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question freely; any other language than that of panegyric or homage has been deemed by them unsuitable and irreverent; and a kind of halo has thus been thrown around the founder of Christianity, which has contributed to the difficulty of seeing him in his natural aspect. Let us be on our guard no less against the over-strained admiration of his followers than against the attacks of his opponents, and endeavour to penetrate through all that confuses or dazzles the sight, in order to gain a distinct view of the carpenter's son of Nazareth. I. Jesus was an enthusiast. This was not
An enthusiast. an unnatural effect of the study of the Jewish scriptures. He had heard or read from his infancy the history and prophetic writings of his country, which, from their sacred associations, their antiquity, their record of miraculous interpositions, their claim to divine inspiration, and their wild imagery, were of a nature most impressive to the imagination. The prophetic writings were especially of this character; their real origin and meaning were imperfectly known; the people considered them, and the scribes pretended to consider them, as divine oracles. From the time of the Maccabees, the prophets, as well as the law, had been established in popular veneration, and to question the authority of either was equivalent to denying the national creed, and forsaking the first principles of religion. Such scepticism never entered into the minds of the religiously educated Jews, like Jesus. He, therefore, read the books of Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi, not as interesting poetical remains, but as oracles of great and pressing import, as foretelling fearful signs and wonders, and mighty revolutions to be accomplished in the latter times. One principal topic of these books is the general perfection and happiness of the world at some distant age. This subject has interested the feelings and exercised the imagination of many men in all countries; but in the books in question it was combined with other topics peculiarly animating to the Jews, viz. that the chosen people were to be the instruments of God for bringing the world to the true worship; and that in the new æra the throne of Israel would be restored by a second David, and all former monarchies surpassed by the splendour of the kingdom of the saints of heaven, and of God. That such a belief, sanctioned by all the authority of their national religion, should have been highly exciting to the Jews under a foreign yoke, is less surprising than that
any could have remained unmoved by it. By dwelling long upon a favourite project, the mind easily acquires the belief that it has a secret mission to fulfil it; and thus Jesus, from contemplating the kingdom of God, was led to believe himself to be the predestined king. This idea of his own mission was confirmed by the power which he found his preaching to possess over the multitudes, and the apparent success of his compliance with their petitions to expel demons.
Such an enthusiasm was by no means irrational in one situated like Jesus. On the contrary, admitting the inspiration of the prophets, the strictest reasoner must allow that the views of Jesus were well grounded; and then it becomes merely a sign of mental vigour, that he acted according to them.
It may be said, that such an enthusiasm would have given way at the prospect of sufferings and death. But this is not evident. Under the character of prophet and messiah, Jesus had traversed Galilee and attached to himself
many followers; his belief in his divine mission had been confirmed by the elevation conceded to him by those around him; and that which was at first enthusiasm became a settled principle of action. Besides, to men of a high tone of character, intent upon great objects, and especially believing, like Jesus, in the immortality of the soul, the prospect of death has much less terror than
that of an inglorious retreat. Considering the position arrived at by Jesus when Herod was about to arrest him, we should be prepared to see a more surprising phenomenon in a sudden renunciation of his claims and a retirement into disgraceful obscurity, than in his actual proceeding to Jerusalem at the risk of his life. On approaching the city, and on perceiving that still the kingdom of heaven did not appear, that no sufficient human or divine aid was near to effect the regeneration which he had hoped to bring to Israel, he began to look upon his fate as inevitable, and, as it approached nearer, prepared to meet it with a dignity becoming the character he had assumed. Enthusiasm is, to a certain degree, flexible; and Jesus being forced to see the hopelessness of the immediate coming of the messiah's kingdom, adapted his views to the course of events, and taught that the messiah must suffer before he should reign. To his associates he was still the messiah ; he promised them hereafter the kingdom which it was plain they would not obtain immediately; and to the last maintained, and believed, that he was the Son of Man predicted by the prophets, who was to come on the clouds of heaven, to introduce the kingdom of the saints. Dan. vii. 13, 14.
II. Jesus was a revolutionist. pected to be king of the Jews, and to restore the kingdom of Israel. This appears from his lamentation over Jerusalem, Matt. xxiii. 37,“ How often would I have gathered thy children together, and ye would not;" from his selecting the number twelve for his apostles, in agreement with the number of the tribes, and of seventy for the disciples, who went to proclaim him, in imitation of the number of the Jewish Sanhedrim; from his promising twelve thrones to the disciples; and from his assuming the titles, Son of David, Messiah, King of Israel, and King of the Jews. The latter was the office of the mes
siah most dwelt upon in the prophets, and most currently attributed to him in popular opinion. All this confirms the truth of part, at least, of the accusation brought against him, viz. “He stirreth up the people, teaching throughout all Jewry, beginning from Galilee, to this place, saying, that he himself is Christ, a king.” Luke xxiii. 2, 5. “ And Pilate asked him, saying, Art thou the king of the Jews ? And he answered him, and said, Thou sayest it.”* This admission of Jesus himself, together with the notoriety of the fact, induced Pilate to inscribe on the cross, “ This is the king of the Jews.” Now it is evident that the title, “ King of the Jews,” or of Israel, was understood in its obvious and literal sense by the Jewish populace, and also that this sense was included in the character attributed by the prophets to the Messiah. Since Jesus in assuming the title, and during the whole of his career, allowed it to be understood in its current acceptation, it is very improbable that he himself should have taken it in a sense so unthought of as that of a merely spiritual king.
It seems likely that he expected a popular movement to follow his preaching, towards the beginning of his career, in Galilee; for the main purport of this preaching, was to urge the people to prepare for the kingdom of heaven, and for a sign of adherence, he required his converts to follow him. Matt. iv. 19, 25, viii. 22, ix. 9,
This agrees with the complaint of Josephus, Ant. xx. viii. that men pretending to divine inspiration induced the multitude to follow them into the wilder
* According to Schoettgenius, this was a solemn form of affirmation, of which he quotes two instances. Berachoth Hier. citante Wagenseil ad Sota, p. 1001. The Zipporenses asked if R. Judah were dead. The son of Kaphra answered, Ye have said. Hieros. Kilaim, fol. 32, 2. They said to him, Is the Rabbi dead? He answered, Ye have said. See Hore Hebraice in Matt. xxvi. 25.
ness, pretending that God would shew them signals of liberty, or deliverance. Such solemn warnings of the approach of the kingdom as Jesus delivered to whole towns and provinces, imply that he intended more than merely to require preparation for the reception of purer moral and spiritual doctrines. If he had intended only this, he would surely have refrained from using language which, in the existing temper of the nation, was so likely to be mistaken for a promise of national deli
The appearance of other pretenders of this kind made it the more necessary to distinguish his mission carefully from theirs, if it were in reality intended to be of a totally different character.
The injunctions given so frequently, to follow him, agree with the accusation“ he stirreth up the people,” and indicate that Jesus expected the coming of some extraordinary event, such as a national regeneration, which would interfere with the common routine of life, and which was so near at hand that men, in order to prepare for it, must forsake their occupations, kindred, and all that they had, not looking back even to perform the most pressing ordinary duties. “ And another of his disciples said unto him, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. But Jesus said unto him, Follow me, and let the dead bury their dead.” Matt. viii. 21, 22. “ And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke ix. 61, 62. “ If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” Matt. xix. 21. Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit