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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 mith him. Then one said unto him, behold, thy molher, 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 nuhosoever 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 knon 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,
or 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 members 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. Further, 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 mañ his neighbour, Exod. xxxii. 27. Then the Levites knew neither brother, nor friend, nor kinsman. By this illustrious zeal they acquired the encoinium, 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 apprized 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
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 fainily of Jesus Christ according to the Spirit, Both these objects must be kept in view,
Į, 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 develope the character of those who belong to his family, according to the Spirit, rather than to trace those who belong to hii according to the flesh, Whateyer 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 batred 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,