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to place his character advantageously before its eye, and
, the sight attracts, softens, subdues, ceases not to operate, till it has transformed the soul into its own likeness.
Is it then producing this saving effect upon us? or is the vast and glorious conception of God inhabiting our minds to no purpose ? Shall the knowledge of God, which Jesus Christ came from heaven to impart, remain in our possession, through a whole life as a dead and useless thing? have we nothing of less moment to sport with, that we must needs trifle with this ? shall it at last be reckoned our greatest curse, that we knew the blessed God? We cannot even glance an inquiring look towards him, but Jesus advances to encourage the act, saying, 'To know him is life eternal.' We cannot place ourselves in the pleasant beams of his light, cannot be conscious of a single emotion of admiration of his character, but Jesus addresses himself to our rising hopes, and says, 'You can be like him; you may even resemble the blessed God; Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. We cannot cherish a desire, or breathe a sigh for conformity, but the Holy Spirit forth with begins to transcribe his will on the inner man, to abridge and to epitomize his likeness on the heart in the process of regeneration. God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, is willing to shine into our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of his glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
SECTION II.-CONCERNING HIMSELF,
No man krtoweth the Son but the Father."
* I,' said Christ, 'am the light of the world:' he arose on the world, an object as wonderful and new in his person and office, as the sun when it first took rank among the stars of heaven; and like the solar light, while pouring a flood of radiance on every thing else, he remains himself a glorious mystery. Notwithstanding the diversified dreams in which the world had for ages indulged concerning his person and advent; and all the materials for fancy to work with, supplied by the paintings of prophecy; and the significant shadows which providence had thrown before; his appearance at last took mankind by surprise; a surprise for which the world avenged itself, by arming against him and all who should afterwards assume his badge; but a surprise which overwhelmed the church with a measure of gratitude and delight to which it has ever since been giving expression, and the full utterance of which it reserves for a world where its strains, relieved from all interruption, shall be swelled and aided by all the harps of God.
The supernatural truths by which he is described are so early instilled into our minds, that we ought not to be able to remember the time when first we heard them; and, having become so familiar to us, it requires a considerable mental effort to realize the thought, that they were ever original. But though the human mind had been for ages training to receive him, he found himself, on becoming man, a stranger in a world of strangers.
Judging from the conduet of his disciples, the Mosaic economy does not appear to have given them a single correct presentiment concerning him. His character and claims were so perfectly unique, that although their religion was instituted expressly to be his analogue—and it was the only thing in the world which did represent him-yet they did not at first perceive a single point of coincidence. Every truth which he uttered respecting himself fell on their ear with the strangeness of a new revelation; and instead of being received into their minds with the welcome of an expected guest, had to create a place for itself, or to wait till they could feel themselves reconciled to the novelty. They were not, indeed, wanting in occasional confessions and ascriptions, which satisfied his claims, and called forth his approbation ; but much of this homage was involuntarily won by some sudden escape of his glory, some surprising display of his greatness; and the frequent inconsistencies, in their conduct, by which that homage was in a sense recalled or neutralized, showed that though a new disturbing power was at work within them, it had not yet succeeded in acquiring the dominion of principle and conviction.
Nor was it till after his return to heaven that they began to appreciate aright the claims of the illustrious visitant. Then, when the excitement attending the vision began to subside, they found they had been entertaning the Lord of angels unawares: then, when the Spirit brought all things to their remembrance; when the words of Christ were once more repeated in their ears, and the wonders of his life were made to pass in slow and stately procession before their eyes, they awoke as from a trance, and proclaimed that the Word had been made flesh, and dwelt among us, and that they had beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. At the dictation of the Spirit they proceeded to record a sketch of his life; but they labored at no encomium ; they left that life to speak for itself; they felt that in simply uttering the name of Jesus, they were repeating a name for all that is transcendant in humanity, and all that is glorious in Deity. Henceforth they sought to atone for their past misapprehensions of him by confessing and recording those misapprehensions to their own condemnation: by showing to the world that he had displaced every other idea of greatness from their minds; and that, if while proclaiming his worth to others, they were called to die for his sake, it was the highest honor to which they aspired. The vision which John beheld of him, when he saw in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, was only, in one sense, an image of his surpassing glory, as he was continually present to the minds of them all.
1. Looking at the outline of our Saviour's character, which ancient prophecy had sketched, and comparing it with the more finished portrait which he drew of himself, it is obvious that, even supposing the former had taken full effect on the minds of his disciples, there was yet so much of originality in the additions of the latter, that they could scarcely fail to contemplate it without receiving an im pression of entire novelty. The pen of inspiration had recorded that his goings forth had been from everlasting; in illustration of this sublime truth, he raised the veil of the past eternity, carried back their thoughts through dateless ages before the world began, towards the unimaginable and awful place where God dwells, assuring them that there never was a period when he was not there; there, as an object of infinite complacency; there, in a fellowship of glory with Deity; there, in an identity of character, and unity of essence, a mutual intuition comprising knowledge which no created mind can be made to comprehend: that he, to whose human voice they were then listening, had there seen the cycles of eternity revolve, the ages of time expire, the fathers of their nation and the lights of their church, many kings and prophets, and righteous men,
up the measure of their days and that thence he had actually come forth and descended to save the world.
Prophecy, indeed, had accustomed them to expect in Christ a duality of natures and a consequent mysterious. ness of character and person which would entitle him to be called Wonderful. But what in agination was prepared, even by this exciting prediction, for the great reality. It is true, a herald was sent before to call the attention of the world, and to place it in a state of preparation for his coming; but, 'should he condescend to speak of himself, it might have been said, .by what mental revolution, what new combination of thought, shall we prepare to understand him ? Perhaps, however, he may maintain a reserve on this subject; a regard for our limited capacity, and the peculiar object of his mission, may induce him to hold the mysteries of his nature in abeyance. And he did so.
' He frequently made it apparent that his object was not to expound the complexity of his nature, but to pour into the heart of the world the entire advantage which that complexity was capable of producing; and that, as he had stooped to the low conditions of humanity, he sought not tenaciously to assert the dignity of his superior claims, but considered his humiliation as consisting partly in dwelling on the degradation to which he had stooped. But though he frequently waived the subject in question, yet as often