תמונות בעמוד
PDF
ePub

and teachers. This doctrine hath something plausible in it, and, under certain limitations and restrictions, may be admitted.

The vulgar ought indeed to pay a great regard to their teachers, and are often under a necessity of admitting many things upon their authority; but then we must except things plain in their own nature°; in a word, every thing in which the reason of one man is as good a judge as the reason of another, in which a man knows that he wants no guide, and therefore should submit to none.

Every Jew in Jerusalem was as competent a judge of a miracle as the high priest; and, if he saw Christ raise a man from the dead, and perform a variety of wonderful works, might conclude with full assurance, and without any danger of mistaking, that God would never suffer a deceiver to do such works in his name, who taught nothing contrary to common sense.

In such a case as this, a Jew who submitted to the authority of the Scribes and Pharisees, of the chief priests and rulers, against plain evidence, absolutely renounced all use of reason; after which it would have been ridiculous in him to talk of the reasonableness of following his guides, the reasonableness of rejecting private judgment; for, what had such an one to do with reason f?

The Jews were offended at Christ, because he was not a temporal prince and a conqueror. They were all persuaded that the Messias should be a great king, under whom they should rule over the Gentiles, and live in wealth and pleasure.

When therefore they found that Christ was poor and despised, and died an ignominious death, and that his kingdom, as his apostles taught, was a spiritual kingdom established in the hearts of men, a kingdom not of this world, the cross of Christ proved a stumbling-block to them, and they were displeased at a doctrine that suited neither with their prejudices nor with their inclinations.

They had indeed several arguments to offer in behalf of this prejudice, which, though they are weak if they be

* See Whitby Serm. on John viii. 37. in his Comment, vol. d. - See Wollastop Rel. of Nat. sect. iii. p. 49. first ed.

compared with the superior evidences of the truth of the gospel, yet have a fair appearance when they are considered by themselves, and therefore deserve to be answered.

1. In the first place, as their law contained several proc. mises to the obedient, and those promises were temporal, it was not to be thought strange that the Jews should have accounted prosperity a mark of God's favour, and adversity of his displeasure. This laid a foundation for a prejudice against Christ and his apostles.

2. Almost all the great and good men recorded in the scriptures, whom God had raised up from time to time to be their princes and leaders, were miraculously blessed with success in their undertakings. The Jews therefore expected that the Messias, when he appeared, should surpass Moses, and Joshua, and David, and the Maccabees, and other of their victorious kings and leaders, as much in splendour and felicity as in dignity and authority.

3. To confirm them in this expectation, there were several prophecies applied by all the Jews to the Messias, which represent him as a powerful prince, who should save and protect his people, and overcome his enemies, and which speak in magnificent terms of the peace and prosperity of his happy reign.

But it is easy to show that these objections against our Saviour were not sufficient to excuse their unbelief.

For, though the law promised temporal blessings to the good, yet the Jews knew by long experience that those promises had not been fulfilled at all times, and to all persons. Extraordinary interpositions in behalf of the righteous were grown less frequent; which was an intimation of a future state, and an argument by which it might be proved. The Jews therefore had no reason to judge of the characters and merits of men by their station and circumstances in this life, or to imagine that fortunate and virtuous were the same thing.

They might have found examples of good men who had undergone much trouble, and had received here below no reward of their obedience.

They might have learned from the prophets that the Messias, to whom so much power and prosperity and

splendour was promised, was also to be a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs, and that his soul was to be an offering for sin ; and they might have seen, in the sufferings of Christ, and in his resurrection, the accomplishment of these seemingly irreconcileable predictions.

Lastly; if some particular prophecies concerning the reign of the Messias appeared to them unfulfilled, they ought not upon that account to have rejected Christ; they should have rested satisfied with the various proofs which he gave them of his divine power, and have concluded, either that they did not understand the true sense of those prophecies, or that the time of their completion was not yet come.

They were offended at him, because, as they said, he profaned the sabbath-day, that is, did not observe it according to their superstitious manner.

But Christ, as the great prophet, and a worker of miracles, according to the example of other prophets, and according to the decisions of the Jews themselves, had a power of setting aside the ceremonial rest of the sabbath, or any other ritual law. Thus Joshua commanded that the ark of God should be carried round Jericho, the armed men going before and after it, seven days together, one of which must have been a sabbath: thus Elijah and Elisha touched and handled dead bodies, to restore them to life, and did not account themselves legally unclean ; thus Samuel and Elijah offered sacrifices, though neither of them were priests, and in places where, as some think, sacrifices could not be offered according to the law. In a word, it appears that many ceremonial laws were at certain times generally disused, and not observed by very good men h.

They were offended, some of them at least, because he did not live in a way more austere, and in their opinion

& Some of them seem to have known and believed it. See Whitby on Ephes. i. 4.

h ). Hales Sermon on John xviii. 36. p. 160. Le Clerc on 1 Sam. vji. 17. Grotius on Luke vii. 14. It is certain that the sabbatic years and the jubilees were greatly neglected by the Jews, as probably were many other ceremonial laws. Yet we learn from Josephus i. p. 657 and 741. ed. Haverc. that in the days of Herod the Great, and some time at least before, the sabbatic years were observed. See Prideaux in the Pref, to his Connect., who has not taken notice of this,

more becoming the dignity which he assumed ; because he condescended to converse with people of bad reputation, with publicans and sinners.

Some were offended at him, because, said they, we know whence he is; but when Christ cometh, no man knoweth whence he is'.

Some were offended, because he was not of Bethlehem, where it was foretold that the Messias should be born. A little inquiry would have set then right, if they had taken any pains to find out the truth.

They were offended at hiin because he had dwelt in Galilee, out of which place no prophet could ever arise, as they foolishly supposed.

Christ had dwelt at Nazareth till he entered into his office; his relations dwelt there; the inhabitants of that place were acquainted with his person, and remembered his education; they knew that he had had no opportunity of acquiring the learning which could qualify him to be a teacher. When they heard the force and the wisdom with which he spake, and were informed of his mighty works, and saw some of them, they were astonished, and yet they could not pay him a due respect; they slighted himk, be. cause they knew him, and the poverty of his family, and the obscurity in which he had lived amongst them; and having long viewed him as their equal, they could not submit to show him the veneration due to a prophet. It is very likely that some envy was mixed with their prejudice. "Whence,' said they, 'hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works ? Whence could he have his power of work. ing miracles, unless from God? and whence could he have his wisdom, unless from him also ? They, of all people, should have been the readiest to believe in him, because, knowing well that he had been deprived of the ordinary means of receiving instruction, and of acquiring the know

[ocr errors]

ledge which appeared in all that he spake, they had a clear evidence that it must have been a supernatural gift.

They were offended at him, because in his discourses to them he sometimes gave them hints that he was a much greater person than they imagined; upon which they called him a blasphemer, who made himself God, and equal with God, that is, who assumed to himself divine honours, and more respect than was due to a prophet; for the Jews had no notion that their Messias should be any thing more than mere man'.

The Jews, as it appears from Justin's dialogue with Trypho, objected to the Christians, that they worshipped more gods than one, and ascribed divine perfections to Christ.

To this Justinm, and other Christians, answered, that frequent mention is made in the Old Testament of a person, who is called God, and is God", and yet is distinguished from the God and Father of all.

Besides ; Philo" and several of their own writers taught something so like the Christian doctrine concerning the Son and the Spirit of God, that the Jews, if they condemned the gospel upon that account, condemned themselves. . We read in the scriptures that God is no object of our senses, that he hath no body or form, that he is the invisible God, whom no man hath seen or can see; and in many of the manifestations which God made of himself, nothing appeared, except a glorious light, a cloud and fire, or else only a voice was heard ; but in other places it is said that God himself appeared. To reconcile this, the antient Christian writers generally agree, and their consent ought not to be slighted, that the person who appeared at different

1 Whitb. on Rom. ix. 5. and Justin M. p. 235. m See the index to Thirlby's Justin, Christus. in sòs xaneitat, raì sos Šoti xai ērtat. Justin, p. 261. Trypho says again to Justin, It is written, 'I am the Lord,—my glory I will not give to another.' This objection Justin answers, by observing, that God speaks in opposition to false gods and idols, and not to his Word and his Son.

• Grotius de Ver. R. C. v. 21. Vitringa on Isai. vol. ii. p. 458. not. Le Clerc on John i. Fabric. de Ver. R. C. p. 132.

P See Bull, Defens. Fid. Nic. Clarke Repl. to Nels. p. 161. and Serm. 5. vol. 1. Whitby on John i. 1 Cor. x. 9. Philipp. ii. 6. Col. i. 15.

« הקודםהמשך »