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THOUGHTS SUGGESTED BY THE BIRTH OF A CHILD. PERHAPS, of all the universe contains, to the contemplative mind, there is nothing so interesting as a newly-born child. It is interesting, from the circumstances by which it is surrounded, as a medium through which Nature displays her fairest workings,-in which she appears sublime in her tenderness and in her vigilant regard for the preservation of our species. But it is still more an object of interest and wonder for the faculties it possesses, and the capabilities with which it is endowed.
From the first thought that entered the mind of the first man, to the last act that was performed prior to the child's entrance into life, all have contributed to make these circumstances such as they are, and no others. And not a word shall this child utter, nor an action shall it perform, but shall leave their traces upon the remotest generations. This frame, but a few hours visible to us, has a history compared with which, that of the Pyramids is but of yesterday. The atoms which compose that body, and which are blended with an art so truly divine, have constituted other forms, and performed other functions ; nor shall they perish in his using
“Dissolv'd by death, they shall not pass away,
But live till Nature's frame itself decay." That frame, how feeble---how slender the thread that binds it to existence! And yet, what an assemblage of wonders is here! How strong in its weakness! How eloquent in its want of words! It can change the most sluggish, indolent, and profligate, into a perfect pattern of manly energy, prudence, and forethought.
Behold that timid, shrinking, and delicate young mother! Breathe softly ye winds! Ye elements deal gently, that ye crush not a thing so fair, and yet so frail! One cry of her child, ---one feeble wail, indicative of danger or distress ---and, in a moment, how is her whole nature changed! The shouting of the battle---the clashing of arms---the raging of the sea, has no terror for her. She will bare her brow to the pelting storm---her bosom to the lightning---she will“ beard the lion in his den," and for her child, meet death in its most appalling form. Let her once feel it safe within her arms---in a moment she is again all softness---all gentleness---all tenderness and love. With what rapture does she press it to her throbbing heart,---as if she felt the heaven of her existence was treasured there. O Nature, how beautiful are thy workings in woman's faithful love! How sublime in thy tenderness, and in thy vigilant regard for humanity! But for the provision thou hast made, ---but for this maternal love, dormant until now, but which flames up at the moment it is needed, what were Man in his first and help. less condition ?
But the child we contemplate is mainly interesting for the faculties it possesses, and the capabilities with which it is indued,-faculties, to whose developement imagination can assign no limits.
Minds are, in essence, the same. The spark which animates that feeble frame is the same as that which burns so brightly in the loftiest of God's intelligent creation. Heroes, conquerors, and greater men than these, philosophers, poets, philanthropists,-men who have loved mankind and died to do them good, have all worn this common form. Alexander, Cæsar, Napoleon, Homer, Virgil, Newton, Latimer, Ridley, Howard, and One greater than all, whose name we will not breathe ;-men who have illustrated the age in which they were born,—who have added new dignity to humanity,-who, by their virtuous struggles and high achievements, have exalted our conceptions of man's capabilities ;--men whose spirits are still 'among us, shining like stars in our intellectual firmament, enlightening, inspiring, cheering and guiding humanity towards that higher and happier state for which it is destined ;-all these, like the child we contemplate, were once helpless, surrounded by dangers of which they were unconscious, and from which they were unable to defend themselves. A little neglect, a trifling accident, a slight degree of violence, and they must inevitably have perished.
From the mind of this infant, in fancy before us, may emanate some great thought, which, like an undying light, shall attract and kindle other minds, until it shall create a body of flame sufficient to dissolve the mists and clouds which at present envelope us ;-to show in detail what we now see but in outline ;-which, substituting knowledge for doubt on the one hand, and credulity on the other, shall command universal assent, and destroy that scepticism and hesitation, which render impracticable what, with concentrated energies and faith, were easy of attainment;—which, by meeting the exigencies of the times shall facilitate that better and happier state to which all are looking hopefully forward. The genius with which this child is endowed may prove a spring, whence streams of knowledge may flow that shall irrigate the soil, and feed the blossoms, of a nation's hope. From these lips may issue sounds which shall startle slumbering millions, and whose echoes shall be repeated while time shall be no more. · On looking through the whole of animated nature, we see the faculties and capabilities of each object attaining their full developement;—we see each enjoying all the happiness of which it is susceptible, and answering the end for which it seems to have been created, except where Man interferes. This end attained, it drops, withers, dies, and gives place to its successor. But man, and man alone, is formed for endless progression. He, and he alone, is endowed with faculties necessary for its attainment. He, and he alone, has capabilities to which no limits can be assigned. Man, and man alone, has distinct perceptions of superior excellence, and a desire for its attainment. He alone has conceptions of the Supreme Intelligence Who made him, and who forms and governs all things." He alone is capable of recognizing the manifestations of His existence, His power and goodness. Man alone understands justice and duty, and feels the force of moral obligation. He alone is endowed with reason and sentiment, and is susceptible of the sublime emotions of esteem, gratitude, friendship, and love. For these, and a thousand other reasons which nature furnishes, the faith of the wisest, greatest, and best of men, in all ages and countries, has been strong in man's immortality. In this frail casket, then, is a gem, compared with whose worth, diadems, with all their gold and diamonds, are but baubles; and compared with whose duration, the annals of an empire dwindle into an insignificant point. No matter for the poverty or obscurity under which a being so august is ushered into existence: these circumstances can no more detract from its inherent dignity than the mists and clouds which dim the brightness of a summer's morning can detract from the inherent splendour of the god of day.
Nor must it ever be forgotten, that the germs of all Man shall be, are included in his present state, when lying like the infant we contemplate, helpless in his cradle; even as the germ of the mightiest oak is infolded in the acorn from which it springs. Over the destiny of this child, Nature has thrown a veil which no mortal may raise. But what an assemblage of godlike faculties are here! What a mine of wealth, for those who will explore it! How important the parental relation !Who trembles not at the responsibility it involves ?
CRITICAL EXEGESIS OF GOSPEL HISTORY,
ON THE BASIS OF STRAUSS'S LEBEN JESU.' A SERIES OF EIGHT DISCOURSES: DELIVERED AT THE LITERARY INSTITUTION. JOHN
STREET, TOTTENHAM COURT ROAD, AND AT THE HALL OF SCIENCE, CITY ROAD, ON
BY THOMAS COOPER,
VI.—THE PASSION, CRUCIFIXION, &C.
Nor a little difficulty is added to our inquiry as to the veritableness of this narrative of the Agony, when we look at John's portrait of Jesus in the hours immediately preceding the arrest. In the very long discourses of the Last Supper, as given by John, (from the beginning of chap. 13, to the end of chap. 17,) Jesus is depictured as all calmness and dignity: he has already triumphed over approaching suffering : he is tranquil, serene, and confident. But if we are to interpose the Agony before the arrest, then we are to regard the change in Christ's mind as very strange : from the pedestal of grandeur, where he had before stood in our conceptions, he is plunged into the most pitiable weakness. Was he then, indeed, a moral warrior who uttered words of triumph-only to be obliged with shame to cry for help when the battle began? Did so much presumption pertain to his character ?
Yet, our difficulties increase—for how are we to conceive the possibility of remembering these long discourses of Jesus, by any of his disciplesseeing they were immediately after plunged into the distraction of sorrow by his capture and death ? Under any-even the most favourable-circumstances, could any human creature remember them ? Did 'inspiration' bring them to John's remembrance? Why not, then, to the minds of Matthew, Mark, and Luke? Which is the true and inspired' portrait ?—the calm, dignified, triumphant one of John, or the dejected and terrified one of the first three Evangelists? If each be the portrait of 'inspiration '-how is it that the features are so drawn and coloured, as to make them look different to our gaze when our salvation is declared to depend on our believing that they are the same ?
Leaving the orthodox to answer these questions, we can only conclude, for ourselves, that the Agony of the first three evangelists, very largely, if not entirely, is mythical, and founded on Messianic interpretations of Old Testament passages (such as Psalm 42, v. 6–12; Ps. 43, v. 5); while the author of the Platonic gospel, in limning his dignified picture, had that of the imprisoned and dying Socrates in view, as drawn in Plato's own · Discourses':--I say the limning-for the colouring is peculiarly the Fourth Evangelist's own: his long, last discourses are not Christ's, but his own words and doctrines-of that unique character discernable in this Gospel and the . Epistles of John,' and utterly distinct from the language attributed to Christ in the three earlier gospels.
The narrative of the arrest again presents John at variance with the three. Judas, according to him, simply is 'guide to them that took Jesus.' He does not 'betray with a kiss' his master. Jesus himself advances to the multitude, as the person whom they seek. “I am he,' he declares; and they went backward and fell to the ground'! These accounts are irreconcileable. If Judas had already given the sign by kiss
ing his master-Jesus need not have asked · Whom seek ye ?' and have said 'I am he.' And if Jesus had already made the declaration, Judas's kiss was not needed as a sign. We cannot pronounce which is the true account: we can only observe that John's is in keeping with his high doctrines of the nature of Christ,—and is plainly what metaphysicians term dogmatical. But how strangely vacillating in feeling---from confidence to terror.--from terror to confidence---these narratives, blended together, would represent Jesus to have been; and how unlike, if separated!
We will not delay to gaze at Peter cutting off the high priest's servant's ear; but only remark that Luke alone relates that Christ healed the ear. In the first three gospels Jesus remonstrates with those that took him : not so in John; but he says something similar to Annas. Luke, as if he had gathered from Matthew and Mark on the one side, and John on the other,—by a strange blunder,-brings the chief priests into the garden of Gethsemane with the band of officers, and makes Jesus address the remonstrance to them there! In John, Jesus obtains leave for his disciples to retire when he is taken: in Matthew and Mark, the disciples, forsake him and flee; and graphic Mark says that a young man with à linen cloth cast about his body, when he was in danger of being seized, left the linen cloth, and fled naked !
From the place of arrest, the first three evangelists state that Jesus was led to the high-priest ---Whose name, Caiaphas, is only mentioned by Matthew; while the Fourth Evangelist states that Christ was led, first to Annas, the father-in-law of the high-priest, and afterwards to Caiaphas--but of the trial before Caiaphas, John gives no particulars. That there is a mistake somewhere, is evident, from the fact that the first three evangelists make Peter deny Jesus during the trial before Caiaphas; while John makes the first denial take place during the trial before Annas. But, between Luke and the first two evangelists there are also divergencies, According to Luke, Jesus is merely kept under guard throughout the night, in the high-priest's palace, and maltreated by the underlings; and when, at the break of day, the Sanhedrim assembles, no witnesses appear, but the high-priest precipitates the sentence by a decisive question and Christ's answer. According to Matthew and Mark, when Jesus was brought into the high-priest's palace, the scribes and elders were already assembled, and while it was night, proceeded to hold a trial, in which witnesses appeared; and then, the high-priest addressed to him the decisive question, on the answer to which the assembly declared him worthy of death. It is remarkable that in John, also, the trial goes forward in the night ; only, he does not say that the Sanhedrim, or great council, was present. Now we might be inclined to reject the authority of Matthew and Mark, (strengthened by that of John,) and declare for Luke at once, seeing that it looks improbable for the council to have assembled in the night, while Judas was gone out with the guard to apprehend Christonly, Luke himself baffles us by making the high-priests and elders present at the arrest in the garden!
In the relation of the maltreatment of Jesus, there is some little divergency. It is not so great, however, as to lead us to suppose that there is not å fact at the bottom of the narrative. Doubtless the great and holy sufferer was vilely misused; but, in their descriptions, the evangelists were evidently led by the wish to shew that Messianic prophecies were fulfilled in this revolting occurrence—such as those in Isaiah (50 ch. 6 v., and 53 ch.7 v.)
Again, in the relation respecting Peter, divergencies occur. He, only, according to the first three evangelists, gives the proof of his courage and attachment to Jesus, by following him into the court of the high-priest's palace. But in the Fourth Gospel, John is stated to have been his companion; and, indeed, to have been the means of procuring Peter's admission. The very striking tendency of the Fourth Gospel to exalt John above Peter, we shall have to notice more particularly, in considering the narratives of the Resurrection, &c.---and we, therefore, pass on without further remark on this statement of the Fourth Gospel. We have already mentioned the difference between the first three evangelists and John, respecting Peter's denial ; but in the description of the three several instances of his denial, there is considerable variance. The first denial, according to John, is uttered on the very entrance of Peter into the court of the palace, to a damsel that kept the door ; according to Matthew, to a damsel, while Peter 'sat without in the palace'; according to Mark, to a damsel, while he was beneath in the palace,' and 'warming himself'; according to Luke, also to a damsel, as he 'sat by the fire. The second denial takes place, according to John and Luke, also by the fire : in Matthew and Mark, after Peter had gone out into the porch. Further, in John, the second denial is made to several persons; in Luke, to one person ; in Matthew, to another damsel than the one to whom Peter made the first denial; in Mark, to the same damsel. The third denial happened, according to Matthew and Mark, in the porch; according to Luke and John, undoubtedly in the inner court, at the fire---for none of the evangelists mention a change of place after the second denial. Further, in Matthew and Mark, the third denial is made to many bystanders ; in Luke, to one; in John, to one who is a relative of the servant who had been wounded in the garden.
We will not pursue the criticism more minutely by noticing the different motives attributed to the parties who suspect Peter, nor the difference in the accounts of his swearing. Indeed, this criticism may already be deemed too minute. It may be said that variations in a narrative of what took place amidst distraction of mind are only to be expected. Just so : we fully agree there. But then the orthodox do not allow us to judge these accounts as we judge other books: we are told they are inspired.' That term must be repeated, because the orthodox repeat it; and yet this inspired' account is so perplexing that some critics argue that no less than eight denials of Peter are evidently related, and the term 'thrice,' in Christ's declaration is only to be taken as a round number! One other remark, and we will leave the case of Peter. Luke alone says that, on the crowing of the cock, Jesus turned and looked at Peter. But, according to Matthew and Mark, this could not be, since Peter was not in the same locality with Jesus—being without (Matthew) or 'beneath' (Mark), 'in the court:' it thus being implied that Jesus was in an inner, or upper apartment of the palace.
To proceed: When Jesus is led before Pilate, the trial, according to John, takes place in the interior of the Prætorium,—and the Jews, from fear of levitical defilement, remain without. Pilate, of course, has to come out when he would speak to the Jews. The representation is different in the other Gospels; but if John's account be the true one, who then heard the conversation of Jesus with Pilate, and especially the famous question of the latter, • What is Truth? Who is the witness ?—for we cannot admit the solution of the older commentators, that Jesus himself narrated these conversations to his disciples after the resurrection. The greater probability is, that the