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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.
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 illustrate 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 phylactery; 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 good, and a denunciation of the most tremendous punishments to the wicked.
2. Such was the general matter of his instructions; and, in the next place, his manner of conveying them was no less excellent, and no less conducive to their success.
What, for instance, could be more noble, more affecting, than the very first opening of his divine commission ? “ The Spirit of 6 the Lord is upon me, because he hath “ anointed me to preach the Gospel to 66 the poor: he hath sent me to heal the 66 broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to “ the captives, and recovering of sight to “ the blind, to set at liberty them that are “ bruised ; to preach the acceptable year of 66 the Lord.” *
These were the gracious declarations with which he began his ministry, and in the same spirit he continued it to the very last. Though he invited all men, without distinction, high and low, rich and poor, to embrace the gracious offers of salvation ; yet he addressed himself principally to the ignorant, the indigent, the publican, and the sinner. “ He broke not the bruised reed, “ nor quenched the smoking flax * ;” that is, he bore not hard on any that were bowed down with a sense of their unworthiness, nor extinguished by discouragement the faintest spark of returning virtue; but, on the contrary, invited to him those “ that os were heavy laden with sin, that he might “ give them rest.”
* Luke iv. 18, 19.
His discourses were perfectly adapted to these gracious purposes. They were mild, tender, encouraging. They were such as the most learned and best informed might listen to with benefit and delight, yet such as the weakest and most ignorant might easily comprehend. He did not deliver a regular, dry, methodical system of ethics, nor did he enter into all the little minute divisions and subdivisions of virtue. But he laid down, in the first place, the two great leading fundamental principles of love to God, and love to mankind, and thence deduced, as occasions presented themselves, and incidents occurred, which gave peculiar
* Matt. xii. 20.