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and his gods impute not to our Saviour imposture, but piety and wisdom, and ascent to heaven.
Hierocles, not the Platonic philosopher, who wrote a comment on Pythagoras's golden verses, but the governor of Bythinia and prefect of Alexandria, composed a work against the Christians early in the * fourth century. Lactantius speaking of this writer says, that he attempted to overthrow Christ's wonderful works, but did not deny them; and aimed at shewing that cqual or greater things were done by Apollonius. Writing of Apollonius, Hierocles observes, “ They are everywhere boasting, and magnifying Jesus, as having given sight to the blind, and done other wonderful works of a like nature. But let us consider, for how much better and wiser reasons we admit such things; and what opinion we have of famous men.” " We do not esteem him who did such things a God, but a man favoured by the gods ; whereas they for a few lying wonders proclaim Jesus a God.”
Julian lived about the middle of the fourth century. Ino Cyril's work against him the following remarkable passage occurs. “But Jesus, having persuaded the worst part of men among you, is spoken of after a few more than three hundred years, though he did nothing worthy of remembrance while he lived : unless any one thinks it among the greatest works to heal the lame and blind, and to exorcise demoniacs, in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany.” There is another passage not so directly to the purpose,
est. iii. 241, 9. ib. 234.
2 About A. D. 303. 5 ib. 237.
cl. vi. 191.
because it may only relate to the assertions of such as believed in Christ. “Jesus, d who rebuked the winds, and walked on the seas, and cast out demons, and, as you will have it, made the heaven and the carth, could not order his designs so as to save his friends and relations."
I shall close this head with two sketches of our Lord's character given us by deistical writers.
“ In Christ we have an example of a quiet and peaceable spirit, of a becoming modesty and sobriety : just and honest, upright and sincere; and above all of a most gracious and benevolent temper and behaviour. One who did no wrong, no injury, to any man ; in whose mouth was no guile ; who went about doing good, not only by his preaching and ministry, but also in curing all manner of diseases among the people. His life was a beautiful picture of human nature, when in its native purity and simplicity; and shewed at once what excellent creatures men would be, when under the influence and power of that gospel he preached unto e them.”
“ I confess,” says Rousseau, “ that the majesty of the scriptures astonishes me, that the sanctity of the gospel speaks to my heart. View the books of the philosophers with all their pomp: what a littleness have they when compared with this! Is it possible that a book, at once so sublime and simple, should be the work of men ? Is it possible that he, whose history it records, should be himself a mere man? Is this the style of an enthusiast, or of an
Lard. Test. I. vi. p. 213. Chubb's true Gospel of Jesus Christ, sect. 8, p. 55, 6. f Emile : iii. 179. Amst. 1762.
ambitious sectary? What sweetness, what purity, in his manners ! what affecting grace in his instructions ! what elevation in his maxims ! what profound wisdom in his discourses ! what presence of mind, what delicacy, and what justness, in his replies ! what empire over his passions! Where is the man, where is the philosopher, who knows how to act, to suffer, and to die without weakness and without ostentation ? When Plato paints his imaginary just man, covered with all the ignominy of guilt, and deserving all the honours of virtue, he paints Jesus Christ in every stroke of his pencil : the resemblance is so strong that all the fathers have perceived ii, and that it is not possible to mistake it. What prejudices, what blindness, must they have, who dare to draw a comparison between the son of Sophroniscus and the son of Mary! What distance is there between the one and the other ! As Socrates died without pain and without disgrace, he found no difficulty in supporting his character to the end ; and, if this easy death had not shed a lustre on his life, we might have doubted whether Socrates, with all his genius, was any thing but a sophist. They say that he invented morality. Others before him had practised it: he only said what they had done, he only read lessons on their examples. Aristides had been just, before Socrates explained the nature of justice ; Leonidas had died for his country, before Socrates made it the duty of men to love their country; Sparta had been temperate, before Socrates praised temperance ; Greece had abounded in virtuous men, before he defined virtue. But where could Jesus have taken among his country. men that elevated and pure morality, of which he alone furnished both the precepts and the example ? The most lofty wisdom was heard from the bosom of the most furious fanaticism; and the simplicity of the most heroic virtues honoured the vilest of all people. The death of Socrates, serenely philosophizing with his friends, is the most gentle that one can desire ; that of Jesus expiring in torments, injured, derided, reviled by a whole people, is the most horrible that one can fear. When Socrates takes the poisoned cup, he blesses him who presents it and who at the same time weeps : Jesus in the midst of a horrid punishment prays for his enraged executioners. · Yes: if the life and death of Socrates are those of a philosopher, the life and death of Jesus Christ are those of a God. Shall we say that the history of the gospel is invented at pleasure ? My friend, it is not thus that men invent; and the actions of Socrates, concerning which no one doubts, are less attested than those of Jesus Christ. After all, this is shifting the difficulty instead of solving it: for it would be more inconceivable that a number of men should forge this book in concert, than that one should furnish the subject of it. Jewish authors would never have devised such a manner, and such morality; and the gospel has characters of truth so great, so striking, so perfectly inimitable, that its inventor would be still more astonishing than its hero."
OF THE MANYER IN WHICH THE EVANGELISTS DELINE.
ATE OUR LORD'S CHARACTER.
I HAVE drawn an argument for the reality of our Lord's character from its perfection. I shall now endeavour to assist my reader in judging how widely our Lord's historians differ from writers who frame a fictitious relation.
Nothing can be more simple and artless than the manner in which this consummate character is drawn. It arises from facts, and often from slight incidents : and, in many places, it is so finely interwoven with the plainest narrative, that it can only be traced by a curious and attentive eye.
The evangelists most impartially relate whatever seems to diminish our Lord's character in the estimation of prejudiced and worldly minded men ; such as the “ poverty and low b station of his parents, his unlearned education in the despised town of Nazareth ; and the humble occupation of his youth in a working with his own hands. When he entered on his ministry, they record with the same strict impartial. ity his rejection by his countrymen of Nazareth, and their e rage against him even to an attempt on his life ; the general finfidelity of his near kinsfolk, and their most & disgraceful reflections on his conduct;
a Luke ii. 24. b Matt. xiii. 55. • Mark vi. 2. John vii. 15. 4-ib, vi. 3. I.uke ir. 29. John vii. 5. & Mark iii. 21.