« VorigeDoorgaan »
struction of the whole sentence, and by the scope of the place. What we think of this we have spoken at large in the discoure. There seems to be nothing in the construction against our sense of the passage; and every thing in the context, coherence, and scope in favour of it.
F IN I S.
THE KINGDOM OF CHRIST NOT OF THIS WORLD.
Preached at Broadmead, Bristol, August 28, 1781, at the annual meeting of the Education Society.
JOHN viii. 36.
My kingdom is not of this world.
THERE are, you know, in christianity, as in ali other sciences, a few principal leading truths, from which all the less considerable parts of the science flow, and on the clear understanding of which depends our knowledge of the whole. If our ideas of first principles be dark and confused, our notions of all consequences arising out of them will partake of the gloom: if on the contrary, we clearly comprehend the grounds of a science, a perspicuity will diffuse itself through every part.
In natural religion the doctrine of the being and perfections of God is a truth of this sort; for all the moral obligations, which we deduce from this first principle, will be contracted or liberal, benevolent or partial, according to the ideas we form of God, the first great cause. In the christian religion the doctrine of the person of Jesus Christ is a truth of this kind; for if we enter into
the natural excellencies, the views and dispositions of Jesus Christ, if we make out, so to speak, what sort of man he was, we shall obtain clear notions of that whole body of divine truth, with which his wise and generous soul blessed the world.
In complying therefore with the laudable custom of this society, of opening term with a discourse of christian theology, in the presence of the church, I have chosen the subject contained in the text as a leading truth, being fully persuaded that all the ends intended by your benefactors, all the designs of your education, all the wishes of your respectable tutors, and all the desires of our ministers and churches will be best answered by your well understanding, and thoroughly imbibing the spirit of these admirable words, my kingdom is not of this world.
It would be useless at present to narrate the history contained in the context, it is sufficient to observe, that the text is an answer given by Jesus Christ to a question put by Pilate, and that the design of this corrupt judge in putting the question is the proper clue to the answer. Pilate, probably, inquired on his own account, and he is supposed by some to have been a gentleman, who, having received a liberal education, and having adopted that philosophy, which affirms, that man cannot distinguish truth from error, that we can know nothing except that we do know nothing, sarcastically said to the prisoner, what is truth? Is it for frail man to affirm! Mortals, do they know truth! If we put together the answers of
our Lord to this inquiry, we have reason to believe, that the expression, my kingdom is not of this world, is equal to saying, my doctrine is not a human science.
Pilate put the question also in the name, and in the sense of the Rabbies. The Jews expected a temporal Messiah. Jesus, without pomp and worldly power, did not answer their expectations. Pilate knew no more of this than the Jews told him; but at their instigation he inquired whether Jesus assumed a character, that did not belong to him; am I a Jew! thine own nation, and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me. What hast thou done? In answer to this question in the Rabbinical sense, our Lord said, my kingdom is not of this world; that is, the Jews mistake the prophets, the end of my coming is not answered by grandeur, my dominion is not supported by secular power, nor is my church the seat of worldly pomp and glory.
Pilate considered himself, thirdly, as entrusted with Caesar's affairs, and it was necessary for him to give on all public occasions, full proof of his attachment to the Emperor's interest, by discountenancing every thing that might tarnish his master's glory, or diminish that empire, which his court made it a law by any means both to acquire and retain. In this view, to affirm, my kingdom is not of this world, is equal to saying, my disciples are not animated with such passions as courtiers feel, my subjects are not fired with ambition, not given
to intrigue, not prepared by my laws to deceive and to destroy; my morality is calculated to produce the safety and happiness of all mankind, not to serve the ambitious views of particular families pagan or christian.
In these three different lights we shall consider the text, and we humbly implore the blessed Spirit to impress the word on all our hearts.
The gospel is not a human science. It must have struck every reader, even the most superficial, that, when the apostles first taught christianity, the wise men of their times accounted the doctrine folly, and the teachers fools. It must also appear equally clear, that the apostles who recorded this in history, and transmitted it to posterity, did not allow the truth of the charge; on the contrary, they constantly affirmed that their gospel was wisdom....wisdom among the upright....THE WIS
DOM OF GOD.
Were we to enter minutely into the subject, we, would affirm, that christianity differs from a human science chiefly in five respects. First, human sciences originate in general in human intelligence, and each in particular in the exercise of some one operation of the mind, so that each science may be traced to some mental power, from which it proceeds but christianity, the plan of redemption, neither sprang from the playful fancy of an enthusiast, nor from the cool deliberate judgment of a philosopher, of inferior or superior genius; it is not the production of human hopes or fears; it is neither the delirium of the weak, nor the wisdom