Gambar halaman
[ocr errors]

word which, even in his own biassed judgment, left the smallest stain upon the character of his Master. This he directly declared to the chief-priests in that remarkable assertion, I have sinned, in that I have betrayed innocent blood. Far beyond this, when the least fault in the conduct of Christ, could he have recollected it, would have relieved the agonies of his conscience, and justified, or at least palliated, his treason, he put an end to his own life, because he could not endure the misery springing from a sense of his guilt. In this gross and dreadful act he gave, therefore, the strongest testimony which is possible to the perfect innocence of the Redeemer.

Correspondent with this testimony is that of all antiquity. Neither the Mishna nor the Talmud, which contain the whole substance of the Jewish testimony on this subject; neither Celsus, Porphyry,'nor Julian, who may be fairly considered as having given us the whole of heathen testimony, have fixed upon Christ the minutest charge of either sin or folly. To the time of Origen, we have his declaration (which is evidence of the most satisfactory nature,) that within the vast compass of his information nothing of this nature had ever appeared. In modern times, the enemies of Christianity have laboured with great industry and ingenuity tu fasten upon him some species of accusation : but they have laboured in vain. Unlike in this respect, that glorious orb, to which he is compared in the Scriptures, nothing has ever eclipsed his splendour, no spot has ever been found on his aspect.

That we may form just and affecting views of this part of our Saviour's character, it will be useful, without dwelling any longer on a general survey of his holiness, to proceed to the consideration of those particulars in which it was especially exemplified.

1. The piety of Christ was uniform and complete.

His supreme love to God was divinely manifested in the cheerfulness with which he undertook the most arduous, and at the same time the most benevolent of all employments, and of course that which was most pleasing to him, and most honourable to his name. His faith was equally conspicuous in the unshaken constancy with which he encountered the innumerable difficulties in his progress; his patience, in the quietness of spirit with which he bore every affliction ; and his submission, in his ready acquiescence in his Father's will, while


[ocr errors]


requiring him to pass through the deepest humiliation, pain, and sorrow.

However humbling, however distressing his allotments were, even in his agony in the garden, and in the succeeding agonies of the cross, he never uttered a complaint. But, though afflicted beyond example, he exhibited a more perfect submission than is manifested by the most pious men under small and ordinary trials. No inhabitant of this world ever showed such an entire reverence for God, on any occasion, as he discovered on all occasions. He gave bis Father at all times the glory of his mission, his doctrines, and his miracles : seized every proper opportunity to set forth, in terms pre-eminently pure and sublime, the excellence of the divine character; and spoke uniformly in the most reverential manner of the word, the law, and the ordinances of God.

At the same time, he was constant and fervent in the worship of God; in prayer, in praise, and in a cheerful compliance with all the requisitions of the Mosaic system, civil, ceremonial, and moral; celebrated the fasts, feasts, and sacrifices of his nation, and thus, according to his own language, ‘fulfilled' in this respect' all righteousness.' Such, in a word, was his whole life ; so unspotted, so uniform, so exalted, that all persons who have succeeded him, both inspired and uninspired, have found themselves obliged, whenever they wished to exhibit a perfect pattern of piety, to appeal to the example of Christ.

2. His performance of the duties which he owed to mankind was equally perfect.

This part of our Saviour's character cannot be properly understood without descending to particulars. I observe, there fore,

(1.) That his filial piety was of this remarkable nature.

Notwithstanding he was so magnificently introduced into the world by a long train of types and predictions, and by illustrious instances of the immediate ministration of angels, he was entirely obedient throughout almost all his life to the commands of his parents. No person was ever so ushered into life, or marked out by Providence for so extraordinary purposes. No person so early engrossed the attention and admiration of the great and wise by his mental endowments. Whatever could awaken in his mind the loftiest views of ambition, enkindle a strong sense of personal superiority, or produce


[ocr errors]

feelings of absolute independence, he could recount among the incidents which either attended him at his birth, or followed him in his childhood.

Still no child, no youth, no inan of riper years, was ever so respectful and dutiful to his parents. To them' in the language of St. Luke, he was subject,' evidently, till he' began to be about thirty years of age.' To this period he lived con

. tentedly a humble, retired, and unobserved life, following quietly the occupation of his father with such industry and regularity, as to be known familiarly by the appellation of the carpenter.

Civilized men have united with a single voice to applaud and extol Peter the Great, Emperor of Russia, for his moderation and condescension, displayed in labouring at the employment of a ship-carpenter, in the Saardam. Unquestionably, this conduct was the result of sound wisdom and unusual self-government on the part of this great man, and fairly claimed the admiration which it received. What, then, shall be said,—when we behold him whose title was the Son of God, wbose birth angels proclaimed, predicted, and sung, to whom angels ministered at his pleasure ; who commanded winds, and waves, and life, and death; who triumphed over the grave, and ascended to heaven--working at an employment equally humble, not a few days only, but the principal part of his life ; and all this, not to subserve the purposes of ambition, but from a sense of duty, and in the exercise of filial


The same character was gloriously manifested by Christ during his public ministry. Particularly while he hung upon the cross, suffered the agonies of that excruciating death, and ·bore the sins of mankind in his body on the accursed tree,' when he saw his unhappy mother pierced with anguish by his side, he forgot his own woes, commended her to the care of his beloved disciple John, as his future mother, and that disciple to her as her future son, and thus made provision for her maintenance and comfort through life. Thus he began, and thus he ended.

(2.) Of the same perfect nature were his candour and liberalily.

The spirit which is denoted by these two names is substantially the same, and differs chiefly by being exercised toward

[ocr errors]

different objects. That this spirit should exist at all in Christ will naturally seem strange, when we remember that he was born of a humble family, in the most bigoted nation in the world, and in the most bigoted age of that nation, and was educated in that humble manner which naturally leads the mind to imbibe with reverence the bigoted sentiments of the great, and to add to them the numerous and peculiar prejudices springing from ignorance. But from all this influence he escaped without the least contamination. There is not an instance recorded in bis life in which he was more attached to any person or thing, or more opposed to either, than truth and wisdom must entirely justify. There is no instance, in which he ever censured or commended those of his own nation, or of any other, either more or less than plain justice demanded. On the contrary, he commended every thing approved by wisdom and piety, and reproved every thing bigoted, partial, prejudiced, and faulty in man.

A great part of the people of his nation were bis enemies, and among

the most bitter of these were the Pharisees. Yet he said to his disciples, • The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: all, therefore, that they say unto you, do. But do ye not after their works ; for they say, and do not.' No commendation of the precepts of these men could easily have been conveyed in more expressive language than this. By directing his disciples to follow their precepts, he declared them in forcible terms to be true and right, that is, with such exceptions as he has elsewhere made, and as the same exact regard to truth demanded.

The same disposition he manifested in the case of the Syrophenician woman; and in that of the Roman centurion. The Jews considered all the heathen nations as deserving nothing but contempt and detestation, and called them dogs. But Cbrist preferred the faith of the centurion, although a Roman, to that of all other persons with whom he conversed, even to that of his own apostles.

In the same generous manner he treated the publicans, regarded by their countrymen as the vilest of sinners. In the same manner also he treated the Samaritans, against whom the Jews exercised the most furious hatred, and with whoni they refused to have any · dealings,' even those of the most indifferent and necessary kind.

The same disposition he showed with respect to doctrines, opinions, and customs. No specimen can be produced from the history of his life of bigoted attachment to his own doctrines, or those of his nation, or those of his friends; of prejudice against those of strangers or enemies; of favouritism or party spirit, of contracted regard to any custom because sanctioned by public usage or general respect; of reluctance to conform to any innocent practice, by whomsoever adopted, or of any narrowness of mind whatever.

When invited to a marriage, he cheerfully went; when bidden to a feast, he readily consented to become a guest. Nor did it make any difference, because the host was on the one hand, Matthew, or Zaccheus, a publican; or, on the other, Simon, a Pharisee. In a word, he adopted and commended nothing except what was true and right, and neither refused nor condemned any thing except that which was false and evil. Nor did it make the least difference with him whether that which was approved or censured was adopted by friends or enemies.

(3.) His prudence was consummate on all occasions.

Particularly was it manifested in avoiding the wiles and open assaults of the Jews. Notwithstanding the invincible firmness of mind universally displayed by our Saviour, notwithstanding he lost no opportunity of doing good, yet he never wantonly exposed himself to any suffering ; discovering clearly, on every occasion, a total opposition to that vain and idle fool-hardiness which rushes into danger, merely to gain the reputation of being courageous.

The same prudence is strongly evinced in teaching his disciples and others, as their minds were able to receive his instructions; giving milk to babes,' and strong meat to men;' opening new doctrines and duties by degrees, and never pouring new wine into old bottles.' At the same time, he commended his precepts both to the heart and the understanding by their form. At one time he communicated them in short aphorisms, easily understood, deeply felt, long remembered, and readily applied to practice. At another, he conveyed them in parables, simple, beautiful, natural, and affecting, catching the imagination and feelings, as well as convincing the understanding. At another, he entered into plain, but profound, curious, and unanswerable reasonings, showing

[ocr errors]
« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »