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WHAT THINK YE OF THE CHRIST?
REPRESENTING VARIOUS BELIEFS AND OPINIONS
RESPECTING JESUS OF NAZARETH.
In days of old, when kings were elected and held in reverence for their personal prowess, or even for the majesty of their outward appearance, when “men were famous according as they had lifted up axes upon the thick trees,"—then, in the land of Israel, the question "What think ye of the Christ ?”-of the Anointed of Jahveh, by him chosen to be your king ?would probably have elicited praises unstinted of the majesty, strength, and beauty of Saul, head and shoulders taller than his former peers; or of David, the well-favoured youth of ruddy countenance.
But, to come down to later ages, “ Jesus, who is called Christ,” has been believed, in accordance with prophecy(?), to have been “without form or comeliness.” To the painter, however, this opinion is a heresy, and one which his art has well-nigh exterminated by pre
senting an ideal countenance whose lineaments might be termed handsome, replete as they are with suggestions of majesty, goodness, and grace, if they did not also betoken sadness; and yet, does he not sometimes depict a “sorrow more beautiful than beauty's self?” For the painter, with like instinct to the poet, believes "all that's good is beautiful and fair," and will quote Spenser to the effect that
“Every spirit, as it is most pure,
And hath in it the more of heavenly light,
The man of science also, often regarding Jesus as simply a natural man, of sound mind in healthful body, will readily concede to him that manly beauty which is the necessary concomitant of such attributes.
Manly yet womanly.”
“How serene his aspect is ! ”
the sons of men.
We have remarked a difference in the opinions entertained respecting even the form and features of Jesus of Nazareth, but what are the variations in these, compared with the many shades of belief existing in regard to other symbols of his inner and more essential being—his rank in the universe, his acts, his teaching, and whatever else is illustrative of his moral attributes or character ?
* Longfellow's “Divine Tragedy.” The source of the description is a forged letter alleged to have been addressed to the Roman Senate. See Lecky's “History of Rationalism in Europe,” vol. i. p. 234, 235.
During his lifetime, and in the ages immediately succeeding, the judgments concerning him were as various as in modern times. He was, on the one hand, accounted “a gluttonous man and a winebibber;" a law-breaker and mover of sedition ; a blasphemer (word often ignorantly pronounced); a corrupter of morals and religion (as Socrates); and, as also in the case of the Grecian sage, it was easy to raise against him the cry “He deceiveth the people!” Away with him!” “Not fit to live ! ”
And even the relatives of Jesus are recorded to have pronounced upon him a verdict of insanity, "for they said, He is beside himself.” *
His opponents accused him of exercising authority over evil spirits by a secret understanding with their chief; and, at a later period, by Jewish and heathen antagonists of his fame, he was accounted a sorcerer, an adept in magical arts and incantations.
Turning to the fairer side of the picture, we find it said of him that he was "a good man," one" who did
* Mark iii. 21. We may remark that every express quotation made herein from the New Testament, i.e. where chapter and verse are indicated, is from the Revised Version, unless stated to be otherwise.