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- SERMON I.
St. John, xiii. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus
knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. And supper being ended, (the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him,) Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments ; and took a towel, and girded himself. After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe
them with the towel wherewith he was girded. The inspired records are very concise and limited with regard to the history of our blessed Lord; but yet they put Him before us in a variety of important circumstances and deeply interesting attitudes : nor is it possible for us, if our minds and hearts are rightly disposed, to observe his conduct, or to listen to his words, without deriving at all times the greatest benefit. We behold Him on the mount, where He developed and inculcated the pure, benevolent, and spiritual morals of his kingdom with convincing authority: nor with less force and clearness did He unfold its doctrines in the Temple and in the Synagogue. We behold Him surrounded with the crowds of the ignorant, the sick, and the destitute; and we are compelled to admire the wisdom, power, compassion, and beneficence which He invariably exhibited. We see Him now a guest at the tables of the opulent, or we observe Him in the company of his chosen followers, or we accompany Him into the shades of retirement; and we discover fresh displays of goodness, kindness, and piety. Wise and happy is that Christian who frequently employs his mind in the contemplation of the holy Jesus, our Example as well as our Redeemer : for, imploring the grace of the almighty Sanctifier, he will grow and flourish in that pure piety which is the happiness and glory of man.
The inspired volume, in the wisdom of God, is by no means calculated to gratify a vain curiosity; but it is in all respects calculated to promote our welfare. Our blessed Lord was indefatigable as a Teacher ; but few only of his discourses are recorded : if, however, we study those few, with his profound and comprehensive parables, we cannot justly complain that our means of obtaining religious knowledge are defective. He knows but little of the depth and extent of the sayings of Jesus, who supposes that a cursory view of them will enable him to see their universality of application.
· Considering, as we do, the ways of God to be perfect with regard to his word, as well as with regard to his works, we do not extol any one part of Scripture to the depreciation of any other part of it. All of it proceeds from the same divine Author; and all is doubtless intended to promote the same object-the edification of man in truth and holiness. It is, however, a proper exercise of our minds to compare one part of Scripture with another, and to derive from each, as far as we can, the instruction which it was designed to convey to us. Scripture addresses itself, to speak so, to the whole of man; but it is not composed systematically ; that is, the doctrines of revelation, and the circumstances, relations, and duties of man, are not formally stated in a regular order ; yet some parts regard man more especially in one point of view, and other parts in another. For instance, the Psalms, while they in fact contain every thing, more particularly describe man as a devout being, holding intercourse with God: while the Proverbs, which also contain every thing, relate to him more especially as a social agent—a member of the great human family. The same remark applies to the New Testament: for instance, the Sermon on the Mount is often viewed as a moral lecture : but more correctly speaking, it is a development and inculcation of the evangelical morality-a morality which is deep, spiritual, and holy--which relates to the heart as well as to the conduct of man. Doctrine, though not forgotten, is not discussed in it : it is a delineation of the Christian spirit and of Christian conduct. But the affectionate discourse of our blessed Lord with his disciples, to which we wish to direct your attention in a series of Sermons, is of a very different character. It is a Consolatory Address, in which the doctrines of the gospel form the most prominent features, while at the same time the practical nature of the gospel is expressly and forcibly maintained. He, therefore, who wants rules for the regulation of his heart and conduct, will study the Sermon on the Mount : and he who at any time, and especially in seasons of distress, would comfort and animate his soul with the sublime and delightful discoveries of revelation, will study the words of Jesus to his anxious and dispirited followers.
In the verses that form our text, our blessed Lord is set before us in a manner, whether we examine the inward frame of his mind or his outward circumstances, that demands our serious consideration: and dull must our thoughts be, and dead our feelings, if we can meditate on Him as He is here delineated, without vivid emotions of grandeur and delight. What a union is here of the sublime, the affectionate, and the humble!
1. What were the Thoughts present to his mind at this time? He knew that the traitor was before Him. He knew that Satan had put into the heart of Judas to betray Him. He knew that the hour of his own bitter and ignominious sufferings was speedily to arrive. But was there any gloom on his brow, or any depression on his spirits, or any complaint in his language ? He knew that his hour was come that he should depart out of this world unto the Father. He knew that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God.' His thoughts were sublime. He felt withim Himself the consciousness of his personal dignity, of his universal supremacy, and of his speedy advancement to his original and acquired glory. The darkness was now beginning to gather around Him; but instead of suffering it to oppress his mind and to produce any feeling of anguish, He considers his own character, and contemplates the joy that was set before Him. He looks upward to the Father, to effulgent glory, to boundless dominion, to the radiant hosts above who would acknowledge his sceptre, and to the myriads on earth who through revolving ages would rejoice in his Name :-and thus with an undisturbed serenity does He engage in comforting and instructing his immediate followers.
And let the conduct of our blessed Lord be remembered by his faithful servants in their days of darkness and distress. Instead of brooding with aught of gloom on the sufferings which they feel or apprehend, let them consider whose they are, and what resplendent prospects lie before them. If their heavenly Father puts a bitter cup into their hands, or plants some sharp thorns in their path, or draws a deep cloud around them, shall their hearts be faint, or shall their language be that of despondency ? Rather let them remember and imitate their great Example. Is not every hour,