Графични страници
PDF файл
ePub

harmony with those of the ancient prophets, of Christ himself, and of the whole Christian church!

John continued to preach these great doctrines to the people, and in various places, in Ænon, near to Salem, for example, by baptism, to prepare disciples for the Master. When a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and those of Jesus, about purifying, (perhaps the effect ascribed to baptism,) the Baptist declared his inferiority to the great Messiah, and his consequent unwillingness to form a school or sect separate from his. He avowed his mission to be subordinate and preparatory. “ He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Subsequently we find John cast into prison, for his stern fidelity to duty, in reproving Herod Antipas (who greatly respected him as a prophet) for having Herodias, his brother's wife, a fact referred to by Josephus. Here lingering in confinement, his disciples, come to him, and ask him about the Messiah, concerning whom they began, under the circumstances, to cherish some doubt.

It is not, indeed, impossible, though it would seem highly improbable, that John, depressed in mind, might himself have yielded to doubt. But the circumstances seem to forbid such a supposition. And hence we conclude that the difficulty lay in the minds

[ocr errors]

of his disciples, for whose satisfaction he sent them to Jesus, with the question, “ Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another ?" At the moment they arrived, Jesus was performing some of his wonderful works. Instead of answering them directly, he said, " Go and show John again those things which ye do hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached unto them." * Then follows our Savior's beautiful testimony to John: "What went

ye

out into the wilderness for to see? A reed shaken with the wind ? But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they that wear soft raiment are in kings' palaces ? But what went ye out for to see ? A prophet? Yea, I say unto you, and more than a prophet. For of those that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist.” “Nevertheless,” he added, referring probably to the case of a disciple made perfect in the kingdom of God, glorified in body and in spirit, “ he that is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he ” — thus resolving all greatness into purity and love. There could

* Matt. xi. 3-6.

+ Perhaps, however, the reference here is to a disciple in the kingdom or church of God, fully established on earth, subsequent

be no diversity of opinion and purpose, then, between Christ and John; both fully understood that the deeper radiance of the kingdom of heaven swallows up and absorbs all lesser lights. The one as the Sun of Righteousness, the other as the star which heralds his coming, advance, joyously, into the unobstructed effulgence of the eternal kingdom.

At length, John disappears from the scene. He was beheaded at the instance of Herodias, and thus entered glory, by a quick, though bloody passage.

passage. His work was done; Jesus alone must appear on the scene,

and
occupy

the entire field of vison.*

to the descent of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and so possessing higher views and enjoying greater privileges than John. Though elevated, we are not to suppose the views of John to be as perfect, or as clearly defined, as those of the early Christians, who lived after the permanent establishment of the church. See Olshausen in loco.

* Some of John's disciples did not carry out the spirit of their master, but forming a peculiar sect, lapsed into narrow Jewish prejudices, and carnal usages. Hence the Ebiontes.

23 *

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

We have dwelt the longer, in the preceding chapters, on the preparation of Christ for his public ministry, as well as on the character and mission of John the Baptist, because they supply the materials for a refutation of one of the most plausible and ingeniously supported theories of modern scepticism to account, on natural grounds, for the life and character of Jesus, as the acknowledged Messiah. We refer to the hypothesis of Strauss, developed in his Life of Jesus, and adopted in its fundamental features by the great body of sceptics in Europe and in this country, among whom we may name Theodore Parker, who has reproduced it for the benefit of American readers. We have already alluded to this theory, but we wish to take some further notice of it, as it is confessedly the boldest yet proposed, to account for a life, which Rousseau himself was compelled to consider a miracle.

It is based, we may premise, upon a fundamental denial of the possibility of miracles — a prodigious assumption, as most persons will

а

regard it, yet a perfectly natural one to Strauss, who, philosophically, is a pupil of the pantheistic school, and, therefore, positively denies the existence of a personal God. Nature and God, in his theory, are confounded. He knows no God but “the Absolute Essence, which comes to consciousness in man.” Nature, or the external universe, is but the necessary and eternal manifestation of the divine.

of the divine. All, indeed, is divine, as man is divine, and in its essence changeless and eternal.

What we call change, or the relation of cause and effect, according to this theory, is but the ebb and flow of the uncreated being, who reveals himself in nature and in man. Under such a system, the idea of new beginnings or creations, whether in the natural or the spiritual worlds, of special interventions and revelations, as ordinarily understood, and, above all, of miracles and incarnations, is inadmissible. Such divine interpositions, beyond the sphere of natural or ordinary causes, Strauss pronounces impossible.*

Keeping this in mind, we present the following, as a fair statement of the substance of his theory:

* It is on this ground that Neander designates the controversy commenced by Strauss as “a struggle between Christian Theism and a system of world and self deification. - Preface to his Leben Jesu.

« ПредишнаНапред »