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This course of thinking and acting, cannot but be of advantage, and conduce to the happiness described under the foregoing particular.
IV. I am now to add some remarks and observations. They will be such as these.
1. The temper of mind, spoken of in this maxim of Solomon, and styled "fearing always," is frequently recommended to christians in the New Testament.
Our Lord cherished it in his own disciples by exhortations and arguments. They were not so perfect after he had been long with them, but he set before them the duty of watching. It is one of those things which he inculcated upon them a little before he took his leave of them. "And what I say unto you, I say unto all: Watch," Mark xiii. 37. And Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak," Matt. xxvi. 41. They had been too positive and presuming. He assures them that they had better be, with regard to themselves, more diffident and distrustful; that they might be more upon their guard, and more constant and earnest in prayer to God for his protection and help.
This fear of offending, this distrust of ourselves, this apprehensiveness of the power of temptations, is implied in that petition of the prayer which Christ taught his disciples: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Brethren," says St. Paul to the Galatians, " if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted," Gal. vi. 1; that is, mindful of thy own weakness, and that it is not impossible, but thou also mayst at some time, and some way or other, be tempted with effect, so as to fall.
Among divers considerations, which the apostle Paul mentions to dissuade the Corinthians from too great intimacy with the idolatrous heathens, he inserts this also: "Wherefore let him that think he stands, take heed, lest he fall," 1 Cor. x. 12.
And with great affection and earnestness he says to the Philipians: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling," Philip. ii. 12.
St. Peter exhorts those to whom he writes, " to pass the "to time of their sojourning here in fear." Again, "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring
lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,” 1 Pet. i. 17; ch. v. 8.
And the apostle to the Hebrews: "Take heed, my brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin," Heb. iii. 12, 13.
2. We may observe in the Old and New Testament divers instances of this temper of fearing always, in the sense of a religious fear, as we have explained it; a fear of offending, through the power of external temptations, and the weakness and inconstancy of our minds.
Possibly somewhat of this temper is implied in that expression of Job," "All the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change be," Job xiv. 14.
For this reason it is, that good men in the Old Testament sometimes speak of their guarding the senses, the inlets of external temptations, or occasions of sin. Job says, "he had made a covenant with his eyes," xxxi. 1. And the Psalmist: "I am purposed, that my mouth shall not transgress," Ps. xvii. 3.
Joseph, as is well known, feared to trust too much to his own resolution; and therefore shunned the company of the seducer.
This fear is the ground and principle of divers prayers of pious men; as Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins. Let them not have dominion over me. So shall I be free from every great transgression," Ps. xix. 13. Again, "Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not unto covetousness. Turn away my eyes from beholding vanity. And quicken me in thy way," Ps. cxix. 36, 37. And," Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips. Incline not my heart unto any evil thing," Ps. cxli. 2, 4; that is, let not my heart incline to any evil thing; let me not be prevailed upon by any temptations, to do that which is evil.
To this purpose is that request of Agur: "Two things have I desired of thee. Deny me them not, before I die. Remove far from me vanity and lies. Give me neither poverty nor riches. Feed me with food convenient for me. Lest I be full, and deny thee, and say: Who is the Lord? and lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of the Lord my God in vain," Prov. xxx. 7-9.
This good man feared always. He was apprehensive, that he had not sufficient resolution and virtue to behave
well either in great prosperity, or in extreme want and poverty.
And the condition he chooses, as most desirable, is that in which he thinks his virtue would be exposed to the smallest or the fewest hazards.
St. Paul, who recommended to others fear and caution, is an example of it himself. He even says: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached the gospel to others, I myself should be a cast-away," 1 Cor. ix. 27.
Nor can it be doubted, but St. Peter likewise observed the rules he gave. It evidently appears in the temper of his epistles.
Yea, our Lord himself is, in some measure, an example here. For he was tried as we are. Indeed he resisted, and overcame always. But though he was completely innocent, he saw the force of worldly temptations, and provided for them.
Before he entered upon his important and difficult ministry, he was led of the spirit into the wilderness, and was tempted divers ways. And by meditations, in that solitude, upon the vanity and emptiness of this world, and all its glory, and by considering the greater glory set before him, he was prepared for the trials of a more public life. And as his last and great temptation drew near, we discern him to be mindful of it. Says he to the disciples: "The prince of this world cometh; but hath nothing in me," John xiv. 30. And he retired into a private place. And likewise charged three of his disciples to watch, whilst he went and prayed at a small distance from them.
3. Upon the whole therefore we need not be shy of admitting, and cherishing this temper, of fearing always, or a perpetual distrust of ourselves, during this state of trial.
This fear or diffidence has in it some uneasiness; but it will lay a foundation for great advantages.
It is better to fear offending, than to sorrow for having offended.
The care of caution is not so troublesome, as the bitterness of late repentance.
Though he who fears always should at first be esteemed neither the greatest nor the happiest of men, in the end he may be both. For" pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," Prov. xvi. 18. Again, "Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility," chap. xvii. 12.
It is good counsel, more especially fit to be given to
some: "Let not him that putteth on the harness boast himself, as he that putteth it off," 1 Kings xx. 11.
In this respect, as well as some others, the day of a man's death is better than the day of his birth, Ecc. vii. 1. It is a happy thing to pass with safety through the temptations of this world. At setting out the trial is doubtful and hazardous. But if a man be faithful, and keep the way of the Lord to the end, the reward is sure, and no temptations shall any more annoy or terrify.
To a good man therefore it must be desirable, after difficult services, and a life of caution and circumspection, to be able to say, when the will of the Lord is; It is finished. There is now an end to the labours, the afflictions, the sorrows, the temptations of this life. But there remains a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to all those who have fought a good fight, and kept the faith; who, in all the difficult services and bazardous seasons of this life, have been encouraged by the hope of his appearing to reward the well-doer.
And since God knows all our frame, it must be our wisdom to refer ourselves to him, as to all things concerning us in this world, desirous that all things may work together for our good; and that nothing may be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus; and hoping, that neither the good nor the evil things of this life shall destroy the principle of virtue begun in us; but rather refine, improve, and strengthen it, until it be perfected in glory.
OUR SAVIOUR'S THIRST UPON THE CROSS CONSIDERED AND IMPROVED.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar. And they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. John xix. 28, 29.
ST. PAUL in the epistle to the Ephesians, ch. iii. 18, speaks of the unmeasurable extent of the love of Christ. Which
yet it is very desirable, and will be very profitable for us to understand. And though we are not able to comprehend it, it will be of advantage to think rightly and justly of it, and not to conceive of his sufferings, that great proof of his love, as designed to supply the want of righteousness in us, but to be a powerful argument and incentive to real, eminent, and persevering righteousness and holiness.
All the ends and uses of Christ's sufferings show his love in submitting to the pain and shame of the cross. And the greatness and variety of those sufferings are an affecting thought and consideration.
The words of the text are near the conclusion of the history of our Lord's last sufferings. And in explaining and improving them, I am led to speak to these several particulars.
I. I would show the nature and the causes of our Lord's thirst upon the cross, which he declared aloud.
II. The treatment which he thereupon met with: "They filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it to his mouth."
III. The meaning of that expression in this place: "That the scripture might be fulfilled.
IV. After which I shall mention some suitable remarks. I. I shall endeavour to show the nature and the causes of our Lord's thirst upon the cross, which he declared aloud. Doubtless it was real and vehement, and owing to what he had endured both in body and mind. The Lord Jesus had not, that we any where read, any sickness. And it is reasonable to suppose, that he never had any. For death, and consequently sickness, and diseases, the forerunners and ordinary occasions of death, are the fruit of sin; from which Jesus was quite free. St. Paul speaks of God's "sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh," Rom. viii. 3. He had true and real flesh. For he was born of a woman. But it was not " sinful flesh." It was only "the likeness of sinful flesh." For he was not conceived in the ordinary way, but by the Holy Ghost, or the immediate interposition of God. And he in all things did the will of the Father, and ever pleased him that sent him.
But though Jesus was liable to no disease, or sickness, he had the innocent infirmities of the human nature. He was "wearied" with journeying, and had hunger and thirst, John iv. 6. He needed the refreshments of meat, and drink, and sleep; as we plainly perceive from his history in the gospels. He was also grieved, and offended, and angry, though without sin or excess, at the miseries, the faults, and the follies of men, especially such as were very great and