Page images

had selected the twelve for his special associates, they naturally supposed that they should be his principal ministers, when he should assume the regal power. The dispute by the way appears to have been on this question, Who of them should be the first minister of state. It seems that more than one of them was ambitious for this dignity. On another occasion James and John appear to have solicited the two highest offices, one on his right hand, the other on his left; and their mother is represented as having urged the same request in their behalf. What would now be thought of ministers of the Gospel who should evince such ignorance and error respecting the purpose of the Messiah's mission, and the nature of his kingdom !

How then did Christ treat these erring apostles ? Did he denounce them as his enemies? Did he impute their error of opinion to the depravity of their hearts? Did he show towards them any bitterness or alienation ? Not any thing of this kind is to be found on record. When he saw them struck dumb by his questions, -"What is it that ye disputed by


“ He called a little child and set him in the midst of them," as an emblem of that humility which became them as his disciples, and said to them “Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of God." ” Matt. xviii. 2. This was, indeed, a reproof, not for their errors of opinion, but for their ambition and contention. In further discoursing with them, he let them know that he that would be great in his

the way?"


[ocr errors]

kingdom, must be like his Lord, of a meek and humble temper, ready to be " servant of all” in the work of doing good. It is, however, a remarkable fact, that the apostles retained their error in regard to the object of his mission and the nature of his kingdom, till the very moment of his ascension. For it appears that the last question they proposed to him implied that error.-—"Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom unto Israel ?” In reply he said to them, “ It is not for you to know the times and the seasons which the Father hath put in his own power.


shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you, and ye shall be witnesses unto me in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight.” Acts i. 6, 7, 8.

To me it is probable that the apostles had supposed the mission of the Messiah to be for a twofold purpose: the religious reformation of the Jews, and their political redemption from the Roman yoke. But it is pretty evident that the latter purpose was regarded by them as the main object; and that they possessed no clear views of the nature of his kingdom till they were miraculously endued on the day of Pentecost. Yet Christ bore with them, continued them in his service, instructed them as they were able to receive, and finally employed them as his apostles of salvation. He not only assured them of his own love, but of the love of the Father, on account of their love to him, and their belief that he “ proceeded forth and came from God.” This was done in the last interview prior to his death; and in the same interview he gave them his New commandment. A new commandment,” said he “I give unto you, that ye love one another as I have loved you,” to which I shall now pay some attention.

This coromand he repeatedly uttered in the same conversation, as though it were of the very first importance, and on obedience to which, very much was depending. It may naturally be inquired, why was Jesus so urgent and impressive in giving this precept to his disciples ? And why did he so long defer to correct their errors relating to his mission and his kingdom? As Jesus knew what was in man, he very well knew that his disciples in all ages would be liable to errors, and to differences of opinion, while in the body. He also knew how prone mankind are to judge and censure one another on account of differences of opinion, or supposed errors. He knew, too, of how great importance it would be that his apostles should be united in affection, and show a constant regard to his precepts in their examples before the world.

He had before given them the Golden Rule ; but this was more liable to be misapprehended than a precept founded on his own example-on what they all knew to have been his conduct towards them.

Ile therefore gave them the "new commandment," which, every time it should occur to their minds, must naturally bring to việw his example as the

ndard of their love one


in re

to another. “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you."

There might be several reasons why Christ neglected to explain to his apostles at an earlier period the nature of his kingdom, and to show them clearly their error in supposing that he had come to reign as a temporal Prince. I shall however mention but

The course which he adopted gave an opportunity to evince by his own example the spirit of benignity and forbearance, which would become his followers in their treatment one of another, gard to supposed or real errors of opinion. Had there been no difference of opinion between him and his apostles, there would have been no opportunity for such a display of forbearing love as he evinced towards them. Hence the new commandment could not have appeared with the force and importance which it now does, in view of all the circumstances under which it was delivered. The apostles themselves could not have had a perfect view of its force and beauty till the day of Pentecost, when their

eyes were opened. But after this, they could see what errors they had entertained during the whole of Christ's ministry, and what forbearing kindness he had constantly displayed towards them, notwithstanding their errors. How affecting and impressive must have been the recollection of his words.-" This is my commandment, that ye love one another as I have loved you !" So when differences of opinion afterwards occurred between any of the apostles, or between them and other disciples,


this new commandment was at hand, as a light to their feet and a lamp to their way.

This precept was addressed to the apostles, who had' personally witnessed and experienced Christ's candor and benignity towards erring men ; and the words

may be regarded as the injunction of a head of a family when about to leave his children ; but it was doubtless meant for the benefit of Christians in all succeeding ages. For it was at the close of the interview in which this command was uttered, that Jesus poured out his soul in prayer to the Father, that all who should become believers in him might “ be one." It is the love required by this commandment, which unites Christians to one another and to their Lord.

Had Christians from the beginning been duly mindful of the dying injunction and prayer of Christ, they never could have been divided into hostile sects and parties ; every species of persecution would have been avoided; and Christians would have been distinguished in every age by the characteristic mentioned by their Lord :—" By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another."

« PreviousContinue »