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even these few instances are enough to show us, how severe the opposition is from without, and from within, which the servant of Christ must expect to meet in winning the arduous way to heaven ; but we have seen, too, the principle on which all that opposition may be surmounted, and that is a lively faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. In applying, as doubtless we all must, if we would profit by such considerations, the subject to our own case, my Christian friends, let us not think it is our lot to float down with a current of favourable circumstances to the haven of eternal rest. Do not let us think that it will be ours to go down the course of life as though we had nothing to do but to gaze on the glowing beauties of the heaven above, or heedlessly to inhale the fragrance of the flowers that grow on the margin around us. No, the current is not with us but against us; and if we would win our way to heaven, it must be by strenuous and by prolonged exertions. Let us make up our mind to meet the opposition, which assuredly we must suffer, if we would successfully prosecute our journey to a better world.
All the opposition I have described we must meet, perhaps, more than all will fall to the share of some of those believers whom I address; but if I address any one who has discovered at length the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ, and is now able to glory in him as a Saviour that exactly suits his wants, I beseech my Christian brother to prepare his mind for all those difficulties in his road to heaven that he must assuredly meet. Oh, let him not so flatter himself that these difficulties may take him unawares, and he shrink from them when they come. Is there any one here who, because there are such difficulties in his way, is disposed to turn back again r That were a sad symptom that every religious feeling you ever had was nothing
but superficial, the working of the natural mind. Is there any one here that would find a sure road to heaven, and if possible avoid the difficulties which a honest and consistent profession of Christ must entail on him? That is another symptom scarcely less fatal, that as yet, you have known nothing of your Saviour. Faith working by love will make you meet those difficulties which God, in his all-wise providence, has allotted to try us all. It is a part of that which is essential to our well-being; and the temper in which we should survey our prospects is this, that God our Father in heaven, infinitely wise and powerful as he is, who could sweep away with one omnipotent volition all the difficulties which we have to meet, has determined for our good, and not through his own weakness, that these difficulties must be met. They should be met, then, cheerfully; we should gird up the loins of our mind to meet them, and feel that they are a part of our appointed lot. We should meet them cheerfully, because we know the sources from whence we may derive sufficient strength to become more than conquerors over them all.
Where, then, does the Christian's strength lie? It lies in this alone—in believing experimental views of the Lord Jesus Christ. If we obtain those views of our blessed Saviour, which are offered to us all, we may obtain a principle and power to resist all the difficulties in our way; but this is absolutely essential. To know Christ, then, is the great lesson of our lives, to know him more and more is the single and grand lesson which every soul among us must desire on our way to heaven. For this, and this alone, St. Paul counted all things but loss that he might be accounted of Him. This, and this alone, was that which seemed to him to sum up all other blessings in himself. What was so inexpressibly precious to St. Paul, and is most precious to each believer in exact proportion to his experience of it, must be set before us all, as the grand thing we have to aim at in our desires, our exertions, and our prayers. To know the glory of Christ, the majesty of Christ, the power of Christ, the faithfulness and truth of Christ— to know his holiness—to know more and more of his tender compassion to sinners—to observe his wise and merciful dealings with his people—to survey the promises he has given, and the means by which he accomplishes them—to know how he loves us—to experience, in our own hearts, the height and depth, and length and breadth of that love which passeth knowledge— this is the business of each one who would call himself a Christian—this is the grand spiritual discovery, after which each of us must aim. For this no exertions are too great, it will infinitely more than repay every effort that we can make for it.
And when I call you, my Christian friends, most seriously to make that effort, are there objections arising in your minds which efface so rapidly every impression now formed on them? and does it come into your mind, I have my own necessary affairs to engross me, and from the beginning of the week to its close I must labour hard, and labour to exhaustion, that I may secure the great objects of life? Politics, philosophy, merchandise, researches of science, manual labour, and whatever else may employ men in the thousand modes in which human beings are labouring in this world, these so engross and exhaust my powers that I have no time left for a serious endeavour to penetrate deeper and deeper into the mystery of redeeming love. Does a feeling of this sort dwell in the mind of any one here who calls himself a Christian, who is a believer indeed?
Oh! my brethren, is there any object, I beseech you to consider, that you can attain by any exertions, that can so reward your pains as to make it worth your while to lose this increase in the knowledge of Jesus Christ f Can you s0 deliberately propose to yourself a course of life in which you shall not know more and more of the love which passeth knowledge? Was it for this our blessed Redeemer died? Was it for this he rose again to glory? Is it for this he exerts his power and his omnipotence daily to do you good? Does he watch you, and bless all your exertions? Has he placed you in a state of happiness, surrounded you with mercies, given you the children that you love, the wife that you cherish, the husband that you value? Has he given you your homes? Has he given you your health? Has he given you your faculties? Does he continue them all? Is he inexpressibly glorious? Is Christ really so good, so true, so holy, so eternally to be adhered to, that you can choose to forget him, that you can choose to take the petty things of a day, and engross your mind from the beginning of the week to its close with these little things? Never did Christ demand from you that which is incompatible with your soul's blessedness, but he does ask that you should give him some of your best thoughts and some of your best hours; and that you feel with St. Paul, to have no other end in view but to know and love Christ.
Oh, let not secondary thoughts occupy you! I am sure, my brethren, there is not one so busy among you, not one so necessarily engrossed in difficult and most important affairs, but that he may, if he trill, find time to solace his weary spirit, to refresh his exhausted mind by this best and most delightful knowledge. Oh, if you have tasted you cannot do without it—vou cannot consent, whatever be the circu instances in which you ore placed, to separate yourself from that which is the fairest and best object on which the mind can ever rest. Be not, my brethren, so ungrateful, be not so unwise. I ask you not what your consciences say of such a wilful neglect— I ask you not how many painful results will take place in your Christian experience—I ask you not what your Christian friends around you think of it—I ask you not what the world may say of it. Perhaps conscience may be dull—perhaps you may not notice the disastrous consequences on your spiritual life—perhaps your Christian friends may look most mercifully on your neglect—perhaps the world may plead your worldly assiduities and success; but I may ask you, my Christian brethren, what does our blessed Saviour think of it? He knows what you do—he knows every thought that enters your mind, and registers every resolution you form; he has an entire right to you, and you will see him before long. With what countenances will you meet your Saviour when death shall bring you into his presence, if you have deliberately so arranged your habits, being real believers in Christ, that you have lived and died with very, very little knowledge of the Son of God? While around you, perhaps, are more happy because more faithful disciples who were daily advancing in grace and knowledge— who secured all the valuable ends of living as well as you—who outran you in the race, only because they paid attention to this important duty. If
shame can dwell in heavenly bosoms, if a redeemed spirit could shed a tear, I am very sure, that shame will fill your minds, and that tears will be shed by you when you stand face to face with your injured Saviour.
My brethren, Christ Jesus is so good, he is so able to bless the soul, there is so much to know of him, and every khalf hour we give to meditation on his life is so very fruitful in blessing, brings such plentiful enjoyments with it, that I would regret deeply that any real servants of the Lord should debar themselves from so many mercies. Study, study Christ —penetrate more deeply every day into the mystery of redeeming love— count that day lost, my friends, in which you do not learn something more of Christ—never let prayer satisfy you, unless you come into his sacred presence, and feel that he is with you. It will strengthen life, and without it your Christian course will be melancholy; no intelligence can secure you from darkness—no determination can secure you from wavering—no strength of character can hinder you from falling. Be watchful in your Christian course, your only safety lies in living near to Christ—walk with him every day—strengthen your faith in him perpetually, and with faith your love will grow, with love your obedience will improve, and you will honour him while you live and enjoy him more than others, and then you will meet him in peace, which may he in his infinite mercy grant to many of us for his own name's sake.
DELIVERED BY THE REV. W. CUNNINGHAM,
AT TRINITY CHURCH, CHELSEA, FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE CHELSEA LTINO-IN CHARITY,
AFRIL 10, 1831.
Hebrews, ii. 16—" He tooh not on him the nature ofangeh; but he tooh on hm the
teed of Abraham."
Different views of this text have been taken by different interpreters. In the original, the sentence is, "he took not on him angels, but the seed of Abraham." Our translators have supplied the words, "the nature of;" thus conveying to us a clear and definite sense of the words, and a sense agreeing, as I need not say, with every part of the Scriptures. When angels and men stood equally in need of a saviour, Christ took on him, not the nature of fallen angels, but of fallen man. He clothed himself, not with the qualities and properties of those high intelligences, who either still surround the throne or are reserved in chains for the judgment of the Great Day; but he clothed himself in all the infirmities of our nature—made himself of no reputation—took on him the form of a servant—was made in the likeness of man—and being found in fashion as a man, became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Brethren, the facts of Christianity supply what I may call its strongest arguments and motives; and I am about to apply the astonishing fact, thus proclaimed in the text, and which, I may say, is the source of the believer's peace and joy, as an argument and motive for the fulfilment of the particular duty to which I am to call your attention to-day. May a merciful God bless the contemplation of this subject to our souls!
My main object in the discourse will be, to show you, by a comparison
of the nature of angels and of man, how great are the love and condescension of the Saviour of sinners to a guilty world. And after this, to consider the bearing of this fact on the particular case to which our attention is to be called to-day.
In the First place, then, our object
is BY A COMPARISON OF THE NATURE OF ANGELS AND OF HAN TO SHOW HOT GREAT HAVE BEEN THE LOVE AND CONDESCENSION OF CHRIST TO 8INNER8. I
may begin by observing, that, in the
First place, Me angels are spirits. They
are not encumbered with weak and
weary bodies—they pass from one spot
of the Universe to the other without any
effort—they are incapable of hunger
and disease—they are indifferent to all
the variations of climate, and all the
successions of changing seasons—they
appear to be endowed with immortal
youth, strength, and beauty. And yet,
brethren, had the Son of God taken
upon him their nature, how great had
been his condescension—he is the maker
of those very spirits—" By Him were
created all things both in heaven and
earth, and without Him was not any
thing made that is made." These
spirits wait upon Him and do His
pleasure. "Thousand thousands,"
says Daniel, "minister unto Him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand
do His pleasure." That innumerable
company fly at His bidding. He says
to one, "Go, and he goeth; and to
another come, and he cometh" all, in
fact, that is spiritual in their nature is
derived from Him. But, brethren, the Lord Jesus took not on him their nature, but the nature of man—he did not assume the qualities of an everactive, untired, and intelligent spirit, but the form and fashion of a man— he sat wearied at the well of Samaria —he hungered and thirsted—he felt the want of a place in which to lay his head—he suffered and agonised in the garden—and on the cross drops of blood rolled down his forehead, and streams of blood gushed from his side —he was familiar, in fact, with suffering in most of the severest forms in which it is known to man. Oh, the love of this suffering Redeemer! How should every heart melt at the contemplation of it! How should every misery and pang of our own body remind us of that suffering frame which he dragged along through this vale of tears—through a tedious course of more than thirty years, simply because he loved you, and chose to give himself for you.
I may observe, Secondly, that the angels are glorious spirits. They are not spirits, simply in the abstract, but in the highest meaning of the term— they have authority—principalities, powers, thrones and dominions—they excel in every mental qualification— they excel in utterance, "having the tongues of men and angels"—they excel in strength. Consider some of the glorious actions achieved by angels in their commerce with the children of men. An angel hastened Lot out of Sodom, and then executed the dreadful vengeance of God on the devoted city. An angel preceded and guided the marches of the armies of Israel. An angel saved the three young men from the furnace of fire, and Daniel in the den of lions. An angel smote the host of Sennacherib, and there died one hundred and sixty-five thousand men in the camp of the Assyrians. An angel explained to Daniel all the mys
teries of the ages to come. An angel proclaimed the birth of the Son of God. An angel smote king Herod in the midst of his blasphemy and power, and he was eaten up of worms because he gave not God the glory. An angel touched the chains of Peter, and at once they fell from him, and his prison doors burst open. To four angels in the vision of John was given to hurt the earth and sea; and angels shall gather the elect from the four corners of the world. Angels shall execute the last vengeance of God upon man and upon devils. "1 saw," says the beloved disciple, "an angel standing in the sun, and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds of prey that fly in the midst of heaven, come and gather yourselves together into the supper of the great God." And yet, brethren, glorious as is the nature of these spirits, Christ took not on him the nature of angels, but the nature of man—not that nature which lifte them immeasutably above all the combined powers of all the great and wise and powerful of this world, but he took upon him, what is termed, this vile and corruptible and comparatively powerless and weak, and, as you feel it, this dying form of man. He took on him the nature of one of those one hundred and sixty-five thousand, who perished by the glance of an angel in the army of Sennacherib. How can words, my Christian brethren, sufficiently describe the mercy and condescension of such a sacrifice for guilty and ungrateful man? How can the heart sufficiently adore and love Him who has thus stooped to the wants and necessities of fallen creatures? Had he chosen to have placed himself in the rank of angels, he might have appropriately swept the earth with an hurricane, or created a harvest and destroyed it in a breath, but he chose to want, to suffer, to bleed, to die, to go down into the grave as one