Gambar halaman
PDF
ePub

a

spects. The great and splendid only would have been materially benefited, and even they in but a small part of the truly excellent human characteristics. In the seat of splendour and dominion certain exercises of virtue may be exhibited with peculiar advantage ; such, for instance, as are attendant on the just and wise administrations of government, and the honourable distributions of princely favour. But these are chiefly such as few of mankind have it in their power to imitate. Men in exalted stations, princes, nobles, and statesmen may, indeed, learn wisdom, worth, and dignity of character from these attributes, when displayed in a superior manner by persons occupying places of superior distinction. How few persons derive moral advantages from reading the actions of kings and conquerors recorded in general history, compared with the multitudes who are seriously profited by a single instance of well conducted biography ?

In the humble station which Christ actually occupied all his excellencies were and are plainly seen to have been merely personal, springing from nothing accidental, blended with nothing adventitious the inherent excellencies and the natural emanations of his own goodness of character, neither enhanced nor obscured by the dazzling glare of office, nor liable to any misapprehensions of ours from that prejudiced awe, that imposing veneration, with which we are prone to regard the great. The virtues of Christ were, in the strictest sense, all his own; the excellencies of an intelligent being merely; of a man, unincumbered with office, place, or power, or any other of those gaudy trappings, in our attention to which just views of the real character are apt to be perplexed or lost. These excellencies constitute an example for man as such ; and are, therefore, fitted to instruct and improve every child of Adam.

To the great he became a glorious pattern of that condescension, meekness, and humility which they ordinarily need, in a peculiar manner, to learn, and which, when learned, is their prime ornament and glory. When kings and nobles behold him, who was declared by a voice from heaven to be the beloved Son of God, and who on earth commanded the winds and the waves, and raised the dead to life, characterizing himself as 'meek and lowly of heart, and retiring

' into a desert to avoid the offer of a throne, it is impossible

that they should not feel, unless lost to rational sentiments, their own pride, haughtiness, and irritability strongly reproved. If they have hearts open to rational conviction, and not dead to virtuous impressions, it is impossiblo for them not to feel that the meekness and lowliness of mind which in the Redeemer were so excellent and exalted, must, of course, constitute the highest amiableness and exaltation of their own characters.

To men of inferior classes, down to the peasant and the beggar, the slave and the child, Christ is an universal example. In all the excellencies of which they are capable, or which are compatible with their circumstances, Christ has gone before them, as a glorious original, which they are required unceasingly to copy. The pattern is distinct; it can therefore be clearly seen. It is exactly suited to their circumstances; with a suitable disposition it can, therefore, be easily followed. It is faultless; and can, therefore, conduct them to no sin. It is sublime and lovely; and allures, therefore, irresistibly to virtue.

When we remember, that men of these classes constitute almost all the human race; when we remember, that among them are found almost all those who are willing to follow any virtuous example; when we remember, that Christ, by appearing and living in humble circumstances, has furnished a perfect pattern of righteousness to this part of mankind, and consulted in this efficacious manner their highest good; when we remember, that he has, at the same time, with equal efficacy, pursued the best interest of the remaining class, those in exalted stations, by recommending to them the virtueswhich they most need to be taught ; we shall see, in the clearest manner, the perfect wisdom of the Redeemer in condescending to appear in so humble a character. To the Jews' this was 'a stumbling block,' to infidels it has been

foolishness. But the foolishness of God is,' in this as in all other respects, wiser than men.'

To ministers of the Gospel the example of Christ commends itself with peculiar energy. Christ himself was a minister of the Gospel; sent by his Father in the same manner in which he has sent them. As a ruler in his Church, as a preacher and pattern of righteousness, he is the great archetype, of which they are bound to be as exact copies as it shall be in

[ocr errors]

their power to become. It ought here to be observed, that Christ, not improbably to render his example more useful to them by adapting it more to their circumstances and their capacity of imitation, has in this respect acted almost only in the character of a mere man, and not as the searcher of hearts, nor as the lawgiver of his church. Where he has acted otherwise, the distinction is so clearly and successfully made, that it may usually be understood without difficulty. His example in this, as in all his private conduct, is that of a mere though perfect man, is of course easily transferred to the practical concerns of every minister, and is both understood and followed without perplexity. Ministers, therefore, are peculiarly without excuse if they are not followers of Christ.

I shall only add on this part of the subject, that the example of Christ is to all men authoritative. It is not merely a bright and beautiful pattern which we are invited to copy, because this conduct will be pleasing, honourable, and useful to us; but it is a law also; requiring of us, with divine authority, to 'go, and do likewise. Our obligation to obey is indispensable. Nor can any man be excused for a moment, who does not labour faithfully to resemble Christ in all the merely personal and moral parts of his character.

a

III. The example of Christ was perfect.

By this I intend, that in all cases he did exactly that, and that only, which was right. The truth of this observation I have sufficiently illustrated in a former Discourse. Nothing more, therefore, will be necessary on this subject at the present time than to show its application and usefulness to the concerns of mankind. Regarded in this light, Christ is to us a finished standard of moral excellence, and as such has taught us,

1. What we ought to be

In the progress of these Discourses, I have endeavoured to show the manner in which Christ walked, in which he glorified God, and did good to men. The two great commands of the moral law, which regulate, or should regulate, the conduct of all intelligent creatures, are, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart ; and thy neighbour as thyself'

In conformity with the first of these commands, God held

6

the supreme place in bis views and affections. He came iôto the world to accomplish a work which his Father had appointed him. This work, in all its parts, he steadily pursued while he was in the world; and when he left the world his work was done; so that he was able to say at the close of life, • Father, I have glorified thee on earth ; I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.' But he did nothing else. When he left the world he left nothing unfinished, and nothing superadded. The end of all which he did, or said, or thought, was the glory of his Father. This end he accomplished, and in the pursuit left himself out of consideration ; cheerfully subordinating to it his own convenience, pleasure, and comfort, and cheerfully undergoing every trouble, difficulty, and danger. The whole language of his heart, on which the whole language of his life was a glorious comment, was, “Not my will, but thine be done !' This is the pattern which we should set always before us; this the piety, at which we should unceasing aim.

To mankind also he yielded himself, to promote their comfort, relieve their distresses, and secure their salvation. God is always glorified when good is voluntarily done to mankind, and was in this manner singularly glorified by Christ. He taught men truth and righteousness. He taught them all the doctrines which they needed to know, and all the duties which they were required to perform, for the attainment of eternal life. At all times he prayed for them, even while he was agonizing on the cross ; and wrought for them, with extreme selfdenial, many wonderful and beneficent miracles. In a word, he lived in such a manner, that even his hard-hearted, unbelieving, and malignant countrymen were compelled to say, • He hath done all things well.'

In the mean time, he did nothing ill. He never omitted a duty nor committed a sin. He was neither idle, nor vain. He neither flattered nor slandered, neither deceived nor defrauded, neither corrupted nor neglected his fellow-men. By their favour he was not enticed, by their resentment he was not awed. His mind indulged no wrath, his bosom harboured no revenge. Boldly and uniformly, without fear and without fondness, he told the truth, and did that which was kind, just, and right.

To friends he was never partial, to enemies he was never

resentful. In his virtues he was not rigid, in his doctrinos not severe, in his worship not superstitious; but in all was rational, gentle, meek, faithful, self-possessed, and sublimely excellent.

He was born in an age in which pure, undefiled religion had wonderfully decayed, and given place to an almost absolute round of superstitious and vain externals. Whenever men rely on these observances for acceptance with God, they resign of course all ideas of internal purity. He who expects that washing his hands will give him a title to heaven, will never concern himself with cleansing his heart. In such a state of things, wickedness of every kind will triumph; all the doctrines of Religion will be modelled to the views and feelings of those who practise it; and the whole system of faith will become a complication of folly, falsehood, authoritative dogmas, and implicit submissions of credulity. But in an age and country distinguished by these evils more than, perhaps, any other, Christ uniformly and victoriously resisted them all. He received no doctrine, he required his hearers to receive none, except when known and proved by unanswerable evidence to be from heaven. All his own instructions he proved in this manner. Not an instance can be produced, in which he used the argument from authority. In his conduct there is not an example of superstition, enthusiasm, or bigotry. Harmless enjoyments he never refused, sinful ones he never indulged. No man was the better or the worse treated by him, on account of the sect, party, or nation to which he belonged.

In his beneficence he was a glorious example to all men. His affections were literally universal, and his beneficence was an exact expression of his affections. As it was dictated by no idle dreams of philosophy, by no cobweb system of abstraction, but by plain, practical truth, it was real, useful, uniformly honourable to himself, and invariably profitable to mankind. He never spent his time in sending his thoughts abroad to distant countries, to inquire what errors, abuses, or sufferings existed there, which demanded correction, reformation, or relief. He did not sit down in the exercise of vain philanthropy, to employ life in unavailing sighs and tears for the sufferings of distant countries and ages, nor give himself up to the useless dospair of doing any good to mankind, because he could not

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »