« ElőzőTovább »
and unable to appeal to miracles which give the most certain proofs of a teacher sent from God, he extended his faith by force, and reared his bloody crescent amid captives, who were the victims of his pafsions, and cities that were desolated by his sword".
# The contrast between our Lord and the Prophet of Arabia is drawn in a style of such rich and appropriate eloquence by Amar bishop Sherlock, that I cannot deny myself the pleasure of present. ing it to my readers.
i Make the appeal to natural religion, or, which is the same thing, to the reason of man. Set before her Mahomet, and his disciples, arrayed in armour and in blood, riding in triumph over the spoils of thousands and tens of thousands, who fell by his victorious sword. Shew her the cities which he set in flames, the countries which he ravaged and destroyed, and the miserable distress of all the inhabitants of the earth. When she has viewed him in this scene, carry her into his retirea ments; few her the prophet's chamber, his wives and cona cubines ; let her see his adulteries, and hear him alledge reve. lation and his divine commission to justify his lust and oppreffion. When she is tired with this scene, then shew her the blessed Jesus, humble and meek; doing good to all the souls of men, patiently instructing both the ignorant and perverse. Let her see him in his most retired privacies; let her follow him to the mount, and hear his devotions and supplications to his God. Carry her to his table, to view his poor fare, and hear his heavenly discourse. Let her see him injured, but not pro. voked. Let her attend him to the tribunal, and consider the patience with which he endured the scoffs and reproaches of his enemies. Lead her to the cross, and let her view him in the agonies of death, and hear his last prayer for his perfecutors; Father, forgive. them, for they know not what they do!—When natural religion hath viewed both, ask her, which is the prophet of God ?-But her answer, we have already heard,
prophet religion hath for they know what
In the character of Christ we behold the moft complete and prompt refignation to the will of God. So pure and so perfect was the whole tenour of his conduct, as to defy calumny, although it excited jealousy, and inflamed malice. His moft bitter and inveterate enemies, even when suborned to be his public accusers, could not make good a single charge against his moral character. He was equally free from the ambition of an impostor, and the infatuation of an enthusiast; for when the people fought to place the crown of Israel on his head, he conveyed himself away by a miracle. Whenever he condescended to discourse upon any important point, or to answer any objections of his adversaries, he overcame their opposition with the irresistible power of truth, and his words were the words of unerring wisdom. Upon all occasions he displayed the foundness and moderation of calm judgment, and the steadiness of heroic intrepidity. There was no wild enthusiasm in his devotions, no rigid aufterity in his conduct, no frivolous fubtlety or intemperate vehemence in his arguments. Of all the virtues, which adorned his mind, and gave a refiftlefs grace and loveliness to every action of his life, humility, patience, and the most ardent and univerfal love of mankind, were, upon every
when the faw. part of this scene through the eyes of the cenu turion who attended at the cross; by him she spoke and said, Truly this was the Son of God.” Sherlock's Ninth Discourse, vol. i. See Paley's Evidences, vol. iii. p. 70; Taylor's Moral, Demonstrations, vol. ii, p. 383; and Prideaux's Life of Ma.. homet
occasion, predominant. The perfect benevolence of his character, indeed, is fully evinced by the tendency of his miracles, which, far from being hurtful or vindi&tive, were directed to some beneficial end. His courage was equally remote from oftentation and from rashness, and his meekness and condescension never make him appear abject. Tried by the greatest afflictions of life, affailed by hunger, exposed to poverty, deserted by his friends, and condemned to suffer an igno minious death, he is never degraded; the greatness of his character is in no respect dininished-he preserves the same air of mildness and dignity, and appears in the same highly venerable light as the Saviour of the world, who submits to an ignoble station, and conceals his majesty in an humble garb, for the most important purposes. It is thus the glorious prospects of nature are sometimes enveloped in the mists of the morning;, or the great luminary of day is deprived of his beams and his brightness, by the temporary darkness of an eclipse.
And here let us pause to admire the manner in which this most sublime of all characters is introduced to us. We are not left to form an idea of it froin vague accounts or loose panegyric, but from. actions and events; and this circumftance proves undeniably the veracity of the Biographers of our Lord. The qualities of his mind are displayed by , a detail of actions, the more striking as they are more exact. All his actions are left to recommend
Hemselves by their own intrinsic merit, to captivate by their unaffected beauty, and to thine by their native lustre. The Evangelists have no where professedly drawn an elaborate or highly finished character of the Saviour of the world. We are not told in a vague and indefinite manner, that he was eminently bountiful, compassionate, or wise. It is no where expreffed in terms of general assertion, that he poffeffed the greatest virtues that can adorn and dignify the nature of man;, or that he was endued with a power to control, or to counteract the general laws of nature. But these inferences we are fully enabled to draw from regue lar statements of facts. We learn from lively and affecting anecdotes distinctly and circumstantially related, among many other astonishing instances of his divine power, that with a portion of food, the most disproportionate to their wants, he fatisfied the hungry multitudes in the wilderness, that he calmed the violence of a storm at a word, and raised the son of the widow to life'.
Ignorant and illiterate as the Evangelists were, they have drawn a character superior to any that is ellewhere to be met with in the history of mankind. This character they were no less unable than unwilling to invent: the only method of solving this difficulty is to acknowledge that they wrote from the immediate impressions of reality. They law, they converfed' with the Saviour of mankind, and
i Matt. xiv, VOL. I.
heard from his sacred lips the words of eternal life. They felt the power of truth upon their minds, and they exhibited it with proportionable clearness and ftrength. To state well-known facts, and record the lessons of divine Revelation, were the great objects of their labours. Hence they were consistent as well as circumstantial and accurate ; and their uniformity of representation is an additional proof of the reality of the person described, as their divine. Master. Every particular is introduced in an artless and undefigning manner; and this circumstance itself, of not bringing our Lord forward in an oftentatious point of view, affords a remarkable evidence to confirm the truth of the Gospels. To complete the perfection of his character, his conduct was the exact counterpart of his instructions. He presented to the world that lively image of moral perfection, which had indeed filled and elevated the imagination of Plato and Cicero; but which they as well as all other ancient philosophers in the widest circle of their observation had fought for in vaink. The heavenly Teacher not only spoke as never man spoke, with respect to the sublime lessons, which he taught, the lively itnages, by which he illuftrated, and the awful and impressive manner, in which he inculcated them; but at once to combine the efficacy of example with the perfection of precept, became the unerring guide to all that was
* Formam quidem ipfam, & tanquam faciem honefti vides ; quæ fi oculis cerneretur, mirabiles amores, ut ait Plato, excitaret fapientiæ. Cicero de Officiis.