« السابقةمتابعة »
be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, and to be followers of God as dear children. But let us not forget, that the Savior is as truly possessed of the human nature as of the divine. As a man, when he lived among men, he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. It is the perfect life of the man Christ Jesus, which is particularly placed before us in the gospel for our imitation.
The obedience of Christ was perfect, both within and without.Holy affections constituted the fountain from which all his external obedience flowed. He could say to his Father, without making the least exception, “ I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart.” Ps. xl. 8. His practical religion was first expe. rienced. He possessed all those experiences which have been shown to constitute the internal religion of his followers, so far as they could be possessed by one who never needs repentance. The love of good. will was manifested to perfection in the life of Christ. Nor was his complacency in the character of holy beings, any less apparent. Submission, as far as it consists in the reconciliation of a rebel to the divine government, he could not exercise ; for he was never unreconciled to it: but as far as it consists in a consent to the will of God, and a choice that his will should be done, it was perfect. He had no sin of which to repent, but he was grieved at the sin of others wherever he saw it. Neither did he, like his brethren the children of Adam, need faith in the righteousness of another ; but as a man, he was full of that faith
: which implies confidence in God-confidence in the perfection of his providence and moral government. He was the subject of hope ; for he says, “ My flesh shall rest in hope.” Ps. xvi. 9. Of humility he was an illustrious example—“meek and lowly in heari." So far as hungering and thirsting after righteousness is understood to imply any sinful destitution of the thing desired, he was incapable of that hunger and thirst which his followers experience; but his appetite for holiness was stronger than theirs ; for it was perfect: nor was it ever so sati. ated as to be thereby diminished. There is no need of saying anything concerning his possessing the spirit of forgiveness, or of self-denial. Nor is it less evident, that thankfulness to God and holy meditation, constituted a part of the experimental religion of Him, who is not only the Savior, but the pattern of his people.
These holy affections and heavenly tempers which were in Christ, we are made acquainted with, not so much by his telling us that he possessed them, as by his acting them out, and appearing to be under their influence in all that he said, and did, and suffered. He evinced the benevolence of his heart, by his benevolent actions : “ He went about doing good.” His complacency in holiness was shown by the manner in which he treated beings possessed of a holy character; namely, God, angels, and saiuts. Communion with these, appeared to be his happiness. His submission was made known by the manner in which he bore his sufferings. He manifested his trust in God and hope for the good which was promised him, by correspondent actions ; his humility, by a humble carriage ; and his spirit of forgiveness, by praying for his enemies and doing them good. He gave evidence that he was possessed of a self-denying spirit, by actions which were most unequivocally of a self-denying character. The thankfulness of his heart was evinced, by his explicitly giving thanks to God in pray.
er, and by making it the whole business of his life to please and glo. rify him.' That his meditations were holy—that his heart was always inditing a good matter, was made manifest by the spirituality of all his discourse.
Now as it was with the Master, so it must be with his disciples ; they must prove the goodness of their hearts, by the goodness of their lives. We are to consider holy actions as the main proof of holy affections. A tree is proved to be good, by its good fruit ; the soil to be rich, by a rich harvest; a fountain to be copious and sweet, by the refreshing streams which issue from it. Matt. vii. 16–20; xiii. 8. John vii. 38.
Jesus Christ was a perfect example in the different departments of holy practice, so far as the relations which he sustained, gave oppor. tunity for such practice to be exemplified. As has been shown, holy practice naturally divides itself into two parts; the first comprising our duties to God, and the second our duties to men. Both these were taught, and both were exemplified, by our blessed Lord. His example was perfect in those duties which are more immediately due to God. Five branches of godliness were particularly specified, namely, the worship of God-seeking an acquaintance with his word--the sancti. fication of his day--a union with his visible church-and the conse. cration of a portion of our earthly substance to his treasury. In all these, the Savior was an example to us. He was a worshiper of God; a man eminent for prayer. He manifested a great acquaintance with the scriptures, and an entire regard for them. Nor was he a profaner of the holy Sabbath. Nothing is more unjust than to represent him as lax in its observance. We are informed that it was his custom to go into the synagogue on the Sabbath day; and not a single breach of the law of the Sabbath, can be pointed out in his whole life. He evinced great respect for the visible church, and lived in fellowship with it; walking in all the commandments and ordinances which were then obligatory on the people of God. As to the consecration of property to the Lord's treasury, it must be remembered, that though he was rich, he became poor, and lived all his days in a state of pecu. niary dependence : but it is manifest that he approved of this branch of duty as much as of any other. Witness his approbation of the offering of the poor widow. He himself gave as liberally as was consistent with his means. He paid tribute to the temple ; and it may be fairly inferred, from the interpretation which some of his dis. ciples put upon his language to Judas, when he said, “ That thou doest, do quickly ;” that he was in the habit of ordering something from his scanty store, to be given to the poor. See John xiii. 27.
The example of our Redeemer is equally worthy of imitation, in the duties of the second table of the law. These were considered under three heads, general, relative, and personal duties. The duties of the first of these three classes, were not neglected by him. He extended his good will and good works to the whole race of man ; and to all their lawful interests. He manifested a concern for men's lives. He declared that he did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. By his miracles he saved the lives of many, relieving them of their diseases, and restoring their health. He manifested a suitable regard to the property and reputation of mankind; but a concern for their souls occupied his chief attention. It was this which led him to weep over them; to be so unwearied in giving them instruction, and to pour out his blood for their redemption.
In the duties of relative life, Christ is a pattern for our imitation. In the domestic circle, he sustained the relation of a son : as such he was in childhood subject to his parents ; and when he was leaving the world, he did not forget to make provision for the support and comfort of his mother, who, as he knew, would survive him. See Luke ii. 51. John xix. 25—27. Christ and his twelve disciples did, in a sense, constitute one domestic circle, of which he was the head. To them he acted the part of a father. He provided for their wants, gave them instruction as they were able to receive it, and prayed with them and for them. He indulged them with freedom of access at all times. Their faults he reproved ; but he did it in love, to make them
; better men ; more useful on earth, and more meet for the kingdom of heaven. Having once adopted them into his family, he never aban. doned them, but loved them unto the end.
As to the personal duties of our Savior, they can all be summed up in a word-He kept himself unspotted from the world. He did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. He sought his own personal good, considered as one of the children of men, just so far as was consistent with seeking the glory of God and the salvation of his guilty brethren.
1. The glory of divine truth is not fully discovered, until it is seen that there is an entire harmony between its various parts.
We do not fully see the glory of the doctrines of the Bible, until we perceive their mutual agreement. Thus, we do not see how desi. rable it is that God should make his own glory the ultimate end of all his works, until it has been shown that he is infinitely great and good, and therefore most worthy to be the Omega, as he is the Alpha; the ending, as he is the beginning of all things. The doctrine of a divine purpose concerning every creature and event, is seen to be consistent and glorious, only in connection with the unlimited wisdom and bener. olence of the divine mind : and the doctrine of a divine agency, em. ployed in giving existence to every creature and event, appears desir. able, when viewed in connection with the wisdom of the plan which is in this way executed ; and consistent, when viewed in connection with that doctrine which teaches that intelligent creatures, though dependent, are still free, and are lovely or unlovely, well or ill deserv. ing, according to the nature of their own voluntary exercises.
The moral law appears glorious in itself ; but its lustre is increased,
when it is viewed in connection with the amiableness and blessedness of those creatures that obey its precepts, and the hatefulness and wretchedness of those who have trangressed. It is now made evident by facts, that keeping the law makes intelligent beings amia. ble, useful, and happy; and that transgressing it renders them hateful, mischievous, and wretched. An atonement made by an infinitely dig. . nified Personage, appears glorious, after we have been shown the perfection of the law, and the evil nature and ruinous tendency of sin. The universal offer of salvation is seen to be consistent, when placed by the side of an unlimited atonement, a propitiation for the sins of the whole world ; and the universal rejection of this gracious offer by all the unregenerate, is in perfect agreement with the doctrine of total depravity. And if we keep this last doctrine out of sight, the glory of regeneration, or even the necessity of it, can not be seen. It is in view
of universal, entire, and obstinate depravity, that regeneration is discovered to be an act of sovereigo grace, according to the good pleasure which God purposed in himself. The doctrine of a free justification must be viewed in close connection, both with the law and the atonement, and then its consistency and preciousness will be seen. It is in connection with these other exhibitions of free grace, that the everlasting covenant which keeps the saints from falling, is seen to be beautiful and glorious. To see the glory of divine justice, in separating the wicked to the left hand in the day of judgment, and in scpa. rating them to all evil forever, we must keep in mind what a God they have rebelled against, what a law they have trangressed, what a Savior they have slighted, and what a rebellious character they now possess ; also, the lasting influence which their punishment will exert in supporting divine government. And the glory of that mercy which is shown to the righteous, can not be seen, without bringing into view their union to the Redeemer, and their meetness for heaven.
The glory of experimental religion can not be fully discerned, unless we see the harmoay of its different parts : for example, the harmony there is between extending our benevolence to all intelligent, and even all sentient beings, and confining our complacency to beings of a holy character; the harmony there is between love to God and our neigh. bor, as growing from the same root, which must always produce both these branches, in case it produces either of them; the harmony be. tween an unfeigned reconciliation to God, and an unfeigned sorrow for past enmity; also between such sorrow for sin, and a cordial approbation of the atonement, which was designed to magnify the law and condemn the breach of it. "The King's daughter is all glorious within.” Beside the graces already mentioned, there is hope, humil. ity, thirsting after righteousness, a spirit of forgiveness, self-denial, thankfulness, and other similar affections; which, when all taken together, constitute a pure heart-an object of delight to the Holy One of Israel.
The moral beauty of Christian practice is not seen, unless the har. monious connection of its parts is likewise seen. A life of devotion towards God does not appear beautiful, but deformed, when discon. nected from a life of uprightness towards men. An immoral saint-is a sound which grates on the ear. And why should prayerless moral.
ity be viewed as any more consistent than immoral devotion? Why he would not a system of ethics be equally defective, that should leave li out the duties we owe to God, as one which should leave out those we owe to our fellow men ? A life of godliness needs all its parts ; Ic such as a devout attention to the worship, word, and day of God; to. gether with the consecration of ourselves to his service, to walk in fellowship with his people; and a consecration of the first fruits of our increase to the advancement of his kingdom on the earth. Morality is not seen to advantage, without taking a view of the various duties ST which it embraces ; duties which we owe to our fellow men in gen. eral, duties we owe to those with whom we have particular connection in life, and duties which we owe to ourselves. Were we to describe 5 a man'as eminent in his attention to some articles of Christian prac. tice, but regardless of others equally plain and important, all would 1 say, the want of symmetry spoils the character.
The glory of Christian doctrines appears, not only in their being har. monious among themselves, but also in their tendency to produce holy affections ; so that between doctrinal and experimental religion there exists a beautiful harmony. As we discover a new glory in the doctrines, when we see their tendency to produce those inward affections which constitute the experimental part of religion, so these inward affections are seen to derive their excellency from their agreement with the doctrines. This agreement with doctrinal truth, is that which makes them essentially to differ from all the foolish reveries of fanatics.
Again, as the glory of truth in doctrine, is discovered in its tendency to produce truth in feeling ; so the glory of the latter is seen in its tendency to produce truth in action : and there is in reality no glory to be seen in practical religion, only when it is considered as the fruit of that which is experimental. The good works which are commended in the scriptures, are always to be understood as pro. ceeding from a good heart. The scriptures uniformly teach us, that a sanctified heart will be manifested by good works; and that no works, however specious, which do not proceed from such a fountain, deserve to be termed good. It is one of the sayings of the Savior, “ A good tree can not bring forth evil fruit
, neither can a corrupt tres bring forth good fruit.” Such a tree may bring forth fruit which has a fair appearance, but as it is rotten at the core, it is not with propriety denominated good.
II. The harmony of the religion which is inculcated in the scriptures, furnishes one striking proof of their divine inspiration.
The scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were written by more than thirty different penmen, who were dispersed throughout a period of more than fifteen hundred years. The writers appear to have been men of different talents, education, and employmenis. In their writings there is a variety, both as to style and matter. As to matter, some parts contain the history of past events, and others, predictions of events which were yet to happen : some contain precepts and prohibitions ; others, promises and threatenings : some make a statement of doctrines ; others disclose the feelings of the