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commenced at once that practice of meeting on
the first day in honor of their Lord, which after-
ward caused it to be styled " the Lord's day," and
to take the place among Christians of the ancient
Sabbath. It had happened that on the former
evening, when Jesus came to them, Thomas was
not with the Apostles. He had probably con-
sidered the cause so hopeless, as to have withdrawn
from it altogether. When informed of what had
occurred, it seemed to him incredible; and he de-
clared that he could not believe it, except he had
the demonstration of his senses; except he could
both see and feel the print of the nails and the
wound made by the spear. In the succeeding

Acts i. 3. 1 Cor. xv. 6.

John XX. 24.


week he was present with the disciples. Jesus
again came to them; and immediately addressing
the incredulous Apostle, he bade him examine for
himself as he had desired to do. Thomas did so,
and was convinced by the irresistible proof, that
there was no delusion, but that his Lord was ac-
tually risen.

The next instance is minutely related by John,
and presents a scene beautifully characteristic.
Peter, and some others of the disciples, had re-
turned to their residence in Galilee, and had gone
upon the lake to fish. Jesus appeared to them on
the shore, and took the occasion both to remind
Peter of his fault in thrice denying him, and to
show that he was fully restored to his confidence.
This was an act of delightful consideration. Pe-
ter was doubtless suffering deeply from the con-
sciousness of his sin; and more than this, he not
improbably suffered in the good opinion of his
companions. It might be said by them, and it was
very likely to be said by others, that he who had
so basely denied the Saviour, ought not to be al-
lowed to take a part in the ministry of his church.
Jesus, therefore, to reinstate him in his own good
opinion, and to make evident to all that he was
still a trusted friend, drew from him three times
a declaration of his devoted attachment: and



three times solemnly committed to him the care
of his church. " Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou
me?" "Yea, Lord," was the answer; "thou
knowest that I love thee." Jesus rejoined, "Feed
my sheep: feed my lambs." The gratified Apos-
tle proved himself worthy of the trust thus kindly
reposed in him, by a life of devoted fidelity to the
gospel, and by a martyr's death.

Our Lord once more met his Apostles on a
mountain in Galilee. There he again assured
them of the power and dignity entrusted to him,
and bade them go forth, and teach and baptize
all nations. It was at this time that he used those
words respecting Baptism, which have commonly
been employed by his ministers in the administra-
tion of that rite.

At length the purpose for which he had still
lingered upon earth was accomplished. The men
to whom his great enterprise was to be entrusted,
had come at last to understand something of its
real nature, and to enter into the spirit with which
it should be carried forward. They had begun to
exchange their Jewish exclusiveness, for their
Master's universal philanthropy. They did not
indeed understand the full glory of his undertaking
as he did, nor as they themselves did at a later pe-
riod. Some remnants of inveterate error still lin-

Matthew xxviii. 16.


gered in their minds; so that even at their last in-
terview with him, one of them asked if he should
not yet restore the kingdom to Israel. But they
were so far instructed, that they might safely be
left without his further personal presence. What
was yet requisite to their complete illumination,
would be supplied by the gifts of the spirit, which
he had promised them under the name of "the
comforter." Now therefore he was ready to de-
part to his Father. He conducted the little band
out to Bethany. There, on the eastern summit
of Mount of Olivet, he lifted up his hands and
blessed them. A cloud received him from their
sight, and he ascended up into heaven.

Thus ended the glorious and beneficent minis-
try of the Son of God among men. Limited to a
few persons, confined to a narrow region, contin-
ued but for a fev/ months, it laid the foundation
of a universal change in the religions of the world,
and in the principles and manners of human so-
ciety. The Eleven Apostles took up the doctrine
which he had committed to them, and went forth
to testify to the nations respecting that wonderful
person and his \vonderful truth. They entered
with all their strength upon his great enterprise
of reforming the religions and morals of man-
kind, and carrying the light of immortal truth and

Mark xvi. 19. Luke xxiv. 50.

Acts i. 9.


hope to all lands and all ages. This purpose had
never before entered the mind of man. There
was every human probability against its success.
Twelve Jews were a small force to be opposed to
the religion, the philosophy, and the power of the
world. Yet they succeeded; and at the present
day, the civilized nations of the earth acknowledge
the authority of their crucified Master. He has
become, as one of them styled him, " The Prince
of the kings of the earth. " And the time is plainly
approaching, when the whole human race, in all
its dwellings, shall bow and worship in his name,
and be governed and blessed by the doctrine
which he taught in Galilee.




We have now finished our survey of the history
of our Lord's Hfe. It may be well, before closing
the work, to give a hasty glance at the main points
of the story, and indulge in a {ew of the thoughts
which it naturally suggests.

Let us first transport ourselves back to the age
in which he lived. We find that then, owing to
certain prophecies in the sacred books of the
Jews, there was a strong expectation amongst that
people that some remarkable person would soon
appear and assume the dominion of the world.
They were eagerly looking for him to deliver them
from the oppression of the Romans, and restore
the nation to its former glory. Under cover of
this expectation, we find that many ambitious men
came forward, pretended to be the Messiah, col-
lected the people in arms, and rose against the
Roman yoke. Such adventurers were eagerly
followed; for they were precisely such persons as
it was supposed the Messiah would be.

In this state of things, Jesus appears in Galilee
as a teacher and reformer, claiming to bear a spe-
cial commission from God, and confirming his
pretensions by supernatural works. The people


gather eagerly around him. They hope that this
is the promised deliverer. But he does not de-
clare himselt" to be such. He simply goes about
doing good, and teaching the people. They at
length become impatient, and endeavor to compel
him by force to be their king. He resists the at-
tempt. He avoids all interference with the civil
and political affairs of the country. He preaches
peace and non-resistance, repentance, and refor-
mation. He denounces hypocrisy, ambition and
all the corruption of the times, and calls men to a
pure and more spiritual virtue. The multitude
are disappointed. The leading men and the pow-
erful sects are exasperated. They combine against
this humble teacher of purity, this bold prophet of
truth, and condemn him in their chief council as an
impostor and blasphemer. They carry him before
the Roman authority as one claiming to be king
in opposition to Caesar, He is put to death by a
cruel and ignominious execution, and his panic-
stricken followers are dispersed.

Such, in few words, is the history we meet
with; and when thus much has been told us, does it
not seem as if the enterprise of Jesus had failed.'*
Could human wisdom give any hope of its revival
and success? For who shall be its advocates,
when its Head has been cut off, and his friends
are scattered in despair? Yet behold, in a few
weeks, they reappear, full of confidence and zeal.


They speak boldly of their master; they publicly
proclaim him the Messiah; they assert that he
has risen Vom the dead, and given them authority
to establisn a new dispensation of religion. Tliey
are immediately denounced, threatened, and im-
prisoned ; but they adhere manfully to their testi-
mony, they are indefatigable in their zeal, they
rapidly gain adherents, and are soon at the head
of a powerful and spreading sect, which gains a
footing in all the cities of the world, and in three
centuries takes the place both of Judaism and Pa-
ganism. This is the brief and wonderful history.
Who could have anticipated it, that had stood by
the infant at Bethlehem .'' or had seen the young
man toiling with Joseph at Nazareth.? or had wit-
nessed his death at Calvary, amid insult and de-
rision from Jew and Roman? Who would have
dared to conjecture that this person, — thus appa-
rently baffled, thwarted, and successfully opposed,
— was he whom God had appointed to be the chief
Reformer and most glorious religious Prince of
the world.''

We look a little more nearly, and we observe
several particulars which corroborate this general
impression. The first is, the shortness of the pe-
riod during which his earthly ministry lasted. This,
as we have seen, did not probably exceed a year
and a quarter; certainly not three years and a
half. And this little time was spent, — not in the


capital of the nation, not in securing influence
amongst men of learning and power, — uut almost
entirely in the country, and among the peasants of
Galilee. He indeed passed from pla'.e to place,
attended by crowds whom his benefactions and his
instructions and the hope of his Messiahship drew
about him; but he never announced himself to
them as the Messiah, nor took pains to secure
their permanent adherence. A few months thus
spent would seem to give little promise of a last-
ing influence; and it is only when we look at ths
actual result, that we are able to conceive it pos-
sible that they should have prepared the way for a
universal change of religion.

Another similar point is, the small extent of
territory to which our Saviour's labors were con-
fined. It does not appear that he visited even the
larger part of his own land. He was principally
engaged in that small tract, which lies between
Jerusalem and Capernaum; a distance hardly ex-
ceeding eighty miles. And the whole land was
but a speck on the face of the earth; being some-
what less in extent than the state of Massachu-
setts. Yet upon a small portion of that smal
spot, Jesus labored for fifteen months, and the'
consequences have endured to the present day'
Eighteen centuries, instead of obliterating, hav

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Online LibraryHenry WareThe life of the saviour → online text (page 15 of 15)