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Christ's Treatment of Guilt.

Christ's Treatment of Guilt.

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Published by glennpease

Luke v. 8.
depart from me ; for i am a sinful man, lord !

Luke v. 8.
depart from me ; for i am a sinful man, lord !

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Published by: glennpease on Nov 15, 2013
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CHRIST'S TREATMET OF GUILT. BY JAMES MARTIEAU. Luke v. 8. depart from me ; for i am a sinful man, lord ! When Simeon, on the verge of life, uttered his parting hymn within the temple, he told Mary, with the infant Jesus in his arms, that, by that child, ' the thoughts of many hearts should be revealed.' ever was prophecy more true; nor ever perhaps the mis- sion of our religion more faithfully defined. For wherever it has spread, it has operated like a new and diviner conscience to the world; imparting to the human mind a profounder insight into itself; opening to its consciousness fresh powers and better aspira- tions; and penetrating it with a sense of imperfection, a concern for the moral frailties of the will, charac- teristic of no earlier age. The spirit of religious penitence, the solemn confession of unfaithfulness, the prayer for mercy, are the growth of our nature trained in the school of Christ. The pure image of his mind, as it has passed from land to land, has taught men more of their own hearts than all the ancient aphor- isms of self-knowledge; has inspired more sadness at the evil, more noble hope for the good that is hidden there; and has placed within reach of even the igno- rant, the neglected, and the young, severer principles of self-scrutiny than philosophy had ever attained. Christ's treatment of guilt. 177 The radiance of so great a sanctity has deepened the shades of conscious sin. The savage convert, who before knew nothing more sacred than revenge and
war, is brought to Jesus, and, as he listens to that voice, feels the stain of blood growing distinct upon his soul. The voluptuary, never before disturbed from his self-indulgence, comes within the atmos- phere of Christ's spirit; and it is as if a gale of heaven fanned his fevered brow, and convinced him that he is not in health. The ambitious priest, revolving plans for using men's passions as tools of his aggran- dizement, starts to find himself the disciple of one who, when the people would have made him king, fled direct to solitude and prayer. The forward child blushes to think how little there is in him of the infant meekness which .Jesus praised ; and feels that, had he been there, he must have missed the benedic- tion, or, more bitter still, have wept to know it mis- applied. ay, so deep and solemn did the sense of guilt become under the influence of Christian thoughts, that at length the overburthened heart of fervent times could endure the weight no longer; the Confessional arose, to relieve it and restore a periodic peace ; and it became the chief object of the widest sacerdotal order which the world has ever seen, to soothe the sobs, and listen to the whispered record, of human penitence. Cities, too, as if conscious of their corruption, bid the silent minster rise amid their streets, where, instead of the short daily or sabbath service, unceasing, eternal orisons might be said for sin ; where the door might open to the touch all day, and the lamp be seen beneath the vault by night, and the passer by, caught by the low chant, might be tempted to interrupt the chase of vanity without, for 178 Christ's treatment of guilt. the peace of prayer within. And so, in every ancient village church of Europe, there is a corner that has been moistened with the burning tears of many gen- erations, and witness to the confessions and griefs
that prove the children's conscience and affections to be such as their Father's were ; and the cathedral aisle, emblem of the mighty heart of Christendoni, has for centuries been swelled with the plaint of a repentant music, shedding its sighs aloft into the spire, as if to reach and kiss the feet of God. In private dwellings, too, from the hearts of parents and of children, every morning and evening for ages past has seen many sad and lowly prayers ascend. Every- where the Christian mind proclaims its need of mercy, and bends beneath the oppression of its guilt; and since Jesus began to 'reveal the thoughts of many hearts,' Christendom, with clasped hands, has fallen at his feet and cried, ' We are sinful men, O Lord I ' In nurturhig this sentiment, in producing this solemn estimate of moral evil and quick perception of its existence, the religion of Christ does but per- petuate the influence of his personal ministry, and give prominence, on the theatre of the world, to the feature which singularly distinguished his life, viz. his treatment of the gidUy. It is as if he dwelt among us still, and we saw him vexed and saddened by our evil passions, and travelled with him on the way, and felt his eye of gentleness and purity upon our homes, and he told us that ' we know not what spirit we are of,' and by these very words caused us to know it instantly. or can we obtain any juster and deeper impressions of the temptations of life, and the ten- dencies of all wrong desires, than by seizing that view of moral evil, which dictated the mercies and the severities of his lips and life. Christ's treatment of guilt. 179 He lived amid dark passions and in evil days. Profligates and outcasts were near him ; the ambi- tious and ignorant were his disciples ; hypocrites con- spired against him ; and treachery was ready to be

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