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ACTIONS RECORDED IN THE GOSPEL
ARE PRO B A B L E.
TF the Gospels were forgeries, it is natural to suppose, some of the I actions therein recorded would be unbecoming the character and circumstances of the persons to whom they are ascribed. The truth is, this sort of censure has actually been passed upon a few of the things performed by Jesus, by his disciples, and by his enemies. Indeed, the boldness with which particular actions have been thus condemned, looks as if they were really blameable ; yet, upon exas mination, it appears that there is not any just foundation for cavil here. In the relation which the Evangelists have given of our Lord's actions, they have maintained the nicest propriety. He has done nothing below his dignity as the Son of God, and Saviour of the world. The conduct of his disciples and of his enemies is equally in character, being exactly such as might be expected from persons of their dispositions. In this, therefore, as in all other respects, the Gospels are sufficiently probable, yea carry a high degree of evidence in their own bosom. But, that the reader may judge for himself, I propose to examine matters minutely; beginning with the ordinary actions of our Lord's life, which have been blamed by the enemies of revelation, as unworthy of the high character ascribed to him in the Gospels.
S E CT. I. Shewing that all the ordinary actions of our Lord's life, were perfectly
suitable to his character and undertaking.
OUR Lord's ordinary actions are such as follow. During the years of his childhood and youth, he remained with his parents, being in subjection to them, and working with his father at his occupation.--When he entered on his public life, he went about doing good to the bodies and to the souls of men. He minded no private concern of his own, being wholly employed in the duties of his ministry. He therefore did not live in worldly pomp or splendor, but in continual hardships and mortifications ; being supported
by the charity of his friends. In all this he plainly acted agreeably to his character and function. Nor, in fact, have our adverfa. ries found any fault with his general conduct. What reproaches have been thrown out, are levelled against a few actions, which may be easily defended, being reasonable and decent in the highest degree.
I. His behaviour towards his parents has been censured as not fufficiently respectful. And the following instances are mentioned. His ftaying behind them in Jerusalem without their knowledge, when ? at the age of twelve years they carried him up to the passover. The answer which he gave to his mother at the marriage in Cana, when The informed him that the wine was run short. And what he said of his mother and brethren, to one who told him, that they tood without, desiring to speak with him. As to our Lord's " tarry“ing in Jerusalem after his parents were gone,” though his mother * blamed him for it, because of the pain which it had given them, itu was no sort of disobedience. They had not ordered their fon tokia come away. Having parted with them by accident, perhaps on the ** day they proposed to set out, they thought he had gone away with some of their kinsfolk. And in this persuasion they departed with out making any search for him. The fault, therefore, if there was shta any here, Jay in themselves. His parents having thus left him, Je-10 fus proposed to spend his time profitably till they should return. at He presented himself to the doctors, who in the chambers of the hice temple instructed such young ones as had been brought up by their parents to the feast. And when it came to his turn, by asking the doctors certain questions in the course of the exercise, he modestly to infinuated to them a correction of the errors they were guilty of inatur teaching. Thus he gave the people a specimen, by way of prelude, sons of what he was more fully to perform afterwards in the course of some his ministry. If his parents had duly considered what the angel Weis formerly told them concerning the dignity of their son, they might fokous have expected some such extraordinary transaction during his first attendance in his father's house. At least, when they found him so employed, instead of finding fault, they ought with reverence to and have beheld those first manifestations of his divinity. Wherefore more the answer which he returned to his mother's complaint, is a suffin dof cient vindication of his conduet in this matter. Luke ii. 49. " And " he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me?” viz. on the road, that was an improper place. "Wist ye not that I must be about my atoy " Father's business?” or, as others translate it," in my Father's house!" item You ought, therefore, to have fought me in the temple. ---What father's Tefus faid to his mother at the marriage of Cana; was by no means plon Šifrespectful. John ii, 4. “ Woman, what have I to do with thee? do refer
Mine hour is not yet come." In our language, indeed, the com- sumab vellation of woman founds harsh, being a term of disrespect. But it matk was by no inean's so among the Easterns, who made use of it in ada saded dressing perfons of the first quality, as all know who are acquainted to with the Grecian writings. Our Lord, therefore, is very ignorantly the
found fault with on this account; especially as he is well known to have addressed his mother by the appellation of Woman, at a time when he meant to thew her the highest and tenderest regard, by recommending her from the cross to the care of the beloved disciple. John xix. 26. “Woman, behold thy fon.” To proceed, the fentence read interrogatively will easily run thus: 66 Woman, what have “ I to do with thee? is not mine hour come?" is not the season of my public ministry commenced, in which I am to be no longer under the direction of my parents; but must work miracles, when I myself and not you judge it proper ? The answer which he gave to the people in Capernaum, who told him that his mother and brethren desired to speak with him, does not imply the least contempt of the natural relations established by God among mankind in ge, neral, nor any want of affection to his mother and brethren.in particular ; on the contrary, it imports the highest regard to both. Matth. xii. 49. “Who is my mother and brethren?” Who do you think are the objects of my tenderest regard ? 66 And he stretched " forth his hands towards his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and “my brethren. For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which * is in heaven, the fame is my brother, and siker, and mother." They who do the will of God, are beloved by me with a tenderness equal to that which I bear to my brother, my sister, and my mother. A declaration of this kind is so far from throwing contempt in general on the relations established between mankind by nature, or on Christ's mother and brethren in particular, that it implies there relations to be objects of the strongest and tenderest affections in the human nature ; and that he had the highest respect and love for his
own relations in particular. 14 2. The manner in which Jesus reformed the abuses committed in in the temple is found fault with. We are told that his driving out,
with a scourge of small cords, not only the cattle and those who fold them, but the money-changers also, and the people; his overturn
ing the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them who fold it doves; and his scattering the changers money; were outrageous to actions, more becoming the furious zeal of an enthusiast, than that 1 command of temper and sobriety which Jesus is said to have pola
lelled. But to understand this part of our Lord's conduct, we 7" must remember, that in the action itself he called himself as the Son
"of him to whom the temple belonged,” John ii. 16. “And he said eli "unto them that fold doves, Take these things hence, and make not si "my father's house, a house of merchandize." Wherefore, as on
this occasion he expressly affirmed that he was the Son of God, his Die right to reform the abuses of the temple, the house of God, was ribs unquestionable. Nor can any fault be found with the manner of by the reformation, confidering the authority of the person who made ; it. He acted plainly as master of the house. And though he was un
lupported, the terror which he fingly impressed upon the minds of the the men, by the air of his countenance and the tone of his voice, was to great, that none of them made any resistance. The whip of N2
cords was designed not for the men, whom he never could have intimidated by the exertion of bodily force, but for the beasts, which were at market in the temple, and which could no otherwise be driven out. Wherefore, the whole of this transaction was perfectly suitable to our Lord's dignity as the Son of God; and the rather that, in so far as it regarded the men, there was here an exertion of his miraculous power, very proper at the beginning of his ministry. Accordingly, the Jews neither found fault with the action itself, nor with the manner of it: they only desired him to prove the that he was the person he pretended to be. ver. 18. " What fign « Thewest thou unto us, seeing thou dost these things ?" Besides, among the Jews, it was common for prophets, by their own authority, to reform such abuses as were introduced into the worship of God, and to punish with their own hands, upon the spot, grols violations of the law : witness the action of Pninehas, by which he Staid the plague, and which (Pf. cvi. 30.) 6. was accounted to him “ for righteousness to all generations for evermore.” The profanations of the temple which Jesus reproved were the most hor. rid abuses imaginable. The priests for gain allowed a fair to be kept in the outer court, whereby the Gentile profelytes were excluded from the place of worship allotted them. Or if any room was left om them, they could not but be exceedingly disturbed in their devo
by 'the noise and hurry of the market. Add to this, that great' frauds were committed in the bargains transacted here, by which the court of the temple, which had been affigned to the Gentiles as a house of prayer, was made a den of thieves. No wonder, therefore, the that lefus expressed the utmost indignation against the transgressors, and used some violence in expelling them. The men he intimidated by his miraculous power; the cattle he drave out with the scourge he had made ; the implements of their illicit trade he overturned ; and the things which he could not himself remove, he ordered to be taken away. In all this he acted agreeably to the character which he curtained. His zeal was no greater than what prophets far inferior to him had shewed ; and the severity which he used was no Greater than the crime deserved. Wherefore, in every respect, this part of our Lord's conduct was perfectly proper and confil. tent.
2. That Judas should have been of the number of the apostles, is thought inconsistent with the knowledge and wisdom ascribed to the 'Telus in the Gospels. This objection our Lord himself has taken notice of. He" foresaw, that his honouring Judas with the apostlefhip, would be considered as a presumption that he was ignorant of his real character. Wherefore, long before Judas discovered himself, Tefus foretold what he would do, to hew that he was fully acquainted with the character of the man. John vi: 70, “ Have not I chosen is you twelve, and one of you is a devil ??!' Wherefore, if any objection lies against the founder of Christianity for this choice, it cannot affect his foreknowledge, but must be levelled against his prudence. Yet in this part likewise, as in every other, he is perfectly free of
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blame. His making fudas an apostle is a shining instance of wisdom: It was designed to be a demonstration of our Lord's innocence. A man of profligate dispositions, who he foresaw would at the conclusion be tray him, Jesus chooses into the college of the apostles. By the choice, this wicked person, who had not yet discovered himself, is appointed his master's constant attendant, and made the witness of the most secret a&tions; he is admitted into all the mysteries of his fellowship. Who , does not in this see, that Jesus was not afraid of the eyes of his enemies, however malicious that his miracles were no juggling tricks, performed by compact with his disciples ? and that he was not carrying on any plot, to deceive the world ? If Jesus had been engaged in such a design, muft he not have foreseen that Judas, when he betrayed him to the chief priests, would discover the whole fraud ? The choice therefore which our Lord, with the fullest knowledge of Judas's character, made of him for an apostle, instead of being an instance of imprudence, was a proof of the most profound wisdom. He thereby demonstrated, in the clearest manner, his own most perfect innocence.-I have only to add, that in this view the wisdom and propriety of the choice was so great, that it was fore-ordained to be from the beginning: and that notices thereof were given early in the Jewish prophecies, which described Messiah's life, sufferings, and death.
4. The freedom Jesus used in “rebuking the Scribes and Pharisees," and the vehemence with which he denounced woes against them more than once, are thought inconsistent with the sweetness of his dispofition, and with the respect due to persons of their rank. - NevertheJess, if we consider the matter in its just light, we shall soon be lensible that the severity wherewith Jesus treated this order of inen, was by no means inconsistent with his general character, but was the necessary result of his wisdom, and of his love to the rest of mankind. The Scribeş and Pharisees were persons reinarkable for ava. rice, sensuality, pride, obstinacy, and contempt of real religion. Their corruption of heart exceeded all bounds. Gentle means would have made no impression upon them. They needed the severest remedies.--Besides, without regarding their reformation at all, which perhaps was not to be accomplished by any methods; considering the lhew of worth which they assumed, and by which mankind were cheated into an high admiration of them, it was necessary, for the lake of the people, to pull off the mask of hypocrisy under which they had so long concealed their wickedness, and led the world altray. Luke xvj. 15. “ Ye are they which justify yourselves be" fore men, but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is "highly esteemed among men, is abomination in the fight of God.” Nor was there any other method to prevent the pernicious influence of their example and doctrine. This was the reason Jesus rebuked them so openly, and denounced woes against them with such vehe. mence. By so doing, he, whose judgment was by his miracles proved to be the judgment of a prophet, shewed his hearers every Where what opinion he had of those hypocrites, and cautioned