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place, and occasion, were much better judges of the sense which his words conveyed, than even the most learned and critical scholars of modern times. Now their words and their conduct furnish, on the occasions alluded to, convincing proof that they understood him in this high and peculiar sense; for they are not only represented as stirred up to the greatest pitch of indignation, at the supposed blasphemy of the claim, but as attempting to inflict upon him, in consequence, the summary punishment directed by the law of Moses against offenders guilty of this crime. (Vid. Lev. xxiv. 14. 16.)
On one of the occasions referred to (John viii. 57-59., compared with Exodus iii. 14.), He declares his pre-existence in language which implied an assumption of the name and prerogative of Jehovah, which so incensed his hearers, that they instantly took up stones to cast at him.
On another occasion, it is declared that the Jews sought to kill him, because he claimed to be the Son of God in a sense*, which, to use the words of the Evangelist, was "making himself equal with God." John v. 18. 23.
On a third, when He remonstrates with them for being about to stone him, they justify their rage by replying, "For a good work we stone thee
The force of the original is lost in our English version, by the omission of the word do, that is, own or peculiar (his own Father).
not, but for blasphemy: and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God." (John x. 33.) And in this latter instance, although in the exordium of his reply, He parried for a moment their anger by a certain degree of ambiguity in the comment he gave upon his own previous words (John x. 36.), yet that anger revives in all its force when he closes by re-asserting his claim to be the Son of God in such a sense, as that the Father was "in Him, and He in the Father." (ver. 38.)
On none of these occasions does Jesus contradict their inferences, which, in his zeal for the honour due only to God, he certainly would have done, had they mistaken his meaning.
But the most remarkable of these examples, is connected with the closing scenes of our Saviour's life; for it appears, on a calm consideration of the facts as recorded by the Evangelists, that the immediate cause of his condemnation was a solemn attestation of his own Divinity. His enemies, it is true, were bent upon his destruction; but, until he himself furnished them with a pretext for compassing it, by a clear and express claim to that effect, they were baffled in their attempts to adduce any plausible reason for such a sentence.
"And the chief priests and all the council (says St. Mark) sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together." (Mark xiv. 55, 56.)
Finally, after other vain attempts, it is added: "And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, 'Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?' But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death." (Mark xiv. 60-64.)
St. John, in like manner, testifies to the real ground of his condemnation in the following words addressed to Pilate by his Jewish accusers: "We have a Law, and by our Law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God." (John xix. 7.)
That Christ applied to himself the terms "Son of the Blessed," and "Son of God," in that high and peculiar sense, which involved the claim of Divinity, is therefore equally clear from their language, and from his own undisguised admission.
This sermon contained a series of admirable remarks upon the intimate connection between sound and scriptural views of doctrine and the virtues of a Christian life.
In the year 1797, the Rev. W. Wilson, Fellow of St. John's College, Cambridge, published a learned and able work, intitled "An Illustration of the Method of explaining the New Testament by the early Opinions of Jews and Christians concerning Christ." In its most important parts it pursued a line of argument and illustration closely accordant with that of which we have just given an acount; but as Mr. Wilson had neither read nor heard of the sermon of Burgess, he took credit to himself for being the first person who had placed the argument derived from the Jewish testimonies concerning Christ in a prominent light. Meeting subsequently with that sermon, he at once saw that to it, and not to his own work, belonged the claim of originality; and therefore, in a spirit of candour and equity, he addressed the following letter to its author, which, though it is here introduced out of date, belongs to this branch of my subject.
St. John's College, Cambridge, July 17. 1798.
I HAVE directed to you by the mail coach, a copy of a very imperfect book, which I ventured to publish about a year since under the title of "An Illustration of the Method of explaining the New Testament by the early Opinions of Jews and Christians concerning Christ." My only reason for taking such a liberty, and for troubling you with
this letter, is, to apologise for a sentence at the bottom of the 122d page, which I am convinced, after reading your sermon on the same subject, is a very improper one.
Though I was by no means unacquainted with some parts of your writings, I had not seen the title of your sermon till after the middle of the last month, and I have not had an opportunity of seeing and reading the sermon itself before yesterday. Not being aware that any of our Saviour's doctrines had been regularly and fully ascertained, or confirmed by his words as interpreted by his Jewish hearers, I had rather pleased myself with thinking that both the design and execution of my work had novelty as well as truth to recommend them. I find, however, much of the reasoning of my first six chapters in your sermon; and, though not mortified at discovering my want of originality, I am exceedingly concerned at having published a passage, in which I may appear to think slightly of your work; to which, had I known of it, I should most certainly have appealed with pleasure and pride, in support of some of the principal opinions which I have advanced.
I am, Sir, with great respect,
Your obedient servant,
The reply of Mr. Burgess was as follows: