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own minds on this subject, and relate without artifice, the great events of the death and resurrection of our Lord, which alone succeeded at last to correct their worldly mistakes.
Now, my hearers, I do not ask, whether their history is true ; but I do ask, how it could ever enter the heads of four bigoted Jews to claim for Jesus, of all persons in the world, the office of the Messiah, if such a person had not existed and made pretensions to the character, and, by wonderful evidence, which they found it impossible to resist, substantiated his claim to this singular dignity.
If any one will suppose the gospels to have been written after the destruction of Jerusalem, a supposition to which unbelievers sometimes resort, to avoid the evidence of divinity arising from our Saviour's predictions, our reasoning remains unaffected. For it is still more unaccountable, that these Jewish authors of the gospels should represent him as the Messiah, whom they make to predict the very overthrow, which it was thought he would prevent. Whatever other title or character he might, on account of his prophecies, have deserved, still to declare him the Messiah, that proud and cherished name among Jews, was such an anomaly in the history of a Jew's mind, as must have appeared little short of madness to one of his own nation; and is a phenomenon, which we have a right to have explained by those, who seriously doubt the reality of the character of Jesus.
You perceive then, that to suppose the falsity of the gospel story, or the fictitiousness of the character of Jesus Christ, involves an unaccountable phenomenon in the Jewish historians. Allow the character to have existed as described, and the difficulty vanishes, for the evangelists themselves tell us of all their previous mistakes, wishes and prejudices, and the events which produced their change of chapacter and yiews.
2. The second mark of reality and truth, and consequently of something supernatural, in the character of Jesus, is its confessed originality.
There had been before, in the Jewish history, a succession of prophets, who might have furnished the evangelists with models for a character, if they had been drawing an unreal, or inaginary portrait. The heathen world too had been favoured with emi. nent instructers; for the darkness of paganism is lighted up with the rare lustre of Zoroaster, Pytha. goras and Socrates. But Jesus does not appear to have borrowed a ray from these lights. He travels across this galaxy of illustrious men, like the full moon in all the brightness of her course, with a lus... tre totally unborrowed from them, and casting their feeble and collected light into distant obscurity by the mild, yet overwhelming power of his rays.
Moses spake always like the mere interpreter of the Most High, diffident of his own power, and not without apprehensions from the unfaithfulness and inconstancy of the people. Jesus speaks always with the conscious and unhesitating dignity of one, who had the spirit without measure, who could say without doubt and without presumption, I and my father are one. The preceding prophets, and John too, the immediate precursor of our Lord, had passed off the stage without seeming to have imagined, that the Jewish peculiarity would ever cease, except by Judaism's becoming the religion of the world. Jesus, low and humble as he was, gentle and patient as he was, comes as if he knew that he was to consummate the dispensations of the Most High, as if he saw the innumerable prejudices, corruptions and superstitions of his nation sinking away before him, and the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness, descending from on high. Pointed out, as he had been, by all that preceded him, he points to no one. Verily, I say unto
you, there hath not risen a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. He comes, as if he were conscious, that, after the accomplishment of his mis. sion, he was to sit down on the right hand of the majesty of God; angels, and principalities, and powers being made subject to him. : • His manner too is as original as his doctrine. Contrary to the example of all the founders of Jewish sects, he comes without austerity, and without any thing of that shade of reserve into which those instructers withdraw, who think themselves oracular. To the great astonishment of the Jews his manners are familiar, yet dignified ; to the inexpressible offence of his friends, he associates promiscuously with every class of men; his conversations, while they delight and instruct his honest and humble followers, send away his inquisitors confounded and unable to reply. And with a still more extraordinary assumption of greatness and independence, this poor Jew from the village of Nazareth denounces, without fear, and in the very seat of their authority, the scribes, and priests, and Phari. sees, all that was hypocritical, however sacred, and all that was iniquitous, however powerful. Still more striking, and, as it seems, unexampled, was the air of authority, which he assumed in his Sermon on the mount, and in the performance of his miracles. Who art thou ? say they. His manner seems to have been grand, impressive, irresistible. 66 The multitude," says the evangelist, 66 were astonished, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." · It is impossible for you to understand this won. derful originality in the character of Jesus of Nazareth, without at the same time calling to mind the character of the nation among whom he appeared..
They were å people, in one respect, like the Hindoos, all whose habits, opinions, and even movements, were scrupulously marked out by law or by tradition. For many centuries they had been the slaves of a rigid ritual, originally adapted indeed to their national circumstances and character, but now made narrower by traditionary interpretations, which were esteemed even more sacred than the text itself. The Jews of our Saviour's time were a priest-ridden, formal, and hypocritical nation, and proverbially odious to the rest of the world, who, Though not wiser, were the slaves of a different superstition and of different national vices. If there ever was a community formed to reduce all minds to a common level of superstitious imbecility, it was that of the Jews. The best proof of this assertion is to be found, I think, in the remaining works of the Jewish authors of that age. The reveries of the Talmud, which are a collection of Jewish traditionary interpolations, are unrivalled in the regions of absurdity. The works of Philo, who flourished about the same time, are only made tolerable by their occasional mysticism after the fashion of Plato, whom he followed. Josephus, who was rather a Roman than a Jew, is a sensible historian, and by no means a fair standard of the state of Jewish culti. vation, for he was familiar with Greek literature. The evangelists, though, except Luke, uncultivated men, all write with great simplicity, and, what is truly remarkable, without any mysticism or affecta-, tion. But such being the state of Jewish cultivation, think only how extraordinary, in such a nation as that, must a character like Jesus have appeared ; sitting down to meat without washing, where the ablutions were perpetual, and of religious obligation; mingling without reserve, and even eating, with tax gatherers and gentiles, whose touch the Jews considered as polluting; and in all his discourses
preferring mercy to sacrifice, and obedience of the moral law of God before all the ceremonials of exteraal sanctity, and all this singularity too under the character of the Messiah, the darling object of national expectation !
Now, my hearers, I again ask, how, if the original did not exist, could such a character as this have entered into the imagination of a Jew of that day ? For let it be constantly remembered, that the historians of Christ are Jews, by birth, by education, by interest; and that such persons should portray, and with commendation too, such a character as Jesus, if it did not exist, is more wonderful than the existence of the true, the divine original. Would not the bare conception of such a character, in any age, have been enough to immortalize the mind that formed it ?- But to draw such a character, and at the same to give no intimation of any effort or art in the work; to devise it, and discover no desire to attract attention, or awaken admiration of the writer or of the hero, but to leave it undecorated to make its own impression-here, here appear the power and ingenuousness of truth ! My friends, I see the seal of God, and cannot refuse to exclaim with awe, verily there is something more than mortal in this affair.
3. A third peculiarity in the character drawn of Jesus, in the gospels, is its wonderful sublimity. As this is rather a matter of taste and feeling than a point to be proved by facts, I shall not enter into a very copious illustration. Reading the gospels, as we do, from our childhood, and being so entirely familiarized to every circumstance in our Saviour's life, and every word recorded of him, we lose, I think, much too often, the full and fresh perception of those marks of moral grandeur of which his his. tory is full. But to those, who can yet feel the sentiment of the sublime in character, we appeal.