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putation ; and, in arousing the angry passions of his opponents, Stephen anticipates the suicidal mania for martyrdom which characterises a later generation of Christians.
Arrested and arraigned before the Sanhedrim, this noble fanatic is depicted as a man full of faith, wisdom, and the Holy Ghost; when, therefore, the High Priest calls for his defence, we necessarily anticipate a discourse as absolutely divine as if uttered by a voice from heaven. Jesus was doomed to silence by prophetic destiny, but Stephen may freely utter, in the presence of the great Council of the nation, so lucid an exposition of the gospel of Jesus that it may furnish mankind throughout all time with an infallible guide to the eternal truths of Christianity. Are these reasonable expectations fulfilled in the speech of Stephen ?
Turning to that discourse, we find nothing more than an inaccurate résumé of the history of Judaism from Abraham to Solomon, followed by a fanatical outburst of hostility towards his judges, and a declaration that he saw the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God-an announcement which awakened the furious indignation of his adversaries, and won for him the second crown of martyrdom in the Kingdom of Heaven. Thus we witness the fruits of religious intolerance. Stephen denies the existence of all honesty of purpose in his adversaries ; and they, as the party in power, proceed to exterminate heresy by violence. The time came when all this was changed, and Christianity, as the dominant religion, consigned the descendants of the Sanhedrim to the flames, for the honour and glory of God.
But is there not an air of improbability about the entire narrative? Could men, so studious of legal forms at the trial of Jesus, have thus suddenly become seditious violators of Roman justice? Or could members of the Council, controlled by the judicious advice of so moderate a theologian as Gamaliel, have been transformed into wild beasts rushing on their prey, with the consent and approval of that sage's most distinguished pupil, Saul of Tarsus ? ?
Jesus having personally chosen the chief missionaries of the Kingdom of Heaven, we might reasonably expect a record of the life and teaching of each in the Acts of the Apostles. But, when their names have been recorded, Peter assigned a prominent place in the first chapter, James enrolled among the martyrs, and John and Philip briefly mentioned, the entire twelve disappear out of the narrative to make way for a member of the Hebrew sect abhorred by Jesus. Apostolic biography is thus left at the disposal of legendary fiction; and we lose all trace of the Galilean disciples until brief epistles appear, in the second century, in the naines of Peter, James, and John.
The epistles of James, 1 John, and 1 Peter, when and by whomsoever written, confirm the simplicity of the Gospel, and the promise of a speedy re-appearance of Jesus in the clouds of heaven.
• Be ye also patient, for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh,' said James. · The end of all things is at hand,' 4 said Peter. If this is the language of Apostles, there can be no question as to the meaning of Jesus when he said :—There are
1 Acts v.
2 Acts xxii. 3.
some standing here which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.'!
The Second Epistle of Peter discloses its later origin in apologetic reference to the adjourned advent. • Be not ignorant of this '-says the unknown author - that one day is with the Lord as a thousand
years, and a thousand years as one day.'? How analogous the accommodative theories of primitive and modern apologists! One day may mean a thousand years ; six days, geologic periods of unknown duration! A father tells his son to expect his arrival within four and twenty hours ; he comes not for days, for months, for years, but sends a message that to-day, to-morrow, or ten years hence are all the same to him. If this conduct is unjustifiable in man, how impossible to Divinity!
The authorship of the Epistle of James is contested, but its contents so closely follow the Logia of Matthew, that we detect in the pages the kindred mind of the Lord's brother, who obviously listened with enwrapt attention to the Sermon on the Mount, and never forgot its precepts. He, accordingly, teaches that pure religion consists, not in faith shared with devils, but in the practice of human virtue; and, if James had never been a disciple of Jesus, we might assume that he had studied the practical wisdom of Socrates, and anticipated the moral purity of Aurelius. The author is quite unconscious of saving creeds and dogmatic mysteries, says nothing of the Fall of man, divine atonement, regenerative baptism, or an inspiring Paraclete; he is silent as to an incarnate God and an incomprehensible Trinity; and when he treats of the supernatural, so
2 2 Peter iii. 8;
1 Matt. xvi. 28.
unconscious is he of contemporary miracles, that he sustains the efficacy of prayer by reference to Elijah's control of the rainfall, and to the dubious miracle which even modern piety is supposed to work, through private or congregational prayer, for the recovery of the sick. .
Was James thus negligent of all which Orthodoxy deems essential to salvation ? Was this epistle inserted in our Bibles by some device of Satan, to lure us through the fatal mirage of pure morality, to the dread perdition which waits on heresy ? Or has not rather this great Apostle of common sense followed in the footsteps of his Lord and Master by proclaiming a Gospel which means nothing more than preparation, through a virtuous life, for the impending advent of the Hebrew Messiah ?
Discerning in this epistle the very mind of Jesus of Nazareth, we necessarily ask how it stood in the estimation of primitive and mediæval Bible-makers, and learn with amazement that it was unknown to the anteNicene Fathers from Justin to Tertullian, assigned a secondary place by Origen and Eusebius, and viewed with suspicion at the era of the Reformation by Roman, Greek, and Protestant theologians. Luther, in fact, gave so decided a preference to the subtle disquisition of Paul on justification by faith, that he pronounced James a mere "epistle of straw. Thus antagonistic theologians concur in rejecting the simplicity of Jesus, when found irreconcilable with the conclusions of ecclesiastical Christianity; and if this priceless epistle barely escaped exclusion from modern Bibles, how many
faithful records of Jesus and his apostles may not have been rejected in favour of more pretentious versions of the mystical and the miraculous ?
Historical criticism inevitably rejects the remaining Epistles of Peter, John, and Jude, and the Apocalyptic Rhapsody, whose author freely borrows the imagery of Enoch, and curses in anticipation the daring men who have rashly translated his work with various readings, notwithstanding the dread anathema pronounced on those who-imperil the meaning of the prophet by the addition or erasure of a single word. For fuller knowfedge of the evolution of ecclesiastical Christianity we therefore turn to Saul of Tarsus.