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Chapter XXIX.

For birth is an aid towards an individual’s becoming famous, and distinguished, and talked about; viz., when a man’s parents happen to be in a position of rank and influence, and are possessed of wealth, and are able to spend it upon the education of their son, and when the country of one’s birth is great and illustrious; but when a man having all these things against him is able, notwithstanding these hindrances, to make himself known, and to produce an impression on those who hear of him, and to become distinguished and visible to the whole world, which speaks of him as it did not do before, how can we help admiring such a nature as being both noble in itself, and devoting itself to great deeds, and possessing a courage which is not by any means to be despised?  And if one were to examine more fully the history of such an individual, why should he not seek to know in what manner, after being reared up in frugality and poverty, and without receiving any complete education, and without having studied systems and opinions by means of which he might have acquired confidence to associate with multitudes, and play the demagogue, and attract to himself many hearers, he nevertheless devoted himself to the teaching of new opinions, introducing among men a doctrine which not only subverted the customs of the Jews, while preserving due respect for their prophets, but which especially overturned the established observances of the Greeks regarding the Divinity?  And how could such a person—one who had been so brought up, and who, as his calumniators admit, had learned nothing great from men—have been able to teach, in a manner not at all to be despised, such doctrines as he did regarding the divine judgment, and the punishments that are to overtake wickedness, and the rewards that are to be conferred upon virtue; so that not only rustic and ignorant individuals were won by his words, but also not a few of those who were distinguished by their wisdom, and who were able to discern the hidden meaning in those more common doctrines, as they were considered, which were in circulation, and which secret meaning enwrapped, so to speak, some more recondite signification still?  The Seriphian, in Plato, who reproaches Themistocles after he had become celebrated for his military skill, saying that his reputation was due not to his own merits, but to his good fortune in having been born in the most illustrious country in Greece, received 409from the good-natured Athenian, who saw that his native country did contribute to his renown, the following reply:  “Neither would I, had I been a Seriphian, have been so distinguished as I am, nor would you have been a Themistocles, even if you had had the good fortune to be an Athenian!”  And now, our Jesus, who is reproached with being born in a village, and that not a Greek one, nor belonging to any nation widely esteemed, and being despised as the son of a poor labouring woman, and as having on account of his poverty left his native country and hired himself out in Egypt, and being, to use the instance already quoted, not only a Seriphian, as it were, a native of a very small and undistinguished island, but even, so to speak, the meanest of the Seriphians, has yet been able to shake 31213121     σεῖσαι. the whole inhabited world not only to a degree far above what Themistocles the Athenian ever did, but beyond what even Pythagoras, or Plato, or any other wise man in any part of the world whatever, or any prince or general, ever succeeded in doing. 31223122     [This striking chapter is cited, as a specimen of Christian eloquence, in the important work of Guillon, Cours d’ Eloquence Sacrèe, Bruxelles, 1828].


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