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6. The character of the Baptist is of high worth, and a fine model for a reformer. His austere simplicity of manners, especially at his years, was adapted to strike with reverence. Such a man preaching in the wilderness, could not be heard by the crowds which resorted thither, without a deep impression. His manner was fearless and vehement. He dealt in no measured terms nor gentle insinuations. His rebuke was indignant and even awful. Its force was not frittered away in general declamation. He classed his hearers, and their vices, and spoke to each of his own enormities. He came like an accusing spirit from another world, untouched by men's frailties, and unexposed to their retorts, to brand the guilty, and humble the proud, and reform the nation. His preaching passed over the land like a thunder-storm, while the ministry of Christ came like the gentle shower that follows it. In the contrast between the character of John and that of Jesus, and the selection of such an one as the latter for the Messiah, we trace the wisdom and the benignity of Providence. He had all the firmness of the Baptist. He lacked nothing of his love of virtue, or hatred of sin. But he showed more pity for the sinner, more tenderness for the erring, more brotherhood towards man. He was not less pure-and it was not the purity of separation, but that, more illustrious, which mingles with the erring, yet is unpolluted. John pitched bis tent in the remote wilderness; but the Evangelist says of Christ, that “ he tabernacled among us.” Their characters were marked by differences analogous to those of the scenery in which their early years were passed. John was the child of the wilderness. He was brought up at a distance from society, and more familiar with the face of nature than with that of man. The rock was his couch, and the woods were his shelter, and the elements his companions and playmates, and beneath the naked heavens was the Sabbath temple of his solitary worship. It is probable that he was at an early age, an orphan, and loved the desert which received and sheltered him in its dreariness, and it became a congenial home to his stern and lofty mind. Jesus was nurtured in a family, and that family lived in society. A mother's arms were around him, a father's care was over him, and brethren (near relatives at least, if not brethren literally) accompanied his youthful progress. The nature in which he lived, was subdued and softened and fertilized by man. And he had youthful companions and aged monitors, and the people of the village knew him, and he communed with humanity, and felt the touch of sympathy, and heard the voice of
praise, and went with the multitude to the synagogue and the temple, and he grew in favour with God and man. And when public view was fixed on the Baptist, it beheld one who seemed to scorn men's effeminacy, and not feel some of their wants, and not heed others, and have no dependance on his fellow-creatures, and his food and clothing, his vest of camel's hair, his leathern girdle, his locusts and wild honey, were all such as the wilderness readily supplied; while Jesus adopted the more usual food and raiment of his countrymen, as neither superior to their infirmities nor indifferent to their enjoyments. And while John only came over society like a comet, filling with dismay, not seeming to belong to the system which he threatened, and having intercourse with men but to denounce their vices and alarm their fears ;Jesus rose upon their dwellings, like the daily and nightly lights of heaven. When marriage spread the feast of gladness in their balls, he was there; and when anxiety prepared the couch of sickness, or death made a house of mourning, still he was there. John's language partook of his own stern simplicity_his discourses were brief, impassioned, full of denunciation; while the general character of our Lord's was a melting compassion, winning the sinner to relent, and the penitent to hope; and often was there thrown over his doctrine, a lovely veil of allegory, which, while it hid nothing from the understanding, would spare the feelings much of irritation. John wrought no miracles; if he had, to have comported with his character, they must have been miracles of judgment; Christ did, and his were miracles of mercy. In the Baptist, was personified the sternness of the Law-in Christ, the benignity of the Gospel. However just our veneration for the former, however admirable the adaptation of his character to his peculiar duty, and whatever the propriety of its imitation in some emergencies, there can be no doubt of the advantage of that of Christ for the more important station which he held. He was to be not merely the reformer of Jews, but the Saviour of men. In the one, national peculiarities, and the qualifications which that nation's state particularly required, were to be boldly thrown out; in the other, there was a similar propriety in their being kept subordinate to qualities which act upon the universal sympathies and wants of mankind. Accordingly, we always think of John as a Jew; but it is usually with something of effort, with a direct reference to the historical fact, with a feeling that though it was undoubtedly so, yet that we are limiting what was naturally universal, that we think or speak of
Jesus under that appellation. It is assigning to one country what belonged to the world. This is just the sensation with which one sent to save the world, should be regarded. It increases the power of his instructions. They spread beyond a local and temporary application. We read them as discourses to ourselves, not as the mere historical record of discourses to others. They are the common language of nature and the human heart. The lapse of ages does not diminish their force, or veil their beauties. In his pleadings we feel that so he would, and so he does, plead with
With such friendliness he wins our affections, and charms us to our own good. The Mediator between God and men, is not the Jew, but the man Christ Jesus. He sprang from their earth, but he enlightens all countries. He was born of their race, but he is the desire of all nations. It is well that the faith of all should be connected with him, and their hopes also.
We seem to recognise a more complete identity, a closer fraternity, than merely that of a common mortal nature with him, and pass the more readily from his resurrection to the universal resurrection. He cannot be separated from the objects of his heart's benevolence. Where he is, there shall we be also.”
The Sermon on the Temptation of Christ is one full of interest. It gives, we think, the only rational and Scriptural interpretation of a subject on which men have often puzzled and perplexed themselves; and, respecting which, ideas no less degrading to Christianity, than derogatory to the character of the Sovereign Father, bave too commonly been entertained. Our extract is not with immediate reference to the temptation that portion of the Sermon should be read in connection and entire-but the passage we select is one descriptive of the moment when Jesus began to preach.
“What a moment was that for the world, little as the world then heeded it! Monarchs were issuing their decrees; and priests were officiating in their temples; and philosophers were teaching in their schools; and politicians were immersed in the fancied profundity of their schemes and far-sightedness of their calculations; and poets were singing their country's gods and their country's eternal glory; and the ambitious were shaping and fixing the steps of the ladder that ascends to power; and the Epicureans were revelling on their couches at their banquets; and slaves were crouching in the dungeon, or howling under the lash; and the multitude of Rome was applauding the bloody sport of the amphi
theatre; and that of Corinth was shaming the brute creation in the unbridled license of sensuality; and that of Ephesus was glorifying Diana; and that of Athens hearing or seeking some new thing: and what peals of ridicule would have overwhelmed the impertinent absurdity, (as they would have deemed it,) had any uttered it, that in the petty country of Judea, or in the little contemptible province of Galilee, an obscure peasant, the son of a carpenter, was then beginning to preach, and by that act beginning the subversion of the Roman empire, the revolution of its manners, philosophy, religion; the completest change from what then was, that could be conceived, and to which all other convul. sions were comparatively unworthy the notice of history! Yet so it was. They were in all their pride, and pomp, and fame, and luxury, and seeming durability; and he apparently as little to be heeded, as, by the powers that be, the meanest itinerant who in some remote village may gather, in street or field, a peasant auditory around him; and now, they are a pile of ruin, at the base of his cross, and their history is ransacked to afford illustra. tions for å sentence of the record of his sermons.
66 Christ's conversation with Nicodemus” is an excellent discourse. There is a passage in it which well deserves the serious consideration, not only of those who “halt between two opinions,” but likewise of those, who in their own minds separating truth from error, are deterred by worldly motives from marking that separation, by an open and honest profession of despised and unpopular truth.
“ There are two sorts of timidity which we must distinguish here, the one affecting the operations of the intellect, and the other the outward conduct. A man may have little anxiety as to whether he please or displease his fellow-creatures; he may have no eager thirst for their applause, no paralyzing apprehensions of their opprobrium; he may not care about perilling honours or. profits by an honest religious profession; he may even defy obloquy and persecution; and yet be as arrant an intellectual coward as ever existed, afraid of venturing, in speculation an inch from the beaten track; afraid of examining either the basis or building of his faith, and touching either its pillars or its ornaments; afraid of losing sight of his priest, lest he should be mazed in a wilderness of doubt; afraid of a new opinion, a new thought, or a new book, if it wear a questionable shape. In others, the symptoms are directly opposite: they read, examine, reflect, decide, reject, and adopt, with freedom and courage; but there their freedom
and courage end; and when they should proceed to profess, to attack the error they have renounced, to promulgate the truth they have embraced, they become mere slaves and cowards. They are afraid of the frowns of the great; afraid of the prejudices and violence of the multitude; afraid of injuring their worldly circumstances; afraid of losing the friendship of their associates; afraid of forfeiting a station in which they may be very useful; afraid men are not yet prepared to hear the truth; and more justly than all, afraid that they are not the firm, bold, and zealous persons who can consistently tell it. This is really the worse and baser sort of timidity of the two. It was that of Nicodemus. His convictions (for he was certainly convinced that Jesus was a prophet, and most probably that he was the Messiah) show mental courage. They show his conquest of prejudices, which in his station, even with a good man, might be very strong, and demand a powerful effort. But it all ended in coming to Jesus by night. As this last kind of timidity has a cast of worldly prudence in it, we must, I fear, add that to the notion already formed of Nicodemus, and yet further combine somewhat of a cunning and cautious ambition. He would not risk all with the Sanhedrim and Judaism, but he also wished to have an interest in the kingdom of heaven. He aimed at serving God and Mammon. He desired, in the event of Christ's success, to be one of his teachers, agents, or officers, and yet not, in the mean time, to break his connection with the Pharisees, or forfeit his high station. He would remain at the top of the wheel even while it revolved. He would be a secret friend during the season of opposition, suffering, and labour, yet in honour when came the period of success and glory. He would not only not be hostile to either, but be in esteem, friendship, and office, with both. A perilous state for integrity, though it may have been ventured upon without the previous forfeiture, as was his case, for his timidity was not yet hypocrisy, nor his unavowed friendship treachery; though it is difficult to see how both could have long remained without their so degenerating. Every one drawn towards such a vortex should fervently repeat the prayer, not to be led into temptation, and take heed not to stultify his own devotions by plunging into it without being led.”
(To be Continued.)