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loving-kindness of the Lord, which will give life to his soul; and, I will oppose to all the objections that his fears may suggest, "Why will ye die, O house of Israel?"


Perhaps ye may say, there is no hope, how then can we live? we have offended a God who is of purer eyes than to behold iniquity. A God in whose sight the heavens are not pure; a God in whose awful presence even the seraphim hide their faces with their wings. But why will ye die, O house of Israel? This God, although holy, is not inexorable, at the same time that he enforces the strictest observance of his orders, he pities those who stray from them; he knows of what we are made, he knows that we are weak, and unable to keep ourselves from falling.

There is no hope, how shall we live? we have engaged ourselves as servants to sin and iniquity, and "the wages of sin is death," Rom. vi. 23. And according to this, if God remain just, the sinner must die. But why will ye die, O house of Israel, justice is satisfied, Jesus Christ "was made sin for us," 2 Cor. v. 21. He took upon himself the burden of our sins, and the punishment due to them. If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, 1 John, ii. 1. "If God be for us, who shall be against us; he that spared not his own son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him freely give us all things; who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth."

But it is sometimes said, "There is no hope, how can we live?" The sins we have committed, do not come under the description of human frailties. They were sins committed malignantly, and the influence of the worst passions, with the most inveterate hatred, impurity, adultery, injustice, and crimes of the blackest die," But why will ye die, O house of Israel?" There is a fountain of life open for the house of David. The same God who exhorts you in the words of the text, to make you a new heart and a new spirit, promises to give you one. There is nothing can oppose these powerful operations of the Holy Spirit, and nothing can hinder him from acting upon us, and he will effectually assist us, if we ask him in sincerity, and humbly yield ourselves

to his direction and influence.

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But again, "There is no hope, how shall we live?" We have lived so long in our sins, it is too late for repentance. Too late did you say; those who now say it is too late, have often replied to our serious exhortations and earnest entreaties, it is too soon; But why will ye die, O house of Israel?" It can never be too late to be converted, if you are really desirous of salvation. The irrevocable sentence yet remains unpronounced. At all events it is not yet executed-the day of grace still remains the treasures of God's mercy are still open-his loving-kindness and long-suffering still remains the same; "Behold now is the accepted time, behold now is the day of salvation," 2 Cor. vi. 2.

But, my brethren, do not suppose that the only security you have on this important point is the mortal voice, which now proclaims these consolatory truths. Listen while I declare VOL. II.-53

who is our authority, and whence we derive our commission. Our warrant is the Holy One of Israel, and in confirmation of his promises, we have not only his word, but his oath. St. Paul says, "Men verily swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is an end of all strife," Heb. vi. 6; but "God, because he could swear by no greater, sware by himself (ver. 13,) when he made his promise to Abraham." And he has confirmed with an oath the solemn truths that we have just been preaching to you. He sware the most sacred oath, he sware by himself, in the twenty-third chapter of the prophecies of Ezekiel, "As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil way, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?"

Oh! how delightful must be the service of so merciful a God, what a motive have we for energetic exertions for the conversion of men, when we have such a security for its success. How must they be infatuated, who rush into the abyss of despair, when their Judge himself has declared, that he is willing to pardon our guilt. But how blind must they be, who, on the other hand, do not find abundant reason for love and gratitude towards him who has made us such rich offers of grace, and who are not willing to devote themselves to his service. Let us then, my brethren, let us say in the words of the psalmist, "O Lord, there is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared," Ps. cxxx. 4. "I will hear what God the Lord will speak; for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints, but let them not turn again to folly," Ps. lxxxv. 8. May God grant to us this pardon, and to him be all honour and glory, both now and ever. Amen.



JOHN xix. 26, 27.

Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son. Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother; and from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.

"I AM become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children," Ps. Ixix. 9. "My lovers and my friends stand aloof from my sore, and my kinsmen stand afar off," Ps. xxxviii. 11. The prophets who predicted the coming of the Messiah, introduce him to our notice, uttering the foregoing language of complaint, in which is depicted one of the bitterest circumstances of his life of sorrow; and this affecting lamentation, we find fully justified, when we view our Divine Lord and Saviour, surrounded by an unfeeling crowd, nailed to his cross, enduring all the agonies of his

dreadful sentence, and deserted by his disciples; abandoned by the very persons, who had solemnly pledged themselves to serve him faithfully, even to death. This added a poignancy to every pain he felt, and pointed every thorn. For whatever may be the acuteness of the torments we suffer, they become comparatively light when shared and softened by friendship. How delightful is the affectionate sympathy of a kind father, into whose bosom we can pour our grief, or of an affectionate mother, who wipes away every tear.

But, my brethren, if the Saviour of the world felt so acutely this desertion of his disciples, and those for whom he had shown such a lively interest, he felt still more the presence of his near relations, and even in the moments of death, manifested a tender concern for their welfare. We now hear language from him | quite opposite to that put into his mouth by the prophet. We hear him now saying, "I am acknowledged by my brethren, and recognised by my mother's children. They who love me stand round me, and my friends pity my sore." And experience shows us, that how difficult soever to bear, how appalling soever to the mind, may be the preparations for death, how agonizing the thoughts of a patient who perceives the countenance of his physician change, a preacher announce to him the approach of his last hour, or a cold sweat, the precursor of death, spread itself over his whole body, there is still a more heart-rending pang which he feels when bidding adieu to the objects of his affectionate solicitude and care. In perusing the history of those who have suffered martyrdom, we see many who have borne with courage and firmness the view of the executioners about to take away their lives, the stake to which they were shortly to be bound, and even of the flames ready to devour them, and put an end to their mortal existence in the most excruciating torments, whose constancy has yielded in the presence, and sunk under the embraces, of those who were dear to them.

Jesus Christ is presented to our view this day, my brethren, as called to suffer such a trial. He saw standing at the foot of the cross, Mary his mother, overwhelmed with the most violent grief that the imagination can depict, called to witness the most cruel spectacle that could be presented to mortal eyes, borne down, and almost sinking under the weight of her accumulated sorrows. The same sword which transfixed the soul of this heart-broken mother, and those of St. John and the other Mary's, pierced our blessed Lord also. He felt his own grief as well as theirs, thus, suffering the agony of a double crucifixion, and dying a double death. Let me entreat you, my brethren, to give me your most earnest attention, and, when we have ascertained the exact import of our text, to consider seriously the instruction which, from the uncertainty of life, our fate may soon, perhaps, furnish to those around us; or, should they first receive the summons from the king of terrors, the lesson which they will then furnish to us. We will consider,


2. The conflict, or rather the triumph of our Lord himself, while expiring in their sight. The first suggested by these words in our text, "now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene." The next we find in the following words, "When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciples standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son. Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother; and from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home."

ye lofty speculations, which aspire to the most impenetrable secrets of science! Ye soarings of the imagination, which rise high as the heavens, and descend into the deepest recesses of knowledge, in quest of sublime and abstract ideas! I do not to-day call on you for assistance; it is to the emotions of nature, the sentiments of the soul, the powerful sympathies of the heart, that I appeal in this discourse, they will furnish the best commentary on our text: and that heart, which is under such an influence, can best understand the conflict to which we all approach, with the rapid flight of time. And happy will he be, who having received grace rightly to apply to himself this subject, shall come off triumphant.

First. Let us consider the import of the words contained in our text. There are few circumstances, in the whole of the sacred Scriptures, or perhaps, we might say, in any history, sacred or profane, which are related in a manner so simple and intelligible, and consequently so little susceptible of contradiction, as that now under consideration. The sight of the soldiers ready to seize the person of the Redeemer, the infuriated Jews, the decision of Pontius Pilate, the view of the cross; all these objects struck consternation into the minds of the apostles, and they thought at first more of their own safety, than of the great peril in which their Divine Master stood; and either from motives of prudence or cowardice, they abandoned Christ in the moment of danger, from which they had neither the courage nor presence of mind to attempt to rescue him. But the three Marys, either impelled by the ardour of their affection to surmount the greatest obstacles, or sheltered by their sex from the fear of the Jews, remained with him, throughout all this awful scene; and, as far as they were permitted by the fury of the soldiers, they received from the mouth of our Lord his dying injunctions.

Perhaps the rest of the disciples, ashamed of their former conduct, and following the suggestions of love to their suffering Lord, which had given way to timidity, and fear for their own security, now might come back to seek him whom they had so shamefully deserted. This we gather from the words of another evange list, who says, "that all his acquaintance stood afar off beholding these things," Luke xxiii. 49. But wherever the rest were, we know that St. John, who was always distinguished for his love to the Redeemer, who had witnessed his agony in the garden, who had followed him into the court of Caiaphas, was near him with 1. The conflict which was passing in the the women. Christ, who was sufficiently eleminds of Mary and St. John, while eye-wit-vated on the cross, to be able to see all those nesses of the death of Christ. who were assembled to witness his death, but

not so much above them as to be unable to dis- | ion, to have measured it, and found it fifteen tinguish their persons, and to be heard by them, was struck on beholding his mother, and the group which surrounded her. He considered, that as Joseph was dead, Mary had lost her only protector, and might suffer all the miseries of want, and thinking that St. John, from whom he was even now receiving marks of friendship, would not refuse his last request, to him he committed the care of his mother; it was indeed a precious charge. He wishing the apostle to fulfil towards her the various duties of husband and son, therefore said, "This is from henceforth to be thy mother," and to Mary, "Behold thy son." St. John faithfully observed this commission, and inviolably adhered to it, and from that time Mary had no home but his. This, my brethren, seems to be the general import of the affecting narrative under consideration; on which the following questions are sometimes started.

Why is Mary, the sister of the Virgin, and mother of James and Joseph, called the wife of Cleophas?

Some have said that Cleophas was her father, others say, with a greater appearance of probability, that he was her husband; why then was her son James called the son of Alpheus? it has been supposed that she was twice married, and that her first husband, whose name was Alpheus, was the father of James; and the second, Cleophas, the one mentioned here. But the prevailing opinion is, that the Syriac or Hebrew word in the original, may be rendered with equal propriety, Cleophas or Alpheus, so that it is not difficult to perceive that the Alpheus mentioned by St. Luke, is the same whom St. John has named Cleophas.

Again, Who is this other Mary, surnamed Magdalene, probably from her birth-place, Magdala, either the town of that name, near Capernaum, on the borders of the sea of Tiberias, or another place of the same name, on the other side. She is commonly supposed to be the same out of whom went seven devils. Some have inquired whether she is the same Mary who is mentioned in the 11th chapter of St. John, whose brother Christ raised from the dead, on whom, and on her family, he had wrought so many miracles, and who was nearly related to him. But these are questions which do not concern us, and which we have rio means of deciding.

These, and many other inquiries, may be not improperly started, and pursued to a certain length, provided they are proposed, not as points of importance in themselves, but as all that concerns the history of our Saviour's life and death should be deemed interesting to us. But after all, as I remarked before, there is no event in the sacred volume narrated in a manner so simple, so intelligible, and on that account so little open to contradiction, as that now under consideration. But, my brethren, it is scarcely credible, that, superstition has been more than usually busy in fabricating misrepresentations on this subject. Superstition has multiplied the minute details of this afflictive event, and has given a more particular account than our evangelist. Some pre tend to have ascertained the exact distance between Christ and the spectators of his crucifix

cubits. They say, that even the lapse of seventeen centuries does not prevent their clearly discerning even now, the spot where St. John and the three Marys stood. They maintain, that there are still remaining vestiges, which they show to those who visit the Holy Land, and which they call the way of bitterness. For, my brethren, what do not they see, who view things through the medium of superstition, and do they not find in every object, nourishment for their chimerical and false devotion, which amply repays them for all the fatigues and difficulties they may have undergone. Is there any event so trifling, any recital so simple, any place mentioned in sacred history, so obscure as not to be traced by them? The house of Joachim, father of the virgin, the room in which she was born, the stone on which she sat when the angel saluted her, the place where our Saviour was born, the seat on which she received the wise men from the east, the grotto where she suckled our Lord, the fig-tree that he cursed, and which up to this time, produced no fruit, the place where he stood when Mary said, "Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died;" where he composed the Prayer still distinguished by his name. The dungeon where he was shut up when they led him before Pilate; the arch through which Pilate showed him to the people; the street in which he was scourged; the spot in which Judas betrayed him with a kiss; the room in which he instituted the holy sacrament; the room in which he appeared to his disciples, the doors being shut; the form of his left foot, which was made on the rock when he ascended into heaven; the pedestal of the column on which the cock crowed; the place where Judas hung himself; the apartment in which the apostles were when they received the gift of the Holy Ghost; the place in which they composed the Creed; the abode of the wicked rich man; the door through which the angel led St. Peter out of prison; the fountain where Philip was baptized; and many other places, which are all seperately shown, and regarded with veneration.

But even this is not all, they pretend, that the afflictions of the Virgin overpowered her, and she fainted away and fell to the ground. Cardinal Cagison says, that they formerly kept a festival in the church, called, "The feast of the fainting," in memory of this event. And if any one inquires into the history of this fainting, the reply they receive is from the works of a visionary, who published eight volumes of his speculations, and whom the popes canonized by the title of St. Brigite, or the seraphic cardinal Bonaventura, whose letter is so carefully preserved at Lyons, or one named Mallonius, and other authors of this sort, who lived in the fifteenth century. But still this is trifling, compared with the signification which superstition has attached to the words, "Woman, behold thy son." "Behold thy mother." They include, according to the opinions of the doctors of the Romish Church, the greatest mysteries of religion, they afford the strongest proof of the powerful protection which the Virgin affords to the church, and the religious worship due to her from the church. St. John, they say, represents, in this place, all the faith

ful. Christ put in his person the whole human | your power, angels themselves bow, and these race under the government and protection of behold fresh sources of pleasure; the just imMary. "Woman, behold thy son,” or in other | plore a share in your righteousness, the guilty words, I delegate to thee, all the power and look to you for pardon." authority, that my divinity and quality of Me- Some persons have had the courage to prodiator give me over the church; from hence- test against these erroneous doctrines, even forth, be thou its firmest pillar, its strongest among the Catholics, and to desist from the support and defence; be to its children a light worship of the virgin. "O my God," cried to lighten their darkness, be their counsellor in feebly, one of their most celebrated preachers, all difficulties, in persecution itself, their guide" is it necessary, in this age, so strenuously to in all their wanderings, their consolation in defend the homage that the Christian world trouble, and life to them even in the last ago-pays to the Holy Virgin. Must it fall to my nies of expiring nature. In the words, "Be- lot to fight against the false scruples of those hold thy mother," he says, Mortals attend, who fear to praise thee, and dare to complain while I point out to you the most worthy ob- of the honour given to thy name. But notject of your worship and humble adoration; withstanding the enterprises formed by the here you behold the fountain of all my favours, enemies of religion to destroy thy worship; and it is through her alone that you can hope through all these ages it still remains. O to attain to my glory. Cease then to weep for blessed Virgin, never shall the gates of hell my death, regret no longer my absence from prevail against the zeal of real Christians." you, I compensate for it all, by leaving Mary Alas, how many persons feed on this unsubwith you. In accordance with this opinion, the stantial food. What a deplorable example of Virgin is addressed as "the help of the weak, prejudice and bad education. How do those the tower of David, the arch of the holy alli- minds deserve pity, which are enveloped in ance, the door of heaven, the queen of the the veil of superstition, and blinded to prevent apostles, confessors, and martyrs, the coadju- them from discerning the truth. It is thus, trix with God in the work of salvation;" and my brethren, that the enemy of our salvation these titles are given, not in the writings of in- suits his attacks to the dispositions of every dividuals, for which they were personally re- man. Does he wish to deceive those lofty sponsible, but in the public offices and services spirits, who would lead captive to their will, of the church. even the oracles of God, instead of submitting themselves to them, those rebellious souls who bring down the most sublime mysteries of religion to the level of their own capacity? To them he represents the doctrine of the divinity of our glorious Redeemer as confused and contradictory, persuading them, that this wonderful and incomprehensible mixture of grandeur and misery, of glory and ignominy, of divinity and humanity, is at variance with all common and received ideas; he thereby persuades them to refuse obedience and worship to him, whom even the angels obey, in whose presence every knee shall bow, both of things in heaven and of things on the earth; or is his concern with those weak minds who are led astray by every appearance of wonder, any thing new? To them he represents, that many creatures partake of the glory of God; he persuades them to worship together with God, beings of an inferior order. Thus some refuse to pay any homage to God at all, while others adore him in a wrong and ineffectual way; thus he succeeds too well in his wicked plans for the ruin of mankind.

We see solemn vows paid to her in all ages. Among many thousands of them was that of Louis XIII., who consecrated to her service, his person and kingdom, by an inviolable oath. From this source spring all the blasphemies of those who have dared to maintain, that the Virgin created all the universe; that her influence with God, is almost equal to authority and sovereign power; that she approaches the throne of Christ, not in quality of a servant, but as his equal; as a goddess; that all in heaven, even God himself, acknowledge her sway and submit to her power; that the authority of Christ is founded on justice; that of the Virgin on love. They argue, that if the foolish virgins had called on her, instead of God, and had substituted the invocation of her name, for the words, "Lord, Lord," the doors of heaven would have been opened to them. In the psalter of St. Bonaventura, the name of Mary has been substituted for that of God, in all the psalms of David, and to her are ascribed all the names, perfections, worship, and works of the Deity, and all the passages cited by the apostles from the Old Testament, to prove the Divinity of Christ, are likewise applied to the Virgin. We find also the following prayer, "O Virgin, exercise your parental authority over your Son. Who can understand, O blessed and holy mother, the extent of your mercy. Who can comprehend the height, the breadth, or the depth, of it. It extends itself even to the day of judgment, it is wide as the universe, it reaches up to the heavens, and descends to the deepest abyss. It is your presence that forms the joy of heaven, your absence the torments of hell; by your counsel the new Jerusalem is edified and sanctified. Intelligent beings all pray to you; some to be delivered from the torments of hell, others, who have attained eternal happiness, for an increase of their felicity. To

But praised be God, we need not fear the inroads of superstition in our time: the only feelings that it is likely to excite in our minds, are those of pity and indignation. O church of Rome, if thou wouldest re-establish thy sway amongst us; arm afresh thy inquisition, equip thy galleys, light up again thy fires, prepare new tortures, open thy dismal dungeons, erect more gibbets, and devise more cruel martyrdoms. With such arguments as these, thou mayest perhaps, prevail on some feeble professors of our reformed religion, through the influence of fear, to become thy proselytes; but all thy reasonings, thy specious tales, and false arguments, only serve to sap the foundations of an old building even now in ruins.

Superstition has also invented numerous


histories, well known to be entirely fabulous, which have been added to that given by St. John of the Virgin. The evangelist relates, that from that hour the disciple took her unto his own home; and we find, both after the death of our blessed Lord, and after his resurrection, that she continued with the apostles constant in prayer and praises; after this we lose, in the sacred writings, all farther trace of the life of this holy woman; and we find nothing which could serve for the materials of a complete history of her life and death. The books written in the first century are also silent on this subject, and do not present any thing to fill up the void in the sacred writings. A letter from the council held at Ephesus in the fifth century, affords some very slight grounds for supposing that she might be buried in that city; and one who lived a considerable time before that period, acknowledges his ignorance on this subject. He says, that he cannot be sure whether she is really dead, or whether she received the gift of immortality, and remained alive at that time; whether she suffered martyrdom, or terminated her life by a natural and easy death; no one knows any thing of her latter end. So general a silence, unanimously preserved at a time when particulars relative to the death of the Virgin might have been so easily procured, should teach succeeding ages to beware of speaking positively on this subject. But when an author is so infatuated, as to be intent on endeavouring to fix the particulars of events, in themselves quite uncertain and unimportant, what difficulties does he find too great to overcome, what obstacles of sufficient magnitude to arrest his progress. Thus, we see in succeeding ages, that men have even thought they could trace the features of the Virgin, which they pretend to have seen delineated by St. Luke, in a picture drawn for an empress who supposed she had found her tomb; they have also detailed the slightest circumstances of her life and death. To give a shadow of plausibility to these impositions, they have attributed them to persons of celebrity, from whose names they might derive popularity. Of this nature was a work published in the second century, entitled, "The Life and Death of the Blessed Virgin," and placed among the apocryphal books. And as all these histories had no other foundation than the imaginations of their authors, we perceive a diversity of opinions, similar to the diversity of the persons, from the fertility of whose inventions they sprung. Some maintain that the holy Virgin suffered martyrdom; others that she followed St. John to Ephesus, where she died at a very advanced age; others assert that after her death she arose from the grave: but others have carried their theories still farther, and pretended that she was taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire, as was Elias. But we will turn from the consideration of this subject, and employ the rest of our time in considering the two principal branches of our subject.

I. The conflict passing in the minds of those who behold the last moments of those who are dear to them.

II. The conflict, or rather the triumph, of those who thus expire.



1. The case of Mary exemplifies the conflicting emotions that agitate the souls of those who surround the dying pillow of their dearest relatives. Nature, reason, and religion, all must lend their aid to support their trembling courage. And let me inquire, who is there among you, my brethren, who sufficiently feels the force of the demonstration of which his proposition is susceptible. If any of you have concentrated your principal care, your warmest affections, on one object, on one favourite child, to whom you have looked for consolation in trouble, whom you have regarded as the honour of your house, to whose filial tenderness you have trusted for the support of your declining years; to the feelings of such a one I appeal, to picture to his mind a scene which baffles all attempts at description. Let him put himself in the place of Mary, and view in the death of our Saviour, that of his beloved child: he will still form but an imperfect idea of the mental agonies which Mary was suffering. She beheld her Son, whose birth was miraculously announced to her by an angel; that Son, on whose appearance the armies of heaven sung with triumphant joy; that Son, whose abode on earth was a distinguished course of mercy, charity, and compassion; she saw him, whose abode on earth crowned it with blessings, ready to quit it for ever. She anticipated the frightful and dreary solitude in which she was so soon to be plunged; she viewed herself forsaken and deserted by all, deprived of the dearest object of her affection; the rest of the world appeared to her a blank, as if she remained alone, the only inhabitant of this spacious globe. And in what manner is she about to lose her beloved Son? He dies a death, he suffers a martyrdom of unexampled agony. She sees those hands, which had so often dispensed blessings, cured diseases, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and wrought so many miracles, pierced with nails. She beheld those lips, on which dwelt grace and beauty, and from which had flowed the accents of mercy, scandalized by the impurities of the furious Jews. That royal head, which the crown of the universe would become, torn and lacerated with thorns; that arm destined to wield the sceptre of the world, bearing a reed in mockery. She saw the temple of her God; that temple which had been distinguished as the peculiar abode of the divinity, which had been blessed with peculiar manifestations of his wisdom, his glory, his justice, and his mercy, and all those perfections which belong to the Supreme Being, falling beneath the attacks of the impious multitude. She heard the voice of the children of Edom, crying, "Down with it, down with it!" and levelling the dwelling of the Most High with the ground. Then she beheld the full accomplishment of that saying, of which she could not formerly perceive the meaning: "A sword shall pierce through thine own soul also," Luke ii. 35. Again, she was denied the sad consolation of approaching this her beloved Son, to comfort him, and to receive his last breath. O ye, his murderers, allow her at least to embrace him once more; let her shed her tears by his side, and bid him a final farewell; let her stop the blood which has began to flow in large drops, and consumes

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