« AnteriorContinuar »
him as a benefactor, their duty to him as a master, and their fidelity to him as a friend. Men find it most difficult to forgive the neglect or treachery which they meet with from friends, in the day of their distress. Had I been thus treated, do they say, in the day of my prosperity, I could have borne it, but to leave me overwhelmed and helpless in the time of trouble, can never be pardoned. I expected from them the sym. pathy and aid of friendship, but I found not even the pity of common humanity. If such persons are restored to affluence and honour, they speak with bitter indignation of the baseness of their former friends, and will kindle into rage at the most guarded proposal of a reconciliation. But the ways and thoughts of Jesus are very different from ours. He does not send Mary to tell them that the Saviour, whom they so wickedly abandoned, was now lifting up his head above his ene. mies, and would punish their treachery as it deserved, and that as they had found how kindly he could act as a friend, they should now feel his severity as an enemy. Instead of such a message, which they deserved, by calling them his brethren, and by describing his Father and his God as theirs, he intimates to them that no unfavourable sentiment respecting them existed in his mind; that his death, which had so shocked them, had obtained the forgiveness of all their offences; that he would not upbraid them with what was past, and that it should never call up on his face a single frown.
We cannot think of this generosity, without exclaiming, - Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, for he delighteth in mercy.” Ye trembling souls, whom the remembrance of broken vows, and of shameful perfidy to your best friend, is now filling with terror, be of good comfort, for to you he is now saying, “ The Lord hath put away thy sin, be not afraid, thou shalt not die."
We are taught by this conduct of the Lord Jesus, not to expose ourselves to be again deceived by the treacherous, for this would be an act of folly inconsistent with the duty which we owe to ourselves and to society, but to repress all desire of revenge ; and when friends have acted with unkindness to us, through the misrepresentations and influence of others, to receive them, on their repentance, into our confidence, and to render them good for evil.
2d. It was a message of affection. The disciples might be ready to imagine, that though his generosity would lead him to pardon their misconduct, he could not esteem and love them as he had done before. They knew how common it was for men, while they professed to forgive ill usage, to resolve, and to say that they would not forget it. They might be afraid also, that he would cease to remember them in his advancement, and that the glory to which he was rising might excite impressions unfavourable to persons so poor as they were ; but the connexion which our Lord in this message describes as existing betwixt them, was calculated to impress them more strongly with the stability of his love than the most solemn protestations could have done. His attachment to them was not founded on their good qualities, nor could it be des. troyed by their forsaking him. “ Having loved his own that were in the world, he loved them to the end.”
In this message we may view him as checkir.g in them the idea that he might be unmindful, or ashamed of them in heaven. This was impossible, for in his Father he should see their Father, and in his God their God. Love softens the dazzling splendours of the Mediator's throne, guides all its measures, and blesses all its subjects. Let the pious who are sinking under a consciousness of their unworthiness, who are saying, “ that thou wert as my brother, I would lead thee, and bring thee into my mother's house; I would put forth my best efforts to honour thee, his left hand should be under my head, and his right hand should embrace me; but I have forfeited his love, and I am certain from his coldness, and I must say righteous severity, that I have lost all share in his regard;"-hear how he calls them his sisters and his brethsen. From his throne he surveys you assembled this day to obey his dying command, and to devote yourselves to him, and hears you saying to him as the sons of Jacob did to Joseph, “Forgive, we pray thee now, the trespass of thy brethren, and their sin, for they did unto thee evil,” and like that
gena. ous man he will comfort you, and speak kindly to you. This is the language in which he will address the mourner in Zion : - For a small moment have I forsaken thee, but with great mercies will I gather thee, in a little wrath I have hid my face from thee for a moment, but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the Lord thy Redeemer.' He was in all things made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful high priest.
3d, It was a message of consolation. It was not only calculated to relieve that anxiety and distress which the consciousness of guilt, and the apprehension of our Saviour's displeasure must have excited, but it was fitted to dissipate the sorrow which had overwhelmed them on our Lord's account. Unworthy as their conduct had been, they sincerely loved their Master; and the shame and the suffering to which
they saw him subjected, filled them with the deepest sorrow. They heard of his crucifixion with horror, and their hearts lingered about his grave as the receptacle of a Master whom they revered, and of a friend whom they loved above every human being, And has innocence so unspotted perished thus infamously? Has mercy tender like his, sunk before its barbarous foes ? Are the lips which dropped with wisdom now sealed
and is he whom disease and death obeyed, now seeing corruption in the sepulchre ? Amidst such mournful and terrifying thoughts, this message assures them that their master is alive. They had seen him led away by his enemies, and conducted before an unrighteous judge ; but they are told that now he is going to his Father and to his God. They imagined that he was still an inhabitant of the tomb, but he was now on his way to the regions of immortality; and so far from being still, as they thought, the prey of his enemies, he had arisen and scattered them. They dwelt in grief and indignation on the cruelty with which men had treated him; but he leads their view to the goodness which his Father had laid up for him, and which he was now about to possess.
The restoration of a friend to health, to honour, and to prosperity, is very gratifying to the heart, and will make those that love him to rejoice, and to give thanks even while they labour under personal sorrow, from which they have no hope of relief; and much more delightful was it to his disciples, to hear of the exaltation of such a friend as Christ, especially when they reflected that it was for their sakes that he was afflicted and oppressed, and that his glorification is the pledge of theirs.
4th, It was a message of caution. Great is the force
of early prejudices. The idea of a temporal Messiah had been long cherished among the Jews. It pervaded all ranks, and was instilled with care into the minds of their children. It supported their hearts amidst their national calamities; and their present galling subjection to the yoke of Rome, was mitigated by the hope that their chains would be broken by the “ Salvation of Israel." The disciples of Christ had imbibed this idea. They imagined that Jesus of Nazareth was the destined restorer of the departed glories of their country; and all the poverty of his circumstances, and all the spirituality of his discourses and conduct, did not rectify their miseonceptions. Every display which he gave of his miraculous powers, and every proof which was afforded of the admiration and attachment of the multitude, served to confirm these impressions. In this state of mind our Saviour's unresisting submission to the violence of his enemies mortified and confounded them, and disappointed ambition mingled its tears with those which sorrow and affection shed round his tomb. “ We trusted, said they, that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel.” Now their Master well knew that these ideas would return with full force to their minds when they heard of his resurrection; that they would view it as a sign from heaven, to summon the nation to his standard, and as a pledge of his subduing the world before him. To prevent opinions from being cherished so carnal and so fallacious, he sends this message to inform them that he was about to as. cend to heaven. Instead of collecting armies, and pursuing the work of devastation and slaughter; instead of gratifying the pride and the revenge of the Jews, by subduing the heathen under them ; instead of shew.. ing them waving banners, cities in flames, and garments rolled in blood, he tells them that he was going to be