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in its storms. The air is the breath of our life, it fans us with its breeze, and wafts our vessels with its gale; but it is sometimes pestilential, and it sometimes becomes the destructive whirlwind. Food and drink are for strength and refreshment, and who could want them in some form? but they are often abused to gluttony and drunkenness. Raiment is needful for warmth, and comely for ornament; but it is sometimes the occasion of pride. The best informed men have not erred in considering civil liberty as most desirable, and most advantageous; but most severe have been the struggles to gain and to preserve it, and it has not unfrequently degenerated into licentiousness. Now, it is much the same with regard to the tendencies and results of the gospel. Its tendencies are good, all good, and only good; its results are mixed, though the good greatly preponderates. All that is good in the results is truly its own—is the direct and natural effect corresponding to its own benevolent and holy tendency. All that is evil in the results, happens notwithstanding its tendencies, and in consequence of its being brought into contact with the perverse and wicked dispositions of men, which it seeks to reform, and is no farther connected with it than as it is made the innocent occasion of it. As well might the ruffian, who murders and robs a man on the highway, impute the wickedness and the misery to his victim, as any impute the evils in question to Christianity. It is true that, if Christianity had not existed, some of the attendant evils could not have existed; and just so, if the poor man had not been on the highway, the ruffian could not have murdered and robbed him; but, as common sense forbids the transference of the odium in the one case, so does it forbid it in the other. Certain incidental evils, which the gospel will ultimately overcome, might have been avoided for a time, had such a system not been introduced into the world; but its introduction has prevented far greater evils, and brought in its train numerous and unparalleled blessings, which otherwise would have been unknown. The purpose for which Christ came, was a gracious purpose; he came to save sinners, he came to seek and to save that which was lost: yet some, by rejecting him, aggravate their guilt and condemnation, and turn the first of blessings into the greatest of curses. But let none to such crimes add the blasphemy of imputing them to the God of salvation; for, he will hurl back the charge on their guilty heads, and be clear when he judges them.
This declaration, "I am come to send fire on the earth," may be considered as having some reference to the effect which the discriminating and searching truths of the gospel, the contests which would arise, providential afflictions, and persecutions, in connexion with the influences of his Spirit, would have, in trying and purifying Christ's own people. What Malachi* foretold of him as the Messenger of the covenant, is to be applied, not only to the particular age in which he tabernacled on earth, but to his dealings with his people in every age: "But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness."
"He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." The force and beauty of this comparison may not be at once perceived. I never understood this figure, said one, till I saw a refiner of silver at his employment. It was a work which required much time and attention, and therefore he sat at it; he often looked into the crucible; he carefully removed the dross, from time to time, as it rose to the surface; he kept the fire steady and strong; he prolonged the operation, till the purification was complete, and no longer, for, that would have needlessly wasted the substance of the silver; he had no fixed time for stopping, but his rule was to stop when he could see his own face distinctly reflected in the surface of the metal. Thus it is that trials, of whatever nature, and however heavy and long they may be, serve to purify believers from the pollution of sin. Let them not murmur at the process; let them not desire that it should cease till it has been effectual, and that is, till the Redeemer can see his own image reflected from their souls; and let them rest assured that the fire will not be either hotter at the time, or longer in its continuance, than what is necessary for the gracious purpose. "Glorify ye the Lord, then, in the fires.". "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you, but rather rejoice."
"The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, shall be found unto praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ."
* Mal. iii. 2.
Our Lord may be here considered as intimating, also, that the same fiery trial which would purify his people, would consume his obstinate enemies. The same prophet, Malachi, who speaks of Messiah as a refiner and purifier, also says, 66 Behold, the day cometh that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch." John the Baptist, also, thus describes the day of Messiah's decision: " And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees; therefore, every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit, is hewn down and cast into the fire."
There can be no doubt, however, that the chief thing our Lord intended by his being come to send fire on the earth, was, that the introduction of the gospel would, in consequence of men's depravity and perversity, occasion differences, oppositions, persecutions, and contests, which would be like the kindling of a destructive fire. Our Lord then adds, "What will I, if it be already kindled ?" or, "What would I, but that it were kindled?"* The fire in question was, indeed, already kindled, when Christ was speaking, though it was not burning so fiercely as it did afterwards. Bitter opposition to himself and his cause had repeatedly been made, and designs were forming to cut him off. The scribes and Pharisees were accustomed to urge him vehemently, and to lay wait for him, seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him; and the contest between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan was soon to become much more terrible. But, what did Jesus wish? Did he wish that no such manifestations had shown themselves? By no means; for, though to be regretted as in themselves, they were proofs that the truth was be-ginning to make some impression. And what did he wish, as to the future? Did he wish that the excitement should die away? By no means; he desired that it should increase, and extend, in the more full and more general publication of the gospel. And how did people imagine that he would afterwards conduct himself? Would he desist from preach* Dr Campbell.-Kai Ti Deλw ei ndn åvnoon; id est, nihil jam restat amplius. Raphelius and Camerarius. Utinam jam jam accendatur.— Grotius. E seems to be here a particle of wishing, as in Luke xix. 42, Ei iyvas,-if thou hadst known; that is, O that thou hadst known! Lightfoot says that "What will I," is the same with "This I will," and that the meaning is, "This I will that it be already kindled.”
ing the gospel of the kingdom? By no means; "I must work the works of him that sent me," said he. Or, would he qualify the terms in which he and his apostles had denounced the errors and corruptions of men? By no means. The truth must be told, whatever offence it might give to unbelievers: the greatest of blessings must be diffused, of whatever enormities ungodly men might, on that account, be most unreasonably guilty. On a false view of persecution, and of the contests which have been, in some sense, connected with Christianity, some infidels, as we have already hinted, have presumed to found the blasphemous assertion, that it would have been better for the world that Christianity had never been known. We repeat, that much evil has been done under pretence of supporting Christianity, and also in opposing it, but that in neither the one case nor the other is Christianity itself to blame, seeing all evil is directly opposed to its genius, design, and tendency. Besides, it is very evident that Christianity, on the whole, and in the widest sense, taking in both what has been unfairly imputed to it, and what it has really done, has greatly ameliorated the condition of the world. The evils which have been incidentally connected with it, are no more a proof that it is an evil itself, or that evil has resulted from it on the whole, than the oppressive acts of tyrants, and the various iniquities and cruelties perpetrated under the name of governments, are a proof that a just government is no blessing, and that the world would be better without civil government altogether. Such is the conclusion to which we must come, in reference even to the present world: but, with how much greater strength does this conclusion force itself on our minds, when eternity is taken into view! The everlasting happiness of a single immortal soul, must far more than counterbalance all the temporal evil that ever existed.
As a more full expression of his desire to see the progress of gospel events, even at the expense of much suffering in others, and also as a proof that he was far from contemplating with satisfaction the happy results of scenes of suffering which he would not partake of himself, our Saviour says the 50th verse, "But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!" It was not of any baptism with water he here spoke; nor was it of the baptism of the Spirit; but it was of what is called a baptism of sufferings. The meaning of this verse is cleared
up by that passage in Matt. xx. 22. Jesus said to James and John, when their mother applied to him for places of peculiar dignity for them, "Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with." Now he had just before said that he was to be condemned to death, and to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified: and he adds, soon after, that he was to give his life a ransom for many. The cup, therefore, must have been the same of which he spoke a short time before his death: "The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?" James was the first of the apostles who suffered martyrdom; and, though John is generally believed to have died a natural death, he underwent banishment and various persecutions: so that James and John both partook of the cup of suffering, though not as an atonement for sin. Our Lord's sufferings unto death seem to be called a baptism, as, in them, he was, as it were, bathed with blood instead of water, and thus consecrated and prepared to enter on his kingly office. "How am I straitened," said he, "till it be accomplished!" When there is any great work, whether of exertion or of suffering, before a man, he feels very anxious, and he is pressed in spirit with a great desire to have it over. expression teaches us that our Lord's sufferings were very dreadful that he was quite aware of them-that they were voluntary, and that he underwent them cheerfully. He was filled with a holy zeal thus to accomplish the gracious purpose for which he came into the world. "Sacrifice and offering, which are offered by the law, thou didst not require," said he, "but a body hast thou prepared for me. Lo, I come; in the volume of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O my God."- "I lay down my life for the sheep"-"No man taketh 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." "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you, before I suffer." When the hour of his being bathed in blood drew nigh, instead of shrinking back, he led the way before his disciples, ascending up to Jerusalem, so that they were amazed. And when he had drunk the cup of wrath to the dregs, and accomplished our redemption, he exclaimed, "It is finished." Let