Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

men, by which God on his part promises to men eternal salvation, upon condition of faith and repentance on theirs. And this is called in Scripture "the second covenant, or the covenant of grace," and stands opposed to that which is there called the "first covenant, or the covenant of works."

Now, by that eternal compact or transaction between the Father and the Son, (of which alone we now speak,) was this donation of a certain determinate number of persons made to Christ to be his people, by virtue of which agreement or transaction he was, "in the fulness of time," to suffer for them, and to accomplish the whole work of their redemption from first to last. For to affirm that Christ died only to verify a proposition, [that "whosoever believed should be saved," but in the meantime, to leave the whole issue of things in reference to persons so loose and undetermined, that it was a question whether ever any one should actually believe, and very possible that none ever might, and consequently that after Christ had suffered, had been stricken, and died for transgression, yet, for any thing that he had done in all this, he might never have had a people; this certainly is a strange and new gospel, and such as the doctrine of our church seems utterly unacquainted with.

Having thus shewn the foundation upon which the persons here spoken of are called by the prophet God's people; namely, an eternal covenant, in which God the Father and the Son mutually agreed upon the terms of their redemption, we are now to observe, that the same thing that thus denominates and makes them God's people, makes them under the same relation to belong also to Christ, and that not only upon the account of his nature that he was God, but chiefly of his office, that he was their Mediator, which capacity made him equally concerned in that eternal covenant, he accepting and agreeing to those terms that were proposed and offered him by the Father. By his acceptance of which, he became both a mystical head and a surety to those for whom he so undertook. And this relation of his to them was the cause why he both might be and actually was "stricken by God for their transgression, without any violation of the divine justice, notwithstanding the perfect innocence of his person. For to render it just to inflict a punishment upon an innocent person instead of another, either of these two causes are sufficient,

First, An intimate conjunction between those persons; and that either natural, as between father and son, or political, as between king and people, and the like; or,

Secondly, The voluntary consent and will of an innocent person to undergo the punishment due to the nocent; as it is between a man and his surety.

Accordingly, from that covenant, by which the Father made over a certain number of persons to the Son to be his people, there arose this twofold relation of Christ to them,

1. Of a king to his people, or of a mystical head to his members, so that legally and politically they suffered as really in Christ, as the whole body suffers when the head is wounded or struck through with a dart.

2. The other relation is of a surety; so that the satisfaction paid down by Christ to God's justice for sin, is, in estimation of law, as really accounted to be paid down by the saints, as if they had paid it in their own persons.

And this is a farther, and withal a full answer to that objection formerly hinted from the innocence of Christ's person, as if it rendered him incapable of punishment. For his own free, voluntary consent to be a surety for sinners, and responsible for all that divin. justice could charge them with, transferred the guilt and obligation from their persons to

his own.

In a word, the compact between Christ and his Father made him a king, a mystical head, and also a surety to some certain persons; and his being so, made them his people, and their being his people did, upon that account, make it both just and equitable for him to suffer, and to be "stricken for their transgression," which is the result of the text, and the thing undertook by us to be proved.

I have now finished the several things proposed from the text; in which having set before you how much Christ has suffered, and all for our sakes, I hope it will kindle the workings of a pious ingenuity in every one of our breasts. For I am sure if Christ's suffering for us were the doctrine, gratitude should make our readiness to suffer for him the application. Christianity, I shew, was a suffering religion; and there are two sorts of suffering to which it will certainly expose every genuine professor of it.

1. The first is from himself.

2. The second from the world.

1. And first, it will engage him in a suffering from himself; even that grand suffering of self-denial and mortification, the sharpest and most indispensable of all others, in which every Christian is not only to be the sufferer, but himself also the executioner. "He who is Christ's," says the apostle, "has crucified the flesh, with the affections and lusts." A severe discipline certainly, in which a man is to act his fiercest anger upon his dearest friends. For could nature ever yet suggest to any one the hatred of his own flesh, the crucifixion of his desires, and the stabbing of his most beloved affections? Nature indeed cannot, will not prompt it: but Christianity, which rises many strains above nature, both must and will. The best sacrifice to a cruci

[ocr errors]

fied Saviour is a crucified lust, a bleeding
heart, and a dying corruption. We cannot
bring, nor indeed does Christ expect, a recom-
pense for what he has suffered for us; yet that
which he will accept, as if it were a recom-
pense, is for us to deal cruelly with that body
of sin which has caused the acting of all those
cruelties upon him. Let the ambitious man
lay his pride in the dust, the covetous man
deposit his treasures in the banks of charity
and liberality, and let the voluptuous epicure
renounce his cups and his whores, and this will
be a present to Heaven better than an whole
hecatomb; nor could "the fruit of his body"
fall so grateful a sacrifice upon God's altars
as "the sin of his soul." But it is like, the
jolly world about us will but scoff at the pa-
radox of such practices, and explode them as
madness and melancholy; yet let those sons
of pleasure know, that such as scorn to be
thus melancholy in this world, will have but
little cause to be merry in the next.

2. The other kind of suffering in which
Christianity will engage a man, is from the
world. Such is the genius and nature of the
Christian religion, that it must unavoidably
bring him, who owns it, in the power of it,
under temporal troubles and afflictions.
"In
the world," says Christ, "ye shall have tribu-
lation." And he spoke it not so much by a
spirit of prophecy as philosophy, and by an
actual sight of it in its pregnant causes. For
the contrariety of the principles and maxims
of Christianity to those of the world, cannot
but engage men in such practices as shall also
thwart the customs and modes which govern
the actions of the world. But where there is
contrariety, there will be fighting; and where
there is fighting, the weaker, I am sure, must
suffer; and generally the Christian is so in all
worldly encounters, whose chief defensatives
lie not in that armour that is sword-proof, or
bullet-proof, and who wears no breastplate
upon, but within his breast, that is, his inno-
cence, his conscience, and his confidence in a
reconciled God. Suffering is a thing which
all men abhor, and that because they are
ashamed of it; and their being so is
grounded upon this opinion, that to suffer, in
the very nature of it, seems to impeach
the suffering person, either in the reputation
of his power or of his innocence; that is,
he suffers either because he is weak, and
cannot hinder it, or because he is faulty, and
so deserves it. But with every Christian,
Christ is an abundant answer to both these
objections. For when we see omnipotence
hanging upon the cross, and God himself
Scourged and spit upon; and when we see
him, who could have commanded fire from
heaven, and legions of angels to his rescue,
yet surrendering himself quietly to the will of
his murderers, surely no mortal man, who is
but dirt and worms-meat at the best, can pre-by,

tend himself too great and too high to suffer. And again, when we behold virtue, innocence, and purity, more than angelical, crucified between thieves and malefactors, shall any man, whose birth and actions revile and speak him a sinner to his face, think himself too good to come under the cross, and to take his share in the common lot of Christianity? It is not the suffering itself, but the cause of it, that is dishonourable. And even in the worst and most shameful of sufferings, though the hangman does the execution, yet it is the crime alone which does the disgrace.

Christ commands us nothing, but he enforces it with arguments from his person as well as from his word; and it is well if we can make a due use of them. For God knows how soon he may call us from our easy speculations and theories of suffering to the practical experience of it; how soon he may draw us forth for persecution and the fiery trial. Only this we may be sure of, that if these things be brought upon us for his honour, it will be for ours too to endure them. And be our distresses never so great, our calamities never so strange and unusual, yet we have both our Saviour's example to direct, and his promise to support us, who has left it upon record in his everlasting gospel," that if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him."

To whom, therefore, be rendered and ascribed, as is most due, all praise, might, majesty, and dominion, both now and for Amen.

evermore.

SERMON XXXIV.

UPON THE RESURRECTION.
PREACHED ON EASTER DAY, 1667.

“Ο, ὁ θεὸς ἀνέστησε, λύσας τὰς ὠδῖνας τοῦ θανάτου, καθότι οὐκ ἦν δυνατὸν κρατεῖσθαι αὐτὸν ὑπ' αὐτοῦ.

"Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death : because it was not possible that he should be holden of it."ACTS, ii. 24.

It is of infinite concern to mankind, both as to their welfare in this world and the next, to preserve in their minds a full belief of a future estate of happiness or misery, into which, according to the quality of their actions here, they must for ever be disposed of hereafter; the experience of all ages having found the insufficiency of bare human restraints to control the audacious sinfulness of some tempers and dispositions, without holding them under the awe of this persuasion. From which, though some, by much and long sinning, and perverse ratiocinations caused therehave in a great measure disentangled their

consciences, yet these are but few and inconsiderable, compared with the rest of the world, in whose minds education and better principles, grafted upon the very instincts of nature, have fixed this persuasion too deep to be ever totally rooted out. And it is from the victorious influence of this, that the common peace of the world has been maintained against those bold invasions, which the corruption of man's nature would otherwise continually make upon it. But now, as highly necessary as it is for men to believe such a future estate, yet it must be acknowledged, that with the generality of the world this belief has stood hitherto upon very false, or at the best very weak foundations; and consequently, that it is of no small import to state and settle it upon better. For the doing of which, the most effectual ways, I conceive, may be these two: 1. By revelation.

2. By exemplification.

:

66

ing through the windows of sense, and by the most familiar as well as most unquestionable perceptions of the eye. And accordingly this course God thought fit to take in the resurrection of Christ, by which he condescended to give the world the greatest satisfaction, that infidelity itself could rationally insist upon : how beit, notwithstanding so plain an address both to men's reason and sense too, neither has this course proved so successful for convincing of the world of a resurrection from the dead, and a future estate consequent thereupon, but that unbelief has been still putting in its objections against it. For it is not, I confess, the interest of such as live ill in this world to believe that there shall be another; or that they shall be sensible of any thing, after death has once done its work upon them and therefore let truth and scripture, and even sense itself, say what they will for a resurrection, men, for ought appears, will for ever square their belief to their desires, and their desires to their corruptions; so that, as we find it in Saint Luke xvi. 31, though they should even see one rise from the dead, they would hardly be persuaded of their own resurrection." Such a sad and deplorable hardness of heart have men sinned themselves into, that nothing shall convince them but what first pleases them, be it never so much a delusion. Nevertheless the most wise and just God is not so to be mocked, who knows, that by raising Christ from the dead, he has done all that rationally can or ought to be done for the convincing of mankind that there shall be a resurrection, whether they will be convinced by it or no. But now, if after all it should be asked, How is Christ's resurrection a proof that the rest of mankind shall rise from the dead too? I answer, that, considered indeed as a bare instance or example, it proves no more, than that there may be such a thing, since the same infinite power which effected the one may as well effect the other; but then, if we consider it as an argument and a confirmation of that doctrine, (whereof the assertion of a general resurrection makes a principal part,) I affirm, that so taken it does not only prove that such a thing may be, but also that it actually shall be, and that as certainly as it is impossible for the divine power to set a seal to a lie, by ratifying an imposture with such a miracle. And thus as Christ's resurrection irrefragably proves the resurrection of the rest of mankind, so it no less proves Christ himself to have been the Messiah; for that, having all along affirmed himself to be so, he made good the truth of what he had so affirmed by his miraculous rising again, and so gave as strong a proof of his messiahship, as infinite power, joined with equal veracity, could give. And upon this account we have his resurrection alleged by

First. As to the first whereof, it must needs be, either by an immediate declaration of this great truth (not discoverable by reason) by a voice from heaven, or by God's inspiring some certain select persons with the knowledge of it, and afterwards enabling them to attest it to the world by miracles. And as this is undoubtedly sufficient in itself for such a purpose, so Providence has not been wanting, partly by revelation, and partly by tradition thereupon, to keep alive amongst men some persuasion at least of this important truth all along; as appears even from those fabulous accounts and stories which the heathen world still clothed, or rather corrupted it with, Nevertheless, such has been the prevalence of human corruption and infidelity, as in a great degree to frustrate all the impressions that bare revelation or tradition could make upon men's minds, while they chiefly governed their belief by the observation of their senses, which, from the daily occurring instances of mortality, shew them, "that as the tree fell, so it lay," and that nobody was ever seen by them to return from the mansions of the dead; but that, for any thing they could find to the contrary, all passed into dust and rottenness, and perpetual oblivion.

Secondly. The other way therefore of convincing the world of this momentous truth, (in comparison of which all science and philosophy are but trifles,) must be by exemplification; that is to say, by giving the world an instance or example of it in some person or persons, who having been confessedly dead, should revive, and return to life again. And this, one would think, should be as full and unexceptionable a proof that there may be a resurrection of men to a future estate as could be desired; nothing striking the mind of man so powerfully as instances and examples; which make a truth not only intelligible, but

even palpable; sliding it into the understand-Saint Peter for the same purpose, here in the

[blocks in formation]

1. For the first of these, the cause of the resurrection, set forth in this expression, "whom God hath raised up." It was such an action as proclaimed an omnipotent agent, and carried the hand of God writ upon it in broad characters, legible to the meanest reason. Death is a disease which art cannot cure, and the grave a prison which delivers back its captives upon no human summons. To restore life is only the prerogative of him who gives it. Some indeed have pretended, by art and physical applications, to recover the dead, but the success has sufficiently upbraided the attempt. Physic may repair and piece up nature, but not create it. Cordials, plasters, and fomentations, cannot always stay a life when it is going, much less can they remand it when it is gone. Neither is it in the power of a spirit or demon, good or bad, to inspire a new life; for it is a creation, and to create is the incommunicable prerogative of a power infinite and unlimited. Enter into a body they may, and so act and move it after the manner of a soul; but it is one thing to move, another to animate, a carcass. You see the Devil could fetch up nothing of Samuel at the request of Saul, but a shadow and a resemblance, his countenance and his mantle, which yet was not enough to cover the cheat, or to palliate the illusion. But I suppose nobody will be very importunate for any farther proof of this, that if Christ was raised, it must be by God who raised him. The angel might, indeed, roll away the stone from the sepulchre, but not turn it into a son of Abraham; and a less power than that which could do so, could not effect the resurrection.

66

2. I come now to the second thing, which is to shew the manner by which God wrought this resurrection, set forth in these words, 'having loosed the pains of death." An expression not altogether so clear, but that it may well require a farther explication. For it may be inquired, with what propriety God could be said to loose the pains of death by Christ's resurrection, when those pains continued not till the resurrection, but determined

and expired in the death of his body? Upon which ground it is, that some have affirmed, that Christ descended into the place of the damned, where, during his body's abode in the grave, they say, that in his soul he really suffered the pains of hell; and this not unsuitable to some ancient copies, which read it not ¿divas Javátov, “the pains of death,” but divas adov, "the pains of hell;" and this also with much seeming consonance to that article of the Creed in which Christ is said to have descended into hell. But to this I answer, that Christ suffered not any such pains in hell, as the forementioned opinion would pretend, which we may demonstrate from this, that if Christ suffered any of those pains during his abode in the grave, then it was either in his divine nature, or in his soul, or in his body; but the divine nature could not suffer, or be tormented, as being wholly impassible: nor yet could he suffer in his soul; forasmuch as in the very same day of his death, that passed into paradise, which surely is no place of pain: nor, lastly, in his body, for that being dead, and consequently, for the time bereaved of all sense, could not be capable of any torment. And then, for answer to what was alleged from the ancient copies, it is to be observed, that the word door (which some render hell) indifferently signifies also "the grave, and a state of death." And, lastly, for that article of the Creed in which there is mention made of Christ's descent into hell, there are various expositions of it; but the most rational and agreeable is, that it means his abode in the grave, and under the state of death, three days and three nights, or rather three νυχθήμερα, namely, part of the first and third, (so called by a synecdoche of the part for the whole,) and the second entirely; whereby, as his burial signified his entrance into the grave, so his descending into hell signified his continuance there, and subjection to that estate. And thus the three parts of his humiliation in the last and grand scene of it, do most appositely answer to the three parts of his exaltation. For first, his death answers to his rising again. Secondly, his burial answers to his ascending into heaven. And thirdly, his descending into hell answers to his sitting at the right hand of God, in a state of never-dying glory, honour, and immortality. But, however, that his descending into hell mentioned in the Creed cannot signify his local descent into the place of the damned, the former argument disproving his suffering the pains of hell, will, by an easy change of the terms, sufficiently evince this also. For first, Christ could not descend according to his divine nature; since that which is infinite, and fills all places, could not acquire any new place. And as for his soul, that was in paradise, and his body was laid in the grave; and being so, what part of Christ could descend into hell, (the whole Christ

being thus disposed of,) needs a more than ordinary apprehension to conceive.

We are, therefore, in the next place, to see how we can make out the reason of this expression upon some other or better ground. In order to which, it is very observable, that the same word which, in the Greek text, is rendered by divas, and in the English by pains, in the Hebrew signifies not only pain, but also a cord or band, according to which it is very easy and proper to conceive, that the resurrection discharged Christ from the bands of death; besides, that this rendition of the word seems also most naturally to agree with the genuine meaning of some other words in the same verse; as of xúcas, having loosed, which is properly applicable to bands, and not to pains; as also of xgarriga, which signifies properly to be bound with some cord or band; so that, undoubtedly, this exposition would give the whole verse a much more natural and apposite construction, and withal remove the difficulty. But,

Secondly, Because the evangelist, Saint Luke, follows the translation of the Septuagint, (who, little minding the Hebrew pointings, rendered the word not by exoia, cords or bands, but divas, pains,) we are, therefore, not to balk so great an authority, but to see how the scheme of the text may be made clear and agreeable even to this exposition.

To this, therefore, I answer,

First, That the words contain in them an Hebraism, namely, "the pains of death, for a painful death;" as it is said, (Matt. xxiv. 15,) "the abomination of desolation, for an abominable desolation ;" and so the resurrection loosed Christ from a painful death, not indeed painful in sensu composito, as if it were so at the time of his release from it, but in a divided sense, (as the logicians speak,) it loosed him from a continuance under that death; which, relating to the time of his suffering it, was so painful.

2. But, secondly, I answer farther, that though the pains of death ceased long before the resurrection, so that this could not, in strictness of sense, be said to remove them; yet, taking in a metonymy of the cause for the effect, the "pains of death" might be properly said to have been loosed in the resurrection, because that estate of death into which Christ was brought by those foregoing pains was then conquered and completely triumphed over. Captivity under death and the grave was the effect and consequent of those pains; and therefore, the same deliverance which discharged Christ from the one, might not improperly be said to loose him from the other. And thus Christ was no sooner bound,

• See Dr Hammond's Annot. on the place.

but within a little time he was loosed again. He was not so much buried, as for a while deposited in the grave for a small inconsiderable space so that even in this respect he may not inelegantly be said to have tasted of death; for a taste is transient, short, and quickly past. God rescued him from that estate, as a "prey from the mighty, and a captive from the strong;" and though he was in the very jaws of death, yet he was not devoured. Corruption, the common lot of mortality, seized not on him wornis and putrefaction durst not approach him— his body was sacred and inviolable, as sweet under ground as above it, and in death itself retaining one of the highest privileges of the living.

3. Come we now to the last and principal thing proposed; namely, the ground of Christ's resurrection, which was its absolute necessity, expressed in these words, "because it was not possible that he should be holden of it :" and that according to the strictest and most received sense of the word "possible." For it was not only par et æquum, that Christ should not always be detained under death, ously, and to serve an hypothesis, would have because of his innocence, (as Grotius precarithe word dvaro here signify,) but it was absolutely necessary that he should not, and impossible that he should continue under the bands of death, from the peculiar condition of his person, as well as upon several other accounts. And accordingly this impossibility was founded upon these five things:

1. The union of Christ's human nature to

the divine.

2. God's immutability.

3. His justice.

4. The necessity of Christ's being believed in.

5. And lastly, the nature of his priesthood. First of all then, the hypostatical union of Christ's human nature to his divine, rendered a perpetual duration under death absolutely impossible. For how could that which was united to the great source and principle of life be finally prevailed over by death, and pass into an estate of perpetual darkness and oblivion? Even while Christ's body was divided from his soul, yet it ceased not to maintain an intimate, indissolvable relation to its divinity. It was assumed into the same person; for according to the Creed of Athanasius, "as the soul and body make one man ; so the divine nature and the human make one Christ." And if so, is it imaginable that the Son of God could have one of his natures rent wholly from his person? His divinity, as it were, buoyed up his sinking humanity, and preserved it from a total dissolution: for, as while the soul continues joined to the body, (still speaking in sensu composito,) death cannot pass upon it, forasmuch as that is the

« AnteriorContinuar »