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[We take the following extracts from the second edition of Mr. Furness' work on the Gospels, of which the author has sent us the proof sheets. It is to be published in a larger and improved form with additions, amounting to about seven chapters. The whole work is remodeled and is to be called, “ Jesus and his Biographers.” We shall give it a more extended notice, probably, in our next volume ; at present we must satisfy ourselves with the following extracts from the new chapters. ]
Jesus and John were both Hebrews, both of direct Israel. itish descent.
What a world of reflections does this one fact suggest! When we speak of the Jewish people, we speak of a people altogether the most extraordinary on the face of the globe." I am not going to discuss the claims of the religion of Moses. It bears the visible impress of divinity. But in order to comprehend with some distinctness, the state of things into which Jesus and his Precursor were ushered at their birth, and the influences under which their early years were spent, let us look at this great nation for a moment from the lowest point of view, in the simple light of History.
Considered then in the simple light of undisputed history, the Hebrews are the most singular of the nations. And their singularity consist in the elevation and force of their religious sentiment. Of all the races of men, they are pre-eminently the religious race. To substantiate this assertion, the appeal is not made to their ancient history, contained in their sacred books, but to their more modern fortunes. There is an identity of nations as of individuals; and whatever this people have shown themselves to be since the days of Christ and John, they were the same in their prominent traits then.
Two things, their present condition, and their relation to the rest of the world, show most impressively that the Hebrew temperament has ever been a religious temperament, that the Jews have been the sacred, priestly race. Not that the religious principle has always acted beneficently upon their characters, not that they have not sunk repeatedly into great moral degradation, but that the Hebrew mind has evinced the strongest affinity
for religion, for spiritual ideas and the deepest religious convictions, this I say.
What a phenomenon does this people present! Upon every considerable spot on the face of the earth, we find the scattered branches of the stock of Abraham. Every where persecuted, the objects of contempt and prejudice, either pursued with menaces or allured by bribes, every where under the most urgent pressure to repay the injustice of opinion by overreaching and fraud, still every where exhibiting an unfaltering religious loyalty, neither betraying their faith, nor dishonoring it by a spirit of proselytism. Without a particle of national power, or a solitary civil institution, the Jewish nation survives, and numbers its thousands and tens of thousands. Other nations far more extensive in territory, far mightier than the Jews ever were, have risen and vanished. With the decay of their civil institutions, they have rapidly melted away into the vast ocean of life. But the Hebrew national existence, unprotected by national forms, has proved an insoluble element in the world's population, in important respects, not merely floating hither and thither like a worthless weed, but controlling the current of affairs, obtaining a commercial supremacy upon which kings wait, and at whose bidding the sword rusts in the scabbard. A nation crushed and scattered, to every national purpose annihilated, yet a nation still! Distrusted, scorned, and villified, vet neither deserting the ark of its ancient faith, nor attempting to bear it onward, but gathered round it in mute, immoveable patience, standing, amidst the revolutions of the world and the wrecks of empires, like their own priests amidst the swelling tide of Jordan. Whatever else may be laid to their charge-to whatever dishonorable cause you may attribute their extraordinary thrift, however perverted and defective their religion may have been in its practical influence, still of indifference to that they cannot be accused. They have clung to it with an indomitable temper, claiming no credit for their loyalty. Here it is, still in the world, the ancient religion. And this cannot but strike us as the prominent feature of the Jewish mind, the depth and the power of the religious sentiment. Considering how peculiarities of appearance and character are handed down from age to age, even if the early history of this singular people were hid in darkness, we should sti!l infer from their later fortunes, from their present position, that they were of no common parentage--that the ancestors of such a race, the Hebrew Patriarchs, must have been men of an exalted religious temperament.
But there is another thing that leads to the same conclusion. The religion of Europe and America—those portions of the globe, which we call the civilized, came according to the flesh from the bosom of this people, which as a people, then, stands to the rest of the world in a relation far more commanding than that of any other nation. We turn from our earliest childhood with enthusiasm and reverence to Greece and Italy. These have been our guides in literature, law, and art. But there is a loftier eminence than either Athens or Rome, and Zion towers high above the Acropolis and the Seven Hills. In reference to that interest, unspeakably the most momentous, religion, Judea is the mistress of the world, and well may that spot, where the Daughter of Zion once sat in her beautiful garments, be called for ever the Holy Land. The head of Christendom was of Hebrew extraction, born on Hebrew ground, nursed by a Hebrew mother. *
These considerations may seem too general in their nature to possess any particular bearing on the subject in hand. But they are fitted to refresh our impressions of the high character and standing of the Israelitish nation ; a sacred nation—"a nation of priests," "a royal priesthood," such it was the design of Providence, through their illustrious Lawgiver, to make them, and however false the generality of this people may have been to their great destiny, yet, from among thern has
* When we consider what deep and angry prejudices have rolled for ages between Jews and Gentiles, we are struck with the fact, that, in the chief respect, the former are the guides and benefactors of the latter. The most wonderful of books has been handed across that black gulf. The world has been united against the Jews. Greek and Roman held them in contempt as a strange and superstitious people, and they have returned scorn for scorn. Nevertheless, it was Jews who toiled and died to bestow, and it was from Jews that the world has received, the greatest of benefits. The Christian Scriptures, so widely received and honored, are the works of Jewish hands, the gift of a people whom all the world has shunned. What a presumption of the truth, aye, and the divinity of these books does this one fact furnish! Were they cunningly devised fables, or mere delusions, it is incredible that they should have been received by those who were watching their authors with the deepest distrust, and shrinking from their very touch as contamination. If the Christian history had not in it the all victorious force of truth, Gentiles never would have listened to it from those hated Jewish lips. If a fraud was to be practised on the world, were those whom the world was the first to suspect, most likely to attempt it, or to succeed in it when attempted ? Had the world's best book issued from an association of renowned philosophers, then there might be reason to suspect that the rapid credit which it gained was to be attributed to the blinding influence of prejudice. But as the case stands, they who obtamed the world's faith, were not the world's favorites but her foes, “ the very filth and offscouring of the world," so the first teachers of Christ were esteemed, men, whoin none would believe but on overwhelming evidence. There was every disposition in the Gentile mind not to believe. And Christianity offered no bribe to selfish passions. It had nothing to give but truth, and this attended by disgrace, privations and tortures.
issued One, a Priest for the whole world and for all time, Priest, Prophet and King! Keeping in mind their national character, we turn to any one period of their history with awakened in. terest, and regard any prominent individual with new curiosity and respect, when we look at him in connexion with the imposing character of his country, and the extraordinary social influences radiating around him. Jesus and John were both, according to the flesh, of the great line of Abraham.
Τ Η Ε
BAPTIST. John was doubly connected with the priesthood. His father Zacharias was a priest. His mother Elizabeth was of the daughters of Aaron. And according to the high standard of Jewish piety, they were persons of blameless lives and eminent devotion. Their only child, John, was born when they were advanced in years. And they had hailed his approaching birth with the profoundest religious thankfulness, the birth of a child being always, to the Hebrew's mind, invested with peculiar sacredness. Thus there was much in the parentage and early circumstances of the Baptist, to exalt his nature. He was born and brought up,* as it were, within the hallowed precincts of a temple so venerable in the eyes of the nation, that the religious teachers declared that to consecrate one's possessions to the enriching of that edifice, was a more acceptable service than to devote them to the declining years of a father and mother. How must such a mind, as the whole history of John reveals, have been kindled as he stood before that altar, over which no majestic idol frowned or smiled, but where men came to adore the Unseen! A divine spirit communed with his spirit through all the awful associations of the splendid sanctuary and its multitudinous ceremonies. Upon the early history of the nation and its wonderful fortunes, the ardent mind of the priest-descended youth was fed. The solemn forms of the old prophets swept before his illuminated vision. Their sacred words sounded in his ears. He saw them as they pointed into futurity. He listened to their predictions of a more than golden age, a celestial era yet to come. He caught the flame of that hope which, burning in the heart of Israel, was now mounting higher and growing more vivid as
* Luke gives us to understand (ch. i. 80,) that the early years of the Baptist were spent “in the deserts.” But the record is brief and indefinite. And we are not required to suppose that he was wholly a stranger to the city and the temple, or that no space or time elapsed after his birth before the wilderness became his residence.
the period of its fulfilment drew nigh. By such training his spirit was led up to the Mount of Vision, where he heard the voice of God and received power to execute a divine mission.
But the circumstance, which, of all circumstances, must have wrought on him most powerfully, was his relation to Jesus. His mother Elizabeth was the cousin, and friend, and associate of Mary, the Divine Mother. With Jesus then we cannot but suppose that he held frequent communion. He listened to the young Son of God, the destined Ruler of generations
Think you he caught no inspiration from such a companion? He knew not, before the baptism of Jesus, that he was the Man who was to come. “ I knew him not,” he declares. Of course his meaning is that he did not know Jesus as the specially sent of God. That he was personally intimate with Jesus before his baptism is clear, from the manner in which he addressed him, when the latter came to be baptized and before the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. His exclamation," comest thou to me? I have need to be baptized of thee!” shows that he not only knew Jesus personally, but had conceived for him the greatest reverence.
As John had long known Jesus, and felt his great superiority, we obtain a satisfactory meaning of John's words when he says, “ After me cometh a man who is preferred before me; for he was before me." John had appeared first in public; yet he had always felt that Jesus was far in advance of him. He had always looked up to him as his superior. He had not inspired Jesus but had been inspired by him. Jesus always from the first was before him. And the knowledge he had of his great kinsman, and the reverence with which he regarded him, (there is no feeling so quickening as veneration,) had contributed to deepen his conviction that the blessed era was close at hand. Not until after the baptism of Jesus, did John feel fully authorized to avow his belief in him as the Expected.
And even then his faith faltered once, as we infer from the message which he sent to Jesus from prison by two of his disciples, “ Art thou he that shall come, or must we look for another?" But before Jesus appeared in public, he was regarded with the deepest veneration by the Baptist, who knew that a character of such quiet, but unequalled power, was destined to act with unknown force upon the world. When he had himself produced a great sensation by his appearance in the wilderness, and the whole country was moved by his voice, the people caught the idea that he was the Christ. But he disclaimed the office. For he knew that a far greater than he was near him. His own exalted mind had been stirred by the living words