« AnteriorContinuar »
He was not only apprehended by cruel men, bat betrayed into their hands by one whom he had admitted into the number of his select apostles, who had been employed in his service, favoured with access to him in his more retired hours, and was present, with the rest, when he kept his last passover, and took his solemn and affectionate leave of them, before he entered upon his passion. It was not an avowed enemy, but one of the twelve who dipped with him in the dish, that was guilty of this enormous ingratitude and treachery. How keen are our resentments, if those to whom we bave shown great kindness, are discovered to have studied our ruin while they wore the mask of friendship? Though MESSIAH was incapable of any sinful perturbation of mind, he was very capable of being painfully affected by the conduct of Judas : he had reason to look for pity from him, but he found none.
When he entered the Garden of Gethsemane, he commanded, may I not say, he intreated his disciples to tarry there and watch with him. And to engage their utmost attention, he spoke plainly to them of his distress, saying, My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death. Yet, when he returned to them, the first, the second, yea, the third time, he found them sleeping. How tender, yet how forcible was his expostulation, Could ye not watch one hour ?** What! could they know that their Lord was in an agony, wrestling with strong cries and tears, yet sleep, as regardless of his sorrows as of their own approaching danger! Were our dearest friends to show themselves equally insensible when we were in extreme anguish, would not their indifference wound our spirits? He also was a man ; and we may conceive it some addition to his grief, that when he looked to them for pity and comfort, he found none.
When he was apprehended, notwithstanding their former protestations of zeal and love, they all forsook him and fled.'' They sought their own safety, and left him in the hands of his enemies. The apostle Paul was thus deserted, and his expressions intimate that he felt it. • At my first answer, no man stood by me, all men forsook me.'I He had imbibed, likewise, the spirit of his Master, and prayed that it might not be laid to their charge. And though the Lord Jesus pitied and excused the weakness of his disciples, and permitted them to take care of themselves, it was in them an instance how little he could depend upon those who were under the strongest obligations to him.
But Peter followed his Lord to the hall of the high priest, and there saw him, with his own eyes, insulted, arraigned, and unjustly condemned. Might he not expect that Peter, the most active
* Matth. xxvj. 40.
| Matth. xxvi. 56.
12 Tim. iv. 16.
and earnest of all his followers, would have pitied him at least at such a time. Alas ! instead of pitying him, Peter ' denied him;" he denied, with oaths and imprecations, that he had any knowledge of him whom he had seen transfigured upon the mount, and agonizing in the garden. We read, that the Lord turned and looked upon Peter.'* Who can conceive the energy of that look ? It was full of meaning and Peter well understood it. Surely, though a look of tenderness and compassion, it conveyed the expostulation of an injured benefactor, no less forcibly than if all who were present had heard him say, “ Peter, is this the pity I am to expect from thee?'
When he was nailed to the cross he was surrounded only by his enemies. These, as we have seen, far from pitying, or attempting to comfort him, derided and mocked him. How have some of us felt for our friends in their dying hours, though we have seen every possible attention paid to them, and every thing provided and done for them that could administer to their relief and comfort! But they who have the faith which realizes unseen things, have beheld their best Friend expiring in tortures, and insulted by his murderers in his last moments.
But had all his disciples been near him, and had all his enemies been his friends, still, in his situation, he would have been alone. The loss of the light of God's countenance will, to the soul that has enjoyed it, create an universal solitude, and render every earthly good tasteless, in proportion as that soul is united to him in love, and still more, if there be superadded a sense of
; his displeasure. They who have never tasted that the Lord is good, not having known the difference, can have no conception of this subject. Their minds are at present occupied with earthly things; and while they are thus engaged with trifles, they cannot believe, though they are repeatedly told it, that to an immortal spirit, a separation from the favour of God involves in it the very essence of misery. But should death surprise them in their sins, tear them from all that they have seen and loved, and plunge them into an unknown, unchangeable world, then (alas, too late !) they will be sensible of their immense, irreparable loss, in being cut off from the fountain of life and comfort. A supension of this divine presence, with an awful sense and feeling of what those for whom he made himself responsible deserved, was the most dreadful part of the Redeemer's sufferings. He was perfectly united to the will and love of bis heavenly Father, and, by the perfect holiness of his nature, incapable of tasting satisfaction in any thing else, if his presence were withdrawn. But when he endured the curse of the law for us," he looked to God for pity and comfort, but he found none.'
* Luke, xxi. 61.
In this glass we are to contemplate the demerit of sin. But there are some sufferings due to the impenitent sinner, of which Messiah was not capable. I mean the consciousness of personal guilt, the gnawings of a remorseful conscience, and the rage of despair. If we add the idea of eternity to the whole, we may form some faint judgment of what they are delivered from who believe in him, and what misery awaits those who presume to reject him. Awful thonght, to reject the only Saviour ! If they refuse his mediation, they must answer in their own persons. Then they will find no pity, no comforter. For who, or what, can comfort, when the Lord God omnipotent arises to punish? What will your pleasures, your wealth, or friends, do for you, when the hand of the Lord shall touch you to the quick ? What smile can you expect will support you against the terror of his frown?
Should any of you hear the Messiah performed again, then and there, if not before, may God impress upon your heart the sense of this passage. Then you will understand, that the sufferings of the Son of God are by no means a proper subject for the amusement of a yacant hour.
NO SORROW LIKE MESSIAH'S SORROW.
LAMENTATIONS, i. 12.
Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any
sorrow like unto my sorrow !
ALTHOUGH the Scriptures of the Old Testament, the law of Moses, the Psalms, and the prophecies, * bear an harmonious testimony to Messiau ; it is not necessary to suppose that every single passage has an immediate and direct relation to him. Å method of exposition has frequently obtained, of a fanciful and allegorical cast, under the pretext of spiritualizing the word of of God. Ingenious men, and sometimes men not very ingenious, have endeavoured to discover types and mysteries in the plainest historical parts, where we have no sufficient evidence that the Holy Spirit intended to teach them. And upon very slight grounds a proof has been attempted of the great doctrines of the Gospel, which may be proved, much more safely and solidly, from the passages of Scripture in which they are plainly and expressly revealed. But by taking this course, instead of throwing real light upon the places they have in this manner attempted to explain, they have perplexed their hearers and readers, and led them to question whetber there be any fixed and determinate sense of Scripture that may be fully depended upon ? It is true, when we have the authority of an inspired expositor to lead us, we may follow him without fear ; but this will not warrant us to strike out a path for ourselves, and trust to our conjectures, where we have not such an infallible guide. The Epistle to the Hebrews is a key to explain to us many passages in a higher sense than perhaps we should have otherwise understood them. But it is best for us to keep within safe bounds, and to propose our own sentiments, when not supported by New Testament authority, with great modesty, lest we should incur the censure of being wise above what is written. I may, without scruple, affirm, that the history of Sarah and Hagar is an allegory referring to the two covenants, because the apostle Paul* has affirmed it before me ; but if I attempted to spiritualize the history of Leah and Rachel likewise, you would not be bound to believe me without proof. I may preach the Gospel of Christ from a text which mentions the manna or the brazen serpent,t because our Lord has expounded these things as typical of himself : but I must not be confident that every resemblance which I think I can trace, is the true sense of the place ; because I may imagine many resemblances and types which the Scripture does not authorize.
* Luke, xxiv. 44.
There is, however, a useful way of preaching, by accommodation, that is, when the literal sense is first clearly stated, to apply the passage, not directly to prove a doctrine as if really contained in it, but only to illustrate the doctrine expressly taught in other parts of the Scripture. Thus, for instance, if the question of Jonadab to Ampon* were chosen for the subject of a discourse, Why art thou, being the king's son, lean from day to day ?' The history of the context directly proves the malignity of sinful, inordinate desire, and the misery of those who are under its dominion ; that it poisons every situation in life, and renders the sinner incapable of satisfaction, though he were a king's son. The form of the question might then lead to observe, That believers are kings' sons, to show what are the great privileges of their
* Gal. iy. 21.
+John, iii. 14. John, vi. 31. 35.
| Sam. xii. 4.
adoption ; and to inquire how it comes to pass, that many persons so highly privileged are lean, that is, uncomfortable, weak, and languishing in their profession? These points might not improperly be introduced by way of accommodation, though they are not directly deducible from the literal sense of the question.
The text I have just read to you has led me into this digression. I find it in the series of the passages in the Messiah ; but I am not sure that, in the literal sense, it immediately refers to him. It is a pathetic exclamation, by which the prophet Jeremiah expresses his grief, or rather the grief of Jerusalem, when the sins of the people had given success to the Chaldean army, and the temple and the city were destroyed. Jerusalem is poetically considered as a woman, lately reigning a queen among the nations, but now a captive, dishonoured, spoiled, and sitting upon the ground. She entreats the commiseration of those who pass by, and asks, ' if there be any sorrow like unto her sorrow ?' Such a question has often been in the heart and in the mouth of the afflicted, especially in an hour of impatience. We are all, in our turns, disposed to think our own trials peculiarly heavy, and our own cases singular. But to them who ask this question we may answer, Yes—there has been a sorrow greater than yours, greater than the sorrow of Jeremiah, or of Jerusalem. They who have heard of the sorrows of Jesus, will surely, upon the hearing of this question, be reminded of him, whether it was the intention of the prophet to personate him or not. If we conceive of him hanging upon the cross, and speaking in this language to us, ' Was ever any sorrow like my sorrow?' must not we reply, with admiration and gratitude, “No, Lord, never was love, never was grief, like thine.'
The expostulation and the question are equally applicable to the sufferings of Messiah. The former, indeed, is not inserted
. in the Oratorio, but I am not willing to leave it out. The highest wonder ever exhibited to the world, to angels, and men, is the Son of God suffering and dying for sinners. Next to this, hardly any thing is more astonishing to an enlightened mind than the gross and stupid insensibility with which the sufferings of the 2viour are treated, and the indifference with which this wonderful event is regarded by creatures who are so nearly concerned in it. If they believe in him, they will be healed by his wounds, and live by his death. If they finally reject him, they must perish ; and iheir guilt and misery will be greatly aggravated by what they have heard of him ! But sin bas so blinded our understandings, and hardened our hearts, that we have naturally no feeling, either for him or for ourselves. VOL. III.