THE FEARFUL PROSPECT OF THE IMPENITENT
Matthew 26:24. It had been good for that man if he had not been born.
“KNOWN unto God are all his works, from the foundation of the world.” But the fore-ordination of God does not in any degree affect the responsibility of man. Man is altogether a free agent, in everything that he does, whether it be good or evil. The Spirit of God may move him; or Satan may tempt him: but he does nothing without the concurrence of his own will. Hence, when St. Peter tells the Jews that our blessed Lord was “delivered up to death by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God,” he still fixes the guilt of his death on them; saying, “Him ye have taken, and with wicked hands have crucified and slain [Note: Acts 2:23.].” So, in the passage before us, our blessed Lord speaks to the same effect. It had been written of him, “Mine own familiar friend, whom I trusted, who did eat of my bread, hath lift up his heel against me [Note: Compare ver. 23. with Psalms 41:9.].” And, in reference to this prediction, our Lord says, “The Son of man goeth as it was written of him; but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.”
That we may make a suitable improvement of this awful declaration, I will,
I. Shew of whom this may be spoken—
We must not confine this declaration to the person of whom our Lord spate; since it is equally applicable to a great variety of characters. It may be applied to,
1. The Traitor who sells his Lord—
[To Judas the words are primarily applied. But are there no other persons who sell their Lord? What is the conduct of the lewd voluptuary, the sordid worldling, the ambitious candidate for honour? Each of them says, ‘Give me but my price, and I will sell my Lord.’ Each of them, in his own particular way, acts the part of “Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage [Note: Hebrews 12:16.].” Tell them, when in the pursuit of their respective objects, what a loss they must sustain; and they regard you not: the pleasures, the riches, the honours, which they affect, are, in their eyes, of paramount importance; and follow them they will, though they must sacrifice all hopes of ever enjoying the favour of their God — — — I must say, that these may kiss their Saviour in the sight of men, but they are traitors to him in the estimation of their God; and, as such, must expect to be made monuments of his righteous indignation.]
2. The Infidel, who denies him—
[The Scribes and Pharisees rejected our blessed Lord, notwithstanding all the miracles he wrought in proof of his Messiahship: and “their end was according to their works [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:15.].” And are there not, at this day also, infidels who reject Christ, and, under an affectation of superior wisdom, pour contempt upon the Gospel, as a “cunningly-devised fable,” deriding its doctrines as enthusiastic, and its precepts as needlessly severe? These persons designate themselves rational Christians; as though “wisdom should die with them:” but they are the most irrational of all Christians; since they set up their own vain conceits above the inspired records, and their own wisdom above the wisdom of their God. And shall it not shortly be said, in reference to them, “Bring hither those that were mine enemies, and slay them before me?” Yes, “there remaineth for them no other sacrifice for sin, but a certain fearful looking-for of judgment, and fiery indignation, to devour them [Note: Hebrews 10:26-27.].”]
3. The Apostate, who renounces him—
[We are told respecting those who, “after having once escaped the pollutions of the world, are again entangled with them, and overcome; that their last end is worse than their beginning; and that it had been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness, than, after having known it, to depart from the holy commandment that had been delivered to them [Note: 2 Peter 2:21.].” And how many are there, at this day, who have “left off to be wise [Note: Psalms 36:3.],” and “gone back to their evil ways [Note: Psalms 78:57.],” and “turned again with the dog to his vomit, and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire [Note: 2 Peter 2:22.].” Yes, there are, alas! many who “run well only for a season [Note: Galatians 5:7.];” and, “under the influence of temptation,” like the stony-ground hearers, “fall away.” What, then, is their state? “They turn back unto perdition,” and seal up themselves under the everlasting “displeasure of their God [Note: Hebrews 10:38-39.].”]
4. The Hypocrite, who dishonours him—
[None have a severer doom than persons of this description. To have the most dreadful portion, is to “have our portion with the hypocrites [Note: Matthew 24:51.].” To cry with pretended zeal, “Lord, Lord!” whilst we do not the things which he commands [Note: Matthew 7:21-23.], can answer no other end than that of deceiving our own souls [Note: Luke 6:46.]. “Our hearts must be right with God,” if ever we would be accepted of him [Note: Psalms 78:37.]: and the retaining of a single lust, though dear as a right hand or a right eye, will plunge us into inevitable and everlasting perdition [Note: Matthew 5:29-30.]. The more distinguished our profession may be, the greater is our sin, if, “whilst we profess to know God, in works we deny him [Note: Titus 1:16.]:” our excellency may mount up to the heavens, and our head may reach unto the clouds; but the issue will be, that we shall perish for ever like our own dung; and they who have seen us will say, “Where is he? where is he [Note: Job 20:4-7.]?”
Concerning every one of these persons, so living, and so dying, it must be said, as of Judas, “It had been good for that man if he had not been born.”]
And shall I not now,
Take up a lamentation over them—
Our blessed Lord “wept over Jerusalem,” which he saw devoted to destruction. And shall not “mine eyes be a fountain of tears, to run down day and night [Note: Jeremiah 9:1.]” for so many of you as, I have reason to fear, are perishing in your sins? Alas! respecting multitudes, I must say,
1. How awful are their delusions!
[All of these persons promise themselves impunity. One is too high to be called to account; another too low to attract the attention of the Deity. One is so immersed in business, that he may be well excused; and another too intelligent to be deceived: and all have an idea that God is too good and too merciful to proceed against them. But there is for every one of us a future state of retribution, when every one “shall receive at the hands of God according to what he has done in the body, whether it be good or evil.” If it were not so, we might adopt at once the Epicurean maxim, “Let us eat and drink; for to-morrow we die.” But “we must all appear before the judgment-seat of Christ,” and receive at his hands our doom in happiness or misery, to all eternity. Our foolish excuses will then avail us nothing. Our duty was plain; namely, to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness:” but we chose to prefer other things before it, and to seek it last: we must therefore for ever lose the blessedness we would not seek, and endure for ever the misery which we would not deprecate. And, if men will not believe this now, they will surely be convinced at the very moment of their departure hence. Then “they will know whose word shall stand, whether God’s or theirs [Note: Jeremiah 44:28.].” And then,]
2. How bitter will be their reflections—
[Let us suppose a man “lifting up his eyes in the torments of hell,” and looking back to the means of grace which he once enjoyed, and the offers of mercy that were made him in the Saviour’s name: how bitterly will he bewail his folly! how will he wish that he had been born a heathen, or an idiot; or rather, “that he had never been born at all!” We are told how such persons will be occupied in “weeping, and wailing, and gnashing their teeth,” with impotent rage against their God. And what will they then think of the gratifications for which they sacrificed all the felicity of heaven, and incurred all the miseries of hell? How will they stand amazed at their folly and their madness! and what language will they find sufficient to express their feelings of self-reproach? My dear brethren, I would that you would all place yourselves for a moment in the situation of a person at the first moment of his entering into the presence of his God; looking back upon the scenes which he has just left; and looking forward to the scenes on which he is about to enter, and which must continue without mitigation or end to all eternity. Could I prevail on you to realize for a moment that situation, methinks it would be impossible for you not to flee to the Saviour, and lay hold upon him, and cleave to him, till he had pardoned your offences, and spoken peace unto your souls.]
3. How infatuated must you be, if you will not improve your present opportunity of obtaining mercy!
[My dear brethren, in the name of Almighty God I declare to you, that if only you will come to him in humble dependence on the Saviour’s merits, “not one of you shall ever be cast out.” Nay, more; I declare, that God will seal his pardoning love upon your souls; so that, instead of wishing you had never been born, you shall be able, with most heartfelt delight, to say, “We thank thee, O God, for our creation [Note: See the General Thanksgiving.].” Yes, indeed: this is an expression which none but a true Christian can fully utter: for all others, whoever they may be, must feel some secret misgivings in relation to their eternal state. But the man who truly gives himself up to his God, can look forward to the eternal world with joy; knowing that he shall be received into the bosom of his Saviour, and reign with him in glory for evermore. Then I ask you, my brethren, Why will ye, after having lost so much time already, and having, for aught ye know, so little remaining to you, why, I say, will ye defer, even for an hour, that repentance which your state calls for, and that application to the Saviour which he is so ready to hear? Fain would I prevail upon you to go home and prostrate yourselves before the throne of grace, and to implore mercy of God in the Redeemer’s name. If ye will not do this, what can be expected, but that the time shall come when you will curse the day of your birth, aye, and the day that ye ever heard this faithful address? I tremble to think what a swift witness I must be against those who shall still harden themselves against these faithful admonitions. I tremble to think how soon many of you will be found in that state, when it must be said of you, “It had been good for that man if he had not been born.” But some of you at least, I hope, will take warning ere it be too late, and “lay hold on eternal life,” before “the wrath of God shall come upon you to the uttermost.”]
THE LORD’S SUPPER
Matthew 26:29. 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.
THE great object for commemoration, under the Jewish dispensation, was, the redemption of that people out of Egypt: and that which ought to occupy our minds is, the infinitely greater redemption which has been vouchsafed to us, from all the miseries of death and hell, through the mediation of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The one was typical of the other, both in the means and in the end. The deliverance of the Jewish first-born from the sword of the destroying angel was effected by the blood of the Paschal lamb sprinkled on the doors and lintels of their houses; and that which we experience is through the blood of God’s only dear Son, shed for us, and sprinkled on us. In remembrance of the former, the Passover was instituted, and the people ate the Paschal lamb: in remembrance of the latter, the Lord’s Supper was instituted; and we receive the consecrated bread and wine as memorials of the body and blood of Christ. The latter of these ordinances supersedes the former; and will itself continue to the end of time in remembrance of our Redeemer’s death. To enter fully into the passage before us, we must notice the Lord’s Supper,
I. As instituted by Christ—
It was instituted at the close of the Paschal Feast, and with a special reference to the circumstances with which that ordinance was administered. But, without entering into minute particulars, which we have only on the authority of Jewish Rabbins, and which are more curious than useful, we may observe, that this Supper was instituted,
1. As a commemorative sign—
[Our blessed Lord was just about to suffer and to die for the sins of men. In order, therefore, that this mystery might never be forgotten, he brake the bread, in token of “his body given for men;” and poured out the wine, in token of “his blood shed for them;” and expressly commanded, that in all future ages this ceremony should be observed “in remembrance of him [Note: ver. 19.].” It was to be a “shewing forth of his death till he should come again” at the end of the world, to take all his redeemed people to himself [Note: 1 Corinthians 11:26.]. The one great end for which he died was also in this way to be made known to all succeeding generations. The redemption of mankind was the subject of a covenant entered into between the Father and the Son; the Son engaging to make his soul an offering for sin; and the Father engaging, that, when this should be effected, his Son should see a seed who should prolong their days; and the pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands; yea, “he should see of the travail of his soul, and should be satisfied [Note: Isaiah 53:10-11.].” By the shedding of Christ’s blood this covenant was ratified; and the cup which was administered in remembrance of it, was to be to all mankind a memorial, that, on the Redeemer’s part, every thing was effected for the salvation of men, and that all who would embrace the covenant so ratified should assuredly be saved. “The cup was the New Testament in his blood;” or, in other words, it represented the new covenant which that blood had both ratified and sealed.]
2. As an instructive emblem—
[The killing of the Paschal lamb was not sufficient: the people must feed upon it, in the manner which God himself had prescribed. So neither is it sufficient that by the breaking of the bread, and the pouring out of the wine, we commemorate the death of Christ. Were the ordinance merely commemorative, that would have answered the end: but it is intended emblematically to shew forth the way in which we are to obtain an interest in the Redeemer’s death. We must apply it, every one of us, to ourselves: we must feed upon it; and by so doing declare our affiance in it: we must shew, that, as our bodies are nourished by bread and wine, so we hope to have our souls nourished by means of union and communion with our blessed and adorable Redeemer. Hence the command given to every one, to eat the bread, and to drink the cup. And a more instructive ordinance cannot be conceived; since it shews, that it is by an actual fellowship with Christ in his death, and by that alone, that we can ever become partakers of the benefits which it has procured for us.]
But my text leads me to notice the Lord’s Supper more particularly,
As still honoured with his peculiar presence—
When our blessed Lord said that “he would no more drink of the fruit of the vine, till he should drink it new with his Disciples in the kingdom of God,” he intimated, that there was to be at least some period when he would again hold communion with them in that blessed ordinance. In his life-time he did not: for, on the very day after he had instituted it, he was put to death. Nor did he at any time during the forty days of his continuance on earth, after his resurrection. For, though it is true that “he ate and drank with his Disciples after he was risen from the dead [Note: Acts 10:41.],” yet he never again partook of the Passover, or of the Lord’s Supper; but merely ate and drank, in order to shew that he was not a Spirit only, but that he possessed a body that was capable of performing all the proper functions of the body. Nevertheless, he had, and ever will have, communion with his people in that ordinance; for he has said, “Wherever two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them:” and again; “Lo, I am with you alway, even to the end of the world.”
His kingdom, properly speaking, is now come—
[The Scriptures, both of the Old and New Testament, continually represent the Christian dispensation as the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom upon earth. This kingdom is called “the kingdom of God;” and it is that which the Father establishes, through the agency of the Holy Ghost. And this is the kingdom spoken of in my text: for, when Christ had accomplished the redemption of the world by his death and resurrection, then was all that had been typified in the redemption from Egypt, all that had been prefigured in the Paschal feast, and all that was shadowed forth in the Supper of the Lord, “fulfilled [Note: Luke 22:16; Luke 22:18.]:” and, consequently, the time was come for the renewed manifestations of his presence in this sacred ordinance. True, indeed, corporeally he appears amongst us no more: but spiritually he does; and, according to his promise, “he comes to us and makes his abode with us [Note: John 14:21; John 14:23.],” and “sups with us [Note: Revelation 3:20.].”]
Now, therefore, does he execute what he gave us reason to expect—
[He truly, though spiritually, feasts with us, when we are assembled around the table of the Lord. It was not only because of the command that the ordinance should be observed, but on account of the blessing which they obtained in the administration of it, that the first Christians observed it every day [Note: Acts 2:42; Acts 2:46.], and for ages continued the observance of it on the Sabbath-day [Note: Acts 20:7.]. And, though I am not aware of any express promise of a more than ordinary manifestation of the Saviour’s presence in that sacred ordinance, yet I believe that he does seal it with a peculiar blessing; and I will venture to appeal to the experience of many before me, whether he does not then more particularly “draw nigh to those who there draw nigh to him [Note: James 4:8.]; and whether he has not again and again, in a more abundant measure, “made himself known to them in the breaking of bread [Note: Luke 24:35.]?” I think that of spiritual worshippers, there are few who will not attest the truth of these remarks.]
But we shall not have a just view of the Lord’s Supper, unless we contemplate it,
As realized and completed in the eternal world—
Then will the whole mystery of redemption be complete; and then will the kingdom of the Messiah, which is now established upon earth, “be delivered up to God, even the Father, that God may be all in all [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:24; 1 Corinthians 15:28.].”
Then shall we spiritually renew this feast—
[Of that time our Saviour spake, when he said, “I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel [Note: Luke 22:29-30.].” There we read, that “Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are sitting at the table,” with all the myriads of the redeemed [Note: Matthew 8:11.]; and there is Lazarus leaning on his bosom [Note: Luke 16:23.], exactly as John leaned on the bosom of the Lord Jesus at the Paschal feast, when this Supper was instituted [Note: John 13:23; John 13:25; John 21:20.]. There shall all the redeemed of the Lord be in due time assembled; and there will the great work of redemption occupy all their minds, precisely as it does when we surround the table of the Lord. There, at this moment, they are “singing a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood, out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth [Note: Revelation 5:9-10.].” This, by its reference to the redemption of the world, may well be called “The Song of Moses and of the Lamb [Note: Revelation 15:3.]:” and to all eternity will “this wine be new” to those who drink it; the wonders of redeeming love being more and more unfolded to every admiring and adoring soul.]
And will the Lord Jesus Christ partake of it with us?
[Yes, he will: “The very Lamb of God himself, who is in the midst of the throne, will feed us, and lead us unto living fountains of waters: and God shall wipe away all tears from our eyes [Note: Revelation 7:17.].” Did he break the bread, and administer the cup to his Disciples when on earth? So will he at the feast in heaven: as he himself has said, “He will gird himself, and make us sit down to meat, and himself come forth and serve us [Note: Luke 12:37.].” It is indeed but little that we know of the heavenly world: but this, at all events, we may say: He will appear there as “a Lamb that has been slain [Note: Revelation 5:6.];” and under this character will he be the light, the joy, the glory of all the hosts of heaven [Note: Revelation 21:23.], administering to all, and glorified in all [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:10.]
Upon this subject I would ground the following advice:
Get just views of this ordinance—
[Respecting those who profane it, as a mere qualification for civil offices, I say nothing. I leave them to God and their own consciences. They may be well assured I can say nothing in their favour: nor do I think that it is a light account which they have to give to Him who appointed the ordinance for other ends, which, alas! they altogether overlook. But there are two mistakes which I would endeavour to rectify; the one is, that the ordinance, as an act, recommends us to God; and the other is, that no one should venture to observe the ordinance till he has made attainments of the highest order in religion: the one of these errors leads to the indulgence of self-righteous hopes; the other operates to the production of slavish fears. Respecting the sanctity of the ordinance, I would not say a word that should diminish the apprehension of it in the mind of any human being. But we should remember what it is, and for what end it was appointed. It is precisely what the Paschal feast was: and as every child of Abraham partook of that, so should every one who truly believes in Christ partake of this. And, in fact, the whole body of Christians did, for many ages, observe it. No one felt himself at liberty to neglect it: nor would any man have been accounted a Christian, indeed, if he had neglected it. This then shews, that none who desire to serve and honour God should abstain from it. They should come to it, to express their gratitude to the Lord Jesus for what he has done for them, and to obtain fresh supplies of grace and peace at his hands. Yet no one should think that the performance of this duty has any such charm in it, as to recommend him to God, and to conciliate the Divine favour. It is Christ alone that can save us: and, whether we seek him in this or any other ordinance, it is He alone that can reconcile us to God. It is not the act of praying, or the act of communicating at his table, that can form any legitimate ground of hope: it is on Christ, as apprehended by faith, that we must rely; and it is only so far as we exercise a simple faith on him, that we can justly hope for acceptance with our God. Let the ordinance, then, be viewed aright. It is a memorial of the death of Christ, and a medium of communion with Christ, whose body and blood we feed upon in the sacred elements, and by whom we are strengthened for all holy obedience. Let the ordinance be observed in this way, and we shall find it a good preparative for heaven, yea, and an earnest and foretaste of heaven itself.]
2. Seek to realize the great truths declared in it—
[Here you behold Christ giving himself for you. In the bread broken, and the wine poured forth, you behold his agonies even unto death, even those agonies which have expiated your guilt, and obtained the remission of your sins. O let the sight fill you with holy joy and gratitude; and let it encourage your access to God, even though you had a thousand times greater guilt upon you than ever was contracted by any child of man! The death of Christ was a propitiation for the sins of the whole world: and if every sinner in the universe would look to him, it would suffice to conciliate the Divine favour in his behalf, and to save them all, without exception. In a full confidence of this, take the sacred elements within your lips, and expect from God all those blessings which his dear Son has purchased for you— — —]
3. Look forward to the feast prepared for you in heaven—
[Soon, very soon, shall you be called to “the supper of the Lamb in heaven,” and there see the Redeemer and his redeemed all feasting together in endless bliss. May we not well say, “Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of our God [Note: Luke 14:15.]?” Anticipate, then, this blessed day. Watch and wait for your summons hence: survey the glories that shall then encompass you on every side: and let it be your one endeavour now to get “the wedding garment,” that shall qualify you to be acceptable guests at that table. Remember, that “Christ, our passover, is sacrificed for us [Note: 1 Corinthians 5:7.].” Remember that even in this world it is your privilege to “keep the feast” from day to day. And be assured, that the more constantly and entirely you feed on Christ below, the better shall you be prepared for the nearest intercourse with him above, and the fullest possible communication of all his blessings to your souls.]
Matthew 26:53-54. Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
THE Christian is by profession a soldier: he is to fight a good fight, and to war a good warfare: he is not for one moment to lay aside his armour, or to make a truce with his enemies: nor is he to be satisfied with defensive operations; he must carry the war into the heart of the enemy’s country, and attack his strong-holds: whenever he gains a victory, he must exercise no lenity; he must not spare one single foe; he must extirpate all without exception and without mercy: he must “hew Agag in pieces before the Lord.” But “the weapons of his warfare are not carnal:” his armour, whether for defence or assault, is all of heavenly temper; it is “the armour of God,” in which he is clothed; and “the sword of the Spirit,” with which he attacks his enemies. If he be combating with a persecuting world, then especially must he be armed with love and patience. These indeed are not arms suited to our sinful nature: the fierce and vindictive tempers of men would lead them rather to repel force by force, as Peter attempted to do in defence of his Master. But Christianity disclaims such aid: it is neither to be propagated nor maintained by such means. Our Lord has declared that “they who take the sword shall perish with the sword:” and has shewn us, by his own example, that we are rather to “possess our souls in patience;” and to conquer, not by shedding the blood of others, but by suffering our own to be poured forth with meekness and resignation.
These observations naturally arise from the reproof which our Lord gave to Peter, when, with well-meant, but unhallowed zeal, he had attempted to withstand his enemies with the sword. Our Lord tells him that such exertions were both unlawful and unnecessary: they were unlawful, because they were quite contrary to the spirit of his religion; and unnecessary, because, if he judged it expedient, he could in one moment have legions of angels sent to rescue him from their hands. But as, for the exemplifying of his religion, he forbade his disciples to fight; so, for the fulfilling of the Scriptures, he forbore to deliver himself, though he might have done it in a way that was both easy and legitimate.
We propose to shew you,
I. How easily our Lord could have rescued himself from their hands—
God has been pleased on many occasions to effect his purposes by the ministration of angels—
[Angels have been employed by him sometimes for the destruction of men, and sometimes for their preservation: and in either case they have always proved mighty and irresistible.
By the sword of an angel God destroyed the Egyptian firstborn both of man and beast [Note: Numbers 20:16. with Exodus 12:23. Where the Lord who protected Israel is distinguished from “the destroyer” who smote the Egyptians.]. By an angel he smote seventy thousand of David’s subjects, for the pride and creature-confidence which he manifested in numbering the people [Note: 2 Samuel 24:16.]. By an angel he slew an hundred and eighty-five thousand of Sennacherib’s army in one single night [Note: Isaiah 37:36.].
Nor have angels proved less mighty to save than to destroy. The Hebrew Youths were kept unhurt in the fiery furnace [Note: Daniel 3:28.]: Daniel was preserved in a den of hungry lions [Note: Daniel 6:22.]: the twelve Apostles were brought forth from a prison to which they had been committed [Note: Acts 5:19.]: and Peter, when chained and guarded in an inner prison with all imaginable care and safety, was, on the very night previous to his intended execution, liberated from his dungeon, and restored to the embraces of his praying friends [Note: Acts 12:8-10.]. These things are effected by the ministration of angels “who excel in strength.”]
Of these our blessed Lord might have had any number to deliver him—
[He had given abundant proof indeed that he could, if he pleased, deliver himself: for on former occasions he had repeatedly withdrawn himself from his enemies, when they thought they had him in their power [Note: Luke 4:29-30; John 8:59.]; and, but a few minutes before, he had beaten them all to the ground by a word [Note: John 18:6.], shewing thereby that he could as easily have struck them dead, after the manner in which the armed bands were smitten when they were sent to apprehend Elijah [Note: 2 Kings 1:10; 2 Kings 1:12.]. But, if he had needed assistance, he could have had legions of angels for his support. He needed only to ask of his Father, and it would be done: above seventy thousand of those powerful beings [Note: Computing a legion at six thousand, “twelve legions” would be seventy-two thousand.] would be with him in an instant: and if one single angel was sufficient to destroy a hundred and eighty-five thousand warriors in a single night, what could not such a host of them effect, if he chose to employ them in his service?]
If then to deliver himself would have been so easy, it will be proper to inquire,
Why he forbore to do so—
The Scriptures had spoken much respecting the Messiah—
[They contained not only many predictions relative to his death in general, but some which referred to the very circumstances in which he was now placed. It had been foretold, that he should be assaulted by a tumultuous mob, composed of Jews and Gentiles [Note: Psalms 2:1-3.], rich and poor [Note: Psalms 22:12; Psalms 22:16.]: that he should be betrayed into their hands by one of his own Disciples [Note: Psalms 41:9; Psalms 55:12-13. with John 13:18.]: that he should give himself up to them, when he had power to deliver himself from them [Note: Isaiah 50:5-6.]: that, instead of resisting them in any respect, he should go like a lamb to the slaughter [Note: Isaiah 53:7.]: and that his Disciples, offended at his apparent weakness, should forsake him [Note: Zechariah 13:7. with Matthew 26:31.].
Now if these Scriptures were not fulfilled, one essential circumstance would be wanting to prove his divine mission — — — Moreover, if he should persist in withstanding the malice of his enemies, the eternal purposes of his Father would be frustrated; the very ends for which he had become incarnate would be defeated; and the whole world would be left to perish, notwithstanding all he had both done and suffered for their salvation — — — But these were evils greater in our Lord’s estimation than ten thousand deaths; and therefore he would not for one moment delay the accomplishment of these Scriptures, when once the proper season for it had arrived.]
On this subject we may ground some profitable observations:
We can be in no trouble, from whence the voice of prayer cannot extricate us—
[Prayer, if it accord with the will and purpose of Jehovah, shall prevail as much for us, as ever it prevailed for any of the saints of old. However imminent our danger be, or however desperate our condition, the pursuing foe shall be diverted from his purpose [Note: 1 Peter 2:19-23.], or the voracious whale be forced to disgorge his prey upon the dry land [Note: John 2:10.]. Prayer should, if necessary, bring all the angels in heaven to our support. Prayer is, in a sense, omnipotent; for it interests the Almighty God in our behalf. O let us have worthy thoughts of the power and efficacy of prayer! And if Satan tempt us at any time to give up the contest, let us reprove him in the words of our Lord, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he will send me more than twelve legions of angels” to defeat thy malice?]
2. We should be contented to go to heaven in the way that God has marked out for us—
[Our frail nature is fond of ease. But soldiers are called to endure hardships: and this is the path marked out for us; it is “through much tribulation that we are to enter into the kingdom of heaven.” In this way our Lord himself walked: “though he was a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered,” and was at last “made perfect through sufferings.” In these things he was our example, whose steps we are to follow [Note: 1 Peter 2:21.]. Who are we then that we should be exempt from trials? If we were to consider them as punishments, they are infinitely lighter than what we deserve: but if we consider them as a furnace to purify us from our dross, and as an honour conferred upon us to render us conformed to our Saviour’s image, methinks we should not withdraw ourselves from them, even if we had it in our power; but be incomparably more desirous of acquiring benefit to our souls than of enjoying any present ease in our bodies.]
3. Our Lord’s solicitude about the fulfilment of the Scriptures in things relating to his sufferings, is a pledge to us, that he will be no less anxious about their accomplishment in what relates to the salvation of his people.
[There are “exceeding great and precious promises” given to the people of God. Our Lord himself has assured us that “none shall ever pluck us out of his hand;” that “no weapon formed against us shall ever prosper;” and that “Satan himself shall be bruised under our feet shortly.” Now these “Scriptures cannot be broken;” “nor can one jot or tittle of them fail.” We have a security for the accomplishment of them, not only in the veracity of God, but also in the government which Christ exercises over the world at large, and his Church in particular. “All things both in heaven and in earth are committed unto him;” and all the hosts of heaven are at his disposal. Will not he then be jealous for his own honour? Will not he who shuddered so at the thought of the Scriptures failing of their accomplishment in his own case, be equally anxious for the fulfilment of them in ours? Let us then humbly commit ourselves to him, assured that, however our enemies may appear to triumph for a time, they shall all be vanquished at last; and that, “having suffered with Christ, we shall also be glorified together.”]
CHRIST FORSAKEN BY HIS DISCIPLES
Matthew 26:56. Then all the Disciples forsook him, and fled.
NEXT to the presence of God, there is nothing so comforting in affliction as the sympathy of friends. The kind offices of those we love afford us tenfold pleasure in those seasons when trouble has depressed our spirits. On the other hand, the unkindness of professed friends is a most painful aggravation of any sorrow which we may be called to endure. The accumulated losses of Job were sustained by him with a holy fortitude and resignation: but, when he found that he was forsaken by his dearest friends, and that they from whom he might have expected pity became his vehement accusers [Note: Job 19:13-14.], he could no longer suppress the painful feelings of his mind. It must also have been a bitter ingredient in our Saviour’s cup, that in the hour of his extremity he was abandoned by his own disciples, who were bound by every tie to follow him even unto death. We cannot even read the record in our text without a mixture of indignation and grief. It forces however upon our minds many profitable reflections, some of which will serve as the basis of our present discourse.
I. How weak is the resolution of fallen man!
[Man, as originally formed by God, was capable of carrying into execution whatever his judgment approved or his will decreed: but it is far otherwise with us in our present state. Any one who had heard the firmness with which the Disciples expressed their determination to cleave unto their Lord, and “to die with him rather than deny him,” would have supposed it impossible that their resolution should be shaken. But behold, in the time of trial they all forgot their vows, and fled from him with precipitation and terror. The intrepid Peter, the beloved John, the bold and ambitious James [Note: Mark 10:38-39.], are weak as the rest of their brethren.
The resolutions which we also form on particular occasions appear immoveable. How earnest are many, when lying on a bed of sickness, to redeem their time; and how determined, if ever they should recover, to devote the remainder of their lives to God! — — — Yet they are no sooner restored to health than they go back to their former habits and companions, and leave to a distant period the performance of their vows — — — It is thus also with many after an awakening discourse: they see how vain it is to render unto God a mere formal or hypocritical service; and they resolve that henceforth they will offer him an undivided heart — — — But their hearts are not steadfast in the covenant which they make; and their lives are little else than a series of reformations and declensions without any solid improvement in the divine life — — —]
What great evils are even good men capable of committing!
[That the Disciples were good men is certain; for our Lord himself had recently testified, that “they were clean through the word which he had spoken to them.” But their conduct on this occasion was most base and shameful. What ingratitude were they guilty of in forsaking their Lord, when their presence might perhaps be of most essential service to him! Jesus had conferred innumerable benefits on them: and it was for them that he had exposed himself to these cruel persecutions. Yet how do they requite his kindness? They have a peculiar opportunity to render him most essential service. From their long and constant attendance on him, they above all were qualified to answer any accusations which might be brought against him; and by their united testimony might perhaps prevail against the clamours of his enemies: but they, occupied only about their own safety, refuse him the important aid which they were able to afford, and leave him unprotected in the hands of his bloody-thirsty enemies.
The unbelief also which they manifested on this occasion was highly criminal. They had been repeatedly told by Jesus that, after his death and resurrection, he would meet them in Galilee. This was equal to a promise on his part that they should be preserved. Moreover, at the very time when he was apprehended, he said in their hearing, “If ye seek me, let these go their way.” This ought to have been regarded by them as a certain pledge of their security. But so completely were they overcome by fear, that they could not think of safety but in flight.
We mention not these things to make any man think lightly of sin. Sin is a dreadful evil, in whomsoever it is found; but most of all in those who profess godliness. And we notice it in the Disciples, only that we may put all persons on their guard against it — — — and to make them sensible to whom they are indebted for the measure of steadfastness they have hitherto been enabled to maintain — — —]
How desirable is it to have just views of Jesus Christ!
[Our blessed Lord forewarned his Disciples that their desertion of him would originate in their misconception of his character and office: “All ye shall he offended in me this night.” They had seen their Divine Master controlling the very elements themselves: from whence they had concluded him to he the true Messiah. But, now they behold him bound, and led away by an armed band, they begin to think that all their former notions were false, and that the expectations which they had founded on his numerous miracles were delusive. Jesus seemed to them now to be like Samson after his locks were cut: he was become weak as other men. Hence they could no longer repose any confidence in him, but fled like sheep without a shepherd.
And is it not thus with the ungodly? Wherefore do they despise Jesus, but because they know neither his power nor his grace? — — — Must we not trace to the same source also the desponding fears of the contrite, Surely, if they knew how able and willing Jesus is to save them to the uttermost, they would commit their souls to him without doubt or fear — — — We may add also, respecting the godly themselves, that if they had brighter discoveries of his glory and excellency, they would be more ardent in their love to him, and more diligent in his service — — — We may say of all, as of those who crucified our Lord, that “had they known him (more thoroughly), they would not have acted thus and thus towards him.”]
From these reflections we shall be naturally led to suggest a word of,
[Some take up a profession of religion hastily, because they do not expect persecution, and others because they do not fear it. But it becomes us to guard against inadvertence on the one hand, and self-confidence on the other. Let not any imagine, that it is an easy thing to be a Christian; or that they can follow Christ aright without having a cross to bear. We must all, in some measure at least, “drink of the cup that our Divine Master drank of, and be baptized with the baptism that he was baptized with:” and therefore we should “prepare our hearts for temptation.” To every one, therefore, that desires to be a Christian, we would say, “Count the cost;” “lest after having begun to buiid, you be not able to finish.” To those who are bold and confident in their profession, our warning must bear a different aspect: “Be not high-minded, but fear.” Surely when we behold all the Disciples, after such vehement protestations of fidelity, forsaking their Lord in his utmost extremity, we have reason enough to be “jealous over ourselves with a godly jealousy.” While we “think we are standing firm, we should take heed lest we fall.” We should maintain in our minds a constant sense of our proneness to sin; and cry daily and hourly to God, “Hold up my going in thy paths, that my footsteps slip not.”]
[The failure of such persons as our Lord’s Disciples might well cause us to despond, if we had not a firmer foundation to build upon than any resolution of our own. But we have the word and oath of Jehovah for our support: he has said, “I will never leave thee, never, never forsake thee.” This promise was fulfilled to our blessed Saviour, when he was deserted by all his friends [Note: John 16:32.]. It was accomplished also on behalf of the Apostle Paul, when he was in circumstances nearly similar [Note: 2 Timothy 4:16-17.]. And we also are warranted to expect the same Divine aid and consolation, whenever our necessities peculiarly require it [Note: Isaiah 43:2.]. Let us then, whilst we are weak in ourselves, “be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.” Only let our trust be in him; and then we need “not fear, though an host should encamp against us,” or though earth and hell should conspire to destroy us. “The grace of Christ shall be sufficient for us,” “nor shall any thing prevail to separate us from his love.”]
OUR LORD’S CONDEMNATION BY THE JEWISH COUNCIL
Matthew 26:63-66. And the high-priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou fell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said; nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high-priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
THE ungodly in their pursuits often manifest a diligence which may put to shame the lukewarmness of God’s most zealous servants. Nor is it only in the gratification of their lusts that they display this ardour, but in their opposition to what is good. They feel themselves reproved by the blameless conversation of others, and would therefore gladly bring down all to their own level. Striking is that declaration of Solomon; “They sleep not, except they have done mischief; and their sleep is taken away, unless they cause some to fall [Note: Proverbs 4:16.].” We have an awful illustration of this in the conduct of the Jewish governors towards our blessed Lord at all times, but especially at the close of his life. The high-priest and Scribes and elders had been occupied in examining witnesses against our Lord till midnight: yet, apprehensive that they had not gained such information as would warrant them to condemn him, they assembled, even the whole Sanhedrim, as soon as it was day [Note: Luke 22:66.], in the palace of the high-priest; and prosecuted their inquiries with redoubled earnestness, in order that they might effect his destruction without delay. The particular circumstances here recorded shall be noticed by us,
I. In a way of easy illustration—
In this trial of our Lord there are three things that require our attention;
1. His examination—
[His enemies had endeavoured to substantiate something against him by means of witnesses, but were defeated by the discordance of their testimony. The high-priest, therefore, had recourse to a method which his office authorized [Note: Numbers 5:19-21.], and from which he had little doubt of success; he adjured his prisoner, in the name of the living God, to declare the truth upon oath, and either to avow openly, or plainly to disavow, his pretensions to the office of their Messiah. Now if this had been done in a spirit of candour, and with a sincere desire of ascertaining the truth, we think he would have been fully justified in resorting to the measure: for the question was of infinite importance to the whole nation, inasmuch as their everlasting salvation depended on their receiving him if he were indeed the Messiah, and rejecting him if he were an impostor. The honour of God also was deeply implicated in it: and therefore it was right that he should exert his judicial authority to have the matter, which had so long agitated the nation, brought to a decision. But there was in the mind of the judge a predetermination to condemn him: and the adjuration had no other object than that of gaining from the mouth of our Lord himself a plea for effecting his destruction. And it is precisely thus that the inquiries of many about religion are made, not so much with a view to obtain useful information, as for the finding occasion against the Gospel, and against those who profess it.]
2. His confession—
[Whilst the people clamorously brought all kinds of accusations against him, our Lord held his peace; but when the high-priest adjured him in the name of the living God, he could no longer keep silence; but plainly and unequivocally said, “I am” the Christ; “I am” the Son of God [Note: See Mark 14:62.]. But, to cut off occasion from those who sought occasion against him, he brought to their remembrance a portion of Holy Writ, with which they were well acquainted, and which they were expecting about that time to be fulfilled [Note: Daniel 7:13-14.]. It was universally known that Daniel spake of the Messiah; and that “the Son of Man” should establish an universal kingdom: and our Lord warns his enemies, that however they might despise him on account of the meanness of his present appearance, they should one day “see him coming in the clouds of heaven,” not only to punish Jerusalem, but to judge the world. This should have put them on their guard at least, and prevented that precipitate judgment which they were about to form: but the Scripture has no weight with men who are filled with prejudice; or rather, an appeal to it does but irritate them the more, and render them willing, though unconscious, instruments of fulfilling its predictions.]
3. His sentence—
[No sooner was this confession uttered, than the high-priest, to testify his abhorrence of what he called blasphemy, rent his clothes. This, though a common way of expressing grief or indignation among the Jews, was forbidden to the high-priest, whose august character was supposed to render him superior to all such transports of passion [Note: Compare 2 Kings 18:37; 2 Kings 19:1. with Leviticus 21:10.]. But, on this occasion, he who should have inclined to mercy was the first to condemn the prisoner, and to stir up the whole court against him. Little consideration is wanted, when religion is to be opposed: clamour will easily supply the want of argument, and prejudice supersede the necessity of proof: hence his assessors in judgment instantly adopted his sentiments; and all condemned Jesus, as a blasphemer, to suffer death. How awful to behold a number of persons, possessed both of the magisterial and sacerdotal office, branding as a blasphemer God’s only begotten Son, and, with malice truly diabolical, exclaiming, “He is guilty of death!” What must the heavenly hosts have felt, if they were spectators of this transaction! and how ought we to feel, when we consider, that we bear about with us the same evil dispositions, and, unless restrained by grace, should be as ready as they to renew the same scenes. We may imagine indeed, that the peculiarity of their situation led them to wickedness which we are incapable of committing: but it is a certain truth, that we in like circumstances should act as they did, if God did not interpose to enlighten and restrain our minds. The haste and acrimony with which godly persons are calumniated amongst us, shew clearly that we are actuated by the same principles as the Jews were, and, as far as occasion is afforded, are ready to tread in their steps.]
Let us next advert to the history,
In a way of spiritual improvement—
In this view much instruction may be gathered from it. We may learn from it,
1. To inquire after Christ—
[With what earnestness did the high-priest and elders pursue their inquiries; depriving themselves even of their rest, in order to acquire the information they desired! And are not we equally interested in the inquiry, “Whether he be the Christ, the Son of God?” Should we be content to take this matter upon trust, and not inquire into the grounds on which it stands, and the evidences which are adduced in its support? Or, having ascertained the truth of his Messiahship, should we not examine into the nature of his work, and office, and character? In our spirit, indeed, we cannot too widely differ from the Jews; but in our zeal and diligence we may well propose them to ourselves as objects of imitation. For what is there in the whole world that deserves our attention in comparison of this? St. Paul “accounted all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nor let us imagine that the study of the Holy Scriptures is to be confined to ministers: it is a work equally necessary for all, though all cannot devote the same portion of their time to it. And it is a work to which all are competent, as far as is necessary for their spiritual instruction. To all then would I say, “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life; and they are they which testify of Christ.”]
2. To trust in him—
[When we see our Lord sentenced to death without any fault whatever having been found in him, then we see what is to be our plea at the bar of judgment. This very circumstance of his having been condemned without cause frees us from condemnation. Having no sins of his own, his death was an expiation for our sin; and shall become effectual for the salvation of all who trust in him. To this agree the words of St. Peter: “Christ once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God.” Hence, whilst we confess ourselves to have deserved the deepest condemnation, we may point to him as our Surety and Substitute; and may say with the prophet, “He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.” O that we may never lose sight of this blessed truth, which is the hope of all the ends of the earth! Let us contemplate it; let us glory in it; let it be the one labour of our souls to “live by faith in him, and to say continually, He hath loved me, and given himself for me [Note: Galatians 2:20.].”]
3. To confess him openly—
[Our Lord well knew what would be the consequence of the confession that he made; yet would he not conceal the truth; and shall we be afraid to confess him? When he was not deterred by the most cruel death, shall we be intimidated by a reproachful name? Shall we not rather glory in being counted worthy to suffer shame for his sake? Yes; let us take up our cross cheerfully, and “follow him without the camp, bearing his reproach.” If persecution should menace us with its severest penalties, let us be ready to answer with the holy Apostle, “None of these things move me; neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may but finish my course with joy,” and fulfil my duty to my Lord. Let us remember, that as he “endured the cross, and despised the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” so shall we also, “having overcome, be seated with him on his throne, as he sitteth on his Father’s throne.”]
4. Look forward to his second coming—
[Ere long he will surely come again, according to his word; and “every eye shall see him, and they also who pierced him.” But with what eyes will his enemies behold him then! How glad would they then be, if they could hide themselves from his presence under rocks and mountains! Not so his believing people; they will rejoice and welcome his arrival as the commencement and consummation of all their joys. Thus saith the prophet; “Hear the word of the Lord, ye that tremble at his word; your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name’s sake, said, Let the Lord be glorified; but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed [Note: Isaiah 66:5.].” And to the same effect, only in far more awful language, is the testimony of the Apostle Paul [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10.]; “It is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; and to you who are troubled, rest,” &c. &c. Look forward then, I say, to that day; remembering, that tribulation is the way to the kingdom, and that “all who have been partakers of his sufferings now, shall, when his glory shall be revealed, be glad before him with exceeding joy [Note: 1 Peter 4:13.].” “Having suffered with him, ye shall also be eternally glorified together [Note: Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:12.].”]
THE INDIGNITIES OFFERED TO CHRIST IN THE PALACE OF THE HIGH PRIEST
Matthew 26:67-68. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ; who is he that smote thee?
THE sufferings of our blessed Lord were not confined to the garden or the cross; but were continued through all the intervening period without intermission. Those which he experienced immediately after his condemnation by the Sanhedrim, may be considered in a twofold view;
I. As inflicted on him—
We cannot read the account given us by the different Evangelists, without being filled with utter astonishment at,
1. The impiety of his persecutors—
[In every civilized state condemned criminals are held as objects of compassion: when once the law is put in force against them, they are treated at least with outward decorum and respect; and every one would wish rather to alleviate, than to aggravate, their sorrows. But in the servants of the high-priest, if not in some of the Council also, we behold the most savage barbarity, and the most wanton cruelty. To spit in the face of a person was the greatest indignity that could be offered him: and to pluck off his beard by force, must needs be attended with excruciating pain, Yet in this way, together with blows, did they insult and torment the victim of their malice.
To this cruelty they added the most horrid blasphemy. Our Lord was known to have professed himself the Christ; and to have shewn himself “a Prophet, mighty in words and deeds.” But they made the very offices which he sustained for our salvation a subject of profane derision: they blindfolded him, and then smote him with canes, and with the palms of their hands, saying unto him, “Prophesy unto us, thou Christ; Who is he that smote thee?” They had accused him of blasphemy: but another evangelist justly retorts the charge; and says, in reference to their present conduct, “Many other things blasphemously spake they against him.”
Who would have conceived that human nature should be capable of such atrocities?]
2. The meekness and gentleness of Christ—
[We are told in the foregoing verses, that “Jesus held his peace” amidst all the accusations of his enemies. The same conduct he observed under the aggravated trials that he now endured. Not an angry or vindictive word escaped his lips. How justly might he have vindicated his Divine character, by striking dead upon the spot the persons who so wantonly abused him! He might at least have dwelt more largely on the hint which he had suggested, when adjured by the high-priest to declare his real character [Note: ver. 64.]; and might have told them how he would resent and punish their impieties when they should stand before his tribunal. It might indeed be supposed that he uttered many things which are not recorded in this brief history; but, whatever he might say or do on other occasions, we are sure that, during the whole scene of his last sufferings, “when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.”]
But these indignities are to be considered in another view, namely,
As bearing testimony to him—
The general agreement between our Lord’s character and the prophecies concerning him, is a convincing evidence of his Messiahship—
[The circumstances which were foretold respecting him were so numerous, so minute, so improbable, and so contradictory, (if we may so speak,) that no one could have ventured to predict such things respecting an impostor; nor could they have been fulfilled in him by chance. None but God, who ordereth all things according to the counsel of his own will, could have foreseen them, or have secured their accomplishment: and therefore the things, so foreseen, and so accomplished, infallibly testify, that the person in whom they were accomplished was indeed the Christ — — —]
In these sufferings more especially we see a confirmation of all his pretensions and professions—
[His trials, and his behaviour under them, were both subjects of prophecy. Let Micah tell us how the Messiah was to be treated: “They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek [Note: Micah 5:1.].” Let Isaiah describe his conduct under that and various other indignities: “He gave his back to the smiters, and his cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; he hid not his face from shame and spitting [Note: Isaiah 50:6. See also our Lord’s own prophecy, Luke 18:32.].” With these lights let me go and search for the Messiah. Where shall I find him? I go into the high-priest’s palace: I descend into the hall among the servants; there I see the indignities offered to the despised Nazarene: I behold him smitten on the face with sticks, as well as with the palms of their hands [Note: Beza justly translates ἐρʼρʼάπισαν bacillis ceciderunt. And this marks the accomplishment of Micah’s prophecy.]: I see the inhuman wretches spitting in his face; whilst he endures all his sufferings with invincible patience. There, therefore, I recognize the Messiah, the Saviour of the world; and falling down before him, I exclaim with Thomas, “My Lord, and my God!”]
In this history we behold, as in a glass,
How Christ is yet treated by an ungodly world—
[It is not any longer in the power of any to offer him the same personal insults that are recorded in the text: but as they who live in sin are said to “crucify the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame,” so may they with equal justice be said to “spit in his face and buffet him:” and, while they imagine that he neither regards nor notices their impieties, they do in fact repeat the blasphemies of those who smote him, and say, “Prophesy unto us, thou Christ; Who is he that smote thee?” Let then the indignation which we feel against that blasphemous and inhuman rabble, be turned against ourselves: for, as often as we have violated his laws, and encouraged ourselves with hopes of impunity in sin, we have renewed the transactions of that awful day: and we have even more need to humble ourselves than they, inasmuch as we have professed to acknowledge him as our Saviour, whereas they really thought him an impostor, who deserved all that they inflicted on him.]
2. How his disciples must expect to be treated—
[“The servant must not expect to be above his Lord: if they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, much more will they those of his household.” Indeed, as in the case before us, the very name by which God himself has designated them is used against them in a way of profane derision, and made a term of the most malignant reproach. We appeal to all, whether the children of God are not continually called in Scripture “the elect:” yet is there not in the whole language one single term that is so offensive to the world at large, or that is used with more bitter sarcasm than this. Yes; this is regarded precisely as the terms “Christ and Prophet” were by those persecutors of our Lord: and the same idea of presumption and hypocrisy is now attached to those who claim the former title, as was annexed to the pretensions of our blessed Lord to the office and character of the Messiah. But as then the contempt poured on Jesus confirmed that very truth which it was designed to invalidate, so the reproach cast on God’s elect at this day, is an evidence in their favour: our Lord himself declared, that “it should turn unto us for a testimony [Note: Luke 21:12-13.].” Let us not then think it strange if we are called to endure fiery trials; but let us expect to be conformed to our blessed Saviour as well in sufferings as in glory.]
3. How we are to conduct ourselves under such treatment—
[We should “arm ourselves with the same mind” that was in Christ Jesus. We should “possess our souls in patience,” and “let patience have its perfect work.” “Being reviled, we should bless; being defamed, we should entreat; being persecuted, we should suffer it.” We should not either in word or deed avenge ourselves, but “give our cheek to the smiters” like him [Note: Lamentations 3:30.], and commit ourselves to him who judgeth righteously; who will in due time “recompense tribulation to them who trouble us, and to us who are troubled, rest.”]