Gambar halaman

part being suited exactly to every other part, and all the parts to the whole. As this character could not have been formed by the apostles, without an actual example, it was equally impossible that it should have been formed, at the time when they wrote, with the aid of such an example. The Gospel of St. Matthew was, according to the earliest computation, written, as I formerly observed, eight years after the death of Christ. How plainly impossible was it that he should have remembered Christ's Sermon on the Mount, his Parabolical Sermons, or his discourses concerning the destruction of Jerusalem and the final judgment? How evidently impossible is it, that he should have made them? Who could make them now? Compare them with the noblest efforts of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and Cicero. Who now, what peasant, what beggar, what child of twelve years of age, would take their discourses as his creed, as the directory of his conscience, as the law of his life? But the discourses of Christ were the creed, the wisdom, the boast, the glory of Bacon, Locke, Newton, Butler, Boyle, Berkeley, Addison, and Johnson. Can it be imagined that the Jewish publican possessed a mind sufficiently sublime and capacious, sufficiently discerning and pure, to command the admiration, belief, and obedience of these great men? Can it be believed that, with all the wisdom of the world before them, and their own superior understanding to direct their choice, they, and ten thousand other enlightened men, should bow with a single heart and voice to precepts and instructions devised by the mere native abilities of this uneducated inhabitant of Judea?

But if Matthew could not have devised nor remembered the life and discourses of Christ, what shall be said of John? His Gospel was written about fifty years after the death of the Saviour, and contains more, and more wonderful discourses of this glorious Person. All these also are exhibited as springing out of appropriate occasions minutely specified, and are exactly fitted to each occasion. The writer, it is to be remembered, was a fisherman on the lake Gennesaret, and followed this business some time after he arrived at manhood. A mere fisherman, therefore, wrote the Gospel of St. John. Suppose the experiment were now to be made. Suppose an American fisherman, who had read the Bible from his childhood, were to be employed to form a new Gospel, and to delineate anew, as particularly as John has done, the life and discourses of such a person as Christ, both of them to be drawn wholly from the stores of his own mind. What must we, what must all men be obliged to believe would be the result of his efforts ? Undoubtedly, the same narrow-minded, gross, and contemptible compound which we now and then behold in a pamphlet, written by an ignorant man, which scarcely any person reads through, unless for the sake of seeing what such a man can write ; a production devoid of understanding, wisdom, incident, character, entertainment, and thought; a trial of patience, a provocative of contempt and pity. Such, all analogy compels us to believe, must have been the Gospel of St. John, had it been devised by the mere force of his own mind.

That he could have remembered the incidents and discourses contained in it, after the lapse of fifty years, I need not attempt to disprove; since it was never believed, and will never be believed by any man.

But the Gospel of John was written by a fisherman: the writer bimself declares it, and the declaration is confirmed by the testimony of all antiquity. Read this book, consider the sublime and glorious wisdom which it contains, and the wonderful life which it records, and then tell me whether the supposition, that it was revealed, or that it was written without revelation, involves the greater miracle.









In the two preceding Discourses I have considered the personal holiness of Christ, in its three great divisions of piety, benevolence, and self-government. I shall now proceed to a discussion of the second head of discourse, originally proposed concerning this subject, and endeavour to

Explain the importance of this attribute to Christ, as the high priest of mankind.

I wish it to be distinctly remembered, that I am not inquiring why personal holiness or inherent moral excellence, was necessary to Christ. Personal holiness is indispensable to every rational being in order to his acceptance with God, being no other than the performance of his duty in whatever situation he is placed. My inquiries respect solely the necessity of Christ's manifesting to the world his holiness of character in a life of perfect obedience, such as he actually exhihito. Christ might have become incarnate, and died immediately, and yet have been a perfectly holy being. I ask here why it was necessary for him, as the high priest of men, to exhibit such a life as he actually lived.

[ocr errors]


The pre-eminent holiness of Christ was, in this character, necessary to him.

1. To give him that distinction which was indispensable.

We are so accustomed to regard Christ as an extraordinary person, as hardly to ask for any reason why this peculiarity of character was necessary to him, or what influence it had, or was intended to have, on his priesthood. I shall not be able to do justice to this subject, yet I will suggest a few considerations which have occurred to me at the present time.

It will be readily believed by all persons who admit the priesthood of Christ, that this office was the most important ever assumed in the present world. He who has expiated the sins of mankind, and opened the way for their reconciliation to God, their restoration to holiness, and their introduction to heaven, hasundoubtedly sustained the most important character, and performed the most important acts which have been ever known to the human race. That a person of whom these things can be truly said must be rationally supposed to be separated from the rest of mankind, by many marks both of personal and official distinction, is an assertion which needs no proof.

Ali men are by the very nature of the case prepared to admit beforehand, that he who is destined to so extraordinary an office must also possess an extraordinary character.

The Jews, led by the several predictions given in their Scriptures concerning the Messiah, and perhaps in some degree, also, by ine naiuse of the case, formed concerning him apprehensions generally of this nature. They mistook, indeed, the things by which his personal character was to be distinguished, but were perfectly correct in their belief, that his character was to be singular, as well as his office. His life, in their view, was to find its peculiar distinction in external splendour, conquest, and dominion over all nations, who were to be subjugated by his arm. He was to reign with a glory utterly obscuring that of every preceding conqueror, and was to divide among them, his favourite people, the pomp, wealth,

and power

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

of this lower world. To them as the people of the saints of the Most High,' was, in a literal sense, to be given the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven.' To a people, conquered as they were, impatient of their yoke, panting for liberty and independence, proud of their pre-eminence as the chosen people of God, gross in their conceptions of divine truth, and confining, with an animal relish, all real good to the gratifications of sense, it can scarcely seem strange, that this should appear a rational interpretation of the prophecies concerning the Redeemer, particularly of some, which are couched in terms highly figurative. From such a people, in such a state, we could hardly expect just apprehensions concerning those sublimer glories of the Messiah which lay in excellence of mind, and excellence of life, obtained the unmingled complacency of the Father, and called forth the admiration, love, and homage of all the virtuous among mankind. Still even the expectations of the Jews accord with the general truth, that he who sustains such an office, must also possess a character suited to that office.

The necessity of this character, to give distinction to Christ as the high priest of mankind, appears in a striking manner from several considerations. Particularly, it was indispensable to the accomplishment of the end of his priesthood; and, therefore, of his whole mediatorial office, that he should engage, to a great extent, the attention of mankind. On this, in a great measure, depended the importance and success of his public ministry, both among his contemporaries, and among men of all succeeding ages. Had he not been an object of public curiosity and inquiry in his own time, bis instructions, if uttered at all, must have been uttered to the rocks and the winds ; and his character, unregarded in that age, would have been forgotten in the next. Or, if we suppose a record to have been made of his instructions, they would have been the instructions of an individual, obscure, not only on account of his parentage, and the humble circumstances of his life, but on account of every thing else. Whatever they were, however wise, pure, and unexceptionable, they would have failed to arrest the attention and command the regard of future times, because they were not enforced by a distinguished character in their author. For extraordinary sentiments the mind instinctively looks to

[ocr errors]
« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »