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CHRIST AS A TEACHER.
earth, whose whole territory is but a speck on the map of the world, -laid the foundation of a work which was to survive the changes of empires, and the ruins of the philosophies and religions of man.
And this, without seeming to make provision by any means adequate to such an effect. Other teachers have committed their wisdom to writing, lest, being entrusted to words which are but breath, it should be dispersed and lost. But Jesus confided in the divine energy of his doctrine ; and, with an unconcern truly sublime, cast it abroad to make its own way and perpetuate its own existence. Other instructors have elaborately wrought out their systems; have sometimes clothed them in eloquence which seemed little less than inspiration, and promised perpetual continuance to their influence over men. Yet how small and short has that influence proved! How have their sects disappeared! And by how very few are their works even read, though still accounted among the perfect productions of the human mind! While Jesus, uninstructed in human philosophy, with no attainment in the elegant learning of the world, teaching but for three years, and putting not a syllable upon record—has yet made his instructions as familiar to the nations as their own native tongues—has bestowed on the humblest of his followers a wisdom superior to that of the Grecian masters themselvesnay, has affected the whole mass both of sentiment and character, throughout, as those great, laborious and long-lived men were able to affect only a few familiar friends within the privileged sphere of their own personal influence."
CHRIST AS A TEACHER.
Unfettered by any formalities, the Founder of Christianity was enabled to take powerful advantage of circumstances. This constitutes another trait of his character as a teacher. While the professional teachers of the day were employed in commenting upon the traditions, and in nice and puerile distinctions, Jesus walked amidst the works of nature and the busy scenes of life; almost every object and every circumstance he arrested, and made them the messengers of his instructions. He became a voice to nature and Providence, or rather he made them the witnesses and symbols of the things which he uttered. It is true he frequently expressed himself in general terms, employing those universal forms of speech by which abstract truths or principles are enunciated.* But as I have already observed, this general mode of speaking is almost always suggested by deep feeling. It does not necessarily imply a state of mental abstraction. And I think if we carefully examine the passages, in which at first sight it appears as if Jesus were merely announcing general truths or principles, we may find reason to suspect that he was speaking on those occasions with profound emotion, awakened by some present and particular incident. But however this may be, his utterances are obviously suggested and modified in most instances, by circumstances. Does he speak of the Providence of God? He points to the ravens f wheeling about in
* See Chap. V. pp. 56, 57.
+ In the exquisite lines of Bryant to the waterfowl, we have an amplification of a passage in the sermon on the mount.
CHRIST AS A TEACHER.
the depths of the sky, and to the lilies* growing in the fields around him. Are little children brought to him? He takes them in his arms, and beholds in them a resemblance to the inhabitants of the spiritual world. Is he athirst? He is reminded of that living water of which if a man drink, he shall never thirst again. Blindness and death suggest spiritual blindness and spiritual death. Is he followed by an immense multitude? He finds in the circumstance an occasion of solemn and emphatic admonition, turning round and declaring that he who would indeed follow him, must be ready to take up his cross, and consider himself a doomed man. Is mention made to him of his mother and brethren? His language instantly is, “whosoever doeth the will of my Father in Heaven, the same is my mother and sister and brother.” Has he cast out an evil spirit? He is
* The following Sonnet by Mrs. Hemans may be familiar to the reader, but I cannot deny myself the pleasure of enriching my pages with it. “ Flowers! when the Saviour's calm, benignant eye
Fell on your gentle beauty ;-when from you
That heavenly lesson from all hearts he drew,
A voice He set, as in a temple shrine,
Unwarn'd of that sweet oracle divine.
Yet, the great ocean hath no tone of power
Mightier to reach the soul, in thought's hush'd hour,
CHRIST AT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.
On so many
instinctively prompted to allude to the evil spirit of unbelief which possessed the hearts of many of those around him. But why should I specify instances ? Read over the Gospels with this view, and you will find that the sentiments uttered by Jesus were continually suggested by passing occurrences. His discourses never seem to be formal, abstract, studied ; but directly and strikingly the reverse. occasions does this appear from what is explicitly related in the narratives, that even when there is no allusion made by the narrators to the particular circumstances under which he spoke, we may fairly infer them from the forms in which his declarations are expressed. When he pronounced himself the light of the world, we may suppose that the thought was suggested by the rising of the sun ; and when he said, “I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman,” it may be conjectured that he was walking with his disciples in sight of the vineyards on his way to the garden to which he loved to resort.
Let us pause over the probable circumstances of one very interesting passage of his life, as related in the 7th chapter of John.
The Jews were celebrating one of their great national festivals, the Feast of Tabernacles as it was called. It lasted eight days, and consisted of a series of the most imposing ceremonies. It was designed to commemorate the sojourn of the Israelites in the wilderness after their departure from Egypt. It received its name from the tabernacles or bowers which, formed of branches of trees, were erected by the people in the open air, and in which they ate and
CHRIST AT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.
drank and spent a large portion of their time during the continuance of the festival. By these tabernacles, which filled the city, and must have presented a most picturesque appearance, the people were reminded of that early age when their ancestors, flying from Egyptian oppression, erected similar dwellings in the wilderness. National enthusiasm and religious zeal brought the Jews from all parts of Judea and from distant countries, up to Jerusalem, to observe this stirring festival. At that celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles to which we now have reference, the people were universally excited by the expectation of the speedy appearance of a long-promised and heavensent Deliverer, who should emancipate his country from the Roman yoke, and raise it to the highest earthly grandeur. And, what was not a little startling, a strange individual had appeared, one Jesus, of the obscure town of Nazareth. He had already produced a great sensation in Galilee and elsewhere by his astonishing works of power and mercy, and by the originality of his whole deportment. At the Feast he appeared publicly in the Temple, exciting the wonder of those who heard him by the boldness and authority with which he spake. The leading men of the nation, alarmed at the impression he was making, employed officers to seize his person. They returned to those by whom they were sent, the commission unexecuted. When asked why they had not brought him, they replied, “never man spake like this man.
By connecting what we know of the ceremonies observed at this festival with this part of the history of Jesus, we shall perceive an impressive example of