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the public streets, and in the high-ways, in the fields, and in the wilderness—upon Jews and Gentiles-before Scribes and Pharisees and rulers of the synagogues-not only when he was attended by few persons, but when surrounded by great multitudes--and in a word, before men of every diversity of character. They were in themselves of such a nature as to bear the strictest examination, and they had every thing about them which could possibly distinguish them from the delusions of enthusiasm, and the artifices of imposture. . Accordingly we find him appealing to them with all the confidence of an upright mind, fully impressed with a consciousness of their truth and reality. The appeal was short, simple, and decisive. He seldom reasoned on either their nature or design, but generally pointed to them as plain and indubitable facts, which spake their own meaning and carried with them their own authority. They were too public to be suspected of imposture, and being the objects of sense, they were secured against the charge of enthusiasm. They had no disguise, and were, in a variety of instances, of such a nature as to preclude the very possibility of collusion. They were performed in the midst of his bitterest enemies, and were so palpable and certain as to extort from them the acknowledgment, that “ this man doth many miracles; if we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him."*
An inattentive reader of the evangelic history would be led to conclude, from the accounts that are given us of the multitudes who followed Jesus, that the number of his disciples was immense. But we have frequent intimations of the fallacy of implicitly trusting to appearances in these things. Were we to consider only the interesting nature of his doctrine, the wisdom and energy with which it was delivered, and the stupendous works
White's Sermons at Bampton's Lecture.
of supernatural power by which it was accompaniedthe little success that attended it, must have ever remained a source of perplexity to us; but the problem is solved by admitting the scriptural account of the depravity of the human mind, its alienation from God, and its natural enmity against his truth. The reception which the Messiah was to meet with, had been described by an ancient prophet in these remarkable words, “ Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ?"-And the event justified the prediction. Some few indeed, and those chiefly from among the inferior ranks in life, believed on him as the hope of Israel, and found in him all their salvation and desire; and while his claims of being the Messiah were generally set at nought by their conntrymen, they could say, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure, that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God." *
From among these latter, Jesus selected twelve whom he named apostles, and whom he qualified and sent forth to preach the doctrine of his kingdom, and to cure diseases; and some time afterwards he appointed seventy others also to labour in his vineyard. These he sent forth, two and two, into every city and place to which he himself would come, as his heralds, announcing his approach, and calling all descriptions of persons to repent and believe the gospel. +
It appears from the testimony of ancient historians, that about the time of Christ's appearing, the Jews anxiously expected him as the great deliverer and chief ornament of their nation; and even among the heathens an opinion was at that time prevalent, probably derived from the Hebrew prophets, that a prince of unparalelled glory was to arise in Judea, who was to found a kind of
universal monarchy.* But in the humble appearance of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jews found nothing that corresponded to the expectations they entertained on this subject. Their vain hearts, like those of the generality of men in all ages, were so intoxicated with the admiration of worldly pomp, that that was the only greatness for which they had any relish; and hence they formed a picture of Him, who was the desire of all nations, very unlike the original. Nor was the doctrine which he inculcated more suited to their taste, than his personal appearance answered to their expectations. For, while they fostered the presumptuous imagination, that in virtue of the privileges they enjoyed as God's covenanted people, and especially as being the descendants of Abraham, they had a peculiar claim to the divine favour and to all the blessings of their Messiah's kingdom, both Jesus and his fore-runner boldly attacked this master-prejudice, and evinced the futility of every such plea. They were now called upon to give up the erroneous sentiments which they entertained respecting their own characters, the way of acceptance with God, and the nature and blessings of their Messiah's reign, on pain of incurring eternal ruin. For whereas they expected eternal life as the reward of their Jewish privileges, or of their own personal righteousness, they were now taught, that God so loved the world as to give his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life; that the Son of God came to be lifted up upon the cross, as the antitype of the brazen serpent which Moses elevated in the wilderness, that whosoever, not of the Jews only, but among the Gentiles also, believed in him, should not perish, but obtain eternal life. +
And, with regard to the nature of the Messiah's king. Suetonius in vita Vespasiani, ch. 1. Taciti Hist. 1. v. cap. 13.
*Jobn ii. 16, 17.
dom, the doctrines of Jesus were equally at variance with their fondest hopes; for, while they ardently longed for the accomplishment of the promises which God had made unto their fathers by the prophets, they seem in general to have had no other object in view than the establishment of a temporal monarchy, like the other kingdoms of this world, though doubtless much surpassing them all in its extent and splendour. Accordingly, being interrogated by their leaders “when the kingdom of God should come,” Jesus perceived the mistake of their hearts, and to correct it, told them that “the kingdom of God cometh not with observation"- that is, it did not at all resemble the kingdoms of this world-it was not to strike the senses of men by the glare of worldly grandeur: for as it is wholly spiritual, consisting in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, he added, “ the kingdom of God is within you.”* So also when he spake to them concerning their bondage to sin and vassalage to Satan, the god of this world, with the necessity of being set free froin this spiritual tyranny before they could participate of the liberty of the sons of God, they resented it as the highest insult that could be offered them; “ We are Abraham's seed,” say they,
” " and were never in bondage to any man; how sayest thou, ye shall be made free." +
If we keep in view these false principles by which the minds of the Jewish people were led astray, the invincible obstinacy of their prejudices, and the contrariety of the doctrine and character of Jesus thereto, we shall cease to wonder at the issue to which matters were ultimately reduced between them. When he avowed himself to be the Son of God, and claimed equality with the Most High, they resisted his pretensions and accused him of blasphemy. And when he acknowledged his regal character, they charged him with treason against the Roman government. On these grounds they demanded his death, and “the voice of them and of the chief priests prevailed.”*
* Luke xvij. 20, 21,
It cannot be necessary to pursue this part of the narrative in detail, since the result must be familiar to every Christian. “ They that dwelt at Jerusalem and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which were read every Sabbath day,—they fulfilled them in condemning him; and though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain; and when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a sepulchre. But GOD RAISED HIM FROM THE DEAD." +
THE SUBJECT CONTINUED.
From the Resurrection of Christ to the Promulgation
of the Gospel among the Gentiles. The resurrection of Jesus is an article of such importance in the system of Christianity, that, like the key-stone in the arch of the building, it is emphatically that which supports the whole superstructure. “ If Christ be not risen,” says the apostle," then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain; yea, and we are found false witnesses of God.” That the Messiah should rise again from the dead, was an event clearly predicted in ancient prophecy; $ and Jesus himself repeatedly foretold both the fact of his rising, and the • Luke xxii. 23. + Acts xiii. 27-30. 11 Cor, xv. 14-19,
6 Psal. ii.—Psal. xvi. 10, 11.—Isa. liii. 10-12. VOL. I.