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teacher. Yet his preaching was too plain, pungent, and severe, on its own account, to be universally popular, either with the people, or the polluted conservators of a corrupt Church. In the absence of his miracles, the common people would not have tolerated his ministry of the Word. The attention which his miracles gave him, contributed to mortify and arouse more deeply the jealousy of the Jewish doctors; for had he been some obscure peasant, these Church dignitaries would not have condescended to notice him.
The purity of the Savior's doctrines in opposition to the impurity of the times and the men of the times, should therefore be well considered, if we would understand the events of this age. He offered no worldly attractions to gain followers; he pretended no bribe to charm the sympathies of vice; the rich and the poor were alike common in his view; publicans and harlots were as much the creatures of God as the Scribes and Pharisees, and vastly more likely to enter the kingdom of heaven; the despised Samaritans were as good as the Jews. The entire tone of the Savior's morality, both as he lived it and taught it, was in conflict with Judaism, theoretical and practical. To this fact we assign no inconsiderable influence in causing the offensiveness of Jesus, and procuring his rejection. It is the
history of depravity to find fault with truth that condemns it; and aim its shaft at the bearer of that truth. This feature is never more marked, than when corruption is sanctified by religious titles, and barricaded with ecclesiastical organizations. Then you have the strength of depravity added to the strength of bigotry, and a perverted intellect ministering to both ; and the moment you touch the mass, you may look for the strangest phenomena which ever appear in the history of human nature. The Son of Man had to deal with such a fearful compound; he shone upon it, revealing its deformity; and all its pestilential and angry elements were put in motion against him. There was real anger, rage, and passion ; deep-seated offence at his morality, truthful and sublime, but terribly condemnatory in reference to the great proportion of those who heard him. He reproduced God's orthodoxy and he fell, the victim of violence, yet, as the captain of our salvation, made perfect through suffer
2. In the second place, the Savior was direct, personal, and justly severe in his denunciations against the religious teachers of that corrupt age. In this remark I allude to the Scribes, the Pharisees, the priests, the men who held the censer, made the offerings upon Jewish altars, and superintended the interests and concerns of the Church. The severest part of his preaching was turned against these persons. He marked them out as a class, and denounced the wrath of God upon them. This he did in their presence and in their absence. Many of his parables were for their hearing and profit; and they understood themselves to be meant. THIRD SERIES, VOL. III.
He portrayed their character under the category of hypocrisy envenomed with the poison of the viper; and let fall on their ears the death-knell of their hopes, crying:
6 Woe! woe! unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” He pierced with the sharp arrows of truth their official dignity, and rent their pontifical robes, as it seemed to them, with a ruthless, but in truth with a faithful hand. These were the men, who were contributing more than any others to the corruption of the times. This fact the Savior was wise to perceive; he knew with perfect accuracy the state of things; he saw the nation hastening to its ruin under the influence of bad leaders; and as the Great Prophet he sounded the last loud tocsin of alarm. He had a right to speak as he did ; it was the truth, and he knew it. It required the wisdom, and excellence, and authority of such a being as the Lord Jesus to do justice to these men,
both for their instruction and that of after ages. They did not repent as a body of men, but were greatly offended; their passions were kindled; they addressed their united power to the work of destroying Jesus; were the authors of the movement, which at last brought him to the cross. They adopted an order, that if any one confessed Jesus as the Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. They kept some of their emissaries almost constantly upon the Savior's path ; they sought to entrap him; seized upon every act, or word, which could by any possible construction, be turned to his disadvantage ; they left no stone uned, until they had secured the tragedy of the crucifixion. To accomplish this appears to have been their great work during the passover week, in which the Savior suffered. They acted, as we can easily imagine that wicked men would act, condemned by truth, smarting under reproof they knew to be just, and yet determined not to repent and reform their lives. Poor judges were they of Jesus Christ, with such violence of passion and wickedness of heart
. Eminently did they put out their own eyes, and hate the light, “ because their deeds were evil.” Their state of feeling kept all their philosophy in motion to obliterate the miraculous credentials of him, whom they hated. To be taught, and so signally condemned, by the carpenter's son-this was too much for the Jewish doctors. They were the teachers of Israel; they understood the law, and the prophets, and the traditions, and had no idea of having such a Messiah as Jesus appeared to be. What though he does perform many miracles ? Who cares for that? The God of Israel is not in it. Beelzebub, the prince of devils, the lord of idols, is helping Jesus, that he may seduce the nation. Dr. Lightfoot informs us, that the Jewish Talmudists, taught on this subject by their fathers, declare, “that Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord, was a magician, a broacher of strange and wicked worship; and one that did miracles by the power of the devil, to beget his worship the greater belief and honor." “ Among all the devils they esteemed that devil the worst, the foulest, and, as it were, the prince of the rest, who ruled over the idols, and by whom oracles and miracles were given forth among the heathens and idolators. And they were of this opinion for this reason-because they held idolatry above all other things chiefly wicked and abominable, and to be the prince and head of evil. This demon they called "Baalzebul' (or Beelzebub), not so inuch by a proper name, as by one more general and common; as much as to say the Lord of Idolatry ;' the worst devil and the worst thing; and they called him
the prince of devils,' because idolatry is the prince, or chief of wickedness."*
These passages shed light upon the manner in which the Jewish rabbies and doctors expounded the origin of the Savior's miracles. They were not prepared to attribute them to the God of Israel ; and thus feel their force, as a moral argument demanding their reception of the visible worker. They so hated this worker, because his preaching so thoroughly condemned them and aroused their depraved passions, that they could more readily see in Jesus the aid of the prince of devils,” than the authoritative presence
of the true God. Where there was so much sin and intense enmity against Jesus, there were not wanting intellectual devices to neutralize the claims of the Son of Man. It was truly a hard case for them to solve; yet they preferred to solve it, rather than believe' on him.
3. In the third place, Jesus assumed and taught certain things in regard to himself, which were grounds of offence to the Jews. The Christian is prepared to concede that no inspired man, no mere prophet ever spake of himself, as did Jesus Christ. There is a peculiarity here, for which we in vain seek a parallel in other parts of the Bible. What is this peculiarity ?
Though Jesus Christ appeared as a man, spake as a man with human lips, it is perfectly certain that, on repeated occasions, the Jews understood him as asserting a divine character, prerogatives, and attributes for himself, to an extent that involved his equality with God, that made him God in nature as well as Messiah in functions. Jesus knew that this construction was placed upon his words; and he permitted his language to be taken in the sense affixed to it by his Jewish hearers. His Apostles entertained the same idea, and preached it as a part of the Gospel system. He aecepted from many persons the expressions of divine homage without any marks of disapprobation, or correction. Matt. 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; 28:9, 17; John, 20:28. In this respect, how unlike the conduct of their Lord and Master, was that of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra. Acts 14:11-18. He professed to exercise the divine prerogative of forgiving sins; and when certain scribes imputed to him the crime of blasphemy, inquiring," who can forgive sins but God only ?” Jesus at once wrought a miracle to con
1 Lightfoot's Works, vol. ii., pp. 185, 196.;
firm his right in the premises. Matt. 9: 2-8; Mark 2: 1-12. He spake of his existence as being prior to that of Abraham, and in doing so, assumed the title of the Lord Jehovah, “I am;" at which the Jews were offended, and took up “stones to cast at him." John 8:58–59. He again spake of himself and his Father as being “ one.”
This immediately aroused the Jewish imputation o! blasphemy, and the purpose to stone him, according to the law ol Moses. When he asked the Jews why they purposed thus to treat him, they replied, " for a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy, and because thou being a man, makest thyself God.? John 10:30-33. The title, “ the Son of God” was appropriateil by Jesus to himself, in a way to convey to his Jewish hearers the full belief, that he meant to claim equality with God. His enemies accused him of blasphemy for assuming this title ; it formed the basis of the charge on which he was condemned before the Jewish Council. Matt. 26 : 63–66; John 19:7. It is as certain as language can make an idea, that Jesus did so speak and act as to imply and assert, that he was a divine person. This is his own testimony with regard to himself. It was so understood by friends and foes, both when he was on earth, and after his ascension into heaven. While in his ministry, as reported in the evangelical records, you see a man-you as plainly see a God. He assumes to be the appropriate object of religious affections-performs miracles in his own name—speaks with supreme authority,“ verily, verily, I say unto you”-commands men to love him, to believe on him, and honor him even as they honor the Father-promises to dispense eternal life to those who shall observe his precepts-declares that he will raise the dead, and at last be the Supreme Judge of the world. He made no secret of these divine aspects of himself; they appeared with unmistakable plainness. The great question, often discussed in the Christian church, who was Christ?what was the constitution of his person ?-was a question with men, when he was on earth ; and was made such by his own conduct and language. The idea of his divine nature started with Jesus himself, not with his disciples, or enemies ; he fostered it; others received it from him ; it was a growing idea during his ministry. It was the very point in respect to which he was interrogated by Caiaphas; on that solemn occasion he affirmed it, as his judges understood, and as he knew they understood. Though other causes inflamed the passions of his enemies, and made them zealous to procure his death, this, and this only, was the ground of legal accusation before his Jewish Judges. It was not with them a new idea at this moment; the manner in which they submit the question to Jesus perfectly implies, that they already understood what he claimed for himself. Their object is to elicit from him a confession, that he might be condemned as a blasphemer upon his own testimony. The Savior knew their object; and
under the solemnities of an oath, gave the very confession they wanted. To say that he did not mean to speak as he was understood, is the most sacrilegious trifling. Here then is a grand peculiarity in respect to the ministry of Christ; it is plain and palpable; whoever reads, free from theoretical bias, cannot fail to see it.
What was the relation of Jewish opinion to this proposition of the Savior? They understood it. What did they think of it? I answer; their Unitarianism caught fire at this peculiar claim of Jesus, and ended in the charge of blasphemy against the claimant. Archvishop Wbateley, in his “ Kingdom of Christ,” has very properly distinguished between the Jewish expectation of a Messiah, and the views entertained with regard to his person. It is very manifest, that the Jews expected the coming of the Messiah. They knew very well, that Jesus reported himself to the nation as this Messiah. But were they accustomed to view that Messiah as in any sense a divine person? It is clear, that they did not entertain this view, but precisely its opposite. Their Messianic theory led them to regard Jesus as a blasphemer, arrogating to himself divine attributes, and justly punishable with death, under the statute of Moses against blasphemy; and this, not simply because he claimed to be the Messiah, but because he superadded a supernatural and divine character for himself. Not more did his lowliness as a man offend them, than did his extraordinary pretensions as God; for in neither respect did he conform to the popular and learned theory of the age. Neither in his appearance, nor in his preaching was he the Messiah to suit the conceptions of the Jewish people. Their minds formed a soil unpropitious for the reception of his words. Had they gone to their own Scriptures, they might have corrected their theory, and easily have answered the question, how Christ was David's son, and at the same time David's Lord. This they had neither the wisdom, nor the piety to do. For various reasons, their passions were aroused; Jesus must in some way be destroyed; his miracles, though a very hard problem to solve, are not sufficient to make his words credible, when both his appearance and his words are so totally opposed to the true Messianic theory; he must be a blasphemer and a sinner; it is more easy to suppose that the prince of devils helps him, than that the God of Israel is authenticating his mission, " This appears to be the style of logic adopted by his Jewish murderers; and the whole nation was a theatre suited to give power to such thoughts, and in the same ratio impair the force of the Savior's miracles. His rejection, in these circumstances, is not so wonderful in view of second causes, as at first it might appear to be.
It serves to complete our view of this important point to know, that the Jews, as a people, have trodden substantially in this awful track of their forefathers. Though scattered, and suffering under the providential judgments of God, they are still expecting the