صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the world a new face? Who does not see, that a great part of the guilt and misery now suffered would vanish, and that in its place would be found peace and happiness, transcending all easy estimation?

Equally evident is it also from experience, that those in whom these virtues presided, have never in fact produced these miseries. Often have they been among the principal sufferers, but never numbered among the actors of this tragedy. As this position cannot and will not be denied, to insist on it any farther would be useless.

On the other hand, to that characteristic of man, which is styled heroism, have been owing a great part, and that usually the most dreadful part, of human sufferings. Active courage has in every age filled the world with tumult, contention, and bloodshed; destroyed the labours and enjoyments, the peace and hopes of men: overturned temples, consumed cities with fire, and converted kingdoms into deserts. All these are causes of misery only. At the same time, it has rarely done good except by accident; and, however admired and applauded by the silly mind of man, has undoubtedly been one of the chief curses which God has permitted to visit this unhappy world.

I have already said, that I do not deny these exercises of heroism to be capable, in certain circumstances, of being virtuous, and even eminently virtuous. Still, it ought to be remarked, that if the other class of virtues were to have their proper influence on mankind, these would not exist, because there would be no occasion for them. Were no injuries done, there could be no occasion for resisting them, and of course no demand for active courage. The exercises of this spirit therefore are, at the most, of a secondary importance, and can be called forth only by preceding crimes. The meek and lowly virtues are, on the other hand, original and essential ingredients of happiness in every world, are indispensable to all private and public enjoyment, and are, therefore, of primary and inestimable value. The preference given by our Saviour to these virtues is, of course, a proof of real and divine wisdom.

(4.) Christ in the same complete manner taught the way in which fallen beings may again become virtuous and happy. He explained his own character, as the propitiation for sin,

and the Saviour of sinners; the willingness of God to pardon, justify, and accept them on account of his righteousness, through faith in him, accompanied by repentance, and followed by holiness of heart and life. He taught mankind, that their character by nature is sinful and odious to God, and that their own cbedience can never be accepted as an expiation for their sin, or a ground of their justification; that, unless they are born again of the Spirit of God, and possess a new and spiritual character, they cannot see the kingdom of God; and that in acquiring this character they become his disciples indeed, and prove themselves to be such by doing whatsoever he hath commanded.' All these things, united, constitute that character, which being assumed, those who before were apostates return to God, and to their obedience of his will; and may evangelically claim, through his promise, a title to eternal life.

[ocr errors]

(5.) Christ established his church in a new form, appointed in it new ministers, constituted a new discipline, and directed anew the peculiar duties of both its officers and members.

The church under the Mosaic dispensation was properly a national one; consisting, with the exception of such as became proselytes, and thus in a sense Israelites, of those only, and of all those, who were descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Christ constituted the church of the spiritual children of Abraham, who were 'Jews inwardly,' though not according to the flesh;' and' whose praise was not of man, but of God.' Instead of the priests, who were ministers of the Jewish church, he appointed ministers of the Gospel to be officers in the Christian church. Its discipline, also, ceased to be the severe and dreadful system of proceedings enjoined under the Mosaic dispensation, and became a course of advice, reproof, and, in cases of irreclaimable obstinacy, a solemn separation from the offender, all administered with the most prudent care, the tenderest good-will, and the most exemplary moderation. The peculiar duties of Christians towards each other were summarily directed by the new commandment; which, to the common benevolence required by the moral law towards all men, superadds brotherly love, or the exercise of complacency towards the evangelical character of their fellow Christians. The peculiar duties of minis

ters, as enjoined by Christ, are generally to preside over the worship and discipline of the church, to preach the Gospel, to dispense, and, together with their fellow Christians whose duty it is also to receive, the sacraments of the New Testament.

(6.) Christ taught also the great doctrines concerning a future state of being.

These are the separate existence of the soul after death, the resurrection from the dead, the final judgment, the misery of the wicked, and the happiness of the righteous, throughout eternity. Concerning these great subjects, the heathen only formed conjectures, supported by very imperfect arguments. The Jewish Scriptures also, although really containing these doctrines in substance, exhibited them in dim and distant view. Life and immortality were brought to light,' that is, were clearly shown and fully proved, by Christ' alone. To him the world is indebted for its certain knowledge and extensive views of things beyond the grave; things, in comparison with which all that exists in the present life is nothing, less than nothing, and vanity.'

From this summary view of the instructions of Christ, it is evident, that he has taught every thing necessary for the knowledge of our duty, the attainment of holiness, and the best conduct of a virtuous life; has established his church on a new and happier foundation, instituted a simpler and purer worship, suited its whole economy to the circumstances of all nations, prepared it to extend easily and happily throughout the world, furnished mankind with the best means of obtaining salvation, and engaged them by the most cogent motives, placed before their eyes, to seek effectually a glorious and blessed immortality.






IN my last Discourse I considered the second division of the proposed examination of Christ's prophetical character, viz. the things which he taught. I shall now proceed to consider,

III. The manner of his preaching..

Concerning this subject I observe, that Christ preached, 1. With perfect plainness and simplicity.

By the plainness of Christ's preaching, I intend generally, that he preached in such a manner as to be easily understood by all who were willing to understand him.

Particularly, he used the plain, common language of mankind; and, on no occasion, the technical language, customarily used by men of science, and extensively used at that period by all the votaries of the fashionable philosophy. That he has never used this language will undoubtedly be admitted by those who read his instructions, there being not even a solitary instance of it in all his discourses.

That Christ acted with entire wisdom in this particular, is manifest from many considerations. The common language of men is the only language which men, generally, can understand. If Christ had used any other language, particularly technical language, scarcely one of a hundred of those who

heard him, or of those who read his discourses, would have been able to know what he meant. To all these the book containing his instructions would have been a sealed book;' and almost every man who read it would have been obliged to say, I cannot understand it, for I am unlearned.'

Nor would technical language have been of much real use to learned men. In natural and mathematical science this language has, I acknowledge, been employed with success, and that to a considerable extent. But in morel science, which involves all the instructions of Christ, the same thing cannot be said without many abatements. The subjects of moral science are, generally, less distinctly and definitely conceived of, than those of natural, particularly of mathematical science; and on this account, and because we have no sensible, exact standard, to which we may refer them, the terms of `moral science are, to a great extent, used at first indefinitely, and are afterwards rendered still more indefinite by the looseness and imperfection of thinking in succeeding writers.

At the same time, moral subjects are so important, so deeply interest the feelings, and awaken so many biasses and prejudices, that where our discernment, left to itself, might enable us to fasten on definite ideas, and to choose proper terms to express them, our biasses still lead us into error, and prevent us partly from perceiving the truc import of the language used by others, and partly from an unwillingness to accord with it, when perceived.

From these causes, and others like them, the technical language of moral science has generally been loose and indefinite, to a greater degree than the common language of men; and such must have been the language used by our Saviour, if he had adopted the technical language of his time. This language also, originally difficult to be understood, would have been rendered still more obscure by every attempt to translate it into the languages of other nations. Terms of this kind have often no customary use which can be appealed to, to fix their signification; and, being used only by some individual author, or in a peculiar sense by that author, it must be left to criticism, and often to conjecture, to determine their meaning. When used by several authors, they are commonly used with some variation of sense, either light or serious. In this case, their signification becomes more doubtful, and the discourses

« السابقةمتابعة »