Page images
[ocr errors]

temperance*." Not a reflection upon his moral character, not an imputation or fufpicion of any offence against purity and chastity, appears for five hundred years after his birth. This faultleffness 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 lawgiver t. Zeno the ftoic, and Diogenes the cynic, fell into the fouleft impurities; - of which alfo Socrates himself was more than fufpected. Solon forbad unnatural crimes to flaves. Lycurgus tolerated theft as a part of education. Plato recommended a community of women. Ariftotle maintained. the general right of making war upon Barbarians. The elder Cato was remarkable for the ill usage of his flaves. The younger gave up the perfon of his wife. One loofe principle is found in almost all the Pagan moralifts; is diftinctly, however, perceived in the writings of Plato, Xenophon, Cicero,

*Or. Ep. Celf. 1. 3. num. 36. ed. Bened. +See many inftances collected by Grotius de Ver. in the notes to his fecond book, p. 116. Pocock's edition,


Seneca, Epictetus, and that is, the allowing, and even the recommending to their difciples, a compliance with the religion, and with the religious rites, of every country into which they came. In fpeaking of the founders of new inftitutions, we cannot forget Mahomet. His licentious tranfgreffions of his own licentious rules; his abuse of the character which he affumed, and of the power which he had acquired, for the purposes of perfonal and privileged indulgence; his avowed claim of a special permiffion from heaven of unlimited sensuality, is known to every reader, as it is confeffed by every writer, of the Moslem story.

Secondly, in the hiftories which are left us of Jesus Christ, although very short, and although dealing in narrative, and not in obfervation or panegyric, we perceive, befide 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; inafmuch

inafmuch as the terms are never ufed of Christ in the gospels, nor is any formal character of him drawn in any part of the New Teftament.

Thus we fee the devoutnefs of his mind, in his frequent retirement to folitary prayer*; in his habitual giving of thanks t; in his reference of the beauties and operations of nature to the bounty of providence ; in his earnest addreffes to his Father, more particularly that short but folemn one before the raising of Lazarus from the dead § ; and in the deep piety of his behaviour in the garden, on the last evening of his life || his humility, in his conftant reproof of contentions for fuperiority ¶: the benignity and affectionateness of his temper, in his kindnefs to children**, in the tears which he hed

* Mat. xiv. 23. ix. 28. xxvi. 36.

Mat. xi. 25. Mark viii. 6. John vi. 23. Luke xxii. 17.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

over his falling country*, and upon the death of his friend; in his noticing of the widow's mite; in his parables of the good Samaritan, of the ungrateful fervant, and of the pharifee 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 difciples at the Sa maritan village§; in his expoftulation with Pilate ; in his prayer for his enemies at the moment of his fuffering ¶, which, though it has been fince very properly and frequently imitated, was then, I apprehend, new. His prudence is difcerned, where prudence is moft wanted, in his conduct upon trying occafions, and in answers to artful queftions. Of these the following are examples: His withdrawing, in various inftances, from the first symptoms of tumult** and with the exprefs care, as appears from

* Luke xix. 41. $ Luke ix. 55. **Mat. xiv. 22.

↑ John xi. 35.
John xix. 11.

Luke v. 15, 16.

+ Mark xii. 42.

Luke xxiii. 34. John v. 13. vi. 15.


[ocr errors]

St. Matthew*, of carrying 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 cafe of the woman caught in adultery †, and in his repulse of the application which was made to him, to interpofe his decifion about a difputed inheritance his judicious, yet, as it should feem, unprepared anfwers, will be confeffed in the case of the Roman tribute §; in the difficulty concerning the interfering relations of a future ftate, as propofed to him in the inftance of a woman who had married feven brethren ||; and, more especially, in his reply to those who demanded from him an explanation of the authority by which he acted, which reply confifted, in propounding a queftion to them, fituated between the very difficulties, into which they were infidiously endeavouring to draw him ¶.

Our Saviour's leffons, befide what has al

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]
« PreviousContinue »