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us, and given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice unto God."* Now, if we examine the conduct of Christ, from the commencement of his public labours, to their termination on Calvary, we shall find that it was devoted minutely, and zealously, and perseveringly, to the spiritual welfare of mankind. He came originally into the world, for the single purpose of redeeming them from the guilt and power of sin, of restoring them to the favour of God, and of leading them on the way to hea
And that gracious purpose he lived and laboured, suffered and died, to effectuate, neglecting nothing which goodness could suggest, which wisdom could devise, or which power could achieve, in order to secure it in all its requisite extent. This was the constant and ultimate object of the discourses which he delivered, of the miracles which he wrought, of the toils which he underwent, of the pains which he endured, of the decease which he at last accomplished. We are not aware, indeed, of one action that he performed, or of one word that he uttered, which did not, more remotely or more immediately, relate to the salvation of sinners. Even when he was saying and doing what seemed to go no further than the bodily comfort, or the present advantage of those to whom he was showing kindness, he was in fact ministering to their deliverance from unbelief, or to their encouragement in the paths of holiness. So far as his deeds, of beneficence are recorded, they were, without almost an exception, of a miraculous nature; and they were expressly
* Eph. v. 2.
done for the purpose of converting those who witnessed them to the faith and obedience of his Gospel. At least, when this was not obviously and explicitly their design, they were yet expected to excite spiritual feelings, or to ameliorate religious character. A wo was denounced on certain cities, because their inhabitants had not been brought to repentance by the mighty works done among them ;* the multitude, “ when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see, glorified the God of Israel;”+ the two blind men that sat by the way-side, upon their receiving sight, through the divine compassion of Christ, are said to have followed him ;f and when, of the ten lepers whom Christ healed, one only showed any symptoms of piety and gratitude, He was, as it were, disappointed, and said, “ Were there not ten cleansed ? But where are the nine ? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger."S
Since then Christ, in his whole doings, never once lost sight of the religious and moral well-being of mankind, and since we are to follow his footsteps in this as well as in all other imitable parts of his character, we fall short of our duty, as thus defined and enforced, when we limit our benevolence, in any case, to the mere animal gratifications, or the mere temporal necessities, of those whom we assist.
It is very true, Christ was a divine messenger; and it was right and necessary that his care should
• Matth. xi. 20, et seq.
S Luke xvii, 17, 18.
# XV. 31.
# XX. 34.
be engrossed with the souls of those whom he had come to save. But still, if his deportment, in respect of benevolence, is the authoritative rule for us in that branch of holy living, we must conform to it as far as our circumstances will permit. And though we cannot be all expected to occupy ourselves in communicating direct instruction in the things of God, and to make it the professional business of our life, if we may so speak, to lead our fellow-men in the way of salvation, yet, if we are to walk as Christ also walked," and if he walked in love, so as to keep his eye continually on the spiritual interests of men, it is not very easy to see how we should not be obliged to resemble him in that point, with as much strictness and fidelity as we should resemble him in meekness, and purity, and patience. It may as well be urged, that we need not strive at all to be merciful, as he was merciful; because his merciful dealings with the afflicted were all miraculous, and we cannot perform miracles. That could not surely be maintained. And as we must do works of
mercy unassociated with miracles, in imitation of his works of mercy, which were distinguished by that superhuman attribute, so we must do our works with a constant view to the abiding welfare of those who profit by them, in imitation of his works, which were guided and animated by that view, not only in general, but in every particular case. 66 Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us." And what is the specific instance by which the Apostle explains the import of his exhortation? “ And given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice unto God.” He does not mean, for he cannot mean, that, in showing our af
fection for others, we should ever dream of giving ourselves a sacrifice for them, in the sense in which Christ gave himself a sacrifice. And yet that is the very expression of love which he holds out for imitation; no doubt intimating thereby, that, as the love of Christ was manifested in promoting the salvation of sinners, in a manner suited to their need, and to his ability, so our love should be manifested, when pursuing the very same object, in a manner accommodated to the situation and the wants of those whom we are to relieve, and to the more limited powers and opportunities of which we are possessed. His dying for the redemption of mankind, is put forth as the law and the measure of that beneficence which we are to practise, as believers in his doctrine; and nothing but want of capacity, or want of means, will be sustained as an apology for our refusing to act up to it, in all its legitimate extent.
We cannot, like Christ, die for sinners; but, in the spirit by which he was actuated, we can be zealous and active, as instruments in prosecuting the end for which that “obedience unto death” was yielded. We cannot work miracles as Christ did, in order to influence the hearts of those who experience them, so that they may believe and repent; but we can act upon the principle of being kind and useful to them, in such a way as to furnish them with arguments for exercising the faith and the penitence to which they are called. We cannot devote ourselves, in the same mode and in the same degree that Christ did, to the office of a sacred and saving teacher; but we can set the same end before us that he pursued, and we can aim at it through the medium of all our social inter
course, and of all our charitable efforts. And, being capable of all this, we may deduce our obligation to labour for its fulfilment, according to the measure of our capacity, from those very circumstances which are apt to be adduced as reasons for confining our attempts to do good within narrower bounds than what we have been endeavouring to establish. If Christ, in doing good, gave himself an offering and a sacrifice for sinners, does not that give such a demonstration of the value of the human soul, as should determine us, not only to seek its salvation above all other things, but to omit no opportunity, and to withhold no exertion, by which we may be fellowworkers with the Redeemer, in securing for it the attainment of those blessings, for which he paid the costly price of his own blood ? If he was so intent on the reformation and happiness of those among whom he tabernacled, that he wrought miracles of love to reclaim them from their errors, and to bring them back to God, shall we not feel this to be an irresistible argument for us so to regulate all our expressions of love to our neighbours and our friends, as that they may produce the same salutary effects on their mind and condition? And if, in the course of his official life, he made all that he said, and all that he did, for the benefit of man, subservient in some shape or other to their moral advancement, does not that teach us to look to the souls of our brethren as the objects of our unceasing concern; to neglect nothing which may, in that view, be made use of for their advantage; to govern our social conduct, at all times, by a tender regard to what may profit them eternally; and not to “ give them even