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The Person Of Christ by Philip Schaff


IT must not be supposed that a complete catalogue of virtues would do justice to the character under consideration. It is not only the completeness, but still more the even proportion and perfect harmony of virtues and graces apparently opposite and contradictory, which distinguishes him specifically from all other men. This feature gives the finish to that beauty of holiness which is the sublimest picture that can be presented to our contemplation. It has struck with singular force all the more eminent writers on the subject.42

Christ was free from all one-sidedness; which constitutes the weakness as well as the strength of the most eminent men. He was not a man of one idea, nor of one virtue towering above all the rest. The moral forces were so well tempered and moderated by each other, that none was unduly prominent, none carried to excess, none alloyed by the kindred failing. Each was checked and completed by the opposite grace. His character never lost its even balance and happy equilibrium, never needed modification or re-adjustment. It was thoroughly sound and uniformly consistent from the beginning t6 the end.

We can not properly attribute to him any one temperament. He was neither sanguine, like Peter; nor choleric, like Paul; nor melancholy, like John; nor phlegmatic, as James is sometimes, though incorrectly, represented to have been: but he combined the vivacity without the levity of the sanguine, the vigor without the violence of the choleric, the seriousness without the austerity of the melancholic, the calmness without the apathy of the phlegmatic, temperament.

He was equally far removed from the excesses of the legalist, the pietist, the ascetic, and the enthusiast. With the strictest obedience to the law, he moved in the element of freedom; with all the fervor of the enthusiast, he was always calm, sober, and self-possessed. Notwithstanding his complete and uniform elevation above the affairs of this world, he fireely mingled with society, male and female, dined with publicans and sinners, played with little children and blessed them, sat at the wedding-feast, shed tears at the sepulcher, delighted in God's nature, admired the beauties of the lilies, and used the occupations of the husbandman for the illustration of the sublimest truths of the kingdom of heaven. His virtue was healthy, manly, vigorous, yet genial, social, and truly human; never austere and repulsive; always in full sympathy with innocent joy and pleasure. He, the purest and holiest of men, provided wine for the wedding-feast; introduced the fatted calf and music and dancing into the picture of welcome of the prodigal son to his father's house; and even provoked the sneer of his adversaries, that he |came eating and drinking,| and was a |glutton| and a |winebibber.|

His zeal never degenerated into passion, nor his constancy into obstinacy, nor his benevolence into weakness, nor his tenderness into sentimentality. His unworldliness was free from indifference and unsociability, his dignity from pride and presumption, his affability from undue familiarity, his self-denial from moroseness, his temperance from austerity. He combined child-like innocence with manly strength, all-absorbing devotion to God with untiring interest in the welfare of man, tender love to the sinner with uncompromising severity against sin, commanding dignity with winning humility, fearless courage with wise caution, unyielding firmness with sweet gentleness.

He is justly compared with the lion in strength, and with the lamb in meekness. He equally possessed the wisdom of the serpent and the simplicity of the dove. He brought both the sword against every form of wickedness, and the peace which the world can not give. He was the most effective, and yet the least noisy, the most radical, and yet the most conservative, calm, and patient, of all reformers. He came to fulfill every letter of the law; and yet he made all things new. The same hand which drove the profane traffickers from the Temple blessed little children, healed the lepers, and rescued the sinking disciple; the same ear which heard the voice of approbation from heaven was open to the cries of the woman in travail; the same mouth which pronounced the terrible woe on hypocrites, and condemned the impure desire and unkind feeling as well as the open crime, blessed the poor in spirit, announced pardon to the adulteress, and prayed for his murderers; the same eye which beheld the mysteries of God, and penetrated the heart of man, shed tears of compassion over ungrateful Jerusalem, and tears of friendship at the grave of Lazarus.

These are indeed opposite traits of character, yet as little contradictory as the different manifestations of God's power and goodness in the tempest and the sunshine, in the towering Alps and the lily of the valley, in the boundless ocean and the dew-drop of the morning. They are separated in imperfect men indeed, but united in Christ, the universal model for all.

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