תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

sepulchre, had seen him again in life, and had, once more, heard him unfolding his sublime views of immortality, and his doctrine of future reward and punishment, it is next to impossible, we are willing to conclude, but that all the inhabitants of the holy city, the Roman governor with his numerous attendants, and even Herod with his men of war, must have yielded an implicit belief to the Gospel, and ranked themselves among the first and most determined adherents of the Redeemer. And, instead of going away, had he remained on earth to enforce his doctrines, and to secure for his wise and beneficent institutions a firm establishment among all ranks of men ; had he enlightened the Jews in regard to the real nature and objects of their ancient religion, and pointed out more clearly, to the Greek and the Roman, the Great Being whom they still blindly worshipped ; removing, at the same time, all grounds of error, and precluding all sources of mistake, in relation to his own precepts and ordinances ; giving to the whole Christian community the same creed, the same worship, the same hope, and the same mind, as well in duty as in faith : had he done these things, would he not, we are tempted to ask, have conferred a greater benefaction upon the children of men than could possibly be accomplished by the ministry of twelve illiterate fishermen ?

These views present themselves to the hasty reader of the inspired narrative, as coinciding best with the ignorance and narrow conceptions of the human understanding. That they are wrong we can have no doubt, upon the simple assurance of our blessed Lord, that Divine Wisdom had ordered it otherwise : “I tell

you

the “ truth, it is expedient for you that I go away.” But we are not compelled to rest this conclusion on the basis of mere authority ; for, even with the faint light which is supplied to us by reason, we can discover the grounds of the expediency referred to by our Lord; we can see that, after the atonement for sin was made by his death upon the cross, the propagation of the Gospel was more suitably affected by human means than by an extraordinary providence, manifested in a series of supernatural phenomena.

A miracle, be it remembered, is fitted to satisfy only the age or the individuals who witness it; for, in the very next generation, it becomes a matter of mere human testimony, and must be received or rejected on the ordinary grounds which support all historical belief. For example, had our Lord, after his resurrection, appeared to the people of Jerusalem, and satisfied them that he was indeed the very person who had lately fallen a victim to the disappointment of the Jews and the jealousy of the Romans, he would, no doubt, have thereby made a deep impression upon their minds, and opened up a wide entrance for the reception of his religion in that particular spot. But it is manifest that the children of the first believers, even after the lapse of a very short

period, would not have found themselves in possession of the same advantages; and hence, before they could follow the faith of their fathers, they must have consented to repose their confidence upon the soundness of the testimony, by means of which the miraculous incidents had been conveyed to their ears.

In process of time, moreover, doubts would have begun to arise, and chiefly with regard to the identity of the Redeemer's person; for if, when he presented himself to his own disciples, in whose society he had spent more than two years, some of them, when they saw him, were slow to admit that he was the very Jesus of Nazareth into whose service they had entered—to whose discourses they had so often listened, and to whose wonderful works they had so frequently borne witness,-may we not presume that similar misgivings would have been extensively propagated among a large multitude, and, consequently, that the personal appeal, on the part of our Lord, which is so much desiderated by hasty reasoners, would have soon ceased to produce any effect upon the belief of the world. * Even the men who saw him would, in a little time, have allowed themselves to question the accuracy of their own perceptions; and, as ages rolled on, difficulties of this kind would have continually augmented, and the force of the original impression would have been gradually weakened. It was, therefore, expedient that our Lord should go away, and commit the propagation of religious faith and knowledge to those ordinary means which are supplied by human zeal, courage, and fidelity.

Besides, whatever might have been the im

* “ Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted.—Matth. xxviii. 16, 17.

And as he thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are you troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your hearts ? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as you see me have."-Luke, xxix. 36, 37, 38, 39.

pression created in the first warm moments of conviction, the evidence for Christianity would always have been encumbered with this objection in regard to the Jews; namely, that they expected a Messias, and were, therefore, the more ready to be deceived by the pretensions of any one, whose actions bore the slightest resemblance to the prophetical character which was shadowed forth in their ancient writings. The unanimous reception of our Saviour by that people would constantly have been attended by the suspicion which I have just mentioned. He came unto his own, it would have been said, and his own received him : There was no examination of his claims, no scrutiny into his views, no measuring of his power: they first allowed themselves to be deceived, and now they endeavour to involve us in the contempt which attaches to their credulity, and in the guilt which belongs to the propagation of an imposture.

For these reasons, and for others which are concealed in the depths of Divine Wisdom, our blessed Saviour thought it not expedient to establish his church in the world, by carrying captive the senses of the generation among whom be dwelt in the flesh. He preferred, for that great purposé, the ministry of his Apostles ; which, as I have undertaken to illustrate in the

« הקודםהמשך »