« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the hand, he hears the voice, of the person nearest his heart; who could bear this bitterness of grief, if no support were to be ministered by religious hope? if there were no voice to whisper to our spirits, that hereafter we, and those whom we love, shall meet again in a more blissful land ?—What higher view can possibly be given of the benefit redounding from this divine institution, than its affording us consolation in such situations of extreme distress, by realizing to our souls the belief of an immortal state, in which all the virtuous and worthy shall be re-united in the presence of their common Lord.
Thus I have set before you many considerations, arising from the sacrament of our Lord's Supper, which render it a proper preparation not only for a good life, but for a comfortable and happy death. The great improvement to be made of the subject is, to bring to the altar of God such dispositions of heart, as may give us ground to hope for this blessed effect. Let us approach to the sacrament with the same seriousness of frame, as if it were the last time we were ever to partake of it; as if we were making provision for a journey to that land whence none return, as if we were never to drink, in this manner, ' of the fruit of the vine, until that day when we drink iť with those whom we have loved in our Father's kingdom.'It is chiefly a sedate and composed frame of spirit, that we must study to cultivate; arising from grave and sober thoughts; from serious and penitent recollection of past errors; from good purposes for the future ; and a deep sense of the approaching events of death and immortality. Penetrated with such dispositions, you have ground to come to the altar of God with humble trust and joy ; under the belief, that you are approaching, through the great Redeemer, to that merciful Creator, to whom, ' in the high and holy place of eternity,' the devout aspirations of his servants on earth are ever acceptable and pleasing
SUNDAY BEFORE EASTER.
The Collect. Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards man-, kind, hast sent thy only Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility; mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of his resurrection, through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
HUMILITY. Phil. ii. 5. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
6. Who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God. 7. But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. 8. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name. 10. That at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and of things in earth, and things under the earth; 11. And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
[Text taken from the Epistle for the Day.] The good effects, which our Church proposes to herself from this portion of scripture, we plainly learn, from the Collect for the Day, to be humility and patience.' In order to establish these good dispositions in us, the Son of God is here set forth as our pattern. His love and condescension, for our example ; that we, so far as the difference of circumstances will allow, may not grudge to do, as he hath done before us. His exaltation and reward are also mentioned for our encouragement ; that we may depend upon the like being done to us in proportion, which hath already been done to him, by way of recompence for such kind humiliation.
To treat this subject as we ought, it will be requisite to consider, First, What our Lord did, and how we are bound to imitate him. Secondly, What he received, and how this assures us of being rewarded like him.
I. A just sense of what our Lord did, we never can have, without right notions concerning the dignity of his person. Which the Apostle hath here illustrated, in terms that speak him very God, and very man : the form of God' as strongly inferring the former, as the likeness and fashion of men' does
the latter ; if we regard only the force of the expressions themselves. And, as the whole course of his conversation, the things he did and suffered, living and dying, made incontestible proof of the truth of his human nature; so, if we will allow St. Paul to argue with any consistence, his argument here overthrows the cavils, usually objected to the truth of his divine nature. For how can any taking the likeness or fashion of men deserve to be thought an emptying, or humbling, of himself, in a person who is no more than man? How can the government of the whole world be committed to, or administered by, a mere man? How can universal adoration become due to such a one? How can it agree with the design of the Christian religion, to enjoin it, which aimed so directly at curing idolatrous mankind of their monstrous sin and folly, consisting properly in deifying men for their merits, and, in that ignorance of the one true God, doing service to them which, by nature, are no gods?' But especially, how should a person deserve and obtain divine honours, as a reward for his unparalleled humility, and piety, and most exemplary meekness, who, if he were not real God, and yet thought it not robbery to be equal with God,'(but suffered himself to be esteemed so, gave occasion, from his own words, to be thus esteemed; never warned those who took the occasion, of any error or ill consequence in such an opinion) was certainly the most presumptuous, the profanest, and most detestable blasphemer. To them, therefore, who acknowledge our Lord's divinity, St. Paul's reasoning is just and very pressing. But to refer it to such condescensions, as washing his disciples' feet, or even the indignities of his passion, in a man only, renders it weak and trifling. The terms, expressing this voluntary humiliation, are only, then, full of significance and sound argument, when the perfection and majesty of Christ's divine, and the vileness of our human nature, are understood; thereby contrasting the elevation from which he descended, with the depth to which he stooped.
1. The first disposition, which this wonderful condescension impresses upon us is, humility, which, it is evident, no person, no instance, no action, ever had, ever could have, so direct a tendency to promote. Well, therefore, might this Saviour invite men to learn of him, as being meek and lowly, since none was ever by nature so exalted, none by choice so abased, -none could so empty himself of glory and power as he had
done, even though his appearance upon earth had been made in all the riches and splendour of the greatest monarch that ever the world knew. But, to render his goodness still more astonishing, he came not to be ministered unto, but to minister :' thought the giving of his own life a ransom' an office not too kind ; and doing this in the quality of a servant and a criminal, a character not too mean, for the sake of doing good.
The most fatal, and, perhaps, the corruption that adheres closest to our nature, is pride,-fit, therefore, above all others, to be particularly reprobated by him, who came into the world on purpose to correct our corruptions, and renew our nature. This vice consists in undue exaltations of our. selves, and, in consequence of these, disdain and contempt of others. But who are those selves? Who those others ? Lost and undone wretches all; lost and undone by the pride of the first Adam ;, and so must have continued to eternity, if not rescued by the humility of the second Adam. Do we, then, insist upon niceties of respect, upon place and precedence, with the utmost rigour, and cast away our own, or invade another's life (murderers in both) upon the very jealousy of an affront? Do we neglect our poorer, or, in any respect, meaner brethren, behold their miseries with indifference, hold them so far unworthy our personal good offices, as scarce to allow them pity or regard ? Nay, but, О man ! look upon the blessed Jesus. See the King of Heaven, making himself of no reputation--eating with the traitor-admitting his unfaithful kiss --mute before his judges—crucified with thieves. And all for them, whom thou pursuest with revenge, or passest over with disdain ; for thee, who thus reproachest the mercy by which thou art redeemed, the Lord that thus redeemed thee. Compare the indignities he submitted to, with thine; his unbounded charity, with thy angry resentment, scornful mien, and hard-hearted coldness, and thou wilt soon perceive that the pride, the cruelty, the unconcernedness, which in any man is wicked, in the disciples of a crucified Master is absurd ; & contradiction to the name of Christian, while thou wilt not let
the same mind be in thee, which was in Christ Jesus.' Who, though he was in the form of God, and thought it not robbery to be equal with God, yet humbled himself to the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.'
II. The other virtue recommended by St. Paul, is patience, easy to be attained, when that last mentioned hath opened the way to it; for it is pride especially that disposes us to be angry and revengeful, fretful and querulous, uneasy with our fortunes, and unthankful to Providence. Against all which evil diseases of the mind, what antidote can be more powerful than the example of the meek and suffering Jesus? If our quiet be disturbed, our possessions invaded, our persons insulted, our reputation aspersed, by the malice of unreasonable wicked men, let us remember the perpetual vexations, the injuries and affronts, the contradictions of sinners against himself, which, through the whole course of his ministry, he endured; but which, in the tragical scene exhibited to us in the scriptures of the ensuing week, were outrageous beyond any comparison. If poverty or friendless trouble be our grievance, this assimilates us but more to that Son of God, who, for our sakes, became poor, subsisted on the pious bounty of his hearers and attendants; but in the hour of his enemies, and approach of danger, was betrayed by one, denied by another, and forsaken by all, his disciples. If pain or sickness tempt us to repine, what excruciating malady, what melancholy, can be more afflicting, than the tortures he went through, the acute pangs of his dolorous crucifixion, and the cutting sorrows, which wounded his soul even unto death ? So far are our most sensible afflictions short of that weight of sorrow, with which it pleased the Lord to bruise this Son of his love, in the day of his fierce anger. But, could we suppose them equal, yet doth not this make a mighty difference, and ought it not to compose our spirits to submission, that his obedience was an act perfectly free; his sufferings chosen for our, and not his own benefit? But we, alas ! as creatures, are entirely at the mercy of our common Master and Maker : as sinners, bound to acknowledge the righteousness of God, in all that is come upon us: to lay our mouths in the dust, recollect with the penitent thief, that " indeed are justly under the same condemnation. For this man did nothing amiss;' but all that we receive, and a great
deal more, God knows, that we can receive in this world, is but • the due reward of our evil deeds.' And doth plain for the punishment of his sin?' Can impatience and discontent, and hard accusations of that Providence, which disposes all events, become one, who, in the course of justice,