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the metaphysician, and not very well calculated to prepare the mind for the lectures of the academy, the lyceum, or the portico.
The truth is, there was not a single book of morality at that time written solely or principally for the use of the ignorant and the poor ; nor had they their duty explained to them in any other mode of instruction adapted to their capacities. They had no lessons of conduct given them so plain, so familiar, so forcible, so authoritative, as those which are now regularly dispensed to every Christian congregation; nothing that made the smallest approach to our Saviour's divine discourses, (especially that from the Mount) to the ten commandments, to the other moral parts of the Old and New Testament, or to the practical instructions and exhortations given weekly to the people by the ministers of the Gospel. They were left to form a system of morality for themselves as well as they could ; in which they were so far from being assisted by their national religion, that both the mode and the objects of their worship were of themselves sufficient to corrupt their hearts, and to counteract any right opinions or virtuous inclinations that might casually spring up in their minds.
In this situation did our blessed Lord find the inferior class of mankind when he entered upon his ministry. He found them without guide, instructor, counsellor, or friend. He saw them (to use the affecting language of Scripture) “ fainting and scat“ tered abroad as sheep having no shepherd, “ and he had compassion upon them.” * He took them instantly under his protection, he shared with them the miseries of their condition. He assumed the form of a servant, submitted to all the hardships of that situation, and frequently “ had not even “ where to lay his head.” Although he did not reject the wealthy and the great, but, on the contrary, received them with the utmost kindness, whenever they showed any marks of a right and teachable disposition, yet “ not many noble, not many mighty were at “ first called.”*. It was from among fishermen and mechanics that he chose his companions and apostles. It was to the poor he
* Matt. ix. 36.
+ I Cor. i. 26.
chiefly addressed his discourses. With these he principally lived and conversed ; and to their understandings was the greater part of his parables, his allusions, his reasonings, his precepts, and his exhortations, most kindly accommodated. I
Thus did our heavenly Instructor most exactly fulfil the predictions of the prophets and his own declarations, that he would evangelize to the poor. The consequence was what might naturally be expected from a measure as full of wisdom as it was of humanity, although totally opposite to the usual practice of moral teachers. In a short space of time that Gospel, which was at first preached more particularly to the poor, was embraced also by the rich; and became, in a few centuries, the established Religion of the most powerful and extensive empire in the world, as it now is of all the most civilized and most enlightened kingdoms of the earth. Whereas the renowned sages of antiquity, by pursuing a contrary course, by making it their only object to please, amuse, and inform the learned and the great, were never able, with all their wisdom and elo
quence, to enlighten or reform a single province, or even a single city of any note or magnitude. *
We have here then, the utmost encouragement to tread in the steps of our divine Lawgiver, and to imitate, as far as we are able, that method of propagating his Religion which he adopted, and which was attended with such signal success. Although it is undoubtedly our duty “ to preach the “ Gospel to every creature t,” to press it on all ranks of people, high and low, rich and poor ; yet the example of our Lord plainly
• Hence it is obvious to remark, how very unfortunately those writers against Christianity have employed their time and labour, who have taken so much pains to prove, that among the first converts to that Religion, there were but
few in proportion of any considerable rank or fortune. This · is a charge which the first preachers of the Gospel were so far from wishing to deny or dissemble, that they openly avowed and gloried in it. I Their successors have as little reason to be afraid, or ashamed of acknowledging the fact as they had. They justly consider it as one proof, among many others, of that divine wisdom which superintended and conducted the progress of Christianity, in a way so different from what worldly wisdom would have dictated; beginning with the cottage and ending with the imperial throne. False religion has generally reversed this order, and has succeeded accordingly.
+ Mark xvi. 15.
# 1 Cor. i. 26.
calls upon us to show a peculiar attention to those whom Providence has placed in the humble conditions of life. The reasons for this are obvious: they are the same which probably influenced our Saviour's conduct in this respect, and they still subsist in their full force. The poor have in general much fewer opportunities of learning their duty themselves than the wealthy and the great ; their education seldom qualifies them, and their constant cares and labours leave them but little leisure, for acquiring sufficient religious knowledge without assistance. Their spiritual as well as temporal necessities are but too often overlooked, and disregarded by their superiors, and yet they form by far the largest and most necessary part of the community. Add to all this, that they are commonly much freer from prejudice, much less wedded to systems and opinions, more open to conviction, more anxious to obtain information, and more ready to embrace truth, than the higher ranks of men. These circumstances evidently point them out as objects highly worthy of our utmost care and diligence, in