Imatges de pàgina

tals in a visible form, they would undoubtedly have imagined such a scene (if their thoughts could have reached it) as is described by the prophets on other occasions; the heavens bowing, the earth shaking, the mountains ready to start from their places, and all nature labouring to do homage to her Creator. Or, if he came in a milder way, they would, at least, have contrived an assemblage of all that we conceive magnificent; a pomp and Exsplendour surpassing all the world ever saw. pecting nations, crowding to welcome his arrival, and thrones of gold, and palaces of ivory, would have been judged too mean to accommodate so glorious a guest. But the Lord's thoughts and ways are different from man's. The beloved Son of God, by whom all things were made, was born in a stable, and grew up in an obscure and mean condition. He came to suffer and to die for sin, to sanctify poverty and affliction to his people, to set a perfect example of patience and submission; therefore he made himself of no reputation, but took on him the form and offices of a servant. This was the appointment of divine wisdom; but so incredible in the judgement of blinded mortals, that the apostle assures us "no man can say that Jesus is "the Lord;" can perceive and acknowledge his inherent excellence and authority, through the disgraceful circumstances of his humiliation, "but by "the Holy Ghost."* His enemies therefore thought they sufficiently refuted his assertions, by referring to his supposed parents, and the reputed place of his nativity.

[ocr errors]

Their envy and hatred were still more inflamed, by observing the character of his followers. These were chiefly poor and illiterate persons, and many

* 1 Cor. xii. 3.

of them had been notoriously wicked, or accounted so; publicans and sinners, whose names and professions were vile to a proverb. And for such as these, and almost these only, to acknowledge the person whom they refused, and by professing themselves his disciples,* to set up for being wiser than their teachers; this was a mortification to their pride which they could not bear; especially when they found their number daily to increase, and therefore could not but fear their own influence would proportionably decline.

Once more: Mistaking the nature of his kingdom, which he often spoke of, they opposed him from reasons of state; they feared, or pretended to fear, that if they suffered him to go on, the increase of his disciples would give umbrage to the Romans, who would come and take away both their place and their nation.† Some, perhaps, really had this apprehension; but it was more generally a pretence, which the leaders made use of to alarm the ignorant. They were, in truth, impatient of the Roman yoke, prone to tumults, and ready to listen to every deceiver who promised them deliverance, under pretence of being their expected Messiah. But, from enmity and opposition to Jesus, they became loyal at once. So they might accomplish their designs against him, they were content to forget other grievances, and openly professed they would have no other king but Cæsar.

These were some of the chief motives which united the opposite interests and jarring sentiments of the Jewish sects against our blessed Lord. We are next to consider the methods they employed to prejudice the multitudes against him. The

* John, vii. 49.; ix. 34.

+ John, xi. 48.

bulk of the common people seldom think for themselves in religious concerns, but judge it sufficient to give up their understandings and consciences to their professed* teachers. They are, however, for the most part, more unprejudiced and open to conviction than their guides, whose reputation and interest are more nearly concerned to maintain every established error, and to stop up every avenue by which truth and reformation might enter. The Jewish people, uninfluenced by the proud and selfish views of the priests and rulers, readily honoured the ministry of Christ, and attended him in great nultitudes. If If they did not enter into the grand design of his mission, they at least gave him testimonies of respect. When Jesus caused the f dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see, they glorified the God of Israel, saying, "A great prophet is risen "up amongst us, God has visited his people." Now, what was to be done in this case? Would the Scribes and Pharisees stand unconcerned? No; it is said in several places, they were filled with indignation, and essayed every means to bring his person and miracles into disrepute. The methods they used are worthy of notice, having been often repeated since (as to their substance) against the servants of Christ.

1. They availed themselves of a popular mis

*This is much to be lamented; for "if the blind lead the "blind, shall they not both fall into the ditch?" Matt. xv. 14. When the blind lead the blind, how, indeed, can it be otherwise; if the former imagine they see, and the latter are content to be led? Alas, for the people that are in such a case! Alas, for their guides!

+ Matt. xv. 31.; Luke, vii. 16.

It is a strong symptom of hypocrisy and enmity to the Gospel, to be offended with any new and remarkable displays of divine grace.

take concerning his birth. Jesus was born in Bethlehem, according to the Scriptures; but being removed from thence in his infancy, to avoid Herod's cruelty, and his parents afterwards living at Nazareth in Galilee, he was supposed by many to have been born there. Even Nathanael was prejudiced by this mistake; but happily yielded to Philip's advice to examine for himself. But it prevented many from inquiring much about Jesus, and therefore his enemies made the most of it, and confidently appealed to the Scripture, when it seemed to decide in their favour. *"Search and look, for out of Galilee ariseth no "prophet." It is probable, many were staggered with this objection, and thought it sufficient to invalidate all his discourses and miracles, since, let him say and do what he would, he could not be the Messiah if he was born in Galilee.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

2. They urged, that he could not be of God, because he infringed the law of Moses, and broke the sabbath. This, though it may seem a groundless objection to us, was not so to many at that time, who knew not the spiritual design and meaning of the law, and, perhaps, had not the opportunity to hear our Lord vindicate himself. They urged this vehemently against the force of a notorious miracle, and not without some colour from the words of Moses himself, who had warned them to beware of false teachers, though they should confirm their doctrine by signs and wonders.


3. They reproached the freedom of his conversation. Jesus was of easy access, and condescended to converse and eat with any who invited him. He neither practised nor enjoined the

John, vii. 42, 52. † John, ix. 16. ↑ Deut. xiii. 1, 2, 3.

austerities, which carry the air of superior sanctity in the judgment of weak and superstitous minds. They therefore styled him "a glutton * and winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners;" that is (as they intended it), a companion with them, and a conniver at their wickedness. Nothing could be more false and slanderous than this charge, nor more easily refuted, if the people would examine closely. But as it came from teachers who were highly reverenced for mortification, and as Jesus was usually attended by many with whom it was thought infamous to associate, it could not but have great weight with the credulous and indolent.

[ocr errors]

4. They laid much stress upon the mean condition of his followers. They were mostly Galileans, a people of small estimation, and of the lowest rank, fishermen or publicans; while, on the other hand, few or none of the rulers or Pharisees, who were presumed to be best qualified † to judge of his pretensions, had believed on him. Those who are acquainted with human nature, cannot but know how strongly this appeal to the judgment of persons eminent for their learning or station, operates upon minds who have no better criterion of truth. How could a Jew, who had been from his infancy superstitiously attached to the Pharisees, suppose that these eminently devout men, who spent their lives in the study of the law, would have rejected Jesus, if he had been a good


5. When, notwithstanding all their surmises, multitudes still professed high thoughts of Jesus, beholding his wonderful works; they proceeded, with the most blasphemous effrontery, to defame

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

+ John, vii. 48.

« AnteriorContinua »