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The Holy week, or the passion of our blessed Saviour, with a supplement for Easter, taken from Paraphrase and comment on the epistles and gospels used in the liturgy of The Church of England

by George Stanhope


The good effects which our church proposes to herself from this portion of scripture we plainly learn, from the Collect for the day, to be humility and patience. The former is to be expressed by thinking no good office beneath us, whereby we may contribute to the relief of our brethren in their sufferings; the latter by contentedness and constancy of mind in submitting to our own. In order to excite and establish these good dispositions in us, the Son of God, and Saviour of the world, is here set forth as our pattern; His love and condescension, for our example; that we, so far as the difference of circumstances will allow, may not grudge to do as He hath done before us. His exaltation and reward is also mentioned for our encouragement; that we may depend upon the like being done to us in proportion, which hath already been done to Him, by way of recompense for such kind humiliation.

To treat this subject as we ought, it will be requisite to consider, Jirst, What our Lord did, and how we are bound to Him. Secondly, What He received, and how this assures us of being rewarded like Him.

1. A just sense of what our Lord did we never can have without right notions concerning the dignity of His Person: which therefore the apostle hath here illustrated, in terms that speak Him very God and very man:—the form of God (ver. 6, 7,) as strongly inferring the former, as the likeness and fashion of men does the latter;—if we regard only the force of the expressions themselves. And, as the whole course of His conversation, the things He did and suffered, living and dying, gave incontestable proof of the truth of His human nature: so, if we will allow St. Paul to argue with any consistence, his argument here overthrows the cavils usually objected to the truth of His divine nature. For how can the taking of the likeness or fashion of men (ver. 7, 8,) deserve to be thought an emptying or humbling of himself, in a person who is himself no more than man? How can the government of the whole world be committed to, or administered by a mere man? How can universal adoration (ver. 10,) become due to such an one? How can we suppose that such adoration would be enjoined by the Christian religion,—a religion that aimed so directly at curing idolatrous mankind of their monstrous sin and folly, which consisted properly in deifying men for their merits, and in ignorance of the One true God, doing service to them which by nature are no godsb? But especially, how should a person deserve and obtain divine honours as a reward for his unparalleled humility, and piety, and most exemplary meekness, who, if he were not really God, and yet

"Gal. iv. 8.

thought it not robbery to be equal with Godc, but suffered himself to be esteemed so, and gave occasion from: his own words to be thus esteemed, and never warned those who took the occasion, (of any error or ill consequence in such an opinion) was certainly the proudest and most presumptuous, the profanest and most detestable blasphemer? To them, therefore, who acknowledge our Lord's divinity, St. Paul's reasoning is just and very pressing: but to refer it to such condescensions, as washing His disciples' feet, or even the indignities of His passion, in a man only, renders it weak and trifling. The terms expressing this voluntary humiliation are an empty pomp in comparison: and such as then indeed, but only then are full of significance and sound argument, when the perfection and majesty of Christ's divine, and the impotence and vileness of our human nature are understood for the height He came down from, and the depth to which He descended.

Concerning this condescension how marvellous it is in itself, and how forcible an engagement to humility and charity upon all who believe and reap the benefits of it, 1 have on another occasion endeavoured to make men sensible, when the church commemorated the blessing of our Lord taking upon Him the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men d. That yet more amazing humiliation of becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, is matter more peculiarly suitable to the devotions of

c Phil. ii. 6.

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