Page images
PDF
EPUB

Not a re

him with an intemperance*.” flection upon his moral character, not an imputation or suspicion of

any

offence against purity and chastity, appears for five hundred years after his birth.

. This faultlessness is more peculiar than we are apt to imagine. Some stain pollutes the morals or the morality of almost every other teacher, and of every other lawgiverf. Zeno' the stoic, and Diogenes the cynic, fell into the foulest impurities; of which also Socrates himself was more than suspected. Solon forbade unnatural crimes to slaves. Lycurgus tolerated theft as a part of education. Plato recommended a community of women. Aristotle maintained the general right of making war upon barbarians. The elder Cato was remarkable for the ill usage of his slaves; the younger gave up the person of his wife. One loose principle is found in almost all the Pagan moralists ;

* Or. Ep. Cels. 1. 3. num. 36. ed. Bened.

+ See many instances collected by Grotius, de Veritate Christianæ Religionis, in the notes to his second book, p. 116. Pocock's edition.

is distinctly, however, perceived in the writings of Plato, Xenophon, Cicero, Seneca, Epictetus; and that is, the allowing, and even the recommending to their disciples, a compliance with the religion, and with the religious rites, of every country into which they came.

In speaking of the founders of new institutions, we cannot forget Mahomet. His licentious transgressions of his own licentious rules ; his abuse of the character which he assumed, and of the power which he had acquired, for the purposes of personal and privileged indulgence; his avowed claim of a special permission from heaven, of unlimited sensuality, is known to every reader, as it is confessed by every writer, of the Moslem story.

Secondly, in the histories which are left us of Jesus Christ, although very short, and although dealing in narrative, and not in observation or panegyric, we perceive, beside the absence of every appearance of vice, traces of devotion, humility, benignity, mildness, patience, prudence. I speak of traces of these qualities, because the

qualities themselves are to be collected from incidents; inasmuch as the terms are never used of Christ in the Gospels, nor is any formal character of him drawn in

any part of the New Testament.

Thus we see the devoutness of his mind, in his frequent retirement to solitary prayer* ; in his habitual giving of thankst; in his reference of the beauties and operations of nature to the bounty of Providence I; in his earnest addresses to his Father, more particularly that short but solemn one before the raising of Lazarus from the deads; and in the deep piety of his behaviour in the garden, on the last evening of his lifell; his humility, in his constant reproof of contentions for 'superiority; the benignity and affectionateness of his temper, in his kindness to children**: in the tears which he shed

* Matt. xiv. 23. Luke, ix. 28. Matt. xxvi. 36. + Matt. xi. 25. Mark, vüi. 6. John, yi. 23. Luke, xxii. 17.

Matt. vi. 26-28. § John, xi. 41. || Matt. xxvi. 36-47. 1 Mark, ix. 33. ** Mark, x. 16.

in sy

ܢܨ &

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

over his falling country

and
upon

the death of his friendt; in his noticing of the widow's mite; in his parables of the good Samaritan, of the ungrateful servant, and of the Pharisee and publican, of which parables no one but a man of humanity could have been the author: the mildness and lenity of his character is discovered, in his rebuke of the forward zeal of his disciples at the Samaritan villages; in his expostulation with Pilatell; in his prayer for his enemies at the moment of his suffering, which, though it has been since very properly and frequently imitated, was then, I apprehend, new. His prudence is discerned, where prudence is most wanted, in his conduct on trying oecasions, and in answers to artful questions. Of these, the following are examples :-His withdrawing, in various instances, from the first symptoms of tumult**, and with the express care, as appears from Saint Matthewti', of carrying

::

* Luke, xix.41. + John, xi. 35. Mark, xii. 42.

Luke, ix. 55. ll John, xix. 11. I Luke, xxiii. 31. ** Matt. xiv. 22. Luke, v. 15, 16. John, v, 13. vi. 15. ++ Chap. xii. 19.

on his ministry, in quietness : his declining of

every species of interference with the civil affairs of the country, which disposition is manifested by his behaviour in the case of the woman caught in adultery * and in his repulse of the application which was made to him, to interpose his decision about a disputed inheritance+ : his judicious, yet, as it should seem, unprepared answers, will be confessed in the case of the Roman tribute : in the difficulty concerning the interfering relations of a future state, as proposed to him in the instance of a woman who had married seven brethren g; and, more especially, in his reply to those who demanded from him an explanation of the authority by which he acted, which reply consisted, in propounding a question to them, situated between the

very

difficulties into which they were insidiously endeavouring to draw himll.

Our Saviour's lessons, beside what has already been remarked in them, touch, and

* John, viñ. 1:

Ib. 28.

+ Luke, xii. 14. I Matt. xxii. 19. || Matt. xxi. 23, et seq.

« PreviousContinue »