« PoprzedniaDalej »
CLXII. The characteristics of the eloquence of Jesus Christ are not less striking, and prove him to be more than man. In his discourses this venerable man is so true, so simple, so familiar, so full of good sense, that, whosoever has but the first degree of reason, is capable of understanding him. He is so great, so wise, so deep, that he astonishes the greatest geniuses; however little conception one has, he understands him; and the more wit one possesses, the more he admires him. He is proportionate to the narrowest understandings, and at the same time he is above the most sublime minds.
CLXIII. In the discourses of Jesus Christ, you discover nothing that savours of pageantry and ostentation, because he is without pride : you see nothing that looks like affectation, neither in the choice of words or that of figures, because he has no vanity, and does not seek to make himself to be admired;
Through which of the dark clouds of ancient philosophy could you make us perceive as brilliant a perspective of the life to come, of the immortality of the soul, of the resurrection of the dead, of the universal last judgment, as that which is held forth to the christian in the four gospels ?
Where in paganism shall we meet with exhortations as pressing to the practice of every virtue, with motives as powerful to piety and zeal, with means as well calculated to make us attain them, as are those which we read at every page in that inimitable book ? Were I called upon to cite passages relative to these divine objects, I would have to transcribe almost the whole book. Suffice it to observe, that every where we remark striking traits of a more than human wisdom, which not only renders it superior to all the productions of the human mind, but moreover entirely different from them. This superiority and difference are still more strongly marked by a circumstance which is peculiar to these books, to wit : that whilst their moral part, which is of a more general use, is found to be so clear, and so set within the reach of persons of all states and capacities, the learned in exploring its hidden treasures find it to be an inexhaustible mine, which enables them to draw thence, continually, new disco. veries on the nature, the attributes, and the dispensations of divine providence. Is it to be wondered at, that after perusing the sacred books, and especially the gospels, one should not be able to read without weariness and disgust the cold maxims of a Zeno, of a Marcus Aurelius, of an Epictetus: maxims delivered without authority, without sanction, without any motive that might guarrantee their observance. I have always admired the good sense of a man who found nothing more insupportable, than those purely philosophical moralities,” Examen of the intrinsic evidence of Christianity, by L.Jenyns.
nothing that is said to please men, because he is not their flatterer; nothing that is said to strike agreeably the imagination, because he does not seek to amuse them; nothing that savours of satire, because he has too much pity for the miseries of men, to make a sport of them. All the discourses of Jesus Christ retrace to me a man who does not speak to men but to teach them how to be good and happy; who loves them with the purest and most disinterested love. His eloquence is sublime, but this sublimity is that of good sense, that is to say, that, which produces the most prompt, the most universal and the most durable effect, because it is impossible to contradict it, every one imagining within himself, what good sense has dictated to others; that, which we least distrust because it cannot be suspected either of passion, or interestedness, or artifice; that in fine which owes its success but to truth, and, of course, that, which was to characterize the Incarnate Truth.
The more we study Jesus Christ in that admirable book, the Gospel, which religion has happily placed in our hands from our first youth, the more we shall be struck at the greatness of this adorable God-man. Jesus will always be new for us, we will always imagine we behold him for the first time. Every day we shall discover in his speeches some new trait of reason and wisdom, which we had not as yet seen : every one of his words is a treasure; the body of his doctrine is like a mine of precious metal, which has not as yet been exhausted, although it has been searched for upwards of eighteen hundred years, and that will never be exhausted. All in it is true, all is beautiful, all full of sense : the purest reason beams in it throughout : nothing can be added to it, and nothing can be retrenched from it: all in it is necessary, and nothing is wanting. It is the master-piece of him who makes nothing but what is perfect--I mean, of God.
Sanctity of Jesus Christ. ; CLXIV. To have shown that Jesus Christ was the wisest of men, a man perfectly wise, is to have demonstrated, that he was also the holiest of men, a man perfectly holy. This second assertion becomes not only probable, when the first is established: but it becomes absolutely certain. As man is constituted at present, the vices of the heart never fail to darken the dictates of reason, although they never entirely extinguish them : in those whose heart is depraved, reason is never pure, and, of course, perfect virtue is inseparable from perfect reason, and no one can be wise with that complete and absolute wisdom to which nothing is wanting, without being at the same time holy, with that holiness without spot, which leaves nothing to be desired. A man that is not perfectly holy, could not even have an idea of perfect sanctity : such a man can neither form to himself, nor, of course, present to others an image of virtue that will portray it, such as it is, and that will bear all its features. · CLXV. The passions and the vices which corrupt the will of men, (especially pride,) always pervert reason and impress it with false ideas in matter of morality. It is from the passions that moral errors, private and public, spring. It is the passions which, at all times and among all nations, have begotten those monstrous prejudices which change vice into virtue and virtue into vice, and reduce men to the painful necessity either of being wicked or dishonouring themselves. For men always wish to be able to think themselves good, and by a necessary consequence of this sentiment, they strive to transform into a virtue the vice that pleases them.
Let a vicious man undertake to paint virtue, whatever may be his genius, his vices, without his being aware of it, will guide his pencil and throw on the picture such traits as will distigure it. This is what has happened to those ancient philosophers, whom pagan antiquity has so much eulogized and
raised to the very skies. The Socrates, the Platos, the Aristotles, the Tullies, the Senecas : all have missed the portrait of virtue, all have disfigured it: their pictures are full of beau. ties and full of spots. Beside the traits which reason has given, are seen the traits which passion and prejudice have furnished, they are monsters. What has happened to the philosophers of pagan antiquity, has bappened likewise to the philosophers of our days. Why could these great geniuses never succeed in making a likeness perfectly resembling virtue and sanctity ? It is because it was not in them. Jesus Christ had the true idea of perfect sanctity; he, therefore, possessed perfect sanctity: his reason was never darkened by any cloud, his heart was never troubled by any passion. He was per. fectly wise, he was, therefore, perfectly holy : he knew how to paint virtue with all the traits that characterize it; it is therefore from within himself he has taken the idea of it.
But, after all, it is not by reasonings, but by facts, that we are to judge of the Sanctity of Jesus Christ; it is from his ac. tions we must form his portrait. He, himself, must furnish the features which characterize him; and to enable mankind to judge what he is, he himself must be exhibited. Let us, then take up the Gospel, and study Jesus Christ. . CLXVI. First, no sooner does Jesus Christ show himself, than we are struck, and, as it were, dazzled with his sanctity. First, we see shine forth in him those primary virtues, which are, as it were, the foundation of all sanctity ; I mean, of the love of God, and of that of our fellow men. What a profound respect for God, whom he always styles his Father! What a dependence on his will! What a zeal for his glory! What an immense desire to make him known, and to procure him adorers! No man has ever loved men with a love so pure, so sincere, so disinterested, as he did. Can we imagine any thing comparable to the zeal with which he instructed them ? to the patience which he displayed towards them?
The innocency of his manners, his moderation, his disengagement, his aversion for all that savours of pomp and vain glory, equalled his other virtues. He never possessed any earthly No. VI.
good; never arrogated to himself any authority; he refused a crown. He was repeatedly seen to be touched, even unto tears, at the miseries of men. He was never seen to laugh: at times he rested himself: never took any pleasure. Never was any appearance in his outward comportment, that could betray a man that wished himself to be taken notice of.
CLXVII. Next, figure to yourself a man, who displays in his air and in all his manners a noble simplicity, and a cer. tain sweet dignity, which is not perceivable, but when he is viewed nigh ; who is modest without affectation ; grave without haughtiness; discreet and reserved without constraint ; affable and popular without servility; equally incapable of flattering men and offending them; always ready to do good to them; and never availing himself against them of the good which he has done them. It is under these traits, the first coup d'oeil, we have of him, depicts him to our minds.
CLXVIII. Thirdly, but when we come to examine him with more attention, and to study him with more care, we dis. cover in him such great things, that our minds are amazed at them. Not only are we unable to discover in him any vice, but we cannot even discover any of those defects of charac. ter, from which no man is exempt; none of those first emotions, which in all men at times prevent reason, and show that their virtue is not sufficiently on its guard ; that it does not always watch, and that it suffers itself, at times, to be surprised.
Fourthly, the beauty and purity of heart of this venerable man, the greatness and elevation of his soul, are felt in all that he says, and all that he does. One sees that the sublimity of virtue is his natural state, and that he does not stand in need, like other men, to recollect himself, and to struggle against the passions, to practise, on the most difficult occa. sions, the most heroic virtue: that he is wise without study; temperate, patient, free, and intrepid : without effort all in him is in a just proportion, all is in the true mean which rea
son points out, and which nobody can hit. He is never seen, " as happens with other men, to throw himself into one extreme,
to avoid another. All that he has said, is exactly what he