« PreviousContinue »
Psal. lxxxv. 10.
Vol. II. GOOD FRIDAY. 567
II. Second Thing observable in the Text, The particular manner of our Saviour's expiring upon the Cross, as it is expressed in the last Clause of the zoth Verse, And he bowed his Head, and gave up the Ghost. The original Phrase may denote a delivering up, or as himself expressed it, a committing his Spirit into
Luke xxiii. 46. the Hands of God, as a sacred Trust, to be restored again and united to his Body, at the time prefixed by his own Infinite Wisdom: and plainly implies such a Dissolution, and actual Separation of Soul and Body, as every common Man undergoes, when he dies. But herein is a remarkable Difference; that what is in Other Men the Effect of Necessity, was in Jesus a voluntary Act, and the Effect of his own free Choice. Hence the generality of Interpreters have thought, that St. John takes notice, that Christ bowed his Head before be gave up the Ghost; whereas, in common Cafes, the falling of the Head follows after the Breath's going out of the Body. Hence also St. Mark obferves, that Jesus crying out with so loud and strong a Voice, immediately before his expiring, was one Reason, that moved the Centurion to think him an extraordinary Person. For
this shewed, that Nature was not quite spent in him ; and that his Death did not come on, by such gradual and unavoidable Decays, as it usually does, when the Voice is stopped and lost, and all the Powers faulter and languish, some time before the Soul's Departure from its Heshly Tabernacle. Accordingly we find, that when the Soldiers came to take down the Bodies from the Cross, they found himn dead, before those two others, that were crucified with him; And that, when Foseph came to beg the Body of Jefus, Pilate wondred to hear that he was dead so soon; and would not grane that Request, till he had first satisfied himself of the Truth of it, by enquiring of the Officer, who attended the Execution.
Of all which a very probable Account may be, Not only, that the Excels of his Pain and Sorrow had tired out' Nature, and hasten'd his Death; But that He,
who, as himself professes, had Power to John X. 18.
lay down bis Life, and could not have it taken from him without his own Perinillion and Consent; did lay it down at such a time, as himself law convenient. Every step in this last Act of his Life, was taken regularly, and with deliberation. He bore a constant regard to all the Mysterious Purposes of this important Death. He would not die till they were all fulfilled; And, when they were so, he would not, because there was no Occasion that required he should, live any longer. Never was there, never can there be, such a Death in any Instance ; so perfectly free, lo entirely at the Person's own Disposal. For He, who struck his Enemies down to the Graund with his Majestick Presence, and afterwards gave them leave to apprehend him; could likewise, if he had so pleased, have come down from the Cross. He could have continued insensible to all the Pains of it. He could have survived the sharpest Anguilh. And, had he not suspended his Divine Power, Death it self could not have taken hold on
him, nor have bound this strong Man, this infinitely
first Head. So juftly might he then, so joyfully may every Christian now, cry out, It is finished.
The Remainder of my Discourse shall now be employed, in some few Reflections arising from these Considerations. Such as, we do by no means remember this Death like Christians indeed, if we do not feel our selves very sensibly affected with.
Here then we may perceive, how it came to pass, that this Death was an Act fo noble, and generous in it self, and so exceeding beneficial to Us. For, therefore is it a Meritorious, because not only an Invaluable, but a Willing, Sacrifice. Therefore was this Act of Obedience so well pleasing to His Father ; because, even in the most difficult and painful Instances, it proceeded not from Constraint, but from full Consent and free Choice, Upon this account his Love to wretched Man is so unspeakably tender and great; because it was in his Power to have refus'd the giving Us such costly Proofs of his Kindness. But, tho' These are Subjects, upon which I might very seasonably and pathetically enlarge; Yet, having been upon them lately, That, which I rather chuse to say at present, is ; That, by such a chosen and cheerful Submission to die for Our fakes, our Lord hath fet us a Pattern, how we ought to behave our felves to Him, in return for such marvellous Compassion and Love. That We should think nothing too much to do, nothing too grievous to suffer,
for for a Saviour, who, of his own accord and mere Grace, hath done and suffered so much for Us. To all Persons, who retain any spark of Ingenuity, and have not sinned away all the Principles of Natural Religion, Nothing can be more clear and self-evident, than that they are bound to shew themselves sensible of, and make what requital they can for, Kindnesses received. This is the Ground of that Significant Expression, used by St. Paul,
The Love of Christ constraineth us to Obedi2 Cor. v. 14. ence. And Our Blefied Saviour takes notice, that neither the Darkness of the Heathens, nor the vicious Lives of the Publicans, had extinguished
that Principle of loving those that loved them. Matth. v. 46.
Shall Christians then be wanting in so plain a Duty? Christians, who have the brightest Light to walk by, and are under the influence of the most powerful, most engaging Example? For, What Religion ever carried the Points of Love and Gratitude to fo noble a Height? What ever presented Mankind with a Pattern, that can pretend to bear any manner of Proportion, to the great, the unspeakable things, Our Master and Benefactor hath done for Us? If we observe the Kindness it Self, the Person who did it, and the Persons for whom it was done, every Circumstance is full of Wonder and Amazement. That God, who is by Nature incapable of Suffering and Death, should condescend to become mortal Man, to qualify himself for enduring the bitterest AMictions ; That he should do this, for Enemies and Rebels; (for such are wretched Sinners) That the Miseries of those, who had most obstinately provoked and injured him, and merited his utmoft Indignation and Wrath, should move his Compassion to save their Souls at the Expence of his own Life; That, in the midst of Sorrows and Agonies, of Pains and Torture, he should still persevere in this most gracious Purpose, and not accept a Deliverance, ţill he had finished this laborious Undertaking ; That
he should embrace Poverty and Hardfhip, Reproach and Ignominy, Bodily Anguish and Death, with a ready and chearful Mind, when all the Powers of Hell could not have compell’d him to one single Pang; This is such an Instance of Pity and Friendship, as no Tenderness ever did, or can compare with. And therefore We are certainly of all Creatures the most insensible, the most inexcusable; if we do not take care to apply this Example very warmly to our Consciences; If we read this History of our Dearest Redecmer's Parsion, without very moving Impressions ; If we do not urge every Branch of it home, and render it as effectual, as it is designed and qualified to be, for exciting in us the most irreconcilable Hatred against Sin, and kindling the most vigorous and ardent Affection for our dying Saviour. I lay again, such a Hatred of Sin, and such Love of God and Christ, as this Account is well qualified to excite in us. For, What Branch of our Duty is there, which the Sufferings of our Jesus, when carefully considered, do not furnith the strongest Motives, and most unanswerable Arguments for? He commands us to repent of, that is, to be sorry for, our past Faults, and to forfake them for the time to come. And, can we read the doleful Story of this Day, Can we reflect, that they were Our Iniquities, for which he was bruised, Our Transgressions, for which he was wounded, in the Day of God's fierce Anger, without a deep and hearty Remorse? Can we think, that we contributed to his Agonies and Griefs, that the malicious Jews and barbarous Soldiers were only the Instruments of Cruelty, but every sinful Man in part the Cause, of all he suffered ; and think it, without aking Hearts, and overflowing Eyes, without Confusion of Face, and a multitude of self-condemning Roproaches? Can we behold our dear Lord's Temples pierced with Thorns, his Holy Face besmeared with Blood, his Body torn with Scourges, nailed to the Cross, hanging there in Convul