« AnteriorContinuar »
make us to esteem “none of his commandments grievous,” 1 John v. 3. We shall run the way of his precepts, with alacrity, with speed, “hasting and not delaying to keep them, when our heart is so enlarged,” Psal. cxix. 32. A respect to God, and that only, will effectually obviate all the discouragements and temptations, which lie in the way of our duty. Whatever care and caution men may be led to use, when they are seen by other men; an agreeable temptation to sin, backed with the circumstance of secrecy, will hardly be overcome without an eye to the invisible God. This secured Joseph in all his youthful prime against the criminal and repeated solicitations of his mistress, though he might have expected considerable advantages from her favour and interest upon a compliance : yet says he, “How can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?” Gen. xxxix. 9. When a duty is unfashionable, and will rather procure contempt than reputation ; what beside a religious respect to God's authority, and approbation, can make a man stedfast and unmoveable in it? But when godliness has the ascendant, a man will judge a general esteem among men of little weight, when set in balance with the judgment of God. This thought, that “that which is highly esteemed among men, is often abomination in the sight of God,” Luke xvi. 15. will suspend a good man's regard for their judgment, till he has searched into the mind of God; and when once he is satisfied what God would have him to do, he will be content to pass through honour or dishonour, through good report or bad report, in obedience to God. Ungrateful returns for what was well meant, for good offices done, will soon dishearten and cool the zeal of those, who act upon a lower principle than the fear of God; while a devoted soul will go on in his way, and be fully satisfied with the prospect of God's approbation and gracious reward. But the force of this principle will appear especially in such cases, where our duty may expose us to danger and sufferings, to the loss of outward enjoyments, of friends, of estate, of liberty, of life itself. He that fears and loves any thing more than God, will break with him upon such an occasion. But a man, whose profession is supported by true religion, will behave like the three Jewish youths when they were sentenced by Nebuchadnezzar to the fiery furnance; “If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us :
But if not, he it known unto thee, that we will not serve thy gods,” Dan. iii. 17, 18. He will trust God, either to preserve the comforts which are most threatened for God's sake, or to preserve his soul to his heavenly kingdom. A regard to God alone will reach our inward temper in all we do: and that is of principal account with him, in reference to every grace and virtue. This principle alone will make us concerned to cultivate purity of heart, as well as of conversation ; to suppress malice and hatred and envy in our breasts, as well as the outward expressions of them ; to guard against the thought of foolishness. An eye to God as the searcher of hearts, as desiring truth in the inward parts, will induce a man to look principally to the disposition of the heart : but a fair outside will serve a man, who lives without God in the world. 4. A godly temper is eminently recommended to Christians by the example of their Lord and Master. The man Christ Jesus was the greatest pattern of genuine piety, that ever was shewn to the world. And in this respect, as well as others, the same mind should be in us, as was in Christ. The blessed Jesus ever shewed through his whole course the most deep and fixed sense of God upon his mind. It never was true of any in such an eminent degree as it was of him, that he was in the fear of the Lord all the day long. All his actions, all his motions, the minutest steps of life, bespoke an eye directed to God. He testified his love to his Father in the most expensive instances. This was a principle of his obedience unto death, even superior to his love to mankind. When he knew the time of his sufferings was just at hand, instead of endeavouring to evade them, he hastens into the fatal garden, that he might testify his affection to his Father and his interests. “That the world may know (says he) that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do ; arise, let us go hence,” John xiv. 31. Let us quit this place, and go into the garden, where the scene of my agonies is to begin. IIis trust in God was very conspicuous through his course. This made him unconcerned in all the dangers of his life. When his disciples expostulated with him about his intention of returning into Judea, because the Jews there had so lately sought to stone him; Jesus answered, John xi. 9, 10. “Are
there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbleth not, because he seeth the light of this world: but if a iiuin walketh in the night, he stumbleth. The meaning of which I take to be this: "The day in the course of nature is a safe time for business; a man is in no great danger of falling, while he has the advantage of day-light: so while my appointed day for the exercise of my ministry lasts in the course of providence, 1 am not afraid of my enemies, how malicious and watchful soever they may be against me. While 1 have work to do, I am immortal." When his last sufferings were actually approaching, and he foresaw that his disciples would all be scattered from him; yet he supported himself with the thought of his Father's presence, John xvi. 32. "Ye shall be scattered every one to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet 1 am not alone, because the Father is with me." When one of his disciples drew a sword in his defence; after he had expressed his dislike of that action in his circumstances, he declares his full confidence of his Father's readiness to assist him, if there were occasion, Matt. xxvi. 54. "Thinkest thou, that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" If those words of his upon the cross should appear to intimate some distrust, when he cries out, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" It may be observed, that in the same breath he claims his interest in God; beginning his complaint with this, "My God, my God:" and siijce he applies himself to God at the time, as to one in whom he had a sure interest, I question whether, we are to understand the complaint, as bespeaking his apprehension of any real desertion of his Father. He rather seems to complain of the great contempt and reproach cast upon him by his enemies, when they had just before insulted him, as if he were forsaken of God, because he was not rescued from the cross, Matth. xxvii. 43. "He trusted in God; let him deliver him, if he will have him." And the thieves, it is said, "cast the same in his teeth," ver. 44. Now, in his cry, which follows in ver. 4G. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" his design seems to be, to express the stedfast continuance of his trust in God; and at the same time to intimate, that he esteemed this one of the bitterest taunts which his enemies had thrown out upon him, that God should be thought to have abandoned him, and a very witting part of his sufferings, that they should be made the occasion of such a thought. So that this is indeed an illustrious instance of his trust in God, when he was most derided for it. The same confidence in God, he discovered to the last, w hen he was near his end, he was confident that he should be that day in paradise; and not only so, but also that the dying thief who was converted to a surprizing faith in him in his lowest condition, should be with him there, Luke xxiii. 43. And with his expiring breath he committed his departing' soul to his Father: * * Father, into thy hands I commend iny spirit," ver. 46. How strongly is trust in God recommended to all his followers, by his fixed exercise of it through life down to death!
He was equally a pattern to us in ready obedience to his Father's will. Having undertaken to be his servant in the work of our redemption, he came into the world to do his will, Heb. x. 7- And when he was actually entered upon it, it "was his meat to do the will of him that sent him," John iv. 34. He took more pleasure in any action of service to God, than in partaking of the necessary recruits of nature. The work assigned him was kept perpetually in his eye; and he reckoned a necessity to lie upon him to perform it, John ix. 4. ""I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day." In the performance of that work, he exactly observed the instructions given him, in all that he spoke or did: whence he could say, John viii. 28. "1 do nothing of myself." And chap. xii. 50. "Whatsoever I speak, eveu as the Father sakl unto me, so I speak." He did not refuse the most difficult and self-denying services, but was "obedient unto death, eveu the death of the cross," Phil. ii. 8. How would our obedience shine, if it were formed upon this model!
He cheerfully submitted to divine disposal in all circumstances of his condition. He had his eye to the providence of God, more than, the hand of man, in his sufferings: so he tells Pilate, John xix. 11. "Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above." And to this disposal of God he entirely submits. "Not as I will, but as thou wilt," Matt. xxvi. 39. "The cup, which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?"
God's glory was his constant end. He "sought not his ewu glory," John vii. 50. And therefore was content to undergo the lowest abasement to advance the divine honour. Nothing awakened his zeal so much, as dishonour cast upon God, or that which belonged to him. "The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up," John ii. 17- This was so uniformly his design, and the scope of all his life and actions, that he could solemnly appeal to his Father at the close of his work, chap. xvii. 4. "I have glorified thee on the earth; I have finished the work, which thou gavest me to do."
He was very exemplary in the worship of God, and in the observance of all the sacred institutions in force under that dispensation. He was careful to fulfil all righteousness, Matt, iii. 15. It appears from several passages of St John's gospel, that he used to attend the public worship of the temple upon , all proper occasions; and the worship of the synagogue every sabbath-day in the places where he came. Luke observes, chap. iv. 16, that "as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath-day; where the usual exercises of praying, and reading, and expounding the word of God were performed. And for secret prayer, we find him retiring for that purpose, where he might enjoy the greatest freedom, Matt. xiv. 23. Or rising up early for that exercise, Mark i. 85. And upon extraordinary occasions, carrying on his devotions to a great length; as once, "continuing all night in prayer to God," Luke vi. 12. Or with peculiar earnestness, when he had special difficulties before him; as in his agony in the garden. And the gospel history sometimes takes notice of the outward marks of reverence he used; that he "kneeled," Luke xxii. 41. that he "fell on his face," Matth. xxvi. 39. that he "lift up his eyes to heaven," John xvii. 1. Which are recorded no doubt as exemplary indications of the reverence of his spirit. And for the other institutions then in use, they were all observed in his case. He was circumcised by his parents at the time appointed by the law; he submitted to be baptized by John, when he had an extraordinary commission to dispense that ordinance; and statedly celebrated the passover. Without doubt, one intention of his performance of, these things, and of their being recorded concerning him, was to dispose all his followers to a resemblance of the captain of their salvation in piety towards God.
And now close this subject,
1. We may see one peculiar excellence of the Christian re