« VorigeDoorgaan »
but in effect the most happy that ever by Providence was dispensed to the world. Farther,
4. This consideration is most useful to render us very humble and sensible of our weakness, our vileness, our wretchedness. For how low was that our fall, from which we could not be raised without such a depression of God's only Son? How great is that impotency, which did need such a succor to relieve it? How abominable must be that iniquity, which might not be expiated without so costly a sacrifice? How deplorable is that misery, which could not be removed without commutation of so strange a suffering? Would the Son of God have so emptied and abased himself for nothing? Would he have endured such pains and ignominies for a trifle? No, surely; if our guilt had been slight, if our case had been tolerable, the divine wisdom would have chosen a more cheap and easy remedy for us.
Is it not madness for us to be conceited of any worth in ourselves, to confide in any merit of our works, to glory in any thing belonging to us, to fancy ourselves brave, fine, happy persons, worthy of great respect and esteem; whenas our unworthiness, our demerit, our forlorn estate did extort from the most gracious God a displeasure needing such a reconciliation, did impose on the most glorious Son of God a necessity to undergo such a punishment in our behalf?
How can we reasonably pretend to any honor, or justly assume any regard to ourselves, whenas the first-born of heaven, 'the Lord of glory,' partaker of divine majesty, was fain to 'make himself of no reputation,' to put himself into the garb of a servant,' and, under the imputation of a malefactor, to bear such disgrace and infamy in our room, in lieu of the confusion due to us?
What more palpable confutation can there be of human vanity and arrogance, of all lofty imaginations,' all presumptuous confidences, all turgid humors, all fond self-pleasings and self-admirings, than is that tragical cross, wherein, as in a glass, our foul deformity, our pitiful meanness, our helpless infirmity, our sad wofulness are so plainly represented?
Well surely may we say with St. Austin, let man now at length blush to be proud, for whom God is made so humble.'
[And since, as he doth add, this great disease of soul did bring down the almighty physician from heaven, did humble him to the form of a servant, did subject him to contumelies, did suspend him on a cross, that this tumor by virtue of so great a medicine might be cured;] may not he well be presumed incurable, who is not cured of his pride by this medicine; in whom neither the reason of the case, nor the force of such an example, can work humility?
5. But farther, while this contemplation doth breed sober humility, it also should preserve us from base abjectness of mind; for it doth evidently demonstrate, that, according to God's infallible judgment, we are very considerable; that our souls are capable of high regard; that it is a great pity we should be lost and abandoned to ruin. For surely, had not God much esteemed and respected us, he would not for our sakes have so debased himself, or deigned to endure so much for our recovery; divine justice would not have exacted or accepted such a ransom for our souls, had they been of little worth. We should not therefore slight ourselves, nor demean ourselves like sorry contemptible wretches, as if we deserved no consideration, no pity from ourselves; as if we thought our souls not worth saving, which yet our Lord thought good to purchase at so dear a rate. By so despising or disregarding ourselves, do we not condemn the sentiments, do we not vilify the sufferings of our Lord; so with a pitiful meanness of spirit joining the most unworthy injustice and ingratitude? Again,
6. How can we reflect on this event without extreme displeasure against, and hearty detestation of our sins? those sins which indeed did bring such tortures and such disgraces on our blessed Redeemer? Judas, the wretch who betrayed him; the Jewish priests who did accuse and prosecute him; the wicked rout which did abusively insult over him; those cruel hands that smote him; those pitiless hearts that scorned him; those poisonous tongues that mocked him and reviled him; all those who were the instruments and abettors of his affliction, how do we loath and abhor them! How do we detest their names and execrate their memories! But how much greater reason have we to abominate our sins, which were the true, the principal actors of all that woful tragedy! He was delivered for our
offences: they were indeed the traitors, which by the hands of Judas delivered him up. 'He that knew no sin, was made sin for us; that is, was accused, was condemned, was executed as a sinner for us. It was therefore we, who by our sins did impeach him; the spiteful priests were but our advocates: we by them did adjudge and sentence him; Pilate was but drawn in against his will and conscience to be our spokesman in that behalf: we by them did inflict that horrid punishment on him; the Roman executioners were but our representatives therein. 'He became a curse for us;' that is, all the mockery, derision, and contumely he endured, did proceed from us; the silly people were but properties acting our parts. Our sins were they that cried out, crucifige! (' Crucify him, crucify him,') with clamors more loud and more importunate than did all the Jewish rabble; it was they, which by the borrowed throats of that base people did so outrageously persecute him. He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities:' it was they, which by the hands of the fierce soldiers, and of the rude populace, as by senseless engines, did buffet and scourge him ; they by the nails and thorns did pierce his flesh, and rend his sacred body. On them, therefore, it is most just and fit that we should turn our hatred, that we should discharge our indignation.
7. And what in reason can be more powerful toward working penitential sorrow and remorse, than reflexion on such horrible effects, proceeding from our sins? How can we forbear earnestly to grieve, considering ourselves by them to have been the perfidious betrayers, the unjust slanderers, the cruel persecutors and barbarous murderers of a person so innocent and lovely, so good and benign, so great and glorious; of God's own dear Son, of our best friend, of our most gracious Redeemer?
8. If ingenuity will not operate so far, and hereby melt us into contrition; yet surely this consideration must needs affect us with a religious fear. For can we otherwise than tremble to think on the heinous guilt of our sins, on the dreadful fierceness of God's wrath against them, on the impartial severity of divine judgment for them, all so manifestly discovered, all so livelily set forth in this dismal spectacle? If the view of an
ordinary execution is apt to beget in us some terror, some dread of the law, some reverence toward authority; what awful impressions should this singular example of divine justice work on us?
How greatly we should be moved thereby, what affections it should raise in us, we may even learn from the most inanimate creatures for the whole world did seem affected thereat with horror and confusion; the frame of things was discomposed and disturbed; all nature did feel a kind of compassion and compunction for it. The sun (as from aversion and shame) did hide his face, leaving the world covered for three hours with mournful blackness; the bowels of the earth did yearn and quake; the rocks did split; the veil of the temple was rent; the graves did open themselves, and the dead bodies were roused up. And, can we then (who are the most concerned in the event) be more stupid than the earth, more obdurate than rocks, more drowsy than interred carcases, the most insensible and immovable things in nature? But farther,
9. How can the meditation on this event do otherwise than hugely deter us from all wilful disobedience and commission of sin? For how thereby can we violate such engagements, and thwart such an example of obedience? How thereby can we abuse so wonderful goodness, and disoblige so transcendent charity? How thereby can we reject that gentle dominion over us, which our Redeemer did so dearly purchase, or renounce the Lord that bought us at so high a rate?' With what heart can we bring on the stage, and act over that direful tragedy, renewing all that pain and all that disgrace to our Saviour; as the Apostle teacheth that we do by apostacy, 'crucifying to ourselves the Son of God afresh, and putting him to an open shame?' Can we without horror tread under foot the Son of God, and count the blood of the covenant an unholy thing;' (as the same divine Apostle saith all wilful transgressors do;) vilifying that most sacred and precious blood, so freely shed for the demonstration of God's mercy, and ratification of his gracious intentions toward us, as a thing of no special worth or consideration; despising all his so kind and painful endeavors for our salvation; defeating his most charitable purposes and earnest desires for our welfare; rendering
all his so bitter and loathsome sufferings in regard to us utterly vain and fruitless, yea indeed very hurtful and pernicious? For if the cross do not save us from our sins, it will much aggravate their guilt, and augment their punishment; bringing a severer condemnation, and a sadder ruin on us. Again,
10. This consideration affordeth very strong engagements to the practice of charity towards our neighbor. For what heart can be so hard, that the blood of the cross cannot mollify into a charitable and compassionate sense? Can we forbear to love those, toward whom our Saviour did bear so tender affection, for whom he was pleased to sustain so woful tortures and indignities? Shall we not, in obedience to his most urgent commands, in conformity to his most notable example, in grateful return to him for his benefits, who thus did gladly suffer for us, discharge this most sweet and easy duty towards his beloved friends? Shall we not be willing, by parting with a little superfluous stuff for the relief of our poor brother, to requite and gratify him, who, to succor us in our distress, most bountifully did part with his wealth, with his glory, with his pleasure, with his life itself? Shall we not meekly comport with an infirmity, not bear a petty neglect, not forgive a small injury to our brother, whenas our Lord did for us and from us bear a cross, to procure remission for our innumerable most heinous affronts and offences against Almighty God? Can a heart void of mercy and pity, with any reason or modesty pretend to the mercies and compassions of the cross? Can we hope that God for Christ's sake will pardon us, if we for Christ's sake will not forgive our neighbor?
Can we hear our Lord saying to us, 'This is my command, that ye love one another, as I have loved you ;' and, Hereby shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another?' Can we hear St. Paul exhorting, Walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour;' and, We that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak-for even Christ pleased not himself, but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me?' Can we attend to St. John's arguing, 'Beloved, if God so loved us, then ought we also to love one another.' Hereby we perceive