« ElőzőTovább »
What grievous ignorance have we to deplore! what impudent infidelity, what abounding iniquity, what horrid profanation of the name, of the day, of the book of God! “Sun of righteousness, arise” on these sinful lands “ with healing in thy wings," "deliver us from the power of darkness," that we may be " light in the Lord.”
The evangelist having displayed the glory of the Word, as the source of all being, whether material, animal or intelligent, adverts 'to the mission of John Baptist, his immediate forerunner, " the voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the deseri a highway for our God;" the finger pointing to “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world." Paying all due honour to that “burning and shining light” which came in the spirit and power of .Elias, he represents him as merely the harbinger of the Light, the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. John Baptist came for a witness, and he faithfully delivered his testimony : “ He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before yne-whose shoes' latchet I am not worthy to unloose: He must increase, but I must decrease," as the morning star “ hides bis diminished head” when the great orb of day appears.
“ Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God,” but “the world by wisdoin knew not God.” He was in the world through the whole extent of its duration, as the all-upholding Word, the allregulating power, but the men of the world, even " the wise and prudent" discerned him not, acknowledged him not, adored him not. “ The fulness of time" at length came. The Scriptures were fulfilled : the day which “ Abraham rejoiced to see" began to dawn; the “ Star out of Jacob” arose. Surely man will fall down and worship him. They surely, at least, " to whom pertaineth the adoption and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises, whose are the fathers and of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came,” they surely will flock to "the brightness of his rising.” This is a reasonable expectation, but it was not realized. The melancholy fact is, He came unto his own, and his own reccived him not, and the prediction is verified by the event; “ When we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him: He is despised and rejected of men”--they “ hid their faces from him; he was despised, and they esteemed him not.”
This carries us forward, with our evangelist, to the great, the eventful day when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. The Scripture term, flesh, it is well known means man, human nature, the human race. Thus in describing the universality of human degeneracy it is said, “ All flesh had corrupted their ways.” Thus, in confidence of divine protection, the Psalmist exultingly exclaims, “ I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” And the Prophet, viewing the redemption of mankind as coextensive with mortality, while he declares that “all flesh is grass,” triumphs in the thought that “all flesh should see the salvation of God.” To these, innumerable instances might be adduced to prove that the Evangelist, when he says “the Word was made flesh" means to convey this idea, that the Word, all-creating, all-rivifying, all-illuminating, assumed humanity, " was in the world,” tabernacled anong men, emitted a sensible glory, “ as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham"-" as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same”_" in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren”"for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren."
And thus, Men and Brethren we perceive one and the same animating principle calling worlds into existence, peopling them with angels and men,
communicating intelligence, exercising unbounded empire and making himself of no reputation, in the form of a servant, in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, humbling himself to a mean estate, to the suffering of reproach and contempt, becoming “ obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. To what meanness of condition ought not we his disciples, therefore, cheerfully to submit ? “For our sakes he became poor," and shall we be ashamed of honest poverty? Did he go by the name of " the carpenter's son," and dare a Christian ostentatiously to display the heraldry of his ancestors, or to blush at what the world calls low birth? “He hath not despised, nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, nor hid his face from him when he cried,” and can one called by his name turn a deaf ear to the cry of distress, or hide his face from a poor brother? We cannot like him say “Let there be light”-“ Lazarus, come forth ;" we cannot like him walk on water or silence the wind : we cannot like him give eyes to the blind, or speech to the dumb. But we may with him be “meek and lowly in heart,"' merciful and compassionate, forbearing and forgiving: we can go about doing good, and ministering to the necessitous. We cannot attain to the height of his divine excellence and perfection, but we may with him descend to the lowliest offices of beneficence and condescension! we may learn of him to " overcome evil with good.” On the other hand, to what height of elevation may not the Christian as
Let not the idea of temporal elevation seduce you. Think not of “the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them,” which perish with the using. Christ's “ kingdom is not of this world.” Let not the blind ambition of the sons of Zebedee suggest a dream of right and left hand places by the side of an earthly throne. Be it your study and ambition to “ have this mind in you which also was in Christ Jesus.” Let the avarice of the worldly mind accumulate bag upon bag, add house to house, field to field, but let a nobler avarice excite you, the disciples of the blessed Jesus, to " add to your faith, virtue; and to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity.” These are the titles, the stars and the ribbons in the kingdom of heaven, and “ if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that you shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." Let the spirit of adventure and science discover unknown regions and nations on the globe, and new planets in the firmament of heaven; be it your concern, Christian, your study, your employment, to contemplate, through the glass of promise, “ new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Suffer the man of the world to enjoy his triumph; suffer him to outstrip his rival, to run down his enemy; be thine the more glorious triumph to promote a rival, to spare an adversary, as knowing that "He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.”
Such, disciple of Jesus, be thy holy aspirations, such thy pride and ambition ; and may such be thy blessed attainments even in time: thought is lost in contemplating “the glory that is to follow." The beloved disciple shall declare it, in the sublimity of his own conception and expression, or rather in the idea and diction with which the Holy Spirit supplied his pen: “ Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God; and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”
HISTORY OF JESUS CHRIST.
ISAJAH LIII. 8.
Who shall declare his generation ? The history of countries generally commences with a geographical account of their situation and extent; of the climate and soil; of the names and the reason of imposing such names ; of the era and the means of discovery; of the original inhabitants, and of other circumstances tending either to communicate useful information or to gratify curiosity. The biographer, in like manner,
in delineating the life of his prince, statesman, hero or philosopher, usually begins with tracing his pedigree and parentage, and enables the reader to form some acquaintance with his ancestors, in order to introduce the personage himself with greater advantage and effect. But both the general historian and the biographer quickly lose themselves in research. The origin of no nation or individual can be traced up to its source. The light becomes fainter and fainter as we proceed, the object is rendered more obscure and uncertain, till time at length spreads his sable mantle over it, and we behold it no more. Who then shall declare his generation, who " the beginning with God, by whom all things were made and without whom was not any thing made that is made.”
We are advancing, men and brethren, upon holy ground; ground sacred as Eden's blissful plains, as the region which surrounded the bush that burned with fire, as Sinais awful summit. Borne aloft on the pinions of the celestial dove, we are aiming a bold, adventurous flight into the heaven of heavens, to expatiate through the boundless regions of eternity, to contemplate objects which “angels desire to look into," to search into the “ great mystery of godliness," to lose ourselves in seeking “ to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.
We are going to attempt a delineation of the Life and History of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of Men. My heart fails at the thought of the iask which I have undertaken; my tongue cleaves to the roof of my mouth. Spirit of Grace, establish thou my heart
_thou my voice inspire,
The question of the prophet which has now been read, and which suggested the idea that we mean to pursue through this Lecture, is interwoven with a variety of pointed and striking predictions which, whether taken separately or in their combination, can apply only to one person ; and who that person is, no doubt can possibly be entertained when we consider, that this is the
very passage of Scripture to which Philip the Evangelist was providentially directed, as a text for “ preaching Jesus,” to the Ethiopian Eunuch. I shall not employ any part of your time in detailing the various opinions which have been entertained respecting the meaning of the passage in general, or the precise import of the term “ generation” in particular. The question appears simply to be a bold defiance given to all created wisdom to investigate, to unfold the generations, the origin, the essence of that wonderful Person concerning whom such singular circumstances and events are predicted; it amounts to a strong and positive affirmation that it is impossible to declare Him as he is, to trace his existence through the successive periods of duration up to its commencement, as you may do that of a mere man from the moment of his birth, or, through a series of ancestors. What in this view is the obvious doctrine of the text ? That the generation of Him who the Spirit of prophecy, and the corresponding history represent as an innocent, patient, vicarious sufferer, extends beyond the sphere of created nature, eludes pursuit, spreads the glory of eternity around it, and conceals it from mortal eyes. It is worthy of remark, that the genealogy of our blessed Lord's humanity is more clear, and distinct, and extended, than that of any other person. Two several Evangelists have declared it, pursuing it, through two different but parallel channels, up to Abraham, and from him up to the common Father of the human race. In this respect, therefore, “the Spirit himself helpeth our infirmity ;” and he who by the mouth of Isaiah seems to forbid and defy all inquiry, by the pen of Matthew and Luke, makes a clear and full discovery, and enables us to trace the pedigree of Jesus Christ, like that of any other man. It is the peculiar privilege of the sacred volume to unfold the real history of human nature, of the globe, of the universe, to follow nature up to the hour of her birth, 10 declare “the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created; in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens;" to exhibit the first man Adam in the plastic hands of the Creator springing out of the dust of the ground, and, inspired with the breath of life, becoming “ a living soul.” The same inspired volume represents 10 our attention one person, and one event, as of peculiar importance; as pervading, influencing and affecting the whole course of Nature and Providence; as contemporary with every generation of men; as looked unto, and longed for by successive ages. In order that the truth of God might be fully justified and have its complete effect the relation, in which this illustrious person stood to those who had received the promises of his coming, is distinctly ascertained and minutely described ; so that at every period of the world we can say, lo He is here, and lo He is there. But the inspired volume likewise represents him as before all and above all. If therefore this book be a Revelation from heaven, it must contain real and important truth, and that truth clothed in plain, simple and intelligible language; we must perceive, of consequence, in the “ man of sorrows and acquainted with grief," a person whose generation no one is able to declare, who is " before all and by whom all things do consist :” whom all the angels of God are commanded to worship, “ the heir of all things,” by whom the worlds were made and are upheld, whose “ throne is for ever and ever :" in one word Christ Jesus, " who is over all, God blessed for ever."
You are well aware that the doctrine, which we wish to establish, is in the present day violently opposed ; and while it is maintained in this place, it may be perhaps in the next street the subject of profane mirth, or of serious argumentation.—Thinking as we do, we will not enter the lists of controversy. We will not employ your time, nor endeavour to enlist your passions, by running down one name, party or opinion, and exalting another ; but will simply and humbly, though at the same time, firmly and unreservedly, propose for
your instruction and improvement, what appears to be the meaning and object of Scripture; and, considering the divinity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ as the first leading object of all Revelation, we will uniformly bring it forward in every discourse. If therefore these exercises are at all frequented, or atiended unto, it will be by such as expect, and are well pleased, to bear of the great Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, in his original, everlasting, unchanging glory, and in his humiliation, as the son of man, to the form of a servant, to the death of the cross, a propitiation for sin. To this, we trust, not unknown God, our altar is erected, and dedicated, and on it we would again present our whole selves a living sacrifice unto the one true God, and “our Saviour Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever."
" Who shall declare his generation ?" Incapable thou art, O man, to trace back the short and slender thread of thy own existence and descent. Thou mayest have some faint recollection of weak and dependent childhood ; of a father's early care, and of a mother's tenderness; of the amusements, the companinos, the solicitudes, the sorrows and joys of thy boyish days. But all beyond is a blank; to thee creation began a few years ago; the second or tbird, at most, of thy own immediate progenitors, is blended with the men who lived beyond the flood. We are ignorant of and unknown to each other. How much inore so are the men of distant nations and of times more remote ? Bul family tradition, national record, the inspired page can supply the want of personal knowledge, can carry us back to departed forefathers, and bring them down to us. But what recollection, what tradition, what record, can carry us beyond the birth of nature, can convey us to a state of existence previous to the lipse of time ? Now the person of whom the prophet speaks, as we saw in the preceding Lecture, is the Word who spake all things into existence, who built the world, who spread the flood, who set time a flowing, who * breathed into man's nostrils the breath of life." Who then of the sons of men, which of the angels of God shall declare the generation of Him who made then what they are, who placed them in their stations, who prescribed to them bounds which they cannot pass ? The slightest detail of nature, O man, presents a mystery which thou canst not solve, a world which thou canst not comprefiend onto perfection. That seed cast into the ground cannot be “quickened except it die;" canst thou declare the generation of this insect, to day a butterfly, yesterday a moth, the third day a mere lifeless incrustation, and presumest thou to explain the great mystery of godliness, “God made manifest in the flesh;" at so many different times, in such divers manners made known unto the Fathers by the prophets; and in these last days unveiled to us in the person of the Son, the brightness of his Father's glory and the express image of his person? We repeat the question, understandest thou, and art thou able to unfold, the union that exists in thy own frame, between the clay tabernacle and the immortal mind; earth and heaven blended in thine own person ? And shall“ it be thought a thing incredible," that He who, in the uninterrupted course of his providence, produces this union which every one is conscious of existing, though no one is capable of explaining, should form other combinations, unite other natures, to declare his power and manifest his glory? Wherefore should “it be thought a thing incredible," that He who unites himself to every one of us, through the medium of reason and conscience, for carrying on the plan of nature, should have united bumanity to himself in the person of the Redeemer, in a manner still more incomprehensible, for perfecting the plan of redemption? Shall I reject as untrue or absurd whatever I do not clearly understand or am unable perfectly to explain ? The consciousness which I have of my own being must be renounced then among the first, and every thing within and around us must be reduced to darkness, doubt and uncertainty.