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Of our Saviour's Ministry on Earth ; of the
Mysteries and Doctrines which he came among us to reveal ; and of the Duties which he has commanded us to fulfil.
HAVING, as we proposed, brought down the sacred history of the world from the creation, to the birth of our Saviour, we shall now proceed with the last part of our subject, which is, to give an account of his ministry on earth, and the revelation which he came to make to us.
In order the more fully to appreciate the 193. loving mercies of God, in sending his only
Son to redeem us, let us cast a look behind, that we may be convinced of the many and multiplied instances in which His chosen people had provoked Him to abandon them. We cannot do this more effectually, than by reading the seventh chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, in which are recorded the words of St. Stephen, reproaching the Jews for their ingratitude, before he suffered martyrdom at their hands. This had all been laid before them from the time of Moses, (Deut. xxviii. Hosea ix. 17,) and after him by a succession of prophets up to the time of Malachi, the last of them who flourished, about 420 B.C. And yet they had constantly disregarded and despised the mercies of God, so as to merit the reproaches of Stephen, who accused them (v. 51, 52,) with being “stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, &c. So unable were they to contradict him, that the same scripture goes on to say, (v. 54,)“ When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth." Here, then, we have at once a proof of the loving mercy of God, that inasmuch as it exceeded the sinfulness of man,
“ who in times past was suffered to walk in his own way,” (Acts xiv. 16,) he still mercifully determined to ransom mankind at the expense of the life of his only Son. No
less a sacrifice could effect our redemption. The penalty of sin was to be satisfied. Let our gratitude, therefore, be equal to the love which provoked the sacrifice; for as our Saviour himself said, (John xv. 13, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay
down his life for his friends." But did the 194. Jews thus interpret the prophecies respecting
him ? (Acts iii. 13, to the end; id. xiii. 27.) No, they persevering in their perversity, expected in him a mighty conqueror, who should restore the Jewish power. So, that in proportion to the worldliness of their views, was their disappointment when they found their Messiah lying in a manger, and they rejected him accordingly. (John i. 5. 10, 11.)
Before we proceed with our subject, let us ever bear in mind, that in speaking of our Saviour, we are speaking of a mysterious being, “in whom dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead bodily;" (Col. ii. 9 ;) both God and man at the same time, * and therefore above our comprehension, as far as the union of the divine and human natures co-existed in Him. Natures so blended together, that we cannot separate them in speaking of Him, though we may comprehend thus much, that as God he has both the will and the power to save us, and that as man he taught us to live so as to be saved.
* The child should here be put in mind of what was said in p. 4.
What, then, shall we say to the fact, that 196. being of that exalted nature, (Matt. xx. 28,) He condescended to the humility of coming down from heaven (Ps. cxiii. 5) to be an example to us, which it is true we can never hope to equal, but which we certainly may strive to imitate. An example the more invaluable, as in no one instance did He fail to conform himself to the numberless precepts and commands which he inculcated, both as regards our duty to God and to man, though, as his disciples said, (John vi. 60,) “ They were hard sayings, who can hear them ?” — An example which we must make our daily, nay hourly study. We must, to make use of our Saviour's words, “ take up our cross daily;" that is, we are not to rest satisfied with conforming to mere outward stated usages, such as frequenting public worship, &c. and doing no positive wrong, but we must be actively and positively good, as well in our example to others, as in conquering
our own bad tempers and propensities, and, moreover, in offering up our prayers to God earnestly, and with a sincere desire that his grace should prevent our endeavours to please him, as in his infinite goodness he did those of Cornelius. (Acts x. 4.)-An example, in short, than which nothing more urgent need be said, to induce us to follow, than that, through his merits, it is to lead us to life eternal. With such holy resolutions let us hope that we may, with fruit, look into the history of our Saviour.
To begin with his nativity. We have only to compare the accounts given of that miraculous event in the three first gospels, with the prophecies recorded in p. 43, to be persuaded that they relate to the Person we adore as our Saviour. Who reads the second of Luke, that is not struck with the grandeur of the phenomena which accompanied His birth, and with the lesson of humility which it taught on the very threshold, as it were, of his ministry ? Although, like a prince, he was preceded by his forerunner, John the Baptist, yet his birth was announced only to shepherds by the heavenly host, and instead of being born in a palace, his first bed-place