« PreviousContinue »
of our Lord. To illustrate this extraordinary conjunction of apparently conflicting elements found in him,
1. Look at our Lord by the grave of Lazarus. How truly man, partaker of our common nature! The sight of the tomb wakens all his grief; the sufferings of these two sisters, clinging to each other, touch his loving heart; and there he stands, for ever sanctioning sorrow, and even exalting it into a manly, most noble thing. His eyes swim in tears, groans rend his bosom; he is so deeply, so uncontrollably, so visibly affected, that the spectators say, See how he loved him! Jesus wept. So was it some moments ago. But now, what a change! The crowd retreat, surprise, wonder, terror seated on every face; the boldest recoiling from that awful form which comes shuffling out of the grave. This man of tears, so gentle, so tender, so easily moved that he often wept, endued with a sensibility so delicate that the strings of his heart vibrated to the slightest touch, has, by a word, rent the tomb. Struck with terror, the witch of Endor shrieked when she saw the form of Samuel emerging from the ground; what a contrast this scene to that! Not in the least surprised at the event, as if, in raising the buried dead, he had done nothing more remarkable than light a lamp or rekindle the embers of an extinguished fire, calm and tranquil, Jesus points to Lazarus, saying, Loose him, and let him go.
2. Look at Jesus by Jacob's well. There a woman who has come to draw water about mid-day, finds a traveller seated. She looks at him. He is brown
with the dust of a journey; he looks pale, and worn, and weary; the hot sun beats upon his head. accosts her, saying, Give me to drink! And in granting it for woman seldom refuses kindness to the needy-she fancies, no doubt, that this is some poor Jew, whose haughty pride bends to necessity in asking the meanest favour from a Samaritan. So he seemed, when, gratefully acknowledging her kindness, he bent his head, and drank deep draughts of the cool refreshing water. But, when he has raised his eyes to look, not into her face, but into her heart, and to read off, as from a book, its most secret thoughts, and, although they had never met before, to tell her all, to use her own words, that she had ever done, with what wonder does she regard him? She is amazed and awed. Well she might. The thirsty way-worn man has suddenly changed into the omniscient God.
Thus, the incommunicable attributes of Divinity, and the common properties of humanity stand out equally clear in our Lord's life and person. And just such a conjunction of things apparently irreconcileable presents itself to our attention in the description given of Jesus Christ in this verse. In this clause, he is described by a term sacred to God; we pass on to the next, and step at once from the throne of the heavens down into a grave. In these words, "the beginning," we behold him presiding at the creation of the universe; by those which follow, "the first-born from the dead," we are carried in fancy to a lonely garden, where, all quiet within, Roman sentinels keep
watch by a tomb, or where, as they fly in pale terror from the scene, we see him who had filled the eternal throne, and been clothed with light as with a garment, putting off a shroud, and leaving a tomb. What key is there to this mystery, what possible way of harmonising these things, but this, that Christ, while man, was more than man, one who has brought together properties so wide apart as dust and divinity, time and eternity, eternal Godhead and mortal manhood? What comfort to us, as well as glory to him, in this combination! Should it not dissipate every care and fear, to think that our Saviour, friend, and lover, has the heart of a brother and the hand of God?
Let us now consider that clause of this verse in which our Lord is called "the beginning."
I. This term expresses his divine nature.
I have read a story of a blind man, who, determined to rise above his misfortune, and to pursue knowledge under the greatest difficulties, set himself to study the nature of light and colours. This much he had learned, that, while these differ in intensity, it is the red-coloured ray that glares strongest on the eye. He flattered himself that he had at length mastered a subject which must remain for ever more or less of a mystery to one, as he was, born blind; and so, when asked what he thought red was like, he replied-evident satisfaction at his acquirements lighting up his sightless face-that he fancied it like the sound of a trumpet,
Though we may smile at an answer so wide of the mark, his difficulty in describing colours is more or less ours in describing God. It were easier for these fingers to close upon the world, for this hand to hold the great globe within its grasp, than for any finite mind to comprehend the infinite fulness of God. "It is high, I
cannot attain unto it." "He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing. By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens, his hand hath formed the crooked serpent. Lo, these are part of his ways; but how little a portion is heard of him? but the thunder of his power who can understand?"
Just as that blind man borrowed terms from sounds to express the objects of sight, and therefore did it very imperfectly, even so, familiar only with what is visible, palpable, finite, we have to borrow terms from these things to describe the invisible, the God who is encased in no body, and confined within no bounds. And as I have seen a father, to make a thing plain to his little child, take the boy on his knee, and, forgetting his own learning, dropping all correct and philosophical language, speak to the child after the manner of a child, so our heavenly Father condescends to speak of himself to us. Did he make the heavens and the earth? They are the work of his hands. Does he rule the storm? He holds the winds in his fist. Are those tremendous powers of nature, the earthquake and the volcano, obedient to his will? Like conscious guilt in presence of her judge, the earth trembles at his look,
and at his touch the mountains smoke.
Does he con
stantly watch over his people? As a kind mother's eye, whatever be her task, follows the movements of her infant, so that if it fall she may raise it, or if it wander too near the fire, the cliff, or the brink of a stream, she may run to pluck it out of danger, God's eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong to them whose hearts are perfect towards him. Does it thunder? It is the voice of the Lord; the lightning cloud that comes driving up the sky is his chariot, and when flash blazes upon flash, his arrows go abroad. His presence is now an eye, now a hand,
His love is a kiss,
now an arm, and now a shield.
He returns. Does
he interpose in any remarkable way? He plucks his hand from his bosom, and, like one who goes vigorously to work, the blacksmith who wields the hammer, or the woodman who plies the axe, he makes bare his arm. And when inspiration, attempting one of her loftiest flights, seeks to express the greatness of his majesty, she turns the heavens into a sapphire throne, spangled all with stars, and taking up this great globe, rolls it forward for God to set his feet on. saith the Lord, the heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool." Thus, by terms borrowed from our bodies, and properties, and circumstances, God describes himself, and among other instances of that kind, there is one where he employs the very term here applied to Jesus in my text. For the purpose of teaching us