Imatges de pàgina

her companions retired, the remained at the grave, and refolved either to find him, or to pass the day in devotion and tears.

But all the apoftles (except Peter and John) fhut themselves up in a chamber, for fear of the Jews; that cowardly paffion, that perfuaded them to abandon their Master at his fufferings, forced them to abfcond after the fcene was over; fo that they durft not approach the fepulchre; nay, when they were affured by Mary Magdalen, that she had seen our Lord, they received the news as a dream, and gave no credit to her report.

This fhews the difference between two claffes of Christians; those that love God, and those that love themselves. The former feek him in all their actions. Like Magdalen, they are above fear, above the awing dread of fhame, and the bugbear of human refpects. Penetrated with a true fense of their duty, they refolve to comply with it in fpite of danger and oppofition, and perfuade themselves they gain, tho' they lofe their lives in his fervice; to thefe he will certainly appear by his grace, accompanied with all thofe favours, that wait upon it, a calm confcience, an interior fatisfaction, that can only be exprefs'd by those who feel it or, if he defers his vifit, it is only to try their patience, and to crown their perfeverance. Magdalen, by staying at our Saviour's fepulchre, found him, when the thought him loft, and pass'd in a moment from the defpair of feeing him unto the fatisfaction of enjoying his prefence.

But thofe, who are more concern'd for themfelves than the discharge of their duty to God; who act out of fear of his juftice, rather than a motive of love, meet not with the fame bleffing; or, if they do, it is very late, and the mere effect of God's goodness: for fear is a kind of a flavish paffion, and an unfit motive for a Chriftian, who

ferves not a tyrant, but a Father, that deferves our whole heart for what he has done to expiate our fins, for what he has prepared to recompense cur virtues, and a thousand hearts for his own perfections. I know indeed, it is not evil to fear God: we are affured by the Holy Ghoft, that the beginning of wifdom is to fear him, Ecclus. i. 16. and in a hundred places of holy writ, we are commanded to dread his Majefty, and to obferve his law, out of a fear of his juftice : but however, this reaches not the perfection nor the obligation of Chriftianity, which requires love, as St. Paul affures us, Love is the fulfilling of the law, Rom. xiii. 10.

Our Saviour, appearing to his apoftles, neither difcourfes of the pains he had fuffered, nor the cruelty of the Jews, by whofe rage and malice he fuffered, nor of the infidelity of the apostles, who abandon'd him; no, he only endeavours to cure their incredulity, and to convince them of his refurrection.

This conduct of our Lord teaches us neither to complain of our enemies, who perfecute us, nor of our friends who abandon us; we must leave our caufe to God, who will defend our innocence, and in due time punifh the cruelty of thofe, and the ingratitude of these. In the very extremity of his fufferings, our Saviour neither complained of the injuftice of those who condemned him, nor of the cruelty of those who tormented him; but, on the very cross, excused their barbarity, and fued for their pardon; nor has he only taught us this leffon by his practice, but has also left it as a command in his gospel.

Pray for them, fays he, which perfecute you, Matth. v. 44. return good for evil, and bless those who curse you; fo that it is fo far from being lawful for Chriftians to complain, or to speak

[ocr errors]

evil of their perfecutors, that, when it is not in their power to benefit them by their actions, they muft at least by their prayers.

He faluted his difciples with a Peace be unto you, and immediately fhewed them his hands and feet, that, by beholding thofe wounds, they might be convinced, the fame body that fuffered on the cross stood before them, and confequently that there was no room left to doubt of his refurrection, or to question his Divinity.

But our bleffed Lord would leave the marks of his wounds in his glorious body, not only as an evidence of his refurrection, but also as an eternal monument of his charity to man, as continual motives of joy to the faints, and of torment to the damned.

Befides, he is our Mediator and Advocate at his Father's tribunal: there he implores mercy for the finner, and a reward for the virtues of the juft; and can he plead more emphatically, than by fhewing those wounds he received for their redemption, thofe channels, that let out the last drop of his precious blood, which his Father accepted, and he paid as a just, nay, a fuperabundant ranfom? What grace may not a finner expect from fo bountiful, fo loving a Father, when afk'd by fo loving a Son, who carried his obedience to the torture, and abafed his Majefty to the ignominy of the cross?

In fine, he left his facred wounds, wide open, for a fanctuary to the afflicted, and a fafe retreat to thofe, who are affailed by the devil. Who can repine at fufferings, when he beholds thefe marks of Chrift's torments? or murmur against the ingratitude of friends, or the violence of enemies, when he contemplates thofe bloody witneffes of both in his Redeemer's body? The bare fight of these wounds, tho' glorious, manifests the heinoufnefs

nousness of fin, which gave them; and confequently the folly of thofe, who, for a petty intereft or a small fatisfaction, fall into a crime that may indeed be cancel❜d by a ferious repentance, and will perchance be eternally punish'd with fire and brimtone. Oh, did we but caft an eye upon thofe wounds, and foberly confider that fin caufed them, and that God received them, we fhould never yield to a criminal fuggeftion, nor pawn our innocence for a guilty pleasure.

When our Saviour had proved his Divinity by all the evidence fenfe is capable of, or reafon could require, he breathed upon them, and faid to them; Receive ye the Holy Ghost: whofe foever fins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whofe foever fins ye retain, they are retained.

I will not here enter upon a controverfial difcuffion of the text; for indeed it is too clear to need a comment : here is given to the apostles, and, in them, to their fucceffors, a power of forgiving fins (when the penitent is rightly difposed) by abfolution: Whofe foever fins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whofe foever fins ye retain, they are retained. But, as he has impowered priefts, on the one fide, to abfolve; fo he lays the finner under an obligation to repent of his fins, with a true and fincere forrow; for, without repentance, there can be no abfolution,

Would not a traitor think himself very kindly dealt with,. if his prince promised not only to pardon. the treason, but to receive him into favour, on condition he repented of his crime, with a fincere refolution to live a dutiful and obedient fubject for the future? yet God only requires this of a finner. The eafy tafk of repentance and amendment, on our fide, will fecure us pardon, and even reward, on his.


[ocr errors]

I. EPISTLE of St. Peter, Chap. ii. Verse

21. For even hereunto were ye called: becaufe Chrift alfo fuffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye fhould follow his feps.

22. Who did no fin, neither was guile found in his mouth:

23. Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, be threatened not; but committed bimfelf to him that judgeth righteously;

24. Who his own felf bare our fins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to fin, fhould live unto righteousness: by whofe ftripes ye were healed.

25. For ye were as sheep going aftray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your Jouls.



T is an article of our faith, that Chrift died for our fins; nor is it lefs fure that he lived for our instruction. He gave us a right to heaven by his death, and he fhewed us the way to it by his life. Chrift fuffered for us (fays St. Peter) leaving us an example: as if he should fay; Chrift opened heaven-gate to us by his death; but we must follow his example, if we intend to enter. And then the apostle enumerates thofe virtues our Saviour practifed, to infinuate, that we must copy the original, to partake of his glory.

And firft, Chrift fuffered for us, leaving us an example. These words teach us a truth of the higheft importance, viz. that it is the duty of a Chriftian to Ay a foft, effeminate, life, and rather to cruçify the flesh, than pamper it: he must not swim.

« AnteriorContinua »