Obrazy na stronie

necessary? As Jesus had but little time to spend in imparting instruction himself, was it not particularly necessary for him to think upon this subject, and, out of the great mass of men, rough, ignorant, and usually blinded by prejudice, with whom he was surrounded, to select a small number as soon as possible, and prepare them for continuing his great work, by holding constant intercourse with them and giving them a more careful education? Was it not the prevailing custom for other Jewish teachers to do so, and was he ever noticed by his countrymen as singular in this respect? Should any one, however, assume that Jesus had other friends in addition to those now called confidants, who kept behind the curtain, and had to act silently in advancing his cause, and away from the view of the world, he takes up with a fiction in every respect des

ute of proof. Were it lawful to treat history in such a manner, it might be shown with far more appearance of certainty, that Socrates, for instance, was at the head of such a band, and it would be easy to transform every great man into the director or founder of some secret order.

The mode of instruction employed by Jesus, was indeed regulated according to the different characters of his hearers, to which allusion has already been made; but it never bears any marks of that intentional obscurity and reserve to be noticed in the manner of those, who wish to have it understood, that they are in the possession of secrets which cannot be imparted to all. That Jesus often clothed the truths which he delivered in interesting parables,* is readily admitted. He did so, however, because the people were accustomed to this mode of instruction, and more easily excited by it to due reflection upon what they heard ; but especially, because it enabled him to say many things

* Vid. Vitringa, De Synag. Vet., 1. III. p. 1. c. 5. [Compare also the excellent treatise by the worthy pupil and friend of Reinhard, Superint. Wilh. Christ. Gottl. Weise, of Hertzberg, Diss. de more Domini acceptos a magistris Judaicis loquendi ac disserendi modos sapienter emendandi, quam praeside Reinhardo publ. def., Viteb., 1792, ab auctore recognita et multis augmentis locupleta in Velthusen etc. Commentatt. Theolog., Vol. V. nr. 8. p. 117-197.]

in a way perfectly intelligible to the attentive and unprejudiced listener, but which the great mass of the people, did not understand,* and would have misapprehended and abused, had they been uttered in plain language. These parables, however, concealed no meaning with which it was not every man's business to become acquainted. They merely embodied the instructions, views, and representations, to which the men of that age were unaccustomed, and which stood in strong opposition to prevailing prejudices. These were the secrets of the kingdom of God, which the mixed multitude were as yet unable to receive without the disguise of imagery, and which were therefore laid by Jesus in the first place, before his intimate disciples. However attentively we examine the figurative narratives of Jesus which have been preserved by the Evangelists, not one of them will be found to contain any traces of mysterious references to secret enterprises and institutions, or any thing more than those doctrines, which, as soon as his entire history was sufficiently developed, and a multitude of the vain expectations entertained by the Jewish nation had been corrected, were delivered in public, and imparted to every adherent of Christianity. It would be very unjust in any one to blame Jesus for accommodating himself to the circumstances and necessities of his fellow citizens and friends, by letting himself down to their weak capacities, and passing over many things in silence, which, in the progress of his great work, would become intelligible of themselves. The wisest men of every age have looked upon such a benevolent condescension as necessary, and practised it, in imparting truth. He, however, who, from Christ's condescension in this respect, should infer that he taught in this way, out of compliance with the laws. and regulations imposed upon him by a secret society, would evidently allow himself to jump at a conclusion, as every thing peculiar to his mode of teaching, can be rendered perfectly intelligible without this supposition.

Comp. Hess, Ueber die Lehren, Thaten und Schichsale unsers Herrn, Abschn. VI. S. 175 ff., [according to the edition of 1806, B. II. Abschn. VII. S. 3--46;] and Storr, Opuscula Academica, Tom. I. diss. II. p. 89 seqq.

Finally, some have endeavored to explain away the miracles connected with Christ's institutions of instruction, of which accounts are given by the Evangelists, by considering them as the effects of certain physical secrets, which he is said to have possessed, and is conjectured to have obtained from some secret order, and declaring them the contrivances of his most private friends, who, by various preparations unknown to the apostles, may, it is thought, have accomplished that, which, though perfectly natural, would have appeared miraculous to those who saw not the machinery. None of this conjecturing, however, is worth the trouble of an answer. The fictitious means, which, in this case, Jesus is said to have employed for restoring health to the sick, must have possessed a power, no less wonderful than that which this supposition is designed to obviate. But what kind of a heart and judgement and what views must that man have, who can think it probable that even Jesus, devoted as his life was to the accomplishment of the exalted and divine object, the character of which I have described, should descend to juggling, who can attempt to explain away a great part of his miracles by supposing them to have been performed by the secret machinery of an intimate order of brotherhood, and dare to think him capable of degrading himself so far as to engage in the miserable artifices of legerdemain! So senseless and constrained is the entire representation which some late writers have given of Christ's miracles in this respect, and the manner in which they have endeavored to explain them away, that not another word need be said upon the subject.* Enough! there is noth


[So judged Reinhard in 1789 and 1798; and so he judged also after the appearance of Paulus' Commentary. I here give his opinion in this respect as it was printed from a letter in his own handwriting: "What shall I say of the fat commentary of the PseudoPaul? Knoll and Spinoza, the most boyish remarks respecting the Greek text, and the most audacious and childish mode of reasoning respecting the contents of the N. Test., are, in this work, connected and mingled together in so curious a manner, as to leave the whole circle of literature no chance of ever again producing the like. The tone in which the praise of this monster of philology and philosophy has been trumpeted, is one of the signs of the times, and affords

ing in our Saviour's public institutions of instruction, which can justify us in supposing, that he was either a member or the founder of a secret society.

47. There is as little to be found in confirmation of the supposition, if we take into consideration the private life of Jesus. Respecting the business in which he was engaged before he entered upon his public ministry, there are no accounts extant, worthy of credit. Various circumstances, however, render it very probable that he neither connected himself with a secret society nor founded one, before he was 30 years of age. Previous to the time in which he made his appearance in public, his fellow citizens, as well as his nearest relatives, unquestionably looked upon him as merely an ordinary man, and discovered in him nothing special or extraordinary. This is the reason why he was treated with such contempt by the people of Nazareth, where he had lived until the commencement of his public career, Luke 4: 16-30, and why even his relatives could not for a long time be convinced that he actually possessed any uncommon abilities, John 7: 1-5. Now just glance at the results which must be deduced from these circumstances. Had Jesus been connected with any secret society before he began to make himself known to the world, he would have found it difficult to prevent, at least those relatives who daily associated with him, and in whose business he was constantly engaged, from taking notice of him in this respect. It is impossible to maintain such connexions, without doing many things, or causing many things to be done, which attract the attention of others, and excite in them the be

a proof, that we are not sufficiently learned to interpret the Scriptures in a real, grammatical manner, nor modest enough to philosophize upon them with propriety. Even this commentator, however, has failed in his attempt completely to naturalize Christianity, and put every thing that it contains of a supernatural character, out of view. Still, the evil which he will do in this respect, is not to be overlooked; as he confessedly possesses a certain acuteness, which enables him to dress up the most contorted exegesis, and is exactly adapted to blind our dear, theological youth, ignorant, as they are, of philological studies, and fonder of philosophizing than explaining from the usus loquendi, and lead them entirely astray."]

lief that such an one has something special in his mind. With all the conveniences and means which we now have at command for concealing our connexions with others from the eyes of the world, and divesting them of all appearance of strangeness, we find it very difficult to keep every thing secret. And would not Jesus, a man in the common walks of life, destitute of all these conveniences and means, and known to the whole village where he lived, have unavoidably been an object of special inquisitiveness to his fellow citizens, at least to his relatives and family friends, if he had maintained a correspondence involved in so many difficulties from the circumstances of that age; if, from time to time, he had withdrawn himself from those around him, performed journeys, received visits from strangers, or excited the least suspicion in any way whatever, that he had distant acquaintances, and held intercourse with those whose views and characters were an impenetrable mystery? And would not all these circumstances have been far more likely to strike the eyes, if Jesus had gone about the formation of a secret society during the first thirty years of his life? Is it possible to accomplish such an object without associating and connecting one's self with various descriptions of men? Persons of such views and feelings as Jesus had, are very rare. To discover such confidants, therefore, as Jesus is conjectured to have possessed, would it not have been necessary for him to enter into the most careful trials, and laborious examinations, and associate with all classes of people in the different employments of life? Connected as this great work must have been, with numerous journeys, inquiries, arrangements, and external changes, would not somebody in Nazareth, at least some of his near relatives, have perceived that he was engaged in it? Would not Jesus have been obliged to give it a degree of importance in the eyes of those that associated with him, previous to his entrance upon his public duties?

From the commencement of his public career, Jesus lived almost incessantly before the eyes of the world, and under a pressure of labors, dangers, and cares, in which, he

« PoprzedniaDalej »