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clusions of his later years; but still, to render our conception of him more real, it would be interesting to pass in review some of the more striking narrative and other passages of the Hebrew Scriptures, and to compare them with the mature convictions of the Great Teacher who speaks to us from the pages of the Synoptic Gospels. We may thus be able the better to know Jesus as he was in his prime, he having examined his traditional beliefs (excepting, perhaps, the grand substratum on which they were all placed), and having assimilated these and rejected those, till he stood forth with certain strong and definite convictions respecting righteousness, God, and the purposes of God towards the people of his peculiar care.
That God was perfect in righteousness was to Jesus an unquestionable certainty, and to such a mind as his all accounts of Jahveh incompatible with this were misrepresentations of him, though they occurred, as indeed many such did, in the Scriptures themselves.
On the other hand, miracles, as such, owing to his Hebrew training and the absence of Greek culture, would have presented no difficulties to him; his faith would accordingly have remained unshaken in the biblical narratives of God's dealings with Israel, except where these exhibited moral defects. His attitude towards the Scriptures would thus be found to have become what is now, in some quarters, termed semi-rationalist, what indeed was demned by Mr.M ansel as that of rationalism, pure and simple. To Jesus the human element mingled with the divine in the writings of the prophets and psalmists, and even (and herein he differed from all his contemporaries) in the sacred law itself.
Let some of those portions of the Old Testament which are carefully let alone by prudent divines be quoted, and it will not be difficult to imagine Jesus' attitude in presence of them, he being, perhaps, unsurpassed in clearness of moral vision.
On the other hand, let some of the portions of the ancient Scriptures, of those which embody their highest excellences, be placed before the reader, and it will be seen that they were the source of Jesus' best teaching. It will also be seen how Jesus would have been able to “rejoice in Jahveh, and to give thanks at the remembrance of His holiness," and hence his hope in God, his love of him, and sympathy with what he regarded as the intentions of the heavenly Father.
Next, let it be briefly shown how this Jesus differed from the great men of the sects, from the typical Pharisee, and Essene, and from the worldly minded Sadducee.
The thoughts present to Jesus, now and again, in solitude, in calm moments, prior to the advent of the Baptist, may be inferred from our knowledge of what he believed to be the character of true righteousness; from his faith in an Infinite Being, purely of such a character; from his hope of a glorious future for Israel, the object of highest desire, as shown by the main subject of his usual prayers ; for as he taught his disciples to pray, so, and precisely after that manner, must we suppose himself to have long held communion with the divine ideal of his faith and affections.
But, in full sympathy with Jesus, worthily to depict him thus longing for the reign of justice and of love, alas ! who is sufficient for these things?
Having gained, however, the best conception possible to us of the “religious consciousness” of Jesus, knowing him, too, as a grand ethical genius, the first direct step in ascertaining his relation to Christianity (for hitherto he has been viewed only in relation to Hebrew religion) should be to consult the prophets of Israel respecting the Messiah they predicted, and if we can find any clear utterances of a Messianic nature, apparently possible of fulfilment at the time of Jesus, and worthy of being fulfilled, we may presume that these would have commanded the faith of Jesus, and that they would have given definite form to his expectations.
Just before the advent of the Baptist, when rumours of the coming Messiah began to be afloat, it may be presumed that the Nazarene consulted the prophets afresh concerning the Messianic predictions, discarding the trivial, as was his wont, and dwelling on the weightier matters presented in their writings.
For the purposes already mentioned, it might be as well to quote from the prophets, properly so called, the most distinct and emphatic of their Messianic vaticinations, and when this is done, the reader and presumed inquirer will see what it was that Jesus would have been justified in expecting ; say, for instance
An anointed king, to be primarily, of course, king of Israel.
The destruction of the persistently wicked, those who refuse to obey the promised Elijah, who shall be sent to turn the people's hearts before the coming of the Anointed One.
That the king and people shall become, by the help of the Spirit of God, perfectly wise and righteous, and be gifted, to some extent, with miraculous power over nature.
That Israel shall be freed from foreign domination, and that the dispersed should be restored to their own land.
Afterwards, that the outlying nations would be dealt with ; but this class of events is probably too remote, and the difficulties in the way of interpreting prophecy too great for any definite opinion.
Advantage should be taken of an excellent opportunity for pointing out the astonishing weakness of Bishop Butler's reasoning from prophecy in reference to the Messiah.
Coming, then, to John the Baptist, who has seldom been assigned a sufficiently important position as a factor in the great religious revival which culminated in Christianity, attention should be drawn to him and his work.
It should be shown, by a comparison of the Synoptic Gospels with the account given by Josephus, that the Baptist was unquestionably an historical character, and that the account of his preaching in the first two Gospels may in the main be relied on.
Also, how John so influenced the people as to change the character of their expectations, causing them to regard as the coming Messiah's main object an internal rather than an external salvation.
Let the chief points of the Baptist's preaching be also indicated. He is a prophet of woe, announcing fire as the instrument of God's vengeance on the wicked.
It would not be difficult to show how a stern ascetic brooding on certain portions of the prophetic writings, some of the most striking of which, predicting "the great and terrible day of Jahveh,” might be quoted, would naturally preach as John is said to have done. The sources of his inspiration would thus be seen to have been Malachi, Joel, the example of Elijah, etc.
He expects the almost immediate presence of the Messiah in judgment, and is intensely in earnest in calling on the people to prepare for the great day of the Lord, urging them to "flee from the coming wrath” by sincere repentance, and by submitting to be immersed in the Jordan's waters, in token that they desire to be washed from all their sins by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
His influence on the people can scarcely be overestimated (see the Synoptics and Josephus); they are moved as the heart of one man, and throng the Jordan's banks. Thus commences the unprecedentedly enormous wave of religious emotion, of character somewhat akin to modern "revivals," which is to issue in Christianity.
To return to the Nazarene. He hears of John, goes to the Jordan's banks, believes the announcement that the divine kingdom is at hand, and obeys the call to the baptism of repentance.
When Jesus heard of the terrible punishment threatened by the messenger of God on the unrepentant, he might have shuddered at their fate; but on seeing the crowds animated, as it appeared, with one desire to turn and serve God with the heart, he entered into the divine joy over the repenting sinners, and doubtless felt that now the curse would be averted, and blessing would have its perfect work, according to the Father's desire. His own most solemn act of re-dedication to the service of God having been followed by the assurance that all past wrongdoing of his own was now freely forgiven, according to the messages of the Father by the psalmists and prophets, Jesus became full of highwrought expectation of what God was about to do for his people, now that all barriers were fast being removed, and the desire to bless could have free and unlimited course. Is it possible, then, to estimate too highly the baptism of holy emotions of hope, love, and joy in which the heart of Jesus was at this crisis immersed ?
He felt that he was a son of God, loving and beloved ; that he had received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and was on the verge of, even if not yet admitted into, the heavenly kingdom.
At length becoming aware of the needs of the body, having wandered into the wilderness, he wishes to test the powers of the subjects of “the kingdom” over nature, but is withheld by a sense of the impropriety of such an attempt. Thus he resisted what he afterwards regarded as his first temptation after his baptism.