The Hillel Letters Regarding God's Providence to the Jews, by Hillel the Third
(The following letters were translated and sent to me after my return home,Mahan.)
"To the noble and persecuted sons of my Father, God, who is too wise to err in His judgment, and too mighty to let His kingdom suffer or His children to be persecuted beyond what is good for them: Beholding our desolate condition, we must know there is a good reason somewhere. From our former history, and the dealings of God with our forefathers, it is evident that it is not because He is neglectful of the interests of His children. It must be on-our own account.
"In directing your thoughts to these subjects, it is needful to call your attention to the acts of God in the history of the world. By this we may learn the cause of our present condition. When He was dissatisfied with the wicked world His eyes rested on one good man, Noah. Now, it is useless for us to begin a controversy as to how Noah became good. That is nothing to us. The great question for us is, Are we good? and if not, why are we wicked? No doubt this is the reason we are forsaken. If we could not help our being wicked, then we are persecuted wrongfully. But it was the goodness of Noah that preserved his life, and made him a great and happy man; while it was wickedness that caused all the rest of the world to be drowned.
"Then follow along the line to Abraham. God found him faithful, and on this account He made him the father of all that are faithful and good. And so with hundreds of others that I could name in our former history. I would ask all the Jews in their dispersed condition to read the history of our race and see the dealings of God to the good, and His judgments upon the evil.
"Now, God makes selections of certain individuals to relieve others. These chosen ones may not be good, but those for whom they are selected must be good, or they can receive no favor from God.
"Look at Moses. He was an infant. He could neither be good nor bad, because he was at that time powerless. But Israel was good, and it was by reason of Israel's goodness that Moses was selected. Hence, from this babe in the basket we find the long chain of displays of God's mighty works in saving and defending and comforting the good, simply and alone because they were good; and this is the only reason why God has ever bestowed special favors on anyone, just because He is good, and I am sure this is all that is necessary to justify Him in His dealings with the sons of men. If He creates men, and gives them all necessary power and opportunities to be good and they refuse, then they are to blame, and not He. This is the reason He condemned the world to a flood. This is the reason the Egyptians were drowned. This is the reason the Sodomites were burned. This is the reason the Canaanites were destroyed. This is the reason we were sold into Babylon. And oh! for a master spirit to rise up, as did Samuel to Saul, to tell us the reason we are again forsaken and cast away; why is it that our city and the holy temple are forsaken and desolate? Why is it that God fights no more battles for Israel? Why is it that we have no leader that it would be safe for the people to follow? Why is it that Israel is turned against herself; that every evil bird is permitted to pluck her, and her best friends are turned to her enemies? Why is it that Josephus sold Galilee to the Romans? Why is it that the sanctifying of the Spirit is withdrawn? Why is it that the Urim and Thummim in the temple have not changed the color of its stones in thirty years? Why is it that the light of the threshold in the temple, has ceased to burn? And why is it that the Jews have lost the feeling of brotherhood, and fight each other like beasts of hell until God has given us over, and permitted the Romans to devour our heritage, to burn our city, to destroy our beloved temple, and drench it with the blood of its devotees?
"I know that many of my brethren, more particularly the priests, will bring grave charges against the ministration and, of course, indirectly impeach God; but it may be, my brethren, we mistake God's designs in all this thing. And may we not be equally mistaken in regard to our desert, or our demerit in His dealing with us? We know that the guilty party is apt to think the law is too severe; but we never think so, when others are to suffer, and especially if we are the party against whom the criminal has offended and done wrong.
"When a Jew becomes mean and wicked and violates the Jewish law and injures us personally, then we propose to stone him until he is dead, if his actions have been such as to deserve such a sentence; and we are equally guilty, if we, in any way try to screen the criminal from suffering the just penalty of the law. Now let us, as honest Jews, look in our own natures, and examine our actions, in the light of God's holy revelation, and see if our present condition is not deserving on our part; and if we find that it is we who have forsaken God, instead of His having forsaken us, then let us do as our fathers did in Egypt; do as our fathers did in Babylon. They hung their harps; they clothed themselves in ckcloth and ashes; they mourned as do the dove and the pelican. So did they seek rest until the Lord God Jehovah was moved with compassion. They not only ceased to act wickedly, but they showed by their regrets and acknowledgment that they would act differently in the future; and God had compassion on them, and moved the heart of their wicked king to pity them, that they might return and rebuild their temple. These were the ways in which they conducted themselves; and look at the results that followed. Now these things were for their own good, and they were recorded that we might learn what to do, provided we should be brought into the same condition.
"Now, I wish my Jewish brethren to understand that I am not a follower of this Nazarene that has created so much strife among the people, neither do I endorse his new doctrines; yet I think it would be well for us not to be too hasty in forming our conclusions on this or any other subject. I heard Peter preach the other day, and as he and John came out of the temple there was a man that had been lying around at the gates and public crossings for years. He was unable to walk, having no soundness in his feet and ankle-bones. As they were passing him he asked them for help. Peter said he had nothing to give, but, said he, 'In the name of Jesus the Son of God, I say unto thee rise up and walk;' and the man sprang to his feet, seemingly perfectly sound, and commenced praising God at the top of his voice, which caused a great commotion among the people, and the police came and took Peter and John to prison as peace-breakers. I thought I never saw such an outrage. It is right to arrest men for doing evil, but to arrest and imprison men for doing good is something I cannot comprehend. This has been the fault of the Jews in all time. No odds what good was done, if it was not done just as the priest thought it ought to be done, it was wrong. When I saw the act of Peter toward the helpless man, I said to myself, 'There is the power of Moses; there is the power of Jehovah manifest in human flesh; there is the power needed by us Jews to reinstate the kingdom of heaven; this is the power that has followed the Jews in times past, and the only distinguishing mark that makes us different from the other nations of the earth. This was the peculiar power of Jesus of Nazareth; and because he did not work according to Jewish rule they condemned him to die. It was not because his works were not good works, but because he did not do them according to Jewish custom.
"I was forcibly struck with Peter's sermon. He said: 'There was a rich man who had one son. This son had been trying for a long time to build him a house. He was homeless and exposed to many dangers and trouble for the want of a house, until he was almost exhausted and was ready to perish. And his father had compassion on his son and built him a house, with everything needful for the necessities and comfort of his child. And when it was finished he went and brought his son to see it. And his son was delighted, and said it was much better than he could have built himself. And his father said, 'Son, I love you. I give you this house. Will you accept it?' 'With all my heart, dear father, with grateful acknowledgments.' Now,' Peter said, here is the picture of the world which has been working, struggling, and striving for ages to build them a home for the soul of man. They have worked by the laws of men, by building fine temples, by offering sacrifices, by paying tithes to the Lord, by walking hundreds of miles to the temple barefooted and bareheaded, by keeping holy days and festivals, and all to no purpose. The soul has become wearied out of patience, and still no rest, until man has become dissatisfied not only with himself, but with his God and his service. And while in this despairing condition God our Father comes in the person of Jesus, whom the Jews crucified and in his death he prepared a house of rest, and now proposes to his ' children to accept what he has done for them, and stop working and worrying to try to fit themselves for a higher station and a happier life.' And Peter asked, 'Who will accept?'
"Again Peter said: 'This house was beautiful to look at, and was in every way suited to the son, yet he could not enjoy it from the fact that it had no furniture. So the son went to work and toiled and labored trying to make furniture to suit himself. But notwithstanding he could not get a piece that would last. And it soon became useless because it did not suit him. Then the father went to work and made all manner of ware, and presented it to his son. Every piece fitted the place and suited the purpose for which it was made, so that the son was well pleased. And the father said: 'All this will I give you, my son, because I love you. Will you accept?' The son said, 'With all my heart, dear father; this pleases me better than if I had had the power to make it myself.- Now,' said Peter, 'this is what God has done for the world. Instead of purifying ourselves by washing, by fasting, by prayers, by penitence, and by all the works of the law, God has given us a purity that will last forever, that will suit us and will please Him.'
"Again said Peter: 'This son was all ragged. His clothes were worn threadbare in trying to build and fit him a house, and he was ashamed. So he went to work to try to clothe himself; and the harder he worked the less success rewarded him. And after he had worded hard, his father went to work and wove him a seamless robe, and presented it to his son, and said, 'My son, I love you, and I have prepared a white robe; will you accept it?" "With many thanks, dear father," said the son. "Oh, how beautiful it is! How snowy white! How well it fits me! Oh! father, I never can feel grateful enough. I thought thou wast angry and hated me, because I was poor and homeless and miserable and ragged; but if thou didst love me in my misery, I know thou canst love me now, and will delight to make thy abode with me forever. Oh! father, I don't know how to show my gratitude to thee." The son was delighted with the change, while the father was equally delighted with the son, and they both rejoiced. And the father said to the son: "I delight to dwell with my children when they live in a manner that is suited to my taste; and, of course, this suits me, from the fact it is all my own work. Only be content, and do not soil thy robe, for it is so white and clean, a very little mixing with dirt and filth will so contaminate it, it will not be fit to be seen. And as long as you keep it unspotted from the world it will distinguish you from the world and make you a welcome visitor into the company of all that are dressed in the same robe; for this is merely the outward showing of the principles that live within; which principles are only developed by the outward appearance. And even it will be admired by those who may reject it; yet inwardly they must respect it. Though they may covet it, and raise the spirit of persecution against you, it is not because they dislike you, but because they are not like you; and this is the cause of envy everywhere." This,' said Peter, 'is the way God our Father has treated us spiritually. He has prepared us a holy habitation, where our immortal souls can live and be happy through all eternity, and then has given us the Holy Spirit, the same that Jesus promised and the same that fell on the people the other day. This spirit renews and begets within us holy desires to love God and to serve Him by obeying all His commands and doing honor to His name. And this same spirit begets within us holy desires to see all men embrace the offering of this good and noble Father, that they may be happy now and happy forever,--more so after death than before; for it is the dread of meeting an interminable doom for our sins that makes our lives intolerable. Oh!' said Peter, 'behold the riches offered on terms so easy by our Father. All we need is to accept. Who will accept?' And there were two or three hundred who cried out, 'We will!" and then followed a mighty rising up and rejoicing, all of which made a very strong impression on my mind.
"I am going to make a most thorough examination into these things to see if they are so if God has provided an easier and a better way to save the souls of men than the Jewish economy. I feel that the subject is worth looking into; for of long time it has seemed to me (and my father saw and spoke of the same) that the ways of God's service were exacting, and apt to make men become indifferent, and almost to look on God as a haughty tyrant; while Peter's illustration shows Him in such a lovely light it makes me love Him."
"After having viewed our present condition, it may be well for us to look back and review our former history, and get a knowledge of the state of the world in former times. If we look at the world from the pages of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Haggai, the last of God's prophets upon earth, we will see a period of nearly five hundred years to the pres- ent, during which time the world underwent greater changes than ever before. We will see our nation returning from a seventy years' captivity, recommencing their national existence after having been overrun and absorbed in the first great monarchy that swept over the earth. Our acquaintance with the rest of the world was very limited, extending only to the Chaldeans, the Phoenicians, the Egyptians, and a few unimportant tribes. Our ideas seem to have been likewise limited, extending but little beyond the principles of the Mosaic religion, which had been promulgated about fifteen hundred years before.
"I am informed that the accusation against Jesus was written over him as he hung upon the cross, in Hebrew Greek, and Latin. Whence came these dialects? When the prophets closed their writings (which was nearly five hundred years ago), the Greek was scarcely a written language, confined to a small part of Europe; and Rome, from which the Latin language came, was a struggling village on the banks of the Tiber. During this whole period, in which nations and monarchies were born, flourished, and decayed (showing clearly a providential preparation), the intermingling of the various languages indicates preparations for some great event, and to my mind makes the juncture most opportune for the introduction of a universal religion. That is, if I understand it aright, God has arranged the position and the existence of the several nations of the earth in such a manner as to promote the recognition, the establishment, and the propagation of true religion, the knowledge and worship of the true God.
"Whatever knowledge may have been imparted to our ancestors, or however long it may have lasted, certain it is that at the time of Abraham the nations generally had fallen into idolatry. To him God was pleased to make himself known, and to promise that of him He would make a great nation, and in him and his seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. That is, through him and his posterity he would impart the greatest possible good, the knowledge of the true God. To accomplish this purpose God selected the spot in which he and his posterity were to be placed; and no spot on earth could have been better suited for the purpose. The land of Canaan, afterward called Judea, afterward called Palestine, a tract of country situated about midway between the three great divisionsof the earth, Asia, Africa, and Europe, on the great highway of nations, in the very path of conquest, commerce, and travel, was equally accessible to all parts of the then known world.
"But those circumstances which afterward made Judea so favorably located as the radiating point of the true faith did not exist in the time of Abraham. There was neither conquest nor commerce nor travel. The world was overrun by wandering tribes, scarcely having boundaries or fixed habitations. Chaldea, the cradle of the human race, and Egypt, the birthplace of human learning and the arts, were the only nations of consequence at that time. It is not probable that any such thing as alphabetic writing existed; for we read that Abraham took no other evidence of the purchase which he made of the burying-place for his family than living witnesses of the bargain. At that period, therefore, divine communication must have been confined to individuals. The fullness of time had not yet come even for that partial revelation which was made by Moses. There was no mode by which it could be recorded and preserved. The invention of writing was necessary to prepare the world for it. That invention took place some time within the five hundred years which elapsed between Abraham and Moses.
"Into Egypt, the mother of the arts, the posterity of Abraham were sent as if to school, not in divine things (for in the knowledge of them the shepherds of Canaan as far exceeded the refined Egyptians as light exceeds darkness), but in the knowledge of those things by which life is rendered comfortable. When they had become sufficiently numerous to take possession of the destined territory, a leader was raised up for that especial purpose Moses, the child of a slave, his life exposed in infancy in a frail cradle of rushes upon the waters, yet destined to be the mightiest agent in the affairs of men that the Almighty had ever employed on earth. Who can but admire the wisdom of Divine Providence in the education of this great founder of nations, this prophet of divine truth, this enlightener of the world? Who can apprehend the glorious position which he holds. in-the world's history? What a distinction to have framed the constitution of a nation which lasted fifteen hundred years, and stamped a people with the marks of nationality which time itself has not obliterated! To have written a book which has been read with interest and ardor by passing ages and growing millions of the human race! To impart to nations and continents the saving knowledge of the one true God! What a glory to have laid by one sentence the foundation of true religion in so many millions of minds: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.'
"The more I contemplate the mission of Moses, the higher he rises in moral sublimity in my estimation. If I contemplate him during the forty years of his sojourn in the wilderness, he is the only depository of the true religion on earth, with the exception of the tribe he led. The whole world was sunk in the debasement of idolatry. What a noble use did the Almighty make of the recent invention of man's ingenuity, the invention of letters, to engrave upon stone his awful testimony against the great, fundamental, and all-polluting sin of the world,--the worship of idols: 'Thou shalt have no other Gods before me: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or the likeness of anything that is in the heaven above or in the earth beneath; thou shalt not bow down thyself to them nor serve them.' To realize and carry out this one thing was the purpose in separating the Jews from the rest of the world; and with all the seals and signs, and God's special judgments, it took fourteen hundred years to do it, so prone are we to worship the things that are seen,--instead of the unseen. And this is one of the great troubles at the present day. This is one reason of our desolation. We thought too much of our holy city and temple; but if this was our sin, what might we expect from men in the state of ignorance in the days of Moses? Oh, brethren, let us ask ourselves, are we not more inclined to worship the created things than we are to worship Him who created them? Look at this people I am speaking of. Forty days had not elapsed from the utterance from Sinai of this fundamental precept, 'Thou shalt have no other Gods before me,' when the very people to whom this command was given, made for themselves a golden calf, after the manner of the idolatrous Egyptians, and danced before-it with great joy. To secure this one grand and fundamental point (that is, the worship of the only living and true God), the whole Mosaic economy was modeled. For this purpose we were forbidden to marry foreigners; for this purpose our sacrifices were all to be offered in one place, and by one family of priests, lest we should wander away and become corrupt by association with idolaters. For this purpose we were forbidden certain kinds of food, such as were offered in sacrifice to heathen deities. We were not to be present at idolatrous feasts, nor to become accustomed to those moral abominations with which heathen worship was invariably accompanied. More effectually to secure this point, Divine Providence so arranged it that our national existence and prosperity depended on our fidelity to the great purpose for which we were set apart. Whenever we worshipped the true God and obeyed His laws, temporal prosperity was the natural consequence; then were union and peace and industry and prosperity. But whenever we forsook God and worshipped idols, a corresponding degeneracy of morals and manners took place. This was followed by discord, weakness, poverty, and subjection to foreign nations.
"But the event which exerted the most decisive influence upon the national existence of us Jews was the erection of Solomon's temple at Jerusalem. Before that time our sacred rites had been conducted in a very humble manner. Our sacred utensils had no better covering than a tent. Often they were in private custody; and once the sacred ark itself, which contained the heaven-derived charter of our national existence, was taken captive and remained for months in the country of the Philistines. That ark for nearly four hundred years was almost the only bond of our national union, the only object around which gathered our national reverence; and, although in our younger years we were apt to regard that ark and its contents with a childish curiosity, in after years we came to look upon it as an object of higher significance. It is the written testimony of God against idolatry. It contains the fundamental articles of our nation's constitution. It is a charter from God for a nation's establishment and independence. It is a declaration of principles, which was borne before us like a banner, proclaiming to the world for what we were to live, for what we were to fight, for what we were to die. It was our confession of faith, which we upheld before the world as sacred, true, and vital to the best interest of humanity, and the only hope of our final success. Once abandon this and we are lost, disgraced, fallen forever, On the tables in that ark were written: 'Thou shalt have no other Gods before me;' and, 'Thou shalt not make any graven image, nor the likeness of anything; thou shalt not bow down to anything to serve them.' There it remains from age to age as the memorial of the purpose of our national existence; and how mightily has it worked in the earth!
"There is an incident related by the sacred historian which may seem symbolical of the mission of the whole dispensation which that sacred enclosure contained. It is the fifth section of Samuel: 'And the Philistines took the ark and brought it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon; and when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon and set him in his place again. And when they rose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen to his face to the ground again, before the ark of the Lord. And the head of Dagon and the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold. Only the stump of Dagon was left unto him. "So is all idolatry destined to fall before the word of the Almighty. So has our Dagon fallen--and oh! what a dreadful fall it is to us Israelites. Let me tell you what was achieved in the Temple of Azotus was gradually accomplished throughout the land of Israel. Many times has Dagon been set up in his place again; many times has idolatry been revived. The ark of God has been in the hands of the enemy (it is there now at this time), and the true religion about to be extinguished, when the Almighty interposed to vindicate His honor and reestablish His worship, and at last obtained a triumph by the very means which at first threatened to overthrow it forever.
"I have said that the objects of our national existence were greatly promoted by the building of the temple at Jerusalem. It was a splendid edifice, calculated to awaken the curiosity, to attract the attention, and command the respect of the world. It furnished a place of appropriate convenience, beauty, and dignity for the celebration of our daily sacrifices and our national rites. It made more interesting our three yearly festivals when all the males were obliged to present themselves before God. It gave us what we all need at this time a fixture to our religion, a local habitation to our religious applications and associations. It connected the sentiment of religion with another no less strong--that of patriotism and enlisted them both in the maintenance and defense of the national institutions of Moses; and it also led to the formation of a national literature which gave expression to these two most powerful sentiments of the human heart, and thus operated to call forth and strengthen them in each succeeding generation.
"Still the Mosaic institutions, assisted by the magnificence of the temple service, failed to extirpate entirely the propensity of idolatry. Occasionally it sprang up and overspread the country, till at last the Almighty saw fit to suffer that temple to be overthrown, His people to be carried into captivity, and His worship to be suspended for seventy years; and His judgment accomplished what His mercies could not do. The very measure of Divine severity which at first sight threatened to sweep the worship of the true God from the face of the earth, and give up the world to the interim in able dominion of idolatry, was the means of establishing it on a firmer basis than ever. Although Jerusalem was overthrown and the temple razed to its foundation, the Jews carried the true Jerusalem in their hearts. And so it is to-day. Although our holy city is no more, and although we are dispersed and many of us sold into slavery, yet the holy temple of our God lives and will continue to live in our hearts forever. Wherever we go, whether in the splendid cities of the East, or amid the fascinations of Egypt, or the tents of the wandering shepherds, still our affections will be in the holy land, and, like Daniel, we will turn our faces toward the land where our father worshipped the God of heaven.
"Nehemiah, when serving in the courts of princes, lamented when he heard that the walls of Jerusalem were thrown down. There in slavery, our fathers had time to reflect upon the cause of their calamities. There they read in the book of Moses, which was the companion of their exile, the awful curses He had threatened them if they forsook the worship of the true God, and felt them to be fulfilled in themselves; there they read the prophecy which had been written by Moses more than a thousand years before in the book, iii., section 22: 'If thou wilt not observe to do all the words of this law that are written in this book, that thou mayest fear this glorious and fearful name, the Lord thy God, the Lord will scatter thee among all people, from one end of the earth to the other, and among these nations thou shalt find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest; but the Lord will give thee then a trembling heart and failing eyes, and sorrow of mind, and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee: and thou shalt fear night and day, and have no assurance of thy life. In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were evening, and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see. Thus were our fathers smitten to the heart by the fulfillment of such awful threatenings. All propensity to idolatry was forever cured. Never after this period could the allurements of pleasure or the threats of pain, neither dens of wild beasts nor the fiery furnace, neither instant death nor lingering torture, ever induce them to offer sacrifice to idol gods. This same Providence which had scattered them in foreign lands, now restored them to their own. Their temple was rebuilt, the daily sacrifice was resumed and was never intermitted, with the exception of about three years under Antiochus Epiphanes.
"But now let us look at our present state, and see how we, their children, have fallen: The ark once more is taken from us; Jerusalem is in ruins, trodden by the foot of the Gentiles; ruin has driven her ploughshare through the crumbling walls, and we are scattered to mix and mingle among all nations."
"As all the nations of the earth lacked the knowledge of the true God except us Jews, it devolved on us as a nation to extend this knowledge to all the world, which was brought about by the following plan: First, by the universal diffusion of the Greek language, and, secondly by the conquest of the world by the Romans. Another cause almost as essential was the scattering of our nation among all nations of the earth, for narrowness and bigotry had almost made us a barren tree as to any general good for the world. So ancient were our habits and fixed our customs that spiritual life was almost extinct; therefore it was necessary for us even to learn a new language, that the knowledge of the true God might be infused into a new medium, and thus be spread from land to land. It was necessary that the true medicine of life should be dissolved in an element which flowed on every shore and in every stream that all men might taste thereof and be saved. It was necessary, too, that a foreign language should be forced upon us; for nothing but conquest and constraint, nothing but this, could overcome our bitter prejudices. It will be the object of this letter to show how this was brought about.
"The great designs of God were advanced by our misfortunes as well as by our prosperity, and in God's purpose of preparing the world for the advent of a higher life and greater attainment in godliness, each event had a repenting tendency. Whether we worshipped in Jerusalem in peace or wept by the rivers of Babylon, everywhere and under all circumstances we taught a knowledge of the true God; and everywhere our nation has cherished the hope of triumph in the expectation of a coming Messiah. The first great empire to which Judea fell a prey was the Babylonian. Jerusalem was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar five hundred and fifty-seven years ago; and the remnant of the people was carried to Babylon and the neighboring countries, whither the main body had been removed eighteen years before. The glimpses of those times and countries are very short, but enough is given to us to see that the residence of our fathers in those countries was not without effect.
"It is impossible to put out the light of a Jew's eye, or to extinguish the fire that burns in his heart; and the life of our fathers made lasting effects both on the people they were with, and themselves also. One person especially adorned that dark period of God's exiled Church. The prophet, Daniel, gives us almost the only sight we get of mighty Babylon. His writings furnish us with a number of great truths. He passes before us from youthful beauty to extreme age. We see him rising, like Joseph, by early wisdom, piety, and integrity, from slavery, to be the chief minister of State, and it is altogether probable that it was through him that Cyrus was prompted to restore our people to our holy land again. The edict was issued in the first year of his reign, immediately after the capture of Babylon, which Daniel had foretold by interpreting the writing on the wall.
"But the restoration of our nation, an event so wonderful and strange in the history of the world, though properly attributed to the providence of God, was brought about by means more circuitous than is generally supposed. Fifty or a hundred thousand Jews did not live in Babylonia, Media, and Persia for seventy years--making such a singularly religious impression--for nothing. Our people appear to have been treated with much more respect among these oriental nations than in the western world. The reason of this, probably, was that the Persians, like the Arabians, their neighbors, had not forsaken the patriarchal religion or sunk into such gross and degrading idolatry as those nations which had wandered farthest from the paternal hearthstone of the human race.
"It is in this period of our nation's sojourn in the East that the famous reformer, Zoroaster, appeared. I look upon him as the second Moses, though without inspiration; but, availing himself of the light of the true revelation, he attempted not to introduce a new religion, but to refine, purify, and build up the religion of his country by introducing into it the most important principles of the true faith, and thus, with a mixture of base and noble motives, to benefit his country, and reflect glory on himself. The secret of his success was, he taught the theology of Moses, and his theology was so simple and sublime, and so consonant at the same time with the best conceptions of man- kind that it clothed this impostor with the veneration of his countrymen, and sanctified even his crimes and follies. It was from Moses that Zoroaster derived the idea of one living God, the maker of heaven and earth; but he corrupted this pure doctrine by making two subordinate gods, the authors respectively of good and evil. From Moses he received an utter abhorrence of all images and of the temples in which they were worshipped, but he introduced, in connection with the true faith, the doctrine of evil spirits dividing the government of the universe. So it happened that there was not only an impress of the religion of our fathers upon that of the Persians, but a reaction of the Persian religion upon that of our nation.
"The Jews, as would appear from the book of Tobit, first learned in their captivity those ideas of the agency of evil spirits in the world, of which we find traces in all their histories. Cyrus was a Persian, and in all probability had been instructed in the doctrines of Zoroaster, a combination, as we have seen, of Judaism and the ancient Persian religion; hence his extraordinary partiality for the Jews is explained, and his zeal in rebuilding the only temple on earth which was dedicated in his name to the God of heaven.
"But the influence of Zoroaster did not end here. The successors of Cyrus were educated in his religion. The priests and teachers of his religion were called Magi, and exerted a powerful influence in the State. Darius Hystaspes, son-in-law and successor of Cyrus, warmly espoused the religion of the Persian philosopher, and when Zoroaster was slain by an eruption of the Scythians, he amply avenged his death, and rebuilt the fine temples which the Scythians had destroyed, especially, and with more splendor than before, the one in which Zoroaster ministered. It was this enmity to idolatry, thus derived through Zoroaster from Moses, which was the only redeeming principle that the Persian monarch showed in all his extensive conquests. Cambyses, the son of Cyrus, madman and tyrant as he was, derives a sort of dignity from his zeal against idolatry. His indignation at seeing the Egyptians worship a living brute does honor at least to his Persian education, though in other respects he was a cruel and detestable tyrant. When Darius and Xerxes marched their mighty armies into Europe, the only idea which these vast expeditions were intended to carry out, that can excite the least sympathy in the mind of a Jew, was the destruction of idolatry, which they every where threatened and attempted to realize. Thus it is that the mind governs at last. The Persian kings, with their vast armies, bearing war and subjugation to remotest lands, were only realizing ideas which had been matured by Zoroaster in his cave; and which he in turn had derived from Moses. "Thus through our exiled fathers the hand became the executive of the brain to establish the worship of the true God, and in the revolution of the wheels of nature, as seen by Ezekiel, the soldier is the machine of the thinker, and armies are assembled and battles fought to carry out a few ideas with which men of letters have filled the mind of the nation, and scholars and sages, prophets and impostors, good men and bad men, kings and generals, armies and revolutions, are all equally used to accomplish the purposes of that eternal Mind, who sitteth supreme over all, which we as the only nation known on earth recognize as Divine Providence.
"The ambition of Cyrus and his successors, though in a manner which they did not anticipate, was the means made use of by our Father of introducing among the enslaved and ignorant multitude of the East the civilization, the arts, and the learning which Greece, with her wonderful genius, had matured. Cyrus, whose sudden irruption into Babylon terminated Belshazzar's feast and fulfilled so terribly the writing on the wall, had already extended the Persian Empire over the greater part of Asia Minor, Belshazzar, the last king over Babylon, attempted to strengthen himself against the growing power of the Persians, by forming an alliance with Croesus, King of Lydia, so famous for his riches. This monarch, made arrogant by his great wealth and the command of an army of nearly half a million, resolved to encounter the Persian power, but lately become formidable, To make assurance doubly sure, he sent to inquire of the Oracle at Delphi in Greece, and received for answer: 'If Croesus pass the Holys,' the boundary between Lydia and Persia, 'he shall destroy a great empire. ' He went, and found that empire was his own. He was defeated by Cyrus, and his whole kingdom came into the hands of the conqueror five hundred and forty years ago. This conquest brought the Persians in collision with the Greeks, and was the cause of those wars which were waged with such bitterness for generations between the two nations, and finally resulted in the destruction of the Persian monarchy. The Greeks, though natives of Europe, had planted many colonies on the Asiatic coast. These colonies, though infinitely superior to the effeminate and luxurious Asiatics in every physical, intellectual, and moral attribute, were altogether unable to resist the overwhelming weight of an empire which reached from Ethiopia to the Caspian Sea, and from the Indus to the Bosphorus, They were obliged to submit, like the rest, and pay an annual tribute to their conquerors, no less to the humiliation and annoyance of the mother-country than themselves. The yoke at length became so oppressive that they resolved to throw it off. To effect this they applied to Athens and Sparta for aid. Receiving assistance from these most considerable states of Greece, they rebelled, marched to Sardis, took it, and accidentally set the city on fire, by which it was totally consumed The loss of this city, the richest in Asia Minor, exasperated Darius, King of Persia, to the highest degree, and kindled in his breast such a flame of resentment that he resolved upon revenge, Lest in his multifarious affairs he should forget the offenders, he appointed officers whose duty it was each day to repeat to him as he dined, 'Sir, remember the Athenians,' Resolved to punish these presumptions republics which had dared to brave the whole power of the Persian Empire, he collected a fleet and army sufficient, as he supposed, to crush so small a country at one blow. After an ineffectual attempt to reach Greece by the circuitous route of Thrace and Macedonia, a second armament was fitted out, of the flower of that army which had borne conquest on their banners from the Euphrates to the Nile, and transported by sea directly toward the little republic of Athens, able then to send into the field but from ten to fifteen thousand men. The Athenians met and vanquished them on the plain of Marathon, leaving six thousand dead on the field. Thus ended the first attempt of Persian despotism upon the liberties of Greece. This may be said to be the first demonstration that was ever given to the world of the benefits of free government. A few ages of absolute political liberty had trained up a race of men such as had never been seen before Intelligence combined with physical force, thorough discipline, and an enthusiastic love of country, for the first time were brought to contend hand to hand with the pampered sons of Eastern luxury and the spiritless automata of a despotic government. The result was what it will ever be The Orientals fell like grass before the swords of the free. But this defeat, so far from discouraging the conqueror of the Indies, only roused him to mightier efforts. He immediately resolved on invading Greece with a larger army than before; but in the midst of his preparations he fell before a mightier conqueror, and left the inheritance ' of his kingdom and his revenge to his son, Xerxes, who was destined still further to add to the glory of Greece, though it would seem that his son could have seen, in the providence of God, that man with men combined could not contend with the Almighty. But this youth, succeeding to the mightiest monarchy which the world had ever known, was resolved to signalize his reign by extending still further the boundaries of his hereditary dominions Asia was not enough to satisfy his boundless ambition. Europe must like wise be subjected to his power His father's quarrel with the Greeks furnished him with a convenient apology for such enormous in justice, He spent four years in preparation for this great event, and Xerxes then ruled over the most fruitful portion of the globe, and the simple habits of life which then prevailed enabled the earth to sustain some three or four times the number that can be supported in the more costly and luxurious mode which has since been adopted by by all civilized nations. He called upon every nation to furnish its quota of troops or ships or provisions, from Ethiopia to the Caspian, from the Aegean to the Persian gulf. Four full years were consumed in making preparation, and all for what? To crush a small nation.
"We naturally turn our eyes to Greece, the devoted object of all this expense. There she lies, with her beautiful island laved by the crystal waters of the Aegean Sea. There is Athens, with her exquisite arts, her literature, and her science, with her constellations of genius just ready to burst upon the world. There was Sparta, less cultivated, but the bulwark of Grecian independence. There was Leonidas, with his three hundred. There, in a little peninsula, lay the intellectual hope of the world, the sole germ of free government forever and forever. Is this brave and gallant people to be crushed at a blow? Shall the Persian banners float on the hills of subjugated Greece? Is it to be announced at Susa that order reigns in Attica? Is Asiatic despotism to overwhelm, in one long night of oppression, the very dawn of human greatness? In that contest literature had her stake. The very existence of those men depended on the issue of this vast enterprise, whose works have been the study and delight of all succeeding time--that whole galaxy of genius, whose clustering radiance has since encircled the earth. The religion of our fathers had much at stake. Standing now and gazing back upon this epoch of history we are made to tremble, for all these were nations given to idolatry. Everywhere are ceremonies, temples, priests; but both priests and. people, the noble and the base, the learned and the simple, all alike grope in Cimmerian darkness as to the knowledge of the true God. There is but one exception to this in all the world--the temple at Jerusalem. We turn our eyes eastward to Palestine, and there we see the temple of the true God just rising from the ruin of seventy years' desolation. Its builders, a feeble company, have just returned from a long captivity.
The very language in which their holy oracles were written has become obsolete. Their speech is Chaldean, and their religious teachers are obliged from Sabbath to Sabbath to interpret from a dead language the records of their faith. This may answer for a small territory, and for a feeble few, as at that time, but the world needs light; and how shall the wisdom of God and the wisdom of man unite and carry God's wisdom round the world so that all may know the living and true God? If Xerxes prevail, this can never be. Forbid it, then, freedom! Forbid it, then religion! Forbid it, intellect! Arise, 0 God, and let thine enemies be scattered, and those that rise up against the liberties of Thy people be driven away like the chaff which the wind driveth away. SO Xerxes did not prevail; the soil of Palestine would not bear the tread of a foe to the religion of the true God. The Jewish nature, breathing the invigorating air of freedom, disciplined by science and animated and enlightened patriotism, grows up to a strength, a firmness and courage which hosts of slaves can never subdue, and by which the tenfold cord of oppression is rent asunder like the bands that bound the limbs of Samson. This army, though it was raised by Xerxes, is under the command of the God of heaven. It cannot, it must not, it shall not conquer. It is to teach the Greeks that they are masters of the world. It invites them to roll back the tide of conquest on Asia, and carry Grecian manners, arts, science, and language into the East. They shall penetrate to our holy land; into their language our holy oracles shall be translated; in their language shall be recorded the words of eternal life, and laden with the priceless treasure that language shall come back to Palestine, bearing light and truth and salvation to the nations and generations yet unborn. This diffusion of the Greek language took place by means of conquest. Although the action was man's, the ruling was God's; and that it entered into the divine plan of Providence we may know from the fact that it was a subject of prophecy. In a vision of Daniel, in Section 7, in the first year of Darius Hystaspes, it is written: 'Behold, there shall stand up three kings in Persia, and the fourth shall be far richer than them all; and by his strength and through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Grecia.
"Of this great attempt of Xerxes against Greece I have given account in my last letter. After the retreat of Xerxes into Asia, there was no attempt of the Greeks to make reprisals-for many years. 'Unfortunately they were divided among themselves, and exhausted their energies in mutual quarrels. But the ages immediately succeeding the Persian invasion were the most wonderful in intellectual development that the world has ever seen. More great minds were produced within that century than in any other within the recorded history of our race. Providence seems to have kept back that wonderful nation until her intellectual treasure-house was full, and then to have sent her forth conquering and to conquer not to destroy, but to fertilize the lands she overflowed; not to extinguish civilization by barbarism, but to carry intellectual light to those who were sitting in the regions of ignorance and darkness. Nothing occurred of great interest between the Persians and the Greeks for nearly eighty years. The Greeks went on to create the most beautiful literature and the profoundest philosophy that human genius has ever produced, and their mutual contentions perfected them in the science and practice of war. At that time a circumstance took place which gave them a stronger proof of their great superiority over the Persians than even their victories over Xerxes. Cyrus the Younger was sent by his brother Artaxerxes to Asia Minor as the governor of the western provinces. Here he became acquainted with the martial valor of the Greeks, and thought by their aid to march to Susa and dethrone his brother. For this purpose he collected an army of more than one hundred thousand, thirteen thousand of whom were Greeks, and advanced into the plains of the East. He was met there by his brother with an army of nine hundred thousand, defeated, and left dead on the field. Thirteen thousand Greeks, now reduced to ten thousand, found themselves two thousand miles from the nearest Grecian city, where they would be safe, with out one day's provisions, in the midst of an enemy's country. Undismayed by this most appalling condition, they commenced their retreat cut their way through enemies in front, and guarded themselves from foes in the rear. They went over mountains covered with snow, through trackless forests, and over rivers rapid and deep, and reached their homes in safety. This exploit filled the world with their fame, and perhaps more than anything else convinced the Greeks, that, few as they were, they held the destinies of Asia at their disposal. It was not till more than forty years after this, when all Greece had been subjected to Philip, King of Macedonia, that the nation turned its eyes to the conquest of the East, Philip had himself elected general-in-chief of all the Greeks for the prosecution of the war with their ancient enemies, the Persians. Just at the moment when the conqueror of Greece was meditating a descent upon the Persian Empire, he fell by the hand of an assassin, leaving his kingdom to his son Alexander a youth of twenty. This happened three hundred and eighty years ago, and may be considered as one of the great epochs of the world."
"Alexander, by his personal endowments as conqueror and statesman, did more in twelve years to affect the future condition of the world than any uninspired man that has ever lived. He was in no respect better than his modern rivals, and was animated by no better motive than personal ambition. In the hands of God he was used as an instrument of lasting good to mankind. Endowed with an intellect of unusual power and comprehension, he received a thorough education from one of the greatest philosophers that ever lived. At the age of eighteen he began to mingle affairs of state with study, and became a soldier as well as a scholar. At the age of twenty, when summoned to assume the reins of empire--the sovereign, in fact, of the Greeks--he stood before the world a perfect representative of his nation. He combined their genius and learning with their valor and conduct; and entering Asia with the sword in one hand and the poems of Homer in the other, he became the armed leader of Grecian learning, art, and civilization. Wherever he went Greece went with him. His conquests were not so much those of Macedonian arms as of Grecian letters, Wherever he went, he took with him the genius of Homer, the sublime soul of Plato, and the practical wisdom of Socrates; and not only monarchies sprung up in his wake, but schools of philosophy and academies of learning.
"Entering Asia with an army of thirty-five thousand men, in the space of twelve years he made himself master of the whole Persian Empire, and of many nations which had never been subjected to the Persian yoke. He carried the Grecian language and manners to the Indus, and subjected to his power nearly as large a Portion of the human race as there was in existence. His first battle gave him Asia Minor. The second all of Syria to the Euphrates; Egypt, the whole valley of the Nile, surrendered without striking a blow. The third great battle, on the banks of the Euphrates, opened to him the whole of the Asiatic plains to the mountains which bounded the habitations of the Scythian tribes. Wherever he went the Greek language and literature took up their abode, and every city on this side of the Euphrates in a few ages became the residence of Greek philosophers, poets, rhetoricians, grammarians, historians, till the whole circuitous shore of the Mediterranean became almost as Grecian as Greece herself. Our beloved Palestine, of course, came under his sway, and the influence of his career on the fortunes of us Jews was more decisive, perhaps, than upon any other nation, for it was his conquest alone which introduced the Greek language into our holy land. And so much do the most important events turn on the slightest causes, that on the chances of one life, almost daily exposed to destruction by the dangers of war, depended the issue whether the records of the holy oracles should ever be sent to the perishing world through this beautiful language. It has been declared that when the mighty warrior and statesman was approaching Jerusalem, Judea, who was our high priest at that time, came out to meet him in solemn procession, and that Alexander was so struck by his appearance, that lie not only spared the city, but granted to us Jews many favors that he did not show to others, giving as a reason therefore that he had seen the same person in a dream before he left Macedonia, who had assured him of the conquest of the Persian empire.
"From Syria he passed on to Egypt, 'and his conquest of that country had a greater influence upon the future condition of our nation than the conquest of Judea itself: for on his return from Ethiopia he sailed down the western branch of the Nile, and, with the instinct of genius, fixed upon the site of a city between the lake Mareotis and the sea, which he called after his own name. It sprung up immediately to be one of the most magnificent cities of the world, reigning as a sort of queen of the East, as the mart of commerce and the seat of wealth. To people this city we Jews were invited by the most liberal offers. A large colony was formed, where only the Greek language was used. Hence, it became necessary to have our Scriptures translated into Greek, or we would have lost our knowledge of them altogether. It is said on good authority that the occasion of translating the Scriptures into the Greek language was the desire of Ptolemy Philadelphus to have a copy to go into the Alexandrian library, which was begun not long after his death. However that might be, such a version we know was made, which is now the standard of the world. It was made about three hundred years ago, and by this translation our theology has gone to the whole world. Thus we see that Divine Providence works the nations of the earth like a machine.
"Another important factor in God's providence is the rising of the Roman Empire. While all these things were transpiring in the East, a nation was rising into notice in the south of Italy destined to exert a more extensive influence upon the world by her arms than Greece did by her learning. About seven hundred and fifty years ago a small band of refugees from the ruins of Troy joined other adventurers, and established themselves on the banks of the Tiber. Their government at first was monarchical. They were poor in resources, temperate and frugal in their habits, but, either from choice or necessity, warlike from the first. Italy was not then a new nor an uncultivated country. It must have contained states and cities of great wealth, for there have been discovered vast receptacles for the dead dating back much earlier than the time of Romulus. These were a nation of soldiers and statesmen, trained from their earliest years to politics and war. Their monarchy lasted about two hundred years. While that lasted there was little indication that these Romans were to become the masters of the world. The establishment of a popular government, however (rapidly developed their national characteristics--a love of conquest and military glory. This character once formed, and all honor and promotion coming from the people, none could hope to succeed without bending the whole force of his talents to that object which every citizen had most at heart--the honor of the Roman name, and the extension of their dominion over foreign nations. The Senate, composed either of the most distinguished and influential of the citizens, or of those who had made their way through the regular grades of the magistracy to the highest which was known in the State, constituted a body, which, for more than a thousand years, for talent, for weight, for wisdom and experience, was unrivaled in the history of the world. The Roman from youth to age lived in the eye of his country. To gain the favor of the arbiters of his destiny was his perpetual study and his constant endeavor. Thus from the first, every faculty was Put upon the utmost stretch, and nothing was omitted through the whole course of his education which could give him eloquence before the people, valor and conduct in the field, and wisdom in the Senate. The whole nation was a sort of military school. No man could be a candidate for office until he had served his country ten years as a soldier in the camp. The result was that, by thus bending all the powers of human nature in one direction, they excelled all mankind in that art to which they were exclusively devoted. They became a nation of soldiers, and, pursuing with steady aim and untiring perseverance one exclusive object for eight centuries, they naturally became the conquerors of the world. A Roman army was the most terrible object that ever trod the earth. It was a vast human machine contrived for the subjugation of the world, instinct with intelligence, shielded from assault by an almost impenetrable armor, and animated with a courage which was best displayed in the shock of battle. When we hear of a Roman camp, we cease to wonder how that nation carried conquest from the sands of Africa to the borders of the world, to the skirts of the Arabian desert. After the age of seventeen, every Roman was liable to be enrolled and sent to the war at any time. When he arrived at the camp he entered on a course of life in which ease and luxury were altogether unknown. He commenced a discipline of hardships that is almost incredible, and of which there was no end; and with all this training it took the Romans five hundred years to conquer Italy; it took two hundred more and they were masters of the known world.
"About one hundred years ago the Roman conquest reached our holy land, Pompey the Great polluted with impious tread the holy of holies, and the Roman legions planted their standard upon the rampart of the temple. About seventy years ago Caesar subjected the liberties of his country, putting an end to the republic which had existed four hundred years; and fifty years ago all the world was given peace. Thus it is that the Grecian letters and Roman arms were founded on the mission of Moses; also the Roman statesman was made quite as subservient to the great plan of Providence as the valor of the Roman commanders; for they alone of all nations that ever existed- were able to retain and consolidate their conquests. Their policy, perfected by the experience of ages, greatly alleviated the burden of their yoke, and it is often said that after conquering like savages they ruled like sages; and if it is objected: how can God's providence permit so many minds to come under a rule so hostile to liberty and freedom? To this I reply: the governments destroyed are always worse than the ones set up in their place, though it may not always be seen by man."
"Man is essentially a human being. He is made so by the faculties of his mind, as well as the emotions of his heart. He is so both by the intellectual and moral nature. One of the first and most spontaneous exercises of the reason of man is the investigation of cause and effect, and one of the first convictions which are developed in the mind is that there cannot be an effect without a cause. The next is, that the nature of the cause must correspond with the nature of the effect, and can certainly be known by it. It is so in the works of man. When we see an exquisite painting it is impossible for us to doubt its having been the creation of intelligence, When Aristippus was cast on a shore where there appeared to be no inhabitants, he wandered about until he found some mathematical diagrams traced in the sand. 'Courage,' said he, 'my friend; I find the traces of men.' And so I say to the wandering and forsaken Jews of God: Courage; I see the finger of God pointing. Men see in everything the traces of power and wisdom. Nay, we know that we are the effects of superior power and wisdom. Unbelief has not prevailed much in the world, and it has been quite as rare among the heathen as among those who have had a revelation. So much for abstract religious convictions.
"Men are led to God by their understanding and by their moral nature. On the first dawn of his faculties man experiences within him certain moral perceptions. This is right, meritorious, honorable; that is wrong, base, despicable, worthy of punishment. This moral nature he finds exists not only in himself, but in others. It is a universal attribute of man. It is not a fortuitous endowment. it is given to man by his Creator as the law of his action. It can come from no other source. But the moral power in man is only the faculty to see them because they exist. Then God sees them and they are realities, and He created both them and us. Our consciousness of the power to choose between the good and the bad creates within us a sense of responsibility to the being that made us.
"Connected with this idea of God, which seems to be necessary and universal, is that of a providence, an intelligence which not only made the world but governs it; which, therefore, knows the past, the present, and the future and which, of course, observes not only all that is seen by mortal eyes, but likewise all that passes in the human mind. Men have seen that the general course of events is, that vice should be punished and virtue rewarded; vice, therefore, is regarded by God with displeasure; and as He now punishes it, so He will continue to do. As a good man now and ever must be the object of His approbation, and as God is infinite in power, the good man will be forever rewarded. Such are the natural convictions of mankind, which result from the operations of his own mind. Such are the convictions of the heathen world. The great men of the old world, poets and philosophers, have entertained such opinions in all time. They all take for granted one superior being, and all others, inferior beings that are responsible to Him. This is not only the last and highest conclusion of human intellect, but likewise the consenting voice of the most ancient tradition.
"But then, even in the best minds the subject was surrounded with great doubt and difficulties. God Himself is an object of none of these. It is in vain, therefore, for the human mind to form an idea of the mode of His existence. Not being, then, a matter of sense or of demonstration, the wisest of men., though he might arrive at the truth, could not feel sure that it was truth. Wanting certainty himself, he could not impart certainty to others. He could not propagate his doctrine with confidence. The wisest of men, therefore, wanted that authority which was requisite even for the propagation of the truth. They wanted certainty for themselves and authority for others. Now, certainty and authority are the very things which are necessary to make a religion powerful in the world. While religion, therefore, was in the hands of the philosophers (that is, the thinkers), it effected next to nothing in guiding and restraining mankind, it being merely a matter of opinion that is, of dim probability. One man felt that he had just as good a right to his opinion as another. One philosopher differed from another, and thus weakened the authority of the opinions of each. A religion, therefore, in the true sense of the word that is, one that shall take hold of the faith and control the conduct of mankind must have certainty and authority. Neither of these can be obtained without revelation, inspiration, and miracles.
"Had Moses himself received no divine aid, either from inspiration or miracles, even if he had uttered the same truths and laid down the same precepts, he would have accomplished nothing in the world. His doctrines would have rested for evidence on his own reason, and his precepts upon his own personal character and influence. Another man of equal wisdom and the same weight of character might have overthrown what he had built up. Besides, his manner would have been entirely different. No man can inspire confidence in others who has not confidence in himself. No man in high religious matters can have full confidence in himself without conscious divine inspiration.
It was reasonable, therefore, in him, when sent by God into Egypt to bring out his enslaved brethren, to demand miraculous credentials; and without them he could neither have brought them out nor established among them the religion he was commissioned to teach. This distinction was perceived by the people, though the reason upon which it was founded was beyond their comprehension. The difference arose from the difference between knowledge and opinion. One is necessarily proposed with diffidence; the other with confidence, which no one uninspired can counterfeit. Those who knew best about these things among the heathen had no means of guiding the multitude. But then mankind must have a religion. The understanding demands it, and the heart craves it. It is not with the multitude as with the philosophers, a matter of quiet contemplation. They must act as well as think and feel. The sentiments of the heart demand expression, and expression they will have, through the actions of the hands, and through the words of the mouth. Occasions were continually occurring demanding immediate action. Some public calamity bowed down the hearts of thousands, and seemed to indicate the wrath of superior powers. Those powers must be supplicated and appeased. Who shall contrive the rite? Not the wisest, but the man of the greatest boldness and readiness of invention. Once established, proscription took the place of reason, and habit consecrated that which was at first wanting in propriety.
"Then, again, religion has much to do with imagination. Everything relating to God is invisible. There is nothing positively to determine and fix our ideas; but in pure spirituality our imagination finds no play, nothing to lay hold of. Still it is impossible to keep them quiet, even in our most solemn devotions, and perhaps it has been found absolutely impossible for the most spiritual man altogether to separate the idea of corporiety from God.
"How much more impossible, then, must it have been for the uninstructed heathen, with the best intentions? Therefore, there must have been diversities and great imperfection in heathen opinions and heathen worship. Such we find to have been the fact. Certain of the existence of a God, yet uncertain of the mode of His existence, it was natural that the human mind should run into a thousand vagaries and a thousand errors. It was natural that mankind should fancy that they had found God in those parts of the material universe where His attributes are most displayed. Hence, the most ancient species of idolatry is said to have been that which deified the heavenly bodies, the sun and moon and the hosts of heaven. The sun is perhaps the brightest emblem of God, except the human soul. To us he is, in fact, the mightiest instrument, as it were, the right hand of the benignity of the Most High. He riseth, and the shadows of night flee away. Joy and beauty go forth to meet him in the morning. At his call universal life riseth, as it were, from a universal death. He draweth aside the curtains of darkness and sayeth unto man, Come forth! He shineth, and the face of nature is glad. He hideth his face, and all things mourn. He withdraweth from the western sky, and darkness resumes her ancient dominion, and all things seem to wait his return. The soul itself, as it were, deprived of its support, gradually loses its energies, and sinks into a profound repose. What wonder, then, that in the native ignorance of mankind of the true nature of God, the wise should have worshipped the sun as the fittest emblem of God, and the ignorant as God Himself. Such was probably the idolatry of the nations from among whom Abraham was called to the worship of the true God. Such was the worship of the Chaldeans and Egyptians. It is a record of the Talmud that Abraham, when returning from the grotto where he was born to the city of Babylon, gazed on a certain star, 'Behold,' said he, 'the God, the Lord of the universe.' But as he gazed the star sank away and was gone, and Abraham felt that the Lord was unchangeable, and he was deceived. Again, the full moon appeared, and he said, 'This is our God;' but the moon withdrew and he was deceived. All the rest of the night he spent in profound meditation. At sunrise he stood before the gates of Babylon, and saw all the people prostrate before the rising sun. 'Wondrous orb,' he exclaimed, 'thou surely art the creator and ruler of nations, but thou, like the rest, hasteneth away, so the Creator is somewhere else.' How much more sublime, as well as rational, the doctrine which he originated, and the sentiments which were afterward expressed by one of his followers, which make these glorious orbs only the manifestations of something far more glorious than they!
"One great source of corruption was the priesthood. It seems natural that men should be chosen to conduct religious service. They become better acquainted with these rites than others, and are more sacred by the power of association which renders their ministration more satisfactory, and, of course, more profitable to those in whose behalf they perform sacred offices. A priesthood seemed to be so necessary, but there is nothing more dangerous to a nation than to have a priesthood that is governed by the political parties of the nation, as was done by all nations except our own. Here the priest was governed by the laws of Moses, and it was impossible for the priest or anybody else to change them. It is to be attributed to these heathen priests that idolatry is so common. Go down into Egypt, and you find men worshipping an ox. Cats and crocodiles occupy the places of the inferior gods, and are worshipped by the poor. Thus in all nations, except our own, this dreadful state of idolatry prevails. The idolatry of Greece is no better. Athens contains many statues erected to imaginary gods. Her superstition is not only bigoted but bloody. It was there that Socrates suffered death merely on suspicion of maintaining opinions subversive of the popular faith."
"The end of all religion as a positive institution is to enlighten the understanding and cultivate the devotions. The mind must think and the heart must worship. So it must be through life. The cares of the world are continually effacing religious impressions, and truths once clearly seen and vividly felt by lapse of time wax dim and lose the influence of present realities. The soul, moreover, feels the want of support and guidance of religion at all times. Every day the soul experiences the need of communion with God. It is as necessary as our daily food. Therefore, all religion has its sacred rites, by which the heart speaks to God and God communicates to the heart. So all religions have some mode of training the mind and moving the affections, of taking hold of the memory and perpetuating themselves. This is derived from an innate consciousness. If God should extinguish all the lights of the world and blind every human eye, religion would be just the same.
"But these outward institutions must all be adapted to the present condition of man. Religion can only use those instruments which are furnished to hand. In the absence of writing it must use ceremonies and forms, which have a conventional meaning, and thus come to be symbolic of certain truths. Thus, our patriarchal religion consisted almost entirely of prayer and sacrifice. The Mosaic religion, which came after the invention of letters, added to prayer and sacrifice a written code of duty, a formal declaration of truths and principles, which lay at the foundation of the whole institution.
"The patriarchal element was still strong and predominant in all our Church. Yet there was no express mode of religious instruction. This was enjoined on the heads of families: 'And these words which I command thee this day, thou shalt teach them to thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house.' And as the written laws were scarce and hard to get, it was said: 'And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand and as frontlets between thine eyes, and thou shalt write them upon the posts of thine house and upon thy gates.' Then the Levites were to stand and say with a loud voice: 'Cursed be the man that maketh any graven image;' and all the people shall hold up their hands and say, amen; and thus he went through the whole law. Then at the annual meeting upon the mountains at new moon all the people met and held up their hands and cried, amen. Thus it is evident that devotion predominated over instruction; the cultivation of the heart was made more prominent than that of the understanding.
"But in the Hebrew commonwealth Church and State were closely amalgamated. The code of Moses prescribed a like religious and civil duty. The Levites, of course, were the judges and magistrates, as well as the religious teachers of the people. But as books were scarce, we find in the third year of the reign of Jehospaphat that he sent princes and Levites to teach the people, and they took the book of the law and went through all the cities of Judea and taught the people the law of the Lord.
"This same thing was carried out in all the Jewish life, Our tabernacle in the wilderness, and afterward in the holy land, was intended as a perpetual memorial of God, and a symbol of His presence. It called the people off from idolatry, and reminded them that their worship was to be directed to Jehovah alone. Its services, and those afterward of the temple, were perpetually renewed every morning and every evening; that no pious Israelite should ever feel that the duties of adoration and gratitude could be omitted for a single day. The morning and evening sacrifice, we have every reason to believe, was to the religiously disposed an essential aid to devotion through the many centuries of the continuance of that imposing rite.
"Then if we transfer these imposing ceremonies to the temple, this godly house was the rallying point of our political power, the consecrated seat of ' our religion, and the heart of our national affections. It was built by Solomon more than a thousand years ago. It was built on Mount Moriah, in the southeastern part of Jerusalem. It was built for worship alone. It was intended as a place for national worship. It consisted of four enclosures, one within another on three sides, but having a common wall on the fourth. Only one of these was covered with a roof, in our meaning of the term, and that was the last or innermost enclosure--the holy of holies, containing the ark, the cherubim, and the mercy seat. The outer enclosure, into which all nations were permitted to enter, was very large. The second was the court of women--so-called, not because none but women were permitted to enter there, but because they were permitted to go no further. Within this was the court of Israel, which again surrounded on three sides that of the priests, where was the great altar, upon which the daily sacrifice was offered morning and evening.
"Oh, these sacred ordinances! How can the world do without them? It seems that the world could do as well without the light of the sun, as well without food to eat or water to drink, as to do without these doctrines and teachings of the Jews. But they are all gone. The city, the temple, the doctrine, the priest, the law, and the nation are all gone, Is it so that God has become tired of His own appointments? or does He see a defect in His own ways, or has He become dissatisfied with His own covenant made to our fathers and to their children?
"I write you these letters, my beloved countrymen, asking you to look at these things, and find out the cause of our abandonment Is it the cause that sent our fathers into Egypt? or is it caused by the same thing that sent them into Babylon? Let us look and find out the cause, so that we may seek a remedy. And let us not forget the morning and evening sacrifice. Let us turn our faces toward that holy temple and pray. Although it is not in existence in fact, yet it lives in each of our hearts, and shall ever live. Though we may be thousands of miles away, and be sold into bondage, and bound in chains, yet we will not, we cannot, forget our land, our religion, and our God, He is the God of Abraham, and still is merciful, and will remember His promises and keep His covenant made with our fathers. And so shall I abide."
The Expectation of the Jews
"Not only was the expectation of a remarkable personage universally prevalent among the Jews at the time of the appearance of Christ, but the phraseology was already in use which designated what he was to be and accomplish. There was at the time of Christ a Messianic phraseology derived from different parts of the Old Testament, which embodied and expressed all their anticipation's. Whatever inspiration accompanied the first composition of the prophecies, there was evidently none in their interpretation. This much was certain, that there was to be a Messiah, there was to be a new dispensation. No one knew precisely what he was to be. Imagination, of course, was set to work, and each one for himself formed his own, and made whatever passage of the Old Testament he choose to be descriptive of his person and office. Not only the imagination, but the passions were concerned in the formation of their expectations. The pious thought of him as a religious reformer, and the new state of things to be a condition of higher religious perfection. The rabbis interpreted concerning the days of the Messiah such passages as this from the thirty- irst chapter of Isaiah, 'Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it on their hearts, and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they all shall know Me, from the least of them even unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.' This seemed to have been the expectation entertained by the Samaritans, if the woman with whom Christ talked at the well of Jacob is to be considered as speaking the sentiments of the nation.
"The universal expectation seems to have been that he was to be a prophet like unto Moses, but greater. In accordance with this sentiment Peter, in one of his discourses after the resurrection of Jesus, cites the promise of Moses to the Israelites just before his death, as applicable to Christ. 'A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass that every soul which shall not hear the prophet shall be destroyed from among the people.' These were the sentiments of those who had seen the miracle of feeding the five thousand with a few loaves and fishes, bearing so strong a resemblance to the feeding of the Israelites in the desert. Then those men when they had seen the miracle which Jesus did, said: This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.'
"Another and much larger class gave the Messianic prophecies a more worldly meaning. The great personage whose coming they shortly expected was to be a king, but greater than any who had sat upon the Jewish throne. It was with this expectation evidently that his disciples followed him through his whole ministry. And even after his resurrection they seem for a while to have entertained the same hope. One of the first questions which they asked him after he rose was: 'Wilt thou at this time re- store the kingdom of Israel?' And at the last supper they disputed 'which of them should be the greatest,' that is, who should be highest in office in the new kingdom that he was about to set up. It was with this idea that he was hailed by the multitude into Jerusalem with the shout, 'Hosanna to the son of David.' This was the idea which Nathaniel meant to express when he said, on receiving the evidence that he was a prophet: 'Rabbi, thou art the Son of God, thou art the king of Israel.' That it was his temporal character to which Nathaniel here referred we have sufficient evidence in the information which first directed his attention to Jesus. 'We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth,-the son of Joseph.' The part of the Old Testament from which this title and expectation were taken was principally the second Psalm. The person described in this poem is represented as exalted by God to be a king on Mount Zion in Judea. The surrounding heathen are represented as being enraged. But God has nevertheless determined that he shall reign; and as a king sets his son upon his throne, while he-yet lives, so has God, as Supreme King of Israel, exalted this person to share His authority, and pledges His own power to support his throne.
"One idea of the kingdom of the Messiah, derived from this Psalm, was that he was not only to reign over the Jews, but destroy all other nations. 'Why do the heathen rage and the people imagine a vain thing. The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his Anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh. The Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall He speak to them in His wrath, and vex them in His sore displeasure. Yet I have set My king upon My holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree, the Lord hath said unto me. Thou art My son, this day have I begotten thee. Ask of Me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for a possession, Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.' This Psalm was interpreted by the Jews almost universally of the Messiah, and the more readily as the title Anointed is translated in the Septuagint Christos so that it there reads, 'Against the Lord and against His Christ.' The Messiah, there- fore, was to reign on Mount Zion, one of the mountains on which Jerusalem was built, and reign over the Jews and by God's assistance subdue the heathen by war and conquest, break them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces as a potter's vessel. Such was the kingdom which the great majority of the Jews expected their Messiah to set up.
"The phrase, 'kingdom of heaven,' is taken from the second chapter of the Book of Daniel. After foretelling that there should arise four great monarchies, the Babylonian, the Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman, the last of which should be a kingdom of iron, he goes on to say. 'And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed, and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces, and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever-' In another passage: 'I saw in the night a vision, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given unto him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed." "From this last passage was probably derived the opinion once held, that the Messiah should never die, Jesus said on a certain occasion: 'And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.' The people answered him, 'We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth forever; and how sayest thou the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?' The new dispensation under the figure of a kingdom was the subject of the commencing petition of one of the chief prayers recited in their synagogues, from Sabbath to Sabbath, and has been so for ages. There was a time specified in the Book of Daniel of seventy weeks, which was to intervene between the building of the second temple and the times of the Messiah, which, interpreting according to the prophetic style, a day for a year, would bring the period of his appearance somewhere near the time when John the Baptist began to preach.
"So prevalent had this expectation become that it had spread beyond the holy land, Tacitus, a historian who wrote in Italy, records the fact that among many 'there was a persuasion that in the ancient-books of the priesthood it was written, that at this precise time the East should become mighty, and that those issuing from Judea should rule the world,' Suetonius, another Latin historian, writes 'that in the East an ancient and constant opinion prevailed that it was fated there should issue at this time from Judea those who should obtain universal dominion.
"This confident expectation of the Jews had already caused no little political disturbance. It was this proud anticipation of universal conquest which made them so restive under the government of the Romans. That they who were destined to reign over the world and whose King Messiah was to have the heathen for his inheritance, the uttermost parts of the earth for his possession, who was to break with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel--should be in vassalage to a foreign power, was more than they could bear. Josephus relates that about the time of the birth of Christ, when Cyrenius was sent to take a census of Judea, Judas, a native of Gamala in Galilee, rose up and resisted the Roman commissioner, and raised a great rebellion. He is mentioned likewise by Gamaliel in his speech before the Jewish Sanhedrim, when the apostles were brought before them for preaching Jesus as the Messiah, immediately after his ascension. 'After this man, rose up Judas of Galilee, in the days of taxing, and drew away much people after him; he also perished, and all, as many as obeyed him, were dispersed.' Josephus speaks generally of the troubles of those times, without specifying their causes. And now Judea was full of robberies, and as the several companies of the seditious would light upon anyone to head them he was created a king immediately, in order to do mischief to the public.
"This was exactly the state of the country during the ministry of Jesus, and it explains his caution in proclaiming himself the Messiah, and his withdrawal as soon as the multitude collected about him and manifested any tendency to sedition or disturbance. It is recorded of him, that, after the miracle of feeding the five thousand, and the declaration made concerning him. 'This of a truth is that prophet which should come into the world.' When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, and make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. in another instance, likewise, when he had healed the man at the pool of Bethesda. 'And he that was healed wist not who it was; for Jesus had conveyed himself away, a multitude being in that place.'
"Such being the expectation of the Jews, as we learn from profane history, a man of singular habits and appearance began to preach in a retired part of Judea, where there were but a few large towns: 'Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.' This man was of the sacredotal tribe, and had been consecrated to God from his infancy by the vow of the Nazarite. His habits and dress were those of a hermit, his food such as he could pick up in the fields and woods. He was literally the voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.' He professed to have been moved by divine impulse to proclaim the immediate approach of the Messiah. A man of such singular appearance, bearing such an important message, produced a great sensation, and excited the strongest curiosity. Crowds from all parts of Judea flocked together to see and hear him. Some thought that he was the Messiah. His fame soon reached Jerusalem, and the Jewish authorities sent a deputation of priests and Levites to inquire who he was. He told them that he was not the Messiah, but was sent to introduce him. 'I came to point him out to Israel.' Here was undoubtedly stated the true reason why he was raised up by Divine Providence to prepare the Jewish mind for the great message from God which they were about to receive; to shape their ideas from the crude mass of traditions which had existed among them into some resemblance to the dispensation that the Messiah was about to establish. 'There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness, that all men through him might believe. He was not the Light, but was sent to bear witness of the Light.'
"The effect of his preaching was precisely what was intended. He produced a strong impression upon the public mind, and, though he wrought no miracle, all men held him to be a prophet. He presented a strong contrast, and probably by design, to the pretenders to divine mission who appeared about that time. It was on this account that the multitudes which gathered about him created no uneasiness in the public authorities. A man, like John, who clothed himself in the coarsest attire, in a country where the higher classes were studious of ornament, and all who had any pretensions to official dignity were distinguished by gorgeous apparel, would naturally escape all suspicion of political ambition. A religious teacher evidently sincere and pious, and withal free from fanaticism and enthusiasm, after the cessation of prophecy for four hundred years, must have produced a great impression. He must have recalled to the minds of his countrymen the days when Elijah, in a like simplicity and grave austerity, stood up as a prophet of God, and the champion of religion. Some, indeed, mistook him for Elijah risen from the dead, who, their traditions affirmed, was to come to anoint and inaugurate the Messiah. The almost simultaneous appearance of the Light, and the witness to the Light, without any concert or collusion, was a strong testimony to the divine mission of both. With this argument alone Jesus on one occasion silenced those who questioned his claim to be the Messiah. 'The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or of men?' They reasoned among themselves, saying: 'If we say of heaven, then he will say, Why then did ye not believe on him?' And of course, believe on him to whom he bore witness. 'But if we say of then, the people will stone us, for all counted John as a prophet.' It does not appear that John had any particular person in his mind when he commenced his mission, but was merely informed by God, who sent him to preach, that the Messiah should be pointed out to him by some miraculous appearance. He had known him before as a person of great piety and excellence, for when Jesus came to him to be baptized, John said to him, 'I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?' But as the Messiah he had no knowledge of him, for he testifies, 'I knew him not,' that is, as the Messiah, 'but He that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me: Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining on him, the same is he that shall baptize with the Holy Ghost.' John collected around him a company of disciples who he instructed in the mysteries of religion, and many of them seem to have remained with him after he was cast into prison, till he was beheaded by Herod.
"We have reason to conclude, I think, that his teaching shadowed forth, though imperfectly, the general system of Christianity. Jesus says of him, 'That among them that are born of women, there hath not arisen a greater prophet than John the Baptist,' and they bear a strong resemblance to the opening discourses of Christ. 'And the people said unto him, What shall we do then? He answered and said unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart unto him that hath none, and he that hath meat, let him do likewise.' 'Then came the tax gatherers to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do? And he said unto them, Exact no more than is appointed to you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, And what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely, and be content with your wages.'
"That John preached the essential doctrines of Christianity would appear from what we read. 'And a certain Jew, named Apollo's, born in Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord, and, being fervent in spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue, whom when Aquilla and Priscilla had heard they took him unto them, and expounded to him the way of the Lord more perfectly.' In the nineteenth chapter: 'And it came to pass that while Apollo was at Corinth, Paul, having passed through the upper coasts, came to Ephesus, and finding certain disciples, he said unto them, Have ye received the Holy Ghost since ye believed? And they said unto him, We have not so much as heard whether there be any Holy Ghost. And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, 'Unto John's baptism.' Now, here are two cases in which those who had heard nothing but the doctrines of John are said to have been Christians, to have been taught the things of the Lord, and to have been disciples.
"It follows then, of course, that John the Baptist taught the essential truth of Christianity. The object of the gospels being to record the teaching of Jesus, that of John is passed over in a very cursory manner. But that he taught often and much, as well as prophesied the coming of the Messiah, we have every reason to believe. His disciples, however, mingled some of the old forms with their new doctrines, for they fasted often, an observance which Jesus declared agreed no better with the new religion than a piece of new cloth with an old garment, or new wine with old bottles.
"The mind of John the Baptist furnishes a remarkable example, which we often meet with, of partial divine illumination, the clearest knowledge on some points, and absolute ignorance on others. By the light of inspiration he shadowed forth in a few words the nature of the kingdom of heaven, whose approach he foretold, and showed it to be something entirely different from the expectations of the Jews, handed down from remote ages; yet of its details his ideas seem to have been vague, and he appears to have had no certain knowledge that Jesus was the Messiah, though he baptized him and received the heavenly sign of which they had been forewarned.
"One truth which he announced bears evident marks of supernatural origin since it contradicted the conceptions and prejudices of the age that the Messiah and his kingdom were not to be national; not belonging of right and exclusion to the posterity of Abraham alone. There is a maxim, as common as the very letters of the alphabet, in the writings of the rabbis, that 'There is a part for all Israel in the world to come,' that is, in the kingdom of Messiah, merely by virtue of their descent from Abraham. That it was to be a kingdom selected from 'Israel and other nations, a new community by no means coextensive with the seed of Abraham,--they had not the slightest idea. That it was to be a moral and a spiritual kingdom was far from their conceptions. 'Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. Bring forth, therefore, fruits worthy of repentance. And say not, we have Abraham for our father, for God is able of these stones to raise up children to Abraham from a source now as improbable to you as the stones beneath your feet, from among the Gentiles even, whom you are accustomed to call dogs, and count as the off scouring of the earth. A discrimination is about to take place, not between the children of Abraham and other nations, but between the good and the bad,--even among the Jews themselves. 'The ax lieth at the root of all the trees. Every tree, therefore, which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water, but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear, he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.' He shall raise those who obey him to a higher degree of spiritual knowledge, perfection, and power, and punish those who disobey him with the severest suffering. 'Whose winnowing fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his grain, and gather the wheat into his garner, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.' This is the same idea expressed in stronger language, the meaning of which is this, The Messiah's kingdom is not, as you Jews expect, to comprehend the good and the bad merely because they are the descendants of Abraham, but is to embrace the good only, who are to be gathered into a separate community, while the bad are to be abandoned to the destruction which their own wicked courses will inevitably bring upon them.
"He not only preached the kingdom of God as a separate society, distinct from the Jewish nation, but he actually began to set it up. The baptism which he instituted was no idle, unmeaning form, nor did it signify simply a profession of repentance, but it began and founded a new community. Those who received it professed not only repentance as necessary to prepare them for the kingdom of the Messiah, now shortly expected to appear, but a readiness to believe in and obey him whenever he should evidently make himself known. 'The law and the prophets,' says Christ, 'were until John'. Since that,--the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.' The baptism of John and that of Jesus were essentially the same, one into a profession of belief in the Messiah yet to come, and the other into a possession of belief in the Messiah already come.
"Thus John's baptism began to do what his words began to predict, to separate the righteous from the wicked,--to prepare the righteous for eternal life, and leave the wicked to the consequences of their sins. Began to establish the kingdom of God, whose initiatory rite was baptism, just as circumcision was the initiatory rite of God's ancient church. Thus the kingdom of God came not with observation. While men were saying, 'Lo here, and lo there,' the kingdom of God was in the midst of them.
"But after all this knowledge of the nature of the kingdom, or Christianity, which was possessed by John the Baptist, and after baptizing Jesus with his own hands, and receiving the Divine testimony of which he had been forewarned,--so possessed was he with the Jewish prejudices, of the temporal splendor and power of the Messiah, that he sent two of his disciples to inquire if he were actually the Messiah. Jesus sent them back, to tell all they saw, and heard; and to leave him to form his own judgment,-- adding what throws light on the reasons of John's doubts, 'Blessed is he whoever is not offended in me; who does not consider the lowliness of my 'appearance incompatible with the loftiness of my pretensions.
"This good and holy man, having lived just long enough to see the rising twilight of the new dispensation for which he was sent to prepare the way, fell a victim to the intrigues and revenge of a wicked woman. Herodias, the wife of one of the sons of Herod the Great, accompanying her husband to Rome, there became acquainted with Herod the tetrarch of Perea, and after her return to Judea she abandoned her husband, and with her daughter Salome went to live with him, in open defiance of the laws of God and man. John, the intrepid prophet of righteousness, reproved such flagrant iniquity in high places, and said to the royal transgressor, 'It is not lawful for thee to have her,' For this bold testimony for righteousness he was sent to the castle Machaerus, on the confines of Palestine and Arabia. But the sleepless revenge of Herodias followed him even there, and he died, as is well known, a martyr to the truth. Thus perished John the Baptist, the morning star of Christianity, and his dying eyes caught scarcely a glimpse of the glory that was revealed.
"There is no subject which literature approaches with such diffidence as the personal character and history of Christ. There is no theme on which language is found so inadequate and imperfect. A person in human form, with every attribute of humanity, except sin, exhibiting perfect goodness in combination with infallible wisdom; clothed with extensive power over physical nature, and a knowledge of futurity at once extensive and circumstantial; the declared end and object of a train of miraculous interposition's running back to the very foundation of the world, Himself the beginning and cause of a new order of things, embracing the whole world and all succeeding times; his doctrine destined to sway the minds of millions of the human race, to form their opinions; to mold their characters; to shape their expectations; to reign in their minds, and judge their actions; to convict and purify their consciences; To cleanse them from sin, and prepare them for his own society and the presence of God in the spiritual world. Worthily to speak of such a being is a task before which I confess that my speech falters and my vocabulary seems meager and inadequate. This difficulty remains, whatever view we adopt of his metaphysical rank in the universe. From the fierce controversy as to the nature of Christ,--so early raised; and which more than any other cause has disturbed its harmony, I am most happy to escape. That belongs to the history of opinions, and volumes on volumes would not contain their endless diversity. What men have thought of the person of Jesus of Nazareth, and what he actually was, and did, and taught, and brought to pass, are two things entirely distinct. The former is a matter of mere speculation, the latter embraces all that is necessary.
"We read of Jesus, that, immediately after his baptism and transfiguration, by John; directed by Divine impulse, he retired into solitude, where he passed forty days in preparation, doubtless, for the great work in which he was about to engage. From this solitary sojourn he returned filled with the Spirit, with that measure of wisdom and knowledge and power which was necessary for his mission to mankind. From that forty days' retirement he came back to the world with a scheme of religion entirely new. It differed from everything that had gone before in being spiritual and universal. Its plan was perfect at first. It was not to grow up, and take such a form as circumstances might dictate; but with a plastic power, like that of the Divine Mind itself, it was to transform and mold all things according to its unalterable purpose, It is with reference to this fullness of knowledge, by which he was exalted not only above all the prophets which went before him, but all those whom he used as instruments in propagating and establishing his religion, that it is said of him, that 'God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him., 'The law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.'
"The divine plan being thus communicated to the mind of Christ, it was necessary that he should have the power of carrying it into effect. Having received this divine commission, it was necessary that it should be authenticated. The plan was divine, but such were the ignorance and blindness of mankind that it is not at all probable that the world would have recognized and embraced it as divine, had it not been authenticated by miracles. Mankind, particularly in rude ages, want not only truth but authority not only truth but the certainty that it is truth or, not being embraced with sufficient confidence, it will do them no good.
"Jesus returned from his forty days' seclusion possessed of supernatural wisdom, which guarded him from all mistakes, and enabled him in all circumstances to say and do the thing which his present condition required; he came with miraculous knowledge of the manner, for instance, and circumstances of his death, the success of his religion, and the spiritual power to which he was to be exalted. He came with supernatural control over the order of nature, such as is most striking to the unsophisticated understandings of mankind, to persuade them of the connection of its possessor with God. His touch healed the sick, his will changed the elements, his command stilled the tempest, his voice raised the dead. But what was quite as striking to those with whom he associated, he could read men's most secret thoughts, and tell them the trans- actions of their past lives, and foresee what they were hereafter to do.
"But the system, though perfect in itself, existed nowhere but in his own mind, How was it to be introduced? The human mind was not a blank on which might be written the institutions and principles of the new religion. It was already preoccupied. What was already there could not be annihilated or effaced. How could the new be made to supersede the old? It could not be done at once. It could only be done by degrees, by engrafting the new upon the old where it was practicable, and by infusing into the current of language and thought new principles which might insensibly color the whole mass, thus superseding rather than destroying, what was already in existence.
"The Jewish religion was already in being, as the stock upon which to engraft his own. He himself was expected, but in another character from what he could assume. The whole phraseology was in use which designated what he was to accomplish. What would the highest wisdom have dictated him to do? What does the man do who has a house to build, but has an old one already on the spot? Does he begin by giving it to the flames, or by throwing it all aside? No! He selects from it whatever is sound, and incorporates it with the new building.
"This was precisely what Jesus did with regard to the religion of the Jews, and the expectations and phraseology which were then in existence as to the Messiah and the new dispensation. To reject them would have made the task of introducing the new religion much more difficult. The only course which wisdom could direct was to adopt the existing phraseology, and give it such a sense as would correspond with his real character and office. The Jews were accustomed to call the Messiah the 'Son of Man,' from the vision of Daniel, in which he saw one like 'the Son-of Man,' invested with great power and dignity. He was likewise called tile 'Son of God,' from the second Psalm. These appellations lie assumed, and by assuming them claimed all that belonged-d- to the Messiah. The Messiah was expected as a king, and the new dispensation as a kingdom. This was not literally a fact, but was spiritually true in a sense transcending the most exalted conceptions of the most bigoted and ambitious Jew. Nor ought it to militate against this view of things, that it may seem to be inconsistent with perfect candor and dealing. No language that he could have used would have given them a clearer conception of Christianity, as it actually was to be. Their own phraseology of a kingdom would come as near as any that he could adopt. What it was to be time only could develop. We, who know what it is, acquiesce in the propriety of his use of the Messianic language, as it then existed, giving it at the same time such an interpretation as made it the symbolic expression of the highest spiritual truth.
"To exemplify the principles which I have laid down, to show the wisdom, the miraculous knowledge of Jesus, the full understanding that he had of the whole system from the beginning, and the manner in which he insinuated the glorious and eternal truths of Christianity through the Messianic phraseology of that time, I shall proceed to analyze some of his first discourses.
"The ministry of Jesus began in Galilee, but at what time of the year we are not informed. Of his first tour through that country, in which he attended the marriage feast at Cana, we have only a general notice. Of his discourses nothing now remains but their commencing sentence: 'Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.' Multitudes soon gathered around him, and his fame spread throughout all Syria.
"His first recorded discourse is that which he held with Nicodemus at Jerusalem, at the first Passover which occurred after the commencement of his ministry. This conversation introduces to us one of the most interesting scenes of the New Testament. It presents us a practical proof of that miraculous wisdom with which Christ was endowed, which made him equally at home with the learned, acute, and experienced member of the Jewish Senate at Jerusalem, and the humble, simple peasants and fishermen of Galilee. 'And it came to pass when he was in Jerusalem, at the Passover on the feast day, many believed on his name when they saw the miracles that he did.' 'Marvel not that I said unto thee, ye must be born again. The wind bloweth whither it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, nor whither it goeth; so is everyone that is born of the Spirit.' Spiritual birth, true religion, is not confined, as you Jews suppose, to one tribe or family. It is as free as air, and the kingdom of God, which you expect to be a national thing, will spread over the earth as that does, without any regard to the boundaries of nations and kindred's. Its empire is the soul, everywhere free, everyone capable of receiving it, not more in those whose material bodies have descended from Abraham than those who have never heard of his name. If you really desire, then, to enter into the kingdom of God, to be my disciple, come not here by night, go openly and be baptized. Be a Christian, not outwardly alone, but inwardly; hear my doctrines, receive my spirit, and trust no more to your descent from Abraham. In the course of the conversation, he glances at two other facts no less offensive to the Jewish prejudices of Nicodemus, the crucifixion of the Messiah and the extension of his kingdom to the gentiles. 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent His Son into the world, not to condemn the world,' not to destroy the nations as you Jews suppose, 'but that through him the world might be saved.' Such was the transcendent wisdom of the Savior, from the very commencement of his mission. Before the wisdom of this youthful teacher, learning and age and experience were overborne and subdued, and Nicodemus must have retired convinced no less by his discourses than his miracles that he was a teacher come from God.
"Soon after this conversation Jesus returned into Galilee, and, passing through Samaria, held that remarkable discourse with the woman of Samaria at the well of Jacob, which I have noticed in a former letter.
"On his arrival at Nazareth, his previous residence, he attempted to preach in the synagogue where he had been accustomed to worship. The people listened to the first part of his discourse with pleasure and admiration, though,--according to a strong propensity of human nature, they were disposed to sneer at him as the son of a carpenter. At the first hint, however, of the doctrine that the new dispensation was not to be a national religion, but to be extended to gentile as well as Jew, they became violently enraged. They might have been led to suspect that he was not altogether sound in the national faith of a Messiah who was to destroy the heathen, from his manner of quoting that striking passage of Isaiah, 'The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach glad tidings to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind; to set at liberty them that are bound,-to preach the acceptable year of the Lord; here he stopped. The rest of the sentence is, land the day of vengeance of our God.' Had he quoted the rest of the sentence without explanation, as applicable to himself, they would have understood him to sanction their expectation that he was to destroy and not to save the other nations of the earth, and cried out, perhaps, Hosanna to the son of David! But not only did he pass over this most important part of their Messianic traditions, so comforting to them under the present political oppression, but he went on to intimate that the heathen were not only to be spared, but to be admitted into the kingdom of the Messiah. 'I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, but unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the days of Eliseus the prophet, and none of them were cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian.' This was too much. A Messiah who could tolerate or look favorably upon the heathen, was not to be endured. 'And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust him out of the city, and led him to the brow of the hill whereon the city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. But he, passing through the midst of them, went his way, and came down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee, and taught them on the Sabbath day.'
"The fame of his miracles and his doctrines went on to increase, till the synagogue became too small to contain the crowds which flocked to hear him. He began, therefore, to teach them in the open air. Once he preached to them from a ship, while they stood on the shore; once from a rising ground, that his voice might be better heard by so vast a multitude. His discourse on this occasion is denominated, from the place where it was delivered, the Sermon on the Mount. Let us examine its contents, and mark the wonderful wisdom which it displays, couching eternal truths in language precisely adapted to present circumstances; so that the Jew, when he heard it, was cured of hit errors, and the Christian at all times finds himself edified, as if it had been addressee to him alone. In that vast multitude which was assembled from all parts of Judea, there were, it is probable, men of all the different sentiments which were cherished by the Jewish people at that period, uniting in but one common sentiment, that the Messiah should be a temporal deliverer, should cleanse Jerusalem and the holy land of the Roman standards which were perched on every tower, and redeem the people of God from the degrading tribute they were yearly compelled to pay. They were ready to take up arms in the holy cause of patriotism and religion. They wanted but the signal of his hand to take up their line of march to the city of David, and there they supposed that he would stand highest in the new monarchy whose sword had drank most freely of the blood of the slain. They collected about him with hearts bursting with national pride and ambition. What must have been their astonishment and disappointment when the first sentence fell from his lips, 'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' The kingdom of God which you have been so long expecting is not an empire of war and conquest, nor is it that of the Jews, to be exercised over foreign nations. It belongs to the humble, the quiet, the contented. It does not come as a cure for outward misfortunes, for political evils, for the relief of proud hearts rankling under oppression, but it speaks comfort to those who are bowed down under the sorrows of life; 'Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.' You expect the Messiah to vindicate the weak against the strong, to repel injury, to revenge insult, that he will set up his empire with the sword and defend it by the sword. 'But I say unto you, blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.' The gentle are those who are to flourish in the days of the Messiah. They shall delight themselves in abundance of peace. You come to me expecting a sign from heaven, to be fed with manna from the skies, as your fathers were in the desert. I can promise you nothing of the kind. The blessings of my kingdom belong to those only who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled. You expect under the Messiah a reign of bitterness and vengeance, that he will rule with a rod of iron, and dash his enemies in pieces like a potter's vessel. But I come to pronounce blessings on the merciful, for I assure them that they shall find mercy from their eternal Judge. You, who observe the laws of Moses, submit to innumerable ceremonial ablutions, and therefore imagine yourselves pure and prepared for the kingdom of God. I assure you that no such purifi- cation will be of any avail in that kingdom; 'Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.' The remedies which you propose for mortal ills are essentially defective. You imagine that they can be cured by violence and resentment, that evil may be remedied by evil, instead of being overcome with good. But I say unto you, 'Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the children of God.' They shall share the blessings of the new dispensation, not those who are vindictive-and resentful; but 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake.'
"The new religion which Jesus was sent to teach, was not only to be preached by himself to that generation, but to be perpetuated to all time. His own ministry he knew was to be short, and to have a tragical end. It could be perpetuated in no other way than by choosing assistants while he lived, and training them to take up the work where he laid it down; to receive the gospel from his lips, proclaim it to the world, and when their days should be numbered commit it to others, who should be prepared in their turn to instruct a new generation, and thus send it down to all future times. Had there been no organization of this kind, had Jesus chosen no Apostles, Christianity would have perished on the very threshold of its existence. Accordingly, not long after the commencement of his mission, after a night of prayer to God, doubt- less for Divine guidance and direction, he chose twelve men of his more immediate followers, and ordained them as his assistants and successors in the propagation of the new faith. To them he explained more fully the principles of his religion, which to the multitude, for fear of popular commotion, he veiled under the dress of parable and allegory. He sent them during his own ministry as heralds of his approach, to prepare the minds of the people by their own instructions for his more perfect teaching.
"These twelve Apostles were men of but slender literary and intellectual cultivation, without wealth or influential connections. It may seem at first utterly unaccountable on any principle of human policy that he should have made such a selection, and quite as unaccountable that he himself should have chosen to pass through his ministry under an exterior so exceedingly humble. That he should, in the language of the Apostles, have made himself of no reputation, and to all external appearances taken the form of a slave; but when we reflect upon it, we find that it was dictated by he highest wisdom. His external humility only puts in strong contrast his moral and spiritual glory. He was really so great that nothing external could add to the grandeur of his character. The fact that, without availing himself of a single external advantage, he established a religion which disappointed the hopes of his own nation and offered no bribe to any of the passions to which the ambitious appeal with so much success that he told his followers from the first that they were to reap no worldly advantage from their connection with him--that his disciples were utterly destitute of those acquirements by which any cause is usually carried forward--all these things throw the philosophical back upon the only success, the reality of his mission from God. The moral power which truth always carries with it, and those miraculous attestations which are strongest evidence to the unsophisticated mind of man of a mission from the Most High.
"It may at first sight seem strange, when he might have gone up to Jerusalem and chosen his disciples from the most learned, gifted, and accomplished of the rabbinical schools which were then flourishing there, that he should have made such a choice. Over them he would have manifested the same immeasurable superiority, and might have wielded them to accomplish his purposes as easily as those humbler persons whom he actually chose as his companions. Between him and the intellectual and cultivated there would seem to have been a closer sympathy than with those uneducated Galileans who, as far as we at this time are able to see, were mere children in his presence. But this arrangement, like every other, was founded in the highest wisdom. The function which they were appointed to fill did not call either for great talents or for extensive learning. They were to originate nothing, they were to add nothing to what he had taught. Their office was simply that of witnesses of what he had said and done and suffered. 'And ye also shall bear witness,' said he to his disciples, 'because ye have been with me from the beginning.' After his resurrection he said to them: 'Thus it is written, and thus it behooved the Messiah to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day , and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And ye are witnesses of these things. Ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.'
"This being the office of the disciples, intellectual cultivation was not a necessary requisite. The qualities most necessary to a witness are simplicity, integrity, and courage. Through them the world had received the Gospel. The more transparent the medium through which we receive it, the less coloring it takes from the minds through which it was transmitted. The consequence is that we have the most simple and childlike narrative that the world has ever read. We do not see the historians at all. All we see is Jesus Christ, his doctrine, his character, his life, his miracles. There is no attempt at the introduction of the philosophy or opinions of the times, with the exception of the beginning of the Gospel of John; and it is unnecessary to say that those lines have created more controversy in the Christian Church than all the rest of the letters. What Jesus wanted of his Apostles was principally to be his witnesses to the world and to all succeeding ages. On their testimony, in fact, the faith of the successive millions of the Christian Church has depended. The Gospels are nothing more nor less than their testimony. Jesus himself left nothing written. All that we know either of him or his doctrines we receive through them. Without their testimony we would not know that such a person had ever existed. Without their testimony we would not know what he taught and how he lived. It was on the strength of what they had seen and heard that they claimed to be the religious teachers of the world. The relation which the Apostles understood themselves to sustain to Jesus as witnesses is fully and clearly brought out in Peter's speech to Cornelius and his friends: 'How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power, who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews and Jerusalem, whom they slew and hanged on a tree. Him, God raised up the third day, and showed him openly, not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead.'
"When the Savior bowed his head upon the cross, and said, 'It is finished,' the Gospel was complete. He had discharged his office as a teacher. Nothing could be added to it, and nothing could be taken from it. The system was perfect. The duty of the Apostles was to promulgate it to the world. 'But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, which the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever I have said unto you. They were occasionally instructed what to do, but never, that we read of, to preach any new doctrine which had not been taught by Christ himself.
"It may seem strange to those who are accustomed to dispute about words and phrases that Christ should have left nothing written, nothing which we can identify as the very words which he spoke. The stickler for creeds and formulas may lament that all the disputes of after ages were not anticipated and prevented by a written declaration of the Savior, which would have been so plain that no dullness could have misapprehended no ingenuity perverted it. We are fully justified, I believe, in asserting that no such precaution would have been effectual. Human language is essentially ambiguous, every word having a variety of signification's, any one of which becomes probable only because it better suits the connection, the purpose, or the sentiments of the writer. Language is always addressed to reasonable beings, and it is necessary for them to exercise their reason in order to understand it. It is so with Christ's plainest instructions. We are always obliged to use our reason in order to decide in what sense his words are to be taken. When he tells us, 'If any man come to me, and hate not his father and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple,' are we to interpret this literally, and say that no man can be a Christian without hating father and mother, and sisters and brothers? By no means. And why? Because it is not reasonable to believe Christ intended his followers to prove false to the most important relations we sustain in this life. We conclude, therefore, that he did not use the word hate in a literal, but a figurative sense of loving them less than himself and his cause. So we interpret the precept which commands us to cut off a right hand or pluck out a right eye. We do not cut off our hands and pluck out our eyes not because we are not literally commanded to do so, but reason teaches us that he did not mean literally to be so taken. So whatever Christ might have left written, there would have remained the same difficulty of interpretation. We should still be obliged to rest on probability, just as we do now. We cannot be infallibly certain that we take a sentence of Scripture in the true sense, without possessing inspiration ourselves. We cannot know that we are inspired, without the power of miracles, or unless some miracle were wrought for our sakes, for otherwise we could not have distinguished those thoughts which were miraculously suggested from those which occurred in the ordinary operation of our minds.
"Then, even had the Savior left the Gospel written with his own hand, we would still have been compelled to rely on human testimony that the same identical words were preserved. The thing, then, is evidently better as it is. We would have been compelled at last to rely on human testimony as to what Christ did and taught and suffered. What more competent witnesses could we possibly have than those who were with him on terms of the greatest familiarity during his whole ministry? In what better form could we have this testimony than in the Gospel according to Matthew, written by one of those who were with him from the beginning, and who was present at his crucifixion, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead, and who spent his life in propagating his religion? What more unobjectionable testimony than that of John, who had been one of the disciples of John the Baptist; who saw the transfiguration, leaned on his bosom, and shared his most intimate friendship? As collateral proof, what more authentic than the memoirs of Luke and Mark, who were the constant companions of the Apostles, and heard them rehearse over and over the wonderful story of the teachings and miracles of Jesus?
"Considered in this light, as human testimony, and it is the only light in which they can be regarded, those who understand the principles of evidence most thoroughly tell us that their evidence is the more weighty and satisfactory from their slight variations from each other. Those who frequent courts of justice tell us that it is utterly vain to expect entire consistency of a number of witnesses, let them be ever so honest and ever so competent. Agreement in the main facts is all that is expected, and nothing will sooner cause suspicion of collusion than for two witnesses to make, word for word, the same statement. No human being ever told the same story twice in the same words and in the same order.
"Nothing can be more evident than that the historians were subjected to the same common laws which govern the operations of the human mind. We have in the letter three different relations of Paul's vision and conversion, twice by himself in public speeches, and one from the letter of Luke, probably from his own lips in private conversation. Yet the three accounts all vary from each other in words and circumstances. The four Evangelists all give us the inscription upon the cross of Jesus, yet no two agree in the precise form of words which was used. Matthew says that the accusation was, 'This is Jesus, the king of the Jews.' Mark says that the superscription was, 'The king of the Jews.' Luke says it was, 'This is the king of the Jews. John says that the title on his cross was, 'Jesus of Nazareth, the king of the Jews., Here, then, is a variation in the testimony. It is impossible that more than one of these inscriptions can be verbally accurate. But it creates no distrust, and not one in a hundred of the Christian Church has been aware of its existence. It is an immaterial variation, a discrepancy which must always be allowed in human testimony, and nothing could be more unreasonable or absurd than to allow the least shade of doubt to pass over the mind as to the reality of the inscription because of this verbal discrepancy. The first three Evangelists have given us Christ's prayer in his agony at the garden of Gethsemane, but each of them in different words. Yet no man in his sober senses would think of doubting the actual occurrence of that thrilling scene on that account. If anything in all history of the past can be said to bear the native impress of truth, it is this whole transaction."