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IV. It may be now fitly inquired by us: how does Christ's poverty conduce to our riches? It does so many ways.
For by Christ's living in this world in a mean condition we have better assurance of the reality of his miraculous works, and consequently of the truth of his doctrine, than otherwise we should have had. The evidence of them is now much more clear and credible, than it would have been if he had lived in splendour, and had enjoyed external power and authority. For in that case it might have been suspected, that some were disposed to ascribe great works to him without sufficient ground and reason. But now there is no pretence for such a suspicion.
As a teacher of the principles of true religion, a low and mean condition was on many accounts preferable, and more likely to subserve the great ends which he had in view. And therefore he submitted to it, and even chose it.
Hereby he has been a pattern of all virtues, especially the most difficult. In a word, he has given an example of virtue, suited to the afflicted, tempted state and condition which we are in. They of low rank are a large part of mankind. He has set a pattern of the virtues suited to their condition-meekness, patience, resignation to the will of God, trust in Divine Providence. Hereby also men of higher rank are instructed to be thankful and useful in their stations. Moreover moderation for all earthly things is a disposition necessary even for the richest and the greatest. And they ought to be prepared for poverty, and every kind of abasement: forasmuch as no condition in this world is set above a liableness to the most surprising changes and vicissitudes.
V. One thing more, which we are led to observe, is "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ :" his goodness, his benevolence, his munificence in "becoming poor," that others " might be rich."
Ye know this, says the apostle. The Corinthians, and other Christians at that time, had been acquainted with it by those who had preached the gospel to them. We know it likewise from the history of our Lord's life, recorded in the gospels, and from the enlargements upon the subject of the love of Christ, which we find in the epistles of his apostles.
We may know it also by the conviction we have of the great difference between wealth and poverty, the advantages of the one, and the disadvantages and inconveniences of the other; the respect and homage paid to the one, the contempt and neglect which are often the portion of the other. We know it by observing how seldom respect and esteem can be secured by the most exalted virtue, and the most useful services of men of low condition. And we see what opposition our Lord met with, what contradictions he endured in the course of his ministry; which might have been prevented if he had been in power and authority: if he had not chosen to be in this world, and among his disciples, as one that serveth, and to maintain this character to the end, and lay down his life for his sheep, even those of the people of Israel, and for those who were not of that fold, but were afar off among the Gentiles.
VI. APPLICATION. Let me now add a word or two by way of application.
1. We are all here furnished with a powerful motive to condescension, meekness, forbearance, and every virtue, conducive to the welfare of our fellow creatures. "We know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ." We need not therefore to have frequent and earnest admonitions to works of kindness. We have always at hand a consideration that may make us ready of ourselves to every good work, as occasions offer.
2. Let then every rational, every unprejudiced, and well-disposed mind, give honour and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ. What, and who is he, to whom Jesus does not appear amiable in his words, in his works, and in the whole of his conduct? Is generosity amiable in others? Why not in Jesus, who has given the most extraordinary and unexceptionable procfs of that great virtue?
By his grace in becoming poor, we have been made rich. For to what else; or to whom, so much as to him, do we owe our just sentiments in religion; or any measure of virtue which we have attained? To whom are we so much indebted as to him, for the comfort of our minds, for support under afflictions, and for a well grounded hope of eternal life?
We may owe something to reason. We also owe a great deal to revelation, especially to the revelation of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which he taught in a mean condition, and confirmed by his willing and patient death. We are indebted to the faith of Abraham, the self-denial of Moses, and to all the noble exploits of others, who have been animated by the principles of true
religion. We are indebted to the devout and elegant compositions of King David, and the wise observations of his son Solomon, who also was king in Jerusalem, and long reigned in great splendour. But we owe a great deal more to Jesus Christ, who was crucified, and afterwards rose from the dead.
When all the maxims of mere philosophy never proceeded so far as to make one province or city of philosophers: when the law of Moses, with a magnificent temple, and a well endowed priesthood, could scarcely keep one single nation steady in the worship of the true God, or from falling into all the abominations of the grossest idolatry; in a short time after the preaching of the cross of Christ, multitudes of people turned from idols to serve the living and true God: and many societies of men, professing the principles of true religion, were formed and planted in distant parts of the world: till many of the kingdoms of the earth became the kingdoms of our God, and his Christ.
Some have been apt to raise disputes concerning the powers and interests of reason and revelation, which might have been reconciled. Applicable here seems to be the wise answer, which our Lord gave to an ensnaring question. "Render," says he, "to Cæsar, the things that are Cæsar's; and to God the things which are God's." In like manner, render to reason the things that are reason's, and to revelation the things that belong to it.
That it is very much owing to revelation, that true religion has been kept up in the world, appears from the deplorable ignorance of those who have not had that advantage. How much we owe to the Christian revelation, may be concluded from the swift progress of the principles of true religion, upon the preaching of Christ's apostles. "Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?" that is, does not all that wisdom now appear very contemptible, as to its influence, when compared with the effect of the preaching of the gospel of Christ? Indeed, it is he to whom we are indebted for all this riches. By the preaching of his gospel we have been brought to the knowledge of the law and the prophets, and have learned the right exercise of our reason.
CHRIST'S FAREWELL WISH OF PEACE TO HIS DISCIPLES.
Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you. Not as the world gives, give I unto you.-John xiv. 27.
THE text contains our Lord's valedictory blessing, which he leaves with his disciples. And I now consider it as preparatory to a discourse on the apostolical benediction at the end of the second epistle to the Corinthians; hoping that an explication of this text may lead us to the right meaning of the other.
I. I shall first show, how we are to understand these words: "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you."
II. And then, wherein Christ's peace exceeds and surpasses "the peace which the world gives.'
I. I would endeavour to show, how we are to understand these words: "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you."
The word "peace" is used in various senses. A very common meaning of the word in our language, and often found likewise in scripture, is that of general quiet and tranquillity, in opposition to public war; or for private friendship and agreement, in opposition to strife and contention among particular persons. "There is," says Solomon, "a time of peace, and a time of war," Ecc. iii. 8. "He maketh peace in thy borders," Ps. cxlvii. 14. Where it denotes public and general quiet and tranquillity. In many other places it signifies private friendship and agreement, in opposition to strife and contention. Our Lord directs his disciples:
"Have peace one with another," Mark ix. 50. And St. Paul says, 2 Cor. xii. 11. "Be of one mind, live in peace." And Rom. xii. 18. "If it be possible, as much as in you lies, live peaceably with all men."
Peace is sometimes equivalent to comfort and satisfaction of mind. Isa. xxvi. 3. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed upon thee." Luke ii. 29. "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." So the word seems to be taken, Ps. cxix. 65. "Great peace have they that love thy law, and nothing shall offend them." Prov. iii. 17. It is said of wisdom or religion: "Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." John xvi. 33. "These things have I spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye will have tribulation." Rom. xv. 13. "Now the God of peace fill you with all joy and peace," or all comfort and satisfaction of mind, " in believing."
In the eastern languages peace is oftentimes the same as happiness or prosperity. Ps. cxxii. 6, 7. "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. They shall prosper that love thee. Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces." And when the Jews were going captives into Babylon, they were required to pray for the peace of the city where they dwelt. By which undoubtedly is to be understood prosperity in general: not only tranquillity, or freedom from foreign wars, and intestine seditions and commotions, but likewise plenty of all good things, and freedom from calamitous circumstances of every kind. Isa. xlviii. 18. "O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments. Then had thy peace been as a river;" that is, then thy wealth and prosperity would have been very great and remarkable.
This being a common sense of the word among the eastern people, wishing peace was a very usual form of salutation with them. In this manner David sent his salutations or compliments to Nabal, by his servants: "Thus shall ye say to him, Peace be unto thee, and peace be to thy house, and peace be unto all that thou hast," 1 Sam. xxv. 6. It is said of Joseph's brethren, that " they hated him, and could not speak peaceably unto him," Gen. xxxvii. 4. In the original it is: "they could not say peace to him:" that is, when they met him, they could not persuade themselves to salute him, or say, "peace be unto thee." Such grudging and envy were in their minds. This form of salutation was used by superiors to inferiors, and likewise by inferiors to the greatest. Ezra iv. 17. "Then sent the king an answer unto Rehum the chancellor, and to Shimshi, the scribe,and to the rest of their companions beyond the river, -Peace: and at such a time." And Ezra v. 7. And Ezra v. 7. "The copy of the letter of Tatnai the governor, on this side the river-They sent a letter to Darius the king, wherein it was written: Unto Darius the king: all peace."
God himself is represented as adopting this manner of expression. Jer. xvi. 5. "For I have taken away my peace from this people, saith the Lord, even loving-kindness and mercies." As if he had said: I now withdraw from you my blessing, and no longer concern myself for your • welfare and prosperity.'
I may add here a few other instances. Our Lord directs his disciples: "And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house," Luke x. 5. Our Lord himself, when he came again among his disciples, after his resurrection, saluted them in the like manner. "The same day at evening came Jesus, and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you," John xx. 19.
Such then was the common form of salutation. The farewell wish at parting was much the same. "Then Eli said unto Hannah, Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him," 1 Sam. i. 17. So the prophet Elisha says to Naaman, “Go in peace," 2 Kings v. 19.
It may be here observed, that sometimes the same expression is used by way of farewell, as in the salutation. St. Peter concludes his first epistle: "Peace be with you all that are in Christ Jesus. So it is in our translation: but in the original it is exactly thus: "Peace to you all that are in Christ Jesus." En un max. d. And St. Paul near the conclusion of his epistle to the Ephesians, ch. vi. 23. "Peace be to the brethren, and love with faith, from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ."
However, by comparing the salutations at the beginning, and the valedictions at the end of the epistles, in the New Testament, we seem to learn that it was common to begin with praying that grace and mercy might be to persons; and to conclude with a wish, that the same blessings might be with them; meaning thereby, as I apprehend that they might remain and
abide with them. So Philip. i. 2; the salutation is, "Grace be unto you, and peace from Godour Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." The concluding wish or farewell, ch. iv. 23, is: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." And Col. i. 2. "Grace be unto you, and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ." The valediction at the end of the epistle is,. "Grace be with you."
Complying with the common forms, our Lord here gives his blessing to the disciples in a like manner, and says, "Peace I leave, with you." I wish you all happiness. I leave and bequeath it to you: and remember, it is my valedictory blessing.' My peace I give unto you. Nor do I only wish, but I actually give and impart happiness to you, provided you are desirous of it, and careful to obtain it.' Or, he repeats the same wish, as we sometimes do at parting, saying, "Farewell, farewell:" or, "again and again I wish you all happiness."
II. Which brings us to the other point to be considered by us: wherein Christ's peace exceeds and surpasses the peace which the world gives.
It may imply these several things. Christ's wish of peace is more sincere, more fervent, more valuable, and more effectual, than that of the world.
1. Christ's wish of peace is more sincere.
Men's wishes of happiness are sometimes formal only, an empty sound, mere words, and nothing else: a compliment performed out of regard to custom and fashion, without any real love, or true desire of the welfare of those who are favoured with it. In this respect, Christ's peace exceeded that of the world. His farewell wish was not without thought and meaning. He was not unconcerned about the welfare of his disciples. Their happiness was not a thing indifferent to him. He truly loved them, and wished them well. As St. John observes at the beginning of the thirteenth chapter of his gospel : " Having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them to the end." He was continually He was continually giving them marks of affection for their
welfare: and at this time he was sincere as ever.
2. Christ's wish of peace exceeds that of the world in the fervour and earnestness, as well as in the truth and sincerity of it.
It was not a cold and faint desire of their happiness, but most fervent and earnest. Otherwise he had not now concerned himself about his disciples, when he was so near a time of bitter sufferings.
Indeed Christ's love was very general and extensive. "For God so loved the world, that gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have everlasting life," John iii. 16. He gave himself for "the life of the world," John vi. 51. In his difficult and important undertaking, and every part of it, he had an eye to the recovery and salvation of all, even of all such as were in darkness and ignorance, sin and misery. And certainly that love is very great and. extraordinary, which produces such effects, and carries through the sorrows of a painful and ignominious death.
In this general and fervent love the disciples had their share. He gave himself for them, as well as for others. But we may suppose, that in the days of his flesh, during his abode on this earth, he had an especial affection and tenderness for those whom he had called to be with him, and who had hearkened to that call. Before he gave them that call, they believed in him, and were disciples in general, and had a respect for him as the expected Messiah. Such an idea they formed of him, founded upon the preaching of John the Baptist, and some discourses with himself, compared with the prophecies of the ancient scriptures.
And now they had been with him a year or two, during the time of his public ministry.! They persevered in their faith and profession, and attendance on him, notwithstanding the reflections cast upon him, and upon them for his sake. They were not free from defects and failings, which his all-discerning eye observed, and which he kindly took notice of to them. But they had shewn a sincere affection and respect for him, and an ardour for his honour and service, which were very acceptable.
They were become more especially his charge, and were as his family. As such he is now retired with them, and has friendly and intimate conversation with them. And he takes his leave of them, as a parent does of his children, a little before his expected departure out of this
• Bis autem eundem sensum repetit, sicut dicere solemus: Vale, Vale. Grot. in loc.
world: or as some person of eminent station and character, may do of his friends and dependents, or others, whom he has treated with special regard.
3. There is still another very remarkable difference to be observed by us. surpasseth that of the world in real excellence and value.
His wish of peace is not only sincere and fervent, but also wise and judicious, not weak, and fond, or partial.
What was the peace, which our Lord now gave, and left with his disciples, we may clearly discern from the tenour of all his exhortations and teachings, public and private. He does not wish them the great things of this world, abundance of riches, honour and splendour: these are not the things which he wishes for them chiefly, and in the first place. He continually cautioned men against setting their affections upon such things, and seeking them as their main happiness. Undoubtedly, he wishes, that his friends and followers may fare well, and meet with a kind and friendly reception among men, and obtain other advantages and comforts, so far as they can be secured in the way of integrity and strict virtue, and without abating the ardour of their zeal for the honour of God, and the interest of true religion, in all its branches. But he first of all desires, that they may do well, and in the next place only, that they may fare well.
In this respect the peace of Christ differs very much from the peace of the world, and the men of it. The peace, which they usually wish for those whom they love best, is made up of all the ingredients of a worldly felicity. They set a great value upon such things themselves. And therefore, when their love of others is sincere and warm, they are very apt earnestly to desire abundance of worldly goods for them.
But that is not true wisdom. Solomon said of old: "Fear God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole" duty and interest " of man," Eccl. xii. 13. Our Lord proceeds upon the same plan, only farther improved. As he says in this context, ver. 21. "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. And he that loveth me, shall be loved of my Father. And I will love him, and will manifest myself to him." His precepts are
very sublime and spiritual, requiring purity of heart and life. His blessings and promises are suitable, even heavenly and eternal. And the desires and pursuits of his disciples and followers should be answerable. "My sheep hear my voice. And I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hands," John x. 27, 28.
This blessing our Lord now gives to his disciples. This peace he leaves with them, and wishes, and recommends it to them to take care that they fail not of it, and fall not short of the everlasting rest which remains for God's people. And if they act thus, all other things needful and convenient will be added.
Then they will have peace with God. God will not be an enemy to them, but will love and approve of them. of them. And they will have a comfortable persuasion of his favour and acceptance. If they seek the kingdom of heaven, and its righteousness, in the first place, they will never contract such friendship with this world, as would produce enmity with God.
Then they will have peace in their own minds. They will not easily do any thing, for which their own hearts should afterwards reproach them: but will so act, as to enjoy a happy serenity and composure of mind.
They will be also free from tormenting, ambitious pursuits of the great things of this world; and will have satisfaction and contentment in every condition.
Says our Lord: "And ye now therefore have sorrow. But I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice. And your joy no man taketh from you," John xvi. 22. This is a great advantage of the peace of religion, the peace which our Lord gives, that it is durable. It is not to be broken in upon, and carried away, by every flood of affliction. It is not fleeting and inconstant, like worldly peace and joy, depending upon advantages, passing and fading. But it resembles the rock upon which it is built, the hope of everlasting life, which God has promised to them that love him, and keep his commandments. The earnest desire and steady pursuit of that, above all things else, must produce great and constant peace. For whatever we lose, this great blessing is sure, if we do not forfeit it by wilful disobedience and transgression.
This is a blessed peace. St. Paul speaks of the peace of God, as "passing all understanding," Philip. iv. 7. It includes advantages, not easy to be apprehended by such as have had no experience of it.