« AnteriorContinuar »
ylowed among the people for many ages of the re. public ; one hero fprung from the ashes of another; and great men arose from age to age, who devoted themselves to death for the public good. These being the most celebrated actions in the history of mankind, the Apostle here compares them with the death of Jesus Christ. Following the train of thought suggested by the Apostle, I shall show you the infinite superiority of that love which prompted Jesus to die for the sins of the world, to that patriot' isin which prompted the heroes and great men of old to die for their friends or for their country.
In the first place, then, Those who devoted them. felves to death for their friends or their country, submitted to a fate which they must one day have suffered. But Jesus Christ, who is the true God and possesseth eternal life, submitted to death for our i redemption. "
We are all born mortal creatures. Sprung from the dust, we return to the dust again. The fentence of the Lord is passed upon all flesh, and there is no exemption from the law of mortality. We know not how soon our last hour may come.
The darts of death are continually on the wing; the arrow of destruction fieth by night, and smiteth at noon-day ; victims are daily falling at our right hand and at our left, and we know not how foon we too may fall a sacrifice. He, therefore, who exposes himself to danger, or devotes himself to death for the good of others, only anticipates the evil day, only resigns a life which he must soon part with, and submits to a doom which fooner or later he muft lay his account to endure. But Jesus Christ
was the King eternal and immortal. His outgoings were from everlasting, and he is God blessed forever. He would have remained happy in himself, happy in the contemplation and enjoyment of his own perfections, happy in the administration and government of the moral world, though he had neve er cast an eye of pity upon mortal man. He wouli have inherited the praises of eternity though man had never been redeemed. Yet for our sakes he left the glories of the heavens, he veiled his Divinity in a form of flesh, he took our nature with all its infirmities upon him, he submitted to every affliction which embitters human life, and he suffered an excrutiating, an ignominious and an accursed death, For the salvation and the happiness of the world which he had made, the King of kings appeared in the form of a servant, and the Lord of life was crucified at Jerusalem. A crown of thorns was put on that head where the diadem of nature was wont to sit. Where is the deed of human virtue that can stand in comparison with this meritorious exertion of the Divine benevolence ? All the perfection of created nature fades before it, and is but a foil to set off the brightness of redeeming love.
In the second place, Those among the sons of men who devoted themselves to death for the good of others, made the facrifice for their friends, for those by whom they were beloved; but Jesus died for his enemies.
We are united to our friends by the strongest ties of affection, we are interested in all that befals them, and adopt their joys or their forrows. Long habits of attachment, and a mutual intercourse of good of
fices, draw close the cords of friendship, and make them twine with every string of life. Hence we are fellow-sufferers with our friends in distress, we are afflicted in all their afflictions, so that suffering a great temporal evil for them, is in reality removing a load from our own minds. Thus strongly are we attached to our friends, nor is the charm less which binds us to the community. The sacred name of country, strikes us with veneration; we feel an enthufiafın for our native land; when it is in danger, hardships are cheerfully undergone, and death scarce appears an evil in such a glorious cause. Such inducements there are to him who dies for his friends or his country. But Jesus died for the redemption of his enemies, for those who threw off their allegiance to him, who rebelled against his authority, and rose up in arms against their benefactor. Their groans would never have reached his ear, nor afflicted his heart, had he not graciously inclined to sympathize. The misery of mankind would never have disturbed the happiness of the Divine nature, would never have thrown a cloud over the serenity of the heavens, nor made a pause in the alleluiahs of the blessed, had he not chosen to bear their sorrows. It was unmerited goodness, it was sovereign mercy, it was pure benevolence, it was love truly divine, that moved him to interpose in our behalf. He saw the race of men on the very brink of destruction, he saw the bottomless pit just opening to swallow them up, and in the moment of danger, the Redeemer appeared, gracious to pity, mighty to save. A cloud had long been gathering over the nations, the hand of the Omnipotent was stretched out in wrath, the thunder of his power was ready to burst over a devoted world ; when the Patron and the Intercessor of the human race stepped in, and stayed the avenging arm with the words of mercy :.“ Lo I come to do thy 56 will. Sacrifice and burnt-offerings thou dost not “ desire. On me let thine anger fall. Let me die " that these may live.”
In the third place, He who dies a martyr for the public good, departs with honor ; but Jesus made his departure with ignominy and shame.
It is honorable, it is glorious, to die for the public good. He who falls a martyr to the happiness of mankind, is supported by the native fortitude of the foul, is carried forward by the consciousness of a good cause, is encouraged with the admiration and applause of the world, and becomes famous to all succeeding times. To him the temple of fame spon. taneous opens its gate, his name is repeated with applause, honors are paid to his memory, and he is the heir of perpetual praise. Circumstances of such a nature take away the terror of death. The secret consciousness of a great soul, the approach of an event which is so glorious in itself, and so beneficial to the world, the anticipation of the praises of succeeding times, exalt the man, and fill him with the elevation and magnanimity of virtue. Few enjoyments in life can be compared with a death so glori. ous. But Jesus Christ submitted to the ignominious death of the cross. The greateft trial and exercise of virtue, is when an innocent man submits to the imputation of a crime that others may be free from the punishment. This our Lord did. In his life he was branded with the blackest names, and accu.
fed of the most flagitious crimes ; branded with the names of publican and finner, accused of associating with the profligate, and of being in compact with the powers of darkness. But at his latter end, in a peculiar manner, he endured the same. He was betrayed like an impostor by one of his own disci. ples, apprehended like a robber by a band of soldiers, led like a malefactor through the streets of Jerusalem, nailed like a murderer to the accursed tree, and in the fight of Israel died the death of a traitor and a Nave, that he might atone for the real guilt of men. In all these respects the merit of Jesus was infinitely superior to the heroism of men. As the heavens are higher than the earth, as the Most High God excels the offspring of the dust, so much superior was his love to their beneficence.
To conclude, Let ine ask you, my brethren, what impression does the love of Jesus make upon your hearts, what influence does it exert upon your lives? They whose minds are dazzled with the idea of false glory, with arms and conquests and fields of battle, and triumphal processions and songs of victory, may not be disposed to relish those acts of heroism which have nothing of the sword in them. But to the mind that is freed from vulgar prejudice, and acquainted with true glory, the triumphs of Jesus will appear the greater that they are the tri. umphs of peace, that they were not obtained at the expence of flaughtered thousands, nor erected on the ruin of nations, but rose on the basis of general hap. piness, and everlasting life to all good men. '
Are you then actuated with a proper sense of gratitude to this Captain of our salvation? The