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“general tenor of Scripture,” and more especially the “recorded actions of Christ.” And laying down as a principle of interpretation, “that the precepts of the apostles may, in all intricate and disputable cases, be best understood by unequivocal and direct reference to the actual practice of our blessed Lord,” he contrives, very conveniently, to free himself from the “ bondage” in which the Epistles of the New Tes: tament were not unlikely to hold him.
Dr. Butler gives us, at p. 14, a catalogue of things and qualities interdicted in Scripture. The enumeration is as follows: “Absurd and extravagant gestures which may attract notice, gloominess or dejection of countenance, affected professions of humility, severe, censorious, and uncharitable judgment of our neighbours, strict and literal interpretations of metaphorical phraseology in contradiction to the spirit and general meaning of the context, usurped spiritual pre-eminence, blind and infatuated zeal for proselytism, moroseness,pride,and selfishness.” Why the author has collected all these atrocities into a catalogue, it is difficult to say. Certain great writers, indeed, as poets and botanists, have their catalogues. Other writers also: as Dante, love to conjure up and hold converse with the most tremendous images. In human nature itself, moreover, there is an occasional love of the horrible: this passion may, for the moment, have seized our author. Whatever be the solution of the difficulty, however, we can discover no rational cause why the character of our Lord should be contrasted with the fictitious personage compounded of these qualities. Cicero says, indeed, that there is no opinion so absurd which some philosopher has not been found absurd enough to defend; but certainly we will venture to affirm, that the name of the writer who defends qualities such as these is not yet upon record, much less has it, an English termination, or a modern date.
In justice to Dr. Butler, as well as to ourselves, we will now lay a rather lengthened extract before our readers. We prefer doing this to giving them a brief abstract of the passage, because we are anxious, that if the comment should not be borne out by the text, they may have the means of rectifying our misconceptions.
“ with regard to the practice of our Saviour,” observes the preacher, “we may remark, that his first miracle was performed for an occasion of festivity; we find him also constantly partaking of social intercourse with those about him, and so far was he from recommending or performing any acts of ascetic * mortification, that he was reproached by the over-righteous sect of Pharisees as “a glutton and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners.' . We find no particular acts of penance enjoined by him; no rigorous austerities recommended. no ceremonious strictness of outward deportment practised by him; on the contray, HE who was greater than the greatest, and wiser than the wisest, and holier than the holies. of the sons of men, lived among them as one of themselves. Not distinguished from the truly pious worshipper by unsocial gloom, or by uncharitable censoriousness, or by forbidding severity, or by haughty abstraction; but visibly and uniformly distinguished from the superstitious or hypocritical Pharisee by rational cheerfulness, by engaging affability, by active and unwearied benevolence, carrying his piety onward from words to things, and employing it to regulate every act of life; and by its mild, steady, but unobtrusive and unostentatious influence, to direct and sanctify the performance of every social duty. Thus He threw fresh radiance and fresh endearments around the sacred duty of Charity itself, by uniting the occasional exercise of it with our convivial enjoyments; for he instructed his followers, when they prepared * feast, to call the blind, the poor, and the maimed; and he added, that however unable such persons might be to return the kindness
• We are no friends to acts of ascetic mortification; but we should be glad to know in what precise light Dr. Butler views the sacts of out Saviour's fasting forty days in the wilderness, and of his retiring to a mountain to pray; His intimation, that “ this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting;" ahd the rules Helays down (Mat. vi.) to regulate the practice of fasting. Does Dr. Butler suppose that fasting does not imply mortification?
they had received, yet they who thus mingled courtesy with bounty, and made things temporal subservient to things spiritual, should meet with a recompense at the resurrection of the just. * May I be permitted to remark, that an afumoration of this conduct is to be found in the life of him whom Plato describes as the most just man he ever knew, and whom we are accustomed to consider as one of the wisest philosophers of the heathen world. Increasing his usefulness without diminishing his diguity, Socrates associated with the lost sheep of the gentile flock; even with courtezans, libertines, and sophists; and by expedients the most gentle, he endeavoured to rectify their errors and correct their irregularities; did not our Master, for the same benevolent purpose, mingle in familiar converse with publicans and sinners? Socrates, on the most serious topics, drew his images from surrounding scenery and the objects of commou life; have uot the most judicious and learned expositors observed the same beauties in the discourses of Christ? Socrates condemned the mischievous subtleties of those declaimers who displayed their ingenuity and fondness for paradox, in separating the useful from the houourable; did not our Lord in the same manner combat the doctrinal refinements of those teachers, who not only tore asunder what God had joined together in the religion
of Moses, but set the ritual above the weigh
tier matters of the law, and made of little or no effect some express prohibitions in the Decalogue, especially those which are pointed against perjury and adultery 2 Socrates, as Cicero justly remarks, brought down philosophy from the skies to the bosoms and business of men in social life; did not our Lord, in a yet nobler strain of simplicity and sublimity, inculcate the first and second great commandments; and when revealing or enforcing the will of his Father, did he not uniformly appeal to those clear and salutary apprehensions of right and wrong which the hand of God has deeply engraven upon the tablet of the human heart? “Plato, we may farther remark, and Xenophon, however dissiniilar from each other in the colour of their style, the choice of their subjects, and the purposes for which they recorded the opinions and actions of Socrates, yet seem to have been equally impressed with these characteristic qualities to which I have adverted, in the daily life of the Grecian sage. In the same manner the Evangelists, however they might differ from one another in the sources of their knowledge, or in the peculiar temperaments of their own minds, uniformly
ascribe to their Master, the marked and entire exemption from affected singularity and exterior austerity, which I consider not only as shedding additional graces on his personal character, but affording additional evidence for the divinity of his mission." Pp. 15–19.
In this passage, there are some sentences in which we cordially concur with Dr. Butler. We concur with him in admiring the uniform courtesy, the active and unwearied benevolence of our Lord. But when it is said of him, that “he lived among the sons of men as one of themselves,” we cannot but apprehend that Dr. Butler has formed a very inadequate conception of the character both of our blessed Saviour and of the world which he came to redeem. “ Ye are not of the world,” says Christ to his disciples, “even as I am not of the world. If ye were of the world, the world would love its own; but now the world hateth you.” And he tells them not to marvel at this, because “ it hated me before it hated you.” Deferring for the present our further observations on this subject, we would only ask Dr. Butler, whether he thinks to establish the fact of our Saviour's conformity to the world, by the reference he has made to the particular description of , guests whom he recommended to his followers as the partners of their convivial hours? Whatever it might have been in the days of Christ, we apprehend that this species of feasting is not very common in the convivial circles of the present day; and that if it were, those persons would be the very last to object to it, whom this sermon so vehemently condemns as fanatics, puritans, austere, unsocial. We would humbly submit to the decision even of Dr. Butler, which class of men most abound in the luxury of feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, of being eyes to the blind and feet to the lame, of cheering the afflicted and instructing the ignorant:—the vilified preachers and professors of “evangelical religion,” of “vital
Christianity;” or those who, like Dr. Butler, delight in holding these men up to the scorn and derision of the world. He may be able, we doubt not, to solve this question, without extending his view beyond the limits of Shrewsbury itself. A parallel between our Saviour and Socrates is not a new idea. It was attempted by Rousseau before Dr. Butler was born. And how much superior, in justness of conception, as well as in strength and beauty of colouring, is the parallel of the infidel philosopher to that of the Christian divine, may be seen by turning to our volume for 1810, p. 272, where the former is inserted. In one respect, however, Dr. Butler’s parallel is perfectly original. He is, we believe, the #. person who has attempted to vindicate the conduct of Socrates in associating with courtezans, by the example of Christ; or who has attempted to stain the purity of our Saviour's character, or to degrade the standard of Christian practice, by so indecent (we had almost said profane) a comparison. We earnestly request that such of our readers as are sufficiently acquainted with classical literature to institute the examination, would turn to the eleventh chapter of the third book of the Memorabilia of Xenophon, and we are persuaded that they will not think our reprehension of Dr. Butler misplaced. The very title of the chapter, we should have thought, would have precluded any Christian scholar, much more any Christian divine, from the possibility of being guilty of a profanation so gross and revolting. The title of it is, “Cum meretrice Theodota de arte hominum alliciendorum disserit” (Socrates, viz.). Doubtless many who heard Dr. Butler preach, and many more who have since read his sermon, have taken it for granted, that, when he ventured to recommend the conduct of Socrates in associating with courtezans, as being an adumbration of that of our Saviour, he must have alluded to instances in the life of that philo
sopher of his having laboured to reclaim the vicious, or to console the penitent with the hope of pardon. For ourselves, we know of no such instances. But what will be his surprise to find that the intercourse of Socrates with courtezans, as it is here recorded by Xenophon, was of the most licentious and profligate description; that part of the enjoymeut of this likeness of the holy Jesus, arose from gazing at the exposed person of Theodota, as she was modestly lending herself as a model
eavros ora xzxws exo, ; – that his whole conversation with her is directed to the perfecting of this courtezan in the arts of seduction; and that not even one remote hint drops from him calculated to impress her with the dishonourable nature of her pursuits? And yet Dr. Butler dares (is it possible not to feel indignant 2), from the University pulpit of Cambridge, not only to hold up the conduct of Socrates, in thus associating with courtezans, to the admiration of his audience, but to represent it as a fair parallel to that of our Saviour. Had a man wished insidiously to undermine every sentiment of purity, in the minds of the lettered youth who filled St. Mary's on this occasion, could he have pursued a more effectual course than this 2 These
courtezans;” with that of Christ, in calling sinners of this class to repentance, and consoling the weeping penitent; should be charged with the tuition of so many of our youth, and should also be numbered among the ministers of the Church of England”. Her foes are indeed they of her own household. But we proceed. Dr. Butler, after having stated with tolerable correctness the nature of the liberty which the Christian dispensation imparts, draws from his statement this general inference : “Hence whatsoever tends to confine the operation of the Christian religion, to cramp it with needless ansterities, to make it burthensome or unamiable in the sight of mankind, must be contrary to the very spirit of Christianity, and to the benevolent designs of its blessed Author.” Now to this inference we decidedly object, as false, unscriptural, and mischievous. We admit, indeed, that to the true Christian; to him who has been “renewed in the spirit of his mind,” and become “a new creature;” with whom “old things have passed away, and all things are become new;” who is therefore not “of the world,” even as his Master was “not of the world;” who, no longer “carnally minded, which it is death to be,” has attained through Divine grace that “spiritual mind which is life and peace: we admit
* If any thing were wanting to justify the severity of these remarks, it might be found in a note at p. 53, where Dr. Butler quotes, with marked approbation, the following passage from Erasmus: “Wix mihi tempero quin dicatu, sancte Socrates, ora pro mobis;" and again, “At ipse inihisa penumero non tempero, quin bene ominer sanctæ animae Maromis ac Flacci.” To the holy Socrates we have already adverted. But to apply the term holy to Horace, is a prostitution of it, of which we apprebend that no man could be guilty whose moral taste had been formed by the New Testament. It will be a consolation to the “modern Puritan” to find, that the accusation brought against him as over-righteous, is preferred by one who appears to contemplate with admiration the purity of Horace,
that to him Christianity presents no needless austerities, nothing burthensome, nothing unamiable. His heart is cast in the mould of the Gospel. He loves the holy law and the holy service of God: and guided by the example and strengthened by the grace of Christ, and animated by the hope which He has inspired, he is ready, like him, to deny himself, to endure the cross, and to despise the shame. But Dr. Butler's words would imply that the spirit of Christianity is such as will accord with the views of mankind at large. What, then, is meant by the self-denial which is universally enjoined in Scripture; by the crucifixion of the flesh, with all its affections and lusts; by the mortifying of our members which are in the earth; by our even dying to the world, an attachment to which is represented as “enmity against God?” What is meant by the solemn engagement which we all make at the baptismal font, to , renounce the world, the flesh, and the devil? Is there nothing arduous in the performance of this vow 2 What, also, is meant by the reiterated exhortations to “watch and pray,” to “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” to “press forward towards the mark,” with which the New Testament abounds; and by the promises of Divine aid which are aunexed to these exhortations, since “without Me ye can do nothing * What, we would ask Dr. Butler, is meant by all this, if it was the design of Christ to make his religion such that mankind should fall in love with it, as it were, spontaneously, and at first sight 2 Let Dr. Butler fairly make the trial: let him go to the first ten or twenty men he can think of, who are in the habit, after the example of Socrates, and, as he allows it to be profanely implied, after the example of a greater than Socrates, of “associating with courtezans:” let him preach the Gospel to then;–" Repent and be converted ;--flee youthful lusts;-whoremongers and adulterers God will judge ;--cleanse your hands and purify your hearts, ye sinners;–for, know, that he who even looketh on a woman to Just after her hath already committed adultery with her in his heart, and that no unclean person shall inherit the kingdom of God:— therefore turn from your evil ways, that your souls may live, and accept the pardon, the grace, the peace of the Gospel.”—How does he suppose they would relish such a doctrine? Would they or would they not deem the preacher needlessly austere, and his injunctions burthensome and unamiable? Will Dr. Butler deny, that to preach thus would be to preach the Gospel? Or, allowing this, will he deny that such preaching would meet with much contrariety in the hearts and lives of a great part of our population, and especially of our youth And if so, has Dr. Butler, or has he not, been guilty, in the representation which, in this sermon, he has given of Christianity, of misleading those whom he is especially bound to guide into all truth We think he has; and in this opinion we are confirmed by what follows:
“Let us suppose a sensible heathen were told that the first man having transgressed a positive command of God, was subjected thereby to a curse inflicting death and multiplied sorrows on himself and his posterity. Let him then be told, that by the Christian dispensation this curse was removed in all its fatal consequences, and happiness and immortality restored to man. Would he not immediately perceive and acknowledge the benevolence of this dispensation? Let him, while this natural impression is fresh and vivid, be farther made acquainted with the precepts" of that dispensation. Would he not say, in all that I learn and hear on this subject, I find new confirmations of the benevolence of God. The new law which he has given, contains nothing which does not harmonize with the great act of mercy and goodness from which it originated; nothing that does not sup
* For example, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you,” “deny yourselves,” “take up your cross,” “crucify the flesh,” “love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” “cut off the right hand, pluck out the right eye,” &c. &c. &c.
press terror", and encourage confidence, that does not awaken love and soften apprehension, that does not enkindle gratitude and enliven hope t. I am indebted, he might say, to God, for life and being, in the midst of a world stored with every thing adapted to the wants and happiness of my nature, and for a rule of life tending as well to secure that happiness as to exalt my gratification in the enjoyment of all the temporal blessings around me.” pp. 23, 24. The author here supposes a heathen to be told, that the “first man, having transgressed a positive command of God, was subjected thereby to a curse inflicting death and multiplied sorrows on himself and his posterity;” and to be told also, that “ by the Christian dispensation, this curse was removed in all its fatal consequences;” and he then asks “whether the heathen would not acknowledge the benevolence of this dispensation?” We answer, Perhaps not, for he might, like many others, to whom the moral law of God is unpalatable, have condemned, first, the issuing such a law, and, secondly, the infliction of its penalties. But, in our view, the statement of the author would afford the heathen a very inadequate conception of the evils consequent upon the fall. Were “death and multiplied sorrows” the only consequences of that event? Did no moral evils result from it; no deravation of the nature of man? }. when he would do good, was not evil (henceforth) present with him? Did he not reduce himself by his disobedience to a state in which his bias and determination, as it were, was to what is bad —Neither would the second clause of the author's instruction to the heathen be more accurate. Does Christianity remove all the “multiplied sorrows” of man? It provides, indeed, a balm for all. It weighs them down, as it
* “ Nothing that does not suppress terror!" “Depart, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels—where their worm dieth not, and their fire is not quenched."
t “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord,” &c.—" and then will I profess unto them, I never knew you," &s.