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Are these the feet which walked lately upon the liquid pavement of the sea, before whose footstool all the nations of the earth are bidden to worship, that are now so painfully fixed to the cross? O cruel and unthankful mankind, that offered such measure to the Lord of life! O infinitely merciful Saviour, that wouldst suffer all this for unthankful mankind! That fiends should do these things to guilty souls, it is, though terrible, yet just; but that men should do thus to the blessed Son of God, it is beyond the capacity of our horror.
Even the most hostile dispositions have been only content to kill; death hath sated the most eager malice: thine enemies, O Saviour, held not themselves satisfied, unless they might enjoy thy torment. Two thieves are appointed to be thy companions in death; thou art designed to the midst, as the chief malefactor on which hand soever thou lookest, thine eye meets with a hateful partner. But, O blessed Jesu, how shall I enough admire and celebrate thy infinite mercy, who madest so happy a use of this Jewish despite, as to improve it to the occasion of the salvation of one, and the comfort of millions ? Is not this, as the last, so the greatest speciality of thy wonderful compassion, to convert that dying thief? With those nailed hands to snatch a soul out of the mouth of hell? Lord, how I bless thee for this work! How do I stand amazed at this, above all other, the demonstrations of thy goodness and power! The offender came to die: nothing was in his thoughts but his guilt and torment; while he was yet in his blood, thou saidst, This soul shall live. Ere yet the intoxicating potion could have time to work upon his brain, thy Spirit infuses faith into his heart. He that before had nothing in his eye but present death and torture, is now lifted up above his cross in a blessed ambition; Lord, remember me, when thou comest into thy kingdom.' Is this the voice of a thief, or of a disciple? Give me leave, O Saviour, to borrow thine own words: Verily I have not found so great faith, no not in all Israel!' He saw thee hanging miserably by him, and yet styles thee Lord; he saw thee dying, yet talks of thy kingdom; he saw himself dying, yet talks of a future remembrance. O faith stronger than death, that can look beyond the cross at a crown; beyond dissolution, at a remembrance of life and glory! Which of thine eleven was heard to speak so gracious a word to thee in these thy last pangs? After thy resurrection, and know
ledge of thine impassable condition, it was not strange for them to talk of thy kingdom; but, in the midst of thy shameful death, for a dying malefactor to speak of thy reigning, and to implore thy remembrance of himself in thy kingdom, it is such an improvement of faith as ravisheth my soul with admiration. O blessed thief, that hast thus happily stolen heaven, how worthy hath thy Saviour made thee to be a partner of his sufferings, a pattern of undauntable belief, a spectacle of unspeakable mercy! This day shall thou be with me in Paradise. Before I wondered at thy faith; now I envy at thy felicity. Thou cravedst a remembrance; thy Saviour speaks of a present possession, This day:' thou suedst for remembrance as a favour to the absent, thy Saviour speaks of thy presence with him; thou speakest of a kingdom, thy Saviour of Paradise. As no disciple could be more faithful, so no saint could be happier. O Saviour, what a precedent is this of thy free and powerful grace! When thou wilt give, what unworthiness can bar us from mercy? When thou wilt give, what time can prejudice our vocation? Who can despair of thy goodness, when he, that in the morning was posting towards hell, is in the evening with thee in Paradise? Lord, he could not have spoken this to thee, but by thee, and from thee. What possibility was there for a thief to think of thy kingdom, without thy Spirit? That good Spirit of thine breathed upon this man, breathed not upon his fellow; their trade was alike, their sin was alike, their state alike, their cross alike; only thy mercy makes them unlike: one is taken, the other is refused. Blessed be thy mercy in taking one; blessed be thy justice in leaving the other. Who can despair of that mercy? Who can but tremble at that justice?
Now, O ye cruel priests and elders of the Jews, ye have full leisure to feed your eyes with the sight ye so much longed for -there is the blood ye purchased; and is not your malice yet glutted? Is not all this enough, without your taunts and scoffs, and sports, at so exquisite a misery? The people, the passengers, are taught to insult, where they should pity. Every man hath a scorn ready to cast at a dying innocent. A generous nature is more wounded with the tongue, than with the hand. O Saviour, thine ear was more painfully pierced than thy brows, or hands, or feet. t could not but go deep into thy soul, to hear these bitter and girding reproaches, from them thou camest to save.
But, alas! what trifles were these, in comparison of those inward torments which thy soul felt in the sense and apprehension of thy Father's wrath, for the sins of the whole world, which now lay heavy upon thee for satisfaction! This, O this, was it that pressed thy soul, as it were, to the nethermost hell. While thine eternal Father looked lovingly upon thee, what didst thou, what needst thou, to care for the frowns of men or devils? But when he once turned his face from thee, or bent his brows upon thee, this, this was worse than death. It is no marvel now, if darkness were upon the whole earth, when thy Father's face was eclipsed from thee by the interposition of our sins. How should there be light in the world without, when the God of the world, the Father of lights, complains of the want of light within? That word of thine, O Saviour, was enough to fetch the sun down out of heaven, and to dissolve the whole frame of nature, when thou criedst, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?' O what pangs were these, dear Jesu, that drew from thee this complaint! Thou well knewst, nothing could be more cordial to thine enemies, than to hear this sad language from thee: they could see but the outside of thy sufferings, never could they have conceived so deep an anguish of thy soul, if thy own lips had not expressed it. Yet, as not regarding their triumph, thou thus pourest out thy sorrow; and, when so much is uttered, who can conceive what is felt?
How is it, then, with thee, O Saviour, that thou thus astonishest men and angels with so woful a complaint? Had thy God left thee? Thou not long since saidst, I and my Father are one;' are ye now severed? Let this thought be as far from my soul, as my soul from hell. No more can thy blessed Father be separated from thee, than from his own essence. His union with thee is eternal; his vision was intercepted: he could not withdraw his presence, he would withdraw the influence of his comfort. Thou, the Second Adam, stoodst for mankind upon this tree of the cross, as the First Adam stood and fell for mankind under the tree of offence. Thou barest our sins; thy Father saw us in thee, and would punish us in thee, thee for us; how could he but withhold comfort, where he intended chastisement? Herein, therefore, he seems to forsake thee for the present, in that he would not deliver thee from that bitter passion, which thou wouldst undergo for us,
O Saviour, hadst thou not been thus forsaken, we had perished; thy dereliction is our safety; and, however our narrow souls are not capable of the conceit of thy pain and horror, yet we know there can be no danger in the forsaking, while thou canst say, 'My God.' He is so thy God, as he cannot be ours; all our right is by adoption, thine by nature; thou art one with him in eternal essence; we come in by grace and merciful election: yet, while thou shalt enable me to say, 'My God,' I shall hope never to sink under thy desertions.
But, while I am transported with the sense of thy sufferings, O Saviour, let me not forget to admire those sweet mercies of thine, which thou pouredst out upon thy persecutors. They rejoice in thy death, and triumph in thy misery, and scoff at thee in both. Instead of calling down fire from heaven upon them, thou heapest coals of fire upon their heads: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.' They blaspheme thee-thou prayest for them; they scorn-thou pitiest; they sin against thee-thou prayest for their forgiveness; they profess their malice-thou pleadest their ignorance. O compassion without example, without measure, fit for the Son of God, the Saviour of men! Wicked and foolish Jews! ye would be miserable-he will not let you; ye would fain pull upon yourselves the guilt of his blood-he deprecates it; ye kill-he sues for your remission and life. His tongue cries louder than his blood, Father, forgive them.' O Saviour, thou couldst not but be heard. Those, who out of ignorance or simplicity thus persecuted thee, find the happy issue of thine intercession. Now, I see whence it was that three thousand souls were converted soon after at one sermon. It was not Peter's speech, it was thy prayer, that was thus effectual. Now they have grace to know and confess whence they have both forgiveness and salvation, and can recompense their blasphemies with thanksgiving. What sin is there, Lord, whereof I can despair of remission? Or what offence can I be unwilling to remit, when thou prayest for the forgiveness of thy murderers and blasphemers?
There is no day so long but hath his evening. At last, O blessed Saviour, thou art drawing to an end of these painful sufferings; when spent with toil and torment, thou criedst out, I thirst.' O dear Jesus, how shouldst thou do other than thirst? The night thou hadst spent in watching, in
prayer, in agony, in thy conveyance from the garden to Jerusalem, from Annas to Caiaphas, from Caiaphas to Pilate; in thy restless answers, in buffetings and stripes: the day in arraignments, in haling from place to place, in scourgings, in striping, in robing, and disrobing, in bleeding, in tugging under thy cross, in woundings and distension, in pain and passion: no marvel if thou thirstedst. Although there was more in this draught than thy need, it was no less requisite thou shouldst thirst, than that thou shouldst die; both were upon the same predetermination, both upon the same prediction. How else should that word be verified, [Psalm xxii. 14, 15.] All my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax, it is melted in the midst of my bowels: my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death." Had it not been to make up that word whereof one jot cannot pass, though thou hadst felt this thirst, yet thou hadst not betrayed it. Alas! what could it avail to bemoan thy wants to insulting enemies, whose sport was thy misery? should they pity thy thirst, that pitied not thy bloodshed? It was not their favour that thou expectedst herein, but their conviction. O Saviour, how can we, thy sinful servants, think much to be exercised with hunger and thirst, when we hear thee thus complain?
Thou, that not long since proclaimedst in the temple, "If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink: He that believeth in me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living waters,' now thyself thirstest. Thou, in whom we believe, complainest to want some drops; thou hadst the command of all the waters, both above the firmament and below it, yet thou wouldst thirst. Even so, Lord, thou, that wouldst die for us, wouldst thirst
O give me to thirst after those waters which thou promisest, whatever become of those waters which thou wouldst want. The time was, when craving water of the Samaritan, thou gavest better than that thou askedst. O give me to thirst after that more precious water; and so do thou give me of that water of life, that I may never thirst again.
Blessed God, how marvellously dost thou contrive thine own affairs! Thige enemies, while they would despite thee, shall unwittingly justify thee, and convince themselves. As thou foresaidst, In thy thirst, they gave thee vinegar to drink,'