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A. M. 4035, and the horse from Jerusalem;" plainly shewing, that the character given of the Mes&c. or 5441. siah, viz. "That he should ride on an ass," was in opposition to the pride of their warlike kings, who, by their strength in chariots and horses, had ruined themselves and Vulg. Er. 30. their people.
["This prophecy of Zechariah's the Jews never understood of any other person than the Messiah. Jesus, therefore, by seating himself upon an ass's colt, in order to go to Jerusalem, without any possible inducement of grandeur or convenience, openly declared himself to be that King who was to come, and at whose coming in that manner Zion was to rejoice. And so the disciples, if we may judge from what immediately followed, understood this proceeding; for no sooner did they see their Master seated on the colt, than they broke out into transports of the highest joy, as if in this great sight they had the full contentment of their utmost wishes; conceiving, as it should seem, the sanguine hope that the kingdom was this instant to be restored to Israel. They strewed the way which Jesus was to pass with the green branches of the trees which grew beside it; a mark of honour in the East never paid but to the greatest emperors on occasions of the highest pomp: They proclaimed him the long-expected heir of David's throne, the Blessed One coming in the name of the Lord; and they rent the skies with the exulting exclamation of Hosanna in the highest! On their way to Jerusalem, they were met by a great multitude from the city, whom the tidings had no sooner reached, than they ran out in eager joy to join in his triumph. When they reached Jerusalem, the whole city, then crouded with devout Jews and proselytes who had come from all quarters to keep the feast, was moved, says the evangelist. Through the throng of these astonished spectators, the procession passed, by the public streets, to the temple, where the sacred porticos immediately resound with the continued hosannas of the multitudes. The chief priests and scribes were greatly alarmed, as with their principles well they might, when, as on a former occasion, he drove out the traders; but with a higher tone of authority calling the temple his own house, and saying My house is the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves' (a)".] Thus necessary it was for the promised Messiah, and for our Saviour, consequently, who came in that character, to approach the daughter of Zion, riding on an ass, even though it were a creature more despicable than we imagine it. But, after all, it is mere prejudice, and too fond an attachment to the manners and customs of our own country, that make us conceive any thing contemptible in an ass, or any thing ridicu lous or inconsistent with the gravity and dignity of our Blessed Saviour in riding upon one. For (b) if we look into other countries, particularly into Judea, we shall find persons of the highest distinction usually so mounted. We shall find (c) the chief governors of Israel described in the song of Deborah, as "riding on white asses ;" and (d) the thirty sons of Jair, who was judge and prince of the country for two and twenty years, riding upon as many asses, and commanding in thirty cities. Nay, we shall find Absalom, though in other respects (e) a man of pomp, in the very day of battle (f) mounted on a mule, the colt of an ass, and on his coronation-day, Solomon provided with no better equipage. And therefore, we can never account it any reproach for the meek and humble Jesus, to ride into Jerusalem on the foal of an ass, when David, the greatest of his ancestors, and Solomon, the wisest, as long as he was wise, rode in the same manner.
(g) The persons who attended him in this procession were a mixed multitude, consisting of disciples and common people, such as were moved to do thus, from the doctrines and miracles which they had heard and seen, and were forward to pay him what
(a) Horsley'e Sermons, vol. iii. ed. i. p. 44, &c.
(b) Bishop Sherlock's Fourth Dissertation, (c) Judg. v. 10. (d) Ibid. x. 4 (g) Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. i
xii. 1. Mark ii.
Mark ix. 14.
honour they could. They had no quality or outward splendour indeed, no titles or From Matth. eminent posts to recommend them, but they were very remarkable for their sincerity 23. Luke vi. 1. and honest zeal, their hearty affection to Christ, and firm persuasion of his being the John v. 1. to true Messiah; and these to him, who is "no respecter of persons," and who came to Matth. xvii. 14. set up a kingdom not of this world," rendered those tributes of praise and acknow- Luke ix. 37. ledgment, though from men mean and insignificant as to any temporal respects, more John vii. 1. acceptable, more becoming his character, and more truly for his honour, than any dissembled or interested homage of rulers or Rabbins, the greatest or wisest of the Sanhedrim, could have been; for external advantages are of no consideration with God, while they want good dispositions within to recommend them.
Whether this was the same multitude, or not another spirited up, that clamoured so loudly against our Blessed Saviour but five days after these joyful exclamations, it is much to be questioned; but, supposing it was, whoever considers the subtle management of men in post and power, and the easiness and servile fears usual in those of a mean depending condition, will not be much surprised at such a sudden change. Popular applause is at all times a very fickle and uncertain thing: but in the case before us, there were some incidents which might occasion this instability. Our Saviour, after his triumphant entry into Jerusalem, seemed to assume a kind of sovereignty: he purged the temple from its abuses, healed the diseases of the people, received the hosannas of the children, and, for some few days, preached, "exhorted, and rebuked. with all authority;" so that, during this time, no one almost doubted but that he was the mighty Prince who was to "gird his sword upon his thigh," and bring salvation unto Israel. But when, instead of this, they saw him fallen into the hands of his enemies, and quite deserted by his friends; apprehended by the public officers as a common malefactor, haled from one high priest to another, and there blindfolded, spit upon, buffeted, and insulted; when, in the midst of all this distress, they saw him left alone, without any disciple to stand by him; any messenger from heaven, (as they might expect) or any exertion of his own power, to rescue him; nay, on the contrary, when they saw that one of his own servants had sold and betrayed him, another denied and abjured him, and all unanimously had fled and forsook him, and yet these were the persons who, for some years, had been his constant companions, and consequently were the best judges of his merit and pretensions: When the multitude, I say, saw matters reduced to this extremity, and that terror and desertion was on every side, while the rulers conspired to take away his life, it is no wonder that, at the instigation of these rulers, they changed their tone as the saw the scene change and their hopes vanish, and struck in with the prevailing party: For whoever has seen a great man disgraced at court, (even though before he was the nation's darling) may easily satisfy himself what very reeds the affections of the populace are; how apt they are to bend to every wind of faction and interest, and to be swayed by every calumny or malicious insinuation, even when most zealous, and seemingly most sincere.
If we take a view of the vast extent of the subject which the evangelists had before them, and the intended brevity of their books to make them more useful to the generality of mankind, we cannot but perceive that it was absolutely necessary for them to omit several things which must have occurred to their remembrance. The whole four Gospels bound together make not a large volume, but each singly is a very small book; and yet, besides the miracles of our Saviour, attended, as they are, with the circumstances of place and time, the names of the persons and the occasions of their being wrought, they have, in these small tracts, inserted an account of the wonderful manner of our Saviour's birth, the dangers of his infancy, the miraculous appearances of Providence in his favour, and his removals and journeyings from one place and country to another, They have recorded the substance of his doctrine in plain terms; have set down many parables spoken by him, together with their explications; and given us a full account
A. M. 4035, of the mission of his twelve apostles, and the other seventy disciples. The cavils and Cor Dom. questions of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herodians, together with his answers and solutions; the observations and reflections of the people; his public discourses before all, Vulg. Fr. 30. and his private instructions to his disciples; his predictions of his own sufferings; of the destruction of Jerusalem, and many other events; a long and particular account of his prosecution, condemnation, and crucifixion; as also of his resurrection and ascension; (not to mention the history of the birth, preaching, baptism, and sufferings of John the Baptist, his fore-runner) are all comprized in a short volume. And therefore, having such plenty of matter before them, they were obliged to be silent as to some particulars, after they had related others of the like nature, for fear of incurring that prolixity which they had determined to avoid. And hence it is easy to suppose, in behalf of the three first evangelists, that when they came to a certain period in their history of the ministry of Jesus, and observed that they had given a sufficient account of his doctrine and miracles, being to reserve a space for his last sufferings and resurrection, they thought proper to pass over in silence whatever happened between that period and his last journey to Jerusalem. Thus some have observed, that from the time when our Saviour returned into the coasts of Judea beyond Jordan, which (as St John (a) tells us) was soon after the feast of the dedication, (and that was always observed in winter) to the time of his last going up to Jerusalem, a little before Easter, these three evangelists make no mention at all of any journeys or movings from thence; and yet from this country (according to St John's account) it was that Jesus afterwards came up to Bethany and raised Lazarus, and then (b) "went into the country near the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples." And therefore since these sacred penmen, for the avoidance of prolixity, thought it not proper to take any notice of what passed in this interval of time, they could not (with any justness or propriety) introduce into their Gospels an account of the resurrection of Lazarus.
[It is indeed very unreasonable to urge as an objection to the truth of any fact recorded by one credible historian, the circumstance of its omission by others supposed to have had the same opportunities of information. It is peculiarly unreasonable in the present case, because St John is universally allowed to have written long after the other evangelists, with this view among others, that he might supply accounts of such important events in the life of our Lord as they had omitted; but it is certain that he hath not supplied them all. We have his own testimony, not only that " Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples," which he bath not recorded in his Gospel, but that, if they had every one been recorded," he supposed that even the world itself could not contain the books that should have been written." Many of our Lord's miracles, therefore, were unavoidably omitted; and if each evangelist prescribed, as a rule to himself, to record nothing but what he had actually witnessed with his own eyes or heard with his own ears, it is easy to assign the reason for one evangelist recording one miracle, and omitting others equally great which are recorded by another. They could not always be every one of them present with their Lord, either when he wrought miracles or when he taught the people. Accordingly we find the restoration to life of Jairus's daughter recorded, though with circumstances somewhat different, by all the three first evangelists, and therefore very properly omitted by St John; but the restoration of the widow's son of Nain, though a miracle equally public and astonishing, is recorded by St Luke only. How is this accounted for? may the objector ask; a que. stion to which the answer is obvious on the supposion that the evangelists were distinct and independent writers, who recorded each only what he had himself witnessed and distinctly remembered. St Matthew, St John, St Peter, and St Luke, were all with their Master when he was intreated by the ruler of the synagogue to come and lay his
(a) John x. 22.
(b) Ibid. xi. 54.
23. Luke vi. 1.
Mark ix. 14.
hand on his dying daughter; but St Matthew and St Peter were probably not with him From Matth. when he came nigh to the city of Nain, and therefore did not behold him restore the xii. 1. Mark ii. widow's son. On account of the length of time during which Lazarus had been dead, John v. 1. to his resurrection is perhaps more extraordinary (if there could be degrees in such won- Matth. xvii. 14. ders) than either of the other two; but as Thomas and not Peter, whose zeal and at- Luke ix. 37. tachment generally appear most conspicuous, is represented as proposing to his fellow John vii. 1. disciples to go and die with their Master, it is probable that neither Peter nor Matthew nor Luke was present at the resurrection of Lazarus. If so, and if they wrote independently of each other, and on the principle of recording each only what he had personally witnessed of the miracles of their Lord, the omission of this great miracle by the three first evangelists follows of course.]
But there is a farther reason which some learned men (a) have given us for their silence in this respect. They tell us, that, according to an ancient tradition, Lazarus lived thirty years after his being raised from the dead, and that, as the latest of these three evangelist wrote but fifteen years (b) after our Lord's ascension, they might think it a needless matter to mention a miracle concerning a person living so near Jerusalem, when the fame of it was so great, and so many witnesses living to attest it: Nor can they suppose but that, in point of prudence, the evangelists declined mentioning this story, for fear of exasperating the Jews, and giving their rage and malice a fresh provocation to cut off Lazarus. But now St John, undertaking to write his Gospel on purpose to supply the omissions of the former evangelists, above sixty years after our Lord's ascension, when, by the death of Lazarus, and most of the witnesses who were present at his resurrection, the fame of it might be much impaired, had good reason to perpetuate its memory by a full and particular rehearsal.
He had not, however, given us so fair and unexceptionable an account of the matter, had he not represented our blessed Saviour compassionating the circumstances of his friends, and weeping upon so sad an occasion as the death of Lazarus. For "there is something in human nature (as an ingenious author (c) elegantly expresses it) resulting from our very make and constitution while it retains its genuine form, and is not altered by vicious habits, or oppressed by stupidity, which renders us obnoxious to the pains of others, causes us to sympathise with them, and almost comprehends us in their case. This compassion appears eminently in those who, upon other accounts, are justly reckoned among the best of men. They who (of all writers) undertake to imitate nature most, often introduce even their heroes weeping. The tears of men are in truth very different from the cries and ejaculations of children; they are silent streams, and flow from other causes; commonly some tender, and perhaps philosophical reflections." And in the case now before us, there might be other considerations besides the loss of Lazarus, and the lamentation of his friends, that might draw from our Saviour these tears of compassion,
He might at that time be affected with the thought of the many afflictions to which human nature is liable in this imperfect state; and his groans and inward grief might proceed from the want of faith observable in the sisters, and company attending them, and their diffidence of his ability to raise the dead, notwithstanding they had seen so many, so frequent, manifestations of a Divine and Omnipotent Power residing in him. He knew that the obstinacy and inveterate prejudices of some of the spectators, and of the generality of the Jewish people was such, that the astonishing miracle he was going to work would not have its due effect upon them. This recalled to his mind that scene of misery and desolation which he foresaw would overtake them, and therefore
(a) Grotius and Whitby, on John xii. (b) [This seems to be a mistake. See the Appendix to our author's Dissertation on the four evangelists and their writings.] (c) Religion of Nature Delineated, sect. 6. prop. 17.
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he grieved, and sighed deeply, at the prospect of the calamities which that perverse pcople were bringing upon themselves, and which all his endeavours, his miracles and sufferings, could not prevent. So that, upon the whole, the concern which our Lord expressed upon this occasion, proceeded from the noblest motives, wisdom, goodness, friendship, compassion, and every view that is just and laudable, when he sympathised with his friends, and grieved with his enemies. [Our Lord was no Stoic, nor are the principles of Christianity the principles of Stoicism.]
With these genuine expressions of solemn grief and sorrow, our Saviour drew near to his friend's sepulchre, which, (as we may conjecture) was an hollow place hewn in a rock, whose entrance (which was closed with a stone) lay level with the surface of the earth: but then we have so imperfect au account of the funeral habits that were in use among the Jews, that we can form no notion how far Lazarus, when revived and set upon his feet, might be able of himself to walk to the mouth of his tomb. In this, however, we may satisfy ourselves, that our Saviour, who was able to recal his soul from its separate state, and convey fresh life into his body almost putrified, could give that body, though bound hand and foot, a power of moving forward, even though we suppose, (as most of the ancients do) that herein he put himself to the expence of a second miracle, because the proper demonstration of the reality of the resurrection was, not to send any body into the tomb to unbind him, which might occasion a suspicion of some clandestine practice, but to have him come forth alive, in the presence of all the spectators, fairly, and without any change or alteration in his funeral dress but what was made before the people themselves, by our Saviour's saying, "loose him, and let him go."
That some or other in the company was ready enough upon this occasion to obey our Lord's commands can hardly be doubted; and therefore it is very wonderful, that (had there been any collusion in the matter) among so great a multitude, no one should have had sagacity enough to find it out. But the truth is, they none of them suspected any such thing. They none of them thought, that when a man had been four days buried there wanted any proof of his being dead. They none of them thought, that Christ was only a pretended worker of miracles; for how unwilling soever they were to own him for their Messiah, by long experience they were convinced that he was a person" mighty in word and deed.”
Of all the wonderful deeds that we find recorded of him, there is none, I think, that is related so fully, and set off with so many circumstances to prevent the least suspicion of fraud, as that of his curing the man who was born blind. The evangelist has expended a whole chapter upon it, and therein acquainted us with some previous questions of his disciples which led to it; the uncommon manner of his performing it; the surprise and astonishment of the blind man's neighbours, when they saw such an alteration wrought in him; the man's open and undisguised relation of the matter, and repeated attestation of the greatness and reality of the cure; the great disturbance and perplexity which it gave the Jews; their examining, and cross-examining the man, who still continued firm and uniform in his account; their tampering with his parents, who avowed the truth of his being born blind; and at last (when they saw that they could prevail nothing, but the more they examined the more evidence they found) their rage and malice, which carried them to such a degree, as to excommunicate the poor man, and cast him out of their synagogue. These, and some more circumstances, are told in
[In some places in Scotland the fashion of graveclothes was such not many years ago, and perhaps is so still, that were the dead person restored to life, he would find no greater difficulty in walking in his grave-clothes than in his ordinary dress; though
the limbs of such bodics as I have seen so dressed were certainly wrapt up, though separately, in their graveclothes; and this may be all that is meant (John xi, v. 44.) by the word diduevos.]