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it to its God? "If need be, ye are in heaviness." 1 Pet. 1:6. O christian! didst thou not see need of this before thou camest into trouble? Or hath not God shown thee the need of it since thou wast under the rod? Be assured, if thou dost not see it, thy God doth: he knows thou wouldest be ruined for ever, if he should not take this course with thee.
Thy corruptions require all this to kill them. And as your corruptions call for it, so do your graces too. Wherefore think ye the Lord planted the principles of faith, humility, patience, in your soul? Were they put there for nothing? Did the Lord intend they should lie sleeping? Or were they planted there to be exercised? And how shall they be exercised without tribulation? Can you tell? Doth not "tribulation work patience, and patience experience, and experience hope ?" Rom. 5: 3, 4. Is not "the trial of your faith much more precious than of gold which perishes?" 1 Pet. 1:7. Oh look inward, and you will be quiet.
4. Look outward, and see who stands by and observes you under your trouble. Are there not many eyes upon you; yea, many envious observers round about you? It was David's request, "Lead me, O Lord, in thy righteousness, because of my enemies," Ps. 5:8; or, as the Hebrew word there might be rendered, because of mine observers or watchers. There is many an envious eye upon you. To the wicked there can scarcely be a higher gratification, than to see your conduct under trouble so like their own; for thereby they are confirmed in their prejudices against religion, and in their good opinion of themselves. "These may talk and profess more than we," say they, "but when they are tried, it appears plainly enough, their religion enables them to do no more than we do; they talk of heaven's glory, and their future expectations; but it is only talk, for it is apparent enough their hopes cannot balance a small affliction,
with all the happiness they talk of." Oh, how do you dishonor Christ before his enemies, when you make them think all your religion lies in talking of it!
5. Look backward, and see if there be nothing behind you that may hush and quiet your impatient spirit; consult the multitude of experiences, both your own and others. Is this the first strait that ever you were in? If so, you have reason to be quiet, yet to bless God that hath spared you so long, when others have had their days filled with sorrow. But if you have been in troubles formerly, and the Lord hath helped you: if you have passed through the fire, and not been burnt; through the waters, and not drowned; if God hath stood by you, and hitherto helped you; O what cause have you to be quiet now, and patiently wait for the salvation of God! Did he help you then, and cannot he do so now? Did he give water, and cannot he give bread also? Is he the God of the hills only, and not the God of the valleys? Oh call to mind the days of old, the years of the right-hand of the Most High. "These things I call to mind, therefore I have hope." Lam. 3: 21. Have you kept no records of past experience? How ungrateful then have you been to your God, and how injurious to yourself, if you have not read them over in such a day as this; for to that end were they given you.
6. Look forward, to the end of your troubles. Look to the end of their duration, and that is very near; they shall not be everlasting troubles, if you fear the Lord. "The God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Jesus Christ, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect." 1 Pet. 5:10. These light afflictions are" but for a moment," compared with the vast eternity before you. What are a few days and nights of sorrow when they are past? Are they not swallowed up as a drop in the vast ocean? But more
especially look to their result. What do all these afflictions tend to and effect? Do they not work out an exceeding weight of glory? Are you not by them made "partakers of his holiness?" Heb. 12. Is not the fruit of all this, to take away your sins? What! and be impatient at this; fret and repine, because God is, in this way, perfecting your happiness? Oh ungrateful soul!
7. Look to the right-hand, and see how you are shamed, convinced, and silenced by other christians; and it may be such, too, as never made the profession you have done; and yet can not only patiently bear the afflicting hand of God, but are blessing, praising, and admiring God under their troubles; whilst you are sinning against and dishonoring him under smaller ones. It may be you will find some poor christians that know not where to get their next meal, and yet are speaking of the bounty of their God; while you are repining in the midst of plenty. Ah! if there be any ingenuousness you, let this shame you. If this will not, then,
8. Look to your left-hand, and there you will see a sad sight, and what one would think should quiet you. There you may see a company of wicked, unconverted sinners, acting under their troubles but too much like yourself. What do they more than fret and murmur, despond and sink; mix sin with their afflictions, when the rod of God is upon them? It is time for thee to improve, when thou seest how near thou art come to them, whom thou hopest thou shalt never be ranked and numbered with.
Reader, such considerations as these would be of singular use to thy soul at such a time, but above all, thine eyeing the great pattern of patience, Jesus Christ; whose lamb-like carriage, under a trial with which thine is not to be named, is here recommended to thee. Oh how should this transform thee into a lamb, for meekness!
THE INSTRUCTIVENESS OF CHRIST'S DEATH, IN HIS SEVEN LAST WORDS; THE FIRST, "FATHER, FORGIVE THEM."
"Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Luke, 23:34.
We have considered the solitude and patience of Christ's death. We come now to its instructiveness in the excellent and weighty sayings which dropped from his blessed lips upon the cross, whilst his sacred blood dropped on the earth from his wounded hands and feet. These sayings are seven in number; three directed to his Father, and four to those about him. Of the former this is one, "Father, forgive them," &c. In which notice,
The mercy prayed for: "Father, forgive." Forgiveness is not only a mercy, a spiritual mercy, but one of the greatest mercies a soul can obtain from God, without which, whatever else we have from God is no mercy
The persons for whom he requests forgiveness: who were the same that with wicked hands crucified him. Their crime was the most horrid ever committed by men. The best of mercies is by him desired for the worst of sinners.
The motive or argument urged to procure this mercy for them: "They know not what they do." As if he had said, Lord, what these poor creatures do, is not so much out of malice to me as the Son of God; it is from their ignorance. To the same purpose the apostle saith, "Whom none of the princes of this world knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." 1 Cor. 2:8. Yet this is not to be extended
to all that had a hand in the death of Christ, but to the ignorant multitude, among whom were some who afterwards believed in him; "And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it." Acts, 3: 17. For them this prayer of Christ was heard. Hence we derive three propositions, which claim each to be distinctly considered, viz.
1. That ignorance is the usual cause of enmity to Christ.
2. That there is forgiveness with God, for such as oppose Christ through ignorance.
3. That to forgive enemies, and beg forgiveness for them, is the true christian spirit.
Proposition 1. Ignorance is the usual cause of enmity to Christ.
And here let us inquire, what their ignorance of Christ was; whence it was; and how it disposed them to such enmity against him.
I. What was their ignorance who crucified Christ? They knew many other truths, but did not know Jesus Christ; in that their eyes were held. Natural light they had; yea, and scripture light they had; but in this particular, that this was the Son of God, the Saviour of the world, they were blind and ignorant. But how could that be? Had they not heard at least of his miraculous works? Did they not see how his birth, life, and death agreed with the prophecies, both in time, place, and manner? Whence should their ignorance arise, when they saw, or at least might have seen, the Scriptures fulfilled in him; and that he came among them at a time when they were full of expectations of the Messiah?
II. It is true, indeed, they knew the Scriptures; and it cannot but be supposed the fame of his mighty works had reached their ears: but yet,