Sunday, May 30, 2021
Sunday, May 23, 2021
The effectiveness of teaching by example has always been known. In order to have the right notions of our duty, it is important not only that principles be laid down for our direction, but that we are shown how they’re to be applied to our character and conduct.
And when an example is presented in a light which interests, there will be awakened an involuntary feeling of emulation, a desire of resembling the character which we are taught to admire and love.
In this view, the life of our savior, Jesus, is the key part of the moral system of the Gospel. He came to be the example as well as the teacher of human beings. In order to become this, it was necessary that he should be placed in situations like ours; that, bearing the infirmities of our nature, encompassed by our needs, and exposed to our temptations, he might mark out by his own conduct the course in which we should all walk through trial, difficulty, and danger.
And his condition in the world was indeed like that of a common man, though it was one of extreme exposure and suffering. We may follow him like a brother in frailty, and danger, and trouble, from the manger where his infancy was laid, to the tomb where he slept to be troubled no more.
He was tried like us, by hunger and thirst, and then by festivals and feasts. He was persecuted by enemies, then surrounded by affectionate friends. Sometimes he was insulted and reviled, sometimes was received with shouts of joy, and eagerly followed by multitudes who would raise him to earthly power.
Same in nature, though not in degree, with those of our life; like these are the occasions on which we are commonly called to show the strength of our regard to God, and the sincerity of our dispositions to serve him. While our situations of trial distantly resemble his, the way in which our savior lived presents a pattern for our imitation this is both perfect and attainable.
This view of Jesus’ character, as one of common life, as one which we may imitate and resemble is important. I hope, that by dwelling on a few of the modes in which his piety expressed itself, we may better know our own duties.
The first thing to be noticed in respect to his piety is his devotional frame of mind. It marked all of his conversations; it was in the feeling way in which he spoke about God; and the way in which he spoke with all around him.
In the second place, his piety was shown by his referring all his own powers to the Father, and considering all as derived from Him.
He continually assures us that he "came not of himself," and that “the Father sent him;" thus attributing all his benefits to God. He particularly attributes all the parts of his moral system to God.
If he speaks of the religion of mercy which he had come to dispense, he points us to God as its author. “The words which I speak, I speak not of myself; ” and "my doctrine is not mine, but His Who sent me;" and “as the Father hath taught me, I speak these things.”
The same feeling of dependence, the same grateful sense of God's goodness, we ought to exercise. All our blessings, like all his, flow from God. As God invested Jesus with all powers necessary for his undertaking, so He has given to us all the ability which we need to accomplish the work given us to do.
We see the piety of our savior when he seeks the direction and aid of God, when occasions of great importance occurred. The night before his disciples were chosen, he was in prayer. And it was natural, therefore, that before he selected them, he should commend the interests of his religion to God.
Finally, the piety of our savior was greatly shown in his sufferings. You cannot fail to remember the meekness with which he bore so many insults, the patience with which he endured the severest pains, the submission with which he passed through agony and death.
Sufferings come to us all, though they may be small when compared with his. There are disappointments which will destroy our best laid plans, there are pains and sickness to be endured, friends that we lose, and of course, a final hour of agony to be passed through. We should now prepare for these trials by acquiring a spirit of piety; by forming our hearts to the love of God; and by maintaining a humble and affectionate trust in his wisdom and paternal goodness.
It was such an attitude as this which sustained our savior in the hours of his agony, and it is only such a spirit which can sustain us, when diseased, forsaken, or dying.
And it will not merely sustain us in this world; for it is this attitude of piety, with the practical habits that arise from it, which will make us ready for a world which suffering and death never enter.
(Adapted from a collection of sermons by Rev. John Emery Abbot, 1829)
Sunday, May 9, 2021
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)
Sunday, May 2, 2021
“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matt. 6:7-8)
The reasonableness of our worship, and of prayer to God, prompts us most naturally to look to Him Who made us, in the fitness of acknowledging His continual favors, and the assurance we have that He is present with us.
God attends to and directs those who seek to recommend themselves to Him in the best way they are able.
The power, wisdom and goodness displayed in bringing us into being, and the various ways and methods to make it happy to us, are a just foundation for this our application to our Maker.
Nor can He ever be absent from us, so as not to hear and attend to us. For the same divine energy by which he first made us and all nature is necessary to support us in being. We cannot divest ourselves of the idea that His continual presence is with us.
We need never fear our being overlooked or disregarded by God. Our attention indeed can only be fixed on one object at once, and we are soon disturbed and perplexed with a multiplicity of affairs. But, as the sacred writer speaks, “Yahweh’s eyes are everywhere, keeping watch on the evil and the good.” (Prov. 15:3)
These natural grounds of the duty of prayer and thanksgiving to God appear plain and obvious, and afford much satisfaction to the pious mind.
Nevertheless it is a great privilege, that we have the express encouragement from God to offer up our prayers to Him, which He has given us by holy men, His prophets; and last of all by our Savior, Jesus.
And in that part of our Master’s sermon which is before us, he is giving some cautions to his followers concerning this duty, and directing them how to perform it in the way most acceptable to God and useful to themselves.
After severely condemning many in those days, who, by their holy outward appearance of great devotion, sought to impose on the world that they were better and more to be trusted than others, to serve their private ends of gain and ambition.
Jesus’ words are a caution to those who thought they were religious because of the frequency and length of their prayers, or who thought so poorly of their Maker, as if He, the all-knowing God, needed to be told often about their needs, as if He had forgotten them!
Our prayers and thanks to Him are not needed for any information or satisfaction that He can derive from them, they are in the highest degree serviceable to ourselves, and therefore are fitly and most kindly enjoined by Him who seeks our good.
Everything in us, good or bad, is the effect of habit. To keep up a due sense of God, it is necessary to think of Him frequently, to bring Him, His goodness, His greatness, freshly to our minds. And this is done most effectually in prayer, which puts us into His presence.
To pray with any degree of fervor or earnestness, one must have some persuasion that it will be of service to him to procure what he prays for.
The Scriptures therefore uniformly represent Almighty God as listening to the prayers of human beings, and disposed to bestow upon them everything they ask that is good for them.
However, as we ourselves are creatures so shortsighted and unknowing what might be good for us, and our heavenly Father, who is ever most kindly disposed toward us, as our Master here tells us, knows what things we have need of before we ask him, we should never pray for anything but only so far as His wisdom may see it best for us.
The great subject of our prayers to God undoubtedly ought always to be for our virtuous improvement, and to be assisted to do his will in all things, and that we may be assisted in watching over ourselves where we are most likely to fall; giving us such a great love of wisdom and goodness it will keep us above the narrow gratifications of our appetites and every unlawful desire, and make all the temptations of the world lose their power over us.
The great end of prayer is to bring us to live under a habitual sense of the divine presence, with which it will be impossible for any to live or continue in any known evil or dishonest practice.
Far from interrupting or taking us away from our worldly pursuits, prayer furnishes us with a greater ability to go through the necessary duties of life, and spread continual comfort, cheerfulness, and joy all around us.
(Adapted from a sermon by Theophilus Lindsey, given in March, 1778)