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the reach of the Jewish peasants, the Scriptures of the Old Testament,* with which his mind was the more thoroughly imbued, as its attention had not been diffused over a wider field of writings. But a bold and active mind cannot be entirely fettered, even by the authorities which it acknowledges; these may give to it a direction, but its native energy will find a vent in original thought and speculation. The inconsistency between the admission of a divine authority and the exercise of reason, is overlooked; or if attended to, an excuse for the latter is easily found in the right of each mind to explain and interpret at least in its own way. So Jesus, although from early associations, patriotism, and conviction, a sincere believer in the divine authority of Moses and the prophets,drew his chief materials of thought from his own observation of men and things ; commented freely upon the Scriptures, which it never occurred to him to controvert; scrupled not to give to them his own sense ; § and delivered his own sayings with force and sufficiency.|| Whilst admitting to himself only the office of fulfilling the law and the prophets, he, in reality, made these the stock on which he grafted his own thoughts and sentiments. In like manner, although his station and place of abode made him peculiarly conversant with the doctrines of the Essenes and Galileans, he was not a mere follower of either party, but adopted and re-invigorated with his sanction, so much of the sentiments of either as accorded with his own taste and judgment. He retained the pure morality of the Essenes, but neglected their rigid austerities. He adopted the religious liberalism of Judas, but
* The Apocrypha is not an important exception; and the other Jewish writings were chiefly comments upon the Scriptures. + Matt. xxiii. 2.
Matt. xix. 8, Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, suffered you to put away your wives, but from the beginning it was not so, and I
unto you.... Matt. xxii. 40, On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
| Matt. v. 21-22, Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time...but I say unto you, &c. The greater part of the moral precepts of Jesus may be traced in the Old Testament and the Apocrypha; but the mode of introducing them, and the addition of some new views, are enough to establish his title to originality.
he abstained from the evidently useless attempt of armed opposition to the Romans, and gave another direction to the excitement of his countrymen.
A mind conscious of its own power, and whose energy is increased by a tincture of enthusiasm, must make itself felt in some way. It was impossible for Jesus to remain his whole life a carpenter at Nazareth; but all ordinary ways to greatness were then closed to the lower ranks in Judea, except that of heading a revolt. There was no army; and the priesthood or sanhedrim could only be reached by subservience to the Romans or one of the petty native rulers. The necessity of action in a sphere congenial to the ruling tendencies of the mind, is, with some persons, a more powerful motive than a cool calcu lation of consequences; and Jesus determined to imitate Moses, and fulfil the prophets, by assuming the character of the Messiah, or the Prophet-king of Israel.
The preaching of John roused him from the obscurity in which he had remained till about the 30th year of his age; and immediately after his baptism by his predecessor, he began himself, with far greater resources, to preach on the same favourite topic, the approach of the kingdom of heaven.* His discourses, like those of John, were filled up with exhortations to morality, agreeing mostly with those of the older Jewish writings and of the Essenes, and with vigorous reproofs of the prevailing corruptions of the age. Public preaching on such topics, accompanied by inexhaustible illustrations from nature and familiar objects,t could hardly fail in any country of drawing crowds of listeners.
In a nation little acquainted with physical science, mental superiority is often supposed to be connected with some degree of command over the inanimate world; and the multitudes who heard Jesus imagined that nature, as well as they, must recognize his authority. Nor was it unnatural, in the state of science at that time, that Jesus himself should share the notion. I Accordingly, when
* Matt. iv. 17, From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.
+ Matt. xiii. 34, All these things spake Jesus to the multitude in parables, and without a parable spake he not unto them.
| The learned Josephus even often intimates that he himself
urged by the crowds to heal their maladies, he yielded to their importunities* so far as to speak the word which they wanted.* In many such cases, the confident expectation of its efficiency was enough to produce an apparent success, and it appears that Jesus was in general cautious of committing himself to the trial, unless there was this confidence in the party applying. I But when he found the attempt succeed, he would begin to entertain more seriously the idea that he possessed the supernatural power attributed to him, and might easily conclude, that, by relying on it, and boldly exercising it, any miracle was possible. Perceiving that in such cases diffidence usually preceded a failure, he might naturally infer that a sufficient degree of confidence only was wanting to produce the most wonderful effect.
The prevalent opinion of his country was that diseases were occasioned by the entrance of demons into the human possessed certain supernatural gifts by virtue of his priestly descent. War, book iii. c. viii. 3, 9.
* And they brought unto him all sick people, &c.; ix. 27, and two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us; xv. 23, And a woman of Canaan cried unto him, Have mercy on me, O Lord, (or Sir,) thou Son of David ; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil. But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away, for she crieth after us... In this gospel, it seldom appears that Jesus sought an oportunity of doing a miracle, but rather that the attempt was forced upon him.
+ The addition, “and he healed them all,” or its equivalent, occurs so regularly at the close of all Matthew's narratives of this sort, that it looks more like a sentence adopted to finish the story well
, than the evidence to a matter of fact. For, in general, this, the most important part of the story, is passed over without giving particulars. See, in addition to the above, Matt. viii. 13-16, xiv. 14, xv. 30, xx. 34. The question concerning Matthew's veracity will be considered in Chap. iii.
| Matt. ix. 2, And Jesus, seeing their faith, saith unto the sick of the palsy... ix. 27, Believe ye that I am able to do this ?... Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith, be it
Matt. xvii. 19, 20, Then said the disciples, Why could not we cast him out ? and Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place, and it shall remove, and nothing shall be impossible to you.
body, and the power of expelling them by certain words of command was believed in by the most enlightened Jews. *
The miracle was one of the most ambiguous sort, since any change of symptoms might be regarded as proof of the demon's exit. In cases of lunacy, an authoritative word or gesture might produce a momentary calm ; and in fits, exhaustion must soon bring on the same state. In
many other diseases, palsy, fever, &c., a sudden energetic effort on the part of the patient might produce the appearance of recovery. Instances of success, which were alone likely to be recorded, (although we have some indications of occasional failure,)t would
* Josephus has the following passages concerning demons “ Yet after all this pains in getting, it (the root Baaras) is only valuable on account of one virtue it hath, that if it be only brought to sick persons, it quickly drives away those called demons, which are no other than the spirits of the wicked, that enter into men that are alive and kill them, unless they can obtain some help against them.” War vii. ch. vi. 3.
“God enabled him (Solomon) to learn that skill which expels demons, which is a science useful and sanative to men.
He composed snch incantations also by which distempers are alleviated. And he left behind him the manner of using exorcisms, by which they drive away demons, so that they never return, and this method of cure is of great force unto this day; for I have seen a certain man of my own country, named Eleazar, releasing people that were demoniacal in the presence of Vespasian and his sons, and his captives, and the whole multitude of his soldiers. The manner of the cure was this :—He put a ring that had a root of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon, and reciting the incantation which he had composed. And when Eleazar would persuade and demonstrate to the spectators that he had such a power, he set a
off a cup or basin full of water, and commanded the demon, as he went out of the man, to overturn it, and thereby to let the spectators know that he had left the man; and when this was done, the skill and wisdom of Solomon were shewn very manifestly." ---Antiq. viij. 2-5.
+ Compare Matt. x. 1, “ And he gave them power to cast out unclean spirits” with xviii. 16, “And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.” See also Mark vi. 5, " And he could there do no mighty work (ous yduvato), save that he laid his hands on a few sick folk and healed them. And he marvelled be improved in passing from mouth to mouth, and by zealous partizans the account would soon be embellished with a few tales of more decided miracles, such as curing the blind and raising the dead; especially if such tales had some foundation in fact, so far as that the attempt, or the application only, had been really made. *
Jesus having thus acquired the reputation of a miracleworker, as well as of a prophet, was followed in his progress through the towns of Galilee by multitudes of the populace, and even by some of the better sort of the Jews, who cherished in secret the hope of their country's revival, and began to look upon the new prophet of Nazareth, as more than a common pretender. Jesus then began to lay the foundation for a separate organized society by selecting twelve of his countrymen to be his more immediate supporters, promising them that when he should obtain his kingdom, they should rule under him over the twelve tribes of Israel. These he sent forth to the neighbouring towns to preach, I like John and himself, the
preparation for the approaching miraculous regeneration of Israel, or the Kingdom of Heaven.s
because of their unbelief." The translation of the improved version is “would not,” but the usual sense of dunquar is “to be able.” Besides it is plain that want of will was not the cause of the ill success of Jesus, since he did make some attempts, and also because the word “marvelled” implies some disappointment.
This passage shews very clearly that belief was considered as an essential preparation for a miracle; and therefore when the miracle did not take place, it was natural enough for the disciples to atttribute the failure to the want of belief.
* The miracles attributed to Jesus will be examined more closely in chap. viii.
+ That some of the disciples, besides Matthew, had been in tolerable wordly circumstances, may be conjectured from Matt. xix. 29.
Matt. x. 7, And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
That Jesus at first, like the rest of his countrymen, considered the kingdom of heaven to mean primarily the exaltation of his nation, appears from the following texts : Matt. v. 35, Swear not, neither by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king; x. 5, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel ; xv. 24, I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house