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memorable discourse subsequent to the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and the keen expostulations he addressed to his adversaries, immediately preceding, or, perhaps, at the very time, that these persons came to apprehend him, are particularly deserving of remark; and the whole of St. John's Gospel is almost a continued narration of similar incidents, and of the effects produced by them.
The other Evangelists abound also with proofs of the impression made upon hearers of every description by our Lord's ministry. St. Luke relates, that on his first entrance into the synagogue at Nazareth, when he
applied to himself a remarkable passage in the prophecy of Isaiah, “ the eyes of all that were “ in the synagogue were fastened on him," and they “wondered at the gracious words “ which proceeded out of his mouth”;" again, that “ the people of Capernaum were aston“ ished at his doctrine ";" and that “the fame “ of him went out into every place of the “ country round about d.” Such also was the impression made by his memorable sermon on the mount. And when we attentively consider the general tenor of his familiar conversations with the twelve Apostles, the nature of his instructions to them in particular, his reproofs and warnings, and his encouraging assurances, to animate their faith, or to remove their prejudices ;—when we also advert to his attractive and instructive parables for the use of the multitudes that followed him, and the numberless incidental observations and admonitions addressed both to his disciples and to his adversaries, at the moment when their force would be most deeply felt ;—we shall perceive that this admiration was not the mere effect of blind partiality or of undiscerning ignorance on their part, but of an eloquence irresistibly persuasive and convincing, operating with equal energy on the hearts and the understandings of men. This energy we find also increasing as his ministry was drawing to its close. It is told, that after his opponents had been again and again baffled in their attempts to ensnare or to intimidate him, they “durst not ask him
b Luke iv. 20, 22.
c Mark i. 22.
d Luke iv. 37.
any more questions.” Even of his own familiar disciples it is intimated, that there were certain occasions when their inquisitive dispositions were restrained by the awful dignity of his demeanour, so that “they feared “ to ask him of some of those sayingsf” which gave them the greatest disquietude. Nor can we forget that remarkable instance of the
f Luke ix. 45.
e Matth. xxi. 46.
overpowering effect of his presence, when the band of men and officers that came to apprehend him on the eve of his last sufferings, for a moment shrunk from the attempt, “ went “ backward, and fell to the grounds."
From these circumstances we may gather, that there was something in our Lord's external manner and deportment, as well as in the force and attraction of his eloquence, which commanded more than ordinary veneration, and impressed his hearers with a conviction of his more than human character. But I shall confine myself at present to some brief remarks upon those peculiar characteristics which most distinguished our Lord as a public Teacher, and placed him at an immeasurable distance from all other religious instructors. These I shall consider, first with reference to the subjects on which he discoursed ; secondly, to his mode of communicating instruction; and thirdly, to the effect produced upon his hearers.
First, let us advert to the subjects on which he discoursed.
Some of these transcended the utmost extent of human ability; some were directly opposed to the strongest prepossessions of his own chosen followers; some were equally repugnant to the more corrupt propensities of mankind in general: yet all were of universal concern ; all tended to the improvement, the perfection, the happiness of the whole human race.
g John xviii. 6.
Our Lord revealed to mankind his own divine nature ; his inseparable union with the Father, and with the Holy Ghost, the Comforter; the atonement he was to make for the sins of the whole world ; the necessity of a renewal of our nature, and the means of effecting it by the sanctification of the Holy Spirit; the terms of our acceptance with God; the remission of sins through his merits and intercession; and the final recompense, both in body and soul, at the resurrection of the just.
These are subjects absolutely beyond the reach of human discovery; and whatever had hitherto been even revealed concerning them was comparatively obscure. By our Lord they were first clearly brought to light; by Him they were established on a foundation not to be overthrown. To Him the Spirit was “given without measure.” Without such an authority, these doctrines must ever have remained among the doubtful sayings which human wisdom would in vain have attempted to penetrate.
The duties also resulting from such truths as these could never have been laid down with equal certainty or effect by any inferior teacher. By Him every duty came recommended and enforced, under new sanctions, new principles, and new motives. That which before had resulted from subtle and precarious reasoning, or plausible conjecture, or traditional opinion only, now issued from an infallible source of truth. What was taught by philosophical instructors as moral rectitude, on the one hand, or moral turpitude, on the other; was now enjoined as obedience, or prohibited as disobedience. Virtues became duties; vices became sins. The latter were armed with terrors, the former arrayed in glories, with which no human power could invest them. Doctrines thus revealed, precepts thus enforced, left no alternative, but either absolutely to deny the authority that declared them, or to receive and abide by them as the dictates of infallible truth.
Let us next consider the mode in which these instructions were communicated by this extraordinary Teacher.
There is no doctrine, perhaps, or precept, promulgated in the Gospel, of which, when the grounds and reasons are actually set before us, we may not discern the expediency