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we should turn the left to be smitten also. In this case, we are apt enough to perceive the grounds of modification and exception in our own favour; still, the very force and uncompromising character of the expressions used, have their effect in fixing our mind upon the intended lesson.
Had our Lord condescended to show, in the parable, how rich men may nevertheless be saved; and, in the maxim, when there may be a limit to forbearance, it would have frittered away and enfeebled his lessons. He therefore lays down his rules and his doctrines absolutely, that none may pretend ignorance or attempt evasion. The grounds of modification and of excuse, must rest each on the circumstances of the individual case; and it is at his peril that any man trusts to them. The punishment of offence may be mitigated by considerations with the judge, taken into account after the fact; but we have no right to calculate on them beforehand—to modify the rule of our conduct to our personal views and inclinations. This is disobedience prepense, and inexcusable.
If, therefore, we consider these principles of common sense and reason, we shall find no obscurity in any
of the moral doctrines and precepts of our Lord; to which class of doctrines we are at present more particularly paying attention, as forming the substance of the teachings of Christ, recorded by the three first Evangelists. On the contrary, the style of our Lord's teaching, even in these instances, tends to exhibit his doctrine in a very clear and striking view, and to fix it on the memory of an attentive disciple in such forms and light as he can neither easily forget nor mistake. It is true, that many of his doctrines—and, for example, those two we have mentioned, namely, that of compensation and retribution, in the future life, for poverty and riches in this world, and the patient suffering and forgiveness of injuries--are so much overlooked by Christians in their practical conduct, that one might suppose such doctrines had been mysteries, not readily discovered by persons who were yet constantly reading the Scriptures; but the reason is, as shall be afterwards shown more at large, that men have been so intent to find or to make mysteries in the Scriptures, that they have overlooked what was evident. Now, our
argument is this, that the teachings of Christ give no handle or excuse for making a mystery of them. It is that “highway on which he that runs may read; and in which, a wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err.”
We next observe, that the doctrine of Christ was delivered in such an authoritative style as no other prophet ever used. They were authorised, indeed, to preface their doctrine with a “ Thus saith the Lord,” and in some cases to confirm their mission by miracles. But the style of Jesus in his teaching was, “ Verily, verily, I say unto you;"_" Of old time, this or that was said; but now I say." This circumstance struck the attention of all his hearers. The people remarked “ that he spoke with authority, and not like the scribes;"_“that never man spake like this man." It is true, that in those instances where the prophets clearly spoke in the name of God, there could be no authority higher in its nature and source; but the very circumstance of declaring the ground of their authority upon every special occasion, proved that they were invested with no proper personal and discretionary authority. It was only when “ the word of the Lord came to them” that they spoke in his name. But the authority of Christ appeared to be properly personal, although it was derived. His commission was that of a plenipotentiary. It embraced the entire subject of the Divine will and interpositions in favour of mankind. The importance and accuracy of his words were not affected by anything partial or obscure in the knowledge he possessed of his subject. If his sayings were very remarkable, and at first view difficult to be received, this was done on purpose to make a deep impression of some truth which we should find, after reflection, to be more clear and weighty. In this respect, at all events (whatever more might be implied), he was declared, by a voice from heaven, to be “the beloved Son of God, whom all should hear.” By his actions and his words he declared himself to be greater than Moses or any of the prophets-than Solomon, or any of the wise men of antiquity; and John the Baptist declared, of himself, that he was not worthy to unloose the latchet of his successor's shoe;"_he was but “ of the earth, earthy; Christ was the Lord from heaven.” Paul like
« In him were contained all the treasures of the Godhead (as regards man's interests) personally;"
“ he was the likeness of God—the express image of his person;" (his character, morally and intellectually, as regarded what man was concerned with.)* If other prophets were the occasional ambassadors of God, Christ was his viceroy-his authority was unlimited; for it was decreed - that all men should honour the Son even as they honoured the Father;" and again, “all power is committed to me in heaven and on earth.”
Besides this tone of authority with which Christ delivered his doctrine, it has been remarked, † that the grace and gracious words which are imputed to him, refer not only to the substance of his doctrine and communications, but also to the manner of his teacbing, or, as we would say in English, to its gracefulness-a minor consideration, no doubt, yet worthy of notice on a comparison with other teachers. Of his personal manner, or delivery, we cannot indeed have any precise idea, as there is no authentic description of it; but we may form some further idea of his style, and the merits of his discourses, in this way. The Scriptures of the Old Testament contain portions of very beautiful composition, which will stand a comparison with all others; but, when we regard the style of his teaching considered as a whole, and as embodying a characteristic doctrine, there is much that is admirable and peculiar in that of Christ. It was distinguished at once for majesty and tenderness; lofty and uncompromising in its bearings towards those who were disposed to dispute or despise his authority; gentle and condescending to the unhappy and unfortunate. The dispensation of Moses, and the denunciations of the Prophets, were more calculated to work upon the fears of mankind. Christianity invited their confidence and their love. “ The law came by Moses,—grace and truth by Jesus Christ." As a teacher, “ he was fairer than the other sons of men, grace was found upon his lips;"_" he did not strive nor make his voice loud-the bruised reed he would not break, nor quench the smoking flax." The perfection of his own virtue did not make him spurn even the guilty, for “ he came to seek and to save that which was lost."
* I have modified these expressions because some will deny that they imply so much; but if any one think they imply more, I have nothing to say about that in this argument. It is not the doctrine of what is called Christ's person that we refer to, but his authority as a teacher, and as the representative of God upon earth, that is, to
A doctrine thus characterised, we may be sure, would influence his personal manners, and ought to produce on our minds a conception of what that was like, although we have no description of it from those who saw him.
Combining all these views of the character and manner of Christ, we form our idea of a perfect and plenary inspired teacher and doctrine. It implies simplicity and perspicuity; it dealeth not so much in words as in things —not in the letter, but in the spirit. It is adapted to the capacities, to the sentiments, to the wants of all men. It is devoid of mystery; for its very essence and purpose is to reveal what was otherwise unknown and obscure. It is circumscribed by the manners of no nation, by the spirit of no age, but is designed to mould and fashion all to its own model. Finally, it is complete in regard to all things which it behoved mankind to know about their salvation from sin and misery in this life, or in the life to come.
The foregoing is a summary view of the supremacy and superiority of Christ's teachings above those of all other inspired teachers. We proceed to develope this idea by a more detailed comparison with the writings and teachings of others, and by a fuller exposition of the peculiar doctrines which he taught.
A BRIEF EXPOSITION OF THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW.
(Continued from p. 124.)
CHAPTER XI. VERSES 16, 17: “ But whereunto shall I liken this generation? It is like unto children sitting in the market, calling unto their fellows, and saying, We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto and
ye have not lamented.” “ This generation,” that is, the Jewish people, is compared unto children who were dissatisfied with the behaviour of their companions, whether in their plays they assumed the garb of joy or
It appears that, in the game from which the
illustration is drawn, it was the duty of one party to play lively airs upon the pipe, to which the others were required to dance; these others, in the case before us, were dissatisfied, and did not dance. The first party seeing this, and anxious to please their youthful associates, changed the character of their minstrelsy, and mourned, or played mournful tunes upon their pipes; at which, according to the laws of the game, their companions ought to have lamented, or, as the original implies, to have smitten their breasts with their hands: the second party were still dissatisfied. To such children, Jesuswith his usual fondness for illustrations which were familiar to every one, and drawn from objects or occurrences then actually present-compares the Jews, in the reception they gave to John the Baptist and to himself. “ For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say he hath a devil.” He came with all the austerities of an ancient prophet,- dwelling in the wilderness robed in a camel's hair vestment-living on field locusts, and the honey which he found in the hollows of the trees or the cavities of the rocks—shunning social intercourse with his fellow-creatures—and practising fasts and other modes of bodily mortification. With this conduct and character they were offended; they accused him of moroseness and religious phrenzy, saying, “ He hath a demon," i.e. he is mad. [See on Chap. viii
. 28.] Jesus came in an opposite character. About him, there was nothing of the gloom of the hermit, nothing of the austerity of the monk. He retired not to solitude, except for occasional meditation or devotion; his business was with “the hum of populous cities;" he was not distinguished by any peculiarity of dress from the rest of the Jewish citizens; he partook cheerfully of whatever food was in common use among his companions; he even joined in the festive entertainments of his acquaintances, thus, he was present at the marriage-supper in Cana of Galilee -thus, he attended at a feast made by Matthew after he was called, at which “a great company of publicans and others sat down with them.” Nay, he did not even conceive the sanctity of the ancient Sabbath desecrated by partaking of the innocent hospitality of his friends; for, in Luke xiv. 1, it is narrated, “ And it came to pass,