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whereby we might be saved? Where, in heaven or earth, could there be found a priest fit to atone for sins so vastly numerous, so extremely heinous ? And whence should a sacrifice be taken, of value sufficient to expiate for so manifold enormities, committed against the infinite Majesty of heaven? Who could find out the everlasting redemption of innumerable souls, or lay down a competent ransom for them all ? Not to say, could also purchase for them eternal life and bliss ?
These are questions which would puzzle all the wit of man, yea, would gravel all the wisdom of angels to resolve : for plain it is, that no creature on earth, none in heaven, could well undertake or perform this work.
Where on earth, among the degenerate sons of Adam, could be found such a high priest as became us, holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners ? and how could a man, however innocent and pure as a seraphim, so perform his duty, as to do more than merit or satisfy for himself? How many lives could the life of one man serve to ransom ; seeing that it is asserted of the greatest and richest among men, that ' none of them can by any means redeem his brother, or give to God a ransom for him.'
And how could available help in this case be expected from any of the angelical host; seeing (beside their being in nature different from us, and thence improper to merit or satisfy for us; beside their comparative meanness, and infinite distance from the majesty of God) they are but our fellow-servants, and .bave obligations to discharge for themselves, and cannot be solvent for more than for their own debts of gratitude and service to their infinitely-bountiful Creator ; they also themselves needing a Saviour, to preserve them by his grace in their happy state ?
Indeed, no creature might aspire to so august an honor, none could achieve so marvellous a work, to redeem from infinite guilt and misery the noblest part of all the visible creation: none could presume to invade that high prerogative of God, or attempt to infringe the truth of that reiterated proclamation, I, eyen I, am the Lord, and beside me there is no Saviour.'
Wherefore, seeing that a supereminent dignity of person was required in our Mediator, and that an immense value was to be
presented for our ransom; seeing that God saw there was no man, and wondered (or took special notice) that there was no intercessor;' it must be his arm alone that could bring salvation ; none beside God himself could intermeddle therein.
But how could God undertake the business? Could he become a suitor or intercessor to his offended self ? Could he present a sacrifice, or disburse a satisfaction to his own justice ? Could God alone contract and stipulate with God in our behalf ? No; surely man also must concur in the transaction : some amends must issue from him, somewhat must be paid out of our stock : human will and consent must be interposed, to ratify a firm covenant with us, inducing obligation on our part. It was decent and expedient, that as man, by wilful transgression and presumptuous self-pleasing, had so highly offended, injured, and dishonored his Maker; so man also, by willing obedience, and patient submission to God's pleasure, should greatly content, right, and glorify him.
Here then did lie the stress; this was the knot, which only divine wisdom could loose. And so indeed it did in a most effectual and admirable way: for in correspondence to all the exigences of the case, (that God and man both might act their parts in saving us,) the blessed eternal Word, the only Son of God, by the good-will of his Father, did vouchsafe to intercede for us, and to undertake our redemption ; in order thereto voluntarily being sent down from heaven, assuming human flesh, subjecting himself to all the infirmities of our frail nature, and to the worst inconveniences of our low condition; therein meriting God's favor to us, by a perfect obedience to the law, and satisfying God's justice by a most patient endurance of pains in our behalf; in completion of all, willingly laying down his life for the ransom of our souls, and pouring forth his blood in sacrifice for our sins.
This is that great and wonderful mystery of godliness,' (or of our holy religion,) the wbich St. Paul here doth express, in these words concerning our blessed Saviour; · Who being in the form of God, thought it no robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took on him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men : and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.'
In which words are contained divers points very observable. But seeing the time will not allow me to treat on them in any measure as they deserve, I shall (waving all the rest) insist but on one particular, couched in the last words, even the death of the cross ;' which by a special emphasis do excite us to consider the manner of that boly passion which we now commemorate; the contemplation whereof, as it is most seasonable, so it is ever very profitable.
Now then in this kind of passion we may consider divers notable adjuncts; namely these : 1. Its being in appearance criminal. 2. Its being most bitter and painful. 3. Its being most ignominious and shameful. 4. Its peculiar advantageousness to the designs of our Lord in suffering. 5. Its practical efficacy.
I. We may consider our Lord's suffering as criminal; or as in semblance being an execution of justice on him. · He,' as the prophet foretold of him, was numbered among the transgressors;' and God, saith St. Paul, made him sin for us, who knew no sin :' that is, God ordered him to be treated as a most sinful or criminous person, who in himself was perfectly innocent, and void of the least inclination to offend.
So in etfect it was, that he was impeached of the highest crimes; as a violator of the divine laws in divers instances; as a designer to subvert their religion and temple; as an impostor, deluding and seducing the people; as a blasphemer, assuming to himself the properties and prerogatives of God; as a seditious and rebellious person, perverting the nation, inbibiting payments of tribute to Cæsar, usurping royal authority, and styling himself • Christ a king :' in a word, as a malefactor, or one guilty of enormous offences; so his persecutors avowed to Pilate, • If,' said they, he were not a malefactor, we would not have delivered him up unto thee.' As such he was represented and arraigned; as such, although by a sentence wrested by malicious importunity, against the will and conscience of the judge, he was condemned, and accordingly suffered death.
Now whereas any death or passion of our Lord, as being in
itself immensely valuable, and most precious in the sight of God, might have been sufficient toward the accomplishment of his general designs, (the appeasing God's wrath, the satisfaction of divine justice, the expiation of our guilt;) it may be inquired, why God should thus expose him, or why he should choose to suffer under this odious and ugly character? Which inquiry is the more considerable, because it is especially this circumstance which crosseth the fleshly sense and worldly prejudices of men, so as to have rendered the gospel offensive to the superstitious Jews, and despicable to conceited Gentiles. For so Tryphon in Justin Martyr, although, from conviction by testimonies of Scripture, he did admit the Messias was to suffer hardly, yet that it should be in this accursed manner, he could not digest. So the great adversaries of Christianity (Celsus, Porphyry, Julian) did with most contempt urge this exception against it. So St. Paul did observe, that Christ .
• crucified was unto the Jews a stumbling-block, and unto the Greeks foolishness.' Wherefore, to avoid those scandals, and that we may better admire the wisdom of God in this dispensation, it may be fit to assign some reasons intimated in holy Scripture, or bearing conformity to its doctrine, why it was thus ordered. Such are these.
1. As our Saviour freely did undertake a life of greatest meanness and hardship, so on the like accounts he might be pleased to undergo a death most loathsome and uncomfortable. There is nothing to man's nature (especially to the best natures, in which modesty and ingenuity do survive) more abominable than such a death. God for good purposes hath planted in our constitution a quick sense of disgrace; and, of all disgraces, that which proceedeth from an imputation of crimes is most pungent ; and being conscious of our innocence doth heighten the smart; and to reflect on ourselves dying under it, leaving the world with an indelible stain on our name and memory, is yet more grievous. Even to languish by degrees, enduring the torments of a long, however shaệp disease, would to an honest mind seem more eligible, than in this manner, being reputed and handled as a villain, to find a quick and easy dispatch.
Of which human resentment may we not observe a touch in that expostulation, · Be ye come out, as against a thief, with
swords and staves ? If as a man he did not like to be prosecuted as a thief; yet willingly did he choose it, as he did other most distasteful things pertaining to our nature, the likeness of man,') and incident to that low condition, (the form of a servant,') into which he did put himself: such as were, to endure penury, and to fare hardly, to be slighted, envied, hated, reproached through all his course of life.
It is well said by a Pagan philosopher, that “no man doth express such a respect and devotion to virtue, as doth he who forfeiteth the repute of being a good man, that he may not lose the conscience of being such.' This our Lord willingly made his case, being content not only to expose his life, but to prostitute bis fame, for the interests of goodness.
Had he died otherwise, he miglit have seemed to purchase our welfare at a somewhat easier rate; he had not been so complete a sufferer; he had not tasted the worst that man is liable to endure: there had been a comfort in seeining innocent, detracting from the perfection of his sufferance.
Whereas therefore he often was in hazard of death, both from the clandestine machinations and the outrageous violences of those who maligned him, he did industriously shun a death so plausible, and honorable, if I may so speak; it being not so disgraceful to fall by private malice, or by sudden rage, as by the solemn deliberate proceeding of men in public authority and principal credit.
Accordingly this kind of death did not fall on him by surprise, or by chance; but he did from the beginning foresee it; he plainly with satisfaction did aim at it: he, as it is related in the gospels, did show his disciples that it was incumbent on him by God's appointment and his own choice; that he ought, it is said, to suffer many things, to be rejected by the chief priests, elders, and scribes, to be vilified by them, to be delivered up to the Gentiles, to be mocked, and scourged, and crucified, as a flagitious slave. Thus would our blessed Saviour, in conformity to the rest of his voluntary afflictions, and for a consummation of them, not only suffer in his body by sore wounds and bruises, and in his soul by doleful agonies, but in his name also and reputation by the foulest scandals; undergoing as well all the infamy as the infirmity which did belong