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well either in great prosperity, or in extreme want and poverty.
And the condition he chooses, as most desirable, is that in which he thinks his virtue would be exposed to the smallest or the fewest hazards.
St. Paul, who recommended to others fear and caution, is an example of it himself. He even says: "I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection, lest that by any means, when I have preached the gospel to others, I myself should be a cast-away," 1 Cor. ix. 27.
Nor can it be doubted, but St. Peter likewise observed the rules he gave. It evidently appears in the temper of his epistles.
Yea, our Lord himself is, in some measure, an example here. For he was tried as we are. Indeed he resisted, and overcame always. But though he was completely innocent, he saw the force of worldly temptations, and provided for them.
Before he entered upon his important and difficult ministry, he was led of the spirit into the wilderness, and was tempted divers ways. And by meditations, in that solitude, upon the vanity and emptiness of this world, and all its glory, and by considering the greater glory set before him, he was prepared for the trials of a more public life. And as his last and great temptation drew near, we discern him to be mindful of it. Says he to the disciples: "The prince of this world cometh; but hath nothing in me," John xiv. 30. And he retired into a private place. And likewise charged three of his disciples to watch, whilst he went and prayed at a small distance from them.
3. Upon the whole therefore we need not be shy of admitting, and cherishing this temper, of fearing always, or a perpetual distrust of ourselves, during this state of trial.
This fear or diffidence has in it some uneasiness; but it will lay a foundation for great advantages.
It is better to fear offending, than to sorrow for having offended.
The care of caution is not so troublesome, as the bitterness of late repentance.
Though he who fears always should at first be esteemed neither the greatest nor the happiest of men, in the end he may be both. For " pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," Prov. xvi. 18. Again," Before destruction the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility," chap. xvii. 12.
It is good counsel, more especially fit to be given to
some: "Let not him that putteth on the harness boast himself, as he that putteth it off," 1 Kings xx. 11.
In this respect, as well as some others, the day of a man's death is better than the day of his birth, Ecc. vii. 1. It is a happy thing to pass with safety through the temptations of this world. At setting out the trial is doubtful and hazardous. But if a man be faithful, and keep the way of the Lord to the end, the reward is sure, and no temptations shall any more annoy or terrify.
To a good man therefore it must be desirable, after difficult services, and a life of caution and circumspection, to be able to say, when the will of the Lord is; It is finished. There is now an end to the labours, the afflictions, the sorrows, the temptations of this life. But there remains a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will give to all those who have fought a good fight, and kept the faith; who, in all the difficult services and hazardous seasons of this life, have been encouraged by the hope of his appearing to reward the well-doer.
And since God knows all our frame, it must be our wisdom to refer ourselves to him, as to all things concerning us in this world, desirous that all things may work together for our good; and that nothing may be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus; and hoping, that neither the good nor the evil things of this life shall destroy the principle of virtue begun in us; but rather refine, improve, and strengthen it, until it be perfected in glory.
OUR SAVIOUR'S THIRST UPON THE CROSS CONSIDERED AND IMPROVED.
After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar. And they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. John xix. 28, 29.
ST. PAUL in the epistle to the Ephesians, ch. iii. 18, speaks of the unmeasurable extent of the love of Christ. Which
yet it is very desirable, and will be very profitable for us to understand. And though we are not able to comprehend it, it will be of advantage to think rightly and justly of it, and not to conceive of his sufferings, that great proof of his love, as designed to supply the want of righteousness in us, but to be a powerful argument and incentive to real, eminent, and persevering righteousness and holiness.
All the ends and uses of Christ's sufferings show his love in submitting to the pain and shame of the cross. And the greatness and variety of those sufferings are an affecting thought and consideration.
The words of the text are near the conclusion of the history of our Lord's last sufferings. And in explaining and improving them, I am led to speak to these several particulars.
I. I would show the nature and the causes of our Lord's thirst upon the cross, which he declared aloud.
II. The treatment which he thereupon met with: "They filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it to his mouth." III. The meaning of that expression in this place: "That the scripture might be fulfilled.
IV. After which I shall mention some suitable remarks. I. I shall endeavour to show the nature and the causes of our Lord's thirst upon the cross, which he declared aloud.
Doubtless it was real and vehement, and owing to what he had endured both in body and mind. The Lord Jesus had not, that we any where read, any sickness. And it is reasonable to suppose, that he never had any. For death, and consequently sickness, and diseases, the forerunners and ordinary occasions of death, are the fruit of sin; from which Jesus was quite free. St. Paul speaks of God's "sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh," Rom. viii. 3. He had true and real flesh. For he was born of a woman. But it was not " sinful flesh." It was only "the likeness of sinful flesh." For he was not conceived in the ordinary way, but by the Holy Ghost, or the immediate interposition of God. And he in all things did the will of the Father, and ever pleased him that sent him.
But though Jesus was liable to no disease, or sickness, he had the innocent infirmities of the human nature. He was "wearied" with journeying, and had hunger and thirst, John iv. 6. He needed the refreshments of meat, and drink, and sleep; as we plainly perceive from his history in the gospels. He was also grieved, and offended, and angry, though without sin or excess, at the miseries, the faults, and the follies of men, especially such as were very great and
aggravated. And undoubtedly he felt the pain of those stripes, which without resistance he suffered to be inflicted upon him.
In the fourth chapter of St. John's Gospel is the relation of our Lord's passing from Jerusalem to Galilee, where he chiefly was. "And he left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. And he must needs go through Samaria. Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called SycharNow Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well. And it was the sixth hour." If our Lord, in travelling on foot, was wearied with the length of the journey, and the heat of the day; how much more must he have been discomposed by all that had passed to this time from the evening of the preceding day!
For, as we all know from the evangelical history, when he had eaten the paschal supper, and instituted a memorial of his own transactions among men on this earth, and especially of his then approaching death, he had a long, but most heavenly and affecting conversation with the disciples. After that, coming to the garden, whither he sometimes went for the sake of privacy, he separated himself from the rest of the disciples, and retired with three of them into a more private place, and withdrew a small distance from them also; where in a near view of his approaching sufferings, and a close meditation upon the affecting circumstances of them, and the greatness of the temptation, which he was entering into, and how severe a trial it would be to the constancy of his virtue, and considering also the difficulty and the importance of a steady and exemplary conduct, and the tremendous consequences of any the least failure on his part, and also discerning the heinous guilt of his accusers and enemies, whether Jews or others, and divers other amazing particulars of the expected scene of sufferings; he earnestly prayed," that the cup might pass from him. And there appeared an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, his sweat was as it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground," Luke xxii. 42—44.
Soon after which, he was apprehended, and carried to the house of Annas, then of Caiaphas the high priest. And having been examined, and ill-treated, he was confined until early in the morning, and was then had before Pilate, where the accusations were renewed against him. By Pilate's order he was once at least, if not twice, scourged. And the soldiers platted a crown of thorns, and put it upon his head.
Neither of which could be without some effusion of blood. The same would be in a great degree the effect of fastening him to the cross, by the hands, and the feet. In the suffering of which, and during the whole time of his hanging on the cross, he must have had in his perfect body, of the finest contexture, the most exquisite sense of pain. In consequence of these fatigues, and these sufferings, and this loss of blood, he would be parched as it were with a violent drought.
Another thing, contributing to the vehemence of his thirst, must have been the exercise of his mind. Unquestionably, during the whole space of this concluding scene of our Lord's life, which we have just now briefly surveyed, there was in his mind all the care and attention and circumspection which can be conceived. And it required the full exertion of all the powers of his spotless and perfect mind, to persevere in meekness and patience under the insulting speeches, and other abusive treatment, which he met with; and in complete resignation to the will of God: and in benevolence toward those who so unrighteously persecuted him.
Such a conclusion of so holy, so useful, so glorious a life and ministry, as was that of the Lord Jesus, must have been the most affecting trial that ever befel any man. During the period of this trial, the whole frame, both of body and mind, was stretched to the utmost; and the thirst which our Lord now openly expressed, must have been a natural consequence of it. We may well suppose, it was indeed great and vehement; an uneasiness, which at this time almost swallowed up the pains of his pierced and wounded hands and feet.
When Pilate had pronounced sentence upon Jesus, and they were carrying him to the place of crucifixion, or when he was come thither, and before they nailed him to the cross, there was offered to him "wine mingled with myrrh; but he received it not," Mark xv. 23. He refused to drink of it. That was an intoxicating potion, wine mingled with some rich ingredients, tending to stupify. And probably, was a kind provision, made by some inhabitants of the city of Jerusalem, of a generous and compassionate temper for all, or most of such as were there sentenced to die by crucifixion. But it was wisely and greatly refused by the Lord Jesus; that he might be a complete example of suffering virtue. Somewhat else was now reached up to him upon the cross, after he had said, "I thirst." Which is next to be considered by us.