« PreviousContinue »
and character of the Messiah, foretold the time of his appearance, and the circumstances of his death and sufferings. And these prophecies, when duly attended to, were sufficient for the conviction of any men, who who did not lie, as those Jews did, under a judicial infatuation and blindness. They were the great enemies of the Gospel, and yet the chief promoters of it, by the attestation which they gave to the integrity of those books, from whence the proof of its divine original was tost clearly derived. A testimony of unsuspected credit : since the Jews would not, if they could, have corrupted those books, in favour of Christians; and could not have corrupted them, if they would, by reason of their manifold and wide dispersions. During which, God, I have said, has kept them in a separate state, not suffering them to incorporate with any other nation, in order, by this means to render the triumphs of his justice more conspicuous, and in order also to preserve them ready for that gracious call, which, we piously believe, shall one day summon them from all parts of the earth, and gather together the outcasts of Israel. That so we and they may become one fold, under one Shepherd, Christ the righteous ? O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God? How unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out ! Rom. xi. 33. However,
These we may humbly presume to have been some of those many wise ends, to which Divine Providence directed this wonderful dispensation. Others might be added; but I forbear : and shall choose rather to spend the remaining part of my time, in deducing (as I proposed) from the whole, some useful and concerning inferences:
1. His blood be on us, and on our children! and it happened to them, even according to their wishes. Let us learn from hence, to abstain from all such rash and horrid imprecations, which the ears of sober Heathens would tingle at; but which are more unbecoming, and more heinous, (as, I fear, they are more familiar) in the mouths of Christians. For the vengeance of God will find us out, not only for the evil deeds we commit, but for the profane folly (so frequent among us) of wishing that damnation to ourselves, which we otherways but too well deserve. They, who thus add to the guilt of their sins the binding power of a curse, are doubly unpardonable; they consent to their punishment, as they before consented to their crime; and their damnation therefore is every way just.
Every idle word that we speak, we shall give an account thereof
at the day of judgment, says our Saviour, Matt. xii. 36. How much more shall we be accountable for those (not idle, empty forms of speech, but) solemn and significant imprecations, by which we anticipate our judgment, and give sentence against ourselves. Let such an iniquity be far from all those that name the name of Christ! To whom simplicity of speech is as strictly enjoined, as even sincerity of heart, or integrity of man
2. The completion of this curse and the vengeance taken on that whole nation, in consequence of it, will lead us to admire the inscrutable methods of God's providence, in bringing about the salvation of sinners. By the scandal of the cross, and the several mean circumstances of our Saviour's humiliation, the wise, the noble, and the mighty men of the earth, were kept back from embracing the faith of Christ. But that prejudice against Christianity soon turned to its advantage: when they saw his murderers punished in so remarkable and astonishing a manner; then they began to discern the
surpassing dignity of the person suffering, and the infinite merit of his sufferings ; to discover some of the reasons, to admire the wisdom, and lay hold of the benefits, of that humble and mysterious dispensation, God manifest in the flesh, dying on the cross, to destroy the works of the devil.
A subject always highly deserving, but on this day more particularly challenging, our devout reflections ; which it will to the utmost both exercise and improve.
A subject full of wonders, not to be exhausted ! inasmuch as it contains the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, (even the whole extent and compass) of the love of God towards mankind in Christ Jesus, Eph. iii. 18.
It is good for us to be here, to dwell on the contemplation of this delightful, this amazing mystery; which even angels desire to look into, but cannot fully comprehend.
Let us determine, with St. Paul, Phil. iii. 8, to count every thing but dross and dung, in comparison of the excellency of this knowledge of Christ crucified; to the Jews, indeed, a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness ; but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and Christ the wisdom of God, i Cor. i. 23.
3. It may be a third improvement of what has been discoursed, if we take occasion from thence, to account for the infidelity of those men, who live where the Gospel of Christ is professed, and yet shut their eyes against the light of it. Can we wonder, this should happen now and then to particular persons, when it is the case of so great a body of men, as the Jews; such a nation of hardened infidels who, though they have smarted under the rod of God, during sixteen ages, for spilling the blood, and rejecting the doctrine of Christ, continue still insensible, both of the guilt of the one, and the evidence of the other? When such an effect happens, we must not impute it to any set of natural or moral causes ; the hand of God is in it, and some degree of a judicial induration. Could we look to the bottom of such men's unbelief, we should find, that it is generally owing to some high and flagrant act of wickedness, which provoked God to withdraw his grace from them, after they had long resisted the power of it, and leave them to walk in the ways of their own heart, and in the sight of their own eyes, without check or control. And in such a case, though they may be men of great acuteness and sagacity, in discerning and pursuing the advantages of this life, as
the Jews themselves are: yet, in respect of divine truth, they may be altogether inapprehensive and stupid. If the Gospel be hid, it is hid to them which are lost, in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them, 2 Cor. iv. 4.
4. The reflections which have been advanced, do also, in the fourth place, suggest to us matter of holy caution and fear. If the most beloved nation on earth, and chosen people of God; they to whom pertained the adoption, and the law, and the covenants of God, and the promises, Rom. ix. 4; if they could sin away all these privileges, and utterly forfeit the divine protection and favour, what security have we, that, abusing and despising the same mercies, we shall not smart under the same judgments i that the kingdom of God, of which we are unworthy, shall not be taken away from us, and given to a nation, bringing forth the fruits thereof? Matt. xxi. 43. The inference is St. Paul's Well! (says he) because of unbelief, they were broken off ; and thou standest by faith: be not high-minded, but fear. For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee, Rom. xi. 20, 21.
In order, therefore, to avoid their fate, let us avoid any resemblance of their guilt, and keep ourselves at as great a distance as we can from that sin of the Jews, which drew these calamities upon them, and in which even we, who live so long after it was committed, may yet be, to some degree, involved ; if we are professed enemies of goodness, if we slander Christ's word, blaspheme his person, and despise his messengers ; if we privately bring in dangerous heresies, destructive of christian faith and christian practice; for of such persons St. Peter and St. Paul have pronounced, that they deny the Lord who bought them, crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame, 2 Pet. ii. 1. Heb. vi. 6.
In order to stand clear of this imputation, let it not
be thought enough by us, that we do not run into any of these excesses ourselves, while we abet, or connive, at those who do : but let us set ourselves, in our several places and stations, to discountenance infidelity, and to rebuke that spirit of profaneness, which hath for many years past appeared open and barefaced with impunity (I had almost said, with applause) amongst us, to the great offence of sober minds, to the prejudice of all good order and government, the disgrace of our religion, and the peril of souls! It is high time that these daring attempts against the honour of Christ and his Gospel should be effectually checked and suppressed, that the civil magistrate's authority should be employed, and the spiritual sword of excommunication unsheathed against such impious offenders.
He that despised Moses' law, died without mercy (I speak the words of the apostle to the Hebrews, and which are applied by him to this very purpose.) Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall they be thought worthy, who have trodden under foot the Son of God, and have counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith they were sanctified, an unholy thing, Heb. x. 28, 29.
May the all-sufficient merit of that blood, though undervalued by them, be yet extended to them; purge their consciences from dead works, and enlighten their minds with saving knowledge! And if they will not repent, but resolve still to go on in their impieties, let us be sure to have no fellowship with them, but depart from the tents of these wicked men, lest we be consumed in their sins! Num. xvi. 26.