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There were lessons for men and angels, earth and heaven, in the motion of His hand, the expression of His eye, and the aspect of His noble countenance, when no words were spoken.
The object of the Saviour's mission was to make man happy, to save the lost. It is not sufficient, though necessary, that a revelation be given and an atonement made, Man, to be happy, must feel that though the Divine be infinitely removed from the human, there is between them oneness of soul and of sympathy. To show this fact is the object of this strange incident in the life of Jesus.
Every thoughtful observer must have noticed that men of the same class and condition are happier together than those whose station and method of life are wide apart. The Bushman enjoys the society of a Bushman better than that of an enlightened European. The poor and the illiterate often feel an unpleasant restraint in the presence of the rich and the learned ; but if the latter bring themselves down to the level of the humble, and make them feel that, though there may be a difference in their stations or attainments, they are still one in heart, they are brothers in the highest sense of the term ; the bondage soon terminates, and the poor are happy with the rich, and the peasant with the sage.
God is great and His nature is a mystery. I pretend not to explain it, or to understand it. The divine cannot be comprehended by the human, or the infinite by the finite. Our highest notions are but distant approximations to the true. There are heights in this boundless field of thought to which angels' wings have never soared, and depths which no created being can fathom. God is perfect in one place, and nothing more in all places put together; without change or variation. How different from us! How far removed ! How great! Yet to be truly happy we must be happy with Godwin God. To render this possible, the Divine comes down to the level of the human-becomes human. “The word was made flesh.” In Christ we feel that the great God is our Father. “As the children are partakers of Aesh and blood, he also himself took part of the same.”
The incident narrated in the text beautifully teaches this truth-God's oneness with man int the person of Jesus. The actions and the words of Christ constitute a special method of revelation--a revelation of the Infinite to the finite, and a method of showing that however far removed from us, naturally and morally, yet God is very near us, and may be like us, though sinless, in feeling and heart.
The actions and the words of Jesus, on this occasion, show that:
I. LIKE US, HE SOUGHT SYMPATHY IN THE TIME OF SORROW. He left eight of His disciples at the gate, and selected three and only three to be with Him in the special hour of trouble. Why did He not take them all? He loved them, and therefore did not wish them to see His agony, lest their minds should be distressed ; and for the same reason, He went a little distance from His three companions when the hour of heaviest trial come. Have we not concealed the worst from those we love best, lest their heart should be troubled ? So did Jesus. He wished to spare their feelings as much as possible. But why did He not leave them all, and retire by Himself alone? He felt a need for sympathy, and therefore selected three that they might sympathize with Him, and comfort one another. How precious is sympathy! Would the world—nay, the Church, were fuller of it! Jesus felt it precious, and so have you. Did you not take to a friend, a heart full of sorrow, and make that sorrow known? He did not help you-no one could. You told him your tale of woe. He did nothing, said nothing. He had, however, a heart to feel, and he felt. He wept with you and for you. You saw the tear in his eyes, and heard the deep sigh rising from his heart, and floating on the wings of air, bearing with it your burden, heaven-ward. What you saw and heard made your load lighter. Those tears and that sigh dispersed the dark night-clouds, and the bright star of
hope once more shone upon your soul. Jesus, too, sought sympathy, &c.
The actions and the words of Jesus, on this occasion, show that :
II. LIKE US, HE GAVE EXPRESSION TO HIS GRIEF, WHEN ONLY FEW COULD HEAR. “He took with him only three of them ” says the Evangelist, “ He began to be sorrowful and very heavy.” He was sad when He spoke to Judas and foretold His own death, in the upper room; but so great was the change that now took place in His manner and appearance, that the historian thought fit to use the word “ He began";—patoas if all His other sorrows, however great, were not worthy of the name compared with this. The same word is used by Peter, who was an eye-witness to the scene, in Mark xiv. 33. The sudden change in the conduct of the Saviour made such a deep impression on the minds of the three disciples present, that they often talked about it afterwards, and made it known to the other disciples, and to Matthew among the rest, and Matthew, in recording the fact, makes use of the same word—“ He began"—which Peter used afterwards, though he deviated from him in some measure in the other part of the narrative.
When all the disciples were present, Jesus concealed the deep feelings of His heart, and tried to cheer them; but when surrounded by only three, He began to give expression to His grief.
The heart may feel in the crowd and find neither ease nor comfort. But in the crowd we seldom give utterance to our emotions. There is a sacredness about the deepest feelings of the soul that we expose them not to vulgar gaze. In solitude, or surrounded by a loving friend or two, we give expression to our sorrow, and solitude often brings relief.
The actions and the words of Jesus, on this occasion, show that:
III. LIKE US, IN TROUBLE AND DARKNESS, HE WISHED His FRIENDS TO KEEP AWAKE. “Watch with me” or “ keep awake.” -γρηγορείτε. . But why keep awake? Have you never been laid upon the bed of affliction ? the pain was so great that you could not sleep, the taper burned dimly, and the hours slowly rolled away. No one, but God, could help you ; yet you did not like the thought of being alone, without any earthly friend. Have you not seen a time when the presence of a dog, or even an insect, was esteemed a blessing ? There must be evidence of life-your friend must keep awake to give you comfort by his presence. Call this weakness, folly, or what you please. It is human. Was not this the reason why Jesus was so anxious that the three disciples should keep awake?
The actions and the words of Jesus, on this occasion, show
LIKE US, HE DREADED CALUMNY MORE THAN DEATH. “Let this cup pass by,” &c. What was that cup? It was not death, for He came into the world to die, “ The just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God." From death He never shrank. It was the form of death He dreaded. To die upon the cross was to die as a criminal, and to be regarded as a criminal by the spectators and the world. Nothing is so hard for an honest man to bear as to be branded as a thief ; for a philanthropist, as to be hung as a murderer, or for one who loves the truth as to be burnt as a heretic. Compared with this to die upon the battle-field, or beneath the cruel stroke of an assassin were nothing. Yet to even this, Jesus was resigned" Thy will be done." This was courage superhuman, and worthy of Himself. This proved that while He was human, He was yet Divine-one with man and one with God—the Father of all being, and yet BROTHER,—the farthest from us yet the nearest to us.
EvAN LEWIS, B.A., F.R.G.S., F.E.S., &c.
SUBJECT:-The Erection of Churches.*
“ And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel.”—Ezra vi. 14.
Analysis of Homily the Four Hundred and Sebenty-third.
NEVER, in any period of the world's history, were men so active in building what they, at any rate, profess to be temples for God, as at the present; and there is no book that throws more light upon the obligation of this work, the difficulties that attend it, and the spirit that should ever inspire it, than that of Ezra. (Read the book, and collect the salient lessons.) Our remarks at present shall be of a general and practical character.
I. IN BUILDING A CHRISTIAN TEMPLE WE EXPRESS OUR FELT CONNEXION WITH THE SPIRITUAL WORLD. All the buildings of this stupendous London may be regarded as the expression of some sentiment, instinct, or wish of human nature. Markets, Senate houses, Theatres, Hotels, have all risen as the effects, embodiments, and realizations, of some principle in our common nature. But these are all for our material wants and interests—they have an exclusive relation to us as tenants of the earth. Temples spring from other feelings, and are designed to meet other aspirations, and promote other interests. In building a house for God, we declare that we have other relations than those that connect us with this material system, other wants than those of the body, other interests than the secular and the physical. We thus attest our connexion with the spiritual universe, our relation to eternity, our moral obligation to the Infinite, our desire of communion with the Eternal Father of Spirits. The cry of our nature here is not, “ What shall we eat, or what shall we drink, and wherewithal shall we be clothed ? ”
* The substance of this Homily was delivered at the laying of the foundation stone of a new place of worship at Notting Hill, London. Vol. IX.