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bers of our families, as ourselves; and if we may so speak, as our own substance. But if it be a duty to love our neighbour, it is not less admissible, that we ought to "love God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind." In fact we ought to love God alone. Farther, our love to him ought to be the centre of every other love: when the latter is at variance with the former, God must have the preference; when we can no longer love father and mother without ceasing to love God, our duty is determined; we must cease to love our parents, that our love may return to its centre. These were the dispositions of the Levites. Obedient children, affectionate brethren, they rendered to the persons to whom God had united them, every duty required by so close a connexion. But when those persons revolted against God, when they paid supreme devotion to an ox that eateth grass," as the Psalmist says; when the Levites received this commandment from God, their Lawgiver and Supreme; "Put every man his sword by his side, and go in and out from gate to gate throughout the camp, and slay every man his brother, and every man his companion, and every man his neighbour," Exod. xxxii. 27. Then the Levites knew neither brother, nor friend, nor kinsman. By this illustrious zeal, they acquired the encomium, "He said to his father and his mother, I have not seen them; and to his brethren, and his children, I have not known them."
My brethren, if we must break the closest ties with those who dissolve the bonds of union with God, we ought to form the most intimate connexion with those who are joined to him by the sincerest piety. The degree of attachment they have for God, should proportion the degree of attachment we have for them. Of this disposition you have, in the words of my text, a model the most worthy of imitation. One apprised Jesus Christ, that his mother and brethren requested to speak with him. "Who is my mother? And who are my brethren?" replied he; "And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said, Behold my mother, and my brethren, for whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother."
The nobility of this world, those men of whom the Holy Spirit somewhere says, "Men of high degree are a lie," have by this consideration been accustomed to enhance the dignity of their descent. Titles and dignities, say they, may be purchased with money, obtained by favour, or acquired by distinguished actions; but real nobility cannot be bought, it is transmitted by an illustrious succession of ancestors, which monarchs are unable to confer. Christian! obscure mortal! offscouring of the world! dust and ashes of the earth, whose father was an Amorite, and whose mother was a Hittite, the source of true nobility is opened to thee; it is thy exclusive prerogative, (and may the thought animate, with holy ambition, every one in this assembly!) it is thy exclusive prerogative to be admitted into the family of the blessed God. Take his moral perfections for thy model; and thou shalt have his glory for thy reward. To thee Jesus Christ will extend
his hand; to thee he will say, here is my brother, and mother, and sister.
The Holy Spirit presents a double object in the words of my text.
I. The family of Jesus Christ according to the flesh.
II. The family of Jesus Christ according to the Spirit. "One said, thy mother, and thy brethren, desire to speak with thee." Here is the family of Jesus Christ according to the flesh. "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." Here is the family of Jesus Christ according to the Spirit. Both these objects must be kept in view.
I. The idea which our Divine Master has given us of this first family, will supersede our minuter efforts to trace its origin. It is obvious from what he has said, that our chief attention should be to develop the character of those who belong to his family, according to the Spirit, rather than to trace those who be long to him according to the flesh. Whatever, therefore, concerns this Divine Saviour, claims, though not equal, at least some degree of attention. For we find in our researches concerning the family of Jesus Christ, according to the flesh, proofs of his being the true Messiah, and consequently information which contributes to the confirmation of our faith.
There is no difficulty in determining concerning the identity of the person, called in my text, the mother of Jesus. The expression ought to be literally understood; it designates that holy woman, whose happiness all ages must magnify, she, by peculiar privilege, being chosen of God to be "overshadowed by the Highest," to bear in her sacred womb, and bring into the world, the Saviour of men. She is called Mary, she was of the tribe of Judah, and of the family of David. This is nearly all we know of her; and this is nearly all we ought to know, in order to recognise in our Jesus, one characteristic of the true Messiah, who, according to early predictions, was to descend of this tribe, and of this family.
It is true that Celsus, Porphyry, Julian, those execrable men, distinguished by their hatred of Christianity, have disputed even this: at least, they have defied us to prove it. They have insinuated, that there are so many contrarieties in the genealogies of St. Luke, and St. Matthew, concerning the ancestors of our Jesus, as to leave the pretensions of his descent from David, and Judah, uncertain. It is to be regretted, that the manner in which some divines, and divines of distinguished name, have replied to this objection, has, in fact, given it weight, and seemed the last efforts of a desperate cause, rather than a satisfactory solution.
Is it a solution of this difficulty? is it a proof that Jesus descended from the family of David, as had been predicted, to say that the evange lists insert the genealogy of Joseph, and omit that of Mary, Jesus Christ being reputed the son of a carpenter, and having been probably adopted by him, was invested with all his rights, the genealogy of the reputed father, and the adopted son, being accounted the
same, thougn of different extraction? Would not this have been the way to flatter a lie, not to establish a truth? Did the prophets merely say, that the Messiah was the reputed son of a man descended from David's line? Did they not say in a manner the most clear and explicit in the world, that he was lineally descended from that family? Is it a solution of the difficulty, to say that Mary was heiress of her house, that the heiresses were obliged by the law, to marry in their own tribe; and that giving the genealogy of Joseph, was giving the genealogy of Mary, to whom he was betrothed? Is it not rather a supposition of the point in dispute? And what record have we left of Mary's family sufficiently authentic to prove it?
Is it a solution of the difficulty to say, that St. Matthew gives the genealogy of Christ, considered as a king, and St. Luke the genealogy of Christ, considered as a priest; that the one gives the genealogy of Mary, whom they pretend was of the tribe of Levi, which establishes the right of Christ to the highpriesthood; the other gives the genealogy of Joseph, descended from David's family, which establishes his right to the kingdom? Is not this opposing the words of St. Paul with a bold front? If perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, what farther need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not to be called after the order of Aaron. For he of whom these things are spoken, pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar; for it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which Moses spake nothing concerning the priesthood..... after the similitude of Melchisedec there arises another priest, who is made, not after the law of carnal commandments, but after the power of an endless life," Heb. vii. 11-13. These are the words of our apostle.
Without augmenting the catalogue of mistaken solutions of this difficulty, we shall attend to that which seems the only true one. It is this: St. Matthew gives the genealogy of Joseph, the reputed father of Jesus Christ, and he is so called in the second chapter, and forty-eighth verse of St. Luke. And it is very important, that posterity should know the family of the illustrious personage, to whose superintendence Providence had committed the Messiah in early life.
St. Luke gives the genealogy of Mary, to identify that Jesus Christ had the essential characteristic of the Messiah, by his descent from David's family. It was also very important for posterity to know that he descended from David; that he had a right to the throne, not only as being the reputed son of one of his offspring, who could confer it by adoption; but also that being conceived by the Holy Ghost, and having for his mother a woman descended from David, according to the flesh, he himself descended from him, as much as it is possible for a being to descend, introduced so supernaturally into the world.
According to what has been advanced, it may be objected, that there is no mention made of Mary in the latter genealogy, more than in the former, that both concern Joseph alone;
that St. Luke, whom we presume to have given the genealogy of Mary, closes his catalogue with the name of Joseph, as well as St. Matthew, whom we allow to have given the genealogy of Mary's husband.
But this objection can strike those only, who are unacquainted with the method uniformly adopted by the Jews, in giving the genealogy of married women. They substituted the name of the husband for that of the wife, considering a man's son-in-law as his own offspring. According to this usage, which I could support by numerous authorities, these words of St. Luke, "Jesus began to be about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli," amount to this, "Jesus began to be about thirty years of age, being, as was supposed, the son of Joseph, which was the son-in-law of Heli," having betrothed his daughter Mary. This is sufficient on the genealogy of Mary.
But who are those called by the evangelist, brethren of Christ? "One said unto him," and these are the words of my text, "Behold thy mother, and thy brethren, stand without, desiring to speak with thee."
The opinion which has had the fewest partisans, and fewer still it merits (nor, should we notice it here, were it not to introduce a general remark, that there never was an opinion, how extravagant soever, but it found supporters among the learned,) the opinion, I say, is that of some of the ancients; they have ventured to affirm, that the persons called in my text, the brethren of Christ, were sons of the holy virgin, by a former husband. To name this opinion is sufficient for its refutation.
The conjecture of some critics, though less extravagant, is equally far from truth; they presume, that the brethren of Christ were sons of Joseph: a single remark will supersede this notion. Four persons are called the brethren of Christ, as appears from Matt. xiii. 54; it is there said, that his acquaintance, the people of Nazareth, talked of him in this way; "Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? This James is unquestionably the same who is called the less. Now it is indisputable that he was the son of Mary, who was living at our Saviour's death: she was sister to the holy virgin, and stood with her at the foot of the cross during the crucifixion. Hence, if James were the son of Joseph, he must have been betrothed to the holy virgin, while married to her sister, who was living when he contracted his second marriage, which is insupportable.
Let us, therefore, follow here the general course of interpreters. The name of brethren, is not always used in the strictest sense by the sacred authors. It is not peculiarly applied to those who have the same father and the same mother: it frequently refers to the relatives less connected. In this sense we use it here. Mary, the wife of Cleophas, was sister to the holy virgin; and the term sister the evangelists apply in the closest sense. She had four sons, above named, and they are called the brethren of Christ, because they were his cousins-german. She had two daughters, who for the
same reasons, are called his sisters. If this hy-
afforded more distinguished evidences of their
Neither was it our Saviour's design,—when It was a most glorious consideration to the he seemed to disown his brethren, and his moholy virgin, to James, to Judas, to Joses, to ther, properly speaking,-to detach us from Simon, and to their sister, to be so nearly re- persons to whom we are united by consanguilated to Jesus Christ in the flesh. How ho- nity, and to supersede the duties required by nourable to say, this man, whose sermons are those endearing connexions. By no means: so sublime, this man, whose voice inverts the those affectionate fathers, who have invariably laws of nature, this man, whom winds, seas, sought the happiness of their children;-those and elements obey,-is my brother, is my son! children, who, animated with gratitude, after So the woman exclaimed, after hearing him sharing the indulgence of a father during his so conclusively refute the artful interrogations vigour, become, when age has chilled his blood, of his enemies. "Blessed is the womb that and enfeebled his reason, the support of his debare thee, and the paps which thou hast suck-clining years;-those brothers who afford examples of union and concord,- -are actuated by the religion of Jesus Christ. The laws of nature ought, in this view, to have a preference to the laws of grace. I would say, that, although religion may unite us more closely to a pious stranger, than to an impious father, I think it the duty of a child to bestow more care in cherishing a wicked father, than a deserving stranger.
ed." But how superior are the ties, which
What our Saviour would say in the text is,
II. Our Saviour did not, in these words, design to exclude from his spiritual family all those who belonged to his family in the flesh. Who can entertain any doubt but that the holy virgin, who belonged to the latter, did not also belong to the former? Whoever carried to greater perfection than this holy woman, piety, humility, obedience to the divine precepts, and every other virtue which has distinguished saints of the highest order?
The Scriptures afford also various examples of the love of Mary, the wife of Cleophas, to Jesus Christ. She followed him to Jerusalem when he went up to consummate the grand sacrifice, for which he came into the world; she stood at the foot of the cross with the holy virgin, when he actually offered up himself; she went to water his tomb with her tears, when apprized of his resurrection.
As to those whom the evangelists call the brethren of Christ, I confess, that to him they were not equally devoted. St. John affirms expressly, "That his brethren did not believe in him," John vii. 5. But whether we may take this assertion in a more extended sense than in the text: or whether St. John spake of the early period of our Saviour's ministry; certain it is, that among the four persons here called the brethren of Christ, all of them had received the seeds of piety, and avowed his cause; as I could prove, if the limits of this discourse would per
If, therefore, Jesus Christ designated none as the members of his spiritual family, but those who were then recognised as his disciples, it was not intended to exclude his relatives according to the flesh, but to mark that the former then
1. The nature of this relation consists in sin-
have two extremes to avoid: the one is the
Do not, therefore, conceive too severe an idea of obedience. I do not mean, that devotion to the will of God can ever be carried too far. No! though you were ready, like Abraham, to immolate an only son; though you had such exalted views of "the recompense of the reward," that, like Moses, you would prefer the reproach of Christ to Egypt and its treasures; though you had the fervour of Elijah, the piety of David, the zeal of Josiah, the affection of St. John, and the energy of St. Peter; though you were all ready, like the cloud of witnesses mentioned in the epistle to the Hebrews, to be stoned, to be slain, to endure cruel torments, to be killed with the sword, to wander about in sheep-skins, and in goat-skins, in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth, you would not exceed a due devotion to the will of God.
But though it is not possible to carry this disposition too far, it is, nevertheless, possible to exaggerate that degree which constitutes us members of the Saviour's spiritual family. He knows whereof we are made. Religion is not
for angels, but for men; and, however holy men may be, their virtues always participate of the infirmities inseparable from human nature. Those disciples, towards whom Jesus Christ extended his hand, committed, during the early period of their piety, faults, and great faults too. They sometimes misconceived the object of their mission; sometimes distrusted his promises; they were sometimes slow of heart to believe the facts announced by the prophets; they once slept when they ought to have sustained their Master in his agony; they abandoned him to his executioners; and one denied knowing him, even with an oath, and that he was his disciple. Virtue, even the most sincere and perfect, is liable to wide deviations, to total eclipses, and great faults:-hence, on this subject, you should avoid too severe a standard.
of virtue, checked in its growth; it requires you to carry, or endeavour to carry, every virtue to the highest degree; to have perfection for your end, and Jesus Christ for your pattern.
2. and 3. After having reviewed the nature, and consequently the excellency of this connexion, let us next consider its strength. What we shall say on this head, naturally turns our thoughts towards its prodigies and effects. The power of this connexion is so strong, that the members of this spiritual family are incomparably more closely united to one another, than the members of a carnal family. This is obvious in the words of my text. Our Saviour has borrowed figures from whatever was most endearing in civil society, and even from connexions of the most opposite nature, in order to elevate our ideas of the union which subsists between him and the members of his family; and of the union they have one with another: "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. In this idea there is no exaggeration. Associate whatever is most endearing between a brother and brother; between a brother and a sister; between a child and a parent; associate the whole of these different parts in one body, and imagine, if it be possible to conceive an object still more closely united, than the different parts of this body; and your views will still be imperfect of the ties which subsist between the members of Jesus Christ's spiritual family.
They have in common, first a union of design. In all their actions they individually have in view nothing but the glory of that Sovereign whom they serve with emulation; and to whom they are all unanimously devoted.
They have, secondly, a union of inclination. God is the centre of their love; and being thus united to him, as the third (if I may borrow an idea from the schoolmen,) they are united one to another.
But you should equally avoid forming of it notions too relaxed. Do you claim kindred with the spiritual family of Jesus Christ? Do you claim the same intimacy with the Saviour which a man has with his brother, his sister, and his mother? Tremble then, while you hear these words of St. Paul, "What fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? what communion hath light with darkness; and what concord hath Christ with Belial?" 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15. Tremble while you hear these words of Christ, "No man can serve two masters," Matt. vi. 24. Or, to unfold to you a more detailed field of reflection, do you not exceedingly mistake concerning obedience to the will of God?
The will of God not only requires negative virtues, which consist in abstaining from evil; but positive virtues also, which consist not in a mere refraining from slander, but in reprehending the slanderer;-not in a mere refusal to receive your neighbour's goods, but in a communication of your own;-not only in abstaining from blasphemy against God, but also in blessing him at all times, and in having your mouth full of his praise.
The will of God not only requires of you popular virtues, as sincerity, fidelity, courage, and submission to the laws, are generally accounted; it also requires those very virtues which are degraded by the world, and considered as a weakness; such as forgiveness of injuries, and contempt of worldly pomp.
They have, fourthly, a union coeval in its The will of God not only requires virtues cor- existence. Go back to the ages preceding the respondent to your temperature, as retirement, world, and you will see the members of this if you are naturally sullen and reserved; absti- spiritual family united in the bosom of divine nence from pleasure, if you are naturally pen- mercy; even from the moment they were dissive and dull; patience, if you are naturally tinguished as the objects of his tenderest love, phlegmatic, heavy and indolent: it likewise re- and most distinguished grace; even from the quires virtues the most opposite to your tem- moment the victim was appointed to be immoperature; as purity, if you are inclined to con-lated in sacrifice for their sins. Descend to the cupiscence; moderation, if you are of an angry present period of the world: let us say môre;disposition. look forward to futurity, and you will find them ever united, in the noble design of incessantly glorifying the Author of their existence and felicity.
The will of God requires, not mutilated virtues, but a constellation of virtues, approaching to perfection. It requires "whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, that you should think on these," Phil. iv. 8. It requires you to add, "to faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly-kindness; and to brotherly-kindness, charity," 2 Pet. i. 5-7. The will of God requires not an immaturity
Thirdly, they have a union of interest. They are all equally interested to see the government of the universe in the hands of their Sovereign. His happiness constitutes their felicity, and each equ spires after communion with the blessed God.
Hence you see the prodigies produced by this connexion. You see what Jesus Christ has done for those who are united in devotion to his Father's will. His incarnation, his passion, his cross, his Spirit, his grace, his intercession, his kingdom,-nothing is accounted too precious for men, joined to him by those tender and endearing ties.
You see likewise, what the men united to
Jesus Christ are qualified to do one for another: | become your enemy when we tell you the they are all of one heart and one soul, and are truth, when we combat your prejudices, when ever ready to make the mutual sacrifices of be- we attack your errors, when we endeavour to nevolence and love. irradiate your minds, and to take the lamp of revelation from beneath the bushel; if this is your characteristic, recognise in yourselves this trait of your father, which is lying, for he is "the father of a lie;" and take to yourselves this awful declaration, "Ye are of your father the devil."
4. The ties which connect the members of Jesus Christ's family are not less happy than strong. Connexions merely human, however endearing, however delightful, are invariably accompanied with anguish. What anguish must attend a connexion cemented with vice! What painful sensations, even in the midst of a criminal course! What remorse on reflection and thought: What horror on viewing the consequences of unlawful pleasures! On saying to one's self, the recollection of this intercourse will pierce me in a dying hour; this unhappy person, with whom I am now so closely connected, will be my tormentor for ever!
What anguish is attended even on friendship the most innocent, when extended too far! Delightful connexions, formed on earth by congenial souls, cemented by the intercourse of mutual love, and crowned with prosperity: delightful bonds which connect a father with a son, and a son with a father; a wife with a husband, and a husband with a wife; what regret you produce, when death, the allotted period, or end of man, and of all human comforts, what regret you cost,-when death compels us to dissolve these ties! Witness so many Josephs attending their fathers to the tomb, who had been the glory of their families. Witness so many Rachels "refusing to be comforted because their children are not," Matt. xi. 18. Witness so many Davids, who exclaim with excess of grief, "O, my son Absalom-my son, my son Absalom-would to God I had died for thee-O Absalom, my son, my son!!!" 2 Sam. xviii. 33.
But in the ties which connect the family of Jesus Christ, there is no mixture of anguish. This you may infer from what we have advanced; and your own reflections may supply the scanty limits in which we are obliged to comprise this point.
5. We shall lastly consider the persons connected by the bonds of obedience to the will of God.
The family of Jesus Christ consist of a selection of all the excellent in heaven and in earth. So St. Paul has expressed himself, "Of whom the whole parentage," or as the text may be read, "Of whom the whole family in heaven and in earth is named," Eph. iii. 15. On earth, the family of Jesus is not distinguished by the greatness of its number: and to the shame of the human kind, there is a father whose family is far more numerous than the Saviour's: this father is the devil. And who are the children of the devil? To this question Jesus Christ has given us a key. He said, when speaking to the Pharisees, "Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do; he was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth; he is a liar, and the father of it," John viii. 44. These are the two characteristics of his children; lying and murder.
1. Lying. If you betray the truth, if you employ your genius, your wit, your knowledge, to embarrass the truth, instead of employing them for the acquisition of self-knowledge, and a communication of the truth to others; if we
2. He is a murderer; and to hate our neighbour is, according to the language of Scripture, to kill him; for "he that hateth his brother," as St. John has decided, "is a murderer," John iii. 15. Yes, if you obstruct your neighbour's happiness; if you are envious at his prosperity: if you are irritated by his virtues; if mortified by his reputation; if you take delight in aggravating his real faults, and in the imputation of imaginary defects, recognise another trait of your father; apply to yourselves this awful assertion, which so many may apply with propriety, "Ye are of your father the devil."
It is nevertheless true, that how numerous soever the children of the devil may be on the earth, Jesus Christ has a family among men: and it is composed of those who believe, those whom a sincere faith has invested with the privilege of considering themselves, according to St. John, as members of the family of God: "To as many as received him, to them gave he power," which I would render right, prerogative, privilege, "to become the sons of God.”
The branches of God's spiritual family are not always visible to the eyes of the flesh, but they are to the eyes of the spirit; they are not always objects of sense, but they are objects of faith, which assures us of the continued existence of a holy church. Sometimes the fury of persecution, which prevents us from perceiving them, drives them into deserts, and causes them to take refuge in dens and caves of the earth. Sometimes the prevalence of calumny paints their character in shades dark as hell, calls their moderation indolence, their meekness cowardice, their modesty meanness of mind, their firmness obstinacy, their hope a chimera, their zeal illusion and enthusiasm. Sometimes it is the veil of humility by which they conceal their virtues, and which causes them to be confounded with persons who have no virtue, and to be less esteemed than persons whose virtues are affected. "Their kingdom" invariably "is not of this world: Now are we the sons of God, and it doth not appear what we shall be. We are dead, and our life is hid with Christ in God," John xviii. 36; 1 John iii. 2; Col. iii. 3.
But though the members of this spiritual family are not always visible, the reality of their existence is not diminished. On their account the world exists. Their prayers stay the avenging arm of an angry God, and save the guilty world from being crushed beneath the stroke: for their sakes he sometimes mitigates the calamities, with which human crimes oblige him to visit the nations. It is their entreaties which cause their God and Redeemner speedily to descend, and which hasten the happy day that is the object of their wishes, and subject of their prayers, "Come, Lord Jesus-come quickly."