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CHRIST AT THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.
that characteristic of his teaching, upon which we are remarking-the promptness with which he seized upon occasions and made them speak for him and with him. On the last and great day of the feast, the same day on which the officers, sent to apprehend Jesus, are said to have made the above-mentioned confession, the services of the temple were peculiarly magnificent. Then all the people forsook their tabernacles, and crowded the courts of the sanctuary. The officiating priests were arranged in due form before the altar. A golden vessel of water from the spring of Siloam was brought, the bearer crying aloud, “with joy we draw water from the well of Salvation.” The words were taken up and repeated by the assembled multitudes. The water was mingled with wine and poured upon the altar, amidst the shouts of the people. This was the ceremony of which it was commonly said among the Jews, “he who has not seen the joy of the drawing of water, has seen no joy."* Now we cannot help imagining it was in some sort of connexion with this impressive ceremony, probably in one of the pauses or intervals of the service, that, as we read, Jesus stood up and cried, “ If any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink, and from within him shall flow rivers of living water.” The stirring cry had just burst from all lips, “ with joy we draw water from the wells of Salvation.” The water of Siloam was pure and refreshing to the sense and hallowed to the mind of the multitude. But Jesus said, “Come unto me and I will slake your
* Helon's Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, translated from the German of Fred. Strauss. Boston Ed. vol. ii. page 231.
THE SECRET OF HIS ELOQUENCE. thirst. A full, rich and perennial fountain of blessedness I will open in your hearts.' The circumstances of the occasion were so impressive that, as the narrative goes on to inform us, “many of the people when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ.” And then too it was, that the officers sent to take Jesus returned without him, saying, “Never man spake like this man."
This characteristic of the teaching of Jesus, the constant advantage which he took of circumstances, lets us incidentally into the secret of his extraordinary power as a teacher. It shows that what he said, he said from his heart; that the sentiments he uttered had first become his own sentiments, parts of himself, the irrepressible feelings of his own soul. He spake, because he believed, he knew, he felt, with the whole undivided force of his spirit. He did not speak from hearsay, or because he was expected to speak, or with a view to effect. From no outward call of vanity or interest, did he express himself. It was upon those rivers of living water of which he spake, and which were welling up in his own bosom, that his words floated forth and were poured with resistless power into the souls of those who heard him. In short, his words were sincere and true, the direct and natural expression of truths identified with his inmost being, the deep springs of his own character and life.
That this was the character of his eloquence is apparent, I conceive, from the unstudied, extemporaneous, occasional form of his instructions. When a man's heart is full of a particular subject, it is curious
THE SECRET OF HIS ELOQUENCE.
to observe how everything that happens, connects itself in his mind with the one engrossing topic of his feelings. Everything is looked at in relation to that which chiefly interests him, and every event suggests reflections connected with his favourite pursuit. How often do we discover the several professions of a number of individuals, from the manner in which they express themselves under particular circumstances ! Their modes of thought and speech will be affected by the subject which commands their principal attention, and holds the first place in their hearts. Thus, the seaman, the merchant, the mechanic, the lawyer, and the physician may all be recognized by their respective ways of thinking and speaking; and in the same situation each will find something analogous to his daily pursuit, and think and express himself accordingly. Most fairly and naturally, then, may we infer the existence of a deep spiritual fountain in the nature of Jesus, from the fact that scarcely anything could occur in his presence, which he did not consider and represent in a spiritual light. How plainly does he show what it was that most deeply interested him !
I apprehend that in this respect he has never yet been understood. He so uniformly represented himself as speaking and acting by the express command of God, that he is too much regarded as a mere passive instrument, the mechanical agent of another and higher Being. We are not aware of the strong personal interest, which the whole style of his teaching undesignedly shows he must have cherished in his work. I believe the principal force of the Divine command was felt by him in the free and
THE POWER OF ELOQUENCE.
inner force of his own convictions. The voice of his own soul, clear and imperative—this it was that he reverenced as the commanding voice of his Father. This was to him the most intimate and solemn expression of the Divine authority. His words were continually modified and suggested by external circumstances. And what does this indicate but the fulness of his heart, the inexhaustible abundance of his spirit? Must it not have been with him even as I have said, that he was full of spiritual life, and that when he spoke he spoke from within? He could not have held his peace, and he needed no outward inducement to speak, but such as was offered at the moment. The vessel was filled to the brim, and every breath made it overflow, and like the precious ointment upon the head of the High-priest that ran down, down to the skirts of his garments, the costly streams, from the full heart of Jesus, fell upon the world, cleansing and sanctifying. .
Here was the unequalled power of the words of Jesus. This it was that gave them a victorious influence. They were uttered simply and earnestly as the natural expression of thoughts and sentiments, which he himself cherished and felt far more deeply than it was in the power of any language to express. This is true Eloquence,—when a man speaks not for the sake of effect, not from any outward necessity, but from an impulse within, which he cannot resist, from the concentrated force of his own convictions. Then words are words no longer. They are acts. They exhibit and convey the life's life, that energy of human thought and feeling which is of eternity and of God. Of all the powers of nature, the power of a human spirit,
THE POWER OF ELOQUENCE.
thoroughly persuaded in itself, penetrated with faith, is the most vital and intense. When the force of such a spirit is bodied forth either by word or deed, it acts upon all surrounding spirits-on all other minds. A brief sentence, a single articulate sound of the voice, coming from the heart, or rather bringing the heart along with it, possesses a resistless power. It is like “ the piercing of a sword,” like “a winged thunderbolt,” prostrating all opposition, inflaming all souls. Such are the sympathies between man and man. It was this that gave to Peter the Hermit the power to arouse all Europe, nobles and their vassals, priests and kings, the rich and the poor, men, women, and children, and lead them to the recovery of the Holy Land. The historian Gibbon sneers at his fanaticism and confesses his power, observing that “the most perfect orator of Athens might have envied the success of his eloquence.” Ignorant though he was, mean and contemptible in appearance, still his words expressed the burning convictions of his own soul, and so he created the same convictions in other men. Seldom, alas ! have human words exerted this influ
The reason how obvious! They have seldom shown themselves to be the inspiration of the living heart. They, who have enjoyed the opportunity and the privilege of teaching, have taught from self-interest or for reputation's sake, or to produce upon others an effect which has never been wrought upon themselves. They have been sworn to maintain and advocate certain established systems of religious opinion. They have consequently spoken, because they were required to speak and must say something, and take