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which is given to the disciples in the Sermon on the Mount-
But why should we particularize? The Great Master never speaks without reference to God. All his divine teachings are the emanations of this central light. All his moral inculcations are inspired by this sublime type in his own mind. The agency of an Almighty God, supreme and universal in nature and grace, is the great truth which he never suffers to escape the minds of his hearers. Such was the doctrine of Jesus respecting God. Can anything be more impressive or sublime ? More full of just, awful, and comprehensive views of the character and government of the Most High?
But as further illustrating the Ministry of Christ, let us consider,
2. His Doctrine of Man.
(1.) Responsibility. Man is recognized as a moral being, sustaining relations to God and man, and as acting freely in these relations. Jesus conforms his teachings on human responsibility, to the experience and convictions of men. He does not pause to reason on the subject, to adjust the necessity of predetermination to the liberty of the agent. What do we see? We behold him who insists upon the absolute sovereignty of Godascending the while to the awful heights of predestination, coming down without faltering--without the slightest nervous disturbance, to insist with equal decision and authority on the most absolute human responsibility. Did Jesus find the harmony of these extremes? Did his all-discerning mind perceive no inconsistency in statements which arrogant philosophy has dared to denominate absurd and contradictory? If to Him, who knew all things, there be nothing irreconcilable in the sovereignty of God with the responsibility of man, then may they be admitted as harmonious facts, though the weakness of human reason may be at fault in demonstrating the relations of this harmony.
The Great Master insists on the responsibility of all men, every where. He incorporates it in all his discourses, and bears it aloft as the grand argument by which to enforce the multifarious lessons of human duty. Throughout that wonderful Sermon on the Mount, this principle runs as a moral ligament to bind its mighty ethics on the consciences and hearts of men.
No matter how profound and entire the deep of human cor. ruption, and how certainly and wholly evil flows the stream of human action from such a source, our Saviour abates nothing of human responsibility on that account. In the natural obligations of man, and in the nature of voluntary moral action, he
lays his principle of accountability as just as the unchangeable righteousness of the divine government.
Sanctioned by the convictions of human consciousness, the heart responds to the truthful and terrible statement. Recoil from it--dread it as we may--the enlightened conscience must yet admit its truth.
Jesus employs this weighty principle in all his labors to instruct and reform men. I do not say that we may not reason with men on the abstract beauty and usefulness of virtue, and the abstract hatefulness and hurtfulness of sin. But to reason against the tide of depraved appetite, and for the claims of an absent and unappreciated virtue, will be more interesting to the moralist than profitable to the sinner, Jesus shows us a more excellent way. He appeals to the great principle of responsibility, and enforces duty therehy.
In illustration of this principle, how striking are many of the parables ! how impressive that of the talents, and that of the stewardship! As we read the solemn language of representation, a deeper sense of responsibility is awakened within us. We feel it is no trilling thing to live in a world where every action and every thought has its relation to a coming judgment. Under the simple teachings of Jesus, we feel our intimate relation to God our Judge. Eternity seems to overshadow time; and intermingling its own vast realities with the actions of the present life, it imparts a deeper solemnity to all, because binding the conscience to accountability in all.
Thus did Jesus exhibit the principle of responsibility. His teachings, pervaded by so weighty a matter, might well occasion the people to say of him, “ Never man spake as this man.”
The teachings of our Lord respecting man, embrace another important principle. It is,
(2.) Man's corrupt and sinful state. On the basis of this melancholy fact, that man is fallen, Jesus began his public ministry. With that consummate wisdom which distinguished every thing he did, he recognizes the great evil at once, and begins by laying the axe at the root of the tree. John was a reformer, but Jesus a regenerator. The cleansing of the outside of the cup and platter was not enough in those eyes which discerned the heart to be full of all corruption.
John presents, in a comparative light, the true nature of our Saviour's ministry. “I am
“I am come (be says) baptizing with water; but he that cometh after me baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.” Such was the extraordinary ministry of our Lord. In a work so radical, we discover the utter ruin of the human soul.
In the treatment of Nicodemus, we have an explicit testimony to man's real condition. The fact, with the teachings to which it gave rise, admits of the one construction only, that man is wholly ruined. That one so excellent, so candid, so inquiring, and só accomplished in all the visible decencies of religion as this“ master in Israel,” still needed the new birth, is a fact that leaves us in little doubt of the great want of mankind. And then the declaration which accompanies the fact, is as conclusive as words can make it, that “that which is born of flesh is flesh"—is corrupt, depraved, sinful.
Jesus enters into no formal statement of his doctrine ; it was not his manner, for he did not follow the logicians. But in all his dealings with men be assumes that they are fallen and sinful. It was his habitual effort to lead them to the knowledge of themselves that they might discover the depravity of their hearts. From outward fairness and pharisaic morality, he turns their eyes in ward upon the perversity and wickedness of the heart. In the Sermon on the Mount, the virtues which are inculcated, and the tempers insisted on, show precisely what and how great, in his estimation, is the disordered state of the human soul. Every grace there demanded, exposes an opposite grace. lessness; and every beatitude pronounced, reveals the deep curse of man's real condition.
Not only are men hopelessly depraved, but their state is as helpless as hopeless. They have rebelled, and so wasted all original virtue by sin, and are so utterly lost, that return to God is impossible. "How can those that are evil speak good things ?" inquires the Saviour.
It is in view of this helpless state of man that the Spirit is promised, by whose agency alone the depraved are to be renewed, and the lost reclaimed. Men are taught their absolute dependence. The pride of self-reliance, and the arrogance of human ability, is rebuked and humbled by the declaration, “No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him.” Even an apostle is assured that all his resolution and decision of purpose are insufficient alone, to preserve him from a great sin. Such is human infirmity in our Saviour's account. Where is the recuperative principle in man, that last element of goodness which has survived the fall, and like Hope in the box of Pandora mitigates the severity of its evil? We find it not in the teaching of Jesus, because Jesus, who knew what was in man, found no such relic of a purer state in his present ruin.
Jesus contemplates human nature as a ruin, noble and immortal indeed, but utter and hopeless. Over the dark miseries of ibis noble ruin he wept on Mount Olivet; to effect the work of its restoration, he bled on Mount Calvary.
It was the picture of hopeless, universal depravity which Jesus spread out before the minds of the people, which at once commanded their admiration, and excited their hatred. It was by the faithful exhibition of this great truth to men, that they were moved to desire and plot his ruin. It was on this account, Jesus tells the Jews, “ye seek to kill me." And again he says, “the world hateth me, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil."
Such, then, were some of the great principles of our Saviour's doctrine. They were grave in themselves, and deeply affecting mankind. They were principles, touching the character of God and the condition of man, which no Rabbi had ever uttered from the law-which no Gentile sage ever taught from the heights of Philosophy-which had never been heard in Attic grove or Jewish Synagogue. Shall we wonder at the power of Him who taught such wonderful doctrine? It was in the exposition of principles so new and so sublime, so perfectly simple, and yet so deeply practical and momentous, that Jesus taught with an unexampled authority and power, "and not as the Scribes."
But if the doctrine of our Lord was of a nature to command and impress, we shall find that
II. His MANNER was in perfect harmony with the MATTER of his instructions.
1. The leading characteristic of our Saviour's manner as a public teacher was eurnestness. There is a bistrionic earnestness which the deep player assumes as an artistic propriety demanded by his subject. There is an artificial earnestness, an ad cuptandum zeal to meet popular expectations, and awaken its applause, and there is a structural earnestness, a susceptibility to certain combinations of thought and forms of imagery and expressions, like the chords of the harp, strung to certain irnpulses of the air. But the earnestness of the Great Master was neither professional nor emotional. The weighty matters which he taught were the utterances of the deepest convictions. The doctrine of his ministry, in all its relations and momentousness, had a vital existence in his understanding, and in his heart. He could say, “ We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen.” That which Jesus proclaimed he felt in his deepest rea.
The doctrine which he taught authenticated itself in the vivid sentiment and realizations of his mind. In a word, from the earnestness of bis soul bis mouth spake.
ge of the Gospel is certainly a communication grave and important in the last degree. The just appreciation of its nature will be followed by earnestness in its announcement. Christ had ibis earnestness, because he had the full measure of such appreciation.
2. The earnestness of Christ was evinced in the simplicity of his teachings. True earnestness, flowing from deep conviction is, perhaps, always simple. Great thoughts, like costly stones, and precious diamonds, appear best in the simplest settings. The soul inspired by a vast truth, or laboring to disclose a great conviction, rejects the useless ornaments of rhetoric, and selects the plainest form of illustration. The manner of Jesus was perspicuous simplicity ; an inartificial transparency of language is the chosen expression of his deep convictions. ,
In his discourses it is the truth alone the Great Master would hold up to contemplation. It is some great principle he would bring before the mind, and this ohject is never obscured nor hindered by the form of the illustration. Throughout his while ministry, whether addressed to crowds or individuals, whether to lawyers or laborers, whether in the gorgeous courts of the temple, or among the homely scenes of Galilee, there is exbibited the same chaste simplicity, because in all there is the same intellectual earnestness. Jesus had no gifts of eloquence to parade, no accomplishments of knowledge to display, no facetiousness of wit to sport; but he had a Gospel of incomparable solemnity to preach, and “how is he straitened till it be accomplished." In this simplicity Jesus finds followers among those disciples who drink deepest of his spirit. Of such, no one of our day has had more of this spirit, or been more remarkable for this excellence, than the late venerable and pious Archibald Alexander. His well known simplicity was only equalled by his deep earnestness, Like the Master whom he followed, he was sim. ple, because he had great and earnest thoughts to communicate.
3. The earnestness of Jesus was further evinced by the consistency of his life with his doctrine. The principles which were illustrated by his ministry, occupied habitually the thoughts of his mind. He felt them not only when under occasional discussion, but in all places and at all times. There were moments of relaxation when he escaped from the physical toils of his ministry, but from the influence of his principles, and the force of his convictions, his mind never escapes.' Jesus taught nothing which he did not always feel. His life was the exact and everfaithful transcript of his principles. In the easy, familiar intercourse of friendship with his disciples, or in the bosom of the beloved family of Bethany, he throws off nothing of the habitual gravity, devotion, and spirituality inspired by his principles. In all places, and among all men he maintains unity of charactera dignified consistency with himself. It was the depth of his convictions, and the sincerity of his soul which gave to Jesus the highest form of earnestness-the earnestness of consistency.
4. The earnestness of Jesus was still further manifested in the decision and buldness of his munner.
The honor of the truth and the immortal interests of men, constitute an object superior to every other. A just apprehension of this object, will raise the minister of Christ above a time-serving and a man pleasing spirit. Honest convictions despise the temporizing suggestions of policy as low and unworthy. In the vindication of the truth, and in the enforcement of its obligations, Jesus was bold and unsparing. The force of his own clear perceptions made him superior to any place, or any presence. He was only intent on the honor of the truth, and the glory of the Father. Truly did he fulfil the prediction of the prophet, “ He shall smite ihe earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.”