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round us. Little shall we profit by it, if we suffer our faith to be shaken by every petty assailant, or allow its truths to work upon our understandings only, and not upon our wills and affections. The true end of all spiritual knowledge is to influence the heart and direct the conduct. Every dispensation of revealed religion has had for its object to “ turn men from darkness to light, and from “ the power of Satan unto God”.” What shall be said, then, for those who live under this last and most perfect manifestation of the Divine will, if their righteousness neither exceeds the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, nor even attains to the ordinary perfection of a virtuous, though unenlightened, Pagan? We may contemn heathen ignorance; we may deride Jewish bigotry and prejudice. But our Lord's reproof on another occasion will apply to all who vaunt themselves of their superior advantages as Christians, and yet bring forth no fruit to perfection : “ The queen of the south shall “ rise up in the judgment with the men of “ this generation, and condemn them; for she
came from the utmost parts of the earth “ to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and be
hold, a greater than Solomon is here: the
y Acts xxvi. 18.
“ men of Nineveh shall rise up in the judg“ ment with this generation, and condemn “ it; for they repented at the preaching of “ Jonas; and behold, a greater than Jonas is “ here?."
“ Let him," then, “ that thinketh he stand“ eth take heed lest he falla." No spiritual privileges supersede the necessity of vigilance; no increase of faith or of knowledge will compensate for neglect of duty. For what
says the great Author of our salvation ? 66 Ye are the salt of the earth : but if the salt “ have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be “ salted ? It is thenceforth good for nothing, “ but to be cast out, and trodden under foot. “ Ye are the light of the world. A city that “ is set on a hill cannot be hid.
light so shine before men, that they may
see your good works, and glorify your Fa6 ther which is in heaven b."
2 Luke xi. 31, 32.
1 Cor. x. 12.
b Matt. v. 13–16.
JOHN vii. 46.
Never man spake like this man.
ONE main support of the Christian religion is derived from the personal character of our Redeemer; a character, which even infidel writers have confessed to be the most extraordinary, and the most perfect, that either history or fiction has ever set before us. Such an acknowledgment they appear to have felt it almost impossible to withhold, without forfeiting their own pretensions to candour, to discernment, or even to moral rectitude.
The strength of this argument in favour of Christianity consists, however, not merely in the credit due to such a person as our Lord is represented to have been, but in the improbability, if not impossibility, that the representation itself should be otherwise than faithful. We search in vain for any example in human nature which could suggest such a model to the minds of the narrators; a model, combining such rare perfections, yet so totally free from any extravagant colouring to heighten its effect. Our conception, indeed, of the character is formed, not from any express delineation of it by the Evangelists themselves, but from their simple recital of the actions and discourses which they themselves daily witnessed. From these they leave us to infer what manner of person he was; and by this simple process such a character is brought before us, as none but these writers, nor even these writers themselves, in any other instance, have presented to our contemplation. In every other case, even of men who were messengers from the Most High, there are found intermingled with all their high excellencies of character or office, such shades of frailty and imperfection as, in a greater or less degree, universally characterise fallen man. In this only instance, four plain unlettered men have, without effort, and in a manner the most artless and the most unostentatious, drawn a pattern of perfection, moral and intellectual, infinitely surpassing all that has ever been described or conceived, by historian or philosopher, since the world began. The words of the text lead us to consider one part only of this extraordinary character; that peculiar energy and wisdom which marked our Lord's conversation and discourses. The chief priests and Pharisees, vexed and enraged at the daily progress of his doctrine among the people, sought to take him by violence. The officers sent for this purpose were, however, themselves overpowered by that eloquence wh
which had arrested the attention of the multitude, and returned, declaring, in excuse for not having executed their commission, “Never man spake like this man.' Such was their admiration and astonishment, that they yielded to that reverential awe which sometimes restrains even the worst of men, in the presence of holiness and virtue.
What particular discourse our Lord was then delivering, the Evangelist does not mention. But St. John has recorded a great variety of instances, in which it appears that “ his word was with power,” and that “he “ taught as one having authority, and not as 6 the scribes a.” Of those which are related before this occurrence, his conversations with Nicodemus and with the woman of Samaria, his animadversions on the cavils of the Jews when he had healed the impotent man, his
a Matth. vii. 29.