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Heb. x. 7.
Heb. v. 2.
for in correspondence to all the exigencies of the SERM. case, (that God and man both might act their parts in saving us,) the blessed eternal Word, the only Son John vi. 38. of God, by the good-will of his Father, did vouchsafe John i. 14. to intercede for us, and to undertake our redemption; iv. in order thereto voluntarily being sent down from Ephes. i. 6. heaven, assuming human flesh, subjecting himself to post. viii. all the infirmities of our frail nature, and to the worst 1 Tim. ii. 6. inconveniences of our low condition; therein merit- Heb.ix. 15. ing God's favour to us, by a perfect obedience to the Col. i. 22. law, and satisfying God's justice by a most patient endurance of pains in our behalf; in completion of all, willingly laying down his life for the ransom of our souls, and pouring forth his blood in sacrifice for our sins.
Tit. ii. 14.
This is that great and wonderful mystery of god-1 Tim. iii. liness, (or of our holy religion,) the which St. Paul here doth express, in these words concerning our blessed Saviour; Who being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
In which words are contained divers points very observable. But seeing the time will not allow me to treat on them in any measure as they deserve, I shall (waving all the rest) insist but upon one particular, couched in the last words, even the death of evrov the cross; which by a special emphasis do excite us. to consider the manner of that holy passion which we now commemorate; the contemplation whereof, as it is most seasonable, so it is ever very profitable.
Now then in this kind of passion we may consider XXXII. divers notable adjuncts; namely these: 1. Its being in appearance criminal. 2. Its being most bitter and painful. 3. Its being most ignominious and shameful. 4. Its peculiar advantageousness to the designs of our Lord in suffering. 5. Its practical efficacy.
I. We may consider our Lord's suffering as criminal; or as in semblance being an execution of Isa. liii. 12. justice upon him. He, as the prophet foretold of him, was numbered among the transgressors; and God, 2 Cor.v. 21. saith St. Paul, made him sin for us, who knew no sin: that is, God ordered him to be treated as a most sinful or criminous person, who in himself was perfectly innocent, and void of the least inclination to offend.
John v. 18.
So in effect it was, that he was impeached of the highest crimes; as a violator of the divine laws in 61. xxvii. divers instances; as a designer to subvert their reliLuke xxiii. gion and temple; as an impostor, deluding and seducing the people; as a blasphemer, assuming to him
63. self the properties and prerogatives of God; as a se
post. v. 14. ditious and rebellious person, perverting the nation,
John xviii. inhibiting payments of tribute to Cæsar, usurping royal authority, and styling himself Christ a king: in a word, as a malefactor, or one guilty of enormous offences; so his persecutors avowed to Pilate, If, said they, he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee. As such he was represented and arraigned; as such, although by a sentence wrested by malicious importunity, against the will and conscience of the judge, he was condemned, and accordingly suffered death.
Now whereas any death or passion of our Lord, as being in itself immensely valuable, and most pre
cious in the sight of God, might have been sufficient SERM. toward the accomplishment of his general designs, (the appeasing God's wrath, the satisfaction of divine justice, the expiation of our guilt;) it may be inquired, why God should thus expose him, or why he should choose to suffer under this odious and ugly character? Which inquiry is the more considerable, because it is especially this circumstance which crosseth the fleshly sense and worldly prejudices of men, so as to have rendered the gospel offensive to the superstitious Jews, and despicable to conceited Gentiles. For so Tryphon in Justin Martyr, although, from conviction by testimonies of scripture, he did admit the Messias was to suffer hardly, yet that it should be in this accursed manner, he could not digest. So the great adversaries of Christianity Orig. c. (Celsus, Porphyry, Julian) did with most contempt 83. vii. p. urge this exception against it. So St. Paul did ob- de Civ. D. serve, that Christ crucified was unto the Jews a 10. 28. Cystumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness. vi. p. 194. Wherefore, to avoid those scandals, and that we may better admire the wisdom of God in this dispensation, it may be fit to assign some reasons intimated in holy scripture, or bearing conformity to its doctrine, why it was thus ordered. Such are these.
Cels. ii. p.
ril. c. Jul.
I Cor. i. 23.
1. As our Saviour freely did undertake a life of greatest meanness and hardship, so upon the like accounts he might be pleased to undergo a death most loathsome and uncomfortable. There is nothing to man's nature (especially to the best natures, in which modesty and ingenuity do survive) more abominable
* Cur si Deus fuit, et mori voluit, non saltem honesto aliquo mortis genere affectus est? &c. Lact. iv. 26. Just. M. Dial. P. 317.
SERM. than such a death. God for good purposes hath XXXII. planted in our constitution a quick sense of disgrace; and, of all disgraces, that which proceedeth from an imputation of crimes is most pungent; and being conscious of our innocence doth heighten the smart; and to reflect upon ourselves dying under it, leaving the world with an indelible stain upon our name and memory, is yet more grievous. Even to languish by degrees, enduring the torments of a long, however sharp disease, would to an honest mind seem more eligible, than in this manner, being reputed and handled as a villain, to find a quick and easy despatch.
Of which human resentment may we not observe Matt. xxvi. a touch in that expostulation, Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves? If as a man he did not like to be prosecuted as a thief; yet willingly did he choose it, as he did other most distasteful things pertaining to our nature, (the likeness of man,) and incident to that low condition, (the form of a servant,) into which he did put himself: such as were, to endure penury, and to fare hardly, to be slighted, envied, hated, reproached through all his course of life.
It is well said by a pagan philosopher, that no man doth express such a respect and devotion to virtue, as doth he who forfeiteth the repute of being a good man, that he may not lose the conscience of being suchy. This our Lord willingly made his case, being content not only to expose his life, but to prostitute his fame, for the interests of goodness.
y Nemo mihi videtur pluris æstimare virtutem, nemo illi magis esse devotus, quam qui boni viri famam perdidit, ne conscientiam perderet. Sen. Ep. 81.
Had he died otherwise, he might have seemed to SERM. purchase our welfare at a somewhat easier rate; he XXXII. had not been so complete a sufferer; he had not tasted the worst that man is liable to endure: there had been a comfort in seeming innocent, detracting from the perfection of his sufferance.
59. vii. 1,
Whereas therefore he often was in hazard of John v. 18. viii. 37, 40, death, both from the clandestine machinations and the outrageous violences of those who maligned him, 19, 25. x. he did industriously shun a death so plausible, and honourable, if I may so speak; it being not so disgraceful to fall by private malice, or by sudden rage, as by the solemn deliberate proceeding of men in public authority and principal credit.
Accordingly this kind of death did not fall upon him by surprise or by chance; but he did from the John vi. 64. beginning foresee it; he plainly with satisfaction did aim at it: he, as it is related in the Gospels, did shew his disciples, that it was incumbent on him by God's appointment and his own choice; that he Matt. xvi. ought, it is said, to suffer many things, to be re- Luke ix. 22. jected by the chief priests, elders, and scribes, to Mark ix.31. be vilified by them, to be delivered up to the Gentiles, to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, as a flagitious slave. Thus would our blessed Saviour, in conformity to the rest of his voluntary afflictions, and for a consummation of them, not only suffer in his body by sore wounds and bruises, and in his soul by doleful agonies, but in his name also and reputation by the foulest scandals; undergoing as well all the infamy as the infirmity which did belong to us, or might befall us: thus meaning by all means throughly to express his charity, and exercise his compassion towards us; thus advancing his