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The sacred office involves relations the most solemn. It is to mankind the vehicle of communications which affect, in the most decisive manner, interests as vast as the soul, and as imperishable as its immortality. In an office of so much responsibility, the need of divine guidance is most urgent. This guidance we have in Him, who gives us a "good example," both in the matter and manner of Gospel instruction.

In the particular consideration of the subject proposed, the Ministry of our Lord, let us examine

I. His doctrine; and

II. His manner as a public teacher.


In every system of instruction, philosophical and religious, there are certain elementary principles, on which as a basis are founded all its statements, and from which flow all its conclusions. These doctrines are a law to the whole system, determining both its form and its exposition. What are these interior principles, it becomes necessary first to understand, in order to an intelligent and just apprehension of the scheme of which they are the logical elements.

What, then, let us inquire, were the doctrinal elements of our Saviour's Ministry? Now, the doctrines of our Lord, without having any formal and connected statement, will nevertheless be found to be perfectly clear and distinct, and of a nature well calculated to impart a majesty and authority to his teachings above that of the Scribes.

The doctrinal principles of the Great Teacher are few, simple, grave, and deeply ethical; and from these he never departs. Whatever the circumstances of his work, whatever his immediate design, his principles are ever the same. Whether arguing with the doctors, discussing propositions with the Pharisees, or discoursing to the common people, his teaching revolves in the same system of truths, in the illustration and enforcement of the same great principles. Jesus never wandered amid visions; he was never betrayed into the regions of the imagination; he had no taste for unsatisfying speculations, but is content with the statement of a few simple and important propositions.

In presenting a few of the great principles by which our Saviour's ministry was characterized, we will consider them, 1. Under his doctrine of God;

2. His doctrine of Man.

1. Doctrine of God.

The doctrines of our Saviour were not philosophical in the sense of being deductions from nature, from the laws of man, or of society, but they are theological in that they not only treat of God, but are derived immediately from God.

It cannot fail to strike the discerning mind, that in our Saviour's Ministry, the prominent idea exhibited-the great idea

the ever-present idea-is God. The Supreme God-spiritual, holy, and almighty-is the grand subject of its disclosures. In this respect his ministry was singular and extraordinary. Among his own people, the Scribes repeated the traditions of the Elders, and the speculations of the Rabbins. In the schools. of Gentile learning, philosophy was the subject. But Jesus took neither Jewish masters nor Greek sages for his guide. He did not teach philosophy, but theology. God, the Great Father and Supreme Governor of all, is the fundamental element of his teaching. All his doctrines are but the beaming radii of a system of which God is the grand and radiant centre. From this source flows all that light, which clothes his statements and conclusions with irresistible power and conviction.

He nowhere attempts to prove his doctrine of God; he takes it for granted--assumes that it is a self-evident proposition, written on the hearts of men. From this doctrine he deduces the natural obligation to obey and love God, with all the heart and all the strength. And basing this law on the convictions of the human conscience, nothing can be more dignified, authoritative, and convincing, than his enforcement of its great duty. The simple yet sublime explications of Jesus concerning this subject, have a conclusiveness to which the profound demonstration of Clark, and the grand and eloquent illustrations of Charnock, add nothing.

The Supremacy of God is not an empty term to meet a logical requisition in a doctrinal scheme, and while perhaps stated in form, stripped in reality, by presumptuous limitations, of its true glory. Jesus exhibits the Eternal Father as the rightful Governor and actual disposer of the world: comprehending in his counsel all events, the fall of the little sparrow, and the numbering the hairs of our heads, as well as the fall of empires and the destiny of angels; and as the Supreme and just Governor, ordering his elections according to his own pleasure, whether in respect to the temporal or eternal interests of men. was on this subject Jesus said, "Lord of Heaven and Earth, thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father; for so it seemed good in thy sight." And when men would presume to question the wisdom and justice of his sovereign appointments, he tells them by an impressive parable, "Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil because I am good? So the first shall be last, and the last first; for many are called but few chosen."


God the Supreme, in the august depths of his own eternal wisdom and goodness, fixes every event, and settles the destiny of every creature. To this great fact the Saviour appeals-at one time as a rebuke to pride and presumption, and at another, as an encouragement to patience, confidence, and resignation. How impressive and beautiful that illustration of Providence

which is given to the disciples in the Sermon on the Mount"Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Consider the lilies of the field; they toil not, neither do they spin. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?"

But why should we particularize? The Great Master never speaks without reference to God. All his divine teachings are the emanations of this central light. All his moral inculcations are inspired by this sublime type in his own mind. The agency of an Almighty God, supreme and universal in nature and grace, is the great truth which he never suffers to escape the minds of his hearers. Such was the doctrine of Jesus respecting God. Can anything be more impressive or sublime? More full of just, awful, and comprehensive views of the character and government of the Most High?

But as further illustrating the Ministry of Christ, let us consider,

2. His Doctrine of Man.

(1.) Responsibility. Man is recognized as a moral being, sustaining relations to God and man, and as acting freely in these relations. Jesus conforms his teachings on human responsibility, to the experience and convictions of men. He does not pause to reason on the subject, to adjust the necessity of predetermination to the liberty of the agent. What do we see? We behold him who insists upon the absolute sovereignty of Godascending the while to the awful heights of predestination, coming down without faltering--without the slightest nervous disturbance, to insist with equal decision and authority on the most absolute human responsibility. Did Jesus find the harmony of these extremes? Did his all-discerning mind perceive no inconsistency in statements which arrogant philosophy has dared to denominate absurd and contradictory? If to Him, who knew all things, there be nothing irreconcilable in the sovereignty of God with the responsibility of man, then may they be admitted as harmonious facts, though the weakness of human reason may be at fault in demonstrating the relations of this harmony. The Great Mister insists on the responsibility of all men, every where. He incorporates it in all his discourses, and bears it aloft as the grand argument by which to enforce the multifarious lessons of human duty. Throughout that wonderful Sermon on the Mount, this principle runs as a moral ligament to bind its mighty ethics on the consciences and hearts of men.

No matter how profound and entire the deep of human corruption, and how certainly and wholly evil flows the stream of human action from such a source, our Saviour abates nothing of human responsibility on that account. In the natural obligations of man, and in the nature of voluntary moral action, he

lays his principle of accountability as just as the unchangeable righteousness of the divine government. Sanctioned by the convictions of human consciousness, the heart responds to the truthful and terrible statement. Recoil from it-dread it as we may-the enlightened conscience must yet admit its truth.

Jesus employs this weighty principle in all his labors to instruct and reform men. I do not say that we may not reason with men on the abstract beauty and usefulness of virtue, and the abstract hatefulness and hurtfulness of sin. But to reason against the tide of depraved appetite, and for the claims of an absent and unappreciated virtue, will be more interesting to the moralist than profitable to the sinner. Jesus shows us a more excellent way. He appeals to the great principle of responsibility, and enforces duty thereby.

In illustration of this principle, how striking are many of the parables! how impressive that of the talents, and that of the stewardship! As we read the solemn language of representation, a deeper sense of responsibility is awakened within us. We feel it is no trifling thing to live in a world where every action and every thought has its relation to a coming judgment. Under the simple teachings of Jesus, we feel our intimate relation to God our Judge. Eternity seems to overshadow time; and intermingling its own vast realities with the actions of the present life, it imparts a deeper solemnity to all, because binding the conscience to accountability in all.

Thus did Jesus exhibit the principle of responsibility. His teachings, pervaded by so weighty a matter, might well occasion the people to say of him, "Never man spake as this man."

The teachings of our Lord respecting man, embrace another important principle. It is,

(2.) Man's corrupt and sinful state. On the basis of this melancholy fact, that man is fallen, Jesus began his public ministry. With that consummate wisdom which distinguished every thing he did, he recognizes the great evil at once, and begins by laying the axe at the root of the tree. John was a reformer, but Jesus a regenerator. The cleansing of the outside of the cup and platter was not enough in those eyes which discerned the heart to be full of all corruption.

John presents, in a comparative light, the true nature of our Saviour's ministry. "I am come (he says) baptizing with water; but he that cometh after me baptizeth with the Holy Ghost." Such was the extraordinary ministry of our Lord. In a work so radical, we discover the utter ruin of the human soul.

In the treatment of Nicodemus, we have an explicit testimony to man's real condition. The fact, with the teachings to which it gave rise, admits of the one construction only, that man is wholly ruined. That one so excellent, so candid, so inquiring, and so accomplished in all the visible decencies of religion as this "master in Israel," still needed the new birth, is a fact that

leaves us in little doubt of the great want of mankind. And then the declaration which accompanies the fact, is as conclusive as words can make it, that "that which is born of flesh is flesh"-is corrupt, depraved, sinful.

Jesus enters into no formal statement of his doctrine; it was not his manner, for he did not follow the logicians. But in all his dealings with men he assumes that they are fallen and sinful. It was his habitual effort to lead them to the knowledge of themselves that they might discover the depravity of their hearts. From outward fairness and pharisaic morality, he turns their eyes inward upon the perversity and wickedness of the heart. In the Sermon on the Mount, the virtues which are inculcated, and the tempers insisted on, show precisely what and how great, in his estimation, is the disordered state of the human soul. Every grace there demanded, exposes an opposite gracelessness; and every beatitude pronounced, reveals the deep curse of man's real condition.

Not only are men hopelessly depraved, but their state is as helpless as hopeless. They have rebelled, and so wasted all original virtue by sin, and are so utterly lost, that return to God is impossible. "How can those that are evil speak good things?" inquires the Saviour.

It is in view of this helpless state of man that the Spirit is promised, by whose agency alone the depraved are to be renewed, and the lost reclaimed. Men are taught their absolute dependence. The pride of self-reliance, and the arrogance of human ability, is rebuked and humbled by the declaration, "No man can come to me except the Father which hath sent me draw him." Even an apostle is assured that all his resolution and decision of purpose are insufficient alone, to preserve him from a great sin. Such is human infirmity in our Saviour's account. Where is the recuperative principle in man, that last element of goodness which has survived the fall, and like Hope in the box of Pandora mitigates the severity of its evil? We find it not in the teaching of Jesus, because Jesus, who knew what was in man, found no such relic of a purer state in his present ruin.

Jesus contemplates human nature as a ruin, noble and immortal indeed, but utter and hopeless. Over the dark miseries of this noble ruin he wept on Mount Olivet; to effect the work of its restoration, he bled on Mount Calvary.

It was the picture of hopeless, universal depravity which Jesus spread out before the minds of the people, which at once commanded their admiration, and excited their hatred. It was by the faithful exhibition of this great truth to men, that they were moved to desire and plot his ruin. It was on this account, Jesus tells the Jews, "ye seek to kill me." And again he says, "the world hateth me, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil."

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