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wolves. By their fruits ye will know them." Matt. vii. 15. By the false teachers are meant the Scribes and Pharisees; and it is clearly asserted that they were to come among the flocks of Christ, and into their folds in disguise. And what can this mean, but that with fair profession they should join the followers of Jesus, though with the fell purpose of destroying them and their cause? These words are the more worthy of attention, because the Apostle Paul has virtually quoted, and applied them to the Gnostics, who were soon to enter the church at Ephesus: "Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flocks among whom the holy spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he (Jesus) hath fenced with his blood. For I know this, that after my departure grievous wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock." Acts xx. 28.
Jesus again and again cautions his disciples against the hypocrisy and the leaven, or, as he himself explains it, the doctrine of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Matt. xvi. 6. Luke xii. 1. What can this mean, except that those wicked men were about to frame some system which, under the appearance of friendship, was likely to betray the apostles into some ruinous errors ?
During our Lord's ministry the Pharisees opposed him without disguise, and scrupled not openly to say that the beneficent works which he performed, proceeded from Beelzebub, chief of the evil spirits. But did they really believe that these works were performed by Beelzebub? or was this a subterfuge, of the falsehood of which they were convinced in their hearts? It cannot reasonably be disputed, that in the opposition they made to our Lord, they acted throughout contrary to their conviction. In his reply he imputes to them the heinous guilt of sinning against the Holy Ghost: and this is no other than the sin of ascribing to an evil spirit those benevolent works which they knew to have been produced by the spirit of God. But when those implacable enemies of
truth found themselves unable to oppose with success the claims of Jesus, they disguised their enmity, and substituted in the room of it the artful system above described, a system which tended completely to subvert the Gospel, while it pretended to promote it. Nor can it appear incredible, that those men who were so abandoned as to ascribe the works of God to an evil being, should go a step further, and pronounce God himself evil. Thus early did they give proof of apostasy to that system of Atheism, which in Egypt from time immemorial was opposed to the God of Israel: and it is remarkable that it was this apostasy, no less than their vices and hypocrisy, that called forth the unusual severity with which Jesus arraigned and exposed them.
At the time when our Lord appeared, the Baptist was at the head of a school, the celebrity of which attracted men of education, not only in Judea, but also from other countries. In the number of his disciples, as we are told in the Recognitions, was the noted Simon of Samaria, When our Saviour was baptized, he became one of that famous sect called Esseans or Essenes, at the head of whom at this time was John, his forerunner. By the repeated and unequivocal testimony which the Baptist bore to Jesus as the predicted Messiah, his followers became divided into two parties. The majority, in compliance with the authority and advice of their master, transferred their regard and expectations to Christ, while the rest, in the number of whom was Simon, seceded, and joined the Pharisees, in opposition to his claims, Traces of this coalition we meet with in the four Gospels. See Matt. ix. 11, 14. John iii. 25. The leading men in Judea, by uniting with the seceders, were induced to attend the ministry of John; and they wished to be baptized by him, hoping by that means to gain his sanction for opposing our Lord, and for setting up his own claims to the Messiahship. The Baptist penetrated their artful views, and with that integrity which characterized
him, brands them as a brood of vipers, as hypocrites and apostates from the God of Israel; whom the divine wrath would soon overtake with fire to be quenched only in their own destruction and the destruction of their country.
Such is the nature of that system which the Apostle John calls antichrist, as being directly levelled against the doctrine of Christ, though assuming its name, and offering itself with new allurements to the reception of mankind. Its base authors were those very men who caused to be crucified the Saviour of the world. Being adapted to the prejudices of the Jews, and to the superstitions and vices of the Pagans, it mightily prevailed in Judea and all other countries. The miracles which our Lord performed, the reality of which was universally believed, disposed the minds of men to receive false miracles. The impostors, who in Rome and in the provinces practised the arts of magic, availed themselves of this disposition; and, endeavouring from the real works of Jesus to attach credit to their own impostures, affected to use and extol his name, while they were enemies to him and to his Gospel. Simon the magician, Barjesus, the seven sons of Sceva mentioned in the book of the Acts, the magicians and astrologers about the person of the Emperor, Basilides, Menander, Saturninus, with a host of pretended philosophers of every sect and in every country, acted on this principle, and became abettors of Gnosticism,-for this reason, that it opened to them the sure prospect of a vast ascendancy over the simplicity and property of the early converts, and, at the same time, of divesting the new religion of its reforming influence, by sinking it in the dregs of the Jewish and Pagan superstitions.
1 CHAPTER V.
The proofs of the resurrection and ascension of Christ stated. The objections of the author of the New Trial &c. set aside.
THE resurrection and ascension of Christ being highly incredible in themselves, Jesus, if they were true, must have provided facts that rendered them convincing, first to those who were witnesses of them, and afterwards to all such as might bring them to the test of inquiry in distant ages and countries. Objections, he knew, would at all times be urged against them by the honest inquirer after truth, as well as by the cold uncandid sceptic; and the wisdom of heaven suggested to him the wisest means to meet or remove them. It would have been a consideration of great weight on the side of scepticism, if our Lord had been taken, tried, and put to death by surprise and against his will. But in order to render his sufferings, his death and resurrection credible at all times and all places, our Lord, as having distinctly foreseen, minutely foretold them to his astonished disciples; manifesting by that means that he was inspired by the wisdom of God; and that he was actuated by no interested and sinister motive, but that he came up to Jerusalem and surrendered himself to his enemies, in conformity to the will of his Almighty Father, and to his own fixed purpose.
These predictions, it should further be observed, being in the early part of his ministry no more than indirect hints, he rendered more definite and intelligible, as the events to which they referred drew near. Being familiar to his thoughts, though yet in futurity, they were brought to his mind by external objects, in the same manner as,
agreeably to the great law of association, past events are recalled in ordinary minds. He moreover predicted his death, and the circumstances of it, on such memorable occasions as could not fail to bring them to the remembrance of his disciples, as soon as they were fulfilled. To feel the force and truth of these assertions, I must illustrate them by a few examples.
At first, Jesus only hints at the sufferings that awaited him, as they were brought to his mind by the appearance and language of those around him. Thus Luke writes, iv. 23, "Ye will tell me this parable, Physician, by all means heal thyself." The Evangelist considered this saying as having an immediate reference to the request which the Jews made to our Lord, to do such things in his own country, as they heard he had performed in Capernaum; but the use of epeire, ye will say, in the future tense, demonstrates that he at the same time alluded to some saying that was yet future; and if we turn our eyes to chap. xxiii. 37, we shall find the very words addressed to him by his enemies which he here anticipates, "And they mocked him, saying, If thou be King of the Jews, save thyself." Near the close of his ministry, or, according to the arrangement of John, near the commencement of it, Jesus foretold his destruction by the Jews, and his subsequent restoration to life, in terms suggested by the sight of the temple, which terms, as implying the demolition of that temple when literally taken, became deeply rooted in the memories of those present, in consequence of the astonishment which they excited, and of the offence which they occasioned. "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." John ii. 20. John is the only one who has recorded this incident; yet that Jesus did actually deliver these words before they were accomplished in his sufferings and resurrection, we have the indirect but sure testimony of his enemies, recorded by Matthew; " And those who passed by blasphemed him, shaking their heads and say