Page images
PDF
EPUB

carefully adjusted balance, open to the influence of truth—to be controlled in its decisions by facts, and not by prejudice. In view of the general character of the Nazarenes, the commonly received opinion among the Jews concerning the coming and character of Christ, Nathanael could not believe what Philip had affirmed. His conduct in this particular was by no means strange or unusual. He had not seen the person of whom Philip had spoken, nor heard bis doctrines, nor any thing concerning him, by which to form such an opinion as he had expressed, only that he came from Nazareth. Possibly he may at some time have heard of this Jesus as being a very extraordinary young man-distinguished for the purity of his life and devotedness to the will of God; or he may have heard bim spoken of as a prophet, or of the occurrence at Jerusalem in the temple, when he was found by his parents in the midst of the doctors asking them questions, which may have excited attention at the time; but now twenty years bad elapsed since that event, and it had passed from the public mind, so that Nathanael decided at once against the claims of Jesus being the person predicted by Moses and the prophets, simply from the general character of the inhabitants of the obscure city from whence he came. A proper regard for his own reputation, as well as justice to his friend and to Jesus, would have led him to suspend his opinion until he could ascertain on what evidence this claim was founded, or at least waited until he could hear the Saviour himself. But he at once pronounced against what had been asserted, and showed that his mind was under the influence of a strong bias or prejudice. Had Philip said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write,” Jesus of Jerusalem, the Son of the high-priest, the son or lineal descendant of David-a person coming from a place so distinguished for affected piety and devotion to God, though they had slain the prophets of the Lord that had been sent unto them and garnished the sepulchers of those slain by their fathers, a city at that period full of worldliness and hypocrisy, Nathanael would not have doubted, or asked for further evidence. It would have accorded with his general views of the appearance and character of the Messiah.

The reply of Philip to Nathanael was the expression of wisdom and prudence. When Nathanael expressed his doubt of the truth of what his friend had declared, he simply replied: “Come and see." He did not attempt to reason the matter with Nathanael, for the question was settled in his mind, that no good thing could possibly come from Nazareth, consequently no good man would dwell among such a people. Philip did not ask his friend to rely upon what he had told him, but urged him to come and hear and see for himself. Come, hear, and then judge—judge him by his doctrines, by what he does, and not by the place from whence he comes. Be not hasty in condemning the opinions of those who have care

fully examined what Moses and the prophets have written concerning the Messiah and their reference to this extraordinary personage: now come and see, for we believe this is he in whom the prophecies are fulfilled.

We have a forcible illustration of the power of prejudice, in the reception with which the Saviour met after he entered upon bis public ministry. On one occasion when he visited his reputed parents in that same Nazareth, he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath, as his custom was, and read from the prophet Isaiab, and said to the people, “This day is this Scripture fulfilled in your ears,” and as he proceeded to preach, the multitudes were astonished at his doctrine and at the mighty works that he did. His fame had gone throughout all the coasts. The people had heard of the miracles he did, while some present had witnessed bis healing of the sick, cleansing the lepers, making the blind to see and the lame to walk, and being drawn together by what they had seen and heard, be preached to them with great earnestness; but did they believe what they heard; did they receive the truth from his lips? No, far from it. Some of them recognized in him the son of the humble carpenter; they had known him in his early life; they knew his obscure origin, and moved with jealousy, they asked contemptuously: "Is not this the carpenter ?" They called bim the carpenter's son in derision. They knew his family, and they were too proud to be taught by him, and stirring up the people against him, for presuming to teach them, they sought to take his life by casting him down from the brow of the hill on which their city was built. They found no fault with his doctrines, but their prejudice was excited against the poor carpenter. Had he come to them as the son of the high-priest, they would have admired his wisdom and have been charmed with his eloquence, for he spake as never man spake. But their minds were biased by prejudice, so that while they could not but be astonished at what he did, they rejected and despised him, and sought to do him violence, because he was the son of a carpenter!

The conduct of the Jewish rulers toward the Apostles shows the controlling and corrupting power of prejudice. They hated the very name of Jesus. Though his resurrection from the dead had been attested by a great number of witnesses, and notwithstanding several thousand had been converted under the preaching of the Apostles in which Christ crucified and raised from the dead was the great theme, still they wonld not believe the evidence of their own senses. They would not allow the Apostles even to heal diseases in the hated name of Jesus of Nazareth. They imprisoned the Apostles and scourged them cruelly for preaching to the people, that Jesus whom the rulers had crucified and slain was the expected Messiah.

The mind is so constituted, that a slight bias or prejudice, like

the small dust of the balance will give it a preponderance to one side or the other. It is so in judging the motives of men. We often violate that rule of charity that “thinketh no evil," and decide a case before we have heard all that can be said in reference to it, and form our opinion with but a partial knowledge of all the facts. It is in this way men of the world make up their minds in reference to the importance and truth of evangelical religion. They listen eagerly to all that may be said by the enemies of religion, but sbut their ears to what may be said in its favor, and close their eyes to the light of truth, though it shine with all the brightness of a sunbeam from every page of the word of God. The carnal heart is opposed to the doctrines and precepts of revealed truth, and hence to such no good thing can come from Nazareth. But what do such know of the spirit of evangelical piety? What do they know of the power of that religion which they so arrogantly arraigo and condemn? They have never experienced its energizing power or its peace giving influence; they have never carefully and impartially examined the claims of religion to their respect and belief. They have made up their verdict as to the truth and importance of religion upon what has been urged by its avowed enemies and as oft refuted by its friends. To all such, no good thing can come from Nazareth. If they can point to one who professes to have experienced the love of God shed abroad in his heart, whose conduct does not correspond with his high pretensions, they not only pronounce him a hypocrite, but they include ali others who profess to fear God, in the same category. Happy would it be for such if they would suspend their uncharitable judgment, and come and see put themselves right-in a proper condition to judge correctly and impartially before they condemn all.

But this is stating the case in terms too general to be of any practical benefit to us directly. We are all, more or less, exposed to the malign influence of prejudice in the every-day affairs of life. We allow it to affect our social intercourse and even our conduct toward each other as members of the family of Christ. This evil is not confined to those without the Church. It serves to weaken the bonds that should bipd the members of the household of faith in the closest relationship as members of one great family, having a common Father and common interests. But alas ! too often the spirit of jealousy or envy begets a prejudice in the mind of one member toward another, and then no good thing can come out of Nazareth. Under the influence of prejudice, it is no unusual thing to set down as wrong in one against whom such feelings are entertained, what would not be noticed in another where no such feelings exist. We may be biased in favor of an - individual so as not to discover his faults, and be unwilling to ad

mit that he can do wrong; while, in reference to the same persons, there are those who find nothing right; but all is wrong; no mat.

ter how pure their motives, or correct their deportment, no good can come out of Nazareth. It is not necessary that we openly condemn or proclaim from the house-tops what we discover in a friend to be wrong, in order to clear ourselves of an improper bias in his favor; neither is it required that we think or speak equally well of all to avoid the charge of being prejudiced; for then we must either be insensible to the proper distinction between right and wrong, or be indifferent to such distinction, when we do perceive it. It is our duty not only to abhor evil in all, but to shun even the appearance of evil, while we are to cultivate that charity that “thinketh no evil.” The true spirit of the Gospel demands an honest, open-handed, pure-minded course, which is in wide contrast with the low, cunning, secret, intriguing spirit that characterizes men of low, sordid selfishness. That Christian frankness and candor which are the opposite of low, base prejudice, consist not in fairness of speech; for smiling may be the aspect, and smooth the words of those wbose prejudiced minds may be the most ready to think evil of us. An honest, open-hearted frankness may lack the smoothness of external polish; but there is that which is of more value—a kind and ingenuous heart-a disposition to put the fairest construction upon what may seem to be improper or inconsistent. He who is free from the corroding influence of a prejudiced mind, will be without affectation in his manners, and most cordial and sincere in his professions of friendship. He will readily make allowance for the foibles and infirmities of mankind, the blending of evil with good, which is found in every human character. He is not looking to find one faultless; and yet he is unwilling to believe that there are any in the ordinary walks of life who are wholly destitute of every commendable quality. In the midst of many defects the unprejudiced mind will discover some amiable traits of character. Hence, he is not ready to lend a listening ear to evil reports and dark surmises and insinuations, that among the censorious circulate with such currency. He will not judge hastily, nor condemn, until he has full proof of guilt. Neither will he sacrifice a friend for a fault; for with the purest gold there is yet some alloy. Where there is just ground for doubts, he remains undecided, and leans to the most charitable construction which the act will bear. But a mind, swayed by prejudice, will accept of no apology which an accused person may offer, or admit of any extenuating circumstances that equity or charity may suggest. Such can see distinctly the mote in a brother's eye, but seem unconscious of the beam in their own; they judge others, not according to the principles by which they would wish others to judge them, but according to the suggestions of their own prejudiced minds. Such an influence as controls a prejudiced mind checks every kindly impulse, hardens the heart, and estranges man from his fellow-man, while its tendency is to sever the bonds of social

endearment, and to make each individual an isolated being. It is thus that mutual confidence is destroyed, and moral influence impaired. By giving place to prejudice, we diminish our social enjoyments, by suffering our minds to be affected by the evil surmises and tales of scandal against a neighbor or a brother in the church, while we intensify that evil influence by neglecting or refusing to give a reason for such conduct. Often has the peace of the church been disturbed, the pastor's relation periled, plans of usefulness defeated by some trivial misunderstanding, that at first arose from suspicion, and ripened into a settled prejudice without cause. Bad as the world is, some good can yet come from Nazareth.

The indulgence of such an unhallowed spirit by a Christian, is the canker that will soon eat out what little of real piety there may have been in the heart. It is one of the works of the flesh, that is constantly warring against that charity " that suffereth long, and is kind; that envieth not; that vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth.” Prejudice will eventually ripen into hatred; that stands in opposition to love, which is one of the first and highest manifestations of the fruits of a renewed heart. Through the influence of prejudice, the judgment is perverted, the determination of the will mistaken for the approbation of conscience, while the light within is turned to darkness, and then surmises of wrong ripen into certainty, and he comes to regard the objects of his ill-will as positively bad men. Under the influence of such a spirit, he is greatly deceived as to his own character and motives, and flatters himself that in publishing the failings of others, and undermining their Christian influence, he is doing God's service. While he becomes a slave to his evil passions, they become sources of constant annoyance, of misery, to him. Believing others to be his enemies, he adopts a course of conduct that is sure to make them such.

I may be pardoned, if, in this connection, I refer to the influ. ence of prejudice on the piety of Christians. It is almost impossible for such imperfect creatures to travel together far on the journey of life without having occasion for the exercise of the largest charity toward each other, especially as brethren in the Church. We soon find that, though born of the same Spirit, and servants of the same Master, and engaged in the same blessed cause, nevertheless, we are far from being perfect; we are by no means fitted for the perfect harmony of heaven. There is much about us that is earthy; there is a diversity of tastes and babits, occasioned not altogether by difference in temperament, but difference in our education and conduct in early life. Hence, as fellowtravelers, we are to watch over each other, and in so doing we shall find occasion for great forbearance and kindness, cherishing whatever is good and overlooking what may be wrong. If one

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »