صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

with his own mouth he declared more noble and sublime truths than Moses and the prophets. Wherefore when we read or hear the holy gospel, we may be said to read or hear the very express word of the Son of God himself; which thought, in the most early ages of christianity, created such an awe and reverence in all the faithful, that when the gospel was read in the church, the whole congregation rose up in profound respect to


But to carry the parallel yet higher, the doctrine of the gospel far exceeds what we find in Moses and the law. The law proposes one God to be believed and worshipped by us; but the gospel, one God in essence, and three in person to be loved and adored :* "Go, says our Lord, "and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of "the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, Matt. xxviii. 19.” ́ The prophets foretold the birth, life, passion, and ascension of Christ; the mission of the Holy Ghost, the recovery and conversion of the Gentiles: but the gospel far more clearly declares the prescience, providence, omnipotence, and infinite love of God. "No man hath seen "God at any time, but the only begotten Son, who is in "the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him," saith St. John, ch. i. ver. 18. That is, Christ leaving his immortal state for a while, condescended to the condition of mortality, that he might discover to us the secrets of the Father, which were known to him alone. For which cause, St. Paul in his instructions to Timothy, Epist. i. c. 3, ver. 16, says, "Great is the mystery of godliness; "God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, "seen of angels, preached to the world, and received up "into glory."

Moreover, the law is as the shadow; but the gospel, the body, and very truth itself. Thus the acts of the patriarchs, the oracles, and all the visions of the prophets; the sacrifices, ceremonies and decrees of the law, which received their sanction, by the blood of animals, were

• Adored. We must nevertheless admit that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity was not unknown to the ancient believers.

types and preludes, which emblematically represented Christ to the people: but the gospel manifestly and clearly exhibits to us Christ, his doctrines, and sacraments. This St. Paul, 2 Cor. iii. 18, positively affirms, "We be"hold the glory of the Lord with an open face, and are "changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by "the Spirit of the Lord." And in confirmation of this, the same apostle begins his epistle to the Romans thus: "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, "separated unto the gospel of God, which he had promis"ed before by his prophets in the Holy Scriptures con"cerning his Son Jesus Christ."

II. The law was a messenger of fear and terror; but the gospel, of peace and love. The one threatening death to the transgressors, the other promising rewards to believers. By the law all were servants, but by the gospel all are freemen and children. So, St. Paul, 2 Cor. iii. 6, "God hath made us able ministers of the New Tes"tament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter "killeth, but the Spirit giveth life. For if the ministra "tion of death, (that is, the law threatening death) written "with letters, and in stones, was glorious, how shall not "the ministration of the Spirit be more glorious?" From whence we may justly define the gospel a law of liberty, a law of the Spirit, a law of beneficence and charity for Christ "went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil, for God was with him," Acts x. 38.

III. The promises of the law were temporary; but the gospel-promises are celestial and eternal. In the law were promised the good things of the earth, as plenty of oil, wine, honey, and cattle; but in the gospel the vision and enjoyment of God, and everlasting happiness. Joshua conducted the Israelites to a land flowing with milk and honey, but it was to the land of the dying: Christ hath brought us into the land of the living, abounding with grace and glory. Besides, the law was more burdensome than the gospel in respect of its threefold division into moral, ceremonial, and judicial, many parts of which decreed death to the transgressors of them:


[ocr errors]

but the obligations which the gospel lays upon the professors of it are easy and pleasant; Come to me, says our "blessed Saviour, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, " and I will give you rest; take my yoke upon you, and "learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart; for my "yoke is easy, and my burden is light, Mat. xi. 28, 29,

" 30, &c."

IV. The law was an introduction to Christ and the gospel; but the gospel is the end of the law; as St. Paul tells us, Rom. x. 4, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to every one that believeth." Wherefore St. Bernard very aptly calls Christ, The fruit of the promises of the law, alluding to the seminal virtue of plants; for fruit, says he, Hom. i. is the end to which seeds tend, and in which they terminate.

V. But the superior excellence of the gospel will yet appear much greater, if we consider the imperfection of the law, as it was limited to the Jews; while the gospel is to be diffused over all the world, see Isaiah, ch. xlix. v. 6, " Behold I have given thee for a light to the Gen"tiles, that thou mayest be my salvation to the ends of "the earth." The law was likewise imperfect in respect of its duration; for it was only temporary, being intended to continue no longer than till the introduction of the gospel, which the apostle to the Hebrews, ch. vii. vēr. 18, affirms," For there is verily a disannulling of the "commandment going before for the weakness and "unprofitableness thereof; for the law made nothing "perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did, by which we draw nigh unto God; but this is made "with an oath by him that said, Thou art a priest "for ever after the order of Melchisedec." Indeed, if we consider the whole texture and plan of the gospel, we shall find it contrived, and adapted to all ages and sexes, to all degrees and conditions, and it may justly be called an universal library of wisdom and knowledge, wherein every one may see his duty, and learn to put it in praetice. If we examine our Saviour's conduct while on earth, we shall plainly see that his whole life was a continued series of moral excellence; and that what he taught to others, VOL. II.

[ocr errors]

C c

he himself practised, enforcing his precepts by his own example. While the world greedily sought after wealth, he studiously avoided it. While others ambitiously aspired to honour and empire, he declined a kingdom. Impatient man could brook no affront, but he sustained the vilest reproach. Corporal pains were terrible to human nature, yet he bore whipping and scourging. Nothing so shock ing to mortality as the bare apprehension of dissolution, yet he submitted to the most ignominious and painful death, even that of the cross.

But besides the imperfections of the law already mentioned, St. Paul in his epistle to the Galatians, ch. iv. ver. 3, shews us farther, That when we were children, "we were under the elements of the world; but when the "fulness of time was, come, God sent forth his Son made "of a woman, and made under the law, that he might "redeem them that were under the law, that we might "receive the adoption of sons." And St. Cyril, 1. 9, in Joan. says, "It was necessary that Moses should instruct "Israel as a child in their state of ignorant infancy; but by Christ, who is the sacred repository of wisdom, we "arrive at the most true and consummate knowledge."

[ocr errors]

The perfection of Christ's character is another consideration which stamps a peculiar excellence on the New Testament. A representation is given of one entirely free from every error and every sin,-of one who is perfectly wise and perfectly good. This character is not pourtrayed in a few brilliant passages at the end of the gospels: it rises out of the whole of the history of his life and death. Jesus is presented in many, and in different situations. He is introduced speaking on an infinite variety of subjects; he converses familiarly with his friends; he discourses to the multitude; he replies to the cavils of his enemies. He is displayed both in active employments and in sufferings: but not one word is contrary to the dictates of wisdom; not one action contrary to the rules of rectitude. He is often thrown into the most trying circumstances; and sudden and ensnaring questions are frequently put to him: but his consummate prudence shines forth in his answers, and in his conduct; and none

can accuse him of folly or of sin. In his most bitter sufferings, from the hands of his Father, and of the Jews, there is neither murmuring against God, nor hatred and revenge, nor reviling of man.-But he does not rest in negative virtue: he is all resignation to the will of God. His treatment of Judas, when betrayed, and about to be delivered up; his behaviour before Pilate; his words to the daughters of Jerusalem, when they wept at his suffer. ings; and his prayer on the cross for his enemies, all manifest the highest and purest efforts of goodness. No one evil passion shews itself in the slightest degree; even in an unbecoming word. No ignorance, no error, nor imprudence; all is truth, and all is wisdom. Enthusiasm and superstition have no place in this wondrous personage. There is from first to last a full display of perfect rectitude and perfect goodness.

[ocr errors]

He is not only called, the Son of Man, but, the Son God; and there is added, to the perfection of a man, the elevation becoming "the Word, who was in the beginning with God, and who was God, by whom all things were made:" nor do we search for it in vain. Along with the most amiable condescension that ever adorned human nature, there is united an uniform dignity of sentiment and conduct becoming his exalted rank, as the Son of God. Jesus speaks with authority; he promises with a consciousness of his power; he confers blessings as one who has a right to bestow. In every thing, and place, and time, he preserves, without the remotest semblance of pride or assuming arrogance, the tone of a master, and the dignified deportment of one who "came down from heaven to give life unto the world; "and who was the only begotten of the Father, full of grace "and truth."

After all these excellencies of the Gospels, there can be no motive so pressing to incite us to the study of them, as their own intrinsic worth; and next to that, our interest, which we cannot be said more truly to pursue, than by a firm belief of their testimony, and a religious observance of their precepts.

And here it will not be improper to give some account

« السابقةمتابعة »