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view of this purpose may dictate sometimes publication, and sometimes concealment. Either the one or the other may be the mode of the action, according as the end to be promoted by it appears to require. But from the motive, the reputation of the deed, and the fruits and advantage of that reputation to ourselves, must be shut out, or, in whatever proportion they are not so, the action in that proportion fails of being virtuous.
This exclusion of regard to human opinion is a difference, not so much in the duties to which the teachers of virtue would persuade mankind, as in the manner and topics of persuasion. And in this view the difference is great. When we set about to give advice, our lectures are full of the advantages of character, of the regard that is due to appearances and to opinion; of what the world, especially of what the good or great, will think and say; of the value of public esteem, and of the qualities by which men acquire it. Widely different from this was our Saviour's instruction; and the difference was founded upon the best reasons. For, however the care of reputation, the authority of public opinion, or even of the opinion of good men, the satisfaction of being well received and well thought of, the benefit of being known and distinguished, are topics to which we are fain to have recourse in our exhortations; the true virtue is that which discards these considerations absolutely, and which retires from them all to the single internal purpose of pleasing God. This at least was the virtue which our Saviour taught. And in teaching this, he not only confined the views of his followers to the proper measure and principle of human duty, but acted in consistency with his office as a monitor from heaven.
Next to what our Saviour taught, may be considered the manner of his teaching; which was extremely peculiar, yet; I think, precisely adapted to the peculiarity of his character and situation. His lessons did not consist of disquisitions; of any thing like moral essays, or like sermons, or like set treatises upon the several points which he mentioned. When he delivered a precept, it was seldom that he added any proof or argument; still more seldom that he accompanied it with, what all precepts require, limitations and distinctions. His instructions were conceived in short, emphatic, sententious rules, in occasional reflections, or in round maxims. I do not think that this was a natural, or would have been a proper method for a philosopher or a moralist; or that it is a method which can be successfully imitated by us. But I contend that it was suitable to the character which Christ assumed, and to the situation in which, as a teacher, he was placed. He produced himself as a messenger from God. He put the truth of what he taught upon authority 20. In the choice, therefore, of his mode of teaching, the purpose by him to be consulted was impression: because conviction, which forms the principal end of our discourses, was to arise in the minds of his followers from a different source-from their respect to his person and authority. Now, for the purpose of impression singly and exclusively (I repeat again, that we are not here to consider the convincing of the understanding), I know nothing which would have so great force as strong ponderous maxims, frequently urged, and frequently brought back to the
20 I say unto you, Swear not at all; I say unto you, Resist not I say unto you, Love your enemies *.
* Matt. v. 34. 39. 44.
thoughts of the hearer. I know nothing that could in this view be said better than “Do unto others as ye would that others should do unto you.
“The first and great commandment is, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God; and the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” It must also be remembered, that our Lord's ministry, upon the supposition either of one year or three, compared with his work, was of short duration; that, within this time, he had many places to visit, various audiences to address; that his person was generally besieged by crowds of followers; that he was, sometimes, driven away from the place where he was teaching by persecution, and at other times thought fit to withdraw himself from the commotions of the populace. Under these circumstances nothing appears to have been so practicable, or likely to be so efficacious, as leaving, wherever he came, concise lessons of duty. These circumstances at least show the necessity he was under of comprising what he delivered within a small compass.
In particular, his sermon upon the Mount ought always to be considered with a view to these observations. The question is not, whether a fuller, a more accurate, a more systematic, or a more argumentative discourse upon morals might not have been pronounced; but whether more could have been said in the same room better adapted to the exigencies of the hearers, or better calculated for the purpose of impression? Seen in this light it has always appeared to me to be admirable. Dr. Lardner thought that this discourse was made up
of what Christ had said at different times, and on different occasions, several of which occasions are noticed in St. Luke's narrative. I can perceive no reason for this opinion. I believe that our Lord delivered
this discourse at one time and place, in the manner related by St. Matthew, and that he repeated the same rules and maxims at different times as opportunity or occasion suggested; that they were often in his mouth, and were repeated to different audiences, and in various conversations.
It is incidental to this mode of moral instruction, which proceeds not by proof but upon authority, not by disquisition but by precept, that the rules will be conceived in absolute terms, leaving the application and the distinctions that attend it to the reason of the hearer. It is likewise to be expected that they will be delivered in terms by so much the more forcible and energetic, as they have to encounter natural or general propensities. It is further also to be remarked, that many of those strong instances which appear in our Lord's sermon, such as, “If any man will smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also :" “ If any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also :” “Whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain :" though they appear in the form of specific precepts, are intended as descriptive of disposition and character. A specific compliance with the precepts would be of little value, but the disposition which they inculcate is of the highest. He who should content himself with waiting for the occasion, and with literally observing the rule when the occasion offered, would do nothing, or worse tban nothing: but he who considers the character and disposition which is hereby inculcated, and places that disposition before him as the model to which he should bring his own, takes, perhaps, the best possible method of improving the
benevolence, and of calming and rectifying the vices
of his temper.
* If it be said that this disposition is unattainable, I answer, so is all perfection : ought therefore a moralist to recommend imperfections? One excellency, however, of our Saviour's rules is, that they are either never mistaken, or never so mistaken as to do harm. I could feign a hundred cases in which the literal application of the rule, "of doing to others as we would that others should do unto us,” might mislead us; but I never yet met with the man who was actually misled by it. Notwithstanding that our Lord bade his followers “not to resist evil,” and “ to forgive the enemy who should trespass against them, not till seven times, but till seventy times seven,” the. Christian world has hitherto suffered little by too much placability or forbearance. I would repeat once more what has already been twice remarked, that these rules were designed to regulate personal conduct from personal motives, and for this purpose alone.
I think that these observations will assist us greatly in placing our Saviour's conduct, as a moral teacher, in a proper point of view; especially when it is considered, that to deliver moral disquisitions was no part of his design,--to teach morality at all was only a subordinate part of it; his great business being to supply, what was much more wanting than lessons of morality, stronger moral sanctions, and clearer assu(rances of a future judgmento.
?' Some appear to require a religious system, or, in the books which profess to deliver that system, minute directions for every case and occurrence that may arise. This, say they, is necessary to render a revelation perfect, especially one which has for its object the regulation of human conduct. Now, how prolix, and yet how incomplete