« السابقةمتابعة »
the Sabbath, would he not lay hold of it and lift it out? And how much more is a man worth than a sheep!” It seems that Jesus used this argument, as altogether conclusive, on several occasions when justifying his conduct and endeavoring to bring his critics to better thoughts. At any rate we find it again in two other stories. The first refers to the cure on the Sabbath of one who was suffering from dropsy. The legists and Pharisees were observing Jesus, and purposely declined to answer his question, “ Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath day?” Then Jesus cured the sick man and sent him home, and turning upon his would-be accusers asked, "Suppose the son or even the ox of one of you had fallen into a well on the Sabbath, would he not at once draw him out?” But they had no reply." Again : Once he was teaching in a synagogue when a woman appeared who had been afflicted for eighteen years by a demon that paralyzed her muscles. She was bent almost double, and could not stand upright. With deep compassion Jesus cried to her, “ Woman! you are released from your affliction !” and as he laid his hand upon her she immediately became upright, and offered fervent thanks to God. But the ruler of the synagogue was shocked by this desecration of the Sabbath, and yet was afraid openly to rebuke the Master to his face. So he turned to the people and said sharply, 66 There are six working days! If any one wishes to be healed let him come upon one of them, and let the Sabbath be kept holy !” But Jesus would not accept this indirect rebuke. “You hypocrites !” he cried, in all the force of his righteous indignation, “ does not each one of you loose his ox or ass from the crib and water him at the trough or fountain on the Sabbath day? And shall not this daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen years, be loosed on the Sabbath day?” Thus his opponents were put to shame, and the people rejoiced in his glorious deeds.
If, as the Evangelists suppose, the question had really been one of healing bodily infirmities, we might reasonably question the weight of the argument, for the delay need only have been for a single day. But for moral diseases, where any delay may be fatal, the argument holds good. It matters little for our purpose whether the last two pictures represent the rescue of the heathen and the Jews respectively, or whether they simply refer in general to the work of Jesus in saving the lost. In either case the historical element in them is 1 Luke xiv. 1-6; after an amended version.
: Luke xiii. 10-17. 10
simply this, that it was his uniform principle to postpone the observance of external religious ceremonies to the claims of humanity. He himself expressed the principle in a saying taken from Hosea,1 Gol asks for mercy and not sacrifice.” This quotation is put into his mouth more than once, and it is probable that he often told those who found fault with him to ponder over the meaning of that saying of the prophet which they had never yet fully understood. Matthew intio duces it once in the account of Jesus' invitation to the publican, and once in the story of the plucking the ears of corn, but in neither case has he placed it rightly. There are other genuine sayings floating about in the Gospels out of their true connection.
For the sake of completeness we may mention here that the freedom with which Jesus treated the observance of the Sabbath, and the conflicts in which this freedom involved him, were so uniformly and firmly established in the tradition, that even the spiritualized narratives of the fourth Gospel make him perform miracles of healing on the Sabbath." Again, the following passage is preserved in an ancient manuscript of the New Testament: On the same day (on which his disciples plucked the ears of corn] he saw a man working on the Sabbath day, and said to him, “Man! if you know what you are doing you are blessed ; but if not, then you are accursed and a transgressor of the Law.” We cannot accept this saying as authentic, for Jesus would never have praised any one simply for neglecting the day of rest, even from the ripest conviction, unless at the call of duty. He kept faithfully to his own rule : “ The Sabbath is made for man, is made for me ; and so he used the day, and regularly visited the synagogue, for instance, at first for his own religious education, and then for that of others. He would certainly never have given needless cause of offence.
Finally, he took the same position with regard to sacrifices as he did to fasting and the observance of the Sabbath. On this subject, however, he seldom had to express an opinion, since Galilee was so far removed from the temple and its rites. And even when he referred to the subject, during his stay at Jerusalem, it was only indirectly, and for the sake of illustrating a moral duty: “ If you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has any thing against you, leave your gift before the altar. Hasten away and be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your 1 Hosea vi. 6. 2 John v. 1-17, ix.
8 After Luke vi. 4.
gift."! If we remember that although the Scribe and the synagogue were already beginning to overshadow the priest and the temple, yet the offering of sacrifice was still considered the one pre-eminent act of religion, we shall understand that it must have sounded highly irreverent and irreligious to suggest anı even recommend that a man who was on the point of performing it should break off so abruptly. But Jesus was far froin wishing to prohibit or dissuade his disciples from offering sacrifice. The later Ebionites misunderstood his meaning when they put the words into his mouth, "I am come to make an end of sacrifices; for until you cease to sacrifice, God's wrath will not cease to be upon you ! ” But he made the law of sacrifice absolutely subordinate to the demands of the moral law, which demanded that quarrels should be reconciled and compensation given for injuries indicted. When sacrifices interfered with the fulfilment of sacred duties, such as those of a child to his parents, then, and then only, he utterly condemned them. What he said about the payment of tithes, even when performed with the most scrupulous minuteness, applied equally to sacrifices : ** Be not neglectful of these things; but remember that justice, mercy, and fidelity are the duties that come first.” 8 Ir all this Jesus was thoroughly consistent.
JESUS AND THE RELIGION OF HIS PEOPLE.
MATTHEW VII. 12, VI. 1-6, 16-18, V. 20–22, 27, 28, 33-48, 17.4
HE Talmud tells us a beautiful story about Hillel. A
upon the numerous religious institutions and practices of the Jews, as consorting oddly with their doctrine of the unity of God, had gone to Shammai, the head of the opposite school to Hillel's, and told him that he wished to become a Jew and desired to receive instruction from him, but only on condition that the whole religious doctrine of the Jews should be imMatthew v. 23, 24.
2 Matthew xv. 3.-6. Matthew xxiii. 23; compare Michah vi. 8.
4 Luke vi. 27-36.
parted to him while he could stand upon one leg! Shammai chased him from his door indignantly. The heathen was well enough pleased by this result, and went on to Hillel, expecting to make fun of him in the same way. “Good, my son!” answered the Rabbi gently, - make ready and attend. • Do not to others what you would not have them do to you.' This is the substance of the Law; the rest is only its application."
In this golden saying Jesus must have found delight and satisfaction when first he heard it, and accordingly he adopted and promulgated it in a better form himself: "Do to others what you would have them do to you; for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Thus boldly did he reduce the practice of religion to a single, all-embracing, moral principle. This uncompromising spirit was characteristic of Jesus; for though we have seen again and again that in dealing with the religion of his people he kept clear of doctrinal questions with singular tact, and confined himself to the sphere of morals; though we shall presently see that even when he attacked any religious prejudice that was hurtful to the love of man, he substituted nothing but an emphatic warning, 2 — yet in spite of all his caution and moderation he would submit to no restraints whatever in upholding the sanctity of the moral law.
We may naturally ask whether the agreement between Jesus and Hillel extends much beyond the form of words they used. The question is answered by the fact that the great theologian owed much of his fame to his various methods of interpretation ; that is to say, to the many artifices which he reduced to a system for twisting the Scripture into harmony with the wants of the age. This shows us at once that the distinction between Jesus and Hillel did not lie simply in the difference between a command and a prohibition, but that Jesus unhesitatingly put into practice what the other treated as an abstract principle.
It is also worth noticing that Jesus makes a very significant addition to the saying of Hillel in the words, " and the Prophets.” The Law and the Prophets is generally a comprehensive forinula for the Jewish religion or the Old Covenant;' Lat in the mouth of Jesus * it means the Jewish religion laid down in the Mosaic law as conceived, interpreted, and applied by the prophets. Now the prophets, as we all know, emphatically declared that the demands of the moral law were of infinitely more importance than the external ordinances of religion, and even condemned the observance of the latter with the utmost severity in cases where the former were neglected. In doing so they were, as a matter of fact, simply contending against the abuse of priestly authority and the precepts of a foating oral tradition ; for at that time (the eighth or seventh centuries B.c.) most of the laws now contained in the Pentateuch were still unwritten, and were not clothed with divine authority. But neither Jesus nor any of his contemporaries had the least idea of this. They never doubted for a moment that Moses was really the author of the five books of the Law; and, consequently, Jesus must have thought that all these passionate exclamations of the prophets were made with direct reference to the written revelation, — to the divine Law itself. So he fortified himself in his own mind, and still more in his controversies with others, by the example of his great predecessors, – those champions inspired by God. Like them he considered all external observances insignificant in comparison with a virtuous life ; like them he maintained the unconditional supremacy of the claims of morality, and therefore the freedom of the individual with regard to all religious usages. The demands of morality were afterwards spoken of by Paul ? as " the law written in the heart;” and Jesus, too, regarded them as the original, unalterable, and supreme commandments of God. All outward ordinances were not only subordinate to these moral laws, but were in many cases mere perversions of the truth or concessions to human weakness.3 From the prophets Jesus had first learned independent courage ; and in them be recognized to the last spirits akin to his own. From their armory he drew the weapons for his strife; and though he attacked the traditional piety of his own times with severity and directness, he never for a moment doubted that he was true to Israel's religion, for he took his stand upon the teaching of the prophets. "Mercy and not sacrifice! Justice, love, and truth are more than all the observances of worship; for these latter are, after all, mere human ordinances ! ”
2 Luke xüi. 1-5.
1 Compare pp. 148, 176, 179.