of S. Ignatius the Martyr, Sunderland, his own noble gift of thanksgiving; on October 17th he presided over the Diocesan Conference, and delivered the remarkable address to which we have referred; on October the 29th he received in a public meeting, at the hands of the Lord-Lieutenant, the beautiful Pastoral Staff, which, together with a portrait by Mr. Richmond, it was determined to present to him on the completion of the tenth year of his episcopate. He thanked the donors in his usual happy, cheerful, tone, and took his farewell with tender words of blessing. It was for the last time. He left for the purpose of wintering again in Bournemouth a few days afterwards. For a time he continued to make progress. He was able to work regularly at the Clement up to Tuesday, December 17th. The local papers of the following Saturday morning contained a note from Archdeacon Watkins, “asking the clergy and other ministers of religion to make special supplication for our beloved Bishop on Sunday and other days.” The evening papers of the same day contained a telegram from Bournemouth –“The Bishop of Durham passed peacefully away this afternoon, at a quarter to four o’clock.”
The sorrow of the Church and of the nation, and the expression of that sorrow in the pulpit and in the press, is still fresh in the memory. The death and buriall were the natural sequence to the life. True goodness and true greatness are honoured by men of every opinion and by men of every rank.
Some estimates of the work of Bishop Lightfoot which were uttered under the influence of strong feeling immediately after death, contained perhaps some expressions and some comparisons which history will not justify. We are writing from the vantage-ground of three years’ distance, and with access to many papers and references which have been kindly placed at our disposal, and have endeavoured at every point to follow in the spirit of the inscription which has formed our motto: Quails fuerit . . . testantur of era. For this reason we have largely quoted the Bishop’s own words, and if we try to express our own estimate of his work we shall still have recourse to words which he used of another, and which with little change may be as truly said of himself:–
“But after making all allowance for the fond partiality of a recent regret, we may fairly say that as a Bishop of Durham he stands out preeminent in the long list of twelve centuries; as a man of letters, greatest of all save De Bury; as a restorer of the fabric and order of churches, greatest of all save Cosin; as a profound thinker, greatest of all save Butler; as a munificent and patriotic ruler, greatest of all save Barrington; but as uniting in himself many and varied qualifications which combined go far towards realizing the ideal head of a religious and learned foundation, the just representative of a famous academic body, greater than these or any of his predecessors. Vast and varied mental powers, untiring energy and extensive knowledge, integrity of character and strictness of example, a wide and generous munificence, a keen interest in the progress of the Church and the University, an intense devotion to his own Diocese, a strong sense of duty, a true largeness of heart, a simple Christian faith; the union of these qualities fairly entitles him to the foremost place among the Bishops of Durham.”
It is natural that men should have attempted not only to portray this great life, but to analyse it; and the Church and the nation would owe a deep debt of gratitude to the writer who could show us how in any degree other men can learn the principles, of which the life and character of Joseph Barber Lightfoot were the product. Two statements among the many which lie before us are of special value in themselves, and derive a special interest from the widely-different sources from which they come.
Canon Westcott, preaching in Westminster Abbey two days after the funeral, said:–
“What then, you will ask me, is the secret of the life of him to whom we look this afternoon with reverent regard? It is, in a word, the secret of strength. He was strong by singleness of aim, by resolution, by judgment, by enthusiasm, by sympathy, by devotion. In old days it was strength to be with him: and for the future it will be strength to remember him.”
Lord Durham, speaking on two occasions separated by three years, said:–
“I venture to attribute the success of the Bishop to the strong personal feeling he inspires in all those who know him. It is impossible to have been connected with him or to have come in contact with him, without appreciating his strong sympathy and his generous regard for the welfare of the people surrounding him. … I think that no prelate in the proud and old princely days of the Palatinate of Durham, with all his pomp and with all his circumstance, ever commanded more true respect than our present Bishop with his simple, kindly life, and his generous and unostentatious charity.”
“In every town and parish in this county you will find visible and tangible evidence of his untiring zeal, and of the impetus which his genius gave to all those who served under him. But what you will not see, and what no hand can probe, is the impress he made upon the hearts of all with whom he came into contact, and the softening influence of his genial presence upon all sorts and conditions of men. … I venture to think that the chief factor in his paramount influence amongst us was his true and genial sympathy–sympathy with our joys and our sorrows, sympathy with our aspirations and with our failures; with our pursuits and with our recreations; and, above all, boundless sympathy with the shortcomings of feeble human nature. He was no proud Pharisee, who thanked God that he was not as other men are, but a true-hearted Christian gentleman, conscious of the trials and temptations of the world, striving with his pure life, and humble, modest ways, to raise mankind to a higher and better level by his example of Christian charity and loving sympathy.”
It seems to be certain that the two great secrets of the Bishop’s power are here–strength and sympathy. And yet they were veiled in a modesty which men thought amounted to shyness. They were held in reserve; they were ready for fullest use whenever occasion demanded. But his very sympathy was strong, and he could not understand some forms of weakness. One of his early pupils has told us ” . . . he was kindness itself. … I once offended him … by telling him, when I got my Fellowship that he might have saved me many gloomy misgivings as an Undergraduate, if the Cambridge system had dealt a little more freely in words of encouragement.” One of his clergy, whom he had placed in several difficult posts, said to another after some years of service, ” It would remove a burden from my mind if I felt sure that my work was being done as he wished it, but he has never said to me a single word of encouragement.” The second replied, “I have had a larger experience, but I should never look for such words from him. He expects strong men to do their work, and would as soon think of encouraging such men as of seeking encouragement in words for himself. They must do all and bear all in the light of the Divine Presence, as he himself does.” And yet this second speaker received from the Bishop, not long before his death, a note which contained the following words: ” I have never ceased to be thankful for the inspiration which led me to invite you to assist me in the work of the Diocese. May God give you every blessing.”
Strength and sympathy! But the secret principle lies deeper still; and here again the Bishop’s own words must guide us. The text of his enthronement sermon was “And they shall see His face,” and we have already quoted words which tell the secret of which we are in quest. The prayer which from the first he asked his Diocese to offer for him was–
“That the Eternal Presence, thus haunting him night and day, may rebuke, may deter, may guide, may strengthen, may comfort, may illumine, may consecrate and subdue the feeble and wayward impulses of his own heart to God’s holy will and purpose!”
The “consciousness of an Eternal Presence”–that was the principle of his life. That made him strong; that made him sympathetic; that gave him absolute singleness of aim and simplicity of life; that filled him with a buoyant optimism which expressed itself in constant joyousness; that was the source of an almost unparalleled generosity which in life gave to God and the Church every gift which God gave him, and at death made his chaplains his executors, and his Diocese his residuary legatee; that was the strength which nerved the mind to think and the hand to write in the solitary room before the hard day of public life began and after it ended; that was the wondrous power of personality which made itself felt in Cambridge, in London, in Durham, by men of every degree. He was ever conscious of the Eternal Presence. He ever went to men from God, and the human presence was illumined by the Divine.
Did boys at school wonder that Light-foot never spoke an ignoble word, or did an ignoble deed? The secret finds its explanation in the spirit which led him and a younger schoolfellow, afterwards not less eminent than himself, to arrange a form of prayer for the hours of the day for their common use. Did men marvel at the influence of the young Fellow and Tutor of Trinity? They would have marvelled less had they known that his life was strengthened by the following among other prayers:–
“Since it hath pleased Thee, O Lord, that I should be called to take my part in the teaching of this College, grant that I may not assume the same lightly, or without a due sense of the importance of my trust; but, considering it a stewardship, whereof I shall have to render an account hereafter, may faithfully fulfil the same to Thy honour and glory. Grant, O Lord, that neither by word nor deed I may do aught that may weaken the faith, or slacken the practice of those committed to my charge; but rather grant to me such measure of Thy Holy Spirit, that my duties may be discharged to Thy honour and glory, and to the welfare of both the teacher and the taught. Grant this, O Lord, through Thy son, Jesus Christ, who is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life. Amen.”
Or if they had known that in the pressure of that busy life he found time to write to schoolboys such words as these:–
“Remember me to all the boys. . . . Goodbye. Fight manfully against all school-boy temptations. Be as brave as a lion in defence of all that is good. Strive to live purely and uprightly. Work hard.”
Did peers and pitmen, rich and poor, old and young, in the Diocese of Durham feel that a strange influence of sympathy and strength had come among them and had touched their hearts? Had they followed the great Bishop of Durham to his inner chamber they would have found him resting, for the too few hours he gave to sleep, on a simple iron bedstead which the pitman would have spurned; and they would have seen hanging close by the side of it a simple German engraving of Albert D¸rer’s Crucifixion, with the legend “ES IST VOLLBRACHT.”
Among the last words which the Bishop addressed to the public from the very brink of the grave were these: —
“I believe from my heart that the truth which this Gospel [of St. John] more especially enshrines–the truth that Jesus Christ is the very Word incarnate, the manifestation of the Father to mankind–is the one lesson which, duly apprehended, will do more than all our feeble efforts to purify and elevate human life here by imparting to it hope and light and strength, the one study which alone can fitly prepare us for a joyful immortality hereafter.”
The first words of the Will and Testament by which he spoke from beyond the grave, were these:–
“With ever-increasing thankfulness to Almighty God for his many and great mercies vouchsafed to me, hoping to die, as I have striven to live, in the light of God’s fatherly goodness as revealed through the Cross of Christ.”
Such were the principles of this great life–Qualis fuerit …. testantur opera; qualis fuerit testantur ….
THIS DAY IN HISTORY
March 29, 1602 ï John Lightfoot English Theologian and Hebrew Scholar
Imagine becoming the best Hebrew scholar in your nation without once speaking to a Jew. That is what John Lightfoot did. He may never even have seen a Jew, for they were barred from England until late in his life.
John Lightfoot was born on this day, March 29, 1602 in an England which was only just regaining the knowledge of Hebrew. Four hundred years before, King Edward I had kicked the Jews out of his nation. Many left manuscripts behind, which allowed scholars such as Roger Bacon to understand the ancient tongue. However, Hebrew studies were frowned upon by the church. Bacon himself was accused of using Hebrew to communicate with the devil.
Even as a youngster, John proved to be a natural-born scholar, especially good with Greek and Latin. However, he had only the minimum acquaintance with Hebrew. That changed after the twenty-year-old became a Church of England curate (a minister in charge of a parish) in Shropshire, England.
One man who came every week to hear him preach was Sir Rowland Cotton. It happened that Sir Rowland had a good knowledge of Hebrew. He challenged John to learn it, saying that he could not really understand the Old Testament without understanding the language that it was written in. John felt embarrassed that a layman had more Bible knowledge than himself, a minister.
Helped by Sir Rowland, he quickly mastered the basics of Hebrew. Through incessant, diligent study, he surpassed his teacher and eventually became the greatest Hebrew scholar in all of England.
Studying Jewish writings, he showed from rabbinic teachings that Jesus was clearly identifiable as the Messiah. “Even the Lord’s prayer is derived from expressions that had long been familiar in the schools and synagogues of Judea.” His book Horae Hebraicae explained the New testament in light of knowledge he had gleaned from the writings of rabbis. Many later commentators consulted it. John was also prominent in the formulation of the Westminster Confession of Faith.
John never forgot the debt he owed Sir Rowland. “He laid such doubled and redoubled obligations upon me by the tender affection, respect and favor, that he showed towards me, as have left so indelible an impression on my heart, of honor to his name and observance to his house of Bellaport, that length of time may not wear it out nor distance of place ever cause me to forget it.”
He died in 1675, leaving behind a body of work which filled nineteen volumes.
- “John Lightfoot.” Meet the Puritans. (www.sdgbooks.com/sdgbooks/hall7_lightfoot.html)
- Welton, Daniel D. John Lightfoot, the English Hebraist. (Oxford, 1880).
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- 24 Aug 2003
Proves again that natural intelligence differs markedly from spiritual intelligence. Lightfoot failed to see that, unlike God’s OT judgments where judgment and destruction were simultaneous (as in the flood and the Red Sea), his first-century judgments (first of Israel and later of the world) were SPIRITUAL and were separated from subsequent natural destruction by an intervening period of GRACE. Thus, the spiritual judgment of Christ-rejecting Israel occurred in the moment of Christ’s resurrection in the spring of AD 30 and the nation’s natural destruction occurred in autumn of AD 70, after 40 years of GRACE. The major theme of Revelation is the spiritual judgment of the Christ-rejecting world that occurred in the moment of the resurrection of the dead in Christ at his parousia at the end of the first century and that was followed by this present, symbolically described “thousand years” of GRACE.
Date: 01 Nov 2005
This matter elucidates many questions one has asked. There is great lack of knowledge in the church regarding the history of those days, viz. in the time of Christ and in the times of the prophets.
Jesus cast out many devils obviously because of the witchcraft in which the Jews indulged. This is observed in heathen countries today. Idolatry and false religions are always accompanied by witchcraft.
The futuristic ideas re the millennium and the end-times have no true scriptural basis. Neither Jesus, Paul nor Peter taught what is often presently believed. Therefore much of the end-time teaching in the churches is merely mythical.