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I appeared unto Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, by the name God Almighty; but by my name Jehovah * was I not known to them.Exodus vi., 3.
There is One Universal Soul diffused through all things; eternal, invisible, unchangeable; in essence like truth, in substance resembling light; not to be represented by any image, to be comprehended only by the mind; not as some conjecture, exterior to the world, but in himself entire, pervading the universal sphere.— Pythagoras.
Learn from the things which are produced to infer the existence of an Invisible Power and to reverence the Divinity.- Socrates.
As nothing is like the sun except through solar influences, so nothing can resemble the First Good except by an emanation of his divine light into the soul.- Plato.
There is One Supreme Intelligence, who acts with order, proportion, and design, the Source of all that is good and just.- Aristotle.
Heaven penetrates to the depths of all hearts as daybreak illumines the darkest room.- Confucius.
I do not blame the variety of representations : only let men understand there is but one Divine Nature.- Maximus Tyrius
I am pervaded by Thee. Thou containest me. Thou art scriptures and laws, planets and suns, the formed and the formless. Those who possess knowledge and whose minds are pure see the whole world as the form of thy wisdom.- The Purana.
There is but one religion, under many forms, whose essential creed is the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man; disguised by corruptions, symbolized by mythologies, ennobled by virtues, degraded by vices, but still the same. To say that different races worship different gods is like saying that they are warmed by different suns.- Thomas W. Higginson.
There remains one question: Is the anthropomorphic tendency predicable of Jesus ?
I am obliged to think that in the fatherly tenderness of the God of Jesus we have simply a reflection of the tenderness of his own heart. He was not a student. He was not a reasoner. With him, feeling was all in all. He was not such an egotist as to suppose that his own love would outstrip the love of Heaven. Less from observation of the fact than because the sunshine of his own affection fell equally upon the evil and the good, the rain of his own pitying tears equally upon the just and the unjust, he made bold to predicate these attributes of the Eternal.- John White Chadwick (The Man Jesus, p. 124).
* The Am, Was, and Shall-be.
How does John the Baptist rank in the Order of Prophets and
of Martyrs ? Ar intervals along down the centuries from Samuel to Malachi there had appeared individuals of a distinctively marked order. Generally, each would suddenly come, a mature man, nobody knew from whence. Each by his holy mien, his austere life, his pure patriotism, his inspired zeal, his inspiring rhapsodies in behalf of righteousness, reverence, and mercy, and especially by his audacious forecasting of the sure consequences of injustice, arrogance, cruelty, sensualism, and idolatry, would at once arrest, attract, and irresistibly overawe the multitude. John the Baptist revived the function of the prophet. It had been recorded * that a prophet like Moses should be raised up. No one had come after Moses that had made so deep an impression as Elijah. Malachi had distinctly announced a reappearance of this prophet. The three or four centuries following Malachi were clouded with calamities to the nation; and, when John appeared, everybody was straining in expectance of a deliverer.
John came. He gazed with surprise and loathing on the selfishness, corruption, and narrowness of the Jewish leaders ; retired aloof to
A lodge in some vast wilderness; meditated long and intensely; "grew” physically, mentally, and religiously; “ waxed strong in spirit"; f resolutely dedicated himself to the desperate, single-handed struggle of reform; had the courage to wait no longer for a prophet who had been dead a thousand years to come to earth again, to seize the work from Elijah's hand, with the fiat to his own soul, “ I will do it!” And, anon, he walked forth with the battle-cry, “Repent! The
* Deut. xviii., 15. Luke i., 80.
Messianic kingdom must come now and here! Repent, ye proud and wicked, or be consumed like stubble, when the day cometh that shall burn as an oven?!”*
If we ascribe the later Jewish tinge in John's conception of God to the influence of his age, and set aside the purely menacing character of his language as due to his special conception of his mission, then the burden of his preaching perfectly agrees with that of all the other prophets. It is a new variation upon the old theme familiar to every one of them without exception: “Amend your ways, for Yahveh's justice sends all these disasters to chastise "you, nor will it suffer him to do to you according to his covenant; but, if you repent, he will comfort you with such bliss and glory as has never yet entered into the heart of man to conceive.”... In that which constituted the very essence of the prophetic character, the irresistible impulse to stand up before the people, the hallowed inspiration to speak to them in the name of God, and, above all, the unshaken hope that a glorious morrow would with infallible certainty dissipate the gloom and darkness of to-day,- in all this John might bear comparison with Jeremiah and Micah themselves. Dr. I. Hooykaas (The Bible for Learners, vol. iii., p. 103).
John feared nothing, and spared no impenitent. To one who among wild beasts of the desert had laid down his head under no canopy but the sky, and with no defence but the to him assured providence of the Most High, a scowling Pharisee, a mocking Sadducee, a fawning publican, a rough soldier, or even a riotous mob, was only a jolly sight. Around a man who can despise accommodations, deal with nature in ancient simplicity and independence, and move among social and religious institutions like a traveller from another world, free to judge, to censure or approve, as having himself nothing at stake,around such a man (as an English preacher long ago remarked t) “there is a moral grandeur and authority, to which none but the narrowest and most bigoted minds will refuse a certain awe and reverence. And when such a personage assumes to himself divine commission, and publishes new truth with divine authority, and rebukes all wickedness and scorns all consequences, he takes, by the natural right of the wiser, the bolder, and the better man, a high place above those who feel themselves enslaved and enshackled by customs which they despise." Three centuries before John came had Aristotle remarked that “there is no distinguished genius altogether exempt from some infusion of madness."
That such was the character of John, the testimony of Josephus
and the four Gospels is most explicit. To the more arrogant and self-orthodox Pharisees that came to him, no doubt he thundered forth : “What are you here for? You ! of a set that has not germinated a decent square new idea for centuries ! You! who hope to escape damnation because you are a coterie descended from Abraham! Why, I tell you children of Abraham could be made out of the multitudinous pebbles of this river-bank! Slimy vipers! before you ask baptism of me, overcome your stony-heartedness, your sneaking, wolfish ravenousness! Be generous and merciful! When you shall have shown by your lives that your application for this emblem means business, means work, the work of purification therein symbolized, - come, and welcome! Until then, begone!”
Not even the royal purple could overawe him. His denunciation of the corruption of the court of Herod Antipas, the tetrarch, resulted as might be expected. The prophet was imprisoned in the castle of Machærus, on the east side of the Dead Sea, and finally assassinated. Well did he win the title, not in its vulgar acceptation of supernatural foreteller, but in the lofty and more philosophical sense of prophet-martyr!
But there has been a further suggestion in the premises :
Herodias's first husband was her uncle Herod, a son of Mariamne, whom his father, Herod the Great, had disinherited. Desiring a royal husband, she forsook Herod for her uncle Antipas, who had wearied of his Arabian wife. It is not likely, however, that this dramatic situation, sure to attract an evangelist, had anything to do with John's imprisonment. But Antipas felt the waves of popular enthusiasm beating against the bases of his throne; his recollection was still vivid of the insurrection of Judas the Gaulonite, and he could not be expected to distinguish between the spirit of Judas and that of John. Nor is it unlikely that the movement of John was rapidly assuming a political character. Such was the tendency of every Messianic movement.- John W. Chadwick (The Man Jesus, p. 115).
Did John the Baptist belong to any Secret Order whose Rites would suggest to him the Ordinance of Baptism, and what the Possible Relation of Jesus thereto?
PROBABLY each was at least acquainted with the Essenes, a sect of Jewish monks who were very scrupulous in the observance of whatever ceremonies the law prescribed in type of personal purity. To avoid contamination and turmoil, these communists had withdrawn to the neighborhood of the Dead Sea, where at that time their colonies or hamlets were quite numerous,- perhaps they numbered four thousand souls. Beetending was their favorite occupation. They exacted a novitiate of three years, a solemn oath, and an iron discipline. They had eight degrees. They were unmarried, abstained from the use of meat and wine, partook of a common meal, and devoted themselves to pious reflections and speculations as to the future, prominent in which, no doubt, was the Messianic expectation. Just how far the intercourse of either John or Jesus with this sect extended cannot now be determined: if never novices thereof, they certainly, as to the “pith of the principles " relating to personal purity of life, were very good “outside-insiders."
And that, when the predicted Jahveh * should come, he might find a band set apart to him, what better initiative step, what more appropriately impressive rite, than baptism? Would not the ordinance at once commend itself to the favor of the visitor from Nazareth, who, no less than John, was casting about for every available help toward effecting the moral and religious redemption of his people? He might not approve of some of John's ways, - some proceedings better calculated incipiently to arouse reform than to render it permanent; but his own deep and holy inspiration, welling from the same source as that of the puritan prophet of the desert, would tend to flow in a
* Mal. iii., 1.