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forget themselves on this occasion; their master could by this exploit make provision for them, especially if they had been in the secret, and enable them to defray all expenses during their residence in the capital.* Besides, they saw in this event the accomplishment of a prophecy of the Psalmist, who foretold, that the Messiah would be “ eaten up with the zeal of the house of the Lord”-a prophecy which was evidently verified by the uproar which Christ had occasioned. With respect to the merchants, it would appear they had not comprehended the mystic sense of this prediction, or at least they did not expect to see it verified at their own expence. In their first surprise, they did not oppose the unexpected attacks of a man who must have appeared to them a maniac ; but, on recovering from their astonishment, they complained to the magistrates of the loss they had sustained. The magis. trates, afraid, perhaps, of involving their authority, by punishing a man of whom the people had become the accomplice, or a fanatic whose zeal might be approved of by devotees, did not wish to use rigour for this time; they contented themselves with sending to Jesus, to know from himself by what authority he acted --" What sign (said they to Christ) shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things?” On which Jesus answered them, “ Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” But the Jews were not tempted to make trial of this;---they took him for a fool, and returned, shrugging their shoulders. If, however, they had taken Christ at his word, they would have experienced great embarassment; for the gospel informs us, that it was not of the temple of Jerusalem he spoke, but of his own body. He meant his resurrection, says St. John, which was to happen three days after his death. The Jews had not sufficient discernment to divine this enigma, and the disciples themselves did not penetrate its true meaning till a long time after, when they pretended their master had risen from the dead. We cannot forbear admiring Providence, which, wishing to instruct, enlighten, and convert the Jewish people by the mouth of Christ, employed only figures, allegories, and enigmatical symbols, totally inexplicable by persons the most ingenious and most experienced. *
* St. Augustin says, that, of right divinc, all things belong to the just:--a maxim founded on a passage in the Psalms, which states, that the just shall eat the fruit of the labour of the unrighteous. It is known that the Pope, hy a bull given in favour of the kings of Castile, Arragon, and Portugal, fixed the line of demarcation, which was to rule the conquests each had gained over the Infidels. After such principles, is not the whole earth to become a prey io Christian rapacity?
But though Jesus had the power of raising himself from the dead, he did not wish to employ this marvel lous power in saving himself when in the hands of the
* Religion is by no means formed for even the most intelligent part of mankind, who, as well as the uninstructed, are utterly incapable of comprehending any of those aerial subtilties. on which it rests. Who is the man that understands the doctrines of the spirituality of God; of the immateriality of the soul; or of the mysteries of religion --None indeed will pretend to this. Yet we find these theological speculations, which no one understands, have frequently disturbed the repose of mankind, through the stubborn dispositions of those who gave them credence. Even the women have believed themselves obliged to take a part in the quarrels, excited by idle contemplators, who are always of less utility to society than the meanest artizan.
Jews, ready to arrest and punish him as a disturber of the public repose. He thought it more convenient and prudent to decamp, without noise, and shelter himself by natural ways from the pursuit of those whom his brilliant expedition might have displeased. He proposed, therefore, to withdraw from Jerusalem during night, when a devout Pharisee, wishing to be instructed, came to see He was called Nicodemus, and held the place of senator-a rank which does not always exempt from incredulity. “ Rabbi, (said he to Jesus), we know that thou art a teacher sent from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.”
This opportunity was favourable for Jesus to dea clare himself: by a single word he could have decided on his divinity, and acknowledged, before this senator so kindly disposed, that he was God. Yet he did none of this; he evaded answering directly, and contented himself with saying to Nicodemus, that nobody can share in the kingdom of God unless he born again. The astonished proselyte exclaimed, that it was impossible for a man already old to be born again, or enter of new into his mother's womb. On which Jesus replied: “I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” It appears, that Nicodemus was not better satisfied than before ; Jesus, therefore, to make himself more perspicuous, added, “Knowest thou not, that what is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the spirit is spirit? Marvel not, that I said unto thee, ye must be born again—The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but cannot tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: 60 is every one that is born of the spirit.”
· In spite of the precision and plainness of these instructions (resembling the reasonings of our theologians), Nicodemus, whose understanding was doubtless shut up, did not yet comprehend any part of them -“How (asks he) can these things be?” Here Jesus, pushed to extremity, grew angry. “How (says he to him), art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, we speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen, and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe if I tell you of heavenly things? And no man hath ascended up to heaven but he that came down from hearen, even the son of man which is in heaven."*
We thought it our duty to relate this curious dialogue, as a specimen of the logic of Jesus; the more so as it seems to have served as a model for the fashion of reasoning observed by all the Christian doctors, who are in the use of explaining obscure things by things still more obscure and unintelligible. They terminate all disputes, by referring the decision to their own testimony; that is, to the authority of the church or clergy, entrusted by God himself with regulating what the faithful ought to believe.
The rest of the conversation of Jesus with Nicodemus is equally perspicuous, and in the same tone : Christ alone speaks, and appears by dint of his reasons to have silenced the docile senator, who, it seems, retired fully convinced. Thus it is, that a lively faith disposes the elect to yield to the lessons, dogmas, and mysteries of religion, even when it is impossible to at
St. John iii. 1-13.
tach any meaning to the words they hear pronounced. *
* The first of the Christian virtues, says Boulanger, is faith, which serves as a foundation for all the others. It consists in an impossible conviction of the revealed doctrines, and absurd fables, which the Christian religion commands its disciples to believe. Hence it appears, that this virtue exacts a total renunciation of reason, an impracticable assent to improbable facts, and a blind submission to the authority of priests, who are the only guarantees of the truth of the doctrines and miracles that every Christian must believe, under penalty of damnation. This virtue, though so necessary to all mankind, is, nevertheless, a gift of heaven, and the effect of special grace. It forbids all doubt and enquiry, and it deprives man of the liberty of exercising his reason and reflection. It reduces him to the passive acquiescence of beasts, in matters which he is, at the same time, told are of all things the most important to his eternal happiness. Hence it is plain, that faith is a virtue invented by men, who, shrinking from the light of reason, deceived their fellow creatures, to subject them to their own authority, and degraded them, that they might exercise an empire over their minds. If faith be a virtue, it is certainly useful only to the spiritual guides of the Christians; for they alone gather its fruits. It cannot but be injurious to other men,
who are taught by it to despise that reason which distinguishes them from brutes, and is their only faithful guide in this world. Christians, however, represent this reason as perverted, and an unfaithful guide; by which they seem to intimate that it was not made for reasonable beings. But may we not ask, how far this renunciation of reason ought to be carried ? Do not they themselves, in certain cases, have recourse to reason ? Do they not appeal to reason, when they endeavour to prove the exista ence of their God?
It is an absurdity to say, we believe that of which we have no conception. What then are the motives of the Christian for entertaining such a belief ?--His confidence in his spiritual guides. But what is the foundation of this confidence ?--Revelation. On what then is Revelation itself founded :--On the authority of spiritual guides. Such is the manner in which Christians reason.