« PoprzedniaDalej »
their disc; in the moral heavens of heathenism, they were phenomena, but their light was flickering and uncertain—portentous of their final extinguishment.
Without depreciating the merit of ancient sages, our opinion must be, that in the general principles of their philosophy they were erring; in their dogmas trite; in their morals grossly defective. Yet they are popular. Enveloped in the charm of antiquity, they have received the tender of profoundest veneration; their conceits have been commented into sage remark, their quaintness into wisdom, and even their impenetrable obscurities into beauties.
O God! avert thy threatening bolts from the daring fronts of impious moderns, who have compared these men with thy Son, and in the comparison have given them the pre-eminence.
But Jesus framed a system admirable in itself, and of which he was the greatest ornament. In his deportment he displayed firmness without austerity; mildness without effeminacy; heroism without insolence; knowledge without arrogance. The apathy of the stoic, the looseness of the epicurean, the shallowness of the mystic alike rejected; his philosophy was characterized by all that could elevate, ennoble, illumine.
In him we behold a sun, in magnitude aud effulgency, scattering the mists from the moral horizon, and diffusing its light over a darkened world.
He assumed the high dignity of a teacher, and his example spoke as loud as his precept; the whole system of his instructions, was but the expression of his own blessed character-but the explanation of himself the glorious model.
In the dissemination of his doctrines, he was mild, persuasive, benevolent; he employed no false colouring to recommend his thoughts; but carrying with them the majesty of truth, they recommended themselves, in the artless language of feeling.
In the scheme of Mahomed we observe every thing congenial to the desires of a depraved heart; we see a sensual life on earth and a sensual heaven; yet this scheme was propagated only at the point of the sword. But in the system of Jesus, every precept is counter to our natural feelings and darling pursuits; yet whilst virtue has a voice, this system must be cherished.
All the voluptuousness and luxuriance of eastern imagery were necessary to recommend the Koran to the grovelling intellect of Musselmen, but the character and doctrines of Jesus are introduced with success to the most enlightened and discriminating by the mere unadorned narrations of illiterate
In these narrations we see this wondrous personage, under every modification of character; now in retirement, again in
the glare of public life; his history excites every variety of feeling—we alternately weep and rejoice; are indignant and again sympathize; we venerate, love, and adore; we are carried forward irresistibly; our conclusion is, that the subject of the biography is God under a mysterious exhibition of character.
When we reflect on the object of his mission, we must be struck with astonishment and admiration. We behold the King of heaven clothed in our nature and sustaining its infirmities, in order to accomplish the most stupendous plan ever devised by Deity-the most heavenly, that was ever revealed to the fallen creature.
His object was the promulgation of truth, and if ever truth appeared in its native majesty, it was when it fell from his lips —when it was exhibited in his life. He promulged it, though aware that by so doing he was combating the powerful influence and the more powerful prejudices of a nation, and arousing the lion fierceness of an arrogant priesthood. Truth was wed to his soul, and to protect so darling a treasure, he waved his claims to popularity, and denied himself the comforts of even a shelter from the tempest. One grand object he had in view, that was to be attained at every personal hazard; from the pursuit he was not to be allured by the proffer of a crown, nor to be deterred by the threats of the populace.
Such steadiness of resolution brought upon him the execrations of a deluded multitude and the infliction of the most unheard-of sufferings. Yet in these sufferings he shone pre-eminent.
About the expiration of his ministry, dangers thickened, and every presage was given of an approaching tempest, which in its tremendous operation was to sweep excellence from the world, and involve in its perdition the very demons who had conjured up the storm. Here the character of Christ is represented in a new light.
Virtue loses much of its lustre in the sunshine of prosperity, but in the darkness of adversity its brilliancy is conspicuous. Jesus appeared in much magnificence of character, when he was saluted by the hosannas of an enthusiastic populace; but when the plaudits of the fickle multitude were exchanged for the repeated, blood-thirsty demands for his death, he appeared in his more than human character.
A bold and powerful combination is formed; their system is matured; it is supported by the wealth and talents of a nation -its object the death of Jesus. These sanguinary vampires, not glutted with the blood of prophets, thirsted for the blood of Immanuel. No scheme of bolder outlines was ever conceived, since the rebellion in heaven, when the prince of fallen angels kindled the flame of war and battled with Omnipotence.
In order to a complete execution of their design they insidiously entered the household of their victim, there to find an instrument for their bloody purposes. Such an one was found; a disciple who had reclined at the table of his Lord, traitorously conspired against the life of that Lord.
Oh! how overwhelming such a circumstance! The mighty spirit of a Cæsar in a similar situation was unable to sustain the convulsive shock. In the senate house he intrepidly resisted the threatening poignards of ferocious conspirators, until among their number he beheld one whom he loved, one whom he had honoured; when enveloping himself in his pierced mantle, he relinquished the contest and his life, with the affecting, heartbursting complaint, “ And thou too, my son !” Jesus saw a traitor among his avowed friends, yet still he was unmoved.
Night adds solemnity to sorrow. At the close of the day, when all nature was hushed in repose, we may hear the slow and solemn tread of a little mournful company, which had just risen from the table, at which they had all supped together for the last time. They bend their way to the Mount of Olives, they repair to the garden of Gethsemane, the master retires apart from the rest-but, oh, here language must fail to picture the scene!
From the nature of a covenant engagement, Christ, for the accomplishment of man's redemption, was to endure the consuming wrath of God, and the utmost malice of man. Under the accumulated weight of such misery, we see this wondrous personage, in the garden, bending to the earth! How overwhelming his sorrows! how fierce that agony of soul, which wrung the very blood from his temples! Had he been a mere man, the weight would have crushed him into annihilation, but he was more than man. There was a connected series of aggravating circumstances in his misery.
The malady of the sick man is soothed by the watchful cares of a friend, when the taper of midnight casts its sickly lustre around, and pain has driven sleep from his eyelids; but Jesus, when the solace of friendship would have been most grateful, agonized in body and spirit, at the dread hour of midnight, had not one to watch with him one hour. Still he is firm !
The darkness of the night is at length partially dissipated by the distant glimmering of torches; the crisis arrives, and Jesus is singled out as the object of pursuit, by a traitorous kiss.
His dignified aspect intimidates his murderers, and his short but kingly declaration “I am he,” unnerves them and strikes them to the ground; the opportunity for escape is favourable ; yet he spurns it, suffers them to recover, bind him like a culprit, and lead him away.
Do we not see the disciples, superior to any sense of personal
jeopardy, irritated at the indignity shown their Master, and making a noble effort for his rescue? Alas! he beholds them fleeing with the utmost trepidation and panic, and leaving him to his ill-boding captivity—and yet he is unmoved.
To the palace of Caiaphas and the judgment-hall of Pilate he is led, to bear the contumely of that multitude, that had on a preceding occasion hailed with hosannas his entrance into the Capitol. If ever there was a scene that was calculated to inspire the deepest veneration and awe, it was Jesus, in the midst of an armed soldiery, and more sanguinary judges, unmoved and stately in his demeanour, looking on his enemies with a calm yet dignified countenance.
He could endure the revilings and buffettings of the mob, but every circumstance was calculated to destroy the equanimity of his mind. He was in the midst of his foes; there was not one pitying look, one relenting visage; but a marked determination to effect their barbarous designs. At length he descries one, who, partially recovered from the shock at Gethsemane, had followed his Lord to the judgment. But here the only circumstance calculated to soothe, is made an instrument of his increased suffering; for he heard, even at that awful conjuncture he heard, Peter, the most magnanimous of his disciples, who had often boasted of his fidelity, denying his discipleship. His countenance is still unruffled, not even a flash of indignation passes over it; but with a half-complaining, half-pitying look, he melts that denying Peter into tears.
Deserted by his friends, he is left solitary and alone, to contend with his malicious foes! At length, through evidence extorted by bribery, he is condemned by prejudiced judges for an imaginary crime; he listens to the solemn sentence with undauntedness, endures the sharpest scourgings without a murmur, and bears his own cross to Calvary. Will they, oh will they crucify the Lord of glory? They are permitted. Jesus is suspended a spectacle for heaven and earth, inhumanly murdered under the most ignominious circumstances! Do angels weep? here they must have wept. The earth was convulsed, the planets veiled their lustre, the mid-day light was lost in the shades of night. A heathen philosopher, far removed from the scene of action, observing the appearances which an affrighted world presented, exclaimed, as if by a spirit of inspiration, “ The God of nature suffers, or sympathizes with some noble sufferer!" Oh it was a scene of startling horror; yet in the very article of death this wondrous personage, turning his languid, dying eyes upon his murderers, then slowly lifting them towards heaven, with heavenly benignity uttered, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do:” as one observes,
“If Socrates died like a philosopher, Jesus Christ died like a God.”
The most lauded heroes wither under the grasp of death ; their laurels are destined to fade on the tomb; their memorial may remain, but it is like the recollection of a long-past, fevered dream; the grave is the boundary line of their triumphs, the termination of their mighty prowess. But this “chiefest among ten thousand,” left an imperishable memorial, unclasped the fetters of death, and by an irresistible energy triumphed over the monarch of terrors; he arose, he arose gloriously triumphant, demonstrating that He who permitted himself to be slain, was too powerful a subject for the grave to control.
Such was the eventful life of that wonderful person, who was Mediator, who was God; by his death he consummated salvation, and now heaven is purchased for believers.
And this Jesus, my soul, is the author of thy hopes, the refuge of thy sorrows, the blest pavilion of thy safety, where thou mayest shelter from the tempest!
And is the religion of Jesus a delusion, as some would persuade? Oh, to it have I fled as the only soother of my griefs, as the only earnest of my immortality, and is it a delusion? Then am I content to be enshrouded in its thickest mantle; for if a delusion, 'tis still a rapturous one!
W. M. E.
ON THE ADVANTAGES OF REVELATION.
After St. Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, * has passed a condemnatory sentence, on all that religion among the Jews, which consisted merely in external observances; and has also, put the stamp of divine approbation, on all that religion among the Gentiles, which embraced cordial obedience to God; he anticipates a plausible objection, which he knew, would not be overlooked by a Jewish antagonist. If-such an antagonist would reply--if our descent from Abraham ; our circumcision in the flesh; and our exact conformity to the customs and traditions of Judaism; be no more available, than has been represented: and if the Gentiles may secure the divine favour, without such distinctions and conformity—“ What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?”!
The apostle's answer was prompt. What advantage? “Much;” said he, in his peculiarly pointed manner. It is not my intention to frustrate the immense kindness of God to His chosen people. The objection proceeds upon a misapprehen
+ Rom. ii. 1.
• ï. 26–29. Vol. I.