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After that he pours water into a basin, and begins to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel, wherewith he was girded; and he said, "Know you, my disciples, what I have done? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye ought also to wash one another's feet." Not as to the action, but as to the principle of the action-this we are to seek after. Jesus came to minister. He may be considered the servant; and there was never a servant yet in the world that was so attentive to the calls of his Master as our Lord was ready to the calls of his. Here a centurion has a servant sick of the palsy—the word is a slave: he addresses him on his behalf: immediately he says, "I will come and heal him." Behold the Lord of lords and the King of kings, marching off at a moment's notice, and passing through the mansion to a hinder apartment, and standing by the pallet of a poor diseased slave: “I will come and heal him."
There is a large class of mankind who are commonly trampled upon or overlooked by those around them-they are the poor. But he at once said, Enrich their minds and relieve their bodies. He had compassion on the multitude because they had nothing to eat, he had compassion on the multitude "because they were as sheep having no shepherd;" and he taught them many things, and the poor had the Gospel preached unto them. We talk of woe: we should compare notes. Here is a woman following a funeral. It was her own son, and her only son; and she too was a widow. Already she had entombed her husband, whose grave was now to be re-opened to awaken all her tears, to receive the remains of one who was her last prop struck from under her. Our Saviour "saw her, and had compassion on her, and said unto her, Weep not. And he said unto the young man, I say unto thee, Arise. And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak. And"-O, what a present!" he delivered him to his mother."
We talk of anguish-can any thing heal the pangs of a guilty mind, or the accusation of a distressed and wounded conscience? Here is a woman who has been taken in adultery. By the law of Moses she was condemned to be stoned. She is mercilessly turned over to our Saviour by a company of wretches, every one of whom was guilty of the very same crime, though they had as yet escaped detection. When our Saviour said, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her," O, they were convicted in their own consciences, and they began to retire, treading on each other's heels, lest he should lay open their villainy before they could withdraw. And when they were gone, and he saw the woman only, he said, "Woman, where are thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee? Neither do I condemn thee. Go, and sin no more." On another occasion he dined in the house of a Pharisee. While he was there, a woman in the city, that was a sinner, knowing that Jesus was there, came and ashamed, and afraid to look him in the face, got behind him, and stood at his feet weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and to wipe them with the hair of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with ointment. What said our Saviour to her? Pharisee murmured: "Never mind him," thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace."
"Thy sins are forgiven thee." The says he; "Woman, I say unto thee,
What is the proper use which we ought to make of this part of our subject? It would be an abuse of it, if you were to run down, in consequence of it, the
distinctions of life; for the Scripture always countenances these distinctions, and enforces the various duties arising from them, and not only the social welfare, but the individual welfare of man requires the maintenance of them; and one of the remarks I have made in my passage through this life, is this: That nothing is ever to be gained by breaking down the conditions of men. Let them always be decently and firmly maintained. By weakening them, you do no good to those below them, any more than to those above them.
But there are two uses to which we should apply these representations. "He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." The first is, to admire his condescension. Condescension must be judged by the previous dignity of the being who stoops. What a stoop, indeed! How well may we exclaim, when we think of it, "Lord, what is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou visitest him?" O, Christian," you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, though he was rich, for your sakes became poor, that ye, through his poverty, might be made rich."
The second is, not only to admire, but to resemble him therein. God forbid that ever we should consider him, as some do, a mere example. He is infinitely more than an example; and "he that saith, he abideth in him, ought himself also to walk even as he walked." And here is the advantage now of our evangelical system-while we proclaim him to be our sacrifice, our righteousness, our strength, our God, yet we are at liberty to speak of him as an example. We, therefore, say, Look at him, and learn, and learn how to live, and learn how to die. Look at him, and " be followers of God as dear children, and walk in love as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour." This is what the apostle has enjoined upon the Philippians: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus." And what was this mind? We may learn from what goes immediately before: "Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than himself. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." But we learn still more from what follows: "Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God."
Are those who wear his name, then, seeking great things for themselves? and are they fond of distinction, fond of fine dress, fond of extravagance, in furniture, and at the table? Do they refuse to condescend to men of low birth? Are they the followers of him who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister? Are they haughty and disdainful in their deportment? Would they refuse to perform an humble office for a fellow creature, or a fellow Christian, when Providence placed it in their way? Yes, alas! there are many such. Yes, there are those who give a little of their substance, but who never visit the fatherless and the widows in their afflictions. There are those who buy garments for the poor, but never would they make them, as Dorcas did: we read of the alms-deeds which she did; and alms-deeds are a thousand times superior to alms-giving.
But we must go on to the third part of the testimony, which Jesus has given concerning himself: this regards HIS DEATH. "And to give his life a ransom for many." He did much in life-he did more in death. If the corn of wheat abideth alone, and is not sown, it does not produce; but if it is sown and die,
it brings forth much fruit. This Jesus said in allusion to his own death; and it is designed to remind us of the numberless influences and advantages derived from it. There are some who think we dwell too much and too frequently upon the dying of the Lord Jesus, whereas this is the centre of every thing in the Christian religion. The apostles bore about in their bodies the dying of the Lord Jesus; and they determined to know nothing save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
What does he say concerning his death himself? He mentions four things. The first is, the notion in which he will have us consider him as a ransom. This is one of the favourite terms of the Holy Ghost. We will readily concede that it is a metaphorical expression; but, then, it is founded in truth. There is a reality in it, and a reality infinitely surpassing the emblem. What is a ransom? A ransom is a satisfaction or a compensation for release from bondage. Like every thing else in the Christian dispensation, it reminds us of what we were, of the state in which we were; we were the people of the world; we were the slaves of sin; we were led captive by the devil at his will; the lowness and wretchedness of the state of bondage in which we were, are inexpressible, inconceivable. Some of you have known a little of it, and but a little, because, blessed be his name, you were delivered before you had suffered it all, and the larger part of you before you could enter the place towards which you were rapidly hastening; he interposed, and said, "Deliver them from going down into the pit, I have found a ransom." What was this ransom? Had you been only rescued from your former condition, it would have been a delivery only, not a redemption. A redemption supposes a price: you were bought with a price and what was this price? "You were not redeemed," says Peter, "with corruptible things, as silver and gold; but with the precious blood of Christ." This was the ransom, "a price, all price beyond:" a price to which nothing can be added; compared to which, says the Christian, of all his external advantages and deeds, "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."
It is obvious, from this part of our subject, that Christ did not die for our good only, but he died in our stead; he died in our place; he was our substitute; he "bore our sins in his own body on the tree," for he had none of his own to bear. He, the just, died for us, the unjust. "Surely," says the church," he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed." Now the Socinians have often said, when speaking against the doctrine of the atonement, that there is not one word to be found in any of our Saviour's discourses concerning it, during his personal ministry; but if there had not been, he amply brought forward every thing that was necessary to be known concerning him, by the communication of his own Spirit immediately after his death, who led his disciples into all truth, and enabled them to publish it and record it for the use of the church in all ages. But the remark is founded either in falsehood or ignorance. He never said any thing himself concerning his atonement? What did he say when he was administering his own supper? "This cup is the New Testament in my blood which was shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins." And what said he in our text? "The Son of man came to give his life a ransom for many.'
Secondly, he tells us that his death was intentional; not an eventual thing
but foreknown; not a consequence, but a design. He assumed our nature, not to reign in it, but to suffer, and on purpose to suffer; "because the children were partakers of flesh he likewise himself took part of the same; that by death he might destroy him that had power of death, that is the devil, and deliver them who through fear of death were all their life-time subject to bondage." You clearly see from his words here, what was his intention; he came not to "be ministered unto, but to minister," and on purpose, for this very end this was his grand aim and business" to give his life a ransom for many."
Thirdly, he reminds us also that it was a voluntary death; "He gave himself a ransom for many." There are some who speak of Christ's death as if he had not been at his own disposal. It is true there is a Scriptural sense in which he was commissioned: and therefore he sometimes said that he was sent of the Father. But that he was at his own disposal is undeniable. Therefore the Scriptures sometimes ascribe his death to his love: "He loved us, and gave himself for us." And sometimes it is ascribed to his power; "No man taketh my life from me; I lay it down myself: I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father." It is very remarkable that here in the very place where he speaks of his commission he asserts his own independence. And as to the commission which he received of the Father, this he voluntarily accomplished; it was not forced upon him; and therefore he said, "That the world may know I love the Father, and as the Father gave me commandment even so I do. Arise let us go hence." Therefore he said, Lo, I come-I delight to do thy will, O my God; thy law is within my heart." "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished." I wish you were all willing to receive the blessings he procured by his blood-shedding as he was ready to procure them for you, you would then all withdraw this morning rejoicing in him as the God of your salvation.
Lastly, it regards the personal esteem he has for his people. Sometimes they are described by their character, here by their number-many. He does not tell us how many, and he has almost forbidden us to inquire concerning it; for when a man one day asked him, Lord, are there few that be saved? he said to them" (that is, to the persons that were with him; for he would not deign to notice the poor trifler at all, he would not reply to him ;) he took advantage of the question, and said, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able." As much as if he had said, Instead of indulging yourselves in various inquiries concerning the number of the saved, do you be concerned to be one of them, and remember you will not seek the blessing in vain if you seek it aright, whatever be your condition or circumstances. But we are allowed to say very many; so many to do justice to the promise made to the Messiah, that, all things should fall down before him, and all nations serve him; so many, that when they are gathered out of every country, and nation, and tongue, and people, they will be found a multitude that no man can number; so many, as that the Messiah admits it an ample compensation for all the sufferings he endured; for he shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied."
In conclusion, we here see where a poor burdened conscience can alone find
THE SAVIOUR'S CHARACTER, LIFE, AND DEATH.
relief. Are you asking under a sense of guilt, "How shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God?" He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: you have the advantage of hearing the voice that cries, "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world." And it is this that constitutes the Gospel glad tidings of great joy. It assures you, that the "blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth from all sin." And there are those who have made the trial of it, and can therefore speak of its sufficiency from their own experience. By believing, they have entered into rest, they have shown that it has tranquillized their consciences; yea, and not only so, but they even joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom they have now received the atonement. Follow their example; apply only to him, and say,
"Jesus, my great high-priest,
No sacrifice beside:
His powerful blood did once atone,
Then, secondly, let the love of God strike your minds. The monarchs of the earth have often sacrificed the lives of their subjects to the safety of their own; yea, and when their own has not been in danger, they have immolated thousands and millions on the altar of their pride, and vanity, and revenge. Where was one of them ever to be found, who gave his life for the lives of his subjects? But it is said of Jesus, that he shall save the souls of the needy; that precious is their blood in his sight. He said himself, " I give my life for the life of the world." "Herein is love-truly greater love hath no man than this, that a man should lay down his life for his friend." Jesus has done this.
"O, for this love, let rocks and hills
And all harmonious human tongues
Lastly, if he has ransomed you, you are not your own.
What a man has
purchased surely is his own. If he has purchased you, you have no right in
"Do this, he said, till time shall end,