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Him ? As that good Duke said, when they would have crowned him King of Jerusalem, No, said he, by no means, I will not wear a crown of gold where Jesus was crowned with thorns.
2. His spotlessness and patience in suffering, are both of them set here before us; the one ver. 22, the other ver. 23.
Whosoever thou art who makest such a noise about the injustice of what thou sufferest, and thinkest to justify thy impatience by thine innocence, let me ask thee, Art thou more just and innocent than He who is here set before thee? Or, art thou able to come near Him in this point? Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. This is to signify perfect holiness, according to that declaration, James iii. 2. If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man. Man is a little world, a world of wickedness; and that little part of him, the tongue, is termed by St. James a world of iniquity. But all Christ's words, as well as His actions, and all His thoughts, flowed from a pure spring that had not any thing defiled in it; and therefore no temptation, either from men or Satan, could seize on Him. Other men may seem clear as long as they are unstirred, but move and trouble them, and the mud arises; but
; He was nothing but holiness, a pure fountain, all purity to the bottom; and therefore stir and trouble Him as they would, He was still alike clear. The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. John xiv. 39.
This is the main ground of our confidence in Him, that He is a holy, harmless, undefiled High-Priest : and such a one became us, says the Apostle, who are so sinful. Heb. vii. 26.
. The more sinful we are, the more need that our High-Priest should be sinless; and being so, we may build upon His perfection, as standing in our stead, yea, we are invested with Him and His righteousness.
Again, there was no guile found in His mouth. This serves to convince us concerning all the promises that He hath made, that they are nothing but truth. Hath he said, Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out? John vi. 37. Then you
need not fear, how unworthy and vile soever you may
do but come to Him, and you have His word that He will not shut the door against you. And as He hath' promised access, so he hath further promised ease and souls' rest to those that come, Matt. xi. 30. Then be confident to find that in Him too, for there was never a false or guileful word found in His mouth.
But to consider it only in the present action, this speaks Him the most innocent sufferer that ever was, not only judicially just in His cause, but entirely just in His person, altogether righteous; and yet, condemned to death, and an opprobrious death of malefactors, and set betwixt two, as chief of the three! I am, says he, the rose of Sharon, and the lily of the valley; and the Spouse saith of Him, My well-beloved is white and ruddy, Cant. ii. 1; v. 10: thus indeed, He was in His death, ruddy in his bloodshed, and white in his innocence, and withal in his meekness and patience; the other thing wherein He is here so exemplary.
Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again.] This spotless Lamb of God, was a Lamb both in guiltlessness and silence; and the Prophet Isaiah expresses the resemblance, in that He was brought as a Lamb to the slaughter, Isa. liii. 7. He suffered not only an unjust sentence of death, but withal unjust revilings, the contradictions of sinners. No one ever did so little deserve revilings; no one ever could have said so much in his own just defence, and to the just reproach of his enemies; and yet, in both, He preferred silence. No one could ever threaten so heavy things as He could against his enemies, and have made good all he threatened, and yet, no such thing was heard from Him. The heavens and the earth, as it were, spoke their resentment of His death who made them ; but He was silent; or what He spoke makes this still good, how far he was from revilings and threatenings. As spices pounded, or precious ointment poured out, give their smell most, thus, His name was an ointment then poured forth, together with His blood, (Cant. i. 3.) and, filling heaven and earth with its sweet perfume, was a savour of rest and peace in both, appeasing the wrath of God, and so quieting the consciences of men. And even in this particular was it then most fragrant, in that all the torments of the cross and all the revilings of the multitude, racked him as it were for some answer, yet could draw no other from Him than this, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.
But for those to whom this mercy belonged not, the Apostle tells us what He did ; instead of revilings and threatenings, He committed all to Him who judgeth righteously. And this is the true method of Christian patience, that which quiets the mind, and keeps it from the boiling, tumultuous thoughts of revenge, to turn the whole matter into God's hand, to resign it over to Him, to prosecute when and as He thinks good. Not as the most, who had rather, if they had power, do for them. selves, and be their own avengers ; and because they have not power, do offer up such bitter curses and prayers for revenge unto God, as are most hateful to Him, and are far from this calm and holy way of committing matters to His judgment. The common way of referring things to God, is indeed impious and dishonourable to Him, being really no other than calling Him to be a servant and executioner to our passion. We ordinarily mistake His justice, and judge of it according to our own precipitant and distempered minds. If wicked men be not crossed in their designs, and their wickedness evidently crushed, just when we would have it, we are ready to give up the matter as desperate, or at least to abate of those confident and reverential thoughts of Divine justice which we owe Him. Howsoever things go, this ought to be fixed in our hearts, that He who sitteth in heaven judgeth righteously, and executes that His righteous judgment in the fittest season. worms, whose whole life is but a hand-breath in itself, and is as nothing unto God, think a few months or years a great matter; but to Him who inhabiteth eternity, a thousand years are but as one day, as our Apostle teaches us, in his second Epistle, ch. iii. ver. 8.
Our Saviour in that time of his humiliation and suffering,
committed himself and his cause (for that is best expressed, in that nothing is expressed but He committed) to Him who judgeth righteously, and the issue shall be, that all his enemies shall become his footstool, and He himself shall judge them. But that which is given us here to learn from his carriage toward them in his suffering, is, that quietness and moderation of mind, even under unjust sufferings, make us like Him: not to reply to reproach with reproach, as our custom is, to give one ill word for another, or two for one, to be sure not to be behind. Men take a pride in this, and think it ridiculous simplicity so to suffer, and this makes strifes and contention so much abound; but it is a great mistake. You think it greatness of spirit to bear nothing, to put up with no wrong, whereas indeed it is great weakness and baseness. It is true greatness of spirit, to despise the most of those things which set you usually on fire one against another; especially, being done after a Christian manner, it were a part of the spirit of Christ in you: and is there any spirit greater than that, think you? Oh! that there were less of the spirit of the Dragon, and more of the spirit of the Dove amongst us.
II. Our obligation to follow the example of Christ, besides being enforced by its own excellency, is intimated in these two things contained in the words : 1. The design of His behaviour for this use, to be as an example to us.
2. Our interest in Him, and those His sufferings, wherein He so carried himself.
1. That His behaviour was intended for an example, Leaving us an example, &c. He left His footsteps as a copy, (as the word in the original inoyparapov imports) to be followed by us: every step of His, is a letter of this copy; and particularly in this point of suffering, He wrote us a pure and perfect copy of obedience, in clear and great letters, in His own blood.
His whole life is our rule: not, indeed, His miraculous works, His footsteps walking on the sea, and such like, they are not for our following; but His obedience, holiness, meekness, and humility are our copy, which wé should continually study. The shorter and more effectual way, they say, of teaching, is by example; but above all, this matchless Example is the happiest way of teaching. He that
me, says our Lord, shall not walk in darkness. John viii. 12.
He that aims high, shoots the higher for it, though he shoot not so high as he aims. This is what ennobles the spirit of a Christian, the propounding of this our high pattern, the example of Jesus Christ.
The imitation of men in worthless things, is low and servile; the imitation of their virtues is commendable, but if we aim no higher, it is both imperfect and unsafe. The Apostle St. Paul will have no imitation, but with regard to this Supreme Pattern: Be ye followers of me, as I am of Christ. 1 Cor. xi. 1. One Christian may take the example of Christ as exhibited in many things, in another, but still he must examine all by the original primitive copy, the footsteps of Christ himself, following nothing, but as it is conformable to that, and looking chiefly on Him, both as the most perfect and most effectual example. See Heb. xii. 2. There is a cloud of witnesses and examples, but look above them all, to Him who is as high above them, as the sun is above the clouds. As in the Covenant of Grace the way is better, a living way indeed, so, there is this advantage also, that we are not left to our own skill for following it, but taught by the Spirit. In the delivery of the Law, God shewed His glory and greatness by the manner of giving it, but the Law was written only in dead tables. But Christ, the living law, teaches by obeying it, how to obey it; and this too, is the advantage of the Gospel, that the Law is twice written over unto believers, first, in the example of Christ, and then, inwardly in their hearts by his Spirit. There is, together with that copy of all grace in Him, a spirit derived from Him, enabling believers to follow Him in their measure. They may not only see Him as the only begotten Son of God, full of grace
and truth, as it is, John i. 14, but, as there it follows, they receive of his fulness grace for grace. The love of Christ makes the soul delight to converse with Him; and converse and love together, make it learn His behaviour; as men