« PreviousContinue »
the traditions of the Misnah might be assured he should have eternal life?.
Perhaps they did not carry this notion so far as to affirm that their wicked countrymen should receive no correction in a future state a ; but probably they thought that God, who in their opinion was a respecter of persons, would be gracious to these unworthy children of Abraham, that their punishment should last a certain time, and that then they should enter into a state of happiness; which favour should not be extended to the Gentiles, for whom God had no regard.
Many Mahommedan doctors are much in the same way of thinking, and teach that believers shall all enter into a state of happiness after the resurrection, some immediately, others after certain punishments; but that infidels shall be consigned over to eternal misery b.
The gospel gave the Jews no hopes that they should subdue their enemies, and become a free and independent nation : the Jews were very factious and seditious, and had an intemperate love of liberty, at a time and in circumstances when it was not to be obtained.
Their turbulent temper may be known from the “ Jus Zelotarum,' or privilege, under the pretence of zeal, to dispatch an offender without the tedious formality of a trial ; concerning which licentiousness Philo says, injudiciously enough, • This also is right, that all who have a zeal for virtue are allowed to execute rigorous punishment without delay, neither carrying the offender to the courts of judicature, nor to any magistrate, but indulging that ardour which the hatred of iniquity and the love of God excites, to the end that the impious may never escape vengeance; and accounting themselves, by the exigence
z See Grotius on Matt. x. 28. xiv. 2. James ii. 14. Whitby on Acts i. 25. Rom. ii. 13. James ii. 11. and p. 466, 467. vol. 2. of the 6th edit.
a See Le Clerc. Quæst. Hieron. p. 287. Whitby on Acts xi. 18. xv. 1. Rom. ii. 13. 1 Cor. i. 28. 2 Cor. xi. 20. Huet. Alnet. Quæst. p. 297. Windet. de Vitâ funct. statu, p.70. 4to edit. Sale's Notes on the Koran,
b See Reland. de Relig. Moliammed. and Sale's Koran, Prelim. Disco P. 92.
of the time, to be made all things, --senators, judges, generals, assemblies, accusers, witnesses, laws, and people, that so nothing may hinder them from exerting themselves boldly and jointly for righteousness.'
The love of God and of virtue and of truth is no such turbulent and boisterous passion ; and pious zeal may be active, and yet not pernicious, and shine without burning 4.
The gospel called the Jews to sufferings and persecution, and had at that time a very unpromising aspect as to this world. A converted Jew could expect nothing besides ill usage from his countrymen, who were very zealous for their religion : and if he were the only one of his family who received Christianity, he might be sure that his worst enemies would be his nearest relations, and his most inveterate foes those of his own household. It required no small virtue and resolution to offer up such a sacrifice to God, to forsake house and land, friends and kindred, father and mother, wife and children, for the sake of Christ.
The Jews were accustomed to indulge themselves without restraint in those things which the law allowed, in condescension to their imperfections, and to prevent greater
• Και επιτετράφθαι δε καλόν άπασι τοϊς ζήλον έχουσιν αρετής, εκ χειρός αναπράττειν ανυπερθέτως τας τιμωρίας, μήτ' εις δικαστήριον, μήτ' εις βουλευτήριον, μήτε συνόλως έπ' αρχήν άγοντας, αλλά τα παραστάντι μισοπονήσω πάθει και φιλοθέη καταχρησθαι προς τας των άσεων απαραιτήτους κολάσεις, νομίσαντας αυτούς υπό του καιρούντα πάντα γεγενησθαι, βουλευτές, δικαστές, στρατηγούς, εκκλησιαστας, κατηγόρους, μάρτυρας, νόμους, δημον, ίνα μηδενός όντος εμποδιών, άφοβοι συνόδου πολλή προαγωνίζονται όσιότητος. De Monarch. 1. p. 818. ed. Ρar. 1640. d Intemperate zeal is like 'Sirius' in Homer :
Λαμπρότατος μεν όγ' εστί, κακόν δέ τε σημα τέτυκται,
IL. X. 30.
Ecce levis subito de vertice visus lüli
ΑΕΝ. ii. 683.
evilse: here the gospel interposed with strict prohibitions, representing their custom of divorce, and of marrying again, as no better than adultery. The apostles themselves thought this, when they first heard it, to be an hard precept; and indeed in all parts of the world' where these practices have been established, nothing hath stopped the progress of christianity more than the prohibition of poly. gamy and divorce s; and many, who else seemed disposed to receive the gospel, have rejected it upon this only account.
Lastly, the Jews thought that the Christian morality was in general too strict and severe, and that no man could possibly practise ith.
The chief priests, Scribes and Pharisees, besides all these prejudices already mentioned, had particular motives to reject the gospel.
They hated Christ, because he had reproved and openly exposed their pride, their hypocrisy, their uncharitableness, their covetousness, their zeal for traditions; and their hatred against him disposed them to think ill of him, and to do him all ill offices. We need not wonder, when we
e Whitby on John viii. 7.
& Christ and the apostles have not perhaps directly, and in so many words, prohibited polygamy; but, from the reasoning of Christ against divorce, Christians have justly concluded polygamy to be unlawful. Of the evils arising from both, see Le Clerc Hist. Eccles. Proleg. p. 113. 161.
Polygamy was forbidden by the Roman laws. Digest. 1. iii. tit. ij. 1. Cod. 1. ix. tit. ix. 18. And afterwards Christian emperors would not permit it to any persons in their dominions. Cod. 1. i. tit. ix. 7.1. v. tit. v. 2. Novell. xviii. 5. In what cases they allowed divorce may be seen Cod. I. v. tit. xvii. Novell. xxii. 15. cxvii. 3. 9. cxl. Moreover, • Eo tempore, quo quis uxorem habet, concubinam habere non potest." Julius Paulus Recept. Sentent. l. ii. tit. xx. et Cod. 1. v. tit. xxvi. et Leonis Constit. xci.
Trypho says to Justin, υμών δε και τα εν τω λεγομένω Ευαγγελία παραγγέλματα θαυμαστα ούτως και μέγαλα επίσταμαι είναι, ως υπολαμβάνειν μηδένα δύνασθαι φυλάξαι αυτά. Vestra sane que in evangelio, quod dicitur, sunt præcepta tam magna et admiranda esse novimus, ut suspicio nostra sit a nemine ea servari posse.
So also says Orobius in his dispute with Limborch.
See Tillotson, vol. i. serm. 28. The Jews taught that a careful observance of some laws would excuse the violation of the rest. See Whitby un James ii. 11.
find them upon all occasions opposing and calumniating him, if we consider that they were a wicked set of men, and that he had publicly and frequently reproved them. They were highly incensed against him, and, in the judgment which they made of him, they were directed by their passions, not by their reason.
Nor did anger and resentment only furnish them with prejudices against Christ, but self-interest also, and worldly policy. The people, who had seen the miracles of Christ, particularly that miracle by which he had fed a great mul. titude, had at one time, as St. John relates, a design to make him their king,-concluding reasonably enough that under such a leader they should be victorious. Therefore Christ, if he had been a deceiver, and had entertained ambitious designs, might easily have made himself a prince, and might have incited the people to shake off the Roman yoke, which was grievous to them.
The chief priests and principal persons amongst the Jews thought, that if Christ should make such an attempt they should be ruined, whatsoever the consequence of it were. If the Jews, under his conduct, should endeavour to recover their liberties, and fail in it, they knew that the nation would be severely punished by the Romans.
Nor was their prospect less bad, if Christ should deliver the people from their subjection to a foreign power, and rule over them himself; for though they hated the Romans, yet doubtless they thought that Christ would be a worse ruler for them than any Roman governor. They knew that he had a bad opinion of them, and that he had exposed their vices; and therefore they concluded that the establishment of his authority would be the ruin of theirs. Thus were they incited not cnly by resentment, but, as they fancied, by interest, to deny that Christ was the Messias, to oppose him, and to destroy him; for, since they were persuaded that the Messias should be a temporal king, they could not acknowledge Christ to be the Messias, unless at the same time they owned him to be their king.
They succeeded in their endeavours, they stirred up the people, they intimidated the governor, they prevailed to have Christ crucified ; and by his death they thought them, selves at last secure from all these evils. But he arose
again, and his disciples appeared openly in Jerusalem, working miracles, and teaching that Jesus was the Messias. One would at first think that no man could withstand such evidence; but we shall not so much wonder at their obstinacy, if we observe that their fears, and, as they thought, their interests, led them again to oppose the truth.
They considered that they were the persons who had represented Christ as a man who had lost his senses, a dæmoniac, an impostor, a magician, a violator of the law, a seditious teacher, a rebel, an enemy to Cæsar, and a false Messias ; who had instigated the people, and who had persuaded Pilate to crucify him: they heard that the apostles wrought miracles in the name of Christ; and they concluded, that, if the apostles were permitted to proceed in this manner, they would convert a great part of the Jews ; and they feared, that, if the doctrines taught by Christ's disciples were received, they, who had been his implacable enemies, should be accounted not only ignorant and blind guides, but dishonest men; that they should not only lose their credit and authorily; but be exposed to the resentment of the incensed multitude: and therefore they thought, that the best way to secure themselves was to deter and hinder the apostles from appearing any more in public, and from preaching the gospel. And when the disciples continued to perform the functions of their ministry, the high priest asked them, saying, “Did we not straightly command you that you should not teach in this name? And behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us !' Acts v. 28.
Miracles were wrought to convince them ; but when a man is violently bent to believe or disbelieve, he is more than half persuaded that things are as he desires. They hastily concluded that those miracles were either delusions and impostures, or wonderful works performed by the aid of evil spirits.
From these ill dispositions proceeded suitable effects; for they persecuted the first Christians, they accused them to the Roman magistrates of sedition, they beat them in their synagogues, they imprisoned them, they banished them, they put many of them to death, and strove to the utmost of their power to destroy this rising sect. Some