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ON CHRIST'S KNOWLEDGE OF THE HEART
JOHN, ii. 25.
For he knew what was in man.
This feature, my brethren, in the character of our Saviour, is one of the leading circumstances which more peculiarly fitted him for the great office which He undertook upon earth, his entrance upon which we have again begun to commemorate. “ He knew what was in man.” He knew all the weakness and the strength of the Being whom he undertook to
* Preached on the second Sunday in Advent.
reform and to save; and while all other teachers have, in some way or other, followed the bent of their own peculiar minds, and have derived their instructions rather from what they imagined, than from what they knew, to be true of Human Nature, he ever kept his calm and undeviating eye upon the real and unsophisticated condition of the heart, and applied His remedy to what he saw was the disease, not to any supposed or imaginary form of it. It is from this cause that, in every age, His words have come so home to the consciences of men, and have been the most effectual of all others in pointing out to them the true state of their souls. In the different pictures which He draws throughout his simple and unaffected Parables, there is no man who may not discover the description of his own character in its most material aspects ; and the precepts which he delivers for the improvement of our minds have something in them so suitable to the genuine character of our nature, and are so free from the prejudices which spring from partial and distorted views, that it is impossible not to feel their truth when they are announced, and, at the same time, not to perceive, that they are
such as no other teacher was ever qualified to deliver.
I. If we inquire what were those general truths respecting human nature which our Saviour seems ever to have kept in view, we shall find, in the first place, that he regarded Man as a creature of great dignity and value; as possessed of a Soul which might be rendered capable of obtaining an eternal inheritance, and which, even amidst the infirmities of a mortal existence, could not but aspire to the knowledge of Him who is from everlasting to everlasting. In this high point of view, as connected with God and with eternity, the Great Teacher of the Gospel contemplated the Being whom he came to guide to salvation; and with this contemplation before him, he at once took his lofty ground, and spoke of man and of his prospects in words which it had never before entered into the Heart of Man to conceive. Unlike every other teacher who has, at any time, undertaken the office of instruction, he extended his view over the whole of the human race, and in the one great aspect in which he beheld it, every other distinction seemed to vanish, Not with the exclusive spirit of partial Legislators, or Prophets, did He institute forms of polity, or of worship, which were addressed only to particular nations, and could do little else than foster their pride and contempt for the rest of mankind ;- not like Philosophers who only speak to men of enlarged and liberal understandings, and too readily exclude the multitude of their fellow-creatures from a participation in the reach of their discoveries, -He beheld even in the weakest and most imperfect mind the vestiges of that exalted nature which he himself bore :-It was man, not particular classes or descriptions of men, which He contemplated, and man in that high and sublime character which is not limited to the kingdoms or to the wisdom of the world, but which unites him to the kingdom of Heaven, and to the wisdom of immortality. In truth, my brethren, there never was a teacher but He, who, in this greatest of all aspects, “ knew what was in man.” In former times, amidst all the virtue and the ability of uninspired Sages, this characteristic of our nature was scarcely ever contemplated ; and even now, that “ immortality has been brought to light by his Gospel,”
who feels, or can feel, that sublime union with higher Beings which he felt in himself, and which he beheld lurking, though in an inferior form, beneath the mortal clay of every thing human ;-- who can so free his thoughts from prejudices and passions, and little vanities, as amid all the contentions, and disorders, and weaknesses of men, to look upon them not so much as they now are, as what they may one
day be ?
II. If we consider a second light in which this Great Teacher contemplated the nature of man, we shall perceive, that he was fully aware of the vices and imperfections with which it is defaced and stained. His high conceptions of its excellence and destiny, did not blind him to the manifold obstacles which at present stand in the way of its sanctity and advancement. “ He knew what was in man," —What was the original cause of all this corruption-what were all the shapes in which it has ever appeared, --what were all the fatal consequences to which it naturally would lead. All this He knew better than ever it was known to any one besides; but what was the consequence of this