« PreviousContinue »
crimes.—It is in these affecting terms, that the Apostle describes the earthly condition of the incarnate Saviour of mankind; and, in the various expressions here used, he seems to utter this one idea-Not only did the Lord Jesus Christ, for man's redemption, disrobe himself of his heavenly glory, but he illustrated his self-renouncing regard for others by entering into the opposite extreme of misery. His benevolence was not simply negative, in consenting to be, for a season, without that dignity which belonged to him; but it was exhibited in a positive endurance of all those calamities, griefs, and pains, which are the heritage of dying men. How overwhelming, my brethren, considered in this view, is the representation here given you by the sacred writer, of the disinterested love of that Friend of sinners! He not only leaves heaven, but he passes through the sharpest sorrows of earth. There is no degradation to which he does not subject himself, as he travels on his pilgrimage of mortality. He is the victim of cruel insult; he has not where to lay his head; he is assaulted by wicked hands; he ascends a tree of shame and torture, and yields up the ghost! Such was the Redeemer's incarnate career; and the words before us, which describe it, may be properly placed by the side of the prophet's anticipating strains. "He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed."*
After having thus illustrated the two-fold representation *Isaiah, liii. 3. 4. 5.
given by St. Paul, of Christ's original exaltation, and of the condition which he assumed, it seems proper, my brethren, briefly to apply to your hearts the moral lesson with which he accompanies the statement. St. Paul had been enforcing the duty of becoming divested, as far as possible, of the selfishness of unrenewed nature; and of sacrificing personal considerations to the well-being of your neighbor and friend. As the highest of all excitements to the cultivation of this affectionate spirit, he proposes the example of the Lord Jesus: bidding the Christian to carry in his heart, wherever he goes, the remembrance of that self-renouncing Master who came to die for the guilty. "Let this mind," says he, "be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus." With this same intention, permit me now to hold up to your view, the incarnate "Apostle and High Priest of our profession."* Is there within this congregation the man, who, while millions are perishing for lack of knowledge, will neither consecrate one moment, nor devote one least portion of the gifts of Providence, to the diffusion of gospel truth among these wanderers in thick darkness? Look at this Author of human salvation. That men may be rescued from condemnation, brought back to the favor of God, and crowned with eternal felicity in his heavenly kingdom, he leaves "the glory which he had with the Father before the world was;" he is "brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth". Is there here the person, who, in the daily intercourse of life, consults no comfort, no advantage, no pleasure, but his own; and who, not even in a single instance, is discovered forgetting the accommodation of self, in his wishes to secure the + Isaiah, liii. 7.
*Heb. iii. 1.
† John, xvii. 6.
happiness of another? Turn to the model which the Apostle furnishes; and be convicted; and imitate. For whose interests did Jesus meditate, when he forsook that bright condition, and "humbled himself to be born of a virgin ?" To whom had he regard, when he suffered himself to be scourged, and buffeted, and scorned? Whose happiness was in his eye, when, without resistance, he was nailed to the ignominious scaffold, and bled, and died? Keep before your view this stupendous exemplification of love, and you will need no argument more powerful; it will melt your hard spirit; it will lead you to see the heavenly beauty of that disposition of mind, which seeks, and strives, and prays, for the prosperity of a brother man. And it is from their knowledge of the efficacy of this divine example, that the inspired writers are so constantly, in their pages, holding it forth as the incentive to every generous affection. Be it yours to study it day by day; endeavor to imbibe more and more of the mind of the Lord Jesus; and your conduct will by degrees exhibit, that which is now perhaps little manifested, the warmth of a disinterested, generous, and beneficent heart. "Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me."*
From this description of the voluntary humiliation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Apostle, before proceeding in his course of practical admonitions, passes to a brief, but magnificent representation, of the Redeemer's present exalted condition. This subject is treated in the ninth, and two following verses; in which he represents, in terms of wonderful eloquence and
*Rom. xv. 2. 3.
majesty, the station of our divine Lord on the throne of his mediatorial kingdom. Let us examine the words which he employs. "Wherefore God also," he declares, "hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:" by which he means to say, that the Saviour of the has world, having performed the great atonement for iniquity, been invested by the Father with supreme dominion; and that the honor, dignity, and authority, which he has thus received, are such as none has ever yet possessed, or shall possess in days to come. The universal power which the Lord Jesus, thus elevated as the Head of his church, exerts over all created beings, is thus expressed. "That at the name," or, before the authority," of Jesus, every knee should bow; of things in heaven," that is, of all the celestial intelligences; " and things in earth," namely, human creatures who inhabit this lower world; " and things under the earth," that is, persons who have departed out of the present state by death, and the legions of the spirits of darkness.* All these are, in one sense or in another, the subjects of the once crucified, but now ascended Redeemer: for either, like the renewed believer, they adore this Finisher of their faith with gratitude and love, or they are compelled, amidst punishment and chains, to acknowledge his supremacy and glory. This idea the Apostle again expresses in other terms: "And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the
* I have thus, according to the view of several expositors, explained the meaning of St. Paul's expressions, "things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;" because I think there is grandeur in the idea which such an interpretation suggests. It is more than probable, however, that the Apostle intended, by these words, to express simply the universality of Christ's dominion. Instances of a similar kind of phraseology, in the sense of all things without exception, are to be found in Rom. viii. 38. 39; and Rev. v. 13.
Father;" or, in other words, it shall indeed come to pass, that there will be no living person, who shall not, either voluntarily and with joy, or by the power of this Redeemer's arm, do homage to him as the Sovereign and King, and the object of universal worship.-St. Paul intends, therefore, simply to state the doctrine, that the blessed Jesus has finished his work of humiliation, and has gone upward to preside as the Lord and Governor of the universe; and the words are very similar to a passage in the Epistle to the Ephesians, where it is said, that God hath "raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to
Having thus illustrated the language of this description, permit me to call your attention to one or two important reflections, which it obviously suggests to the mind.
And 1. Let the believer, in this astonishing contrast between the low estate of Jesus on earth, and his present glorious exaltation, discern a new cause for adoring and grateful love. The ordinary mode, my brethren, in which the Christian estimates the extent of the Redeemer's benevolence, when he came down to bleed for sinners, is to go back to his original glory as one with the Father, and equal with him in essence and in perfections: and then to follow him to these lower scenes as the babe in the manger; as the despised of Nazareth; as the heir of infirmities and pains; as the victim of wicked insult, and of excruciating death. And overwhelm* Eph. i. 20. 21.