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" you know the heart of a stranger.” Exod. 23: 9. Christ, by being in our nature, knows experimentally what are our wants, fears, temptations, and distresses, and so is able to have compassion. Oh let your hearts dwell upon this admirable condescension, till they be filled with it, and your lips say, Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ !
CHRIST'S HUMILIATION-IN HIS LIFE.
" And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and be
came obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Phil. 2:8.
This scripture was considered in the last discourse, and, indeed, can never be enough considered: it holds forth the humble state of the Lord Jesus during the time of his abode on earth. We have seen how he was humbled by his incarnation; we are now to consider how he was humbled in his life: yet expect not that I should give you here an exact history of the life of Christ. The Scriptures speak but little of the private part of his life, and it is not my design to dilate upon all the memorable passages that the evangelists, those faithful narrators of the life of Christ, have preserved for us; but only to notice and improve some more observable particulars in his life, wherein especially he was humbled.
I. The Lord Jesus was humbled in his very infancy, by his circumcision according to the law. For being of the stock of Israel, he was to undergo the ceremonies and submit to the ordinances belonging to that people, and thereby to put an end to them ; for so it became him to
fulfil all righteousness." "And when eight days were
accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus.” Luke, 2:21. Hereby the Son of God was greatly humbled, especially in these two respects:
1. In that hereby he obliged himself to keep the whole law, though he was the Law-maker; "For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.” Gal. 5: 3. The apostle's meaning is, he is a debtor in respect to duty, because he that thinks himself bound to keep one part of the ceremonial law, doth thereby bind himself to keep it all ; for all the parts are inseparably united. And he that is a debtor in duty to keep the whole law, quickly becomes a debtor as to its penalty, not being able to keep any part of it. Christ therefore coming as our Surety by his circumcision, obliges himself to pay the whole debt of duty by fulfilling all righteousness: and though his obedience to the law was so exact and perfect that he contracted no debt of penalty for any transgression of his own; yet he obliges himself to pay the debt of penalty which he had contracted, by suffering all the pains due to transgressors. This was that intolerable yoke that none were able to bear but Christ.
Acts, 15 : 10. And it was no small thing in Christ to bind himself to the law, as a subject made under it; for he was the Lawgiver, above all law: and herein the sovereignty of God (one of the choice flowers in the crown of heaven) was obscured and veiled by his subjection.
2. By his circumcision he was represented to the world not only as a subject, but as a sinner; for though he was pure and holy, yet this ordinance passing upon him, seemed to imply as if corruption had indeed been in him, which must be cut off by mortification. For this was the mystery principally intended by circumcision : it served to admonish Abraham, and his seed, of the guiltiness, uncleanness, and corruption of their hearts
and nature. So Jer. 4:4. Hence the rebellious and unmortified are called "stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart.” Acts, 7:51. And as it served to convince of natural uncleanness, so it signified and sealed "the putting off the body of the sins of the flesh,” as the apostle expresses it. Col. 2:11.
II. Christ was humbled by persecution, and that in the very morning of his life; he was banished almost as soon as born.
"Flee into Egypt," saith the angel to Joseph, "and be thou there until I bring thee word, for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him.” Matt. 2:13. Ungrateful Herod! was this entertainment for a Saviour ? What! raise a country against him, as if a destroyer, rather than a Saviour, had landed upon the coast ? But herein Herod fulfilled the Scriptures whilst venting his own rage; for so it was foretold. Jer. 31 : 15. And this early persecution was not obscurely hinted in the title of the 22d Psalm, a Psalm which looks rather like a history of the New, than a prophecy of the Old Testament.
III. Our Lord Jesus Christ was yet more humbled in his life, by that poverty and outward meanness which all along attended his condition : he lived poor and low all his days; so speaks the apostle, " Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor,” 2 Cor. 8:9; so poor, that he was never owner of a house to dwell in, but lived all his days in other men's houses, or lay in the open
air. His outward condition was more neglected and destitute than that of the birds of the air, or beasts of the earth; so he told the scribe, who professed such readiness to follow him, " The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.” Matt. 8:20. Sometimes he feeds upon barley-bread and broiled fish; and sometimes he was hungry, and had nothing to eat. Mark, 11:12.
He came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,” Matt. 20:28; not to amass earthly treasures, but to bestow heavenly ones. His great and heavenly soul neglected and despised those things which too many of his followers too much admire and prosecute. He spent not a careful thought about those things that engross thousands and ten thousands of our thoughts. Indeed he came to be humbled, and to teach men by his example the vanity of this world, and pour contempt upon its insnaring glory; and therefore went before us in a chosen and voluntary poverty.
IV. Our Lord Jesus was yet further humbled in his life, by the horrid temptations wherewith Satan assaulted him, than which nothing could be more grievous to his holy heart. The evangelist gives us an account of this, Luke, 4:1-13, in which context you find how the bold and envious spirit meets the Captain of our salvation in the field, comes up with him in the wilderness when he was solitary, keeps him fasting forty days and forty nights, and assaults him with a very plausible temptation at first, and afterwards with a variety, trying several weapons upon him. When he had made a thrust at him with the first weapon, in which he especially trusted, Command that these stones be made bread," and saw how Christ put it by, he changes his position, and assaults him with temptations to blasphemy, even to fall down and worship the devil. But when he saw he could fasten nothing on him, that he was as pure fountain-water in a crystal.phial, which how much soever agitated and shaken, produces no dregs or sediment, but remains pure still; I say, seeing this, he makes a politic retreat, quits the field " for a season,” yet leaves it with a resolution to return to him again. Thus was our blessed Lord Jesus humbled by the temptations of Satan: and what can you imagine more burdensome to him that was brought up from
eternity with God, delighting in the Holy Father, than to be now shut into a wilderness with the devil, there to be tempted so many days, and have his ears filled, though not defiled, with horrid blasphemy? How great a humiliation must this be to him who was truly God! To see a slave of his house setting upon himself the Lord ! His jailer coming to take him prisoner, if he can! A base apostate spirit daring to attempt such things as these
upon him! Surely this was a deep abasement to the Son of God.
V. Our blessed Lord Jesus was yet more humbled in his life than all this, and that by his own sympathy with others, under all the burdens that made him groan. For he, much more than Paul, could say, Who is afflicted, and I burn not ? He lived all his time, as it were, in a hospital among the sick and wounded. And so tender was his heart, that every groan for sin, or under the effects of sin, pierced him so, that it was truly said, "himself bare our sicknesses, and took our infirmities.” Matt. 8:16, 17. This was spoken upon the occasion of some poor creatures that were possessed by the devil being brought to him to be dispossessed. It is said that when he saw Mary "weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.” John, 11:33. And "Jesus wept,” v. 35. Yea, his heart flowed with pity for them that had not one drop of pity for themselves. Witness his tears wept over Jerusalem. Luke, 19:41, 42. He foresaw the misery that was coming, though they neither foresaw nor feared it. Oh how it pierced him to think of the calamities hanging over that great city! Yea, he mourned for them that mourned not for their own sins. Therefore it is said, "He was grieved for the hardness of their hearts.” Mark, 3:5. So that the commendation of a good physician, that he doth as it were die with every patient, was most applicable to our tender-hearted Phy