Page images

miracles, since, let him say and do what he would, he could not be the Messiah if he was born in Galilee.

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 austerities, which carry the air of superior sanctity in the judgment of weak and superstitious minds. They therefore styled him “ a

glutton' and wine-bibber, a friend of publi

cans 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, or 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.

4. They laid much stress upon the mean condition of his followers. They were mostly

p John, ix. 16.

9 Deut. xiii. 1, 2, 3.

Luke, vii. 34.

Galileans, a people of small estimation, and of the Jowest rank, fishermen or publicans ; while, on the other hand, few or none of the rulers or Pharisees, who were presumed to be best qualifieds 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 man ?

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 the miracles they could not deny, and maliciously ascribed them to the agency of the devil. This pertinacious resistance to the conviction both of their senses and consciences, was the highest stage of impiety, and constituted their sin (as our Lord assured them) unpardonable. Not that any sin, considered in itself, is too great for the blood of Jesus to expiate; but, as they utterly renounced and scorned his mediation, there remained no other sacrifice, but they were judicially given up to incurable impenitence and hardness of heart. Yet it is probable, that even this black assertion was not without influence up on some who were wedded to their sins, and therefore glad of any pretext, how unreasonable is oever, to refuse the testimony of truth.

6. Another means they made use of (the last

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

we shall enumerate,) and not the least effectual, to intimidate the minds of the people from acknowledging Jesus, was the convincing argument of violence and ill treatment. Having the power in their hands, they employed it against his followers, and made an agreement, that whoever confessed he was Christ, should be put out of the synagogue," that is, excommunicated. This decree seems to have been made by the Sanhedrim, or great council, and to imply, not merely an exclusion from the rites of public worship, but likewise a positive punishment, equivalent to an outlawry with us. The fear of incurring this penalty restrained the parents of the man born blind, and prevented many others, who were in their hearts convinced that he was the Messiah, from owning him as such. They loved the world, they preferred the praise of men to the praise of God, and therefore remained silent and neuter.

From such motives, and by such methods, our Lord was resisted and opposed by the heads of the Jewish nation. The scribes and teachers, to whom the key of knowledge was by authority committed, disdained to use it themselves, and those who were willing they hindered. Had they been wise and faithful, they would have directed the people to Christ; but, on the contrary, they darkened the plainest Scriptures, and perverted the clearest facts, to prevent, if possible, his reception. In vain “ he spoke as never man spoke," and multiplied the wonders of his power and love in their presence. In vain to them. They pursued him with unwearied subtilty* and

[ocr errors]



John, ix. 22.

John, xii. 42. * Mark, xii. 13. They sent unto him certain of the Pharisees to catch him. Ayperw expresses the art and assiduity of sportsmen, in the various methods they used to enmalice; traduced him to the people and to the government, and would be satisfied with nothing less than his death. So obstinate and wicked is the heart of man; so fatal are the prejudices of pride and worldly interest. For, as we observed before, these tempers were not peculiar to the Jews; they are essential to depraved nature, and operate universally, where the grace of God does not make a difference. To this hour the Gospel of Christ is opposed upon the same grounds, and by the like artifices, as were once employed against his person.

The doctrines which his faithful ministers deduce and enforce from the written word are no other than what he himself taught, namely, a declaration of his personal honours and authority, of the insufficiency of formal worship, in which the heart is not concerned, of the extent and spirituality of the law of God, and of salvation, freely proclaimed to the miserable, through faith in his name. The self-righteous, the self-wise, , and all who are devoted to the pleasures and honours of the world, have each their particular exceptions to these truths. The wisdom of God they account foolishness, and the language of their hearts is, “We will not have this man to

reign over us.” And the success of these doctrines, which is chiefly visible among such as they have been accustomed to despise, is equally offensive; yet so inconsistent are they, that if, here and there, a few persons who were before eminent for their rank, attainments, or morality, are prevailed on to “ account all things but loss “ and dung for the excellency of the knowledge snare, entangle, or destroy their game. It well suits the spirit and design of our Lord's enemies in the question proposed, and is finely contrasted by the meekness and wisdom of his answer.

“ of Christ Jesus their Lord;" this, instead of removing their first objection, excites their rage and contempt still more.

And as the motives of their hatred, so their methods of expressing it, are the same. They are not ashamed to adopt and exaggerate the most vulgar misconceptions; they set the Scripture at variance with itself; and, while they pass over the plainest and most important passages unnoticed, they dwell upon a few texts of more dubious import, and therefore more easily accommodated to their sense; with these they flourish and triumph, and affect a high zeal in defence of the word of God. They reproach the pure Gospel as licentious, because it exposes the vanity of their singularities and will-worship; and are desirous to bind heavier burdens upon men's shoulders, which few of themselves will touch with one of their fingers. They enlarge on the weakness and ignorance of those who mostly receive the new doctrine, and intrench themselves under the sanction of learned and dignified names. They even venture to explode and vilify the evident effects of God's grace, and ascribe the agency of his Spirit to enthusiasm, infatuation, and madness, if not expressly to diabolical influence. And, lastly, so far as Divine Providence permits, they show themselves actuated by the primitive spirit of oppression and violence, in pursuing the faithful followers of the truth with censures and penalties.

But let who will rage, and imagine vain things, Jesus is the King in Zion. He is “ the same “ yesterday, to-day, and for ever.” There were a happy few in the days of his flesh who beheld his glory, trusted on him for salvation, and attended him amidst the many reproaches and sufferings he endured from sinners. Of these, his

« PreviousContinue »