Sample Essay Jesus Christ

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SECT. 1st.

IT produceth an esteem of CHRIST, and all things that are his. When JESUS CHRIST makes himself known to his people as a Redeemer, and displays the glory of his Redemption unto them, the amiableness of his person, and the greatness of the salvation he hath procured by his blood, quite subdues their hearts, and gains their esteem. Such as saw no comeliness in him, why he should be de∣sired,—while under the power of ignorance, and the in∣fluence of error, become by the manifestation of his ex∣cellencies altogether charmed with his beauty. It is im∣possible but those who know this blessed object should esteem him;—because his excellencies are morally en∣gaging, and have the power to transform the mind into a sameness of moral likeness with himself. The Apostle, who understood this subject better than most of men, affirms it as a matter of certainty,—That

by beholding the glory of God, through Jesus, we are transformed into the same image, from glory to glory.

There are none who know the Redeemer but do love him, and such as do not render him their supreme regard, do testify that they know him not.

THERE is something in the world which men call Knowledge, which is only a specious resemblance of it, yet is oftentimes mistaken for true understanding. Thro' means of the gospel revelation men may come to somePage  39specious understanding of the character of JESUS CHRIST, so as to enable them to speak as if they knew him:— But then their knowledge is no more than the wisdom of words. This kind of knowledge may be called a passing view of CHRIST's character, which may lead men to some speculation, but can never be reduced to practice. This sort of spurious knowledge is like that which we learn of the characters of men at court in the common news,— which may enable us to form conjectures concerning the leading draughts of certain reputations, but being remote from the persons, and the theatre on which they act, we are uncertain of the justness of the various descriptions of character which may be given them.—But true know∣ledge of JESUS CHRIST by the gospel, is like that which we attain by friendly information,—where the informer acts the part of a friendly instructor;—and knowing himself the things which he teacheth and describeth, per∣fectly represents them with such evidence, that our know∣ledge becomes certain and real.

THE truths of the gospel, to All who have not felt their power, are only like the common news to a com∣mon reader,—which may learn him to speak, but does not afford any certain knowledge, nor make him any wiser: —Yet, a stranger would perhaps not know the differ∣ence between such persons, and men of more wisdom, if he only heard them speak. It is action •hich testifies the truth of true knowledge;—he who pretends to know, but is not truly instructed, exposeth his own ignorance when brought to trial. Christians who are really instructed in the knowledge of the gospel, and understand the character of JESUS CHRIST, are enabled according to their mea∣sure, to act his character as a pattern of holiness;— their lives and that of CHRIST are as like one another, in the leading parts of character, as the image of babes and perfect men are like one another. It is a saying common enough with regard to some persons, that it is not for want of knowledge in religion that they do not live as becomes the gospel. This is not true in fact, if we con∣sider the word Knowledge in a strict sense.—Whenever any person knows JESUS CHRIST rightly, it transforms him into his likeness, and disposeth him to walk as he Page  40also walked. The knowledge of things in which men are not much interested, may be attained without producing any visible alteration in their conduct,—nor would men judge fairly of their understanding, if they should con∣clude them ignorant of what they did not practise,— when neither pleasure nor happiness are connected with such practice.—The knowledge of things indifferent, may be obtained without any visible evidence in action;— for being indifferent, the practice upon knowing them is not absolutely necessary. But to walk as CHRIST also walked, and to imitate him, as the blessed pattern of ho∣liness and perfection, is absolutely necessary to happiness in this life, or that which is to come.

WHEN the excellencies of CHRIST are made known to the souls of men, the connection between an imitation of them, and everlasting happiness, is also made known;— and the very power of that knowledge inclines the minds of christians to observe the imitation,


Psal. ix. 10. They that know thy name, will put their trust in thee.

He that loveth not, knoweth not God,
1 John iv. 8.

The Apostle points out the connection between true knowledge of CHRIST, and the work and labour of love.


1 John ii. 4. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. ver. 9. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother, abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he go∣eth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes.

Those who know God, hear and obey what the Apostles of CHRIST hath said;—but whoever form their religious practice upon any other plan, testify that they know not God,—even suppose they should make a great shew of Godliness in will-worship.—Let the Apostle John deter∣mine this point:


1 John iv. 6. We are of God: He that knoweth God, heareth us; he that is not of God, heareth not us.—Hereby we know the Spirit of truth, and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one ano∣ther: For love is of God; and every one that loveth, Page  41is born of God, and knoweth God.

The reason why men do not esteem JESUS CHRIST, and all things that are his, is because they know him not. Luke gives this for the reason in the Acts of the Apostles, why the Jews condemned and crucified JESUS CHRIST, because they knew him not,


Acts xiii. 27. For they that dwell at Jerusalem, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets, which are read every Sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.

WHEREVER JESUS CHRIST makes a true and real dis∣covery of his own Character and Redemption to the souls of men by his gospel,—so as the discovery becomes the materials of knowledge, or rather knowledge itself, it as necessarily begets esteem of JESUS, as any active principle produceth its proper effects. It becomes a part of a be∣liever's moral constitution, and operates in the soul as a principle of action:—And this knowledge expresseth it∣self in the way of esteeming CHRIST, and all that is his. Such as do not esteem our Redeemer, it is because they do not know him:—They have not the full conviction of his excellence, fitness, and sufficiency.

I KNOW it has been often said, that men may have the knowledge and full conviction of the truth, and yet not be truely reformed thereby.—This I cannot so easily understand:—For our Saviour tells us, that such as know the truth, are set at liberty.—

Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,
John viii. 32.

Wherever the scripture speaks of wicked men knowing God, it must be understood comparatively with others who are more ignorant of the things which they are said to know. A servant may know his master's will, and not do it, i. e. the things which he knoweth may be what his master requireth, but still he does not know as he ought to know,—and it is called knowledge, in contrast to other men's total ignorance. As long as men are not reformed in their hearts and lives, they cannot properly be said to be convinced of truth,—nor accounted such who know JESUS CHRIST;—and it is their ignorance which keep∣eth them in bondage to Satan.

Page  42THEY have such wisdom which passeth for true know∣ledge in the world, and which may make a very specious appearance, and deceive men;—but it never proves its efficacy by that labour of love, and esteem of JESUS CHRIST, which true knowledge produceth in them who have it. What Solomon says of wisdom, may be strictly said of knowledge,—

It giveth life to them who have it.

What has made men fall into a mistake, in thinking that themselves or others have been possessed of true knowledge, when they have been really ignorant of truth, is their not considering the difference between tran∣sient views, and solid understanding. There are many transient and passing views, which persons may have of objects, which cannot justly be called true knowledge.— In objects of senfe they may be called glances,—in objects of moral truth, they may be called hints,—in matters of fact, or testimony, they may be called notices. Men may have some glances of a figure whose properties they do not understand, and suppose they had a passing view of it, yet they do not understand the form nor use of it without instruction:—A moral truth may be represented to our mind by some hints, but is either removed before we un∣derstand it, or the mind parts with it before it knows it:— Matters of fact may be brought to our hearing upon a credible enough testimony, which may give notice of very surprising or profitable things;—but the notices may either be short and imperfect, or not often enough repeat∣ed to leave an impression of the truth of the facts, and the authority of the author upon our minds,—and in this re∣spect is not true knowledge. This is something like a tale that is told,—which though it may afford for the time some entertainment, is not competent to be reduced into practice.

THOSE three kinds of passing views may be illustrated by these similitudes.—The first is like one who views his face in a glass, but forgets what manner of man he was:—The second is like one who receives the dictates of a master upon a subject, the rudiments of which he hath never learned,—so has no knowledge of, but as far as any thing he hath heard said is agreeable with some∣thing Page  43he has already learned:—The latter is like one who receives the news from another who passeth by, but is not able to form a judgment of what is reported,—because he has not time to be acquainted with the author who re∣ports the facts. That knowledge which superficial en∣quirers have in matters of religion, is like the two last forts of knowledge. Things marvelous may transiently be pointed out to them,—and alarming facts may be told them, which may surprize them,—or create a sudden transport of wonder or fear, according to the nature of the things intimated.—But what so suddenly struck them, may as quickly be removed, so that it never be∣comes a principle of action in their hearts, nor leaves any just or lasting impression upon their minds.—This nei∣ther affords a sufficient information to the judgment, nor produceth a full conviction in the conscience, of the truth of what is reported. It is only a transient passing view of truth, but not the knowledge thereof. The knowledge of JESUS CHRIST consists in the understanding of the character of him that speaketh;—when he makes the report the matter of knowledge in the soul, he maketh it shew his own veracity, and a believer is instructed as well in the character of the person who reveals the truth, as in the report he makes.

THE gospel has this excellency above all other re∣ports:—That it is calculated to make known the charac∣ter and veracity of him who publisheth it, and sheweth with the surest evidence, who he is that is the author of it. We have no proof but what the gospel itself contains, that God is the author of it,—nor have we any certain evidence to satisfy us that we are not imposed upon, but what is expressed in the very testimony we believe. Who∣ever believes the gospel, is firmly persuaded at once, that it is God that speaks, and his word they believe. The first true knowledge of God comes by the gospel,—and it is calculated to produce it. It is much better contrived to make us understand, what God is, and what are his at∣tributes, than all his works put together, for it gives light. "The entrance of thy word giveth light." Divine re∣velation is too often considered as a sort of passive organ, something like the sun, moon, and stars, which are said Page  44to declare the Glory of God;—and there are several people in the world will with difficulty admit that we can know it to be from God, till we learn it extra seipsum, without itself.—But the difficulty here is insurmount∣able, and ends in Atheism. For when men depart from scripture itself, to seek for the knowledge of its author,— where do they land? In eternal doubts, and scepticism.

By faith we understand, that the worlds were made by the word of God.

—By the knowledge of the sacred records we learn the character of their author, and re∣ceive the certain proof that God made the world:—But when we begin to seek the Divine Character among his works at first hand, on purpose to settle the character of scripture, we are obliged first to prove, that the universe is his handy work.—This is still more difficult to prove without help from the scripture, than to find the charac∣ter of the author of revelation without such aid. The gospel seems to be suited to some capacity in us, whereby it produceth in our minds an assent to its truth by making known its author.

THIS knowledge is not like opinion, which is found∣ed upon probability, nor like conjecture, which is ground∣ed only on some probable marks of truth;—but is founded upon certain understanding of facts, concerning which there can be no reasonable doubt; and on the testimony of one who neither will nor can deceive us.

WHEN this knowledge is obtained, it is not like opinion, which may vary with probability, but it becomes a principle of action in the mind,—and in its nature varies no more than the record on which it is founded. It may have degrees, according to the measure of divine manifestation;—but as to its nature, it is founded upon principles that are invariable. It may increase or decline upon occasions, but can never totally fail, more than its first principles can be destroyed. It is compared

to the shining light, which shineth more and more unto the perfect day.

This knowledge begets a lasting esteem of CHRIST, on account of his many excellencies that are the sum of that heavenly wisdom.

Page  45FROM the divine records the christian is informed, that the Redeemer is a divine person,—

Fairer than the sons of men, and more excellent than all mountains of prey.

—That he excells in wisdom, power, goodness and truth;—but rests in his love, and rejoiceth in mer∣cy. Those who know JESUS CHRIST, consider him not only as mighty to save, but as the most excellent object of contemplation and delight,—having in him every beauty which can give pleasure to the mind. It was from a certain knowledge of this that David expressed himself so earnest∣ly in these pathetic lines,


Psal. xxvii. 4. One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after; that all the days of my life I may dwell in the house of the Lord, to behold his beauty, and enquire in his temple.

The christian's esteem of JESUS is founded upon what is amiable in his character;—what is not more striking than it is sweet. In this, love and esteem are something distinct. Love, which is the desire of enjoy∣ment of any object that is agreeable, considered at some distance, is more engaged with what is striking, than what is amiable;—but when the object is obtained, and all the striking parts of character appear mixed with sweetness and amiableness,—then love rests in the object, and becomes lasting esteem.

WHEN a miserable sinner, under the apprehensions of guilt and the Divine displeasure, receives the intimation of the Redeemer's character, as one who hath paid his ran∣som, and hath delivered him from going down to the pit, he is ready to be enamoured with his love and com∣passion,—and admires him rather as one who hath done him a real service, than one who is intrinsickly worthy of his highest regard;—but when he comes to consider his character more strictly, after his surprize at his mercy is somewhat abated, he comes to see that his chief happiness lies in being joined in fellowship with one, who in all re∣spects is so engaging, that his soul will never need any thing more to satisfy its desires, through an endless tract of duration. When CHRIST and his redemption is ma∣nifested in the soul, the mind rests in the esteem of him,— who is worthy of its most exalted regards.

Page  46BUT this knowledge makes christians also esteem all that is CHRIST's.—Every appointment of his, and every ordinance which bears the stamp of his authority, are dear to them who know him.—His character as a Lawgiver, who rules in mount Zion, is the object of their esteem,— and therefore all his laws appear righteous. It is not how agreeable some ordinances are to flesh and blood, or how they may suit the ends of worldly policy and temporal in∣terest, that engageth a christian to observe them,—but whether they have the seal of CHRIST's appointment add∣ed to them. The knowledge of CHRIST, our Redeemer, teacheth all his children to consider obedience to him in observing his ordinances, not as means which merely lead to glory,—but a very part of glory itself;—for it is their glory to keep his commandments, in every stage of existence whatsoever. The children of heavenly wisdom wisely consider, that there is no difference between the militant state of CHRIST's church, and that of the tri∣umphant, with respect to men's obligation to obey him,— nor will they ever have any desire to be freed from his service.—And therefore they consider these ordinances, which are appointed to them in this life to observe, as the only heavenly exercise they are capable of for the present.

THOSE who know JESUS CHRIST, their Redeemer, are not taken with the splendour of rituals, nor engaged with the pompous means of devotion;—but are more concerned about the spirit and truth of religion, than the elegance of external modes of worship. When they come to the house of God,

they are more ready to hear than to give the sacrifice of fools.

The vocal praise of christian worship gives them more pleasure,—because they can mutually join in that devotion, than all the symphany of instrumental music. The Jewish sound of Organs, Symbols, and Harps, give no delight to a christian's ear, because CHRIST has not commanded that mode of praise in the New Testament sanctuary. Such as know CHRIST crucified, chuse to direct their devotion by some express laws of his authorising, and will not venture to perform his service according to their own will and pleasure.— Page  47They esteem all his precepts and promises,—they say of his commandments, that in all things they are right. Every promise is the object of a believer's trust and confi∣dence,—and what their Lord says, they are able to re∣ceive as faithful sayings:—Because they know the ve∣racity of the author, they chearfully trust his promise. Though many circumstances in providence may intervene, seemingly unfavourable to the accomplishment of God's promise, yet the knowledge they have of the Divine cha∣racter, supports their confidence under every unfavourable circumstance.—Being satisfied concerning God's love towards them, by his giving his son, they conclude, that with him he will freely give them all things.

MOREOVER, they who have been favoured with the discovery of CHRIST's character as their Redeemer, will love all the children of their heavenly father;—for as they esteem him that begat, they will also love them that are begotten. This esteem is of the same kind towards all those who receive the truth in the love thereof, and who bear the image of their heavenly father.—And tho' the children of God may differ in their moral stature, or have different views of some things:—Though they may have different gifts, and various imperfections, in this present state;—yet they esteem one another on account of their common relation to the one Father in JESUS CHRIST. Difference in outward circumstance, or variance in opi∣nion, will not alter their opinion of one another,—while they agree in the original principles of knowledge;— namely, the knowledge of CHRIST crucified. Whenever men begin to disesteem one another, and instead of loving one another, do most heartily hate each other, there is rea∣son to fear something worse than difference in opinion.— Nothing but total ignorance of JESUS CHRIST will pro∣duce such a dismal effect. Men's opinions are what they cannot help, more than they can add a cubit to their sta∣ture,—and if we think them wrong, we ought to pity them, but not hate them. Christian love begets compassion for a brother when he errs, and will not suffer the mind to re∣move its regards for what is only his misfortune.

Page  48

SECT. 2d.

IT produceth peace and tranquillity of mind. When christians have attained to the true knowledge of CHRIST, and the Redemption he hath obtained for them, they re∣ceive full satisfaction concerning their peace with God through him,—and are persuaded they shall not be brought into condemnation; or in the language of the Psalmist,

They shall not die but live, and discover the works of the Lord.

This occasions an inward cafe and satis∣faction of soul,—because God, who is the chief good, and whose anger is most to be dreaded, is now reconciled through the blood of JESUS to the guilty.

WHEN this great privilege is obtained, the children of heavenly wisdom find no occasion to be troubled with what passes in the world;—for this reason, be they poor or rich, weak or strong, as to the things pertaining to this life, they are content, because their treasure is in heaven. Satisfaction concerning peace with our Maker, not only makes us easy ourselves, but makes us behave easily towards others with whom we may be concerned. It does not appear that persons who behave with severity towards their fellow man, have any pleasure in contemplating the Divine character;—for all severity proceeds from a sour∣ness of mind, which the love of God subdues wherever it prevails. When men, called christians, through a cruel∣ty of disposition, endeavour to hurt one another, for conscience sake, it argues they have but bad consciences: For if their consciences were purified, they would endea∣vour to follow peace with all men. All true peace of mind arises from satisfaction with those things that are the object of moral contemplation. There are two things especially which fall under this denomination,—the relations we stand in to God,—and the happiness or misery that arise to us from those relations. When these appear favourable to us, they make us happy, when we contemplate them; if unfavourable, they make us un∣happy.

WHEN upon enquiry it is found, that the character Page  49of God appears opposite to what we find to be our own present leading character, it must produce a very great uneasiness in the mind, and make us unhappy. If we find that God stands in the relation of a just and righteous judge to us, and we in the relation of guilty sinners, it will cause no little pain and uneasiness, if we be not quite past feeling.—But if it is found, that he is related to us as a gracious and reconciled God, thro' JESUS CHRIST, bestowing pardon freely upon the guilty, it will produce peace and satisfaction in the soul. Our happiness and misery entirely depend upon what relation we stand in to God, and he to us. To consider him as a just Judge, without perceiving his character as reconciled through his beloved Son, sets before us a very awful prospect;— for in that character he condemns the guilty.—But when he is considered as the LORD GOD, merciful and gracious, in JESUS CHRIST, he is represented, as just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly. When this great point of peace with God is obtained, and the intimation of it made to the conscience, contentment with every o∣ther circumstance of life will be the necessary consequence; this will dispose men to live peaceably, as far as in them lies with every one. It argues a bad conscience, and corrupt heart, to have a constant disposition to quarrel with others about things that are no ways momentous. When we consider the connection of what has been said, we shall not be able to give any other reason for men fall∣ing out with their fellow christians and brethren, but that they know not JESUS CHRIST, and are at variance with their Maker;—for were they in good terms with the Almighty, they would find no great difficulty to live peaceably with all men.—And we may easily learn from observation, that a good man is not at so much difficulty to live peaceably with his enemies, as bad men and hypo∣crites are to live in peace with their most intimate friends. Whoever is fully persuaded of what JESUS hath done for them, will not grudge to seek peace with their very foes; —they know they cannot follow a better example, than that of CHRIST. The various murmurings which pre∣vail among nominal professors of religion, only testify how little they are acquainted with that Saviour who died to Page  50make peace for men, and shed his precious blood to ob∣tain for them forgiveness of sin.

THERE are many more effects which the manifestation of CHRIST, and Redemption through him, produce in the souls of those who believe the record concerning him,— which I am obliged to leave out of this Essay, lest I should swell it to an undue size.—I shall therefore finish it with observing, that our whole conversation will be directed according to our knowledge and belief of this subject. Wherever it prevails as an article of religion in truth, it will dispose the believers to walk as CHRIST also walked. It is one of those doctrines of grace that purify the heart, and animates the whole conduct of christians.—Infidelity in this particular will not long lie concealed,—for as a man thinketh, so is he,—and he will shew the abundance of his heart by the manner of his acting.—But all who believe in CHRIST will be careful to maintain good works.

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