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us? whence then hath this man all these things ? and they were offended at him,” Matt. xiii. 54–57. “ The Jews then murmured at bim, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven: and they said, Is not this Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know ? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven," John vi. 41, 42. Again : “ And there was much murmuring among the people concerning him: (viz. at Jerusalem :) for. some said, He is a good man; others said, Nay, but he deceiveth the people. Howbeit, no man spake openly of him, (i. e. in favour of him,) for fear of the Jews. Now about the midst of the feast, Jesus went up into the temple and taught: and the Jews marvelled, saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned ?" John vii. 12-15.
many the people believed on him, and said, When Christ cometh, will he do more miracles than this man hath done ?” ver. 31. Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the prophet: others said, This is the Christ: but some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?” Ver. 40, 41.
The ninth chapter of St. John's gospel is an account of the miracle wrought upon a blind man whom he restored to sight; the scruples of divers of the people; the inquisitiveness of the pharisees about it; the shyness of the parents of the blind man to answer all their questions; the reflections of the pharisees, the reply of the blind man, are altogether so natural, that the story can be nothing else but'a bare representation of a real matter of fact; the chapter cannot be abridged, but may be read at your leisure, with the view for which I refer to it with great satisfaction. “ There was a division, [or argument,] among the Jews for these sayings. And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him? Others said, These are not the words of one that hath a devil. Can a devil
the eyes of the blind,” John x. 12—21. And, at some times, great numbers of people were so moved by the sight of his miracles, and the new and surprising nature of his discourses, that they entertained a very strong persuasion he must be the deliverer they expected, and therefore invited him to take the authority and state of a king, and undertake to deliver them from the Roman government, particularly after he had fed five thousand with five loaves and a few small fishes, “ When they had seen the miracle which Jesus had done, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.” So that perceiving “ they would come and take him by force, to make bim a king,” he was
obliged to depart “ into a mountain alone,” John vi. 14, 15. to frustrate this their design, so contrary to all his intentions. At another time, great numbers are said to have conducted him in triumph into Jerusalem : “ And a very great multitude spread their garments in the way, others cut down branches from the trees and strawed them in the the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David, blessed is he that coineth in the name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest," Matt. xxi. 8, 9. Nevertheless, as the multitude are variable in their affections, and as the Jewish people were in great subjection to the pharisees, and their rulers, the inveterate enemies of our Saviour, and being, it is likely, tired out with his delays to take upon him temporal authority, and make some change in the government, as they expected he should, they at last cried out, . Crucify him ! crucify him !' Matt. xxvii. 20. desired the life of Barabbas, and that Jesus should be destroyed. But though the common people were divided in their opinion concerning him, and varied at times in their affection for him, the pharisees are represented as steadily opposing him with the greatest malice from the first to the last. He had with great freedom corrected their misrepresentations of the law; censured their additions to it, which were such as to subvert and make void the main branches of it; rebuked them for their pride and ambition, and hypocrisy. It is very likely therefore they should be implacable to him, as they are represented, and seek all opportunities to defame and destroy him. When some of their officers, whom they had sent out to apprehend him, returned without executing their orders, and expressed some approbation of his discourses, they answered, saying, “ Are ye also deceived ? Have any of the rulers or of the pharisees believed on him ? But this people, who know not the law, are cursed,” John vii. 47, 48. And they were continually making those exceptions against him, which might have a tendency to make him odious to the people. “ Then came to Jesus, scribes and pharisees, which were at Jerusalem, saying, Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders ? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread,” Matt. xv. 1, 2. They reflected upon him for his free conversation, in that he eat with publicans and sinners, Matt. ix. 11. They objected against him, that his disciples did not fast, and practise other austerities in much esteem at that time. “Why do the disciples of John and of the pharisees fast; but tby disciples fast not ?" Mark ii. 18. It was a very great objection against him, with which they
endeavoured to scandalize him, that he wrought cures upon infirm people even on the sabbath-day, and because his disciples, as they went through the corn-fields, plucked some ears of corn on the sabbath-day, Mark ii. 23. They charged him with blasphemy, and assuming to himself the prerogatives of God himself, in that, healing an infirm person, he says unto him, “ thy sins are forgiven thee,” ver. 5. At another time they affixed this odious charge upon him for styling God his Father, thereby making hijnself, as they inferred, equal with God, John v. 18.
The representations of the apprehensions of the disciples concerning our Saviour are extremely natural: from the words they had heard bim speak; from the manner in which he taught; from the many wonderful works they had seen him perform; thence they entertained a strong persuasion he must be the Messias : and when he inquired what thoughts they had of him, they readily replied that he was Jesus the Son of the living God. But when he spoke to them of his sufferings, that the Son of man should be delivered into the hands of men, and they should kill him, and after that he was killed, he should rise again the third day; they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask hiin, Mark ix. 31, 32. And in divers other places. They were possessed with the common prejudices of their countrymen, and were in continual expectation of seeing him in the highest splendour and power. This was the thing that was twice the foundation of the hopes they had of authority and power themselves as his favourites, since they were his intimate acquaintance and constant companions. This was the reason of their abandoning him at the last, under his disgrace and sufferings; and by this we may account for Peter's denial of his master, when he saw him submit to trouble he had no expectation of. This was likewise the reason of the great difficulty there was of convincing them it was really he, when he came among them after his resurrection. I might refer to the moving scene that passed between our Saviour and his disciples the night before his being apprehended. The sorrow they all manifested upon the declaration he made of the near approach of his death ; the consolations he suggested to them; the prayer he put
for them; the professions they made of affection for him; the warnings be gave them; the promises they made of fidelity to him, and that they would rather die with him than deny bim; are all such as none can read, I should think, bút must be persuaded it is no other than a faithful narrative of a real transaction. The declaration likewise
that Peter made, though all should be offended he would not, Mark xiv, 29. was agreeable to the forwardness and zeal he had shown upon divers other occasions. And are not the scoffs of the people, and the triumphs of the pharisees, said to be delivered by them against our Saviour when hanging upon the cross, just such as might be expected upon the occasion from the cruel insolence of one and the malicious satisfaction of the other ? “ And they that passed by, reviled him, wagging their heads, and saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself; if thou be the Son of God, come down from the
Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others, himself he cannot save; if he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe hiin. He trusted in God; let bim deliver him now if he will have him ; for he said, I am the Son of God,” Matt. xxvii. 39–42, And though I pass over many particulars, I must not omit to refer you to his compassionate lamentation of the miseries of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, when the prediction of their destruction by him is related, which could proceed from no other but one who was really the person the evangelists have represented our Saviour to be. “Jerusalem,
O Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not,” Matt, xxi. 37. “ And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes,” Luke xix. 41, 42.
If we proceed to the history of the Acts of the Apostles, we shall find still the same just and natural representation of things. The charge said to be made against Stephen by the leading men of the Jewish nation, was the most popular that could be imagined, and most likely to reconcile the people to his destruction, which they aimed at. “ And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him before the council, and set up false witnesses against him, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this place and the law,” Acts vi. 12, 13.
The reception Barnabas and Paul met with at Lystra is as agreeable to the sentiments of superstitious heathens, surprised at first into such a high veneration for them, upon account of a miracle they had seen them work, that they
were ready to pay them sůch honours as they gave their deities, and were as soon enraged against them when they disdained their idolatrous honours and denied their gods. “ When the people saw what Paul had done, (he had cured a man impotent in his feet, who had been a cripple from his mother's womb,) they lift up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men,” Acts xiv. 11. But " when there came thither certain Jews from Antioch and Iconium, who persuaded the people, they stoned Paul, and drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead,” ver. 19. And the uproar at Ephesus, upon the progress Paul had made, in drawing off some persons from the received superstition, was no other than might be expected in a city where the livelihood of a vast number of persons depended upon the sale of images and shrines of the goddess Diana, Acts xix. This just and natural representation of things is an argument of the truth and credibility of any history; when the reflections, objections, and whole behaviour of persons of the better and meaner sort are all conformable to their several characters, the opinions and sentiments that obtain among them, and the circumstances they are supposed to be in.
6. The impartiality of the history of the New Testament is another argument of its truth, and makes the whole appear credible. This is a rare and uncommon character, and I think is not more conspicuous in any history than in this. I would give you some few instances of it under these three heads.
1. Many things are here mentioned, that were in appearance, and in the eye of the world, disadvantageous to our Saviour.
2. The writers have not omitted those things that were really disadvantageous to themselves, and their companions, some of them in the eye of the world, and others really so; their own faults and miscarriages.
3. There are many disorders and miscarriages mentioned among the first converts to christianity.
As to the first head, things that were to outward appearance, and in the eye of the world, disadvantageous to our Saviour, are, the low circumstances of his parents; the mean accommodations of his birth; that when he appeared publicly to the world, his townsmen and near relations despised and rejected him; that among his followers, there were few who were considerable for their knowledge of the law, for wealth or dignity; that the rulers, the scribes, and phari