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Book I.

the feelings of the more devout must long before have been shocked by this desecration of the holy precincts; and when Jesus commanded the expulsion of Expulsion of these traders. all these traders out of the court of the Temple, from the almost unresisting submission with which they abandoned their lucrative posts, at the command of one invested with no public authority, and who could have appeared to them no more than a simple Galilean peasant, it is clear that this assertion of the sanctity of the Temple must have been a popular act with the majority of the worshippers. Though Jesus

is said personally to have exerted himself, assisting with a light scourge probably in driving out the cattle, it is not likely that if he had stood alone, either the calm and commanding dignity of his manner, or even his appeal to the authority of the Sacred Writings, which forbade the profanation of the Temple as a place of merchandise, would have overpowered the sullen obstinacy of men engaged in a gainful traffic, sanctioned by ancient usage. The same profound veneration for the Temple, which took such implacable offence at the subsequent language of Jesus, would look with unallayed admiration on the zeal for "the Father's House." That House would not brook the intrusion of worldly pursuits or profane noises within its hallowed gates.

Of itself, then, this act of Jesus might not amount to the assumption of authority over the Temple of God:

I think these considerations make | during his last visit to Jerusalem. For it less improbable that this event my own part, I follow St. John without should have taken place on two sepa- hesitation: even if it were an error in rate occasions, and under similar cir- chronological arrangement in one or cumstances. The account of St. John other of the Evangelists, my faith in places the incident at this period of the historical reality of the event our Lord's life; the other Evangelists would not be in the least shaken.



raised by


it was, perhaps, no more than a courageous zealot for the Law might have done; but, combined Expectations with the former mysterious rumours about his this event. character and his miraculous powers, it invested him at once with the awful character of one, in whose person might appear the long-desired, the long-expected Messiah. The multitude eagerly throng around him, and demand some supernatural sign of his divine mission. The establishment of the Law had been accompanied, according to the universal belief, with the most terrific demonstrations of Almighty power-the rocking of the earth, the blazing of the mountain. Would the restoration of the Theocracy in more ample power, and more enduring majesty, be unattended with the same appalling wonders? The splendid images in the highly figurative writings of the Prophets, the traditions, among the mass of the people equally authoritative, had prepared them to expect the coming of the Messiah to be announced by the obedient elements. It would have been difficult, by the most signal convulsions of nature, to have come up to their high-wrought expectations. Private acts of benevolence to individuals, preternatural cures of diseases, or the restoration of disordered faculties, fell far beneath the notions of men, blind, in most cases, to the moral beauty of such actions. They required public, if we may so speak, national miracles, and those of the most stupendous nature. To their demand, Jesus calmly answered by an obscure and somewhat oracular allusion to the remote event of his own resurrection, the one great "sign" of Christianity, to which it is remarkable

Legally only the magistrate (i. e. | A Prophet must show his commission the Sanhedrin), or a Prophet, could by some miracle or piediction. Grorectify abuses in the Temple of God. tius and Whitby.





that the Saviour constantly refers, when required to ratify his mission by some public miracle. The gesture, by which he probably confined his meaning to the temple of his body, which, though destroyed, was to be raised up again in three days, was seen, indeed, by his disciples, yet even by them but imperfectly understood; by the people in general his language seemed plainly to imply the possible destruction of the Temple. An appalling thought, and feebly counterbalanced by the assertion of his power to rebuild it in three days!

the Jews for

This misapprehended speech struck on the most sensitive chord in the high-strung religious temperament of the Jewish people. Their national pride, their national existence, were identified with the inviolability of Reverence of the Temple. Their passionate and zealous the Temple. fanaticism on this point can scarcely be understood unless after the profound study of their history. In older times, the sad and loathsome death of Antiochus Epiphanes, in more recent, the fate of Crassus, perishing amid the thirsty sands of the desert, and of Pompey, with his headless trunk exposed to the outrages of the basest of mankind on the strand of Egypt, had been construed into manifest visitations of the Almighty, in revenge for the plunder and profanation of his Temple. Their later history is full of the same spirit; and even in the horrible scenes of the fatal siege by Titus, this indelible passion survived all feelings of nature or of humanity. The fall of the Temple was like the bursting of the heart of the nation.

From the period at which Herod the Great had begun to restore the dilapidated work of Zorobabel, forty-six years had elapsed, and still the magnificence of the

Compare Matt. xii. 40.




tations dis

king, or the wealth and devotion of the principal among the people, had found some new work on which to expend those incalculable riches, which, from these sources, the tribute of the whole nation, and the donations of the pious, continued to pour into the Temple treasury. And this was the building of which Jesus, as he was understood, could calmly contemplate the fall, and daringly promise the immediate restora- Their expec tion. To their indignant murmurs, Jesus, it appointed. may seem, made no reply. The explanation would, perhaps, have necessarily led to a more distinct prediction of his own death and resurrection than it was yet expedient to make, especially on so public a scene. But how deeply this mistaken speech sunk into the popular mind, may be estimated from its being adduced as the most serious charge against Jesus at his trial; and the bitterest scorn, with which he was followed to his crucifixion, exhausted itself in a fierce and sarcastic allusion to this supposed assertion of power.

Still, although with the exasperated multitude the growing veneration for Jesus might be checked by this misapprehended speech, a more profound impression had been made among some of the more thinking part of the community. Already one, if not more members, of the Sanhedrin, began to look upon him with interest, perhaps with a secret inclination to espouse his doctrines. That one, named Nicodemus, deter- Nicodemus. mined to satisfy himself by a personal inter


view, as to the character and pretensions of the new Teacher. Nicodemus had hitherto been connected with the Pharisaic party, and he dreaded the jealousy of that powerful sect, who, though not yet in declared

m John iii. 1, 21.






hostility against Jesus, watched, no doubt, his motions with secret aversion; for they could not but perceive that he made no advances towards them, and treated with open disregard their minute and austere observance of the literal and traditionary law, their principles of separation from the "unclean" part of the community, and their distinctive dress and deportment. The popular and accessible demeanour of Jesus showed at once that he had nothing in common with the spirit of this predominant religious faction. Nicodemus, therefore, chooses the dead of the night to obtain his secret interview with Jesus; he salutes him with a title, that of Rabbi, assumed by none but those who were at once qualified and authorised to teach in public; and he recognises at once his divine mission, as avouched by his wonderful works. But, with astonishment almost overpowering, the Jewish ruler hears the explanation of the first principles of the new religion. When the heathen proselyte was admitted into Judaism, he was considered to be endowed with new life: he was separated from all his former connexions; he was born again to higher hopes, to more extended knowledge, to a more splendid destiny." But now, even the Jew of the most unimpeachable descent from Abraham, the Jew of the highest estimation so as to have been chosen into the court of Sanhedrin, and one who had maintained the strictest obedience to the law, required, in order to become a member of the new community, a change no less complete. He was to pass through the

A Gentile proselyted, and a slave set free, is as a child new born; he must know no more of his kindred. Maimonides. Lightfoot, Harm. Ev.

This notion of a second moral birth

is by no means uncommon in the East. The Sanscrit name of a Brahmin is dwija, the twice born. Bopp. Gloss. Sanscr.

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