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REV. W. BRUCE
COMMENTARY ON ST. MATTHEW, COMMENTARY ON ST. JOHN, COMMENTARY ON REVELATION, MARRIAGE, A DIVINE AND ENDURING INSTITUTION
NEW-CHURCH PRESS, LTD.
1 BLOOMSBURY STREET
LONDON, W. C.
JESUS OUR EXAMPLE 1
THE WOLF AND THE LAMB 18
PRACTICE THE FOUNDATION OF PRINCIPLE 35
ARE THERE FEW THAT BE SAVED? 49
ISRAEL, FIGHTING WITH AMALEK 62
A NEW YEARS SERMON 79
JESUS WEEPING OVER JERUSALEM 91
THE RENEWAL OF THE COVENANT 105
THE BLIND LEADING THE BLIND 120
THE LAW OF THE BURNT-OFFERING AND THE ASHES OF THE ALTAR 133
THE LABORERS IN THE VINEYARD 149
LOVE TO THE NEIGHBOR 159
EVIL OVERCOME BY GODS OPERATION AND MANS CO-OPERATION 174
THE EVIL OF UNIVERSAL APPROBATION 189
BEARING THE CROSS 200
THE HARMONY OF THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES 212
THE REPRESENTATIVE CHARACTER OF JUDAS 228
MANS DELIVERANCE BY THE LORDS GLORIFICATION 245
THE LORDS SEPULCHER 260
THE POOL OF BETHESDA 287
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JESUS OUR EXAMPLE.
Learn of me.MATT. xi. 29, second clause.
WE are brought into existence destitute of all things that go to form our mental being, but are endowed with faculties by which we have the power of acquiring them. This power resides in the faculties of loving, of knowing, and of imitating. The means of our improvement through the agency of others answer to these faculties. We are improved by the influence of love, by the light of truth, and by the force of example. Love attracts us, truth instructs us, example leads us. In every department and occupation, and almost in every act of life, these means must be united, in order to produce a useful, and anything like a perfect result. Without the last the others would accomplish but little, and do it imperfectly. Love and truth without example, if we could conceive it possible entirely to separate them, would be but feeble instructors.
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The imitative faculty comes so early into activity, and is so strong, that we must regard it as one of the most efficient as well as direct mediums of instruction. By the power of imitation the child acquires the use of language, as the vehicle of thought and means of rational intercourse, and is led almost insensibly to adopt the habits and manners of the society in which he lives, the very cast and expression of the countenance being more or less the reflection of those which he is accustomed to behold.
But the influence of example is not confined to the living model or the practical instructor. We treasure up the memory of the great and good, and we hold them up to admiration, that others especially the young, may be inspired by their example to strive after excellence in wisdom or in goodness. We preserve their works, we recount their deeds; we consider the difficulties and discouragements they had to undergo; and we never fail to derive advantage from their triumphs, though we may have no hope of attaining to their greatness. It is not, however, from successful exertion only that we may learn wisdom. The sufferer for conscience sake, the martyr to principle, are as noble examples, as worthy of imitation, as the prosperous laborer or the triumphant genius. If we learn perseverance from the one, we learn endurance from the other. As no one man can possess all excellencies, or possess all in an equal degree, we have to look to different men as examples of excellence in different virtues, or as exemplifying some particular virtue under peculiar circumstances. There was only one who ever united all excellence in himself, and who was therefore capable of being the pattern to men of all virtue under all circumstances.
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Need I say that one was the Lord Jesus Christ? He alone lived a life holy, undefiled, and separate from sinners. His enemies could not convict him of sin. He was tried in the furnace of affliction as no other man was ever tried, yet he never spake unadvisedly with his lips, nor showed signs of impatience. He fulfilled, under the most trying circumstances, every jot and tittle of the law; and left an example of perfect love, obedience, and endurance, for the encouragement and imitation of his followers.
It is true that the Lord Jesus, though truly man, was also truly God, having the divinity dwelling within him, which rendered it in the nature of things impossible for him to fall in temptation, or come short in the fulfillment of the law. And this may appear to place him too far above us to be our example, and to render any attempt on our part to imitate him hopeless. This has been made the ground of an objection to His divinity. But the assumption on which it rests is fallacious. It cannot be admitted as a truth that one who can be a proper example to men must himself be no more than man, nor that the attempt to imitate a perfect being is hopeless in those wile call never attain perfection. Men do not argue and act thus is the ordinary concerns of life. The artist imitates the rainbow and paints the setting sun, although he has not the most distant hope of rivaling the brilliant hues of the one or the gorgeous splendor of the other.
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It is the very perfection of nature which leads to continual imitation, and makes art progressive--which leaves room for every age and for every individual imitator to exert their powers to the utmost, without the possibility of ever attaining or even approaching absolute perfection. Had Jesus Christ been a mere man, he might have been an example to one age, but could hardly have been an example to all ages. It would have been possible for some at least of His disciples to have not only equaled but surpassed him; and he who excelled his master would be entitled to take his place. It is because the Lord was God-Man that he was a perfect example, whose life will continue to be the pattern of all excellence, which men, in the progress of general and individual improvement, may continually approach, but can never reach. The inherent dignity of the Lords nature, and the height from which he descended to show as well as teach us our duty, give a peculiar value and force to his life as an example. He who descends from a high station to take upon himself the form of a servant, dignifies the humble office he assumes, and makes the law and the duties of the office honorable; stimulates all to exertion, and renders the slothful and the proud inexcusable. With what force from such a one must the words come, If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one anothers feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
The Lords example, like his teaching, is not to be looked for so much in particular instances, as in the manifestation, throughout his whole life, of high and holy principles.
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We must not, therefore, expect to find a particular act any more than a particular rule for our guidance in every minute action or circumstance of life. Such a model and such a directory would make our imitation mechanical. Our imitation is to be rational. We must endeavor to imbibe the spirit of the Lords actions as well as the spirit of his teaching, and make that the spirit of our own. We must endeavor, as the apostle advises, to have the same mind in us which was also in him; and then shall we find in the Lords holy and beneficent life all that is required for our guidance as his disciples. Our sphere of activity and the measure of our experience may have little circumstantial resemblance to those of the Lord, yet the spirit and the manner of his active and passive obedience will clearly show how we ought to act and how to suffer. In all his actions and in all his sufferings we see exemplified the same pure love, the same high purpose, the same inflexible integrity, the same meekness, lowliness of heart, perfect forgiveness. To cultivate these as principles, and to manifest them in practice, is the way to follow the example of our Savior. The disciple, whatever station he occupies, whatever relation he sustains, whatever vocation he follows, may walk with the Lord every day and hour of his life, and learn of him how to act in every duty and emergency. To attempt, as some enthusiasts have done, to imitate the Lord in the course of life which he followed, and the works he performed, were mere presumption and folly.
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It were to aim at equality rather than imitation, and would make false Christs instead of true disciples. Let every one, then, look to the Lord as his moral example, and endeavor faithfully to follow him in the innocence and usefulness, though not necessarily in the manner, of his life. Then will the inspired record of his life on earth afford the most ample means to guide as well as to direct us in the path of duty, and enable us to walk in the footsteps of him who is the way, as well as the truth and the life.
But, although we must not expect to find every step in life marked out for us by the Lord, we may find the path of duty traced with sufficient distinctness in the map of the Lords sojourn upon earth, to enable us to feel assured at every step that this is the way, and that we may walk with confidence in it.
We shall, therefore, endeavor to trace some of the footsteps of the great Redeemer, that we may learn of him where and how we ought to walk.
Little as is recorded of the early life of Jesus, that little is sufficient to enable the young to acquire some great lessons of duty from his example. In one short and simple narrative, in the second chapter of Luke, some important points in the character and conduct of the youthful Savior are exhibited, which the young would do well to imitate. Jesus, it is said, increased in wisdom as he increased in stature or in age. And should not every youth follow his example in this? Wisdom, Solomon testifies, is the principal thing--the chief acquisition of life--its grand means of usefulness--its support and ornament.
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Wisdom, of which the fear of the Lord is the beginning, must be sought early to be sought successfully, and cultivated habitually to be acquired sufficiently. As an evidence of the early wisdom of Jesus, and of his desire to increase it, we find him at the age of twelve in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. We must not suppose that Jesus was engaged, as it is sometimes said, disputing with the doctors. His questions, we may suppose, were searching, but they were no doubt respectful; and his demeanor towards the authorities of the Jewish Church was no doubt in accordance with the advice he afterwards gave to his disciples,--to hear and do all that was said by those who sat in Moses seat, but not to do after their works. If the young desire to improve in wisdom, let them follow the Lords example, and seek it among those who have knowledge and experience. Another instance of the true wisdom of Jesus at this period of his life is to be found in his conduct towards his mother and reputed father. When he quitted the temple and went down with Joseph and Mary, and came to Nazareth, it is recorded that He was subject unto them. Jesus was at this time far beyond his natural and legal parents in wisdom as in goodness, yet he subjected himself to their authority, that he might show to his children, in all succeeding times, an example of filial obedience. He was now engaged in his Fathers business--that of the Father who dwelt within him--yet he yielded submission to his earthly guardians, that he might, as in submitting to the outward rites of the church, fulfil all righteousness.
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In these particulars the young may see the whole duties of their minority comprehended: to learn wisdom, to respect their teachers, to obey their parents.
If the Lords early life, thus briefly touched on in the Evangelists, is yet pregnant with instruction to the young, his maturer years, much more amply described, cannot be less fruitful in practical lessons to those more advanced in life. When he began to be about thirty years of age, and appeared before the world as the great Teacher and Exemplar of the law, he raised the moral standard far above what it had been under the Jewish dispensation; and lived up to it both in the letter and the spirit. He showed that the end of the whole law, of the whole Word, was love to God and charity to man; and devoted his life to the advancement of the divine glory and of human happiness.
We speak of the Lord devoting his life to the advancement of the divine glory, and this language may appear inconsistent with the idea of an indwelling divinity. But we are to reflect, that although the divinity dwelt within him, it did not speak and act through him The divine did not operate through the human as a passive instrument; but the human acted from the divine as a voluntary agent. The soul does not operate through the body--more properly, the inner man does not act through the outer man, as a passive subject; but the enter man receives the life of the inner man into itself, which it modifies according to its own affections and perceptions, and manifests that life as there felt and perceived. The Lord may therefore be justly spoken of as a man.
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And he was indeed duly man, having not only all the faculties, but all the infirmities of our common nature, and subject to all the temptations and trials, and all the horrors of darkness and despair, that can oppress the troubled spirit in its strivings with the subtle powers of falsehood and evil. As such a man, the Lord was our example in his spotless life--a life not spent in solitude, where there is nothing to excite or to provoke the passions--not mortified by a severe but irrational asceticism,--but a life spent in the most active usefulness, amidst privations and persecutions, temptations and sufferings. It is such a life only that deserves to be called spotless and virtuous. Where there are no occasions of offence there is no merit in integrity. Where there is no good done to men there is no service rendered to God. The law may remain inviolate, but it remains unfulfilled. When the law and the prophets are severed from the two universal precepts on which they hang, the virtue that professes to fulfil them has no aim that comes within the scope of Revelation, or that embraces the end for which it was given. The Christian disciple must, therefore, like his Divine Master, live in the world, yet strive to keep himself from the evil. He must follow where the Lord has led, and where he still leads, and shrink neither from the duties nor the perils of life. He must regard usefulness as the end of his existence, and seek his happiness in endeavoring to make others happy. He must learn to know by experience that it is more blessed to give than to receive--to minister than to be ministered unto.