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It is highly expedient, that we trace out by reason and scripture the evidences of the divine goodness and mercy, that we may not shun and flee from him as inexorable; that we may not be discouraged in doing our utmost to please him, though we cannot attain to an absolute and sinless perfection.
When Moses desired to see the "glory of God," and his request was not rejected, God "made all his goodness to pass before him," and proclaimed: "The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth." See Exod. xxxiii. and xxxiv.
The inspired scriptures continually represent God to us as great and amiable.
He is "of purer eyes than to behold iniquity," in any, with approbation, Hab. i. 13. Yet he accepts the humble and penitent. And is as ready to forgive and accept those who return from their wanderings, as they who relent, and are pierced with a sense of guilt, can wish or desire. Isa. Ivii. 15, "For thus saith the high and lofty one, that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is holy," that is, sacred, great, and august," I dwell in the high and holy place; with him also, who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and the heart of the contrite."
The value and importance of right conceptions concerning these perfections of God may be seen farther shown in Jer. ix. 23, 24.
These are things in which all men of every rank, learned and unlearned, rich and poor, are more concerned, than in any points of a speculative nature, that are very abstruse and almost unintelligible. The plainest truths are the most important; not the most abstruse and mysterious, as some would persuade men to think. For religion is the concern of all, and the most momentous things ought to be obvious, that none who are not extremely negligent, or wilfully blind, may be unacquainted with them.
And herein is wisdom; to consider God as great, good, and excellent, and to act accordingly, standing in awe of his judgments, studious to gain and keep his favour, by a sincere regard to his holy laws, and doing the things that are wellpleasing in his sight.
We are also to believe, that Jesus is the promised Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God, the Saviour of the world; that he acted by a special commission under God the Father, and that the doctrine taught by him may be relied upon, as containing the true way to life.
Christians must believe, that Jesus had the innocent in
firmities of the human nature; that he really had grief, that he really suffered and died, and rose again, and is ascended up to heaven. Otherwise they lose all the benefit of his example.
We must remember, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. For certainly every thing, concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, was designed for the glory of God, and is actually conducive to it. By his life, doctrine, death, exaltation, and arguments taken thence, men have been turned from idols to the living and true God.
Jesus, in his person, and example, in his life, and in his death, and in his exaltation, is unspeakably amiable. And we ought to give glory and honour to him, who died for us, and rose again, and is at the right hand of God. And though we have not seen him, we cannot but love him. Still it is not to be forgotten, that "Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father."
There has been in all times occasion for such hints as these. And those christians are not to be justified, who, instead of praying to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ, address almost all their prayers and praises to Christ, without any warrant from the New Testament, and contrary to express and repeated instructions concerning the object and manner of worship.
One of the reasons why we ought ever to love and honour the Lord Jesus, is, that through him we have been brought unto God, and to the knowledge of his glorious perfections, and overruling providence. As St. Peter writes, 1 Ep. i. 18-21,"Forasmuch as ye know-that ye were redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish, and without spot. Who verily was fore-ordained before the foundation of the world; but was manifest in these last times for you; who by him do believe in God that raised him from the dead, and gave him glory, that your faith and hope might be in God.'
2. The scheme, which has been last considered, appears to be the plainest and most simple of all. This was taken notice of formerly, and I do not intend to enlarge farther upon it now.
3. According to this scheme, the condescension and meekness, and other virtues of the Lord Jesus, are the most exemplary, and his exaltation is the most encouraging.
For he is truly of kin to us, and a fit example of faith Heb. ii. 11, "For both he that sanctifieth, and they who are sanctified, are all of one. For which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren. All of one.” Εξ ένος παντες. Of one father, that is God,' says Grotius. • Of
and patience, and rightly the "captain of our salvation:" whose conduct in circumstances like ours, and under like temptations, is inviting and exemplary. Which is agreeable to divers parts of the apostle's argument in the epistle to the Hebrews, ch. iv. 14-16, "Let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest, which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." See also ch. ii. 10–18.
Our Lord's exaltation is also, in this way, most encouraging. His condescension and obedience, in acquiescing in his low condition on this earth, and in yielding up himself to death, are set before us as an example to be imitated. And it is added: "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him." This affords reason to think, that if we practise meekness, and other virtues, and are obedient to God, and promote the good of our fellow-creatures; we likewise shall be highly exalted, and greatly rewarded. But supposing Jesus to have been, before his appearance on this earth, under God, the creator and governor of the world; his glorification after death will not seein to be so much the reward of his faith and obedience here, as the reinstating him in what he enjoyed, and had a right to before. Our case is then so different from his, as to have little or no resemblance. And his glorification, or exaltation, if it may be so called, will be little or no excitement to us.
But we should preserve this quickening motive and consideration, the glory and reward of Jesus in all its force. Which, as it stands in this text, and in many other places of the New Testament, is the most animating thought that can be conceived.
As the apostle says, Heb. xii. 1, 2, "Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us; ' one original and nature,' Whitby. Of one stock and nature,' S. Clarke. Have all the same origin,' Beausobre. Who goes on all are of one, meaning of Adam. In order to be high priest for men, it was necessary, that Jesus Christ should be man. This is what renders him sensible to the sufferings of men: that which disposes him to love and help them, and which put him in a condition, whereby he was able to offer up himself a 'sacrifice for them.' See v. 14, 17, 18. and ch. v. 2. x. 5. • Of one father, 'Abraham,' says Peirce. Who also adds in his notes: This interpretation is confirmed by ver. 16, 17. For he laid not hold of angels, but of the seed ' of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren: meaning the seed of Abraham.' Which makes little difference in the present argument. See before, at p. 599. Note.
looking unto Jesus, the captain, and perfect example of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down on the right hand of God." And, says our exalted Lord to the church of the Laodiceans: "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne," Rev. iii. 21. •
And let us particularly remember the moving exhortation in our text. For though, because of the different sentiments of christians in some points of a speculative nature, this, and some former discourses have been, in part, controversial, the genuine import and design of the text is throughout practical; and tends to dispose us, as occasions require, to be ready to promote the good of others, and for that end to strive to outdo each other in meekness and condescension. "If there be any consolation in Christ-fulfil ye my joyLet nothing be done through strife, or vain-glory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem another better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things; but every man also on the things of others. Let that mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." Who, though he had such peculiar distinctions on account of his high office and character, did not earnestly covet divine honour from men, nor affect external greatness, pomp and splendour, power and authority, ease and pleasure; but emptied himself, and acted as a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. For which reason he has been advanced to extensive dominion and power, and great honour and glory; in which all others shall share hereafter, who now have a temper and conduct resembling his.
END OF THE NINTH VOLUME.