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Gospel preceded the Epistle. Why have we a four-fold version of that wonderful narrative, but to shew us the importance of studying it? The Apostles did not so much preach theology as Christ. That first sermon by Peter when three thousand were converted, was a proclamation of Christ. Men were directed to Him as a living Saviour. They were to exercise faith in Him, not in churches, creeds, and dogmas. “ Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ." “We preach Christ crucified.” The Galatians were reminded, though literally they had not beheld the Saviour, that “ before their eyes Jesus Christ had been evidently set forth crucified among them” -So much was Paul's preaching an exhibition of Christ.
Christianity was inseparable from its founder. We may adhere to the Baconian philosophy and be ignorant of its author, or condemn his character when known. But Christianity is faith, love, and obedience exercised towards a personal Christ. Thus the Apostles ever spake and wrote. But in later years the system has been divorced from its founder. Men have often been theologians without being Christians. Creeds, dogmas, systems, churches, have usurped the place of Christ. Men have had faith in doctrines rather than faith in Jesus. In proportion as He, the Man Christ Jesus, has been lost sight of, Christianity has become formal, a philosophy and not a life. In wrangling about words, the voice of Jesus has been unheard ; in disputing for the Saviour's seamless coat, the crucified one has been forgotten. We want now, what the world has always wanted, an earnest faith in a personal Christ. We need to feel him as a living presence, showing us in his own conduct, how to live, and impelling us by the mighty force of love to “walk in his steps.” One of the Fathers says that Christ being the “Word of God,” all the acts of his life, are themselves words, not to be looked at and admired as mere pictures, but as letters to be read and understood. Let us but rightly learn the grand lessons which his life is designed to teach, and the wilderness will again “rejoice and blossom as the rose.”
Contemplate, then, the life of the Man Christ Jesus! He was “born of a woman." He was a partaker of our flesh and blood, not in semblance only, but with every human faculty and every natural infirmity. He was a helpless babe; a child, both in mind and body; he “increased in wisdom and stature ;" he hungered, thirsted, wept! What a proof of the love of God! How in earnest was he to save mankind, when he condescended to stoop so low to lift us up! And what dignity belongs to man! Christ wore my nature! Better than all pleas of abstract right-subversive of all sophistries of necessity and policy in justification of wrong-doing, is this great fact,—Christ was a Man! Dare I oppress my brother because he is poor, unlettered, weak, or because his skin is darker than my own? He is a man! and in trampling on him I insult the nature which Jesus for ever dignified! The grandest thing in the whole world is man! There is that in the meanest beggar which is far more glorious than all the trappings of the most illustrious of princes. There is more in one human being, than all the trophies the world contains of human enterprise and skill. Let me reverence man's image wherever I meet it, for Christ wore it! No wonder his laws command us to 'honor all men.' Jesus was a manand for all men Jesus died! And let me reverence myself. Worldly dignity makes men proud; true dignity makes them humble. It is well to think adequately of ourselves. Convince a man he is mean, he will become so. Let us learn the true dignity of our nature, and live according to it! Christ hath honored it-shall I degrade it by vanity and sin ?
Jesus was poor, and his relatives and followers were from the humbler ranks. Worldly greatness men eagerly strive for. In the headlong race, what miseries ensue! While men think that life consisteth in the abundance of the things which they possess, pride, and vanity, and selfishness must still
prevail. But what contempt did Jesus throw on “the toil of fools, the wise man's cumbrance, if not snare!” To be His disciple, was to honor a man who was poor ! Must not the effect of faith in Him be to lessen that inordinate esteem of worldly good, the lusting for which creates so much wretchedness? Jesus was poor! May not then the poor henceforth bear more contentedly their poverty, seeing that thus. they resemble the Man Christ Jesus?
He was a working man. Till thirty years. he lived obscurely and wrought in a little carpenter's shed at Nazareth. The majority of men are laborers. Shall they repine? Shall any disparage their toils ? Is there not henceforth a new dignity in labour ?' The largest portion of the human family eat the bread of toil, and Jesus therefore thus spent the largest portion of his life, to shew that the multitude who obscurely toil, may, equally with the illustrious few, serve the God of heaven, and that so doing, 'work' may become 'worship.'
But poverty and toil are not the greatest of