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doctrines and precepts in a systematic form, or after a scientific manner, but he instilled them into the minds of his disciples by little and little, as they were able to bear them. His discourses were in perfect keeping with his whole character. There was a majesty in his teaching which was so remarkable that the common people were struck with it, and expressed their admiration.This, however, did not arise from any pomp of language-on the contrary, it would be difficult to put his sentiments into language more simple; but it flowed from the divine authority with which his words were clothed—from the consciousness which he had of his own dignity, and of the certainty of the things which he delivered: “He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”
But, to have a proper view of the excellency of his character, it is necessary that we keep in mind the opposition which he continually had to encounter from the world around him-even those whom he came to benefit by his doctrines and sufferings, his ministry and death. In his birth, he seemed an outcast from the society of man; nor was even a manger long allowed him as a place of repose. A jealous tyrant sought his life, and his infancy was passed in a land of bondage and oppression. But, when he announced his mission and the purposes of his manifestation, his sorrows thickened apace. Hunger and poverty were his companions; contempt, reproach, and persecution, his perpetual assailants. His own description of his condition was that “the foxes had holes and the birds of the air their nests, but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head.” His character was traduced ; his good evil spoken of; his miracles ascribed to the powers of hell. His endeavours to reclaim the wicked were resolved into a friendship for sinners. His affable manners, his courteous and condescending disposition, were stigmatized as evidences of intemperance. Never was a character so defamed as the perfect character of God's beloved Son; never was a life so tormented as that of the Prince of Life; and never was inhabitant of the world so miserably treated as the Lord who made it. Never did any one experience to such a degree the blindness, the folly, the weakness, the unbelief, the perverseness, ingratitude, perfidy, and malice of mankind. “All day long he stretched forth his hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.” “He
VIEW OF THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST.
came unto his own; and his own received him not.” Betrayed by one disciple and denied by another, until, in the hour of his extremity, they all forsook him and fled. Then indeed was the hour and power of darkness. False witnesses deposed against him; the appointed guardians of justice unrighteously condemned him. Priests and Levites, forgetting their office of mercy, joined and excited an incensate multitude in exclaiming “ Away with him, Crucify him, Crucify him.” Pilate timidly yielded him up —the soldiers derided, buffeted, spit upon, and crucified the image of the invisible God! But let us now reverse the picture, and see by what tenor of conduct it was that he merited this treatment. We read that “ he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;”—that “ he went about doing good;” — that “ he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.” But to render such general assertions more intelligible to our understandings, and to make them affecting to our hearts, we also read of the sick whom he healed, of the disconsolate whom he comforted, of the wretched whom he relieved, of the dead whom he raised, of friends to whom he was indissolubly attached, of enemies whom he forgave, of ignorance which he instructed, of perverseness which he meekly bore, of sufferings unparalleled which he endured with perfect resignation and fortitude, of purity untainted, of devotion uninterrupted and heavenly,-above all, of a voluntary sacrifice of himself, the offering of unexampled love: “He loved us, and gave himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God of a sweet smelling savour,” Eph. v. 2.
And the words now quoted suggest to us a most interesting enquiry: In what light was all this viewed by the Majesty of heaven? We read indeed of the divine attestation repeatedly borne to Jesus of Nazareth in the days of his humiliation and suffering—of a voice which came unto him from the excellent glory, declaring “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The truth of this was indeed evinced by his raising him from the dead; for he thereby vindicated all his claims, and gloriously acquitted him of the charge of blasphemy in making himself the Son of God. But it deserves our particular consideration that the divine complacency centered in him and rested upon him, through all the scene of his complicated and dreadful sufferings. We are told that “ he received from God the Father honour and glory," at the time of his transfiguration on the holy mount; but under what circumstances was this attestation given? Was it when honours were heaped upon him by mortals? Was the voice from heaven an echo of the plaudits of an admiring world ? No, verily! When, on that remarkable occasion, the light of heaven shone around him, investing, as it were, his sacred person, and the glory of heaven overspread the hallowed scene,—when the inhabitants of heaven descended to do him homage, and the God of heaven announced him as the centre of his delights, and the medium of his communications with the children of men, he was the object of general contempt and scorn—" despised and rejected of men: a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” It was then, amidst the insults and reproaches, the cruel mockings and blasphemies, and contradiction of sinners, that Jehovah beheld him with unabated, and even, if it were possible, with increased delight. When men were hiding their faces from him, He lifted up upon him the light of his countenance. When the eyes of carnal men saw no beauty in him, why they should desire him, the eye of his heavenly Father beamed upon him with ineffable delight. When the lips of sinners were filled with reproaches that broke his heart, the mouth of God was opened to attest his innocence and to speak his praise. And this approbation and delight attended him to the last. The injuries which he suffered from the cruel, infatuated, thankless, children of men, only the more endeared the holy, harmless sufferer to the heart of his divine Father who sent him. In the garden of Gethsemanemat the judgment seat of Caiaphas,
at the tribunal of Pilate, when he was reviled, and buffeted, and spit upon; falsely accused, unjustly condemned, scourged, crowned with thorns, and laden with his cross—the sentiments of heaven and earth concerning him were in full contrast. And, may I not add, that contrast was perfected on Mount Calvary? There the hatred, and malice, and scorn of men exhausted themselves in insult and cruelty; yet, even there, the delight of Jehovah in the Son of his love was at its highest pitch. Never was divine complacency in him more perfect-never were admiration and love more intensely in exercise, than when he uttered the mysterious anguish of his soul in those memorable words, “My
view OF THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST
God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” and when, bowing his head, he said, “ It is finished !” and resigned his spirit into the hands of his heavenly Father.
It was for obedience such as this that the Father loved him, and rewarded him by raising him from the dead and crowning him with glory and honour at his own right hand in the heavens, angels, authorities, and powers being put in subjection unto him. And now was verified the language of prophecy: “ Thou hast given him his heart's desire, and hast not withholden the request of his lips; for thou preventest him with the blessings of goodness: thou settest a crown of pure gold on his head. He asked life of thee, and thou gavest it him, even length of days for ever and ever. His glory is great in thy salvation : honour and majesty hast thou laid upon him. For thou hast made him most blessed for ever: thou hast made him exceeding glad with thy countenance.” Ps. xxi. 2–6.
The STATE OF THE GENTILE WORLD AT THE TIME OF
THE MESSIAH'S APPEARANCE.
· The Roman Empire was at this epoch a most magnificent object. It extended from the river Euphrates in the east, to the. Atlantic or Western Ocean; that is, in length more than three. thousand miles. In breadth, too, it was more than two thousand; and the whole included above sixteen hundred thousand square miles. This vast extent of territory was divided into provinces ; and they comprised the countries called Spain, Gaul (now France), the greater part of Britain, Italy, Rhætia, Noricum, Pannonia, Dalmatia, Mæsia, Dacia, Thrace, Macedonia, Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Phænicia, Palestine, Egypt, Africa, and the Mediterranean Sea with its islands and colonies. This extensive territory lay between the twenty-fourth and fifty-sixth degrees of northern latitude, which was certainly the most eligible part of the temperate zone, and it produced in general all the conveniences and luxuries of life.*
From the days of Ninus, who lived about three hundred years after the flood, to those of Augustus Cæsar, was a period of two thousand years; in which interval various empires, kingdoms, and states had gradually arisen and succeeded each other. The Assyrian or Babylonian empire may be said to have taken the lead. It not only had the precedence in point of time, but it was the cradle of Asiatic elegance and arts, and exhibited the first examples of that refinement and luxury which have distinguished every subsequent age in the annals of the east. But that gigantic power gave place to the empire of the Medes and Persians, while the latter, in process of time, yielded to the valour of the Greeks; and the empire of Greece, so renowned for splendour in arts and in arms, had sunk under the dominion of Imperial Rome, which thus became mistress of all the civilized world.
* Rollin's Roman History.--Hooke's Do. Do.--and Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.