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hearing, or life; he was always prepared to bestow the blessing, wherever there was necessity to demand, or faith to receive, it. So wonderfully numerous were the labours of Christ, as to furnish a solid foundation of propriety for that hyperbolical and singular declaration of St. John, with which he concludes his Gospel: And there are also many other things, which Jesus did; the which, if they should be written, every one, I suppose, that even the world ilself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
A stronger instance of this disposition can hardly be given, than one of those, to which I have already alluded. Hungry, weary, and faint, in his journey through the country of Samaria, he came to the neighbourhood of the city Sychar, and seated himself on Jacob's well. A woman, a miserable inhabitant of that city, came out to draw water, and presented him with an object, to whom good might be done, and who infinitely needed it. Forgetting all his own sufferings, our Saviour applied himself with the utmost diligence to accomplish the conversion of this sinful woman, and that of her countrymen. After he had conversed a considerable time with her, she left him, to call the people of the city. His disciples then prayed him, saying, Master, eat. But he said unto them, I have meat to eat, that ye know not of. Therefore said the disciples one to another, Hath any man brought him aught to eat? Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish his work. The sentiments, here expressed, and on this occasion gloriously exemplified in the diligence, with which he devoted himself to the business of converting this poor woman, and her neighbours, were the rules, by which he governed his whole life.
As he drew near to the close of his ministry, he appears to have been even more industrious, if possible ; and to have taught, and done, more, than during any former period of the same length : as if he thought the remaining time valuable, in proportion to its shortness.
Thus he was able to say with perfect confidence, and exact truth, after he had ended his ministry, Father, I have glorified thee on earth : I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.
2dly. His Fortitude was not less remarkable.
This characteristic of Christ is every where discovered, and with the highest advantage. To form just views of it, we ought to remember, that he was alone, poor, and friendless; that he was more opposed than any other person ever was; and that he was opposed by the government, and nation of the Jews; especially by the learned, wise, and great. We ought to remember, that, wherever he was, he found enemies; enemies to his person, and to his mission; subtle, watchful, persevering, base, and malignant. All his strength, in the mean time, was, under God, in himself; in his mind; in his wisdom and virtue. Yet he met every danger with unshaken firmness, with immoveable constancy. He bore, not only without despondency, without shrinking, and without a murmur, but with
serenity and triumph, all the evils of life ; and, except the hiding of his Father's face, and the manifestations of his anger against sin, all the evils of death. At the same time, all this was done by him, while these evils were suffered by continual anticipation.
They were, in a sense, always in his view. He foretold them daily; and yet encountered them with invincible constancy. Other men, however boldly and firmly they encounter actual calamities, are yet prone to sink under such as are expected. The distresses of a foreboding heart who can bear?
When, during his agony in the garden, the sweat flowed from him in the form of great drops of blood; he coolly met the guard which approached to seize him, reproved Peter for his violence, healed the wounded ear of Malchus, secured the escape of his disciples, and delivered himself up to those very soldiers, whom his presence had awed into statues.
With the same invincible spirit he endured the miseries, and injuries, of the crucifixion. All the insults, which were mingled with bis agonies on the cross, were insufficient to remove his self-possession, or disturb his serenity, for a moment. Amidst them all, he was able to forget himself, to pity and admonish the daughters of Jerusalem, to provide for the future comfort of his Mother, and to pray for the forgiveness and salvation of his Murderers.
3dly. Not less wonderful was his Meekness.
Meekness is a voluntary and serene quietness of mind under provocations, perceived and felt, but of choice unresented. No
person was ever so abused, or provoked, as Christ ; nor in circumstances, which so greatly aggravated the provocation. He came from heaven, lived, and died, only to do good to his enemies; and received all his abuses, while occupied in this divine employment. Ingratitude, therefore, and that of the blackest kind, was mingled with every injury, and added keenness to its edge.
At the same time, every abuse was causeless and wanton: without even an imaginary wrong done by him, to excite ill will in his persecutors.
But no person ever bore any provocation with such meekness, as he exhibited in every instance of this nature. Neither revenge, nor wrath, as this word is usually understood, ever found a place in his breast. His character was maligned; his actions were perverted by the worst misconstruction; himself was insulted often, and alway; and all the amiableness and worth of his most benevolent conduct insolently denied; yet when reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously. In his trial
, particularly, and at his crucifixion, he was mocked, and insulted, beyond example. Yet though beaten, buffetted, pierced with thorns, spit upon, derided with mock-worship, and wounded with every other insult, which the ingenuity of his enemies could devise, he quietly submitted to them all.
The nature of all these, also, he perfectly understood ; and the sting, which each conveyed, he deeply felt
. The tenderness of Christ's affections, the exquisiteness of his sensibility, are strongly evident, not only in the history of his life, but also in those remarkable predictions, contained in the 22d, 40th, 69th, and 88th, Psalms. Here, in prophetical language, Christ utters the very feelings, which he experienced, both while he lived, and when he died. No picture of sorrow is drawn in stronger colours, or formed of more vivid images; or can more forcibly exhibit exquisite tenderness and sensibility. In this picture, the injuries and insults which Christ received, while on earth, hold a distinguished place; particularly those, which surrounded him at his trial and crucifixion.
The manner, in which he felt them all, he himself has explained to us in these psalms; and has taught us to consider them, as filling his heart with anguish and agony. Still, he quietly yielded himself to them all, without a momentary resentment; without a sirgle reproachful or unkind observation. No cloud of passion appears to have arisen in his breast; or obscured, for a moment, the steady sunshine of his soul. Calm, and clear, and bright, amid the rage of the tempest beneath, he pursued his celestial course with an undisturbed progress, with a divine serenity.
4thly. Equally extraordinary was his Humility.
No person ever had the same reason to entertain a high opinion of himself; or would have been so naturally justified, or so far excusable, in indulging lofty thoughts of his own character, and in wearing a deportment of superiority to his fellow-men. No person was ever so ushered into the world. Think, for a moment, what it is for a person to be prophesied of, during four thousand years before he was born; to be announced to the world, repeatedly, in the songs and predictions of Angels; to be the Antitype of a long train of august institutions, and a glorious succession of the most distinguished personages, numbered among mankind. No person ever did so great and wonderful things. "Think what a splendour of character is displayed in healing the sick; cleansing the leper; restoring soundness to the lame, hearing to the deaf, sight io the blind, and speech to the dumb; in calling the dead from the grave; silencing the winds and the waves, and casting out demons from the possession of man; and all this by a command. Think what it is to receive the homage and obedience of angels; to be proclaimed by a voice from heaven, the beloved Son of God; to have the spirit of God descend upon him in a visible form; and to see all nature, animated and unanimated, obey his voice, and execute his pleasure; and thus to stand alone among the race of Adam, exempted from the common character of men by marks, the most clear, certain, and glorious.
His situation, at the same time, was such, as most to excite vain glory, and flatter ambition. To these wonderful things he
rose from the most humble condition of life; a condition, heightening by contrast the splendour of all the great things, which he did, and received. Persons, rising from such a condition into the admiration of mankind, are usually much more strongly ailected, than those, who have lived always in superior circumstances, and been from the beginning objects of distinguished applause.
Christ also possessed far more wisdom, than any other person ever possessed; wisdom, respecting the most noble and sublime subjects; such as the character of God, the invisible world, divine Providence, and the nature, duties, and everlasting concerns, of man. On all these subjects, the wisdom, contained in his instructions, totally excels all the wisdom of the greatest and wisest men of every age. This wisdom, also, he possessed without the aid of education. His precepts and doctrines were his own; and underived from any preceding instruction. But nothing more inflates the pride of wise men, than to be indebted for their wisdom to themselves alone; to native genius, to original thought, invention, and research; and thus to have become the authors of discoveries, which have eluded the ingenuity, and escaped the invention, of all who went before them.
These things his countrymen saw, heard, and acknowledged; and that, in a manner, experienced by no other inhabitant of this world. They saw him often engaged in disputes with the greatest men of his age and country, concerning subjects of the highest importance. They saw him uniformly, and completely, victorious, and them always put to silence, and to flight. His triumph they not only beheld, but frequently enjoyed; and, on account of it, publicly gave glory to God. They declared him to be a prophet'; the peculiar Prophet promised by Moses; and the Messiah ; rang his praises throughout Judea, and the surrounding countries; attempted to make him their King; and, spreading their garments where he was to pass, sung hosannas before him, to glorify his character.
But, fitted as these motives were to kindle every latent spark of pride in the human heart, and to blow up a flame of ambition which should reach to heaven, he was superior to them all; and that from the beginning. At twelve years of age, he astonished the wise and great among his countrymen with his wisdom. Yet he obeyed the first call of his parents; and returned with them from the scene of applause to their humble cottage. When his countrymen sought him, that they might place him on a throne, he retired into the desert. When greeted with hosannas by the enraptured multitude, he changed neither his demeanour, nor his daily employments; but forgot the splendour, the applause, and himself, to weep over Jerusalem, and deplore the approaching ruin of that ungrateful city.
He chose the humblest life; the humblest associates; the humblest food; the humblest dress; and the humblest manners; and
voluntarily yielded himself to the most humiliating death. Nor was his character more distinguished by greatness, wisdom, and moral dignity, than by his humility of mind and life. He himself has alleged it, as one proof of his Messiahship, that the poor had the Gospel preached to them by his mouth.
REMARKS. I have now finished the observations, which I proposed to make under the first general head, mentioned in the preceding discourse; and have given
an account, so far as I thought necessary, of several things, in which the holiness of the Redeemer was exemplified. The second, viz. the importance of this attribute to his priesthood, I shall reserve for future discussion; and shall proceed to make two or three remarks, naturally arising from what has been already said.
1st. We have here seen ample proof, that Christ was what he declared himself to be.
The precepts of Christ required mankind to be absolutely holy, or perfect; and allowed no defect of obedience, as well as no degree of transgression : declaring this character to be the only one, which, for its own sake, could be accepted of God. In what has been said, we have the fullest proof, that he was exactly such, as he taught others to be ; a complete example of the character, which he required. Of all the things, attempted by man on this side of the grave, none is more difficult
, or more transcends human efforts, than the attainment of this perfection. The world has never seen a second specimen of this character. How remote, then, must it be, when the best of mankind have fallen so far short of it, from the possible attainment of hypocrites, impostors, and pretenders ! How distant from every counterfeit ! How absolutely unattainable, hitherto, by the least blemished integrity, and the most exalted piety, which has been merely human. A single act, or a few actions, may, to the eye of spectators, seem great, spotless, and exalted. A retired life, little seen, and scarcely observed, may not disclose its defects. But a life, spent in the midst of mankind, and daily exposed to the view of multitudes, and filled up with actions of every kind, cannot fail to discover, even in the best of men, continual and numerous imperfections. Perfect rectitude of heart, therefore, can alone have produced perfect rectitude of life, in our Saviour. Of course, he was what he declared himself, and what he is every where declared to be, in the Scriptures. Of course, he was the Messiah; the Son of God; the Saviour of Mankind. His doctrines and precepts were from God; and require, with divine authority, the faith and obedience of all men.
His life was given as a Ransom for many, and his flesh for the life of the world. He did not, therefore, die, to bear witness to the truth of his doctrines; but as a propitiation for sin, and a ransom for sinners. As such, therefore, we are required to believe on him, if we wish to be saved.