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ActS x. 38.
Who went about doing good.
In this brief, but comprehensive statement, the Evangelist has given us a more lively representation of our blessed Saviour's character, than could have been done by the most elaborate description. He presents to us the portrait of one continually occupied in works of piety or beneficence; ever promoting by his active and unwearied exertions the improvement and happiness of mankind.
Upon the extraordinary powers manifested by our Lord as a teacher, and upon that pattern of blameless innocence which His history sets before us, I have already enlarged in two former Discourses; intended to prove that 6
never man spake like this man ;” and that he “ did no sin, neither was guile found 6 in his mouth.” To render the character
complete, we have now to consider the no less conspicuous evidences of His unbounded goodness, by which He was daily accustomed to “let His light so shine before men, that
they might see His good works, and glorify 6 their Father which is in heaven."
Had our Lord, though gifted with all spiritual knowledge and entirely free from sin, lived the life of a recluse; or shunned the society even of the worst of men and of his bitterest enemies; He would neither have fulfilled the purpose of His mission, nor have left an example universally beneficial. Though He had wrought miracles, though He had preached like John the Baptist in the wilderness, though He had even suffered as a martyr to the truth, and died as an atonement for the sins of the world ; that lustre and that efficacy would still have been wanting, which the constant display of His active virtues afforded. It was by the continued exercise of these virtues, in the course of his holy and beneficent ministry, that the fullest assurance was given to His followers, not only of the truth of what He taught, but also of the practicability of the several duties He enjoined. The world had never before seen a perfect living pattern of holiness and virtue. They had never before seen a religious or moral teacher, who fully exemplified his own instructions. The Scribes and Pharisees, who “ sat in Moses' seat,” and taught the Law of Moses, were so far from exhibiting an adequate pattern of it in their conduct, that our Lord warned his disciples to “observe and do “ whatsoever they bade them observe, but to “ do not after their works; for they said, and “ did not b.” Respecting heathen philosophers, Cicero observes, 6 Where is any one “ found among them whose morals, or whose
a Matth. v. 16.
disposition and conduct are regulated by
sound reason? who regards his own system, “ not as a mere display of knowledge, but as
rule of life? who is consistent with himself, and governed by his own maxims?” Hence an ancient Christian Father remarks, that these heathen sages were “eloquent “ against their own vices;” their doctrines being a reproach to their lives. From our Lord's conduct may be gathered a system of
b Matth. xxiii. 2, 3.
c Quotus enim quisque philosophorum invenitur, qui sit ita moratus, ita animo ac vita constitutus, ut ratio postulat? qui disciplinam suam non ostentationem scientiæ, sed legem vitæ putet? qui obtemperet ipse sibi, et decretis suis pareat? Cic. Tusc. Quæst. 1. ï. c. 4.
practical religion more than equivalent to a volume of instructions, as to every branch of duty, public or private, personal or social, which is capable of illustration by reference to his example.
The great leading principles which he himself represents as comprising the substance of all religion, are the love of God and the love of man. In the exercise of these, he was unceasingly occupied; and he has given a convincing proof how consistent they are with each other; or, rather, how inseparably they are connected, how mutually strengthened and perfected by their union and co-operation.
Our Lord's piety may well be classed among his active virtues; since it did not exhaust itself in mere devotional contemplation, or in abstraction of the mind from this world's concerns, but was manifested by outward and visible tokens of its influence. The love of God he lays down as “the first and
great commandmento ;” and he invariably comports himself according to that rule. He refers every thing to the glory of God. All his actions, all his discourses, tend to this. “ I seek not, (says he,) mine own will, but the “ will of the Father which hath sent med."
c Matth. xxii. 38.
d John v. 30.