The Glory of the Redeemer in His Humiliation
"He humbled Himself." Phil. 2:8
We have now, in the prosecution of our subject, arrived at a great and solemn truth. It may be regarded as sustaining the same relation to our theme that the dark background does to the picture- the shading, so essential to the richness, grandeur, and perfection of the piece. We have seen the elevation from which the Son of God descended- the stupendous height from which He stooped. The glory which belonged to that elevation has passed before us, faintly shadowed forth in the type, embodied in the symbol, uttered by the voice of the seer, but more authoritatively and distinctly affirmed by the testimony of Jesus Himself. That same glory is now presented for our contemplation, as assuming another and a different aspect- an aspect so opposite and strange that, but for express revelation, human imagination would never have conceived it, reason's unillumined eye could never have discerned it- the glory of the incarnate God, beaming forth with subdued yet burning luster from beneath His profound and mysterious humiliation! Oh may the Spirit of glory and of Christ, of grace and truth, rest upon us while endeavoring to explore and elucidate this vast and holy subject! We shall in the present chapter trace the glory of the Redeemer in the fact of His humiliation- in the blessings which flow from it to the Church- and in the lessons of practical holiness which it inculcates.
THE GLORY OF THE REDEEMER IN THE FACT OF HIS HUMILIATION.
There are an inconceivable magnitude and grandeur of meaning in the passage placed at the head of this chapter, which could not belong to it as applied to the circumstances of any finite creature, man or angel. "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself." Predicated, we say, of any other than a Divine Person, these words would be perfectly incoherent and unintelligible; but regarded in their obvious and received import, they become luminous with one of the most glorious emanations found in the page of revelation. "Who being in the form of God," affirms His preexistent and Divine nature; "made Himself of no reputation," marks His voluntary descent from that elevation; "took upon Him the form of a servant; was made in the likeness of men," describes tho inferior condition to which He stooped; "and being found in fashion as a man, He Humbled Himself," broadly and distinctly asserts the fact of His profound abasement.
The bare idea of humiliation on the part of Jehovah, divested of all that invests it with a palpable and tangible form, presents to the mind a conception so inscrutable and so vast; that but for the revelation of the fact by God Himself, imagination must have let fall her wing in her efforts to soar to it, and the mind must have exhausted its powers in its attempts to grasp it. And yet thus is it plainly declared: "Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwells on high, who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in heaven and in the earth?" The visible form which this Divine condescension assumed, in its profoundest stoop, is the point that now invites our attention.
The primary step in the humiliation of the Son of God undoubtedly was His mysterious incarnation. This was the first shading of the picture- the commencement of a series of humiliations, which followed in rapid succession, thickening and darkening around His path until He reached the utmost limits of human abasement, suffering, and woe. We need not recapitulate the scriptural evidence already adduced in support of this fundamental article of our faith. We have shown that the Eternal Word was made flesh, that the Deity stooped to our nature, and took it up in mysterious and indissoluble union.
Now, the great glory which gilds this dark part of the Redeemer's humiliation consists in the lowering of the infinite to the scale of the finite- the bringing down of the Godhead to a level with the manhood. In this lay His real humiliation, and from this springs His true glory. Had our Lord assumed our nature, descending from the highest order of angelic being, He would but have exchanged one form of created existence for another; and although made a "little lower than the angels," there would have been no such relinquishment of previous dignity, as could justify the term thus applied to Him by the Holy Spirit, "He humbled Himself." If, as a finite creature, it were possible for me to assume the incarnation of an insect, there would be in the act but the mere semblance of humility- the appearance, and not the true virtue itself: because, there being some proportion between the form relinquished and the form assumed, the step would be but a lower one in the same scale of finite being. But how vastly different in the case of our adorable Redeemer! As we have just remarked, between two finite things there is always some relative proportion; thus a grain of sand bears some proportion to the Alps, and a drop of water bears some proportion to the ocean; but between the finite and the infinite there can be no possible proportion whatever. Now, in the person of the Son of God, the two extremes of being- the infinite and the finite- meet in Strange and mysterious, but close and eternal, union. The Divine came down to the human- Deity humbled itself to humanity. This was humiliation indeed! It was not the creature descending in the scale of creation, but it was the Creator stooping to the creature. "God was manifest in the flesh," "He humbled Himself." Oh, it is an amazing truth! So infinitely great was He, He could thus stoop without compromising His dignity, or lessening His glory.
But, if possible, a step still lower did He seem to descend. Thus, in prophetic language, did He announce it: "I am a worm, and no man." What astounding words are these! Here was the God-man sinking, as it were, in the depths of abasement and humiliation below the human. "I am a worm, and no man"! In the lowliness which marked His external appearance; in the estimation in which He was held by men; in the contemptuous treatment which He received from His enemies; the trampling of His glory in the dust, and the crushing of His person on the cross, would seem in His own view to have robbed Him not only of His glory as God, but even to have divested Him of His dignity as man! "I am a worm, and no man"! Oh, here is glory- glory surpassing all imagination, all thought, all power of utterance! He who bent His footsteps along this flinty path, He who sank thus low, was Jehovah, the "mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace." Wonder, O heavens, and be astonished, O earth! Lowliness and majesty, humiliation and glory, how strangely were they blended in You, incarnate God!
The assumption of our nature, in its depressed and bruised condition, constituted no small feature in the abasement of the Son of God. That, in the strong language of the Holy Spirit, He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners," is a truth we cannot too distinctly affirm, or too earnestly maintain. The least misgiving concerning the perfect sinlessness of the human nature of our Lord, tends to weaken the confidence of faith in the atonement, and so to enshroud in darkness the hope of the soul. As a single leak must have sunk the ark beneath the waves, so the existence of the slightest taint of sin in Jesus would have opened an inlet through which the dark billows of Divine wrath would have rolled, plunging both Himself and the Church He sustained in eternal woe. But that "holy one" who was begotten of the Holy Spirit, knew not the least moral taint. He "knew no sin," He was the sacrificial "Lamb without spot." And because He presented to the Divine requirement a holy, unblemished, and perfect obedience and satisfaction, we who believe are "made the righteousness of God in Him." Hold fast this essential and blessed truth, and guard against its fatal opposite, as you value your own salvation, and the glory of God.
But His taking up into subsistence with His own, our nature in its fallen condition, comprehends the sinless infirmities and weaknesses with which it was identified and encompassed. "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Elijah the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses." And when I see Him weeping, bowed down with grief, and enduring privation, when I behold Him making the needs, and sorrows, and sufferings of others His own, what do I learn, but that my Lord and Master was truly a "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief"? Is there any spectacle more affecting, than thus to behold the incarnate God, entering personally and sympathetically into all the humiliations of my poor, bruised, vile nature, and yet remaining untouched, untainted, by its sin? Taking my weaknesses, bearing my sicknesses, sorrowing when I sorrow, sighing when I sigh, weeping when I weep, touched with the feeling of my infirmities, in all points tempted like as I am!
The attending circumstances of His birth, and the subsequent events of His life, entered deeply into the fact of His abasement. In each step that He took, He seemed to say, "I was born to humiliation and suffering, therefore came I into the world." His parents were poor, of lowly extraction, and humble occupation. Until the age of thirty He lived a life of entire seclusion from the world; and, as He was "subject unto His parents," doubtless His early years were employed in assisting His father in His lowly calling; thus, with His own hands, ministering to His temporal necessities. For, be it remembered, it was a material part of the original curse pronounced by God on man, "In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread." Jesus was made under the law, that He might endure the curse; that curse He fully sustained. There was not a part, the bitterness of which He did not taste, and the tremendousness of which He did not endure; and that for His elect's sake. It were no fanciful idea, therefore, to suppose, that in this feature of the curse, our Lord personally entered; that this part of the penalty of human transgression He fully paid; and that in early life, by the sweat of His brow, he did literally provide for His own temporal sustenance. Oh, touching view of the humiliation of the Son of God! How does it dignify the most lowly occupation, sweeten the heaviest trial, and lighten the deepest care, to reflect, "thus lived, and labored, and toiled, the incarnate God!"
His riper years were marked by corresponding lowliness. The curse tracked His every step, pressing its claims, and exacting its penalties, to the last moment of existence. What were all His excessive privations, but parts of the same? No home sheltered Him- no domestic comforts cheered Him- no smile of fondness greeted Him- no hand of affection welcomed Him. "The Son of man has nowhere to lay His head," was the heart-rending acknowledgment extracted from His lips. And when a day of exhausting toil had closed upon Him, a day spent in journeying from village to village, and from house to house, preaching the kingdom, healing all manner of disease, supplying the needs, alleviating the sufferings, and soothing the cares of others, He would retire, lonely and unrefreshed, to the bleak mountain, and spend His long, sleepless night in unremitting prayer for His Church! Oh you adorable and adored Jehovah-Jesus! Was ever humiliation and love like Yours?
His temptation in the wilderness was a yet darker shadow thrown upon His path, a still more bitter ingredient mingled in His cup. Imagine yourself, my Christian reader, shut in for a single day with one of the vilest and most degraded of our species. During that period, his whole conversation shall be an attempt to tamper with your allegiance to Christ, to undermine your principles, to pollute your mind, to infuse blasphemous thoughts, to wound your conscience, and destroy your peace. What mental suffering, what grief, what torture would your soul endure in that period of time! Yet all this, and infinitely more, did Jesus pass through. For forty days and nights was He enclosed in the wilderness with Satan. Never were the assaults of the prince of darkness more fearful, never were his fiery darts more surely aimed and powerfully winged, and never had so shining a mark presented itself as the object of his attack than now. There is much in this part of our Lord's humiliation in the flesh on which we should delight to expatiate, did it come within the scope of our present design. A rapid glance at some of its more prominent and instructive points, is all that we can now venture upon.
Our Lord's exposure to temptation, and His consequent capability of yielding to its solicitations, has its foundation in His perfect humanity. It surely requires not an argument to show that, as God, He could not be tempted, but that, as man, He could. His inferior nature was finite and created; it was not angelic, it was human. It was completely identical with our own- its entire exemption from all taint of sin, only excepted. A human body and a human mind were His, with all their essential and peculiar properties. He was "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh." He traveled up through the stages of infancy, boyhood, and manhood; He was encompassed with all the weaknesses, surrounded by all the circumstances, exposed to all the inconveniences, that belong to our nature. He breathed our air, trod our earth, ate our food. The higher attributes of our being were His also. Reason, conscience, memory, will, affections, were essential appendages of that human soul which the Son of God took into union with His Divine. As such, then, our Lord was tempted. As such, too, He was capable of yielding. His finite nature, though pure and sinless, was yet necessarily limited in its resources, and weak in its own powers. Concerning His inferior nature, He was but man. The Godhead, as I have before remarked, was not humanized- nor was the humanity deified, by the blending together of the two natures. Each retained its essential character, properties, and attributes, distinct, unchanged, and unchangeable.
But let no one suppose that a liability in Jesus to yield to Satan's temptation, necessarily implies the existence of the same sinful and corrupt nature which we possess. Far from it. To deny His capability of succumbing to temptation, were to neutralize the force, beauty, and instruction of this eventful part of His history altogether. It were to reduce a splendid fact to an empty fable, a blessed reality to a vague supposition; it were to rob Jesus of the great glory which covered Him when left alone, the victor on this battle-field. And yet, that He must necessarily be sinful in order to be thus capable of yielding, does not follow; it is an error in judgment to suppose that the force of a temptation always depends upon the inherent sinfulness of the person who is tempted. The case of the first Adam disproves this supposition, and in some of its essential features strikingly illustrates the case of the second Adam. In what consisted the strength of the assault before whose fearful onset Adam
yielded? Surely not in any indwelling sin, for he was pure and upright. There was no appeal to the existence of any corrupt principles or propensities; no working upon any fallen desires and tendencies in his nature; for, until the moment that the blast swept him to the earth, no angel in heaven stood before the throne purer or more faultless than he. But God left him to the necessary weakness and poverty of his own nature, and thus withdrawing His Divine support and restraint, that instant he fell! That our adorable Lord did not fall, and was not overcome in His fearful conflict with the same foe, was owing solely to the upholding of the Deity, and the indwelling and restraining power of the Holy Spirit, which He possessed without measure.
But we approach the consideration of those parts of this temptation which constitute it an essential element of the humiliation of our Lord. And do you think, my reader, was it no humiliation for the Son of God to be thus assailed by the prince of darkness? Was it no degradation, that His dignity should be questioned, His authority disputed, His reverence for, and allegiance to, His Father assailed, and His very purity tampered with, by a fallen and corrupt spirit whom He had ejected from heaven? Ah! how deeply and keenly He must have felt it to be so, the first moment He was brought into contact with this arch-fiend, and subtle foe of God and man!
But oh, what glory beams from beneath this dark veil of Christ's humiliation! How lovely and precious an Object does He appear to saints and angels in this wondrous transaction! What holy sympathies and fond affections are kindled in the heart, and rise towards Him, as the eye surveys each particular, the appalling nature of the onset- the shock which His humanity sustained- the mighty power by which He was upheld- the signal victory which He achieved- the Divine consolation and comfort which flowed into His soul as His vanquished enemy retired from the conflict, leaving Him more than conqueror- and above all, the close and tender sympathy into which He was now brought with the tempted Church! These are features replete with thrilling interest and rich instruction, on which the renewed mind delights to dwell.
But our Lord's humiliation went deeper still than this! The clouds now gathering around Him grew darker and more portentous as He advanced towards the final conflict. We must consider the fact of His bearing sin, the painful consciousness of which increased as the hour of its atonement drew on, as forming one of the most overwhelming demonstrations of that voluntary abasement to which He had stooped, and through which He was now passing. In the following passages, this great truth of the Gospel is explicitly and emphatically stated. And let it be borne in mind, that when the Holy Spirit represents our Lord as bearing sin, the statement is not to receive a figurative but a perfectly literal interpretation, as asserting a solemn and momentous fact. He bore not the appearance of sin, or the punishment merely of sin, but the sin itself.
The type, which is truly significant, thus shadows forth the truth: "And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: and the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited." Here is the truth we are now contending for, clearly stated. Not the punishment of the sin merely, but the sin itself, did Aaron lay upon the expiatory victim, "putting them upon the head of the goat."
And thus does the Holy Spirit declare it: "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities;" "The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all;" "He shall bear their iniquities;" "He bore the sin of many;""Who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree;" "He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin." There stood the eternal God, in the closest proximity to the evil one. Never did two extremes, so opposite to each other, meet in such near contiguity and collision. Essential sin, essential holiness; essential darkness, essential light; essential hatred, essential love; man's deadliest foe, man's dearest friend. What an hour of seeming power and triumph was this to the grand adversary of God and man; what an hour of deepening gloom and humiliation and defeat to God's beloved Son! How would this Lucifer of the morning exult as with the swellings of pride he placed his foot upon incarnate Deity! And how keenly and powerfully conscious would Jesus be at that moment, of the deep abasement and degradation to which He had now sunk!
But behold how this great transaction contributed to the deep humiliation of the Son of God. What must have been the revulsion of moral feeling, what the shrinking of His holy soul, the first instant it came in personal contact with sin! What a mighty convulsion must have rocked His human nature, pure and sinless as it was! Saint of God, what composes your bitterest cup, and what constitutes your keenest, deepest sorrow? Has a tender Father blown upon your blessings, removed your mercies, lessened your comforts, darkened your bright landscape, dried up your sweet spring? Is this the cause of your shaded brow, your anxious look, your tearful eye, your troubled and disconsolate spirit?
"Ah, no!" you perhaps exclaim; "rid me of this body of sin, and you chase the cloud from my brow, and the tear from my eye, and the sorrow from my heart. It is the sin that dwells in me." Do you think, then, what the spotless Lamb of God must have felt, and how deeply must it have entered into His humiliation- the existence of an all-absorbing, ever present and, ever painful, and humiliating consciousness of bearing upon His holy soul iniquity, transgression, and sin!
But behold the glory! My reader, it is your highest honor, as it was His deepest shame- your richest glory, as it was His deepest humiliation- that He literally did bear all the sins of all His Church. As truly as we are "made the righteousness of God in Him," He was "made sin," or a sin-offering, for us. Behold how beautifully has the Holy Spirit brought out the doctrines of substitution and union. Of substitution thus: "He has made Him (who knew no sin) to be sin for us." And of union thus: "That we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." Oh amazing truth! Sinking Himself to our deepest dishonor, He raises us to His highest glory. Sinking Himself with our fallen humanity, He raises us to a union with God. Substituting Himself for us, He makes us one with Himself. Ah, affecting thought! Were all our iniquities, and all our "transgressions in all our sins," laid on Jesus? Yes, all! Before His infinite mind, to whom the past and the future are one eternal now, the sins of all His chosen ones, to the remotest period of time, passed in review, and were made to meet on the head of the atoning Lamb.
Here is opened the high source of all real blessedness to the believing soul. Sweet is the spring, and sweet are the streams that flow from it. Reconciliation with God- His free forgiveness- union with His nature- adoption into His family- acceptance in the Beloved- oneness with the risen Head- access within the veil- filial and perpetual communion, and the "peace of God which passes all understanding," are among the costly results of Christ bearing sin. And see how completely He has borne the mighty load. The moment our iniquities touched Him, it would seem as though He flung them to an infinite distance, or sunk them to an infinite depth. Never, in point of law and justice, can they appear against the pardoned soul. Laid upon our Surety, condemned, and punished, and pardoned in Him, "there is now no condemnation" of or for sin "to those who are in Christ Jesus." How strong is the language which declares this truth! "I have blotted out as a thick cloud your transgressions, and as a cloud your sins;" "You have cast all my sins behind Your back;" "Thus says the Lord, The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for, and there shall be none; and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found." And why? "Behold the Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world!" And may we not account as among the most precious and costly blessings resulting from this truth, its sanctifying tendency? My beloved, the deepest view you can ever have of God's hatred of sin, is in the cross of Calvary; and the deepest sense of the "exceeding sinfulness of sin" you can ever feel, is its entire pardon, imprinted on your heart with the atoning blood of Jesus, and witnessed by the power and grace of the Holy Spirit. You hate it because it is forgiven; you abhor it because it is pardoned. And with your eye upon the wounds of Jesus, and His blood daily sprinkled on your conscience, you wrap your white garments close about you, lest your passage through a sinful and seductive world should sully and pollute them. Oh powerful and precious motive to holiness! My soul, yield yourself to its sweet influence, draw your constraints to a life of deeper sanctification, from the cross; thirst and pant with more intense desire after Divine conformity, as one all whose iniquities, transgressions, and sins, are forever cancelled by the heart's blood of God's dear Son. Oh hateful and hated sin, atoned for so richly, pardoned so freely, blotted out so entirely, how can I admire you? how can I love you? how can I cherish you? and how can I yield to you now? You burdened and bow down to the earth the soul of my blessed Lord. You marred the beauty, and veil the glory, and humbled the spirit of my Beloved. You crimsoned His body with the bloody sweat- you wreathed His brow with thorns-you troubled His soul even unto death; and yet you, my transgression, are forgiven; you, my sin, are covered, you, my iniquity, are not imputed, and that because Jesus, my surety, was wounded, and bruised, and stricken for me!
"Thus beneath the cross adoring,
Sin does like itself appear;
When the wounds of Christ exploring
I can read my pardon there.
"Truly blessed is this station,
Low before His cross to lie;
While I see Divine compassion
Floating in His languid eye.
"May I still enjoy this feeling,
In all need to Jesus go;
Prove His blood each day more healing,
And Himself more fully know."
We are now conducted to a consideration of the SUFFERING of the Redeemer, as imparting the last and deepest shade to this picture of humiliation; but from which there yet spring some of the brightest beams of His glory. Our adorable Lord was a sufferer- the Prince of sufferers- the Martyr of martyrs. None had ever suffered as He; no sorrow was ever like His sorrow. Scarcely had He touched the surface of our sin-accursed earth, before the cup of suffering was placed to His lips. The deep fountain of human woe, stirred to its very center, poured in upon His soul its turbid streams from every source and through every channel. Human malignity seized upon Him as its victim, and mingled the first draught that He tasted. Linked though He was by the strongest sympathies to our nature, descending though He had, to elevate, sanctify, and save him- man yet ranked himself among his first and deadliest foes. Oh, that condescension and love to our race so profound, should have met with a requital so base!
The necessity of Christ's sufferings is the first point that arrests the mind in contemplating this subject. In His way-side conversation with the two disciples journeying to Emmaus, our Lord clearly and emphatically pronounced this characteristic of His passion "Ought not Christ to have suffered?" The following considerations would seem to justify this plea of necessity.
The sufferings of Christ were necessary in order to accomplish the eternal purpose and counsel of God. To suppose that His sufferings were contingent, originating in the circumstances by which He was surrounded, is to take a very low and defective view of the truth. But the light in which the Scripture presents the doctrine of a suffering Redeemer, is that which gives the most exalted view of redemption, and reflects in the richest manner the glory of the Triune God. The truth we have now advanced, the Apostle Peter embodies in his awakening discourse on the day of Pentecost, and which truth the Holy Spirit employed in the conversion of three thousand souls: "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." The same doctrine is reiterated in Acts 4: "For of a truth against Your holy child Jesus, whom You have anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatever Your hand and Your counsel determined before to be done." Our Lord Himself confirms it when He says, "The Son of man goes, as it was determined." Dear reader, behold the fountain-head, where arise all those precious streams of covenant mercy which flow into your soul- the electing love of God, which constrained Him to present His beloved Son as an atoning Lamb for the slaughter, from before the foundation of the world! Oh! that must be infinite love- vast love- costly love- unchangeable love- which had its existence in the heart of God towards you from all eternity. Oh! run with humility and gladness to this holy and blessed truth! Welcome it joyfully to your heart as God's truth, from which you may not, you dare not turn, without robbing your souls of immense blessing, and incurring fearful responsibilities. And when by faith you stand beneath the cross, and gaze upon its glorious Sufferer, remember that in His death were fulfilled the eternal purpose and counsel of the Triune Jehovah; and that to predestination- rejected and hated as this truth is by some- you owe all that is dear and precious to you as a ransomed expectant of glory.
To fulfill the types, and to make good the prophecies concerning Him, it was necessary that Jesus should suffer. The Levitical dispensation, and the prophetical Scriptures, as we have already shown, point steadily to Jesus; they are replete with Christ crucified. He who reads and investigates them with his eye turned from Jesus, will find himself borne along upon a rapid stream of prophetic annunciation he knows not where, and involved in a mass of ceremonial usages, to him perfectly chaotic and unintelligible, "without form and void." But with the Spirit of God opening the spiritual eye, and moving upon the word, a flood of light is poured upon every page, and every page is seen to be rich with the history, and effulgent with the glory, of the suffering Messiah. Thus does our Lord assert this truth: "Do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He will presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?" Again, "But all this was done, that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." It was necessary, therefore, that Christ should humble Himself- should be a man of sorrows- should drink deeply the cup of suffering, and should be lifted upon the cross, in order to authenticate the Divine mission of Moses, to establish the consistency of the Jewish dispensation, to vindicate the truth of the prophets, to fulfil the counsel of the Lord, and thus to verify His own most blessed word.
But that argument, enforcing the necessity of Christ's sufferings, which the most closely touches our own hearts, grows out of the relation He sustained to His people as their Surety; pledged to accomplish their full salvation in a way consistent with the justice of God and the honor of His law. Here it is we see why one so holy as Jesus was should suffer- why God should lay all His wrath upon the head of His dear Son. Now we learn why the innocent should suffer for the guilty, "the Just for the unjust." He came to reinstate the holiness of the Divine law- to uphold the rectitude of the Divine government- to satisfy the claims of Divine justice- to vindicate the glory of God- to make an end of transgression, and bring in an everlasting righteousness for His people. Ought not Christ, then, to have suffered? Had He not, there would have been no atonement for sin- no fountain opened for uncleanness- no avenue of return to God- no reconciliation- no way of access within the holy of holies- no pardon- no acceptance- no peace- no hope- no heaven! Oh, how wretched must have been our condition, and how fearful our doom, had not Jesus suffered! The pall of dark despair would have covered us, and our eternal destiny had been written in letters of "mourning, lamentation, and woe." "This," exclaims the awakened soul, "is just the Redeemer that I need, just the Savior that I need. One who can stoop to my deep necessity, lift me from my dunghill, place me among the princes, and yet sustain, and more than sustain, magnify, by this very act of redeeming rescue, the majesty, purity, and honor of Jehovah."
The completeness of His character as a compassionate and sympathizing Sigh Priest, pleaded for His sufferings. "It became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." "Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest;" "For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to support those who are tempted;" "We have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities." What deduction are we to draw from this rich cluster of precious declarations but, that in order to the perfection of His character as the High Priest of His people, as the Brother born for adversity, in order to be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," He must Himself suffer? He must know from painful experience what sorrow meant- what a wounded spirit and a broken, bleeding heart, and a burdened and a beclouded mind, were. In this school He must be taught, and disciplined, and trained: He must "learn obedience by the things which He suffered." He must be made "perfect through sufferings." And oh, how deeply has He been taught, and how thoroughly has He been trained, and how well has He learned, thus to sympathize with a suffering Church! You have gone, it may be, with your trouble to your earthly friend, you have unfolded your tale of woe, have unveiled every feeling and emotion. But ah! how have the vacant countenance, the wandering eye, the listless air, the cold response, told you that your friend, with all his love, could not enter into your case! The care that darkened your brow, had never shaded his- the sorrow that lacerated your heart, had never touched his- the cup you were drinking, he had never tasted. What was lacking? Sympathy, growing out of an identity of circumstance. You have gone to another; he has trod that path before you, be has passed through that very trouble, his spirit has been inured to grief, his heart schooled in trial, sorrow in some of its acutest forms has been his companion; and now he is prepared to bend upon you a melting eye, to lend an attentive ear and a feeling heart, and to say, "Brother, I have known all, I have felt all, I have passed through all- I can sympathize with all." That Friend of friends, that Brother of brothers, is Jesus. He has gone before you; He has left a fragrance on the brim of that very cup you are now drinking; He has bedewed with tears, and left the traces of His blood, on that very path along which you are now walking; He has been taught in that very school in which you are now learning. Then, what encouragement to take your case, in the sweet simplicity of faith, and lay it before the Lord! To go and tell Jesus, confessing to Him, and over Him, the sin which has called forth the chastisement, and then the grief which that chastisement has occasioned. What a wonderful High Priest is Jesus! As the bleeding Sacrifice, you may lay your hand of faith upon His head, and acknowledge your deepest guilt; and as the merciful Priest, you may lay your head on His bosom, and disclose your deepest sorrow. Oh my precious Savior! must You sink to this deep humiliation, and endure this bitter suffering, in order to enter into my lone sorrow!
And yet, in this view of the necessity, we must not lose sight of the VOLUNTARY character of the Redeemer's sufferings. God was not impelled, by a necessity which He could not resist, to redeem, nor Jesus to be the Redeemer. Our Lord was not so circumstanced antecedently to His acceptance of the office of Mediator, that He could not have avoided the humiliation, suffering, and death which He endured. Had He so willed it, He might have resigned the human race to the dire consequences of their apostasy, remaining Himself everlastingly happy and glorious. But, after His most free consent had been given, after having voluntarily entered into an engagement with His Father, to secure the salvation of His covenant people, then, by the most solemn and irrevocable bonds, it was necessary for Him to go forward and finish the work He had undertaken, or leave the Church to perish eternally. "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator." Coupling this passage with His own God-like declaration, how harmonious appear these apparently conflicting truths: "I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No man takes it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again."
And yet He suffered most voluntarily. In this consisted greatly the perfection of His sacrifice. His penal death had proved of no atoning efficacy but for this willing obedience and the Divine merit that were in it. It would have been unjust in justice to have inflicted punishment upon an innocent and unwilling person. The injury thus inflicted must have recoiled with tremendous force upon itself; for while on the one hand, seeking satisfaction justly- on the other, it would have exacted that satisfaction most unjustly.
The full and free concurrence of His own will was essential to the perfection of His sacrifice. Yes, had it not been most free, and acting in perfect harmony with His Father's consent, our sins could not have been imputed to, nor the punishment inflicted upon, Him. Entering, then, most freely into a bond to cancel the mighty debt, it was righteous in God, it was just in justice, and it invested the throne of the eternal Jehovah with surpassing glory, to arrest, in default of the debtor, the Surety, and to exact from Him the uttermost payment.
And here, my reader, is the great point to which we are aiming to bring you- the wonderful love of Jesus in so willingly suffering, the "Just for the unjust." Oh, how readily did He humble Himself, and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross! "Lo, I come; I delight to do Your will, O my God yes, Your law is within my heart;" "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened until it be accomplished!" "Who gave Himself for us;" "Christ also has loved us, and has given Himself for us." This is the spring of all that He has done, for "Christ has loved us." Constrained by this, He gave Himself as the Son of God, and as the Son of man- His soul and body, His life and death: yes, all that He possessed in heaven and on earth, He freely gave for us. What was there above or below- in His previous state of glory, or subsequent state of humiliation, that He retained? What part of the price did He withhold? When He could give no less- for all angels and all men would not have sufficed- and when He could give no more, He gave Himself. Ah! this made His "offering and sacrifice to God a sweet-smelling savor." And still it perfumes the oblation, and sends it up each moment fragrant and acceptable before the throne of the Holy One. Oh, surpassing love of Jesus! With the burden of sin- the fire of justice- the wrath of God- the ridicule of man- the malignity of demons- the sorrows of Gethsemane- the pains of Calvary, and the sea of His own blood, all, all in vivid prospect before Him, He yet went forward, loving not His own life unto the death, because He loved ours more. Oh let your heart bend low before this amazing love! Yield to its sweet and attractive influence: let it draw you from yourself, from the creature, from all, to Him. Are you wounded? Does your heart bleed? Is your soul cast down within you? Is your spirit within you desolate? Still Jesus is love, is loving, and loves you. He has suffered and died for you; and, were it necessary, He would suffer and die for you yet again. Whatever blessing He sees good to take from you, He will never take Himself away. Whatever stream of creature love He sees fit to dry, His own love will never fail. Oh can that love fail- can it cease to yearn, and sympathize, and soothe, and support, which brought Jesus from heaven to earth to endure and suffer all this for us? Be still, then- lie passive and low, drink the cup, and let the surrender of your sin, your obedience, and yourself to Him, be as willing and as entire as was the surrender of Himself for you. Then shall you, in a blessed degree, be "able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and know the love of Christ, which surpasses knowledge, filled with all the fulness of God."
But the NATURE of His suffering! This is yet to be considered as forming the most essential part of His deep and unheard of humiliation. Exile from His Father was no small element in the abasement of our adorable Redeemer- it was no slight ingredient of the bitter cup He was now drinking! What a change of circumstances for the Son of the Highest! To leave the bosom of the Father, where, in all the confidence and endearment of the closest and holiest love, He had from eternity reposed, to be embosomed in a world of sin, of anarchy, and of woe! Oh, what a descending was this! That He was banished from all communion with God we do not assert. His whole life, which would seem to have formed one continuous act of devotion, so entirely did He live in the element of prayer, so closely was He enfolded by the atmosphere of communion, would contradict this. But the communion which Jesus held with His Father on earth was far different from that which He had been wont to hold in heaven. There it was from His bosom, not a cloud shading His mind, nor a sorrow wounding His spirit, nor a tear dimming His eye. Here it was from His footstool, amid infirmities, sufferings, "strong crying, and, tears." Invested with a robe of flesh, His communion with God must have received a character from the medium through which it passed. And although not earthly were His conceptions of the Divine essence, or carnal His frame of spirit in its approach to God yet, as man, and in all points tempted like as we are, we may easily suppose He could sympathize with the depth of meaning involved in that sweet portion of His own word, "The Spirit also helps our infirmities for we know not what we should pray for as we ought but the Spirit itself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." Comparison must utterly fail when instituted between the degree and tone of communion with God on earth, and the same hallowed employment in heaven. Take the loftiest flight of the spirit toward God, still caged and cabined by this body of sin, and measure its height with the soarings of that same spirit when disembodied and glorified, freed from all encumbrance of mortal clay, and how low in comparison are its most elevated communings! This deprivation Jesus endured, this limited communion Jesus felt, and deeply did it enter into His humiliation.
But the climax of His humiliation, the consummation of His bitter sorrow, was in the garden, and on the cross. We go with Him to Gethsemane, and we hear Him exclaim, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death;" "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will;" "And being in an agony, He prayed more earnestly; and His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." We follow Him to Calvary, and amid the darkness and throes of nature, and the still deeper darkness and throes of His soul, a cry more plaintive and more bitter breaks upon the ear: "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" "Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to His mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the spirit. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. When the centurion, and those who were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God."
Here we rest. We have descended with Him from the sunny heights of His glory to the dark depths of His abasement: further than this we cannot pass. We have traveled with Him to the utmost limit of ignominy; beyond it, it would seem, He Himself could not go. Now did the storm, which for ages had been gathering strength, break upon Him in its overwhelming fury. Now did He endure the wrath of God to its uttermost. No shield was around Him, no refuge was over Him, no advocate pleaded for Him. His head was uncovered to the tempest, His person was bowed to the stroke, and He met both in their fiercest onset. Oh, was it no humiliation now to the Son of God? Hear His bitter complaints: "Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying; my throat is dried; mine eyes fail while I wait for my God. Those who hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of my head; those who would destroy me, being my enemies wrongfully, are mighty: then I restored that which I took not away." Thus sank the eternal Son! Thus bowed to the dust the Redeemer of men! Here let us pause, and adore Him who, though "equal with God, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."
Briefly tracing some of the vast BLESSINGS which this subject secures to the Church of God, the glory which belongs to the Redeemer in His humiliation and sufferings will thus more fully appear.
The first that presents itself to the mind is the deep and broad foundation which it lays for the salvation of the Church. There could have been no restoration of man, and no satisfaction to law and justice, but in the humiliation of the Son of God. The very necessity of the case demanded it. The Divine government had been dishonored- that dishonor could only be removed by the humiliation of one equal in dignity, holiness, and glory, even an infinite Being. The humiliation of every angel in heaven would not have effaced a single stain of its reproach, nor have restored a single beam of its glory. The law of God had been humbled, justice demanded, as the price of its reparation, the humiliation of the Lawgiver Himself. The incarnate God did humble Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Thus it was Jesus restored that which He took not away. He restored holiness to the law- satisfaction to justice- dignity to the Divine government- honor to God, and happiness and immortality to man. "Then I restored that which I took not away." Oh, what a stable foundation is thus laid for the fall salvation of every believer!
The humiliation of the Redeemer opens a fountain of infinitely great and ever-glorious grace. Nothing could we have known of the glory of His person, nothing of the character of God; and all the things of His hidden love must have remained forever sealed, had He not so humbled Himself. His coming forth, invested not with the dazzling robes of His infinite majesty, but wearing our degraded nature, descending to our state of deep abasement, yes, sinking infinitely deeper than we, throws open a treasury of grace as rich in its glory, and ample in its supply, as were the dark humiliation and deep poverty which made it ours.
Here is glory springing from His abasement- it is the "glory of His grace;" "We beheld His glory, full of grace." This fulness of grace in Jesus includes all that a poor sinner needs, all that a necessitous believer requires, all that the glory of God demanded. Here is the grace of pardon in all its fulness- the grace of justification in all its fulness- the grace of sanctification in all its fulness- the grace of consolation in all its fulness- the grace of strength in all its fulness. "It pleased the Father, that in Him should all fulness dwell." Grace is poured into His lips, and gracious words proceed from His lips. Hearken! "Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Hearken again! "Him that comes unto me, I will in no wise cast out." Does He not bind up the broken heart? Does He not preach glad tidings to the meek? Does He not "satisfy the hungry soul, and satiate the weary soul with goodness?" Has He ever sent the poor empty away? Was He ever known to turn His back upon one humble comer drawing near, bowed with guilt, disconsolate with sorrow, oppressed with trial? Never! never! Oh, it is with infinite delight- delight of the depth of which we can form no conception- that He welcomes poor sinners. He thinks of His own humiliation for sin; He remembers His own sorrows and tears, agonies and death; and throwing Himself, as it were, into the very center of a bosom storm-tossed with godly grief, He seeks to soothe and hush it to a calm. And how does He allay the tempest? He pours the oil of His own love upon the waves: He sprinkles the conscience with that blood which cleanses from all sin, and bids the soul go in peace. Dear reader, where least we should have expected it, Jesus is set before us, the "Door of hope," even in the deep valley of His humiliation. "I will give the valley of Achor for a door of hope." The Gospel of this precious promise is found in the wondrous theme we are now contemplating- the humiliation of the incarnate God. To that humiliation we must sink, into that valley we must descend. Convinced of sin, separated from all self-reliance and creature-trust, emptied, humbled, laid low in the dust before God, we shall then find Jesus to be the "Door of hope" set open before us in the deep and dark valley of our poverty, hopelessness, vileness, and abasement. Just the Door we need, is Jesus. A Door to a Father's forgiving heart; a Door to God's reconciled love; a Door to the sweetest, closest, holiest fellowship and communion; a Door into heaven itself; a Door so wide, that the greatest sinner may enter- so free, that the penniless may come.
"Here the hopeless may draw near;
Jesus bids them stay no more,
And receives them graciously.
"Door of mercy open wide,
He that will may enter here;
Find in Jesus' pierced side
Shelter from each rising fear.
"Door of pardon for the vile,
Here the vilest enter in,
Find the fruit of Jesus' toil
Full atonement for their sin.
"Door of peace, yes, peace with God,
Sinners may adore and bless
Peace, the fruit of Jesus' blood,
Peace, the fruit of righteousness.
"Door of heaven, there saints shall raise
Loud hosannas swelling high,
And in gratitude and praise
Spend a long eternity."
The humiliation of Christ is also the believer's path to the enjoyment of the richest blessings here, and the highest glory hereafter. How little do we associate our most costly mercies, and even those which we are accustomed to esteem of a more ordinary character (although every mercy is infinitely great), with the abasement of our Lord! How seldom do we trace our happy moments, and hallowed joys, and high delights, and sacred scenes, and precious privileges, to this dark part of His eventful history! And yet all flow to us through this very channel, and but for this, never, never had been ours. When the ocean of His goodness rolls in upon me, wave on wave- when I feel the cheering warmth of creature smiles beaming sweetly and fondly- when I review, one by one, my personal, domestic, and relative mercies- when even the cup of cold water, offered by the hand of Christian kindness, moistens my lips- what is the thought that forces itself upon my mind? "All this springs from the deepest humiliation of my adorable Christ!" And when I ascend into the higher region of grace, and survey the blessings so richly and so freely bestowed- a rebel subdued- a criminal pardoned- a child adopted- a royal priest anointed- union with Christ- covenant relationship with God- access within the holy of holies- conformity to the Divine image- still more deeply am I overwhelmed with the thought, "All this proceeds from the infinite abasement of the incarnate God!" And when yet higher still I ascend, and passing from grace to glory, contemplate the heaven of bliss that awaits me- in one moment absent from the body of sin, and present with the Lord, away from the world, beautiful though it is, because God has made it, yet the throne of Satan, the empire of sin, the scene of sorrow, pollution, suffering, and death; and eternally shut in with God, where all is joy, and all is holiness- made perfectly holy, and consequently perfectly happy, to sin no more, to sorrow no more, to weep no more, to wander no more, to fall no more, oh, how full of glory then becomes the humiliation of my incarnate Lord! Beloved, when God exalts you, remember it is because your Savior was abased. When your cup is sweet, remember it is because His cup was bitter. When you do press your mercy fondly and closely to your heart, remember it is because He pressed His heart to the spear. And when the eye of faith and hope looks forward to the coming glory, oh, forget not that because He endured your hell, you shall enjoy His heaven!
How gloriously does the love of the Father towards us shine in the humiliation and sufferings of Jesus! How deep, how immense, how real that love must be, thus to have dealt with His beloved Son, in order to waft all the blessings of heaven and immortality into our souls! If I want to know in some degree the height of the Father's love, I must in a proportionate degree know the depth of the Son's humiliation. Beloved, ponder this amazing truth. Sink down into it until you find it too deep for mortal thought to fathom; grasp it until its infinite dimensions expand beyond your powers of conception. God is love, and loving His Son, God loves you; and the strong and costly proof of it is, that He resigned Jesus to the shame and the spitting, gave up His darling One to the power of the dogs, and abandoned Him to darkness and woe upon the cross, withdrawing every beam of light from His mind, and every drop of consolation from His heart. Love prompted the gift, love constrained to the surrender, love sank Him low, and love stands pledged to give you every blessing that you need; and this is its security- "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with him also freely give us all things?" Oh ascend from your narrow, straitened views of the Father's love! They dishonor that Father, they undervalue His gift, they grieve the Spirit, and they bring leanness into your own soul. In the humiliation and sufferings of Jesus, God has unlocked every chamber of His heart, and invites you to enter and revel amid their untold riches. In view of this stupendous truth, He asks you to surrender yourself simply and unreservedly to His government and service- to walk obediently- to trust implicitly- to bow resignedly- to imitate closely- and to be ever ascending in faith, and hope, and love, towards your heavenly home.
A spiritual and continued contemplation of the Redeemer's humiliation supplies a powerful check to sin. What is every sin committed, but opening afresh the wounds, and re-acting anew the humiliation of Jesus? Oh, how hateful must that sin appear in our serious moments, which shut out the sun of God's countenance from the soul of Christ, and sunk Him to such inconceivable depths of humiliation! We need every view of Divine truth calculated to sanctify. At present, the deepest sanctification of the believer is imperfect: his loftiest soarings towards holiness never reaching the goal. And yet to be ever thirsting, panting, wrestling, and aiming after it, should be classed among our highest mercies. Oh, we too much forget this truth, that the thirsting for holiness is as much the Holy Spirit's creation, as it is His work to quench that thirst. "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness;" or, Blessed are they who have the desire for Divine conformity, who long to know Christ, and to resemble Christ more perfectly. They may never reach the mark, yet ever pressing towards it- they may never attain to their standard, yet, ever aiming for it, they are truly blessed. Here, then, is one powerful means of attaining to holiness- the spiritual eye brought in close and frequent contact with the lowly life of God's dear Son. But for our sins, His mind had never been shaded with clouds, His heart had never been wrung with sorrow, His eye had never been bedewed with tears, He had never suffered and died, had never known the wrath of the offended God.
How fraught with soothing and consolation is this subject to the bereaved and tried believer! It tells you, weeping mourner, that having drained all His wrath, and poured it on the head of your Surety, nothing is reserved for you in the heart of God but the deep fountain of tender mercy and loving-kindness. Then where springs your present trial, but from the loving heart of your Father? In the life of Jesus all was humiliation, in the life of the believer all is glory; and all this glory springs from the headship of Christ. In every step that He trod, He is one with him- the only difference being that Jesus changes positions with the believer, and thus what was bitter to Him becomes sweet to us; and what was dark to Him, becomes light to us; and what was His ignominy and shame, becomes our highest honor and glory.
Humbling as may be the way God is now leading you, do not forget that the great end is to bring you into fellowship with Christ's humiliation- into a more realizing oneness with your tried Head. How contracted were the believer's views of, and how limited his sympathy with, the abasement of God's dear Son, but for the humiliation of His life, but for the way the Lord leads him about in order to humble him! Deut. viii. To be brought into sympathy with you in all the gloomy stages of your journey, "He humbled Himself;" and that this feeling might be reciprocal, bringing you into a sympathy with the dark stages of His life, He humbles you. But deep as your present humiliation may be, you cannot sink so low, but you will find He sunk yet lower, and is therefore able to sustain and bear you up. "I was brought low, and He helped me." Never can Christians sink beneath the everlasting arms; they will always be underneath you. You may be sorely tried- deeply bereaved- fearfully tempted- painfully wounded. Saints and sinners, the Church and the world, may each contribute some bitter ingredient to your cup; nevertheless, the heart of Jesus is a pavilion within whose sacred enclosure you may repose until these calamities be overpast. Your greatest extremity can never exceed His power or sympathy, because He has gone before His people, and has endured what they never shall endure. In the shadow now deepening around you, there is no frown; in the bosom of the cloud now gathering over you, there lurks no thunderbolt. On the path along which you tread, no lightning gleams, for Jesus has borne it all, and borne it all away. Do not be tempted, then, to believe that your case, extreme as it may be, can exceed the limit of His compassion, power, and sympathy. Behold what glory thus springs from the humiliation and sufferings of our adorable Redeemer!
This subject is of an eminently practical tendency. It especially points to Christ as an example. In view of the Redeemer's humiliation, how appropriate and forcible is the exhortation: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus!" The great and holy lesson the Lord the Spirit would inculcate as the foundation of this truth, is profound self-abasement, increasing, habitual lowliness of mind. Never was so holy a precept based upon such a doctrine, illustrated by such an example, and enforced by such a motive as this. It would seem, while descending into the dark valley of Divine abasement, as though all human self-exaltation must wither, and all self-glory must die. The atmosphere would seem too pure for affections so vile to exist even for a moment. It must be acknowledged as a truth of great moment, that only beneath the cross is this holy and precious grace truly cultivated and nurtured. There can be no evangelical humility until sin is felt and deplored, and Christ is seen and loved. The Lord, by various processes, may seek to "hide pride from men." Beneath the hand that has smitten, the haughty spirit, if it does not cherish secret and determined rebellion against the dispensation, may for a while be subdued, and the lofty look be laid low; but the pressure once removed- the sorrow vanishing, with it often vanishes all semblance of real humility and submission; and the spirit is more haughty and the eye more lofty than before.
But a spiritual, inward perception of this stupendous truth-God humbling Himself for man's transgression -the eternal Spirit laying it upon the heart with sanctifying power, begets a spirit of deep self-abasement, and promotes that lowliness and humbleness of mind with which Jehovah deigns and delights to dwell. Oh, how leveling is a sight of the cross of the incarnate God to human pride! Bereavements may empty- afflictions may humble- trials may subdue, and in the hand of the sanctifying Spirit they often work wonders for a child of God, and are not to be despised, or in any degree lightly esteemed; but the cross in the heart, this, this it is which truly and effectually lays the soul prostrate in the dust before the holy God, with deep abhorrence of self, and of sin's exceeding sinfulness.
But what is it to have "the mind that was in Christ?" We answer, it is to be ever aiming after the highest perfection of holiness. It is, to have the eye of faith perpetually on Jesus as our model, studying Him closely as our great example, seeking conformity to Him in all things. It is, to be regulated in all our conduct by His lowly spirit. First, with regard to others- to choose the low place, to acknowledge God in and to glorify Him for the grace, gifts, and the usefulness bestowed on other saints, and to exemplify in our social communion the self-denying, expansive benevolence of the Gospel, which enjoins the duty of not seeking paramountly our own interests, but to sacrifice all self-gratification, and even honor and advantage, if, by so doing, we may promote the happiness and welfare of others- thus it is to live, not for ourselves, but for God and our fellow-men; for "no man lives to himself, and no man dies to himself;" in the spirit of Him who, on the eve of returning to His glory, took a towel and girded Himself, and washed His disciples' feet, it is to serve the saints in the most lowly acts and offices. Second, it is to exemplify, with regard to ourselves, the same lowly spirit which He breathed. It is to be little in our own eyes- to cherish a humble estimate of our gifts, attainments, usefulness, and station- to be meek, gentle, and submissive under rebuke and correction- to "seek not great things for ourselves," -to court not human praise, watching our hearts with perpetual vigilance and jealousy, lest we thirst for the "honor which comes from man, and not the honor which comes from God only." It is to contribute to the necessities of saints without begrudging, to give to Christ's cause without ostentation, to do good by stealth- to seek, in all our works of zeal, and benevolence, and charity, to hide ourselves, that self may be perpetually mortified- in a word, it is to hunger and thirst after righteousness, to be poor in spirit, lowly in mind, to walk humbly with God, and to live to, and labor for, and aim after, the glory of God in all things. This is to have the "mind that was also in Christ Jesus."
There cannot, perhaps, be a position, however peculiar and difficult, in which the believer may be placed, but he will find that Jesus, either by precept or example, has defined the path in which he should walk. Let me illustrate this, by citing a few individual cases. The subject of this chapter pointedly and solemnly addresses itself to the rich. Circumstanced as you are by the providence of God, you have need closely and prayerfully to ascertain how, in your situation, Jesus walked. One of the peculiar snares to which your station exposes you is high-mindedness, and consequent self-trust and complacency. But here the Lord Jesus presents Himself as your example. He, too, was rich; creating all things, He possessed all things. The Creator of all worlds, all worlds were at His command. Yet, amazing truth! in the days of His humiliation, He was as though He possessed nothing, "Though He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor." In view of such an illustrious Pattern, what is your duty? Simple and obvious. You are in a degree to become poor, by devoting your substance to the glory of God. To amass wealth, for the purpose of hoarding it, is contrary to the spirit of the Gospel, and is opposed to the teaching and example of Christ. It is a sin- an awful, a soul-periling sin. It exposes you to a vortex, which has already drawn and engulfed within its fearful abyss thousands of rich professors. Unless you are strictly following the steps of Christ, as one to whom immense responsibilities attach in connection with worldly prosperity, increasing wealth, or already acquired affluence, you are encircled by imminent danger. Your property is a talent, for which, as a steward, you are as certainly and as solemnly accountable to God as for any other. It is perhaps the one talent that He has given you. What if you bury it in covetousness, or in prodigal expenditure and self-indulgence, refusing to relax your grasp of it to promote His cause and truth, who became poor to enrich us; how will you meet His scrutiny and His glance when the judgment is set, and He demands an account of your stewardship? Nor is it a small, though, perhaps, a solitary talent. Bestowed upon but few, the obligation becomes the greater to consecrate it unreservedly to the Lord. And how can you withhold it, in view of the claims which crowd upon you on either hand? What! are you at a loss for a channel through which your benevolence might flow? Are you inquiring, "How shall I devote my property to God? To what especial object shall I contribute of my substance? In what way may this my one talent best answer the end for which it is bestowed?" Cast your eye around you- surely you cannot long hesitate. Survey the map of Christian missions, is there no part of Christ's kingdom languishing through an inadequacy of pecuniary support? Is there no mission embarrassed, if not abandoned, no laborious missionary disheartened, perhaps recalled, for the lack of that very substance which you are either hoarding up in the spirit of avarice, or lavishing in unnecessary and extravagant selfishness, or else, in the anticipation of a posthumous benevolence, have locked up in a piece of dry parchment, in the shape of a testamentary bequest, to be disposed of after your death? Is there no important enterprise impeded in its course of benevolence by the lack of funds? -no useful society discouraged and crippled through the narrowness and insufficiency of its resources? Is there no important sphere of labor in your vicinity neglected, no spot in the moral wilderness entirely untilled, because the means to supply and sustain an effective agency have been lacking? Is there no sanctuary of God burdened with debt, the existence of which presses like an incubus upon the spiritual prosperity and zealous exertion of the Christian community worshiping within its walls, and which your outstretched hand could remove and cast away? Is there no faithful, hard working minister of Christ within your knowledge and your reach, combating with straitened circumstances, oppressed by poverty, and toiling amid lonely care, embarrassment, and anxiety, studiously and delicately screened from human eye, which it is in your power to alleviate and remove? Is there no widow's heart you could make to sing for joy? no orphan, whose tears you could dry? no saint of God tried by sickness, or need, or imprisonment, from whose spirit you could lift the burden, and from whose heart you could chase the sorrow, and from whose feet you could strike the fetter? Surely a world of need, and woe, and suffering is before you, nor need you yield to a moment's hesitation in selecting the object around which your charity should entwine.
Here, then, is your example. Jesus became poor, lived poor, and died poor. Dare you die a rich man, an affluent professor? I beseech you, ponder this question. If your Lord has left you an example that you should follow His steps, then you are called upon to become poor, to live poor, yes, even to die poor for Him.
But especially are you exhorted to rejoice in that, by the grace of God, you are made low. That in the midst of so much calculated to nourish the pride and lofty independence of the natural heart, you have been made to know your deep spiritual poverty, and as a sinner have been brought to the feet of Jesus. By that grace only can you be kept low. Here is your only security. Mere wealth invests its possessor with no real power or greatness. It confers no moral nor intellectual glory. It insures not against the inroad of evil. It throws around no shield. It may impart a measure of artificial importance, authority, and influence in the world's estimation; beyond this, what is it? Unsanctified by Divine grace, it entails upon its unhappy possessor an innumerable train of evils. As a Christian man, then, exposed to the snares of even a moderate degree of worldly prosperity, your only security is in drawing largely from the "exceeding riches of Christ's grace;" your true wealth is in the fear of God ruling in your heart, in the love of Christ constraining you to "lie low in a low place;" to bear the cross daily; to walk closely, obediently, and humbly with God; employing the property with which He has intrusted you as a faithful steward; your eye ever "looking unto Jesus" as your Pattern.
Equally full and pointed in its instruction is this dark page in the Redeemer's history, to those of His saints who, by the providence of God, are placed in elevated walks in life, and upon whom are conferred the distinctions of human rank, power, and greatness. To assert, as some have done, that the word of God refuses to recognize human distinctions in society, and that when Divine grace takes possession of the heart, it becomes the duty of its subject to relinquish the rank, forego the influence, descend from the position, and go out of the sphere of life in the possession of which grace found him, would seem, not only to transcend the wisdom, but even to arraign the providence of God.
He who despises a rich man because he is rich, as much reproaches God, as he who oppresses a poor man because he is poor. The same providence which ordained the one, created the other. In the one case, we reproach God for creating the rich, and in the other, we reproach Him for creating the poor. In both we impeach His sovereignty, wisdom, and goodness. There is much in the leveling and equalizing spirit of the age to awaken strong suspicion and alarm. Let us be clearly understood. With the holy desire and fervent prayer of those who long for a clearer and wider line of demarcation between the Church and the world- for a more visible separation of the one from the other- for more spirituality among the Lord's people- more heavenly-mindedness, less sinful conformity to, and unnecessary mingling with, the world, we truly and deeply sympathize. But with the spirit to which we have alluded- a spirit which seeks to sap the foundation of human governments, to upheave human society, to loosen its bonds, annihilate its orders, and equalize its distinctions, we can have no sympathy whatever, believing it opposed to the spirit of true Christianity, which inculcates upon all men reverence for the civil power; which enjoins homage to kings, obedience to magistrates, prayer for all that are in authority, "honor to whom honor, and tribute to whom tribute is due;" remembering that "the powers that be are ordained by God."
Would it not also appear on examination, that, even among many saints of God, views are found to exist, the tendency of which is to foster a similar principle to that we have just reprehended? There would seem to be an impression- though the idea would probably meet with instant rejection- that providence and grace are opposed to each other- that, when the purpose of grace is accomplished, the arrangements of providence must be broken up; in other words, that the grace of God disqualifies for the previous sphere of elevated life which the providential arrangements of God had assigned to its subject. We think such an idea, practically acted upon, as some have done, fraught with many and serious evils. God will be glorified in everything that He has created, from the mote in the sunbeam to the highest product of His power. Especially is He glorified in maintaining His saints in the different spheres and relations of life in which His grace has called them. Thus He makes use of one believer's rank, of another's wealth, of another's influence, of another's attainments. On all is inscribed, "Holiness to the Lord;" and all, sanctified and set apart to a holy purpose and end, are pressed into His service, and are made to contribute to His glory. Imagine, then, how antagonistical the one to the other would providence and grace be made to appear, were a man of rank to relinquish his rank, a man of wealth to part with his wealth, a man of influence to come out of the sphere of his influence, the moment the great transition from death to life, from darkness to light, had taken place. The change from nature into grace is not an immediate translation from grace to glory. He is called spiritually out of the world, but yet left in the world, and left in it, too, that for awhile be may glorify Him who has called him. "These are in the world," says Christ to His Father. And again; "As You have sent me into the world, even so also have I sent them into the world." And although it is most true that "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called;" yet it is equally true that to those who are so called the inspired exhortation is addressed, "Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to."
But if, my reader, God has called you by His sovereign grace in the circumstances to which I have alluded, the grand point that we would press upon you, is the importance of placing prominently and constantly before you the Lord Jesus as your Pattern. Have you rank? have you distinction? have you wealth? have you influence? So had Christ. But how did He wear that rank, and sustain that distinction, and dispose of that wealth, and employ that influence? In the spirit of the profoundest humility, and with a view to the holiest and most sublime end! On what occasion will you detect in Him the parade of lofty title, or the pride of elevated distinction, or the haughty reserve of superior birth, or the tyrannical exercise of sovereign power, or the selfish indulgence of unbounded influence? Never! The "Ancient of days" did seem to be the infant of days, the eternal God as the lowliest man- with so meek, so humble, and so condescending a carriage, did He deport Himself in the days of His flesh. Of Him, and from Him, you have need to learn how best to glorify your heavenly Father in your present position. Looking narrowly into His word, examining closely His precept and example, you will avoid all worldly aggrandizement in your profession of Christian discipleship- you will be reminded that His "kingdom is not of this world;" that in the Church the "rich and the poor meet together;" that on common ground they there stand; that there all human distinction is lost, and all embrace each other as fellow-heirs of the same eternal inheritance. But if forbidden to carry your worldly distinctions into your Christianity, you are not forbidden to carry your Christianity into the elevated circle in which you move, showing how the grace of the Lord Jesus can make you poor, though rich; humble, though elevated; and child-like, though gifted. Oh, be constrained in the spirit of the profoundest humility to lay your title, your wealth, your honor, and your intellectual attainments at the foot of the cross, an unreserved, consecrated, and willing offering to His glory, who though the "King of kings, and Lord of lords," once hung upon it in ignominy and suffering and death. You "know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ," -the rich, the amazing, the sovereign, the free grace of Jesus, to which you owe all that is precious and glorious in the prospect of eternity; you know from personal and blessed experience this fathomless, boundless grace, which has made you what you are, and will make you what you shall yet be- let this grace, then, accomplishits perfect work in you, by leading you to glory only of Jesus, to yield yourself supremely to His service, and to regard the worldly distinction God has conferred upon you as valuable only as it promotes His kingdom, truth, and glory, who "though rich, for your sakes became poor, that you, through His poverty, might be made rich."
Permit me to reiterate the exhortation- cultivate, above all spiritual conditions, most assiduously, prayerfully, earnestly, and fervently, poverty of spirit. Rest not short of it. This is the legitimate fruit, and the only safe evidence, of our union to Christ, and the indwelling of the Spirit in our hearts. Nothing can suffice for it. Splendid talent, versatile gifts, profound erudition, gorgeous eloquence, and even extensive usefulness, are wretched substitutes for poverty of spirit. They may dazzle the eye, and please the ear, and delight the taste, and awaken the applause of man, but, dissociated from profound humiliation of mind, God sees no glory in them. What does He say? "To this man" (to him only, to him exclusively) "will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word." We may think highly of gifts, but let us learn their comparative value and true place from the words of our Lord, spoken in reference to John: "Verily I say unto you, Among those who are born of women there has not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he." Behold the true position which Christ assigns to distinction of office, of place, and of gifts-subordinate to lowliness of spirit. This is their proper rank; and he who elevates them above profound self-abasement, deep lowliness of spirit, sins against God, impeaches His wisdom, and denies the truth of His word.
But how shall we adequately describe this blessed state? how draw the portrait of the man that is "poor, and of a contrite spirit?" Look at him as he appears in his own apprehension and judgment- "the chief of sinners," "less than the least of all saints," "though I be nothing." Prostrate, where others exalt him; condemning, where others approve him; censuring, where others applaud him; humbling himself, where others have put upon him the greatest honor. Confessing in secret and in the dust before God, the flaws, the imperfections, and the sins of those things which have dazzled the eyes, and awakened to trembling ecstasy the souls of the multitude. Look at him in the place he assumes among others- taking the low position; in honor preferring others; washing the disciples' feet; willing to serve rather than be served; rejoicing in the distinction, the promotion, the gifts, the usefulness, and the honor put upon his fellow-saints; and ready himself to go up higher at his Master's bidding. Look at him under the hand of God- meek, patient, resigned, humbled, drinking the bitter cup, blessing the hand that has smitten, justifying the wisdom, the love, and the gentleness which mark the discipline, and eager to learn the holy lessons it is sent to teach. Look at him before the cross- reposing all his gifts, and attainments, and honors at his foot, and glorying only in the exhibition it presents of the holy God pardoning sin through the death of His Son, and as the hallowed instrument by which he becomes crucified to the world, and the world to him.
And how shall we array, in the strongest light, before you, the motives which urge the cultivation of this poverty of spirit? Is it not enough that this is the spiritual state on which Jehovah looks with an eye of exclusive, holy, and ineffable delight? "To this man will I look." "Splendid gifts, brilliant attainments, costly sacrifices, are nothing to me. To this man will I look, that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that trembles at my word."
To this would add, if you value your safe, happy, and holy walk- if you prize the manifestations of God's presence- "the kisses of His mouth, whose love is better than wine," the teaching, guiding, and comforting influence of the Holy Spirit, seek it. If you would be a "savor of Christ in every place," -if you would pray with more fervor, unction, and power- if you would labor with more zeal, devotedness, and success, seek poverty of spirit. By all that is dear, and precious, and holy- by your own happiness, by the honor of Christ, by the glory of God, by the hope of heaven, seek to be found among those who are "poor, and of a contrite spirit," who, with filial, holy love, tremble at God's word, whom Jesus has pronounced blessed here, and fit for glory hereafter. And though, in approaching the Great High Priest, you have no splendid and costly intellectual offerings to present, yet with the royal penitent you can say, "You would not be pleased with sacrifices, or I would bring them. If I brought you a burnt offering, you would not accept it. The sacrifice you want is a broken spirit. A broken and repentant heart, O God, you will not despise." "This, Lord, is all that I have to bring You."
Avoid a spurious humility. True humility consists not in denying the work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, in underrating the grace of God in our souls, in standing afar off from our heavenly Father, and in walking at a distance from Christ, always doubting the efficacy of His blood, the freeness of His salvation, the willingness of His heart, and the greatness of His power to save. Oh no! this is not the humility that God delights to look at, but is a false, a counterfeit humility, obnoxious in His sight. But, to "draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith," in lowly dependence upon His blood and righteousness; to accept of salvation as the gift of His grace; to believe the promise, because He has spoken it; gratefully and humbly to acknowledge our calling, our adoption, and our acceptance, and to live in the holy, transforming influence of this exalted state, giving to the Triune God all the praise and glory; this is the humility which is most pleasing to God, and is the true product of the Holy Spirit.
This subject addresses itself especially and soothingly to those who, like their Lord, are the subjects of deep humiliation and suffering. But imperfectly, perhaps, beloved reader, are you aware of the high privilege to which you are admitted, and of the great glory conferred upon you in being identified with Jesus in His life of humiliation. This is one of the numerous evidences by which your adoption into the family of God is authenticated, and by which your union with Christ is confirmed. It may be you are the subject of deep poverty, your circumstances are straitened, your resources are limited, your necessities are many and pressing. Perhaps you are the "man that has known affliction;" sorrow has been your constant and intimate companion; you have become "acquainted with grief." The Lord has been leading you along a path of painful humiliation. You have been "emptied from vessel to vessel." He has brought you down, and laid you low; step by step- and yet, oh how wisely and how gently He has been leading you deeper and yet deeper into the valley! But why all this leading about? why this emptying? why this descending? Even to bring you into a union and communion with Jesus in His life of humiliation! Is there a step in your abasement that Jesus has not trodden with you- ah, and trodden before you? Is there a sin that He has not carried, a cross that He has not borne, a sorrow that has not affected Him, an infirmity that has not touched Him? Even so will He cause you to reciprocate this sympathy, and have fellowship with Him in His sufferings. As the Head did sympathize with the body, so must the body sympathize with the Head. Yes, the very same humiliation which you are now enduring, the Son of God has before endured. And that you might learn something what that love, and grace, and power were which enabled Him to pass through it all, He pours a little drop into your cup, places a small part of the cross upon your shoulder, and throws a slight shadow on your soul! Yes, the very sufferings you are now enduring are, in a faint and limited degree, the sufferings of Christ. "Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you," says the apostle, "and fill up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh, for His body's sake, which is the Church."
There is a twofold sense in which Jesus may be viewed as a sufferer. He suffered in His own person as the Mediator of His Church; those sufferings were vicarious and complete, and in that sense He can suffer no more; "for by one offering He has perfected forever those who are sanctified." The other now presents Him as suffering in His members- in this sense Christ is still a sufferer; and although not suffering to the same degree, or for the same end, as He once did, nevertheless He who said, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?" is identified with the Church in all its sufferings; in all her afflictions, He being afflicted. The apostle therefore terms the believer's present sufferings, the "afflictions of Christ." Behold, then, your exalted privilege, you suffering sons of God! See how the glory beams around you, you humble and afflicted ones! You are one with the Prince of sufferers, and the Prince of sufferers is one with you! Oh! to be one with Christ- what tongue can speak, what pen can describe the sweetness of the blessing, and the greatness of the grace? To sink with Him in His humiliation here, is to rise with Him in His exaltation hereafter. To share with Him in His abasement on earth, is to blend with Him in His glory in heaven. To suffer shame and ridicule, persecution and distress, poverty and loss, for Him now, is to wear the crown, and wave the palm, and swell the triumph, and shout the song, when He shall descend the second time in glory and majesty, to raise His bride from the scene of her humiliation, robe her for the marriage, and make her manifestly and eternally His own.
Oh! laud His great name for all the present conduct of His providence and grace. Praise Him for all the wise, though affecting, discoveries He gives you of yourself, of the creature, of the world. Blessed, ah! truly blessed and holy is the discipline that prostrates your spirit in the dust. There it is that He reveals the secret of His own love, and draws apart the veil of His own loveliness. There it is that He brings the soul deeper into the experience of His sanctifying truth; and with new forms of beauty, and expressions of endearment, allures the heart, and takes a fresh possession of it for Himself. And there, too, it is that the love, tenderness, and grace of the Holy Spirit are better known. As the Comforter, as the Revealer of Jesus, we are, perhaps, more fully led into an acquaintance with the work of the Spirit in seasons of self-abasement, than at any other time. The mode and time of His Divine manifestation are thus beautifully predicted: "He shall come down like rain on the mown grass; as showers that water the earth." Observe the gentleness, the silence, end the sovereignty of His operation- "He shall come down like rain." How characteristic of the blessed Spirit's grace! Then mark the occasion on which it descends- it is at the time of the soul's deep prostration. The waving grass is mown, the lovely flower is laid low, the fruitful stem is broken; that which was beautiful, and fragrant, and precious, is cut down- the fairest first to fade, the loveliest first to die, the fondest first to depart; then, when the mercy is gone, and the spirit is bowed, and the heart is broken, and the mind is dejected, and the world seems clad in wintry desolateness and gloom, the Holy Spirit, in all the softening, reviving, comforting, and refreshing tendency of His grace, descends, speaks of the beauty of Jesus, leads to the grace of Jesus, lifts the bowed soul, and reposes it on the bosom of Jesus, and wakes its heart to the sweetest strains of music.
"I live, His power to show, who once did bring
My joys to weep, and now my griefs to sing."
Precious and priceless, then, beloved, are the seasons of the believer's humiliation. They tell of the soul's emptiness, of Christ's fulness; of the creature's insufficiency, of Christ's all-sufficiency; of the world's poverty, of Christ's affluence: they create a necessity which Jesus supplies, a void which Jesus fills, a sorrow which Jesus soothes, a desire which Jesus satisfies. They endear the cross of the incarnate God, they reveal the hidden glory of Christ's humiliation, they sweeten prayer, lift the soul to God; and then, "truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son, Jesus Christ." Are you as a bruised flower? Are you as a broken stem? Does some heavy trial now bow you in the dust? Oh, never, perhaps, were you so truly beautiful; never did your grace send forth such fragrance, nor your prayers ascend with so sweet an odor; never did faith, and hope, and love develop their hidden glories so richly, so fully as now! In the eye of the wounded, bruised, and humbled Christ, you were never more lovely, and to His heart never more precious than now- pierced by His hand, smitten by His rod, humbled by His chastisement, laid low at His feet, condemning yourself, justifying Him, taking to yourself all the shame, and ascribing to Him all the glory.
"Thanks Be unto God For His Unspeakable Gift!"