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“ temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is “ weak." And when the band came up to take him, he provided, with the same tenderness, for their escape. “I have 66 told
,” said he, “ that I am he: if therefore seek me, 6 let these go their way."
way.” After his resurrection, while they disbelieved that he had risen ; and when he stood in the midst of them, instead of believing, were terrified and affrighted, and supposed they had seen a spirit: he again reproved them with the same inimitable tenderness—" And he said unto them, “ Why are ye troubled, and why do thoughts arise in your “ hearts ? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. “ Handle me and see: for a spirit hath not flesh and bones as
ye see me have.” And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet.
Finally, in the same manner, when Thomas. refused to receive the testimony of the other Apostles concerning this great event, and declared that he would not believe without the evidence of his own sight and feeling, Jesus, having met them again when Thomas was present, reproved the unbelieving Apostle with a kindness and gentleness which admit no parallel, “ Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believ- ed; blessed are they who have not seen, and yet have be“ lieved.”
After his ascension, he continued to exercise the same disposition towards them unto the end of their lives. When Peter, for example, was thrown into prison, and bound between four quaternions of soldiers, he sent his angel and smote off his chains, and delivered his faithful disciple from the merciless tyrant who sought his life. The emotions which Paul felt concerning this subject, strongly illustrated to him by a thousand deliverances of his own, as well as by the whole tenor of the Gospel, may be best learned from his own mouth. “ this cause," says he, “ I bow my knees unto the Father of “ our Lord Jesus Christ, that Christ may dwell in your hearts. « by faith ; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may “ be able to comprehend, with all saints, what is the breadth, " and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of .: Christ which passeth knowledge.", Such was the love which
Christ manifested to those who became his disciples in the first age of the Christian church. Of the same nature, exactly, is the love which he exercises towards his children in every succeeding age of the world. In his intercession for his Apostle, in the 17th chapter of St. John, he said, “ Neither pray I “ for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on me
through their word, that they may be one, as thou Father « art in me, and I in him; that they also may be one in us ; “ that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the “ glory which thou hast given me, I have given them, that “ they may be one, even as we are one.” What he prayed for in this place he has taken effectual care to accomplish. They have received the benefits of this intercession in every period of time; and the members of this church, if they are his real disciples, are now partakers of these benefits. He is the same yesterday, to day, and for ever; and, in the constan
of his love to his Apostles, has gloriously evinced the constancy of his love to every Christian. . “ Lo !” said he to them, and through them to all his followers, “I am with you “always to the end of the world."
He hath chosen them in the same manner in which he chose his Apostles. In the same manner has he renewed them by his Holy Spirit. In the same manner does he instruct them and bear with them. For them also, as truly as for the Apos tles, he instituted the Lord's Supper, and at every administration of it is present with them. " Where two or three,” said he, “ are met together by my name, there am I in the midst “ of them.” The discourses which he addressed to the Apostles, he has caused to be written and conveyed down for the consolation of his faithful followers to the end of time, and they are addressed to us, in the same manner substantially, as to Peter and John. Nor is there a promise, which was made to them as Christians, which is not made to us in the same character. Of every Christian he takes the immediate and special charge, superintending, with watchful care and unlimited kindness, all his interests of soul and body, time and eternity. “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee," is the declaration with which he commences his intercourse with the
renewed mind; and he fulfils it exactly, until he has placed that mind beyond the reach of every enemy, temptation, and danger.
What is true of individual Christians is equally true of the church at large. In the beginning he declared, that he founded his church upon a rock, and that the gates of hell, or rather of Hades, should not prevail against it. The real meaning of this declaration is, that his church should never become extinct, and it has been exactly fulfilled to the present hour. There is now a church in the world. There has always been a church in the world. What prediction could have seemed more improbable, if we consider its feebleness at its first establishment; the humble, powerless character of its members; the power, numbers, and violence of its enemies, and the immense persecutions which it suffered. This improbability is not lessened, when we remember that its situation has been equally dangerous in many other successive periods. The church has always been surrounded by enemies. They have been numerous; they have been formidable. At times they have seemed entirely to prevail, and its faithful witnesses have been slain in the streets of its enemies. Still they have risen again. Immediately before the reformation, the heavens were clothed in blackness, and sackcloth was made their covering. At this moment the day dawned, and the day star arose in the hearts of millions. At the present time,* a similar gloom has overspread the world. There are voices, and thunders, and lightnings, and a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth; so mighty an earthquake, and so great. The cities of the nations fall, the islands flee away, and the mountains vanish. Still God is the refuge and strength of his church, her very present help in trouble. God is in the midst of her, and she shall not be moved. With a constant parental hand, with the love which he carried to the cross, the Redeemer watches over all her interests, and causes all things to work for her good. She may be afflicted, but she will not be forsaken. She may be cast down, but she will not be destroyed. .
* In the year 1812.
He keeps her in the hollow of his hand, and as the apple of
“ Can a woman,” he cries, “ forget her sucking “ child, that she should not have compassion on the fruit of “ her womb ? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget 66 thee.”
Finally, Christ loves his children through eternity. He does not forsake them in death. On a dying bed, he speaks peace to their departing spirits, and his angels wait to conduct them to the bosom of Abraham. Their bodies are then sown in their original dishonour, weakness, and corruption, to be raised in incorruption, power, and glory.
In the final day, they will be raised with these splendours of immortality, and reunited to their minds, advanced in knowledge and excellence to absolute perfection. Then he will acquit them before the assembled universe, and confess them as his followers and friends. When the judgment is finished, he will convey them in triumph to heaven, and present them to his Father and their Father, to his God and their God, as the crown of his labour, his endless joy, and the objects of his eternal love. Then he will claim the unchangeable promise in the covenant of redemption, that they should endure for ever, and his dominion over them be as the days of heaven. Then he will make them kings and priests unto God; and of the increase of their peace, and his kingdom, there will be no end.
“ Having loved his own, which were in the world, he loved them
unto the end."
In the preceding discourse I derived from these words the following doctrine :
Christ loves his children unto the end.
This doctrine I illustrated from the conduct of Christ to his Apostles, and observed that he manifested his love towards them, particularly,
I. In choosing them out of the world.
II. In teaching them the doctrines and precepts of his religion.
III. In bearing patiently with all their faults.
IV. In the act of washing their feet, recited in the verses following the text.
V. In instituting, the same evening, the Lord's Supper; and,
VI. In the discourses which he delivered after the institution of that Sacrament.