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And first, there is matter of mighty comfort and encouragement arising from hence to the sincerely good and virtuous; who may now walk on cheerfully in the paths of virtue, under these reflections and assurances; satisfied, that no conflict shall happen to them in the course of their spiritual warfare, in which their great adversary shall be too hard for them; and, on that account, easy, and at rest in their mind, with regard to the various trials and evils of life, that may, or may not befal them. They shall not be afraid of evil tidings, nor dejected at the thought of approaching dangers : their heart is stablished, and shall not shrink ; it standeth fast, and believeth in the Lord, Psal. cxii. 7, 8.
Many are frighted from a brave and resolute practice of their duty by considering before-hand, that such and such inconveniencies may possibly attend it, which they know not whether they shall be able to grapple with. But why are ye fearful, o ye of little faith! Matt. viii. 36. Is not He that is with you, stronger than he that is against you? And hath he not promised, that his strength shall be employed to support your weakness ? Hath he said it, and shall he not make it good! Numb. xxiii. 19. Therefore, why are ye troubled ! O ye of little faith! Were we all thoroughly persuaded of this important truth, that God will not suffer us to be tempted above what we are able ; were our minds constantly possessed with a lively and vigorous apprehension of it, there are no circumstances of life so sad, no evils so frightful, no trials so, sharp, but that we might look down upon them with indifference, and in the midst of what either we expect or endure, of felt or fancied dangers, take to ourselves words of holy assurance with the psalmist, and say; I will not be afraid for ten thousands of temptations, that have set themselves against me round about, Psal. viii. 6. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff comfort me, Psal. xxiii. 4.
Secondly, here is ample matter of reproof also to the
hypocrite, and the profane person: both which, from a principle opposite to the great truth of the text, would fain justify, or extenuate, their sinful compliances. Let not the hypocrite then allow himself in a favourite sin with the slight hope, that in this thing the Lord will pardon his servant, 2 Kings v. 18, and that one small fault will be overlooked among a crowd of other good qualities. Let him not pretend impotence, in a particular case, and expect to be believed when he says it, because he doth his duty sincerely, and stands bis ground firmly, upon other occasions. This is all but pretence : God, who cannot lie, hath assured us, that no temptation should overtake us, but what we should be enabled to bear : and when he said no temptation, he made no allowance for a darling infirmity.
Let the profane and dissolute person cease to affront God and man by his impious and absurd reasonings ! Let it be enough, that he resolve, at any rate, to be impure and lawless ; but let him not go on to defend his impurities, by reproaching and vilifying human nature, and under that, the wise Author and Contriver of it! If he is determined to live a life of sense, and to obey his lusts, yet let him not boldly and openly justify it, by saying, that it is necessary for him to act as he does; and that all men are, in many points, though not perhaps in the very same, just as he is ; as impotent every whit
, and utterly disabled. For this is defending one sin with another, and a much greater than the first. It is a malicious design of representing every body to be wicked, that he may appear innocent. The persons that reason thus, sometimes pretend to have an high regard for the liberties and just freedoms of human nature in civil matters, and are mighty uneasy and impatient under any restraint of them. If they are such friends to freedom, in God's name, let them assert it there, where it will beof most importance to them, --in the cause of virtue and religion. Let them remember themselves to be, not only freeborn Englishmen, but freeborn Christians : let them be jealous of their spiritual liberty, as well as their temporal; and not tie their own hands, and deliver themselves up, as it were, bound and fettered to the imperious sway of their lusts and passions. This is to make man a slave, and God a tyrant: and is by no means of a piece with their scheme, nor becoming those who plead for the rights and liberties of human nature.
Wherefore, laying aside these shifts and excuses, let us all set ourselves in good earnest to resist all manner of temptations : let us put out all the strength which we naturally have to this purpose, and beg of God supernaturally to supply us with what we have not. Especially at this solemn time, set apart to commemorate the great conflict of our Saviour with the tempter in the wilderness, and to prepare and qualify us for such spiritual encounters. Let us look up to the example of Christ, and remember how victorious he was over those fierce assaults of Satan; and what assurance he hath given us, that they who tread in his steps, and resolutely fight the good fight, shall be alike victorious. And whilst we resist as he did, let us be sure to use the same means of resistance, that he used, fasting and prayer: for there is no kind of temptation, but may, by the joint force of these, be cast out.
To these, therefore, let us fly. These let us lay hold of, bending our knees often in private, during this season of devotion, and applying ourselves to the throne of grace, in those excellent words of the church, which comprehend in short whatever hath in this discourse been more largely delivered.
"O God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers, that by reason of the frailty of our natures we cannot stand upright; grant to us such strength and protection, as may support us in all dangers, and carry us through all temptations, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” To whom, &c.
PREACHED AT ST. JAMES'S CHAPEL, ON GOOD
THE HORRID IMPRECATION OF THE JEWS, AND
THE JUSTICE AND WISDOM OF GOD IN FULFILL
ING IT UPON THEM, DISPLAYED. Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on
us, and on our children !—Matt. xxvii. 25. THE history of the Jewish nation is the history of Divine Providence, from whence, if we peruse it with attention and diligence, we inay learn what are the usual methods of God's dealing with a people, of his raising or depressing, his rewarding or punishing them, in proportion to their moral and religious deserts or demerits. And there is no branch of that history, which will furnish us with clearer instructions of this kind, than the account of what befel the Jews upon their crucifying the Lord of life, and fastening the guilt of that flagitious act upon themselves and their posterity ; when all the people answered, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children!
The reflections which I intend to make on these words, shall be offered to your thoughts in this order.
1. I will consider their connexion with the preceding circumstances of the evangelist's account; by which it will appear, with what solemnity and deliberation, and how inveterate a malice and obstinacy they were uttered.
II. I will shew, in how wonderful a manner this imprecation was fulfilled on the Jews, and is still to this day fulfilling upon them.
III. I will suggest some reflections tending to vindicate the justice and wisdom of God, in dealing thus severely with this people; his justice, in respect of the - sufferers themselves : his wisdom, with regard to the great ends and designs he proposed to himself in their sufferings. From which I shall in the
Last place, deduce some useful and concerning inferences.
As to the first of these, we may observe, that the imprecation of the text was an act, not of sudden rage, but of deliberate and unrelenting malice. They who uttered it were no strangers to the person and character of Christ; had been eye-witnesses of his spotless life and conversation; had often heard the heavenly doctrine he preached, and seen the matchless wonders he performed, to confirm the truth of it; knew the types and prophecies, that pointed him out as the Messiah, and were at that very time, in full expectation of their accomplishment: and yet resisted all this light and conviction ; and, because their interest and authority with the people declined by his means, took council to slay him.
The chief priests, the scribes, and elders, assembled in sanhedrin, condemned him over night; slept upon their unrighteous judgment, without remorse ; and, when the morning was come, led him away to Pilate the Roman governor, to whom the power of life and death appertained. Pilate upon examination, publicly declared, that he found no fault in him ; and, when they insisted on his execution, sent them to Herod the tetrarch of Galilee, within whose territory some part of our Saviour's life had been spent; but he also acquitted him. Glad of Herod's concurring judgment, Pilate addresses himself again to the Jews, expostulates with them upon their groundless prosecution of Jesus, and labours to divert them from it. When they continued still deaf to all his entreaties, he tried yet one experiment more; gave our Saviour up to the soldiers to be