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exposed their perversions, rectified their errors, and spake as never man spake, on the perfections of God, the duties of man, and the scenes of eternity. As they listened to his gracious words, his astonished countrymen, remembering his humble origin, exclaimed, “ How knoweth this man letters," or as another evangelist has it, “ whence has this man his wisdom, not having learned ?” Jesus gives a reply which involves the divine origin of christianity,“ my doctrine is not mine, but his that sent
Now, I think, it will be admitted, that if the case were really so; if our Saviour did really display such wisdom as in his situation no one could have acquired, the solution which he himself has given of it must be the only true one—its origin was divine. That this was the fact, I shall offer some reasons to show. In order to do this, it will not be necessary to insist at all on the external evidence of it; though that is much greater, than for any other fact of equal antiquity. We may confine ourselves to this single position, that such was the originality of the doctrines of Christ, that he could not have learned them from
human source. The originality, then, of the christian system, as illustrating the divinity of its claims, will be the subject of the present discourse.
1. The first mark of originality, which I shall notice, is, that before the time of our Saviour no one had ever conceived the idea of a universal re
ligion. The institutions of Moses were in their nature local and temporary, and exclusively designed for a particular people. The heathen nations had each their appropriate tutelary Gods, and peculiar rites of worship; and none of their legislators seem to have extended their views beyond the people to whom they were called to give laws. The philosophers of antiquity, in the instructions which they gave in religion and morals, confined themselves to a small circle of chosen followers. So far were they from thinking of the good of all mankind, that the whole mass of the poor and illiterate, even of their own countrymen, was utterly overlooked and despised ; and Socrates himself, the noblest name among them, did not even attempt to destroy the idolatry of Athens, or produce the slightest revolution in the general manners of his countrymen.
From the bosom of the Jewish nation—a people of all others the most narrow and exclusive, one of whose most remarkable characteristics it was to believe that their nation had a separate and peculiar claim on the divine favour—from among such a people as this, first proceeded the sublime conception of a religion, which should break down all national and local distinctions, and comprehend in its generous design the whole human race.
66 Go and teach all nations," said our Saviour, and the annals of time gave him no precedent for his words. “ Ye shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.” Others had attempted the improvement of individuals, of a single city, or a single nation; but it was reserved for a Jewish peasant to conceive the grand and divinely benevolent idea of a religion adapted to every rank, and nation, and age; to propose the emancipation of a world from error, superstition, and sin ; to bring the whole family of mankind, Jew and Greek, Barbarian and Scythian, bond and free, to the throne of the Universal Parent. Whence, we may ask, had this man his wisdom, if it was not from above?
2. We may observe, as another mark of originality in the doctrine of Christ, that he gave the first perfect system of human duty, enforced by adequate sanctions. Although the popular religions of antiquity consisted of rights and ceremonies which had no proper connexion with morals, we must still admit, that if you look through the writings of many centuries, and select all the detached
passages which are scattered through them, you may find nearly all the chief precepts of christian morals, though indeed always in company with many useless and bewildering speculations, and maxims fundamentally erroneous.
But morality, as it has its foundation in the nature and condition of man, is not, properly speaking, an object of discovery. When, therefore, we say that our Saviour gave the first perfect system of moral and
religious duty, we mean not that he made discoveries in morals, but simply, that if before the New Testament was written, a man had desired to find a complete and unexceptionable compend of his duties to God, to himself, and to his fellow men, not only was there no such a compend to be found, but nothing which made an approach to it. There was no system in which God was distinctly represented as one God; the universal Parent, as well as moral Governor of his creatures ; the object of their confidence and love ; to whose will all their actions were to be referred ;-no system in which it was made our duty and happiness to have in view, not our own interest and gratification alone, but the happiness and improvement of our fellow men; no system in which we were taught the obligation of the most universal and inviolable personal purity, extending not merely to our external actions, but to the thoughts and intentions from which those actions proceed; or in which, in fine, this life was represented as a scene of preparation for another, and the only adequate motive therefore was given to make us bear up against the violence of passion, resist temptation of present advantage, to support the hope of struggling virtue, and aid the confidence of suffering innocence. These are the great principles of the moral system of the gospel, which though they might have been separately recognized in some form or other, were never brought together and embodied in one comprehensive and
harmonious whole, till they fell from the lips of our Saviour.
Every thing in the detail of this system is worthy of its fundamental principles ; perfectly intelligible, correct, consistent and complete. No nuine virtue is omitted; no false principle, no immoral maxim, is tolerated. Those passive and retiring virtues of humanity, forgiveness, humility, contentment, patience, resignation, so much overlooked and disdained before, are here for the first time brought forward into the rank of primary and essential duties. Those more dazzling qualities, which form what the world esteems the heroic character, are regulated, repressed, or else absorbed in more enlarged and less dangerous principles. No virtue in this system is carried to excess; no stress is laid on one, to the exclusion of others ; no external rite is substituted in the place of moral goodness; no one duty of whatever rank and value, is permitted to supersede or atone for the absence of another; but every one finds its proper place, and is arranged in its proper order and connexion. It is a system, in its foundation and superstructure, in its plan and its details, so comprehensive and complete, that the wisdom of man, improved by the experience of ages, can find in it nothing which requires addition, or admits of improvement.
Now, what we remark as original and peculiar in this case is, not so much that individual virtues