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So far as this applies to the consummate knowledge and the impressive energy which characterized our Lord as a Divine Teacher, and which compelled even his adversaries to exclaim, “ Never man spake like this man;" the subject has already been considered in a former Discourse. But however exalted may be our conceptions of him in this respect, his claims to our faith and obedience derive an incalculable accession of strength from the no less convincing proofs of His unsullied holiness and virtue. Had these been in the slightest degree defective, our confidence in the truths He revealed would have been proportionally diminished. Had it been in the power of his enemies to lessen the value of his example by any one stain that could be fixed
upon it; not only would his doctrine have been rendered questionable, but the declared purpose for which He came into the world had been frustrated and defeated.
To the consideration of this important part of his character our attention is drawn by St. Peter, in the words of the text; where he encourages Christians to suffer patiently the injuries they might be called upon to endure, “ because Christ also suffered for us, leaving
us an example, that we should follow His
steps : Who did no sin, neither was guile “ found in His mouth.”
Similar declarations occur in the writings of St. Paul and St. John. The former, speaking of Christ, says to the Corinthians, “ He “ hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew “ no sin; that we might be made the right“ eousness of God in Hima.” To the Hebrews the same Apostle observes, “ We have “ not an High Priest which cannot be touched “ with the feeling of our infirmities; but was “ in all points tempted like as we are, yet “ without sin b:" and again, “For such an
High Priest became us, who is holy, harm“ less, undefiled, separate from sinners c.” St. John says, “ Ye know that He was mani“ fested to take away our sins; and in Him 6 is no sin d.”
In all these passages intimations are given of the connection that subsists between our Lord's sinless character and the purposes of His divine mission. It is evidently implied, that we could not otherwise have been made “ the righteousness of God in Him,” nor could he have been otherwise either our High “ Priest” and Intercessor, or a Propitiation and Atonement, to “take away our sins.”
Heb. iv. 15.
c Heb. vii. 26.
a 2 Cor. v. 21. d 1 John iii. 5.
In the present Discourse I shall endeavour to shew, first, how entirely these representations of our Lord's perfect innocence correspond with the history of him recorded by the Evangelists; and then suggest some considerations from the sacred writers, tending to illustrate the absolute necessity that the Redeemer of mankind should be thus “with“ out sin."
On the first point it will be unnecessary to do more than select some of the most prominent features of his character for our contemplation.
Here, however, it is to be premised, that the consideration of our Lord's spotless innocence does by no means include the whole perfection of his moral character. It does not extend to the full display of the active, or even of the passive virtues, which his history sets before us. It refers not to the exercise of that diffusive benevolence which caused it to be said of him, that he “ went “ about doing good ®;" nor to those numberless acts of piety which manifested in him the truest fervour of a devout disposition; nor yet to that extraordinary fortitude which led him to “endure the contradiction of sinners',"'
e Acts x. 38.
f Heb. xii. 3.
and even their utmost rage and cruelty, without resistance or complaint. These, though parts of his character deserving of the highest admiration, are of a distinct class from those which seem to be intended in the simple declaration, that he “did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth.”
But we shall greatly err if we attach less importance to this negative kind of excellence recorded of him, than to those more conspicuous qualities which shed a greater brilliancy and lustre around him.
For though the absence of such qualities would undoubtedly have made his example less exalted and less worthy of imitation, yet the want of innocence in any one point of principle or conduct would have been absolutely fatal to his pretensions. Innocence, indeed, in its genuine acceptation, implies that kind of excellence which is of all others the most difficult of attainment; that which never has been actually exemplified but in our Lord himself. Splendid virtues are far from being of rare occurrence; but of the man that offends not in thought or deed, we search in vain for examples. Heathen moralists seem to have been aware of this. They deemed no praise higher than that which is implied by the term innocence; and not unfrequently used that
term to denote greater excellence than could be characterized by any other expression.
The Apostle to the Hebrews places this part of our Lord's character in the strongest light, when he says, that he was in all points
tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” To endure temptation is the proper test of virtue; and if we apply this test, in the present instance, to the three different kinds of temptation which generally beset human nature; namely, those which proceed from worldly solicitations to evil, or from our sensual appetites and affections, or from our intellectual or spiritual faculties, the result will fully warrant the Apostle's declaration.
1. The worldly temptations to which our Lord was exposed were manifold. The very office he had to sustain as Messiah laid him open to these in no common degree. The notion the Jews entertained of a temporal conqueror and potentate in the person of the Messiah, and their impatience of the Roman yoke, disposed them to promote the views of any ambitious leader. The disciples of Jesus eagerly espoused these sentiments; and the multitude at large were prepared to acknowledge him for their King. The miraculous powers which he exercised might well be
8 Heb. iv. 15.