« PreviousContinue »
example would have been much more SERMON limited. The integrity, for instance, of Samuel as a judge, the devotion of David on the throne, the fortitude of Daniel in the midst of a corrupt court, hold forth indeed splendid instances of virtue, but they hold them out only to a few: whereas when Christ appeared on earth, he confined himself to no one state of fortune or line of life; he did not addict himself to any particular calling; he did not even fix his resi, dence in one place; but he gives us opportunity of viewing him in different places and situations, in all that variety of lights which indiscriminately regard the bulk of mankind: his life was divided between the contemplative and the active; devotion and business equally shared it. We behold him in private life among his disciples, like a father in the midst of his family. We be hold him in public life, acting with authority in the discharge of his high commission, assuming the dignity which belonged to his office, and boldly reproving the great and the powerful. We see him sometimes in poverty and obscurity, contemned and persecuted. We see him at other times ele
SERMON vated into public favour, followed by applauding crowds, and entering Jerusalem in triumph. We can challenge all history, sacred or profane, to shew us any eminent personage, saint, philosopher, or hero whose character was so thoroughly tried, and so fully exhibited to admiration, as that of our Saviour. What adds greatly to the lustre of his example, it was marked by no af fected singularities nor peculiar austerities. He did not seclude himself from ordinary society, but conversed among men with that sort of modest piety and virtue which suits itself to the level of human infirmity, and is conspicuous for the discharge of the plain and substantial duties of a good life.
It is not my intention at present to attempt a full survey of all the graces and virtues which distinguished our Lord's life, and ennobled his sufferings and death; as this would lead into a field too extensive for one discourse: I mean to confine myself to the manner in which he fulfilled the social duties, and exercised his benevolence as a man among men. This will afford an instructive view of what may be termed the
the moral character of Christ in his ordi- SERMON nary intercourse with the world, and will point out a proper model of our behaviour towards one another. The most studied and laboured encomiums never drew a more amiable character than what is contained in the few and plain words of the text; Jesus of Nazareth went about, doing good. Let us consider in what manner He fulfilled this character.
I. We are to attend to his assiduity and alacrity in seeking out and embracing every opportunity of doing good: this is the most substantial part of the great virtue of charity. There is a sort of negative goodness with which most men are ready to be satisfied; they applaud themselves if they have kept their hands free from unjust deeds, and no man can reproach them for working mischief to their neighbour; but with respect to his welfare they are totally indifferent. They remain in a sort of torpid apathy about the concerns of others, without either rejoicing in their prosperity, or being affected with their distresses; this is far below what is required of a good
We were all designed by our Creator to be parts of one body, members of one great society, where every one was to contribute his part towards the common benefit, and to be made happy by studying to make others so. In proportion indeed as our ability and influence extend, the obligation to be extensively beneficial also grows; but hardly is there any sphere so narrow and circumscribed, as not to afford some opportunities of being useful. In thy humble and obscure station, thou art apt to think thyself entirely insignificant and lost to the world. To thee, indeed, it may not belong to heal the diseased, to raise the fallen, to supply the indigent, or to bring forward the deserving. But is there none whose spirit thou canst cheer, or whose infirmities thou canst help to lighten? Hast thou no parent, no child, no brother, no friend, to whom thou canst speak the words of comfort in the hour of sorrow, whose mistakes thou canst rectify, or whose erring steps thou canst turn into the right path?
Here let the example of Christ, as far as thy sphere admits it, be before thine
eyes, to quicken thy activity and animate SERMON thy zeal. The whole history of his life is the history of active and diffusive benignity. Wherever he was present, we find him employed in doing good; either relieving men from their distresses, or making them wise and happy by his instructions. The whole country around him seemed to be his family, and if in a literal sense he had been the father of them all, they could not have exercised his care, or shared his bounty more. The hungry were fed, and the sick were cured, the blind saw, and the lame walked, wherever he came. His miracles never were mere ostentations of power, but always expressions of goodness. Often he prevented the supplications of the distressed, and, unasked, conferred his favours; but never did any person apply to him for aid and relief without receiving it, whether he was Jew or Heathen, friend or foe. What is especially remarkable in his beneficence is, that it was continued and persevering in the midst of ingratitude. This is one of the hardest trials of virtue, not to be soured by the perversity of men, and which and which persons even of generous