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There is no further mention of Nicodemus-We know not whether he resigned his office of senator to enrol himself among the disciples of Christ. Perhaps he was contented with secretly furnisbing succours to Jesus and his troop, in gratitude for the luminous instructions he had received. There is reason to believe, that he knew how to profit by them, for St. John makes him return on the scene after the death of Christ, bringing a hundred pounds weight of aloes and myrrh, for the purpose of embalming his body, and interring it, with the assistance of Joseph of Arimathea. This would
that he had come from his conversa. tion with Jesus a more able theologist than he had begun it. It is to be presumed, that, on this occasion, Jesus granted him grace effectual or sufficient, (saving grace,)* without which it would have been perfectly impossible to comprehend any of his sublime theo. logy.
It must, however, be owned, that the impossibility of comprehending the doctrine of Jesus furnishes to the incredulous a plausible pretext for denying that it can be divine. They cannot conceive why a God, sent solely to instruct men, should never distinctly explain himself. No oracle of Paganism employed terms more ambiguous, than the divine missionary chosen by Providence to enlighten nations. It may therefore be concluded, that in this God himself made it his study to create obstacles to his projects, and that he laid an un. avoidable snare not only for the Jews, but also for all those who must read the gospel, in order to draw from thence the knowledge necessary to salvation ; a con• duct which appears equally unworthy of a good and just God, endowed with prescience and wisdoin ;* yet with faith we may at last succeed in reconeiling every thing, and readily comprehend why God should speak without wishing to be understood,
* According to theology, men have occasion for supernatural grace to do good. This doctrine is without doubt very hurtful to sound morality. Men always wait for the call from above to do good, and those who direct them never employ the calls from below, that is the natural motives, to excite them to virtue. But the clergy know not how to give a true definition of virlue. They say it is an effect of grace that disposes men to do that which is agreeable to the Divinity. But what is grace ? How does it act upon man? What is it that is agreeable to God? Wherefore doeth not God give to all men the grace to do that which is agreeable in his eyes ? Adhuc sub judicc est. unceasingly told to do good, because God requires it; but no one has ever been able to teach us what that good is which is acceptable to the Almighty, and by the performance of which we shall obtain his approbation.
* It was said to a very celebrated philosopher, that God
God had made man after his own image. 66 Man has returned him the compliment," replied the sage. Xenophanes observed, that if the ox or the elephant understood sculpture or painting, they would not fail to represent the Divinity nuder their own peculiar figure. In this they would have as much reason as Polycletus, or Phidias, who gave him the human form. We see, says Lamotte Le Vayer, that theanthrophy serves for the foundation of all Christianily.
* It is evident, says Mirabaud, that all revelation which is not distinct, or which teaches mysteries, cannot be the work of a wise and intelligent being. As soon as he speaks, they ought to presume that it is for the purpose of being under-, stood by those to whom he intends to manifest himself. To speak so as not to be understood, only announces folly, or want of good faith. It is then demonstrable, that every thing which the priesthood have called mystery, are inventions to throw a thick veil over their own peculiar contradictions, and their own peculiar ignorance of the Divinity. They think to solve
As soon as Jesus had quitted Nicodemus he left Jea rusalem, his abode in which had become very dangerous, and betook himself to wandering through the country of Judea, where he enjoyed greater safety. There is reason to presume, that the scandal he had occasioned in the capital, where so great a multitude were then assembled, had not failed to make him known to many ; he however succeeded in gaining partisans in the country. But how did he employ himself during this period ? St. Johm informg'us, in chapter third, that he baptized ; thereafter he tells us, in chapter fourth, that he did not baptize, but that his disciples baptized for him.
One thing is certain, that after this he quitted Judea on purpose to go into Galilee. It was perhaps to be still more private, or to prevent the schism, which, according to the gospel, was ready to take place between the Jews baptized by John, and those whom Jesus and
all difficulties, by saying it is a mystery. Besides, the interest of the clergy dictates that man should know nothing of that pretended science, of which they have made themselves the depositaries.
Revelation, remarks the same intelligent writer, far from being a proof of the goodness of God, or of his commiseration his disciples had on their part baptized. Jesus conceived that prudence required him to be at a distance, in order to leave the field more free to a man whom he knew still useful to his own interest, and who, as we have seen, contented himself with playing the second part under him. It very soon appeared that Christ made a greater number of proselytes than his cousin, and this circumstance in the end might have created a misunderstanding between them. Jesus therefore di. rected his march toward Samaria, whither we are to follow him, and from thence he again passed into Ga lilee.
is only a proof of his malice. Indeed all revelation supposes the Divinity has been capable of leaving the human species, during a considerable period, unacquainted with truths the most important to their happiness. This revelation, made to a small number of chosen men, would moreover suppose a partiality, and an unjust predilection, but litle compatible with the goodness of the common father of the human race. This revelation injures the divine immutability, since, by it, God would have permited men, at one time, to be ignorant of his will, and, at another time, that they should be instructed in it.
ADVENTURE OF JESUS WITH THE FEMALE SAMARITAN
HIS JOURNEY AND
MIRACLES IN THE COUNTRY
OF THE GERASENES,
IT may be observed here once for all, that in this examination of the history of Jesus, we follow the most generally received arrangement of facts, without meaning to guarantee, that they occurred precisely in that order. Chronological mistakes are not of much importance, when they do not influence the nature of events. Besides, the evangelists, without fixing any eras, content themselves with saying at that time, which, at the period we live, dispenses with our giving a very exact chronology of the following transactions. Precision, indeed, would require a labour as immense as superfluous, and would only tend to shew that the bistory of Jesus, dictated by the Holy Ghost, is much more incorrect than that of celebrated Pagans, even of an antiquity more remote. It would also prove that the inspired writers of this important history contradict themselves every instant, by making their hero act at the same time in different places, and often remote from each other. On the other hand, this painful labour would not inform us which of the evangelists we ought to follow in preference to his brethren, seeing all in the eyes of faith have equally truth on their side. Time and place