2 Timothy 4:9-11
Do your diligence to come shortly to me:…
We know but very little, historically, of St. Luke. His birthplace appears to have been Antioch, the metropolis of Syria, and, from his profession as a physician, we conclude him to have been, as indeed his writings prove him, a man of liberal education. Antioch was distinguished as the seat of literature; and St. Luke had probably availed himself of the advantages presented by his native place. We have no information in regard to the calling and conversion of St. Luke, and of his becoming a physician of the soul as well as the body. Many suppose him to have been converted by St. Paul at Antioch, and so to have had no acquaintance with Christianity until after the death of its Founder. Others again maintain that Luke was one of the seventy disciples whom Jesus sent forth to publish the gospel. However this may have been, it is in connection with St. Paul that St. Luke is first mentioned in the New Testament. From Acts 16. to 28, we learn that he accompanied St. Paul in many of his labours and journeyings, and was with him at Rome daring his two years' imprisonment. We are wholly without authentic information as to the after life of St. Luke. Various spheres of labour are assigned to him by various writers, and much obscurity rests on the time, place, and manner of his death. The most ancient authors, however, say nothing of his martyrdom; and this would seem to show that he died a natural death; though others, indeed, allege that he went out of life stretched on an olive tree. But whilst so little material is furnished by the biographers of St. Luke, we are in possession of his writings, and by these "he, being dead, yet speaketh." There has never been debate in the Church that the Gospel which bears his name, and the Acts of the Apostles, were written by St. Luke. These were his legacies to all after ages, and for these must he be held in honour so long as there is any love for the gospel. And with these writings in our hands, who that has any sense of the worth of revelation will hesitate to describe St. Luke as "a brother whose praise is in the gospel throughout all the churches"? Or who, like St. Paul, if he had no other companion, would not feel that, in having this evangelist, he had books on which to draw that he could never exhaust, and which would continually furnish him with spiritual information, so that he could never be in loneliness, never at a loss for guidance and instruction, even though he should have to say with the apostle in our text — "Only Luke is with me." And what we venture to assert is, that the history which he has produced outweighs, in value to ourselves, either of the other three which the New Testament contains. We venture to affirm that, if only one Gospel is to be preserved, that that Gospel should be the Gospel according to St. Luke. The debate must lie between the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew; for neither in the Gospel of St. Mark, nor in that of St. John is any account given of the parentage and birth of Jesus Christ; so that, with no other document in our hands, we should be uninformed upon facts which lay at the very root and foundation of Christianity. We should have no proof of the fulfilment of prophecies declaratory that Christ should be born of a virgin, without taint of original sin; and we could therefore make no way in building up the fabric of our most holy faith. You will admit, then, that if only one Gospel be retained, it must be that of St. Matthew or St. Luke, inasmuch as these contain what is wanting in the others, the account of Christ's miraculous nativity, and this account is indispensable to our knowledge of redemption; but if we are to choose between the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke, the far fuller manner in which St. Luke gives the circumstances of the birth of our Saviour might of itself determine upon which to decide for the history. And when you add to this that St. Luke is the evangelist who has preserved for us the parables and incidents most adapted to our case, and most comforting to our feelings, and that from his writings we draw a prayer which is the very epitome of petitions, "God be merciful to me, a sinner"; that it is he who draws for us that most affecting of pictures, the picture of the father's rushing to meet the prodigal son whilst yet a great way off, folding him in his arms, and giving him his embrace; that in the pages, moreover, of this evangelist it is that we behold the good Samaritan pouring oil and wine into the wounds of the sufferers; that we are warned by the sudden summons to the rich fool, who, within a hair's breadth of death, talked of building larger barns; by the torments of Dives, who exchanged the luxuries of a palace for the plagues of hell; that we are comforted by Christ's gracious words to the thief on the cross; — ay, if it be thus true that we turn to the Gospel of St. Luke for whatever is most exquisitely tender, most persuasive, most encouraging, most startling in the registered actions and sayings of the Saviour, then it is not to be doubted that our chief debt of gratitude is due to this evangelist; that if we had lost all the others — Cresceus unto Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia, Matthew, Mark, and John having departed from this present world — it might still be with the tone of those who felt they had kept the one from whom most might be learned, that we took up the language of our text and exclaimed with St. Paul, "Only Luke is with me." We now turn to look at the Acts of the Apostles, a work which stands quite by itself, and whose worth, therefore, cannot be measured by comparing it with others. If we had not this book we should have no inspired record whatever of the actions and sayings of the first preachers of Christianity, and consequently its value must be estimated by the injury which would be occasioned by the total want of such a record. The removal of the Acts from the New Testament would be altogether a different thing from the removal of one of the Gospels; in the latter case the deficiency would be at least partially supplied by the remaining writings, whereas in the former there would be left no document to which we could refer. The book of the Acts is to the Holy Spirit what the Gospels are to the Saviour — a record of His entering on His office, and fulfilling His great work in the scheme of human redemption. And can we dispense with one record any more than with the other? Is it not indispensable to the completeness of the evidences of Christianity — the showing how each Person in the ever-blessed Trinity has interposed on our behalf — that we should be able to point to apostles and to apostolic men, receiving supernatural gifts, and going forth with a more than human strength to a warfare with principalities and powers? It is one thing to prove a work valuable, and another to show that its loss would be fatal. It is this that we endeavour to do, by exhibiting the Acts as the Gospel of the Holy Ghost, and as the record of transactions which involve the interest and the permanence of the whole Gentile Church. And when we have shown you that without this book you would be left ignorant of the coming of the Comforter; that you would know nothing of the manifestations by which the seal of Divinity was finally set on Christianity — yea, be unacquainted with redemption as the joint work of the three Persons in the Godhead; and when we have further shown you that, take away this book, and you take away all the register of God's ordering the removal of the middle wall of partition, so that the Gentiles might be received without submitting themselves to the institutions of Moses, and we think we have shown enough to convince you that you owe St. Luke, at least, as much for his Acts of the Apostles as for his Gospel; and, therefore, we again say — Crescens might have departed to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia, and you might be left alone in a prison, almost without associates, almost without books; but could you be lonely? could you be forced to speak as if deprived of high companionship and intercourse with those in whom a Christian has the deepest interest, and access to the best stores of comfort and of knowledge, if you could say of yourself, as St. Paul says in our text — "Only Luke is with me"?
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Do thy diligence to come shortly unto me: