"What think ye of Christ?" We
may now, with great propriety, consider this question solemnly addressed to us. We have
contemplated the person, states, and offices of Christ. What impression does the
contemplation leave in our minds? What emotions has it produced? Have the words of the
prophets been fulfilled in our case: "He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we
shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him"? Or, can we say,
"He is the chief among ten thousands, and altogether lovely"? According as
Christ appears in our view, the evidence of our spiritual state is favorable or
unfavorable; and by this test, we may try our hope of acceptance through him, and of
reigning with him for ever.
In the ordinary experience of mankind, the affections are attracted most strongly by objects near at hand. To the imagination, distance may lend enchantment; but the affections of the heart play around the fireside, and fix their firmest hold on those with whom we converse most familiarly. In accordance with this tendency of our nature, the son of God attracted the hearts of men, by dwelling among them, and exhibiting himself in familiar intercourse with them, and in the endearing relations well known in human society. We see him, as the affectionate brother and friend, weeping in the sorrows of others, and alleviating their sufferings by words and acts of kindness. The tenderness with which, when hanging on the cross, he committed his mother to the care of his beloved disciple, is an example of filial love, which cannot be contemplated with an unmoved heart. In the simple narratives of his life, which have been given for our instruction, we trace his course in his daily walk as a man among men, going about doing good, and the traits of character exhibited in this familiar intercourse, call forth our love. The heavens have now received him out of our sight, but we know that, in fulfillment of his promise, he is always with us; and we are taught to regard him, not only as near at hand, but also as sympathizing with our infirmities, having been tempted in all points as we are. In the humanity of Jesus, we see the loveliness of the divine perfections familiarly and intelligibly exhibited.
It sometimes happens, in the experience of mankind, that persons of extraordinary merit remain for a time in obscurity, and that those who have been most intimate with them have been taken by surprise, when the unsuspected greatness of their character has been disclose. Writers of fiction know how to interest the feelings, by presenting great personages under disguise, and unveiling them at a fit moment, to produce impression. But incidents, infinitely transcending all fiction, are found in the true history of Jesus Christ, in which the concealed majesty of his divinity broke forth, and caused surpassing astonishment. The humble sleeper in the boat on the Lake of Tiberias, comes forth from his slumbers, and stills the raging water; and the beholders of the miracle exclaim: "What manner of man is this?" The weary traveller arrives at Bethany, and claims to be the resurrection and the life, and demonstrates the truth of his claim, by calling the dead Lazarus from the tomb. As a condemned malefactor, he hangs on the cross, and expires with such exhibitions of divinity, that the astonished Roman centurion cried: "Truly this man was the Son of God." We have contemplated the divinity of Jesus Christ, not merely in these transient outbursts which occurred while he was on earth, but in the full demonstration which has been given since he ascended to heaven, and the impression on our hearts ought to be strong and abiding. The disciples who attended on his personal ministry loved and honored him; but when they saw him ascend to heaven, being more deeply impressed with his divinity, they worshipped him. Let us devoutly join in rendering him divine honor.
We read with interest the history of men who have passed through great changes in their condition, and who, in every condition, have displayed great and noble qualities. But no changes of condition possible to men, can equal those which the Son of God has undergone. Once rich in his original glory, he became so poor that he had not where to lay his head: and from his depth of poverty, he has been exalted to supreme dominion, and made proprietor and ruler of all worlds. Through these changes he has ever exhibited such moral perfections as have been most pleasing to God. In whatever condition we view him, let us delight in him, as did his Father.
The offices which Christ sustains toward us, are such as have been in highest repute among men. Prophets, priests, and kings have always been accounted worthy of honor. We should give the highest honor to Christ, who, as a prophet, is superior to Moses; as a priest, superior to Aaron; and as a king, the Lord of David. These offices, as exercised by Christ, deserve our honor, not only because of their excellence, but also because of their adaptedness to us. We are, by nature, ignorant, guilty, and depraved. As ignorant, we need Christ, the prophet, to teach us; as guilty, we need Christ, the priest, to make atonement for us; and as depraved, we need Christ, the king, to rule over us, and bring all our rebellious passions into subjection. These offices of Christ are also adapted to the graces which distinguish and adorn the Christian character. The chief of these, as enumerated by Paul, are faith, hope, and love; in the exercise of faith, we receive the truth, revealed by Christ, the prophet; in the exercise of hope, we follow Christ, the priest, who has entered into the holiest of all, to appear before God for us; and we submit to Christ, the king, in the exercise of love, which is the fulfilling of the law, the principle and sum of all holy obedience.
In the theology of the ancient Christians, Christ held a central and vital place. If we take away from the epistles of Paul all that is said about Christ, what mutilation shall we make? If, when we have opened anywhere to read, as at 1 Cor. ch. i., we expunge Christ, what have we left? Paul, while in ignorance and unbelief, thought that he did God service, by persecuting Jesus of Nazareth. But when his eyes were opened, to see that the despised Nazarene, whom his nation had crucified, was the Lord of Glory, when he learned that in him are the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, unsearchable riches, and the fulness of grace, the heart of the persecutor was changed, and he became devoted to the service of him whom he had sought to destroy. Henceforth, he counted all things but loss, for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. Has our knowledge of Christ produced a like effect on us? If our hearts are in unison with that of the great Apostle, we are prepared to say, from the inmost soul, "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel," a gospel of which Christ is not the centre and the sum, "let him be accursed." "If any man love not our Lord Jesus Christ, let him be an anathema maranatha."
In our investigation of religious truth, we have found four sources of knowledge: our own moral feelings, the moral feelings and judgments of others, the course of nature, and the book of divine revelation. The first three of these can give us no knowledge of Jesus Christ and his great salvation. For this knowledge we are wholly indebted to the Bible. Yet, when we have learned our lost and helpless state by nature, the scheme of salvation which the Bible reveals is so perfectly adapted to our condition, that it brings with it its own evidence of having originated in the wisdom of God.
When Paul preached the gospel of salvation, he know nothing but Jesus Christ, and him crucified. He gloried in nothing, save the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have tarried long in our meditations on the doctrine concerning Jesus Christ; and, before we dismiss the subject, it may be profitable to linger yet a little time at the cross, that we may again survey its glory, and feel its soul-subduing power.
In the cross of Christ, all the divine perfections are gloriously and harmoniously displayed. Infinite love, inviolable truth, and inflexible justice are all seen, in their brightest and most beautifully mingled colors. The heavens declare the glory of God; but the glory of the cross outshines the wonders of the skies. God's moral perfections are here displayed, which are the highest glory of his character.
The cross of Christ is our only hope of life everlasting. On him who hangs there, our iniquities were laid, and from his wounds flows the blood that cleanses from all sin. Our faith views the bleeding victim, and peacefully relies on the great atoning sacrifice. It views mercy streaming from the cross; and to the cross it comes to obtain every needed blessing.
In the cross, the believer finds the strongest motive to holiness. As we stand before it, and view the exhibition of the Saviour's love, we resolve to live to him who died for us. The world ceases to charm. We become crucified to the world, and the world crucified to us. Sin appears infinitely hateful. We regard it as the accursed thing which caused the death of our beloved Lord; and we grow strong in the purpose to wage against it an exterminating war. By all the Saviour's agonies, we vow to have no peace with it for ever. The cross is the place for penitential tears. We look on him whom we have pierced, and mourn. Our hearts bleed at the sight of the bleeding sufferer, murdered by our sins; and we resolve that the murderers shall die. The cross is a holy place, where we learn to be like Christ, to hate sin as he hated it, and to delight in the law of God which was in his heart. In the presence of the cross, we feel that omnipotent grace has hold of our heart; and we surrender to dying love.
The wisdom of man did not devise the wonderful plan of salvation. As well might we suppose that it directed the great Creator, when he spread abroad the heavens, and laid the foundations of the earth. But as in the heavens and earth human reason may see the power and wisdom of God, so, to the Christian heart, Christ crucified is the power of God, and the wisdom of God. The doctrine of the cross needs no other demonstration of its divine origin, than its power to sanctify the heart, and bring it into willing and joyful subjection to Christ.
 Gal. i. 8.
 1 Cor. xvi. 22.
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