« AnteriorContinuar »
Jesus, is an angry zeal, expressing itself in terms of ill-will and bitterness to those who oppose or injure us. One of the highest attainments and brightest evidences of true grace, is, from a sense of the love and example of Christ, to show bowels of mercy and long-suffering to all men, and, by perseverance in well-doing, to overcome evil with good. And a contrary behaviour (if frequent and notorious) will, like a dead fly in precious ointment, destroy its savour, if not the efficacy, of all we can attempt for the service of God in the world. However, if repeated falsehoods and studied provocations do sometimes, in an unguarded moment, extort from the disciples of Christ such expressions and inarks of displeasure, as in their cooler hours they willingly retract and sincerely repent of before God; this ought not to be exaggerated beyond bounds, as an offence inconsistent with their profession; at least, not by any who would be afraid to speak dishonourably of the apostles James and John, who once went so far in their anger? as to demand, that fire might be sent from heaven to devour their adversaries. 'We might proceed to other particulars; but enough has been said, to show the general resemblance which the
z Luke, ix. 54. They thought they were influenced by a commendable zeal for their Master, and that their proposal was warranted by an authorized precedent. We do not find that they ever wished for fire to consume the Scribes and Pharisees, who were Christ's most inveterate enemies. But when the Samaritans rejected him, the vile Samaritans, whom they, upon a national prejudice, had been accustomed to hate; then their hearts deceived them, and they, indulged their own corrupt passions, while they supposed they were animated by a zeal for Christ. Are we not often deceived in the saine way! Can we not silently bear, or ingenuously extenuate, the faults and mise takes of our own party, while we are all zeal and emotion, to expose: censure, and condcmn, what is amiss in otheks? .
preaching of the Gospel in later times bears to our Lord's personal ministry. The doctrine is the same, the effects the same. It was, and it is, to many,“ a stone “ of stumbling, and a rock of offence.” The opposition it has met with has been always owing to the same evil principles of pride and the love of sin, which are latent in every unrenewed heart: though the pretexts are various, they may be reduced to a few leading motives, which are always at work. The professors of this Gospel have at no time been very numerous, if compared with those who have rejected it; and of these, too many have dishonoured or forsaken it : neither have those who have received it most cordially, and been most desirous to adorn and promote it, been wholly exempt from mistakes and imperfections. The tenour of their conduct has proved them partakers of a more excellent spirit than others; their faith in Jesus has not been an empty votion, bụt fruitful of good works, such as no man could do except God was with him. They have been governed by higher motives, and devoted to nobler aims, than the world can either understand or bear; yet they are deeply conscious of inherent infirmity, and sometimes, to their great grief, they give too visible proofs of it, which their watchful adversaries are glad to aggravate, and charge upon them as consequences of their doctrine. This should induce all who love the Lord Jesus to redouble their guard, and to pray with David that they may be led in the right way, because of their observers. If the question is concerning the infirmities, or even the vices of others, almost every one is ready to plead in their behalf; allowances are freely and largely made for human frailty, and none are willing to be thought harsh or censorious. But the believer in Jesus must look for no abatement or extenųation; even the professed admirers of candour and charity will not hesitate to put the worst construction upon all he says or does; for they are seeking occasion to wound the Gospel through his misconduct. They are sensible that he is generally above them, and therefore rejoice to find, or pretend, a flaw, on which they may expatiate, to reduce him as near as possible to their own "level. Though, if their censures are extended to their just consequence, they will (as we have seen) fall hard upon the apostles themselves.
I hope that what I have said upon this subject will neither be misunderstood nor perverted. We do not de. fend even the infirmities of the best men; much less would we provide a plea for persecution or ambition. Let not the man who supposes gain to be godliness, who makes the Gospel a ladder whereby to climb the heights of worldly preferment, whose heart, like the insatiable fire, is craving more, and practising every art to accumulate wealth and honour in the church ;-let not the proud man, who would lord it over conscience, and, though unable to command fire from heaven, would gladly prepare fire and slaughter upon earth for all who will not venture their souls upon his faith ;-let not these avail themselves of the examples of James and John : but rather let them tremble at the reflection, that, while they manifest no part of the apostles' graces, they are entirely possessed of those tempers, the smallest traces of which our Lord so severely rebuked in his disciples.
The first believers, though not faultless, were sincere. The natural disposition of their hearts was changed; they believed in Jesus, they loved him, they devoted themselves to his service, they submitted to his instructions, shared in his reproach, and could not be either enticed or intimidated to leave him. Their gras
cious Master was their guide and guard, their advocate and counsellor; when they were in want, in danger, in trouble, or in doubt, they applied to him, and found relief; hence they learned, by degrees, to cast all their care upon him. He corrected every wrong disposition; he pardoned their failings, and enabled them to do better. His precepts taught them true wisdom; and his own example, which, to those who loved him, had the force of a thousand precepts, was at once the model and the motive of their obedience. To make them ashamed of aspiring to be chief, he himself, though Lord of all, conversed among them as a servant, and condescended to wash their feet. To teach them forbearance and gentleness to their opposers, they saw him weep over his bitterest enemies, and heard him pray for his actual murderers,
Thus they gradually advanced in faith, love, and holiness, as the experience of every day disclosed to them some new discovery of the treasures of wisdom, grace, and power, residing in their Lord and Saviour. He explained to them in private the difficulties which occurred in his more public discourses; by his observations on the common occurrences of life, he opened to them the mysterious volumes of creation and providence, which none but those whom he vouchsafes to teach can understand aright; he prayed for them, and with them, and taught them to pray for themselves; he revealed unto them the unseen realities of the eternal world, and supported them under the prospect of approaching trials; particularly of his departure from then, by assuring them that he was going on their behalf, to prepare them a place in his kingdom, and that, in a little time, he would return to receive them to himself, that they might dwell with him for ever,
What he personally spoke to them, and acted in their presence, was recorded by his direction, and has been preserved by his providence for the use and comfort of his church : though his enemies have raged horribly, they have not been able to suppress the divine volume and, though invisible to mortal eyes, he is still near to all that seek him, and so supplies the want of his bodily presence by the secret communications of his Spirit, that his people have no reason to complain of any disadvantage. Though they see him not, they believe, love, rejoice, and obey; their attention and dependence are fixed upon him; they intrust him with all their concerns; they rely upon his promises; they behold him as their high priest, advocate, and shepherd; they live upon his fulness, and plead his righteousness, and they find and feel that their reliance is not in vain.
The disciples were content, for his sake, to bear the scorn and injurious treatment of the world; they expected no better usage, nor desired a higher honour, than to be fellow-sufferers with their Lord. When he proposed returning to Judea, at a time they thought dangerous, and they could not alter his purpose, they did not wish to be left behind; “ Let us go,” says one of them to the rest, “ that we may die with him.” It is true, when he was actually apprehended, the first shock of the trial was too strong; they forsook him and fled. He permitted this, both to exempt them from danger, and to let them know, that of themselves they could do nothing. But, it seems, they did not go far, When Thomas afterwards said, “ Except I shall see " in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger “ into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his " side, I will not believe,” he spoke like one who had been an eye-witness to his sufferings, and expresses an