Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

such a low condition. The lower Christ descended to magnify the law, to magnify the command, the higher did the honour and dignity of the law rise. Christ's humiliation was the exaltation of the law. It could not have been so remarkable, if Christ had fulfilled the commands of God's law in the nature of angels. Their nature is higher, their station superior, their duties of a more elevated kind. But when he fulfilled it in the station of man, especially of such a njean and low man, it served to show, that holiness in any station is the greatest ornament that the na. ture of a creature is capable of; that obedience in any station is honourable, disobedience in any station contemptible; that obedience makes any station great, and wickedness makes

any

station mean. If Jesus Christ had fulfilled the law in the station of a great prince, or earthly sovereign, it might have been apt to have raised esteem of his greatness, rather than his holiness: the eyes of many would have been so dazzled with the brightness of his temporal grandeur, that they would have lost sight of his righteousness and justice ; which may convince all of us, that neither they who have or who want worldly greatness have ground to esteem it too much. The word of God commands respect to worldly superiors ; but mens overvaluing that station, and placing happiness in it, is not the way to make them respected, but has been a principal cause of all the seditions against magistrates that ever were in the world.

We say, the way that Christ fulfilled the law in such a low condition, served to show, that in nothing else, comparatively, is any station honourable, excepting obedience to God. It served to cure that vanity and folly that so much prevailed in the world, in a special manner, at that time, and does in all ages.' Oftentimes worldly greatness hides the great. est vices, and worldly meanness eclipses the greatest virtues ; yea, oftentimes this outward distinction of worldly greatness, makes the virtues of some contemptible, and the vices of others honourable. Christ

being made under the law, was wonderfully adapted to cure this. It shews, that holiness, divested of all other advantages whatsoever, that naked holiness is itself the greatest dignity that human nature can be adorned with.

5. From this follows another property of Christ's obedience, which shows how much he magnified the law: It was an obedience proper to be an example of universal influence. It was hinted before, how the greatest examples of obedience do magnify the law. One chief end of the execution of threatenings is, because it is a motive to obedience. Examples of obedience have the force of motives, as well as the execution of threatenings have. Had Jesus Christ fulfilled the law in a higher station, many, as I hinted before, might perhaps have considered only his greatness, but not his holiness

. Granting, however, they had considered his holiness, they might from his example only have formed a high esteem of the holi. ness of a high station, or what they call heroic virtues, the actions of a high rank, by which men are enabled to do good to whole nations and countries; for it is certain, that many in the world admired almost only the good actions of great men, or their fanious actions, whether good or bad. These are al. most the only examples registered in human history, recorded with care, and perused with diligence; yet the reading or hearing of such examples, to the greatest part of men, serve rather for amusement than improvement. When we hear them, we cannot imi. tate them.

The bulk of mankind are of a low station; and certain it is, that it is very natural for many to nauseate and loathe even virtue and obedience itself, when in a station mean, low, and obscure: and let a man be ever so eminent in holiness and righteousness, though there be no other disparagement at him, it is reckoned disparagement enough that he is one of the vulgar. Yet almost all mankind are such vulgar ; and therefore Christ's example was incomparably more useful, by being an example proper to have direct influence on the bulk of mankind.

Here we may consider and admire the wisdom of God, and how the wisdom of men is but folly in comparison of it. The wisdom of man would have thought, that the life of Christ in an higher station would have been of more universal use and influence. The lives of other good men are indeed so; for it is the station of other men that gives any distinguishing force to their good example. Other men are made honourable by their station ; but Christ made his station honourable by assuming it. Others are advanced by their ranke; but Christ advanced his rank by condescending to it; and by this means his obedi. ence was of more direct influence to the greatest part of the world to whom the gospel should come, to those of a mean and low station. Christ being like the commonalty, should make the commonalty live like Christ; and those that do so, are truly great men in the world.

From this we may observe the glory of Christ's private life for so many years before he entered upon his public ministry. We are ready not to have high enough thoughts of it; yea, it is impossible for us to have high enough thoughts of it. The glory of it consisted in its obscurity, which set an eternal brightness upon holiness, upon every duty, and act of submission and obedience to God. It would have pleased the humours of men better, had his life been like that of Cæsar and Alexander, and others, filled with triumph and conquests. He had not the government of the world that way as to power. His design was not, as other conquerors, to deprive men of their liberty, but to give them liberty. It was not to make them depend upon him, as other conquerors make nations depend upon them, for blessings that they could have enjoyed much better without their government, without depending upon them, without their usurpation. His design was, to give them blessings they could get no other way, to have a command over their wills, that they might

we

be a willing people, and be brought to the glorious liberty of the children of God.

The way and manner of bis fulfilling the law by his example, though this be but one of many considerations by which he magnified the law, yet it served to put such an honour and dignity upon obedience, as certainly, if duly considered by us, might cheer us in every duty, in the meanest duty, when such and such occasions come in our way, that can consider what Christ did in such and such a case.

Christ's example, his obedience to the law, was not only by this means of universal influence as to all sorts of persons, but with regard to all sorts of duties, to the most difficult duties, to duties that are most contemptible in the eyes of men. To despise wordly riches and pleasures, when they interfere with duty, is one of the difficultest commands of the law. Christ wanted all worldly greatness; and his wanting it did not make him the less honourable, but made worldly greatness so, that he neglected and despised: not that all upon whom God in providence bestows it, ought not to think it a blessing ; but to all who find that worldly advantages and obedience to God cannot consist together, it is an unspeakably strong motive to excite them to despise the first, that Jesus Christ is calling them to serve bim in that station in which he served God bimself. He, by his example, magnified the difficultest duties of the law, in the several parts of his life, and also at his death. His death was not only a sacrifice to satisfy the justice of God, but it was also martyrdom for the truths of God; and that is one of the difficultest duties of religion. And beyond all this, there are some duties which, though mens' consciences know to be just, yet when they are called to them, they have a terrible aversion from, as the duties of poverty ; but Christ set before mankind an example of obedience even as to these. There is a difference between some duties with regard to the opinion of men. All the world think it an honourable duty to be liberal and generous, and give bountifully to others; but think it a shameful thing (though they cannot deny it to be a duty) to seek from others, when in want themselves. There are many pretenders to virtue, that would rather be guilty of many indirect means to get bread to themselves, independently upon others, and would be rather guilty of injustice against their neighbour, than be beholden to the bounty of others. The Possessor of all the world hath left before us a pattern of those most difficult duties; and he who could feed multitudes with a few loaves, yet laid before us an example of one of the most difficult duties of the law, the duty of poverty, and of submitting to be obliged to the bounty and liberality of others, and even of very mean persons. Among his last words when dying, he exemplified the duty of recommending a near relation to a friend. He who could have done mira. cles, to have made his holy mother the richest woman in the world, recommended it to one of his dis. ciples to maintain her. Now, it is certain, that this was an excellent way to recommend even the difficult duties of God's law Every body is sensible, that one of the chief temptations to all the wicked ness of the world is the terror of poverty; and this leads many to unrighteousness, covetousness, extortion, and cheating. The terror of it does not lie so much in any pain ; for a little thing satisfies nature. The terror of poverty has made many even do violence to their lives, choosing rather to lose their life than live in a poor and mean condition. Many of the old philosophers, pretenders to virtue, would do violence to their lives with their own hands, notwithstanding of all their pretensions to wisdom and happiness, rather than serve God in mean and low circumstances in the world. Surely, if we had due impressions of Jesus Christ, his honour and glory, it would make Christians at least not be so much asham. ed of their Master's station and rank in the world. It shows how little there is of the temper of Christ

« ForrigeFortsæt »