Imágenes de páginas

example, that we should follow his steps, who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.'

But if we fall into a course of sin, we can have no resemblance of Christ, and therefore cannot be united to him : we do not follow Christ, and consequently cannot expect to enter into glory, to which there is but one path, marked out by his blessed foot-steps.

In the history of our Saviour we have the highest instances, and the brighest example, of piety, which it is possible for the imagination to eonceive; and which seems to be placed before our eyes, in a great measure, for our imitation : for as his divine nature put the accomplishment of all his purposes within the power of a single act of his will, to desire, and execute, was the same thing with him. And yet, as he was a son, and a man, he, on many occasions, addressed himself to his Father, with all that dignity and simplicity, all that duty and fervency, which ought to conduct and enliven the devotions of a mere man. What must we think of the necessity we are under of duly performing this sacred instance of service, when we see the Son of God, who could command ten thousand of angels to do whatever he desired, falling on the ground, and putting up his petitions to the Father? This considered, how can a Christian despise or neglect this duty; and to excuse himself in so doing, say, that all events are left to the natural course of second causes; or that God, knowing our occasions better than we do, neither wants to be informed or solicited in relation to them? If such persons had the mind that is in Christ Jesus, they would not thus set his doctrine, in respect to prayer, at variance with his practice, but rather make use of the one to explain the other. It is true, 'God knows our wants better than we do ourselves,' as our Saviour hath told us, and is infinitely gracious and ready to supply them. But are we, for this reason, to forget our dependence on him, or expect, although we should, to be gratified on a less application, than his only-begotten and well-beloved Son? If the spirit of Christ be in us, it will not fail to carry up our spirits and hearts in the warmest acts of devotion to that throne of grace, to which the prayers and praises of our blessed pattern were directed.

[ocr errors]

Can we

There was nothing in our Saviour's life that supplies us with a more useful or a more distinguished example than his astonishing charity. He came into this unhappy world, he took on him our nature, liable to so many and grievous miseries, to save sinners; that is, to save from eternal misery, and conduct to everlasting glory, a race of wretches in open rebellion against himself. He healed the distempers of our bodies, cured the disorders of our minds, raised to new life those who were dead, either in a temporal or spiritual sense; and, after all the indignities and cruelties we could load him with, when he was nailed to the cross by our hands, he prayed to his Father to forgive us. call ourselves the disciples of such a Master, ' if we have not love one towards another ? If that aimable and forgiving mind be in us, which was in Christ Jesus, instead of doing any hurt to our neighbour, we shall labour to do his soul and body all the good we can; and, if he chance to injure us, we shall seek a noble revenge only in serving him with all the good offices in our power. His example in this respect he himself recommends to us. • As I have loved


love ye also one another. As to forgiveness of injuries, we have stronger reasons to follow his example in that respect, than he had to set it; for he was without sin, and wanted no forgiveness; but we, being encompassed about with many infirmities, are daily offending both God and man; and therefore lie under greater obligations to forgive, as we'stand in so great need of forgiveness. We ought to feel the infirmities of others in our own, and be led from thence to pity and pardon in our fellow-creature, what we have so much reason to lament in ourselves. Were we as free from sin, as Christ himself, it would be our duty to forgive; for otherwise we could not be like him ; and how much more then, since we ourselves are offenders ?

Again, in the life of our Saviour we have a most wonderful example of contentment. Although heaven and earth belonged to him, as their maker and proprietor, and he could have furnished himself with pleasure and glory from the fulness of both ; yet he condescended to take on him the form of a servant,' of a poor and needy person, of an exile, of a man of sorrow, and acquainted with grief;' who, though he made all things, and gave the very foxes their

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

dens, and the young ravens their food, had not where to lay his head, nor any legal property of his own to support him. How unworthy of such a master must that disciple be, who coming naked into the world, and possessing nothing, but by the mere bounty of Providence, is dissatisfied with his condition, because he enjoys not more of this world's wealth and honour than his Divine Master? But he thinks he hath deserved a better lot: deserved of whom? Of God? If he hath vanity enough to stand upon his merits with Providence, let him know, that eternal infamy and misery is all he can deserve of God. If he had the mind of Christ, he would sit down satisfied with the low and indigent condition of Christ. We do not enough consider how greatly Christ hath dignified poverty by his example, as well as sweetened it by his precepts. 'Blessed are the poor in spirit,' says that gracious Master, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.' As Christ's kingdom was not of this world,' that man can be no follower of his, who cannot be satisfied without something like a kingdom here, although he may, by humility, provide a much better one hereafter.

Our Saviour's example affords us the highest instance of resolution that can be conceived. There is nothing shocking or terrible in nature, which he was not obliged to encounter with. The utmost cruelty of man, edged by the blackest malice of devils, was discharged upon him in distresses of every kind. He was slandered, reproached, spit upon, buffeted, betrayed, falsely accused, and cruelly murdered. Now, though he could have avoided all this, yet he went through it all with a calmness and steadiness perfectly astonishing and inconceivable. Such resolution makes even humility majestic. If fortitude does not comprehend all the virtues, it is at least the foundation of them all ; insomuch that there is no being a Christian without it; for he who is a Christian, must have firmness and perseverance to withstand all trials, to face all dangers, and contemn all calamities, that may attempt to frighten, or force him from his duty; with strength and constancy to resist all allurements that might otherwise seduce him from it. There is no warfare, in which so high a degree of resolution is required, as in that against our spiritual enemies. It is for this reason, that we ought to fix our eyes on the

[ocr errors]

courageous example set us by our great leader, that, if possible, we may be fired with a portion of the same glorious and undaunted spirit, that shone in him with so much lustre amidst all his horrible conflicts. Nothing but the mind that was in him can enable us to fight our way through the various difficulties that stand between us and the prize of our high calling, the crown of everlasting life. The irresolute and fickle Christian hath no courage to renounce the world, or to subdue himself; but is ever wavering and dodging between his principles and his passions; as if it were possible to travel on the narrow way, and the broad at once; though the one leads to hell, and the other to heaven. “Woe be to the fearful heart,' says the son of Sirach, and faint hands, and the sinner that goeth two ways. Can such a man, 'who is unstable in all his ways,' hope that so unsteady a soul, and so dead an heart, will ever be able to carry


up through that steep and difficult, though glorious path, his Saviour hath trod before him, and marked every step of it with his blood ? No; it is impossible. Heaven must be taken by storm, and can never be won by so cowardly and so faint-hearted a soldier.

Again, as our hearts are corrupt, our affections unclean, and our passions wild, there is no one virtue we stand more in need of than self-denial. Self, mistaken and degenerate self, is our greatest enemy; and therefore to guard against, and subdue ourselves, is a duty of the most necessary obligation, and a matter of the highest consequence. Now the whole life of our blessed Saviour is, from beginning to end, a most wonderful example of self-denia). Although he could have had no occasion for this virtue on his own account, he being purity and holiness itself, yet, in order to set the necessary precedent, as the Son of God, he denied himself the glories and raptures of heaven, and, as the son of man, all the pomps and pleasures of the world, and became a man of sorrows, to save others. What notion can we have of the grandeur of that mind, that was all tears and tenderness to the miseries of other men, nay of even the bitterest enemies, but had no relenting for himself, when he felt that agony which forced his blood through his pores, and saw the shame and terror of his death approaching ? No language hath a name for this height of virtue. Generosity, and self



denial, and mortification, and mercy, all put together, are by no means sufficient to express it, St. Paul argues

extremely well with us, upon this example. “We then,' says he, ‘ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour, for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself.' The self-pleaser, and the self-willed, is too unlike Christ to have any share in him, and is governed by a mind so narrow, and so opposite to the mind of Christ, that it is impossible he should ever be united to him. How can he be a member of Christ, who centres all his pleasures and interests in himself, not in Christ, the head, nor in his fellow-Christians, the members of Christ's body. He cannot be an eye, nor a hand, nor a foot, in such a body, which hath but one common interest; for he never sees, nor acts, nor stirs, but for himself, unhappily, for his own mistaken self. His mind is very unlike the mind of Christ; for that, wherever it works at all, works for the common good of the whole body.

But farther; there is in the life of our Saviour the most perfect pattern of humility. Although he was the King of heaven, yet he took upon him the form of a servant,' and in

a that form endured, with an amazing calmness, the contempt of those he came to save. He, who had been accustomed to the hosannahs and hallelujahs of angels, submitted to the scoffs and taunts of men, who called him 'a madman,

а a wine-bibber, and sinner.' He heard the blasphemy of the multitude, but made no reply ; ‘for as a lamb before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.' They spat in his face, and scourged him, and he submitted with infinitely greater humility, than those who are guilty are able to shew on the like treatment. His example in this respect he himself hath expressly recommended to us. * Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart.' When he had washed the feet of his disciples, he said unto them, 'know you what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord ; and ye say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, ye also ought to wash one another's feet; for I have given you an example, that you

should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, the servant is not greater than his Lord, neither he that is sent, greater than he that sent him. If ye

« AnteriorContinuar »