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'Tis sweet to know that human hearts may converse hold with beauty,
And drink the streams of gladness as from Nature's breast they flow;
And make our lives a blessing to our brothers here below.
And the thirsty heart may drink from their sweet flowers' immortal wine;
And they do not gleam in angels eyes more brilliant than in mine.
The mountains rise like temples consecrated all around;
And the woods are like a true heart full of love, and light, and sound.
They are knaves who say that God made man to suffer mammon-wrong,
While his heart is full of music and the world is full of song.
Like a lily in the sunset with the love light in its eye,
And a voice within me whispered that the world was made for joy.
The heaven of earth is goodness and pure love's eternal bliss :
And, whatever be the other world-make you the best of this.
Is worthy of those angels with the forms of noble men;
SHELDON CHADWICK, Manchester.
Reposing here, 'midst rural scenes,
Full oft I dream, on summer's day,
Of times, when shall have passed away, The tinselled pomp of kings and queens. For, when the noon-tide sun shines out,
And in the woods the birds are still ;
And from the gentle rippling rill, Come dreamy murmurs round about. Across the shadowy gulf of time,
I look e'en with a prophet's gaze,
Beholding scenes of other days.
Have learned some truths it scorneth now,
And mankind shall have ceased to bow,
That men to bloody strife have urged,
Shall all in one great faith be merged, Faith in the progress of mankind ! Around, on every side, are spread,
Fair lands, untouched by spade or plough,
Yet, in yon city, even now,
Stern promptings to a new crusade,
By worker 'gainst the idler made-
In battle for a foreign land ;
But forth to draw the glittering brand,
To strike the banded tyrants down,
Than man be pent in smoky town,
Yet, through the dreamings of the boy,
By striving, we may serve at least,
Man, who has lived in drear midnight,
Learneth to look upon the light-
That, though we cannot trace its cours,
Truth worketh with all-powerful force, And surely will prevail at last!
H. R. NICHOLLS.
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,
VII.-THE RESURRECTION AND ASCENSION.
(Continued from last number.)
We can form but two ideas of the life of Jesus after his resurrection : it was either natural and human, or supernatural and superhuman. That it was natural and human, we should, at first, infer—from the mention of the marks of his wounds, his allowing himself to be touched, his utterance of speech, his walking, his breaking of bread, his eating earthly food. Nay, we seem to discern a progress of natural cure in his state : in the hours immediately succeeding his resurrection he remains near his recent grave: in the afternoon he is able to walk to Emmaus: and only later he can undertake the journey to Galilee. So again in the morning he forbids Mary Magdalene to touch his sore and sensitive body; while eight days later he invites Thomas to touch his wounds.
But the New Testament narratives do not permit us to rest in this idea : they confound us with shadowy pictures of the supernatural. He appears and disappears with equal suddenness: he stands, thus, in the midst of his disciples when the doors are shut: his disciples mistake him for a spirit;' some worship him, and some doubt (Matthew, 28ch. 17v.): he takes different forms-for, ‘he appeared in another form,' says Mark (16ch. 12v.), and Mary Magdalene, at first, took him for the gardener.'
Besides, the words' Touch me not' in John, if regarded as a proof that the body of Jesus was too tender to be touched, in the morning, are at variance with Matthew's statement, that Jesus, the same morning, allowed the women to embrace his feet; and also with the statement of Luke, that Jesus, the same day, invited his disciples to handle him. And, if his body were undergoing a gradual and natural cure, where did he dwell in the intervals between his appearances ? in solitude ? in the open air? in the wilderness, or on the mountains ? Were these suitable haunts for an invalid ? But, whv puzzle ourselves with such a question, while the supernatural idea is also before us ? The Evangelists evidently think that Jesus withdrew like a higher being, into invisibility, after his short appearances, and that he thence stept forth again, on fitting occasions.
The supernatural is, manifestly, the idea of Christ's risen life which the Evangelists held,-and, to them, it would not seem contradictory; for, in their circle of ideas, such legends as that of Jehovah and two angels partaking of a meal in Abraham's tent, were received as facts. But, to us, the evangelical accounts are full of contradiction. A body which eats is natural; but a natural body cannot vanish at will. A body which can be felt, and ‘has flesh and bones' (the words put into the mouth of the risen Christ) is solidly material; but such a body cannot pass into closed houses and rooms, unhindered by walls and doors. And this contradiction, strange as it may seem, is found in each writer; but it is the most striking in John-where Jesus, immediately after he has entered into the closed room, unimpeded by walls and doors, causes the doubting Thomas to touch him!
A very few words may suffice to place the "evidence for the Ascension, in its true light; and then we can sum up our thoughts about these closing narratives of the Gospels. Neither Matthew nor John relate the Ascension --so that we have only Mark and Luke to consider; albeit, in this instance, as in others, the objection returns upon us-How comes it to pass, if the Ascension took place, that so important an event is unchronicled by two out of the Four Evangelists ? But, of the two who do relate it, Mark is at variance with Luke-nay, Luke is at variance with himself, if we compare the Gospel with the Acts. Read Mark's very brief account, and it manifestly represents Christ as ascending to heaven immediately from the meal in which he appeared to the eleven, consequently from out of a house in Jerusalem ; for you must do violence to the consecutive character of the narrative if you attempt to introduce a change of place, or a distinction of time, into it. Luke, on the other hand, makes Jesus (in his Gospel) immediately before his Ascension, lead out his disciples 'as far as to Bethany,' but, in the Acts, he places the scene on the mount called Olivet;' this, however, is no contradiction : Bethany lay near the Mount of Olives. It is the divergence between Mark and this account of Luke, which is alone noteworthy. But, in Luke's statement of time, we have one of the most flagrant contradictions of himself ever committed by any writer. Read over the last chapter of Luke's gospel, and note it well : at the 13th verse, the journey to Emmaus is most distinctly stated to have taken place the " same day" as the resurrection : Jesus " vanishes out of the sight” of the two disciples, at Emmaus (v. 31); but “they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them” (v. 33), “and as they spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them,” &c. (v. 36). Up to this passage, who can possibly conceive that the narrator intends us to understand any thing, but that all these events occurred on the same day? And who, that has not some foregone conclusion to establish, can possibly believe that there is any division of days in the remaining part of the narrative ? Read on, from the 36th verse to the end of the story--and where can you find a syllable that indicates a change of the day ? • Peace be unto you,' commences Jesus. The disciples, in the next verse, are described as being “ terrified and affrighted," and supposing “ that they had seen a spirit.” In the two next verses, Jesus continues to address them. In the following verse, the narrator says, “And when he had thus spoken (mark the continuous character of these phrases !), he shewed them his hands and feet.” And then, in the very next verse, he says, “And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat ?" His eating is described in the two next verses (42 and 43); and the continuance of his address is resumed, and carried on to the close of the 49th verse. And now, let any candid and independent-minded reader, notice this 49th verse, and the few verses that follow it-and then say whether it be possible to understand the narrator, as meaning otherwise than that the Resurrection and the Ascension occurred on the same day?
V. 49. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you : but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high,
V. 50. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
V. 51. And it came to pass while he blessed them, he was parted from them and carried up into heaven.
Y. 52. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
But let the same reader turn to the 3rd verse in the Acts, written by the same person (whom we agreed to call ‘Luke,' in the outset), and he finds this new statement:
“ To whom also (the apostles) he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the tbings pertaining," &c.
Forty days: the old magical number again! When this writer has so far forgotten his former account, one may be spared the trouble of a scru. tiny into his other new statements-about the “cloud” that received the ascending Jesus “out of their sight,” and the “two men” that “stood by them in white apparel, which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven," &c. Up into heaven! The old childish ideas of a substantial heaven above the blue air! A man, too, with 'flesh and bones,' ascending thither : the natural laws again inverted! If this story were written in Palestine nineteen centuries ago, men may have found it easy to believe it there, but in the land where Bacon and Newton, Davy and Watt, have grappled with realities, can a thinking man believe it, in 1850 ?
Before summing up our thoughts on the narratives of the Resurrection and Ascension, the ancient question presents itself-Did Jesus really die on the cross? I shall not delay, however, to review all that has been advanced on the negative side of this question; but shall merely deliver my own persuasion—that Jesus died by crucifixion as recorded, though with some divergencies of statement, by the Four Evangelists, and by the great philosophical historian Tacitus. If there be a single veritable fact in the whole history of Christianity-it is that of the Crucifixion. The divergencies of the Evangelists are slighter, in recording it, than any other important fact; while I, for one, cannot think Tacitus would have given credit to the relation of it, and set it down for an undoubted fact himself, unless there had been undoubted grounds for receiving it.
So far from thinking it needful to surmise that Jesus only 'swooned on the cross,' and so forth-I see no cause to entertain the question at all, seeing that the evidence for his risen life is so exceedingly contradictory. Now let us sum up the imperfections and divergencies in these stories, and then ask ourselves- If a 'fact,' on which our eternal existence is held to. depend, can be considered as attested, when related with these strange imperfections and divarications ?
1. No resurrection, no actual rising, is witnessed, or related to have been witnessed.
2. The number of the women who brought the news to the disciples, of the grave being open and empty, is related differently: in Luke it is several women, in Mark three, in Matthew two, in John one.
3. The time at which the women go to the grave is differently related. 4. What and who they saw there is diversely described.
5. The relation in which the disciples are placed, with respect to the first news of the Resurrection, is described very differently in each of the Four Evangelists.
6. In describing Christ's risen appearances, beyond the neighbourhood of
the grave, the Evangelists differ widely : the statement of one-that Christ said he would appear in Galilee, and did appear there, being utterly opposed to the declaration of another—that Christ ordered his disciples not to depart from Jerusalem, and that his risen appearances were confined to that city and the neighbourhood.
7. The summary of the risen appearances, as given by each of the Four Evangelists and by Paul, are different: Matthew and Luke recording two, Mark three, John four, and Paul five.
8. The life of Jesus, after his rising, is such a contradictious and medley picture of the human and superhuman-the natural and supernatural--that men, in an age of science, must reject it as utterly legendary.
9. The place—but, above all, the time at which the Ascension took place (that is to say, at which the risen life on earth of Jesus terminated), is related with such wide divarications--not only between two writers, but in the two writings of one narrator-that the reality of the event is destroyed by the irreconcileableness of the narratives.
No: all-important as the reality of the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth would have been to us—we cannot believe that it ever took place, while the historians of it tell their tale with divarications, contradictions, and omissions, which would be held fatal to the truth of any relation-on which not even a grain of human interests depended !
But how, then, came such a story ever to have been accredited ?
We will not slur over this question. It behoves us, as earnest men, to be able to give a rational answer to it.
We reject the opinion of Celsus, that the disciples and women were mere practisers, and sought to deceive; and we also spurn the more modern suspicion that the disciples stole Jesu's body, and afterwards fabricated illconstructed stories of his resurrection and after-appearances. Their astonishing change from deep depression and hopelessness, to strong faith and enthusiasm, is not explicable under these unworthy suppositions. Something extraordinarily encouraging-something, in fact, which had convinced them of the resurrection of their master-must have taken place.
What was it? Let us turn to the passage of Paul (1 Corinthians, 15ch.) and using it as a starting point in this enquiry, see if it will not furnish us with a key to the comprehension of all the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection.
V. 3. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures ;
V. 4. And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures :
V. 5. And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:
V. 6. After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once ; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.
V. 7. After that he was seen of James ; then of all the apostles.
Paul-strong-minded, though highly-imaginative, Paul-here places all the other appearances of the risen Jesus in the saine category with that experienced by himself. Now, what kind of an appearance was that which Paul experienced ? Note the several accounts of it, in the Acts:
Chap. 9, v. 3. And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus : and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven :