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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

From the vulgar expectation of a mere temporal king


A laudable regard for the honor of the first proselyte has countenanced the belief, the hope, the wish, that the Ebionites, or at least the Nazarenes, were distinguished only by their obstinate perseverance in the practice of the Mosaic rites.

Their churches have disappeared, their books are obliterated: their obscure freedom might allow a latitude of faith, and the softness of their infant creed would be variously moulded by the zeal or prudence of three hundred years. Yet the most charitable criticism must refuse these sectaries any knowledge of the pure and proper divinity of Christ. Educated in the school of Jewish prophecy and prejudice, they had never been taught to elevate their hopes above a human and temporal Messiah. [2] If they had courage to hail their king when he appeared in a plebeian garb, their grosser apprehensions were incapable of discerning their God, who had studiously disguised his celestial character under the name and person of a mortal. [3] The familiar companions of Jesus of Nazareth conversed with their friend and countryman, who, in all the actions of rational and animal life, appeared of the same species with themselves. His progress from infancy to youth and manhood was marked by a regular increase in stature and wisdom; and after a painful agony of mind and body, he expired on the cross. He lived and died for the service of mankind: but the life and death of Socrates had likewise been devoted to the cause of religion

and justice; and although the stoic or the hero may disdain the humble virtues of Jesus, the tears which he shed over his friend and country may be esteemed the purest evidence of his humanity. The miracles of the gospel could not astonish a people who held with intrepid faith the more splendid prodigies of the Mosaic law. The prophets of ancient days had cured diseases, raised the dead, divided the sea, stopped the sun, and ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot. And the metaphorical style of the Hebrews might ascribe to a saint and martyr the adoptive title of Son of God.

[Footnote 2: Jew Tryphon, (Justin. Dialog. p. 207) in the name of his countrymen, and the modern Jews, the few who divert their thoughts from money to religion, still hold the same language, and allege the literal sense of the prophets. * Note: See on this passage Bp. Kaye, Justin Martyr, p. 25.--M. Note: Most of the modern writers, who have closely examined this subject, and who will not be suspected of any theological bias, Rosenmuller on Isaiah ix. 5, and on Psalm xlv. 7, and Bertholdt, Christologia Judaeorum, c. xx., rightly ascribe much higher notions of the Messiah to the Jews. In fact, the dispute seems to rest on the notion that there was a definite and authorized notion of the Messiah, among the Jews, whereas it was probably so vague, as to admit every shade of difference, from the vulgar expectation of a mere temporal king, to the philosophic notion of an emanation from the Deity.--M.]

[Footnote 3: Chrysostom (Basnage, Hist. des Juifs, tom. v. c. 9, p. 183) and Athanasius (Petav. Dogmat. Theolog. tom. v. l. i. c. 2, p. 3) are obliged to confess that the Divinity of Christ is rarely mentioned by himself or his apostles.]

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