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hazard of them, is too hard a condition to close with upon any terms ? Who, that receives the promises of Heaven, with any becoming degree of assurance, would grudge to keep the favour of God, at the expense of all this world can boast of, and to trust him for the amends to be made in another? And if so, then, it is certain, a wilful sin must not buy our present ease and safety. For such a one is not consistent with God's favour, or a rational hope of eternal happiness. Nay not only a sin in itself, but what a man thinks a sin ; for, though he should happen to be involved in unnecessary niceties; yet so long as he thinks a thing sinful, although it be not really such, if we do it in that apprehension, God, who judges men by the integrity of their hearts, and not by the perfection of their understandings, will condemn that person, as if it were a sin. And such it is to him. He violates his conscience, who goes against the dictates and present light of it; he is an offender in the perverseness of his will, though he happen to be mistaken in the determination of his judgement. This therefore is the first rule ; . Do nothing, which your conscience tells you ought not to be done. And if there be any other choice left, but sinning or suffering, you may be confident, that he who never commanded any man to sin, hath, in those circumstances commanded
every man to suffer. Secondly. The other rule is, that a man may use all lawful means for his own preservation ; and, where the regular use of these is successful, that may be accounted a case, in which he was no way bound to suffer. For instance: if in a controverted point, one uses the best means he can of informing himself, and, after diligent enquiry and honest impartial judging, he proceeds with the testimony of his own breast ; this man is either right in his opinion, or under such a mistake, as shall never be imputed to him for a crime. And therefore, whatever advantages of safety such a proceeding can give, he is fairly entitled to take the benefit of them. So again ; a man may make the best terms he can for himself, with those that oppress or destroy him: provided he act without fraud, and break none of those restraints, to which the laws of God, or of civil society, have bound him. He may strive to deliver himself in distress; he may pray to God to deliver him: but both these must be done with a resigned spirit. And when we beg with Christ, that if it be possible, this cup may be taken from us, we must beg it, and we must endeavour it, with his reservation too, nevertheless, not ours, but our heavenly Father's will be done.' This submission is highly necessary, not only as it agrees with the condition of sons, and servants, and creatures, but as it may incline the favour of God to our relief. For, why should we not suppose, that he will proceed by the rules, which love, honour, and the purest reason, have fixed among men ; that he will think it becoming his goodness, to take those into his more peculiar care and protection, who are content to depend upon his pleasure, and resign all their affairs entirely up to his wise and gracious disposals ? Hence it is, that to lawful means I add a regular use of those means ; because anxious and inordinate desires do draw down, I doubt not, many sufferings and misfortunes, which would not otherwise have befallen man; and these, properly speaking, are troubles, not of God's creating, but their own.
Fourthly. We have already considered Christ as a pattern of meekness, in not returning opprobrious language ; let us also contemplate him as an example of not taking revenge. When an outrageous attempt was made upon his life, he satisfies himself with restraining the violence, without inflicting those punishments which their wickedness deserved :-and so ought we to content ourselves with those methods that are sufficient for our security, without proceeding to the utmost rigour and severity, even with the worst of enemies, even when they are in our power, and lie at our mercy. “It is God, to whom vengeance belongeth,' and men do but usurp it. But here you see the very person, to whom it did of right belong, tender in using that right, and rather choosing to soften his adversaries' hearts by patience and long-suffering, than to confound them, by exerting his Almighty power. Instructing us hereby what disposition they should be of, who pretend to be governed by his laws, and to live by the copy of his practice ; that it is fit they pass by many and great provocations, and enough for them to consult their own safety, without seeking the ruin of others. And this, if it were duly considered, would set bounds to our fury, and show us that as we ought not, in any case, to do injuries, so we should not repay them neither in their own kind; but cease from wrath, and let go displeasure;' for otherwise we shall, in this sense too, be certainly 6 moved to do evil.'
Lastly. From this passage, we may be certainly assured, that the sufferings and death of Christ were his own free voluntary act.
The same divine, unseen force, which held the hands of the men of Nazareth, when they intended to cast him headlong down the brow of their hill—the same, which evaded the Jews' present design to stone hin—was ever ready, ever able, to produce the same wonderful effects. We know it was so in the garden particularly. And the casting those down to the ground, who then came to apprehend him, ought to have made them understand, that, if he had not thought fit to check and withdraw it, neither their numbers nor their weapons could have prevailed to his prejudice. This should inflame our love and our gratitude, that the many bitter things our Lord endured for our sakes, were not upon constraint, but choice : that he so signally proved the truth of those his own words— 'no man taketh
my life from me, but I lay it down of myself:' that he was barbarously treated, and ignominiously murdered, because he would be so ; and the will of God was fulfilled' in this point, only because he was content and well pleased to do it. What remains, then, but that, as this holy season requires, we meditate on this dying Redeemer with wonder ; that we present his willing passion to our souls, in all its moving circumstances; that we think nothing too much for him, who was so liberal of case, of reputation, of life, for us, that we not only adore, but imitate, that great example, who,
when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to God, that judgeth righteously.” (1 Pet. ii. 23.] That we make not wrongs of any sort mutual, but account it our generosity, our duty, to suffer ourselves to be outdone, in this only instance of evil-doing? So observing the Apostle's command, not to render evil for evil, nor railing for railing, but contrarywise blessing, knowing that we are hereunto called, that we might inherit a blessing.' [1 Pet. iii. 9.]
SUNDAY BEFORE EASTER.
THE LORD'S SUPPER, A PREPARATION FOR DEATH.
Matt, xxvi. 29.—But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of
this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom.
[Text taken from the Second Morning Lesson for the Day.) With these words of our blessed Lord, the Evangelist concludes his account of the institution of the sacrament of the supper. It is an institution which, solemn and venerable in itself, is rendered still more so by the circumstances which accompanied it. Our Lord had now, for about three years, continued to appear in his public character in the land of Judea. He had, all along, been watched with a jealous eye, by his enemies; and the time was come, when they were to prevail against him. A few friends he had, from the beginning, selected, who, in every vicissitude of his state, remained faithfully attached to him. With these friends he was now meeting, for the last time, on the very evening in which he was betrayed and seized. He perfectly knew all that was to befall him. He knew that this was the last meal, in which he was to join with those who had been the companions of all his labours, the confidants of all his griefs; among whom he had passed all the quiet and private moments of his life. He knew, that within a few hours he was to be torn from this loved society, by a band of ruffians; and by to-morrow, was to be publicly arraigned as a malefactor. With a heart melting with tenderness, he said to the twelve apostles, as he sat down with them at table, . With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you, before I suffer.'[Luke xxii. 15.) And then, having gratified himself for the last time in their society, and having insti. tuted that commemoration of his death, which was to continue in the Christian church until the end of ages, he took a solemn and affectionate farewell of his friends, in the words of the text;
I say unto you, that I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my father's kingdom.'
As these words were uttered by our Lord, in the prospect of his sufferings—when preparing himself for death, and looking forward to a future meeting with his friends in heaven,-let us, under this view, consider the sacrament which he then instituted, as a preparation for all the sufferings of life, and especially, a preparation for death.
I.-It is a high exercise of all those dispositions and affections, in which a good man would wish to die. He would surely wish to leave this world in the spirit of devotion towards God, and of fellowship and charity with all his brethren on earth. Contemplate the manner in which our blessed Lord died; which the service of this day brings particularly into your view. You behold him, amidst the extremity of pain, calm and collected within himself; possessing his spirit with all the serenity, which sublime devotion and exalted benevolence inspire. You hear him, first, lamenting the fate of his unhappy country; next, when he was fastened to the cross, addressing words of consolation to his afflicted parent; and, lastly, sending up prayers mixed with compassionate apologies for those who were shedding his blood. After all those exercises of charity, you behold him, in an act of devout adoration and trust, resigning his breath:— Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.' Can any death be pronounced unhappy, how distressful soever its circumstances may be, which is thus supported and dignified ? What could we wish for more in our last moments, than with this peaceful frame of mind, this calm of all the affections, this exaltation of heart towards God, this diffusion of benevolence towards men, to bid adieu to the world?
Now these are the very sentiments, which the sacrament of the Lord's supper inspires into the heart of every pious communicant. It includes the highest acts of devotion, of which human nature is capable. It imports a lively sense of the infinite mercies of Heaven; of the gratitude we owe to that God who, by the death of his Son, hath restored the forfeited happiness and hopes of the human race. It imports the consecration of the soul to God; the entire resignation of ourselves, and all our concerns into his hands,—as to the God whom we serve and love—the guardian in whom we confide. "To thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. I will go to the altar of God, o God, my exceeding joy. I will come into thy house in the