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THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
these remarks, in the instances which I have already adduced in another connexion. Still one case occurs to me so strikingly in point that I must mention it here.
Once, as we read, a young man, of a very winning appearance, came and knelt before Jesus, saying, “Good master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He is rebuffed with the reply, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, God.” Again, when a woman, with an amiable sensibility, broke forth in blessing the mother of Jesus, his language is, “ Yea, rather blessed are they who hear the word of God, and keep it.” Now these instances would seem to imply in Jesus an extreme sensitiveness to any disposition on the part of those around him, to magnify him personally. And yet, when Mary came and poured that costly ointment upon him, an act whereby she expressed the greatest personal reverence, he upheld the propriety of the apparent waste, and paid no respect to the very plausible suggestion
Why was not this ointment sold, and given to the poor?” A consideration of the respective circumstances of the three occasions alluded to, will satisfy us, that the language of Jesus, on each occasion, was expressive of, and consistent with, a healthy sensibility of mind. We shall recur to these passages of his life more particularly hereafter. In the meanwhile it is interesting to observe, that for all that appears in the letter of the narratives, there is a downright inconsistency. Looking only at what they expressly mention, we scarcely recognize the same individual in him who so willingly received the costly offering of Mary's
THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
reverence, and yet so promptly rejected the respectful address of the young ruler at one time, and at another, sought so instinctively to give a different direction to the sensibility of the female who poured out her benedictions upon his mother. Here is most impressive evidence, to my mind, that the writers of his history were wholly unconscious of any attempt to portray his moral features, or to communicate an individual idea of him. They are entirely occupied with the facts, the particulars that had passed before their eyes, and they leave all conclusions and inferences to take care of themselves.
Now this, I say, is the great and all-satisfying miracle—that from histories of this description we are able to form in our minds a distinct and consistent conception of an individual, such as the world has never seen before nor since. If, indeed, instead of being what they are, the Four Gospels were careful and laboured descriptions of Jesus Christ, profound critical analyses of his moral traits, even in this case I should be at a loss to understand how so grand a moral idea could ever have been suggested to the human mind but by reality. In its reality I should find the most obvious and satisfactory cause of its existence. But as it is, it is immeasurably more surprising that from such books as those of the New Testament, for the most part the merest record of particulars briefly told, we should come at a result so novel, so sublime, and yet so perfectly natural. Thinking only, as it appears, of relating what they had seen and heard, with such faculties and opportunities as Providence had granted them, the authors of
THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
these histories have unconsciously furnished us with the means of forming an idea of individual character, the most harmonious, the most beautiful, and the most kindling, -an idea fitted to stir up our best sentiments, to give life and power to our noblest springs of action, to transfigure, purify, and elevate our whole nature, through the admiration and love it awakens, the imitation which it sets us upon attempting. Surely an idea full of this living and generous influence, possessing a power so practical and beneficent, so accordant with the highest principles of the human constitution, must be founded in reality. A mere human fiction, the offspring of ignorant delusion or narrow cunning, never could have such an effect. Otherwise, all distinctions between the true and the false are broken down and obliterated.
As I have already remarked, the character of Christ has as yet been very imperfectly understood. It would almost seem to require another Messiah to do justice to the first. It is not for this age, -far less for this feeble pen, adequately to portray his pure spiritual glory. That I approach this subject, therefore, with a diffidence almost amounting to despair, I pray the reader to believe. Happy shall I be, if to a single mind I can communicate one quickening impression, or impart one inspiring glimpse of him, in whom are hid untold treasures of life, and truth, and beauty. If on any occasion it is appropriate to invoke the inspiration of a higher power,if my heart ever heaves with unuttered prayers for light and grace,—for the sanctifying influence of the
CHRIST AS A TEACHER.
Holy Spirit, it is when I approach this theme with a desire to depict its glories. What eye, dimmed by mortality, shall behold Jesus Christ as he is !
I proceed now to consider, at length, some of the prominent traits of the character of Christ, as they may incidentally be gathered from the facts which make up the body of the Christian histories. I shall anxiously endeavour to make no assertion which these facts do not fairly justify. Our first topic is the character of Jesus as a Teacher.
With respect to his style of teaching, there does indeed occur, here and there in these narratives, a remark of a descriptive character. We are told, for instance, that the people were astonished at his teaching, “ for he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes,” not as the common teachers of religion, and again, “ that he employed parables.” But these things are incidentally said. They are not stated as formal propositions to be anxiously illustrated and made out, but rather as conclusions forced upon the notice of the writers, so that they could not help stating them.
The first thing remarkable about Jesus as a public teacher was his entire freedom as to times and places. On one occasion he was seated for the purpose of instruction on the side of a mountain ; at another, in a vessel cast off a little way from the shore crowded with auditors. Again we find him discoursing among men of profligate lives and tax-gatherers, that odious class of persons; and again, at the entertainments of
CHRIST AS A TEACHER.
the rich and honourable. There does not, however, appear to have been any affectation in this. For at the same time, he never scrupled to enter the synagogues, the consecrated places of instruction, on the Sabbaths, the stated occasions of religious service, and to teach in accordance with the usual forms. He spoke freely and spontaneously wherever the opportunity offered, either when in the open air and on the highway, or in the synagogue or the temple. By this simple and natural method, all that he uttered acquired a freshness and force of which the formal expositions of the regular teachers of the day were destitute. He confined himself to no set times nor places. He availed himself of no laboured modes of instruction. His teaching was exclusively oral, and this of the most informal character. He used no paper nor parchment. He committed not a word to writing. While he was thus original, he did not affect originality. He never sought to magnify his own method of proceeding by denouncing any other. There is a uniform simplicity or unconsciousness in his bearing as a teacher; his peculiarity in this respect is the absence of all peculiarity, the entire freedom from all technicalities.
How striking the contrast between him and all other teachers ! Although he employed none of the usual means of extending his religion, how wide is the sphere through which his words have ranged!“ A poor uninstructed peasant," I use the eloquent language of another, * “ by labouring for three years in the most despised corner of the most despised nation on
* H. Ware, jun.