« AnteriorContinua »
which the enemies of truth, and even a wicked life may long labor in vain. It is to be hoped, too, that conversion may take place immediately; and this, inore than it has been, should be the object of Sabbath School instruction, namely, not only the fortification of the mind against temptation and the preparation of it for conversion in coming years, but its immediate conversion now while young.
Connected with the inculcation of Scripture truths is one circumstance, with the mention of which, this brief view of the advantages of Sabbath Schools, will be closed. The day of instruction is the holy Sabbath ;-God's own chosen day. The toil, and care, and bustle of the world, are banished from recollection, and a calm is spread over the mind which fits it for the reception of truth. Even the youngest scholar feels solemn, amid the general solemnity and stillness around him; as the bells toll forth their music, and as the prayer of his teacher ascends to that God whose house he is in, and whose day it is. The effect of such seemingly small things, is immense, in predisposing the mind to the reception of profitable instruction, and should, by no means, be forgotten. From the school-room the pupils go to the congregation, composed of their parents and older friends, and again hear the truths of the Bible taught, to the solemn and attentive audience. Thus every circumstance seems calculated for effect,-salutary, holy effect. We know not how a scheme of instruction could have been devised more perfect in its adaptation to produce the desired results, than that of Sabbath Schools. Without examining the testimony which experience has borne to the advantages that they have produced; without recounting the thousands who have been converted by their means; or the extraordinary effect they have had in a few years on the moral tone of society; or the wonderful rapidity which has marked their increase and extension; but looking merely at the character of their pupils, and of their teachers; the benevolent zeal which originated and carries them onward; the nature of the instruction, and the peculiar circumstances of solemnity under which it is given, we are ready to repeat the assertion with which we commenced, that the advantages which have resulted, and must result, from these schools, is altogether beyond present estimation.
We had hoped to publish in this number another miscellaneous article or two and several notices of recent publications, but for want of room they are necessarily omitted.
[The following is the first of several articles on the same subject, which an esteemed friend and correspondent proposes to furnish in successive numbers for our pages. Of the interest, with which it will be read, we need not speak,-nor need we of its promise.]
If there is one subject, which, to a person of Christian sensibility affords matter of inexhaustible interest, it is the subject of our Saviour's death. Angels "desire to look into it," glorified saints delight in learning about it, and the church on earth strive to “know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.” There are, however, some circumstances, which, to many even good men, make the subject less interesting and less profitable than it might be. The principal of these circumstances are, -first, familiarity with the words of the sacred narration ;secondly, a passiveness and listlessness in the mode of reading them ;-and thirdly, a want of chronological, geographical and historical knowledge concerning the events narrated. But these obstacles may be easily removed, and it is one design of the writer in this and the following papers, to attempt their removal.
It is not at all strange, that a person, who from childhood has been familiar with the evangelical notices of the crucifixion, should find the sacred words now so monotonous, as to make little impression upon him. But by a change of the words and by writing the history in his own style, he may gain a fresh and deep impression. Though he cannot equal the VOL. VI.-NO. V.
phraseology of the Evangelists, yet the bare circumstance of giving to their thoughts a new dress, will impart to them a novelty, such as the face of nature receives from a sudden fall of snow, or the first verdure of spring.
One effect of our familiarity with the sacred expressions is, the passive and listless state of mind with which we now read them. This inactivity also results from another cause. We imagine that we are thoroughly acquainted with all the incidents which the Bible relates concerning the crucifixion, and therefore that we have nothing to learn. But we may easily expel this deceptive idea, and may give a quickening impulse to our minds, by collating the four evangelical descriptions of this subject, and by gathering together into one history of our own, the substance of the four distinct and different histories which we have so often read separately. No one can thus collate the accounts of the fall of Peter, or the fate of Judas, or any important event attending the Saviour's death, without finding new facts, which, but for his diligent comparison, he never would have discovered ; and without collecting a new history from the materials which had lain scattered, and many of them unobserved, in the condensed sacred histories. "Nothing more to learn about the crucifixion” ? Let the man, who thus rests contented, undertake to determine the order of the tragical occurrences connected with this event, and he will find not only a mass of new information which will astonish and invigorate him, but also an amount of difficulty which will perplex and humble him, and dispose, as well as teach him, to read with an active, inquiring, and penetrating mind. When we read the single narration of Matthew with no effect, but with an indolent willingness to receive any idea which happens to come into our minds, we may expect to think that we are reading the same thing over and over, and to sigh for more freshness and life. But when we keep our eyes open upon the collateral narrations, and strive to detect and to reconcile the apparent disagreemenis, we shall then receive a mental elasticity and incitement, which will add a double interest to our reading, and a deuble profit to our souls.
There is also a way of operating upon our own faculties, by which we may break up the monotonous and careless habit of reading, which we condemn. Hess has well described it in his beautiful “ Geschicte der drey letzen Lebens-jahne Jesu." "I always find,” he says,* " that the Evangelical History makes the strongest impression upon my mind, when I try to make
Page 429. Note. Vol. i.
myself think that I am reading it for the first time in my life. The fact that many find in the history so little which is elevating and entertaining, arises very naturally from this one circumstance among others, that they cannot fasten their minds upon the history as upon a new one, and bring themselves as for the first time to the work of reading a story, which has been known to them from early youth.”
Of all the obstacles, however, which lessen our interest in the evangelical account of the crucifixion, the greatest is our ignorance of the chronological, geographical and historical facts connected with it. Geography and chronology have been termed “the two eyes of history," and the history of the customs and the places alluded to by the Evangelists, is essential to a clear and operative understanding of their accounts. We must have, what Lord Kaimes calls, an “ideal presence” of the scenes described, or we shall not be adequately affected by the description. In order to enter into the spirit of the four Evangelists, we must see, as vividly as if with our bodily eyes, the situation of Palestine, and of its inhabitants; we must feel its breezes fanning our faces, and hear its rivers rushing down its hills. We cannot be too particular in our ideas of the face of that delightful country; the appearance of its sky and its soil, the temperature of its atmosphere, and the location of its cities and villages. We shall be surprised at the increased significancy which is given to the sacred narrations by our plain and distinct images of the sacred scenes.
This branch of knowledge is the more important, because it has been encumbered with so much that is visionary. Authorities upon it are as unsound as they are numerous, and the readers of the Bible are exposed not only to a want of correct ideas, but also to the admission of the most improbable conjectures. It is therefore proposed to introduce into the ensuing numbers, from authorities which are judicious and can be depended upon, such chronological, geographical, and historical details as may elucidate the sacred record; and to devote the remainder of the present paper to such general statements as may be most necessary to impart vividness to our ideas of the crucifixion.
“Chronologists,” says Jahn,* “ are agreed that our common era, which was first used by Dyonisius, in the year 526 after Christ, and introduced into the Western Church by the Pope in the year 532, places the birth of Christ some years too late but it is not yet determined whether the difference is two, three
* llebrew Commonwealth, $ 122. p. 412.
four, five, or even eight years.” The more general opinion, however, is, that there is an error of four years, and that Christ was born in the year 4000 A. M. ; that our vulgar era commenced in the year 4004 A. M., and that the crucifixion occurred in the year 37 of our Lord's life, and 4036 of the creation. Still, it will not be expedient for us to deviate, from the chronology of Archbishop Usher, which, though incorrect, is generally received, and which assigns the death of Christ to the year 33, instead of 37, and of course determines the present year to be 1833, instead of 1937. At this time, Tiberias Nero had been reigning at Rome, as successor to Augustus, about seventeen years; Pontius Pilate bad been Procurator of Judea, as successor of Valerius Gratus, about seven years; and Joseph Caiaphus had been high priest of the Jews, as successor to Simon, about seven years.
As it is impossible for us to determine precisely the year of the crucifixion, it is equally impossible to determine the calendar day. The feast of the Passover was on the 15th of the month Nisan—the crucifixion was on the day before the feast—the month Nisan commenced with the first appearance of the new moon in our April ; so that the crucifixion took place on the 14th day after the April new moon. But on what day of the month the new moon appeared, we are ignorant. The common opinion is,* that the 3d of April was the day of the crucifixion, and the 5th of April the day of the resurrection, and the 14th of May the time of the ascension. By this chronology the observances in the Catholic church are regulated. But it assumes against evidence that we know the year of the Sa-, viour's death, and also that the month Nisan commenced with the new moon in March, instead of that in April. That the new moon in March was in later days regarded by the Jews as the commencement of the month Nisan is evident from the the Rabbins; but that it was not so regarded in the time of Christ and previously, is evident, not only from Josephus, but also from the whole current of Scriptural chronology. As the evidence preponderates decidedly in favor of that system, which refers the commencement of Nisan, or Abib, to the latter part of our April,ll we must conclude it probable that the crucifixion occurred in the beginning of May, and the ascension about the middle of June. We cannot obtain greater particularity of
See Chronological Table at the end of Calmet's Dictionary, by Robinson, p. 983 : also art. Chronology in the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, p. 273.
1 Sce art. Jerusalem in Worcester's Gazetteer; also the Chronological tables in Calmet's Dictionary and Edinburgh Encyclopedia.
See on this subiect, Jahn's Archeology, $ 103, of the Months and the Year. À See art. “Months" in Calmet's Dictionary, edited by Robinson.