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Father's business at twelve years of age in the temple, Luke ü. 42. He then began that work that he had to do in fulfilment of the mediatorial law, which the Father had given him. He continued his private life for about thirty years, dwelling at Nazareth, in the house of his reputed father Joseph, where he served God in a private capacity, and in following a mechanical trade, the business of a carpenter.
2dly. Those acts which he performed during his public ministry, which began when he was about thirty years of age, and continued for the three last years and a half of his life. Most of the history of the evangelists is taken up in giving an account of what passed during these three years and a half; so is all the history of the evangelist Matthew, excepting the two first chapters. So is the whole of the history of the evangelist Mark'; it begins and ends with it. And so also is all the gospel of John, and all the gospel of Luke, excepting the two first chapters; excepting also what we find in the evangelists concerning the ministry of John the Baptist Christ's first appearing in his public minisiry, is what is often called his coming in Scripture. Thus John speaks of Christ's coming as what is yet to be, though he had been born long before.
Concerning the public ministry of Christ, I would observe the following things: 1. The forerunner of it. 2. The manner of his first entering upon it. 3. The works in which he was employed during the course of it;—and 4. The manner of his finishing it.
1. The forerunner of Christ's coming in his public ministry was John the Baptist. He came preaching repentance for the remission of sins, to make way for Christ's coining, agreeably to the prophecies of him, Isa. xl. 3, 4, 5, and Matt. iv. 5, 6. It is supposed that Jobn the Baptist began his ministry about three years and a half before Christ; so that John's ministry and Christ's put together, made seven years, which was the last of Daniel's weeks ; and this time is intended in Dan. ix. 27, “ He will confirm the covenant with many for one week.” Christ came in the midst of this week, viz., in the beginning of the last half of it, or the last three years and a half, as Daniel foretold, as in the verse just now quoted : “ And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease.”
John the Baptist's ministry consisted principally in preaching the law, to awaken men and convince them of sin, to prepare men for the coming of Christ, to comfort them, as the law is to prepare the heart for the entertainment of the gospel.
A very remarkable outpouring of the Spirit of God attended John's ministry, and the effect of it was that Jerusalem, and all Judea, and all the region round about Jordan, were awakened, convinced, went out to him, and submitted to his baptism, confessing their sins. John is spoken of as the greatest of all the prophets who came before Christ: Matt. xi. 11, “ Among those that are born of women, there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist; i. e., he had the most honorable office. He was as the morning star, which is the harbinger of the approaching day, and forerunner of the rising sun. The other prophets were stars that were to give light in the night; but we have heard how those stars went out on the approach of the gospel day. But now the coming of Christ being very nigh, the morning star comes before him, the brightest of all the stars, as John the Baptist was the greatest of all the prophets.
And when Christ came in his public ministry, the light of that morning star decreased too, as we see when the sun rises, it diminishes the light of the morn
ing star. So John the Baptist says,of himself, John iii. 30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” And soon after Christ began his public ministry, John the Baptist was put to death ; as the morning star is visible a little while after the sun is risen, yet soon goes out.
2. The next thing to be taken notice of is Christ's entrance on his public ministry, which was by baptism, followed with the temptation in the wilderness. His baptism was as it were his solemn inauguration, by which he entered on his ministry; and was attended with his being anointed with the Holy Ghost, in a solemn and visible manner, the Holy Ghost descending upon him in a visible shape like a dove, attended with a voice from heaven, saying, “ This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased,” Matt. iii. 16, 17.
After this he was led by the devil into the wilderness. Satan made a violent onset upon him at his first entrance on his work; and now he had a remarkable trial of his obedience; but he got the victory. He who had such success with the first Adam, had none with the second.
3. I would take notice of the work in which Christ was employed during his ministry. And here are three things chiefly to be taken notice of, viz., his preaching, his working miracles, and his calling and appointing disciples and ministers of his kingdom.
(1.) His preaching the gospel. Great part of the work of his public ministry consisted in this; and much of that obedience by which he purchased salvation for us, was in his speaking those things which the Father commanded him. He more clearly and abundantly revealed the mind and will of God, than ever it had been revealed before. He came from the bosom of the Father, and perfectly knew his mind, and was in the best capacity to reveal it. As the sun, as soon as it is risen, begins to shine; so Christ, as soon as he came into his public ministry, began to enlighten the world with his doctrine. As the law was given at Mount Sinai, so Christ delivered his evangelical doctrine, full of blessings and not curses, to a multitude on a mountain, as we have an account in the 5th, 6th, and 7th chapters of Matthew.
When he preached he did not teach as the scribes, but he taught as one having authority; so that his hearers were astonished at his doctrine. He did not reveal the mind and will of God in the style which the prophets used to preach, as not speaking their own words but the words of another; and used to speak in such a style as this, “ Thus saith the Lord ;" but Christ, in such a style as this," I say unto you,” thus or thus; “ Verily, verily, I say unto you." He delivered his doctrines, not only as the doctrines of God the Father, but as his own doctrines. He gave forth his commands, not as the prophets were wont to do, as God's commands, but as his own commands. He spake in such a style as this, “ This is my commandment,” John xv. 12; “ Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you," verse 14.
(2.) Another thing that Christ was employed in during the course of his ministry, was working miracles. Concerning which we may observe several things.
Their multitude. Besides particular instances, we often have an account of multitudes coming at once with diseases, and his healing them.
They were works of mercy. In them was displayed not only his infinite power and greatness, but his infinite mercy and goodness. He went about doing good, healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and the proper use of their limbs to the lame and halt ; feeding the hungry, cleansing the leprous, and raising the dead.
They were almost all of them such as had been spoken of as the peculiar works of God, in the Old Testament. S. with respect to stilling the sea, Psal. cvii. 29, “ He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.” So as to walking on the sea in a storm : Job ix. 8, “ Which alone-treadeth upon the waves of the sea.” So as to casting out devils : Psal. lxxiv. 14, “ Thou breakest the heads of leviathan in pieces.” So as to feeding a multitude in a wilderness : Deut. viii. 16, “ Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna.” So as to telling man's thoughts: Amos iv. 13, “ Lo, he that-declareth unto man what is his thought-the Lord, the God of hosts is his name.” So as to raising the dead: Psal. lxviii. 20,“ Unto God the Lord belong the issues from death.” So as to opening the eyes of the blind : Psal. cxlvi. 8, “ The Lord openeth the eyes of the blind.” So as to healing the sick: Psal. ciï. 3, “ Who healeth all thy diseases.” So as to lifting up those who are bowed together: Psal. cxlvi. 8, “ The Lord raiseth them that are bowed down."
They were in general such works as were images of the great work which he came to work on man's heart : representing that inward, spiritual cleansing, healing, renovation, and resurrection, which all his redeemed are the subjects of.
He wrought them in such a manner as to show, that he did them by his own power, and not by the power of another, as the other prophets did. They were wont to work all their miracles in the name of the Lord; but Christ wrought in his own name. Moses was forbidden to enter into Canaan, because he seemed by his speech to assume the honor of working only one miracle to himself. Nor did Christ work miracles as the apostles did, who wrought them all in the name of Christ; but he wrought them in his own name, and by his own authority and will: thus saith he, “I will, be thou clean," Matt. viii. 3. And in the same strain he puts the question, “ Believe ye that I am able to do this ?” Matt. ix. 28.
(3.) Another thing that Christ did in the course of his ministry, was to call his disciples. He called many disciples. There were many that he employed as ministers : he sent seventy disciples at one time in this work: but there were twelve that he set apart as apostles, who were the grand ministers of his kingdom, and as it were the twelve foundations of his church. See Rev. xxi. 14. These were the main instruments of setting up his kingdom in the world, and therefore shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
4. I would observe how he finished his ministry. And this was,
(1.) In giving his dying counsels to his disciples, and all that should be his disciples, which we have recorded particularly in the 14th, 15th, and 16th chapters of John's gospel.
(2.) In instituting a solemn memorial of his death. This he did in instituting the sacrament of the Lord's supper, wherein we have a representation of his body broken, and of his blood shed.
(3.) In offering up himself, as God's high priest, a sacrifice to God, which he did in his last sufferings. This act he did as God's minister, as God's anointed priest; and it was the greatest act of his public ministry, the greatest act of his obedience by which he purchased heaven for believers. The priests of old used to do many other things as God's ministers; but then were they in the highest execution of their office when they were actually offering sacrifice on the altar. So the greatest thing that Christ did in the execution of his priestly office, and the greatest thing that he ever did, and the greatest thing that ever was done, was the offering up himself a sacrifice to God. Herein he was the antitype of all that had been done by all the priests, and in all their sacrifices and offerings, from the beginning of the world.
III. The third distribution of the acts by which Christ purchased redempVol. I.
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tion, regards the virtues that Christ exercised and manifested in them. And here I would .observe, that Christ in doing the work that he had to do here in the world for our redemption, exercised every possible virtue and grace. Indeed there are some particular virtues that sinful man may have that were not in Christ; not from any want or defect of virtue, but because his virtue was perfect and without defect. Such is the virtue of repentance, and brokenness of heart for sin, and mortification, and denying of lust. Those virtues were not in Christ, because he had no sin of his own to repent of, nor any lust to deny. But all virtues which do not presuppose sin, were in him, and that in a higher degree than ever they were in any other man, or any mere creature. Every virtue in him was perfect. Virtue itself was greater in him than in any other ; and it was under greater advantages to shine in him than in any other. Strict virtue shines most when most tried : but never any virtue had such trials as Christ's had.
The virtue that Christ exercised in the work he did, may be divided into three sorts, viz., the virtues which more immediately respect God, those which immediately respect himself, and those which immediately respect men.
1. Those virtues which more immediately respect God, appeared in Christ in the work that he did for our redemption. There appeared in him a holy fear and reverence towards God the Father. Christ had a greater trial of his virtue in this respect than any other had, from the honorableness of his person.
This was the temptation of the angels that fell, to cast off their worship of God, and reverence of his majesty, that they were beings of such exalted dignity and worthiness themselves. But Christ was infinitely more worthy and honorable than they ; for he was the eternal Son of God, and his person was equal to the person of God the Father : and yet, as he had taken on him the office of mediator, and the nature of man, he was full of reverence towards God. He adored him in the most reverential manner, time after time. So he manifested a wonderful love towards God. The angels give great testimonies of their love towards God, in their constancy and agility in doing the will of God; and many saints have given great testimonies of their love, who, from love to God, have endured great labors and sufferings : but none ever gave such testimonies of love to God as Christ has given ; none ever performed such a labor of love as he, and suffered so much from love to God. So he manifested the most wonderful submission to the will of God. Never was any one's submission so tried as his was. So he manifested the most wonderful spirit of obedience that ever was manifested.
2. In this work he most wonderfully manifested those virtues which more immediately respected himself ; as particularly humility, patience, and contempt of the world. Christ, though he was the most excellent and honorable of all men, yet was the most humble; yea, he was the most humble of all creatures. No angel or man ever equalled him in humility, though he was the highest of all creatures in dignity and honorableness. Christ would have been under the greatest temptations to pride, if it had been possible for any thing to be a temptation to him. The temptation of the angels that fell was the dignity of their nature, and the honorableness of their circumstances; but Christ was infinitely more honorable than they. The human nature of Christ was so honored as to be in the same person with the eternal Son of God, who was equal with God; and yet that human nature was not at all lifted up with pride. Nor was the man Christ Jesus at all lifted up with pride with all those wonderful works which he wrought, of healing the sick, curing the blind, laine, and maimed, and raising the dead. And though he knew that God had appointed him to be the king over heaven and earth, angels and men, as he says, Matt. xi. 27, “ All things are delivered unto me of my Father;" though he knew he was such an infinitely honorable person, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God; and though he knew he was the heir of God the Father's kingdom ; yet such was his humility, that he did not disdain to be abased and depressed down into lower and viler circumstances and sufferings than ever any other elect creature was; so that he became least of all, and lowest of all. The proper trial and evidence of humility, is stooping or complying with those acts or circumstances, when called to it, which are very low, and contain great abasement. But none ever stooped so low as Christ, if we consider either the infinite height that he stooped from, or the great depth to which he stooped. Such was his humility, that though he knew his infinite worthiness of honor, and of being honored ten thousand times as much as the highest prince on earth, or angel in heaven; yet he did not think it too much when called to it, to be bound as a cursed malefactor, and to become the laughing-stock and spitting-stock of the vilest of men, and to be crowned with thorns, and to have a mock robe put upon him, and to be crucified like a slave and malefactor, and as one of the meanest and worst of vagabonds and miscreants, and an accursed enemy of God and men, who was not fit to live on the earth: and this not for himself, but for some of the meanest and vilest of creatures, some of those accursed wretches that crucified him. Was not this a wonderful manifestation of humility, when he cheerfully and most freely submitted to this abasement ?
And how did his patience shine forth under all the terrible sufferings which he endured, when he was dumb, and opened not his mouth, but went as a lamb to the slaughter, and was like a patient lamb under all the sufferings he endured from first to last?
And what contempt of the glory of this world was there, when he rather chose this contempt, and meanness, and suffering, than to wear a temporal crown, and be invested with the external glories of an earthly prince, as the multitude often solicited him!
3. Christ, in the work which he wrought out, in a wonderful manner exercised those virtues which more immediately respect other men. And these may be summed up under two heads, viz., meekness and love.
Christ's meekness was his humble calmness of spirit under the provocations that he met with. None ever met with so great provocations as he did. The greatness of provocation lies in two things, viz., in the degree of opposition by which the provocation is given ; and, secondly, in the degree of the unreasonableness of that opposition, or in its being very causeless, and without reason, and the great degree of obligation to the contrary. Now, if we consider both these things, no man ever met with such provocations as Christ did, when he was upon earth. If we consider how much he was hated, what abuses he suffered from the vilest of men, how great his sufferings from men were, and how spiteful and how contemptuous they were, in offering him these abuses; and also consider how causeless and unreasonable these abuses were, how undeserying he was of them, and how much deserving of the contrary, viz., of love, and honor, and good treatment at their hands : I say, if we consider these things, no man ever met with a thousandth part of the provocation that Christ met with from men: and yet how meek was he under all! How composed and quiet his spirit! How far from being in a ruffle and tumnult! When he was reviled, he reviled not again ; and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth. No appearance was there of a revengeful spirit; on the contrary, what a spirit of forgiveness did he exhibit! So that he fervently