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our approbation ; but Ulysses, the hero of the poem, is
The cold character of Æneas, in Virgil's elegant ro-
It would have been in the power of these renowned poets to have made their romances much more interesting and pathetic, if they had been acquainted with the system of morals which is contained in the gospel. It was not their fault, that they had not more exalted ideas of virtue; but it was the misfortune of the age in which they lived, and of the religion which they professed.
The fictitious tales of the moderns are much more affecting to the heart ; and they are indebted for the strong interest, which they excite, principally to the high standard of morals, which the Christian religion has raised. Tenderness and benevolence are displayed in their most popular scenes. The heroes are generous and disinterested; and the heroines, compassionate and charitable. These productions are often frivolous, and sometimes mischievous ; they should therefore be selected with caution : but with all their faults, as a class of books, they establish one important fact, that the moral taste of men in the present age is much more correct, than it was in ancient times ; for which no adequate cause except this can be assigned, that they are no longer Gentiles, but Christians. For as the design of the authors of these
books is to interest their readers, they are obliged to conform their works to prevailing opinions and feelings; and they cannot effect this purpose by any other means than by endowing their principal characters with the sublime virtues, which are enjoined in the New Testament. Thus do they add one more proof to the many others which exist, that Christianity is the most perfect, the most improving, of all religions.
If therefore the question is asked, What has the gospel done ? the answer is, that it has doomed no virtuous Gentile to the abyss of everlasting destruction ; for the Son of man is come, not to destroy men's lives, but to save them : it has depressed no good man, who without any fault of his own is deprived of its light; but it has exalted all, by whom it is received and obeyed. It has created a new order of beings with enlarged capacities; it has lifted their eyes to heaven, and enkindled in their souls the flame of divine love ; it has raised the character of human nature higher, than it ever was before ; it has refined and ennobled men, and made them kings and priests unto God.
But as man still retains his free agency, it is in the power of Christians to abuse these inestimable privileges. I would therefore exhort you, disciples of Jesus, to be mindful of your high and holy calling. Remember that you are placed on an elevated part of the mountain of God; and that if your feet slip your fall will be deplorable. Look not behind you, but upward, before you. With heroic ardor and generous zeal press forward, and strive to attain the summit; that thence you may
ascend to the regions of everlasting bliss, which are prepared for the righteous. Epiphany.
THE MARRIAGE IN CANA.
JOHN II. 1, 2.
THERE WAS A MARRIAGE IN CANA OF GALILEE; AND THE MO
THER OF JESUS WAS THERE; AND BOTH JESUS WAS CALLED, AND HIS DISCIPLES, TO THE MARRIAGE.
Among the variety of human characters, there are two, which form a striking contrast with each other. In the first gayety of heart is predominant. The impressions which are made on them are pleasurable, but do not reach beneath the surface. They pursue no fixed plan, and are not deeply interested in anything which takes place. Their ear is tuned to the sharp key in music; and their eye is formed to delight in brilliant and changing objects. Frequently innocent, and sometimes positively good, they can never be styled great; and they deserve not to be considered in a more respectable light than as children of a larger growth.
In the other characters seriousness is the prevailing trait. The impressions which are made on these men, are deep and lasting. Not a nerve is touched, but it vibrates through their whole frame. They are charmed with the sublime objects of nature, with solemn and melancholy sounds. They delight in retiring into a desert
or to the summit of a high mountain to pray; and they frequently almost lose sight of the material world, whilst their minds are absorbed in God. Their designs are in a high degree important; and their manners and conduct are uniformly grave and dignified.
Of this latter cast of character was Jesus Christ. The majesty of seriousness reigned in his mind. He sometimes wept : but no sentiment of levity, no instance of gayety, no sprightly sally, is recorded by the writers of his life. The important business, which his Father assigned him, precluded all light thoughts. A consciousness that he was acting under the eye of God seems constantly to have filled his mind; and with this sacred persuasion, overlooking every trifling object, the awe of devotion, the sublimity of great designs occupied his heart.
Besides, the idea of the painful death which he was ordained to suffer, and which he clearly foresaw, must often have oppressed his soul with the deepest melancholy. How could a man be cheerful, who knew that he was soon to expire on a cross ; and who was compelled by his overwhelming fears to utter such language as this : Father, let this cup pass from me; Father, save me from this hour?
The character of Jesus was grave and serious, melancholy and sublime; but it was not sullen and rigid. He did not forbid others to be cheerful. It has been common in the founders of false religions to affect a remarkable degree of austerity ; but the author of our religion can on no occasion be accused of this affectation. He joined in innocent festivals; and readily accepted the invitations, which he received, to partake of entertainments. Of this several instances are given by the evangelists ; and they are written for our instruction, that we may
learn from them, that true religion does not consist in
Omitting the other instances, which are recorded in
There was in Cana a marriage feast, to which Jesus, his mother, and disciples were invited. Though he knew that on such occasions, the hearts of the guests are commonly very cheerful, yet he did not refuse the invitation
; and he appears to have made no attempt to interrupt the innocent mirth of the company. The wine, which was provided for the entertainment, being exhausted, the mother of Jesus informed him of the circumstance; and doubting not that he would be graciously pleased to afford his assistance, she called the servants to her, and bade them to do whatever he should order. Jesus commanded them to fill six large water-pots with water : which being done, it was immediately changed into the purest wine.
Thus did the great Messiah, not only sanction by his presence the cheerfulness of an innocent feast, but even exert his miraculous power to augment the joy of the guests. Thus did he demonstrate that he is no enemy to the happiness of man ; and that his religion is not designed to abridge our social pleasures, or to deprive us of a single source of rational enjoyment.
This miracle was exhibited before he entered on his