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leviated by no mixture of comfort. Nothing is more frequent in the sacred books, than for times of sorrow to be styled “ days of darkness and gloominess," “ days “ of clouds and of thick darkness."i This miraculous darkness, therefore, penetrated not only into the eyes, but also into the mind of Christ; and he found himself no less deserted by God, the fountain of light and joy, than the earth was deprived of the light of the sun.28
XL. Let us now inquire, what ADVANTAGE the consideration of these agonies can afford us.
And doubtless it tends to shake off the torpors of carnal security. Nowhere are the malignity of sin, and the severity of God's wrath against it, more clearly discerned, than in our Lord's descent into hell. Go, sinner, to mount Olivet; behold Christ rolling in the dust; see that brave and magnanimous Prince stretched on the ground, that generous Lion of the tribe of Judah prostrate on the earth; hear him, who is the only Consolation of wounded spirits, and even the God of our exceeding joy, complaining bitterly of sorrow surrounding him on every side; see the drops of blood with which, owing to the incredible anguish of his soul, his sacred body is stained; hear the supplications offered up with strong crying and tears to his now inexorable Father. Ask the Saviour, what was the real cause of anguish so immense, when hitherto no hostile bands, no chains, no scourge, no accusers, no judge, no cross, were present, when, on the contrary, he was in a pleasant garden, and at no great distance from his faithful disciples. And you will learn, that those very sins, which you have
h Mat. xxi. 13.
Joel ii. 2. See Is. v. 30. xiii. 10, 11. Jer. xv. 9. and many other passages.
2* See Note XXVIII.
hitherto regarded so lightly, were the causes of his unparalleled sorrows. Those very sins, now laid on Christ, afflicted and weighed him down, and failed only to overwhelm him utterly. And can any one presume, that either no atonement for sin is necessary, or that a very slight atonement, or satisfaction, is sufficient? You could not, O man,-most certainly you could not make satisfaction to God, although you should “come before “ him with burnt-offerings, or with calves of a year old, " or with thousands of rams, or with ten thousands of “ rivers of oil;” no, if you should even "give your first“ born for your transgression, and the fruit of your “ body for the sin of your soul.”j Behold, behold, I beseech you,—behold again and again, the inconceivable bitterness of those sufferings which Christ endured, when he bore the transgressions of the elect, in order to expiate their guilt.
Xll. But who art thou, O thou most infatuated of the sons of men, who, although an entire stranger to fellowship with Christ, yet, wretchedly secure, dost daily abandon thyself to mirth, indulge thy natural inclination, accustom thy body to effeminacy, and withhold thyself from no forbidden pleasure? Since you now hear the doleful lamentations of Christ, it is for you also to “weep and howl for your miseries « that shall come upon you.”k Say henceforth of
laughter, it is mad, and of mirth, what doth it?”l__ knowing that “ even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, " and the end of that mirth is heaviness.”m Why do you delight in bowls overflowing with wine, whilst the cup of God's fury awaiteth thee; “ the wine of which
» Mic. vi. 6, 7.
k James v. 1.
" is red, and full of mixture; out of which he poureth; " and the dregs whereof, all the wicked of the earth " shall wring out and drink ?”n Know that the Lord shall rain down upon thee “snares, fire, and brimstone; " and that an horrible tempest shall be the portion of
thy cup." Why do you encourage yourself in your transgressions, and employ the most frivolous apologies to silence the remonstrances of conscience? Why make every possible effort to dismiss from your mind all thoughts of hell, to which your vices are fast precipitating you, and flatter yourself with vain hopes of heaven? The more arrogantly you boast that you shall ascend into heaven, the more terribly will God reply: “ Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides " of the pit : thy pomp is brought down to the grave, "and the noise of thy viols: the worm is spread under “ thee, and the worms cover thee.”p Why do you presume on God's hearing your prayers, when perhaps you may be disposed and have leisure to address your supplications to his throne from the bed of affliction ? Instructed by the example of Christ, I can now with certainty foretel what answer you are then to receive. I say not the words, but the thunderbolts, of an angry God, will be as follows: “ Because I have called, and ye refused,
... I also will laugh at your calamity; “... Then shall they call upon me, but I will not
answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not " find me.”! And so forsaken by God, harassed by the Devil, tortured by conscience, thou shalt be overtaken by the darkness of despair; then by the darkness of
► Ps. lxxv. 8.
p Is. xiv. 15, 11. VOL. II.
o Ps. xi. 6.
death, and, in fine, by the extreme and everlasting darkness of hell. Othat these considerations, which, by no fallacious reasoning, are inferred from the horrors undergone by the suffering Redeemer, may make a strong impression on the minds of those that are living in carnal security, lest the season of grace
and the day of their visitation and salvation expire, whilst their attention is engrossed by other concerns !
XLII. But to those who are in Christ, his agonies supply abundant matter of consolation. Ist, He underwent the pains of hell in their room, that they might not have to undergo them. He entered “ the palace “ of the strong man armed,” namely, the Devil: but being “ stronger than he, he took from him all his ar“ mour wherein he trusted, and divided his spoils.". O the incredible compassion of our Lord! Othe bowels of his love! He plunged himself into a deep abyss of infernal pains, that through the blood of the everlasting covenant, we, “the prisoners, might be sent “ forth out of the pit wherein is no water,”—not the smallest refreshing drop. We have now no cause to tremble at the assaults of the Devil; for whilst he bruised Christ's heel, Christ bruised his head.
XLIII. 2dly, He has obtained for them the heavenly glory. He shed a bloody sweat for us, that in the cold sweat of death we might have access with boldness unto God. He drank the dregs of Divine wrath out of the cup of suffering, that an overflowing cup of Divine grace might be administered to us ;" and that we might be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of his house, and drink of the river of his pleasures." He began to r Luke xi. 21, 22.
s Zech. ix. 11. • Gen. iii. 15.
u Ps. xxiii. 5. Ps. xxxvi. 8.
fear and tremble, that we might stand undismayed before the tribunal of God. He fell on his face for our sins, that we might lift up our heads. He offered up his supplications, so to speak, to an inexorable Deity, that we might always be heard in those prayers which we present in his name. He was forsaken by God, that we might never be forsaken. In fine, because he descended into hell, the principal gate of heaven stands wide open to us; and the lower his descent, the higher, in consequence, is the glory which he has merited for
XLIV. 3dly, He has secured comfort for his people even amidst the sorrows of a wounded spirit. It cannot be denied that the godly themselves have sometimes their hour of darkness, in which they are harassed by the Devil, tormented with fears of hell, and apt to complain that they are forsaken by God. Yet even then they may derive consolation from the agonies of Christ; for, 1. Nothing befals them which has not befallen their Lord before; to whose image it is fit they should be conformed in sufferings, that they may be conformed to him also in glory. What can be more unbecoming than to refuse to drink of the
of which the Saviour hath drunk before us ? 2. By the sorrows of Christ, the sting of the curse is entirely taken away from their sorrows. God does not expose them to such distresses, as an angry Judge, but as a kind and judicious Father, for the exercise of their faith, patience, hope, and charity; " that their holy desires may be “ strengthened, their devout affections tried, and their “ labour of love exercised."* “ He doth not desert the
* Bernardus in Cant. Ser. 75. w Rom. viii. 33, 34.
* Luke xxi. 28. vi John v. 14.
1 Is. xlix. 15.