« AnteriorContinua »
occupied in works of kindness and compassion. In the words of the Evangelist, “he went about doing good." For the comfort of the soul, he preached forgiveness of sins through his own death, and pointed out the sure way to the kingdom of God: laboriously instructing day by day even the most despised and the most vicious characters ; seizing every opportunity, public and private, of pressing his offers of grace and salvation in the most earnest manner and the kindest language; and exhausting himself by his exertions, which allowed not leisure for needful food and repose, until his relations deemed him beside himself. For the relief of the body, he healed all kinds of diseases. He made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the dumb to speak, the lame to walk. He cleansed lepers, cast out evil spirits, raised the dead. Though in general he performed his miracles upon those persons who stood most in need of his assistance, and were also the most recommended to it by their faith : on some occasions he signalized his Divine mercy by bestowing benefits upon objects, whose extreme una worthiness excluded them in a special manner from the smallest pretension to his favour. Speaking of the loving-kindness of his Father, he describes him not as pouring out his merits only upon righteous men: but as making his sun to shine on the evil as well as on the good; as sending rain on the just and on the unjust. The same description may be applied to himself. It is recorded of him that he frequently associated with “publicans and sinners," notwithstanding the odium which his condescension excited, labouring for their conversion. When the ten lepers requested that he would heal them, he immediately cleansed them all; though he knew before hand that only one of them would acknowledge the kindness by
returning to give thanks to God. His benevolence appears in a distinguished light from his steady discouragement of Jewish prejudices. At the well of Jacob he revealed his Messiahship to a woman of Samaria; and abode two days in the city, delivering instructions to the inhabitants. In his parable of the wounded traveller, the compassionate man was a Samaritan. Though in sending forth his twelve disciples to preach during his own lifetime he forbade them to go into the countries of the Samaritans or of the Gentiles; he explicitly declared to them antecedently to his ascension, that they should be his witnesses not in Judea only, but in Samaria, and to the uttermost parts of the earth. 1 When two of his apostles, enraged at the Samaritans who would not receive himself and his disciples because their journey was towards Jesusalem, were desirous of consuming the inhospitable city by fire from Heaven; they experienced from their Master a severe reprehension. He not only exhorted his followers to love each other, but taught them a farther lesson strange to their ears : “ I say unto you, love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you; pray for them that despitefully use you and persecute you : that
ye may be the children of your Father which is in Heaven." Still more forcibly to impress upon us the duty of unreserved benevolence, he constrains us to acknowledge in our daily prayers that we cannot desire the forgiveness of our sins unless we forgive them that trespass against us; even them that trespass against us times without number.2
For his own murderers he prayed while he was hanging upon the cross, at the time when he was enduring the utmost
1 Matt. X. 5.
Acts, i. 8.
2 Matt, xviii. 21, 22.
force of their torments. He solemnly assures us in language the most encouraging, that by whomsoever any act of kindness shall be rendered, any assistance administered, even if it be but a cup of cold water, to the lowest of his followers from a spirit of Christian charity, he will look upon it and reward it as done to himself. 1 And now that he is ascended into Heaven, he still continues, in its largest extent, his affection for mankind. He guards and upholds his faithful servants; and guides and comforts them by the Spirit of his
grace. By the same Spirit He labours to lead the wicked to repentance.
He is at this hour making intercession for us at the right hand of God. And at the last day he will bestow everlasting glory and happiness on those who shall have kept his commandments.
It is to pride that a very large proportion of the impiety, the injustice, and the other crimes prevalent in the world may be traced. This detestable passion our Saviour universally opposes in the most decided and pointed manner 2; and particularly by setting before us in his own conduct a perfect pattern of meekness and humility. Forbearing to recur to the unparalleled condescension which he evinced in “ taking upon himself the form of a servant in the place of that of God, and being made in the likeness of men ;" consider the station in which he chose to appear upon earth. He was born of lowly parentage, and laid in a manger. To this beginning his whole life was conformable. Though Lord of all things, he had not
1 Matt. X. 42.
xxv. 35–46. 2 Yet in these days we hear people, who profess themselves Christians, applauding and inculcating what they call a “ proper pride!”
where to lay his head. He chose for his disciples not the powerful and the wealthy, not the wise and the learned ; but individuals who were poor, ignorant, and despised. His conduct towards them was marked with singular mildness. He bore with their prejudices, their blindness, their unbelief: corrected their mistakes with gentleness; and explained to them in private with unwearied kindness the instructions which, when delivered in public, they had not understood. After his last supper before his crucifixion, with his own hands, and partly for the purpose of impressing on them a lesson of humility!, he washed their feet. “ I have given you,” said he on that occasion, “an example, that ye should do as I have done.” came,” he said, “ not to be ministered unto, but himself to minister unto others.” 2 He was not elated by the mighty wonders which he had performed; but was accustomed, after he had wrought a signal miracle, to ascribe the glory to God. “Go,” said he to the Gadarene, out of whom he had cast many devils, “ turn to thine own house, and show how great things God hath done unto thee." 3 By instances such as these, conclusive as to his own unassuming character, he has left a memorable admonition to every one who may be distinguished by superior powers of body or of mind, to beware of being puffed up by these endowments, as though they were proofs of merit in the possessor : to ascribe to God with thankfulness and humility the glory of his own gifts : to pray that by the aid of his grace they may ever be applied to righteous purposes: and to remember that it is not the possession but the
1 His conduct was also meant to be emblematical of the atone. ment, which he was then about to make. See the whole account of the transaction, John, xiii. - See also Luke, xxii. 24. 2 Matt. x. 28.
3 Luke, viii. 39.
right application of abilities which is praiseworthy. Our Saviour commanded his disciples to guard under all circumstances against vain-glory and ostentation; especially in the great Christian duties of prayer and of alms-giving. “When ye pray, be not as the hypocrites are : for they love to pray standing in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou hast shut the door, pray to thy Father which is in secret. And when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do, that they may have glory of men. But when thou doest thine alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth ; that thine alms may be in secret." To these injunctions he subjoins this encouragement: “And your Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward you openly." 1 And at the same time he explicitly teaches his followers, that they who perform these or other duties “ to be seen of men, for the sake of human applause, have their reward” in this world; and shall “have no reward from the Father who is in Heaven.” The barren and fleeting breath of praise they may obtain from the world which they court and deceive from God, whom they seek not to please and cannot delude, they have nothing to expect but the punishment due to their hypocrisy. From the brief accounts of our Lord's conduct recorded in the Gospels, we learn that the rules which he prescribed to his disciples guided his own conduct. He set before them an example of constant attendance on public worship by regularly frequenting the synagogue : but we are repeatedly told of his retiring to a mountain, or into a desert, for the purposes of prayer. And it
1 Matt. vi. 1-6,