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THE MOTIVE OF HIS LIFE.
Absence of Selfishness.—Presence of pure and lofty Motives.—His active Goodness.—Views of the Soul.—Love of Man as Man.—Gave his Life a Sacrifice.
THE recorded life of Christ proves that he neither sought to gain, nor, in point of fact did gain, power, wealth, or fame, for himself, or for any connected with him. He had frequent and fair opportunities of gratifying ambition, had his nature been tainted with that passion. Occasions were even thrust upon him, and the amplest means were ever ready to his hand. The Jews expected in their Messiah a king, and were burning with impatience for his advent. Jesus needed only to have announced himself, and the country would have hailed him with enthusiasm, and would have enthroned and crowned him. As a matter of fact, such was the state of the public mind, that on more than one occasion, the people were about to take him by force to make him a king, but he quietly withdrew till 229the excitement had passed away. Throughout his public life, though announcing the sublimest truths, and performing the noblest works, he never stepped, or sought to step, out of the humble sphere in which he had been brought up. It has been shown that he was at first, and he continued to the last, a poor man. He does not seem to have ever possessed for himself to the value of the smallest coin, and, when he died, he had no means of providing for his mother, and could only commend her to the care of one of his disciples.
The entire absence of selfishness, in any form, from the character of Christ, can not be questioned, and not less undoubted was the active presence of pure and lofty motives. His life was not only negatively good, it was filled up with positive and matchless excellence, and was spent directly and wholly in blessing the world. A large portion of it was occupied with teaching, and both in its design and its native tendency, Christ’s teaching was only restorative and healing, and itself at once reveals the motive in which it originated—love of man, profound, unselfish love. This reigning spirit was yet more apparent, though not more really present, in another region of Christ’s life. He lived not merely to announce spiritual truth, but to relieve and remove physical suffering. The supernatural character of this portion of his work among men, we do not urge; but apart from this, 230it is quite certain that much of his life was occupied in healing the sick, and comforting the sorrowing and the poor. The substance of the record on this head, is condensed in a few beautiful sentences by Matthew, 4th chapter, 23d and 24th verses. “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the Gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness, and all manner of disease among the people. And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those that were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had palsy, and he healed them.” Make what deductions we will, it is perfectly certain, if any thing of history remain in the Gospels, that multitudes in that age experienced the effect of Christ’s merciful interposition. “He went about doing good.” He wiped away many a tear; he made many human hearts glad; and many others connected with them felt the benignant and genial influence of his earthly ministry. He relieved and removed a great amount of physical suffering; he created and planted in the world a great amount of physical happiness. He devoted himself to the work of blessing man; and in both regions of his life, in his acts and in his words, in the healing spiritual truths which he imparted, and in the unnumbered material kindnesses which he bestowed, 231we discover one reigning motive—love of man, deep, enduring, redeeming love.
We are entitled to assert that compassion for humanity held the place of a master-force in the soul of Jesus Christ. The man is worse than blind who does not perceive the charm of a subduing tenderness streaming fresh from his heart, and shed over his whole public life. It is related that, once as he looked upon the multitudes that lead assembled to listen to his teaching, “he had compassion on them, because they were as sheep that had no shepherd.”115115 Matthew, xv. 32. We hold that this short sentence descends to the deepest depth of his being, and lays open the chief spring of all his movements, he had compassion on the multitudes. Spiritual truth was precious to him he felt also the burden of a great mission, and he was tenderly alive to all the rights and claims of God. But he pitied and loved the multitude their spiritual condition, their destinies, their necessities, and their sorrows oppressed his heart. In addition to all the force of fidelity to God, to himself, and to truth of which he was conscious, there were impulses of love and pity that gushed up ever warm and fresh in his bosom, and imparted a subduing tone to all his ministrations. Jesus saw an inexpressible worth in human nature. It is fallen and ruined, but it is a precious ruin. The wonderful powers yet left to the soul, and the 232amazing destiny before it, ineffably bright or unutterably dark, were present to his mind, and were the source of that yearning affection which ruled his life. He loved man as man. The attachment of the members of the same family, or the natives of the same country, of companions in suffering, and of disciples of the same faith, to each other, is easily understood. But when the circle is widened, the attachment is proportionally impaired, and love to man, simply as man, is scarcely intelligible. To Christ this was not only an intelligible, but a profound reality. Neither natural relationship, nor condition, nor even character, nor country, nor creed, determined the movement of his heart. It was man he loved, the nature, the race, for its own sake, and because of its solemn relations to eternity, and to God. Himself man, he felt an inexpressible nearness to humanity, and his whole life, and still more his death, were an expression of his unmeasurable love. The higher purposes of the cross are not now before us; but it must not be overlooked that, at last, Jesus could have saved his life if he would have sacrificed his mission. But that mission was dearer to him than life; man was dearer to him, man’s redemption and restoration to God were dearer to him than life. He could not, would not, abandon these; but his life he could and did surrender, a true and holy sacrifice on the cross!233
A single act of pure generosity fails not to touch the human heart; all men bow down instinctively before it. There are some human names which the world can never forget, the names of those who, in different departments, perhaps for a course of years, exhibited wonderful devotion to the good of others. What then shall be said of Him, whose entire life was spent in benefiting, not a single class, but all classes of men, and in originating, not one form, but endless forms of good, from the lowest up to that which relates to the immortal nature and to its highest destinies? Christianity, and Christianity alone, is the revelation of a pure and perfect love the unavailing of the solitary living model of this grace which humanity has furnished. A profound secret of God, the unfathomable mercy of his nature was to be divulged to the world. It was pronounced in words, in words of deep significance; but it was also expressed by a sign; and there stood before men an impersonation of perfect love, a life which disclosed and embodied intense, inextinguishable, self-sacrificing love.234
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