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PREACHED FEBRUARY 4, 1770.
JOHN vii. 46.
Never man spake like this man.
IF by speaking, be here meant what is called fine speaking, ora discourse artificially composed according to the rules of human eloquence, the subject is unworthy of this place, and the praise, infinitely disproportioned to the divine character of Jesus. A pagan philosopher, nay, and a Christian preacher, might haply so far forget himself, as to affect the credit of fine speaking; or, his followers might think to
honour him by applauding this talent: But the Son of God spake with other views, and to nobler purposes; and his inspired historians would not have condescended to make the panegyric of their Master, from so trivial a distinction.
Let us see, then, to what the encomium of the text amounts; and what those CIRCUMSTANCES are, in the discourses of Jesus, which give real weight and dignity to the observation-that never man spake like this man.
This will be an inquiry of use, and not of curiosity only; we shall find, in the course of it, very much to confirm our faith, as well as to excite our admiration.
I. The first particular, that strikes an attentive mind in considering the discourses of Jesus, is the MATTER of them; the most im
a Hence the name of Theophrastus, or the divine speaker, given to the favourite scholar and successor of Aristotle'; And hence the stories told of Plato, whose eloquence Quintilian so much admired, that he thought it more than human-Ut mihi, non hominis ingenio, sed quodam Delphico videatur oraculo instinctus. Quintil. 1. x. c. 1.— Hence, too, the name of Chrysostom, given to the famous Greek Father.
portant, and, at the same time, the most extraordinary; of the utmost consequence to mankind, and the most remote from all their natural apprehensions.
But, by the discourses of Jesus, so qualified, I mean chiefly those, which are truly his own, and properly Christian: such as acquaint us with the dignity of his person, and nature of his office; with the purpose of his mission, and the manner in which that purpose was to be effected.
His moral discourses, though they be divine too, yet, being intended, for the most part, to deliver the religion of nature, or the religion of Moses, in all its purity, may be thought to contain nothing more than what human reason had, or might have discovered, or what the Law of God, at least, had already revealed. Yet it may deserve to be mentioned as an argument of his superiority to all other moral instructors, that HE ONLY has delivered a doctrine of life and manners, free from all mixture of error, and carried in some instances to a degree of perfection which, I do not say Reason, but, no Doctor of reason ever prescribed; and that he penetrated further into the true meaning of the Jewish Law, than any of its expositors had ever done.
But, as I said, I confine myself to his, peculiar doctrines, such as constitute the substance of that religion, which we properly call Christian.
And here, the weight of his doctrine must be felt by those persons who reflect that, coming into a world overrun with vice and misery, he proclaimed pardon and peace in this life, and everlasting happiness and glory in the life to come, to all who with penitent hearts and true faith turned to him. What Doctor, Philosopher, or Legislator ever spake as He spake, on these important articles? What had Nature taught the Gentile world? Some fine lessons of morality, indeed, which might direct their lives for the future; but none that could set their minds at ease from past guilt, none that could free their consciences from instinctive terror, much less could erect their hopes to any assured prospect of immortality. What had Moses taught the Jews? A divine religion, it is true, but such as left them under the burthen of a painful and oppressive ritual, in which the neglect of any one precept, or the irregular performance of any, might shake their security; and of which, when punctually observed, the reward was only some present ease or convenience in this
world. What was there in either institution, that could deliver men from all doubt and uncertainty about their future condition, or that could disarm and appease the universal guilt of mankind?
Let this then admonish us of what, from its familiarity, we are, now, so prone to forget, the importance, which characterized the doctrine of Jesus.
The extraordinary nature of it equally appears; but will further and chiefly be seen, if we attend to the means, by which this supreme blessing is said to be conveyed, and effected.
That a divine person, divine in the highest sense of the word, should descend from heaven and take our nature upon him; the Heir of all things should be content to appear in the form of a servant ; and, having life in himself, should chuse to suffer death; that, by this astonishing humiliation, he should propose to effect an end, equally astonishing, The salvation of a ruined world; that, being without sin himself, he should offer himself a sacri
b Heb. i. 2.
* John v. 26.
• Phil. ii. 7.