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For if we can afcertain that God has pursued any particular mode of action, we may immediately infer the rectitude of it, from the acknowledged perfection of the divine character; and there is no medium between this, and “charging him foolishly;" he does not use means uncertainly, or to try their success ; at one view he fees unerringly his end, and his way to it. Again; if He has told us himself that such a step became him, we are bound to believe him, however strange and exceptionable it may appear to us.
And if in addition to this, he has condescended in a measure to explain himself, and to fhed fome light upon the subject, we are thankfully to avail ourselves of it.
My brethren, we may apply all this to the subject before us.
We know He did “ make the Captain of our falvation perfect through sufferings,” and “ his
ways are judgment.” He has expressly assured us in his word, that it became him to do so; and as he is not mistaken, so he cannot deceive. He has also difcovered enough of his motives to satisfy every humble inquirer, and to draw forth our admiration; “ Oh! “ the depths of the riches, both of the wisdom and
knowledge of God!” But all this is too general. Let us approach a few particular reasons which He has enabled us to assign, from which the expediency of the sufferings of our Saviour will appear.
The first is derived from the necessity of experience in our Guide. For how desirable was it that he who was appointed to lead us to glory, should himself bé personally acquainted with the dangers, difficulties, and trials, to which his followers are exposed in their way thither? Nothing would so powerfully engage the
confidence which we are to place in him. Experience in every case encourages dependence; but see the afflicted. It is not to the gay and prosperous, but to those who have been in misery themselves, that they approach with pleasure, and with a conviction that they shall not be heard in vain, when they cry,“ pity
me, pity me, Oye my friends, for the hand of God “ hath touched me.” Sympathy is produced and cherished by experience. If you have endured the forrow under which you behold a fellow-creature labouring, you can enter into his views, feel his senfations, and weep with him. Who are the moft kind and humane? They who have been much in the school of affliction ; there the social and tender affections are nurtured. “Be kind to strangers,” says God to Ifrael ; why ? “ for ye know the heart of a stranger,
for ye were strangers in a strange land.” The high-priest under the law' was “ taken from among
men, that he might have compassion on the ignorant, s and on them that are out of the way, for that he “ himself also is compassed with infirmity.” All this is grandly applicable to our Lord and Saviour ; « for “ in that he himself hạth suffered being tempted, he is
able to succour them that are tempted.” Though his state is changed, his nature is the same ; " for we “HAVE not an High-Priest which cannot be touched “ with the feeling of our infirmitics, but was in ali
points tempted like as we are, yet without fin.” This opens a source of exquisite consolation, and we feel the pleasing motive; “Let us therefore come “ boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain
mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." He s knows your sorrows." Are you poor? He know's
your indigence ; not like some of your wealthy neighbours, who may accidentally hear of it by report, while they are indulging only in luxury. He was poor ;
“ foxes have holes, and the birds of the air “ have nests, but the Son of man had not where to “ lay his head.” Do you suffer reproach ; and are things laid to your charge which you know not ? He fees you, who was once deemed “a glutton, and a “ wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and finners, “ Samaritan,” “ one who had a devil,” “a stirrer up “ of the people.” Do you feel evil suggestions ? The enemy approached Him :
He knows what sore temptations mean,
For He has felt the same.
Are you looking forward to the hour of death? Your fellow-christians, and your ministers may endeavour to sustain and to soothe you ; but all this comes from persons who have no experience; they know not what it is to die; but One will be near “to comfort thee
upon thy bed of languishing,” who has passed through the trying scene; who knows the feelings of human nature in the separation of soul and body, in leaving beloved friends and relations.
A second reason is to be derived from his example: it was neceffary for him to shew us the influence of holiness in a state of suffering. AMictions are unavoidable; they occupy a large proportion of life, and of godliness; many parts of religion relate entirely to suffering, and every part receives a lustre from it. The christian is more formed from his trials, than from his enjoyments. But we are like bullocks unaccuftomed to the yoke ; we are unskilled in the science of
passive obedience ; even after the experience of
years of sorrow, we know little of the holy mystery “of suf“ fering affliction and of patience.” We need instruction ; “ How am I to carry the cross? How can “ I render it one of my chief blessings ? What difpofi« tions am I to exercise towards God, who is the Au6 thor of this trouble? or towards men, who are the - instruments of it? How must I regulate my thoughts, “ words, and carriage? Am I forbidden to feel, as well só as to murmur ? Must I indulge no desire, use no
means of relief?” Go, anxious inquirer, and contemplate Him who “ suffered for us, leaving us an ex
ample that we should follow his steps.” See him enduring every indignity—but “ when he was reviled, - he reviled not again ; when he suffered, he threatsened not, but committed himself to him that judgeth
righteously.” Hear his prayer for his murderers“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they “ do." Mark his language in the garden-—~ Father, “ if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; never" theless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” In all this He does not so much dazzle as guide ; here are none of those high-flown, rhapsodical expressions, which proud philosophy has often placed in the mouths of its heroes ;
he affects no insensibility of pain ; no indifference to suffering : we see humanity with all its natural feelings, only these feelings held under the empire of reason and of grace.
" Let the fame mind be in you which was also in Christ Jefus."
A third reason is to be found in the demonstration which his sufferings gave us of the divine benevolence. Awakened souls find it no easy thing to believe in
God. Conscious of the wrong their fins have done him, and judging of the Supreme Being by themfelves; it is hard to persuade their guilty minds, that God is ready “ to be pacified towards them for all “their abominations;" and that after such provocations, he is willing to “receive them graciously, and love “ them freely.” Now I cannot love God, till God appears lovely. I shall never approach him, till I hope in him. Hidden among the trees of the garden, whither my fears had driven me; it is only the voice of mercy can call me forth. It is confidence alone can bring me back to God; it is the simple principle of our restoration; till this be gained, nothing can be effected. To place himself before us in this encouraging view ; to fhew us in himself an accessible refuge, as foon as ever we feel our danger and our misery; to keep us from turning again to folly by the desperate conclusion “there is no hope;" to scatter all our mifgiving fears, and to allure us into his presence, he was pleased to sacrifice his own Son. The inference is easily drawn; “He that spared not his own Son, but “ delivered him up for us all, how shall He not with “ him also freely give us all things.” We behold indeed the love of God in his incarnation, but much more in his sufferings; these suppose the former and add to it. If he will take one so dear to him, one so worthy, one who always did the things which pleased him, and bring him through such a depth of suffering rather than we should perish ; we are convinced that he will not refuse pardon and grace to returning finners ; and to this the sacred writers turn our attention, when they would magnify the goodness of God;