S. Austin Allibone, comp. Prose Quotations from Socrates to Macaulay. 1880.
But Silence never shows itself to so great an advantage as when it is made the reply to calumny and defamation, provided that we give no just occasion for them. We might produce an example of it in the behaviour of One, in whom it appeared in all its majesty, and One whose Silence, as well as his person, was altogether divine. When one considers this subject only in its sublimity, this great instance could not but occur to me; and since I only make use of it to show the highest example of it, I hope I do not offend in it. To forbear replying to an unjust reproach, and overlook it with a generous, or, if possible, with an entire neglect of it, is one of the most heroic acts of a great mind; and I must confess, when I reflect upon the behaviour of some of the greatest men of antiquity, I do not so much admire them that they deserved the praise of the whole age they lived in, as because they contemned the envy and detraction of it.
What can be a stronger motive to a firm trust and reliance on the mercies of our Maker than the giving us his Son to suffer for us? What can make us love and esteem even the most inconsiderable of mankind, more than the thought that Christ died for him? Or what dispose us to set a stricter guard upon the purity of our own hearts, than our being members of Christ, and a part of the society of which that immaculate person is the head? But these are only a specimen of those admirable enforcements of morality which the apostle has drawn from the history of our blessed Saviour.
Being convinced upon all accounts that they had the same reason to believe the history of our Saviour as that of any other person to which they themselves were not actually eye-witnesses, they were bound, by all the rules of historical faith and of right reason, to give credit to this history.
When these learned men saw sickness and frenzy cured, the dead raised, the oracles put to silence, the demons and evil spirits forced to confess themselves no gods, by persons who only made use of prayers and adjurations in the name of their crucified Saviour, how could they doubt of their Saviours power on the like occasions?
Let a mans innocence be what it will, let his virtues rise to the highest pitch of perfection, there will still be in him so many secret sins, so many human frailties, so many offences of ignorance, passion, and prejudice, so many unguarded words and thoughts, that without the advantage of such an expiation and atonement as Christianity has revealed to us, it is impossible he should be saved.
We sometimes wish that it had been our lot to live and converse with Christ, to hear his divine discourses, and to observe his spotless behaviour; and we please ourselves with thinking how ready a reception we should have given to him and his doctrine.
The resurrection is so convincingly attested by such persons, with such circumstances, that they who consider and weigh the testimony, at what distance soever they are placed, cannot entertain any more doubt of the resurrection than the crucifixion of Jesus.
Our Saviour would love at no less rate than death; and from the supereminent height of glory, stooped and debased himself to the sufferance of the extremest of indignities, and sunk himself to the bottom of abjectedness, to exalt our condition to the contrary extreme.
You have the representatives of that religion which says that their God is love, that the very vital spirit of their institution is charity,a religion which so much hates oppression, that, when the God whom we adore appeared in human form, he did not appear in a form of greatness and majesty, but in sympathy with the lowest of the people, and thereby made it a firm and ruling principle that their welfare was the object of all government, since the Person who was the Master of Nature chose to appear himself in a subordinate situation.
He walked in Judea eighteen hundred years ago: his sphere melody, flowing in wild native tones, took captive the ravished souls of men, and being of a truth sphere melody, still flows and sounds, though now with thousand-fold accompaniments and rich symphonies, through all our hearts, and modulates and divinely leads them.
In like manner did the King eternal, immortal, and invisible, surrounded as he is with the splendours of a wide and everlasting monarchy, turn him to our humble habitation; and the footsteps of God manifest in the flesh have been on the narrow spot of ground we occupy; and small though our mansion be amid the orbs and the systems of immensity, hither hath the King of glory bent his mysterious way, and entered the tabernacle of men, and in the disguise of a servant did he sojourn for years under the roof which canopies our obscure and solitary world.
Dr. Thomas Chalmers: Discourses on Mod. Astron., Disc. IV.
Tacitus has actually attested the existence of Jesus Christ; the reality of such a personage; his public execution under the administration of Pontius Pilate; the temporary check which this gave to the progress of his religion; its revival a short time after his death; its progress over the land of Judea, and to Rome itself, the metropolis of the empire;all this we have in a Roman historian.
For my own part, gentlemen, I have been ever deeply devoted to the truths of Christianity; and my firm belief in the Holy Gospel is by no means owing to the prejudices of education (though I was religiously educated by the best of parents), but has arisen from the fullest and most continued reflections of my riper years and understanding. It forms at this moment the great consolation of a life which as a shadow passes away; and without it I should consider my long course of health and prosperity (too long, perhaps, and too uninterrupted to be good for any man) only as the dust which the wind scatters, and rather as a snare than as a blessing.
Lord Chancellor Erskine: Speech in the Prosecution of Paine as author of The Age of Reason, 1794.
In the mystery of Christs incarnation, who was God as well as man, in the humiliation of his life, and in his death upon the cross, we behold the most stupendous instance of compassion; while at the same moment the law of God received more honour than it could have done by the obedience and death of any, or of all, his creatures. In this dispensation of his grace he has reached so far beyond our highest hopes that, if we love him, we may be assured that he will with it freely give us all things. Access to God is now opened at all times, and from all places; and to such as sincerely ask it he has promised his Spirit to teach them to pray, and to help their infirmities. The sacrifice of Christ has rendered it just for him to forgive sin; and whenever we are led to repent of and to forsake it, even the righteousness of God is declared in the pardon of it.
Robert Hall: Excellency of the Christian Dispensation.
That he shall receive no benefit from Christ is the affirmation whereon his despair is founded; and one way of removing this dismal apprehension is, to convince him that Christs death (if he perform the condition required) shall certainly belong to him.
All the decrees whereof Scripture treateth are conditionate, receiving Christ as the gospel offers him, as Lord and Saviour; the former, as well as the latter, being the condition of Scripture election, and the rejecting, or not receiving him thus, the condition of the Scripture reprobation.
By ascending, after that the sharpness of death was overcome, he took the very local possession of glory, and that to the use of all that are his, even as himself before had witnessed, I go to prepare a place for you.
In the beautiful character of the blessed Jesus there was not a more striking feature than a certain sensibility which disposed him to take part in every ones affliction to which he was a witness, and to be ready to afford it a miraculous relief. He was apt to be particularly touched by instances of domestic distress, in which the suffering arises from those feelings of friendship growing out of natural affection and habitual endearment, which constitute the perfection of man as a social creature, and distinguish the society of the human kind from the instinctive herdings of the lower animals.
What man indeed that still retains, I will not say the faith of a Christian, but the modesty of a man of sense, must not feel that there is a literally infinite interval between himself and That Majestic One, Who, in the words of Jean Paul Richter, being the Holiest among the mighty, and the Mightiest among the holy, has lifted with His pierced Hand empires off their hinges, has turned the stream of centuries out of its channel, and still governs the Ages?
Logicians may reason about abstractions. But the great mass of men must have images. The strong tendency of the multitude in all ages and nations to idolatry can be explained on no other principle. The first inhabitants of Greece, there is reason to believe, worshipped one invisible Deity. But the necessity of having something more definite to adore produced, in a few centuries, the innumerable crowds of Gods and Goddesses. In like manner the ancient Persians thought it impious to exhibit the Creator under a human form. Yet even these transferred to the sun the worship which, in speculation, they considered due only to the Supreme Mind. The history of the Jews is the record of a continued struggle between pure Theism, supported by the most terrible sanctions, and the strangely fascinating desire of having some visible and tangible object of adoration. Perhaps none of the secondary causes which Gibbon has assigned for the rapidity with which Christianity spread over the world, while Judaism scarcely ever acquired a proselyte, operated more powerfully than this feeling. God, the uncreated, the incomprehensible, the invisible, attracted few worshippers. A philosopher might admire so noble a conception; but the crowd turned away in disgust from words which presented no image to their minds. It was before Deity embodied in a human form, walking among men, partaking of their infirmities, leaning on their bosoms, weeping over their graves, slumbering in the manger, bleeding on the cross, that the prejudices of the Synagogue, and the doubts of the Academy, and the pride of the Portico, and the fasces of the Lictor, and the swords of thirty legions, were humbled in the dust.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: Milton, Aug. 1825.
The Saviour of mankind himself, in whose blameless life malice could find no act to impeach, had been called in question for words spoken. False witnesses had suppressed a syllable which would have made it clear that those words were figurative, and had thus furnished the Sanhedrim with a pretext under which the foulest of all judicial murders had been perpetrated.
Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay: History of England, chap. v.
Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy: He asks that for which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother: He asks for the human heart: He will have it entirely to himself: He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him experience that remarkable supernatural love towards Him. This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of mans creative power. Time, the great destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame: time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit to its range. This it is which strikes me most. I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ.
Alexander, Cæsar, Charlemagne, and I myself, have founded great empires: but upon what do these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus, alone, founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions would die for Him . I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men; and I am a man: none else is like Him I Jesus Christ was more than man.
The exceeding umbrageousness of this tree he compareth to the dark and shadowed life of man; through which the sun of justice being not able to pierce, we have all remained in the shadow of death till it pleased Christ to climb the tree of the cross for our enlightening and redemption.
I will confess that the majesty of the Scriptures strikes me with admiration, as the purity of the gospel has its influence on my heart. Peruse the works of our philosophers, with all their pomp of diction: how contemptible are they, compared with the Scriptures! Is it possible that a book at once so simple and so sublime should be merely the work of man? Is it possible that the sacred personage whose name it records should be himself a mere man? What sweetness, what purity, in his manner! What sublimity in his maxims! What profound wisdom in his discourses! Where is the man, where the philosopher, who could so live and so die without weakness and without ostentation? If the life and death of Socrates were those of a sage, the life and death of Jesus were those of a God.
The vast distance that sin hath put between the offending creature and the offended Creator required the help of some great umpire and intercessor to open him a new way of access to God; and this Christ did for us as mediator.
But however spirits of a superficial greatness may disdain at first sight to do anything, but from a noble impulse in themselves, without any future regards in this or any other being; upon stricter inquiry they will find, to act worthily, and expect to be rewarded only in another world, is as heroic a pitch of virtue as human nature can arrive at. If the tenor of our actions have any other motive than the desire to be pleasing in the eye of the Deity, it will necessarily follow that we must be more than men, if we are not too much exalted in prosperity and depressed in adversity. But the Christian world has a Leader, the contemplation of whose life and sufferings must administer comfort in affliction, while the sense of his power and omnipotence must give them humiliation in prosperity.
Christ gave us his spirit to enable us to suffer injuries, and made that the parts of suffering evils should be the matter of three or four Christian graces,of patience, of fortitude, of longanimity, and perseverance.
Our religion sets before us, not the example of a stupid stoic who had by obstinate principles hardened himself against all sense of pain beyond the common measures of humanity, but an example of a man like ourselves, that had a tender sense of the least suffering, and yet patiently endured the greatest.
A mediator is considered two ways, by nature or by office, as the fathers distinguish. He is a mediator by nature, as partaking of both natures, divine and human; and mediator by office, as transacting matters between God and man.