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OUR LORD'S FORBEARANCE AND CONSIDERATENESS TOWARDS
ALL IN HIS LAST DAYS IN THE FLESH.
PREACHED ON THE SUNDAY BEFORE EASTER.
JOHN xiii. 1.
“Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come
that He should depart out of this world unto the FATHER, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end."
The week, upon which we enter to-day, is a very solemn season, and has subjects peculiarly suited to it which ought to be had in very serious remembrance. For, indeed, the work of the Lord was very great, very wonderful, very awful, and should be “sought out of all them that have pleasure therein ?." And surely, no Christian who believes that he himself is a person interested in the Cross and Passion of our LORD Jesus Christ interested even to the saving of his soul from eternal ruin, and to the opening of the Kingdom of Heaven--no Christian who believes that it cost more to redeem his soul from the power of hell than he for himself, or any other of the sons of man for him, could have ever satisfied, who fears the pains of hell, and hopes for the bliss of heaven, but must feel that now, at this season above all others, all things that our Blessed LORD and Saviour took upon Him to deliver man, ought to be had in very serious and thankful remembrance. For now is the very season of their accomplishment. Now the Church carefully sets them all forth before us
in course and order. She invites us by the length of her services, and the solemnity of the things related in them, to “enter into our chambers,” to retire into our own hearts, to bewail our sins, and bring them to the foot of the Cross——to "shut our doors about us;” that is, to shut out ordinary worldly distractions as much as may be, and to hide ourselves as it were for a little moment ?.”
For this has ever been accounted a very sacred season. Hence its name of the Great Week, or Holy Week, because of the great things at this time wrought for us. Therefore it was an ancient custom that at this time men should break off, as much as they could, from the ordinary business of their callings, and give more time to prayer and sacred contemplation, and sorrowful recollection of their sins, and to holy services. It is of this season that the holy Bishop, whose prayer we always use at the end of the Morning and Evening Services, says, “ As the Jews went forth to meet Christ, when He had raised Lazarus from the dead, so now not one city, but all the world go forth to meet Him, not with palmbranches in their hands, but with alms-deeds, humanity, virtue, fasting, tears, prayers, watchings, and all kinds of piety, which they offer to Christ their LORD.”
And whoever will turn his thoughts carefully towards the events of this holy week, and give himself more on these days to spiritual exercises, will find more and more for his mind to dwell upon. Much there will be too high and deep for him to pene. trate; much to bewilder and amaze; for the mystery is unfathomable—the mystery of God made man in one person, in likeness of our flesh, dying upon the Cross by the hands of man his own creature, and for the sake of man, that He might redeem those who “asked not for Him,” and “ be found of them that sought Him not.” But everywhere may be found matter for praise and thanksgiving, everywhere may be traced the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man. “Thy mercy, O LORD, reacheth unto the heavens, and Thy faithfulness unto the clouds. How excellent is Thy mercy, O God; and the children of men shall put their trust under the shadow of Thy wings 3.”
And this tracing of the many tokens of the kindness and love of God our Saviour towards man in all that is written in the Gospels of His sayings and doings during these eventful days, is a subject within the reach of all. Those who look closest, and fix the eyes of their hearts longest upon the sacred picture, who hang most attentively upon the words, which fell from our LORD's most gracious lips at this time, will gather most, and find much which others may pass over unnoticed ; but all may find abundance, and may see that never was love like His love.
2 Isa. xxvi. 20.
3 Ps. xxxvi, 5. 7.
This is the subject to which I shall endeavour to draw your thoughts this week. I shall endeavour to set before you the various circumstances of our Blessed Lord's conduct during His Passion, and the events leading to it, in such a manner as to point out in all of them His most merciful consideration for all around Him: as well for those who were conspiring together and taking counsel to take away His life ;—who were “set on fire” against Him, “whose teeth were spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword * ;"—as for His true-hearted, though perplexed disciples. And as we go on we shall find further subject for reflection. For since our Blessed Lord is “ the brightness of God's glory, and the express image of His Person 5”-since to Him “all power is given both in heaven and in earth ®,” and that HE “ upholds all things by the word of His power,” we may regard His dealings with the children of men as no other than a faithful pattern and reflection from the mirror of Divine perfections, of the manner in which His Almighty FATHER still deals with them.
In the long-suffering and considerateness of our Blessed and most Merciful Saviour towards different classes of persons, who drew near to Him, whether in the meek spirit of disciples, to learn of Him, or in pride and wilfulness, to find occasion against Him in His words, or in the carelessness and ignorance of chance bystanders, out of mere curiosity, or from selfishness, that they might “ eat of the loaves ” and receive some benefit at His hands;
-in His different ways of dealing with them for their good, we may learn to trace corresponding methods of Divine Providence, still, and every day, exhibited in various degrees towards different classes of persons. We may trace still among those to whom the word of the Gospel is vouchsafed, and who, therefore, have CHRIST mystically present among them, tempers akin to those who heard and saw Jesus Christ in the flesh ; men bearing a resemblance to the Pharisees and rulers of old, or to the thoughtless unstable multitude, or to the perplexed and doubting disciples, or to the hardened, reckless Judas; or to St. Peter, at first overconfident, though warm-hearted, but afterwards self-distrusting, and penitent and restored; or to Mary Magdalene, who loved much, and to whom much had been forgiven. And according to their several cases we may learn from pondering our Blessed Saviour's manner with them, to trace God's long-suffering and mercy, whether for confirming and strengthening their faith, or for bringing them to repentance ; bearing with them, if haply, before it be too late, they will open their eyes to His many warnings, and turn from the evil of their ways.
4 Ps. Ivii. 5.
6 Matt. xxviii. 18.
5 Heb. i. 3.
And as in each case we shall be endeavouring to trace instances of God's merciful consideration for the weakness of human nature, or of His forbearance towards offenders, we shall be in the way to gather some instruction for ourselves as to our behaviour and intercourse with others. For this is the very attribute of Almighty God, which our Blessed Saviour especially sets before us for our imitation : “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful?.”
The case we will consider this morning shall be our Lord's bearing and manner towards Jerusalem, the city of His cruel cnemies, to which He approached with full knowledge of all that was coming. We shall see how in this, as in all other instances, He loved His own, “even unto the end”—even unto the end of their probation, until they had hopelessly and wilfully sold themselves to work iniquity, and, like Pharaoh, hardened themselves, and shut their ears against the truth.
The words of the text are those, with which the beloved Apostle introduces his account of his Lord's mysterious action of washing the feet of them all after supper, the very night of His betrayal; but they may surely be extended to the whole of our Blessed Saviour's dealings among men, while on earth, in the time of His humiliation. For who were His own, whom HE loved-yea more tenderly than with a mother's love—whom He came to save, whom He sought to gather unto HIMSELF, whom He declared that His mission first concerned, for whom He prayed, for whom He died, but “the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” Jerusalem and her children that were within her? It was of her and her hcusehold, that it was said, “ He came unto His own, though they received Him not®.” They were her citizens, over whom HE would have established His throne, though they said “ We will not have this man to reign over uso.” They–Jerusalem and her inhabitants—were His own, though gone far astray in the wilderness of their own tangled wilful ways, whom, like the Good SHEPHERD, HE went after and sought to bring back to the fold, and for whom He gave His life. Nor did HE cease to regard them as such, and still endeavour gently to lead them back to the “green pastures beside the true waters of comfort,” till they had hopelessly cut themselves off from the fold by their own stubborn and abandoned wilfulness. “Having loved them, He loved them even unto the end,” till they had utterly rejected Him.
7 Luke vi. 36.
Manifold were the ways in which He showed His mercy and considerateness, in His manner of dealing with them, adapting HIMSELF even to their very prejudices. Did He not from His infancy punctually fulfil their Law in all its parts, in all its offerings, ceremonies, and services ? Did He not come up to Jerusalem to their feasts ? and enter into their Synagogues on the Sabbath-day, and there preach to them out of their own Scriptures ? Did He not appeal to Moses and the Prophets for a testimony, and point out the fulfilment of prophecies respecting HIMSELF, that they might believe? Did He not declare that His message was to the House of Israel, and forbid His disciples to enter in and teach in the cities of the Samaritans, or among the Gentiles ? Did He not make them feel and confess the wisdom by which He spake; so that His adversaries were continually put to silence, and the well-disposed confessed, “ Master, Thou hast well said ?” and did He not do among them such works as none could do but by the finger of God ? Many times also did He conceal His miracles, and withdraw HIMSELF from them, and when He taught among them, kept back the full meaning of what He spake. The chief of His mighty works, and the longer time of His
8 John i. 11.
9 Luke xix. 14.