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Unjust suspicions, uncandid interpretations, mutual reproaches, and endless altercations, can answer no other purpose but to embitter our minds, and multiply the very evils we all wish to remove. From beginnings such as these arose the calamities we are now met to deplore; and the conclusion was, not liberty, but tyranny in the extreme. Can there possibly be a stronger motive for us to moderate our dissensions, and compose our passions, before they grow too big for us to manage and control? On the same bottom are we all embarked, and if, in the midst of our angry contentions, the vessel perish, we must all perish with it. It is therefore our common interest, as it is our common duty, to unite in guarding against so fatal an event. There can be no danger of it but from ourselves. Our worst, our most formidable enemies, are our own personal vices and political distractions. Let harmony inspire our councils, and Religion sanctify our hearts, and we have nothing to fear. Peace Abroad is undoubtedly a most desirable object. But there are two things still more so, Peace With One Another, and Peace With God.
Luke iv. 32.
AND THEY WERE ASTONISHED AT HIS DOCTRINE: FOR HIS WORD WAS WITH POWER.
TT is evident from this, and many other similar passages of the New Testament, that our blessed Lord's discourses made a very uncommon and wonderful impression on the minds of his hearers. We are told, in various places, "that the common people "heard him gladly ; that they wondered at "the gracious words which proceeded out "of his mouth, and declared, with one "voice* that, Never man spake like this "mam" * Expressions of this sort, which continually occur in relation to our Saviour's preaching, we never find applied in Scripture to any other teacher of Religion; neither to the prophets who preceded, nor to the apostles that followed him. And we may be sure, that the effects of his doctrine must have been very extraordinary indeed, when it could draw such strong language as this from the Evangelists, who, in general, express themselves with much calmness and simplicity ; and frequently describe the most astonishing miracles, and deliver the sublimest doctrines, without any apparent emotion, or remarkable energy of diction.
* Mark xii. 37. Luke iv. 22. John vii. 46.
What, then, could it be which gave such surprising force to our Saviour's instructions, such power to his words? He employed none of those rhetorical artifices and contrivances, those bold figures and unexpected strokes of overbearing eloquence, which the most celebrated worldly orators have generally made use of, to inflame the passions and gain the admiration of the multitude. These, certainly, were not the instruments employed by our Saviour to command attention. The causes of these surprising effects which his preaching produced, were of a very different nature. Some of these I shall endeavour to enumerate and illus* trate as concisely as I can.
1. The first was, the infinite importance and dignity of the subjects he discoursed upon. He did not, like many ancient and many modern philosophers, consume his own time, and that of his hearers, with idle, fruitless speculations, with ingenious essays, and elaborate disquisitions on matters of no real use or moment, with scholastic distinctions, and unintelligible refinements; nor did he, like the Jewish rabbins, content himself with dealing out ceremonies and traditions, with discoursing on mint and cummin, and estimating the breadth of a phylactei-y; but he drew off the attention of his followers from these trivial, contemptible things, to the greatest and noblest objects that could engage the notice, or interest the heart of man.
He taught, in the first place, the existence of one supreme Almighty Being, the creator, preserver, and governor of the universe. To this great Being he taught men how to pray, to worship him in spirit and in truth, in holiness and purity of life. He laid open all the depravity of human nature; he pointed out the only effectual remedy for it; belief
in himself, the way, the truth, and the life; repentance and amendment; an entire and absolute renovation of heart, and unreserved submission to the will and the law of God.
The morality he taught was the purest, the soundest, the sublimest, the most rational, the most perfect, that had ever before entered into the imagination, or proceeded from the lips of man. And the uniform tendency of all his doctrines, and all his precepts, was to make the whole human race virtuous and happy; to compose them into resignation and content; to inspire them with sentiments of justice, equity, mildness, moderation, compassion, and affection towards each other; and to fill them with sure hope and trust in God for pardon of their sins, on most equitable terms, and the assistance of his holy Spirit to regulate their future conduct.
And, finally, to give irresistible force to his commands, he added the most awful sanctions, the doctrines of a future resurrection, a day of judgment and of retribution, a promise of eternal reward to the