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that of the Scribes, their accustomed teachers, as well as the wonders he had performed, excited their admiration and surprise ; and they could not forbear exclaiming, “ Whence hath this man these things, and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands ?” They heard his simple, but masterly eloquence; they confessed his controlling and supernatural power; and yet it failed to make that impression on their hearts, which might justly and reasonably have been expected. Whence, then, sprang this strange obduracy in those, who acknowledged the excellency of his speech, and the efficacy of his word? It was the rooted and universal prejudice, which had taken such absolute possession of the whole Jewish nation, rich and poor, learned and untaught, the grave doctors of the Sanhedrim, and the giddy rabble of the suburbs. Their longexpected and long-desired Messias (so they vainly dreamed) was to be a warrior,-a conqueror,a monarch; he was to free them from the yoke of the Gentiles, and bring the princes and potentates of the earth under subjection to the throne of David. All nations were to be the vassals of Israel: if not converts to their faith, they were, at least, to become subject to their dominion. And was this to be accomplished by a low-born and ignorant peasant, whom they had seen labouring at the trade of an ordinary mechanic,—whose brethren and sisters were familiarly known to them, and associated with the meanest inhabitants of an obscure village ? “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joses, and of Juda and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us ?and they were offended at Him.”
We, at this distance of time, and placed in such different circumstances, are apt to consider this stubborn unbelief of the Jews with some degree of astonishment; and yet it is very consistent with what may be observed in all times, and under all circumstances. Scarcely any evidence, short of absolute demonstration, can completely subdue inveterate prejudice; especially if it be lodged in an evil heart. If truth opposes the long-established notions of a whole people, and not only disappoints their hopes and wishes, but calls them to new, unexpected, and most unwelcome obligations, it will be long before it gains credit; and, if received at all, will find its way very slowly to the understanding. But if evil habits have fettered the mind, and a spirit of profligacy has pervaded the man, it will never reach his heart: he becomes absolutely impenetrable ; he “will not be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”
You have heard enough of Jewish incredulity, for it perpetually falls in with the subjects we are called to handle ;—and, perhaps, enough of modern incredulity; for the advocates of the Christian faith, in this age of liberal opinions, as some affect to call it, must think it expedient to notice and confute that prevailing spirit of Antichrist which now pervades all ranks of society. In former times, infidelity was content to aim at making converts of a chosen few : it put on the garb of philosophy, composed its treatises in a dead language, and reasoned, however fallaciously, yet with logical acuteness and recondite learning. But now it takes a wider range; it condescends to court the plain and illiterate, with coarse jests and vulgar buffoonery; exhibits, in our streets, irreligion and blasphemy, without reserve or decency, and offers impiety at so cheap a rate, that the poorest may possess the means, and acquire the talent, of turning his Bible into a jest-book, deriding his Redeemer, and ensnaring his soul.
The ministers of the Gospel are therefore bound, as legal guardians of the morals and manners of the people, to say nothing of their religious obligations, to warn all ranks of the delusions of the scoffer, and endeavour to furnish every man with “ a reason of the hope that is in him.” Formerly, it was judged more advisable and discreet to take no notice of objections and difficulties, which might never reach the bulk of our hearers; but this cautious forbearance, if it were prudent, is no longer practicable; the truths we hold so sacred are every where assailed, and in every possible mode and manner : in laboured disquisitions, in tales of ingenious fiction, in poetic effusions, in historic narrative; in the language of learning, in the colloquial style of common life; in the polished phrase of courtly declamation, in the rough eloquence of popular oratory. Atheism, in our days, boldly quits his lurking den and close coverts, and openly stalks abroad,“ seeking whom he may devour;" so that now, in this age of free inquiry and universal discussion:—free to every species of mischief,—there is no class of men who have not “heard the blasphemy of the multitude,” and “fear is on every side,” among the quiet and well disposed, “ while they conspire
together” to overturn all the barriers of order and sobriety. Surely, then, the appointed sentinel should take every means of warning the unwary, and cry
aloud from his tower of watch,“ Go not forth,—there is a lion in the streets."
“ Whence hath this man these things ?” A question, to which the most subtle of his adversaries has never been able to frame a tolerable reply. His preternatural power was publicly displayed in the view of friends and foes; in the high ways, the synagogues, the gates of their cities. His superior wisdom not only confounded the wise of his own time, who “ were unable to answer him a word,” but remains on record to this day; and will, to every age, manifest such superior knowledge and penetration, and such insight into futurity, as was utterly impossible to be attained by “the carpenter's son," or attributed to him by his simple and untaught historians and biographers. The Jews, it is true, thought they had found a secret agent, fully adequate to the effect ;—“He casteth out devils, through the prince of the devils.” He was, it seems, in their estimation, in league with the powers of darkness, to overthrow the kingdom of darkness : while the Gentile opponents regarded him as a necro