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himself, according as the Lord is with him, or with drawn from him. Where is he that does not experience this? Sometimes bold and courageous, despising dan. gers, bearing down all discouragements in the strength of zeal and love to God; at another time faint, feeble, and discouraged at every thing. Whence is this but from the different administrations of the Spirit, who sometimes imparts more, and sometimes less, of his gracious influence. These very men that fled now, could, when the Spirit was more abundantly shed forth upon them, boldly own Christ before the council, and despise all dangers for his sake. We are strong or weak according to the degrees of assisting grace. So that as you cannot take the just measure of a christian by one act, so neither must they judge of themselves by what they sometimes feel in themselves. But when their spirits are low, and their hearts discouraged, they should rather say to their souls, "Hope in God, for I shall yet praise him ;" it is low with me now, but it will be better.
6. Was the sword drawn against the Shepherd, and he left alone to receive its soul-piercing strokes? How should all adore both the justice and the mercy of God so illustriously displayed herein! Here is the triumph of Divine justice, and the highest triumph it ever had, to single forth the chief Shepherd, the man that is God's fellow, and sheathe its sword in his breast for satisfaction.
And no less is the mercy and goodness of God signalized in giving the sword a commission against the man his fellow, rather than against us. Why had he not said, Awake, O sword, against the men that are mine enemies, shed the blood of them that have sinned against me, rather than, Smite the Shepherd, and only scatter the sheep. Blessed be God, that the dreadful sword was not drawn and brandished against our souls;
that God did not bathe it in our blood; that his fellow was smitten, that his enemies might be spared. Oh what manner of love was this! Blessed be God for Jesus Christ, who received the fatal stroke himself; and hath now so sheathed that sword in its scabbard, that it shall never be drawn any more against those that believe in him.
7. Were the sheep scattered when the Shepherd was smitten? Learn hence, that the best of men know not their own strength till they come to the trial. Little did these holy men imagine such a cowardly spirit had been in them, till temptation put it to the proof. Let this, therefore, be a caution for ever to the people of God. You resolve never to forsake Christ, you do well; but so did these, and yet they deserted him. You can never know your own strength till temptation has tried it. It is said, Deut. 8:2, that God led the people so many years in the wilderness, to prove them, and to know them, (that is, to make them know) what was in their hearts. Little did they think such unbelief, murmurings, discontent, and a spirit bent to backslidings, had been in them, until their straits in the wilderness gave them the sad experience.
8. Did the dreadful sword of Divine justice smite the Shepherd, God's own fellow; and at the time when the flock, from whom all its outward comforts arose, were scattered from him? Then learn, that the holiest of men have no reason to repine or despond, though God should at once strip them of all their outward and inward comforts together. God took all comfort from Christ, both outward and inward; and are you greater than he God sometimes takes outward, and leaves inward comfort; sometimes he takes inward, and leaves outward comfort; but the time may come when God may strip you of both. This was the case of Job, a favorite of God, who was blessed with outward and in
ward comforts; yet the time came when God stripped him of all, and made him poor to a proverb, as to all outward comfort; and the venom of his arrows drank up his spirit. Should the Lord deal thus with you, how seasonable and relieving will be the following considerations:
Though the Lord deals thus with you, yet this is no new thing; he hath so dealt with others, yea, with Jesus Christ himself. If these things were done to him that never deserved it for any sin of his own, how little reason have we to complain!
Nay, for this very reason did this befall Jesus Christ, that similar trials might be sanctified to you. For Jesus Christ passed through such a variety of conditions, on purpose that he might take away the curse, and leave a blessing against the time that you should come into them.
Moreover, though inward comforts and outward comforts were both removed from Christ in one day, yet he wanted not support in the absence of both. How relieving a consideration is this! "Behold, (saith he,) the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me." John, 16: 32. Thy God, christian, can in like manner support thee, when all sensible comforts shrink away together from thy soul and body in one day.
9. It deserves a remark, that this forsaken condition of Christ immediately preceded the day of his greatest glory and comfort. The greatest darkness is said to be a little before the dawning of the morning. It was so with Christ, it may be so with thee. It was but a little while, and he had better company than that which for sook him. Act therefore your faith upon this, that the most glorious light usually follows the thickest darkness. The louder your groans are now, the louder your
triumphs will be hereafter. The horror of your present will but add to the lustre of your future state.
THE PATIENCE OF CHRIST'S DEATH.
"He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." Isaiah, 53: 7.
The chapter containing these words treats wholly of the sufferings of Christ. Hornbeck tells us of a learned Jew," who ingenuously confessed that this chapter converted him to the christian faith; and such delight he had in it that he read it more than a thousand times." Such is the clearness of this prophecy, that he who penned it is deservedly styled the evangelical prophet. From this verse I shall speak of the grievous sufferings of Christ, and the glorious ornament he put upon them; even the ornament of a meek and patient spirit. He opened not his mouth; but went as a sheep to be shorn, or a lamb to the slaughter. The lamb goes as quiet to the slaughter-house as to the fold. By this lively and lovely similitude the patience of Christ is here expressed to us. Whence we learn that,
Jesus Christ supported the burden of his sufferings with admirable patience and meekness of spirit.
Patience never had a more glorious triumph than it had upon the cross. The meekness and patience of Christ's spirit, amidst injuries and provocations, is excellently set forth in 1 Pet. 2:22, 23. "Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when
he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered he threatened not, but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously."
In this point we have the burden of sufferings and provocations with which Jesus Christ was oppressed; his admirable meekness and patience; and the causes and grounds of the perfect patience he exercised.
I. The burden of sufferings and provocations which Christ supported was very great; for on him met all kinds of trouble at once, and those in their highest degrees and fullest strength: trouble in his soul, which was the soul of his trouble, He began to be sore amazed and very heavy." Mark, 14: 33. The wrath of an infinite God beat him down to the dust. His body was full of pain and exquisite tortures in every part. Not a member or sense but was the seat and subject of torment.
His name suffered the vilest indignities, blasphemies and reproaches that the malignity of Satan and wicked men could utter against it. Contempt was poured upon all his offices. Upon his kingly office, when they crowned him with thorns, arrayed him with purple, bowed the knee with mockery to him, and cried, "Hail, King of the Jews" his prophetical office, when they blinded him, and then bid him "prophesy who smote him :" his priestly office, when they reviled him on the cross, saying, "He saved others, himself he cannot save." They scourged him, spit in his face, and smote him.
All this, and much more than this, meeting at once upon an innocent and dignified person; one that was greater than all; one that could have crushed all his enemies as a moth; all this borne without the least discomposure of spirit, is the highest triumph of pa tience ever exhibited to man. It was one of the greatest wonders of that wonderful day.
II. Consider this almighty patience and unparalleled meekness of Christ, supporting such a burden.