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matter and his manner were infinitely beyond any thing they had ever heard before. He did not, like the heathen philosophers, entertain his hearers with dry metaphysical discourses on the nature of the supreme good, and the several divisions and subdivisions of virtue; nor did he, like the Jewish rabbies, content himself with dealing out ceremonies and traditions, with discoursing on mint and cummin, and estimating the breadth of a phylactery; but he drew off their attention from these trivial and contemptible things to the greatest and the noblest objects; the existence of one supreme Almighty Being, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of the universe: the first formation of man; his fall from original innocence; the consequent corruption and depravity of his nature; the remedy provided for him by the goodness of our Maker and the death of our Redeemer; the nature of that divine religion which he himself came to reveal to mankind; the purity of heart and sanctity of life which he required; the communications of God's Holy Spirit to assist our own feeble endeavours here, and a crown of immortal glory to recompense us hereafter.
The morality he taught was the purest, the soundest, the sublimest, the most perfect, that had ever before entered into the imagination, or proceeded from the lips of man. And this he delivered in a manner the moSt striking and impressive; in short, sententious, solemn, important, ponderous rules and maxims, or in familiar, natural, affecting similitudes and parables. He shewed also a most consummate knowledge of the human heart, and dragged to light all its artifices, subtleties, and evasions. He discovered every thought as it arose in the mind; he detected every irregular desire before it ripened into action. He manifested at the same time the most perfect impartiality. He had no respect of persons. He reproved vice in every station wherever he found it, with the same freedom and boldness; and he added to the whole the weight, the irresistible weight, of his own example. He and he only of all the sons of men, acted up in every the minutest instance to what he taught; and his life exhibited a perfect portrait of his religion. But what completed the whole was, that he taught, as the evangelist expresses it, with authority, with the authority of a divine
o 2 teacher^ teacher. The ancient philosophers could do nothing more than give good advice to their followers; they had no means of enforcing that advice; but our great Lawgiver's precepts are all DIVINE COMMANDS. He spoke in the name of God: he called himself the Son of God. He spoke in a tone of superiority and authority, which no one before had the courage or the right to assume: and finally, he enforced every thing he taught by the most solemn and awful sanctions, by a promise of eternal felicity to those who obeyed him, and a denunciation of the most tremendous punishment to those who rejected him.
These were the circumstances which gave our blessed Lord the authority with which he spake. No wonder then that the people ** were astonished at his doctrines; and that they all declared he spake as never manspake*."
* John, vii, 46.
THE eighth chapter of St. Matthew, a part of which will be the subject of this Lecture, begins with the miraculous cure of the leper; which is related in the following manner:
"When our Lord was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed him, and behold there came a leper and worshipped him, saying. Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean. And Jesus put forth his hand and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean: and immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus saith unto him, See thou tell no man; but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them."
The leprosy is a disorder of the most malignant and disgusting nature. It was once o 3 common common in Europe. Those infected with it were called Lazars, who were separated from all human society (the disease being highly contagious) and were confined in hospitals called Lazarettos, of which it is said there were no less than nine thousand at one time in Europe. For the last two hundred years this distemper has almost entirely vanished from this and other countries of Europe, and an instance of it now is but seldom to be met with. In the East it still exists to a certain degree; and there in former ages it had its source and origin, and raged for a great length of time with extraordinary violence.
In the law of Moses there are very particular directions given concerning the treatment of lepers, and a ceremonial appointed for the examination of them by the priest when they were supposed to be cured. But no natural remedy is prescribed by Moses for the cure of it. It was considered by the Jews as a disease sent by God, and to be cured only by his interposition. There could not therefore be a stronger proof of our Saviour's divine power, than his curing this most loathsome disease,