« PreviousContinue »
still boasted of his morality and piety, just as the Stoic boasted of his happiness, while writhing under the pangs of the cholic, or the gout. The reason plainly was; he believed all these enormities to be consistent with the character of a Wise man. Cice. ro thought war, (that is, the butchery of mankind, and the devastation of human happiness,) when undertaken for the love of glory, and unstained with peculiar cruelty, justifiable. Why? Because he had previously determined the love of glory to be virtue, or the real excellence of man; and therefore concluded, that the means of indulging, and gratifying, this passion must be, at least, consistent with virtue. In the same manner, men of all descriptions, when they have formed to themselves a false standard of excellence, are satisfied, if they only embrace the errors, and commit the sins, which that standard allows; and will in fact embrace more errors, and commit more sins.
He, who will compare himself with the perfect standard of virtue, furnished by the life of Christ, will see at once, and without a doubt, how far his character falls below what God has required. The best man living will, in this case, cordially unite with Paul in exclaiming, O wretched man, that I um! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death ? and, with Job, humbled by the immediate presence of God, in the kindred exclamation, Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes. 66 How different,” will he say,“ is my life from that of the Redeemer? How different the heart, from which it has been derived! To me belongeth shame and confusion of face, because I have sinned, and done this great wickedness. But to thee, O Divine Saviour of men, be blessing, and honour, and glory,
for ever and ever. Amen." If such be the state of the best, in the light of this comparison, what must be the state of others ? What of men, who feel themselves to be, not only decent, but in a good degree virtuous, and
a safe? What shall be said of him, who neglects the worship of God in his family, or closet; who attends in the sanctuary, occasionally only, and is inattentive to the worship, when present; who neglects the relief of the poor and distressed; who justifies
l lying, in certain circumstances; who uses sophistry; who makes hard bargains; who preaches moral essays, effüsions of genius, and metaphysical disquisitions, instead of the Gospel ; and himself,
his resentments, or his flattery, instead of Christ; who wastes his time in light and fanciful reading; or devotes life to amusement, instead of duty? All these, and all other similar, persons are contrasts to the character of Christ, and not resemblances. They walk not as Christ walked. The same mind is not in them, which was in Christ.
The meek and lowly virtues were peculiarly the virtues of the Redeemer. By this I mean, that he exhibited them most frequently, urged them most extensively and forcibly, and described his own character as being formed of them in a peculiar degree. The proud, therefore, the vain, the insolent, the wrathful, and the revengeful, are irresistibly compelled, when they read his character, to know that they are none of his.
IV. The example of Christ was highly edifying.
By this I intend, that it was of such a nature, as strongly to induce, and persuade, mankind to follow him. On this part of the subject, interesting as it is, I can make but a few observations.
The example of Christ was singular. No other, corresponding with it, has ever appeared in the present world. The best of men are only faint and distant copies of his excellence. When exhibited by him, it was a novelty ; and has, since, been always new, as well as always delightful. In this view, it is formed to engage attention, and command a peculiar regard.
It was the example of an extraordinary person ; who taught wonderful wisdom, lived a wonderful life, and wrought wonderful miracles. Such a person naturally compels, beyond any other, our admiration and respect; an admiration, mightily enhanced by a consideration of the circumstances, in which he was born and lived; the humble education which he received; the lowly condition and character of those with whom he consorted; the superiority of his precepts and life to those of all who went before him; and their total opposition to those of his own contemporaries. All these considerations lead us to a full and af
. fecting conviction, that his wisdom was self-derived, and his life the mere result of his own unrivalled virtue. Accordingly, all these facts astonished those, who lived around him; and have filled with wonder men of every succeeding age.
The example of Christ was an example of benevolence only. All
his employments were directed to no other earthly end, than the promotion of human happiness. His miracles were directed only to such objects, as feeding the hungry, healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, and restoring life to the dead. His precepts, and his life, terminated in illuminating the soul, diminishing the power of sin, invigorating virtue, and securing the salvation of
It was the example, also, of a person struggling with suffering and sorrow, unceasing obloquy and bitter persecution. The hea. then could say, “ The Gods themselves behold not a nobler spectacle, than a good man, firmly enduring Adversity." Christ was supremely good; and encountered extreme Adversity. The patience with which he submitted, and the firmness with which he endured, invest his character with a greatness, to which there is no parallel. The fire of persecution, instead of consuming him, merely lent its gloomy lustre, to show the splendour of the object, which it surrounded.
It was the example of a person, employed in accomplishing the greatest work, which was ever done, and introducing into the universe the most extensive good, which it ever beheld. There is a moral grandeur, a divine sublimity, in this employment of Christ, at which the mind gazes with wonder, and is lost; which Angels behold with amazement and rapture ; and which eternity itself will hardly be able to unfold to a created understanding.
It is the example of a person, devoting all his labours, and undergoing all his sufferings, for the benefit of others and proffering with an open hand the immense good, which he procured at an immense price, to strangers, sinners, apostates, enemies to himself, and children of perdition. Not for himself, but for guilty, ruined men, he was born, lived, laboured, suffered through life, and expired on the cross. To every one, who is willing to be like him, he shut the prison of woe, and opened the gates of heaven.
It is an example, in itself pre-eminently beautiful and lovely. His meekness, gentleness, humility, compassion, and universal sweetness of disposition, are not less distinguished, than his greatness and glory. Solomon, beholding his character in distant vision, exclaimed, He is the chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely! David, in prophetic view of the excellence of his life, exclaimed, Thou art fairer than the Sons of men. GOD THE FATHER, beholding him with infinite complacency, an. nounced his character to the world with a voice from heaven, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. To these divine declarations all virtuous beings have subjoined their Amen.
Finally, it is an example, in which divine wisdom and excellence united with the most perfect human mind; coinciding with all its designs, and guiding it to unmingled excellence. To the amia- . bleness and beauty of the most finished created virtue, were superadded, and united, the authority and greatness of the Divinity, by which that Mind was inhabited. The combination, therefore, was a combination of all that is lovely with all that is awful, exalted, and divine. What mind, that can be persuaded from sin, must not this Example persuade? What mind, that can be allured to holiness, must not this Example allure ?
Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is
in Christ Jesus. Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation, through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins, that are past, through the forbearance of God. To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness; that he might
1 be just, and the Justifier of him, which believeth in Jesus.
In a former discourse, I proposed to consider, as parts of the
a Priesthood of Christ,
The Holiness of his character :
for sin : and, The Intercession which he makes for sinners.
The first of these subjects has been examined at length. The present discourse shall be occupied by the second.
THE SACRIFICE or CHRIST FOR THE SINS OF MEN.