Page images
[ocr errors]

But, however interpreted, the moral purport of the scene remains the same the intimation that the strongest and most lively impressions were made upon the mind of Jesus, to withdraw him from the purely religious end of his being upon earth, to transform him from the author of a moral revolution to be slowly wrought by the introduction of new principles of virtue, and new rules for individual and social happiness, to the vulgar station of one of the great monarchs or conquerors of mankind; to degrade him from a being who was to offer to man the gift of eternal life, and elevate his nature to a previous fitness for that exalted destiny, to one whose influence over his own generation might have been more instantaneously manifest, but which could have been as little permanently beneficial as that of any other of those remarkable names, which, especially in the East, bave blazed for a lime and expired.

From the desert, not improbably supposed to be that of Quarantania, lying between Jericho and Jerusalem, where tradition, in Palestine unfortunately of no greal authority, still points out the scene of this great spiritual conflict, and where a mountain (1), commanding an almost boundless prospect of the valleys and hills of Judæa, is shown as that from whence Jesus looked down unmoved on the kingdoms of the earth, the Son of Man relurned to the scene of John's baptism.

In the mean time the success of the new prophet, the Baptist,

had excited the attention, if not the jealousy, of the ruling authoDeputa- rities of the Jews. The solemn deputation appeared to inquire into Jerusalem his pretensions. The Pharisees probably at this time predominated 10 John. in the great council, and the delegates, as of this sect, framed their

questions in accordance with the popular traditions, as well as with the prophetic writings (2): they inquire whether he is the Christ, or Elias, or the prophet (3). John at once disclaims his title to the appellation of the Christ ; nor is he Elijah, personally returned, according to the vulgar expectation (4); nor Jeremiah, to whom tradition assigned the name of " the prophet,” who was to rise from the dead at the coming of the Messiah, in order, it was supposed, lo restore the tabernacle, the ark, and the allar of incense, which he was said to have concealed in a cave on the destruction of the Temple by Nebuchadnezzar, and which were to be brought again to light at the Messiah's coming (5).

The next day John renewed his declaralion that he was the harbinger (6), described in the prophet Isaiah, who, according lo the eustom in the progresses of Oriental monarchs, was to go before,


(1) The best description of this mountain is in the Travels of the Abbé Mariti.

(2) The Sanhedrin alone could judge a tribe, the high priest, or a prophet. (Sanhedrin Paruch. i.) Hence “ a prophet could not perisha

out of Jerusalem.” Luke, xiii. 33. Lightfoot,
Harm. Ev.

(3) John, i. 19—28.
14) Wetstein. Nov. Test, in loc.
(5) 2 Macc, ii, 4-8. xv. 14,
(6) Jobn, i. 29. 34.

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors]

as the Mes


[ocr errors]

and culling through mountains and bridging valleys, to make a
wide and level way for the advance of the Great King. So John
was to remove some of the moral impediments for the reception of
Christ. At the same time, as Jesus mingled undistinguished among
lhe crowd, without directly designaling him, he declared the actual
presence of the mightier teacher who was about to appear. The
next day, in the more private circle of his believers, John did not Jesus de-
scruple to point out more distinctly the person of the Messiah (1). by John
The occasion of his remarkable speech (it has been suggested with
much probability) was the passing of large flocks of sheep and
lambs, which, from the rich pastoral districts beyond the river,
crossed the Jordan at the ford, and were driven on to the metropolis,
to furnish either the usual daily sacrifices or those for the approach-
ing passover. The Baplist, as they were passing, glanced from
them to Jesus, declared him to be that superior Being, of whom he
was but the humble harbinger, and described him as “ the Lamb of
God (2), which taketh away the sins of the world.” Unblemished
and innocent as the meek animals that passed, like them he was to
go up as a sacrifice to Jerusalem, and in some mysterious manner
lo take away the sins of mankind. Another title, by which he
designated Jesus yet more distinctly as the Messiah, was that of
the “ Son of God," one of the appellations of the Deliverer most
universally admitted, though, no doubt, it might bear a different
sense to different hearers.

Among the more immediate disciples of John this declaration of
their master could not but excite the strongest emotions ; nor can
anything be more characterislic of the feelings of that class aniong
the Jews than the anxious rapidity with which the wonderful intel-
ligence is propagated, and the dislant and awe-struck reverence
with which the disciples slowly present themselves to their new
master. The first of these were, Andrew, the brother of Simon
(Peler), and probably the author of the narrative, St. John (3). ciples of
Simon, to whom his brother communicates the extraordinary

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

First dis

[ocr errors]


(1) John, i, 35, 36.

his own sacrifice, was a purely Christian tenet, (2) Supposing (as is the general npinion) that and but obscurely and prophetically alluded to this term refers to the expiatory sacrifice of before the death of Christ. How far the Jews Christ, according to the analogy between the had any notion of a suffering Messiah (afterdeath of Jesus and the sacrificial victims, subse- wards their great stumbling-block) is a most quently developed by the apostles (and certainly obscure question. The Chaldaic paraphrast certhe narrower sense maintained by Grotius, and tainly refers, but in very vague and contradictory the modern learned writers (see Rosenmuller language (Isaiah, lii, 13. et seq.), to the Mesand Kuinoel in loc.) are by no means satisfac- siah. See on one side Schoetgen, Hor. Heb ii. tory), to the hearers of John at this time such an 181. and Danzius, de Aútpa, in Meuschen; on allusion must have been as unintelligible as the

the other, Rosenmuller and Gesenius on Isaiah. intimations of Jesus about his future sufferings The notion of the double Messiah, the suffering to his disciples. Indeed, if understood by John Messiah the son of Joseph, and the triumphant, himself in its full sense, it is difficult to reconcile

the son of David (as in Pearson on the Creed, it with the more imperfect views of the Messiah,

vol. is of inost uncertain date and origin; evinced by his doubt during his imprisonment. but nothing, in my opinion, can be more increTo the Jews in general it can have conveyed no dible than that it should have been derived, as distinct meaning. Tbat the Messial was to be Bertholdt would insagine, from the Samaritan blameless, was strictly accordant with their no- belief, Bertholdt, c. 29. tions, and “ his taking away sins,” bore an intelligible Jewish sense ; but taking them away by

(3) John, i. 37-42.

Jesus com


as a

tidings, immediately follows, and on him Jesus bestows a new narne, expressive of the firmness of his character. All these belonged to the same village, Bethsaida, on the shore of the lake of Gennesareth. On the departure of Jesus, when he is returning to Galilee, he summons another, named Philip. Philip, like Andrew, hastens away to impart the tidings to Nathanael, not improbably conjectured to be the apostle Bartholomew (the son of Tolmai or Ptolemy), a man of blameless character, whose only doubt is, that the Messiah should come from a town of such proverbial disrepute as Nazarelh (1). But the doubts of Nathanael are removed by the preternatural knowledge displayed by Jesus of an incident which he could not have witnessed ; and this fifth disciple, in like manner,

1 does homage to the Messiah, under his titles “the Son of God, the King of Israel." Yet this proof of more than human knowledge, Jesus declares to be as nothing in comparison with the more striking signs of the Divine protection and favour, which he asserts, under the popular and significant image of the perpetual intervention of angels, that his chosen followers are hereafter to witness.

Jesus had now commenced his career : disciples had attached his career themselves to this new master, and his claim to a divine mission Teacher. must necessarily be accompanied by the signs and wonders which

were to ratify the appearance of the Messiah. Yet even his miraculous powers had nothing of the imposing, the appalling, or public character, looked for, no doubt, by those who expected that the appeal would be made to their senses and their passions, to their terror and their hope, not to the more tranquil emotions of gratitude and love. But of this more hereafter,

The first miracle of Jesus was the changing the water into wine, Anti-Esse. at the marriage feast at Cana, in Galilee (2). This event, however,

was not merely remarkable as being the first occasion for the display of supernatural power, but as developing in some degree the primary principles of the new religious revelation. The allendance of Jesus at a marriage festival, his contributing to the festive hilarity, more particularly his sanctioning the use of wine on such occasions, at once separated and set him apart from that sect with which he was most likely to be confounded. John, no doubt, passed with the vulgar for a stricter Essene, many of whom, it has been before said, observed the severest morality, and, in one great point, differed most widely from all their brethren. They disregarded the ceremonies of the law, even the solemn national festivals, and depreciated sacrifices. Shut up, in short, in their own monaslic establishments, they had substituted observances of their own for those of the Mosaic institutes. In all these points, John, who no where

First mi. racle,


[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

appears to have visited Jerusalem, at least after his assumption of the prophetic office (for his presence there would doubtless have excited much commotion), followed the Essenian practice. Like them he was severe, secluded, monastic, or rather eremitical in bis habils and language. But among the most marked peculiarities of the Essenian fraternity was their aversion to marriage. Though some of the less rigid of their communities submitted to this inevitable evil, yet those who were of higher pretensions, and doublless of higher estimation, maintained inviolable celibacy, and had fully imbibed That Oriental principle of asceticism, which proscribed all indulgence of the gross and material body, as interfering with the purity of the immaculate spirit. The perfect religious being was he who had receded to the ulmost from all human passion ; who had withdrawn his senses from all intercourse wilh the material world, or rather had estranged his mind from all objects of sense, and had become absorbed in the silent and ecstatic contemplation of the Deity (1). This mysticism was the vital principle of the Essenian observances in Judæa, and of those of the Therapeulæ, or Contemplatists, in Egypt, the lineal ancestors of the Christian inonks and hermits. By giving public countenance to a marriage ceremony, slill more by sanctioning the use of wine on such occasions (for wine was likewise proscribed by Essenian usage), Jesus thus, at the outset of his career, as he afterwards placed himself in direct opposition to the other prevailing sects, so he had already receded from the practice of these recluse mystics, who formed the third, and though not in numbers, yet in character and influence, by no means unimportant religious party.

After this event in Cana (2), Jesus, with his mother, his brethren, Caperand some of his disciples, took up their abode, not in their native naum. town of Nazareth, but in the village of Capernaum (3), which was silualed not far from the rising city of Tiberias, on the shore of the beauti sul lake, the sea of Gennesareth. It was called the Village of Comfort, or the Lovely Village, from a spring of delicious water, and became afterwards the chief residence of Jesus, and the great scene of his wonderful works (4).


[ocr errors]

(1) It may be worth observing (for the con- (3) John, ii, 12. nection of Jesus with the Essenes has been rather (4) Among the remarkable and distinctive

pea favourite theory) that his illustrations so per- culiarities of the Gospel of St. John, is the inuch petually drawn from the marriage rite, and from greater length at which he relates the events the vineyard, would be in direct opposition to which occurred during the earlier visits of Jesus Essenian phraseology. All these passages were

to Jerusalem, about which the other Evangelists peculiarly embarrassing to the Gnostic ascetics. are either entirely silent or extremely brief. I “Noiuit Marcion sub imagine Domini a nuptiis cannot help suspecting a very natural reason for redeuntis Christum cogitari “ detestatorem nup- this fact, that John was the constant companion tiarum,” he rejected from his Gospel, Luke, xiv. of his Master during these journeys, and that the 7-11. See the Gospel of Marcion by Hahn in other apostles were much less regular in their Tbilo. Cod. Apoc. Nov. Testa.n. p. 444. and attendance npon him during these more distant 449.

excursions, especially at the earlier period. The (2) Maundrell places Cana north-west of Na. Gospel of St. John (some few passages omitted) zareth ; it was about a day's journey from Ca- might be described as the acts of Jesus in Jerupernaum. Josephus (De Vita Sua) marched all salem and its neighbourhood. night from Cana, and arrived at Tiberias in the morning




[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


The Passover approached (1), the great festival (2) which ascver, A. n. sembled not only from all parts of Palestine, but even from remoter

regions, the more devout Jews, who at this period of the year con-
stantly made their pilgrimage to the Holy City : regular caravans
came from Babylonia and Egypt; and no doubt, as we shall explain
hereafter, considerable numbers from Syria, Asia Minor, and the
other provinces of the Roman empire. There can be no doubt that
at least vague rumours of the extraordinary transactions which had
already excited public attention towards Jesus of Nazareth, must
have preceded his arrival al Jerusalem. The declaration of the
Baptist, however neither himself nor many of his immediale dis-
ciples might attend the feast, could not but have transpired. Though
the single miracle wrought at Cana might not have been distinctly
reported at Jerusalem-though the few disciples who may have fol-
lowed him from Galilee, having there disseminated the intelligence
of his conduct and actions, might have been lost in the mullitude
and confusion of the crowded cily-though, on the other hand, the
impressions thus made, would be still further counter-balanced by

the general prejudice against Galilee, more especially against a Jesus at Galilean from Nazareth-still the son of Mary, even at his first ap

pearance in Jerusalem, seems to have been looked on with a kind
of reverential awe. His actions were watched, and though both the
ruling powers, and, as yet apparently, the leading Pharisees kept
aloof, though he is neither molested by the jealousy of the latter,
nor excites the alarm of the former, yet the mass of the people al-
ready observed his words and his demeanour with anxious interest.
The conduct of Jesus tended lo keep up this mysterious uncertainty
so likely to work on the imagination of a people thus ripe for re-
ligious excitement. He is said to have performed “ many miracles,"

but these, no doubt, were still of a privale, secret, and unimposing
character; and on all other points he maintains the ulmost reserve,
and avoids with the most jealous precaution any action or language
which might directly commit him with the rulers or the people.

One act alone was public, commanding, and authoritative. The ple a mart. outer court of the Temple had become, particularly at the period

of the greatest solemnily, a scene of profane disorder and confu-
sion. As the Jews assembled from all quarters of the country,
almost of the world, they were under the necessity of purchasing
the victims for their offerings on the spot; and the rich man who
could afford a sheep or an ox, or the poor who was content with
the humbler oblation of a pair of doves, found the dealer at hand
to supply his wants. The traders in sheep, cattle, and pigeons, had
therefore been permitted to establish themselves within the pre-

[merged small][ocr errors]

The Tem

[ocr errors]

(1) John, ii. 13.

this passover. This is possible; but it appears to (2) Many writers suppose that about half a me that there is no evidence whatever as to the year passed between the baptism of Jesus and length of the period.

« PreviousContinue »