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A great part of his own life had passed in the obscurity of the most humble employment, before He felt himself called upon to enter upon his great mission for the salvation of mankind; in the course of his preaching, while he sought to instruct, and to do good to all who came within his reach, he yet urged very few to enter upon the same career of lofty duty which He had chosen, but he rather often repressed the ardour of those who were anxious to follow him; and having selected those whom he appointed his Apostles, he left the rest of mankind to their customary pursuits and concerns.
3. If such was his indulgence to those aspects of human nature, which, in their irregularities, are so productive of vice and disorder, I need scarcely observe, in the third place, that He paid the utmost regard to all the common laws and observations of morality; and that he never seemed to conceive that any thing which He taught, or could teach, would present views and conceptions to the human mind which would raise it above the contemplation and study of the least of those commandments upon which its attention had hitherto been fixed. He came not to supersede those precepts of eternal au
thority by any new and more mystical tenets; but, on the contrary, his leading object was to show on the simplest principles, the sublime extent of these precepts, and with how much ease they might be carried from the limits which had been put to them by " those of old time," into all the wide field of Christian benevolence.
When, then, my brethren, we contemplate the life which was led by Him who was truly "the Son of God," and which surely is the great model we ought to keep before us whenever we aim in a humbler view to become worthy of that high designation, we must perceive, in some of its most conspicuous appearances, that there is nothing in it to startle or offend the most reasonable and least enthusiastic spirit, and as little to encourage any deviation from sober thought, or unobtrusive demeanour, in minds of the most fervent piety. These are the plain and direct aspects, too, in which He at all times appears to us; the simplicity of his character, as a man, is surely more intelligible to us, than those higher qualities which spring from his Divine Nature; and yet it is strange that this is the part of his character which we
are always most ready to overlook, and that, while we are apt to lose ourselves in speculations on the Divinity of his Essence, and on the Efficacy of his Merits, we often seem to forget that " the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."
II. Enough, indeed, is shown us behind the veil, to elevate our minds to all those views which reach to the higher destinations of our being; while he "was made flesh," and entered into all the affections, and performed the common offices of man, He alone was "full of grace and truth, "and even under his human form, "we beheld (says the Apostle) his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father." These are contemplations to which it well becomes us now to turn, and the more, that the Day is so near at hand, when we hail His descent into the world, and fix our eyes upon that " day-spring from on high," which was destined to purify, and to enlighten our nature.
1. While then, our Saviour dwelt among men, with a mind alive to all the views and sentiments of human nature, He was yet, in the first place, distinguished from every other man in this, that he was without sin," or, as the Apostle here expresses nearly the same idea,
that He was " full of grace and truth." With the most humane spirit, and the most perfect absence from austerity, He yet repressed, wherever it might appear, all irregularity and disorder;-with the kindest sympathy for the sorrows of mankind, and with his own future sufferings constantly present to his prophetic spirit, He was yet free from every thing like gloom and despondency. Frequenting all kinds of society, and averse from no common occupation, He kept himself equally aloof from those extravagant sentiments which seek to lift us into a region different from that in which we at present inhabit, and from those cares and chains of the world which bind us down to the earth from which we sprung, and obscure to us all the light of Heaven. Surveying the whole field of human duty, and scrupulous in the performance of the least commandment, as well as aspiring to the perfection of the greatest, He yet did not bind himself, like the Pharisees, to the rigid observance of forms,—and much less with the pride of human virtue, did He reject the penitence of those whose lives had been stained even with the worst offences. It is this remarkable union of every thing simple and na
tural in man, with every thing sinless and pure in the Highest Natures, which renders the character of our Lord so engaging, and, at the same time, so safe a model. We never turn away from His perfection as something cold and revolting, because it is so unassumingly superinduced over the common appearances of human character, that it, in fact, mingles with them, and appears as natural as it is lovely; nor can we ever be misled by giving up our hearts to the warm play of his affections, or his cordial and unaffected intercourse with the world, because His spotless purity at once draws the line of division between whatever is disorderly and earthly, and whatever is Heavenly and Divine,
2. This appearance of a celestial sanctity breathing around all his words and actions, is, in the second place, what is so beautifully expressed by the Apostle in the remaining clause of the text, "we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father." An allusion, indeed, may here be made to the glory of his miraculous performances; and more especially to that glorious manifestation of his Divine Nature, which was made upon the Mount