« PreviousContinue »
on, and an Error, that draws a world of ill Consequences after it. For even those Prayers, if we hold fast any darling Luft, are an Abomination; an Hypocrity, that mocks God, and deludes ones own Soul. And I wish all People could be made duly sensible, that although a Week's Preparation, when such extraordinary Addresses are added to a Conscience void of offence toward God and toward Man, may be exceeding well ; yet nothing can be depended upon, but the Communicating frequently and reverently; and living, as if we were every Day to communicate, between one Opportunity and another. To cease to do evil, and learn to do well; To love God, and keep his Commandments; To follow the Works of our Calling with Industry; And to provide for our Families with Honesty; To trust in God's good Providence, and be content with our Condition ; To preserve Unity in the Church, Peace and Order in the State ; To study to be Quiet, to do our own Business, and the Duty of the Capacity and the Relations we stand in; To abhor Uncleanness, and Evil-speaking, and all Uncharitableness; This is true Preparation. And he that thus communicates, tho’ at a Minute's warning, will never be rejected of God, or deserve to be condemned by Men. And therefore Men would do well to consider this; and, how they can answer, either living out of such a State, or neglecting the Sacrament, when they are in it.
St. Luke xxii. s.
ND ebe whole multitude of tbem arose, and led him unto Pilate.
ibe nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæfar, saying, "That be bimself is Cbrift a King:
3. And Pilate asked bim, saying, Art tbou obe King of the Jews? And be anfwered bim, and said, Tbou sayest it.
4. Tben said Pilate 80 obe sbief priests, and to the people, I find no fault in this s. And tbey were the more fierce, saying, Heftirreth up tbe people, teaching ebrough out all Jewry, beginning from Galilee to ibis place.
6. Wben Pilate beard of Galilee, be asked wherber the man were a Galilean. 7. And alsoon as be knew ebat be belonged unto Herod's jurisdition, be sent bim to Herod, wbi bimself was also at Jerusalem at that time.
8. And when Herod saw Fejus, be was exceeding glad, for be was defirous to see bim of a long season; because be bad beard many ibings of bim, and be boped to bave seen some miracle'done by bim.
9. Tben be questioned with bim in many words, but be answered bim norbing.
11. And Herod wirb bis men of war set bim ar nougbt, and mocked him, and are rayed bim in a gorgeous robe, and sent bim again to Pilate.
12. And be fame day Pilate and Herod were made friends together, for before tbey were at enmity between tbemselves.
13. And Pilate, when be bad called toget ber ebe cbief priests, and the rulers, and ibe people,
14. Said unto them, Ye bave brought tbis man unto me, as one that perverteth the people, and bebold, I, baving examined bim before you, bave found no fault in obis man, toucbing rbose tbings wbereof ye accuse bim,
15. No, nor yet Herod : for I sent you to bim, and lo, norbing worthy of death is done unto bim.
16. I will tberefore cbaftise bim, and release bim.
18. And ebey cried out all at once, saying, Away with abis man, and release unto us Barabbas.
19. (Wbo for a certain sedition made in the city, and for mureber, was cast inco prison.)
20. Pilate rberefore willing to release Jesus, spake again to them :
22. And be said unto ebem tbe third time, Why, wbat evil hath be done? I bave found no cause of dearb in bim, I will eberefore cbafti se bim, and let bim go.
23. And they were instant with loud voices, requiring tbat be might be crucified : and the voices of tbem and of tbe chief priests prevailed.
24. And Pilate gave sentence, that it should be as obey required.
25. And be released unto tbem bim tbar for sedition and murther was cast into prison wbom obey bad desired, but be delivered Jesus to obeir will.
26. And astbey led bim away, tbey laid bold upon one Simon a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on bim they laid tbe cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.
27. And ebere followed bim a great company of people, and of women, wbicb alfa bewailed and lamented bim,
highest, as well as the most beneficial, Instance of Charity. Such, as no perverseness of our Enemies can obstruct; but such withal, as cannot come in regularly, till we have brought our felves to those that went before. Because They may be counterfeit and designing, where we transact with Men only ; but in This God is a Party: and Prayer appeals to Him, for the Earnestness of our Wishes, and the Integrity of our Hearts.
2. Secondly, The Greatness of our Saviour's Charity is most conspicuous, from the Time of putting up this Prayer. It was not only for Men, who had persecuted him to the Death, prefaced that Death with all the Calumnies and Reproaches, the utmost Insolence and Indignities, that unrelenting Malice could invent or execute; But it was at the very Instant, when he was expiring under unconceivable Torture and Anguish, and, in the most infamous manner, bleeding out an innocent Soul. It was for merciless Wretches, hardned Murtherers, who were even then insulting over his last Agonies, and triumphing in their own wicked Barbarity. So far above the Power of Shame, and Pain, and Wrong, and still obstinate and exasperating Spight, was the Firmness and Meekness of his Holy Mind. And, What a Pattern have we here, to set before our Eyes? We, who are generally so soon provoked, so violently transported, so implacably incensed, at Injuries or Affronts of no mighty Consequence: So hard to forgive, even when we feel no Smart, even when the Heat is over, and the Damage imaginary only. Oh! How far short is this of His Perfection? How unlike to His true Greatness of Soul ; who is said, in His Patience and
Charity more especially, to have left us an
Example, that we should follow his Steps? 3. A Third Instance of this Charity consists in the Apology, made here in behalf of his Murtherers, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do. They might indeed, and ought to have known; but the Scrip
1 Pet. ii. 21.
I Cor. ii. 8.
Acts iii. 17
tures bear them witness, that if they had
II. The Case of the Penitent Thief was the Second Thing I promised to speak to. And here Two Things are fit to be considered. (1.) The Comforts it adminifters, when rightly understood. (2.) The false Security too commonly grounded upon it, and consequently, the Great Danger of its being misunderstood.
1. As to the First, It is remarkable, that the Other Evangelists say, the Thieves reviled our Lord upon the Cross. Now, tho’ it be an
Matth. xxvii.44. usual and very allowable Figure of Speech, to put a plural Number for a Singular; yet St. Chrysstom and St. Jerom have chosen to reconcile those, with St. Luke's Account here, by understanding Both to have been guilty of it; but This to have retracted, and to have been converted, as we see. Admitting their Interpretation of the Place; The Operations of Grace upon his Mind were still more wonderfully sudden and strong. But, be that as it will; the Scripture furnishes no Instance like it, of so happy a Change, at a Man's last Moments. The Labourers of the Eleventh Hour are indeed a mighty Encouragement, to all People, who have had the Misery, of living long in Ignorance and Sin.
Mark xv. 32.
Yet those Labourers had one Hour left, in which, we are at liberty to suppose, they signalized themselves, and wrought with extraordinary Diligence. But here we have a poor Wretch almost expiring, certain Death upon him, dying under publick Punishment for a very heinous Crime; And yet, at the end of a Life, led probably after the rate that Theirs generally are, whose Wickedness at length brings them to an untimely and fcandalous End: This Creature is foftned at once, received into Favour, and promised a Translation from the Gibbet into Paradise, that very Day.
This certainly is a Monument of Mercy; a standing Comfort, to all who truly repent, though at their last. Hour. An Anchor of Hope to Sorrowful Sinners; and a plain Argument, that sincere Amendment never comes too late. For even They, who have long lain in the Snares of the Devil, and, through the course of a whole Life, been taken captive by him at his will, sliall, like this reclaimed Thief, be rescued, accepted, rewarded ; provided They, like Him, return to God, and improve their, never so small, Remainder of Time to the best Advantage.
But the fatal Delusion in this case, is, That few People consider, what it is to be converted like Him. They look at the Event, but forget the Circumftances, which led to it. And hence grow those false Confidences, and the great Danger of misunderstanding and misapplying the account of this Matter ; which I am endeavouring now to prevent, by my Second Particular upon this Subject.
For, when this Action comes to be throughly weighed, Some things will be found in it very extraordinary, Some that feldom have, Some that can never have, a Parallel. This Man, 'tis probable, had never seen or heard of Christ before ; Or, if he had, 'tis yet more strange, that He, who had stood out till then, should come in to the Acknowledgment of him now. Now,