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We must die, and meet our God, alone: our neighbor will not be there to help. The only help we can have, then, must come from our Judge and Savior himself : in whose merits we can have no part, except we take him at his own word, and try in earnest to have root in ourselves.
THE WORLD'S CONDUCT TO THE MAN OF SORROWS.
PREACHED ON GOOD FRIDAY.
ISAIAH lüïi. 3.
“He was despised and rejected of men ; a man of sorrows, and acquaint
ed with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him : he was despis ed, and we esteemed him not."
THERE is not a verse of this chapter of Isaiah at which one might not very well begin, as St. Philip the Evangelist once did to the Eunuch, and preach the whole doctrine of Christ crucified. As it was in the counsels of Almighty God, that his blessed Son should endure for our behalf all the various afflictions which we have deserved, so this famous prophecy touches one after another the several sorrows which he endured. It speaks of his intense bodily pain : “He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities.” It speaks again of the grievous oppression, the wrong, injustice, undeserved ill-usage, which he had to sustain. “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he
was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before the shearers is dumb, so opened he not his mouth. And here, in the beginning of the prophecy, mention is particularly made of that which was the root of all the rest, and which many persons would feel as the bitterest of all; his being despised and scorned. “He shall grow up before God as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; there is no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and we hid
as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
Now this is a prophecy, first and chiefly, of what our gracious Lord was to suffer in his own proper person. He was to be a man of sorrows, and because of his sorrows he was to be despised. Such is the pride and bitterness of our sinful nature, ever since the fall of our first parents; which began with the lust of the eyes, Eve indulging herself with the sight of the forbidden fruit ; and which has gone on ever since, men refusing in general so much as to look at the afflicted, “hiding, as it were, their faces" from them, because such sights interrupt their enjoyments and satisfactions.
Something of this kind we may every day behold, in the behavior of those who are at all hardened by the world toward the afflicted and low-spirited, when they come in their way. They may feel, indeed, some touch of natural pity, but far less than they ought to feel, far less than they used to feel, when they were younger, and before they were spoiled by long indulgence of selfishness. As it is, what are we to think of the ordinary behavior of persons in high health toward the sick, of flourishing persons toward the disappointed, of high-spirited and cheerful persons toward the feeble and dejected ? People like to go on cheerfully and freely in their full relish for the pastimes or employments of the day ; and it vexes them to be intruded upon by ill news and melancholy looks. Accordingly, do we not see a great deal of what one may truly call “ hiding as it were their faces away?” as if the very sight of the afflicted were a rude interruption of men's pleasu
sure or business; as if God dealt hardly with them, to put them in mind of their own corruption and frailty, by throwing such sights in their way.
Now then, if ever you feel disposed in this manner to turn away from the afflicted, you will do well to check yourself with the question : “Am I not, in fact, behaving as the Jews did, when they turned away from our Savior ?"
“He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and therefore they hid as it were their faces from him.” Surely if we hide our face, peevishly or contemptuous
ly, from any one of his afflicted and poor people; if we are impatient and displeased with everything, except what encourages our mirth, or what helps us in our day's work; we have every reason to think that we too should have hidden our faces from our Savior, had we known him in the flesh: we should have been impatient and displeased, at being called on to look off our business or our diversion, toward a person so lowly and little esteem. ed, so very full of infirmities and sufferings. The his. tory of our Lord's life and death is full of instances of this sort of temper; but none perhaps so remarkable as in the case of the two theives who were crucified by his side. Even in the very agony of their own death, and that the most painful and shameful of deaths, both of them at first, and one as it should seem to the end, could find it in their hearts to revile our Lord for his sufferings. "If thou be Christ,” they tauntingly said,
save thyself and us.” They cast in his teeth the same reproach as the haughty Roman soldiers and self-satisfied Pharisees did: “He saved others, himself he cannot save. These dying and blaspheming malefactors were the very type of the world's proud and cruel nature, rejecting and disdaining all fellowship with the poor and afflicted, and refusing to be saved by sufferings, even the sufferings of Jesus Christ.
But secondly, the prophecy of the Man of sorrows relates to the faith and religion, as well as to the person of Jesus Christ, I mean, that it represents to us not only the way in which both Jew and Gentile would treat him while in sight of men, but also the way in which both then and ever after the world would receive the preaching of his holy cross. The preaching of the cross is, in short, this: that the arm of the Lord, his saving power and mercy, is revealed from heaven in the person of Jesus Christ, his only Son and Word, of one substance with the Father, who was pleased to take upon
himself our nature in the womb of the blessed virgin, becoming very man as we are ; and did, in due time, offer up him. self a sacrifice and atonement for all our sins; so that no transgressor can be forgiven or obtain a blessing from God, but through him, our only mediator; and that the way to come to him, and be forgiven and blessed, is, as he said, to take up his cross, that is, to follow the example of his sacrifice. This is the preaching of the cross, and in both its parts it is most contrary to the mind of this world. The world, in the first instance, cannot bear to acknowledge that itself is unworthy of any blessing-any good thing at all ;—and that, in order to redeem it, such a deep and wonderful plan, such a condescension on God's part was unnecessary. Especially those who are at all worldly-wise, are ever set against a plan which seems to them so very strange, so very unlike what they had expected. Thus it was in the days of our Savior: his cross proved, to both Jew and Gentile, the bitterest of all disappointments. The Jew was forced to give up at once his proud imagination of being one of a people who were to be lords over the whole world, and to have their fill of pleasure and grandeur in the kingdom of an earthly Christ. The wise men of the Gentiles were forced to give up their haughty schemes of setting all things right by their own wisdom and goodness. Both Jew and Gentile, on becoming Christians, had to renounce what they naturally loved to give up pleasing themselves; and to embrace what they naturally abhorred-self-denial, mortification, patience, humility; very often pain, poverty, separation from dear friends, imprisonment, and death itself. For these reasons, when first the gospel appeared, the whole world was set against it ; and why? because it was the gospel of the cross. Because it was a gospel “ of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;" therefore it was generally "despised and rejected of men."
Thus it was in the beginning of Christain faith; men were actual unbelievers in our crucified Redeemer. They sought and found one excuse after another for continuing as they were, Pagans and Jews, instead of humbly bowing down every thought into captivity to the obedi. ence of Christ. Those days are over : the power and wisdom of God has proved too strong for the selfish pride of man. Even the worldly-wise, in despite of