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SERMON XVII.

Hebrews ii. 10.

For it became Mm, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

WHEN Christianity was first published to the world, the earliest objection that was raised against it, arose from the low and suffering state in which its Author appeared. It was a stumbling block to the Jews, and seemed foolishness to the Greeks, that a prophet sent from heaven to enlighten and reform the world, should lead a life of indigence and obscurity, and make his exit with ignominy and with pain.

If we consider the character and prevailing opinions of the Jews and the Greeks at the time when our Saviourappeared, we shall see the reason of the unfavourable reception which they gave to his doctrines. The Jews had been the favourite people of God. By signs and miracles, and mighty works, he had delivered them from a state of slavery in Egypt, had conducted them through the wilderness, and at last given them a settlement in the promised land. The arm of the Lord was made bare in their behalf, the sea was divided to make way for them, and the waters stood as a wall on their right hand and on their left. During their wanderings through the wilderness, a pillar of fire conducted them by night, and a pillar of cloud by day. Manna descended to them from heaven, and water sprung from the flinty rock. Accustomed to. these great and marvellous exertions of the divine power, in the days of the Messiah they expected still greater and more marvellous. If a God was to descend, they looked for him in the whirlwind, they looked for him in the earthquake, and when the still smail voice came, it was neither heard nor regarded. Besides this, they had imbibed false notions concerning Messiah, and the nature of his kingdom. They misinterpreted the ancient oracles; which foretold his coming; they took the magnificent style of prophecy for literal description, and, in place of a spiritual Sai viour, expected a temporal prince. Accordingly, at the time when our Saviour appeared, the whole nation was intoxicated with the idea of a triumphant conqueror, who was to deliver them from the Roman yoke, td erect an universal monarchy on earth, and to make Zion the seat of empire, and capital of the world. To persons under the influence of these prejudices, a suffering Messiah was a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence.

A different set of prejudices prevailed in Greece. The Greeks were an ingenious and an active people. Situated in a fortunate climate, and blessed with the highest degree of liberty which mankind can enjoy, they bent their genius to the cultivation of the arts. Smitten with the love of wisdom, they gave up their paternal estates to attend the school of philosophy. They journeyed from region to region, and traversed the world, to bring home fresh accessions of knowledge, and new improvements in the arts. Under these favourable circumstances, Greece arose to fame, and beheld an age of glory^ which is unrivalled in the records of history. The ideas of virtue and of merit amongst any nation are founded upon the splendid examples with which their history abounds, and upon a perfection in those arts which they cultivate, and in which they excel. The Greeks excelled in the arts to which the imagination gives birth, as well as in the sciences, which reason brings to maturity, and their history abounded with the nsost splendid instances of public spirit, of heroic friendship, and of intrepid valour. Dazzled with the lustre of these arts, and with the glory of these virtues, they fixed the standard of excellence by thein, and had no admiration to bestow upon the humble Prophet of Nazareth, and the mortifying doctrines of the cross. As they had been a stumbling-block to the Jews, to the Greeks they seemed foolishness.

It is then a subject worthy of our contemplation, to inquire into the reasons that might move Almighty God, thus, in direct opposition to the prejudices and expectations of both Jews and Greeks, to appoint tiie Captain of our salvation to be made perfect by a state of sufferings. It is hence proposed to shew the expediency and propriety of appointing such a Captain of our salvation. This will appear, from considering our blessed Saviour in these four capital views of his character; as the founder of a new religion, as a pattern of all perfection, as a priest who was to make atonement, and a king who was to be crowned with, glory.

in the first place, If we consider our Saviour as the author of a new religion, his appearance in a suffering state frees his religion from an objection which applies with full force to every other religion in the world.

Amongst all the nations whose history we have recorded, the laws gave birth to the religion. The public faith was modelled by the sovereign authority, and established by the sovereign power. The prince was also the prophet. The religion which he established, was such as suited the genius of the people, the nature of the climate, or the views of the sovereign; and, in short, was nothing more than a mere engine of civil government. When we take a view of Christianity, a different scene presents itself. Here we see a religion published by a person, obscure and unknown, amongst a nation hated and despised to a proverb, one day to become the religion of the world and to be propagated by the efforts of a lew illiterate

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fishermen, who had to combat against the prejudice^ of the Jews, the superstition of the Gentiles, the wisdom of the philosophers, the power of armies and of Jiings, the ancient systems of religion established oyer the whole world, and the combined wit, and genius, and malice, of all mankind.

Had our Saviour appeared in the pomp of a temporal prince, as the Jews expected him ; had he appeared in the character of a great philosopher, as the Greeks would have wished him, often had we heard of his power and of his policy, and been told, that our religion was more nearly allied to this world, than to the other. But when we hear the Author of our faith declaring from the beginning, that he must suffer many things in his life, and be put to an ignominious and tormenting death; when we hear him forewarning his disciples, that they were to meet with the same fate; these suspicipns must for ever vanish from our- mind. Thus our religion stands clear of an objection from which nothing, perhaps, could have purged it, but the blood of its divine Author.

In the second place, If we consider our Saviour as a pattern of virtue and all perfection, the expediency of his appearing in a suffering state will further be evident.

One great end of our Saviour's coming into the world was to set us an example, that we might follow his steps. But, unless his life had been diversified with sufferings, the utility of his example had been in a great measure defeated. 'What we generally call a perfect character, is a cold insipid object, that does not interest mankind. Were it possible for nature to realize the man of virtue,' as drawn by those who misrepresent the Stoic philosophy; a man without the feelings' of nature, and the weaknesses of humanity, proof against the influence of passion, and the attacks of pain { vi'e would turn aside from such a caricature of humanity, and exclude the faultless rnonster from the number of our species. No exam- . pie can make anyimpression'upon the minds of men,

jjiit the example of men of like passions with themselves. Let us suppose; that the life of an angel were exhibited to the world* it might afford a pleasant subject of contemplation. But the question would naturally arise, What is this to me? This does not belong to friy nature; I discover here no traces of my own character, no features of humanity. On the other hand; to set up an imperfect example for our imitation, would be attended with still worse consequences; We know, from the instances of the saints' recorded in Scripture; how apt men are to quote their imperfections as an excuse for themselves; arid by copying after these, come short of that perfection to tvhich they might have arrived.

Both these defects are remedied in the example of Jesus of Nazareth. His example is perfect, and at the same time, has all that effect upon us which the example of One of our brethren would have had; When we behold the man Christ Jesus involved in distresses similar to our own; clothed with all the innocent infirmities of our nature, and groaning .like ourselves under the sinless miseries of life, we are touched with the feeling of his infirmities and his pains ; our passions take part with the illustrious sufferer* and we behold him in some measure brought down to our own level. It is from these shades that this picture derives its beauty, derives its effect upon the world; and that, notwithstanding of the glory that surrounds it, we recognize our own image, we trace the features and the lineaments of humanity, and by these* are drawn to copy after such an illustrious pattern of excellence and perfection. -.

The suffering state in which our Lord appeared, hot only conduced to the efficacy of his example, but also to its more extensive utility, by presenting an ample theatre for the sublimest virtues to appear. It is observed by an historian, in relating- the life of Gyrus the Great, that there was one circumstance wanting to the glory of that illustrious prince; and that was,- the having his virtue tried by some sudderi

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