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children of this world can know, seeing they neither consult nor receive God's revealed will ?
And do we not profess to have more light, more regard for God, more benevolence to men, than the children of this world do ?
And have we not been laid under greater obligations to God, than men ordinarily are, having received more from him than they have done?
And have we not promised and vowed to God much more, very much more, than they?
And is not his glory much more intimately connected with our doings than theirs ?
And we acknowledge too that we ought to do more than barely differ from the world in profession and appearance: a parrot may talk; ay, and a monkey may play antics.
(1.) We must do more than others, yea, than any others who have not real religion, in morals. Those who are governed by established usages and customs come short of the text. We must break through and away from every-thing that is evil. Our light must shine before men.” (See preceeding verses.)
It is not enough to come up to the custom of trade; we must inquire if the custom is lawful and equitable.
(2.) We must excel others in our dispositions, tempers, and speech. (See preceeding verses.)
(3.) We must go beyond others in our regard for the cause of Christ : worldlings will attend public worship; they will even give to it; nay, and some will give to it their anise, and mint, and cummin. But we must worship God in spirit and truth; we must give from principle, and have a well-regulated and an unabated zeal for its honour and furtherance.
(4.) Infidels originate no good institutions, promote not good and godly education; we must do both; in short, our motto must be,“ Be better than others; do more than others.”
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.” etc. (Heb. xii. 2 —4.)
WHATEVER our degree of light, whatever the measure of our consideration, or to whatever height our courage and constancy may rise, we still shall need motives to animate and cheer us in our christian course so as that we may gain the goal. Aware of this the apostle in the first verse draws our attention to departed saints, as a cloud of witnesses encompassing is about, to animate us.
He next directs our attention to Jesus, our great Exemplar, to animate us. Where observe
I. Jesus is set before us as a motive, under the idea of his being
First. The author of our faith.
(1.) He is the author of the scriptures which contain our faith.
But for him, there had been no revelation
of divine mercy.
(2.) He is the principal subject of which the scriptures treat; take Christ out of the scriptures, and what of any interest or importance to man have you
left? (3.) He inspires the principle of faith in the heart. This I take to be the meaning of St. Paul, Philippians
For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ not only to believe on him.” etc. He not only gives you opportunity to believe, encouragement to believe, and assists you so to do; but often works in you sovereignly, to produce such an effect in you. But he
Secondly. Is the finisher of our faith.
(1.) He carries it on in us. Under this notion he was addressed by the poor man who brought his afilicted son to him for a cure. Jesus said to him, “ IL thou canst but believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. Then said the man, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.” (Mark ix. 24.) And under the same idea, the apostles prayed to him, when they
found it difficult to receive his word, “ Lord increase our faith.”
He carries it on in us by the intimations, declarations, and promises of his word; all of which, but especially the last, are in Jesus Christ, yea, and amen. To these therefore he draws our attention ; on these he leads us to meditate; these he opens and applies, and on these he prompts us to venture and trust.
(2.) He finishes our faith by giving us the perfect and eternal enjoyment of all the great and glorious things he has promised to us in the heavenly state. Unto this Saviour it is that II. The
eye of our faith. “Looking unto Jesus the author," etc.
He was no probationer on earth, and consequently in no danger of miscarriage; but he was exposed to many difficulties and disagreables, and therefore had scope for the exercise of those graces and virtues which made him a proper and glorious example to all his disciples in every age and place. So long therefore as we dwell in this bewildering and perilous region, we ought to fix our eye on him, and mark his conduct
(1.) He endured great contradiction of sinners against himself, that is, varied, violent and determined opposition, in word and deed, from those whose wrath and mali knew no bounds; hence they were not to be deterred from their opposition by any displays of excellence and majesty, but to his very face offered every insult and indignity. Yet all this was endured without the least retaliation: they found no end of his patience, forbearance, and pity. On such an example we cannot too steadily fix our eye.
(2.) He endured the cross.
No death can be more lingering, painful, and cruel, than that of the cross, and therefore bad to endure, under any circumstances, even when most deserved ; what then must it be, when not deserved at all, but the contrary. Yet he patiently endured its lingering agonies, indulging in no feeling but that of pity for his murderers.
The cross, since our Lord endured its pain, has been proverbial for suffering, and is that which every disciple of Christ is to be in readiness to endure, if called to it. “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself.” etc.
(3.) He despised the shame, that is, the shame of the
The cross was too shameful and ignominious a death for any to be doomed to but slaves and the worst criminals. It was, if possible, more disgraceful than the gallows is in this country. Yet Jesus made light of this shame; so far was he from fainting at the prospect of it, that he looked on it as a thing undeserving of his regard, treated it as a trifle, and felt it to be such. Do you rise above the shame connected with your christian profession, associates, and services? What hinders you from following in your Master's track? Remember
(4.) That your Master was prompted and assisted patiently and magnanimously, to pass through the unparalleled scene of his suffering, by the joy that was set before him. “ Who for the joy that was set before him," etc. That joy consisted in promoting Jehovah's glory by the reheading and redeeming of the human
See a remarkable reference to the presentation of this joy in Isaiah l. 1.–6. This work being ever before him, he was straitened until he had accomplished it. And when accomplished, he then sat down at the right hand of the throne of God to complete his work by intercession and government, and to enjoy the establishment and augmentation of his mediatorial glory.
How disinterested his joy! Not so ours ; we are allowed to look at our own interests.
How great his love! We sometimes doubt if he will plead for us. Yet on what can his heart be more set?
1. Let us
see to it that this beginner of faith in men, produce it in ourselves : has he done it? If not,
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depend on it the fault is ours, not his ; and unless he work it in us, we shall finally perish with the unbelievers. (John iii. 36.)
2. Having faith in him, look to him by faith; meditate much and frequently on what he did, on what he suffered, and on his manner of doing them; also on the motive that actuated him in his course, that you may never be weary or faint in your minds.
3. Let nothing divert you from your purpose of looking unto and considering Jesus your great Exemplar.
“ How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!” (Mark x. 23.)
But how can this be? Are we not told that pardons, indulgences, and masses, may be had for money ? And if so, then that relief in and deliverance from the pains of purgatory may be had for the same commodity. But then how can it be a hard thing for those that are rich to enter into the kingdom of God ? It is evident enough, therefore, that the Romanist's doctrines respecting pardons, indulgences, masses, etc., and the doctrine of the text cannot agree or stand together; and which is to give way, judge ye.
And if religion, either wholly or chiefly consisted in benevolence, then could it not be so hard a thing for the rich to enter the kingdom of God; but as it consists in the new man,“ Which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness;" hence there may be, and is, much difficulty attending the entrance of the rich into the kingdom of God. But,
1. How can these things be ? For,
1. The rich man is under no temptation either to cheat or steal.
Poor men, when greatly pressed by poverty, are tempted to do so for supplies.
And those who are not pressed by poverty, but who