Page images

speaks otherwise: " he had compassion on them.” It is the more important to note the unvarying benignity of heart which our Redeemer exhibited in the midst of opposition and obloquy, because many persons, of high religious profession, are observed to be peculiarly deficient in the government of their tempers. This cannot but be matter of affliction to all true Christians : and worldly people, seeing that a regard to convenience and good-breeding frequently effects more in this branch of self-discipline than the lofty motives avowed by such friends of religion, judge harshly of the men, and imbibe a secret prejudice against religion itself. They, however, who condemn, should recollect that this is an age of courtesy, in which good-nature bears a high price, and is more generally cultivated than other virtues ; that it is therefore a quality, in respect of which a comparison cannot fairly be instituted between those who profess religion and those who neglect it. On the other hand, let all who name the name of Christ remember, that he never sanctioned, either by example or precept, the least bitterness of disposition or irregularity of temper, but gave to his disciples a new commandment of love, the pledge of their allegiance, which is quite inconsistent with both; that St. James has declared the religion of the man who bridles not his tongue, to be vain ; and that it is one of the leading characteristics of charity, the first of Christian graces, without which faith and knowledge and liberality are alike unprofitable, that " it suffers long, and is kind.” He whose temper is unchas

tised has need to examine his foundations with great wariness: St. Paul pronounces such persons to be carnal, and we know that “ to be carnallyminded is death.” Men who profess religion, and live much in religious circles, ought to guard particularly against neglecting those virtues which happen to be most adınired and cultivated in the world.

Jesus Christ was humble. His condescension in coming into the world, the station he chose in it, his actions, his demeanour, his death, all testified a bumility, which, though it never will be equalled, must by all be imitated. There is, however, a peculiarity in the humility of Christ which deserves attention. As he was without şin, he could not be sensible of that deep humiliation which a consciousness of guilt awakens in a true Christian. It is

probable, that the lowliness of mind, for which he was so remarkable, arose from a very quick perception and elevated view of the perfections of God. A feeling, similar in kind though in degree far inferior, will be found in most pious persons; and its energy is generally in proportion to their advances in piety and holiness. This is the main reason, though not the only one, why men who grow in grace will always be seen to grow also in humility.

Perhaps there is no Christian grace respecting which we are more apt to deceive ourselves, than humility. It is an easy thing for a man to bemoan bis corruption. It is not a very difficult matter even to feel and lament its burthen. God is so pure, and we so sinful, that nothing but cominon honesty But it is very

seems necessary, through divine grace, to make us perceive and confess our meanness. possible for a man to be humble towards God, and proud towards his fellow creatures. The best, because the most trying, tests of true lowliness of mind, are to be found in our daily conversation with men.

Do we really obey the Apostle's directions, “ to esteem others better than ourselves ?Are we willing to take the lowest place in society. yielding to others the pre-eminence in reputation for parts, learning, and accomplishments; cheerfully accepting reproof, forgiving insults, forgetting mortifications, and resigning the means or opportunities of distinction, if unfavourable to a Christian spirit? Humility is best known among equals. With God we can have no rivalry. It should appear, too, in our behaviour and actions, rather than in our language; for such was the humility of Christ. He left the glory of his Father; he took on him the form of a servant; he instructed the mean; he lived with men of low estate; he washed his disciples' feet; he refused worldly honour; he died the death of a malefactor. These are evidences of humility which are quite unequivocal.

Among the virtues most eminent in our Redeemer's character, two others were noticed above; Disinterestedness and Constancy ; but a few words must suffice for these.

Disinterestedness, be it reinembered, differs from self-denial. Self-denial is an act, disinterestedness is a habit.

I know of no word in our language, which fully embraces and designates that energy in action and endurance, which I meant to include in the 'term Constancy. It is compounded of courage, fortitude, perseverance, and patience; qualities so necessary to sustain and give efficiency to every other virtue, that they resemble those plastic principles in the physical world, without which all material bodies might quickly be dissipated and lost. The perfection in which these were found in Jesus Christ will be better understood, if we recollect, that power of every description is far less certainly, though more theatrically, exhibited in short violent efforts, than by a steady, permanent, unwearied, unyielding agency and progression. Nor let us forget the moral; “ Through faith and patience we inherit the promises ;” “ The good soldier of Christ must endure hardness.”

There is a lesson of no little moment to be learnt from contemplating that part of our Saviour's character which has last been noticed. Christians, like others, must frequently be engaged in scenes of ac'tive life, where, in the general conflict, dishonest intentions, allied to boldness and dexterity, will often be successful. Those, therefore, whose passions are naturally vehement, and who are endowed with powerful understandings, will feel desirous to oppose force by force, and subdue with a strong hand the lawless endeavours of their antagonists. In the debates of public assemblies, where an appeal to the bad passions of mankind is so lamentably effective, the temptation is very great. But Christ is our best instructor. He surely was not deficient in strength of character. He had to contend, too, with opponents wicked, impassioned, and formidable. Yet he rarely addressed his worst enemies in terms of reproach ; never in the language of bitterness or contumely. His energy was without impetuosity. Calm and holy, it neither sought assistance from any evil thing in his own nature, nor alliance with the bad passions of others. It was indeed strength invincible, but strength directed by wisdom, and chastised by meekness.

The view of our Redeemer's character still unexamined -a view, I mean, of its symmetry and perfectness-is perhaps less practically useful than the contemplation of the particular graces which composed it; yet certainly it opens a field of very curious and very profitable speculation.

It is a common remark, that a principle of compensation runs through the works of God. In the physical and intellectual world this is observable; and so also in morals: the stronger virtues are seldom found without an alloy of austerity ; and the softer are nearly allied to weakness. It is plain that compensation implies defect; and we therefore reasonably might suppose that in the character of Christ the rule should be no longer verified. And thus we find it. His force was without harshness, his tenderness free from imbecility. Nor is this all. Not only were his virtues unaccompanied with their kindred failings, but the most opposite excellencies

« PreviousContinue »