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decidedly convinced of his divine mission, and acted contrary to that conviction in putting him to death.
There is, indeed, a wide difference between modern sceptics and those who rejected the gospel at the period of its promulgation. The unbelieving Jews had the testimony of their own senses to enforce its truth they saw the miracles of Christ, and could not deny them; they witnessed the superior excellence of his character, and heard him speak as never man spoke; they also knew his predictions before they were fulfilled; nor could they have felt any of those difficulties arising from obscurity in the language, or omission in the writers, which at present occasion doubt and per plexity, Whatever excuse, therefore, can be pleaded for succeeding unbelievers, the same cannot be urged in behalf of those who, in defiance of their own senses, rejected our Lord. These disbelieved not from doubt or through want of evidence, but in opposition to an evidence, that, notwithstanding their prejudices or their malice, did not leave themselves unconvinced.
This assertion will appear to be warranted, if we consider the nature and object of the miracles which Christ performed, the purity of his character, and the direct or incidental notice taken of his enemies in the New Testament.
The blessed Jesus not only healed all manner of diseases among the people, but gave eyes to the blind, raised the dead, calmed the tempest, walked upon the sea, and, though put to death, rose from the grave and ascended to heaven. Works like these far exceeded the supposed agency of evil spirits; and the people, who must have been more superstitious than their teachers and rulers, did not hesitate to ascribe them to God alone.
It was admitted even in those ignorant ages, that whatever influence evil spirits might have, none but God could foresee events which were yet in futurity; and that consequently none but God could enable a human being to foretel them. In this respect Jesus Christ gave abundant proofs of his divine mission. He knew and he spoke to the secret thoughts of those whom he ad
dressed; he foretold his own death; and his enemies were in possession of the assurance previously given by him that he should rise from the grave: he predicted the fall of Jerusalem; and we shall see in the sequel, on the authority of a competent historian, that the most abandoned of his adversaries believed the truth of that prediction, before it was realized by the event. They therefore knew that he was a prophet; and though they might affect the contrary, knew in in their hearts that he was actuated by the inspiration of the Almighty.
The object of our Lord's miracles, and his own benevolent character, were calculated to convince the Jews that he came from God. If it were possible for any thein, for a moment, to suspect that he acted with the power of Beelzebub, the direct tendency of his works and of his doctrine, was sufficient to remove this suspicion from the breast of the most prejudiced. The reasoning of Jesus on this subject, in reply to the Pharisees, demonstrated that he neither had, nor could seriously be thought to have, any intercourse with demons.
He sought to destroy those diseases and vices which were supposed to proceed from: them; nor did light differ more widely from darkness, than his conduct and character from those impostors, who pretended to have intercourse with evil spirits. He came to do not his own, but his Father's will: to his energy he ascribed his extraor dinary works; nor was he distinguished more by the power, than he was by the wisdom and benevolence of Heaven.7
If we attend to the direct or incidental notice taken of the enemies of Christ in the New Testament, we shall find them chargeable with a wilful and deliberate resistance of what they knew to be the truth. The woes, which the meek and benevolent Jesus has denounced upon the Scribes, the Pha risees, and the Sadducees, and the character which he has drawn of them, suppose that there was no crime, however heinous, either against God or man, which they were not free to perpetrate. In animadverting on their miserable subterfuge, that he did his works by the power of Beel zebub, he charges them with sinning against
the Holy Ghost; that is, with ascribing to an evil spirit those benevolent effects, which in their hearts they were convinced proceeded from the holy spirit of God. For this impiety, he assured them, they would suffer for ages, and the suffering of would not expiate their guilt. Farther, Nicodemus in his interview with Jesus, speaking in the name of his brethren the Pharisees, virtually acknowledges that, what+ ever they might affect to believe, they were really convinced that he acted with the authority of the Almighty. "We know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him." John iii. 2. And on this concession our Lord presently grounds the following language; "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness ra ther than light, because their deeds are evil.”
Finally, in the parable of the vineyard, which our Saviour levelled against the chief rulers, who were bent on destroying him, he thus lays open their secret conviction not only that God was with him, but that