תמונות בעמוד

a host of arguments. The miracles which Jesus wrought ;-the accurate correspondence between his character, conduct, and fortunes, and the declarations of Old Testament predictions ;-his glorious resurrection from the dead; the signs and wonders which attended and followed this event ;—the rapid and extensive propagation of Christianity,—and the moral miracles which it has wrought on those who received it;--all these afford irrefragable evidence that our religion is divine. But, distinct from these sources of proof, we apprehend that the truth of Christianity necessarily follows from the death of Christ, when that fact is viewed in its true light.

Let us fix our attention for a little on the circum. stances which attended the Saviour's death. Signs in heaven and signs on earth attested the importance of the event, and the divine mission of Him who now yielded up his spirit. The vail of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom ; the earth shook ; the rocks rent; the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints who slept arose. So strongly did these concomitants of the death of Jesus affect the mind of the Roman centurion, that he exclaimed, "Truly this was a righteous man; truly this was the Son of God * !”

It is not only, however, in the miraculous events by which it was accompanied that the death of Jesus attests the divinity of his mission, and the truth of his religion. Jesus died as a martyr. His death is a proof of the truth of his doctrines, the same in kind, but infinitely higher in degree, as that which is afforded by the death of those holy men who sealed his testimony with their blood.

We are far from considering it as a sufficient proof of the truth or excellence of any system, that men have

• Luke xxii. 47 ; Matth. xxvii. 54.

died for it. In this case, systems directly opposed to each other, might equally be demonstrated to be true and excellent. We are, indeed, disposed to think, that to die rather than renounce a doctrine is not uni. formly, though it certainly is usually, a proof that the martyr believes it. The desire of posthumous fame may have, in some instances, induced men to suffer death, rather than avow a truth which would have been fatal to their reputation. And there is no difficulty in finding abundance of examples in the history of the world, of men's dying in defence of principles, which, though in reality false, they firmly believed to be true.

But, in the case of Jesus, it is impossible to account for his death, on any principle, that does not necessari. ly involve in it the admission of the divinity of his mission, and the truth of his doctrine. I take for granted in the argument I am about to state, what no person will deny, that our Lord's death was voluntary, that is, that he might have avoided it, either by keeping out of the way of his enemies, or by making an open renunciation of all claims to Messiahship. Now, this being admitted, there are only three conceivable ways of accounting for the death of Jesus: He must have died in defence, either of what he knew to be false, or of what he conceived, though erroneously, to be true, or of what he knew to be true. If, then, we can prove that neither of the two former of these

suppositions is tenible, it will follow that the third is the truth.

It is plain that the case of Jesus is not that of a person who died in defence of doctrines which he knew to be false. For, not to dwell on the abundant evidence to this effect, which may be drawn from the history of his life, it is enough to ask, What possible object could he in this case have had in view? It could not be worldly wealth or fame; for, even if his death could

have procured these, of what use are they to the dead? It could not be posthumous honour ; for, had not his death been followed by his resurrection, his imposture must have been discovered, and himself held up to the scorn and detestation of every succeeding generation.

It is equally obvious, that the case of Jesus is not of a person who dies in defence of doctrines which, though really false, he mistakingly believes to be true; for his doctrines were of a kind of which, if false, he must have known the falsehood. He died in support of plain matter of fact, not of abstract principles. If there was imposture in the case, he was the author, not the dupe of it. There is, however, no instance recorded (and, indeed, we may venture to pronounce

a moral impossibility) of an impostor who had nothing to gain by his imposture, and who might easily have escaped all trouble by merely acknowledging it, persisting in his fraud in opposition to the terrors of punishment, and voluntarily exposing himself to the most excruciating tortures, and to death in its most alarming forms, in preference to confessing the truth.

The only satisfactory account, therefore, of our Lord's voluntary death is, that he was firmly persuaded of the divinity of his mission,—was “faithful to him who appointed him,”-and sealed his testimony with his blood. Thus did our Lord, even in the arti. cle of death, bear witness to the truth, and by ascending the cross, give a stronger proof of his Messiahship, than if, in compliance with the insulting proposal of the Jews, he had come down from it.

III. When“ Jesus yielded up the ghost," a most impressive and exemplary exhibition of active and suffering virtue was exhibited to the world. While it is evident from Scripture, that the great design of our Lord's mission was to make atonement for the sins of his people, it is equally obvious, that it was intended and calculated to answer other important, though still subordinate, ends. Among these objects must be ranked the exhibition of a perfect pattern of that moral excellence which ought to distinguish all his fol. lowers.

Of such a faultless exemplar mankind stood much in need. Moral truth, in an abstract form, makes comparatively a weak and transient impression on the mind. It must be, as it were, embodied and exemplified, in the character and conduct of some individual, to render it perfectly intelligible, and highly engaging. This important object was gained in the completest manner by the life and death of the incarnate Son of God. Though subject to all the sinless infirmities of the nature which he had assumed, placed in circumstances peculiarly difficult, and exposed to temptations singularly severe, he, in no instance, deviated from the path of strict propriety, but exhibited an example, both of the active and suffering virtues, in absolute perfection. Piety and benevolence were the principles which ruled in his heart; and his life was an uniform tenor of sublime devotion and disinterested benefi

“He has left us an example, that we should follow his steps.” To have “the mind in us, which was in Christ Jesus," and to "walk as he also walk. ed,” is a comprehensive summary of those sentiments, and feelings, and habits, which ought to characterize the Christian.

It is not, however, to the example of Christ in general that I would at present direct your attention, but to the example he afforded us in the article of death. “ It is appointed to all men once to die," We can die but once; and on the state in which we die, depends the happiness or the misery of eternity. It is plainly, then, at once our duty and our interest to learn to die



well; and never was this lesson so impressively taught as when Jesus, on the cross, “ yielded up the ghost." We are taught, by the Saviour's dying conduct, how we ought to behave, in our departing hours, to our friends, to our enemies, and to our God.

The bosom of Jesus glowed with the purest fire of universal benevolence ; but he was, at the same time, no stranger to the more tender feelings of consanguinity and friendship. Of the ardour of these principles he gave many a striking proof during his life ; but the most interesting display of them was that made on the cross. It is, indeed, usual to feel, with peculiar force, the closeness of the bands of relationship and friendship, at the moment when they are about to be severed by the hand of death. It is impossible to relate the incident referred to in language so appropriate and touching as that of the Evangelist John: “Now, there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother, and his mother's sis. ter, the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Wò. man, behold thy son! Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.” An eloquent volume could not have taught so luminously, nor enforced so persuasively, that tender considerate regard which we owe to those with whom we are connected by the closest bands, when about to bid them a final farewell.

When “Jesus yielded up the ghost,” he taught us how we ought, when dying, to behave to our enemies. Forgiveness of injuries was a virtue which our Lord not only enjoined on his followers, but, in circumstances the most trying, actually exercised. With his expiring breath he prayed for the forgiveness of his mur. derers: “Father, forgive them,” said he, "for thely know not what they do." “ Human nature, in such

« הקודםהמשך »