Jesus's Words

Chapter 12: More Falsehoods.—Resurrection-Witnesses Multiplied.—World's End Predicted.—to Save Credit, Antichrist Invented

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Section 3: Disorder and Mischief Produced by This Prediction

We have seen the prophecy: let us now see the effects of it. They were such as might have been expected. They were such as had been expected: expected, as may have been observed, at a very early period. But there was rather more in them than had been expected.

Of the confusion, which, by an expectation of this sort, in a state of society, so much inferior, in the scale of moral conduct, to any, of which in this our age and country we have experience, was capable of being produced,—it can scarcely, at this time of day, be in any man's power, to frame to himself anything approaching to an adequate conception. So far as regards peaceable idleness, of the general nature of it, some faint conception may under modern manners be formed, from the accounts of the effects produced by a similar prediction, delivered first in France, then in England, about the time of Queen Anne:—so far as regards a mixture of idleness and positive mischief in a time of terror, under ancient manners,—from the accounts, given by Thucydides, of the effects produced at Athens, by the near approach of death, on the occasion of the plague;—and, from that given by Josephus, of the effects produced by the like cause, on the occasion of the siege, which, under his eye, terminated in the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans.

According to each man's cast of mind, and the colour of the expectations that had been imbibed by it,—terror and self-mortification, or confidence and mischievous self-indulgence, would be the natural result: terror and self-mortification, if apprehensions grounded on the retrospect of past misconduct predominated—mischievous indulgence, if, by the alleged or supposed all-sufficiency of faith,—of faith, of which the preacher was the object—the importance of morality had, even in the imagination of the disciple, been thrown into the back-ground: confabulation without end, in the case of terror; cessation from work, in both cases.

Had he been somewhat less positive on the head of time,—the purposes of those announcements of his might have been completely, and without any deduction, fulfilled. The terror he infused could not be unfavourable to those purposes, so long as it made no deduction, from the value of the produce of their industry! It was his interest, that they should "walk honestly," lest they should be punished for walking otherwise:—punished, capitally or not capitally—and, in either case, bring his teaching into disgrace. It was his interest, that they should work, in such sort, as to earn each of them the expense of his maintenance; lest, by abstaining from work, they should, any one of them, impose a burthen upon the charity of the others, or be seen to walk dishonestly, to the prejudice of the common cause, as above. It was his interest, that they should, each of them, gain as much as could be gained without reproach or danger; because, the greater the surplus produced by each disciple, the greater the tribute, that could be paid to the spiritual master, under whose command they had put themselves. Thus far his interest and theirs were in agreement. But, it was his interest, that, while working to these ends, their minds, at the expense of whatever torment to themselves, should be kept in a state of constant ferment, between the passions of hope and fear; because, the stronger the influence of the two allied passions in their breasts, the more abundant would be the contributions, of which, to the extent of each man's ability, they might reasonably be expected to be productive. Here it was, that his interest acted in a direction opposite to theirs: and it was by too ardent a pursuit of this his separate interest, that so much injury, as we shall see, was done to all those other interests.

Of the disease which we shall see described, the description, such as it is, is presented, by the matter furnished by the practitioner himself, by whose prescription the disease was produced. This matter we must be content to take, in that state of disorder, which constitutes one of the most striking features of the issue of his brain. In speaking of the symptoms,—addressed as his discourse is to nobody but the patients themselves by whom these symptoms had been experienced,—only in the way of allusion, and thence in very general terms, could they naturally have been, as they will actually be seen to be, presented to view. As to details,—from them to him, not from him to them, was, it will readily be acknowledged, the only natural course.

In the same Epistle,—namely in the second, which is the last, but, in a passage which does not come till after the announcement, which, as will be seen under the next head, was to operate as a remedy,—stands the principal part of the matter from whence we have been enabled to collect the nature of the disease. The chapter is the third and concluding one:—the words that add nothing to the information, are here and there omitted.

1. Finally, brethren, pray for us...that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith. ... And we have confidence in the Lord touching you, that ye both do and will do the things which we command you. And the Lord direct your hearts ... into the patient waiting for Christ. Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man's bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. 2nd Thessalonians 1-2, 4-14

By anything we have as yet seen, the symptoms of the disease, it may be thought, are not painted in any very strong colours. But, of the virulence of it there is no want of evidence. It may be seen, in the drastic nature of the remedy:—a remedy, for the invention of which, we shall, in the next section, see the ingenuity of the practitioner put to so extraordinary a stretch.

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