صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

tions and sufferings. The head having passed through them, there is a measure of afflictions belonging unto the body, which every member is to bear his share of, Col. ii. 24. And the Lord Jesus himself hath given this law unto us, that every one who will be his disciple must take up his cross and follow him. Dis. cipleship and the cross are inseparably knit together, by the unchangeable law and constitution of Christ himself. And the gospel is full of warnings and instructions to this purpose ; that none may complain that they were surprised, or that any thing did befal them in the course of their profession which they looked not for. Men may deceive themselves with vain hopes and expectations, but the gospel deceiveth none; it tells them plainly before-hand, that through many tribulations they must enter into the kingdom of God; and that they who will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. If they like not of these terms, they may let the way of Christ alone ; if they will not do so, why do they yet complain? Christ will be taken with his cross, or not at all. And the folly of our hearts can never be enough bewailed, in thinking strange of trials and afflictions; when the very first thing that the Lord Christ requireth of them that will be made partakers of him, is, that they deny themselves, and take up their cross. But we would be children, and not be chastised; we would be gold, and not be tried; we would overcome, and yet not be put to fight and contend; we would be Christians, and not suffer. But all these things are contrary to the eternal law of our profession. And so necessary is this way made, that though God deal with his people in great variety, exercising some with such trials and troubles, that others sometimes in comparison of them seem utterly to go free, yet every one, one way or other, shall have his share and measure. And those exceptions that are made in the providence of God, as to some individual persons at some seasons, derogate nothing from the general necessity of the way towards all that do believe.

Secondly, It hath made all sufferings for the gospel honourable. The sufferings of Christ himself were indeed shameful, and that not only in the estcem of men, but also in the nature of them, and by God's constitution. They were part of the curse, “ As it is written, Cursed is he that hangs upon a trec." And as such our Lord Jesus Christ looked on them, when he wrestled with and conquered the shame as well as the sharpness. But he hath rendered all the sufferings of his that remain, very honourable in themselves, whatever they are in the reputation of a blind perishing world. That which is truly shameful in suffering, is an effect of the curse for sin. This Christ by his suffering hath utterly separated from the sufferings of his disciples. Hence the apostles rejoiced that they had the honour to suffer

shame for his name, Acts v. 41. that is, the things which the world looked on as shameful, but themselves knew to be honourable. They are so in the sight of God, of the Lord Jesus Christ, of all the holy angels, who are competent judges in this case. God hath a great cause in the world, and that such a one as wherein his name, his goodness, his love, his glory is concerned ; this in his infinite wisdom is to be witnessed, confirmed, testified unto by sufferings. Now can there be any greater honour done unto any of the sons of men, than that God should single them out from among the rest of mankind, and appoint them unto this work? Men are honoured according to their riches and treasures. And when Moses came to make a right judgment concerning this thing, he esteemed the “ reproach of Christ greater riches than all the treasures of Egypt,” Heb. xi. 26. We believe that God gave great honour unto the apostles and martyrs of old in all their sufferings. Let us labour for the same spirit of faith in reference unto ourselves, and it will relieve us under all our trials. This then also hath Christ added unto the way of sufferings, by his consecration of it for us. All the glory and honour of the world is not to be compared with theirs, unto whom it is “ given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him," Philip. i. 29. 1 Pet. iv. 14–16.

Thirdly, He hath thereby made them useful and profitable. Troubles and afflictions in themselves and their own nature have no good in them, nor do they tend unto any good end: they grow out of the first sentence against sin, and are in their own nature penal, tending unto death, and nothing else. Nor are they in those who have no interest in Christ, any thing but ef. fects of the wrath of God. But the Lord Christ, by his consecrạting of them, to be the way of our following him, hath quite altered their nature and tendency; he hath made them good, useful and profitable.. I shall not here shew the usefulness of afflictions and sufferings; the whole Scripture abundantly testifieth unto it, and the experience of believers in all ages and seasons confirms it. I only shew whence it is that they become so, and that is, because the Lord Christ hath consecrated, dedicated and sanctified them unto that end. He hath thereby cut them off from their old stock of wrath and the curse, and planted them on that of love and good-will. He hath taken them off from the covenant of works, and translated them into that of grace. He hath turned their course from death, towards life and immortality; mixing his grace, love and wisdom with these bitter waters, he hath made them sweet and wholesome. And if we would have benefit by them, we must always have regard unto this consecration of them.

Fourthly, He hath made them safe. They are in their own nature a wilderness, wherein men may endlessly wander and quickly lose themselves. But he hath made them a way, a safe way, that way-faring men, though fools, may not err therein. Never did a believer perish by afflictions or persecutions; never was good gold or silver consumed or lost in this furnace. Hypocrites indeed, and false professors, fearful and unbelievers, are discovered by them and discarded from their hopes. But they that are disciples indeed, are never safer than in this way, and that because it is consecrated for them. Sometimes it may be through their unbelief, and want of heeding the Captain of their salvation, they are wounded and cast down by them for a season, but they are still in the way, they are never turned quite out of the way. And this through the grace of Christ doth turn also unto their advantage. Nay, it is not only absolutely a safe way, but comparatively more safe than the way of prosperity. And this the Scripture, with the experience of all saints, bears plentiful witness unto. And many other blessed ends are wrought by the consecration of this way for the disciples of Christ, not now to be insisted on.

There remains yet to be considered in the words of the apostle, the reason why the Captain of our salvation was to be consecrated by sufferings ; and this he declares in the beginning of the verse, “ It became God so to deal with him," which he ainplifies by that description of him, “ For whom are all things, and by whom are all things.” Having such a design as he tad, “ to bring many sons unto glory,” and being he, “ for whom are all things, and by whom are all things,” it became him so to deal with the Captain of their salvation. What is the to reith here intended, and what is the importance of the word, was declared before. This becomingness, whatever it be, it ariseth from hence, that God is he for whom are all things, and by whom are all things. It became him, not only who is so, but as he is so, and because he is so. There is no reason for the ad. dition of that consideration of God in this natter, but that the cause is contained and expressed in it, why it became him to do that which is here ascribed unto him. We are then to inquire what it is that is principally regarded in God in this attribution, and thence we shall learn how it became him to bring the Lord Christ unto suffering. Now the description of God in these words, is plainly of him as the first cause and last end of all things ; neither is it absolutely his power in making all of nothing, and his sovereign eternal being requiring that all things tend unto his glory, that are intended in the words. But he is the governor, ruler and judge of all things made by him and for him, with respect unto that order and law of their creation which they were to observe. This rule and government of all things, taking care that as they are of God, so they should be for him, is that which the apostle respects. This then is that which he asserts; namely, that it became God as the governor, ruler and judge of all, to consecrate Christ by sufferings, which must be farther explained.

Man being made an intellectual creature, had a rule of moral obedience given unto him. This he was to observe to the glory of his Creator and Lawgiver, and as the condition of his coming unto him, and enjoyment of him. This is here supposed by the apostle, and he discourseth how man hay. ing broken the law of his creation, and therein come short of the glory of God, might by his grace be again made partaker of it. With respect unto this state of things, God can be no otherwise considered, but as the supreme governor and judge of them. Now that property of God which he exerteth principally as the ruler and governor of all, is his justice, justitia regiminis, the righteousness of government. Hereof there are two branches; for it is either remunerative or vindictive. And this righteousness of God, as the supreme ruler and judge of all, is that, upon the account whereof it was meet for him, or became him, to bring the sons to glory by the sufferings of the Captain of their salvation. It was hence just, equal, and therefore indispensably necessary that so he should do. Supposing that man was created in the image of God, capable of yielding obedience unto him, according to the law concreated with him, and written in his heart, which obedience was his moral being for God, as he was from or of him, supposing that he by sin had broken this law, and so was no longer for God, according to the primitive order and law of his creation ; supposing also, notwithstanding all this, that God in his infinite grace and love intended to bring some men unto the enjoyment of himself, by a new way, law and appointment, - by which they should be brought to be for him again : supposing, I say, these things which are all here supposed by our apostle, and were granted by the Jews, it became the justice of God, that is, it was so just, right, meet and equal, that the Judge of all the world who doth right, could no otherwise do, than cause him, who was to be the way, cause, means and author of this recovery of men into a new condition of being for God, to suffer in their stead. . For whereas the vindictive justice of God, which is the respect of the universal rectitude of his holy nature, 'unto the deviation of his rational creatures from the law of their creation, required that that deviation should be revenged, and themselves brought into a new way of being for God, or of glorifying him by their sufferings, when they had refused to do so by obedience, it was necessary on the account thereof, that, if they were to be delivered from that condition, the author of their deliverance should suffer for them. And. this excellently suits the design of the apostle, which is to prove the necessity of the suffering of the Messiah, which the Jews so stumbled at. For if the justice of God required that so it should be, how could it be dispensed withal ? Would they have God unjust? Shall he forego the glory of his righteousness and holiness, to please them in their presumption and prejudices? It is true indeed, if God had intended no salvation of his sons but one that was temporal, like that granted to the people of old under the conduct of Joshua, there had been no need at all of the sufferings of the Captain of their salvation. But they being such, as in themselves had sinned, and conie short of the glory of God, and the salvation intended for them being spiritual, consisting in a new ordering of them for God, and in the bringing of them to the eternal enjoyment of him in glory, there was no way to maintain the honour of the justice of God, but by his sufferings. And as here lay the great mistake of the Jews, so the denial of this condecency of God's justice, as to the suffer. ings of the Messiah, is the newton Yeudos of the Socinians. Schlictingius on this place would have no more intended, but that the way of bringing Christ to suffer, was answerable to that design which God had laid to glorify himself in the salvation of man, But the apostle says not, that it became, or was suitable to an arbitrary free decree of God, but it became himself as the supreme ruler and judge of all; he speaks not of what was meet on the execution of a free decree, but what was meet on the account of God's holiness and righteousness to the constitution of it, as the description of him annexed doth plainly shew. And herein have we with our apostle discovered the great, indispensable and fundamental cause of the sufferings of Christ. And we may hence observe, that,

V. Such is the desert of sin, and such is the immutability of the justice of God, that there was no way possible to bring sinners to glory, but by the death and sufferings of the Son of God, who undertook to be the Captain of their salvation.-It would have been unbecoming God, the supreme Governor of all the world, to have passed by the desert of sin without this satisfaction. And this being a truth of great importance, and the foundation of most of the apostle's ensuing discourses, must be a while insisted on.

In tbese verses, that foregoing this, and some of those following, the apostle directly treats of the causes of the sufferings and death of Christ. A matter of great importance in itself, comprising no small part of the mystery of the gospel, and indispensably necessary to be explained and confirmed to the Hebrews, who had entertained many prejudices against it. : In the foregoing verse he declared the cause, agonysusvy, the inducing, leading moving cause, which was the grace of God, by the grace of God

« السابقةمتابعة »