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set up a very extensive empire of a worldly nature, and fixed it upon foundations that should be durable. But that was not the design of his coming; which was, that he might set up a kingdom in the minds of men, and subdue them to willing obedience to the laws of right reason, and the will of God, that they might be partakers of future endless happiness, and that they might be strengthened against all the temptations of their present condition.
When therefore we consider at any time, how just sentiments we have of God, and of the way of serving him, how high ideas we have of a life to come, and what expectations we have of such a happiness; provided we can also discern in ourselves any dispositions of true holiness, and some preparedness for a better life; let us give a tribute of praise and honour to the Lord Jesus for such advantages, and love him who has loved us, and given himself for us. And let us be careful not to do any thing unbecoming the character which we sustain, of being his disciples. That would be a very ungrateful and disagreeable return for his pure and disinterested love, who expects nothing more of us than that we should honour biin by a right temper and conduct.
3. The particular of the text may induce us sometimes to survey with care and attention the circumstances of our Lord's last sufferings. We should then, very likely, observe divers things deserving admiration, and very proper for our establishment and comfort.
4. We cannot omit to observe at this time the composure of our Lord's mind, and the greatness of his behaviour in the most trying circumstances.
" Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith ; I thirst.” Só writes St. John, who was at the foot of the cross, and was persuaded, that in what the Lord then said, he had a regard to the ancient prophecies concerning the Messiah. Which shows great composure of mind under the most painful sufferings.
We also perceive the greatness of his behaviour. When the
spunge dipped in vinegar was put to his mouth, he does not make any complaints, nor exclaim against so disagreeable treatment, nor bemoan his sad condition. Nor does the Evangelist enlarge upon it, having for wise reasons prescribed to himself great conciseness. Nevertheless these things may be well observed by us. The doing so, will help us to form a more just idea of the great example of resignation and patience, which our Lord has given.
5. Finally, we should, in imitation of Jesus, be willing
to endure all things for the truth's sake, and for the good of our fellow-creatures, and fellow-cbristians.
I am sensible, that the actions and sufferings of Jesus Christ are sometimes misunderstood and misapplied. Some in the church of Rome especially, have weakly imitated this part of our Lord's sufferings. And because he said, - | thirst,” that they might resemble him therein, they have practised abstinence, until they have been incapable of admitting any liquid. To such it might be justly said: “ Who has required this at your hands ?" Isa. i. 12. This is not a service acceptable to God, who does not delight in the pain and distress of any of his creatures. Nor did Jesus seek these sufferings; though he meekly acquiesced in them.
Christ indeed has required his followers to “ love one another, as he has loved them.” Which is a very comprehensive command. And implies, that they should be willing to hazard, or even lay down their lives for one another, and for the general good, if there should be occasion. But not otherwise. For he recommended to his disciples discretion, (which he often practised himself, as well as innocence. And directed them to decline dangers, as far as they honourably could, and when persecuted in one city, to flee into another.
But though some have practised a vain imitation of Christ, his conduct is really exemplary and encouraging. We should resemble him in zeal for God, a love of truth, and of one another. Resolution and steadiness in such interests are very honourable and commendable. And if at any time, in the course of Divine Providence, we are made like unto Jesus in afflictions and sufferings, and are meek and composed, and courageous under them as he was, we shall also be like him in glory and happiness hereafter.
THE GREATNESS OF JESUS IN HIS LAST SUFFERINGS.
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said: It
is finished. And he bowed his head and gave up the
ghost. John xix. 30. ST. Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians, speaks of the offence which some took at the sufferings of Christ. The Jews required a sign, and the Greeks sought after wisdom; insomuch that the preaching of Christ crucified was “ to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness.”. Nevertheless to many,“ both Jews and Greeks, Cbrist was the power of God, and the wisdom of God,” 1 Cor. i. 18–24. For which reason, and because he had bimself in particular experienced the benefit of that doctrine, he determined when at Corinth, one of the politest cities of Greece, then esteemed the most polite and learned part of the world, “ not to know, (or make manifest,] any ibing save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”
The disciples of Jesus, who had so much reason, from the excellence of his words, and the wonders and condescensions of his life, to love and respect bim, were offended in him, forsook him, and fled, when he entered into the thick cloud of affliction. But their eyes were afterwards enlightened, their understandings opened, and their hearts enlarged. And they were able and willing to recommend to all a faith in Christ curcified and risen as perfectly reasonable, and highly beneficial and advantageous.
But it is not now my intention to insist on all the ends and uses of the death of Christ, nor on all the reasons for permitting it. It is chiefly in one particular light, that I would at present consider the sufferings of the Lord Jesus ; to show, in some measure, his greatness under them; how he maintained his dignity throughout this bour of affliction, and strange scene of abasement ; and the fitness and propriety of all bis words and actions, from his yielding up bimself into the hands of his enemies to his expiring on the cross; how he joined majesty with meekness, and under the most injurious and provoking treatment, manifested great presence of thought, and perfect composure of mind.
For this end, I shall take notice of the main parts of the
whole history of the last sufferings of Jesus, as recorded by the Evangelists. The discourse shall be divided into two sections. The first containing the particulars of our Lord's apprehension and prosecution, to the time of his condemnation by Pilate; the second, containing the several things following, till he expired on the cross.
Sect. I. 1. And in the first place, there is a circumstance fit to be observed by us, which greatly exalts the fortitude of Jesus; that he knew beforehand the death he was to endure, and all the painful concomitants of it, and yet he resigns himself to it, and prepares himself for it with cheerfulness.
This composure of mind at his entering into the amazing scene of his sorrows, and his fore-knowledge of them, arpear in those words spoken to the disciples, in his retirement, after the conclusion of the prayers, which he had there
“ Then cometh he to the disciples, and saith unto them: Sleep on now, and take your rest. Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise, let us be going. Behold, he is at hand that does betray me,” Matt. xxvi. 45, 46.
We may be persuaded, from the intimations which our Lord had given to many and upon divers occasions, in the course of his ministry, that he beforehand knew the painful and ignominious death which he was to undergo. Here, in these words, just read from St. Matthew, the like to which are in St. Mark's gospel, we perceive his distinct foresight of the beginning of his last sorrows, and at the same time how composed he was, Mark xiv. 41, 42.
The Evangelists usually content themselves with barely relating things as they happened, without any hint of special observation to engage the attention of readers; nevertheless St. John has thought fit just to take notice of this foreknowledge of Christ. " Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come unto him, went forth, and said unto them: Whom seek ye?" John xviii. 4.
Our blessed Lord's distinct foresight of all the affecting sufferings which he was to endure, greatly illustrates the resolution and fortitude of his mind, and his affectionate concern for sinful men, in resigning himself to them with such readiness as he did ; which appears in the words just read, and in other particulars to be farther taken notice of.
2. Our Lord's great mind appears in the manner in which he received Judas who came to betray him, and the officers who were sent to apprehend him.
“ Judas, one of the twelve," as the Evangelist relates, caine, and with him a great multitude, with swords and
staves, from the chief priests and elders,” Matt. xxvi. 47. “ And forthwith he came to Jesus, and said, Hail, Master; and kissed him," ver. 49. He comes, with the usual tokens of respect, after some time of absence. Thus be addresseth himself to Christ, when this very salutation had been agreed upon, as a mark, denoting him whom the officers were to seize and lay hold of. Whereupon Jesus said unto him: “ Friend, wherefore art thou come?” ver. 50. So in Mat. thew. But in another gospel : “ Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss !” Luke xxii. 48.
This was the beginning of these sorrows, and it was a very affecting case. To be betrayed by a disciple, in the eye of the world would appear a prejudice to our Saviour's reputation, and an argument of some misconduct, or of some bad designs; that one of his disciples and intimate friends delivered hiin to his enemies. This was an affecting thing. It must be so to any man, who is virtuous and innocent, and has a sense of honour. In ordinary minds, even where there is true goodness, it would have had one or other of these effects; to sink the spirits in a great degree; or else provoke to ungovernable resentment and indignation, breaking out into passionate expressions; but the greatness of Jesus is conspicuous. He saw the falsehood of Judas, under the fair appearance of respect and affection. Yet he returns him a familiar salutation, and calls him friend. But at the same time he intimates his discernment of his treacherous purpose, and gives a piercing reproof of his baseness : “ Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss !"
Then turning himself to the officers who came with Judas, he says, " Whom seek ye? They answered him; Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he- As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward,” or drew back," and fell to the ground. Then asked he them again ; Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, 'I have told you, that I am he,” John xviii. 4-8.
Here, as every where, all along, we see proofs of great presence of mind and composure of thought. Jesus had retired into a private place; but it was not with a view of hiding himself from his enemies. He was innocent, and knew himself to be so, and shows his conscious integrity, by declaring himself to be the person whom they sought'; which acknowledgment was delivered with such majesty, or accompanied with such power, that they fell to the ground as if struck with lightning. Then a second time he asks, " whom they sought,” and told them again, he was the per