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In opening the Gospel Work, What were the Personal Habits of Jesus, and what the Order of Incidents, including the Choice of Disciples ?
THERE was a judicious alternation of retirement and publicity, an adaptation of word and deed to circumstances. There continued communion with his own spirit, the quiet gathering in of all the lessons of life and nature around, deep study of the thoughts and dispositions of men, silent mastery of the religious ideas of the day, and a comprehensive knowledge of the religious parties of the people. He studied the Scriptures in the household or read them in the synagogues, until he absorbed and knew them better than did the scribes and Pharisees themselves.
Many reverential reasoners are of the opinion that for a time he preached and practised the Essene doctrines: this, as he did not marry, advocated continence “for the kingdom of heaven's sake," * and taught non-resistance, baptism, and the selling of all one's possessions for the sake of the poor. Be this as it may, there is no doubt that he unfolded himself to his country gradually. “There was a twilight before the dawn, a dawn before the morning, and a morning, before the day.” But everything was meanwhile concentrated upon fulfilment of the grand and strange resolve: “I will build up a state by the mere force of my will, without help from the kings of the world, without taking advantage of any of the secondary causes that unite men together, - unity of interest or speech or bloodrelationship. I will make laws for my state which shall never be repealed, and I will defy all the powers of destruction that are at work in the world to destroy what I build."
The Jewish theocracy had served its day. The new kingdom of God was to be a reign of holy love in the breast, instead of a worthless service of rites and forms. Until then, outward priesthoods, local temples, the slaying, of sacrifices, pompous rites and ceremonial laws, had been deemed essential. But the consecration of Jesus as the Messiah, not of the Jews alone, but of mankind, made the whole obsolete as incompatible with a universal religion. That he appreciated the immeasurable difficulties and dangers that beset his way, and was stepping with commensurate circumspection, detracts nothing from the real, ineffable grandeur of his position.
* Matt. xix., 12.
The precise order in which the incidents of the great work occurred cannot be satisfactorily drawn from the conflicting accounts. Dr. Strong * puts both the choosing of certain disciples and the Cana wedding before the “ visit to Capernaum," and the call of Matthew (the fourteenth incident) afterwards. Probably, Judas of Karioth, Judea, was not chosen until after the first passover visit to Jerusalem. Perhaps two or more had been with Jesus at his visit to John the Baptist.
The list has sometimes been culled from Mark iii., Luke vi., and John i. as follows: Simon and Andrew Bar-Jona, John and James Bar-Zabdai, Thaddeus (or Lebbeus or Jude), Matthew (or Levi) and James Bar-Alpheus, Nathaniel Bar-Talmai, Philip, Simon (Zelotes), Thomas (or Didymus, “Twin," perhaps one of twin younger brothers of Jesus), and Judas (of Karioth). Perhaps James Bar-Zabdai was cut off early and James Bar-Joseph took his place. It was doubtless impracticable to get a representative from each tribe. The preponderance of the evidence, however, is affirmative of a choice of precisely twelve.
The sending of the seventy, has been called "a dogmatic invention. As the twelve stand for the twelve tribes of Israel, so the seventy stand for the seventy nations of the world, as counted or imagined at that time. Luke, as the less Jewish Gospel, is not satisfied with a Jewish apostolate.”
* In Harper's Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature.
What Two Views concerning the Development of Christ's Char
acter and Mission ? (1) THE supernatural; (2) The transitional.
The first embraces two theories : either that he was always omniscient, and his opinions unchangeable; or that he had a kind of omnipotence and omniscience which he so kept in abeyance as not to interfere with the conditions of his human nature.
Jesus might be hungry, thirsty, tired, and mistaken,—for instance, in the fig-tree. To the inquiry, “If he was omniscient, must he not have been so unlike mankind as to make his life unnatural and his character useless as an example ?” the answer is that, judging from the history, his knowledge was limited by the usual conditions of usual experience, of which, however, his own special birth formed part. The only exceptions seem to be the two or three occasions on which he was elevated to superhuman knowledge, in order to carry on his beneficent work toward individuals,- for instance, the woman of Samaria. And if the question be asked, “Must he not as divine have known all things ?” I answer these wearisome puzzles by another just as irrational: Being divine, cannot he be all things, and therefore limited in point of knowledge by voluntary self-surrender ? - Vicar T. W. Fowle (Reconciliation of Religion and Science, p. 354).
Dr. Newman Smyth, in his chapter on “The Uniqueness of Jesus,” remarks:
Though he grew to manhood in a quiet Israelitish home, no man ever thinks of calling him a child of Abraham. Though living all his life among his father's people, he never became a Hebrew of the Hebrews. Though inheriting the traditions of Israel, the Son of David was known as the Son of Man. ... The contrast between Jesus' character and the fixed Jewish type appears at once, when we view beside it the greatest of the prophets, who also came just before him, or the chief of the apostles who followed after him.-'Old Faiths in New Light, p. 188.
(1) The transitional view is that Jesus had a natural growth intellectually and spiritually; and that possibly, after his intellect had 'expanded above the superstitions of his time and country, he still contented himself with simply approximative expressions of truth.
The real beauty of Christ's life is just that which is hid by the blind ascription of equal sanctity to all he did and said, - his growth. Slight as the authentic points are, they are points of fire. We see him steadily emerging from sectarian trammels and national prejudices: the smoke of Jewish tradition - Gehenna, devils, angels mingling with, but never mastering the ever-mounting flame of his thought. It is a Jewish Messiah he sees coming in clouds of glory; but the Messianic costume is thrown off, when, descended, the judge says naught of Jew or Gentile, but parts to right and left men as they have or have not fed the hungry and clothed the naked. The hereditary conventional beliefs in his mind decrease until they linger only as superficial garb of his truth: he never makes any prevailing error his main point. It seems to me that some liberals concede too much to that Medusa, superstition, which turns every thought and emotion of Christ to dogmatic stone, when they admit his responsibility for the demonology, the devil
, the eternal hell, incidentally mentioned without denial in his teachings. Under compulsion to fulfil the rôle of the Messiah, the Christ of Christendom is made to give an original and divine sanction to the cosmological notions of his age, which he held as we hold the law of gravitation.
The demonology, the great gulf fixed between heaven and hell were the best science of his age: the Darwins and Huxleys of his time, such as they were, believed them. He was not a dialectical or scientific sceptic engaged in questioning such things. In estimating a great man, we should surely look to that wherein he was unique, individual, exceeded his age and added to it. In raising to equal import Christ's mere hereditary mode of expression and the life that was in him, adoring alike body and raiment, the sects are really building as much upon the creed of Christ's crucifiers as on his own. Every scribe and Pharisee agreed with Christ about Gehenna and Satan.... What they did not believe was in a Father who sends his sunshine and rain on good and evil alike; a Father we may deduce at length not likely at any time to rain
fires of hell upon his children. To the man who believed in such a Father, there must not be attributed an equally conscious and thought out agreement with the logical results of the conventional cosmogony which was sometimes the inevitable costume of his thought.
It is interesting to note how, from basing his opposition to falsities on the written Law, he more and more appeals to nature and reason. David's eating the shew-bread and man's superiority to the Sabbath are oddly connected for a time; but, at length, his protest against the Sabbath is based simply upon unresting nature and human liberty.
For his age and country, Christ was perhaps unique in his method of measuring usage and tradition by real principles. When he warned the youth to keep the commandments, and the young man asks which, he does not blindly reply, “The whole ten, of course": he names only five from the decalogue, all the real and human ones,names none of those that protect Jehovah. For the Sabbatarian command, he substitutes, “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Instead of warning the youth against “graven images,” which he is in no danger of worshipping, he touches his real idol, — his wealth ; and, instead of exhorting him to do the work of Moses' time, he calls him to the great task of his own,- to come out there into the street, stand by his side, and toil for the right.
How far he carried this rationalism we cannot fully know; for his words come to us mingled with much that is irrational in his reporters. Nevertheless, to the careful eye, his pearl will not be confused with the shell enclosing it. We know that it was a great soul, far above any New Testament writer, which sends us those fine protests against prayer in public places, that relegation of the heart to the closet for its mystical communion with the Highest. Not one of those believers in popular marvels who report him could have invented those exalted poetic interpretations of nature which bid us learn of the sparrow and of the lily, more glorious than Solomon in his splendor, and appealed to men to discern the signs of their own time, as for the weather they watched the morning red and glow of evening. It was no believer in a fictitious providence who rebuked the notion that those on whom the tower of Siloam fell were worse than others. And, even in the Fourth Gospel, we can trace back to him that wonderful saying, that he would not pray for his disciples, because God needs no prompting of his love; and also that lesson of humility taught by his washing the feet of the humble workingmen who followed him. These things represent the integrity of a great mind, — the mind of a thinker, a reasoner, a poet.
At one period, Christ says, “ The scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses' seat: all things therefore whatsoever they bid you, do and keep; but do not ye after their works, for they say and do not.” Here may be noticed the attitude of a youth in transition; for at another time he does what those occupants of Moses' seat tell him not to do, and repudiates them on principle. They tell him to keep the Sabbath; but he casting, no doubt, a look on ever active nature around him - replies, "My Father ceases not his work on the Sabbath, nor do I.” At first
, he evidently hoped to purify the ancient religion of his fathers from its later corruptions. In the ardor of this early aim, he may have made the violent attack on the tradesmen in the temple, ascribed to him. Before his attention was turned to the law itself, he attacked only the priests' hypocritical evasions thereof; for instance, their allowing a man to purchase an indulgence for not supporting — not honoring - his parents by paying a sum of money into the temple.
But the time soon arrived when the conviction was forced upon him, that the Jewish Church could not be so purified or