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“ The most extraordinary beings, as imaginative objects, who ever appeared upon this planet, were the prophet bards of Israel. Mark one of those wondrous beings, in his most perfect character! He was a solitary and savage man, residing with lions, when he was not way-laying kings, on whose brow the scorching sun of Syria had charactered its fierce and terrible hue ; and whose wild eye swam with a fierce insanity, gathered from solitary communings with the original forms of nature ;-the sand, the sea, the mountains, and the sky ; as well as with the divine amatus. He had lain in the cockatrice's den ; he had put his hand on the hole of the asp; he had spent the night on lion-surrounded trees, and slept and dreamed amid their hungry roar : he had swum in the Dead Sea, or haunted, like a ghost, those dreary caves which lowered around it; he had drank of the melted snow on the top of Lebanon ; at Sinai he had traced and trode on the burning foot-prints of Jehovah; he had heard messages at midnight, which made his hair to arise and his skin to creep; he had been wet with dews of the night, and girt by the demons of the wilderness; he had been tossed up and down like a leaf upon the strong and awful storm of his inspiration. He was essentially a lonely man, cut off, by gulf upon gulf, from all tender ties and human associations. He had no home,-a wife he might be permitted to marry, but the permission, as to Hosea, might only be a curse ; and, when her death became necessary, as a sign, as in the case of Ezekiel, she died and left him in the same austere seclusion in which he had existed before. The power which came upon him, cut, by ils fierce coming, all the threads which bound him to his kind,-lore him from the plough or from the pastoral solitude, and hurried him to the desert, and thence to the foot of the throne, or to the wheel of the triuinphal chariot. And how startling his coming to crowned or conquering guilt! Wild from the wilderness, bearded like its liou lord, the fury of God glaring in his eye, his mantle heaving to his heaving breast'; his words stern, swelling, tinged on their terrible edges with poetry ; his attitude, dignity; his gesture, power ; how did he burst upon the astonished gaze, how abrupt and awful his entrance, how short and spirit-like his stay, how dreamily dreadful the impression made by his words, long after they had ceased to tingle on the ears, and how mysterious the solitude into which he seemed to melt away! Poet, nay, prophet, were a feeble name for such a being. He was a trumpet filled with the voice of God -a chariot of fire carrying blazing tidings—a meteor kindled at the eye, and blown on the breath of the Eternal!”
The above sketch may be true respecting the heralds of the ancient theocracy, but it does not apply to the Founder of a newer and better dispensation. He was diviner than they, had more character, and therefore was habitually more majestic and calm. He was equally private in his habits of life, was even more conversant with nature than his predecessors on the heights of inspiration ; but he was imbued with deity more than any man, relied incessantly on himself for augmented force, and exerted the greatest VOL. XIII. —NO. LII.
public energy, for the very reason, probably, that he threw abroad his heavenly grandeur from the shadows of the most humble sphere. It was this retired, calm, and truly godlike self-unfolding of our Redeemer that shed an epic splendor around every step of his progress,made each injury he suffered a solace to emulative disciples on his track, and every act he performed a symbol most significant of truth and freedom to all mankind.
We have seen how our Lord early relied on resources native to himself, and arose superior to the religious dogmas of the day, as they were taught by all the popular theological schools. Ai the outset, oppressed as he was by toil and exclusiveness, he strove to stand forth the first among our race, an independent thinker struggling for the suffering of every class, with head, hands, and heart disenthralled. Mankind yearned for the advent of one in whom the love of the beautiful, the pursnit of the good, and the defence of the true, would not be a mere artistic perception, but a natural and ardent passion, such as in Christ only is realized. He best served the salvation of humanity by the peculiar education of himself as an individual. When he had once made the beautiful, the good, and the true, a harmonious unity for himself, the divine example of this unity became a more resistless argurnent to his sympathetic brethren than all the eloquence that man or angel could employ. He broke away from sectarian despotism, and aspired to become thoroughly and energetically individual in the purity and power of his own light, that he might excite kindred aspirations in all other individuals; and, for their encouragement, while his own person was yet sombre in the lowest vale, he poured the dawn of universal deliverance along every summit of the world. All that was needed to make him a tender friend, a perfect teacher, and a mighty Redeemer, he acquired by experience on earth and transmitted for its hope.
He had the same faith in himself as in his doctrine; and feeling that both were divine, he was more than willing, it was his only ambition and delight, to lay them at the feet of every man.
He would transform each immortal creature of our race not only into a disciple but a prophet, placing in his heart a sublime idea, a celestial sentiment, which he should profoundly feel was destined to redeem the world. With a modest but majes.
tic self-reliance, he shrank from no peril, no pain, no obloquy, that he might accomplish the advocacy of mercy and truth in word and deed. He went abroad, armed with no exclusiveness and no coercion, but radiant with the energies and beatitudes of a salvation, desigued to bless all nations, free, purify, and exalt all mankind.
The mental independence so prominent in Christ is a rare thing on earth and most worthy of our esteem. We see many persons who are able to act with vigor so long as they are sustained by popular opinion ; but the moment this deserts them, they fall into utter imbecility, and the wonder is how they ever have commanded the confidence and admiration of their fellows. But such are never he. roes,—they belong not to the goodly fellowship of those who stoop their anointed heads as low as death, in defence of ennobling and saving truth. Christ, on the contrary, was the consummate model of the noblest cast of character, one “by its own weight made steadfast and inimovable.” Suffering emancipated, instructed and consolidated his mind, as it does in every hero truly great. The burdens which Isaiah, Stephen, Paul, and Luther bore, gave steadiness to their movements and energy to their limbs.
“ Thus doth strength
Schiller, full of that self-relying individuality which afterwards made him a master in his sphere, when encompassed with the gloomy auspices of his early manhood, exclaimed bravely to his friend, -"O Karl, so long as my spirit can raise itself to be free, it shall bow to no yoke!” Christ acted on this principle, above and beyond all human beings. Difficulty was the element in which he wronght out his mental greatness in the presence of man, as if on purpose to teach him to resist resistance and in the fierceness of holy endeavor to grow strong. The opposition of men, and the buffetings of elemental storms, the sudden vicissitudes of time and the adversities of adverse fate, are all designed to drive man from the vassalage of grovelling conventionalities, and lift him to the exalted regions of pure action and free thought. To the true champion, susceptible of great improvement
and beneficent deeds, “if misfortune comes, she brings along the bravest virtues." The path to perfection is always difficult; but the trials which the aspirant meets are designed to rouse, and not to discourage, him. He must win strength and speed, as grow the eagle's wings and the giant's arms; he must tunnel the mountains in his way, or soar above them.
Doubtless the difficulties of our state are among its best blessings. " The distance at which good objects are placed, and the obstacles which intervene, are the means by which Providence rouses, quickens, invigorates, expands, all our powers. These form the school in which our minds and hearts are trained. Difficulty and hardship bind us more closely to objects. We love more ardently what we have suffered to attain, and enjoy nothing so exquisitely as what we have pursued through calamity and danger. It is in such pursuits, when we endure and labor for ends which conscience and religion enjoin, that our whole nature is called forth and perfected. The heart gains new ardor, the understanding new clearness and vigor. A delightful consciousness of rectitude sustains us even if we fail, and gives a rapture to success.” Christ came to teach us that all wisdom is bought with labor and pain, and that we arrive at holy truth and the highest bliss only through great tribulation. True we are on a field of battle, and imminent are the perils which menace us on every side ; but the vestiges of a celestial Leader are palpable all around, telling both where and how he fought and conquered, winning frorn this tear-wet and sangninary ground crowns of righteousness and victory for every brave comrade in the war. This independent self-reliance of the great Captain of our Salvation is happily adapted to soothe and encourage every manly follower, and in the hours of exhaustion and doubt to rouse in him invincible faculties kindred to the perfect model he emulates. Like him, he will struggle most for elevation of soul, and press perpetually towards a throne on high, not advancing like an earth-fowl blown upward by ihe chance direction of impetuous gusts, but soaring through a purer and calmer medium to genial skies, upborne by wings full of living and growing power.
In contemplating the discipline of Christ preparatory to his public career, one cannot but be struck with the fit
ness he attained through the practice of perpetual industry and fearless thought. He never required others to earn his bread or do his thinking. He endured patiently many personal wrougs and much social oppressiou ; but he never permitted tyrants of any degree to dictate to him what to believe. He would suffer no spiritual intolerance, and he practised none. He pitied the ignorance and bigotry of mankind, and devoted his entire life to the work of teaching them, but he never coerced an individual to a particular belief. He poured forth heart emotions and rational notives enough to subdue and lead captive all; but he left his disciples, like himself, free in every decision and act. He wished to see none involved in meshes or incarcerated in gloom, which suffocated every exhilarating breath, and crippled all vigorous growth. Every act he performed, every precept he inculcated, every prayer he offered, was designed to open a free and fascinating communication between himself and every other soul, that all might stand enthralled by affection and rapturous thought in his presence, but no one palsied by ignorance or chilled by fear. He came to earth, burdened with immortal verities which he panted to distribute through every avenue of the general heart; he was accustomed to breathe in worlds to which the heaven of heavens is but a veil,” and his only desire was to elevate the degraded of every class to an unbounded participation of a mental life and moral grandeur as unshackled and glorions as his own. If we would be like him, we must not fail to imitate this divine trait in his character and life. We must rise above contracted dogmas, disregard ephemeral dignities, inhale the sublime majesty of Jesus, and, like him, be at once the servant and victor of the world. In the language of another we may exclaim:
" What faculties slumber within, weighed down by the chains of custom! The want of courage to carry out great principles, and to act on them at all risks, is fatal to originality and freshness. Conformity benumbs and cramps genius and creative power. We must commit ourselves fully to a principle of truth and right; we must dare to follow it to the end. Moral independence is the essential condition of loving warmly, thinking deeply, acting efficiently, of having the soul awake, of true life. This habit of reliance on principle should give us a buoyant consciousness of superiority to every outward influence. A far-sighted anticipation of great results from worthy deeds should make us strenuous in action, and fill us with a cheerful trust. No parVOL. XIII. —NO. LII.