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NO APPEARANCE OF SYSTEM

studied, they exhibit the greatest perfection of purpose, illustrate the most comprehensive laws of nature, and show that either consciously or unconsciously there has been the finest observance of method. The wildness of genius, as it has been termed, has turned out to be the most consistent wisdom. What has appeared to be a sudden impulse, has in the end tended to demonstrate the most consummate policy.

66 Where the true poet seems most to recede from humanity, he will be found the truest to it. From beyond the scope of nature if he summon possible existences, he subjugates them to the law of her consistency. He is beautifully loyal to that sovereign directress even when he appears most to betray and desert her.”

To prove the largeness of purpose by which he was x

actuated by whom our divine religion was first taught, it is not necessary, then, to show that he wrought with particular and laborious regard to a plan formally devised and set forth with logical precision. If there were any appearance of this kind, it would be impossible to avoid an impression of narrowness, let the terms in which his system is announced be ever so general and unqualified. We should see the difference and the contrast between a plan thus conceived and followed and “the infinite complexities of real life, between his system and the vast system of nature, and an air of artificialness would be more or less discernible in the former. The very idea of a scheme, as I have said, implies something mapped out and bounded. But as the case actually stands, we see no traces of system in the ministry of Jesus; to the everchanging details and relations of life, to the unnum

IN THE PROCEEDING OF JESUS.

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bered occasions of Providence, he adjusted himself, his words and works, without a moment's hesitation, and with the most admirable effect. The coincidence, therefore, between the spirit or aim by which he was actuated, and the grand laws and principles of life and of providence, becomes an impressive attestation to the comprehensiveness of his purpose. It shows that his life and ministry were conducted upon a method so perfectly identical with the grand method of nature and reality, that he was scarcely conscious of it. He laid down no formal and elaborate plan of benevolence, but his whole being lived, moved, and wrought, in a sphere of universal love. This was his element, in which his affections breathed and flourished with that silent and unconscious ease which accompanies all true vitality and health. It is my object in these remarks to show what an evidence we have of the real greatness of Jesus, of the grandeur and infinitude of his ruling spirit, in the remarkable absence of all traces of a laboriously constructed plan in the history of his ministry. His purpose is nowhere minutely defined nor elaborately developed; not because he had no definite purpose, but because it exceeded the power of the understanding to comprehend, and the resources of language to describe it. Like the great system of nature, the significance of the life of Jesus may be partially penetrated, but it cannot be completely set forth in words. It is not the less interesting and influential, but infinitely the more so, because it cannot be adequately understood and described. It is felt only the more powerfully by the heart.

226

HIS FREEDOM FROM PARTY SPIRIT.

The moral greatness of Jesus is shown in his singular freedom from that sectarian or party spirit which has been in all times the crying sin of his followers. He stood alone, and must, on this account, have been not a little desirous of securing the countenance and encouragement of others. The genius of Christianity, as I have already remarked, shows us that its author must have been possessed of great sensibility, and capable of the deepest sympathy and affection. Christianity is eminent for the tenderness of its spirit, and thus it discloses the character of its founder. To him therefore human co-operation must have been peculiarly dear, and if he had attached an undue value to human aid, it would not have been surprising. But the strong humanity of his nature never betrayed him into weakness, never broke in upon that uncompromising spirit with which he scrutinized the claims of all those who sought to be his disciples. While he publicly announced himself to the world as its leader and light, there are the most expressive evidences that he never tried to form a party. I cannot express the sense I have of the greatness of his character in this respect. Let me refer to one or two instances illustrative of this point.

On a certain occasion, when he was passing along the highway, attended by an immense concourse of people, he turned and said to them, “ If any man will come after

me, let him take up his cross and follow me." I have briefly alluded to this incident before, but to perceive the deep significance of these words, let the reader call up before his imagination the circum

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stances under which they were uttered. Look at that strange and wonderful peasant of Nazareth, surrounded by that excited Jewish throng. Listen to the tread of innumerable feet. Observe those countenances kindling with intense expectation, and reaching forwards to catch a glimpse of the individual upon whom the public attention was now beginning to be fixed as the promised king, the heaven-sent deliverer of the nation. How do the hearts of that crowd beat quickly with hope, waiting only for a signal from him to muster round his banner! But look! he turns and is about to speak. The multitude heaves with curiosity. How mysteriously must those words have sounded in their ears! “If any man will indeed follow me, let him take up his cross and come after me!” The cross is now a consecrated symbol, and we cannot, without an effort, distinctly conceive the deep infamy and agony once associated with that instrument of death. It was the custom of those condemned to be crucified, to

carry

their crosses to the places of crucifixion. To this custom Jesus ailudes. And the sentiment he expresses is in effect this : “He who really means to follow me must be as fully prepared to suffer and die, as if he were already condemned, and were carrying his cross to the place of execution."

Such a sentiment at such a moment—how convincingly does it show that he did not aim to bribe or flatter the populace! If they could take in his meaning, they must have been shocked beyond measure. Not for a moment did he lose sight of his true position. What an elevation of mind is there in his perfect superiority to popular adulation !

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228 HIS TREATMENT OF THE RICH YOUNG MAN;

Again, when one came to him offering to follow him whithersoever he might go, he does not eagerly accept the proffered service." The foxes have holes," he replies, “and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." He perceived that this ready professor expected temporal advantage, and he undeceives him in the outset. He checks his ardour by reminding him that he had nothing to give. And no doubt the man went away chagrined and disappointed.

At another time a young man ran to Jesus, and kneeling before him asked, “Good master! what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" How exceedingly prepossessing must have been the appearance of this young man, which made an impression upon Jesus so strong and evident as to cause it to be remarked that “ Jesus loved him!” But not the winning openness of the young man's countenance, not his posture of reverence, not his respectful address, could dim the bright spiritual vision, or sway the unerring heart of Jesus. His reply is, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, God." These words we commonly hear read as if they were uttered with some degree of sternness. But, bearing in mind the strong favourable impression made upon Jesus by the young man, I cannot help thinking that they must have been spoken in a tone somewhat deprecatory. It seems as if the delicate sensibility of Jesus appre hended some moral danger in being called good by one, who himself appeared so good and amiable, and whose voice was no doubt modulated by the sweetness and ingenuousness which his whole appearance exhibited so attractively. Andobserve, he does not instantly bid the

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