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from One who was really man, with all the natural affections of humanity—even His higher work for His Father during this earthly life took somewhat of its form and colouring from the relations of His natural life. When once called to His high mission, He would not allow even a mother's love and anxiety to interfere with His own judgment as to His work for
* and, however blessed she might be esteemed among women as having borne and nursed the Saviour, yet rather “Blessed are they," He
" that hear the word of God and keep it.” But this was far from meaning that His higher mission extinguished the affections and absorbed the duties of natural relations. For, even in that supreme hour when He was offering Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, before He said, “ It is finished,” He committed His widowed and now doubly-bereaved mother to the charge of His dearest earthly friend, even as a man might do whose only work for God on earth had been the fulfilment of his filial duties. And it is interesting to observe how members of His family were associated with His earthly ministry. Among the chosen Twelve, although it is not probable that James the less and Judas were our Lord's brethren, since during * His earthly ministry the brethren of Jesus did not believe on Him, yet there seems good reason to believe that the sons of Zebedee, of whom both were included in the first four of the apostles, and one was the beloved disciple John, were near relations-apparently first cousins-of our Lord on the mother's side. It is probable also that James, “the Lord's brother,” who afterwards presided over the Church at Jerusalem with apostolic authority, was the James mentioned by St. Pault as the only disciple, except Peter, to whom our Lord appeared alone after His resurrection.
* St. John ii. 4.
The mere fact, indeed, that“ Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brethren," are specially named as continuing with the eleven in prayer in the upper chamber at Jerusalem after our Lord's Ascension, is of itself sufficient evidence that the influences of the family, though of themselves not spiritual, are at least not alien from our work for God in the kingdom of heaven.
* St. John vii. 7.
+ 1 Cor. xv. 7.
When we consider the marvellous truth that the Divine Saviour Himself, during the greater part of His earthly life, served His Father in heaven in this sphere of family duty, we need not be surprised that so many of God's most eminent saints have at all times found their work for God, for many years at least, in the ordinary duties of man's natural life without any religious vocation. We may, perhaps, imagine, as our Lord Himself, that His life having been thus occupied for thirty years was only a necessary part of His humiliation; though this would be an imperfect conception of the truth that He has thus sanctified for us every lawful employment, and the lowest as well as the highest sphere of natural duty. But when I find such saints of God as Moses, and David, and Daniel, to mention no others, prepared for the most spiritual work through the fulfilment, in
some cases through many weary years, of duties which I may be tempted to regard as not work for God at all, I surely may be content to believe that the most acceptable service to God is to fulfil His will with thankfulness and patience.
CHRIST'S WORK, AS WITNESSING FOR THE
TRUTH, OUR EXAMPLE.
BUT we must pass on to the history of our Blessed Lord after His baptism, when He received the gift of the Holy Ghost to qualify Him for His future work, in order to understand what that higher work for God is, to which we are called who believe in Christ and are baptised into His spiritual body. The imitation of Jesus Christ is with reason made the one true standard of the Christian life, by all who would direct us in the duties and responsibilities of that life. Nothing short of Divine perfection must be set before us
as Christ Himself teaches ;* and nowhere except in the history of His life can we find that perfection manifested in human characters. No Christian would ever doubt that in His love, His patience, His forbearance and gentleness, His meekness and purity, and all those graces and holy qualities which form the character of the new man, we can take no lower standard than the example and pattern which Christ Himself has given us. And yet, I fear, as regards our “work for God,” and how in this we are to follow the example of Jesus Christ, our ideas are not unfrequently vague and confused, and not such as to supply us with any definite guid
It may perhaps seem to us presumptuous to place our work for God, and that of Christ the Redeemer, at all in the same category. And, without all question, Christ's work of making propitiation for sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and of so fulfilling the Divine law as to be our righteousness before God, is one which is, and must be to all eternity, absolutely unique. The
* St. Matthew v. 48.