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rode into the city, and all the city was moved, as by some Divine impulse, and the multitudes cried, “Hosanna to the Son of David !" and proclaimed Him the Prophet of Nazareth of Galilee.
Thirdly: such that mysterious act of cleansing the Temple, and casting out them that sold and bought there, alone, unaided, and by some unaccountable fearfulness and majesty in His deportment, awing all into an instant fearful obedience.
Fourthly: such, again, His course of teaching in the Temple on the following day, when He swept from before Him, as cobwebs, the subtle questions which they had artfully woven to entrap Him, and so confounded them with the wisdom and searching truth of His answers, that “ no man thenceforth durst ask Him any more questions."
Fifthly : such, again, was His appealing to their Scriptures for proof of His doctrine; as about the stone which the builders rejected, and Almighty God's declaration at the bush, and His question on the sense of the verse of the Psalm, “The LORD said unto my LORD, Sit Thou on My right hand, until I make Thine enemies Thy footstool :" herein showing them that Moses and the Prophets spake of Him.
Sixthly: and such the solemn threats and warnings so authoritatively pronounced, after which He went forth out of the Temple. What honest mind could have failed to trace the wisdom and power of God in all these things !
Then, further, seventhly, when now in their hands as a criminal, first of all their own false charge, which they had prepared against Him, would not hold together; and next, when they brought HIM to Pilate upon other accusations, neither could these be at all sustained. Pilate, an unprincipled judge, as they knew, again and again protested His innocence, interposed in His favour, almost entreated for Him, and appealed to their compassion ; and, at last, though driven to do as they desired against his wish and conscience, could not repress an unaccountable dread which came over him, in passing sentence upon this friendless Man, who yet, in outward appearance was a worm, and no man, a very scorn of men, and the outcast of the people ?." What honest mind could have resisted this testimony to the innocence of Jesus ! And, eighthly, it should be further noticed, as part of our
1 Ps. xxii. 6.
Lord's merciful forethought for their good, how He ordered all circumstances; for instance, in the proceedings at the Cross in the way of fulfilment of Prophecies, in His Death and Burial, and in their sealing and watching the sepulchre : so that, if not before their sinning in taking away His life, in the way of prevention, yet afterwards they should stand out, in the way of proof and testimony to His Resurrection; that they might, at last, turn and repent them of their heavy guilt, and believe and be saved.
But the two crowning acts of His considerateness and mercy towards them we learn in His words on the Cross : “FATHER, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Great and surpassing mercy and compassion, that He should, at such a time, have uttered a prayer for them at all; but even more surpassing and wonderful it seems to be, that He should knowingly have beforehand so dealt with His murderers, as to reserve a plea in their excuse : so that He might not only pray for them, but have some grounds of extenuation for them, on which to press His petition on their behalf: “They know not what they do.” But who had kept back from them and concealed this knowledge but Jesus HIMSELF ?—this knowledge, which, if He had imparted and they rejected, would have made their guilt unpardonable, so that there would have been no hope of forgiveness ? He had not suffered them to know that He was the CHRIST of God, the eternal and only-begotten Son of the FATHER, since their hearts were too evil to receive the knowledge. And now that they have accomplished their wickedness, not knowing more than that they had procured sentence against an innocent person, by false and unjust methods, like as their fathers had killed the Prophets, He pleads this unto His FATHER as the very plea, and the only plea, on which to entreat for their pardon. He keeps back this one and only possible mitigation of their guilt, without which they would have been wholly without excuse, that His most precious Blood might not be shed in vain even for them by whom it was most wickedly shed; and that the very persons whose hands had been most against Him, might be the first to prove the virtue of His Death. Thus He prayed for them. And bear in mind the circumstances. Where does He pray ?-on the tree of the Cross. At what time ?-when He was quite spent and exhausted with suffering; when the sharp agony of the fresh-driven nails was even now thrilling through every nerve of His tortured Budy, and the chills of death were already coming over Him. In what manner?—not sitting, or lying at His ease, but borne upright upon His pierced Feet and outstretched Hands. In what terms ? —not many, but full of affection, and mingled with sighs, and tears, and blood. For whom ?-for sinners; for His enemies, persecutors, and tormentors. What doth He ask ?---mercy. And before whom ?—in the hearing of all, even His adversaries, who were loudly mocking and jesting upon Him.
Oh! most merciful, and compassionate, and forgiving SAVIOUR, may we bow our hearts before Thy Cross, in adoration, thankfulness, penitence, and love. May this Thy prayer be offered in our behalf for our sins. May they never reach such guilt, that Thou canst not plead, “They know not what they do.” May we never sin wilfully, presumptuously, deliberately, with full knowledge of the guilt of what we do. Rather do Thou keep back from us such knowledge as we should turn to our greater guilt, through our unworthiness to receive it, till Thy grace may enable us to bear it.
May we learn of THEE mildness and charity towards all, and on all occasions !
We are living in the midst of God's family, in a Christian land, whose inhabitants are engrafted members of Christ's Holy Church; yet we see many and grievous sins to abound around us : many and grievous sins, the true guilt of which the doers of them do not seem to perceive. Good people, well instructed in God's law, are shocked at liberties and neglects, particularly with respect to direct duties of religious service towards God, which many are in no fear about.
Yet there is a duty in such matters. And sins may have a name and nature in the sight of God, the guilt of which even the better sort among us do but very faintly conceive of. Such, for instance, may be sins of the thoughts, or profaneness in our prayers, or misuse or neglect of religious opportunities offered to us, as of the Holy Communion. And of these and other like matters the careless and irreligious seem to make scarce any account. In one point of view, this sort of ignorance is to be accounted their own fault, at once the consequence and punishment of their evil ways. In another point of view, it may be, God mercifully withholds from them the knowledge which would but increase their guilt, by rendering them the more reckless and deliberately unbelieving, as Judas was worse than Pilate and the Chief Priests, having given the rein to the sin of his heart against greater light.
There are sins in name near akin to the very sin which the Chief Priests brought upon themselves on this day, in condemning the innocent blood—sins of such fearful name, that we shrink from imagining that we might incur the guilt of them, and which we do not know how to pronounce exactly what they are, and wherein they consist. But all of them have this in common, that they arise out of carelessness and profaneness towards the majesty, and holiness, and undiscerned presence of ALMIGHTY God, behaving towards holy things wickedly. There is a “sin against the Holy Ghost"—there is a sin of “not discerning the Lord's Body”-there is a sin of "crucifying the Son of God afresh, and putting Him to open shame”
- there is a sin of “treading under foot the Son of God,” and “counting the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an unholy thing”—there is a sin of “quenching and doing despite unto the Spirit of grace.” I do not mean now to speak of what these sins may be, as to forms in which they might at this day appear: I only mention them to remind you, that, shocking as was the guilt of the Chief Priests, who crucified our LORD, their hardness of heart, hypocrisies, and covetousness, (and remember, these sinful dispositions of their hearts being uncorrected, paved the way for their great sin,) Christians may incur a guilt like theirs. It is well that we remember this in our Good Friday meditations. And let us all say inwardly, each for himself, and all one for another; From all such grievous sins, “ from all blindness of heart, from pride, vain glory, and hypocrisy, and specially from all hardness of heart and contempt of Thy word and commandment, good LORD, deliver us.”
May He who died for us, as on this day, and still intercedes for us at the right hand of GOD,may He pardon us those sins whose true guilt we know not, when we do them, even though that ignorance be brought upon us by our own faults ; and may we learn at His Cross such heavenly tempers of meekness, compassion, brotherly love, and considerateness for one another, that we may, through His grace and merits, at last receive a place in His kingdom, who is " the FATHER of all mercies, and God of all comfort."
“ Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out."
THERE is one person, to whom our Blessed Saviour showed lovingkindness in this season of His Passion, of whom, as yet, I have made no mention : one for whom He was mindful, and upon whose heart He wrought wonderfully and savingly in His darkest hour, even on the Cross, to whom He vouchsafed the very greatest act of mercy, I believe, recorded in the Gospel as announced by Him to any person. That person was the penitent thief. You may have expected that I should have spoken of him before. For, indeed, it is the mightiest and most signal instance of our LORD's free grace and mercy : the penitent thief being the only one of all Christians, concerning whom we are certified, by express assurance of God's Word, that he found an entrance into His kingdom.
I reserved it for the last, because, in order of time, it occurred the last, and because it seems to display the power and grace of the Cross, and of Him, who hung upon it, in such sort as no sorrowful, burdened penitent should ever cast away hope.
Yet I do not pass on to speak of it without some feeling of backwardness. For in one view of the case of the penitent thief --I mean regarded simply with respect to the lateness of his con