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And in what manner is she about to lose her beloved Son? He dies a death, he suffers a martyrdom of unexampled agony. She sees those hands, which had so often dispensed blessings, cured diseases, fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and wrought so many miracles, pierced with nails. She beheld those lips, on which dwelt grace and beauty, and from which had flowed the accents of mercy,
that men have even thought they could trace the features of the Virgin, which they pretend to have seen delineated by St. Luke, in a picture drawn for an empress who supposed she had found her tomb; they have also detailed the slightest circumstances of her life and death. To give a shadow of plausibility to these impositions, they have attributed them to persons of celebrity, from whose names they might derive popularity. Of scandalized by the impurities of the furious this nature was a work published in the se- Jews. That royal head, which the crown of cond century, entitled, The Life and Death the universe would become, torn and laceraof the Blessed Virgin,' and placed among the ted with thorns; that arm destined to wield the apocryphal books. And as all these histories had no other foundation than the imagina- sceptre of the world, bearing a reed in mocktions of their authors, we perceive a diversity ery. She saw the temple of her God; that of opinions, similar to the diversity of the temple which had been distinguished as the persons, from the fertility of whose inventions peculiar abode of the divinity, which had been they sprung. Some maintain that the holy blessed with peculiar manifestations of his Virgin suffered martyrdom; others that she wisdom, his glory, his justice, and his mercy, followed St. John to Ephesus, where she and all those perfections which belong to the died at a very advanced age; others assert Supreme Being, falling beneath the attacks of that after her death she arose from the grave: the impious multitude. She heard the voice of but others have carried their theories still the children of Edom, crying, Down with it, farther, and pretended that she was taken up down with it!' and levelling the dwelling of to heaven in a chariot of fire, as was Elias the Most High with the ground. Then she But we will turn from the consideration of beheld the full accomplishment of that saying, this subject, and employ the rest of our time of which she could not formerly perceive the in considering the two principal branches of meaning: 'A sword shall pierce through thine our subject. own soul also,' Luke ii. 35. Again, she was denied the sad consolation of approaching this her beloved Son, to comfort him, and to receive his last breath. O ye, his murderers,
I. The conflict passing in the minds of those who behold the last moments of those who are dear to them.
II. The conflict, or rather the triumph, of allow her at least to embrace him once more; those who thus expire. let her shed her tears by his side, and bid him a final farewell; let her stop the blood which has began to flow in large drops, and consumes the remainder of his nearly exhausted strength. O let her approach this expiring Prince, and pour a healing balm into its wounds. But no; she is forced to yield to the violence of those who surround her; the thick darkness obliges her to depart, all the care and tenderness that she could show to our Lord, all her tears are useless. Holy woman, if all generations shall call thee blessed,' Luke i. 48, because thou wast the mother of thy glorious King and Redeemer,' shall not endless ages commiserate thy grief, when destined to behold him suffering so shameful and agonizingad a h.
But I mentioned also that reason and faith led the holy Virgin into a conflict of a different nature. How could a human understanding, even with the aid of reason and religion, pierce the thick veil that covered the divinity of our Saviour, at the time of his crucifixion. If the mystery of the cross surpasses and startles our finite imaginations now, when it is announced to us by a preacher, who gives us the infallible word of God as security been its effect on the minds of those who be whereon to rest our belief, what must have held Christ suffering by the hand of murderers, chosen of God for this purpose Every exactly foretold by the prophets of old; and circumstance of his passion, had indeed been the close accordance, the great harmony, that was visible between the prophecies, and their accomplishment, ought to have carried conviction to the minds of all who attentively considered the subject. The presumption certainly was strong, that he who so well fulfilled the humiliatory and painful part of the
1. The case of Mary exemplifies the conflicting emotions that agitate the souls of those who surround the dying pillow of their dearest relatives. Nature, reason, and religion, all must lend their aid to support their trem bling courage. And let me inquire, who is there among you, my brethren, who sufficient ly feels the force of the demonstration of which his proposition is susceptible. If any of you have concentrated your principal care, your warmest affections, on one object, on one favourite child, to whom you have looked for consolation in trouble, whom you have regarded as the honour of your house, to whose filial tenderness you have trusted for the support of your declining years; to the feelings of such a one I appeal, to picture to his mind a scene which baffles all attempts at description. Let him put himself in the place of Mary, and view in the death of our Saviour, that of his beloved child: he will still form but an imperfect idea of the mental agonies which Mary was suffering. She beheld her Son, whose birth was miraculously announced to her by an angel; that Son, on whose appearance the armies of heaven sung with triumphant joy; that Son, whose abode on earth was a distinguished course of mercy, charity, and compassion; she saw him, whose abode on earth crowned it with blessings, ready to quit it for ever. She anticipated the frightful and dreary solitude in which she was so soon to be plunged; she viewed herself forsaken and deserted by all, deprived of the dearest object of her affection; the rest of the world appeared to her a blank, as if she remained alone, tas only inhabitant of this spacious globe
prophecies concerning him, would likewise verify those parts that referred to his exaltation and glorious triumph. But the spectators of the death of Jesus, saw only his degradation; his glory was yet to come; death had now seized his victim, and his resurrection was to them uncertain; the predictions of his humiliation were fulfilled, but they had not seen the accomplishment of those concerning his exaltation. This Jesus whom we now behold ready to expire, the thread of whose life is almost spun out, and who will only come down from the cross to be laid in the tomb, and to go into the lower regions of the earth, can this, I ask, be the promised Messiah, who will 'ascend on high, and lead captivity captive, and receive gifts for men?' Ps. lxviii. 18. Can this same Jesus, that we see wearing a crown of thorns upon his head, with a reed in his hand, addressed by the insulting titles, Jesus of Nazareth, king of the Jews, John xix. 19, be the Messiah, of whom God says, I have set my King upon my holy hill of Zion. Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thy inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession? Ps. ii. 6. 8. Is he whom I see insulted, despised, and lightly esteemed, is he the Messiah, called by the prophets, Wonderful, Counsellor, Prince of peace, the everlasting Father!' Isa. ix 6. This Jesus, who now is nailed to an ignominious cross, is he the Messiah, the Lord to whom God said, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool. The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion; rule thou in the midst of thy enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness; from the womb of the morning thou hast the dew of thy youth? Ps. cii. 1-3.
We are to remark in this place, First, the presence of mind, that showed itself through all the sufferings of Christ; no man was ever placed in circumstances so likely to destroy this feeling, as was our blessed Lord at this time. My brethren, when we have lived as men generally do, without thought or reflection, except of the things and affairs of this transitory world; and paid no attention to that future day of judgment, which is so fast approaching, and when our eternal destiny will be determined; when we behold the coming of death, and have made no preparation for it, never fixed our thoughts on religious subjects, nor acted agreeably to the dictates of conscience; have not restored our ill-gotten wealth; if we have slandered our neighbour; have made no reparation; have never learned what is the end of our existenee, nor what is death; can we view the approach of the king of terrors, under these circumstances, without emotion? will not our minds be filled with confused ideas, and overpowered with the multiplicity of concerns; and having so many objects pressing on them, be prevented from attending to any.
I know not, my brethren, what were the feelings of these holy women, and this beloved disciple, at this trying period; what rays of comfort were afforded to them, to lighten their mental darkness; nor what assistance was granted them in this conflict. But I know, that the cross of Christ is a stumbling block to the Jew, and to the Greek, foolishness. I know that the Jewish nation had, in all ages, fixed their attention on the glory of the Messiah, and forgot his previous humiliation; and I know But if we have, on the contrary, been, duthat even the disciples of Christ, trembled at ring the whole course of our life, considering the name of the cross. St. Peter hearing his our latter end, and following the example of divine Master speak of his approaching death, our blessed Saviour; have always been dilisaid 'Be it far from thee, Lord, this shall not gent to do the work of the Lord, and have be unto thee,' Matt. xvi. 22; and when Christ never lost sight of that awful period, to which spoke to them of a future resurrection, they we approach rapidly but insensibly; if such questioned one with another, what the rising has been our conduct through life, we may from the dead should mean, Mark ix. 10. meet death with calmness. When the ChrisChrist rebuked them, saying, 'O fools, and tian on his death-bed, beholds around him a slow of heart to believe all that the prophets weeping family, near relations and intimate have spoken,' Luke xxiv. 25. The women friends full of grief, he still is calm, he recame to the disciples to tell them, that they tains his self-possession through a scene so had been eye-witnesses of his resurrection; affecting. Death to him is not a strange obbut their information seemed more like the ject, he views it without alarm, and employs day-dreams of a confused imagination, than the moments that yet remain, in administerthe result of cool deliberation, or unprejudi ing consolation to his friends, instructing or ced judgment. Thomas, especially, notwith comforting his family, or in the exercise of standing the testimony of these same women, religion. And this tranquillity of soul is perand that of the rest of the apostles, replied to haps one of the best characteristics of a hapthose who said they had seen the Lord, Ex-py death, and yields greater satisfaction thẳn
cept I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe,' John xx. 25. Thus, although we are disposed to think very highly of the virtue and constancy of these holy witnesses of the crucifixion of our Lord, we dare not propose them as models for your imitation; although we have a strong conviction, that they did not fall under the attacks of the enemies of salvation, yet we dare not affirm, that they entirely triumphed over them; and in discoursing upon their conflicts, we dare not enter fully on the subject of their victory. But not so, when we look to our blessed and adorable Redeemer; if we place Christ before your eyes, we give you a perfect model: you shall see him struggling, and you shall also see him more than conqueror; we shall speak less of his struggle, than of his conquest: And Jesus seeing his mother, and the disciple standing by whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son. Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother; and from that hour that disciple took her to his own home.'
more triumphant expressions, for which there is less solid foundation. I have seen men in whose minds the approach of death excites emotions that partake more of the turbulence of frenzy, than of zeal; they heap Scripture upon Scripture, and prayer upon prayer, and from not having thought soon enough of their last moments, they can now think only of them, and can neither see, nor hear, nor think, of any thing else. How different were the last moments of Christ; in the midst of all his agony, he still distinguished from the crowd of spectators his mother; he saw her, and pitied her, and recommended her to the care of his beloved disciple. Woman, behold thy Son, Son, behold thy mother.
We see secondly, the tenderness and compassion of our Lord. There is a certain disposition in some, that partakes more of ferocity, than piety; that possesses none of the amiable properties of true religion. On pretence of being Christians, they cease to be men: as they must one day quit the world, they will form no connexions in it. Being occupied with the concerns of the soul, they forget the care of this life, and the concerns of it.
The piety of Christ was not incompatible with the innocent cares and concerns of life, he contributed largely to the pleasure of those with whom he associated, he behaved towards them with kindness, mildness, and condescension. He changed water into wine, at the marriage in Cana; he multiplied the loaves and fishes in the desert, to afford subsistence to those who followed him; he partook of the feasts to which he was invited and sanctified them with his heavenly conversation.
This compassionate kindness shone most conspicuous in the period referred to by the evangelist in the words of our text, the weighty cares of his soul, which he was on the point of yielding into the arms of his Father, did not make him neglect his temporal concerns, he thought of his mother's grief, he procured her a comforter of her poverty, and gave her a maintenance..
But, my brethren, the example of Christ is worthy not only of praise, but of in itation. The same religion, which directs our thoughts to a future state, and to the hour of death, teaches us rightly to perform our duties in the present life. A Christian before he dies, will regulate his affairs, make his will, exhort his family, direct the education of his children, recommend to them proper tutors and guardians, and declare what are his dying requests. But unhappy are they, who on their death-bed are wholly taken up with such cares; religion, while she directs us to give them a portion of our attention, forbids their having it all. Look to the example of Christ, who seeing his mother and the disciple whom he loved, said to his mother, Behold thy Son, and to the disciple, Behold thy mother.
But how was Mary provided for, now she was under the protection of St. John; what was the prospect that she had before her: he was poor: it is true, that he was disposed faithfully to fulfil the trust reposed in him by
his adorable master; and that poverty and misfortune, so fatal to common friendships, only served to animate his. But what assis tance or protection could she hope for from an apostle dovoted to his ministry, and treading in the footsteps of his crucified master. It was, my brethren, but a poor hope, a feeble conso lation, for his mother to cling to; but here again we see the triumph of Christ, which he gained over those fears, which so often disturb the bed of death. We see in the last moments of our Lord none of those suspicions, none of those bitter cares, that so often empoison the peace of the dying; that criminal distrust of God, which offends him at a time, when by prayer and praise we ought to conciliate his favour. Christ displayed on this, as on other points, a perfect confidence in the great Disposer of all events. But Christ triumphed again in another way, in which we should endeavour to imitate him. Do you say what will become of my children, or my family? Do you think that you were the only person to whose care God could confide them, or that if he calls you away, he will have no resource left for their subsistence? Do you think that the manifold wisdom of God, can raise them up no other protector? Do you think that if the paternal character excites in you such tender emotions, that he who is the Father of all, does not feel them also? Do you imagine that he who pardons all your sins, cleanses you from your guilt, snatches you from destruction, invites you to glory, will disdain to supply food and clothing, to those who survive you? No, he will not: had they for their sole resource, a man in such a sphere of life as was St. John, they would never be reduced to want. When my father and my mother forsake me,' said the psalmist, the Lord taketh me up,' Ps. xxvii. 10. Let us also say, if I leave my father and mother in their old age, or my children in their infancy, the Lord will protect them. They will find a shelter under the wings of the Lord, and he will be their
Again, let us admire the firmness and selfpossession of our Lord: while beholding those objects that, were most likely to shake it, Christ was possessed of a tender heart. We have already noticed this, and will now consider the principal circumstances in his life, that will justify this assertion. To this end, view him going from town to town, from province to province, doing good; see him discoursing familiarly with his disciples when he showed them a heart full of loving-kindness. Behold him shedding tears over Jerusalem, and pronouncing these affecting words, an everlasting memorial of his compassion, If thou hadst known, at least in this thy day, the things which belong to thy peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes, Luke xix. 42. Behold him again, a short time before his death, occupied with care for his beloved disciples, who his Heavenly Father that affecting prayer for were to remain on the earth, and addressing to them recorded in John xvii, with the feelings of a soul full of the tenderest emotions. Jesus was exemplary in the several relations of a
friend, of a master, and of a son. While he this intrepid firmness of soul to those who combeheld around his cross only those whose ma- pose this congregation; O that we may every lice delighted to witness his agony and aggra- one on the bed of death feel some of its influvate his sufferings, he turned his thoughts, ence, and be enabled to exclaim, Come ye from earth, to that eternal world into which spectators of my agonies, draw near ye to he was about to enter. But what was the ef- whom nature has bound me by the closest ties, fect produced on his mind, by the sight of Ma- by the cords of love and friendship. Approach ry, of whom it is expressly said in Scripture, my friends, my children, that I may bid you a that he loved her. What did he feel when he final farewell: come receive the last pledges of beheld the disciple whom he had distinguished my affection, let me, for the last time, fold you by his peculiar friendship; and that other Ma- in my paternal embrace, and cover you with ry in whose favour he had wrought such great my tears of affection; but do not suppose, that miracles, Ah, remove these beloved objects I would now draw tighter the cords which are far from me, take away every tie that binds so soon to be broken; think not that I would my departing soul to earth, your presence in-unite myself to you still closer at the time flicts a sharper pain than the nails which when God warns me that I must leave you pierce my hands; the sight of you is more in- for ever. I know you no longer; I know not supportable than that of my murderers.' Is father, mother, or children, but those who exthis the language of our Lord? No: far other ist in the realms of glory, with whom I am wise; Christ remains firm, his courage is una- about to form eternal relationship, which will bated. He was armed with almighty power, absorb all my temporal connexions. and he entered this dreadful conflict with the full assurance of victory, and final triumph. After the first emotions of nature have subsided, when he had glanced at the objects around him, he rose superior to the things of this world, he knew that death puts a period to all sublunary connexions; that the titles of parent, friend, and son, are only vain names, when we come to the last hour. He no longer recognised his relations according to the flesh, he was going to form a new relationship in heaven, to merge all earthly ties in the countless families of glorified saints, of whom he is the head. He appeared to know no long-nature; such was the death of Jesus Christ; er that Mary who had borne him, giving her may such be our end. Let me die the death no more the title of mother, but said, Woman, of the righteous, and let my last end be like behold thy son. his.' Amen. Numb. xxiii. 10.
Thus the opposite extremities of virtue seemed to meet in the death of our Saviour as in a common centre, the perfections of the Godhead, holiness, compassion, constancy, pierced through the thick veil which shrouded his grandeur, his glory, his power, and his majesty. O, ye witnesses of his death, if his humiliation caused you to doubt his Godhead, his greatness of soul must have fully proved it. Behold the tombs open, the dead arise, all nature convulsed, bears witness to the dying Saviour; the graces that shone forth in his death are proofs of his noble origin, and his divine
O, why cannot I communicate a portion of
END OF VOLUME II.