« AnteriorContinuar »
candid and just one towards every argument and opinion. Distinctions of nations, sect, or party, as such, were to him nothing ; distinctions of truth and falsehood; right and wrong, were to him every thing. According to this scheme he framed both his instructions and his life.
4. Christ taught without enthusiasm.
All the language and all the sentiments of our Saviour, were the language and sentiments of a person perfectly satisfied of the goodness of the cause which he had espoused, immoveably attached to it, and earnestly engaged to promote it among mankind. Still, this earnestness, this fixedness of character, differed greatly from that of most persons who have undertaken the reformation of their fellow-men. In our own, as in all preceding ages, those who have assumed the character of reformers almost of course make a parade of their piety, and a merit of their peculiar devotion to the cause in which they have embarked, and aim at gaining proselytes by a nice scrupulosity concerning things commonly esteemed innocent, animosity against those whose opinions they censure, and impassioned addresses to such as listen to their instructions. Christ was the opposite of all these. Little things always in his instructions appeared little. Harmless things he regarded as harmless. Great and important things only has he taught us to regard as great and important. In his life there was no ostentation of any thing. He' came eating and drinking' like other men, and in his human nature and appearance differed from them in nothing but superior wisdom and purity of character. In his discourses every thing is serious, solemn, and earnest; but every thing, at the same time, is uttered with moderation, without passion, without declamation.
No discourses in the world are more distant from fapatical declamation, and no character is more unlike that of an enthusiast, than the discourses and character of Christ. A spirit of serenity, of self-possession, of impassionate sweetness, of principled excellence, reigns throughout all his instructions and throughout all his life, of which elsewhere there is no example.
5. Our Saviour sought in his instructions for no applause.
In this characteristic also he was equally singular and perfect. The love of applause is the most universal ; and probably the most seductive, of all human passions, particularly in minds raised by intelligence above the common level. So seductive is it, that Cicero pronounced it to be true virtue. But of this passion not a single trace appears in the whole history of Christ. The good or ill opinion, the applause or censure, of his fellow-men, whether friends or enemies, seem as if they had not been thought of by him, and as if no capacity of being influenced by them had been an original attribute of his mind. With a magnetic constancy, his thoughts and discourses were pointed alway to truth and rectitude; and the world had no power of producing in them a momentary variation.
Such was the manner in which Christ taught mankind : a manner all his own; copied from none wbo preceded him, and imperfectly imitated by the best and wisest of those who came after him; a manner perfectly suited to the supreme excellence of his character, to the divine commission which he bore, to the illustrious system of truth which he taught, to the glorious errand on which he was sent, and to the perfect nature of that Being whose representative he was to the children of men.
CHRIST A PROPHET:
CONSEQUENCES OF HIS PREACHING.
AND THE OFFICERS ANSWERED, SAYING, NEVER MAN SPAKE LIKE THIS MAN.
JOHN VII. 46.
In the three preceding Discourses, I have considered the prophetical character of Christ, under these three heads : 1. The necessity of his assuming the office of a prophet; 2. The things which he taught; and 3. The manner in which he taught them.
I shall now proceed to the consideration of the fourth head originally proposed concerning this subject, viz. The consequences of his preaching ; and, after a brief examination of these, shall conclude my observations on the personal preaching of Christ with a few remarks.
The preaching of Christ produced,
And it came to pass,' says St. Matthew, that when Jesus had ended all these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine ; for he taught them, as one having authority, and not as the scribes. Two things are here mentioned as causes of the astonishment occasioned by Christ's sermon on the mount: the things which he taught, and the manner of teaching. • The people were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.' It cannot be thought strange, that a scheme of doctrine so new, so solemn, so simple, so pure, so amply fraught with inherent evidence of its truth, and in all these respects so opposite to that which they were accustomed to hear from their own teachers, should produce an unusual degree of wonder in the minds of this people. Nor is it any more strange, that such a manner of teaching as that employed by Christ should have its share in producing this effect, and enhance the surprise occasioned by his instructions.' We, who hear these instructions from the cradle, to whom they are presented weekly from the desk, and daily by the Bible, cannot easily conceive the degree in which they could not fail to impress the minds of men when they were first published in the world. They were then new and strange, and, both in the matter and the manner, were in a great measure singular. They were employed on the most important of all subjects, the sin and holiness, the ruin and recovery of mankind. They professed to contain and communicate the will of God concerning these subjects, and of course to be a message from heaven.
At the same time, they censured, both implicitly and explicitly, most of the doctrines taught by the Pharisees and Sadducees, most of their precepts, and the general, tenour of their lives. The doctrines they showed to be false; the precepts unsound, and immoral ; and the conduct of those who taught them, to be unworthy of the profession which they made, and contrary to the Scriptures which, in pretence at least, they believed. These men, either alternately or conjointly, had for a long period held an entire and commanding influence over the Jewish nation. Highly venerated for their wisdom, and in many instances for their apparent sanctity, their countrymen scarcely called in question their claims to this influence, or to the character on which it was founded. But, when Christ entered on his ministry, he stripped off the mask by which they had been so long concealed, and left both their folly and their wickedness naked to every eye. The system which they had so long taught without opposition he showed, irresistibly, to be a strange compound of truths derived from the Scriptures, of falsehood and weakness, of superstitious scrupulosity and fanatical zeal, professedly drawn from the traditions of the elders, and of gross immorality and glaring hypocrisy, generated by their own minds. Their pretended sanctity
both of doctrine and deportment, he proved to be a mere veil, assumed to conceal their enormous avarice and ambition, pride and cruelty. As the means of future acceptance with God, he showed that they could never avail, and that, therefore, they could only delude and destroy their credulous disciples. That such instructions as these, delivered by a person whose whole life was a direct contrast to that of those whom he thus censured and refuted, who evidently appeared to be under the influence of no selfish passion and no sinister motive, whose precepts required and whose conduct exemplified piety and benevolence without a mixture; delivered too in a manner so clear, so direct, and solemn, so universally convincing and impressive, should, astonish all who heard them, cannot be thought strange even by us. Such was, indeed, their effect; and to such a degree as to induce those who heard them to pronounce the teacher on different occasions, ' a prophet,' a 'great prophet,' the Prophet foretold by Moses,' and the Messiah. When we remember, that this teacher appeared in the character and circumstances of a Jewish peasant, without a name, without education, without friends, we cannot but perceive that the effect of his teaching was, in this respect, very great.
2. The preaching of Christ produced great opposition both to himself and to his doctrines.
I have already recited many causes of this opposition. There were many more.
But all of them may with propriety be reduced under these general heads. The novelty and excellency of his doctrines, the strictness and purity of his precepts, his birth, his character, the justice and pungency of his reproofs, the disappointmeut of the expoctations of the Jews concerning the glory and splendour of his Messiahship, and the fears of the Pharisees and Sadducees that he would destroy their influence and power. All these things thwarted some selfish passion of his hearers, and many of them thwarted every such passion. It is not therefore to be wondered at, that they should oppose one who taught and lived so as uniformly to reprove them for their whole moral character and daily conduct.
This opposition commenced almost with his ministry, and was carried on to its termination. It was however, carried on with different degrees of vehemence by the different classes of