« PreviousContinue »
priests, nor the barbarous clamors of the people, nor the contemptuous spitting on him and buffeting him, nor the cruel scourgings, nor the contumelious mockeries, nor all the bloody tortures inflicted on bim, wring from him one syllable importing any dissatisfaction in his case, any wrath conceived for his misusages, any grudge or ill-will in his mind toward his persecutors; but, on the contrary, instead of hatred and revenge,
he declared the greatest kindness and charity toward them, praying heartily to God his Father for the pardon of their sins. Instead of aggravating their crime and injury against him, he did in a sort extenuate and excuse it by consideration of their ignorance and mistake : Lord,' said he, in the height of his sufferings, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' The life they so violently bereaved him of, he did willingly mean to lay down for the ransom of their lives; the blood they spilt, he wished to be a salutary balsam for their wounds and maladies; he most cheerfully did offer himself by their hands a sacrifice for their offences. No small part of his afflictions was a sense of their so grievously displeasing God, and pulling mischief on their own heads, a foresight of his kind intentions being frustrated by their obstinate incredulity and impenitence, a reflexion on that inevitable vengeance, which from the divine justice would attend them; this foreseen did work in him a distasteful sense, (more grievous than what his own pain could produce,) and drew from him tears of compassion, (such as no resentment of his own case could extort;) for, · When he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, O that thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace.
If ever he did express any commotion of mind in reference to this matter, it was only then when one of his friends, out of a blind fondness of affection, did presume to dissuade him from undergoing these evils; then indeed, being somewhat moved with indignation, he said to St. Peter, . Get thee behind me, Satan, for thou art an offence unto me; for thou savorest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.'
Neither was it out of a stupid insensibility or stubborn resolution, that he did thus behave himself; for he had a most vigorous sense of all those grievances, and a strong (natural)
aversation from undergoing them; as those dolorous agonies wherewith he struggled, those deadly groans he uttered, those monstrous lumps of blood he sweat out, those earnest prayers he made to be freed from theni, declare ; but from a perfect submission to the divine will, and intire command over his passions, an excessive charity toward mankind, this patient and meek behaviour did spring : • The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?' •O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt ; let not my will, but thine be done.' *No man taketh away my life, but I lay it down of my own accord; I will give my flesh for the life of the world. So doth our Lord himself express the true grounds of his passion and his patience.
Such is the example of our Lord : the serious consideration whereof how can it otherwise than work patience and meekness in us? If he, that was 'the Lord of glory,' infinitely excellent in dignity and virtue,) did so readily embrace, did so contentedly endure such extremities of penury, hardship, disgrace, and pain, how can we refuse them, or repine at them? Can we pretend to a better lot than he received, or presume that God must deal better with us than he did with his own dearest Son? Can we be displeased at a conformity to our Lord and Master ? Can we, without shame, affect to live more splendidly, or to fare more deliciously than he chose to do? Shall we fret or wail, because our desires are crossed, our projects defeated, our interests anywise prejudiced; whenas his most earnest desires and his most painful endeavors had so little of due and desired success; when he was ever ready, and had so constant occasion to say, ' Let not my will be done ? Can we despise that state of meanness and sorrow which he, from the highest sublimities of glory and beatitude, was pleased to stoop unto? Can we take ourselves for the want of any present conveniences or comforts to be wretched, whenas the fountain of all happiness was destitute of all such things, and scarce did ever taste any worldly pleasure ? Are we fit or 'worthy to be his disciples, if we will not take
his cross and follow him ;' if we will not go to his school, (that school wherein he is said himself to have learnt obedience,) if we will not con that
lesson which he so loudly hath read out, and transcribe that copy which he so fairly hath set before us?
Can we pretend to those great benefits, those high privileges, those rich and excellent rewards, which he hath attained for us, and which he proposeth to us, if we will not go on toward them in that way of patience which he hath trod before us?
Can we also, if we consider him that endureth such contradiction of sinners,' be transported with any wrathful or revengeful passion, on any provocation from our brethren ? Can we hope or wish for better usage from men than our Lord did ever find? Can we be much displeased with any man for thwarting our desires or interests, for dissenting from our conceits, for crossing our humors, whenas he, to whom all respect and observance was due, did meet with so little regard or compliance in any way; continually did encounter repulses, disappointments, oppositions from the perverse and spiteful world ? Can we be very jealous of our credit, or furious when our imaginary honor (honor that we never really deserved or can justly claim, being guilty of so many great faults and sins) is touched with the least disgraceful reflexion, if we do well observe and mind, that the most truly, and indeed only honorable personage (only honorable, because only innocent person) that ever was, had his reputation aspersed by the most odious reproaches which deepest envy and malice could devise, without any grievous resentment, or being solicitous otherwise to assert or clear it than by a constant silence ? Can we be exasperated by every petty affront, (real or supposed,) when the most noble, most courteous, most obliging person that ever breathed on earth, was treacherously exposed to violence by his own servant, shamefully deserted by his own most beloved friends, despitefully treated by those whom he never had offended, by those on whom he had heaped the greatest benefits, without expressing any anger or displeasure against them, but yielding many signal testimonies of tenderest pity and love toward them ? Can we see our Lord treated like a slave and a thief, without any disturbance or commotion of heart; and we vile wretches, on every slight occasion, swell with fierce disdain, pour forth reproachful language, execute horrible mischief on our brethren ? He indeed was surrounded with injuries and affronts; every
sin, that since the foundation of things hath been committed, was an offence against him and a burden on him ; ( God laid on him the iniquities of us all;') so many declared enemies, so many rebels, so many persecutors, so many murderers he had as there have lived men in the world; for every sinner did in truth conspire to his affliction and destruction ; we all in effect did betray him, did accuse him, did mock, did scourge, did pierce, and crucify him; yet he forgave all offences, he died for all persons ; 'while we were yet enemies, yet sinners, he died for us, to rescue us from death and misery: and shall we not then, in imitation of him, for his dear sake, in gratitude, respect, and obedience to him, be ready to bear the infirmities of our brethren, to forgive any small wrongs or offences from them; whatever they do to us, to love them, and do them what good we can? If so admirable a pattern of patience and meekness so inmense cannot, what is there that can oblige or move us? I conclude with those doxologies to our so patient and meek Redeemer : Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power,
and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing. Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb for ever and ever.'
• Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.'
SUMMARY OF SERMON XLIII.
I THESSALONIANS, CHAP. V.-VERSE 16.
Most acceptable rules prescribed by the Apostle ; and most gracious law imposed on us by God! one which it might be supposed none would be inclined to disobey: yet alas ! if we consult experience, we shall find this precept very ill observed.
It is true men, after a composed manner, are very eager in the quest, and earnest in the pursuit of joy; that is, of sensual enjoyments, temporal possessions, amusements of the fancy, and gratification of the appetites, &c.; but all much in vain, or without any considerable success, finding instead of it some faint shadows, or transitory flashes of pleasure, which soon flag and expire, so that we could not, even if we would, enjoy the delights which men usually affect. Wherefore there is good ground, that we should be put to seek for a joy true and substantial.
It is a scandalous misprision concerning religion, that it is sullen, sour, and morose, barring all desire of mirth and good humor; whereas it alone is the never-failing source of pure and steady joy, such as is rooted in the heart and founded in the reason of things; and in our text and others parallel to it, we see that it not only allows, but recommends and obliges us to be joyful, affording us also power to effect what it requires.
Such indeed is the transcendent goodness of God, that he makes our delight to be our duty, and our sorrow to be our sin, adapting his holy will to our principal instincts ; &c.