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lower heaven, and therefore you should perform it with the greater care. Consider, what is the heaven of angels? It is this, they always behold the face of their heavenly Father; the constant and steady contemplation of God is the heaven of angels. Now meditation is that duty whereby we contemplate God. I confess there is this difference, while we are upon earth, we look upon God with an unsteady eye, as a man that holds an optic glass with a palsy hand; he looks upon the stars; but the glass is held so unsteady, that he cannot fully and fixedly look upon them : so we differ in degree of fruition, but not in the substance. The soul that hath conversed with God, and frequently walked with him, it will be no strange thing for him to die; for he hath been dead to the world before, his soul hath been in heaven in reference to his desires, before it comes to heaven in reference to its own substance. To finish all, as you would desire to have real and solid
arguments of the change of your state; so be serious and
strict in the discharge of meditation. The old nature like a root is always productive of carnal thoughts: the devil is the tiller and husbandman of the old heart, and he makes those fruits that grow of themselves, to be more productive. But now if thy nature be changed, there is a spiritual seed conveyed into thy soul, and the influences of heaven should make you fruitful: and as you desire that, be strict in this duty. Although the beams of the sun touch the earth, yet the body of the sun is fixed in its own orb and sphere : so let this be the frame of your souls, although you must converse with the world, yet let your thoughts, your desires, your joys, your affections be with God in heaven, while these external commerces you must have with the world, declare you to be on the earth.
The foregoing rules exemplified in a meditation on the sufferings of Christ.
THAT which I design in the last place, is to reduce those vules which I gave for meditation to practice upon this subject, viz. The sufferings of Christ.
And first, one rule I laid down was to be as particular as you can, in reference to the nature and circumstances of the object you meditate upon. Accordingly,
First. Lay down a draught of Christ's sufferings, and present that to yourselves : he that shall trace the story of Christ from the cradle to the cross, will find it to be a continual crucifixion, his life was a passive action, his death an active passion. But I shall confine myself more particularly to that which was the Cotonis and the most eminent part of his sufferings, and therefore for the more particular setting this before you. I will propound the crucifixion of Christ as it respects his body ;-The agonies and sorrows of his spirit, which was the highest part of his sufferings. For the first of these, that which respected his body, the scripture takes notice of three eminent circumstances which belong to that. The ignomiuy, curse, misery of it.
1. The ignominy of his crucifixion: and if you look into the scripture, you shall find he was scorned in every one of his offi
As he was a king, so he was sceptred with a reed, and erowned with thorns. As he was a prophet, so they blinded him and bade him prophesy' who smote him. As he was a priest they clothed him with a long robe, which was an emblem of that office. The ignominy of our Saviour's sufferings, respecteth the kind of his death, the place of his death, and the companions of his death; if you respect the kind of it; it was hanging on a tree, that death which rendered the person, and showed the fact to be abominable. If you respect the place of his death, he was not crucified in a corner, but upon the top of Mount Calvary, so that he was exposed to the view of the world. If you respect the companions of his death, they were the dregs and worst of mankind, thieves and robbers: thus you see he that was the “ glory of heaven,” is made the “shame of earth;” and he who was the adoration of angels, is the scorn of sinful wretches.
2. The second circumstance is the curse of his death. The scripture doth assert this, “ Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” Gal. 3. 13. There was both a ceremonial and a moral curse in the death of Christ : the ceremonial curse was his hanging upon a cross : for the custom of the Jews was this, upon any notorious fact, the malefactor was first put to death, by stoning, or the like; and then his body was hanged up before the sun: so that the hanging of a person, was a kind of second death, and this the Lord Jesus endured. The moral curse likewise did concur to the death of the Lord Jesus, he bare the iniquity of us all.
3. The misery of it, which was inexpressible. Every part of Christ was a receptacle of pain : those deaths which are lingering, there is a slow pace in them, but a quick torment. So it was with the Lord Jesus, his hands, and his feet were nailed to the cross; they were those parts which were most distant from the vitals, and animal spirits, and so his death was an extended torture. Now by meditation the soul should represent this crueifixion of Christ to itself.
If you come to the sufferings of his soul, Christ had a real taste of the bitterness of the second death. He drank up the cup of horror, he endured the pains of hell, though not specie yet pondere ; * though he did not endure the same in kind; yet he did in degree: though he did not suffer a local hell, yet he suffered a penal hell. Thus represent these things to your souls, by the help of meditation.
To gather up the sum, The gracious soul, when it would warm itself with the consideration of Christ's death; let it make itself a party in every passage of the story of his passsion; and let the soul mix its affections with all the occurrences of it: as for example. First go to the garden, and there let thy soul consider the sweat that dropped from him, hear his groans, and see his agonies. Then follow him to the rulers and soldiers; and there consider all those actions of theirs, which contained the greatest scorn, slighting, and abuse of him. When the thorns are platted upon his head, let them pierce thy heart. Then go from the ruler's house to Mount Calvary, and let thy soul take up part of the cross ; and when thou comest there let it be nailed to the cross, and bleed with love for thy Saviour. The soul by reflex acts is able in some degree, to produce same passion and sorrow, which it would produce if the object was visible to our bodily eye. Now there is none of you but fancy if you had a visible representation of Christ hanging upon the cross, expending his blood, bowing his head, sending forth his Spirit, this would affect you. By meditation represent this to the eye of thy soul, and Oh let it produce suitable passions and affections.
* See more of this in the Harmony of the Attributes, ch, 13.
Another rule I gave you was this, when you meditate upon a spiritual subject do it by way of argument; considering the causes and effects of it: so here, consider the causes and effects of Christ's sufferings. The causes of his sufferings are two, the love of the Father, and the love of Christ: I know the sin of man was the occasion of it. There was miseranda necessitas a miserable necessity on our part, but the cause was commiserans voluntas, commiserating mercy on God's part.
1. To speak of the love of the Father. The scripture represents this to us as the original cause of Christ's death. “Herein God declared his love to us, that when we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." * Rom. 5. 8.
2. The love of Christ was the cause of this. Acts of grace cannot be extorted. Now this was merely an act of grace in Christ to give up himself to die for us. Therefore you find in the first treaty that was between God and Christ, Christ declares an absolute resignation to the will of God, “Lo I come to do thy will, O my God." Heb. 10. 7. Obedience to his Father and love to man, was the cause of Christ's sufferings. Therefore although the death of Christ was violent in respect of men, it was voluntary in respect of himself: “ I lay down my life.” Observe a vast difference between Christ's answer to Peter, and his answer to Judas; when Peter out of an irregular pity to Christ's person, desired him to favour himself; because that hindered man's redemption, he saith, “get thee behind me satan.” John 10. 15. Mat. 16. 23. Mat. 26. 50. How
* See more of this in the Harmony of the Attributes, chap. 9, throughout, but especially towards the end.
sharp and severe was it? But when Judas comes to betray Christ, he calls him friend. What a great difference is there in the answers of Christ ? This shows the willingness of his compliance with his Father's decrees; the love of Christ was the cause of his sufferings; that love which was as ancient as his Deity, and survived his humanity.
In the second place, let us proceed to the effects of these sufferings, and that will be an object fit for our meditation. There are five eminent effects of Christ's sufferings, which the scripture speaks of.
1. Complete satisfaction to the justice of his Father. The sufferings of Christ were enriched by the union of his Deity; his blood was the blood of God: it was more for a God to satisfy, than for a man to sin. The violation of the law, was an act of the creature; but the fulfilling of the law was an act of the Creator; and therefore justice is completely satisfied. Upon this account Rev. 4. 3. we read that the throne of God, is encompassed with a rainbow. A rainbow is an emblem of peace. The justice of God receives more glory in the redemption of our souls, than in the damnation of the world. For Christ at once made full satisfaction, but all the damned souls in hell are ever satisfying. You know a payment may be made of equal value in a small weight of gold, which is equivalent to a greater weight of silver; Christ's blood and sufferings although they were short in respect of their time and duration ; yet they did exceed the eternal torments of the damned in respect of the worth of his person.
2. The second effect of Christ's sufferings is, laying a foundation for the calming and quieting of conscience. Conscience is God's officer, and when the Judge is appeased, conscience then should suspend its accusations; the blood of Christ may well be called spiritual wine, for it doth at once cheer the heart of God by way of satisfaction, and the heart of man by way of pacification. Conscience cannot alledge any thing, but what may be answered from the death of Christ. I confess many times believing souls are full of perplexities; for the bee that hath lost her sting, may keep a noise and buz, although it cannot injure us : so when sin hath lost its sting by his death, yet there may be a noise about us, and this may trouble us; but this proceeds not from the weakness of Christ's satisfaction, but from the weakness of our faith.