صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

are often made. The doctrine of grace is reviled, as leading to licentiousness: and yet a frequent outcry is raised against preciseness and strictness. Salvation by grace, through the righteousness of another, and not by works we have done, offends one way; the doctrine of the new birth, and necessity of renouncing the world, offends another. Anxiety, or joy in God, or claiming peculiar privileges, is offensive.

Christians, through inadvertency and remaining imperfections, may occasion their good to be evil spoken of: want of consistency, or of due proportion. There needs constant watchfulness. Any discord among themselves would have this effect.

SécONDLY: The means to be used in compliance with this exhortation.

We must on no account whatever, deny, disown, or disguise the great truths of the gospel, nor attempt by any adulteration to make it more palatable to the carnal mind. 2 Cor. ii. 17. iv. 2. But should be ready, on all occasions, to give a reason of the hope that is in us. 1 Pet. ii. 13. And indeed of all our faith and practice. We may indeed forbear introducing the most difficult and mysterious subjects of divine revelation to enemies, or to young inquirers : even as our Lord himself told his disciples, I have many things to say to you, but ye cannot bear them now. John xvi. 12. And so Paul. I Cor. iii. 2. Let us also always point out the end for which doctrines are revealed, and above all show that we ourselves practically fall in with it.

So with regard to practice, we must not comply with the solicitations of our nearest friends, in things directly sinful, or which we find ensnaring, or injurious to our own souls. Let them think it ever so strange that we will not run with them into the same excess of riot; we must stand firm, and not comply with what conscience would condemn, for the sake of pleasing them.

As to smaller matters, concerning which even true Christians may differ, we must pray for divine guidance, endeavor to search the sacred scriptures impartially, and act up to our light : at the same time, guarding against laying an improper or disproportionate stress on such points; and avowing, both

to our brethren and to the unconverted, that we consider the things on which all good men are agreed, as of far greater importance; and showing practically that we do so, and that we love all who love Christ in sincerity, whether they follow with us or not.

At the same time, we may safely abridge ourselves of our own liberty for the sake of others, that we may not offend our weak brethren. For example, a man that thought it unlawful to eat meat sacrificed to idols, might not do it on any account; but he who thought it lawful, might forbear for the sake of others.

Many things as to experimental religion ought not to be incautiously related before those who are strangers to like exercises of mind. “ Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample thema under their feet, and turn again and rend you.” Though on proper occasions, it may be well, in general terms at least, to avow our experience of an essential change.

We ought most carefully to attend to the duties of our station in life; especially to those which are most acceptable to others; keeping a constant watch over our tempers and tongues.

And when called to the harsher and more severe duties, be careful to unite with your faithfulness, as much tenderness and gentleness as the nature of the case will admit.

THIRDLY : The motives which should induce us to pay a regard to this exhortation.

We should be influenced in this case, as in all others, by a supreme regard to the revealed will of God, and an earnest concern to advance his glory.

The love of Christ should constrain us, and his infinitely lovely example should allure us. He was holy, harmless, and undefiled, and separate from sinners : his moral character was spotless and complete; combining every excellence in the most exact proportion.

A concern for the good of our brethren should excite a constant attention to this rule, that we may never grieve or stumble them.

A desire to recommend the gospel of Christ to all around us, and promote the eternal salvation of immortal souls, especially those with whom we are closely connected, and who have opportunity to observe us on all occasions, who will judge of our principles by their influence on us; especially in the cases wherein we are called to subserve their temporal interests.

They can see whether you are just, faithful, kind, liberal, peaceful, ready to deny yourself for the good of others, where you can do it without sin.

XCIV.

CHRIST AN EXAMPLE OF SELF-DENIAL.

Rom. xv. 3. For even Christ pleased not himself. " MANKIND,” said the celebrated John Smith, of Cambridge, "are all fallen from God, into a gulph of sinful selfishness.” This witness is true. And no instance can be found, among them that are descended from Adam, in the ordinary way, (except as the effect of renewing grace,) of a human being, who does not pursue a supposed interest of his own, which is neither subordinate to the divine glory, nor connected with the general good. But there is one glorious person, who dwelt among men, and was found in fashion as a man, though not descended from Adam like others, who must be considered as an absolute exception from this general infection. Though greater than Adam and all his seed, it is recorded of this singularly great and excellent person, that “ He pleased not himself.” He might have done so, apparently with far greater right than any one else : for all things were his, and he could have disposed of them without any one to control him. The elements themselves obeyed him; and he could have turned or destroyed his enemies as he pleased. But he never made a useless display of his power; he never regarded his own present gratification, honor, or exaltation ; nor appeared to pursue any separate interest of his own; but devoted himself entirely to the

service and honor of his Father, and the accomplishment of the great work he had undertaken to perform. John v. 30. vi. 38.

Let us then inquire, First, Wherein consists that self-pleasing, the exemption from which is mentioned as a singular excellence in the character of Christ.

When it is said, that Christ pleased not himself, it does not mean that he took no delight in what he did, that he was not pleased with glorifying God : it does not imply that his work was irksome and disagreeable ; that he considered it as burdensome to go through all that was requisite for his people's salvation. But it means that his object was not selfish; he was influenced by supreme love to his father, and disinterested benevolence towards his people : and these considerations reconciled him to things in themselves disagreeable, and swallowed up all consideration of gratifications inconsistent with them.

What is here commended, did not consist in bare abstinence from such gratifications, bodily or mental, as are forbidden by the divine law. To these he had not the smallest inclination, though all his followers have need to keep up a constant watch against them, and maintain perpetual warfare, without which they will be in danger of soon being

Nor did it consist in a useless, unthankful, or ostentatious denial of the natural inclinations of humanity. Heathens, and some superstitious Christians, have laid great stress on such things. Christ never sanctioned it. He was even less abstemious than his forerunner, as to the lawful use of meats and drinks; and on that account was reviled by the perverse Jews. Matt. xi. 19.'

But he plainly preferred the conduct of Mary, who fed on his word, to that of Martha, who gave herself unnecessary cumber, in making a feast for him and his disciples. And when wearied: and hungry, he was so intent upon instructing the Samaritan. woman, and so pleased with her reception of his word, that he seemed to forget his own hunger and fatigue, so that his disciples imagined some one must have given him food during their absence. John iv. 32. He had meat to eat which they knew not of; he had had already more success in saving a

overcome.

sinful soul, than they as yet weré acquainted with ; and he expected farther enjoyment of the same kind, when she should return, with many of her neighbours, from the city; for his meat was to do his Father's will.

He took no pleasure in worldly grandeur, in temporal power, in the honor that cometh from men, in the respect

of the great, in the applause of the multitude, in the idle quiet of retirement, in the investigations of science, in the contemplation of the works of men ; or even in bare speculations on divine truth, apart from its connexion with the great object he had in view in taking upon himself the form of a servant.

In how many ways might Christ have enjoyed himself, had he been disposed to regard what other men admire and account it lawful to pursue! He could have supported armies without expense ; could have excited the wonder of all philosophers, by his scientific discoveries; he could have drawn all the world after him, or could have retired from his enemies, and enjoyed mental or bodily pleasures in privacy; but he never sought after any such kind of gratifications, however esteemed lawful by men in general; but gave himself up to a life of toil and danger ; exposed to contradiction, reproach, and opposition, intending only to finish his work.

He manifested a constant readiness to disregard whatever would have been personally agreeable, so far as the neglect of it would subserve the divine glory, and promote the good of others. Not my will, but thine," was his habitual cry. Having voluntarily assumed the form of a servant, he always acted in that character: and therefore had no concern to shun what appeared difficult, or in itself disagreeable to the natural inclinations of humanity: nor was he desirous to pursue what would be accounted pleasurable or gratifying to the generality of mankind.

Secondly: How might we expect that the like disposition would show itself in us, if we possessed it in any considerable degree?

We should be more rigorous in examining ourselves, and in applying the strictest rules of God's word to ourselves, than we are with respect to others : as we may easily know more

« السابقةمتابعة »