« PreviousContinue »
her companions retired, she remained at the grave, and resolved either to find him, or to pass the day in devotion and tears.
But all the apostles (except Peter and John) shut themselves up in a chamber, for fear of the Jews; that cowardly passion, that persuaded them to abandon their Mafter at his sufferings, forced them to abfcond after the scene was over ; so that they durst not approach the sepulchre ; nay, when they were assured by Mary Magdalen, that she had seen our Lord, they received the news as a dream, and gave no credit to her report.
This shews the difference between two classes 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 shame, and the bugbear of human respects. Penetrated with a true fense of their duty, they resolve to comply with it in spite of danger and opposition, and persuade themselves they gain, tho' they lose their lives in his service ; to these he will certainly appear by his grace, accompanied with all those favours, that
upon it, a calm conscience, an interior fatisfaction, that can only be express’d by those who feel it: or, if he defers his visit, it is only to try their patience, and to crown their perseverance. Magdalen, by staying at our Saviour's fepulchre, found him, when she thought him loft, and pass'd in a moment from the despair of seeing him unto the fatisfaction of enjoying his presence.
But thofe, who are more concernd for themselves than the discharge of their duty to God; who act out of fear of his justice, rather than a motive of love, meet not with the same blessing;
if they do, it is very late, and the mere effect of God's goodness : for fear is a kind of a Navish passion, and an unfit motive for a Christian, who
wait upon it,
serves not a tyrant, but a Father, that deserves our whole heart for what he has done to expiate our sins, for what he has prepared to recompense cur virtues, and a thoufand hearts for his own perfections. I know indeed, it is not evil to fear God: we are assured by the Holy Ghost, that the beginning of wisdom is to fear him, Ecclus. i. 16. and in a hundred places of holy writ, we are commanded to dread his Majesty, and to observe his law, out of a fear of his justice : but however, this reaches not the perfection nor the obligation of Christianity, which requires love, as St. Paul assures us, Love is the fulfilling of the law, Rom. xiii. 10.
Our Saviour, appearing to his apostles, neither discourses of the pains he had suffered, nor the cruelty of the Jews, by whose rage and malice he suffered, 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 persecute us, nor of our friends who abandon us; we must leave our cause to God, who will defend our innocence, and in due time punish the cruelty of those, and the ingratitude of these. In the very extremity of his sufferings, our Saviour neither complained of the injustice of those who condemned him, nor of the cruelty of those who tormented him ; but, on the very cross, excused their barbarity, and sued for their pardon; nor has he only taught us this lesson by his practice, but has also left it as a command in his gospel.
Pray for them, says he, which persecute you, Matth. v. 44. return good for evil, and bless those who curse you ; fo that it is so far from being lawful for Christians to complain, or to speak
evil of their persecutors, that, when it is not in their power to benefit them by their actions, they must at least by their prayers.
He saluted his disciples with a Peace be unto you, and immediately shewed them his hands and feet, that, by beholding those wounds, they might be convinced, the same body that suffered on the cross stood before them, and consequently that there was no room left to doubt of his resurrection, 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 resurrection, but also as an eternal monument of his charity to man, as continua! motives of joy to the saints, and of torment to the damned.
Besides, 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 just ; and can he plead more emphatically, than by fhewing those wounds he received for their redemption, those channels, that let out the last drop of his precious blood, which his Father accepted, and he paid as a juft, nay, a superabundant ransom? What grace may not a finner expect from so bountiful, so loving a Father, when ask'd by so loving a Son, who carried his obedience to the torture, and abased his Majesty to the ignominy of the cross ?
In fine, he left his sacred wounds, wide open, for a sanctuary to the afflicted, and a safe retreat to those, who are affailed by the devil. Who can repine at sufferings, when he beholds these marks of Christ's torments? or murmur against the ingratitude of friends, or the violence of enemies, when he contemplates those bloody witnesses of both in his Redeemer's body? The bare fight of these wounds, tho' glorious, manifests the hei
nousness of sin, which gave them; and consequently the folly of those, who, for a petty interest or a small fatisfaction, fall into a crime that may indeed be canceld by a serious repentance, and will perchance be eternally punish'd with fire and brimstone. Oh, did we but caft an eye upon thofe wounds, and soberly consider that sin caused them, and that God received them, we should never yield to a criminal suggestion, nor pawn our innocence for a guilty pleasure.
When our Saviour had proved his Divinity by all the evidence sense is capable of, or reason could require, he breathed upon them, and said to them; Receive ye the Holy Ghost : whose foever fins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whole foever fins ye retain, they are retained.
I will not here enter upon a controversial difcussion of the text ; for indeed it is too clear to need a comment : here is given to the apostles, and, in them, to their successors, a power of forgiving fins (when the penitent is rightly disposed) by absolution : Whose foever fins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose foever fins ye retain, they are retained. But, as he has impowered priests, on the one side, to absolve ; fo he lays the finner under an obligation to repent of his sins, with a true and sincere sorrow ; for, without repentance, there can be no absolution,
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 sincere resolution to live a dutiful and obedient subject for the future ? yet God only requires this of a sinner. The easy task of repentance and amendment, on our side, will secure us pardon, and even reward, on his.
I. EPISTLE of St. Peter, Chap. ii. Verse
21. For even hereunto were ye called : because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye Mould follow his steps.
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 bimself to him that judgeth righteously ;
24. Who his own self bare our fins in his own body on the tree, that we being dead to fin, should live unto righteousness : by whose fripes je were healed.
25. For je were as sheep going astray ; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your Jouls.
The MORAL REFLECTION.
T is an article of our faith, that Christ died
for our fins ; nor is it less sure that he lived for our instruction. He gave us a right to heaven by his death, and he shewed us the way to it by his life. Christ suffered for us (says St. Peter) leaving us an example: as if he should say ; 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 those virtues our Saviour practised, to infinuate, that we must copy the original, to partake of his glory.
And first, Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example. These words teach us a truth of the highest importance, viz. that it is the duty of a Christi
an to Hy a soft, effeminate, life, and rather to cruçify the Aesh, than pamper it: he must not swim