The Greatness of Redeeming Love discovered by con∣sidering the Evils from which we are freed. The Servitude of Sin, the Tyranny of Satan, the Bon∣dage of the Law, the Empire of Death. The mea∣sure of Love is proportionable to the degrees of our Misery. No possible Remedy for us in Nature. Our Deliverance is compleat. The Divine Love is magnified in the Means by which our Redeemer is accomplish•d. They are the Incarnation and Suffer∣ings of the Son of God. Love is manifested in the Incarnation, upon the account of the essential Con∣dition of the Nature assumed, and its Servile state. Christ took our Nature after it had lost its Inno∣cency. The most evident Proof of God's Love is in the Sufferings of Christ. The description of them with respect to his Soul and Body. The Sufferings of his Soul set forth from the Causes of his Grief; The Disposition of Christ, and the Design of God in afflicting Him. The sorrows of his forsaken state. All comforting Influences were suspended, but with∣out prejudice to the Personal Union, or the perfection of his Grace, or the Love of his Father towards Him. The Death of the Cross considered, with respect to the Ignominy and Torment that concurr'd in it. The Love of the Father and of Christ ampli∣fied upon the account of his enduring it.
THe next Circumstance to be considered in the Divine Mercy is the degree of it: And this is described by the Apostle in all the dimensions which Page 161 can signifie its greatness. He prays for the Ephesi∣ans,*that they may be able to comprehend with all Saints the breadth, and length, and depth, and height of the love of God in Christ which passes knowledge. No lan∣guage is sufficient to express it: if our hearts were as large as the Sand on the Sea-shore, yet they were too straight to comprehend it. But although we cannot arrive to the perfect knowledg of this excel∣lent Love, yet 'tis our duty to study it with the greatest application of mind; for our happiness depends upon it; and so far we may understand as to inflame our hearts with a superlative Affection to God. And the full discovery which here we desire, and search after, in the future state shall be obtained by the presence and light of our Redeemer. Now the greatness of the Divine Love in our Re∣demption appears,
- 1. By reflecting on the mighty Evils from which we are freed.
- 2. The means by which our Redemption is accom∣plisht.
- 3. That excellent State to which we are advanced by our Redeemer,
1. If we reflect upon the horrour of our natural state, it will exceedingly heighten the mercy that de∣livered us. This I have in part opened before, there∣fore I will be the shorter in describing it. Man by his rebellion had forfeited Gods favour, and the honour and happiness he injoyed in Paradise. And as there is no middle state between Sovereignty and misery, he that falls from the Throne stops not till he comes to the bottom; so when Man fell from God and the dig∣nity of his innocent state, he became extreamly mi∣serable. He is under the servitude of sin, the tyranny Page 162 of Satan, the bondage of the Law, and the empire of Death.
1. Man is a captive to sin. He is fallen from the hand of his counsel, under the power of his passi∣ons, Love, Hatred, Ambition, Envy, Fear, Sorrow, and all the other stinging Affections, (of which is true what the Historian speaks of the several kinds of Serpents in Africa, Quantus nomiuum tantus mor∣tium numerus) exercise a tyranny over him. And if no man can serve two Masters,* as the Oracle of Truth tells us, how wretched is the slavery of Man, whose passions are so opposit, that in obeying one, he cannot escape the lash of many imperious Masters. He is possest with a Legion of impure lusts. And as the Demoniac in the Gospel was sometimes cast into the fire, and sometimes into the water; so is he hurried by the fury of contrary passions. This ser∣vitude to sin is in all respects compleat. For those who serve are either born servants, or bought with a price, or made captives by force: and sin hath all these kinds of title to man.*He is conceived and born in sin: he is sold under sin: and sells himself to do evil. As that which is sold passes into the possession of the buyer,—so the sinner exchanging himself for the pleasures of sin, is under its power. Original sin took possession of our nature, and actual of our lives. He is the servant of corruption by yeilding to it: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same he is brought in bondage.* The condition of the most wretched bond-•lave is more sweet and less servile than that of a sin∣ner. For the severest tyranny is exercised only upon the body,* the soul remains free in the midst of chains; but the power of sin oppresses the Soul, the most noble part, and defaces the bright character of the Page 163 Deity that was stampt upon its visage. The worst sla∣very is terminated with this present life.*In the grave the Prisoners rest together, they hear not the voice of the Oppressor. The small and the great are there, and the Servant is free from his Master. But there is no ex∣emption from this servitude by death, it extends its self to Eternity.
2. Man since his fall is under the tyranny of Sa∣tan, who is call'd the God of this World, and is more absolute then all temporal Princes, his domini∣on being over the will. He overcame man in Paradise, and by the right of War he rules over him. The soul is kept in his bondage by subtile Chains, of which the spiritual nature is capable. The understanding is captivated by ignorance and errors; the will by in∣ordinate & dangerous lusts; the memory by the ima∣ges of sinful pleasures, those mortal visions which inchant the soul, and make it not desirous of liberty. Never did cruel Pirat so incompassionately urge his Slaves to ply their Oares in charging, or flying from an enemy, as Satan incites those who are his cap∣tives to do his will.* And can there be a more afflicting calamity, then to be the slave of ones enemy, especi∣ally if base and cruel? This is the condition of man, he is a captive to the Devil, who was a Liar and a Murderer from the beginning. He is under the rage of that bloody Tyrant, whose ambition was to ren∣der Man as miserable as himself, who in triumph upbraids him for his folly, and adds derision to his Cruelty.
3. Fallen Man is under the Curse and Terrors of the Law. For being guilty, he is justly exposed to the punishment threatned against transgressours, without the allowance of repentance to obtain par∣don. Page 164 And Conscience, which is the Ecch• of the Law in his bosom, repeats the dreadful sentence. This is an Acouser which none can silence, a Judge that none can decline: and from hence it is that Men all their life are subject to bondage,* being obnoxious to the wrath of God, which the awakened Conscience fearfully sets before them.
This complicated Servitude of a Sinner, the Scri∣pture represents under great variety of Similitudes, that the defects of one may be supplied by another. Every Sinner is a Servant,* now a Servant by flight may recover his Liberty: But he is not only a Ser∣vant,* but a Captive in chains: A Captive may be freed by laying down a Ransom; but the Sinner is not only a Captive,* but deeply in debt: Every Debtor is not miserable by his own fault, it may be his Infelicity not his Crime that he is poor; but the Sinner is guilty of the highest offence: A guilty Person may enjoy his Health,* but the Sinner is sick of a deadly Disease, an incu∣rable wound:* He that is sick and wounded may send for the Physician in order to his Reco∣very; But the Sinner is in a deep sleep. He that is asleep may awake; But the Sinner is in a state of Death, which im∣plies not only a Cessation from all vital Actions, but an abso∣lute disability to perform them. The Understanding is disabled for any Spiritual Per∣ception, the Will for any Holy Inclinations, the whole Man is disabled for the sense of his wretched state. This is the spiritual Death which justly ex∣poses Page 165 the Sinner to Death temporal and eternal.
4. Every Man as descending from Adam, is born a Sacrifice to Death. His condition in this world is so wretched and unworthy the original excellency of his Nature, that it deserves not the name of Life: 'Tis a continual exercise of sinful Actions dishonourable to God, and damning to himself, and after the succession of a few Years in the defilements of Sin, and the accidents of this frail state, in doing and suffering evil, Man comes to his fatal Period, and falls into the bottomless Pit, the place of Pol∣lutions and Horrors, of Sin and Torments. 'Tis there That the wrath of God abides on him;*and who knows the power of his wrath? According to his fear so is his wrath. Fear is an unbounded Passion, and can extend it self to the apprehension of such Torments, which no finite Power can inflict: But the Wrath of God exceeds the most jealous fears of the guilty Conscience. It proceeds from infinite Justice, and is executed by Almighty Power, and contains emi∣nently all kinds of evils. A Lake of flaming Brim∣stone, and whatever is most dreadful to Sense, is but an imperfect Allusion to represent it.
And how great is that Love which pitied & rescu∣ed us from Sin and Hell? This Saving Mercy is set out for its tenderness and vehemence by the commo∣tion of the bowels, at the sight of one in misery:* especially the working of the Mother's, when any evil befals her Children: Such an inward deep resentment of our distress was in the Father of Mercies. When we were in our blood, He said to us, Live.* And that which further discovers the eminent degree of his Love is, that He might have been unconcerned with our Distress, and left us under despair of Deliverance. Page 166 There is a Compassion which ariseth from Self-love, when the sight of anothers Misery surprises us, and affects us in such a manner as to disturb our Repose, and imbitter our Joy, by considering our liableness to the same troubles, and from hence we are enclin'd to help them. And there is a Compassion that pro∣ceeds from pure love to the miserable, when the Person that expresses it, is above all the assaults of evil, and incapable of all Affections that might lessen his Felicity, and yet applies himself to relieve the afflicted; and such was Gods towards Man.
If it had been a tollerable Evil under which we were faln, the Mercy that recovered us had been less: For Benefits are valued by the necessity of the receiver. But Man was disinherited of Paradise, an Heir of Hell, his Misery was inconceivably great. Now the measure of God's Love is proportionable to the Misery from whence we are redeemed. If there had been any possible Remedy for us in Na∣ture, our engagements had not been so great: But only He that created us by his Power, could restore us by his Love. Briefly, it magnifies the Divine Compassion that our Deliverance is full and intire. It had been admirable Favour to have mitigated our Misery, but we have perfect Redemption, sweetned by the remembrance of those dreadful evils that op∣prest us. As the three Hebrew Martyrs came un∣hurt out of the fiery Furnace, The hair of their heads were not singed, nor their coats changed, nor the smell of the fire had passed on them.* So the Saints above have no marks of Sin or Misery remaining upon them, not the least spot or wrinkle to blast their Beau∣ty, nor the least trouble to diminish their Blessed∣ness; but for ever possess the Fulness of Joy, and Page 167 Glory, a pure and triumphant Felicity.
2. The Greatness of the Divine Love towards faln Man appears in the means by which our Re∣demption is accomplisht. And those are the Incar∣nation and Sufferings of the Son of God. The In∣carnation manifests this Love upon a double account.
- 1. In regard of the essential condition of the na∣ture he assum'd.
- 2. Its Servile state and meanness▪
1. The essential condition of the humane nature assum'd by our Redeemer discovers his transcen∣dent Love to us. For what proportion is there be∣tween God and Man? Infinite and Finite are not terms that admit comparison, as Greater and Less, but are distant, as All and Nothing. The whole World before him,* is but as the drop of the Bucket that hath scarce weight to fall; and the small dust of the Ballance, that is not of such moment as to turn the scales; 'tis as nothing, and counted less then nothing and vanity. The Deity in its own nature includes Independence and Sovereignty. To be a Creature implys dependence, and subjection. The Angelical Nature is infinitely inferior to the Divine, and Man is lower then the Angels; yet the Word was made Flesh. Add to this, he was not made as Adam in the perfection of his nature, and beginning the first step of his life in the full exercise of Reason, and Dominion over the Crea∣tures, but he came into the World by the way of a natural birth, and dependance upon a mortal Crea∣ture. The Eternal Wisdom of the Father stoopt to a state of infancy, which is most distant from that of Wisdom, wherein though the Life yet the Light of the reasonable Soul is not visible, & the mighty God to a condition of indigence and infirmity. The Lord Page 168 of Nature submitted to the Laws of it. Admirable Love, wherein God seemed to forget his own Great∣ness, and the meanness of the Creature! This is more indeared to us by considering,
2. The Servile state of the Nature be assumed. An account of this we have in the Words of the Apostle. Let this mind be in you,*which was also in Christ; who be∣ing in the form of God, that is, injoying the Divine Nature with all its Glory eternally, and invariably. As to be in the form of a King, signifies not only to be a King, but to have all the conspicuous marks of Royalty, the Crown, Scepter, Throne, the Guards and State of a King.* Thus our Saviour possest that Glo∣ry that is truly Divine, before he took our nature. The Angels adored him in Heaven, and by him Princes reigned on the Earth. 'Tis added, he thought it no robbery to be equal with God; that is, being the essen∣tial Image of the Father, he had a rightful possession of all his perfections. Yet he made himself of no reputa∣tion, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of Man; this is a lower degree of condescension, than the assuming the naked humane nature. A Servant is not simply a Man, there being many Men of higher quality, but a Man in a low State. Now he that was in the form of God, lessened himself into the form of a servant, that is, took the humane nature without honour, attended with its infirmities; So that by the visible condition of his life, he was judged to be an ordinary person, and not that under that meanness the Lord of An∣gels had been concealed. This will more distinctly be understood, if we consider the lowness of his ex∣traction, the poverty of his birth, and the tenor of his life whilst he converst with Men. What Nation Page 169 was more despicable in the esteem of the World than the Jews? and Christ came of their stock;* and a∣mong the Jews none were more vilified than the Ga∣lileans, and in Galilee-Nazareth was a contemptible village, and in Nazareth the Family of Joseph was very obscure, and to him our Saviour was nearly al∣lied. His reputed Father was a Carpenter, and his Mother a poor Virgin, that offered two Pigeons for her purification. He first breathed in a Stable, and was covered with poor swadling-cloaths, who was Master of Heaven and Earth, and adorns all crea∣tures with their glory. But Love made him who is Heir of all things, renounce the priviledge of his su∣pernatural Sonship. Incredible condesension! There∣fore an Angel was dispatcht from Heaven, who ap∣peared with a surprizing miraculous light, the visible character of his dignity, to prevent the scandal which might arise from the meanness of his condition, and to assure the Shepherds that the Babe which lay in the Manger, was the Redeemer of the World. The course of his Life was a preface,* and preparative for the Death of the Cross. He had a just right to all that Glory, which a created Nature personally united to the Deity could receive. An eminent in∣stance of it there is in his Transfiguration, when Glo∣ry descended from Heaven to encompass him; that which was so short should have been continual, but he presently returned to the: lowness of his former condition. The fulness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily, yet in his humble state he was voluntarily deprived of those admirable effects which should pro∣ceed from that union. Strange separation between the Deity, and the Glory that results from it! God is light, and the Son is the brightness of his Fathers Page 170 Glory, yet in his Pilgrimage upon the Earth he was alwayes under a cloud. Astonishing Miracle! tran∣scending all those in the course of Nature, yet the po∣wer of Love effected it. He was made not only low∣er than the Angels,*but less than all Men, joyning (Oh amazing abasement!) the Majesty of God, with the meanness of a Worm. The High and Lofty-One, whom the Prophet saw Exalted on a High Throne,* and all the Powers of Heaven in a posture of Reverence about Him, was despised and rejected of Men: they turned their eyes from him,* not for the lustre of his Countenance, but for shame.
If the Lord had assumed our Nature in its most honourable Condition, and appeared in its Beauty, the condescension were infinite: For although Men are distinguish'd among themselves by Titles of Ho∣nour, yet as two Gloworms that shine with an une∣qual brightness in the Night, are equally obscured by the light of the Sun; So all men, those that are advanc'd to the most eminent degree, as well as the most abject and wretehed, are in the same di∣stance from God. But He emptied himself of all his Glory;*he grew up as a tender Plant, and as a Root out of a dry ground, there was no Form or Comliness in him. From his Birth to the time of his Preaching he lived so privately, as only known under the quality of the Carpenters Son. There was a con∣tinual repression of that inconceivable Glory, that was due to him the first moment of his appearing a∣mong Men. In short, His despised Condition was an abasement not only of his Divinity, but his Hu∣manity. And how conspicuous was his Love in this darkning Condescension?*We know the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ; that though he was rich, he became Page 171 poor for our sakes. He did not assume that which was due to the excellency of his Nature, but what was convenient for our Redepmtion, which was to be accomplisht by Sufferings.
Where can be found an Example of such Love? Some have favourable Inclinations to help the di∣stressed, and will express so much Compassion as is consistent with their state and quality: But if in order to the relieving of the miserable, one must submit to what is shameful, who hath an affection so strong and vehement as to purchase his Brothers Redemption at the loss of his own Honour? Yet the Son of God descended from his Throne, and put on our vile Mortality: He parted with his Glory that He might be qualified to part with his Life for our Salvation. How doth this exalt his Compassion to us?
And further, He took our Nature after it had lost its Primitive Innocency. The natural distance between God and the creature is infinite, the moral between God and the sinful creature, if possible, is more than infinite: Yet the Mercy of our Redeemer overcame this distance. What an extasie of Love transported the Son of God so far as to espouse our Nature, after it was defiled and debased with Sin? He was essential Innocence and Purity, yet He came in the similitude of sinful flesh,* which to outward view was not different from what was really sinful. He was the Holy Lawgiver, yet He submitted to that Law, which made Him appear under the cha∣racter and disreputation of a Sinner.* He paid the bloody Tribute of the Children of wrath, being circumcised as guilty of Adam's Sin; and he was baptised as guilty of his own.
Page 1722. The most evident and sensible proof of the greatness of Gods Love to Mankind, is in the Suf∣ferings of our Redeemer to obtain our Pardon. He is called in Scripture,*A man of Sorrows, the title signifies their number and quality. His whole Life was a continual Passion: He suffered the con∣tradiction of Sinners, who by their malicious Ca∣lumnies obscur'd the lustre of his Miracles and most innocent Actions: He endured the Temptations of Satan in the Desert: He was often in danger of his Life; But all these were nothing in comparison of his last Sufferings. 'Tis therefore said, that at the bare apprehension of them, He began to be sorrowful, as if He had never felt any Grief till then: His former Afflictions were like scatter'd drops of Rain; But as in the Deluge All the Fountains beneath, and all the Windows of Heaven above were opened; So in our Saviours last Sufferings, the Anger of God, the Cruelty of Men, the Fury of Devils broke out to∣gether against him. And that the degrees of his Love may be measured by those of his Sufferings, it will be fit to consider them with respect to his Soul and his Body. The Gospel delivers to us the relation of both.
1. Upon his entrance into the Garden, He com∣plains, My Soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto Death. There were present only Peter, James, and John his happy Favourites, who assured him of their fidelity; there was no visible enemy to afflict Him, yet his Soul was environ'd with Sorrows. 'Tis easie to conceive the injuries He suffered from the rage of Men, for they were terminated upon his Body; But how to understand his inward Suffer∣ings, the wounds of his Spirit, the cross to which Page 173 his Soul was nailed, is very difficult. Yet these were in expressibly greater as the visible effects de∣declare. The anguish of his soul so affected his body, that his Sweat was as it were great drops of Blood, the miraculous evidence of his Agony. The terror was so dreadful, that the assistance of an Angel could not calm it. And if we consider the causes of his grief, the dispositions of Christ, and the design of God in afflicting him, it will further appear that no sorrow was ever like his. The Causes were,
1. The evil of Sin which infinitely exceeds all o∣ther: for the just measure of an evil is taken from the good to which it is opposit, and of which it de∣prives us. Now Sin is formally opposit to the Ho∣ly nature, and will of God, and meritoriously de∣prives of his blessed presence for ever. Therefore God being the supreme Good, Sin is the supreme evil. And grief being the resentment of an evil, that which is proportioned to the evil of Sin must be in∣finite. Now the Lord Christ alone had perfect light to discover Sin in its true horrour, and perfect zeal to hate it according to its nature: for who can understand the excellency of good, and the malig∣nity of evil, but the Author of the one and the Judge of the other? who can fully conceive the guilt of rebellion against God, but the Son of God who is alone able to comprehend his own Majesty? On this account the grief of our Redeemer exceeded all the sorrow of repenting Sinners, from the begin∣ning of the World. For our knowledge is so imper∣fect, and our zeal so remiss, that our grief for sin is much beneath what 'tis worthy of, but sin was as hateful to Christ as it is in it self, and his sorrow was equal to its evil.
Page 1742. The Death he was to suffer, attended with all the Curses of the Law, and the terrible marks of Gods Indignation. From hence 'tis said, he began to be sore amazed and to be very heavy.* 'Tis wonderful that the Son of God, who had perfect patience, and the strength of the Deity to support him, who knew that his Passion should soon pass away, and that the issue should be his own glorious Resurrection and the re∣covery of lapsed Man, that he should be shaken with fear and oppressed with sorrow at the first approches of it: how many of the Martyrs have with an un∣disturbed courage embraced a more cruel death? but to them 'twas disarm'd, whereas our Saviour en∣countered it with all its formidable Pomp, with its Darts and Poison.
3. The Wrath of God was inflamed against him. For although he was perfectly Innocent, and more distant from sin than Heaven is from the Earth, yet by the ordination of God, and his own consent being made our Sponsor,*the Iniquity of us all was laid upon him. He suffered as deeply as if he had been guilty. Vindictive justice was inexorable to his Prayers and Tears. Although he renewed his re∣quest with the greatest ardency, as 'tis said by the Evangelist, that being in an Agony he prayed more earnestly, yet God would not spare him. The Fa∣ther of Mercies saw his Son humbled in his presence, prostrate on the Earth, yet deals with him in ex∣tream severity. He was stricken, smiten of God, and afflicted. And who is able to conceive the weight of God's Hand when he punishes sin according to its desert? who can understand the degrees of those Sufferings when God exacts satisfaction from one that was obliged, and able to make it? how piercing Page 175 were those sorrows whereby Divine Justice, infinite∣ly incens'd, was to be appeas'd? Who knows the consequence of those words, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? 'Tis impossible to comprehend, or represent that great and terrible Mystery. But thus much we may understand, That Holiness and Glory being essential to the Deity, they are commu∣nicated to the Reasonable Nature when united to it; But with this difference, that Holiness necessa∣rily results from Union with God: For Sin being infinitely repugnant to His Nature, makes a Separa∣tion between Him and the creature: But Glory and Joy are dispensed in a free and arbitrary manner. This dereliction of our Saviour must be understood with respect to the second, not the first Communica∣tion. In the extremity of his Torments all his Affections were innocent and regular, being only raised to that degree, which the vehemency of the object required. He exprest no murmur against God, nor anger against his enemies. His Faith, Love, Humility, Patience were then in their Ex∣altation. But that glorious and unspeakable Joy which in the course of his Life the Deity conveyed to Him, was then withdrawn. An impetuous torrent of pure unmixed Sorrows broke into his holy Soul; He felt no refreshing emanations, so that having lost the sense of present Joy, there remained in his Soul only the hope of future Joy. And in that sad moment, his Mind was so intent upon his Sufferings, that he seems to have been diverted from the actual conside∣ration of the Glory that attended the issue of them.
Briefly, All comforting Influences were suspen∣ded, but without prejudice to the Personal Union, or the Perfection of his Grace, or to the Love of his Page 176 Father toward Him. His Soul was liable to sorrows, as his Body to death. For the Deity is the Prin∣ciple of Life as well as of Joy; and as the Body of Christ was three days in the state of Death, and the Hypostatical Union remained entire; so his Soul was left for a time under the fearful impressions of wrath, yet was not separated from the God-head. And although He endured what ever was necessary for the Expiation of Sin, yet all vitious Evils, as Blasphemy, Hatred of God, and any other which are not inflicted by the Judg, but in strictness are accidental to the Punishment, and proceed from the weakness or wickedness of the Patient, he was not in the least guilty of. Besides when his Fa∣ther appear'd an enemy against him, at that time He was infinitely pleased in his Obedience. But with these exceptions our Blessed Lord suffered whatever was due to us.
The Sorrows of his forsaken state were inexpres∣sibly great; for according to the degree and sense we have of Happiness, such in proportion is our grief for the loss of it. Now Christ had the fullest enjoyment, and the highest valuation of Gods favour. His enjoyment was rais'd above what the most glo∣rious Spirits are capable of: All his Faculties were pure and vigorous, never blunted with Sin, and in∣timately united to the Deity. How cutting then was it to his Soul, to be suspended from the per∣fect vision of God? To be divorc'd as it were from himself, and to lose that Paradise He alwaies had within Him? If all the Angels of Light were at once depriv'd of their glory, the loss were not equal to this dreadful eclipse of the Sun of Righ∣teousness: As if all the Stars were extinguisht, the Page 177 darkness would not be so terrible, as if the Sun the fountain of light were put out. Whatever his Sufferings were in kind, yet in degree they were answerable to the full and just desert of Sin, and surpast the power of the Humane or Angelical Na∣ture to endure. In short, His Sorrows were only equall'd by that Love which procured them.
And as the Sufferings infflicted by the hand of God, so the Evils He endured from men, declare the infiniteness of our Redeemers Love to us. For the further discovery of it, 'tis necessary to reflect upon his Death, which is set down by the Apostle as the lowest degree of his Humiliation, in which the succession of all his Bodily Sufferings is included, it being the complement of all. And if we consider the quality of it, the Goodness of our Redeemer will be more visible in his voluntary submission to it. Two Circumstances make the kind of death which is to be suffered, very terrible to us, Ignominy and Torment, and they eminently concur in the Death of the Cross.
1. The greatest Ignominy attended it, and that in the account of God and Men. As honour is in hono∣rante, it depends upon the esteem of others; so infa∣my consists in judgment of others. Now in the acount of the World every Death inflicted for a Crime is attended with disgrace: But that receives its degrees from the manner of it. To be executed privately is a favour, but to be made a spectacle to the multitude, encreases the dishonour of one that suffers. When Death is speedily inflicted, the sence of shame is presently past; but to be exposed to publick view for many Hours, as a Malefactor, whilst the Beholders detest the Crime, and abhor the Page 178 Punishment, is an heavy aggravation of it. Be∣heading which is suddenly dispatcht by a Sword, a military Instrument, and therefore more honourable, was a Priviledg: But to hang on the Cross, was the most conspicuous mark of the publick Justice and Displeasure: a special Infamy was concomitant with it. Among the Jews hanging on a Tree was branded with the Curse: Therefore God comman∣ded that the bodies of those that were hanged on a tree,*should be taken down in the Evening, that the Land might not be defiled with a Curse. And the judgment of other Nations was answerable: for it was only inflicted on the most infamous Offenders,* as Fugi∣tives, Slaves, Thieves, and Traitors, such whom the lowness of their Quality, or the height of their Crimes rendred unworthy of any respect. Hence 'tis, that Cicero to aggravate the Cruelty of Verres in crucifying a Roman Citizen, calls it an unnamed wickedness. No Eloquence could equal the evil of it.
2. The pain of that Death was extreme. The Hands and Feet, those parts wherein the com∣plexion of the Nerves meet, and are of exquisite Sence, were nailed. Crucified persons suffered a slow Death, but quick Torments: They felt them∣selves die. Therefore in pity the Soldiers broke their Legs, to put a period to their Misery. And to compleat their Punishment, they were judg'd unworthy of Burial, the last consolation of the dead; they were deprived of Repose in the bosom of the Earth our common Mother, and exposed as a prey to Birds and Beasts.
Now the Son of God endured no gentler or nobler Death than that of the Cross. His pure and gra∣cious Hands, which were never stretcht out but to Page 179 do good, were pierced;* and those Feet which bore the Redeemer of the World, and for which the Wa∣ters had a reverence, were nail'd. His Body, the precious workmanship of the Holy Ghost, the Tem∣ple of the Deity, was destroyed. He that is the Glo∣ry of Heaven was made the scorn of the Earth: The King of Kings was crucified between two Thieves, in Jerusalem, at their Sacred Feast, in the face of the World. His naked Body was exposed on the Cross for three Hours, only covered with a Veil of Dark∣ness. This was such a stupendious submission of the Son of God, that his Death astonisht the Universe in another manner, than his Birth and Life, his Re∣surrection and Ascension. Universal Nature re∣lented at his last Sufferings. The Sun was struck with horrour and withdrew its light; it did not ap∣pear crown'd with beams, when the Creator was with thorns. The Earth trembled, and the Rocks rent, the most insensible creatures sympathis'd with Him, and 'tis in this we have the most visible instance of Divine Love to us.
The Scripture distinctly represents the Love of God in giving his Son, and the Love of Christ in giving Himself to die for Man, and both require our deepest consideration.
The Father exprest such an excess of Love, that our Saviour himself speaks of it with admiration: God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes on Him should not perish,*but have everlasting Life. If Abraham's resolution to offer his son,* was in the judgment of God a con∣vincing Evidence of his Affection, how much more is the actual sacrificing of Christ the strongest proof of God's Love to us? For God had a higher Page 180 Title to Isaac than Abraham had: The Father of Spirits hath a nearer claim, than the Fathers of the Flesh. Abraham's readiness to offer up his son was Obedience to a Command, not his own choice; 'twas rather an act of Justice than Love, by which he render'd to God what was his own. But God Spared not his own Son in whom he had an Eternal Right: And He was not only free from Obligation, but not sued to for our Salvation in that wonderful way. For what Love of Men, or of the most cha∣ritable Spirits in Heaven could have conceived such a thought, that the Son of God should die for our Redemption? It had been an impious Blasphemy to have desired it; so that Christ is the most absolute gift of God to us. Besides, The love of Abraham is to be measured by the Reasons that might excite it; For according to the amiableness of the object, so much greater is the love that gives it. Many endearing cirumstances made Isaac the joy of his fa∣ther, yet at the best he was an imprafect mortal crea∣ture, so that but a moderate affection was regularly due to him. Whereas our Redeemer was not a meer Man, or an Angel, but God's only begotten Son, which Title signifies his unity with him in his state and perfections, and according to the Excel∣lency of his Nature such is his Fathers Love to him. In this was manifested the Love of God to us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world,*that we might live through Him. The Love of God in all temporal blessings is but faint in the comparison with the Love that is exprest in our Redeemer. As much as the Creator exceeds the creature, the gift of Christ is above the gift of the whole world. Herein is Love, saith the Apostle, that is the clearest and Page 181 highest expression of it that can be, God sent his Son to be a Propitiation for our Sins. The Wisdom and Power of God never acted to the utmost of their efficacy; he could frame a more Glorious World, but the Love of God cannot in a higher degree be exprest. As the Apostle to set forth how sacred and inviolable Gods promise is, saith,* that because he could swear by no greater, he sware by himself; so when he would give the most excellent testimony of his fa∣vour to mankind, he gave his Eternal Son, the Heir of his Love and Blessedness. The giving of Heaven it self with all its Joys and Glory, is not so perfect and full a demonstration of the Love of God, as the giving of his Son to die for us.
According to the rule of common esteem, a grea∣ter Love was exprest to wretched Man, than to Christ himself: for we expend things less valuable for those that are more precious; so that God in gi∣ving him to die for us, declar'd that our Salvation was more dear to him then the life of his only Son. When no meaner Ransom than the Blood Royal of Heaven could purchase our Redemption, God de∣lighted in the expence of that sacred Treasure for us. It pleased the Lord to bruise him.* Though the Death of Christ absolutely consider'd was the high∣est provocation of God's displeasure, and brought the greatest guilt upon the Jews, for which Wrath came upon them to the uttermost; yet in respect of the end, namely the Salvation of Men, 'twas the most greatful Offering to him,*a Sacrifice of a sweet smel∣ling savour. This is an endearing circumstance of Gods Love to us. God repented that he made Man, but never that he redeem'd him.
And as the Love of the Father, so the Love of Page 182 Christ appears in a superlative manner in dying for us.*Greater Love hath no Man than this, that a Man lay down his life for his Friend. There is no kind of Love that exceeds the affection which is exprest in dying for another: but there are diverse degrees of it: and the highest is to die for our enemies. The Apostle saith,*perhaps for a good man some would dare to die. 'Tis possible gratitude may prevail upon one who is under strong obligations, to die for his bene∣factor. Or some may from a generous principle be willing with the loss of their lives to preserve one, who is a general and publick good. But this is a rare, and almost incredible thing. 'Tis recorded as a miraculous instance of the power of Love, that the two Sicilian Philosophers Damon, and Pithias, each had courage to die for his Friend. For one of them being condemn'd to die by the Tyrant, and de∣siring to give the last farewel to his Family, his Friend entered into Prison as his Surety to die for him, if he did not return at the appointed time. And he came to the amazement of all, that expected the issue of such a hazardous caution. Yet in this example there seems to be in the Second such a confidence of the fi∣delity of the first, that he was assured he should not die in being a pledge for him: and in the first 'twas not meer friendship, or sense of the obligation, but the regard of his own honour that made him rescue his Friend from Death. And if Love were the sole motive, yet the highest expression of it was to part with a short life, which in a little time must have been resigned by the order of nature. But the Love of our Saviour was so pure and great, there can be no resemblance, much less any parallel of it. For he was perfectly Holy, and so the priviledge of im∣mortality Page 183 was due to him, and his life was infinitely more precious than the lives of Angels and Men, yet he laid it down and submitted to a cursed Death, and to that which was infinitely more bitter, the Wrath of God. And all this for sinful men, who were under the just and heavy displeasure of the Almigh∣ty. He loved us, and gave himself for us: If he had only interposed as an Advocate to speak for us,* or only had acted for our recovery,* his Love had been admirable; but he suffered for us. He is not only our Mediator, but Redeemer; not only Redeemer, but Ransom.
'Twas excellent goodness in David, when he saw the destruction of his People, to offer Himself and Family as a Sacrifice to avert the Wrath of God from them.* But his pride was the cause of the Judgment, whereas our Redeemer was perfectly in∣nocent. David interceeded for his Subjects, Christ for his Enemies. He receiv'd the Arrows of the Almighty into his Breast to shelter us.*He bore our griefs, and carried our sorrows, he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquites, the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. Among the Romans the Des∣potick power was so terrible, that if a slave had at∣temped upon the Life of his Master, all the rest had been crucified with the guilty person. But our gra∣cious Master dyed for his slaves who had conspir'd against him. He shed his Blood for those who spilt it.
And the readiness of our Lord to save us, though by the sharpest sufferings, magnifies his Love. When the richest Sacrifices under the Law were insufficient to take away sin, and no lower price then the blood of Page 184 God could obtain our pardon, upon his entering in∣to the World to excute that wonderful Commissi∣on which cost him his Life, with what ardour of af∣fection did he undertake it!*Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. When Peter from carnal affection deprecated his sufferings, Master spare thy self, he who was in∣carnate goodness, and never quench'd the smoking flax,* expresses the same indignation against him, Get thee behind me Satan, as he did formerly against the Devil tempting to worship him. He esteemed him the worst adversary that would divert him from his Sufferings: He long'd for the Baptism of his Blood. And when Death was in his view with all the cir∣cumstances of terrour, and the supreme Judge stood before him ready to inflict the just punishment of sin, though the apprehension of it was so dreadful that he could scarce live under it, yet he resolved to ac∣complish his Work. Our Salvation was amiable to him in his Agony. This is specially observed by the Evangelist,*that Jesus having loved his own, he loved them to the end. When the Souldiers came to seize upon him, though by one word he could have commanded Legions of Angels for his rescue, yet he yeilded up himself to their Cruelty: 'Twas not any defect of power, but the strength of his Love that made him to suffer. He was willing to be Cruci∣fied, that we might be Glorified: our Redemption was sweeter to him, than Death was bitter, by which it was to be obtained. 'Twas excellently said by Pherecides,* that God transformed himself into Love when he made the World: but with greater reason 'tis said by the Apostle, God is Love, when he redeemed it. 'Twas Love that by a miraculous condescension took our Nature, accomplishing the Page 185 desire of the mystical Spouse,*Let him kiss me with the kisses of his Mouth: 'Twas Love that stoop't to the form of a Servant, and led a poor despised life here below; 'Twas Love that endur'd a Death nei∣ther easie, nor honourable, but most unworthy the glory of the Divine, and the innocency of the Hu∣mane nature. Love chose to die on the Cross, that we might live in Heaven, rather than to en∣joy that blessedness, and leave Mankind in mise∣ry.