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A LOOK AT JESUS.
and there is no probability of a change. If Christianity be false, the world is mad: if it be true, the case of the infidel is deplorable in the extreme.
And that many portions of the Christian system are true, is past doubt. They carry the evidence of their truth on their very face. And other portions admit of easy proof. The truth of many Christian doctrines can be proved by experience. And the rest are probable enough. There is nothing absurd, nothing irrational in Christianity. The teachings of Christ are the perfection of goodness. They are the perfection of wisdom and beauty. Even Goethe could say, "The human race can never attain to anything higher than Christianity, as presented in the life and teachings of its Founder." And again he says, "How much soever spiritual culture may advance, the natural sciences broaden and deepen, and the human mind enlarge, the world will never get beyond the loftiness and moral culture of Christianity as it shines and glistens in the Gospels."-Farhenlehre, iii. 37.
And nothing can be more true.
Look for a few moments at Christ and Christianity. And, first, what is Christ as presented in the Gospels? 1. He is, first, holy, harmless, undefiled; a lamb without blemish and without spot. This is the lowest trait in His character. Yet it is a great thing for any one to remain innocent in a world like this, with a nature like
2. But He was, second, an example of the highest moral and spiritual excellence. He was devout, pious, resigned, towards His Heavenly Father. He was full of benevolence towards men. He did good. The happiness of mankind was the end, and doing good the business, of His life. He had no other object. He paid no regard to wealth, to power, to pleasure, or to fame. He was so fixed and single in His aim, that there is no room for mistake. To do good, to bless mankind, was His meat and drink.
3. And He did good to men's bodies as well as to their souls. While He taught the ignorant, and reformed the bad, and comforted the penitent, He healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, bread to the hungry, and life to the dead.
4. He enjoined the same way of life on His disciples. "Freely ye have received," said He, "freely give."
5. While He lived and labored for the good of all, He paid special attention to the poor.
6. Yet He never flattered the poor, nor pandered to their prejudices or passions. He never taught them to envy the rich, or revile the great, or to throw the blame of their sorrows on others.
7. While kind to the poor, He was just and respectful to the rich. His conduct to Nicodemus, to Zaccheus, to the young man that came to question Him about the way to heaven, and to the Roman centurion, was courteous and comely to the last degree. He was faithful, but not harsh.
8. He was good to all classes. He loved the Jews, yet He was just and kind to the Samaritans, to the Syrophenician woman, and to the Roman soldier.
9. He was especially kind to women, even to the fallen ones. He showed none of that indifference or disdain for woman that the proud barbarian exhibits, or of that heartless contempt which the vicious sensualist manifests. He rose alike above the selfish passions and the inveterate prejudices of his age, and conferred on the injured sex the blessings of freedom and dignity, of purity and blessedness.
10. He showed the tenderest regard to children. "He took them in His arms and blessed them," and said, "Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
11. He was kind to the outcast. He was a friend of publicans and sinners. He went among the lowest, the most neglected, the most despised, the most hated and dreaded of mankind, and labored for their salvation. The parables of the Lost Sheep, and of the Prodigal Son, speak volumes in His praise.
12. He was always gentle, tolerant, and forgiving. He refused to bring down fire from heaven on the villagers that had slighted Him, saying, "The Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them." He commended the virtue of Samaritan heretics. He has nothing harsh even for the infidel Sadducee. He complies with
the unreasonable wishes of the skeptical Thomas. He pardons Peter. He is severe with the Scribes and Pharisees only, who made void the law of righteousness by their traditions, and took the key of knowledge, and used it, not to open, but to keep shut the door of the kingdom of heaven.
NO BOUNDS TO HIS WORTH.
13. As a reformer, He went to the root of social and political evils, and sought the reform of laws, institutions, and governments, by laboring for the instruction and renovation of individuals.
14. He was patient as well as disinterested. He was willing to sow, and let others reap; to labor, and let others enjoy the fruits of his labors.
15. He formed a Church, employing the social instincts and affections of His followers as a means of perpetuating and extending His beneficent influence in the world.
16. He checked the impertinence, and silenced the vanity of captious cavillers.
17. He carried the truth into markets and sea-ports, as well as taught it in the temple and in the synagogues.
18. He had the eloquence of silence as well as of speech. 19. He could suffer as well as labor. He bore reproach and insolence, and at last laid down His life for mankind.
20. He could make allowances even for His murderers. When they mocked Him in His dying agonies, He could say, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do."
He excelled as a teacher.
1. He was very practical; seeking always to bring men to be merciful, as their Father in Heaven is merciful.
2. He was very plain; using the simplest forms of speech, and the most natural and touching illustrations.
3. He presented truth and duty in His parables in the most impressive forms.
4. His doctrines about God and providence, about duty and immortality, about right worship and the proper employment of the Sabbath; about true greatness, and the forgiveness of injuries; about gentleness and toleration; about meekness and humility; about purity and sincerity, as well as on a great variety of other subjects, were the perfection of true philosophy. His parable of the talents,
His remarks on the widow and her two mites, and on the woman and the box of ointment, showing that nothing is required of us beyond our powers and opportunities, are striking, instructive, and impressive in the highest degree.
5. He made it the duty of all whom He taught to instruct others. His words, "Freely ye have received, freely give;" and the sentence, "It is more blessed to give than to receive,” are among the divinest oracles ever heard on earth.
6. He illustrated and enforced all His lessons by a consistent example. He practised what He taught.
7. And He commanded His disciples to do the same. "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven."
8. There can be nothing juster or kinder than His great rule, "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so unto them."
9. His doctrine that God will treat men as they treat each other, is most striking and important. "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy." "With what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again." ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will forgive you your trespasses; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your heavenly Father forgive you your trespasses.
10. His remarks on riches and poverty, on honor and reproach, on suffering and glory, though regarded by some with shyness and distrust, contain a world of important truth.
11. His lessons on spiritual or religious freedom, on self-denial, on the true mark of discipleship, on the great judgment, on the future of Christianity, and on the heavenly felicity, are all remarkable for their wisdom, and for their purifying and ennobling tendency.
But it would require volumes to do Christ and His doctrine justice. And I feel as if I were wronging the Saviour to speak of His worth and doctrine, when I have neither time nor space duly to set forth their transcendent excellency. Every peculiar trait in His character that I
have named, deserves a treatise to present it in all its importance and glory; and I, alas, can give but a sentence or two to each.*
HAPPINESS OF RELIGION.
But Christ has our devoutest love and gratitude, and our profoundest reverence. And the more we contemplate Him, the more constrained we feel to regard Him, not only as the perfection of all human excellence, but as the revelation and incarnation of the eternal God. And we feel it a great honor and unspeakable privilege to be permitted to bear His name, to belong to His party, and to labor in His cause. We are indebted to Him for everything that gives value to our existence, and we give Him, in return, with cheerfulness and gladness, our heart, our life, our all.
Ah, why did I so late Thee know,
To Thee, the only ease in pain?
1. While the tendency of infidelity is to make men miserable, it is the tendency of Christianity to make men happy. When I was living at Burnley, an infidel came to me one morning and said, "Barker, we may say what we will, but those Ranters, (meaning the Primitive Methodists) are the happiest men alive. There is one lives next to me, and he sings all the day long. He gets up singing and goes to bed singing." They are the happiest men alive. And real Christians of all denominations are happy.
2. Some time after my return to Christianity, I spent a few days in the house of a Primitive Methodist, a farmer, on the Cheshire Hills. I seemed in Paradise. The master and the mistress were cheerful and kind, and the daughters and girls were almost continually singing delightful Christian melodies while busy at their work. One moment they
* Since the above was written we have published a book entitled JESUS: A PORTRAIT. Look at it.