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to mankind, and to himself: in other words, that his virtue, or moral excellence, must have been consummate.
That such was, in fact, the character of Christ, we have the most abundant testimony.
The Scriptures declare every part of this character. St. Peter asserts directly, that he did no sin; that guile was not found in his mouth; and styles him a Lamb without blemish, and without spot. He calls him The holy one, and the just; and declares, that he went about doing good. St. Paul declares, that He knew no sin. St. John declares, that in him was no sin. David styles him the Holy One of God. Isaiah, or rather God speaking by Isaiah, calls him, His own righteous Servant; his Elect; his Beloved, in whom his soul delighted. Jeremiah styles him The Lord, our righteous
Christ himself declares in his intercessory prayer to the Father, I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work, which thou gavest me to do; and asserts, that the Father and himself are one ; and that he, who hath seen him, hath seen the Father. He also says, The Prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing
At his baptism, also, and during his transfiguration, God, the Father, himself declared his character, in those memorable words, This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased. A similar testimony was given by the Spirit of truth when he descended upon Christ in a bodily shape, like a dove.
To these and the like declarations, which might be easily multiplied to a great extent, various other kinds of testimony are added in the Scriptures.
The Jews, who lived on the borders of the Sea of Galilee, when assembled to behold the cure of the deaf man, who had an impediment in his speech, exclaimed, amid their astonishment at the miracle, He hath done all things well. During his life, his enemies laboured hard to fix some imputation upon his character ; but their efforts terminated in the groundless and senseless calumnies, that he cast out devils by Beelzebub, the prince of devils ; and that he was a man gluttonous, and a wine-bibber; a friend of publicans and sinners : calumnies, daily and completely refuted by the testimony of those, among whom he continually spent his time, and even by the demons which he cast out, and the maniacs whom they possessed. Even these felt themselves constrained to say, I know thee, who thou art, the Holy One of God.
In his trial before the Sanhedrim, and afterwards before Pilate, every art, which cunning could devise, fraud sanction, or malice execute, was practised, in order to fasten upon him at least some species of criminality. But, in spite of all the subornation and perjury, to which they had recourse, they were unable to prove him guilty of a single fault. Pilate's repeated examinations of him terminated with this public declaration, I find no fault in this
Judas, after he was called as a disciple, lived with him through
all his public ministry, and was a witness of his most private conduct; a companion of his most retired hours; a partner in his most undisguised conversation. At these seasons, if ever, the man is brought out to view. At these seasons, hypocrisy and imposture feel the burden of concealment too strongly, not to throw off the mask; uncover themselves, to obtain a necessary relief from the pressure of constraint, and cease awhile to force nature, that they may be refreshed for new imposition.
But Judas never saw a single act, and never heard a single word, which, even in his own biassed judgment, left the smallest stain upon the character of his Master. This he directly declared to the chief priests in that remarkable assertion, I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood. Far beyond this, when the least fault in the conduct of Christ, could he have recollected it, would have relieved the agonies of his conscience, and justified, or at least palliated, his treason; he put an end to his own life, be
; cause he could not endure the misery, springing from a sense of his guilt. In this gross and dreadful act he gave, therefore, the strongest testimony, which is possible, to the perfect innocence of the Redeemer.
Correspondent with this testimony is that of all antiquity. Neither the Mishna, nor the Talmud, which contain the whole substance of the Jewish testimony on this subject; neither Celsus, Porphyry, nor Julian, who may be fairly considered as having given us the whole of heathen testimony; have fixed upon Christ the minutest charge of either sin or folly. To the time of Origen, we have his declaration, (which is evidence of the most satisfactory nature) that within the vast compass of his information nothing of this nature had ever appeared. In modern times, the enemies of Christianity have laboured with great industry and ingenuity to fasten upon him some species of accusation. But they have la. boured in vain. Unlike, in this respect, that glorious Orb, to which he is compared in the Scriptures, nothing has ever eclipsed his splendour; no spot has ever been found on his aspect.
That we may form just and affecting views of this part of our Saviour's character, it will be useful
, without dwelling any longer on a general survey of his holiness, to proceed to the consideration of those particulars, in which it was especially exemplified.
1st. The Prety of Christ was uniform, and complete.
His supreme love to God was divinely manifested in the cheerfulness, with which he undertook the most arduous, and at the same time the most benevolent, of all employments, and of course that, which was most pleasing to him, and most honourable to his name. His faith was equally conspicuous in the unshaken constancy, with which he encountered the innumerable difficulties in his progress; His patience, in the quietness of spirit, with which he bore every affliction; and his submission, in his ready acquiescence in his Father's will, while requiring him to pass through the
deepest humiliation, pain, and sorrow. However humbling, however distressing, his allotments were, even in his agony in the garden, and in the succeeding agonies of the cross, he never uttered a complaint. But, though afflicted beyond example, he exhibited a more perfect submission, than is manifested by the most pious men under small and ordinary trials. No inhabitant of this world ever showed such an entire reverence for God, on any occasion, as he discovered, on all occasions. He gave his Father, at all times, the glory of his mission, his doctrines, and his miracles; seized every proper opportunity to set forth, in terms pre-eminently pure and sublime, the excellence of the divine character; and spoke, uniformly, in the most reverential manner of the word, the law, and the ordinances, of God.
At the same time, he was constant and fervent in the worship of God; in prayer, in praise, and in a cheerful compliance with all the requisitions of the Mosaic system; civil, ceremonial and moral : celebrated the fasts, feasts, and sacrifices, of his nation ; and thus, according with his own language, fulfilled in this respect all righteousness. Such, in a word, was his whole life ; so unspotted; so uniform ; so exalted; that all persons, who have succeeded him, both inspired and uninspired, have found themselves obliged, whenever they wished to exhibit a perfect pattern of piety, to appeal to the example of Christ.
2dly. His performance of the duties, which he owed to mankind, was equally perfect.
This part of our Saviour's character cannot be properly understood without descending to particulars. I observe, therefore, in the
First place, that his filial piety was of this remarkable nature.
Notwithstanding he was so magnificently introduced into the world by a long train of types and predictions, and by illustrious instances of the immediate ministration of Angels; he was entirely obedient, throughout almost all his life, to the commands of his parents. No
person was ever so ushered into life; or marked out by Providence for so extraordinary purposes. No person so early engrossed the attention and admiration of the great and wise by his mental endowments. Whatever could awaken in his mind the loftiest views of ambition, enkindle a strong sense of personal superiority, or produce feelings of absolute independence, he could recount among the incidents, which either attended him at his birth, or followed him in his childhood.
Still no child, no youth, no man of riper years, was ever so respectful and dutiful to his parents. To them, in the language of St. Luke, he was subject, evidently, till he began to be about thirty years of age. To this period he lived, contentedly, a humble, retired, and unobserved life; following quietly the occupation of his father, with such industry and regularity as to be known familiarly by the appellation of the Carpenter.
Civilized men have united with a single voice to applaud, and extol, Peter the Great, Emperor of Russia, for his moderation and condescension, displayed in labouring at the employment of a Shipcarpenter, in the Saardam. Unquestionably, this conduct was the result of sound wisdom, and unusual self-government, on the part of this great man; and fairly claimed the admiration, which it received. What, then, shall be said, when we behold him, whose title was the Son of God; whose birth Angels proclaimed, predicted, and sung ; to whom Angels ministered at his pleasure ; who commanded winds, and waves, and life, and death ; who triumphed over the grave, and ascended to heaven; working at an employment equally humble, not a few days only, but the principal part of his life: and all this, not to subserve the purposes of ambition, but from a sense of duty, and in the exercise of filial piety?
The same character was gloriously manifested by Christ during his public ministry. Particularly, while he hung upon the cross, suffered the agonies of that excruciating death, and bore the sins of mankind in his body on the accursed tree; when he saw his unhappy mother pierced with anguish, by his side, he forgot his own woes; commended her to the care of his beloved disciple John, as his future mother; and that disciple to her, as her future son; and thus made provision for her maintenance and comfort through life. Thus he began; and thus he ended.
Secondly. Of the same perfect nature were his Candour and Liberality.
The spirit, which is denoted by these two names, is substantially the same ; and differs, chiefly, by being exercised toward different objects. That this spirit should exist at all in Christ will naturally seem strange ; when we remember, that he was born of a humble family, in the most bigoted nation in the world, and in the most bigoted
age of that nation; and was educated in that humble manner, which naturally leads the mind to imbibe with reverence the bigoted sentiments of the great, and to add to them the numerous and peculiar prejudices springing from ignorance. But from all this influence he escaped without the least
contamination. There is not an instance, recorded in his life, in which he was more attached to any person, or thing, or more opposed to either than truth and wisdom must entirely justify. There is no instance, in which he ever censured, or commended, those of his own nation, or of any other, either more, or less, than plain justice demanded. On the contrary, he commended every thing, approved by wisdom and piety ; and reproved every thing bigoted, partial, prejudiced, and faulty, in man.
A great part of the people of his nation were his enemies; and among the most bitter of these were the Pharisees. Yet he said to his disciples, The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat : all, therefore, that they say unto you, do. But do ye not after their works ;
for they say, and do not. No commendation of the precepts of these men could easily have been conveyed in more expressive language than this. By directing his disciples to follow their precepts, he declared them, in forcible terms, to be true and right: that is, with such exceptions, as he has elsewhere made, and as the same exact regard to truth demanded.
The same disposition he manifested in the case of the Syrophenician woman; and in that of the Roman Centurion. The Jews considered all the heathen nations as deserving nothing but contempt and detestation, and called them dogs. But Christ preferred the faith of the Centurion, although a Roman, to that of all other persons, with whom he conversed; even to that of his own Apostles.
In the same generous manner he treated the publicans ; regarded by their countrymen as the vilest of sinners. In the same manner, also, he treated the Samaritans ; against whom the Jews exercised the most furious hatred, and with whom they refused to have any dealings; even those of the most indifferent and necessary kind.
The same disposition he showed with respect to doctrines, opinions, and customs. No specimen can be produced, from the history of his life, of bigoted attachment to his own doctrines, or those of his nation, or those of his friends ; of prejudice against those of strangers or enemies ; of favouritism or party spirit ; of contracted regard to any custom because sanctioned by public usage, or general respect, of reluctance to conform to any innocent practice, by whomsoever adopted; or of any narrowness of mind whatever.
When invited to a marriage, he cheerfully went; when bidden to a feast, he readily consented to become a guest. Nor did it make any difference, because the host was on the one hand Matthew or Zaccheus, a publican; or, on the other, Simon, a Pharisee. In a word, he adopted, and commended, nothing, except what was true and right; and neither refused, nor condemned, any thing, except that which was false and evil. Nor did it make the least difference with him, whether that which was approved, or censured, was adopted by friends, or enemies.
Thirdly. His Prudence was consummate on all occasions.
Particularly was it manifested in avoiding the wiles, and open assaults, of the Jews. Notwithstanding the invincible firmness of mind, universally displayed by our Saviour; notwithstanding he lost no opportunity of doing good; yet he never wantonly exposed himself to any suffering ; discovering clearly, on every occasion, a total opposition, to that vain and idle fool-hardiness, which rushes into danger, merely to gain the reputation of being courageous,
The same prudence is strongly evinced in teaching his disciples, and others, as their minds were able to receive his instructions ; giving milk to babes, and strong meat to men; opening new doctrines, and duties, by degrees; and never pouring new wine into old bottles. At the same time, he commended his precepts, both to the heart and the understanding, by their form. At one time, he com