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remove the suspicions, and confirm the soul, of his servant John.
Admitting that Jesus Christ actually wrought the works here ascribed to him, every sober man will conclude with Nicodemus, We know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him. It is not, however, my intention to dwell on the miraculous evidence of Christianity. The article, which I select as exhibiting it in a plain but interesting view, is, THE PREACHING
OF GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
In scriptural language, “the poor," who are
“ most exposed to suffering and least able to encounter it, represent all who are destitute of good necessary to their perfection and happiness; especially those who feel their want, and are disconsolate; especially those who are anxiously waiting for the consolation of Israel. Thus in Ps. xl. 17: I am poor and needy, yet the Lord thinketh upon me.
Thus in Is. xli. 17: When the poor and needy seek water and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst; I, the Lord, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. Thus also, ch. lxi. 1: The Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings to the MEEK; the same word with that rendered “poor;" and so it is translated by Luke, ch. iv. 18, to preach the gospel to the poor; which is connected, both
in the prophet and evangelist, with healing the BROKEN-HEARTED. Our Lord, therefore, refers John, as he did the Jews in the synagogue at Nazareth, to this very prediction as fulfilled in himself. So that his own definition of his own religion is, a system of consolation for the wretched. This is so far from excluding the literal poor, that the success of the gospel with them is the pledge of its success with all others : for they not only form the majority of the human race, but they also bear the chief burden of its calamities. Moreover, as the sources of pleasure and pain are substantially the same in all men; and as affliction, by suspending the influence of their artificial distinctions, reduces them to the level of their common nature; whatever, by appealing to the principles of that nature, promotes the happiness of the multitude, must equally promote the happiness of the residue; and whatever consoles the one, must, in like circumstances, console the other also. As we cannot, therefore, maintain the suitableness of the gospel to the literal poor, who are the mass of mankind, without maintaining its prerogative of comforting the afflicted; nor, on the contrary, its prerogative of comforting, separately from its suitableness to the mass of mankind, I shall consider these two ideas as involving each other.
With this explanation, the first thing which demands your notice, is the FACT ITSELF-GOSPEL PREACHED TO THE POOR.
From the remotest antiquity there have been, in all civilized nations, men who devoted themselves to the increase of knowledge and happiness. Their speculations were subtle, their arguings acute, and many of their maxims respectable. But to whom were their instructions addressed? To casual visitors, to selected friends, to admiring pupils, to privileged orders! In some countries, and on certain occasions, when vanity was to be gratified by the acquisition of fame, their appearances were more public. For example, one read a poem, another a history, and a third a play, before the crowd assembled at the Olympic games. To be crowned there, was, in the proudest period of Greece, the summit of glory and ambition. But what did this, what did the mysteries of pagan worship, or what the lectures of pagan philosophy, avail the people ? Sunk in ignorance, in poverty, in crime, they lay neglected. Age succeeded to age, and school to school; a thousand sects and systems rose, flourished, and fell; but the degradation of the multitude remained. Not a beam of light found its way into their darkness, nor a drop of consolation into their cup. Indeed a plan for raising them to the dignity of rational enjoyment, and
fortifying them against the disasters of life, was not to be expected: for as nothing can exceed the contempt in which they were held by the professors of wisdom; so any human device, however captivating in theory, would have been worthless in fact. The most sagacious heathen could imagine no better means of improving them than the precepts of his philosophy. Now, supposing it to be ever so salutary, its benefits must have been confined to a very few; the notion that the bulk of mankind may become philosophers, being altogether extravagant. They ever have been, and, in the nature of things, ever must be, unlearned, Besides, the groveling superstition and brutal manners of the heathen, presented insuperable obstacles. Had the plan of their cultivation been even suggested, especially if it comprehended the more abject of the species, it would have been universally derided, and would have merited derision, no less than the dreams of modern folly about the perfectibility of man. Under this incapacity of instructing the poor,
, how would the pagan sage have acquitted himself as their comforter ? His dogmas, during prosperity and health, might humor his fancy, might flatter his pride, or dupe his understanding; but against the hour of grief or dissolution he had no solace for himself, and could have none for others. I am not to be persuaded, in
contradiction to every principle of my animal and rational being, that pain, and misfortune, and death, are no evils; and are beneath a wise man's regard. And could I work myself up into so absurd a conviction, how would it promote my comfort? Comfort is essentially consistent with nature and truth. By perverting my judg. ment, by hardening my heart, by chilling my nobler warmth, and stifling my best affections, I may'grow stupid; but shall be far enough from consolation. Convert me into a beast, and I shall be without remorse; into a block, and I shall feel no pain. But this was not my request. I asked you for consolation, and you destroy my ability to receive it. I asked you to bear me over death, in the fellowship of immortals, and you begin by transforming me into a monster! Here are no glad tidings: nothing to cheer the gloom of outward or inward poverty. And the pagan teacher could give no better. From him, therefore, the miserable, even of his own country, and class, and kindred, had nothing to hope. But to lift the needy from the dunghill, and wipe away the tears from the mourner; to lighten the burdens of the heart; to heal its maladies, re... pair its losses, and enlarge its enjoyments; and that under every form of penury and sorrow, in all nations, and ages, and circumstances; as it is a scheme too vast for the human faculties, so,