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has pretended to deduce his maxims from heaven, but his conduct opposes to his pretensions the irresistible evidence of earthly infirmity.
The conclusion would not be unjust, nor the rejection which would follow. But let us reverse the picture. That every thing should be sacrificed for truth and virtue ; that all the evil desires, and all the evil tendencies of the heart, should be chastised and purified ; that the vices and vanities of the world should be resisted and renounced ; that the calamities of life should be sustained with uncomplaining humility and patience-Such was his doctrine. Did he, then, illustrate precepts like these, by correspondent action ? Was his conduct, in every respect, conformable to the most pure, the most sublime, and the most painful of his rules? Do we, in a word, behold the Gospel, in all the perfection of the piety and morality which it breathes, visible in his life? Here, at least, there is irrefutable evidence of his sincerity; and the approbation of the doctrines which were thus exemplified, is accompanied by respect and veneration for Him who afforded the example.
It is not Evangelists, it is not Apostles, it is not friends, it is not the wise, and good, and candid, only, who have admitted the pre-eminent excellence of this example. Persons the most eager to depreciate the character and to dispute the mission of Christ, have borne testimony to his pure and transcendent virtues. The officers who were commissioned to apprehend him, returned to their masters only to acknowledge " that never man spake like this man." His noble appeal to the rectitude of his life, “ Which of you accuse me of any sin?” was followed, not by a conviction of guilt, but by an absurd and impious calumny, “Say we not well that thou hast a devil ?” Judas himself, casting away the thirty pieces of silver, exclaimed, in an agony of remorse, “ I have sinned, in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.” The Jewish Rulers, after an inquiry stimulated by prejudice and zeal, could bring no evidence against him but such as was evidently fraudulent and false. Herod, crafty and malignant though he was, could only conclude that “ he was John the Baptist, who had risen from the dead," and whose innocence was attested by “ mighty works.” The bigoted Jews, far from charging him with any impurity of life, rested their complaint solely on the incredible imputation that “ he cast out devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.” Even Pilate, the pusillanimous and guilty judge, washed his hands and declared, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person.” And the Roman Centurion, an unconverted Idolator, astonished at his deportment under the afflictions of the cross, glorified God, and exclaimed with a generous and noble enthusiasm,
Truly this was a righteous man ! Truly this was the Son of God !*"
In subsequent times the reluctant testimony of pretended friends and avowed enemies, was extorted by the same virtues which have been so admitted, and extolled. I advert to two instances.
In Christ, says one author, who has perverted the doctrines of the Gospel for a theory, " we have an “ example of a quiet and peaceable spirit, of a be
coming modesty and sobriety; just and honest, upright and sincere ; above all of a most gracious
* John vii. 46; John viii. 46, 48; Luke xx. 39; Matt. xxvii. 4; Matt. xiv. 2; Matt. xii. 24; John xi. 47; Luke xxiii. 4, 14; John .xix. 6; Matt. xxvii. 24; Luke xxiii. 47.
" and benevolent temper and behaviour. He did
no wrong, no injury to any man; in whose mouth
was no guile; who went about doing good by “ his preaching and ministry. His life was a beau“ tiful picture of human nature, when in its native “ purity and simplicity ; and showed, at once, what “ excellent creatures men would be, under the in“ Auence and power of that Gospel which he preached “ unto them *."
The eloquence of Rousseau, exerted so often, and with such insidious artifice, to undermine the fabric of the Gospel, has expatiated, with greater pomp and beauty of phrase, on the same subject. “ I confess,” says he, " that the majesty of the Scrip“ tures astonishes me, that the sanctity of the Gospel
speaks to the heart. Is it possible that the book, " at once so sublime and simple, should be the work " of men ? Is it possible that he, whose history " it records, should have been a mere man? What
sweetness, what purity in his manner! What
affecting grace in his instruction! What profound " wisdom in his discourses ! What presence of “ mind, what delicacy, what justness, in his replies ! “ What empire over his passions! Where is the
man, where is the philosopher, who knows how ".to act, to suffer, and to die, without weakness, “ and without ostentation! When Plato paints his
imaginary just man, covered with all the ignominy “ of guilt, and meriting all the honours of virtue, he
paints Jesus Christ in every stroke of his pencil, and “ the resemblance is such that all the Fathers have
perceived, and that it is not possible to mistake, it. “ Greece abounded with virtuous men, before Socrates defined virtue. But where could Jesus “ have found among his countrymen that elevated “ and pure morality, of which he alone furnished both “ the precept and the example? The most lofty wisi dom was heard from the bosom of the most furious “ fanaticism; and the simplicity of the most heroic “ virtues honoured the vilest of the people. Yes! the « life and death of Jesus Christ are those of a God."
* Chubb's True Gospel of Christ, sect. viii. 55, 56.
II. From this view of the various virtues which distinguished the life of Christ, we proceed to consider his character as a public teacher.
In the assumption of this character there was something singularly wonderful and sublime. He was without education, influence, authority, or name. Yet he was to go forth, to correct the vices and resist the traditions of his countrymen; to denounce the exclusive spirit, and narrow bigotry of the disciples of the Mosaic law; to oppose himself to the priests and rulers of the people; and to proclaim a system of piety and of morals, which was not only to transcend all the most perfect codes of Pagan ethics, but all the preceding revelations which had been made by God. A purpose, so grand and so complicated, might seem to surpass the power of human wisdom in its noblest capacity, and human authority in its most exalted station. How, then, was such a purpose to enter into the mind of the poor and despised inhabitant of an insignificant village? Whence had he derived such high and magnificent ideas? By what aid was he to build up such a mighty structure? And what must have been the grandeur of that spirit, and from whence derived, which, in the very depth of poverty, could conceive and prosecute a design so noble and so lofty in the idea, and likely to be so difficult and dangerous in the excution?
* Emile, vol. iii. 179. Amster. 1762. Rousseau has frequently borne similar testimony to the virtues of Christ. I shall be easily forgiven for quoting the following passages :-“ Nous reconnoissons l'autorité de Jesus Christ, parce que notre intelligence acquiesce a ses preceptes, et nous en decouvre la sublinsite.- Ainsi, reconnoissant dans l'evangile l'autorité divine, nous croyons Jesus Christ revétu de cette autorité ; nous reconnoissons une vertu plus que humaine dans sa conduite, et une sagesse plus que humaine dans ses leçons. Voila ce qui est decide pour nous. Euvr. Divers. de J. J. Rousseau. tom. ii. p. 32.
His design was more! In all the religions of ancient times we discover the same predominant character. They were all, without excepting that of the Jews, national in their origin, local in their extent, incorporated with the state, and forming the base, or at least constituting a considerable portion, of the legislative code. The religion of the Gospel, on the contrary, is a universal religion, with nothing exclusive; nothing limited to a period, or a realm; nothing appropriated to one country rather than to another* Its divine Author, embracing in his boundless charity the whole world, came to destroy the barrier which separated the nations ; to instruct all mankind in one common law; to tender to all mankind one common salvation; and to proclaim to him, of every nation, who feareth God, and worketh righteousness, acceptance and peace. We know not how to appreciate the moral and intellectual powers of the mind, which could form, in so low a condition, so vast and unparalleled a design. Heroes
* Toutes les anciennes religions, sans en excepter la Juife, furent nationale dans leur origine, appropriées, incorporées a l'etat, et formant la base, ou du moins faisant partie, du sysleme legislatif. Le Christianisme, au contraire, est dans son principe une religion uni. verselle, qui n'a rien d'exclusif, rien de local, rien de propre a tel pays plutot qu'a tel autre. Euvr. Divers. de J.J. Rousseau. toin. xi. p. 32.