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chimeras?" No, my brethren, neither in a coun- | marks of the love we describe;-a man who, cil of war, nor legislative assembly, nor philosophical society, never were questions more important discussed. A rational man should have nothing more at heart than their elucidation. Nothing whatever should afford him greater satisfaction, than when engaged in researches of this nature, in which he discovers some additional evidence of immortality; and when he finds stated with superior arguments, the demonstrations we have of the Holy Spirit's descent upon the apostles, the anniversary of which we now celebrate.
2. If there are dispositions which retard, and cherish, the first agency of the Holy Spirit on the heart, there are also dispositions which retard and cherish the second. The Holy Spirit, we have said in the second place, confirms to us the promises of the gospel, by communicating the grace of sanctification. What success can be expected from his gracious efforts to purify the heart, while you oppose the works? Why have those gracious efforts hitherto produced, with regard to most of you, so little effect? Because you still oppose. Desirous to make you conscious of the worth of holiness, the Holy Spirit addresses you for that purpose in the most pointed sermons. In proportion as the preacher addresses the ear, the Holy Spirit inwardly addresses the heart, alarming it by that declaration, "The unclean shall not inherit the kingdom of God," 1 Cor. vi. 10. But you have opposed his gracious work; you have abandoned the heart to irregular affection; you have pursued objects calculated to inflame concupiscence, or enkindle it with additional vigour.
The Holy Spirit, desirous to humble the heart, exhibits the most mortifying portraits of your weakness, your ignorance, your dissipation, your indigence, your mortality and corruption,-a train of humiliating considerations in which your own character may be recognised. But you have opposed his work; you have swelled your mind with every idea calculated to give plausibility to the sophisms of vanity; you have flattered yourselves with your birth, your titles, your dignities, your affected literature, and imaginary virtues. Improve this thought, my brethren, confess your follies; yield to the operations of grace, which would reclaim you from the sins of the age, and make you partakers of the divine purity, in order to a participation of the divine felicity. Practise those virtues which the apostles so strongly enforced in their sermons, which they so highly exemplified in their lives, and so powerfully pressed in their writings.
Above all, my brethren, let us follow the emotions of that virtue which is the true test, by which the Lord knows his own people, I mean charity: such are the words of Christ, which we cannot too attentively regard; "This is my commandment that ye love one another," John xv. 12. When I speak of charity, I would not only prompt you to share your superfluities with the indigent, and to do good offices for your neighbours. But a man, who, when celebrating the anniversary of a day in which God's love was so abundantly shed upon the church, in which the Christians became united by ties so tender, feels reluctance to afford these slight
rapt up in his own sufficiency, and in the ideas he forms of his own grandeur, sees nothing worthy of himself in the religion God has prescribed, would, however, converse with his Maker, and receive his benefits, but who shuts his door against his neighbours, abandons them in their poverty, trouble, and obscurity;-such a man, far from being a Christian, has not even a notion of Christianity. At the moment he congratulates himself with being distinguished from the rest of mankind by the seal of God, he has only the seal of the devil,-inflexibility and pride.
On these days I would, my brethren, require concerning charity, marks more noble, and tests more infallible, than alms and good offices: I would animate you with the laudable ambition of carrying charity as far as it was carried by Jesus Christ. To express myself in the language of Scripture, I would animate you to love your neighbour as Jesus Christ has loved you. In what way has Jesus Christ loved you? What was the grand object of his love to man? It was salvation. So also should the salvation of your neighbours be the object of your love. Be penetrated with the wretchedness of people "without hope, without God in the world," Eph. ii. 12. Avail yourselves of the prosperity of your navigation and commerce, to send the gospel into districts, where creatures' made in the image of God, know not him that made them, but live in the grossest darkness of the pagan world.
Be likewise impressed with the wretchedness of those, who, amid the light of the gospel, have their eyes so veiled as to exclude its lustre. Employ for the great work of reformation, not gibbets and tortures, not fire and fagot, but persuasion, instruction, and every means best calculated for causing the truth to be known and esteemed.
Be touched with the miseries of people educated in our own communion, and who believe what we believe; but who through the fear of man, through worldly-mindedness, and astonishing hardness of heart, are obstructed from following the light. Address to them the closest exhortations. Offer them a participation of your abundance. Endeavour to move them towards the interests of their children. Pray for them; pray for the peace of Jerusalem; pray that God would raise the ruins of our temples: that he would gather the many scattered flocks; pray him to reinvigorate the Christian blood in these veins, which seems destitute of heat and circulation. Pray him, my fellowcountrymen, that he would have pity on your country, in which one prejudice succeeds another. Be afflicted with the affliction of Joseph, be mindful of your native land.
3. We have said lastly, that the Holy Spirit confirms the promise of celestial felicity, by a communication of its foretastes here below to highly-favoured souls. On this subject, I seem suspended between the fear of giving countenance to enthusiasm, and of suppressing one of the most consolatory truths of the Christian religion. It is, however, a fact, that there are highly-favoured souls, to whom the Holy Spirit confirms the promises of celestial happiness, by a communication of its foretastes here on earth.
By foretastes of celestial happiness, I mean the impression made on the mind of a Christian, of the sincerest piety, by this consolatory thought; "My soul is immortal: death, which seems to terminate, only changes the mode of my existence: my body also shall participate of eternal life; the dust shall be reanimated, and its scattered particles collected into a glorious form."
By foretastes of celestial happiness, I mean, the unshaken confidence a Christian feels, even when assailed with doubts,-when oppressed with deep affliction, and surrounded with the veil of death, which conceals the objects of his hope: this assurance enables him to say, "I know in whom I have believed, and I am persuaded he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day," 2 Tim. i. 12. "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God," Job xix. 25, 26. "O God, though thou slay me, yet will I trust in thee. Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil," Ps. xxii. 4. "I have set the Lord always before me; because he is on my right hand, I shall not be moved,"
Ps. xvi. 8.
By foretastes of celestial happiness, I mean, the delights of glorified saints in heaven, which some find while dwelling on earth; when far from the multitude, secluded from care, and conversing with the blessed God, they can express themselves in these words, "My soul is satisfied with marrow and fatness, when I remember thee upon my bed, and meditate upon thee in the night watches," Ps. lxiii. 5, 6. "Our conversation is in heaven," Phil. iii. 20.
By foretastes of celestial happiness, I mean, the impatience which some of the faithful feel, to terminate a life of calamities and imperfections; and the satisfaction they receive every evening on reflecting that another day of their pilgrimage is passed; that they are one step nearer to eternity. "In this tabernacle we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven," 2 Cor. v. 2. "My desire is to depart, and to be with Christ," Phil. i. 23. Why is his chariot so long in coming? Why do his coursers proceed so slow? "When shall I come and appear before God," Ps. xl. 2.
My brethren, in what language have I been speaking? How few understand it! To how many does it seem an unknown tongue! But we have to blame ourselves alone if we are not anointed in this way, and sealed by the Holy Ghost; and if we do not participate in these foretastes of eternity, which are the genuine earnests of heaven. But ah! our taste is spoiled in the world. We have contracted the low habits of seeking happiness solely in the recreations of the age. Most, even of those who conform to the precepts of piety, do it by constraint. We obey God, merely because he is God. We feel not the unutterable sweetness in these appellations of Father, Friend, and Benefactor, under which he is revealed by religion. We do not conceive that his sole object, with regard to man, is to make him happy. But the world,the world, is the object VOL. II.-40
which attracts the heart, and the heart of the best amongst us.
Let us then love the world, seeing it has pleased God to unite us to it by ties so tender. Let us endeavour to advance our families, to add a little lustre to our name, and some consistency to what is denominated fortune. But O! after all, let us regard these things in their true light. Let us recollect that, upon earth, man can only have transient happiness. My fortune is not essential to my felicity; the lustre of my name is not essential to my felicity; the establishment of my family is not essential to my felicity; and, since none of these things are essential to my happiness, the great God, the Being supremely gracious, has without the least violation of his goodness, left them in the uncertainty and vicissitude of all sublunary bliss. But my salvation, my salvation, is far above the vicissitudes of life. "The mountains shall depart, and the hills be moved; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed," Isa. liv. 10. "Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment; but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished," Isa. li. 6. May God indulge our hope, and crown it with success. Amen.
THE FAMILY OF JESUS CHRIST.
MATTHEW xii. 46-50.
While he yet talked to the people, behold his mother, and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, behold, thy mother, and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? And who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and 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.
HE "said unto his father and to his mother, I have not seen him; neither did he acknowledge his brethren, nor know his own children," Deut. xxxiii. 9. So Moses said of the tribe of Levi. Was it to reproach, or applaud? Following the first impression of this sentence, it contains undoubtedly a sharp rebuke, and a deep reproach. In what more unfavourable light could we view the Levites? What became of their natural affection, on disowning the persons to whom they were united by ties so tender, on plunging their weapons in the breasts of those who gave them birth?
But raising the mind superior to flesh and blood, if you consider the words as connected with the occasion to which they refer, you will find an illustrious character of those ministers of the living God; and one of the finest panegyrics which mortals ever received.
Nature and religion, it is admitted, require us to love our neighbour, especially the mem
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 word:3 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 perfectio ns 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 belong 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 evangelists 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 hypothesis be attended with some difficulties, this is not the place for their removal.
afforded more distinguished evidences of their faith and devotion to the will of his Father.
Neither was it our Saviour's design,-when he seemed to disown his brethren, and his mother, properly speaking,-to detach us from persons to whom we are united by consanguinity, and to supersede the duties required by those endearing connexions. By no means: those affectionate fathers, who have invariably sought the happiness of their children;-those children, who, animated with gratitude, after sharing the indulgence of a father during his vigour, become, when age has chilled his blood, and enfeebled his reason, the support of his de
It was a most glorious consideration to the holy virgin, to James, to Judas, to Joses, to Simon, and to their sister, to be so nearly related to Jesus Christ in the flesh. How honourable to say, this man, whose sermons are so sublime, this man, whose voice inverts the laws of nature, this man, whom winds, seas, and elements obey,-is my brother, is my son! So the woman exclaimed, after hearing him so conclusively refute the artful interrogations of his enemies. "Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast suck-clining years;-those brothers who afford exed." But how superior are the ties, which unite the family of Jesus Christ according to the Spirit, to those which unite them according to the flesh! So he said to the woman above named, "Yea, rather blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it," Luke xi. 27, 28. In my text, when apprized that his most intimate relations, in the flesh, desired an audience, he acknowledged none to be of his family but the spiritually noble. "Behold thy mother, and thy brethren," said one, "stand without, desiring to speak with thee. Who is my mother? and who are my brethren?" replied he, "and he stretched forth his hand towards his disciples, and 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." This we shall proceed to illustrate in the second part of our discourse.
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
amples 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.
What our Saviour would say in the text is, that though he had a family according to the flesh, he had also a preferable family according to the Spirit; and that the members of his spiritual family are more closely united to him than the members of his natural household. Of this spiritual family I proceed to speak. And I have further to say, my dear brethren, that I would associate you in this spiritual family, in the latter period of this discourse. Condescend to follow us in the few remarks we have yet to make. We will show, 1. The nature, and 2. The strength of this family connexion. 3. Its effects; or to speak with more propriety, its wonders. 4. Its superior felicity. 5. The persons it includes.
1. The nature of this relation consists in sincere obedience to the will of God. "Whosoever shall do the will of my Father, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother." Here we have two extremes to avoid: the one is the forming of too severe an idea, the other of conceiving notions too relaxed, of this disposition of heart.
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