the unsuitableness of the authors to the production, of the characters to the undertaking, no longer surprises us: but without reality, it is very difficult to explain, how such a system should proceed from such persons. Christ was not like any other carpenter; the apostles were not like any other fishermen.

But the subject is not exhausted by these observations, That portion of it, which is most reducible to points of argument, has been stated, and, I trust, truly. There are, however, some topics, of a more diffuse nature, which yet deserve to be proposed to the reader's attention.

The character of Christ is a part of the morality of the gospel : one strong observation upon which is, that, neither as represented by his followers, por as attacked by his enemies, is he charged with any personal vice. This remark is as old as Origen: “ Though innumerable lies and calumnies had been forged against the venerable Jesus, none had dared to charge him with an intemperance."* Not a reflection upon his moral cha. racter, not an imputation or suspicion of any offence against purity and chastity, appears for five hundred years after his birth. This faultlessness is more peculiar than we are apt to imagine. Some stain pollutes the morals or the morality of almost every other teacher, and of every other lawgiver. Zeno the stoic, and Diogenes the cynic, fell into the foulest impurities; of which also So. crates himself was more than suspected. Solon forbade unnatural crimes to slaves. Lycurgus tolerated theft as a part of education. Plato recommended a community of women. Aristotle maintained the general right of making war upon barbarians. The elder Cato was remarkable for the ill usage of his slaves; the younger gave up the person of his wife. One loose principle is found in almost all the Pagan moralists; is distinctly, however, perceived in the writings of Plato, Xeno. phon, Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus; and that is, the allowing, and even the recommending to their disciples,

* Or. Ep. Celz. 1. 3. num. 36. ed. Bened. + See many instances collected by Grotius, de Veritate Christiana Religionis, in the notes to his second book, p. 116. Pocock's edition.


á compliance with the religion, and with the religious rites, of every country into which they came. In speaking of the founders of new institutions, we cannot forget Mahomet. His licentious transgressions of his own licentious rules; his abuse of the character which he assumed, and of the power which he had acquired, for the purposes of personal and privileged indulgence; his avowed claim of a special permission from heaven of unlimited sensuality, is known to every reader, as it is confessed by every writer, of the Moslem story.

Secondly, In the histories which are left us of Jesus Christ, although very short, and although dealing in narrative, and not in observation or panegyric, we perceive, beside the absence of every appearance of vice, traces of devotion, humility, benignity, mildness, patience, prudence. I speak of traces of those qualities, because the qualities themselves are to be collected from incidents; inasmuch as the terms are never used of Christ in the Gospels, nor is any formal character of him drawn in any part of the New Testament.

Thus we see the devout ness of his mind, in his frequent retirement to solitary prayer;* in his habitual giving of thanks ;t in his reference of the ies and operations of nature to the bounty of Providence ;f in his earnest addresses to his father, more particularly that short but solemn one before the raising of Lazarus from the dead ; and in the deep piety of his behaviour in the garden, on the last evening of his life : || his humility, in his constant reproof of contentions for superiority :f the benignity and affectionateness of bis temper, in his kindness to children ;** in the tears which he shed over his falling country,tt and upon the death of his friend ; II in his noticing of the widow's mite ; $$ in his parables of the good Samaritan, of the ungrateful servant, and of the Pharisee and publican,


• Matt. xiv. 23. Luke ix. 28. Matt. xxvi. 36.
+ Matt. xi. 25. Mark viii. 6. John vi. 23. Luke xxii. 17.
1 Matt. vi. 26-28.

S John xi. 41.
Matt. xxvi. 36-47.

Mark ix. 33.
** Mark x. 16.

++ Luke xix. 41. # John xi. 35.

$$ Mark xii. 42.

of which parables no one but a man of humanity could have been the author : the mildness and lenity of his character is discovered, in his rebuke of the forward zeal of his disciples at the Samaritan village ;* in his expostulation with Pilate ;t in his prayer for his enemies at the moment of his suffering, I which, though it has been since very properly and frequently imitated, was then, I apprehend, new. His prudence is discerned, where prudence is most wanted, in his conduct on trying occasions, and in answers to artful questions. Of these, the following are examples His withdrawing, in various instances, from the first symptoms of tumult,ộ and with the express care, as appears from Saint Matthew, || of carrying on his ministry in quietness; his declining of every species of interference with the civil affairs of the country, which disposition is manifested by his behaviour in the case of the woman caught in adultery, f and in his repulse of the application which was made to him, to interpose his decision about a disputed inheritance :** his judicious, yet, as it should seem, unprepared answers, will be confessed in the case of the Roman tribute ; tt in the difficulty concerning the interfering relations of a future state, as proposed to him in the instance of a woman who had married seven brethren ; II and, more especially, in his reply to those who demanded from him an explanation of the authority by which he acted, which reply consisted, in propounding a question to them, situated between the very difficulties into which they were insidiously endeavouring to draw

Our Saviour's lessons, besides what has already been remarked in them, touch, and that oftentimes by very affecting representations, upon some of the most interesting topics of human duty, and of human meditation : upon the principles, by which the decisions of the last day will be regulated : || || upon the superior,

* Luke ix. 55. + John xix. 11. 1 Luke xxiii. 34.

Matt. xiv. 22. Luke v. 15, 16. John v. 13. vi. 15.
II Chap. xii. 19.

I Joho viii. 1.
** Luke xii. 14.

tt Matt. xxii. 19. Matt. xxii. 28.

$5 Matt. xxi. 23, &c. WW Matt. xxv. 31, &c,

or rather the supreme, importance of religion:* upou penitence, by the most pressing calls and the most encouraging invitations ;+ upon self-denial,f watchfulness, ý placability,|| confidence in God, the value of spiritual, that is, of mental worship,** the necessity of moral obedience, and the directing of that obedi. ence to the spirit and principle of the law, instead of seeking for evasions in a technical construction of its terms.At

If we extend our argument to other parts of the New Testament, we may offer, as amongst the best and shortest rules of life, or, which is the same thing, descriptions of virtue, that have ever been delivered, the following passages :

“Pure religion, and undefiled, before God and the Father, is this; to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the

world.” II

"Now the end of the commandment is, charity, out of a pure heart and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned."$

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that deny. ing ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present

world." |||

Enumerations of virtues and vices, and those sufficiently accurate, and unquestionably just, are given by Saint Paul to his converts in three several Epistles.

The relative duties of husbands and wives, of parents and children, of masters and servants, of Christian teachers and their flocks, of governors and their subjects, are set forth by the same writer,*** not indeed with the copiousness, the detail, or the distinctness,

* Mark viii. 35. Matt. vi. 31-33. Luke xii. 4, 5. 16-21.
+ Luke xv.

I Matt. v. 29.
Mark xiii. 37. Matt. xxiv. 42.-xxv. 13.
i Luke xvii. 4. Matt. xviii. 33, &c.
| Matt. vi. 25—30.

** John iv. 23, 24.
tt Matt. v. 21.

11 James i. 27. $S 1 Tim. i. 5.

Tit. ii. 11, 12. FT Gal. v. 19. Col. iii. 12. 1 Cor. xiii. *** Eph. V. 33. vi. 1. 5. 2 Cor. vi. 6, 7. Rom. xiii.

of a moralist, who should, in these days, sit down to write chapters upon the subject, but with the leading rules and principles in each; and, above all, with truth, and with authority.

Lastly, the whole volume of the New Testament is replete with piety; with, what were almost unknown to heathen moralists, devotional virtues, the most profound veneration of the Deity, an habitual sense of his bounty and protection, a firm confidence in the final result of his counsels and dispensations, a disposition to rt, upon all occasions, to his mercy, for the supply of human wants, for assistance in dan. ger, for relief from pain, for the pardon of sin.


The candour of the writers of the New Testament. I MAKE this candour to consist, in their putting down many passages, and noticing many circumstances, which no writer whatever was likely to have forged; and which no writer would have chosen to appear in his book, who had been careful to present the story in the most unexceptionable form, or who had thought himself at liberty to carve and mould the particulars of that story, according to his choice, or according to his judgment of the effect.

A strong and well-known example of the fairness of the evangelists, offers itself in their account of Christ's resurrection, namely, in their unanimously stating, that after he was risen, he appeared to his disciples alone. I do not mean that they have used the exclusive word alone ; but that all the instances which they have recorded of his appearance, are instances of appearance to his disciples; that their reasonings upon it, and allosions to it, are confined to this supposition; and that, by one of them, Peter is made to say, “Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from

« VorigeDoorgaan »