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and impression, utterly unrivalled by any preceding instructor.
Particularly; he explained the nature and extent of the divine law far more perfectly than Moses and the prophets. Of this truth his Sermon on the Mount is the most illustrious instance of which we are able to form a conception. In this wonderful discourse he inverted some, and subverted others, of the Jewish opinions, established a long time before he commenced his ministry, concerning the substance of the Mosaic religious system; explained the extent and comprehensiveness of the law; and taught the wonderfully various, minute, and exact manner in which its precepts are applicable to the moral concerns of mankind. David had formerly said, while addressing himself to the Most High, · Thy commandment is exceeding broad.' But Christ first unfolded the extension of the divine law to every thought and affection, as well as to every word and action, of mankind. At the same time, he exbibited the nature of genuine obedience in a light new and altogether nobler than had before been imagined ; presenting to the eyes of mankind this obedience, otherwise termed holiness, or virtue, as more expanded, more dignified, more refined, and formed for a destination superior to what was found in the instructions given by the wisest men under the Mosaic dispensation. Whatever was limited, and merely Jewish, he took away; cleansing the intellect from every film which had bedimmed or narrowed its views; and releasing the heart from every clog which had checked the progress of its affections. The soul, therefore, freed in this manner from its former corporeal ineumbrances, was prepared by his instructions to renew its strength, to mount up with wings as an eagle, to run' in the Christian course
and not be weary, to walk and not faint.'
In the same perfect manner, and to a considerable extent in this very discourse, as well as more fully in his discourses at large, he explained the Gospel to mankind. The scheme of salvation to apostates through a Redeemer was very imperfectly taught by Moses, and was left in no small degree of obscurity even by David and Isaiah. It was reserved for Christ, by whom
came grace and truth,' to make the way of holiness a highway, in which way-faring men, though fools,' were by no necessity compelled to 'err.' So fully, so distinctly, so com
pletely has Christ pointed out the way to eternal life, that we often see heathens, savages, slaves, and even little children, as well as unlettered men in Christian countries, entering into it, and walking safely onward to the end.
Among the things which Christ has thus clearly explained to mankind, I have selected the following :
(1.) He taught mankind, that the heart is the seat of all virtue and vice, or, in scriptural language, of holiness and sin.
Matt. xv. 16. • Jesus said to his disciples : Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught. But those things which proceed out of the mouth, come forth from the heart, and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murder, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man; but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.' And again, Matthew xii. 34,. He said to the Pharisees, O generation of vipers! how can ye, being evil, speak good things; for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things'
By declaring, that the heart was the only seat of good and evil, Christ taught us several lessons of great importance to our safety and well-being.
[1.] He taught us particularly, how to distinguish with accuracy between moral good and evil.
So long as men supposed moral good and evil to lie either wholly or partially in their external actions, it was impossible that they should make this distinction with any degree of accuracy; for the very same external actions, so entirely the same as to be distinguished by no human eye, proceed from principles directly opposite, and are intended to promote directly opposite ends. In the actions themselves, therefore, there is no difference; and, of course, no foundation for any distinction in their moral character. But, when the good and evil are referred to the heart, the intention, the accordance with different motives, we cannot fail, unless through an unnecessary and therefore criminal negligence, to discern whether we form
good or bad intentions, and whether we accord with good or evil motives. In this manner our duty, and our disobedience also, are in ordinary cases, to say the least, made plain and obvious; and we are saved from that perplexity and suspense, whose only influence it is to delay, bewilder, and distress the mind.
[2.] In this manner, also, Christ has taught us, where our principal safety lies ; viz. in carefully watching our thoughts.
David in those golden precepts, recited by Solomon in the fourth chapter of Proverbs, had long before our Saviour's incarnation said, 'Keep thy heart with all diligence ; for out of it are the issues of life. But this precept seems to have been imperfectly understood, and little insisted on, and its importance imperfectly realized, by those who preceded the Redeemer. He, on the contrary, by showing that the heart was the only seat of good and evil, and teaching that the nature of the streams was derived solely from the fountain, taught also, in a manner which could not be misapprehended, that the supreme duty and interest of man lay in guarding the fountain itself from every impurity. As all good and all evil commence here, to watch the state of the thoughts and affections becomes a duty of immeasurable importance. Proportionally important is the lesson by which this duty is taught and enjoined.
[3.] In the same manner, also, Christ taught the emptiness of external and ceremonial performances.
Many of the Jews, and all the heathen, placed the wholo of their religion in such performances. Christ struck at the root of this fruitful stem of falsehood ; a production not unnaturally cherished by the splendid ceremonies of the Mosaic ritual.
Although the religion of the heart was actually taught, and taught with great force and propriety, in the Mosaic system, yet the splendour of the worship which it enjoined, and the strong impressions made on the imagination by the nature and multitude of its rites, easily drew off the attention of gross and careless minds from the thing typified to the type, from spiriiual worship and real duty to a mere external observance.
For several ages before Christ appeared, the Jews, and among them the teachers of their law, had leaned more and more towards an unqualified approbation of mere external
rites, and a general substitution of mere external conduct for the duties enjoined by religion. To the opinions of these meu Christ, on many occasions, opposed himself in form, and with irresistible efficacy. Whatever stress may be laid upon them by others, it is impossible for his disciples to regard them as being virtuous, even in the remotest sense; or as being of any moral use, except as occasional aids and means of virtue.
(2.) Christ taught mankind, that virtue consists solely in loving God with all the heart, and our neighbour as ourselves.
• On these two commands,' said he to the scribe,' hang all the law and the prophets.' Out of these commands arise all the precepts taught by Moses and the prophets; precepts, which have no other nature nor end but to explain and enjoin this universal law of God. He who keeps these, therefore, keeps them all. Of course, he is the subject of that obedience which God has required; of moral excellence, of real amiableness in the sight of his Maker.
The distinction between virtue and vice, exhibited under the first head, as so successfully made by the doctrine there specified, was here completed. When virtue is made to consist wholly in love, and love itself is at the same time so exactly defined, all the facility is given which can be desired, for the purpose of discriminating between virtue and sin.
(3.) Christ taught, that the meek and lowly virtues, as they are called, or in other words exercises of virtue, are superior in their excellency to any others.
. Mankind have universally admired magnanimity, active courage, contempt of danger and death, and other exercises of a bold and vigorous spirit. Nay, so greatly have they admired them, not only as to regard with a forgiving eye those who have exhibited them, even in the midst of crimes and excesses, but to yield to them, when guilty of every enormity, their universal and unqualified applause. I do not deny, that these may
be indications and exercises of virtue. There are undoubtedly occasions, on which we are required to be strong, and of a good courage;' and, when we assume this character from a sense of duty, and for just and benevoient purposes, we are really, and may be eminently virtuous.
On the other hand, the meek and lowly exercises of this
spirit; such as meekness, humility, patience, submission, geutleness, placability, moderation, and forgiveness, altnough perhaps by most persons allowed to be virtuous, are yet by almost all unadmired and unesteemed. Still, our Saviour has upquestionably exhibited these, both in his instructions and in his example, as wholly superior to the others. He descants on them oftener, he dwells on them more; he presents them more frequently to us in his life; or rather bis whole life is an uninterrupted exhibition of them. He plainly attaches to them a higher importance, as they are in themselves; and he makes them more essential to the character of a Christian, and to the attainment of salvation. This, it must be acknowledged, is a current of instruction running directly counter to that of poets, historians, and philosophers in all ages, and to the general course of human feelings relating to this subject. It cannot but be useful to examine, for a moment, how far this conduct of the Redeemer accords with the decisions of experience and common sense.
It is evident beyond a debate, that the meek and lowly virtues have in themselves no tendency to produce any part of those miseries with which mankind have afflicted each other. If we were humble, we should never become the authors of those evils which have regularly sprung from pride. If we were meek, we should not impatiently feel injuries, nor give pain in those numerous instances in which it is created by wrath. If we were gentle, we should not do injuries to others. If we were forgiving, we should not revenge them on others. If we were moderate, we should prevent the evil effects which alway spring from ungoverned passions, particularly from envy, wrath, and the passion for pleasure. If we were placable, we should cut off the mass of calamities which is found in alienation of heart, unrelenting aversion, and irreconcileable estrangement of affection, and instate in its place that serene and self-approved enjoyment which springs from the cordial reconcilement of minds, previously the seats of real though imperfect good-will. If we were patient, we should neither murmur at God, nor at each other, and should at the same time lessen half the evils which we felt, by a quiet submission to the hand of our Creator. Who does not see that, if these virtues bad their full and proper influence on human hearts and human affairs, man would assume a new character, and