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CHARACTER AND EXAMPLE OF CHRIST
MORALITY OF THE GOSPEL.
6 ORIGINALLY ANNEXED AS A SUMMARY AND APPENDIX TO REFLEC
TIONS ON THE LIFE AND CHARACTER OF CHRIST,' BY EDMUND LORD BISHOP OF CARLISE.—FIRST PUBLISHED 1776.
ON THE CHARACTER AND EXAMPLE OF CHRIST.
In the first place, Christ was absolutely innocent: we do not find a single vice to which he was addicted, either from the accounts of his own followers, or as charged upon him by his enemies : we hear nothing like what is told of Mahomet, of his wives and concubines ; nothing of his falling, like Socrates and Plato, into the fashionable vices of his country.—In the next place, his whole life, that part of it at least which we are acquainted with, was employed in doing good, in substantial acts of kindness and compassion to all those who fell in his way, i. e. in solid virtue. In his youth, he set an example of subjection and obedience to his parents. (Luke ii. 51.)—By his presence of mind and judicious replies, whenever ensnaring questions were proposed to him, he testified the coolness and soundness of his understanding. (Matt. xxi. 24 ; xxii. 16; xxx. 37.)- By avoiding all danger when he could do it consistently with his duty, and
resolutely encountering the greatest, when his hour was come, i. e. when his own office or the destination of Providence made it necessary, he proved the sedateness of his courage in opposition to that which is produced by passion and enthusiasm. (Matt. xii. 14, 15; xiv. 12, 13; John iv. 1-3, compared with Matt. xv. 17–19.)—By his patience and forbearance, when he had the means of revenge in his power, he taught us the proper treatment of our enemies. (Luke, ix. 54; Matt. xxvi. 53, compared with Luke, xxiii. 34.)—By his withdrawing himself from the populace and repelling their attempts to make him a king, he showed us the sense we ought to entertain of popular clamour and applause. (John, vi. 15.)— By his laying hold of every opportunity to instruct his followers, and taking so much pains to inculcate his precepts, he left us a pattern of industry and zeal in our profession.— By the liberty he took with the Pharisees and Sadducees, the lawyers and scribes, in exposing their hypocrisy, their errors, and corruptions, he taught us fortitude in the discharge of our duty. (Matt. xxiii. Luke, xi. 51.)—He spared neither the faults of his friends, nor the vices of his enemies.By his indifference and unconcern about his own accommodation and appearance, the interest of his family and fortune, he condemned all worldly-mindedness. (Matt. viii. 20; xii. 16–50; John, iv. 31.)— He was perfectly sober and rational in his devotions, as witness the Lord's prayer compared with any of the compositions of modern enthusiasts.His admirable discourses before his death are specimens of inimitable tenderness and affection towards his followers (John, xiv.-xvii.) His quiet submission to death, though even the prospect of it was terrible to him, exhibits a complete pattern of resignation and acquiescence in the Divine will. (John, xxii. 41-44.)
AND EXAMPLE OF CHRIST.
And, to crown all, his example was practicable, and suited to the condition of human life. He did not, like Rousseau, call upon mankind to return back into a state of nature, or calculate his precepts for such a state.—He did not, with the monk and the hermit, run into caves and cloisters, or suppose men could make themselves more acceptable to God by keeping out of the way of one another. He did not, with some of the most eminent of the stoics, command his followers to throw their wealth into the sea, nor, with the eastern faquirs, to inflict upon themselves any tedious gloomy penances, or extravagant mortifications.--He did not, what is the sure companion of enthusiasm, affect singularity in his behaviour; he dressed, he ate, he conversed, like other people ; he accepted their invitations, was a guest at their feasts, frequented their synagogues, and went up to Jerusalem at their great festival. He supposed his disciples to follow some professions, to be soldiers, taxgatherers, fishermen : to marry wives, pay taxes, submit to magistrates ;-to carry on their usual business ; and, when they could be spared from his service, to return again to their respective callings.* --Upon the whole, if the account which is given of Christ in Scripture be a just one ;-if there was really such a person, how could he be an impostor ?-If there was no such person, how came the illiterate Evangelists to hit off such a character, and that without any visible design of drawing any character at all?
* The like did his forerunner John the Baptist. When the publicans and soldiers, people of the two most obnoxious professions in
and country, asked John what they were to do, John does not require them to quit their occupations, but to beware of the vices and perform the duties of them; which also is to be understood as the Baptist's own explanation of that μετανοια εις άφεσιν αμαρτιων to which he called his countrymen.
ON THE MORALITY OF THE GOSPEL.
The morality of the Gospel [is] not beyond what might be discovered by reason ; nor possibly could be ; because all morality, being founded in relations and consequences, which we are acquainted with and experience, must depend upon reasons intelligible to our apprehensions, and discoverable by us.
Nor perhaps, except in a few instances, was it beyond what might have been collected from the scattered precepts of different philosophers.
Indeed, to have put together all the wise and good precepts of all the different philosophers, to have separated and laid aside all the error, immorality, and superstition that was mixed with them, would have proved a very difficult work. But that a single person, without any assistance from those philosophers, or any human learning whatsoever, in direct opposition also to the established practices and maxims of his own country, should form a system so unblameable on the one hand, and so perfect on the other, is extraordinary beyond example and belief: and yet must be believed by those who hold Christ to have been either an impostor or enthusiast.
The following are some principal articles of his system:
1. The forgiveness of injuries and enemies ;-absolutely original.
“ Ye have heard that it hath been said thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy; but I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. v. 43—15.)
“If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you.” (Niatt. vi. 14, 15.)
“ Then came Peter unto him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times ? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee until seven times, but until seventy times seven : therefore (i. e. in this respect) is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king which would take account of his servants; and when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him which owed him ten thousand talents ; but, forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made : the servant therefore fell down and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servaat was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out and found one of his fellow-servants which owed him a hundred pence; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what thou owest: and his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all ; and he would not, but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellow-servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me; shouldst not thou also have had compas