« AnteriorContinuar »
proud of worldly distinctions, and fond of the praise and admiration of men ?
2. Their contempt was heightened, when this poor man publicly asserted his proper character and claim, demanded their attention and homage, styled himself, in a peculiar sense, 'the Son of God,' the resurrection and the life.'* For this seeming
' inconsistence between the appearance he made and the honours he assumed, they treated him as a demoniac and a madmanat Their language strongly expresed their sentiments of him, when they asked bim, with disdain, ' Art thou greater than our father Abraham? Whom makest thou thyself ?'I
3. They objected to bim the low state and former characters of his followers. Some of them were of low rank in life. The most of those who constantly attended him were poor fishermen. Others had been of bad repute, publicans and open sinners. For this they reproached him, and thought they were fully justified in their contempt, while they could say, 'Have any of the rulers or Pharisees believed on him ?''S
4. They were further exasperated against him, by the authority' and severity with which he taught. It is true, he was gentle and meek to all who felt their need of his help, or sincerely desired his instruction. He received them without exception, and treated them with the greatest tenderness. But he vindicated the honour of the law of God, from the corrupt doctrine and traditions of their professed teachers. He exposed and unmasked the hypocrisy of their most admired characters, and compared the men who were in the highest reputation for wisdom and sanctity, to whitened sepulchres, warning the people against them as blind guides and deceivers.
5. These blind guides strengthened the prejudices of their blind followers against him by misrepresentation. They attempted to avail themselves of the Scripture, when they thought it would answer their purpose. They eagerly made the most of a prevailing mistake, that Jesus was born in Galilee, because he was brought up in Nazareth from his infancy. This they urged as a proof that he could not be the MESSIAH, who, the prophets had declared, was to be born at Bethlehem in Judea. When he healed diseases on the Sabbath-day, they represented the effects of bis compassion as a breach of that strict observance of the Sabbath which was enjoined by the law of Moses, and that therefore he could not be of God. And when they were not able to deny the
|| reality of his wonderful works, they ascribed them to the agency
* John, v. 18. xi. 25. 1 Matth. Kii. "
† John, X. 20.
1 John, viü. 53. John, vii. 48. * Matth. xii. 24.
of Satan.* We, at this distance of time, can easily perceive the folly and madness of their attempts. But the Scribes and Pharisees were the public authorized doctors and teachers of the people, and were supported by the ecclesiastical and civil power, or, as we should now express it, by church and state. The people were not apt to suspect their leaders, whom they thought wiser and better than themselves. Or, if sometimes they hesitated, were impressed by the majesty of his word, or the evidence of his miraculous works, and constrained to say, “Is not this the Son of David ?'t they were soon intimidated and silenced by canons and laws; for it was carefully enacted, in order to keep them in subjection, that whoever acknowledged him, "should be put out of the synagogue;'f that is, according to our modern language, excommunicated. This, among the Jews, as it has often since been among Christians, was a punishment which drew after it terrible consequences. A man must be in good earnest, or rather taught and supported by the grace of God, who could resist such arguments as these.
These things are easily applicable to the church history of succeeding times. The Gospel of Christ bas often been, and is to this day, rejected and despised upon similar grounds. Its simplicity and plainness, and the manner of its proposal, adapted to the use and capacity of the vulgar, offend those who are wise in their own conceit, and proud of their own understanding and taste. At the same time they are equally disgusted by the sublimity of its doctrines, which will not submit to the test of tbeir vain reasonings, and can only be received by humble faith. The faithfulness and freedom wbich its minister are enjoined to use, give great offence likewise : and, because they cannot comply with the humours of those who wish them to prophesy smooth things and deceits, they are accounted censorious, uncharitable, and disturbers of the public peace. Again, the dislike and opposition it frequently meets with from persons of great titles and high stations, deter multitudes from pursuing those inquiries which some conviction of the truth would prompt them to, were they not discouraged by the fear of consequences. How often has a dread of the displeasure of doctors, bishops, universities, councils, and popes; or an ignorant, slavish deference to their judgment or decisions, prevented people from following that light which had begun to force itself upon their consciences ? How few among those of reputation for wisdom and learning, how few of the great and opulent, have encouraged or espoused the doctrine of the cross? It is, therefore, more properly a subject for
Matth, xii. 28.
† John, ix, 22. xii. 42,
lamentation than for wonder, that this way is despised, and almost every where spoken against.'* Further, as the bulk of those who embrace it are of low condition, so, many of them are as free to confess to the praise of the grace of God, as others can be to urge it to their reproach, that till they knew and received this despised Gospel, their characters and practices were vile. Lastly, what unhappy subtilty has been employed, in a way of reason and argument, with an appeal to detached and perverted passages of Scripture, to misrepresent the work of the Holy Spirit, as folly, hypocrisy, or enthusiasm, and even to charge the Gospel itself with giving encouragement to a licentious conduct ! In short, the spirit of the world, the arts and influence of designing men, are so powerful, that what our Lord said in Judea, holds equally true in Christendom, · Blessed is he who is not offended in me.'t
I have reserved to a distinct paragraph the mention of one cause why the Gospel is frequently despised and reproacbed ; because, though it be no less unjust and unreasonable than those which I have recited, it is more immediately incumbent upon all who name the name of Christ, to prevent it as much as possible ; 1 I mean, the scandal which arises from the miscarriages of those who profess it. Offences of this kind must come, but wo to them by whom they come.'I There were pretended Christians, even in the apostles' times, who were enemies to the cross of Christ,'$ and, by their evil conduct, caused the ways of truth to be evil spoken of; and, therefore, we cannot be surprised that there are such persons now. But' you that love the Lord, hate evil.'ll There are many who watch for your halting, and are ready to say, “There, there ! so we would have it.' It will be in vain for ininisters to declare that the doctrines of grace are doctrines according to godliness, unless our testimony is supported by the tempers and conduct of our people : the world will probably judge, rather by what they see in you, than by what they hear from us. Nor will it suffice that they cannot say you are an adulterer, a drunkard, a miser, or a cheat. If you espouse our doctrine, they will expect you to be humble, meek, patient, and benevolent; 10 find integrity in all your dealings, and a punctual discharge of your duty in every branch of relative life. What must the world think of our principles, if they who avow them are fretful, envious, censorious, discontented, slothful, or unfaithful ; or if they are niggardly and hard-hearted, or voluptuous and dissolute, or implacable and revengeful? They who thus
* Acts, xxviii. 22. ! Psalm, xcv.
| Matth. xviii. 7.
Phil. iii. 18. * Lev, xix. 14. 0 1 Pet. ii. 21.
lay stumbling blocks before the blind,'* and confirm the prejudices of the ignoraut, will have much to answer for.
II. It is further said, He was ó a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.' He was surrounded with sorrows on every side, and grief was his intimate, inseparable companion. Surely this consideration, if any, will animate us 'to endure the cross, and to despise the shame' we may be exposed to for his sake. The illustration of this subject will offer more fully in the sequel. It shall suffice, at present, to assign three causes for his continual sorrows.
1. The outward course of life, to which he submitted, for the sake of sinners, exposed him to want, weariness, contempt, and opposition. And though his resignation and patience were perfect, yet he was truly a man, and partaker of our nature, with all its affections and sensibilities which do not imply sin. His feelings, therefore, were human, similar to our own in similar circumstances, and they were often painfully exercised. Once and again we read that he was hungry and had no food ; he was thirsty, and was nearly refused a little water to drink, wlien wearied with his journeying in the heat of the day.t His character was aspersed, his person despised, his words insidiously wrested, his actions misrepresented. He was misunderstood even by his friends, I betrayed by one disciple, denied by another, and forsaken by the rest. It is hardly possible for his followers to meet with any outward trial which may not remind them of some part of the history of their Lord and Master,' who left them an example of sutering, that they should' cheerfully' follow his steps.'s
2. His perfect knowledge and foresight of those sufferings which we emphatically call his passion. How often does he speak of them, and describe the circumstances as if they were actually present ? Futurity is, in mercy, concealed from us. It would often bereave us of all present comfort, if we knew what the next year, or, perhaps, what the next day would bring forth. If some of you could have foreseen, many years ago, what you have since been brought through, you would probably have sunk under the apprehension; or the stoutest of us might sink now, if we were certainly to know what may be yet before us.
But Jesus, long before he made atonement for our sins, had counted the cost. And though his love determined bim to save us, the prospect which was continually present to his view, of the approaching unutterable agonies of his soul, of all that he must endure from God, from the powers of darkness, and from wicked men, when he
† Matth. iv. 2. xxi. 18. John, iv. 9.
| John, vii. 5. 2 Pet. ii. 8.
should ' be made a curse for us, to redeem us from the curse of the law ;'* I say, this tremendous prospect, was, doubtless, a perpetual source of sorrow.
3. The frame of his spirit. Whoever has a measure of the mind that was in Christ, must be proportionally burdened and grieved, like righteous Lot in Sodom,t with the wickedness around him, if he lives in society. Who that has any regard for the honour of God, or the souls of men, can hear and see what passes every hour ; how the authority of God is affronted, bis goodness abused, and his mercy despised, without emotions of grief and compassion ? If we are spiritually-minded, we must be thus affected ; and we should be more so, if we were more spiritual. But the holiness of Messiah, and, consequently, his hatred of sin, was absolutely perfect. His view of the guilt and misery of sinners, was likewise comprehensive and clear. How m be therefore grieved by the wickedness and insensibility of those with whom he daily conversed ! especially as he not only observed the outward conduct of men, but had an intimate knowledge of the evil heart, which is hidden from us. In this sense his sufferings and sorrows began with his early years, and continued throughout the whole of his life. He undoubtedly could say, with an emphasis peculiar to himself, 'I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved ;' rivers of waters ran down my eyes, because men keep not thy law.'t
We call ourselves the followers and servants of him who was despised of men, and encompassed with sorrows. And shall we then seek great things for ourselves,'s as if we belonged to the present world, and expected no portion beyond it? Or shall we be tremblingly alive to the opinion of our fellow-creatures, and think it a great hardship, if it be our lot to suffer shame for his sake, who endured the cross, and despised the shame for us ? Rather may we account such disgrace our glory, and every loss and suffering, that we may endure for him, a gain; while on the other hand, we learn, with the apostle Paul, to esteem every gain and honour this world can afford, 'to be but loss and dung in comparison of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesùs our Lord.'
* Gal. iii. 13. | Phil. iii. 8.
I Psalm, cxix. 156, 158.