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justly sentenced to death, we naturally feel abhorrence of the men who sent him to the appalling ignominy of the cross; but judged impartially, they were doubtless quite as conscientious in their bigotry as the Christian priests of futurity, who piously consigned Jews and heretics to the flames as wicked opponents of the orthodox faith.
Condemned by hostile priests, he might yet find safety in an appeal to Roman justice; but the terrible ordeal of silent self-repression in the presence of his enemies had not shaken the devotion of Jesus to the prophetic superstition, and when arraigned before the judgment-seat of Pilate, he even courted Roman hostility as the self-appointed King of the Jews. But the powerful representative of an invincible empire, unmoved by Hebrew prejudices, could hear with calm indifference of claims to royalty, which to him were but the harmless dreams of an inoffensive visionary; and he would have gladly rescued this interesting enthusiast from the persecution of his enemies, but that, to his amazement, the eccentric prisoner obstinately refused to plead against the fictitious charges of his
Luke is the only evangelist who records that Pilate referred the case of Jesus to the adjudication of Herod : 1 • Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad, for he was of a long time desirous to see him, because he had heard concerning him, and he hoped to see some miracle done by him: and he questioned him in many words, but he answered him nothing.' Can we imagine a more convincing proof of his unreasoning adherence
1 Luke xxiii, 7-11.
to the programme of Isaiah ? The refusal of the innocent to plead against the false accusations of perjured witnesses is a grave offence against society, for unmerited convictions necessarily encourage malicious prosecutions ; but Jesus places prophecy above ethics, and prefers yielding to injustice to casting the slightest doubt on the language of Isaiah.
Restored to the jurisdiction of the Roman governor, who can question that if the eloquent preacher of the Sermon on the Mount had appealed to Roman justice by demanding an impartial investigation into his blameless life, Pilate would have successfully resisted the judicial murder of an innocent man? But how then could the Scriptures have been fulfilled? What is the life of Jesus when weighed in the balance with the words of the great Nabi, who speaks with the voice of God ? Prepare, therefore, the crown of thorns, the purple robe of mockery; erect the cross, that Jesus may die a felon's death in vindication of the prophets !
Had Pilate been one of the noblest of the Romans, even yet he might have saved this silent, obstinate, mysterious Jew, who courts destruction as a phantom king ; but being a mere ordinary official, fearing to incur responsibility, he vainly washes from his hands the stain of innocent blood, and surrenders Jesus to the martyrdom around which has gathered the legends, dogmas, and mysteries of ecclesiastical Christianity.
At length the appalling tragedy hastens to its conclusion. Religion nails Jesus to the cross--the future symbol of a new theology, whose priests shall also, in due time, torture and execute the victims of Christian intolerance; the nerves and tendons of his hands and
feet are lacerated by inflamed and festering wounds ; swarming flies transform the sensory nerves into instruments of lingering torture; the slightest movement sends a thrill of agony through each quivering limb; the veins reject the superabundant flow from distended arteries; and the blood, turned from its course, presses with swollen vessels on the throbbing brain; the exhaustion of hunger is welcomed as the harbinger of death, but the raging agony of thirst is ever craving for one drop of water to cool the burning tongue; arrested circulation forbids coherent thought, and fills the mind with distracting imagery of horror and despair.
Convinced that we hold the true version of the Messianic illusions of Jesus, we thus imaginatively reproduce his drifting thoughts : « Nazareth-Galileethat peaceful life of dreams until the voice had spoken in the wilderness! But what did the Baptist mean by doubt ?' 'Art thou he that cometh, or look we for another? - Another Messiah ?-another Son of Man ?
another Christ? Am I, then, a dreamer-an impostor? No; these are the whisperings of Satan; the Son of Man shall come with ten thousand of his saints to execute judgment on his enemies.—They said I was beside myself, but they knew not the Scriptures : “He is despised and rejected of men, oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth. He was taken from pri
Hark!'. If thou art the Son of God, come down from the cross. - I healed the sick, I cast out demons, why not release this tortured body? No, the Son must obey the Father.—That group of women, faithful unto death, when men have fled the terrors
of the cross !--Mary! how that woman loves! but the Son of Man has no love to give.-Peter! John ! James !
- That voice again?! He is the King of Israel, let him come down from the cross, and we will believe in him.'
_ Not yet, not yet a king ! --But the time cometh, and is even now at hand, when I shall sit on the throne of my glory.'-— He saved others, himself he cannot save.'
- No, for no voice was heard or angel seen in the garden of Gethsemane.—But why this lingering agony
these ignoble horrors ? May not angels bathe this burning brow, or death come quickly to end this mental anguish, this unutterable torture? Not yet, until the Scriptures are fulfilled.'
Thus come and go his drifting thoughts, until Isaiah adds yet another pang to mental anguish. “He was numbered with the transgressors,' therefore must die as the companion of thieves, who snatch some moments from despair to jeer and scoff at virtue ending thus as crime. “Is this he who preached glad tidings, healed the sick, made demons tremble, and yet is crucified with us, whose gospel is murder---our heaven, the orgies purchased with the spoils of plundered travellers!' But Jesus has no answer for these railing thieves. He passes in lethargic stupor into the realm of phantoms, where smiling angels present a flowing cup dashed from his lips by grinning fiends; and Isaiah sings the death-song of the Messiah, interrupted by Enoch bearing a royal crown, which Satan seizes and ascends a throne, from which he is hurled by the archangel hastening to proclaim the final judgment.
Aroused to momentary consciousness of the appalling present, Jesus yields again to torpor, oblivious even of
dreams, to awake at the near approach of death, and hear his bitterest enemies exclaim, 'He trusted in God, let Him deliver him. It is too much for overtasked humanity. He utters the terrible cry, 'My God! my God! why hast Thou forsaken me?' and thus despairs and dies, the noblest Martyr of theology, sacrificed on the dual altar of prophetic superstition and sacerdotal intolerance.
Thus, after the lapse of nearly two thousand years, we discover the long-lost secret of the Messianic illusions of the Son of Man; and detect that, if the unknown author of the visions of Enoch had never existed, mankind would never have heard of the Christian religion. Jesus could not have accepted the Messianic office as the mere man of sorrows depicted by Isaiah ; and unless the visions of Enoch had suggested the theory of a second advent with its throne of glory, he would have inevitably rejected the nomination of John, and lived and died a Galilean peasant, as absolutely unknown to posterity as the humblest of his Nazarene compatriots.
If Jesus, therefore, was controlled by prophetic dreams, shown by their non-fulfilment to have been but vain illusions, how shall we explain the marvellous transformation of a simple-minded Galilean peasant into the Almighty Deity of the Gentiles, sharing, as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the infinite attributes of Supreme Divinity ? Let us seek an answer to this momentous question through a candid and impartial inquiry into the further evolution of Christianity.