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SUMMARY OF DISCOURSE XLII.
ISAIAH, CHAP. LIII.-VERSE 3.
OUR Saviour's words, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, may be very properly applied by us, to direct our devotion on the day of his crucifixion: it is a day of sorrow and mourning, not for his sake, who is crowned with honor and glory; but for us, whose sins occasioned him to suffer. The consideration of his unbounded love towards us, and our own carelessness and indifference in availing ourselves of the salvation purchased by his sufferings, will show us where the true cause of our grief lies, and that instead of venting our indignation against the ancient crucifiers of our Saviour, we ought to turn it against ourselves, who are daily crucifying him afresh. The reflexions suggested by the description in the text, will teach us to admire the unbounded goodness of our Redeemer, and to weep only for ourselves. The prophecy in the text remarkable as containing a general. description of Christ's condition during his abode on earth. The great goodness of God in warning us by the spirit of prophecy of the mean appearance of our Redeemer is shown: his poverty thus became a proof of his authority; and had he not in the lowness of his condition answered his description in the text, we could not have believed him to be the glorious Redeemer foretold by Isaiah, to be despised and rejected of men. A consideration of Christ's sufferings therefore is calculated not only to increase our love, but to strengthen our faith. Our attention is called to three points on this subject: I. God's wisdom and goodness in sending his son into the world in a state of poverty and
II. the evidence of prophecy, that he should so appear in the fulness of time: III. the historical evidence that he did so appear, and that in him the prophecies were fulfilled. I. The sufferings of Christ are often insisted on by the sacred writers as an evidence of God's mercy towards mankind: see Rom. viii. 32. and v. 8; also 1st Ep. of John iii. 16., and our Saviour's own words in John xv. 13. Though we may not be able to see clearly the reasons that made it necessary for Christ to die that the world might live, yet it is plain his sufferings were on our account; and they show how much our salvation was the care of heaven: it would therefore argue great perverseness of mind, if, hardening our hearts against this goodness, we should busy ourselves with curious inquiries into the hidden mysteries of Providence, and shut our eyes and hearts against the impressions of his love and of our duty. That God's goodness is made plain to us in the death of Christ, is the only knowlege requisite for our salvation; and if we would be encouraged in the practice of virtue by the hope of God's aid, or be comforted in repentance by his promise to receive us, we may learn to reason of St. Paul, Rom. viii. 32. Our knowlege therefore is clear and distinct, as far as we are concerned to go. Many wise ends of Providence are to be discerned by a consideration of Christ's sufferings with respect to ourselves. First, with regard to his being a teacher, his sufferings set him above the reach of suspicions. Our Lord and his disciples met with nothing but misery and affliction. Had he come as a temporal prince, we might have suspected his cunning and policy; but the gospel now stands clear of this objection. Secondly, with regard to our Lord's being an example of holiness and obedience, set before us for our instruction and imitation, his sufferings render the pattern perfect had he lived in worldly prosperity, the example of his virtues, however conspicuous, would have extended but a little way. The poor, though they might have upbraided the rich
for not following his example, would have thought their poverty a sufficient excuse for not attempting it themselves: but now there is no pretence left for any mortal. Thirdly, with regard to his divine mission, his sufferings were an evident token that the hand of God was with him. He only can confound the mighty things of the world by things of no account; and we have here the instance of a weak poor man, oppressed by a whole nation, and yet enabled to withstand it: yet when his time was come, he fell an easy victim. Had the prophets foretold that a great man should do great things, at his appearance it might have been doubted whether he was the person foretold, or whether his deeds were not the common effect of that might and power with which he was armed: but when they declared that these mighty deeds should be accomplished by our Saviour in his character described by the text, no doubt could arise. Our Lord would easily be distinguished by the greatness of his works and the meanness of his condition; and this leads, II. to the consideration of the evidence of prophecy concerning the mean appearance which our Lord was to make. The 53rd chapter of Isaiah so fully describes this part of our Saviour's character, that it looks more like a history than a prophecy; yet it was in being long before our Lord was born, and was in the keeping of his enemies, who were at once the preservers and the fulfillers of it: yet contrast this with the description before given of him in Isaiah ix. 6. and again in liii. 11., and how are we to reconcile these contradictions? It is answered, that we must search the gospel there we shall find our Lord despised and rejected of men, persecuted and afflicted, yet rising to honor and glory; ascending to the glory of his Father, giving gifts unto men, and leading captivity captive. III. The historical evidence for the completion of these prophecies relating to the calamitous condition of our blessed Redeemer, is considered. The way was prepared before he was born: his conception led to
it and so it proved. The mighty Prince of Peace made his first appearance in a manger: his life was sought after as soon as he was born, and his parents were obliged to fly with him into banishment to save it. His youth was spent in the difficulties of poverty, and during his ministry he had not where to lay his head. The unbelieving Jews, when he healed the sick, cast out devils, or forgave sins, accused him of the greatest crimes. As the time of his being offered up drew near, all things conspired to make his death bitter and terrifying. He was betrayed by one of his chosen twelve, and the rest after his agony forsook him. He was afterwards carried to judgment, mocked, buffeted, spit on; and a murderer was chosen to be released in his stead: thus was he despised and rejected of men; but neither the pangs of the cross, his mental sufferings, nor the malice and scorn of his crucifiers, made him for one moment forget his love and tenderness towards them: with his latest breath he begged for their forgiveness. We must now close this scene, and ask with the Psalmist, what reward shall I give unto the Lord? &c. Let us also answer in his words: I will receive the cup of salvation, and call on his name. We have nothing to return but our love and obedience. Let us not again crucify Christ by our iniquities, but let us arise to a new life of righteousness in him; that when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, we may also appear with him in glory.
ISAIAH, CHAP. LIII.-VERSE 3.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
WHEN our Lord was led away to be crucified, and the women bewailed and lamented his misery, he turned about to them, and said, 'Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves;' words which we may very properly apply to ourselves for the direction of our devotion on this day of his crucifixion: a day it is of sorrow and mourning, but not for his sake, who, crowned with glory and honor, is set down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; but for our own, whose sins brought down this load of woe and of misery on our blessed Redeemer. If we consider with how unbounded a love he embraced us in our lowest state of weakness, and with how cool an affection we daily approach to him; how much he gladly endured on our account, and how unwillingly we suffer any thing on his; if we reflect how earnestly he labored to save our souls, and how carelessly and wantonly we throw them away; what pains and sorrows he underwent to perfect our redemption, and to what empty pleasures we sacrifice all his sufferings, and our own eternal happiness, it will show us where the true cause of our grief lies, and how vainly we compliment our Lord, by venting our indignation against his ancient crucifiers, which ought to be spent on ourselves, who are daily renewing his shame, and crucifying him afresh.'
Whilst therefore I represent unto you this scene of woe, and endeavor to place before you 'this man of sorrow, acquainted with grief,' let every Christian heart supply this necessary admonition, All this he suffered for my sake: then cast one look