« ÎnapoiContinuați »
municated them in short aphorisms ; easily understood, deeply felt, long remembered, and readily applied to practice. At another, he conveyed them in parables ; simple, beautiful, natural, fand af. fecting ; catching the imagination and feelings, as well as convincing the understanding. At another, he entered into plain, but profound, curious, and unanswerable, reasonings : showing, both from the works and the word of God, that his precepts were just, and his doctrines true. Thus he charmed by variety and novelty, as well as proved by argument and evidence; and became, innocently, all things to all men; that at least he might gain some.
The same character he discovered in a manner not less remarkable, in answering the questions, and resolving the cases, proposed to him by the Pharisees and Sadducees. In every instance of this nature he refuted their arguments, exploded their opinions, defeated their crafty designs against him, and publicly put them to shame and to silence. Thus he beautifully illustrated the truth of that memorable declaration, which he had anciently made concerning himself, I, wisdom, dwell with prudence.
The same truth he still more strikingly illustrated by the uniform tenour of his life. This was such, as to defeat all the malicious accusations of his numerous and bitter enemies; and to place his character beyond a doubt of its innocence and uprightness. To this end, it was not sufficient that he was really innocent and upright. It was additionally necessary, that he should be consummately prudent. In proportion to their want of prudence, all men are endangered in this respect; and most become sufferers. But Christ was regularly considered as an innocent man by all persons, even of moderate candour; had a high reputation for worth in the eyes of the public ; and, when tried on the accusation of enemies and villains, before a malignant and unprincipled tribunal, was pronounced clear of every imputation. Equal proof of prudence, as well as innocence, was never furnished in the
Fourthly. His integrity was equally perfect.
This dignified characteristic is strongly visible in several of the things already recited as proofs of his Candour : candour itself being no other than a particular mode of exercising integrity. Of this nature are his impartial censures and commendations of his friends and his enemies. The same spirit is conspicuous in his reproofs, which, on the one hand, were bold, open, and sincere, and on the other, were perfectly free from selfishness and ill nature. It is also strikingly evident in the perfect simplicity of his instruclions and conversation. In them all, there cannot be found a single instance of flattery, sarcasm, ambiguity, vanity, arrogance, or ill-will
. Nay, nothing is enhanced beyond the strictest bounds of propriety. Nothing is so coloured as to deceive ; nothing left so defective as to mislcad. The strongest specimen, ever given of integrity, in the manner of communication, is found in the instructions of Christ.
Many persons have been distinguished for their integrity; and so distinguished, as to leave behind them, in their history, little or no stain upon their reputation in this respect. But Christ differs, evidently, from them all in the degree in which he manifested this at. tribute; and so differs from them, as that simplicity and openness of communication forms a remarkable characteristic of the style, in which he spoke; and constitutes, eminently, what may be called his own original manner. As this runs through all his discourses, as recited by the several Evangelists; it is evident from this fact, that it was his own manner, and not theirs. The same illustrious attribute was, in the same manner,
evinced in all his conduct. By applause he was never allured: by obloquy he was never driven. Popular favour he never coveted : popular odium he never dreaded. To friends and enemies, to the populace and the Sanhedrim, he declared truth, and proclaimed their duty, without favour or fear. When he stood before the Sanhedrim, and was on trial for his life ; being adjured by the high priest to declare whether he was the Son of God; he boldly said, though he knew that death would be the consequence, I am. And, to place the declaration beyond all reasonable doubt, subjoined, And
shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. In a word, he treated all men, while he was teaching, exhorting, and reproving them, as being merely rational and immortal beings; and not as friends or enemies; nor as members of any sect, party, or nation. In this manner he left a noble example to every succeeding Teacher of mankind
5thly. His Benevolence, also, was without an example.
Many of the observations, already made, strongly illustrate this glorious attribute of the Redeemer. It will, however, be useful to mention other things, more particularly, as exemplifications of this disposition. Among the numerous miracles, wrought by Christ, there is not one which was not performed for the direct purpose of lessening distress, or danger, or producing safety, comfort, and happiness, to mankind. Many of these miracles, also, were wrought for those, whom he knew to be his enemies; with the full conviction, on his part, that they would continue to be his enemies. While his life was filled up with that peculiarly bitter provocation, which arises from ingratitude, daily repeated, never wearied, and even increased by the very kindness which should have melted the heart; even this provocation never slackened his hand, nor moved his resentment. When he came in sight of that ungrateful city, Jerusalem, where so many prophets had been killed, where so many of his benevolent offices, and so many of his wonderful miracles had been performed in vain; notwithstanding all the injuries which he had received from the inhabitants ; notwithstanding they were now employed in devising means to take away his life ; he wept over the guilty, abandoned spot; and cried with inexpressible tenderness, Jerusalem! Jerusalem! that killest the prophets, and
stonest them who are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings; and ye would not. On the Cross he forgave and prayed, and secured eternal life, for murderers, while they were imbruing their hands in his blood, and rendering a most bitter death still more bitter by adding insult to agony. At the same time, he communicated faith, and peace, and hope, the forgiveness of sin, and an earnest of immortal glory, to the miserable malefactor, who, by his side, hung over the burnings of devouring fire.
6thly. Equally wonderful was his disinterestedness.
This attribute, though often considered as the same with benevolence, is really a qualification of benevolence: as is evident from the mere phraseology, so customarily adopted, of disinterested benevolence. But it is the crown, the glory, the finishing, of this character.
There is not an instance, in which Christ appears to have proposed his own private, separate good, as the end either of his actions or sufferings. He came to live, and die, for others; and those, enemies, and sinners. From them he needed, and could receive, nothing. From him they needed every thing; and from him alone could they receive that which they needed. For such beings all his labours, instructions, and sorrows, were planned, and completed. The objects which he had in view, were the most disinterested, public, and honourable, which the Universe has ever known; the deliverance of mankind from sin and misery, their elevation to virtue and happiness, and the supreme glory of God in this divine and most wonderful work. These objects he accomplished with extreme difficulty and self-denial, and with immense expense on his own part. This arduous work he began with a fixed purpose; pursued with unshaken constancy; and triumphantly completed, in spite of every discouragement, difficulty, and danger. On all his progress heaven looked with wonder and gratulation; and, at his return to that happy world, the ransomed of the Lord exclaimed, and will for ever exclaim, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing.
THE PRIESTHOOD OF CHRIST.-HOLINESS OF CHARACTER. HIS
HEBREWS vii. 26.-For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, unde
filed, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens.
In the preceding discourse, I considered the holiness of Christ as one great branch of his Priestly character. In the course of this consideration I stated, summarily, my views concerning the manner, in which Christ performed the duties, owed by him immediately to God, and to mankind. I shall now make a few observations concerning those, which he owed more immediately to himself. The two former
classes are generally denoted by the names piety and benevolence ; the latter is usually denominated temperance, or self-government.
It ought, here, to be observed, that our Saviour's life was regulated by the rules of perfect virtue in all those ordinary and less delicate cases, in which mankind so commonly transgress; and in which we usually look for the proofs of a gross and guilty character. The truth is, imputations of the kind here referred to, are not made on the Redeemer even by the worst of men; and have ceased, notwithstanding the groundless and brutal calumnies of his contemporary enemies, who accused him, as a man gluttonous and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners, to have any place in the belief, or even in the obloquy, of mankind. To say, that our Saviour was chaste, and temperate, is so far from seeming like a commendation of his character, that it rather wears the aspect of that cold approbation, which is considered as grudged ; and is yielded, merely because it cannot with decency be refused. Nay, it may with strict propriety be said, that the very approach to this subject savours in a degree rather of impropriety and indelicacy; and wears more the appearance of an anxious and sedulous disposition to shield a doubtful reputation, by watchful efforts to say every thing, which can be said, in its favour, than of a sober determination to utter the sincere approbation of the understanding, and the just applause of the heart. With these observations premised, I observe, 1st. That the Industry of Christ was wonderful.
St. Peter describes the character of the Redeemer in these memorable words: Who went about doing good. Acts x. 38. This emphatical description exhibits the active part, or side, of his life, just as it really was ; and, though extremely summary, it is complete. Doing good was his only proper, professional employment; in this employment he did not, like other beneficent persons, stay at home, where he might meet with solitary and casual objects of his kindness, but went unceasingly from place to place, to find the greatest number, and those on whom his kindness might be most advantageously employed.
The whole life of Christ was a perfect comment on this text. He himself has often told us his own views concerning the great duty of industry in the service of God. When his mother gently reproved him for the anxiety, which he had occasioned to his parents, when, at twelve years of age, he staid behind at Jerusalem, while they went forward three days' journey towards Nazareth; he replied, How is it, that ye have soughi me? Wist ye not, that I must be about my Father's business? This honourable scheme of life, so early adopted, and so forcibly expressed, was the uniform rule of his conduct at every succeeding period; and is often mentioned by him, as such, during the progress of his public ministry. Thus, in his reply to the disciples, asking him a question concerning the man who was born blind, he said, I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day. The night cometh, when no man can work. John ix. 4. Thus, when the Pharisees informed him, that Herod would kill him, and urged him, therefore, to get him out, and depart thence, he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox, Behold, I cast out devils, and I do cures, to-day and to-morrow; and the third day I shall be perfected. Nevertheless, I must work to-day, and to-morrow, and the day following. Thus, also, he declared, universally, the character of his life, in those memorable words, The Son of man came not lo be ministered unto, but to minister. Who could claim, with so much propriety, to be ministered unto, as Christ ? From whom ought not ministering to be expected, rather than from him? Finally, when he was conversing with the woman of Sychar, and his disciples solicited him to eat, he answered, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish his work.
In exact accordance with the spirit of these declarations, we find immediately after his baptism, going into the wilderness, to suffer, and to overcome, in his temptation. As soon as this was ended, he journeyed unceasingly throughout Judea, Galilee, and Berea, and occasionally in the neighbouring countries; instructing, healing, comforting, and befriending, all, whom he found willing to hear his words, or fitted to receive his assistance. His early life was a life of industrious labour, literally so called. His public life was also an uninterrupted course of laborious exertions, made in a different manner; a period, filled up with duty and usefulness. With an unwearied hand he scattered blessings wherever he went, The manner in which, and the object to whom, the good was to be done, were to him things indifferent, if it was really done. Whether they were friends or enemies, Jews or Heathen, disciples or strangers; whether they were to be taught, healed, restored to sight,