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is it that we should fully believe this article ; since, by the stripes of this loving Saviour, we are healed. Nearly doth it concern the trembling sinner to examine the proof of Christ's sufferings. Valuable is the satisfaction derived to the faithful, from every circumstance of this relation ; every action, every word, carries its weight of interest. Every indignity our blessed Master received, every base injustice, every barbarous suffering, all contribute to increase the dear price of our redemption. The detestable nature of sin, and the just curse it had called down on the rebellious, rendered all that is contained in this fourth article, absolutely necessary to be performed, that sin might be destroyed, and death and Satan conquered. In my Lecture
upon the former article I took some pains to show you, that the end of Christ's being born of the Virgin Mary was, that, having a human body in every respect like ours, liable to weakness, pain, and suffering, he might be capable of dying for us. It was as positively necessary to accomplish the will and wise counsel of the Most High, who sent his only Son into the world to save us, that the body he derived from the substance of his mother, should be equally fitted for the sacrifice he was to make on the cross, as by the mighty power of the Holy Ghost, it was so prepared as to be free from sin
As, in this article, our assent to the sufferings of our Saviour is placed before our belief in his being crucified; it is right we should first inquire what these sufferings were, Doubtless, they were many and great ; and we need only refer to the history of his life, as related by the Evangelists, in the Holy Gospel, to furnish us with the particulars. But before we produce them, we need only consider the present constitution of man's nature, to be assured, that, under the circumstances of Christ's natural birth, and his progress to man's estate, he experienced every evil to which human nature is unavoidably exposed. Even this reflection supplies abundant subject for holy meditation, for profoundest gratitude, and humblest wonder. That the eternal Son of God should condescend to take upon him such a body, and be subject even to its weakness and common miseries, for our good, would alone demand the utmost acknowledgment and duty our whole lives could show. But, when we contemplate his further sufferings, we can express our astonishment in no shape so proper, as by silent veneration. No terms can be employed beyond what the Apostle mentions on the subject—that so great is the mystery, that the very angels are astonished at it, and desire to look into it.
The serious improvement I could wish to administer to your minds and my own (my friends), from a full consideration of what this part of our Belief proposes to us, can be obtained no ways so satisfactorily as by enlarging on the words of Scripture. Not to dwell on the variety of trial and uneasiness to which our blessed Lord must have been exposed, during his whole life, from the common infirmities of human nature; from the stubbornness and ungrateful disposition of those he had to deal with; from the malice of his enemies, the dulness and weakness of his disciples, and the temptations of Satan, to which, likewise, it was appointed he should submit; let us chiefly attend to those sufferings which came so fast upon him towards the close of his office, which indeed more materially relate to our case and interest in him, and therefore very properly precede the mention of his crucifixion.
First, then, we read (Matt. xxvi.), that he was betrayed by one of his own disciples. Perhaps a more sensible wound cannot be given to the human soul, than the ingratitude of those we have endeavoured to serve. the mind of the blessed Jesus this action must have been more severely felt, because he knew the gall of bitterness into which such base conduct must hurry the miserable traitor. And what we are told of the weakness and cowardice of another disciple, who denied so gracious
a Master, for whom he had so lately professed such violent affection, doubtless contributed to increase this beginning of sorrows, especially as all his followers having deserted him before, there appeared some degree of superior fidelity in Peter's perseverance to attend him: but, alas! it fell out as once before, when Peter trusted too much to his own fancied power ; for, at that time, he would have sunk in the waves, which his faith helped him to defy, but that his Lord held out his hand to save him. Lord, help me, or I perish, was his sure support. But when he saw his Master in the power of sinners, his faith not only wavered, but was so totally withdrawn, that he hesitated not even to disown his knowledge of him.
Again, we are informed by St, Matthew, that the holy Jesus was accused in terms of the foulest charge and falsehood, at the same time- taxed as a persecutor of the nation's peace, and hesitating as to paying the legal tribute. To be branded as a REBEL, must have been a most aggravating reflection to a soul continually bent on preaching peace, and so particularly cautious not to disturb the esta blished government he lived under, that he publicly refused to be made a king, or even à judge in legal differences ; nay, so ready was he to lend it his support, that he wrought a miracle to pay the lawful tribute, both for his disciple and himself. Render unto Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, was enough to overturn the falsity of their evidence: but his office now was SUFFERING, not VINDICATION. At the awful day of judgment, when he shall coine in the dreadful character of an avenging King, then will it appear that it had been better for many of his merciless enemies that they had never been born. And now the vilest of insults being heaped upon him by the unfeeling soldiers (a class of men, in general ignorant, depraved, and abandoned in the extreme), what might not be expected from such savage executioners, deluded by their superiors, and encouraged in their harsh and barbarous treatment? The short but afflictive language of the history speaks, too fully, the shocking indignities he received :—the meek, the merciful, the venerable Jesus was buffeted, mocked, and spit upon
his spirits and natural strength exhausted by the hurry of his trialhis kingly dignity insulted by a painful crown of thorns, and the mockery of outward homage -his prophetical character derided by the blasa phemous scoffings of the rabble—and, as an awful type that through tribulation we must advance to glory, this public humiliation was increased by the tormenting burden of his actual cross: these are among the cruel sufferings recorded for our occasional and humble meditations ; but these relate to the less poble part of