Imágenes de páginas

to conspire with his master's enemies against his life. For a paltry bribe of something less than four pounds—for the sum that the law appointed for damages to the owner of a slave who had been killed accidentally by another man's ox, he conducts the offcers of the great council to the accustomed place of our Lord's retirement, where Jesus was at this time withdrawn to prepare himself, by prayer and meditation, against that trying hour which he knew to be approaching.

Let us once more recur to the words of our Lord's prediction, -instructive words, upon which we never can too deeply meditate. He must go he must suffer-he must be killed. Whence, and what was this necessity? Assuredly no absolute necessity ori. ginally seated in the nature of the thing, that the Son of God should suffer;—he might have left the miserable race of man to perish in their sins. The Son is in all things, but in nothing more than in love and mercy, the express image of the Father: Notwithstanding all that man could plead in extenuation of his transgression, (and somewhat he had to plead,—the frailty of his nature, the subtilty of the tempter,) yet the purposes of God's moral government rendered it unfit to pardon sin without intercession and atonement. Compassion instigates the Son of God to pay the forfeit, of our crimes, and to satisfy, in his own person, the Eternal Father's justice. Impelled by this necessity, incited by commiseration of our fallen state, he lays aside the glory « which he had with the Father before the world began." In the Virgin's womb he clothes himself with flesh; and, together with that mortal clothing, he assumes man's perfect natureza nature subject to our wants and to our pains, not insensible to our enjoyments, susceptible, as appeared in many actions of his life, of our social attachments, and though pure from the stain of sin, not exempt from the feeling of temptation. When his hour draws near, this human nature shrinks under the apprehension of pain;- he foresees the accumulated horrour of his approaching sufferings, he foresees it with distress and agony. Where is the wise disputer of the world who says that pain and affliction are not evils?-who, sufficient to himself, indifferent to things external, boasts that he would be unmoved in calamity, at ease in torment? Bring him to Gethsemane: there shall he see a just man and perfect-a man whose conscience reproaches him with no vice or folly; a man whose life hath been piety and love, unaffected piety, disinterested love; a man in whose ample mind are hidden all the treasures of knowledge; a man assuredly entitled to every comfort which the consciousness of perfection, of perfect virtue and of perfect wisdom, can bestow,-he shall see this wise, this good, this perfect man, this man in union with Divinity, overwhelmed with grief and tribulation. « Surely he bears our griefs, he carries our sorrows, he undergoes the chastisement of our peace.” See his mortified looks, his troubled gestures! See the bloody sweat! strange symptom of the unuttered pangs that rend his righteous hcart. See him prostrate on the earth in

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

anxious supplication. Humble thyself, O vain philosophy! dismiss thy arrogant maxims: learn from this affecting spectacle a better wisdom than thine own; learn it of him who brought it from above. Say not that affliction is not an evil: say that it is to be borne with humility, as the punishment of sin; to be endured with fortitude, as the instrument of good; to be accepted with thankfulness, as the discipline of God, whereby he trains his sons to virtue, and fits the virtuous for glory; but confess that it is that which the most perfect natures do the most abhor, that which it is the wisdom of man, with due submission to the dispensations of Providence, to shun.

Our Saviour, in the anguish of his soul, but with perfect resignation to the Father's will, prays that, if possible, the cup of bitterness may pass by him. The counsels of God are founded on unerring wisdom; they cannot be reversed or changed. The awful sentence is gone forth, “ Without blood there is no remission!” “ Awake, O sword! against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts.” Love to man, joined with a zeal for the honour and support of the Father's government, these motives, which first engaged him in the painful work of our redemption, prevail over his human feelings; and, further fortified by a vision from heaven, he determines to meet the malice of his enemies; and when the officers of the Sanhedrim appear with Judas at their head, he summons not those legions of angels which were ever in readiness to attend his call, he puts not forth the powers that resided in him, he commands his attendants to sheathe the swords already drawn in his defence, he repairs the violence that one of them already had committed, and after such rebuke to the traitor, and such expostulations with the officers, as might show them that he knew every particular of the conspiracy, and was aware of all that was intended, he surrenders himself without resistance, thus verifying the ancient prediction, “ He was led like a lamb to the slaughter; and as a sheep before the shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth.”

The chief priests and elders were unwilling to put him to death by their own authority, lest they should incur the charge of tumult and sedition; for Judea being at this time a Roman province, death could not regularly be inflicted without the per's mission at least of the Roman governour, and they were desirous of putting the face of publick justice upon the whole of the transaction. Cool and crafty in their malice, they present him before Pilate, and, urging the complicated charge of blasphemy and sedition, insist upon his death. Pilate well understood that both these accusations were groundless: but he was very unpopular in his province, which he is said to have ruled with a rod of iron. He was given to understand, that if he stood forth as the friend of Jesus, he would himself incur the accusation of traitorous designs. He took the alarm at this. He saw that complaints might be carried to Rome: he well knew the jealous temper of the emperour Tiberius, ever ready to listen to complaints against

his provincial governours; cruel and implacable in his resentments: he thought the present opportunity was not to be missed of doing the Jews a pleasure, by throwing away the life, as he conceived, of an inconsiderable, friendless man, who, when once he was gone, would never be inquired after. And from these motives of selfish cunning and guilty fear, Pilate, against the remonstrances of his conscience and the warnings of Heaven, consented to our Saviour's death.

The execution of the Roman governour's sentence fell in, course upon the Roman soldiers, and this ensured that particular kind of death which our Lord had himself predicted; for cruci. fixion was not the punishment which the Jewish law appointed for the crimes wherewith Jesus was charged, but it was one which the Romans inflicted upon offenders of the meanest condition, or those who had been guilty of the most atrocious and flagitious crimes. The living body of the sufferer was fastened to two cross pieces of wood, by nails driven through the hands and feet; the feet being nailed to the upright post, and the hands to the two extremities of the transverse beam. In this situation, the miserable objects of this barbarous punishment were left to consume in lingering and dreadful torments; for as none of the parts essential to life was immediately injured, none of the vital actions immediately impcded, and none of the larger blood vessels set open, the death was necessarily slow; and the multitude of nerves that terminate in the hands and feet, giving those parts the nicest sensibility, rendered the sufferings exquisite.

Such was the death to which the unrelenting malice of his enemies consigned the meek and holy Jesus. I must not further pursue the detail of those minute occurrences, in which, though brought about by natural and common causes, the ancient prophecies concerning the circumstances of our Saviour's passion were remark. ably fulfilled. It was not till every tittle was fulfilled, that the patient Son of God, as if then and not before at liberty to depart, said, “ It is finished!” bowed his anointed head, and rendered up the ghost. Wonderful catastrophe! replete with mysteries; among which the harmony of divine providence and human liberty is not the least. Mechanical causes, governed by a single intellect, could not with more certainty have wrought the prede. termined effect: independent beings could not have pursued with greater liberty, than the persons concerned in this horrid transaction, each his separate design. « It is finished!Holy victim! thy sufferings are finished! All is finished, that wicked men were wonderfully destined to contribute towards the general deliverance! What remains, infinite power and infinite mercy shall accomplish. The disciples, those few of them who had the courage to be present at this dismal scene, hang their heads in sorrowful despondency, and seem to have abandoned the hope that this was He who should redeem Israel. But Israel is redeemed. The high sacrifice, appointed before the foundation of the world, typified in all the sacrifices of the law, is now slain, and is accepted.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

That Jesus who, according to his own prediction, hath expired = mis on the cross, shall, according to his own prediction, be raised

again on the third day. He is raised,he is entered into glory, men och he is sitten down for ever at the right hand of the Majesty on

high: there he pleads the merit of his blood in behalf of those crying sins that caused it to be shed. Nor does he plead in vain. The final judgment is committed to him; and the greatest of sinners that will but forsake their evil ways, have no reason to fear the severity of a judge, who hath himself been touched with

the feeling of our infirmities. On the other hand, let not any deTeceive themselves with a vain reliance on his merits, who after all poi that the Son of God hath done and suffered for them, remain imas of penitent. The sacrifice of the cross was no less a display of the

just severity, than of the tender mercy of God. The authority of his government must be maintained. This rendered interces

sion and atonement necessary for the pardon of sin in the first inmout stance, the most meritorious intercession, the highest atonement. 178 For those who despise so great salvation," who cannot be re

claimed by the promises and threatenings of the gospel, by the elect warnings of God's wrath, by the assurances of mercy, by the

contemplation of their Saviour's love, for those who cannot be reclaimed by these powerful motives from obstinate courses of wilful vice, there assuredly « remains no more sacrifice for sin,

bit a certain, fearful looking-for of fiery indignation," which at 2 pl the last day shall burn with inextinguishable rage against these

incorrigible adversaries of God and goodness. Grant, O Lord, nison that all we who are this day assembled before thee, lamenting our zeppo sing and imploring thy mercy, may be permitted, through the inproiztercession of thy Son, to escape the everlasting horrours of that es for second death!


[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

ERE we to adopt the plan of certain modern writers, it would be necessary to begin by defining the faculty of reason, by delineating its characteristick qualities in terms more striking from being new, than solid: but besides being often the mere effect of imagination and prejudice, these definitions are too numerous to answer any other purpose than to gratify curiosity, while the heart and the mind remain as unsatisfied as ever. We are too intent upon the surface, which, in fact, is the chief substance of many modern productions; whereas, the mind of man longs for something marked with all the attributes of truth; something that may call it back to itself from the wanderings of dissipation, or the languors of inaction, and point out its origin as well as its destination.However, not to shrink entirely from this difficulty, we will only say, that, “ Reason consists in the accuracy and combination of our thoughts," and is the faculty which distinguishes man from the brute, in whom instinct is really nothing more than impulse. The mind, perpetually busy in collecting a multitude of ideas, passes judgment upon them, and decides accordingly. Without the reasoning faculty, what would be the situation of this vast universe? “ The Earth,” says an interesting writer, *« would be nothing but a blind and sluggish mass, requiring neither the light, nor warmth of the sun; but when reason intervenes, which is the centre of God's works, and constitutes their harmony, then intelligence, unity and fitness become conspicuous in them all, and man, by approximating all beings towards each other, forms a grand total from the separate parts of the creation.” “ The animals, continues this writer, “are unacquainted with Him, who clothes and feeds them; the stars know not whence they derive their brightness; reason alone perceives and feels these wonders; standing be

* Le Plushe; Spectacle de la Nature.

« AnteriorContinuar »