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in need of correction ; leaving an example to succeeding teachers to copy his discrimination, and to supply by analogy the want of positive precept as often as offences arose in the church which required exposure or suppression.
At the same time it must be acknowledged, that there is perhaps nothing by which the heavenly wisdom of our Saviour's ministry is more unequivocally shown, than by the universality of his preaching. Its very fitness for the cases of ourselves and of our children, as well as for our fathers through endless generations, has always and with reason been appealed to as one of the strongest internal evidences of its truth. He was not the prophet of a limited district, or of a particular period; of one state of society, or of one form of civil government; but of the whole world and of all ages, of every social and of every political community. With very few and unimportant exceptions, his discourses were not calculated for the meridian of Palestine alone, but for all nations under heaven to whom in progress of time the feet of them that bring
good tidings should arrive. There was nothing in them intended to gratify private curiosity, or to encourage frivolous and unedifying speculation. There was nothing provided exclusively for any separate class, or a more distinguished order of hearers. All was of obvious and of general utility. All was as applicable to the multitude in future generations, as it had been to the mixed concourse of people who composed his audience in the plains of Judea. As he had declared in the commencement of his ministry, that the Spirit of the Lord was upon him to preach the Gospel to the poor, and had subsequently charged his disciples to go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature, he became himself the first example of a teacher with whom was no respect of persons, and whose doctrines related indiscriminately to the interests and improvement of the whole race of mankind.
The Spirituality of the Ministry of Christ.
To form a correct estimate of the value of Christ as a teacher, some general idea must be entertained of the situation of the world previous to his advent. Nothing can be more humiliating to the pride of human wisdom than the scriptural account of this matter.
If we look to that period during which a succession of men under the special influence of the Holy Spirit communicated to their nation the word of the Lord, no adequate advantage will appear to have been derived by the people at large from such direct intimations of his will. The prophet Isaiah describes the state which prevailed, as gross darkness."
' He stigmatizes those whose duty it was to instruct and warn, as blind watchmen,'--they were all ignorant, they were all dumb dogs, they could not bark, sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber", The language of Nehemiah is equally strong in reproving the great corruption which the ecclesiastical state of Israel had suffered. A wonderful and terrible thing is committed in the land; the prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests bear rule by their means ; and my people love to have it so?.'
Proceeding from the prophetical times to the character of the world at the period of Christ's birth, we shall find a similar prevalence of error. Zacharias, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, declared that the day-spring from on high had visited the people, to give light to them that sat in darkness and in the shadow of death 3.' John bears testimony that the light vouchsafed from above shined in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not 4.' The deep moral degradation which existed every where, and the wretched slayery, in which men's minds were held, are constantly represented under the figures of blindness and captivity and night and death. St. Paul, who enters into particulars with some minuteness, shows that these expressive images were not too strong to describe the ignorance or illustrate the disorders into which the heathen world had fallen. When they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves wise, they became fools.' And again, he calls upon the converts to the truth to walk henceforth not as other Gentiles walk in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart 5.' To such an extent were they misled by the delusions under which they laboured, that they mistook even the more obvious attributes of God, and confused in their minds what related to the province of reason, as much as what
1 Is. lx. 2. lvi. 10. 3 Luke, i. 78, 79.
2 Jer. v. 30, 31. 4 John, i. 5.