« PreviousContinue »
a wish in them to ask for further explanation ; from which, however, they appear to have been sometimes kept back, by the fear of giving offence. All these circumstances are distinctly noticed by Mark and Luke, upon the occasion of his informing them (probably for the first time), that the Son of Man should be delivered into the hands of men. “They understood not,” the evangelists tell us, “ this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not ; and they feared to ask him of that saying.” Luke ix. 45. Mark ix. 32. In St. John's gospel we have, on a different occasion, and in a different instance, the same difficulty of apprehension, the same curiosity, and the same restraint: “ A little while and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us? A little while and
shall not see me: and again, a little while and ye shall see me : and, Because I go to the Father? They said, therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while ? We cannot tell what he saith. Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them," &c. John xvi. 16, et seq.
VII. The meekness of Christ during his last sufferings, which is conspicuous in the narratives of the three first evangelists, is preserved in that of St. John under separate examples. The answer given by him, in St. John*, when the high priest asked him of his disciples and his doctrine, “I spake openly to the world ; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? Ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them ;" is very much of a piece with his reply to the armed party which seized him, as we read it in St. Mark's gospel, and in St. Luke'st: “ Are you come out as against
Chap. xviii. 20, 21.
+ Mark xiv. 48. Luke xxii. 52.
a thief, with swords and with staves to take me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not.” In both answers, we discern the same tranquillity, the same reference to his publick teaching. His mild expostulation with Pilate, on two several occasions, as related by St. John*, is delivered with the same unruffled temper, as that which conducted him through the last scene of his life, as described by his other evangelists. His answer, in St. John's gospel, to the officer who struck him with the palm of his hand, “ If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou met?” was such an answer, as might have been looked for from the person, who, as he proceeded to the place of execution, bid his companions (as we are told by St. Luket) weep not for him, but for themselves, their posterity, and their country; and who, whilst he was suspended upon the cross, prayed for his murderers," for they know not (said he) what they do.” The urgency also of his judges and his prosecutors to extort from him a defence to the accusation, and his unwillingness to make any (which was a peculiar circumstance), appears in St. John's account, as well as in that of the other evangelists.
There are moreover two other correspondencies between St. John's history of the transaction and theirs, of a kind somewhat different from those which we have been now mentioning.
The three first evangelists record what is called our Saviour's agony, i. e. his devotion in the garden immediately before he was apprehended; in which narrative they all make him pray, that the cup might pass from him.' This is the particular metaphor which they all ascribe to
Chap. xviii. 34. xix. 11. † xviii. 23. $ Chap. xxiii. 28. § See John xix. 9. Mat. xxvii. 14, Luke xxiii. 9. VOL. II.
him. St. Matthew adds, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done*.” Now St. John does not give the scene in the garden; but when Jesus was seized, and some resistance was attempted to be made by Peter, Jesus, according to his account, checked the attempt with this reply : “Put up thy sword into the sheath ; the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink itt?” This is something more than consistency ; it is coincidence : because it is extremely natural, that Jesus, who, before he was apprehended, had been praying his Father, that that cup might pass from him, yet with such a pious retraction of his request, as to have added, “ If this cup may not pass from me, thy will be done ;” it was natural, I say, for the same person, when he actually was apprehended, to express the resignation to which he had already made up his thoughts, and to express it in the form of speech which he had before used, “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it ?” This is a coincidence between writers, in whose narratives there is no imitation, but great diversity.
A second similar correspondency is the following: Matthew and Mark make the charge, upon which our Lord was condemned, to be a threat of destroying the temple; “We heard him say, I will destroy this temple made with hands, and, within three days, I will build another made without handst ;" but they neither of them inform us, upon what circumstance this calumny was founded. St. John, in the early part of the historyg, supplies us with this information ; for he relates, that, on our Lord's first journey to Jerusalem, when the Jews asked him, “ What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these
things ? he answered, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” This agreement could hardly arise from any thing but the truth of the case. care or design in St. John, to make his narrative tally with the narrative of other evangelists, it certainly did not arise, for no such design appears, but the absence of it.
A strong and more general instance of agreement, is the following.—The three first evangelists have related the appointment of the twelve apostles* ; and have given a catalogue of their names in form. John, without ever mentioning the appointment, or giving the catalogue, supposes, throughout his whole narrative, Christ to be accompanied by a select party of disciples; the number of these to be twelvet; and whenever he happens to notice any one as of that numbert, it is one included in the catalogue of the other evangelists : and the names principally occurring in the course of his history of Christ, are the names extant in their list. This last agreement, which is of considerable moment, runs through every Gospel, and through every chapter of each.
All this bespeaks reality.
Originality of our Saviour's character. The Jews, whether right or wrong, had understood their prophecies to foretell the advent of a person, who by some supernatural assistance should advance their nation to independence, and to a supreme degree of splendour and prosperity. This was the reigning opinion and expectation of the times.
* Matt x. 1. Mark iii. 14. Luke vi. 12. † John vi. 7. # Chap. XX. 24. vi. 71.
Now, had Jesus been an enthusiast, it is probable that his enthusiasm would have fallen in with the popular delusion, and that, whilst he gave himself out to be the person intended by these predictions, he would have assumed the character to which they were universally supposed to relate.
Had he been an impostor, it was his business to have Aattered the prevailing hopes, because these hopes were to be the instruments of his attraction and success.
But, what is better than conjectures, is the fact, that all the pretended Messiahs actually did so. We learn from Josephus, that there were many of these. Some of them, it is probable, might be impostors, who thought that an advantage was to be taken of the state of publick opinion. Others, perhaps, were enthusiasts, whose imagination had been drawn to this particular object, by the language and sentiments which prevailed around them. But, whether impostors or enthusiasts, they concurred in producing themselves in the character which their countrymen looked for, that is to say, as the restorers and deliverers of the nation, in that sense in which restoration and deliverance were expected by the Jews.
Why therefore Jesus, if he was, like them, either an enthusiast or impostor, did not pursue the same conduct as they did, in framing his character and pretensions, it will be found difficult to explain. A mission, the operation and benefit of which was to take place in another life, was a thing unthought of as the subject of these prophecies. That Jesus, coming to them as their Messiah, should come under a character totally different from that in which they expected him; should deviate from the general persuasion, and deviate into pretensions absolutely singular and original; appears to be inconsistent with the imputation of enthusiasm or imposture, both which, by their nature, I should