Page images

and the opinion of that person would be worth nothing, would prove nothing but his own insensibility to goodness, who should deny that the death of Jesus was the death of an honest man. The cross, which at first wore the appearance of the defeat, is in reality, as it has proved, the triumph of Christianity; and in his death, if not in his life, Jesus is vindicated from every charge injurious to his sincerity.

A confirmation, not only of the general truth of the history, but also of the integrity of Christ's character, may be found in those incidents recorded by the evangelical historians which are derogatory to the associates of Jesus. Is it not unaccountable, if the writers were engaged in writing the history of an imposture in which they themselves were more or less nearly concerned, that they should inform us that all, even of his friends, fied and forsook Jesus in the very crisis of his fate? But look at them, and then at Jesus, during the hour of peril; they are scattered abroad, every man to his own'*—thereby fulfilling their Master's prediction-He bears his affliction alone, and bears it with unwavering trust in God. Whence this difference ? Had Jesus been as weak and ignorant as they, like them would he have acted; and instead of maintaining, would have betrayed

Fear makes Peter deny his Master, and yet that Master himself, who, as the arch impostor, had more to apprehend, and actually suffered incomparably more, is, in his conduct, as free from fear as he is above suspicion. Judas goes farther, and even sells his Master for a paltry bribe. Jesus, on the contrary, preserves his integrity calmly, yet firmly, to the very moment of breathing his last sob. Which is the conduct of imposture? The fall of Judas itself discloses the breadth and depth of the basis on which Jesus stood. It is the hour of peril which tries men's souls. The deceiver is unequal to the test. The conscience is too strong for the purpose, and the purpose itself is disclosed when defeat is at hand; for the selfishness which

gave it birth, is sure to betray it in the means which is taken to repair losses, and secure what may be of gratification.

If, then, Jesus is not a fanatic, as we have previously shown; nor an impostor, as now appears; it follows that he is worthy of credit, for he must have known whereof he affirmed. He was not himself deceived; he did not intend to deceive others; and is consequently the way, and the truth, and the life. The credibility of Christianity may be put upon this issue. How can it be accounted for, if neither deceit nor weakness was employed in its promulgation ? These being excluded, the instrumentality must have been from above, since the resources of earthly wisdom were utterly incompetent to produce the un

his cause.

* John xvi. 32.

deniable effects. Besides, we have the words of Jesus as the words of one raised far above all perverting and sinister influ-. ences—and these words declare that his mission was divine. *I proceeded forth, and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.' • I can of mine own self do nothing; as I hear I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek not my own will, but the will of the Father who hath sent me.'t

From this conclusion, there is no resource on the supposition that Jesus was a compound of the deceiver and the deceived ; for if he was neither, he could not be both. I do not deny the possibility of such a combination, and think it more than probable that many of the founders of false religious systems have begun with deceiving others, and ended in being self-deceived. But why do we believe this probable ?. Their history, so far as it is known, furnishes the reasons. Not so with the history of Christ. On his character there is not the taint of a suspicion. In his spirit there was not the faintest breathing of fanaticism. Let his enemies be his judges—let the narrowest scrutiny be instituted—the only stipulation we make is, that the mind and the heart be sound of those who are on the inquest; let them have a sense to appreciate moral and mental excellence-to discriminate between the true and the false, the genuine and the spurious—and their decision, we feel sure, must be, that Jesus stands acquitted of both fanaticism and imposture. Well, then, may the believer repose, with the fullest confidence, on the disclosures and promises of his Master, as being the wisdom, the voice, and the power of God.



( Continued from page 336.) If there be anything which is more injurious to children than excessive indulgence, it is severity. It may safely be premised, that the greater part of those who treat their offspring with harshness, do so upon system. There may be some who frequently chastise them from the momentary impulse of their own violent passions ; but the strength of parental affection is so great, that none would adopt a premeditated line of conduct, if they had not a prevailing conviction that it would be eventually beneficial. We feel disposed to pass very lenient judgment on the conduct of over-indulgent parents, in consideration of their tender affection for their children. On the other hand, we ought to make some allowance for such as fall into the contrary

+ Johu v. 30. 50

* Jolin viii. 42.

against themselves could have been adduced to show the emptiness of their pretensions ? Of all things, the exhibition of the dead body was most to be desired by the Jewish hierarchy, as furnishing an incontestible proof that the whole matter was of human folly or fraud, and not of God. Yet they urgently request a guard to keep the body in the tomb. Their conduct is a confession of their fears, and in their fears is a confession of the validity of the claims of Christ. They had succeeded in procuring his execution, and are terrified at his lifeless frame. They had broken the magician's wand, but tremble in looking on the fragments. Why, if they believed the wand to be common wood?

There is another advantage ensuing from this self-convicted charge. It cannot be pleaded that the Jewish hierarchy were taken unawares. The alleged imposture did not grow up without attracting notice. It stood before the eye of its enemies. It was challenged by them as an imposture; and as an imposture, too, it was met by all the resources of their power.

As such it was denounced in the high places of the land; and as such, there can be no doubt, it was held forth to the abhorrence of the many. Yet the cause of Christ prevailed. The battle was fought and won ;-yes, on the very ground on which they must take their stand who are prepared to maintain that Jesus was an impostor-only, that the position of modern unbelievers cannot, in the nature of the case, be so advantageous as was their's who had not only the imposture-if imposture it were-standing at their own doors, and before their own eyes, possessing, therefore, every opportunity for its exposure and suppression; but had actually, at least to human apprehension, more than half gained the victory, in having slain the enemy and made sure of

It must not be passed unnoticed, that the argument now urged is founded on the statement, not of friends to Christianity, but of its foes. The allegation is their's, not our's. We mean that the story bears internal and indubitable marks of a Jewish origin; for were the disciples likely to originate a plea against the cause on which they had staked their all, and such a plea as would furnish their opponents with a better weapon than any they could themselves fabricate? Especially, if deceivers, would they proclaim to the world the more than suspicion in which they and their's were from the first held ? Is it the custom of impostors to blazon their name on their foreheads—and that, too, without one word in exculpation? Yet the historian Matthew has recorded the charge without attempting to confute it. He has given the accuser all the advantage of his accusation, though that accusation goes to brand himself with the disgrace of abetting fraud. We are not to be told that such con

his corpse.

duct is within the limits of probability, on the supposition of Christianity being “a cunningly devised fable.' And in the circumstance that a charge of a nature so heinous is simply recorded, recorded and left unanswered, unnoticed, is the best possible proof that the writer, unlike the High Priests and Pharisees, had no fear for the issue, but was concerned merely to discharge the duties of a faithful chronicler. He set down simply what he knew, without a thought of the impression it would make on the reader's mind; and was too much occupied with his unpretending story, to affect the skill of the pleader, or the arts of the rhetorician. And the great landmarks in moral science must be entirely changed, before it can be plausibly maintained that the evidence of men thus honest and unsophisticated is unworthy of belief.

It may not be undesirable to form a distinct idea of what is asserted when imposture is charged upon Jesus. If his life were an imposture, it was one of no ordinary complexion ;-perhaps it would be no exaggeration to say that it surpassed in infamy all the frauds that were ever practised in the world, for God was insulted as well as man outraged by it. Jesus wore the garb of benevolence; nay, if he were an impostor, made high and most unwarrantable pretensions to a pre-eminence over other teachers—talked incessantly of truth, duty and purity -of their value, their beauty, their imperishable obligation ;he used the name of God with what, under the supposition, would be an offensive familiarity, and impiously ascribed to Him what was but the expression of his own depravity. In a word, the whole of his character and conduct are changed. The light becomes darkness, the beauty ashes. The details involved in the supposition are too painful to enlarge upon; and we hasten to demand, if the reader is prepared to abide by the charge_if it is not too revolting to be seriously maintained—if it has not in it the elements of its own confutation ? The thought may pass through the mind in the hour of guilty excess, when any supposition is grasped at which will relax the restraints of duty—but must be repudiated the moment that coolness and reflection resume their seat, and the natural emotions of the heart reassert their empire.

Should it, however, be alleged that the case does not involve the turpitude supposed, we are then prepared to prove that the allegation itself is altogether untenable, in however mitigated a form it may be put.

Impostors act not without an object. There is risk and there is degradation in the practice of fraud, which it is not in human nature to undergo except for competent considerations. Now what possible object could Jesus have to induce him to attempt an imposition ? Where is the sinister motive that can be as

extreme, when we consider how much there is in the operation of their system which makes it appear to be a successful one. The subjects of strict discipline are, while under the eye

of their governors, for the most part submissive and industrious. Whatever disgust or weariness they may feel, they are too much under the dominion of fear to express it; and their apparent acquiescence, like the selfish fondness shown by a petted infant, flatters the parent into a belief that all is well. This is more particularly the case with children of the gentler sex. Being by nature more timid than boys, they are more frequently driven, by harshness, to reserve and secret repining, than to open rebellion or complaint. Their external behaviour approaches near to that which their parents expected as the result of their own measures. The surface is all smooth, and too many educators want either inclination or ability to explore beneath it.

The direct and immediate tendency of severity, is to produce dissimulation. It is in vain that we enforce the observance of truth, while we hold out a strong temptation to falsehood. It is in vain that we make known our determination to punish nothing so severely as a departure from integrity. When we attempt to correct artifice by fear, we forget that fear is the main cause of it. It is not without justice that females are supposed to be the most prone to this vice, since it has always been the refuge of the timid and the weak, not of the bold and the powerful.

A lady observed to an intelligent boy, that she thought his sex were, in childhood, more addicted to artifice than her own. • No, ma'am,' replied the child, it is only that girls are so cunning, they hide their cumning.' Certainly, the consummation of artifice is to conceal its own existence; and instances are not wanting, of girls having preserved, even with their own mothers, a character for perfect uprightness, while they have been living in the constant practice of the grossest deceptions.

Of the evils produced by severity, the next in magnitude to dissimulation is obtuseness of feeling. The strict disciplinarian imagines, that he has only to break the spirits of his children and to ensure their passive obedience, and that all else will easily be accomplished. ' He observes the difficulty there is to restrain a froward child, but believes there can be none to encourage a diffident one. He thinks that indulgence being unwonted, will be received with gratitude, and that when his first object is attained, he will have only to look or speak affably, to touch the affections of his pupil. He forgets that, before that time, a kind word or a smile from him will have lost all its value. The affections he has not cultivated will either have withered away, or have become fixed on some

« PreviousContinue »