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to sacrifice for: whether justly or not, we cannot determine; our Saviour does not; but if it were just, surely it was very tragical and severe, suitable to that character Philo gives of his disposition who acted it. The straining of justice commonly breaks it: a little on the other side, is doubtless, of the two, the safer extreme.
However, this stroke and all others, as they come from the supreme Hand, are righteous. Whatsoever be the temper or intent of the lower actor, and whatsover be the nature of the action as from him, the sovereign hand of God is in them, and chief in them. Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it? And yet all evils, as he doth them, are both good and well done. Actions, whether voluntary or casual, as these two here, yet do powerfully issue from the first Being and Worker, and, as they are from him, are both unalterably certain and unquestionably just. Thus they who here report it, seem to have judged of this passage, that it was a just punishment of sin. And our Saviour contests not about that, but rather seems to agree with them so far, and draws a warning out of it: he only corrects the misconceit it seems they were in, in thrusting it too far off from themselves, and throwing it too heavily upon those who sacrificed.
Think ye that they were sinners? Though it were an error to think that all temporal evils are intended of God as punishments of some particular guiltiness, and so to be taken as infallibly concluding against either persons or causes as evil, yet certainly the hand of God, either upon ourselves or others, is wisely to be considered, and it will very often be found a punishment pointing to the sin. And it is certainly an argument of very great stiffness and pride of heart, not to observe and acknowledge it, and a sure presage either of utter ruin, or, at least, of a heavier stroke. Any one who is set against the Lord and will not be humbled, whether by what he sees on others or what he feels on himself, shall find he hath an overmatch to deal with, that will either bow him or break him. Lord, when thy hand is lifted up, they will not see ; but they shall see and be ashamed for their envy at the people ; yea, the fire of thine cnemies shall devour them, Isa. xxvi, 11.
Think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt at Jerusalem ? Our Saviour goes not to search into the quarrel, and to condemn or justify either the one party or the other; that was not for his purpose. His aim was, to rectify the mistake of those he spoke to, and to draw forth their own relation what was most proper for their use. Much of our hearing and telling of news, hath little of this in it; and with most persons it doth not relish to wind things that way. Some, even good persons, do accustom themselves to, and take too much liberty in, an empty fruitless way of entertainment of this kind. And if we make any remark, it commonly keeps abroad, comes not home to ourselves. Be it a judgment, be the persons great sinners in a sinful course, yet they are not always the greatest of all because they suffer and others escape, as we readily think, and the Jews here concluded concerning those Galileans.
God is to be adored and reverenced, who useth his own freedom in this; he does injustice to none, yet chooses them on whom he will do exemplary justice, and whom he will let pass, and gives not account of this to any. Some less wicked have been ensamples to them who were much more wicked than they.
Do not flatter yourselves in the conceit of exemption from some stroke which others in the same way with you have fallen under, or even from some course which others have run and smarted in, and bear yourselves big upon the name of God's people. But tremble before the Lord, and search your own hearts. And let us think, though we may not be guilty of such public scandalous evils as others fall into and are punished for, yet, how full are we of secret malice, pride, and lust; and let us wonder at the patience of God to ourselves, while multitudes have been swept away round about us, Think
you who have died by sword or pestilence of late, were greater sinners than we who are left behind ? O no! but except we repent, we shall all likewise perish. Enough of these arrows are still in God's arsenal, and though he use not these to us, yet remember, death, and judgment, and eternity, are before us; and they call for wise and speedy consideration and repentance.
that they O you who go on in your transgressions after all that is come upon us, who were drunkards and swearers, and are so yet, what think you ? Because the heat of public judgments is abated, is there no more fear? Have you made a covenant with hell and death, and gained quarter of them, that they will not seize on you? O that will never hold! They will not, they cannot keep from you. And if you hold on your course, when the day of visitation shall come, how much heavier shall it be by all this forbearance! You shall wish you had been cut off with the first. The day is at hand, when it shall be easier for them than for you. Only the advantage is, , that there is an exception yet sounding in your ears; Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.
I beseech you, my brethren, enter into your own hearts, and be not always out of yourselves, and so, out of your wits. Consider the Lord's way and your own, and wonder at his goodness. Why am not I made an example to others, as well as so many have been made examples to me? Now let me fall down at his feet, and beg of him, that as he hath not made me an example of justice all this while, he may now make me an example of mercy and grace
to all that shall look on me. Our Saviour to their reported instance adds another himself, which was no doubt late and recent with them, to the same purpose and in the same strain; Think
that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem ? I tell you, nay; but except ye repent ; ye shall all likewise perish; not just after the same particular manner, but the likeness is in perishing-You shall as certainly perish as they are perished. And this, to many impenitent sinners, is verified in their being cut off, even by some temporal judgment, after long-abused forbearance, and often very like those they have seen instances of and would not be warned by. Thus it was fulfilled to many of the Jews, in the death of many thousands of them, and the destruction of their city by the Romans, in which there was much likeness with the two explanatory judgments here mentioned. But the universal and far more dismal perishing of unrepenting sinners, is that death which lies unseen on the other side of that death we see and are so
afraid to look on. O saw we the other, this would appear nothing: it would be the only terrible of all terribles indeed. And how terrible soever, it is the unfailing attendant of impenitence. These God hath linked together, and no creature can sever them-continuance in sin and perishing-repentance and life. It is faith indeed, that lays hold on our pardon and life in Christ, and by that we are justified and saved; yet so as this is still true, so that the other no wise crosses it, that there is no life without repentance.
And this wrongs not the gospel at all, to preach and profess repentance; yea, it is a prime point of preaching the gospel. And here we find the great Preacher of the gospel, who is himself the great substance and subject of the gospel, this is his doctrine, Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. There is no right preaching of the gospel, but the doctrine of re, pentance must be in it: the drawing and turning of the soul to God, from whom it is gone out by sin, this the gospel aims at. And there is no right preaching of repentance without the gospel. The law indeed discovers sin, but that is not enough to work repentance : for that, there must be a door of hope opened to a sinner, at which he may come in, hoping to be pardoned and accepted upon returning and submitting. This the gospel only does. And whensoever the prophets preached repent
was somewhat that always expressed or imported the notion of the gospel, God declaring himself reconciled, ready to forgive and receive him.
Now, not to speak of the nature of repentance which here were pertinent, I shall only desire you to seek to know the nature of it, by feeling the power of it within you. O happy they that do! Were the sweetness of it known, we might persuade most by that; but that cannot be known, till we be persuaded and brought to repentance-the delight there is in those tears, the pleasure in crucifying sin, even the most pleasant sins. The soul, then in its right motion when turning towards God, finds itself moved sweetly; but it is thrown, and distorted, and disappointed, in turning from him and following sinful lusts. But here necessity is the argument, the highest necessity. If it may be necessary for you not to perish,
then is it necessary
you to repent. Had any of you an ulcer, though painful to be lanced, yet if told it must be, else you
would die, that would make a man call for it and entreat it. Lord, what is the madness of the minds of men! Do we believe that there is such a thing after all that is here, as perishing and being saved, eternal death and eternal life? and can we think on any thing else, so as to forget these, or to be negligent and unresolved concerning them, and yet, eat and please the flesh, and seek to make other things sure, and leave these to their hazard ? The God who made your hearts, persuade them; for who else can?
The parable that follows, teaches the same doctrine of repentance, and that upon the motive of patience and forbearance. He spake also this parable ; A certain man had a fig-tree planted in his vineyard. Particulars should not be overstrained and squeezed for morality. The main is, Gud's dispensation, and his expectation in his orchard, the church.
Our Saviour is much in this way of teaching. He calls in natural things to serve spiritual ends; and so all are fit to do, had we the faculty to extract it. A spiritual mind draws that which is symbolical with it, out of all. Such inay fruitfully walk in gardens and orchards, and feed on the best, though they stir nothing. The great Lord is himself the planter of his vineyard ; his own hand sets each tree. And the soil is fruitful; there is sap and moisture. This is to be understood of his visible church and ordinances; for the planting here signifies that. Christians are often compared to things living, growing, and fruitful; as to the vine and fig tree. There is bigh engagement to be so, and real Christians are truly so.
And he sought fruit thereon. Good reason had he so to do, having so planted it. Those trees which are left wild in the barren wilderness, no fruit is to be expected on them ; at least no gardeu fruit, such as grows in the garden of God. Some natures have some kind of fruit and some sweeter than others, but they are but wild figs. God's delight is to come into his garden, and there eat his pleasant fruits. Natural men may, after their fashion, be temperate, and patient, and charitable ; but to believe on God, and love him above themselves, and from such principles to do all they do, this is not to be expected.