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founder of our religion had shown some indulgence to that crime, which strikes at the root of civil society, and would paralyse the tenderest affections of the human heart. Others had omitted that passage in which Jesus is said to have wept on beholding the city of Jerusalem, as if tears were an indication of weakness unbecoming the dignity of the divine character. It is difficult to say, therefore, how four such men as the evangelists, if left to themselves, would have described a person whom each singly, or all unitedly, might have conceived to be of transcendent excellence; what powers, what qualities of body or mind they would have assigned to him as constituting the great and good; or how, indeed, with the model before them, they should not still have introduced some crude notions, some prejudices of their own in the description of it, had not their pens been guided by the spirit of truth.
But I will show you how the character, as it now stands, has appeared to a most eloquent unbeliever. It remains for his admirers to reconcile their incredulity with such an acknowledgment. “I must avow still,” says
he, “that the majesty of the Scriptures as“ tonishes me; the sanctity of the Gospel speaks to
heart. Look at the works of “ the philosophers, with all their
how little they are by the side of this! Is it
possible that a book at the same time so “ sublime and so simple, should be the work
of men ? Is it possible that he, of whom “ it gives the history, should himself be only
a man ? Is this the tone of the enthusiast or the ambitious leader ? What sweetness, what purity in his manners, what an affect
ing grace in his instruction! What eleva" tion of sentiment in his maxims, what
profundity of wisdom in his discourses, what presence of mind, what address and propriety in his answers! Where but here do we find the
who “ knows how to act, to suffer, and to die, “ without weakness, and without ostenta“ tion? In fine, it is more inconceivable “ that several men should have conspired to
fabricate this book than that one should
have lived to furnish the subject of it. “ Never could Jewish authors have dis
covered that morality; and the Gospel
“ has characters of truth so grand and strik“ ing impressed on it, that the inventor of it “ would be a yet more astonishing person than the hero.”
There is one peculiarity also in which the historians of our Saviour's life resemble each other, and in which they neither resemble nor are resembled by any other biographers whatever. They bestow no praise upon the subject of their histories.
No flattering panegyrics, however naturally they might seem to spring out of any of the incidents recorded, are to be found in any of the Gospels. The writers do not inform you that their Master was generous, or kind, or courteous, or undaunted. Such a uniformity as this it might, perhaps, not have been impossible to obtain by collusion; if such had been the method in which the evangelists had treated of their Master's life and character; as general expressions of praise or obloquy must resemble each other. But no; the historians of our Saviour's life simply set down his discourses, and relate his actions,
Emile, Tom. iii. Lec. iv.
and leave it to the world to infer whether he were wise and good.
As far remote are they from any such praise of each other as might have been natural in men embarked in the same enterprise, had personal interests or the general aggrandisement of their own body formed any part of their object. No praise of each other's perseverance in the common cause, or fortitude under sufferings, or disinterestedness, or freedom from human error and weakness is to be found in their writings.
The narrative of St. Mark is observed to resemble more minutely that of St. Matthew than the histories of the other evangelists, and, his work being shorter and more compendious, he was by some termed the epitomiser or abbreviator of St. Matthew. There are, however, some incidents related in St. Mark which are omitted in St. Matthew, and two others recorded much more circumstantially. One of these is the unmerited death of John the Baptist. The other deserves more peculiar notice: it is the melancholy lapse of St. Peter, and his denial of Christ when the time of trial arrived ; and yet St. Peter was the friend, the instructor, and, as he styles himself in the text, the “father” of St. Mark: so far were the disciples of our Saviour from concealing the weaknesses of each other.
Such are the observations which may occur on a perusal of the Gospel of St. Mark. But the fervent prayer must not be omitted, that as our conviction of the truth of these sacred records acquires vigour and consistency, whilst we proceed in the study of them, so may our resolution to live according to their injunctions be strengthened. It was not the knowledge of sterile and unprofitable truths that the apostles were commanded to disseminate through the world. Mankind needed no such revelation ; for the writings of Greece and Rome, and the schools of philosophy, teemed with subtle disquisitions. The truths which Christ and his apostles taught are intended to make men wise unto salvation, by reforming their practice and purifying their hearts ; and if they fail of this effect in their operation upon us, our belief in them will be of little avail. St. Mark informs us that after our Saviour