Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

master, and in many other respects, you will find this example useful to you. Again, it is your duty to imitate his love of justice, who was contented to satisfy that attribute of his Father by his own death, pursuant to his engagement from the beginning; and should not, if you have promised or sworn aught to your neighbour, disappoint him, though it were to your own hindrance;' but walk uprightly, and work righteousness, and speak the truth from your beart. Lastly, his amiable modesty in speaking of himself would much better become you, who fall so infinitely short of him in wisdom and goodness. If Christ could ascribe his knowledge and power to his Father, and say, if I bear witness of myself, my witness is nothing,' with what grace shall yon set your hand to a high certificate of yourself?

You have here a perfect pattern of a good life, without a single blemish to pass on weakness and ignorance, under the shelter of many virtues, for an excellence. You see here all the passions of human nature subdued, and reduced to their proper stations and offices. You see here reason, assisted by the Divine Spirit, refined and exalted into true wisdom, and placed, where it ought to stand, in an absolute sovereignty over the heart. If you love beauty, and would desire to copy it into yourself, here is beauty in perfection placed perpetually before your eyes; in an original, so glorious, and so striking, that it is impossible for a sensible mind to behold it attentively, without growing into some resemblance of it. If you love true greatness of soul, here shines the very majesty of virtue ; not in precepts, or commands, or discourses only, but in an active and living example. If you have so much goodness, as to be pleased with the triumphs of virtue, behold it here put to the severest test, and breaking out at the last with a heavenly brightness. If you are not abandoned to all sense of generosity, your soul must kindle at such an example ; especially when all that was suffered in setting it, and all the goodness discovered in it, were displayed before your eyes, not out of ostentation, or to excite your wonder and applause, but to force home upon your degenerate heart, the glory, and excellence, and beauty, of holiness. There is no example so apt to make an impression on a good mind, as that which is set us by our friend in a good office ; because, beside the pleasure we take in seeing a good action done, our gratitude, when it is done to ourselves, recommends it the more strongly to our imitation. Now all that Christ did or suffered was for you. For you the Son of God took the nature of man; for you he preached; for you he laboured; for you he died. What now will you do for him ? All he requires of you is, to do your utmost to be like him ; and, to assist your weakness in so good a work, he lends you his word, his sacraments, his grace, and his example, which last, as it is too excellent and perfect to be ever equalled by you, so it leaves you room to grow better, and brighter, and improve for ever by it.

It was the sin of our first parents to attempt, by a faulty imitation, or rather by emulation, to be like God; for the tempter said to Eve, you shall be as gods.' This, according to the real intention of that deceiver, defaced the image of God, which we had already received, and imprinted on us the likeness of the devil. But God, pitying our miserable fall, which had happened through a desire of being like him, by ihe very same desire schemed our recovery and restoration. To this end he took our nature on him, so that it may now be truly said, 'behold, God is become like one of us,' subject to poverty, and hunger, and cold, and death; that we may have an opportunity of becoming, like him, pure, compassionate, humble, and patient. And shall we disappoint his gracious intention? Can we be so lost to reason and gratitude ?

Yes, wretched creatures that we are few of us have any inclination to follow our blessed Lord; for he walks in the way of humility, we in that of pride; he through the cross, we through pleasures; he through poverty, and we through riches and vanity. And why do we not follow him? Because he moves upward through the steep and narrow path of affliction and self-denial. Did he lead downward through the broad way, adorned with riches, and pleasures, and pomp, and honour, we should be ready not only to walk, but run after him.

It hath been observed, by St. Ambrose, and other great men, that example hath a greater influence on us than precept. This seems to be verified by experience; for although precept is on the side of virtue, yet, as example and custom

generally sway to the contrary side, we are by that

means, for the most part, engaged in a course of vice. But why will we choose out such examples, and follow a multitude to do evil,' when we know so well where their journey is to end, rather than follow the Lord of glory, that lovely light, that blessed guide, to those happy ‘mansions' he is gone before 'to prepare for us in his Father's house ?"

God, of his infinite mercy, give us grace to betake ourselves to this wiser course, through Christ Jesus our great example and Saviour ; to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.

DISCOURSE XLI.

CHRIST'S CRUCIFIXION CELEBRATED EVERY DAY.

PREACHED ON GOOD-FRIDAY,

ST. MARK Xv. 21.

Woe to that man, by whom the Son of Man is betrayed.This was spoken by our blessed Saviour of Judas; but as Abraham was 'the father of the faithful,' so Judas seems to have been the father of the unfaithful; I mean in respect to Christ, and his religion; and therefore what is here said of Judas particularly, being nevertheless delivered in general terms, may be well enough applied to, or understood of, that very numerous tribe or race, of whom he was the type and father. The'woe' is not only denounced against him, but against them all; and it would have been better for every man of them that he had never been born,' than that he should have lived to betray, in any sense or respect, the Saviour of the world.

As Christ, when on earth, had a natural body, through which he was liable to injuries and sufferings, so he hath still a mystical and figurative body, namely, the church; VOL. II.

2 E

the very life and well-being of which depend absolutely on keeping up that spirit of piety and virtue he inspired it with. This body still renders him liable to injuries and persecutions; and he may, even at this day, be betrayed, or crucified. He hath open enemies enough to do the one, and treacherous followers in abundance to do the other.

The treatment he met with in his natural body, was an exact type throughout of that which he hath all along suffered in the mystical. In the first he was exposed in a manger, when an infant; and although notified to mankind by angels, was by men driven from his country; persecuted afterward, when he returned to it, with extreme malice ; at length betrayed by one of his followers; deserted by all the rest; and crucified by his enemies. In the latter he was, from the beginning, treated with the utmost contempt, by the wise and great people of the world; and, although preached to mankind by the most undesigning and the best of men, and even by the power of God, manifested in the most astonishing miracles, yet was harrassed with ten blood ypersecutions; torn to pieces by heresies and schisms, the poisonous produce of worldly and fleshly minds; and is now, at length, deserted, or betrayed, a thousand different ways, by those who call themselves after his name; while his enemies 'crucify him afresh,' and make a jest of his sufferings.

Christ, in respect of his adversaries and followers, is in much the same circumstances and situation as when on earth. The attack made on him is artful and bitter; the defence cold and careless.

The enemies of his person and preaching were the wise, politic, and powerful persons of the time and place he lived in. He was called a king; but, as ‘his kingdom was not of this world,' they treated him as a mock king, with the utmost contempt and derision; and although people seldom give themselves much trouble to oppose or suppress him whom they despise, yet they hated him for the freedom of his reproofs, for the strictness of his doctrine and morals; that is, for the good he did, and would have others to have done ; and therefore persecuted him, as an enemy to themselves, because he was a friend to mankind. His mission from God was what most alarmed them; because, as their power was either not from God, or employed against his honour and intention to the service of the devil, they could not help apprehending the most disagreeable consequences from the increase of an opposite sort of power. They were of this world, and of their father the devil,' and their king. dom was the kingdom of darkness. But Christ was from above, was of the Father of lights,' and his kingdom brought with it such light, “as reproved their evil deeds. From hence arose the most opposite kind of contrariety. He supported his cause with truth and miracles; and they, ascribing those miracles to the devil, opposed that cause with worldly policy and power. As truth could not be refuted by reason, they were forced to use art and cunning for that purpose; and, when that also failed, bribery, false witness, violence, and murder, were called in to manage the debate. Swords, staves, scourges, crosses, were an odd sort of argument: but when an odious set of truths cannot be either answered, or resisted, those who speak them must be killed; and this will silence them effectually. There is no middle term like that which strangles or cuts the throat of an opponent.

The present adversaries of Christ, and his religion, are of the same kind, and animated with the same spirit. They leave no art untried, which their cunning can suggest, nor instrument of injury unemployed, which power hath put into their hands, to undermine or batter the cause of Christ; and both their cunning and power, although as yet limited by the public toleration given to religion, are far from being inconsiderable. As to their cunning, which long concealed itself under the mask of benevolence towards mankind, and regard to what they call true religion, it begins, now that the foundation of infidelity is sufficiently laid in the false reasonings and corrupt affections of mankind, to shew itself more openly. The freedom of thinking, so loudly called for, in order, as it was pretended, to combat popery and superstition with, appears to be no less than an unlimited licence, claimed by each libertine, to think for himself ; that is, to put truth for falshood, and falshood for truth; good for evil, and evil for good; when his own peculiar schemes of pleasure, or profit, or honour, require the transposition. Men who think in order to one common good, must all think one way. But this, as it would too

« ElőzőTovább »