Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

LEADS TO THE USE OF LOFTY TERMS.

46

and it has almost universally prevailed ever since, that the man of Nazareth was a super-human being-superangelic,-nay, the Supreme Being himself, the very God. He has literally been deified for ages.

Believing Jesus Christ to have been a man, a man indeed of miraculous gifts, and of unequalled moral greatness, I see nothing either in the lofty language concerning him which we find in the Epistles, or in the prevalent faith of the Christian world, that does not admit of an easy and natural explanation. When I consider what power moral goodness has, even in its most imperfect manifestations, to touch and thrill the heart, and kindle the imagination, and inspire the utterance, I do not wonder that the Apostles used the boldest forms of speech to express the sense they had of the dignity and greatness of their Master. I do not content myself with referring to the strong and figurative character of the language of the East, although this is a circumstance not to be lost sight of. But I say it would have been strange indeed, had they employed cold and qualified terms when they spoke of Jesus. I honestly avow that I can find no epithets, no titles applied to him in their Epistles, which, with my views of his nature, I cannot cordially go along with. Had I been in their situation-had I cherished that fervent sense of his moral greatness, which they must have entertained, I am convinced I should have used language like theirs, and even stronger language, I might almost say, if that were possible. They apply no title to him, which, upon the supposition of his simple humanity, does not seem to me to have an appropriate significance.

And then too, as to the general belief of Christians in the supreme divinity of Christ, it does not surprise me. In all times the tendency to deify the great and good has shown itself. Man has always been disposed

NO SUCH BIAS SHOWN IN THE GOSPELS.

47

to recognise the brightest manifestation of God in his own nature. What were the gods of the ancient Pagan world but deified men, individuals of extraordinary energy? This popular doctrine, therefore, respecting the nature of Christ, which has so long prevailed, is to my mind a most expressive tribute to the transcendent excellence of his character.

But the object of these brief allusions to the language of the Epistles and the common belief of Christians concerning Christ, is, to show how very natural is the supposition, that the authors of the New Testament narratives, if they had had any earthly purpose beyond a simple statement of facts, would have been desirous of representing Jesus as superior to every human weakness, as impassible to every form of temptation and grief. This has ever been the strong tendency, to exalt the great and good above the common attributes of humanity. But every suspicion of such a bias on the part of these writers, singularly impressed though they must have been with the greatness of Jesus, vanishes the instant we open their narratives. For we find that without the slightest attempt to explain, reconcile, or soften the apparent inconsistency, they have mentioned in the plainest terms repeated instances of human weakness in Jesus. I would not needlessly shock the reader, and therefore I observe in advance, that these instances, so far from obscuring the beauty of his character, heighten its effect. Upon this point, however, I will remark as I proceed. For the present, we have only to observe, that the instances referred to are there, on the records, expressly detailed, and unqualified by a single word of explanation.

On one occasion, and this too at the very opening of his history, when, if they had had any anxiety about the effect of the things they were going to relate, the

JESUS TEMPTED.

48

writers would have taken care to place Jesus in the best light, they represent him as tempted. It is true the temptations that assailed him are described as the suggestions of another, the Evil One. But it must be remembered that this representation is made in accordance with the rude philosophy, if so it may be termed, of the age, with the universally received idea, not that men were tempted by a malignant being assuming a visible shape, for under such circumstances the temptation of the weakest would be impossible, but that the evil thoughts and inclinations, arising in men's own minds, were to be attributed to the agency of an evil spirit. Agreeably to this opinion, the temptation of Jesus is described as the work of such a being. And in the same way any individual living at that time and in that region would in all probability have represented his own temptations, if called upon to relate them. Although it is thus described, I see no reason for supposing that the authors of the Gospels had any idea that the temptation of Jesus would be understood to differ essentially from the temptations to which other men are exposed. If tempted then, as we are, he had thoughts and imaginings, which it became him to resist and banish, and thus the common weakness of our nature is made visible in him. This his biographers have unhesitatingly recorded.

Once when he was speaking to his disciples of the sufferings and death that awaited him, Peter, who was shocked at the thought that one, whom he believed to be the Christ, should be exposed to ignominy and violence, exclaimed, "Be it far from thee, Lord! This shall not be done unto thee!" Jesus replied with great warmth and severity, and, by the strength of his language, showed that he was aware of the moral danger to which the suggestion of his warm-hearted friend ex

JESUS WEEPING AT THE GRAVE OF LAZARUS.

49

posed him. "Get thee behind me, Satan, thou art an offence unto me." As if he had said, 'Hush! thou art my enemy! Wouldst thou tempt me?"

But he is placed before us, not only as tempted, but as moved by indignation, as shedding tears, nay, as overcome by the prospect of suffering, and disclosing his emotion by exclamations of distress and groans of agony.

Twice is it particularly mentioned that Jesus wept. In both cases most needless is the mention of the fact, if the writers had had any purpose beyond a straightforward account of the things they had seen and heard. Jesus wept at the grave of Lazarus. But why did he weep there? Does not the narrative give us distinctly to understand that he had determined to restore the dead man to life? We should rather have expected that his whole deportment would have been expressive of joy and triumph, at the near prospect of dissipating the sorrow of his friends, and that the air of gladness produced by his secret and benevolent purpose, would have been made to appear in a striking contrast with the lamentations of those around him. But as it is, the historians tell us that he wept and groaned in spirit, and was troubled. They barely state the fact. Th offer no interpretation of it. Indeed it would seem to bear no explanation but that which those present put upon it. "Behold,' said they, how he loved him.' And some said, 'Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind, have caused that even this man should not have died?" So it appears that the narrative not only represents Jesus as giving way to tears, but as yielding to this weakness, when he had but little reason to weep, in morbid sympathy, for so we must esteem it, with a grief which he knew in his own heart was about to be turned into the most extravagant joy-a

HIS MELANCHOLY ON THAT OCCASION,

50

grief, which, seeing as he did, what was about to take place, must have appeared to him almost groundless. Certainly, the fact of Jesus weeping under such circumstances never would have been suggested nor recorded, if the writer had thought of any thing but telling the truth.

When we duly consider it, the grief of Jesus at the grave of Lazarus, is susceptible of an explanation, not quite so obvious as that just alluded to, but an explanation which, so far from marring the character of Jesus, gives us a new impression of its extraordinary elevation. If the narrative had mentioned only that he shed tears upon seeing the tears of Mary and those who were with her, we might refer his grief to the mere impulse of sympathy. But it was no slight or transient emotion by which he was affected. He appears to have been in a state of great depression. We have three several notices of his tears or sighs on this occasion. And if we bring fully into view what he was-what were his aims and prospects, we may conjecture a probable and adequate cause of his melancholy. That he was a man of great tenderness of feeling, is evident enough from the whole genius of his religion. Even though we had no direct information concerning him, we might confidently infer from the pacific and gentle character of Christianity, that its author must have been possessed of no common degree of sensibility. Peculiarly formed by nature to appreciate the delights and consolations of human sympathy, he was cut off from all these, so far as the objects and purposes nearest his heart were concerned. There were individuals, it is true, who were affectionately attached to him, but they did not understand him. They did not enter into his lofty views and sympathize with the great aim of his life. He was deprived of all human aids. It was impossible that he should be unconscious of his loneliness-of the

« EdellinenJatka »