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of policy suggested by the wisdom of merely human instructors
The doctrines alluded to, the distinctive and peculiar doctrines of Christian morality, emanated exclusively from Him who is the source of all spiritual life and knowledge; and ecclesiastical history supplies abundant examples of that purer tone of conduct which was early introduced into social life by the action of such hea-, venly-minded principles. It was under such an influence that the Christians at Carthage came forward with alacrity at the call of Cyprian, to bury those who had died of the plague, when the pagans had an opportunity of contrasting the effects of the love of God with their own unspiritual selfishness and inhumanity. It was on this occasion,' says Milner, that the Lord stirred up the spirit of Christians to show the practical superiority of their religion The rich contributed largely; the poor gave what they could; namely, their labour with ex
• 1 John, ii. 15. James, iv. 4.
treme hazard of their lives ; the pagans saw with astonishment the effects of the love of God in Christ?' The same historian remarks on another occasion, when Flavian, the aged and infirm bishop of Antioch, had undertaken a perilous journey to Constantinople, to plead with the emperor in behalf of the citizens who had been led into sedition, that even monks who exhibited Christianity in a degenerate form, exceeded in benevolence and active virtue the boasted and boasting sons of philosophy 8.
Another happy fruit of our Lord's doctrine was, that liberality to the poor which was so characteristic a part of the practice of believers, and which could only have had its origin in a religion bringing the whole race of mankind into one bond of union, whereby the world at large was taught to consider all men as brez thren, and to do good to all without distinction of persons.
The Jews,' says Milner, in his
7 Milner's Church History, vol. i. p. 421.
• Vol. ii. 281. See also pp. 105. 283. 483. 517; and Ireland's Lectures, pp. 113. 130. 206.
Church History, were a very selfish, hardhearted people; the Gentiles lived in luxury and splendour, if they could; but care for the poor seems to have made no part of their jurisprudence, nor to have been at all a fashionable virtue. I never could learn that philosophers, though they barangued incessantly concerning virtue, either much recommended; or practised any kindness to the bulk of mankind,—that is, the sláves and vulgar. Indeed, their precepts are particularly directed to the higher ranks, and they seem to forget that the lower orders belonged to the human species. An hospital, an almshouse, or any similar provision for the poor, was unknown in the pagan and philosophic world. But when the religion of Him who is no respecter of persons began to gain ground, the barbarous spirit of aristocracy lost its dominion among Christians, though it still prevailed in the manners of the rest of mankind. Chris tians felt themselves all sinners--all in the sight of God on a level 9..
9 Milner's Church Hist. i. 519.
But the spiritual character of our Lord appears to shine in its brightest lustre when it is placed in contrast with the slow understandings and gross conceptions of those around him. No line of argument can show more distinctly, that whoever comes to Christ as a teacher, will find at every step he takes, that he more and more requires the aid of spiritual discernment.
The Jews, through their deficiency in this respect, continually mistook the meaning of our Lord's discourses, although delivered in language rendered familiar to them by their own prophetical writings, and often expressly accommodated to their national prejudices and associations. We shall look in vain out of Scripture for an explanation of the remarkable fact, that men, circumstanced as were the scribes and teachers of the law, could attribute the words of truth and soberness, to the rayings of madness or the power of Satanic influence. But the Bible at once removes the difficulty; and we see in a circumstance so contrary to all reasonable expectation, only a new and humiliating illustra
tion of a truth for which we are indebted to revealed religion alone—that 'the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned '.'
Nor is it sufficient to allege that it was not given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; since the intentional obscurity in which our Lord often veiled his meaning, when speaking before them of some of the deeper points of his doctrine, was nothing but a penal infliction to which they were subjected for their wilful blindness. He had formerly spoken to them in the clearest manner, he had wrought miracles in their presence to convince them of the source from which he derived his authority, his Father himself had commanded attention to his preaching by a voice from heaven ;but they had perverted their natural powers, and abused their external advantages, and
1 1 Cor. ii. 14.