« FöregåendeFortsätt »
pents, and innocent as doves. Piety without policy is too simple to be safe; policy without piety is too subtle to be good.
VI. In his eminent self-denial. He emptied himself and became poor. When be was rich, as God, from all eternity, he impoverished himself by becoming man. O! what did he not deny when he left the bosom of his Father, with the ineffable delights and pleasures which he there enjoyed from all eternity; and instead thereof to drink the cup, the hitter cup of his Father's wrath, for our sake? Lord, how can we enough abase ourselves for thee, who thus deniedst thyself for us?
VII. In his contentment in a low end mean condition in this world; yea, in a suffering and afflicted condition. He would not honour the world so far as to have any
of it in his own hand, and was thereof himself less provided of comfortable accommodations than the hirds of the air or the beasts of the field. See Luke ix. 51. The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head. Let us learn from him to manage an afflicted condition with a contented spirit; let there be no murmurings, complaints, or foolish charging of God, heard from us, whatever straits or troubles we may be brought into: But in whatsoever state we are, let us be therewith content, Phil. iv. 11.
VIII. In his frequent performance of the duty of private prayer and fasting. He sometimes spent a whole night in prayer, Luke vi. 12. He went into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And Mark i. 35. In the morning, rising up a great while before day, he went into a solitary place, and prayed. It is certain that we have much more business with Almighty God in prayer than Christ had ; he had no sins to confess, no wants of grace to make known; yet did he delight with frequency and fervency to perform this homage to his heavenly Father. Lord! How doth thy zeal and forwardness condemn our remissness and lukewarmness in praying to our heavenly Father!
IX. In his affectionate performance of the duty of praise and thanksgiving. Our blessed Saviour was a great pattern of thankfulness; Matt. xi. 25. I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, Sfc. John xi. 41. Father, I thank thee, and thou hast heard me. When he was to eat common bread, he received it with thanks
giving. What a pattern of thankfulness then was Jesus to his followers! Then: is hardly any one external duty which we do not find the hypocrite performing m scripture, except this of thanksgiving ana praise! we find Judas repenting, Abab humbling himself, Saul sacrificing; but rarely do we find any wicked man blessing and praising God. Need will make us beggars, but grace only thanksgivers.
X. In his compassion forwards those that were in distress and misery, Matt, xx. 34. Great was his compassion to the bodies of men; he healed all that came unto him; he healed many undesired; with great condolency and tender sympathy, he exercised acts of mercy and compassion, when the object of compassion was before him ; and did perfectly abhor, and severely condemn, all acts of cruelty. How great was his compassion to the souls of men! what pains did he take, and what hazards did he run, in preaching the gospel to lost sinners, in his fervent prayers for them, but especially in dying for them! Let us imitate Christ herein. As his compassion was universal to all mankind, to the whole man, soul and body; as it was active and operative; as it was exercised with marvellous complacency and delight; as it was a preventing compassion, and an unwearied compassion; so let ours be also.
XI. In his holy and fruit ful discourse. His lips dropt as the honey-comb, and his tongue was as choice silver. When walking with his disciples to Emmaus, with what heavenly discourse did he entertain them in the way: See Luke xxiv. 13, kc . A good pattern for our imitation, when providentially cast into such company as will bear it. Lord! what a shame and reproach is it to us, that in common conversation we spend so many hours together, in talking over the news of the city and country, and part without speaking one word of Jesus Christ our best friend!
XII. In his free conversation. The Son of man cameeatingand drinking, Matt. xi. 19. that is, was of a free and familial converse, affable and sociable, not sour or morose, never shunning the society of the worst of men, even of the Pharisees themselves; but complying with their innocent customs, and accompanying them at their feasts. See on info v. 29. Wedonotfind. that when Christ was invited to anv public entertainment, that ever he refused' lo go; not so much for the pleasure of eating as for the opportunity of conversing and
doing good; Christ conversed with bad men, but as their physician, not as their companion. Let us go and do likewise.
XIII. In his patience under sufferings and reproaches. When he was reviled, he reviled not again; but underwent the burden of his sufferings with admirable patience and meekness of spirit, when his name and honour suffered the vilest indignities, blasphemies, and reproaches, that the malice of Satan, and the malignity of wicked men could belch out against it; when he was called a blasphemer, a sorcerer, a devil, a wine-hibber, a glutton, a friend of publicans and sinners. For an innocent person, and a dignified person, to bear all this, when he could have looked all his enemies into hell, and have frowned them into nothing; verily to bear all this, without the least discomposure of spirit, is the highest triumph of patience that ever the world was acquainted with. And why all this, but to leave us an example that we should follow his steps? 1 Pet. ii. 21, 22.
XIV. In his readiness to forgive injuries. One of his last words upon the cross
was a prayer for his murderers: Father, forgive them, Luke xxiii. 34. He offered up his blood to God on the behalf of them that shed it. Thus to forgive our enemies, and to beg forgiveness of them, will be au evidence of a Christ-like frame and temper; when the grace of God calms those tumultuous and outrageous passions which at any time we find raging in our breasts, moulding our spirits into sweetness and gentleness, freeing us from all malicious desires of revenge, which are so far beneath a christian, that it is the baseness of a man: yea, as jealousy is the rage of a man, so malice is the rage of a devil; it is the spirit of the apostate nature.
XV. In his laying to heart the sins, as well as the sufferings, of others. Mark iii. 5. He -was grieved for the hardness o f their hearts. Such was his zeal for his Father's glory, such his compassion on the souls of men, such his antipathy against, and hatred of, sin, that he was grieved for sin wherever he found if, and mourned over those who had no hearts to mourn for themselves. Lord! how far are they off from a Christ-like spirit and temper, who, instead of mourning for other men's sins, rejoice in iniquity, and take pleasure to see their brother stab at once the christian name and his own soul?
XVI. In his zeal for the public worship if God. John ii. 17. The zeal of thine
house hath eaten me up. Now as Christ was, so christians ought to be, intensely zealous for the glory of God, the honour of his house, and the purity of his public worship. The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. Our zeal for the public wor ship of God glorifies him most, and he accepts it best. Now we own the God whom we serve, in the face of the world; and this creates a veneration and esteem of God in the minds of men.
XVII. In his glorifying of his Father in all he did. John xvii. 4, I have glorified thee on earth. The whole life of Jesus, when here on earth, was a glorifying of his Father: he glorified his Fathei by the doctrine which he taught, by the miracles which he wrought, by the unspotted purity of his life, and by his unparalleled sufferings at his death. In like manner should we glorify God in all we do, in all we design, in all we desire; in all our natural actions of eating and drinking; in our civil employments, buying and selling; in our lawful recreations, taking care that too much of our time be not consumed therein. Recreation is not to be our business, but to fit us for business; but especially let ui seek to glorify God in our religious duties, public, private, and secret .
XVIII. In h is impartiality in reproving of sin. He feared the faces and spared the faults of no offenders. The Pharisees were a proud and haughty sort of people, who dishonoured God above most, when they pretended to glorify him 'above any; therefore we find Christ denouncing a bad roll of woes against them in one chapter, Matt, xxiii. Woe unto you, scribes, pharisees, hypocrites! Eight several woes are denounced against them, for so many several sins committed by them. Those to whom God has given his authority to reprove the sins of others, ought to imitate their pattern in his impartiality in reproving sins. His very enemies gave him that character. Matt, xxiii. 17. Thou carest not for any man, thou rcgardest not the person of men: that is, thou sparest none, but tellest all men of their faults.
XIX. In his universal obedience to his Father's will, and cheerful submission to his Father's pleasure. He obeyed the will of his Father universally, voluntarily, sincerely, and with a single eye to his glory, perseveringly, and to the end; and as he was, so must we be faithful to the death, if ever we expect the crown of life. And in like manner did he submit to the will of his providence: Father, not as I -wUl, but as thou wilt: n ot my will, but thine be done. O let us keep this example continually before us, and every day obey the will of God's precept universally, and submit to the wilt of his providence very cheerfully; this is heaven on earth.
XX. In his love and practice of universal holiness, both in heart and life. He was holy in nature, holy in principles and motives, holy in his aim and ends; he was perfectly holy, precisely holy, uniformly holy, exemplarily holy; he delighted not in holy persons, and holy things; it concerns us to imitate him herein, if ever we expect to be where he is. Heave* is the habitation of holiness: the company is holy, the employment holy, the enjoyments holy; no unclean thing can enter into heaven, or could be happy in heaven: heaven is rather a nature than a place. It is not the place of heaven can make us happy, but the disposition and temper of our minds in heaven; without conformity to the nature of God there can be no communion with him, nor delight in him. What a discourteous courtesy would it be to turn a filthy swine into a garden of curious flowers, to lodge it in a bed of sweet perfumes, to bathe it in a clear and crystal fountain? Alas, its unclean temper and sordid inclinations would rather choose to lie down in a kennel, and to wallow in the mire, its proper element. Thus unsuitable would heaven be: that place of greatest happiness would be the greatest uneasiness to an unholy heart. Let us then pray and endeavour that the temper of our minds, and the actions of our lives, may be a lively transcript of the mind and life of the holy
Jesus, that we may be like him in purity and holiness, in justice and righteousness, in patience and meekness, in charity and universal goodness. That as he was, we may be in the world, holy, humble, harmless, heavenly-minded, glorifying God on earth, that we may be glorified with him and by him in his eternal kingdom.
XXI. Yet before I close this exhortation to an imitation of Jesus, I must subjoin this cautionary direction:—Take need that you do not so imitate Christ for your pattern, as to disown him for your pnest . This is the dangerous error of those who affirm, that the great end of Christ's death was, to give the world an example of patience, humility, meekness, and the forementioned Christian graces; and that his sufferings were exemplary, but not properly satisfactory. We acknowledge that Christ's giving us an example was one end of his coming into the world and dying for us, but not the great end; a subordinate end, but not the ultimate. God preserve us from the contagion of this growing error: otlier errors only scratch the face, but this stabs the heart of the Christian religion, in that it deprives us of the choicest benefit of Christ's death; namely, the expiation of sin by a proper satisfaction to the justice of God. But, blessed be God, we have not so learned Christ: as we are taught, so we believe, that the holy Jesus by the sacrifice of his death has redeemed us from death and hell, and saved us from the wrath to come; by a full and adequate payment of divine justice, and by the redundancy of his merit, has purchased an eternal inheritance for us; and as we are taught and believe, so we pray:
"Almighty God, who hast given thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, as also an example of godly life; give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive this his inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord."
"Almighty and everlasting God, who of thy tender love towards mankind has sent thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility ; mercifully grant that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partaken of his resurrection, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
END OF THE FOUR EVANGELISTS.
The most illustrious life of the holy J Ears being recorded at large in the foregoing Gospels by the several Evangelists whose names Ihey bear; this next Book of the AcTS undcrtaketlt tltese three things:
I. H recommends to our observation and imitation the lives and actions of the holy Apostles, particularly St. Peter and St. Paul; and acquaints us with their fervent zeal and uuwearied diligence iu planting and propagating Christianity, not only in Judca and Samaria, but also in Syiia, Asia, and Macedonta; yea, even in Rome itself; where, by the way, note, That there is not one word, in all this history, of St . Peter's primacy, of his superiority over the rest of the apostles, or of any hishopric that he had at Rome. The least intimation of which would have made a louder noise than Paste Oves, or Tuis Petrus.
tt. We have here an ecclesiastical History of the first and purest Churches, informing us how the Christian church in its infancy was planted and watered, gathered and propagated, both among Jews and Gentiles; how she observed and obeyed Christ's commands to his apostles, both in matters of faith, worship, communion, and government, that therein the primitive church might be an exemplary
rttern to succeeding churches throughout all ages. This history gives all the ministers of the gospel, to the end of the world, a prcat and noble pattern of ministerial diligence, faithfulness, and prudence; acquainting us what the apostles did, the pains which they took, the hazards which they ran, in preaching the glad tidings of salvation to a lost world. How they instructed the lgnorant, reduced the wandering; how they bare with the weakness of some, and patiently contended with the obstinacy and pcrversencss of others. Like wise stewards of GOn'S family, they gave to the whole household their portion of meat in due season.
This first chapter relates, 1. The time and manner of our Lord'i ascension. 2. The hundred and twenty disciples'joint devotion. 3. The election of Matthias by lot, to succeed in the apostleship in the room of the apostate Judas.
HP HE former treatise have I made, O Thcophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.
Observe here, 1. The penman of this sacred history, St. Luke, the same that wrote the Gospel, which he calls his former treatise, dedicated both that and this to the same Theophilus: The former treatise have I made, O Theophilus. Observe, 2. The time when St. Luke wrote this holy history, and the place where; namely, when he was the companion of St . Paul; and, as some think, during the time of his imprisonment at Rome. If so, we may profitably remark the favour which God gave the apostle and his companion in the sight of
the keeper of the prison, that they were not denied pen and paper. When persecutors send the saints to prison, God can provide a keeper for their tum. But how do the apostle and his companion spend their time in prison? Very advantageously; the former in writing epistles to the churches for their confirmation; the latter in recording the acts and monuments of the holy apostles for our imitation. There is no such way to be even with the devil and his instruments, for all their malice and spite against us, as by doing all the good we can wherever we come. Satan had better have let these two holy men alone, than have cast them into prison ; for by their pens they battered the walls of his kingdom, and made them shake about his ears. Observe, 3. The integrity and impartiality of this historian, St. Luke: he wrote of all things Jesus both did and taught in his Gospel, and what the apostles did and taught in the Ac Is: not that this is to be understood
strictly and absolutely, but comparatively only; not as if St. Luke recorded every action that Jesus did, or every expression our Saviour said ; for St. John says, they were so many, that they could not be written, chap. xxi. 25. But by all things we are to understand very many things; the most principal and chief things; every thing that the Holy Ghost thought fit to dictate to him and enjoin him to publish for the church's use and service. Learn thence, That St. Luke was a very faithful and impartial historian, withholding nothing which was necessary for the church to know, and leaving no room for unwritten and uncertain traditions: I have -wrote all that Jesus began both to do and to teach.
2 Until the day in which he was taken up, after that he through the Holy Ghost had given commandments unto the apostles whom he had chosen:
Observe here, The special concern and care which Christ had for his church on earth, before he ascended into heaven. The very first night that he appeared to his disciples, after his resurrection, he breathed on them, and distributed the holy Ghost among them, St. John xx. 22. both to inform their judgments of what they did not know, and to direct their practice, what he would have them to do: He, through the Holy Ghost, gave commandments unto the apostles; that is, he distributed the Holy Ghost amongst them, to be their constant instructor and director, what they should do, in order to the execution of their office and employment. Learn thence, That as the apostles had, so the ministers of Christ, in their measure, shall have, the (tracious and special influences of the Holy Spirit to direct and instruct, to quicken and support, them in the faithful discharge of their ministerial office, to the end of the world; that gracious promise, Lo! I am uilh you al-way, St. Matt, xxviii. 20. We that iive seventeen hundred years after the first making of it, may by faith draw out the comfort of it, as well as the apostles, to whom it was originally made.
3 To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the
things pertaining to the kingdom of
Observe here, 1. The time which our Lord spent here upon earth, between his resurrection and ascension: it was forty days. Christ would not presently ascend into heaven, as soon as he was risen, but thought fit to stay some time with his disciples, to confirm their faith in the belief of his resurrection, and to satisfy them that it was he himself, their Lord and Master, that died for them, that was indeed risen, and now appeared to them: He ira* seen of them forty days. Observe, 2. What our Saviour did in that forty days' stay upon earth: He shewed himself ali'e unto his disciples, appearing sometimes to them, and giving them many infallible proofs of the verity of his resurrection, by eating, drinking, talking, and conversing with them; by showing his wounds to them, and submitting himself to be touched and handled by them. Not that Christ's conversation with his disciples, in this his exalted state after his resurrection, was so frequent and familiar as it was before his death, when be was in a state of humiliation; and accordingly we never read, I think, that Christ ever lodged or continued all night with his disciples, after he was risen from the grave; but he conversed with them only upon occasion, as he pleased himself, and when he pleased. Observe, 3. What our Saviour said, as well as what he did, in this intervening time betwixt his resurrection and ascension, being forty days. He spake to his disciples of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. That is, 1. Of" the things pertaining to his church militant, or the kingdom of grace here on earth, bow he would have his church planted and propagated by the apostles' doctrine, guided and governed by their discipline: or, 2. By the kingdom of God, may be understood the church triumphant, or the kingdom of glory in heaven: what perfect bliss and happiness he was now going to prepare for them in the presence of his Father. Where note, That Christ's kingdom is purely spiritual; lhat Christ's spiritual kingdom is his church; and the preaching of the gospel is the great instrumental means for the erecting of the kingdom of grace, and enlarging of the kingdom of glory.
4 And, being assembled together with them, commanded thein that they should not depart fron