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tudes that were gathered around him, in words of pure and holy instruction, which were hitherto quite unprecedented among men,
How little did the world at that time know what was to be the effect of this homely enunciation of Divine Truth! At that very moment the splendours of superstition were displayed in all their varied forms throughout the magnificent fabric of the Roman world; and priests were glorying in the crowds of their worshippers and philosophers weaving their own presumptuous systems and monarchs affecting the attributes of Deity! How little did they dream, that, at this very hour, an Individual of no outward pretensions, in a despised corner of the earth, was quietly expounding to an audience of the lowest of the people, those mighty principles of Faith, which were speedily destined to pull down strong-holds, and “cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalted itself against the knowledge of God.” How little even did the rulers of that very people apprehend, at this time, the influence of these instructions, or conceive that the venerable ceremonies of their Law, which had been handed down to them from the most sacred antiquity, would give way to the unpretending precepts of a teacher who seemed to come without authority! Yet the words of the text inform us, that His sayings left an impression of authority on the minds of those who heard them, which all the laborious ritual of the Jewish law could not in any degree pretend to equal ; and while the expositions of the Scribes or Doctors of that law were perplexed, and unsatisfactory, the simple yet elevated wisdom of this new Teacher, seemed to them at once the inspiration of Heaven! When we consider, indeed, that the Religion of the Jews, which, in its most perfect form, was veiled in figurative rites, had been in these latter times loaded with many additional ceremonial incumbrances, and now served no other purpose than to maintain, over the minds of the people, the influence of a corrupted priesthood; we may easily imagine how refreshing it must have been to their bewildered understandings, to have the great moral and religious truths of their being, opened to them in a manner so unaffected and intelligible; and with what love and reverence they must have regarded an Instructor who seemed to have no other object in view, but the good of man, and the glory of God. While the spirit of our Saviour's instructions was thus so much more satisfactory than any thing yet delivered to his countrymen, it is, however, to be remarked, that He Himself carefully observed, and required his disciples to observe, all the genuine institutions of the Law which had come down to them with the stamp of Divine Authority; and although the doctrine which he introduced was destined ultimately to displace the ritual of Moses, yet He was careful not to do any thing too hastily, or to remove from the minds of the people any principle which they had been accustomed to reverence, before they were open for the reception of more enlarged sentiments. With so much wisdom did this Divine Teacher follow the order of Nature, and of Providence, according to which, truth, both in the individual, and in society, is not the hasty production of a few days, or years, but is gradual, and almost unobserved in its progress.
II. From these observations, however imperfectly they have been stated, we may see in what manner the Gospel, as it was taught by our Lord, was adapted to the character and situation of the people before whom it was first introduced. Its suitableness to all the varying circumstances of human nature, appears, however, if possible, still more wonderful, after the pure hands which had first reared it were withdrawn, and it was left to the guidance of other instruments, and to be carried along the shifting current of events. Immediately after the death of its Author, one of the most astonishing instances occurs of its buoyancy above the tide of disaster,--the sudden conversion of much greater multitudes to a steady faith in his power and promises, than had ever followed Him in his life. Nothing but the relation which we have in the Sacred History of His miraculous Resurrection, and the sudden illumination of the minds of the Apostles by the Divine Spirit, can account for the instantaneous boldness with which they were inspired to assert these great truths, and to convert the very circumstance which seemed to be the destruction of all their hopes, into the fundamental doctrine on which the Gospel was thenceforth to be built. It is, however, natural to suppose, that to those who were not themselves witnesses of these miraculous incidents, or were not divinely inspir
ed with the knowledge of these doctrines, there must have been something in the present state of their minds, which rendered such information peculiarly acceptable to them; and that this was the very moment in which the doctrines now alluded to could come forward with their full force and efficacy. It is very evident, that so long as our Saviour continued on earth, the Jewish populace would never have given up their lingering hope, that He would be their Leader to temporal Sovereignty, and the great Restorer of their nation. It was, therefore, in à manner impossible, that the great purposes for which he came into the world, could be executed during his own life; and however pure might be the doctrine which he taught, and unconnected with every kind of worldly splendour, it constantly came distorted into the minds of those who heard it, through the vain imaginations which deluded them. Accordingly we find, that he very seldom hinted even to his immediate disciples, those higher doctrines which they were yet incapable of comprehending; and contented himself with unfolding the first principles of Religion and Morality, and making himself generally beloved by his acts of kindness