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THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN.
linquished these Jewish conceptions of the coming of their Master, it is interesting to observe how little they were influenced by them. The glittering pageant, which was identified in the Jewish mind with the coming of the Messiah, was gradually growing dim and visionary-fading away before the illuminated vision of the Apostles of Christianity. The moral glory of the approaching kingdom was fast becoming more and more vivid and engrossing. Not in portraying the outward splendour of the Heavenly Reign and its consecrated Head did they spend their lives, but in urging men to repentance and amendment, in cleansing the human heart, in the inculcation of righteousness and love. This was their supreme interest. Their views never became as spiritual as those of Jesus, still the Holy Spirit of Truth was in them, and day by day, hour by hour it carried on a divine work in their bosoms, eradicating earthly desires, fostering generous affections, enlightening their understandings, and leading them onward in the ascending way of all Truth.*
#66 When we compare the language of Christ respecting his future coming with the expectations expressed by his Apostles, we perceive that his language was misunderstood by them. He did not predict his visible return to earth to be the judge of men. There is nothing in his words which requires or justifies such an interpretation of them. It has appeared, I trust, that the figurative language which he used, is to be understood in a very different
"But the Apostles, from various causes, were expecting such a return of their Master. Their words admit of no probable explanation, except as referring to this anticipated event. What then follows as a correct inference from this comparison?
"It follows that the words relating to this subject, which are ascribed to Christ in the Gospels, were truly his words. They were not falsely ascribed to him. They were not imagined for him. They were not conformed to the apprehensions of his followers. Had his followers fabricated or intentionally modified the words, they would have made their master say what they themselves have said, in language as explicit as their own.
"Here then we have evidence of the most unsuspicious kind, for it is clearly evidence which it was the purpose of no individual to furnish, that
THE COMING OF THE SON OF MAN.
certain words recorded in the Gospels were uttered by Christ. The writers of these books did not in this case fabricate language expressive of their own opinions, and ascribe it to him. And if they did not in this case, concerning a subject, on which they taught what he did not teach, we have no reason to suspect them of having, in any other case, intentionally ascribed to him, words which he did not utter.
"The words, then, ascribed to Christ in the Gospels are words of Christ. They have been reported by well-informed individuals, who had no intention of deceiving, and who did not even conform them to their own apprehensions of their meaning. I will not pursue the inferences from these truths. I will only observe, that the proof of them, as we have seen, is, through the providence of God, bound up in the New Testament itself. An error of the Apostles proves the reality of their faith. And I am persuaded, that as the New Testament is better understood, as the false notions that have prevailed concerning it pass away, and it is made a subject of enlightened investigation and philosophical study, new and irresistible proofs will appear of that fact, of which we can hardly estimate the full magnitude and interest, that Christ was a teacher from God." See Norton's Statement of Reasons, &c. pp. 327–329.
[I esteem it an invaluable privilege to have been introduced to the study of the New Testament under the clear and able guidance of Mr. Norton. How fully did he realise the idea of a true instructer, not standing still and pointing out our way for us over a beaten path, but ascending every height, descending into every depth with his whole attention and heart, and carrying the hearts of his pupils along with him. The remembrance of those days when a rich and powerful mind, animated by the spirit of truth, came close to my own mind, renders more vivid my sense of the meaning of the great Teacher of teachers when he described the increase of the power of the truth which was the life of his being, under the figure of a personal coming, and said, "If any man will keep my commandments, my Father will love him and we will come unto him and make our abode with him." The argument, contained in this note, struck me with great force when it was first stated, in the course of our studies, by Mr. Norton; and has, for me, thrown great light upon the Gospels, showing that the very errors they contain upon subordinate points are interesting as proofs, "new and irresistible," because wholly undesigned, to the reality of all the important facts. I would fain hope that these pages may furnish some illustrations of the truth of the persuasion expressed at the close of the foregoing quotation.]
"For it is an immutable truth, that what comes from the heart, that alone goes to the heart: what proceeds from a divine impulse, that the godlike alone can awaken." COLERIDGE.
"True eloquence does not consist in speech. It must exist in the man, in the subject, and in the occasion. It comes, if it comes at all, like the outbreaking of a fountain from the earth, or the bursting force of volcanic fires, spontaneous, original, native." WEBSTER.
It is characteristic of the biographers of Jesus, as we have seen, that they confine themselves to a naked statement of facts. But so peculiar and original was his style as a teacher, that once or twice, they pause to describe it, as, for instance, when they tell us that "he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes," not like the established teachers of religion, and again, that he employed parables and seldom spake without a similitude.' His mode of instruction was indeed impressive, and it deserves particular attention. It was singular, inasmuch as it was purely natural, devoid of every thing artificial, set.
The first thing to be remarked in Jesus as a public teacher was his entire freedom as to times and places. On one occasion he was seated for the purpose of in
struction on the side of a mountain; at another, in a vessel cast off a little way from the shore crowded with auditors. Again we find him discoursing among men of profligate lives and tax gatherers, that odious class of persons; and again, at the entertainments of the rich and honourable. And all this without the slightest affectation. For at the same time he never scrupled to enter the synagogues, the consecrated places of instruction, on the Sabbath, the stated occasions of religious service, and to teach in accordance with the usual forms. He spoke freely and spontaneously wherever the opportunity offered, either in the open air and on the highway, or in the synagogue or the temple. By this simple and natural method, all that he uttered acquired a freshness and force of which the formal expositions of the regular teachers of the day were destitute. He confined himself to no set times nor places. He availed himself of no laboured modes of instruction. His teaching was exclusively oral, and this of the most informal character. He used no paper nor parchment. He committed not a word to writing. While he was thus original, he did not affect originality. He used no new phraseology, but the common forms of speech, the household language of the people. He never sought to magnify his own method of proceeding by denouncing any other. There is a uniform simplicity, a perfect superiority to forms, in his bearing as a teacher: his peculiarity in this respect, as in so many others, is the absence of all peculiarity, the entire freedom from all technicalities.
How striking the contrast between him and all other teachers! Although he employed none of the usual means of extending his religion, how wide is the sphere through which his words have ranged! "A poor uninstructed peasant," I use the eloquent language of
another,* "by labouring for three years in the most despised corner of the most despised nation on earth, whose whole territory is but a speck on the map of the world,-laid the foundation of a work which was to survive the changes of empires, and the ruins of the philosophies and religions of man. And this, without seeming to make provision by any means adequate to such an effect. Other teachers have committed their wisdom to writing, lest, being entrusted to words which are but breath, it should be dispersed and lost. But Jesus confided in the divine energy of his doctrine; and, with an unconcern truly sublime, cast it abroad to make its own way and perpetuate its own existence. Other instructers have elaborately wrought out their systems; have sometimes clothed them in eloquence which seemed little less than inspiration, and promised perpetual continuance to their influence over men. Yet how small and short has that influence proved! How have their sects disappeared! And by how very few are their works even read, though still accounted among the perfect productions of the human mind! While Jesus, uninstructed in human philosophy, with no attainment in the elegant learning of the world, teaching but for three years, and putting not a syllable upon record-has yet made his instructions as familiar to the nations as their own native tongues-has bestowed on the humblest of his followers a wisdom superior to that of the Grecian masters themselves-nay, has affected the whole mass both of sentiment and character, throughout, as those great, laborious and long-lived men were able to affect only a few familiar friends within the privileged sphere of their own personal influence."
H. Ware, Jr.