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ON THE HUMAN CHARACTER OF CHRIST. *
JOHN, i. 14.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt
among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
In a former discourse, my brethren, I directed your attention to those principles of nature, which, without the illumination of the Gospel, form the whole of man; and, without at all controverting the truth of that doctrine of Religion, which points to a general corruption into which our nature has fallen, I yet affirmed that there is something in these principles which is far from being necessarily corrupt or wicked. The Apostle designates this state of nature, by the singular expressions, to be born“ of blood, of the will of the flesh, and of the will of man;" by the first of which expressions, I suppose him to point at those views of common reason, and at those natural affections, which exist in every human Being, and which are the foundation of all that we know, and of all that we are. By “the will of the flesh,” he probably means, to express those passions and habits of earthly existence, which necessarily spring up in the intercouse of society, and in our progress through the world. There is a third natural principle which has been graciously given for the regulation of the rest--the sentiment of morality-which the Apostle seems to designate, by “ the will of man;" by which, amidst all the wanderings and corruptions of our race, the course of human existence has yet been protected and guided, even in the darkest times, and which ought ever to be regarded with the utmost reverence, into whatever direction we are turning our inquiries. Upon none of these principles, it is to be observed, does the Apostle affix any seal of reprobation ; he only tells us, that by them we cannot be born" the sons of God," and that the human race would have wandered on in much error, and darkness, and sin, utterly ignorant of its highest destination, or making fruitless attempts to attain the knowledge of it, had not God made that manifestation of Himself, in which we are called to be his
* Preached on Christmas Eve.
This he did, as you know, by sending into our lower world the eternal Son of his love-and“ as many as received Him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
I. What is that character of mind, which, as “ the sons of God,” it is requisite for us to acquire ? is a question which often occasions anxiety to the human heart. Beset, as we are, with natural inclinations and worldly passions, we often despair of attaining that purity and holiness which seems to belong to so high a designation ; and, in order to attain it, we sometimes think it necessary to wage war with all those sentiments, which either nature has inspired, or which the progress of life has engendered, and to aiin at a character of thought and
of feeling, which seems evidently inconsistent with our condition in this world. It probably was one object of that great Revelation, which we contemplate at this season, that “the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us,”--to prevent those misapprehensions of religious minds -to shew. us what is the course of “ the sons of God” in this worldand that, contemplating the life of Him who was “ full of grace and truth,” we might discover the simple path which he has traced for us.
1. If we examine His life, I observed, we shall, in the first place, see, that he never affected any superiority to any one sentiment which nature has implanted in our frames; the perceptions of his understanding were plain and reasonable, and without any wandering of enthusiasm ; his affections were simple and sincere; his sympathy with human joy or sufferfering, seemed to be the natural result of kindness and cordiality. We do not, at first view, indeed, discover, in this foundation of his character, any intermixture of higher views, or more inspired sentiments. peared to feel simply as a man among men. From the innocent scenes of human enjoyment he turned not away, although upon
Him were laid all the most serious interests of man; and he wept amidst the appearances of mortality and sorrow, even at the very moments when he was preparing to remove them. Nothing can prove to us more distinctly, my brethren, that, in order to be Christians, we are not in any respect to cease from being men ; that all the thoughts and the emotions of nature are innocent in themselves, and that our hopes and our joys-our affections and our sorrows,must ever flow in the channel which was originally prescribed for them, 2. I remarked, in the second place, that he
was made flesh, and dwelt among us,” professed no abhorrence of any of the occupations in which men are engaged in society, or of the common sentiments which naturally arise in the course of such occupations. He frequented the society of men of all professions, and in all circumstances of fortune, and it was only in one instance, when he saw a naturally good and honest mind grievously borne down by the burden of great possessions; that he said to one, who asked him, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” “ Sell whatever thou hast, and come, take up the Cross, and follow me.”