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EVIDENCE FURNISHED BY THE STYLE OF JESUS.
good care not to deviate from a track before appointed. How widely opposite to all this, the spirit of a true teacher, of one in whom the truth lives and works, as in Jesus of Nazareth, stimulating every power, inspiring every affection, commanding his whole being, and who therefore speaks because something within—the voice of the living God, commands and will not be disobeyed. He must utter himself even if he perish in the act. He neither thinks to please nor to offend, to conciliate nor to shock. His feeling is—Let me speak out my own heart or let me die! He that hath the word of the Lord, hath it stamped upon his inmost being, sounding for ever through the secret chambers of the soul, let him speak that word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?
The teaching of Jesus being so uniformly associated with the incidents in the midst of which he lived, we have in this circumstance an interesting ground for believing, that what he is recorded to have uttered was actually uttered by him. If the things ascribed to him were fictitious, made for him by the authors of the New Testament histories,-if these writers had put into his mouth things which he did not say, it is impossible theyshould have been so particular and occasional. They would have been more general and abstract. may conclude," says Dr. Jortin, one of the wisest theologians the Church of England has ever produced, " that the writers of the Gospels have given always the substance, often the words of our Lord's sermons. They did not invent discourses and ascribe them to him, as Plato is supposed to have given his own thoughts to
66 We * Discourses on the truth of the Christian religion.
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his master Socrates, and as Greek and Latin historians never scrupled to do. If they had followed this method, they would probably have made for him discourses exhorting to virtue, and dissuading from vice, in general terms. It would not have entered their thoughts to have crowded together so many allusions to time and place, and to other little occurrences, which nothing besides the presence of the object could
The peculiar style of the teaching of Jesus is interesting in another point of view. We cannot but be struck, upon the most cursory perusal of the Four Gospels, with their particularity,—the frequent minuteness of their details. The question arises, if they are true histories, and were not written until years after the events related took place, and their authors did not take notes at the time and on the spot, and neither of these is pretended, how comes it that the writers recollected things so particularly?
This is a fair inquiry, and in order to arrive at the true answer we must first make due allowance for the peculiar style of the writers. Much of the particularity of detail apparent in these histories exists only in appearance-in the form of the narration. Authors unpractised in the art of composition, possessing only a limited vocabulary, naturally adopt a scenic or dramatic mode of relation. This is manifest in the works of all primitive writers and historians. I find in the ninety-fourth number of the Edinburgh Review, in an article entitled “ History,” (page 333, English
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edition,) the following remarks illustrative of the point under consideration. “The faults of Herodotus," says the Reviewer, “are the faults of a simple and imaginative mind. Children and servants are remarkably Herodotean in their style of narration. They tell everything dramatically. Their says hes and says shes are proverbial. Every person, who has had to settle their disputes, knows that, even when they have no intention to deceive, their reports of conversation always require to be carefully sifted. If an educated man were giving an account of the late change of administration, he would say— Lord Goderich resigned: and the King, in consequence, sent for the Duke of Wellington.' A porter tells the story as if he had been hid behind the curtains of the royal bed at Windsor : “So Lord Goderich says, “I cannot manage this business; I must go out.” So the King says -says he, “ Well, then, I must send for the Duke of Wellington—that 's all.” This,” adds the Reviewer, “is in the very manner of the father of history.” And this, we also may perceive, is in the very manner of the unpractised writers of the New Testament histories. They continually express themselves, not only as if they were ear-witnesses, when, from their own showing, it is manifest this could not have been the case, but also as if they were present in the very bosoms of those of whom they speak, and knew exactly the forms of language which their thoughts took, as they arose in their minds. Instances in point may be gathered upon every page of the Gospels. The forty-eighth verse of the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew, runs thus : “ Now he that betrayed him
117 gave them a sign, saying, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he: hold him fast. The narrator is not to be supposed to give the precise words uttered by Judas. This is simply his way of relating the circumstance. A more cultivated writer would have stated it somewhat in this manner, “The traitor had agreed to point out the person they were to seize by kissing him.” We read in the book of Acts, that after Paul had defended himself before Agrippa, “the king rose up, and Bernice, and they that sat with them. And when they were gone aside, they talked between themselves, saying, “This man doeth nothing worthy of death or of bonds."" Of course, the historian is not to be understood as if he had been present and heard what was said. This minuteness of narration belongs to an age and a writer comparatively primitive. *
* I cannot help thinking that the above remarks throw light upon the following passage of the Gospel of Mark xiv. 12—16: “And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples. said unto him, “Where wilt thou that we go and prepare, that thou mayest eat the passover?' And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, “Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water ; follow him. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the good man of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guest chamber where I shall eat the passover with my disciples ? And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared : there make ready for us.' And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them : and they made ready the passover." At first sight there appears to be something supernatural in the knowledge which Jesus possessed of the man to whom he sent his two disciples, and of the circumstances under which they would meet him. But it is worthy of note that the parallel passage in Matthew produces no impression of this kind. “Now the first day of the feast of un.
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These remarks, however, account for the particularity of the Gospel histories only in part. They do leavened bread, the disciples came to Jesus, saying unto him, “Where wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?' And he said, . Go into the city to such a man, and say unto him, The Master saith, My time is at hand; I will keep the passover at thy house with my disciples.' And the disciples did as Jesus had appointed them ; and they made ready the passover.” From this statement of Matthew, I infer that the miraculous air given to this portion of the history by Mark and Luke, exists only in appearance, and results from the mode of narration. There are many probable particulars in the case, which the historians in their brief and peculiar mode of narration may have omitted, mentioning only the most prominent. Jesus may naturally enough have been acquainted with some well-disposed inhabitant of Jerusalem, who, he knew, was accustomed to send a servant daily for water to one of the public wells or springs, Siloam, perhaps. There were numbers in the streets of the city constantly bearing water to and fro. So that we cannot but suppose, that the directions which Jesus gave to his two disciples, were more full and minute than they are represented. They were probably directed to a certain spot, where they may have waited, we know not how long. But I cheerfully commend this passage of the history to the good sense and intelligence of the reader. Similar observations are applicable to the passage, where we are told that Jesus sent his disciples to procure the ass upon which he rode into Jerusalem.
The remarks made in the text, appear to me to throw some light also upon the memorable passage in Genesis i. 26 : “And God said, * Let us make man in our image,'" &c. Nobody imagines that God actually spoke. And it is equally clear, I conceive, that he did not consult any other being. According to the poetic and scenic style of the primitive period, when this account of the creation was written, God is described as speaking--as addressing directly the objects created. But when the writer comes to the creation of man, he shows his sense of man's dignity, and his superiority to the other works of God, by representing the Deity as first planning this his best work, before he created it. To express this idea, God must be introduced as telling what he is about to do; and if so, then such a form of speech must be adopted, as would imply the presence of some being or beings, to whom the plan of the Divine mind was communi