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By what means are these simple fishermen become fisbers of men ? Whence has it. happened, that, in less than half a century, so many, and different sects and nations, have embraced the new doctrine? How is this seed of mustard become a great tree? And how has this tree over-shadowed such immense countries? I know that in general men are not enemies to severity of doctrine in point of morals, because it supposes an uncommon effort of mind, and because men have a natural taste for perfection; not that they always seek after it; but they are fond of it at least in speculation. A voluntary poverty, a great disinterestedness, a painful and laborious life, attract easily the attention and esteem of men. They are very ready to admire all this, provided you do not oblige them to the practice of it.
If, therefore, this new doctrine published to the world had been purely speculative, I can easily conceive that it might have gained the esteem, and even the admiration, of some people. They would have viewed it in the light of a new sect of philosophy ; and those who professed it, might have appeared to them sages of a very peculiar stamp.
But this doctrine is not merely speculative, it is chiedy practical, in the strictest and most literal sense of the word. It is the most elevated kind of practical heroism; it enjoins an entire self-denial, combats every passion, regulates every affection, checks every desire, requires a total surrender of our heart to the love of God and of our neighbour, demands continual sacri. fices, and those the greatest of sacrifices; and promises no other rewari's, but those which the eye cannot see, and which the hand cannot feel.
That the charms of eloquence, the attractions of riches, the splendor of dignities, and the influence of power, may gain credit to a doctrine, and bring over to it many proselytes, I can easily conceive.
But the doctrine of the crucified Saviour is taught by men void of art, and in the lowest circumstances, whose eloquence consists more in things than in words; by men who preach doctrines opposite to the most received opinions; by men of the lowest class, and who hold out to their disciples no other expectations in this life, than sufferings, tortures, and the cross; and yet these are the men who triumph over flesh and blood, and convert the universe.
The effect was prodigious, rapid, permanent; it exists to this day. I can discover no natural cause to produce this effect, and yet there must be a cause, and a great cause : Where then is this cause? In the name of the crucified man, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the blind see, the dead are raised. I am no longer at a loss ; every difficulty vanishes; the problem is solved; the le. gislator of nature has spoken; nations have heard him; the universe has acknowledged its master. He who could see in the mustard-seed the lofty tree, was then the Mes. senger of that God who hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.
The weak things of the world !-Here I invite that reader, who can elevate his mind to the contemplation of the ways of Providence, to meditate with me on the admirable methods of divine wisdom, in the establishment of Christianity.
A religion, the universality of which was to comprehend all ages, all places, nations, ranks, and situations in life; a religion which made no distinction between the crowned head and that of the lowest subject; a religion formed to disengage the heart from terrestrial things, to ennoble, to refine, to sublime the thoughts and affections of man; to render him conscious of the dignity of his nature; the importance of his end; to carry his hopes even to eternity; and thus associate him with superior intelligences; a religion which gave every thing to the spirit and nothing to the flesh; which called its first disciples to the greatest sacrifices, because men whom religion teaches to fear God alone, can undergo the severest trials ; a religion, in short, (to conclude my weak conceptions on so sublime a subject,) a religion which was the perfection or completion of natural law, the science of the truly wise, the refuge of the humble, the consolation of the wretched;
a religion so majestic in its simplicity, so sublime in its doctrine, so great in its object, so astonishing in its effects ;—such a religion, I say, was not to be given to men by a messenger clothed in the majesty and pomp of kings. It was fitting that he who was to command the elements, and death itself, should not have where to lay his bead; that he should take upon himself the humble title of the Son of Man ; that he should be appointed to serve, and not to be served, and that he should wash the feet of those who called him LORD and master.
The weak things of the world !--If this Saviour was to have a precursor, it was also in the order of this sublime æconomy that this precursor should lead a life of poverty and frygality; that his manners should be austere, his actions irreproachable ; that, clothed in coarse raiment, he should precede the Prince of Life, who was himself
concealed under the humble veil of flesh. - This precursor was also to recall men to the most essential duties of human nature, and teach them a doctrine preparatory (as it were) to the more complete and more elevated doctrine of the great sovereign