« AnteriorContinuar »
anxiety for their welfare and instruction. He descended to their low estate with the affection of a friend, admirably adapted his language to their understanding, impressed his maxims with the most artless but happy simplicity, and availed himself of every incident which occurred in their presence, to bring home some good precept to their heart. His images were often drawn from the most familiar objects, as his exhortations often arose out of the most common occasions. Did he instruct them to discern the false prophet from the true ? “ Behold,” said he," the tree is known by its fruit *.” Did he design to distinguish the doers of his word from the hearers only? “Behold the house built by the wise
man upon the rock, and the rains came and the “ winds blew upon that house, and it fell not; but “ when the winds blew upon the house of the foolish
man, it fell, because it was founded on the sand, “ and great was the fall thereof t.” Did he teach the people from the ship ?" Behold my kingdom is
as a net which was cast into the sea, and gathered “ of every kind; and when it was full they drew it
to land, and collected the good into vessels, but
cast the bad away .” Did the Samaritan woman supply him with water from the fount? “Lo! who
soever shall drink of this water shall thirst again; “ but whosoever drinks of the water which I shall
give him, shall never thirst, and it shall be in him as a well of water springing up into everlasting
“ life. Il”
In his whole intercourse with the people he thus condescended, familiarly and affectionately, to elu
Matt. vii. 17. + Matt. vii. 24, 25, 26, 27.
Matt. xiii. 36. || John iii. 19.
cidate and to impress his precepts. If he walked abroad with them from Jerusalem, the blade of grass, the flower of the field, the fowls of the air, afforded him some beautiful allusion for their edification * They were delighted with parables, and he told them of the wedding supper, the prodigal son, the sleeping virgins, and the woman who had found the piece of silver which she had lost. They were rigid and literal in their attachment to their sabbaths and their rites; and he appealed to their feelings and understanding, by an interrogatory which, though immediately addressed to the Scribes and Pharisees, was also intended for the instruction of the rest of his auditors.—“ Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath
day, or to do evil, to save life or to kill? What man “shall there be among you that shall have one sheep, " and if it fall into a pit, on the sabbath day, will he “ not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much then is
a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to “ do good on the sabbath dayt."
In these popular elucidations, he was often, in the highest degree, pathetic and eloquent; but his eloquence was that of simplicity and truth, which, while it might have instructed the philosopher of the schools, was intelligible, in every word, to the understanding of the illiterate multitude. He affected nothing mysterious, he held no secret doctrine, he revealed every thing without reserve, and rendered every thing intelligible, which was necessary to the moral and religious improvement of the most ignorant of his auditory. On the highest and on the lowest topics he equally adapted his language to the comprehension of the people. If he spoke to them of God, of Providence, of heaven, of hell, of human responsibility, and of a judgment to come, he displayed the same unaffected singleness of wisdom with which he had addressed them on the most incidental subject*. Accordingly, he was heard with reverence and with conviction. Every where the multitude flocked around him; and, while the pride and prejudice of the Rabbi rejected his doctrine, because he came not with power, the humble and the poor listened to him with docility, because he came to them as their teacher and their friend.
* Matt. vi. 26, 30., + Mark iii. 4; Matt. 11, 12. He held many discourses on the observance of the Sabbath, and all tended to correct the same error of unyielding formality. Luke xiii. 15, 16; John iv. 5.
I have said he did not avert himself from the rich and great, though he entered into no compromise with their vices, and admonished them without reserve on the danger of their condition f. It was the object of his mission to correct error wherever it was found, and to conduct all, if possible, in the way of life. But his abiding spirit rested with the children of poverty and of humility. Among them, he not only sowed the good seed which was so soon to spring up and bear fruit an hundred fold, but selected the disciples, “the foolish things of the world,” by whom he was to “ confound the wise, and to subdue the “ mighty.” He made it repeatedly a ground of thanksgiving to God, that they had listened to the voice of the Shepherd, and been conducted to the fold. He did not disdain their humble festival or their homely hearths. He entered their dwellings with the gracious condescension of a friend *; and, on these occasions of affectionate familiarity, he omitted no opportunity of inculcating the precepts of righteousness and of truth, and of encouraging the practice of virtue by the promise of recompence.
* Christ, it has been justly observed, was always master of his doctrine, and always proclaimed it with tranquil simplicity. It cost him no effort to unfold the most sublime truths. He speaks of the kingdom and glory of heaven as of his Father's house, and the grandeur which astonishes men, is natural to him. Fenelon, Dialogues sur l'eloquence. † “ It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye
of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
First Epist. to Corinth. i. 67.
Every where he maintained the same character of companion, teacher, and friend of the poor. He could reprove the vain ignorance of the Scribes and Pharisees, drive the money-changers with indignation from the temple of God, and condemn the hypocrites who sounded a trumpet before them, in the synagogues and in the streets, that they might have glory of men.t But with what exulting charity does he rejoice in being the instrument of revealing unto babes that which had been hidden from the prudent and the wisef! With what pathetic tenderness, and patient wisdom, does he address the multitude, who flocked with reverence “ to hear the
gracious words which fell from his lips!” And, after he had impressed them with the most perfect precepts for the regulation of their conduct towards God and man, how beautifully does he advert to the fears and anxieties which their poverty might produce, and instruct them to elevate their confidence to the protecting goodness of the Almighty! “ Behold the fowls of the air, for they
sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feedeth them :
* Matt. ix. 10.
Luke vii. 3, 6; + Matt. vi. 2.
Matt. xi. 25.
are ye not much better than they? And why take
ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of “ the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do
they'spin; and yet I say unto you, that even Solo"mon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of “ these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of 6 the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast “ into the oven, shall he not much rather clothe
you, ye of little faith* ?”
When we look to the high character which he sometimes assumed, we are more affected by this graciousness of his demeanour to the poor. He occasionally put on a majesty and a dignity which astonished and confounded his enemies. He was greater than Solomon; he could command legions of angels; he was the giver of life to whom he pleased; he was the Son of God, who was one day to sit on his glorious throne, and to judge the world in righteousness and truth. Nothing appeared to be concealed from his knowledge, nothing was beyond the reach of his power. He searched, at one moment, and laid open, the secret recesses of the heart; at another, he revealed the distant events of future times, announced the promise of immortality, asserted a co-equality with the Father, and held forth the keys of life and death. But, when he mingled as a teacher of righteousness among the people, how did he throw aside the garb of majesty, and clothe himself in the beauty of meekness, condescension and humility! With what a spirit of conciliating tenderness did this august and pre-eminent Personage address himself to his auditory, and what indulgence did he extend to their Occasional heedlessness and incre
* Matt. vi. 26, 30.