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appear, not only in the form but real nature of man, and in its most imperfect and forlorn state, under all the wants and weaknesses and pains of infancy: that he should receive the divine communications in slow degrees, and mixed with all the infirmities of childhood: that after such wisdom and knowledge had been imparted to him as was far above his present situation, he should nevertheless continue for the best part of thirty years under a silent subjection to his parents, in a low laborious employment, which contributed nothing in a natural way to the acquiring of such attainments as might qualify him for that high office which he was then to undertake:† that when he entered on his ministry, and was endowed with full powers for the discharge of it, and able to destroy his several adversaries with a single word, he should still undergo the various assaults of those who eagerly pursued him for no cause but one that merited a very different return, viz. his labouring to rescue them from their captivity to sin, and restore them to the liberty of the sons of God, by reconciling them
* Luke ii. 52.
+ His deferring it to that age was, as Lightfoot observes, according to the law, Num. iv. 3. 23. 35. 43. 47. That at the commencement of this office, he was very properly prepared for the execution of it, by a due exercise of private meditation and intense devotion, as well as by a lively prefiguration of the principal difficulties that attended it, is well shown in "An Inquiry into the Nature and Design of Christ's Temptation in the Wilderness," by H. Farmer.
to his government, from which they had so long devi ated, raising them from that abject state of folly and vice into which they were fallen, reducing them to a right sense of their duty, and thereby reinstating them in the divine favour, and rendering them meet to be partakers of a happy immortality: all this taken together constitutes such an amazing instance of the most benevolent condescension in Jesus, as must, one would think, provoke our love and gratitude, though we were not able to account for every circumstance. attending it. Just reasons, however, may be assigned for his appearing in this way rather than any other. From all God's dispensations for the government of mankind, in matters of religion, it is plain that though he affords evidence sufficient to convince impartial judgments, yet there is none of such a nature as to confound their understandings, and compel their assent. But had Christ come from heaven in the full brightness of his father's glory; had he made his first appearance publicly among the Jewish rulers, proclaiming his divine commission, and demanding their immediate submission to his authority, by a train of stupendous miracles, so that none of them should have been able to withstand him; this method, beside its giving too much countenance to the wrong notions they had entertained of the Messiah's kingdom, and encouraging them to come into it without proper qualifications, and upon principles directly opposite to its real constitution and design; this would have been too violent and overbear- .
ing to have left any room for merit; any exercise of the moral virtues in those who adhered to him upon such views; and the relation of it would have been of too suspicious a nature to engage the belief of distant ages and nations: it would have been far from affording any competent trial of that humble, upright, and ingenuous temper, which is the chief glory and happiness of each sincere worshipper of God; the discovery and exercise of which was one great end of the Messiah's office; and to encourage and reward which, is the true aim of all religious dispensations.
2dly. The circumstance of our Saviour being introduced in so low a state as that of a common infant, appears no less proper to confirm the truth of his mission. In order to prepare the world for his reception, to keep up an expectation of his advent, as well as to distinguish him when he did appear, the several qualifications relative to his person, pedigree, &c. were at large described long before. It was promised in particular that he should be of the seed of Abraham, tribe of Judah and family of David; but if he had appeared at first in an adult state, he would have borne no more relation to one tribe or family than another. If what some of the Jews advanced from their traditions, "that when Christ cometh no man knoweth whence he is," were true, it would have been impossible for any such prophecies as these to have been accomplished, and extremely difficult for the people, to whom he was primarily
sent, much more for others, to have come to a sufficient certainty about him.
3dly. This circumstance, that Christ, the great deliverer of mankind should himself be subject to so many difficulties in the course of his undertaking, however harsh and humiliating it may appear, furnishes one of the strongest evidences that both his commission and his qualifications for the discharge of it, were from above. Had Jesus studied every branch of science, under the ablest masters of those days, we might have ascribed his eminent accomplishments to their assistance and direction; but when, absolutely destitute of all such means of improvement, he bursts out of obscurity at once with a lustre that surpasses all the sages of antiquity, we cannot but look out for some superior cause of these extraordinary effects. To proceed:
When, in the prosecution of this great and generous undertaking, he meets with a most unkind reception from that nation to whom he had been originally promised, and who were so fully prepared to expect him; instead of publicly displaying all the powers with which he was invested, and admitting all that homage which the high character of such a heavenly messenger might have most justly demanded; instead, I say, of accepting that due tri
These divine powers were principally designed as the seal of his mission, and accordingly were very rarely applied to different purposes. This appropriation of his miracles to their original intention, served to point that out more clearly, and keep
bute of esteem and veneration which must naturally attend the opening of his divine commission with the plain, honest, and undesigning people; but which would have no other effect upon the inveterate prejudices, pride, and ingratitude of their rulers than to make them more obstinately resist the counsel of God against themselves, and reject and even despise the gracious terms he had to offer; instead of magnifying his office; and claiming all the distinctions and regard due to the painful execution of it, he kindly chooses to avoid every instance of extraordinary respect, if it might have a tendency to raise their
it constantly in view; to manifest the wisdom and necessity of the works themselves, and to preserve their dignity, and authority, which would have been greatly impaired by a more general application of them; and as Christ seldom applied them to any purpose foreign to their grand intention, so it was in a peculiar manner necessary that they should not be employed merely to protect and preserve himself from the calamities to which human nature in general, or the particular malice of his enemies, exposed him.
Had he saved himself by miracles from all the difficulties and distresses which attended his situation in life, where had been his conflict, his victory, his triumph? or where the consolation and benefit his followers derive from his example, his patience, his crown? Sufferings were the theatre on which he displayed his divine virtues, and they were both the ground of his advancement to the glorious office of our redeemer, and a natural means of inspiring him with compassion towards all who were to follow him. Farmer's Inquiry into Christ's Temptation.