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THE GOSPELS, HISTORIES.
collecting an untold weight of testimony to disprove the truth of his relations. I have not entertained the supposition that the authors of these books may have been self-deluded. In some particulars they may have been deceived. Whether they were or were not, remains to be seen upon a closer examination of these writings. We have looked now only at the circumstantial and public nature of the things they contain. So far as this is their character, they are inconsistent with delusion. Looking at the facts as they are given, having occurred as it is professed in the open air, at noon-day, in public places and amidst crowds, we hold that these accounts must be true in the main, or else such a want of art is evinced in their fabrication, as will show itself in their whole structure, and render it no difficult thing to settle fully their real character and claims.
THE HONESTY OF THE GOSPELS.
"So stands it, in short, with all forms of intellect, whether as directed to the finding of truth or to the fit imparting thereof; always the characteristic of right performance is a certain spontaneity, an unconsciousness.”—Edinburgh Review.
I COME now to the consideration of another and more decisive characteristic of these writings. It is the same trait upon which we have already remarked, but more strikingly manifested, showing itself in other ways; it may be designated as Unconsciousness or Simplicity. This feature reveals itself by luminous tokens. It appears in the most impressive manner that the authors of these books were wholly unconscious of any design to make out a case—to do anything but state facts.
In the eleventh chapter of the fourth book, entitled the Gospel according to John, we have a minute account of a most extraordinary event, the raising of a dead man, Lazarus, to life. It is represented as having taken place in a public manner. The stone which covered the mouth of the tomb is removed. Jesus calls aloud to the dead man to come forth. And he comes forth in the presence of a number of persons.
Now what does the narrative immediately proceed to inform us of? Why, that although some of the spectators were impressed and led to admit the extraordinary authority of Jesus, others did not believe, were not impressed, but went away and told the enemies of Jesus what had taken place! We are told with great
THE HONESTY OF THE GOSPELS.
particularity how a most astonishing event took place, and in the same breath we are informed that some of those who stood by and saw it were unconvinced. And this information is communicated without the slightest appearance of reluctance or hesitation. Not an attempt is made-not a word is introduced to explain why the miracle failed to produce upon some who witnessed it, what we should consider its inevitable effect. It cannot even be said with propriety that they confess there were some present who did not believe. The information is not wrung from them. They give it freely, without the least consciousness of the ground it might seem to furnish for doubting the reality of the event. Here, I say, is a manifestation of the unconscious fearlessness of a true and honest mind, which beams out upon me like light from heaven. I see here that the writer thought of nothing but telling the truth, and telling it too, as a matter of course, without the least parade of frankness. The facts he states may be hard to be believed, and difficult to be reconciled with one another; still he cannot help that, and he does not even think of helping it; he gives them without hesitation, without comment, without any anxiety about the effect of the narration. Here is it that the true inspiration of these writings begins to be discernible, the inspiration of a single mind, unconscious of itself, stating the truth in the freest, simplest, most natural manner possible.
Again. In the twenty-eighth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we have an account of the resurrection of Christ himself of his appearing alive to his friends after he had been crucified and buried. "Then," so we read in the 16th and 17th verses, "the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain, where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted,"-doubted
whether it were indeed he. The most important event in the whole history, so we are explicitly informed, was doubted by some of those who had the best opportunity of ascertaining its truth! What is this but another instance of that perfect fearlessness, that indifference to effect, which truth alone can have.*
Once more. In the twelfth chapter of John, we read that when Jesus had uttered the words, "Father, glorify thy name,' there came a voice from heaven, saying, I have glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people, therefore, that stood by and heard it, said that it thundered; others said, an angel spake to him." What can be more manifest, than that the writer had no thought here but of stating facts. He relates a most extraordinary occurrence-the utterance of a voice from heaven, and, at the same time, without a word of explanation, tells us that the people who stood by and heard it, said that it was thunder.† It is these passages and others like them, that satisfy me that the narrators were honest-that they aimed only at relating things just as they took place. I see no shaping or accommodation of the events related to a particular design. There is a quiet, unobtrusive confidence in their mode of narration, which seems to me identical with a perfect conviction of truth—with a true spirit. I have given only a few instances; enough, however, to define and render prominent the characteristic of these writings upon which I am now remarking. Throughout, the same peculiarity is apparent.
* The conclusion of Matthew's Gospel exhibit signs of being hurried. We may suppose that on the above-mentioned occasion there were many others present besides the eleven. It is said elsewhere, that Jesus was once seen, after his resurrection, by five hundred of the brethren. In so large a crowd there must have been some who were unable to approach him near enough to be sure that it was he.
For further remarks on this passage, see Chapter X. Pt. II.
It is very often objected to the truth of the New Testament history, that if the wonderful things therein recorded actually took place, how is it possible that they should not have convinced the great body of the people. They must have been irresistible,' it is said, 'and we cannot conceive that they really could have occurred, or they would have produced a greater impression. We find that they were not believed-that the multitudes in whose presence Jesus is said to have done these astonishing works, clamoured for his blood, and joined in putting him to death.'
From a careful examination of the history, we may find reasons, although they are not ostentatiously thrust forward, to suspect that the unbelief of the Jews was not so great nor so general as this objection supposes. In one passage we are expressly told that many of the chief men believed in Jesus, although their fear of their equals did not allow them to confess it.* We are informed also that his enemies once and again dared not lay hands on him, because he was so generally favoured by the people. And then the seizure of his person, which took place in the night, and the disgraceful hurry of the Jewish court, by which he was pronounced guilty of blasphemy, create the idea that he fell a victim to faction. The priests knew well enough that if they could only present him before the people in the condition of a prisoner and a criminal, the association of such circumstances with his pretensions as the Messiah would shock the public mind and exasperate a mob against him. Shortly after his final disappearance we read of the conversion of three thousand persons to the Christian faith.† This is usually represented as sudden and miraculous. But surely it is more natural to suppose that this large body of converts was composed
*John xii. 42.
+ Acts ii. 41.
THE UNBELIEF OF THE JEWS.