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that of a Saviour and Lord confess'd to die Ignominiously, in the quality of the vilest Slave, and most deteftable Malefactor, And indeed, that a Life of so much Power should end in so much seeming Weakness and Desertion : That He, to whom Angels were said to pay Homage, and whose Commission God himselfhad published in Thunder : He, who had check's Diseases with a Word, and forced Death to deliver back his Prey, should be bound, and scourged, and crucified himself; might well be thought a most amazing Turn, and an Eclipse upon the Glory of his former Miracles. It had certainly been so, supposing those Indignities and Sufferings to be a constraint upon him. But now that Difficulty vanishes. These Warnings prove his Power the same still; That his Enemies had no advantage over him, but by his own permission ; That he distinctly knew and chose all this. So asserting at once his Power, and his Love, in making good that Declaration to the Jews, No man taketh my life
John X. 18. from me, but I lay it down of my self. I have power to lay
it down, and I have power to take it again. 2. The Scandal of the Cross is hereby removed, as these things are declared to have been exactly agreeable to the ancient and most authentick Prophecies concerning the Mesas. Hence our Lord so often appeals thither. So here, all things that are written by the Prophets concerning the son of man shall be accomplished. And, the son of man goeth as it is written of þim. And a world more to the same pur- 24. pose. The frequency whereof, and the mighty Stress laid upon them, in this present Case particularly, make it not amiss to try, if I can in few Words explain, how the Authority of Prophecies comes to be so very venerable, upon this account.
In order hereunto let it be remember'd, that the Redemption of Mankind was an Act of God's Free Grace. The whole Design, and Contrivance of it
was entirely His. The Sacrifice of his Son, though not actually offer'd till these laft Days, was yet available for former Ages. To Them he therefore gave
such prospects of it, as he faw fit and fufficient for Their Circumstances. These Discoveries had a double use. They laid the Foundations of Faith in Christ to come: and when accomplish’d, they were the Signatures and Distinctions of Christ already come. The accomplishments of things thus foretold was therefore necessary, because God had pledg’d his Truth for them, and had suspended Salvation upon the Belief in Hiin as the Mefiah, whom such Events should mark out to them. But then that necessity depended on another, which was the Original Scheme of this wonderful Work, formed in the Divine Mind. As these things came to pass then, because they had been thus foretold ; so were they likewise thus foretold, because the wise purpose of God had determin'd, that they should thus come to pass.
The whole then rests at last in the immutable Counsel of God alone. And if so, what ground is left for taking offence at the Cross of Christ? Hence, probably, our Saviour enlarges upon all the infamous Circumitances of his Passion, that, how unaccountable foever in themselves, or how unworthy of Him, we niight judge them; yer One above, whose Thoughts are not as our Thoughts, and whose Hands cannot be tied up, or prescribed to, might be shewn to have other Notions of them, and that every one of these Indignities were of Service to his Design.
Since then he did, for our fakes, and of his own mere Goodness, engage in a Design so beneficial, shall We presume to call him to account, and not acquiesce in his Methods of effecting it? We, forsooth, very pertly take upon us, to set up Standards of Justice, and Mercy, and Honour : and pretend to bring our Maker to the Rules and Ideas, thus crudely formed,
Rom. ix. 33.
of Prudence, and Equity, and a due Decorum. Vain Men !.We attempt we know not what. The Mystery of Man redeemed is a depth too vast for poor Mortals to fathom. But, could we comprehend the Reasons of the divine Mind ; such Beauty and Gracefulness would shine forth in every part, as must needs cast us into St. Paul's Rapture, Othe depth of the Riches both of the Wisdom and Goodness of God! As it is: While we are able to see so little, and that little so imperfectly ; it will much better become the Condition of Creatures, especially of ransomed Sinners, thankfully to receive the Mercy, and humbly to adore the Wisdom of God; than, by the moft deteftably impious, nay most absurd and ignorant presumption, to arraign the Proceedings of a Being confessedĪy infinite in all Perfections ; and undertake to amend the measures, fixed by him before the World was. So little reason have we to blush at, so much to glory in, the Cross of Christ.
3. These Warnings contributed greatly to removing the scandal of that Cross, by foretelling at the fame time our Lord's Resurrection. The Jews fiatter'd themselves with a Mesiah, who should make his entrance among them in Pomp and Magnificence, full of Spoils and Conquests. Our Jesus was a victorious Messiah : Not such indeed as they expected, but wherein he differed, his Atchievements and Glories were fingular and more conspicuous. For never was there such a defeat given, never thought of before, as when Death was overcome by dying, difarmed by one that seem'd its Prey and Prisoner, and all the Powers of Hell saken and subdued by their own, as they thought prosperous, Strațagems. They, who attend to this impartially, must needs allow, and may in some degree discern, that the All-wise God consulted the Honour of his Son, by a new, 'tis acknowledged, but certainly a most successful Method. For, had he been
Luke xxiv. 44, 48.
less a Suffering, he had also in Proportion been a less glorious and triumphant, Saviour.
Lastly, These things were signified to the Disciples, and not the common Crowd of Followers, because in Their Hands was deposited the Treasure of his Gospel. It was Their Trust and Office, to testify what they had seen and heard, and particularly to vindicate his Memory, as to the manner and willingness of his Death. That this was not a thing of Compulsion but Choice that none of these Events surpriz'd or confounded him : but that he knew them all, faw every step they moved toward him, and met them with the utmost Sedateness and Constancy of Mind, notwithstanding all the Reluctancies of Human Nature. To this effect is that Charge given these Persons after his Resurrection ;
These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things
must be fulfilled, which are written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms, concerning me. And ye are witnesses of these things.
The Sum of all is this. Whether we reflect upon the danger these Disciples were in, of being oppress’d with an Amiction fo fensible, as the Death of their Mafter, and the Insults and Malice of His and their Enemies ; this Warning was exceeding seasonable and kind, to prepare them for, and sustain them under, so heavy a burden. Or, whether we regard the Epidemick Error, concerning the Mesiah's first Appearance and Kingdom ; these were contriv'd to rectify their Mistakes about this matter. Or, whether we consider the Scandal taken at a Crucified Lord; it was fit to shew, that his Death was voluntary, and so a demonftration of infinite Goodness and Love: fit, to signify, by its agreement with the Prophecies, that this Design, and all the Strokes of it, were order'd by a wifer Head than Ours, even the Counsel and Appointment of God himself: fit, to represent the shame of our Lord's Crucifixion abundantly recompensed by the Glories of his Resurrection: fit lastly, to take all possible care of those, to whom so weighty a Truth was committed, and upon whose Testimony the success of the Christian Religion would in great measure depend.
The same Warning may bring considerable benefit to Every Christian, careful to improve it, as he ought, and may do. If he use it, as an occasion to silence all impious Cavils and Scruples, raised by his own Curiosity, or suggested by the Prophaneness of Others, to the disparagement of the Christian Institution. If he learn hence to value, to admire, this most wise and glorious Dispensation: and to adore the Condescension and Goodness of a suffering Saviour, who was content to undergo so much, for Wretches so unworthy. If the Sight and Sense of His Indignities and Wrongs, dispose us to Patience and Meekness under our own. And, if the Consideration of all the Insolence and Barbarity, all the Shame and Pain our Jesus underwent, stir us up to an holy Indignation and Revenge upon our Sins, the Cause, that he was thus exposed, affronted, misused; The Traytors, that, with such exquisite Torture, scourg'd, and nailed, and crucified the Body, and with Anguilh unconceivable pierc'd the afflicted Soul of the Son of God. If this, I say, provoke our Zeal, without Remorse, to execute the Duties of the approaching Season: that is, by Abstinence and Mortification, and true Repentance, to subdue and kill the Old Man, and utterly to abolish the whole Body of Sin. Thus shall we now be Partakers of his Death: Thus shall we also be Partakers of his Resurrection. Amen.