Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

26

THE UNBELIEF OF THE JEWS

mainly of those who had listened to the words and witnessed the works of Jesus. The tide of popular feeling was setting strongly in his favour, and the priesthood saw that his success must be their destruction; and I cannot but think that he was put to death by means of a sudden revulsion of feeling which the priests succeeded in producing.

But allowing the unbelief of the Jews to have been as inveterate and universal as is commonly represented, it may be perfectly accounted for, I apprehend, upon the known principles and constitution of human nature. Experience and observation bear witness that when men are swayed by any inveterate bias or passion, they are impregnable to the strongest evidence contradictory of their idolised notions. Every day we see men unaffected by facts and considerations, whose force miracles could not increase. The slave of intemperance, for instance, sees his wife and children perishing before his eyes. Shame and ruin and death stare him in the face, and still he persists in his darling indulgence, and keeps on in the downward path of destruction. The love of power intoxicates in a similar way. The Jews were burning with the thirst of national glory-of earthly prosperity and success. They had long considered themselves a sacred people-the peculiar favourites of heaven; and they were stung to madness at the thought of the foreign domination under which they had been brought-of the insolence of the Gentiles" the sinners-the dogs," as they were wont to call them, who had enslaved them. They longed for triumph and revenge. They had set their hearts, like spoiled children, upon the appearance of a temporal prince and warrior to lead them on to victory and boundless renown. While absorbed by these passions, they could not bear to listen to one who, like Jesus,

STATED WITHOUT EXPLANATION.

27

breathed peace and love and forgiveness. They could not endure to have those hopes disappointed which they had so long cherished, and which, as they believed, their religion encouraged and sanctified.

In fact the unbelief of the Jews not only admits of the explanation at which I have briefly hinted, but, duly considered, it becomes an indirect and inverted evidence of the power manifested by Jesus. It could not have been any ordinary thing that wound them up to such a degree of exasperation. must have been no little weight in the words and works of Jesus, or they would never have raged against him with so much violence.

There

But it is not my object now to give a full account of the unbelief of those in whose presence the wonderful works related in the Gospels were wrought. There is one thing upon which I wish to fasten the attention of the reader. Where is it that we learn that the Jewish people were unaffected by what was said and done by the man of Nazareth? Who is it that has told us that he was doubted and gainsaid by the mass of those among whom he lived and taught? It is the authors of the Gospels themselves-it is they, who without the slightest equivocation have recorded the fact that the majority of the people, including the teachers of the Law, the leading men of the time and community, nay, even the members of his own family, gave no credence to the pretensions of Jesus. This fact they have recorded so unreservedly that they cease to appear as his friends and adherents. They rather seem like impartial and uninterested spectators, having no feeling for the one side or the other; no feeling, at least, that for a moment disturbs their determination to tell the truth. I say their determination. And yet this does not seem to be the proper word. For there is no appearance of effort, of constraint or labour, as if conscious

28

of a temptation to unfairness they had to guard themselves accordingly. They write straight on as naturally as they breathe, stating with equal explicitness or with equal brevity, the words and works of Jesus, and the objections and incredulity of those around him, making no explanations, betraying no anxiety to influence the mind of the reader. In fine, their candour is for nothing more remarkable than for its unconsciousness. They do not seem to know that they are candid, or that they are actuated by a spirit in any degree remarkable and praiseworthy. Their honesty has no appearance of being put on. It is rather a part of their nature, the breath of their nostrils. If after all there is any mind so diseased with doubt as to fear that this character may have been assumed, I observe that it not only strikes me as utterly impossible, but if it were possible, then, for such deep laid and incredible cunning, there must have been the inducement of some most selfish and corrupt design, for the existence of which not a shadow of proof appears. But it is abundantly enough to say that if this is not candour,honesty, there is no telling what honesty is; there can be no indubitable tokens of its presence, and we can have no ground for faith or confidence in man.

THE GOSPELS, NOT EULOGIES.

The honesty of these narratives reveals itself in another way.

It is evident that Jesus Christ is their principal subject. They are histories of his life. Their authors obviously considered him worthy of profound reverence and implicit credit. And yet their accounts have not the faintest shadows of the character or style of eulogies, panegyrics. How truly has it been said that biographers, translators, editors, all, in short, who employ themselves in illustrating the lives or the works of others, are peculiarly exposed to the Boswellian disease

66

JESUS NOT UNDERSTOOD-A CASE.

29

of admiration."

Whether the individual described be a creature of the imagination, or a real personage, he becomes the hero of the writer, and the utmost pains are taken to set him off in the most glowing coloursto magnify his least excellence to be silent about every trace of imperfection in him-to guard every thing he says or does against misconstruction, or the slightest impression of an unfavourable nature. Nothing of this sort appears in the Christian Records. No attempt at embellishment can be detected. There are no expressions of admiration, no prompting, no challenging of the applause of the reader. All is calm, direct, and simple.

Indeed, in some cases it would appear that, so far from being conscious of any endeavour to heighten the effect of the things they relate, they not only do not do justice to the great subject of their biographies, but absolutely do not seem to have understood Jesus in all his elevation. There are passages from which one may incidentally, but on that account not the less fairly, infer that the conduct and meaning of Jesus were more beautiful than they have represented or even understood it. There is one curious case in point, which I proceed to consider. I do not affirm that the following view of it is necessarily the true view. I only say that it admits of the construction I put upon it.

In three of the Four Books we have accounts of obviously the same incident. I refer to the case of the woman who went behind Jesus in the crowd and touched his garments, and was instantly cured of a disease under which she had long suffered. In the Gospel of Matthew, this circumstance is related thus:

"And behold a woman who was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him and

30

THE WOMAN WHO WENT BEHIND JESUS

touched the hem of his garment. For she said within herself, if I may but touch his garment I shall be made whole. But Jesus turned him about; and when he saw her, he said, 'Daughter, be of good comfort; thy faith hath made thee whole.' And she was made whole from that hour."

Mark's relation is this. "And a certain woman who had an issue of blood twelve years, and had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse, when she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment. For she said, 'If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.' And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague. And Jesus immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, 'Who touched my clothes?' · And his disciples said, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou who touched me?' And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing. But the woman, fearing and trembling, knowing what was done to her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, 'Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole, go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.""

6

According to Luke, "a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, who had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any, came behind him and touched the border of his garment, and immediately her issue of blood stanched. And Jesus said, Who touched me?" When all denied, Peter, and they that were with him, said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?' And Jesus said, 'Somebody hath touch

6

6

« EdellinenJatka »