Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Gospel Is Simple #JesusFollowers

The simplicity of the Christian doctrine concerning God and His Christ is a great theme of the Gospel.

Simplicity is in itself a beauty and excellence. It gives us clear ideas, and assists our comprehension of a subject. The simplicity of the Gospel corresponds and agrees with the works of nature; in which there is no vain show or useless magnificence; though there is united with it, through the whole creation, a wonderful sublimity and grandeur.

The simplicity of the Gospel combines the belief in the unity of God and contemplation of His supreme, unrivaled perfection with the belief in the humanity of Christ, his authority as the Divine’s prophet and universal Savior, and his awesome dignity as the judge of all men.

Concerning the person of Christ, is it not a clear and satisfactory conclusion, that his perfect humanity is as essential and fundamental an article of our faith, as that there is one God, the Father, announced under the Old Testament as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and then as Yahweh, of the Jews; and in the New Testament, as the God and Father of our Master, Jesus Christ?

The simplicity of the Gospel, in its doctrine concerning the humanity of Christ, helps the imagination to contemplate the man Christ Jesus living and dying like us, which is calculated to affect the senses, and move the heart. It is more adapted to our feelings and condition, it is more encouraging and consolatory than can be any idea of him being an abstract invisible object, a creature in his powers and dignity placed at an immeasurable height above us.

The simplicity of the Gospel, with respect to the rule of life it lays down, and the doctrine of another life, is suitable to its nature. It is designed to be the religion of the unlearned as well as the learned, to be preached to the poor and the wayfaring man.

The consideration that Jesus was a man, in a word, makes the whole history of his ministry clear and consistent: it gives energy and beauty to his example, as that of our elder brother, one in our nature, tempted as we are.

It shows the propriety and value of his reward; not as a recovery of glory that had been laid aside, nor as a reinstatement in former dignity, but as an acquisition of new honor and power: and its usefulness, as a model of the reward promised to us, if, as he overcame, we also overcome the temptations that try us.

The appropriate dignity and authority of Jesus Christ, in his relation to the human race, arises not from his having been the Creator of the world, and from having possessed super-angelic perfection and glory before all ages, but from his being chosen and sent by God to be the minister of divine mercy, and the Messiah.

Persevere in your efforts to serve the cause of pure Christianity. Let, however, your endeavors to promote the spread and reception of doctrinal truths, be always accompanied with, and be always subservient to, an ardent zeal in the cause of vital religion and pious virtue.

What is speculation without practice? What are the clearest notions in the head without virtue in the heart arid life? What is the knowledge of God, and of his Christ, without obedience? Let us be ourselves exemplary in the Christian temper and conduct.

Adapted from the writings of Rev. Joshua Toulmin, 1810

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jesus’ Only Creed Was Love #JesusFollowers

The means by which Jesus relied to bring the world to the knowledge of his doctrine was the union and oneness of his disciples, and of all believers, for which he prayed, “Holy Father, keep them safe in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, just as we are one.” (John 17:11)

Contrast this with the means by which our ministers are exerting to proselyte the world, are to frighten their hearers with the most awful apprehensions of everlasting torments in the invisible world; and thereby to induce them to raise funds to bear their expenses in frightening the rest of mankind! In these means, and in these alone, are they united!

Numerous creeds have been drawn up by councils, venerable, in the world's estimation, for their profound learning, deep study, and great piety. These wise productions have widely varied from each other, and generally contain the greatest contradictions in themselves.

So deep and profound have been their mysteries, that the learned doctors of the church have found it necessary to write volumes to explain them to the common people.

But the common people can no better understand these explanations, than they can the contradictions in the creeds themselves. We certainly owe it to ourselves to ask why these numerous, and conflicting, and contradictory creeds have been written. 

Was it to make divine truth plainer than it is as expressed in the words which the Father gave to the Son, and which the Son gave to his disciples? If the creeds which men have written, make the doctrine of the Savior no plainer, no easier to be understood, than do the words of Jesus, there seems to be no need of their having been written at all.

It is a fact which ought to be seriously regarded, that the example of writing creeds was never set by Jesus or his apostles. Yet no author ever expressed a single tenet more plainly than he expressed all which is necessary for us to believe.

Do we desire to know the disposition of our heavenly Father towards us; and our duty to each other? And do we desire to understand the real difference between what the wisdom of God teaches on these important points, and that which is taught by man's imperfect wisdom?

All this we have in the following words: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, so you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.”

“If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? If you only greet your friends, what more do you do than others? Don't even the tax collectors do the same? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:43-48.)

If Jesus had intended to express the universal love of God to mankind, how could he have expressed it more plainly and clearly than he did in these passages?

Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Hosea Ballou, given in Concord, NH, Sept. 20, 1832

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Jesus: A Leader and Example We Can Follow! #JesusFollowers

Jesus came as a messenger of peace. He came to bear witness to the truth. And the truth to which he came to bear witness, was the truth of the covenant which God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

And you will perceive that Jesus has borne the same testimony to the world that God proclaimed to Abraham. He proves to us that God is love. 

And you will perceive that Jesus has borne the same testimony to the world that God proclaimed to Abraham. He proves to us, that God is love. “You have heard that it has been said, ‘You shall love your neighbor, and hate your enemy.’ (This is the old-fashioned doctrine, which Jesus came to condemn.) “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matt. 5:43-45)

Now what is the sum of all this testimony? It is, that God loves all on whom the sun shines and the rain descends.

And remember, when you see the sunshine, and when joy and animation are around you, that as truly as the sun shines, God loves us.

And when you see the rain descend, and when with rapturous emotions you behold its refreshing influences, remember that as truly as the rain descends, God loves us. 

Until you can find partiality in the sunshine and rain, never allow yourselves to believe that there is partiality in the love of God.

The whole that Jesus spoke and performed in the world, his death, and his resurrection to life and immortality, was but to make known that which was true before. The Scriptures declare, that “life and immortality were brought to light through the Gospel.”

Mark the expression – “brought to light,” not created. All this was as true before the coming of Jesus, as it has been since. But “when he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” Fervently may we exclaim, “Glory to God in the highest; on earth peace, good will to men!”

Wherever he went, it is safe for us to go. “He went about doing good.”  Do you desire to know how to think and act as Jesus thought and acted? Look at his example, and follow in his steps. Do you meet with opposition and persecution in your religious devotions? Jesus met with the same - and he treated it with kindness and affection.

And how did he treat his enemies, even in the last moments of his life? He prayed for them! “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” Surely, this was the Son of God! Surely in him we have a leader whom we can safely follow. Let his spirit always be ours; and let the light of his example continually direct our steps - for the Lord gave him as “a leader to the people.”

If you refuse to walk in his footsteps, you will tread the thorny road of iniquity - but if you follow him as your leader, he will lead you to the pastures of his love. If you disobey his commandments, you will find wretchedness and woe - but if you obey him from the heart, you will discover that "the work of righteousness is peace, and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.”

Adapted from a sermon by Rev. Hosea Ballou, given Nov. 2, 1834