Page images

on his ministry in quietness: his declining of every species of interference with the civil affairs of the country, which disposition is manifested by his behaviour in the case of the woman caught in adultery*, and in his repulse of the application which was made to him, to interpose his decision about a disputed inheritance: his judicious, yet, as it should seem, unprepared answers will be confessed in the case of the Roman tribute: in the difficulty concerning the interfering relations of a future state, as proposed to him in the instance of a woman who had married seven brethren§; and, more especially, in his reply to those who demanded from him an explanation of the authority by which he acted, which reply consisted, in propounding a question to them, situated between the very difficulties into which they were insidiously endeavouring to draw him||.

Our Saviour's lessons, beside what has already been remarked in them, touch, and

*John viii. 1.
§ Ib. 28.

+ Luke xii. 14.

Matt. xxii. 19.

Matt. xxi. 23, et seq.

that oftentimes by very affecting representations, upon some of the most interesting topics, of human duty, and of human meditation: upon the principles, by which the decisions of the last day will be regulated*; upon the superior, or rather the supreme importance of religion: upon penitence, by the most pressing calls and the most encouraging invitations; upon self-denial§, watchfulness||, placability¶, confidence in God**, the value of spiritual, that is, of mental worship, the necessity of moral obedience, and the directing of that obedience to the spirit and principle of the law, instead of seeking for evasions in a technical construction of its terms.

If we extend our argument to other parts of the New Testament, we may offer, as

[merged small][ocr errors]

+ Mark viii. 35. Matt. vi. 31-33. Luke xii. 4, 5. 16—21. Luke xv.


§ Matt v. 29.

| Mark xiii. 87.

Luke xvii. 4.

Matt. xxiv. 42xxv. 13.

Matt. xviii. 33, et seq.

** Matt. vi. 25-30.

tt John iv. 23, 24.

1 Matt. v. 21;

amongst the best and shortest rules of life, or, which is the same thing, descriptions of virtue, that have ever been delivered, the following passages:

"Pure religion, and undefiled, before God, and the Father, is this; to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world*.*

[ocr errors]

"Now the end of the commandment is, charity, out of a pure heart and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned."

"For the grace of God that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us, that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world."

Enumerations of virtues and vices, and those sufficiently accurate, and unquestionably just, are given by Saint Paul to his converts in three several epistles§.

*James i. 27.

+ 1 Tim. i. 5.

Gal. v. 19. Col. iii, 12. 1 Cor. xiii.

Tit. ii. 11, 12.

The relative duties of husbands and wives, of parents and children, of masters and servants, of Christian teachers and their flocks, of governors and their subjects, are set forth by the same writer*, not indeed with the copiousness, the detail, or the distinctness, of a moralist, who should, in these days, sit down to write chapters upon the subject, but with the leading rules and principles in each; and, above all, with truth, and with authority.

Lastly, the whole volume of the New Testament is replete with piety; with, what was almost unknown to Heathen moralists, devotional virtues, the most profound veneration of the Deity, an habitual sense of his bounty and protection, a firm confidence in the final result of his councils and dispensations, a disposition to resort, upon all occasions, to his mercy, for the supply of human wants, for assistance in danger, for relief from pain, from the pardon of sin.

Eph. v. 33. vi. 1. 5. 2 Cor. vi. 6, 7. Rom. xiii.


The candour of the writers of the New Tes


I MAKE this candour to consist, in their putting down many passages, and noticing many circumstances, which no writer whatever was likely to have forged; and which no writer would have chosen to appear in his book, who had been careful to present the story in the most unexceptionable form, or who had thought himself at liberty to carve and mould the particulars of that story, according to his choice, or according to his judgement of the effect.

A strong and well-known example of the fairness of the evangelists, offers itself in their account of Christ's resurrection, namely, in their unanimously stating, that, after he was risen, he appeared to his disciples

« PreviousContinue »