He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no stately form or majesty to attract us, no beauty that we should desire Him.
I. THE EYE ADMIRES ONLY WHAT THE HEART LOVES. The beauty that eye desired was quite different. It was superficial and carnal, not inward and spiritual.
II. THE WORLD DOES NOT ALTER ITS TASTE. The classic virtues of paganism - pride, self-reliance, honour - are more prized by men of the world than patience, gentleness, pity, forbearance, and charity. Christ is not beautiful to the proud, nor to the selfish, nor to the ambitions and the vain. Only the pure in heart admire and love him! - W.M.S.
1. Christ in His humiliation appeared in great feebleness; born a helpless babe, He was in His infancy in great danger from the hand of Herod, and though preserved, it was not by a powerful army, but by flight into another land. His early days were not spent amid the martial music of camps, or in the grandeur of courts, but in the retirement of a carpenter's shop — fit place for "a tender plant." His life was gentleness, He was harmless as a lamb. At any time it seemed easy to destroy both Him and His system. When He was nailed to the Cross to die, did it not appear as if His whole work had utterly collapsed and His religion would be for ever stamped out? The Cross threatened to be the death of Christianity as well as of Christ; but it was not so, for in a few days the power of the Divine Spirit came upon the Church.
For He shall grow up before wire as a tender plant.1. God prosecuteth and accomplisheth His greatest designs by the most unlikely and despised means. Jesus Christ, the great Saviour of the world, was but a tender plant, which a man would be more apt to tread upon and crush, than to cherish.
2. God cometh in for the deliverance of His people in times of greatest despair and unlikelihood. For when the branches of Jesse were dried up, and had no verdure, even then sprung up the greatest ornament of that stock, although a root out of a dry ground.
3. Mean beginnings may grow up to great matters and glorious successes. Christ, the tender plant, was to be a tall tree.
( T. Manton, D. D.)
( T. Manton, D. D.)
2. At its first setting up, how feeble was the kingdom of our Lord! When Herod stretched out His hand to vex certain of the Church, unbelief might have said, "There will he an utter end ere long." When, in after years, the Roman emperors turned the whole imperial power against the Gospel, stretching forth an arm long enough to encompass the entire globe, and uplifting a hand more heavy than an iron hammer, how could it be supposed that the Christian Church would still live on? It bowed before the storm like a tender shoot, but it was not uprooted by the tempest; it survives to this day; and although we do not rejoice at this moment in all the success which we could desire, yet still that tender shoot is full of vitality, we perceive the blossoms of hope upon it, and expect soon to gather goodly clusters of success.
3. Christianity in our own hearts — the Christ within us — is also a "tender plant." In its upspringing it is as the green blade of corn, which any beast that goeth by may tread upon or devour. Oftentimes, to our apprehension, it has seemed that our spiritual life would soon die: it was no better than a lily, with a stalk bruised and all but snapped in twain. The mower a scythe of temptation has cut down the outgrowth of our spiritual life, but He who cometh down like rain upon the mown grass has restored our verdure and maintained our vigour to this day. Tender as our religion is, it is beyond the power of Satan to destroy it.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
1. But there is no work of God that cannot grow. This world itself grew into being. It grew up before God as the wild flower does — grew out of chaos, into order and beauty, and we can read on the rocks the story of its growth. There is a greater world than this — the world of Divine truth. And this also has been a growth from the beginning.
2. No wonder, then, that the Son of God grew up before the Lord — that the Lord of nature conformed to the law of nature. The sacred historian is not to be found tripping here, like the medieval romancist. He does not outrage the order of nature by a single story of monstrous precocity. There is not a part of the being of Jesus which he excludes from the order of growth. In body, mind and spirit he declares the child grew up before the Lord.
3. What hope is there here for man! The Son of God had to grow, and the meanest child of man can grow. If we had no power of growth but that which we possess in common with the animal and the tree, then were we of all creatures the most miserable. Because we have in us the power of an endless growth in all that is great and good, we are creatures of the Most Blessed. And we must grow. That is our destiny. Our Christianity is not a piece of mechanism that was finished off at the date of conversion. It is a life that has been born within the soul. We are growing, either upwards or downwards, either better or worse, either to honour or to shame.
4. But how may a noble and Divine growth be ensured? It is a question that is not left unanswered in my text. For we are told that the plant of which it speaks grew up before the Lord. It was the fondest desire of the Hebrew mother's heart that her son should grow up before the Lord. She would rather have him grow up before the Lord in the temple than before the king in the palace. There can be no higher position or nobler prospect for a man than to grow up before his God. The child Samuel and the child Jesus grew up before the same God, but how differently. The former under the very shadow of the altar, under the wing of the old, blind priest, utterly secluded from the common ways of men; but Jesus, at His mother s knee in the village home, in the midst of His little relatives and playmates, among the workmen at the bench, and the old familiar faces in street and synagogue. And so it has become a Christian commonplace that you can grow up before the Lord anywhere.
5. But we are further informed of the special fashion in which Jesus grew up before the Lord. "As a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground," we read. But the Hebrew contains a more explicit meaning. It is this: "He grew up before God like a fresh sucker from a root springing out of a dry ground" The old plant is the house of David, once so glorious in flower and fruitage, at last cut down and withered. The dry soil is the barren religious life of Israel. The fresh young sucker is the Son of Man. That it did grow to what we see is the supreme miracle of Christianity. Its principal evidence is in its own marvellous growth. This is the dilemma in which Christianity still keeps its foes, and to which all additional thought and investigation can only add strength. From such a root, in such a soil, how did Jesus grow to be the Christ of history? It must either be acknowledged to be the supreme miracle or the supreme mystery of time. And this is the one Christian miracle which keeps repeating itself century after century. From the withered plant, and out of the desert soft, God is evermore producing His plants of renown. How was it, for example, that Luther grew to be the man he was, and to wield the power he did? Was it from the withered root of the mediaeval Church or the desert soil of the monastery that he derived his power? Or was he right when he declared the conviction of his heart that it was all by the grace of God through faith? History discloses to us nothing so glorious as these Divine developments of the soul of man. The grace that has achieved these things is in the world as much as ever.
6. Why is it, then, that so many young men are excluding from their ambition in life that of growth in Christ? Why is it that so many of them murmur that the old creeds are dry, and the old Bible and the old familiar Church service, and that even the fountain of private devotion has ceased to water the wilderness? It is because they are not rooted in God and His truth, but are, many of them, like plants thrown out of a country nursery, which lie bleaching in the sun or are blown about by the wind. No wonder that religion seems dry to those who are not rooted in it. Young men! see to it that you go down into the truth which you profess to stand by, whether of creed, of catechism, or Bible, and you will find as much good in it as your fathers did. Thus settled and grounded, seek to grow in everything; put on nothing. All pretence is worse than waste of time and strength. And abjure all forced and unnatural growth, all ambition to fill rapidly a large space. Be content to occupy the ground that God has allotted to you, according to the nature that God has given.
(P. J. Rollo.)
As a root out of a dry ground
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
1. The living root.
2. The dry ground.
3. The effect of the living root upon the dry ground.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)1. This emblem is peculiarly appropriate when applied to Christ. He is called the "Branch," to show that He is a member of the great organism of human life, in all things made like unto His brethren, yet without sin. He is a branch of the tree of humanity, nourished by its sap, pervaded by its life, blossoming with its affections, and yielding its fruits of usefulness. But He is more than the Branch. "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots," is the spiritual language of prophecy relative to the coming of the Messiah; but the figure is speedily changed, and the Branch is also called "the Root of Jesse." This language is most strange and paradoxical. It reveals the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh. Jesus is at one and the same time the Branch and the Root, the root of Jesse and the offspring of Jesse, David's Lord and David's son, because He is Emmanuel, God with us, God and man in two distinct natures and one person for ever; deriving His human life by natural descent from man, and possessing Divine life in Himself, and the author of spiritual life to others. The root of plants growing in a dry ground is the most important part of their structure. It lies at the basis of, and involves the whole plant. The whole growth of a lily, for instance, lies folded up within its bulb. And so Christ lies at the basis of, and involves the whole spiritual life.
2. It is assuredly the most precious, as it is the most distinguishing, feature of the Christian religion, that it places the foundation of eternal life in living relations with a living Person, rather than in the profession of a creed or the practice of a duty.(1) One of the principal functions which the root performs in the economy of vegetation is to attach the plant to the soil, and prevent it from moving hither and thither at the mercy of the elements. So Christ is the living root of our spiritual life, connecting it with the whole system of grace, the whole economy of redemption. It is only when united to Christ by a living faith that the soul can lay hold on heaven and immortality.(2) Another purpose which the root serves in the economy of vegetation is to feed the plant. Through the spongioles of the root, the plant imbibes from the soil in which it is placed the needful sap by which it is sustained; and in this simple way the whole important and complicated processes are carried on, by which crude soil is converted into the needful constituents of vegetable matter. For this purpose the root possesses certain structural peculiarities adapting it to its special functions. Just as there is provision made for the growth of the germ in the starchy contents of the seed, until it has attained an independent existence; so there is provision made in the nutritive tissue of the bulb or tuber for the support of the plant which it produces. This function also the Root of Jesse performs in the case of those who are rooted in Him. He is the mediator of the New Covenant; the only channel by which spiritual blessings can be communicated to us.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
I. THAT HUMANITY OUT OF WHICH CHRIST SPRANG. There are many who regard Jesus as the natural product of humanity — the highest development of human nature, the blossom, so to speak, of mankind. But we look upon Him as a Divine germ planted in this wilderness, a Divine Being attaching Himself to men, wearing their nature, dwelling in their world, but still not of them — as distinct from humanity as the living root is distinct from the dry ground in which it grows. The soil of humanity is indeed dry ground. Sin has dried up its life, its fertility, turned its moisture into summer's drought, and reduced it to perpetual barrenness. By the law of natural development, mankind could never have given birth to a character in every way so exceptional as that of Christ. It is true indeed that a few individuals have ever and anon emerged from the dark chaos of fallen humanity, and exhibited a high type of intellectual and moral worth; but such individuals have been completely identified with the human race, and have shared in its sins and infirmities. In Jesus, on the contrary, there was a remarkable remoteness and separateness from men. his life ran parallel with man's, but it was never on the same low level. He was independent of worldly circumstances, and superior to worldly conventionalities. He had no joys on earth save those He brought with Him from heaven. He was alone, without sympathy, for no one could understand Him; without help, for no mortal aid could reach the necessities of His case. Like a desert well, He was for ever imparting what no one could give Him back.
II. THE EXPECTATIONS OF THE JEWS REGARDING THE MESSIAH. There are scientific men who believe in the doctrine of spontaneous or equivocal generation. And so there are theologians who assert that Christ was merely the natural product of the age and the circumstances in which He lived; the mere incarnation, so to speak, of the popular expectation of the time. In all their attempts to account for His life, without admitting Him to be a Divine person, they bring prominently into view whatever there was in Jewish history, belief, and literature, to prepare for and produce such a personality and character as those of Jesus; they endeavour to show that the condition of the Jewish world, when Christ appeared, was exactly that into which His appearing would fit; and that all these preparatory and formative conditions did of themselves, by a kind of natural spontaneous generation, produce Christ. In reply to these views, it may be admitted as an unquestionable historical fact, that the expectation of a Messiah ran like a golden thread throughout the whole complicated web of the Hebrew religion and polity. The expectations of the Jews did no more of themselves produce the Saviour, than the soil and climate produce, of their own accord, any particular plant. There was nothing in the age, nothing in the people, nothing in the influences by which he was surrounded, which could by any possibility have produced or developed such a remarkable character as He exhibited. There was no more relation between Him and His moral surroundings, than there is between a succulent life-full root and the arid sandy waste in which it grows. The counterfeit Messiahs were not roots out of a dry ground, but, on the contrary, mushrooms developed from the decaying life of the nation. There was a complete harmony between them and their moral surroundings. They were really and truly the products of the popular longing of the time; they agreed in every respect with their circumstances. The prevailing notions concerning the Messiah were worldly and carnal.
III. THE CHARACTER OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE. Nothing can be more marked and striking than the contrast between the character of Christ and the general character of the Jewish nation — between the excellences which He displayed and those which they held in most esteem. It is said that a man represents the spirit and character of the age and the race to which he belongs. He seldom rises above their general level. But here we have a man who not only rose high above the level of his age and nation, but stands out, in all that constitutes true moral manhood, in marked and decided contrast to them. He was descended from the Jewish people, but He was not of them. He was rooted in Jewish soil, but His life was a self-derived and heavenly life. This is a great and precious truth. Something has come into this world which is not of it. A supernatural power has descended into nature. A man has lived on our earth who cannot be ranked with mankind. A Divine Being has come from God, to be incarnate with us, and to lift us up to God.
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)
(H. Macmillan, LL. D.)I. THE HISTORICAL MEANING OF THIS METAPHOR. It applies to the person of the Lord, and also to His cause and Kingdom: to Himself personally and to Himself mystically. A root which springs up in a fat and fertile field owes very much to the soil in which it grows. Our Saviour is a root that derives nothing from the soil in which it grows, but puts everything into the soil.
1. It is quite certain that our Lord derived nothing whatever from His natural descent. He was the Son of David, the lawful heir to the royal dignities of the tribe of Judah; but His family had fallen into obscurity, had lost position, wealth, and repute.
2. Nor did our Lord derive assistance from His nationality; it was no general recommendation to His teaching that He was of the seed of Abraham. To this day, to many minds, it is almost shameful to mention that our Saviour was a Jew. The Romans were peculiarly tolerant of religions and customs; by conquest their empire had absorbed men of all languages and creeds, and they usually left them undisturbed; but the Jewish faith was too peculiar and intolerant to escape derision and hatred. After the siege of Jerusalem by Titus, the Jews were hunted down, and the connection of Christianity with Judaism so far from being an advantage to it became a serious hindrance to its growth.
3. Nor did the Saviour owe anything to His followers. Shall a world-subduing religion be disseminated by peasants and mariners? So did He ordain it.
4. Our Saviour is "a root out of a dry ground" as to the means He chose for the propagation of His faith.
5. Neither did the Saviour owe anything to times in which He lived. Christianity was born at a period of history when the world by wisdom knew not God, and men were most effectually alienated from Him. The more thinking part of the world's inhabitants were atheistic, and made ridicule of the gods, while the masses blindly worshipped whatever was set before them. The whole set and current of thought was in direct opposition to such a religion as He came to inculcate. It was an age of luxury.
6. Neither did the religion of Jesus owe anything to human nature. It is sometimes said that it commends itself to human nature. It is false: the religion of Jesus opposes unrenewed human nature.
II. OUR KNOWLEDGE OF ITS TRUTH EXPERIMENTALLY. You remember your own conversion. When Jesus Christ came to you to save you, did He find any fertile soil in your heart for the growth of His grace?
III. This whole subject affords much ENCOURAGEMENT to many.
1. Let me speak a word to those who are seeking the Saviour, but are very conscious of your own sinfulness. Christ is all — does that not cheer you?
2. The same thought ought also to encourage any Christian who has been making discoveries of his own barrenness. When at any time you are cast down by a sense of your nothingness, remember that your Lord is "a root out of a dry ground."
3. The same comfort avails for every Christian worker. When you feel you are barren, do not fret or despair about it, but rather say, "Lord, here is a dry tree, come and make it bear fruit, and then I shall joyfully confess, from Thee is my fruit found."
4. Ought not this to comfort us with regard to the times in which we live? Bad times are famous times for Christ.
5. And thus we may be encouraged concerning any particularly wicked place. Do not say, "It is useless to preach down there, or to send missionaries to that uncivilized country." How do you know? Is it very dry ground? Well, that is hopeful soil; Christ is a "root out a dry ground," and the more there is to discourage the more you should be encouraged.
6. The same is true of individual men; you should never say, "Well, such a man as that will never be converted.
IV. THE GLORY WHICH ALL THIS DISPLAYS. Christ's laurels at this day are none of them borrowed. When He shall come in His glory there will be none among its friends who will say, "O King, Thou owest that jewel in Thy crown to me." Every one will own that He was the author and the finisher of the whole work, and therefore He must have all the glory of it, since we who were with Him were dry ground, and He gave life to us but borrowed nothing from us.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
(C. Clemance, D.D.)
He hath no form nor comeliness
1. In this state His all-perfect example was of the most extensive benefit. He could exhibit virtues more in number, more difficult to practise, and more generally necessary, than there could have been room for in a higher rank and in less trying circumstances. And the virtues which such a state required from Him, as they are the most difficult to practise, so are they those which are universally useful. The virtues which belong to sovereign power and regal dignity a few only have occasion to exercise. The virtues of that station which He assumed are useful for all to acquire.
2. By His appearing in the humble, suffering state He teaches us how very insignificant in the sight of God, and in the eyes of true wisdom, are all the possessions of this world and all the flattering distinctions of a present state.
3. By appearing in a humble, suffering state He shows us that earthly distress is no proof of a bad character; that suffering is no sure intimation of God s displeasure at the sufferer.
4. By appearing in this state He shows us that it was only the force of truth that engaged and influenced His followers. So strongly are men impressed by the circumstances of high birth, of eminent rank, of great power, the splendid acts of a monarch or a conqueror, that wherever these are found they are eager to show deference and respect. But Jesus had none of these worldly attractions.
(R. Bogg, D.D.)I. AS TO THE OBJECTION, that Jesus was not the true Messiah, because He did not answer the universal expectation which the Jews had of His being a mighty temporal prince. Considering the natural temper of mankind, and how strongly addicted they are to their worldly interests, and how jealous of everything that thwarts and opposes them, we must allow it to be a prejudice not easy to overcome. It requires a greater zeal for the honour of God and religion than most men are possessed of, to adhere to truth when we are likely to be losers by it. Few there are that have resolution enough to abide by a religion in which they have been educated, when once it comes to be opposed by the secular powers, and the profession of it to be attended with nothing but poverty and affliction: how much more courage then, and firmness of mind, is necessary to make men enter into a religion newly set up, and that is attended with the like disadvantages? But can any one seriously think this excuse of any force? Let him urge it in its true light, and thus must he plead when arraigned at the tribunal of God for unbelief: "I would willingly have embraced the religion of Jesus Christ had it been made more suitable to my carnal inclinations and interests; had the rewards it promises been temporal instead of eternal, none should have more industriously and cheerfully sought after them; but when He told me that His 'kingdom was not of this world,' and that I could not follow Him without 'taking up the cross;' without losing, or being in danger of losing, everything that was valuable in life, nay, life itself, for His sake — my flesh trembled at the thought, and human nature, directed me to take care of myself, and to run no hazards for the sake of religion." What sentence can such an one expect but this: "Thou hast preferred thy temporal to thy eternal interest, thou hast had thy reward on earth, and canst therefore expect no other in heaven"? But the Jew perhaps thinks he has somewhat further to say in behalf of his unbelief — that he was persuaded, from the predictions of the prophets, that the Messiah would really be, what the Gentiles might only wish Him to be, a temporal prince; and, finding Jesus not to be so, they thought it a good reason for rejecting Him. But was this (supposing it true) the only mark by which the Messiah was to be known? How often do we read of His sufferings and ill-usage in the world? Did anybody appear that answered the character of the Messiah, in any one instance, so exactly as Jesus did? The Jews made another objection against Him of much the same kind: that He was brought up, and, as they supposed, born at Nazareth, in Galilee; a country much despised by the Jews, as if there was anything in the nature of the soil or air of the country that rendered the inhabitants of it less acceptable to God than they might otherwise be, and He could not, if He would, produce eminent and bright spirits out of the most obscure parts of the world. The Chaldees were an idolatrous people, and yet God made choice of Abraham, a man of that country, with whom to establish an everlasting covenant, and in whose seed to bless all the nations of the earth. The prophet Jonah, a type of Christ, was born at a place called Gath-hepher, a town of the tribe of Zebulon, in Galilee itself, though no prophet is said by the Jews to come from thence: and Isaiah moreover plainly declares to us, in the description he is giving of the universal joy and comfort that will be occasioned by the birth and kingdom of Christ, that "in Galilee of the nations" this shall be seen. "The people (says he) that walked in darkness, have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." So that this objection is as groundless as it is weak and foolish.
II. APPLICATION to ourselves.
1. It greatly behoves us to take care that worldly interest and advantage be not the principal motive that engages us to perform our duty; lest, after the example of the Jews, we fall away from it, when that motive fails; lest, being disappointed of the hopes we had conceived from our attachment to religion and religious men, we become enemies instead of friends.
2. How hard it is for truth to prevail over the prejudices and settled notions of men.
(C. Moore, M. A.)
1. "Religion is a weariness;" alas! so feel even children before they can well express their meaning. Exceptions, of course, now and then occur. I am not forgetful of the peculiar character of children's minds: sensible objects first meet their observation; it is not wonderful that they should at first be inclined to limit their thoughts to things of sense. A distinct profession of faith, and a conscious maintenance of principle, may imply a strength and consistency of thought to which they are as yet unequal. Again, childhood is capricious, ardent, light-hearted; it cannot think deeply or long on any subject. Yet all this is not enough to account for the fact in question — why they should feel this distaste for the very subject of religion.
2. "Religion is a weariness" I will next take the case of young persons when they first enter into life. Is not religion associated in their minds with gloom and weariness? This is the point that the feelings of our hearts on the subject of religion are different from the declared judgment of God; that we have a natural distaste for that which He has said is our chief good.
3. Let us pass to the more active occupations of life. The transactions of worldly business, speculations in trade, ambitious hopes, the pursuit of knowledge, the public occurrences of the day, these find a way directly to the heart; they rouse, they influence. The name of religion, on the other hand, is weak and impotent.
4. But this natural contrariety between man and his Maker is still more strikingly shown by the confessions of men of the world who have given some thought to the subject, and have viewed society with somewhat of a philosophical spirit. Such men treat the demands of religion with disrespect and negligence, on the ground of their being unnatural. The same remark may be made upon the notions which secretly prevail in certain quarters at the present day, concerning the unsuitableness of Christianity to an enlightened age. The literature of the day is weary of revealed religion.
5. That religion is in itself a weariness is seen even in the conduct of the better sort of persons, who really on the whole are under the influence of its spirit. So dull and uninviting is calm and practical religion, that religious persons are ever exposed to the temptation of looking out for excitements of one sort or other, to make it pleasurable to them.
6. Even the confirmed servants of Christ witness to the opposition which exists between their own nature and the demands of religion. Can we doubt that man's will runs contrary to God's will — that the view which the inspired Word takes of our present life, and of our destiny, does not satisfy us, as it rightly ought to do? That Christ hath no form nor comeliness in our eyes; and though we see Him, we see no desirable beauty in Him? "Light is come into the world, and men love darkness rather than light." If our hearts are by nature set on the world for its own sake, and the world is one day to pass away, what are they to be set on, what to delight in then? What are to be the pleasures of the soul in another life? Can they be the same as they are here? They cannot; Scripture tells us they cannot; the world passeth away — now what is there left to love and enjoy through a long eternity? It is then plain enough, though Scripture said not a word on the subject, that if we would be happy in the world to come, we must make us new hearts, and begin to love the things we naturally do not love. "He hath no form nor comeliness," etc. It is not His loss that we love Him not, it is our loss.
(J.H. Newman, B.D.)Zechariah 9:7); the latter declaring that those who should see that self-same Christ should find in Him no beauty that they should desire Him. I would try to suggest something in regard to the actual fulfilment of both prophecies in the claims addressed to our sense of beauty, by the revelation of Christianity; believing that there is a deep meaning in that strange and blended force of stern restraint and irresistible charm which this sense has so often owned in the presence of the Crucified; and hoping to show that this too is an instinct of our human nature, which, if we suffer it to act in sincerity and truth, will find its rest for ever in the Person of its Redeemer. Let us, then, notice first that the prophecy of Isaiah is, if we take it alone and superficially, in accord with much that has been written or implied about the influence of Christianity upon the genius of Art. For we are sometimes told, and more often made to feel, that there is something irksome and hindering to the free appreciation and enjoyment of beauty, in those dogmas about the conditions and issues of human life, which are inseparable from the work of our Lord. In various ways it is suggested or proclaimed that Christianity has unduly and too long presumed to thrust its doctrines between the human soul and the beauty which is about it, and disturbed that free entrance into the pleasures of sight and sound, through which every energy might go out to find its satisfaction and its rapture. And so some have already returned feed and foster their sense of beauty by the works and thoughts of those who lived before this tyrannous restraint was preached; others are looking forward to a time when Art may avail itself of the triumph of scepticism, and renounce all hindering allegiance and regard to the discredited formulae of religion; while many more are conscious of a vague expectation that the life of passion henceforward will and should be fleer and fuller than it has been: that hitherto we have been unnecessarily cautious and sober in our pleasures, and timidly patient of undue restrictions; but that now all is going to be much more passionate and unfettered and absorbing, and that, by the pursuit of Art for Art's sake, we enter into an earthly paradise, which has at length been relieved from certain gloomy and old-fashioned regulations, and in which it may now be hoped that our sense of beauty will be a law unto itself. And in this temper very many who little know the consistent significance of their choice are falling in with a course of life and thought which has, as a whole, turned away from the Cross of Jesus Christ: turned away to seek elsewhere the full desire of their eyes, because He hath, as He dies for us, no form nor comeliness, and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. For in truth there is a challenge and a law with which Christianity must ever meet the lover of beauty as he goes out to seek by whatever way the gratification of this sense. The Church of Christ cannot, while she remembers His message, her Master, and her trust, consent to be dismissed from the sphere of taste, or let it be thought that she has no counsel for her sons, as they turn to those high and thrilling pleasures, no means or right of judging the tone and the ideals of contemporary Art.
(J. H. Newman, B. D.)
(J. H. Newman, B. D.)
(J. Parker, D. D.)
(J. Trapp.)I. Show against unbelievers, that THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF THE PROPHECIES WHICH CONCERNED THE MESSIAH ARE A CONVINCING ARGUMENT OF THE TRUTH OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION. It is agreed on all hands that there can be no human or natural reason assigned for such future and remote events as have no visible or natural cause to produce them; but are of a contingent nature, and many times depend on the free choice and will of man; and therefore the prediction of such events must be supposed to proceed from some supernatural revelation. It is the argument whereby God proves Himself to be the Lord, and that there is no other Saviour beside (Isaiah 43:11, 12). By the same reason, he proves the gods of the nations to be idols, and no gods (Isaiah 41:21, 22, 29). The prophecies of Scripture, which referred to the Messiah, were of things at such a distance, and of such a nature, that there could not be any probable reason assigned, or tolerable conjecture made of them. And yet there was not one tittle of all the prophecies which relate to the manner or design of Christ's appearance in the world that fell to the ground.
II. Show against the Jews, that THE MEAN APPEARANCE OF CHRIST IN THE WORLD IS NO GOOD ARGUMENT AGAINST THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION, OR OF ANY FORCE TO PROVE THAT JESUS OF NAZARETH WAS NOT THE CHRIST; and that upon the two following accounts —
1. As the grounds upon which the Jews expected a temporal Messiah, were false and impracticable; false with respect to the spirituality of His kingdom; impracticable with respect to the extent and universality of its blessings and privileges.
2. As the state and condition of life which our Saviour chose in the world was most agreeable to the great ends and design of His coming into it.(1) It gave a strong confirmation to the truth of that holy religion which He came to plant in the world. Had our Saviour been a victorious prince, that had given laws to the world, and backed the authority of them with the sword, the atheist might then have pretended, that the Christian, as well as other religions in the world, was the daughter of force, and a mere politic invention, contrived by its Author the better to settle and confirm His government to Him, if He should find a favourable juncture to possess Himself of it. But now the effects of the Christian religion on the minds of men, and the methods of propagating it, cannot be ascribed to any human power or authority. Instead of employing the secular arm to compel men to come into the Church, God put a sceptre of righteousness into the hands of Christ: He authorized Him to give such a body of holy and righteous laws to His Church as might be proper to work upon their minds by the gentle methods of reason and persuasion. He made choice of such for His companions and disciples as were men of mean occupations and law fortunes; men as to their natural capacities no ways qualified for so difficult and high an undertaking as the establishing a new religion against the settled laws and powers, the prejudices and passions, the vanities and vices of a corrupt world. The design of the holy Jesus in all this was to show that the excellency of the power which attended Himself and His apostles, in preaching the doctrine of salvation, might not be ascribed unto men, but unto God. He would make way for the reception and establishment of the Gospel in the world by no other means but by the evidence of its truth, the excellency of its morals, the number of the miracles wrought to confirm it, and the simplicity of those who were the first preachers and promoters of it. And, indeed, that the Christian religion, by such mean and unlikely instruments, should in so short a time extend itself so wide, and that they should reap such a harvest of triumphs over so many enemies, seems to have been the greatest miracle of all.(2) The state and condition of life which our Saviour chose in the world was also a wise and excellent method to recommend the practice of religion to it. The holy Jesus did not think it enough to reveal the will of God to mankind; this He might have done, as God delivered the law in the Mount, by speaking to some extraordinary prophet, and committing what He spoke to a standing writing, without rendering Himself visible. But God gave Him a body, that men might from His own mouth hear the words of eternal life.(3) The circumstances wherein our Saviour made His appearance in the world were most agreeable to His design of becoming a sacrifice and propitiation for the sins of the world: for though our redemption is attributed more especially to His sufferings and death upon the Cross, as His sacrifice was there finished, yet we ought to look upon it as begun as soon as he was born into the world.
III. PRACTICAL IMPROVEMENT.
1. If the accomplishment of the prophecies concerning our Saviour be an evident proof of His being the great Prophet that was to come into the world, then whatever doctrines He taught are, certainly true and Divinely revealed.
2. From the circumstances of our Saviour s appearance in the world let us learn the duties of patience, charity and humility.
3. In order to humble the pride of our hearts, when we are tempted to bear ourselves high upon any worldly advantages, which give us a superiority above our brethren, let us consider how Jesus Christ, the best and wisest, judged of these things.
(R. Fiddes)Psalm 45:2), that "He is fairer than the children of men," or "than the sons of Adam"? And in Song of Solomon 5:10-16 He is described by the spouse to be well-coloured, and likewise well-featured, and she goeth on from part to part, from head to feet; and then concludeth, "He is altogether lovely." To this I answer —
1. It is one thing what, Christ is to the spouse, another what He is to the unbelieving Jews Christ's beauties are reward, seen of none but those that are inwardly acquainted with Him. The spouse speaketh of Him in a spiritual sense.
2. We must distinguish between Christ's humiliation and exaltation, His Godhead and His manhood. In His Godhead He is "the brightness of His Father's glory, and the express image of His person," and consequently full of beauty. In His humiliation He is not only a man, but a mean man (Philippians 2:9).
3. In Christ's humiliation we must distinguish as to what He is in Himself and as to what He is in the eye of the world.
( T. Manton, D.D.)
( T. Manton, D.D.)
1. That the ordinances are weak to appearance; there is nothing but plain words, plain bread and wine, in one ordinance, and only water in another. The simple plainness of the ordinances is an obstacle to men's believing; they would fain bring in pomp, but that will mar all.
2. These ordinances are administered by weak men. Our Saviour sent fishermen to conquer the world, and made use of a goose-quill to wound Antichrist. Moses, the stammering shepherd, was commissioned to deliver Israel; God makes use of Amos, who was a herdsman, to declare His will. So Elisha the great prophet was taken from the plough. And many times God made use of young men, such as Paul, whose very person causeth prejudice; young Samuel, young Timothy, men of mean descent, low parentage, and of no great appearance in the world.
3. The manner how it is by them managed, which is not in such a politic, insinuating way as to beguile and deceive, and as if they were to serve their own ends (2 Corinthians 1:12).,
4. The persons by whom it is entertained, the poor (James 2:5). Usually God s true people are the meanest, not being so noted for outward excellency as others. This has been always a great prejudice against Christ's doctrine (John 7:48).
5. The general drift of it is to make men deny their pleasures, to overlook their concernments, to despise the world, to hinder unjust gain, to walk contrary to the ordinary customs and fashions of the world.
( T. Manton, D.D.)
1. In His birth.(1) For the time of it. It was when the royal stock of David was come so low that Joseph was but a carpenter by profession. Therefore is the genealogy of Joseph and Mary so carefully sought out by the evangelist, because it was not commonly and publicly known that they were of that lineage. The throne of David was occupied by Herod, who was an Ascalonite.(2) The place, Bethlehem, a small place. Then He was not born in any stately room, but in a manger in the stable.(3) Consider how in everything He was found in shape like another child, being circumcised the eighth day.(4) Consider the oblation that was made for Him, such as was made for poor people. Yet we may observe there was something Divine still mingled with Christ's outward, meanness, as the appearing of the star, the trouble of the Jews, the wise men's report and offerings. By these things God would leave them without excuse, and under this poverty discover some glimpses of the Deity.
2. In His life and manner of appearance in the world. He was altogether found in fashion as a man; to outward appearance just as other men, for His growth was as other, men's, by degrees: "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." His life was spent in much toil and labour, etc.
( T. Manton, D.D.)1. Poverty and meanness are not disgraceful. Christ Himself was a carpenter, Paul a tent-maker, and the apostles fishermen. Christ, you see, scorned that glory, pomp and greatness which the world doteth upon.
2. Poverty should not he irksome to us. Christ underwent it before you; His apostles were base in the world's eye (1 Corinthians 4:13). Poverty is a great burden, and layeth a man open to many a disadvantage — scorn, contempt and refusal. But consider, Christ hath honoured it in His own person, and He honoureth it to this very day.
( T. Manton, D.D.)Luther translates, "We thought Him nothing." The picture seems to be that of a mean and miserable life, tragic, unsettled, menaced, lined with grief, disfigured with wounds. I say "seems." For, after all, the fault may not be so much in Him as in us. Beauty may be all about men, yet they may never perceive it, because their foolish hearts are darkened; because they are short-sighted, blind, impure. Ruskin's dictum is that joy, affection, veneration are necessary to the beholding of beauty. If that be so, and men know nothing of "the joy that rises in one like a summer s morn;" if they have never experienced the "love that greatens and glorifies all things;" if they know nothing of that reverence which recognizes and bows before the highest, it is no wonder that they miss the spirit of the beautiful. Men may have missed Christ's beauty from many causes, as men are missing it to-day. Let us seek to discover what these things are that blind us to the holiest, the highest, the loveliest.
I. THE SPIRIT OF CONTEMPT BLINDS TO BEAUTY. Jesus came into this world a Galilean peasant, poor, obscure, straitened in every way. And judging Him by the measure of the scale on which He appeared, men treated Him with disdain, contempt, scorn, remarking, "Is not this the carpenter.?" How many there are who live continually in the spirit of contempt. They continually look down. They seem to forget that some,of the choicest spirits of earth have dined on "homely fare" and worn "hodden grey," and that the millionaires of ideas have frequently been bankrupts in pocket. How contemptuously the great spirits of the world have been treated by those who were not worthy to unloose their shoe-latchets! Think of Mozart being sent by an archbishop in whose retinue he was to dine with the servants in the kitchen. Think of that same Mozart occupying a nameless grave, for "no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day." "Odd world, is it not, that will send its Bunyans to prison and give its jockeys ten thousand a year?" paints his magnanimous man as "not apt to admire, for to him there is nothing great." What number of these magnanimous men there must be; men so held in the grip of contempt that, standing in a world crammed full of the rich glories of creation, they see nothing to admire. Now contempt springs from two things: lack of understanding and lack of love. The wise man never despises. "God is great, yet He despiseth not any," and those who are great after the greatness of God have ever felt their smallness beside the humblest and poorest of men. They see that behind the dullest life there may be angelic light. Where true wisdom is there contempt is not. Charles V was truly great when, picking up the brush of Titian which the painter had dropped, he remarked that he was "proud to wait on so supreme a genius." Men see no beauty in Christ because they have been too ready to despise Him. Contempt springs from lack of love. "They thought Him nothing" because they never looked at Him with the heart. If you want to discover all that is brightest and best in men you must look at them with the look of love; then will God become "aglow to the loving heart in what was mere earth before." Love is wonderful always. There is a magic power about it which can make plain faces shine as the faces of angels. It can fill with light and radiance a cottage home as no gold can do. It can convert worthless trifles into precious heirlooms. So if men would only look at Christ with the supreme look of the soul they would discover that He who seems to have no form nor comeliness will then be crowned with glory and honour.
II. MEN MISS THE BEAUTY, TOO, BY THE CRITICAL TEMPER. Some men there are who start out always with a disposition to criticize rather than to admire. When a young lady once expressed the wish to Hogarth that she might be able to draw caricature, the great satirist replied, "It is not a faculty to be envied; take my advice and never draw caricature. By the long practice of it I have lost the enjoyment of beauty. I never see a face but distorted, and have never the satisfaction to behold the human face divine." The great caricaturist had so accustomed himself to look for faults that he could see nothing else. Criticism blinds to beauty. Was not that true with regard to Christ? Look for the beauty in Him and you will discover a loveliness that cannot be chiselled in marble or expressed in colour, but a beauty which, when the soul sees it is ravished for ever, and rapt into an ecstasy of admiration and love.
III. WE MAY MISS THE BEAUTY THROUGH ENVY. Did not men miss His beauty in that way in the days of His flesh? Pilate was keen enough to perceive that behind the seeming air of justice assumed by His traducers the fires of envy burned. "He knew that for envy they had delivered Him." The artist who portrayed Envy as a man of mean and misshapen figure, with crouching shoulder, craning neck, distended ears, and serpent tongue, was endowed with a more than ordinary gift of insight. Where envy exists there can be no vision of the beautiful. For it blinds the mind and poisons the heart, and lifts not to a throne, but to a cross. How it blinded the eyes of those Scribes and Pharisees! They saw the beautiful deeds of the Man, how He succoured the weak, the suffering, the sad; they heard His words, flagrant, uplifting, strengthening; they beheld a life spent in doing good; yet so blinded were they by the spirit of envy that this supreme vision of loveliness did not dawn upon them. The penalty of envy is blindness, and until those scales fall from the eyes, all things true and beautiful and of good report, everything of worth in the character and conduct of our fellow-men, all the charm and sweetness of the Son of Man, will remain undiscovered by us.
IV. PREOCCUPATION MAY BLIND TO BEAUTY. Men are so feverishly busy in these days, they live at such express speed, that they often miss the angel at the door. When men are busy here and there they miss the charms of the Eternal. A little more quiet, a little abiding in one's own room, and it would be discovered that Christ is lovelier than painter's sublimest dream, and that finding Him one finds a joy for ever.
(Cecil H. Wright.)
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