« PreviousContinue »
in these words delivering the doctrine of the highest glory of human nature: but this lareal and proper Deity of Jesus Christ, he is bouring and working is not in aid to feebleeither himself labouring under a delusion, or ness, it goes not to the production of what he intentionally means to deceive, or there had no previous being; it simply implies the is no meaning in language, and consequently adoption of the same views with God, and no distinct and safe channel of communica- the imitation of his works of goodness and tion between man and man.
mercy. The united powers of angels and The same was in the beginning with God. men are unequal to the formation of a John speaks as a prophet as well as an evan- single atom, for, to the ascription of the gelist. Foreseeing that “false teachers" creation of universal nature to the Word, should arise, “even denying the Lord that John subjoins his exclusive title to the chabought them,” he employs a clearness, a co-racter of Creator : it is a glory which he will piousness, a force of expression on this not give to any other; -without him was momentous point, not to be misunderstood, not any thing made that was made." " He not to be slighted, not to be explained away. spake, and it was done; he commanded, and When a master charges his servant with a it stood fast.” “God said, Let there be light, message of peculiar importance, he repeats and there was light." And who but God could it again and again, he puts it into every dif- thus speak, thus produce ? ferent form, in order to avoid ambiguity and In Him was life. In the vegetable world to prevent mistake. This is evidently the life is a state of expansion, a progress of case here. It must not be made a question. fructification, a power of reproduction, but “Of whom speaketh” the evangelist thus? all issuing in the decay and dissolution of " of himself, or of some other man?" The the parent germ. A grain of wheat in order identity of the person is ascertained beyond to vitality must itself consume. “That which the reach of doubt. He is the same before thou sowest is not quickened, except it die." time began its race; the same who set time It has not therefore life in itself. It was the a flowing ; the same through every period divine mandate which first generated, and of duration ; the same under every character which still supports the wonderful process. and in every condition.
“God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, Where is the proof that the Word was the herb yielding seed, and the fruit-ree God? All things were made by him; and yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself oma without him was not any thing made that the earth, after his kind: and it was so: and was made. Behold the execution of the God saw that it was good." From the same eternal plan. The design is copied to an fountain of life proceeded animal nature : iota. It is the incommunicable prerogative “ All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of of Deity to create. He who creates cannot the field, the fowl of the air, and the fish a be himself a creature. By the WORD were the sea, and whatsoever passeth through all things made, the Word therefore could the paths of the seas." A higher species of not have been made. What God did by the life issues from the selfsame source. - The Word of his power, he did by himself; and Lord God formed man of the dust of the " through faith we understand that the worlds ground, and breathed into his nostrils the were framed by the Word of God." Mark breath of life; and man became a living the universality of this creative energy; All soul.” In all these gradations we behold a things were made by Him. The apostle vital principle, but that principle derired, makes a splendid enumeration of those all standing in need of continual supplies, and things, in his epistle to the Colossians, ch. i. hastening to extinction. Here we are preverse 16. “For by Him were all things sented with life underived, needing no ex: created, that are in heaven, and that are in ternal support, inextinguishable. * In Him" earth, visible and invisible, whether they be supereminently “ was life;" a life of which thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or man is in a peculiar sense partaker: and the powers; all things were created by him and life was the light of men. for him." Wherever therefore there is “The light of the body is the eye;" and created existence, there is omnipotent, omni- a precious gift it is. “Truly the light is present, creating, and sustaining virtue, and sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes there can be but One Omnipotent, Omni- to behold the sun.” But the faculty of vision, present. “Angels” are said to "excel in as well as some others, is bestowed in a highstrength," but that strength is imparted, and er degree of acuteness on certain of the aniit is exerted or restrained by a will not their mal creation than upon man. He however own; they “ do His commandments, heark- possesses a light denied to the beasts that ening unto the voice of his word.” Man is perish. “There is a spirit in man, and the capable of doing great things, but his power inspiration of the Almighty giveth them upis limited to the modification of materials derstanding." "The spirit of man is the provided to his hand. Christians are indeed candle of the Lord,” by which he is datinsaid to be “ labourers together with God," guished from, and exalted far above the and “workers together with him;" it is the beasts of the earth and the fowls of heaven.
And this “light of men” is the gift of Him , death ;" on unbelieving Jews and the blindwho “ has lite in himself.” “He that plant- ed posterity of Ishmael? Alas! “ darkness ed the ear, shall he not hear? He that form- still covers the earth,” of lands denominated ed the eye, shall he not see? He that Christian, “and gross darkness the people” teacheth man knowledge, shall not he who bear that venerable name. What grievknow ?"
ous ignorance have we to deplore! what imAnd the light shineth in darkness. Ma- pudent infidelity, what abounding iniquity, terial light necessarily dispels darkness ;' what horrid profanation of the name, of the when the sun rises the shadows flee away. day, of the book of God! “Sun of rightBut inental darkness resists the clearest light. eousness, arise” on these sinful lands" with The great source of intellectual day has healing in thy wings," "deliver us from the shined through every age and upon every power of darkness,” that we may be " light land; but every age and every land have ex- in the Lord.” hibited men grovelling in the dark, wilfully The evangelist having displayed the glory shutting their eyes, and then denying the ex- of the Word, as the source of all being, istence of light. The history of mankind is a whether material, animal, or intelligent, admelancholy demonstration of this, and this is verts to the mission of John Baptist, his imthe condemnation, that light is come into the mediate forerunner, " the voice crying in the world, and men loved darkness rather than wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, light, because the deeds were evil, for make straight in the desert a highway for every one that doth evil hateth the light, our God;" the finger pointing to "the Lamb neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds of God which taketh away the sin of the should be reproved.” It is a corrupted heart world." Paying all due honour to that that disturbs and misleads the intellect. “If,“ burning and shining light” which came in therefore,” O man, “the light that is in thee the spirit and power of Elias, he represents be darkness, how great is that darkness!" him as merely the harbinger of the Light, the On whom does this censure fall? On the true Light, which lighteth every man that ruder nations, and the grosser periods of ig- cometh into the world. John Baptist came for norance and barbarism? Yes, and likewise a witness, and he faithfully delivered his testion periods of illumination and refinement, on mony: " He that cometh after me is preferred nations who, in the pride of their heart, ap- before me: for he was before me—whose propriated all wisdom to themselves, and shoes' latchet I am not worthy to unloose: He stigmatized the rest of mankind with the must increase, but I must decrease," as the name of Barbarian: it falls on the boasted morning star “hides his diminished head” ages of Alexander and of Augustus, on when the great orb of day appears. learned Athens and imperial Rome. Of “ Through faith we understand that the them it is that the apostle Paul thus writes: worlds were framed by the Word of God," “When they knew God, they glorified him but the world by wisdom knew not God.” not as God, neither were thankful, but be- lle was in the world through the whole excame vain in their imaginations, and their tent of its duration, as the all-upholding foolish heart was darkened. Professing them- Word, the all-regulating power, but the men selves to be wise, they became fools: and of the world, even “ the wise and prudent” changed the glory of the uncorruptible God discerned him not, acknowledged him not, into an image made like to corruptible man, adored him not. " The fulness of time" at and to birds and four-footed beasts, and creep- length came. The Scriptures were fulfilled: ing things. Who changed the truth of God the day which “ Abraham rejoiced to see's into a lie, and worshipped and served the began to dawn; the “Star out of Jacob" creature more than the Creator.” This ac- arose. Surely man will fall down and worcounts for that earnestness of exhortation ship him. They surely, at least, "to whom employed by the same apostle in his epistle pertaineth the adoption and the glory, and to the Ephesians: “ This I say, and testify the covenants, and the giving of the law, in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as and the service of God, and the promises, other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their whose are the fathers and of whom, as conmind, having the understanding darkened, cerning the flesh, Christ came," they surely, being alienated from the life of God, through will flock to “ the brightness of his rising.' the ignorance that is in them, because of the This is a reasonable expectation, but it was blindness of their heart: who, being past not realized. The melancholy fact is, He feeling, have given themselves over unto came unto his own, and his own received him lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with not, and the prediction is verified by the greediness.” Thus though the Light of event; “When we shall see him, there is the world shone, and still shineth, the dark- no beauty that we should desire him: He is ness comprehended it not. On whom does despised and rejected of men"—they “ hid the censure fall? On pa cans of ages past, their faces from him; he was despised, and and on pagans now " walking in darkness, they esteemed bim not.” and dwelling in the land of the shadow of This carries us forward, with our evangelist, to the great, the eventful day when the of his divine excellence and perfection, but we WORD was made flesh and dweli among us. may with him descend to the lowliest offices "The Scripture term, flesh, it is well known of beneficence and condescension! we may means man, human nature, the human race. learn of him to “ overcome evil with good." Thus in describing the universality of hu- On the other hand, to what height of eleman degeneracy it is said, “ All flesh had vation may not the Christian aspire? Let corrupted their ways.” Thus, in confidence not the idea of temporal elevation seduce you. of divine protection, the Psalmist exultingly Think not of "the kingdoms of this world and exclaims, “ I will not fear what flesh can do the glory of them,” which perish with the unto me.” And the Prophet, viewing the using. Christ's “ kingdom is not of this redemption of mankind as co-extensive with world.” Let not the blind ambition of the mortality, while he declares that “all flesh sons of Zebedee suggest a dream of right and is grass," triumphs in the thought that “all left hand places by the side of an earthly flesh should see the salvation of God.” To throne. Be it your study and ambition to these, innumerable instances might be ad- “ have this mind in you which also was in duced to prove that the evangelist, when he Christ Jesus.” Let the avarice of the worldly says “the Word was made flesh” means to mind accumulate bag upon bag, add house to convey this idea, that the Word, all-creating, house, field to field, but let a nobler avarice all-vivifying, all-illuminating, assumed hu- excite you, the disciples of the blessed Jesus, manity, “ was in the world,” tabernacled to “add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, among men, emitted a sensible glory, “as knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; of the only begotten of the Father, full of and to temperance, patience; and to pagrace and truth.” “Verily he took not on tience, godliness; and to godliness brotherly him the nature of angels; but he took on kindness; and to brotherly kindness, chahim the seed of Abraham”—“as the chil- rity.” These are the titles, the stars, and dren are partakers of flesh and blood, he also the ribands in the kingdom of heaven, himself likewise took part of the same"- and “if these things be in you, and abound. " in all things it behoved him to be made like they make you that you shall neither be unto his brethren"-" for which cause he is barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of not ashamed to call them brethren." our Lord Jesus Christ." Let the spirit of
And thus, men and brethren we perceive adventure and science discover unknown te one and the same animating principle calling gions and nations on the globe, and new worlds into existence, peopling them with planets in the firmament of heaven; be it angels and men, communicating intelligence, your concern, Christian, your study, yourenexercising unbounded empire-and making ployment, to contemplate, through the glass himself of no reputation, in the form of a of promise, “new heavens and a new earth, servant, in the likeness of men, and being wherein dwelleth righteousness.” Sutier the found in fashion as a man, humbling himself man of the world to enjoy his triumph ; sufer to a mean estate, to the suffering of reproach him to outstrip his rival, to run down his and contempt, becoming "obedient unto enemy; be thine the more glorious triumph death, even the death of the cross.” To to promote a rival, to spare an adversary, as what meanness of condition ought not we knowing that “He who is slow to anger is his disciples, therefore, cheerfully to submit? better than the mighty; and he that ruleth “For our sakes he became poor," and shall his spirit, than he that taketh a city." we be ashamed of honest poverty? Did he Such, disciple of Jesus, be thy boly aspirago by the name of "the carpenter's son,” tions, such thy pride and ambition ; and may and dare a Christian ostentatiously to display such be thy blessed attainments even in time: the heraldry of his ancestors, or to blush at thought is lost in contemplating " the glory what the world calls low birth? “ He hath that is to follow.” The beloved disciple not despised, nor abhorred the affliction of shall declare it, in the sublimity of his own the afflicted, nor hid his face from him when conception and expression, or rather in he cried," and can one called by his name the idea and diction with which the Holy turn a deaf ear to the cry of distress, or hide Spirit supplied his pen: * Behold, what man his face from a poor brother? We cannot ner of love the Father hath bestowed upon like him say“ Let there be light”—“Lazarus, us, that we should be called the sons of God! come forth ;" we cannot like him walk on therefore the world knoweth is not, because water or silence the wind: we cannot like it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the him give eyes to the blind, or speech to the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what dumb. But we may with him be “meek we shall be : but we know that, when he and lowly in heart," merciful and compas- shall appear, we shall be like him; for we sionate, forbearing and forgiving: we can shall see him as he is. And every man that go about doing good, and ministering to the hath this hope in him purifieth himself
, eres necessitous. We cannot attain to the height | as he is pure."
HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
Who shall declare his generation?—Isaiau liü. 8. The history of countries generally com-, consider, that this is the very passage of Scripmences with a geographical account of their ture to which Philip the evangelist was situation and extent; of the climate and soil; providentially directed, as a text for “ preachof the names and the reason of imposing such ing Jesus," to the Ethiopian eunuch. I shall names; of the era and the means of discovery; not employ any part of your time in detailing of the original inhabitants, and of other cir- the various opinions which have been entercumstances tending either to communicate tained respecting the meaning of the passage useful information or to gratify curiosity. in general, or the precise import of the term The biographer, in like manner, in delinea- " generation” in particular. The question ting the life of his prince, statesman, hero, or appears simply to be a bold defiance given to philosopher, usually begins with tracing his all-created wisdom to investigate, to unfold pedigree and parentage, and enables the the generations, the origin, the essence of reader to form some acquaintance with his that wonderful Person concerning whom such ancestors, in order to introduce the personage singular circumstances and events are prehimself with greater advantage and effect. dicted; it amounts to a strong and positive But both the general historian and the bio- affirmation, that it is impossible to declare graphier quickly lose themselves in research. Him as he is, to trace his existence through The origin of no nation or individual can be the successive periods of duration up to its traced up to its source. The light becomes commencement, as you may do that of a mere fainter and fainter as we proceed, the object man from the moment of his birth, or, through is rendered more obscure and uncertain, till a series of ancestors. What in this view is time at length spreads his sable mantle over the obvious doctrine of the text? That the it, and we behold it no more. Who then generation of Him who the Spirit of prophecy, shall declare his generation, who " was in and the corresponding history represent as an the beginning with God, by whom all things innocent, patient, vicarious sufferer, extends were made and without whom was not any beyond the sphere of created nature, eludes thing made that is made.”
pursuit, spreads the glory of eternity around We are advancing, men and brethren, upon it, and conceals it from mortal eyes. It is holy ground, ground sacred as Eden's blissful worthy of remark, that the genealogy of our plains, as the region which surrounded the blessed Lord’s humanity is more clear and disbush that burned with fire, as Sinai's awful tinct, and extended, than that of any other summit. Borne aloft on the pinions of the person. Two several evangelists have decelestial dove, we are aiming a bold, ad- clared it, pursuing it, through two different venturous flight into the heaven of heavens, but parallel channels, up to Abraham, and to expatiate through the boundless regions of from him up to the common Father of the hueternity, to contemplate objects which “an- man race. In this respect, therefore, “ the gels desire to look into," to search into the Spirit himself helpeth our infirmity;" and he “great mystery of godliness," to lose our who by the mouth of Isaiah seems to forbid selves in seeking to know the love of Christ and defy all inquiry, by the pen of Matthew which passeth knowledge."
and Luke, makes a clear and full discovery, We are going to attempt a delineation of and enables us to trace the pedigree of Jesus the Life and History of Jesus Christ, the Sa- Christ, like that of any other man. It is the viour of Men. My heart fails at the thought peculiar privilege of the sacred volume to of the task which I have undertaken; my unfold the real history of human nature, of tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth. the globe, of the universe, to follow nature Spirit of Grace, establish thou my heart- up to the hour of her birth, to declare “the -"O thou my voice inspire,
generations of the heavens and of the earth Who touch'd Isaialis hallow'd lips with fire!" when they were created; in the day that the The question of the prophet which has Lord God made the earth and the heavens ;" now been read, and which suggested the idea to exhibit the first man Adam in the plastic that we mean to pursue through this Lecture, hands of the Creator springing out of the dust is interwoven with a variety of pointed and of the ground, and, inspired with the breath striking predictions which, whether taken of life, becoming “a living soul.” The same separately or in their combination, can apply inspired volume represents to our attention only to one person; and who that person is, no one person, and one event, as of peculiar imdoubt can possibly be entertained, when we portance; as pervading, influencing, and
affecting the whole course of Nature and childhood; of a father's early care, and of a Providence; as contemporary with every mother's tenderness; of the amusements, the generation of men; as looked unto, and companions, the solicitudes, the sorrows and longed for by successive ages. In order joys of thy boyish days. But all beyond is a that the truth of God might be fully justified blank; to thee creation began a few years and have its complete effect, the relation, in ago; the second or third, at most, of thy which this illustrious person stood to those own immediate progenitors, is blended with who had received the promises of his com- the men who lived beyond the flood. We ing, is distinctly ascertained and minutely are ignorant of and unknown to each other. described; so that at every period of the How much more so are the men of distant world we can say, lo He is here, and lo He nations and of times more remote? But fit is there. But the inspired volume likewise mily tradition, national record, the inspired represents him as before all and above all. - page can supply the want of personal knowIf therefore this book be a Revelation from ledge, can carry us back to departed foreHeaven, it must contain real and important fathers, and bring them down to us. But truth, and that truth clothed in plain, simple, what recollection, what tradition, what reand intelligible language; we must perceive, cord, can carry us beyond the birth of naof consequence, in the “man of sorrows and ture, can convey us to a state of existence acquainted with grief," a person whose gene- previous to the lapse of time? Now the ration no one is able to declare, who is " be person of whom the prophet speaks, as we fore all and by whom all things do consist:" saw in the preceding Lecture, is the WORD whom all the angels of God are commanded who spake all things into existence, who to worship, “the heir of all things,” by whom built the world, who spread the flood, who set the worlds were made and are upheld, whose time a flowing, who “breathed into man's “ throne is for ever and ever:" in one word nostrils the breath of life." Who then of Christ Jesus, “who is over all, God blessed the sons of men, which of the angels of for ever."
God shall declare the generation of Him You are well aware that the doctrine, who made them what they are, who placed which we wish to establish, is in the present them in their stations, who prescribed to day violently opposed; and while it is main- them bounds which they cannot pass ? The tained in this place, it may be perhaps in the slightest detail of nature, O man, presents a next street the subject of profane mirth, or mystery which thou canst not solve, a world of serious argumentation. Thinking as we which thou canst not comprehend unto perdo, we will not enter the lists of controver- fection. That seed cast into the ground sy. We will not employ your time, nor en cannot be "quickened except it die;" canst deavour to enlist your passions, by running thou declare the generation of this insect, todown one name, party, or opinion, and exalt- day a butterfly, yesterday a moth, the third ing another; but will simply and humbly, day a mere lifeless incrustation, and presumthough at the same time, firmly and unre-est thou to explain the great mystery of servedly, propose for your instruction and godliness, “God made manifest in the flesh;" improvement, what appears to be the mean- at so many different times, in such divers ing and object of Scripture; and, consider-manners made known unto the Fathers by ing the divinity of our Lord and Saviour the prophets; and in these last days unveiled Jesus Christ as the first leading object of all to us in the person of the Son, the brightRevelation, we will uniformly bring it for- ness of his Father's glory, and the express ward in every discourse. If therefore these image of his person? We repeat the quesexercises are at all frequented, or attended tion, understandest thou, and art thou able unto, it will be by such as expect, and are to unfold, the union that exists in thy own well pleased, to hear of the great Mediator frame, between the clay tabernacle and the between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, immortal mind; earth and heaven blended in his original, everlasting, unchanging in thine own person? And shall "it be glory, and in his humiliation, as the son of thought a thing incredible,” that He who, man, to the form of a servant, to the death in the uninterrupted course of his Proviof the cross, a propitiation for sin. To this, dence, produces this union which every one we trust, not unknown God, our altar is is conscious of existing, though no one is caerected, and dedicated, and on it we would pable of explaining, should form other comagain present our whole selves a living sa- binations, unite other natures, to declare his crifice unto the one true God, and “our Sa- power and manifest his glory? Wherefore viour Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for should it be thought a thing incredible," ever and ever.”
that He who unites himself to every one of “Who shall declare his generation ?" In- us, through the medium of reason and cricapable thou art, O man, to trace back the science, for carrying on the plan of nature, short and slender thread of thy own exist- should have united humanity to hinself in ence and descent. Thou mayest have some the person of the Redeemer, in a manner faint recollection of weak and dependent still more incomprehensible, for perfecting