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TO BE REFERRED IN PART
entitled "History," (page 333, English edition,) the following remarks illustrative of the point under consideration. "The faults of Herodotus," says the reviewer, "are the faults of a simple and imaginative mind. Children and servants are remarkably Herodotean in their style of narration. They tell every thing dramatically. Their says hes and says shes are proverbial. Every person, who has had to settle their disputes, knows that, even when they have no intention to deceive, their reports of conversation always require to be carefully sifted. If an educated man were giving an account of the late change of administration, he would say Lord Goderich resigned: and the King, in consequence, sent for the Duke of Wellington.' A porter tells the story as if he had been hid behind the curtains of the royal bed at Windsor: So Lord Goderich says, "I cannot manage this business; I must go out." So the King says,-says he, "Well, then, I must send for the Duke of Wellington-that's all.'" "This," adds the Reviewer, "is in the very manner of the father of history." And this, we also may perceive, is in the very manner of the unpractised writers of the New Testament histories. They continually express themselves, not only as if they were ear-witnesses, when, from their own showing, it is manifest this could not have been the case, but also as if they were present in the very bosoms of those of whom they speak, and knew exactly the forms of language which their thoughts took, as they arose in their minds. Instances in point may be gathered upon every page of the Gospels. The forty-eighth verse of the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew, runs thus: "Now he that betrayed him gave them a sign, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he hold him fast."'" The narrator is not to be supposed to give the precise words uttered by Judas.
TO THE STYLE OF THE HISTORIANS.
This is simply his way of relating the circumstance. A more cultivated writer would have stated it somewhat in this manner: "The traitor had agreed to point out the person they were to seize by kissing him." Again in Matthew ix. 3, it is said, "And behold, certain of the Scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth ;" as if the writer heard what they said. We read in the book of Acts, that after Paul had defended himself before Agrippa, "the king rose up, and Bernice, and they that sat with them. And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, 'This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds.' ” Of course, the historian is not to be understood as if he had been present and heard the private conversation of the king and his counsellors. This minuteness of narration belongs to an age and a writer comparatively primitive.*
*I cannot help thinking that the above remarks throw light upon the following passage of the Gospel of Mark xiv. 12—16: “And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, 'Where wilt thou that we go and prepare, that thou mayest eat the passover?' And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, 'Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water; follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the good man of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guest chamber where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.' And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover." At first sight there appears to be something supernatural in the knowledge which Jesus possessed of the man to whom he sent his two disciples, and of the circumstances under which they would meet him. But it is worthy of note that the parallel passage in Matthew produces no impression of this kind. "Now the first day of the feast of unleavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, 'Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?' And he said, 'Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.' And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them; and they made ready the passover." From this statement of Matthew, I infer that the miraculous air, given to this portion of the history by Mark and Luke, exists only in appearance, and results from the mode of narration. There
EXPLAINED BY REFERENCE
These remarks, however, account for the particularity of the Gospel histories only in part. They do not cover the whole difficulty. We are still at a loss to know how these writers came to recollect so many particulars. It is therefore to be considered further that, although it is not pretended that they wrote until years after the death of Jesus, still it is not to be supposed that the events which make up their narratives, had lain dormant in their minds in the interval. The
are many probable particulars in the case, which the historians in their brief and peculiar mode of narration may have omitted, mentioning only the most prominent. Jesus may naturally enough have been acquainted with some well-disposed inhabitants of Jerusalem, who, he knew, was accustomed to send a servant daily for water to one of the public wells or springs, Siloam, perhaps. There were numbers in the streets of the city constantly bearing water to and fro. So that we cannot but suppose, that the directions which Jesus gave to his two disciples, were more full and minute than they are represented. They were probably directed to a certain spot, where they may have waited we know not how long. But I cheerfully commend this passage of the history to the good sense and intelligence of the reader. Similar observations are applicable to the passage where we are told that Jesus sent his disciples to procure the ass upon which he rode into Jerusalem.
The remarks made in the text, appear to me to throw some light also upon the memorable passage in Genesis i. 26: "And God said, 'Let us make man in our image,' ,""&c. Nobody imagines that God actually spoke. And it is equally clear, I conceive, that he did not consult any other being. According to the poetic and scenic style of the primitive period, when this account of the creation was written, God is described as speaking—as addressing directly the objects created. But when the writer comes to the creation of man, he shows his sense of man's dignity, and his superiority to the other works of God, by representing the Deity as first planning this his best work before he created it. To express this idea, God must be introduced as telling what he is about to do; and if so, then such a form of speech must be adopted, as would imply the presence of some being or beings, to whom the plan of the Divine mind was communicated; otherwise, all the effect of representing the Deity as speaking, might, to an imaginative mind, be lost. The idea of the dignity of human nature, thus poetically expressed in the Mosaic account of the creation, is also found in the writings of Seneca, and, it is curious to observe, with precisely that difference in the mode or style of expressing it, which we should expect between writers of such different degrees of cultivation. "Cogitavit nos," says the philosopher, "ante Natura quam fecit !"—"Nature paused before she made us." See Le Clerc in V. T.
TO THE STYLE OF JESUS.
things which they record, they had been relating orally for years. The contents of these books had in all probability constituted the burthen of their preaching, the testimony whereby they created faith in the minds of their hearers.
But it is in that trait of the teaching of Jesus upon which I have been remarking, that I find a satisfactory explanation of the minuteness of detail which characterises these writings. Had his discourses been abstract and general, we might well doubt whether they could have been so easily remembered. But as it was, his style of teaching was most admirably adapted to fix the sentiments and often the very words he uttered in the memory. Had he carefully and designedly taught upon a system of Mnemonics, he could not have stamped his words more effectually upon the minds of his hearers, beyond the possibility of being forgotten. We are all familiar with that curious law of the mind, the law of association. We all know how easy it is to preserve the remembrance of the merest trifles, if they only chance to be associated with some outward object or incident. When we travel a road after a long interval, its successive scenes, as they present themselves, will recall the most transient thoughts that were suggested, the most incidental remarks that were made, the last time we passed that way. We perceive that almost every syllable of the declarations of Jesus was uttered under circumstances rendering it impossible that it should ever be forgotten. On one occasion, when attended by an immense multitude, he turned round while the people were crowding after him, and said, “If any man will be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me." I doubt whether any who heard these words, fully understood their purport at the time. And yet when we consider the circum
THIS POINT, ILLUSTRATED.
stances under which they were said, we see that they must have made a startling and ineffaceable impression. A crowd was following Jesus, intensely excited by the hope that he would prove to be the Messiah-the glorious leader and king so long and ardently looked for. Taking advantage of this state of feeling, Jesus declared in substance, "If you would indeed follow me, you must take up your crosses, you must consider yourselves as condemned to death." Again turn to the account of the raising of Lazarus. When Jesus had cried aloud "Lazarus, come forth,' he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with grave-clothes, and with a cloth about his face. And Jesus said, 'Loose him and let him go.'" At first view we cannot help feeling that there is an abrupt falling off here in the narrative, a sudden descent to a trifling particular -to an observation apparently and comparatively insignificant. We instantly ask how came Jesus to give this trifling direction? Or, if he did give it, how happened the narrator to recollect it and to think it worth while to put it on record? These queries are silenced the instant we recur to the probable circumstances. If the dead man actually appeared, into what consternation must the by-standers have been thrown! Some shrieked, some fainted, and all, bereft of their composure, and doubting whether they beheld an apparition or real flesh and blood, left Lazarus struggling in the grave-clothes in which he was wrapt 'hand and foot.' How could any one present ever forget the sublime self-possession which Jesus alone preserved, and with which he quietly bade them go and loose the grave-clothes, and set Lazarus at liberty.
So by numerous instances it might be shown, that oftentimes the slightest remark of Jesus must have sunk deeply into the minds of those around him, in