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for presuming to entertain a favorable opinion of one whom they had pronounced an impostor. It is strange, said they, that you, who are not ignorant of our senti. ments concerning this person, should entertain a favorable opinion of bim. Has any person of rank, or celebrated for their knowledge of the laws, believed in bim? Are not his followers the very dregs of the people, who are totally ignorant of all the prophecies concerning the Messiah?
The officers did not make answer to these railing accusations of their masters; but Nicodemus (who was one of the council, had conversed with our Lord, and was, indeed, a secret disciple of his) seeing with what violence his enemies were bent against him, could not forbear interposing in his behalf, by urging the unlawfulness of condemning a person without hearing; so that, after some reflections thrown upon him, as a favorer of our Lord, the assembly broke up without proceeding any farther against bim, because, indeed, as yet his time was not fully come.
In the evening of the same day our Blessed Lord went to the Mount of Olives, about a mile from the city, and where he sometimes used to pass the night with his apostles. Early the next morning he returned to the temple, and as he was teaching the people that were gathered about him, the Scribes and Pharisees brought in a woman taken in the act of adultery, and desired him to give his judgment in the case. Their purpose was, to find an occasion of accusing him, either for assuming a judicial power if he condemned her, or, of nulling the law if he acquitted her. But our Lord (seeming as if he did not take notice of what they said) stooped down, and wrote something* with his finger on the dust of the returned with great admiration at his excellency and worth. 2dly. The honesty and integrity of these men is very remarkable: for they did not return with a pretence that they feared the multitude, and, therefore, thought it dangerous to apprehend him; but ingenuously confessed that they could not prevail with themselves to lay violent hands upon a person whose discourses were so excellent and divine.
* It is generally agreed, that upon this occasion, our Lord wrote some memorable sentence, or other, but what the sentence was, the conjectures of learned men have been various. The two most general opinions are, first, that it was the reproof against a rigid and un
pavement; till, upon their importuning him for an answer, he raised himself up, and (looking steadfastly at them) said, He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone ;* after which he again stooped down, and wrote as before. This unexpected answer baffled the designs of these invidious accusers, who, being thoroughly convinced of their own crimes, retired one by one, and left the woman; so that when our Lord raised himself up again, and found her only by him, he asked what was become of her accusers, and whether any one of them had condemned her. The woman answered in the negative; upon which our Lord said to her, Neither do I condemn thee. Go; and sin no more. The wisdom, knowledge and power of our Blessed Saviour, were eminently displayed on this occasion; his wisdom in defending himself against the malicious attempts of his enemies; his knowledge in discovering the secrets of their hearts; and his power, in making use of their own consciences to render their artful intentions abortive.
After this interruption our Blessed Lord returned to the business of instructing the people, and in a sublime discourse, opened several great mysteries of Christianity, particularly his Divine mission and co-equality with the Father. In displaying the first of these he made use of the following words: I am the light of the world; he that followeth me, shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. This assertion gave great offence to the Scribes and Pharisees, who told him he must be a deceiver because he boasted of himself. The reply our Lord made to this was to the following effect: You are not to suppose that I call myself the light of the world from a principle of pride and falsehood; the title justly belongs to me; nor would you yourselves refuse to acknowledge it, did you know from what authority I received my commission, and to whom, when I have executed it, I must return. But of these things ye are totally ignorant; you judge according to outward appearances, and condemn me, because I do not destroy those (as you vainly think the Messiah will do) who refuse to submit to his authority. But the design of the Messiah's coming is very different from your mistaken notions; he is not to destroy, but to save the children of men. Though I beer record of myself, yet my record is true; for I know whence I came, and whither 1 go: but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go. He added, that if he should condemn any person for unbelief, the condemna. tion would be just, because his mission was true, being eonfirmed by his own testimony, and that of his heavenly Father, by whose authority, and agreeable to whose will, all his sentences would be passed. And yet if I judge, my judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent me.
charitable temper, which occurs in his Sermon on the Mount: Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? And secondly (which appears the most probable of the two) that it was the very words, which, upon his raising himself up, he pronounced to the woman's accusers : Ile that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone, John viii. 7.
* According to the laws of Moses, the punishment to be inflicted on a person convicted of adultery was, that he should be led out of the city, and stoned with stones till he died, and that the hands of the witnesses should be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hands of all the people, Deut. xvii. 7. It is in allusion to this passage that our Saviour says,
Let him that is without sin among you cast the first stone, because it ill becomes those who are guilty either of the same, or greater crimes, to be so very zealous for the punishment of others. This, however, is not meant to prevent those magistrates, who are entrusted with the execution of the laws, from putting them in force against malefactors, even though themselves are not entirely exempt from sin; but it still reminds them, that they should execute judgment with compassion and tenderness, and as much moderation as the law will allow them, considering that they themselves are not free from guilt, but as deserving of punishment for other sins, as those poor creatures are, who have fallen into crimes, which are punishable by human judicature.
VOL. iii. 3 II
Our Blessed Lord, having thus asserted the divinity of his mission, and shewn that his judgment was just, next proceeded to inform them, that the Father himself bore witness to the truth of his mission. You surely cannot complain even if I should punish you for your unbelief, because you are, by your own laws, commanded to believe the testimony of two witnesses, that my mission is evidently true. The actions of my life, which are perfectly agreeable to the character of a messenger from heaven, bear sufficient witness of me, and the Father, by the miracles he has enabled me to perform, beareth witness of me; ye are therefore altogether culpable in objecting to my mission. It is written in your law, that the testimony of two is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me, beareth witness of me. John viii. 17, 18.
Having said this, the Scribes and Pharisees asked our Lord where was the Father, the other witness to whom he appealed? In answer to this he told them, that their conduct sufficiently demonstrated that they were strangers both to him and his Father; for had they known who he was, they must have known who it was he called his Father. That had they been convinced he was the Mes. siah, they must also have been convinced that the Father was no other than that Omnipotent Being who created and upheld all things by the word of his power. Ye neither know me (said he) nor my Father; if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also.
After our Lord had said thus much relative to his mission and co-equality with the Father, he proceeded to inform the people of the great abilities he had to give eternal life to his followers, and the necessity there was of believing in him, which he said would be more evident after his crucifixion; and thence taking occasion to expose the wickedness and degeneracy of those who sought to take away his life, and telling them how unlike to the behavior of the sons of Abraham (whom they boasted themselves to be) such causeless and inveterate malice was, he so provoked them with his severe reflections, and especially with the superiority which he claimed above Abraham, that they took up stones to cast at him; but our Lord, by a miraculous power, escaped their malice, and passing unhurt through the crowd, retired out of the temple.
Before our Lord left Jerusalem, the seventy disciples, whom he had sent to preach the Gospel, returned from their journey, and ministry, greatly rejoicing, because the very devils, by virtue of his name, had been subjected to them. Lord (said they with extacy) even the devils are subject unto us, through thy name! Upon this our Lord promised them still greater success, and invested them
with power to tread upon the most venomous beasts, and all the malignant instruments of Satan, without the least hurt to themselves. He at the same time gave them assurance of a blessing which was more peculiarly theirs, viz. that their names were recorded in heaven; after which he broke out into a rapture of joy, glorifying God for having revealed the mysteries of the Gospel to the simple and ignorant, and more particularly to his disciples, wbo, by virtue of that revelation, enjoyed an happiness which many of the wise and great had in vain desired.
As soon as our Blessed Lord had finished his discourse with bis disciples, a certain scribe, a doctor of the law, stood up, and asked him, what was necessary to be done for the attainment of that eternal life which he was so very liberal in promising to his followers. In answer to this our Lord remitted him to the law, turning his own weapons against himself. He asked him what was written in the law, of which he professed himself a teacher? The scribe answered, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. To this our Lord replied, Thou hast answered right; this do, and thou shalt live. Perform these commands, and thou wilt fulfil the duties of an Israelite: for on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
The scribe (who, in all probability, did not expect such an answer) being conscious of his own defects, and, that he did not possess the qualities necessary for obtaining eternal life, was willing (as the sacred historian informs us) to justify himself; that is, was willing to stifle the rising suggestions of his own conscience, and at the same time, to make a shew of his own devotion. In order to this he asked our Lord, And who is my neighbor? A question very natural to be asked by a bigotted Jew, whose narrow notions led him to despise all who were not of his own fold; all who were not the natural descendants of his ancestor Abraham.
But to remove the obstinate and uncharitable attachment of the Jews to their own principles, open their hearts to a more generous and noble way of thinking, and