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den sets before our Eyes? Those Tortures of Body, and that exceeding Sorrow and Heaviness of Soul, even unto death? Those Agonies and earnest Prayers, which extorted even Sweats of Blood, and a moit vehement Importunity, that the Bitterness of that Cup, he was then about to drink, might, if possible, pass from him ; These are all Indications of Anguish and Grief of Heart, greater than can be expressed, on this occasion.
By all these Pangs our Lord hath convinced us, at how dear a Price he thought our Souls worth Purchasing, and what Obligations to Love and Gratitude lie upon Them, for whom he endured so much. By these he shews, how highly displeasing to God Sin is; and what Horror and Dread they are to look for, whose Personal Guilt and Obstinacy render them Objects of Divine Wrath and Vengeance; since so heavy a Load of Sufferings was laid on the Son of his Love, as almost quite weighed down a Person perfectly Innocent, when he submitted to bear the Sins of Others. So heavy, that even He, who declares the design of his coming into the World to have been, that he might Suffer, and drink that bitter Cup; did yet, upon the approach and taste of it, desire, if it might be, a Releafe from it. In which Desire because there are some Difficulties, we shall do well to consider the probable Reasons of that Request, and to observe the Manner and Tem
per of it.
Now it is not by any means to be imagined, that th's Request proceeded, from Ignorance of his Father's Purpose, in relation to this Affair of Man's Redemption: Or from want of that Constancy and Resolution, which became the Generous Undertaker of it: Or from any abatement of his Love toward the miserable Wretches, for whom he undertook it: Or from Rashness or Inadvertency in that trying Hour: Least of all could it proceed from any Apprehension of his Father's Anger at his Person; For he was then engaged in an Act, the
ther is it any just Reflection upon the Second Adam, that He too was subject to the like Fears and Aversions. For God does not expect from any Man, that he should have no Unwillingness at all to suffer, when called to it; but, that he should conquer that Unwillingness, rest in those Appointments, and make God's Choice his own. The more any of us renounce out Own Will, upon such trying Occasions; the greater is our Virtue, in complying with the Divine Will. And therefore our Lord's Desires to be excused were no Disparagement, either of his Obedience to God, or of his Love to Men. They were, in truth, a higher Commendation of Both. Since, notwithstanding fo tender a Sense of what he was about to undergo, he gave himself up to Sufferings, so harsh to Human Nature in general, so exceeding bitter to Him in particular. Therefore, the more passionate his Wishes were for a Release, the more meritorious was his Submiflion.
Now that Submission is fully express’d in the Form of Words, by which he addressed to his Heavenly Father. Begging, that if it were possible, (that is, if God saw fit, and found any other Method of accomplishing the great Work of Man's Salvation equally wife and proper,) he might be spared those Agonies and Tortures, which were rushing upon him like a mighty Torrent, and had already begun to aflict his Soul with Grief inexpressible. But, at the same time, if the Divine Wirdom continued to require these, settling himself to endure them, with an immovable Constancy of Mind. Nevertheless, not my Will, but Thine be done. The Former part of this Petition is the Voice of Human Nature, according to that Principle of Sense, which God, who implanted it in every Man, cannot disapprove, when duly regulated. The Latter is the Voice of the fame Human Nature, according to that Principle of Reason and Duty, which sets bounds to our Desires, checks and controuls our Passions and Inclinations, and
represents it, as a becoming and necessary Act of Obedience, to resign our selves, and all our Affairs, to God's better Choice ; nay even to prefer his Disposals of Them and Us, before any Desires or Inclinations of our own, in Opposition to them. And This is all the Perfection that Human Nature is capable of; All, that God expects under any sort of Difficulties and Trials; To preserve such a Temper of Soul, as, that our Sense shall be always in Subjection to our Reason; and both Sense and Reason ready to comply with the Appointments of his good Providence, and the Tenor of his Commands. He, who was Innocence it self, did, and We, without any Reflection upon our Virtue, may fear, and feel, and complain of, and pray against, and wish to be delivered from, Amictions, and Shame, and bodily Sufferings. For Religion does not intend to extinguish our natural Appetites, and make us cease to be Men. But then we must always remember to do thus, with that Limitation and Reserve, of which our Blessed Mafter here left us a Patterns because Religion’s Business is to reduce our natural Appetites to a due Subordination, and by containing them within proper Measures of Obedience, to Him who gave them us, to make and keep us good Men.
Let us once more observe the Success of this Prayer. Now That was seen, not in removing the Sufferings our Saviour deprecated; but in the A Miftance of an Angel to strengthen him under them. And We, from hence, must learn to acknowledge the Wisdom and Goodness of God in all our Afflictions. We may not suppose, that he hath put off the Bowels of a Father, when he exercises our Patience, with Calamities grievous to be born. We should not presently give up those Petitions, for lost and rejected, which are not granted in the Manner we desire. But we must think our felves kindly dealt with, and our Prayers answered to very good Purpose, when he supports our Spirits under those Difficulties, which Fleih
and Blood are too feeble to encounter ; and conclude, that even Events most unacceptable will, if the Failing be not in our selves, turn at last to better account, than those more pleasing, but less profitable, which, if left to our own disposal, would have been our Portion. In short, we never determine so wisely, as when we leave all entirely to God's Choice, and our last and governing Desire, is, that not Ours, but our Father's Will may be done.
Thus much may suffice, to give us a probable Account of our Blessed Saviour's Agonies and Sorrows upon this Occasion, and of the Uses proper to be made of them. Those Sorrows, it seems reasonable to conceive, might be highly aggravated, by the clear Knowledge of the Horrors and Wrath, whereunto all, to whom these Sufferings prove fruitless, are appointed: And from a Foresight withal, how vast the Numbers of such will be, notwithstanding the Misery he took upon himself, to prevent, if it had been possible, their eternal Destruction. The afflicting Pain of both which Reflections we can no more apprehend, than we can the infinite Tenderness and Compassion of Him, who may be presumed to have felt it, in proportion to his own Love, for the Souls he died to Redeem.
If we now, in the Next place, observe the Blessed Jesus, Apprehended by the Officers who came to take him, Receiving that treacherous Kiss of an abandoned Disciple, usually a Token of Friendship, but now a Signal to the Malice of his Enemies; Dragged by unhallowed Hands to the Palace of the High-Priest; There Blind-folded, and Buffeted, Mock'd and Spit upon : This sets before us, On the one hand, Such barbarous and insulting Cruelty, as must needs raise our Indignation: On the Other, Such invincible Meekness and Constancy of Mind, as infinitely surpass any Instance in Story, and justly excite our Wonder, as well as furnish Matter for our Use and Imitation. For, The more we refect upon our Selves, and the
Resentments commonly provoked in us, by Injuries and Indignities; the more cause we shall see, to admire that Silence of our Great Master, which so high Affronts, so licentious Revilings, so false Accusations, had not the power to break; much less to extort the least Angry Return from. A Silence, at which his
Adverfaries stood astonished: Especially when sensible, how very Weak the Charge against him was; and what Advantage he might easily have taken, to expose and confound the Wickedness and Malice, of those Suborned Wretches, who had the Hardiness to bring it.
A severe Reproof This Silence is indeed of that Heat, and Clamour, and outrageous Bitterness, which too often do, upon much less trying occasions, transport Them, who call, and profess to make, this Jesus their Pattern: and yet even value themselves, upon paying back Calumnies and Wrongs, Insolencies and spightful Treatment, in the self-fame kind. An excellent Instruction too, what Deportnient is proper for the Injured and Oppressed, when conscious of their own Innocence; and committing themselves, and the Righteousness of their Cause, to the Protection of a Just God. And, upon both accounts, of exceeding use to be frequently meditated upon, that We may, by the help of this Example, be able to master those Passions, which so few People feel themselves in a condition to deal with ; and to preserve strict Decency and Temper, when attack'd by Provocations, which touch us even in the inost sensible Part.
But still, this resolute Silence notwithstanding, The fame Jesus, both before the High Priest, and afterwards before Pilate, hath demonstrated the force of that Courage, which Truth and Innocence inspire. For there he laid aside all Reserve, when questioned concerning his own Character; And in express words bore a Testimony, which, it was d sign’d, should, and he plainly forefaw, would, draw Condemnation of Death