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sions, viewing them literally, and where he told them that they were mistaken, that he was to be understood figuratively; and I pointed out myself one or two passages which might be considered to stand in opposition to this classification, and one or two in which it might appear that our Saviour departed from this course, though I foresaw, from the quantity of materials that were still to be treated of, that it was impossible, without cutting essentially short the thread of the discourse, and interrupting the line of argument I was following, to diverge, to meet such difficulties, and to explain such passages.
However, upon consideration, I think it right to notice the only one which can be considered of any importance ; and so far was I from any desire to avoid it, that I had actually noted down the heads of my observations; and, indeed, written them out with some degree of detail ; and I have only, therefore, to do to-night, what I should have been very happy to have done on Sunday last.
The only objection to this classification which I think can be considered worthy of notice, is the second chapter of St. John, and the nineteenth vetse: “ The Jews asked our Saviour for a sign of his authority," after he had driven the tradesmen from the temple, who were engaged there in their unlawful traffic. Thus he said to them, “ Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. The Jews then said, Six and forty years was this temple in building, and wilt thou raise it up in three days ? But he spoke of the temple of his body. When there. fore he was risen again from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this ; and they believed the Scripture, and the word that Jesus had said.” Hence it appears that our Saviour spoke figuratively of his body, and under the figure of a temple ; the Jews under. stood that he spoke of the temple itself. They consequently found fault with this expression, and yet he did not undeceive them; for so far were they from being undeceived, that at his passion they brought this very expression as an accusation of blasphemy against him, as if he had conspired against the religion and the temple of the Jews. I will beg leave to read the remarks which I had prepared, for the purpose of showing that it was not from any wish to avoid the difficulty, but it was merely because I saw there was not time, that I did not enter into it.
1. In the first place, I will commence by remarking, that the phrase used by our Lord in this passage, if referred to his body (of which I will show you just now there is considerable reason to doubt), was one in such ordinary use among the Jews, that he in nowise departed from the established forms of language. Nothing was more common among those nations who had imbibed the oriental philosophy, as it is called, and among the Jews, than to consider the body as a vessel, a house, a tabernacle, or temple. Isaiah calls it a house, and Job, a house of clay. It is styled a tabernacle, or dwelling-place by St. Paul; and his words,
as Dr. Lardner has observed, are strikingly illustrated by Josephus, who, as a pharisee, was necessarily versed in the mystic language of that philosophy. The same expression is to be found in Nicander, Hippocrates, and other authors. The late Dr. Munter has added some other examples from Spobn and Wheeler's inscriptions, and concludes, “ This form of speech, without doubt, was taken from the disciples of the oriental philosophy.” In fine, it is repeatedly called a temple by St. Paul; and Philo, and several other philosophers, make use of the same image. So far, therefore, suppose our Saviour to have been speaking merely of his body, he used a phrase in common usage among the Jews, and one easily understood, quite distinct, therefore, from the class of phraseology in the sixth chapter of St. John, which I showed you they could not understand in that way. Hence, those commentators who adopt the ordinary explanation of its referring only to the resurrection, suppose two things which remove it still further from the point. First, that our Saviour decided the meaning of it, by pointing, with his finger, towards himself. That is the opinion of Bishop Newcomb, and other commentators, but I do not think it has much force: and secondly, that the Jews did really understand Christ correctly, and that it was only malignity which made them raise an intentional objection to his words, as St. John does not say, they did not understand his words, but only says, they did not believe them; they did not see how be was to be raised, until the event proved it. So far there is a distinction between one phrase and another; the Jews could naturally, and did naturally make a mistake. But, in the sixth chapter of St. John they could not naturally mistake him, because it was a phrase in common use.
2. In the second place, there is a great difference between the two passages in this respect. In the sixth chapter of St. John, our Saviour is delivering a doctrine ; in the second chapter he is delivering a prophecy. Now it is the nature of a doctrine, that it should be understood by those to whom it is delivered; it is the nature of a prophecy that it should not be understood till its fulfilment. Our Saviour when he explained this doctrine, whether it was of faith or of the Eucharist, must have wished those who heard him to understand the doctrine ; but when he foretold bis resurrection, it was not to be expected that they could understand it, till the event had taken place ; for every prophecy is in its nature obscure, and it is essential to a prophecy, that it should not be understood by those to whom it is addressed, but by those in whose presence it will have its accomplishment. Therefore, there is again strong reason why our Saviour was not to be expected to explain himself here, because he was not teachiug a doctrine, but only giving a prophecy.
3. But, in the third place, there is another and still more important consideration. I have never said that our Saviour was bound to answer the cavils of the Jews; I have only taken the rule from passages where
he did answer. Now, in this case, he did not answer one way or the other; it belongs, therefore, to neither of the classes to which I have adverted. It is a class apart which we cannot consider, because we wish to know how our Saviour answered the people when they made an objection in a certain form; and we can derive no rule as to how he answered from those passages where he did not answer at all. St. John does not tell us that he gave any answer, and he concludes himself by saying, “ They did not believe the point till he had risen from the dead.” Therefore, having wished to establish a class of passages where we see our Saviour's conduct in answering difficulties, in order to compare passages, where no answer is given, it cannot be fair to produce one about which there can be no reasoning whatsoever, inasmuch as no answer whatsoever was proposed. This, therefore, forms an extraordinary exception, and cannot, by any means, be classed under the other two.
4. But, in the last place, I would ask, is it so certain that our Saviour did not speak of the temple, that they did not understand him rightly? I should have little hesitation in saying that he did ; and that is the opinion of several commentators, Storr, Suskind, Schott, and many others, but I should rather propose it under a different form.
In the first place, the circumstances under which our Saviour spoke in the temple, very naturally suggested the proving of his power or authority over the temple which they required. They wanted to know what authority he had for jurisdiction over the temple, and for driving the people out. He said “ My power or authority is such, that if this temple were destroyed, I could myself in three days build up another;" and, therefore, the proof should be referred necessarily to that object.
But, secondly, he used the epithet “ this,” in witness of the possession attributed. “I will destroy this temple made with hands, and raise up another not made with hands.” It is manifest that the words must bave been spoken of the real temple, because of his body he could not say it was made with hands; it was not an epithet that could apply, and there is no reason for supposing that he added the epithet, because the expression is a very common one, and it could not add the least to their information ; but, on the contrary, it would only make the passage more obscure ; because his saying I will raise another temple not raised with hands, would also imply that he did not mean a material temple of the same form. Therefore, though there can be no doubt that our Saviour did allude to his body, inasmuch as he used an expression applicable to his resurrection--that is, fixing the term to three days—and used the very words “raise up,” wbich would apply to his body, and a “temple not made with hands”-though these expressions show that he really did mean to have reference to his body, yet at the same time, it seems almost necessary to suppose, that there was also a real allusion to the material temple; and that he meant, in this way, the
temple which is emblematical of religion. “ Destroy this temple," and of course with it the religion (for the accusation of the Jews was tantamount to it, that by destroying the temple he meant the religion with it), “and I will raise up another, not made with hands,” that is, not of this world, an epithet used by Paul in speaking of heaven, “ I will give you a temple of a superior and more spiritual character.” In this way only can we explain the meaning of the passage fully. The Jews did not misunderstand our Saviour, though they did not fully understand him ; for the full understanding would come with the fulfilment of the prophecy.
Another passage, and, perhaps, one that may be considered by many of my hearers of more importance, and which I was compelled to pass over rather slightly, is a text that is very often considered as quite sufficient to overthrow the whole of the Catholic interpretation of the sixth chapter of St. John, and to establish the spiritual interpretation as alluding only to faith ; I mean the sixty-third and sixty-fourth verses, where our Saviour says, “ The flesh profiteth nothing; it is the spirit that quickeneth. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” It is argued from these words, that our Saviour clearly says, “I do not mean to be understood of the material eating of flesh; the flesh can profit you nothing, it is the spiritual meaning of my words to wbich you are to attend. These words which I have spoken to you are of spiritual rneaning, and, as such, must be interpreted. I passed over the text hastily, merely contenting myself with saying, that it was given up completely by all modern commentators; and that a reference to other passages of Scripture, where the same expressions occurred, would sufficiently prove, that it could not allude to a spiritual meaning, or any thing of that sort, but simply meant to express an opposition between the carnal man and the spiritual man. However, I have cause to think, that this portion of my reasoning to some, was not quite satisfactory; and, therefore, I intend to enter into it with a little more detail, though it will still further delay us, in reference to the more important object which we have to discuss this evening.
It is often supposed, that this passage has the meaning which I have just explained. Now, in the first place, it would be exceedingly unfair for any persons, who saw the method, the exceedingly detailed method, in which I examined every phrase in the discourse of our Saviour, at once to satisfy himself, that all that reasoning was to be overthrown by any vague signification which he might choose to attach to another pas. sagė. I have a right to require of him, that he will examine these words in the same way that I examined the other passages (I cannot take any thing for granted), by examining parallel texts. Can be satisfy himself upon his part, that the words “flesh and spirit” are so applied here, as to give the meaning which he supposes ? I ask, in the first
place, what does flesh mean here? Does it mean the flesh of our Saviour? In the former part of his discourse he has spoken of flesh, meaning certainly his own flesh, whether spiritually or materially understood. Does he mean to say, My flesh profiteth you nothing, it is only my spirit? If the flesh means the flesh of our Saviour, I conclude that the spirit means the spirit of our Saviour; and, consequently, we have to say, that the words which Christ spoke are his spirit. You see the substitution we make in the sense. It is evident, therefore, as the flesh and the spirit are opposed, if you take one in the sense of the flesh of Christ, you must mean the spirit as opposed to his flesh, and mean the spirit of Christ. The Aesh profiteth nothing; it is the spirit that quickeneth.” Then go on, “ The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life:" that expression establishes the preceding verse, for the substitution will not do. Will any one understand by the word flesh, the literal sense ? Does it mean the literal sense ? And does the spirit mean the spiritual sense? Because, if you reject the argument in the other part of the sentence, and say, our Saviour, when he expresses himself in these words, “ My words are spirit and life,” means to say, that his words are to be spiritually taken; and when he says, “ It is the spirit that profiteth,” he means the spiritual sense of his words; then the flesh must be opposed to this, and flesh must mean the literal or material sense. I ask any person who reasons thus, to find one passage in the whole of Scripture, where flesh is so used. You have no right to assume that a doctrine is wrong; and, therefore, this must be the explanation of it. You must show, that by those who heard our Saviour, this was taken as an explanation of all the preceding verses. Now, on the contrary, I find the expressions, flesh and spirit, opposed to one another in innumerable places of Scripture; and I find, that when these two expressions are so opposed, they infallibly have one meaning, received and admitted by all commentators, as I said in my last discourse on this subject.
These words occur repeatedly, for instance, in the Epistle to the Romans, chapter viii. verse 1-12; Galatians v. 13; vi. 6; 1 Peter, iv. 6; Matthew xxvi. 41; John iži. 6; Romans vii. 5, 6; 1 Corinthians v. 5; and in thirty or forty more passages. But to show how these are put in opposition, I will only read a few verses. The first passage I quoted, the eighth of Romans, begins thus : “ There is now therefore no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh. For the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus”- the law of the spirit of life stands in opposition to the flesh“ hath delivered me from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful fesh, and of sin hath condemned sin in the flesh, that the justification of the law might be fulfilled in us,