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JOHN xiv. 26.



Near the eastern margin of the gigantic empire of Rome, lay a small strip of coast which had been added to its dominion by Pompey the Great. The accession had excited little notice, eclipsed and forgotten amid the crowd of greater acquisitions, and in itself too insignificant 10 excite even the ready vanily of conquest. The district had nothing in it to draw towards it the allention of a people dazzled by the magnitude and splendour of their own power.

Remote from the existing centres of opulent and cultivated society, with a language unknown to educated men, destitute of any literature to excite curiosity, or any specimens of art to awaken wonder, it would have lain in exile from the great human community, had not the circulation of commerce embraced it, and selfinterest secured for it a surly and contemptuous regard. It lay between the fallen kingdoms of Egypt and Assyria, but derived no distinction from its position ; it seemed covered with the dust, without sharing the glories of their ruined magnificence. Its inhabitants were the most unpopular of nations ;-a people out of date, relics of a ruder period of the world, having the prejudices of age without ils wisdom,


and the superstitions of the East without its loftiness :--they had long been deserted by the tide of civilization, now flowing on other shores, and were left without the refreshment of a sympathy. And as hatred stimulates ferocity, and contempt invites men to be mean, they retreated into the seclusion of all unsocial passions. They detested: they despised: they suspected : they writhed under authority: they professed submission only to obtain revenge: they had no heritage in the present; content with nothing which it brought, they had no gratitude to express : their affections were for the past and the future; and their worship was one of memory and of hope, not of love. Fair and fertile as were the fields of Palestine, it was held to be the blot of the nations, the scowl of the world.*

In a hamlet of this country, sequestered among the hills which enclose the Galilean lake, a peasant, eighteen centuries ago, began to fill up the intervals of worldly occupation with works of mercy and efforts of public instruction. Neglected by his own villagers of Nazareth, he took up his residence in the neighbouring town of Capernaum ; and there, escaped from the prejudices of his first home, and left to the natural influence of his own character, he found friends, hearers, sollowers. He mixed in their societies, he worshipped in their synagogues, he visited their homes, he grew familiar with their neighbourhood, he taught on the hill side, he watched their traffic on the beach, and joined in their excursions on

* Dum Assyrios penes Medosque et Persas Oriens fuit, despectissima pars servientium. Postquam Macedones præpotuere, rex Antiochus demere superstilionem, et mores Græcorum dare adnixus, quo minus teterrimam gentem in melius mutaret, Parthorum bello prohibitus est.

Quia apud ipsos fides obstinata, misericordia in promtu, sed adversus omnes alios hostile odium.—Tacitus, Hist. y. 8.5.

+ The tradition which represents Jesus as sharing the calling of Joseph rests upon a passage of Justin Martyr :-ταύτα γαρ τα τεκτονικά έργα ειoγάζετο εν ανθρώποις ών, άροτρα και ζυγά. διά τούτων, και τα της δικαιοσύνης σύμβολα διδάσκων και ενεργή βιόν.-Dial. cum Tryph. 88.

their joys.

the lake. He clothed himself in their affections, and they admitted him to their sorrows, and his presence consecrated

Their Hebrew feelings became human, when he was near; and their rude nationality of worship rose towards the filial devotion of a rational and responsible mind. Nor was it altogether a familiar and equal, though a profoundly confiding sympathy, which he awakened. For power more than human followed his steps; and in many a home there dwelt living memorials of his miracles : and among his most grateful disciples there were those, who remembered the billerness of the leper's exile, or shuddered at the yet unforgotten horrors of madness. That the awe of Deity which was kindled by his acts, and the love of goodness which was excited by his life, might not be confined to one spot of his country, twelve associates were first drawn closely around him to observe and learn, and then dispersed to repeat his miracles, report and teach. They were with him when the recurring festivals summoned him, in common with his fellow-citizens, to leave awhile Capernaum for Jerusalem. They beheld how his dignity rose, when his sphere of action was thus enlarged, and the interest of his position deepened ;—when the rustic audience was replaced by the crowd of the metropolis, and village cavillers gave way to priests and rulers, and the handful of neighbours in the provincial synagogue was exchanged for the strange and gaudy multitudes that thronged the vast temple at the hour of prayer. In one of these expeditions, the fears of the established authorities, and the disappointment of a once favouring multitude whose ambition he had refused to gratify, combined to crush him. It was soon done ; the Passover at Jerusalem was its assizes too: the betrayal and the trial over, the execution was part of the annual celebration, a spectacle that furnished an hour's excitement to the populace. But there were eyes that looked on with no careless or savage gaze ;—of one who knew what he was in childhood ;-of many that had seen his recent life in Galilee. The twelve, too,

lingered closely around the event; and they say that he came back from death, spake to them oft for forty days, and was carried before their view beyond the precincts of this earth.

Here is a series of events deeply interesting indeed to those who were immersed in them; but of which, even on the spot where they occurred, it might have been expected, that within one generation their very rumour would have died away,

lost in the stir and cares of life. A few months began and ended them ; an obscure recess of the world was acted upon by them. They concerned one of a social class, which is beneath the proud level of history, and whose vicissitudes, after a few years, are added to that dark abyss of forgotten things, above which gigantic vices and ambitious virtues struggle to be seen. They are, moreover, the simple record of a private life, coming in almost at the death of ancient history, and overshadowed by its pageantry, the miracles themselves rendered insipid, except for their benevolence, by its prodigies. Yet this fragment of biography did not die; it not only lived, but it gave life; it recast society in Europe, and called into being a new world.

Providence then sent out these events upon a mission. They had some function and office. What were they for To inquire after their end, to go in quest of the design which they were to accomplish, is to seek a reply to the question, What is Christianity? If we discover the purpose of Christ's life, we have found Christianity.

How are we to effect this discovery? what direction must our minds take, in order to learn what this history is for ? what resources are at hand for this purpose ? what materials exist, and what method must be followed, for the investigation? The problem is, what was the intent of Christ's coming? The preliminary question is, what are our instruments for solving the problem, and what kind and degree of value must be set on each ?

First, we have the books which, when bound up together,

are called the New Testament; books written by persons who saw Christ and talked with him, or at any rate loved him, and instructed others of the first age respecting him. These must help us to learn the aim of Providence in this remarkable piece of history.

Secondly; the Pope and the authorities of the Romish Church assure us, that they can whisper the secret in our ears ; that they have private sources of information, on which we may certainly depend.

Thirdly ; Protestants of all grades declare that, though they should be ashamed to talk about the kind of private information before mentioned, they have yet paid a great deal of attention lo the subject, and are quite sure they have made the whole thing clear; indeed so demonstrably clear, that it is by far the most prudent course for a man not to encourage scruples about the creeds and articles, in which they have explained the truth.

Fourthly; our reason steps in, and entreats to have a voice in the decision. It urges us not to adopt any theory about Christ's mission, which does violence to the conclusions it has already drawn from other quarters. It begs to preserve entire its own faith, and to hold every interpretation of this history false, which cannot consist with it. There are, in particular, two sets of notions which reason thinks it ought not to be required to part with in favour of any theory of the Gospel.

First, the ideas of religion and morals which it has learnt by the study of nature and of human life; in other words, natural religion: it protests against all contradiction to these, unless they can be disproved.

Secondly, the ideas it has acquired of what Christ was sent to accomplish, from observing what he actually has accomplished; for, it urges, it would be absurd to make out by laborious study that the Gospel was meant for one purpose, and then, on turning to experience, to find that it has effected

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