CMF eZine The online magazine of the Christian Military Fellowship. 27 February Lamentation By Rudy Swigart Lamentation, Poetry 0 Comment In early 2009 I was in training with the Navy and in charge of a team of over a hundred Sailors. Our mission was to conduct detainee operations in a Theater Internment Facility. This particular mission is highly scrutinized and regulated due to previous transgressions in professionalism and displayed in the media. The atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay detainee facilities are images that will reside in my memory for many years to come. With the unit getting ready to conduct the detainee operations mission for the last time as we would be involved with training Iraqi Corrections Officers to take over the responsibilities, I had many trepidations. This was my first time conducting this type of work in this type of harsh environment. I relied on the Lord to carry us through the challenging nature of our assignment. Lamentation Lord, my God Almighty Lord Savior and healer You reign Entirely over the world. Undaunted Unwavering Caring Loving All Holy is Your name. I take refuge in you. I implore you! Oh, Lord Provide me with strength Courage Honor To embody steadfast Presence and leadership To lead your children Into battle And harm’s way. I am just one man With heavy shoulders Burdening the lives of many And responsible for their safety. Save and deliver me! Allow me the presence of mind And of situation. Provide me with resources The wherewithal The training Tactics Strength Courage Honor And commitment. Shield me from my enemies Who are trained to harm me. Don’t let me waiver In strength Decisions And leadership. Do not let me Compromise integrity So that those in my charge Benefit from unity And solidarity Of nature. Hear my plea oh Lord! I implore you! Receive my cry! Shroud me in your glory Provide promise And perseverance. I rely on your grace Every day Every hour Every minute Every second In foreign And domestic lands So that no harm Shall fall on me Or my men. Let us conduct ourselves Professionally and ethically Train our counterparts To the best of our abilities Complete the mission Turn over responsibilities Return with honor. I humbly implore you. Shine your grace On my mission. Provide peace And solace To a troubled nation And provide structure Strength Prosperity And persevreence To their efforts. Provide for Our safe return Our safe passage Weary and forlorn To our families With a sense Of steadfast accomplishment. In your hands I place my mission I relinquish our future To carry out Your wishes. I am encouraged By your love And goodness! I am emboldened By your glory! Ready and willing To carry out your mission For me and my men! I bask in your grace And thank you For your love As all things Are your Creation. We move In your glory. In early 2009 I was in training with the Navy and in charge of a team of over a hundred Sailors. Our mission was to conduct detainee operations in a Theater Internment Facility. This particular mission is highly scrutinized and regulated due to previous transgressions in professionalism and displayed in the media. The atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay detainee facilities are images that will reside in my memory for many years to come. With the unit getting ready to conduct the detainee operations mission for the last time as we would be involved with training Iraqi Corrections Officers to take over the responsibilities, I had many trepidations. This was my first time conducting this type of work in this type of harsh environment. I relied on the Lord to carry us through the challenging nature of our assignment. Lamentation Lord, my God Almighty Lord Savior and healer You reign Entirely over the world. Undaunted Unwavering Caring Loving All Holy is Your name. I take refuge in you. I implore you! Oh, Lord Provide me with strength Courage Honor To embody steadfast Presence and leadership To lead your children Into battle And harm’s way. I am just one man With heavy shoulders Burdening the lives of many And responsible for their safety. Save and deliver me! Allow me the presence of mind And of situation. Provide me with resources The wherewithal The training Tactics Strength Courage Honor And commitment. Shield me from my enemies Who are trained to harm me. Don’t let me waiver In strength Decisions And leadership. Do not let me Compromise integrity So that those in my charge Benefit from unity And solidarity Of nature. Hear my plea oh Lord! I implore you! Receive my cry! Shroud me in your glory Provide promise And perseverance. I rely on your grace Every day Every hour Every minute Every second In foreign And domestic lands So that no harm Shall fall on me Or my men. Let us conduct ourselves Professionally and ethically Train our counterparts To the best of our abilities Complete the mission Turn over responsibilities Return with honor. I humbly implore you. Shine your grace On my mission. Provide peace And solace To a troubled nation And provide structure Strength Prosperity And persevreence To their efforts. Provide for Our safe return Our safe passage Weary and forlorn To our families With a sense Of steadfast accomplishment. In your hands I place my mission I relinquish our future To carry out Your wishes. I am encouraged By your love And goodness! I am emboldened By your glory! Ready and willing To carry out your mission For me and my men! I bask in your grace And thank you For your love As all things Are your Creation. We move In your glory. Related Good Friday 1604 - Bishop Lancelot Andrewes Good Friday 1604 — Biship Lancelot Andrewes Lamentations 1:12 Have ye no regard, O all ye that pass by the way? Consider, and behold, if ever there were sorrow like My sorrow, which was done unto Me, wherewith the Lord did afflict Me in the day of the fierceness of His wrath. At the very reading or hearing of which verse, there is none but will presently conceive, it is the voice of a party in great extremity. In great extremity two ways: 1. First, in such distress as never was any, "If ever there were sorrow like My sorrow;" 2. And then in that distress, having none to regard Him; "Have ye no regard, all ye?" To be afflicted, and so afflicted as none ever was, is very much. In that affliction, to find none to respect him or care for him, what can be more? In all our sufferings, it is a comfort to us that we have a sicut;* that nothing has befallen us, but such as others have felt the like. But here, si fuerit sicut; "If ever the like were"—that is, never the like was. Again, in our greatest pains it is a kind of ease, even to find some regard. Naturally we desire it, if we cannot be delivered,* if we cannot be relieved, yet to be pitied. It sheweth there be yet some that are touched with the sense of our misery, that wish us well, and would give us ease if they could. But this Afflicted here findeth not so much, neither the one nor the other; but is even as He were an out-cast both of Heaven and earth. Now verily an heavy case, and worthy to be put in this book of Lamentations. I demand then, "Of whom speaketh the Prophet this? of himself, or of some other?" This I find; there is not any of the ancient writers but do apply, yea in a manner appropriate, this speech to our Saviour Christ. And that this very day, the day of His Passion, truly termed here the day of God’s wrath, and wheresoever they treat of the Passion, ever this verse cometh in. And to say the truth, to take the words strictly as they lie, they cannot agree, or be verified of any but of Him, and Him only. For though some other, not unfitly, may be allowed to say the same words, it must be in a qualified sense; for in full and perfect propriety of speech, He and none but He. None can say, neither Jeremy, nor any other, si fuerit dolor Meus, as Christ can; no day of wrath like to His day, no sorrow to be compared to His, all are short of it, nor His to any, it exceedeth them all. And yet, according to the letter, it cannot be denied but they be set down by Jeremy in the person of his own people, being then come to great misery; and of the holy city, then laid waste and desolate by the Chaldees.* What then? Ex Ægypto vocavi Filium Meum, "out of Egypt have I called My Son,"* was literally spoken of this people too, yet is by the Evangelist applied to our Saviour Christ.* "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" at the first uttered by David; yet the same words our Saviour taketh Himself,* and that more truly and properly, than ever David could; and of those of David’s, and of these of Jeremy’s, there is one and the same reason. Of all which the ground is that correspondence which is between Christ, and the Patriarchs, Prophets, and people before Christ,* of whom the Apostle’s rule is, omnia in figurâ contingebant illis; "that they were themselves types," and their sufferings forerunning figures of the great suffering of the Son of God. Which maketh Isaac’s offering, and Joseph’s selling, and Israel’s calling from Egypt, and that complaint of David’s, and this of Jeremy’s, appliable to Him; that He may take them to Himself, and the Church ascribe them to Him, and that in more fitness of terms, and more fulness of truth, than they were at the first spoken by David, or Jeremy, or any of them all. And this rule, and the steps of the Fathers proceeding by this rule, are to me a warrant to expound and apply this verse, as they have done before, to the present occasion of this time; which requireth some such Scripture to be considered by us as doth belong to His Passion, Who this day poured out His most precious Blood, as the only sufficient price of the dear purchase of all our redemptions. Be it then to us, as to them it was, and as most properly it is, the speech of the Son of God, as this day hanging on the cross, to a sort of careless people, that go up and down without any manner of regard of these His sorrows and sufferings, so worthy of all regard. "Have ye no regard? O all ye that pass by the way, consider and behold, if ever there were sorrow like to my sorrow, which was done unto me, wherewith the Lord afflicted me in the day of the fierceness of His wrath." Here is a complaint, and here is a request. A complaint that we have not, a request that we would have the pains and Passions of our Saviour Christ in some regard. For first He complaineth, and not without cause, "Have ye no regard?" And then, as willing to forget their former neglect, so they will yet do it, He falleth to entreat, "O consider and behold!" And what is that we should consider? The sorrow which He suffereth, and in it two things; the quality, and the cause. 1. The quality, Si fuerit sicut; ‘if ever the like were;’ and that either in respect of Dolor, or Dolor Meus, ‘the sorrow suffered,’ or ‘the Person suffering.’ 2. The cause: that is God That in His wrath, in His fierce wrath, doth all this to Him. Which cause will not leave us, till it have led us to another cause in ourselves, and to another yet in Him; all which serve to ripen us to regard. These two then specially we are moved to regard. 1. Regard is the main point. But because therefore we regard but faintly, because either we consider not, or not aright, we are called to consider seriously of them. As if He should say, Regard you not? If you did consider, you would; if you considered as you should, you would regard as you ought. Certainly the Passion, if it were throughly considered, would be duly regarded. Consider then. So the points are two: 1. The quality, and 2. the cause of His suffering. And the duties two: 1. To consider, and regard; 2. So to consider that we regard them, and Him for them. "Have ye no regard," &c.? To ease this complaint, and to grant this request, we are to regard; and that we may regard, we are to consider the pains of His Passion. Which, that we may reckon no easy common matter of light moment, to do or not to do as we list; first, a general stay is made of all passengers, this day. For, as it were from His cross, doth our Saviour address this His speech to them that go to and fro, the day of His Passion, without so much as entertaining a thought, or vouchsafing a look that way. O vos qui transitis! "O you that pass by the way," stay and consider. To them frameth He His speech, that pass by; to them, and to them all, O vos omnes, qui transitis, "O all ye that pass by the way, stay and consider." Which very stay of His sheweth it to be some important matter, in that it is of all. For, as for some to be stayed, and those the greater some, there may be reason; the most part of those that go thus to and fro, may well intend it, they have little else to do. But to except none, not some special person, is hard. What know we their haste? their occasions may be such, and so urgent, as they cannot stay. Well, what haste, what business soever, pass not by, stay though. As much to say as, Be they never so great, your occasions; they are not, they cannot be so great as this. How urgent soever, this is more, and more to be intended. The regard of this is worthy the staying of a journey. It is worth the considering of those, that have never so great affairs in hand. So material is this sight in His account. Which serveth to shew the exigence of this duty. But as for this point, it needeth not be stood upon to us here at this time; we are not going by, we need not be stayed, we have stayed all other our affairs to come hither, and here we are all present before God, to have it set before us, that we may consider it. Thither then let us come. That which we are called to behold and consider, is His sorrow. And sorrow is a thing which of itself nature inclineth us to behold,* "as being ourselves in the body," which may be one day in the like sorrowful ease. Therefore will every good eye turn itself, and look upon them that lie in distress.* Those two in the Gospel that passed by the wounded man, before they passed by him, though they helped him not as the Samaritan did, yet they looked upon him as he lay.* But, this party here lieth not, He is lift up as the serpent in the wilderness, that unless we turn our eyes away purposely, we can neither will nor choose but behold Him. But because, to behold and not to consider is but to gaze, and gazing the Angel blameth in the Apostles themselves,* we must do both—both "behold" and "consider;" look upon with the eye of the body, that is "behold;" and look into with the eye of the mind, that is "consider." So saith the Prophet here. And the very same doth the Apostle advise us to do. First, ἀφορᾷν, to look upon Him, that is, to "behold,"* and then ἀναλογίζεσθαι, to think upon Him, that is, to "consider" His sorrow. Sorrow sure would be considered. Now then, because as the quality of the sorrow is, accordingly it would be considered—for if it be but a common sorrow the less will serve, but if it be some special, some very heavy ease, the more would be allowed it; for proportionably with the suffering, the consideration is to arise;—to raise our consideration to the full, and to elevate it to the highest point, there is upon His sorrow set a si fuerit sicut, a note of highest eminency; for si fuerit sicut, are words that have life in them, and are able to quicken our consideration, if it be not quite dead; for by them we are provoked, as it were, to "consider," and considering to see whether ever any sicut may be found to set by it, whether ever any like it. For if never any, our nature is to regard things exceeding rare and strange; and such as the like whereof is not else to be seen. Upon this point then, there is a ease made, as if He should say, ‘if ever the like, regard not this;’ but if never any, be like yourselves in other things, and vouchsafe this, if not your chiefest, yet some regard. To enter this comparison, and to shew it for such. That are we to do, three sundry ways; for three sundry ways, in three sundry words, are these sufferings of His here expressed, all three within the compass of the verse. The first is מכאוב, Mac-ob, which we read "sorrow," taken from a wound or stripe, as all do agree. The second is עולל, Gholcl; we read "Done to me," taken from a word that signifieth melting in a furnace, as St. Hierome noteth out of the Chaldee, who so translateth it. The third is הוגה, Hoga, where we read afflicted, from a word which importeth renting off, or bereaving. The old Latin turneth it Vindemiavit me, as a vine whose fruit is all plucked off. The Greek, with Theodoret, ἀπεφύλλισέ με, as a vine or tree whose leaves are all beaten off, and is left naked and bare. In these three are comprised His sufferings—wounded, melted, and bereft leaf and fruit, that is, all manner of comfort. Of all that is penal, or can be suffered, the common division is, sensus et damni, grief for that we feel, or for that we forego. For that we feel in the two former, wounded in body, melted in soul; for that we forego in the last, bereft all, left neither fruit nor so much as a leaf to hang on Him. According to these three, to consider His sufferings, and to begin first with the first. The pains of His body, His wounds and His stripes. Our very eye will soon tell us no place was left in His body, where He might be smitten and was not. His skin and flesh rent with the whips and scourges, His hands and feet wounded with the nails, His head with the thorns, His very heart with the spear-point; all His senses, all His parts laden with whatsoever wit or malice could invent. His blessed body given as an anvil to be beaten upon with the violent hands of those barbarous miscreants, till they brought Him into this case of si fuerit sicut.* For Pilate’s Ecce Homo! his shewing Him with an Ecce, as if He should say, Behold, look if ever you saw the like rueful spectacle; this very shewing of his sheweth plainly, He was then come into woeful plight—so woeful as Pilate verily believed His very sight so pitiful, as it would have moved the hardest heart of them all to have relented and said, This is enough, we desire no more. And this for the wounds of His body, for on this we stand not. In this one peradventure some sicut may be found, in the pains of the body; but in the second, the sorrow of the soul, I am sure, none. And indeed, the pain of the body is but the body of pain; the very soul of sorrow and pain is the soul’s sorrow and pain. Give me any grief, save the grief of the mind,* saith the Wise Man; for, saith Solomon, "The spirit of a man will sustain all his other infirmities, but a wounded spirit, who can bear?" And of this, this of His soul, I dare make a ease, Si fuerit sicut. "He began to be troubled in soul,"* saith St. John; "to be in an agony,"* saith St. Luke; "to be in anguish of mind and deep distress,"* saith St. Mark. To have His soul round about on every side environed with sorrow,* and that sorrow to the death. Here is trouble, anguish, agony, sorrow, and deadly sorrow; but it must be such, as never the like: so it was too. The estimate whereof we may take from the second word of melting,* that is, from His sweat in the garden; strange, and the like whereof was never heard or seen. No manner violence offered Him in body, no man touching Him or being near Him; in a cold night, for they were fain to have a fire within doors, lying abroad in the air and upon the cold earth, to be all of a sweat, and that sweat to be blood; and not as they call it diaphoreticus, ‘a thin faint sweat,’ but grumosus, ‘of great drops;’ and those so many, so plenteous, as they went through His apparel and all; and through all streamed to the ground, and that in great abundance;—read, enquire, and consider, si fuerit sudor sicut sudor iste; ‘if ever there were sweat like this sweat of His.’ Never the like sweat certainly, and therefore never the like sorrow. Our translation is, "Done unto Me;" but we said the word properly signifieth, and so S. Hierome and the Chaldee paraphrast read it, "melted Me." And truly it should seem by this fearful sweat of His He was near some furnace, the feeling whereof was able to cast Him into that sweat, and to turn His sweat into drops of blood. And sure it was so; for see, even in the very next words of all to this verse, He complaineth of it;* Ignem misit in ossibus meis, "that a fire was sent into His bones" which melted Him, and made that bloody sweat to distil from Him. That hour, what His feelings were, it is dangerous to define; we know them not, we may be too bold to determine of them. To very good purpose it was, that the ancient Fathers of the Greek Church in their Liturgy, after they have recounted all the particular pains, as they are set down in His Passion, and by all, and by every one of them, called for mercy, do after all shut up all with this, Διʼ ἀγνωστῶν κόπων καὶ βασάνων ἐλέησον καὶ σῶσον ἡμᾶς, ‘By Thine unknown sorrows and sufferings, felt by Thee, but not distinctly known by us, Have mercy upon us, and save us!’ Now, though this suffice not, nothing near, yet let it suffice, the time being short, for His pains of body and soul. For those of the body, it may be some may have endured the like; but the sorrows of His soul are unknown sorrows, and for them none ever have, ever have or ever shall suffer the like, the like, or near the like in any degree. And now to the third. It was said before, to be in distress, such distress as this was, and to find none to comfort, nay not so much as to regard Him, is all that can be said to make His sorrow a non sicut. Comfort is it by which, in the midst of all our sorrows, we are confortati, that is strengthened and made the better able to bear them all out. And who is there, even the poorest creature among us, but in some degree findeth some comfort, or some regard at some body’s hands? For if that be not left, the state of that party is here in the third word said to be like the tree, whose leaves and whose fruit are all beaten off quite, and itself left bare and naked both of the one and of the other. And such was our Saviour’s case in these His sorrows this day, and that so as what is left the meanest of the sons of men, was not left Him, not a leaf. Not a leaf! Leaves I may well call all human comforts and regards, whereof He was then left clean desolate.* 1. "His own," they among whom He had gone about all His life long, healing them, teaching them, feeding them, doing them all the good He could, it is they that cry, "Not Him, no, but Barabbas rather;" "away with Him," "His blood be upon us and our children." It is they that in the midst of His sorrows shake their head at Him,* and cry,* "Ah, thou wretch;" they that in His most disconsolate estate cry Eli,* Eli, in most barbarous manner, deride Him and say,* "Stay, and you shall see Elias come presently and take Him down." And this was their regard. But these were but withered leaves. They then that on earth were nearest Him of all, the greenest leaves and likest to hang on, and to give Him some shade; even of them some bought and sold Him, others denied and forswore Him, but all fell away, and forsook Him. Ἀπεφύλλισέ με, saith Theodoret, not a leaf left. But leaves are but leaves, and so are all earthly stays. The fruit then, the true fruit of the Vine indeed, the true comfort in all heaviness, is desuper, ‘from above,’ is divine consolation. But Vindemiavit Me, saith the Latin text;—even that was, in this His sorrow, this day bereft Him too. And that was His most sorrowful complaint of all others; not that His friends upon earth, but that His Father from Heaven had forsaken Him; that neither Heaven nor earth yielded Him any regard, but that between the passioned powers of His soul, and whatsoever might any ways refresh Him, there was a traverse drawn, and He left in the state of a weather-beaten tree, all desolate and forlorn. Evident, too evident, by that His most dreadful cry, which at once moved all the powers in Heaven and earth,* "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Weigh well that cry, consider it well, and tell me, si fuerit clamor sicut clamor iste, ‘if ever there were cry like that of His:’ never the like cry, and therefore never the like sorrow. It is strange, very strange, that of none of the martyrs the like can be read, who yet endured most exquisite pains in their martyrdoms; yet we see with what courage, with what cheerfulness, how even singing, they are reported to have passed through their torments. Will ye know the reason? St. Augustine setteth it down: martyres non eripuit, sed nunquid deseruit? ‘He delivered not His martyrs, but did He forsake them?’ He delivered not their bodies, but He forsook not their souls, but distilled into them the dew of His heavenly comfort, an abundant supply for all they could endure. Not so here. Vindemiavit Me, saith the Prophet; Dereliquisti Me, saith He Himself;—no comfort, no supply at all. Leo it is that first said it, and all antiquity allow of it, Non solvit unionem, sed subtraxit visionem.* ‘The union was not dissolved: true, but the beams, the influence was restrained,’ and for any comfort from thence His soul was even as a scorched heath-ground, without so much as any drop of dew of divine comfort; as a naked tree—no fruit to refresh Him within, no leaf to give Him shadow without; the power of darkness let loose to afflict Him, the influence of comfort restrained to relieve Him. It is a non sicut this, it cannot be expressed as it should, and as other things may; in silence we may admire it, but all our words will not reach it. And though to draw it so far as some do, is little better than blasphemy, yet on the other side to shrink it so short as other some do, cannot be but with derogation to His love, Who, to kindle our love and loving regard, would come to a non sicut in His suffering; for so it was, and so we must allow it to be. This, in respect of His passion, Dolor. Now in respect of His Person, Dolor Meus. Whereof, if it please you to take a view even of the Person thus wounded, thus afflicted and forsaken, you shall then have a perfect non sicut. And indeed the Person is here a weighty circumstance, it is thrice repeated—Meus, Mihi, Me, and we may not leave it out. For as is the Person, so is the Passion; and any one, even the very least degree of wrong or disgrace, offered to a person of excellency, is more than a hundred times more to one of mean condition; so weighty is the circumstance of the person. Consider then how great the Person was; and I rest fully assured here we boldly challenge and say, si fuerit sicut. Ecce Homo! saith Pilate first: a Man He is as we are, and were He but a Man,* nay, were He not a Man, but some poor dumb creature, it were great ruth to see Him so handled as He was. "A Man," saith Pilate, and a "just Man," saith Pilate’s wife. "Have thou nothing to do with that just Man."* And that is one degree farther. For though we pity the punishment even of malefactors themselves, yet ever most compassion we have of them that suffer and be innocent.* And He was innocent; Pilate and Herod, and "the prince of this world,"* His very enemies, being His judges. Now among the innocent, the more noble the person, the more heavy the spectacle. And never do our bowels yearn so much as over such.* "Alas, alas for that noble Prince," saith this Prophet;—the style of mourning for the death of a great personage. And He that suffered here is such, even a principal Person among the sons of men, of the race royal, descended from Kings.* Pilate styled Him so in his title, and he would not alter it. Three degrees. But yet we are not at our true quantus. For He is yet more, more than the highest of the sons of men, for He is the Son of the Most High God. Pilate saw no farther but Ecce Homo!* the centurion did, vere Filius Dei erat Hic,* "now truly This was the Son of God." And here all words forsake us, and every tongue becometh speechless. We have no way to express it but a minore ad majus;—thus. Of this book, the book of Lamentations, one special occasion was the death of King Josias; but behold a greater than Josias is here. Of King Josias, as a special reason of mourning, the Prophet saith,* Spiritus oris nostri, christus Domini, "the very breath of our nostrils, the Lord’s anointed," for so are all good Kings in their subjects’ accounts, he is gone. But behold, here is not christus Domini, but Christus Dominus, "the Lord’s christ,"* but the "Lord Christ Himself;" and that not coming to an honourable death in battle as Josias did, but to a most vile reproachful death, the death of malefactors in the highest degree. And not slain outright as Josias was, but mangled and massacred in most pitiful strange manner; wounded in Body, wounded in Spirit, left utterly desolate. O consider this well, and confess the case is truly put, si fuerit Dolor sicut Dolor meus! Never, never the like person; and if as the person is, the passion be, never the like Passion to His. It is truly affirmed, that any one, even the least drop of blood, even the least pain, yea of the body only, of this so great a Person, any Dolor with this Meus, had been enough to make a non sicut of it. That is enough, but that is not all; for add now the three other degrees; add to this Person those wounds, that sweat and that cry, and put all together, and I make no manner question the like was not, shall not, cannot ever be. It is far above all that ever was or can be, abyssus est. Men may drowsily hear it and coldly affect it, but principalities and powers stand abashed at it. And for the quality both of the Passion and of the Person, that never the like, thus much. Now to proceed to the cause and to consider it, for without it we shall have but half a regard, and scarce that. Indeed, set the cause aside, and the passion, as rare as it is, is yet but a dull and heavy sight, we list not much look upon spectacles of that kind, though never so strange, they fill us full of pensive thoughts and make us melancholic. And so doth this, till upon examination of the cause we find it toucheth us near; and so near, so many ways, as we cannot choose but have some regard of it. What was done to Him we see. Let there now be a quest of enquiry to find who was doer of it. Who? who but the "power of darkness," wicked Pilate, bloody Caiaphas,* the envious Priests, the barbarous soldiers? None of these are returned here. We are too low by a great deal, if we think to find it among men. Quæ fecit Mihi Deus, ‘it was God That did it.’ An hour of that day was the hour of the "power of darkness;" but the whole day itself, is said here plainly, was the day of the wrath of God. God was a doer in it; "wherewith God hath afflicted Me." God afflicteth some in mercy, and others in wrath. This was in His wrath. In His wrath God is not alike to all; some He afflicteth in His more gentle and mild, others in His fierce wrath. This was in the very fierceness of His wrath. His sufferings, His sweat, and cry, shew as much; they could not come but from a wrath si fuerit sicut, for we are not past non sicut, no not here,—in this part it followeth us still, and will not leave us in any point, not to the end. The cause then in God was wrath. What caused this wrath? God is not wroth but with sin, nor grievously wroth but with grievous sin. And in Christ there was no grievous sin; nay, no sin at all. God did it, the text is plain. And in His fierce wrath He did it. For what cause? For, God forbid, God should do as did Annas the high-priest,* cause Him to be smitten without cause!* God forbid, saith Abraham, "the Judge of the world should do wrong" to any! To any, but specially to His own Son, that His Son, of Whom with thundering voice from Heaven He testifieth, all His joy and delight were in Him,* "in Him only He was well-pleased." And how then could His wrath wax hot to do all this unto Him? There is no way to preserve God’s justice, and Christ’s innocency both, but to say as the Angel said of Him to the Prophet Daniel,* "The Messias shall be slain," ואין לו ve-en-lo, "shall be slain but not for Himself." "Not for Himself?" For whom then? For some others. He took upon Him the person of others, and so doing, justice may have her course and proceed. Pity it is to see a man pay that he never took; but if he will become a surety, if he will take on him the person of the debtor, so he must. Pity to see a silly poor lamb lie bleeding to death; but if it must be a sacrifice, such is the nature of a sacrifice, so it must. And so Christ, though without sin in Himself, yet as a surety, as a sacrifice, may justly suffer for others, if He will take upon Him their persons; and so God may justly give way to His wrath against Him. And who be those others? The Prophet Esay telleth us, and telleth it us seven times over for failing,* "He took upon Him our infirmities, and bare our maladies. He was wounded for our iniquities, and broken for our transgressions: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes were we healed. All we as sheep were gone astray, and turned every man to his own way; and the Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all." "All," "all," even those that pass to and fro, and for all this regard neither Him nor His Passion. The short is, it was we that for our sins, our many great and grievous sins,—Si fuerit sicut, the like whereof never were,—should have sweated this sweat and have cried this cry; should have been smitten with these sorrows by the fierce wrath of God, had not He stepped between the blow and us, and latched it in His own body and soul, even the dint of the fierceness of the wrath of God. O the non sicut of our sins, that could not otherwise be answered! To return then a true verdict. It is we—we, wretched sinners that we are—that are to be found the principals in this act, and those on whom we seek to shift it, to drive it from ourselves, Pilate and Caiaphas and the rest, but instrumental causes only. And it is not the executioner that killeth the man properly, that is, they; no, nor the judge, which is God in this case; only sin, solum peccatum homicida est, ‘sin only is the murderer,’ to say the truth, and our sins the murderers of the Son of God; and the non sicut of them the true cause of the non sicut both of God’s wrath, and of His sorrowful sufferings. Which bringeth home this our text to us, even into our own bosoms, and applieth it most effectually to me that speak and to you that hear, to every one of us, and that with the Prophet Nathan’s application; Tu es homo, "Thou art the man," even thou,* for whom God in "His fierce wrath" thus afflicted Him. Sin then was the cause on our part why we, or some other for us. But yet what was the cause, why He on His part? what was that that moved Him thus to become our surety, and to take upon Him our debt and danger? that moved Him thus to lay upon His soul a sacrifice for our sin? Sure,* oblatus est quia voluit, saith Esay again, "Offered He was for no other cause, but because He would." For unless He would, He needed not. Needed not for any necessity of justice, for no lamb was ever more innocent; nor for any necessity of constraint, for twelve legions of Angels were ready at His command, but because He would. And why would He? No reason can be given but because He regarded us:—Mark that reason. And what were we? Verily, utterly unworthy even His least regard, not worth the taking up, not worth the looking after.* Cum inimici essemus, saith the Apostle; "we were His enemies," when He did it, without all desert before, and without all regard after He had done and suffered all this for us; and yet He would regard us that so little regard Him. For when He saw us a sort of forlorn sinners, non prius natos quam damnatos, ‘damned as fast as born,’ as being "by nature children of wrath,"* and yet still "heaping up wrath against the day of wrath," by the errors of our life, till the time of our passing hence; and then the "fierce wrath of God" ready to overwhelm us,* and to make us endure the terror and torments of a never dying death, another non sicut yet: when, I say, He was in this case, He was moved with compassion over us and undertook all this for us. Even then in His love He regarded us, and so regarded us that He regarded not Himself, to regard us. Bernard saith most truly, Dilexisti me Domine magis quam Te, quando mori voluisti pro me: ‘In suffering all this for us Thou shewedst, Lord, that we were more dear to Thee, that Thou regardest us more than Thine ownself;’ and shall this regard find no regard at our hands? It was sin then, and the heinousness of sin in us, that provoked wrath and the fierceness of His wrath in God; it was love, and the greatness of His love in Christ, that caused Him to suffer the sorrows, and the grievousness of these sorrows, and all for our sakes. And indeed, but only to testify the non sicut of this His love, all this needed not that was done to Him. One, any one, even the very least of all the pains He endured, had been enough; enough in respect of the Meus, enough in respect of the non sicut of His person. For that which setteth the high price on this sacrifice, is this; that He which offereth it unto God, is God. But if little had been suffered, little would the love have been thought that suffered so little, and as little regard would have been had of it. To awake our regard then, or to leave us excuseless, if we continue regardless, all this He bare for us; that he might as truly make a case of Si fuerit amor sicut amor Meus, as He did before of Si fuerit dolor sicut dolor Meus. We say we will regard love; if we will, here it is to regard. So have we the causes, all three: 1. Wrath in God; 2. Sin in ourselves; 3. Love in Him. Yet have we not all we should. For what of all this? What good? Cui bono? That, that, is it indeed that we will regard if any thing, as being matter of benefit, the only thing in a manner the world regardeth, which bringeth us about to the very first words again. For the very first words which we read, "Have ye no regard?" are in the original, לוא אליכם lo alechem, which the Seventy turn, word for word, οὐ πρὸς ὑμᾶς; and the Latin likewise, nonne ad vos pertinet? Pertains it not to you, that you regard it no better? For these two, pertaining and regarding, are folded one in another, and go together so commonly as one is taken often for the other. Then to be sure to bring us to regard, he urgeth this: "Pertains not all this to you?" Is it not for your good? Is not the benefit yours? Matters of benefit, they pertain to you, and without them love and all the rest may pertain to whom they will. Consider then the inestimable benefit that groweth unto you from this incomparable love. It is not impertinent this, even this, that to us hereby all is turned about clean contrary; that "by His stripes we are healed," by His sweat we refreshed, by His forsaking we received to grace. That this day, to Him the day of the fierceness of God’s wrath, is to us the day of the fulness of God’s favour, as the Apostle calleth it,* "a day of salvation." In respect of that He suffered, I deny not, an evil day, a day of heaviness; but in respect of that which He by it hath obtained for us, it is as we truly call it a good day, a day of joy and jubilee. For it doth not only rid us of that wrath which pertaineth to us for our sins; but farther, it maketh that pertain to us whereto we had no manner of right at all. For not only by His death as by the death of our sacrifice, by the blood of His cross as by the blood of the paschal lamb,* the destroyer passeth over us, and we shall not perish; but also by His death,* as by the death of our High Priest—for He is Priest and Sacrifice both—we are restored from our exile, even to our former forfeited estate in the land of Promise. Or rather, as the Apostle saith,* non sicut delictum sic donum; not to the same estate, but to one nothing like it, that is, one far better than the estate our sins bereft us. For they deprived us of Paradise, a place on earth; but by the purchase of His blood we are entitled to a far higher, even the Kingdom of Heaven; and His blood,* not only the blood of "remission," to acquit us of our sins, but "the blood of the Testament too," to bequeath us and give us estate in that Heavenly inheritance. Now whatsoever else, this I am sure is a non sicut, as that which the eye by all it can see, the ear by all it can hear, the heart by all it can conceive, cannot pattern it, or set the like by it. "Pertains not this unto us" neither? Is not this worth the regard? Sure if any thing be worthy the regard, this is most worthy of our very worthiest and best regard. Thus have we considered and seen, not so much as in this sight we might or should, but as much as the time will give us leave. And now lay all these before you, every one of them a non sicut of itself; the pains of His body esteemed by Pilate’s Ecce; the sorrows of His soul, by His sweat in the garden; the comfortless estate of His sorrows, by His cry on the cross; and with these, His Person, as being the Son of the Great and Eternal God. Then join to these the cause: in God, "His fierce wrath;" in us, our heinous sins deserving it; in Him, His exceeding great love, both suffering that for us which we had deserved, and procuring for us that we could never deserve; making that to appertain to Himself which of right pertained to us, and making that pertain to us which pertained to Him only, and not to us at all but by His means alone. And after their view in several, lay them all together, so many non sicuts into one, and tell me if His complaint be not just and His request most reasonable. Yes sure, His complaint is just, "Have ye no regard?" None? and yet never the like? None? and it pertains unto you? "No regard?" As if it were some common ordinary matter, and the like never was? "No regard?" As if it concerned you not a whit, and it toucheth you so near? As if He should say, Rare things you regard, yea, though they no ways pertain to you: this is exceeding rare, and will you not regard it? Again, things that nearly touch you you regard, though they be not rare at all: this toucheth you exceeding near, even as near as your soul toucheth you, and will you not yet regard it? Will neither of these by itself move you? Will not both these together move you? What will move you? Will pity? Here is distress never the like. Will duty? Here is a Person never the like. Will fear? Here is wrath never the like. Will remorse? Here are sins never the like. Will kindness? Here is love never the like. Will bounty? Here are benefits never the like. Will all these? Here they be all, all above any sicut, all in the highest degree. Truly the complaint is just, it may move us; it wanteth no reason, it may move; and it wanteth no affection in the delivery of it to us, on His part to move us. Sure it moved Him exceeding much; for among all the deadly sorrows of His most bitter Passion, this, even this, seemeth to be His greatest of all, and that which did most affect Him, even the grief of the slender reckoning most men have it in; as little respecting Him, as if He had done or suffered nothing at all for them. For lo, of all the sharp pains He endureth He complaineth not, but of this He complaineth, of no regard; that which grieveth Him most, that which most He moaneth is this. It is strange He should be in pains, such pains as never any was, and not complain Himself of them, but of want of regard only. Strange, He should not make request, O deliver Me, or relieve Me! But only, O consider and regard Me! In effect as if He said, None, no deliverance, no relief do I seek; regard I seek. And all that I suffer, I am content with it, I regard it not, I suffer most willingly, if this I may find at your hands, regard. Truly, this so passionate a complaint may move us, it moved all but us; for most strange of all it is, that all the creatures in Heaven and earth seemed to hear this His mournful complaint, and in their kind to shew their regard of it. The sun in Heaven shrinking in his light, the earth trembling under it, the very stones cleaving in sunder, as if they had sense and sympathy of it, and sinful men only not moved with it. And yet it was not for the creatures this was done to Him, to them it pertaineth not; but for us it was, and to us it doth. And shall we not yet regard it? shall the creature, and not we? shall we not? If we do not, it may appertain to us, but we pertain not to it; it pertains to all but all pertain not to it. None pertain to it but they that take benefit by it; and none take benefit by it no more than by the brazen serpent, but they that fix their eye on it. Behold, consider, and regard it; the profit, the benefit is lost without regard. If we do not, as this was a day of God’s "fierce wrath" against Him, only for regarding us; so there is another day coming, and it will quickly be here,* a day of like "fierce wrath" against us, for not regarding Him. "And who regardeth the power of His wrath?" He that doth, will surely regard this. In that day, there is not the most careless of us all but shall cry as they did in the Gospel, Domine, non ad Te pertinet, si perimus?* "Pertains it not to Thee, carest Thou not that we perish?" Then would we be glad to pertain to Him and His Passion. Pertains it to us then, and pertains it not now? Sure now it must, if then it shall. Then to give end to this complaint, let us grant Him His request, and regard His Passion. Let the rareness of it, the nearness to us, let pity or duty, fear or remorse, love or bounty; any of them or all of them; let the justness of His complaint, let His affectionate manner of complaining of this and only this, let the shame of the creatures’ regard, let our profit or our peril, let something prevail with us to have it in some regard. Some regard! Verily, as His sufferings, His love, our good by them are, so should our regard be a non sicut too; that is, a regard of these, and of nothing in comparison of these. It should be so, for with the benefit ever the regard should arise. But God help us poor sinners, and be merciful unto us! Our regard is a non sicut indeed, but it is backward, and in a contrary sense; that is, no where so shallow, so short, or so soon done. It should be otherwise, it should have our deepest consideration this, and our highest regard. But if that cannot be had, our nature is so heavy, and flesh and blood so dull of apprehension in spiritual things, yet at leastwise some regard. Some I say; the more the better, but in any wise some, and not as here no regard, none at all. Some ways to shew we make account of it, to withdraw ourselves, to void our minds of other matters, to set this before us, to think upon it, to thank Him for it, to regard Him, and stay and see whether He will regard us or no. Sure He will,* and we shall feel our "hearts pricked" with sorrow, by consideration of the cause in us—our sin; and again,* "warm within us," by consideration of the cause in Him—His love; till by some motion of grace He answer us, and shew that our regard is accepted of Him. And this, as at all other times, for no day is amiss but at all times some time to be taken for this duty, so specially on this day; this day, which we hold holy to the memory of His Passion, this day to do it; to make this day, the day of God’s wrath and Christ’s suffering, a day to us of serious consideration and regard of them both. It is kindly to consider opus diei in die suo, ‘the work of the day in the day it was wrought;’ and this day it was wrought. This day therefore, whatsoever business be, to lay them aside a little; whatsoever our haste, yet to stay a little, and to spend a few thoughts in calling to mind and taking to regard what this day the Son of God did and suffered for us; and all for this end, that what He was then we might not be, and what He is now we might be for ever. Which Almighty God grant we may do, more or less, even every one of us, according to the several measures of His grace in us! Andrewes, L. (1841). Ninety-Six Sermons (Vol. 2). Oxford: John Henry Parker. (Public Domain) The Sheep Before the Shearers The Sheep Before the Shearers "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth."—Isaiah 53:7. OUR Lord Jesus so took our place that we are in this chapter compared to sheep: "All we like sheep have gone astray," and he is compared to a sheep also,—"As a sheep before her shearers is dumb." It is wonderful how complete was the interchange of positions between Christ and his people, so that he became what they were in order that they might become what he is. We can well understand how we should be the sheep and he the shepherd; but to liken the Son of the Highest to a sheep would have been unpardonable presumption had not his own Spirit employed the condescending figure. Though the emblem is very gracious, its use in this place is by no means singular, for our Lord had been long before Isaiah’s day typified by the lamb of the Passover. Since then he has been proclaimed as "the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world;" and indeed even in his glory he is the Lamb in the midst of the throne. I. In opening up this divine emblem I would invite you to consider, first, our Saviour’s patience, set forth under the figure of a sheep dumb before her shearers. Our Lord was brought to the shearers that he might be shorn of his comfort, and of his honour, shorn even of his good name, and shorn at last of life itself; but when under the shearers he was as silent as a sheep. How patient he was before Pilate, and Herod, and Caiaphas, and on the cross. You have no record of his uttering any exclamation of impatience at the pain and shame which he received at the hands of these wicked men. You hear not one bitter word. Pilate cries, "Answerest thou nothing? Behold how many things they witness against thee"; and Herod is wofully disappointed, for he expected to see some miracle wrought by him. All that our Lord does say is in submissive tones, like the bleating of a sheep, though infinitely more full of meaning. He utters sentences like these,—"For this purpose was I born, and came into the world, that I might bear witness to the truth," and, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." Otherwise he is all patience and silence. Remember, first, that our Lord was dumb and opened not his mouth against his adversaries, and did not accuse one of them of cruelty or injustice. They slandered him, but he replied not; false witnesses arose, but he answered them not. One would have thought he must have spoken when they spat in his face. Might he not have said, "Friend, why doest thou this? For which of all my works dost thou insult me?" But the time for such expostulations was over. When they smote him on the face with the palms of their hands, it would not have been wonderful if he had said, "Wherefore do you smite me so?" But no; he is as though he heard not their revilings. He brings no accusation to his Father. He needed only to have lifted his eye to heaven and legions of angels would have chased away the ribald soldiery; one flash of a seraph’s wing and Herod had been eaten by worms, and Pilate had died the death he well deserved as an unjust judge. The hill of the cross might have become a volcano’s mouth to swallow up the whole multitude who stood there jesting and jeering at him: but no, there was no display of power, or rather there was so great a display of power over himself that he restrained Omnipotence itself with a strength which never can be measured. Again, as he did not utter a word against his adversaries, so he did not say a word against any one of us. You remember how Zipporah said to Moses, "Surely a bloody husband art thou to me," as she saw her child bleeding; and surely Jesus might have said to his church, "Thou art a costly spouse to me, to bring me all this shame and bloodshedding." But he giveth liberally, he openeth the very fountain of his heart, and he upbraideth not. He had reckoned on the uttermost expenditure, and therefore he endured the cross, despising the shame. "This was compassion like a God, That when the Saviour knew. The price of pardon was his blood, His pity ne’er withdrew." No doubt he looked across the ages; for that eye of his was not dim, even when bloodshot on the tree: he must have foreseen your indifference and mine, our coldness of heart, and base unfaithfulness, and he might have left on record some such words as these: "I am suffering for those who are utterly unworthy of my regard; their love will be a miserable return for mine. Though I give my whole heart for them, how lukewarm is their love to me! I am sick of them, I am weary of them, and it is woe to me that I should be laying down my heart’s blood for such a worthless race as these my people are." But there is not a hint of such a feeling. No. "Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end," and he did not utter a syllable that looked like murmuring at his suffering on their behalf, or regretting that he had commenced the work. And again, as there was not a word against his adversaries, nor a word against you nor me, so there was not a word against his Father, nor a syllable of repining at the severity of the chastisement laid upon him for our sakes. You and I have murmured when under a comparatively light grief, thinking ourselves hardly done by. We have dared to cry out against God, "My face is foul with weeping, and on my eyelids is the shadow of death; not for any injustice in mine hands: also my prayer is pure." But not so the Saviour; in his mouth were no complaints. It is quite impossible for us to conceive how the Father pressed and bruised him, yet was there no repining. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" is an exclamation of astonished grief, but it is not the voice of complaint. It shows manhood in weakness, but not manhood in revolt. Many are the Lamentations of Jeremiah, but few are the lamentations of Jesus. Jesus wept, and Jesus sweat great drops of blood, but he never murmured nor felt rebellion in his heart. Behold your Lord and Saviour lying in passive resignation beneath the shearers, as they take away everything that is dear to him, and yet he openeth not his mouth. I see in this our Lord’s complete submission. He gives himself up; there is no reserve about it. The sacrifice did not need binding with cords to the horns of the altar. How different from your case and mine! He stood there willing to suffer, to be spit upon, to be shamefully entreated, and to die, for in him there was a complete surrender. He was wholly given to do the Father’s will, and to work out our redemption. There was complete self-conquest too. In him no faculty arose to plead for liberty, and ask to be exempted from the general strain; no limb of the body, no portion of the mind, no faculty of the spirit started, but all submitted to the divine will: the whole Christ gave up his whole being unto God, that he might perfectly offer himself without spot for our redemption. There was not only self-conquest, but complete absorption in his work. The sheep, lying there, thinks no more of the pastures, it yields itself up to the shearer. The zeal of God’s house did eat up our Lord in Pilate’s hall as well as everywhere else, for there he witnessed a good confession. No thought had he but for the clearing of the divine honour, and the salvation of God’s elect. Brethren, I wish we could arrive at this, to submit our whole spirit to God, to learn self-conquest, and the delivering up of conquered self entirely to God. The wonderful serenity and submissiveness of our Lord are still better set forth by our text, if it be indeed true that sheep in the East are even more docile than with us. Those who have seen the noise and roughness of many of our washings and shearings will hardly believe the testimony of that ancient writer Philo-Judæus when he affirms that the sheep came voluntarily to be shorn. He says; "Woolly rams laden with thick fleeces put themselves into the shepherd’s hands to have their wool shorn, being thus accustomed to pay their yearly tribute to man, their king by nature. The sheep stands in a silent inclining posture, unconstrained under the hand of the shearer. These things may appear strange to those who do not know the docility of the sheep, but they are true." Marvellous indeed was this submissiveness in our Lord’s case; let us admire and imitate. II. Thus I have feebly set forth the patience of our beloved Master. Now I want you to follow me, in the second place, to view our own case under the same metaphor as that which is used in reference to our Lord. Did I not begin by saying that because we were sheep he deigns to compare himself to a sheep? Let us look from another point of view: our Lord was a sheep under the shearers, and as he is so are we also in this world. Though we shall never be offered up like lambs in the temple by way of expiation, yet the saints for ages were the flock of slaughter, as it is written, "For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter!" Jesus sends us forth as sheep in the midst of wolves, and we are to regard ourselves as living sacrifices, ready to be offered up. I dwell, however, more particularly upon the second symbol: we are brought as sheep under the shearers’ hands. Just as a sheep is taken by the shearer, and its wool is all cut off, so doth the Lord take his people and shear them, taking away all their earthly comforts, and leaving them bare. I wish when it came to our turn to undergo this shearing operation it could be said of us as of our Lord, "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." I fear that we open our mouths a great deal, and make no end of complaining without any apparent cause, or with the very slenderest reason. But now to the figure. First, remember that a sheep rewards its owner for all his care and trouble by being shorn. There is nothing else that I know of that a sheep can do. It yields food when it is killed, but while it is alive the one payment that the sheep can make to the shepherd is to yield its fleece in due season. Some of God’s people can give to Christ a tribute of gratitude by active service, and they should do so gladly every day of their lives; but many others cannot do much in active service, and about the only reward they can give to their Lord is to render up their fleece by suffering when he calls upon them to suffer, submissively yielding to be shorn of their personal comfort when the time comes for patient endurance. Here comes the shearer; he takes the sheep and begins to cut, cut, cut, cut, taking away the wool wholesale. Affliction is often used as the big shears. The husband, or perhaps the wife, is removed, little children are taken away, property is shorn off, and health is gone. Sometimes the shears cut off the man’s good name; slander follows; comforts vanish. Well, this is your shearing time, and it may be that you are not able to glorify God to any very large extent except by undergoing this process. If this be the fact, do you not think that we, like good sheep of Christ, should surrender ourselves cheerfully, feeling, "I lay myself down with this intent, that thou shouldst take from me anything and everything, and do what thou wilt with me; for I am not mine own, I am bought with a price"? Notice that the sheep is itself benefited by the operation of shearing. Before they begin to shear the sheep the wool is long and old, and every bush and briar tears off a bit of the wool, until the sheep looks ragged and forlorn. If the wool were left, when the heat of summer came the sheep would not be able to bear itself, it would be so overloaded with clothing that it would be as uncomfortable as we are when we have kept on our borrowed wool, our flannels and broadcloths, too late. So brethren, when the Lord shears us, we do not like the operation any more than the sheep do; but first, it is for his glory; and secondly, it is for our benefit, and therefore we are bound most willingly to submit. There are many things which we should have liked to have kept which, if we had kept them, would not have proved blessings but curses. A stale blessing is a curse. The manna, though it came from heaven, was only good so long as God’s command made it a blessing, but when they kept it over its due time it bred worms and stank, and then it was no blessing. Many persons would keep their mercies till they turn to corruption; but God will not have it so. Up to a certain point for you to be wealthy was a blessing; it would not have been a blessing any longer, and so the Lord took your riches away. Up to that point your child was a boon, but it would have been no longer so, and therefore it fell sick and died. You may not be able to see it, but it is so, that God, when he withdraws a blessing from his people, takes it away because it would not be a blessing any longer. Before sheep are shorn they are always washed. Were you ever present at the scene when they drive them down to the brook? Men are placed in rows, leading to the shepherd who stands in the water. The sheep are driven down, and the men seize them, throw them into the pool, keeping their faces above water, and swirl them round and round and round to wash the wool before they clip it off. You see them come out on the other side frightened to death, poor things, wondering whatever is coming. I want to suggest to you, brethren, that whenever a trial threatens to overtake you, you should entreat the Lord to sanctify it to you. If the good Shepherd is going to clip your wool, ask him to wash it before he takes it off; ask to be cleansed in spirit, soul, and body. That is a very good custom Christian people have of asking a blessing on their meals before they eat bread. Do you not think it is even more necessary to ask a blessing on our troubles before we get into them? Here is your dear child likely to die; will you not, dear parents, meet together and ask God to bless the death of that child, if it is to happen? The harvest fails; would it not be well to say—"Lord, sanctify this poverty, this loss, this year’s bad harvest: cause it to be a means of grace to us." Why not ask a blessing on the cup of bitterness as well as upon the cup of thanksgiving? Ask to be washed before you are shorn, and if the shearing must come, let it be your chief concern to yield clean wool. After the washing, when the sheep has been dried, it actually loses what was its comfort. The sheep is thrown down, and the shearers get to work; the poor creature is losing its comfortable fleece. You also will have to part with your comforts. Will you recollect this? The next time you receive a fresh blessing call it a loan. Poor sheep, there is no wool on your back but what will have to come off; child of God, there is no earthly comfort in your possession but what will either leave you, or you will leave it. Nothing is our own except our God. "Why," says one, "not our sin?" Sin was our own, but Jesus has taken it upon himself, and it is gone. There is nothing our own but our God, for all his gifts are held on lease, terminable at his sovereign will. We foolishly consider that our mercies belong to us, and when the Lord takes them away we half grumble. A loan, they say, should go laughing home, and so should we rejoice when the Lord takes back that which he had lent us. All our possessions are but brief favours borrowed for the hour. As the sheep yields up its wool and so loses its comfort, so must we yield up all our earthly properties; or if they remain with us till we die, we shall part with them then, we shall not take so much as one of them across the stream of death. The shearers take care not to hurt the sheep: they clip as close as they can, but they do not cut the skin. If possible, they will not draw blood, even in the smallest degree. When they do make a gash, it is because the sheep does not lie still: but a careful shearer has bloodless shears. Of this Thomson sings in his Seasons, and the passage is so good an illustration of the whole subject that I will adorn my discourse with it:— "How meek, how patient, the mild creature lies! What softness in its melancholy face, What dumb complaining innocence appears! Fear not, ye gentle tribes! ’tis not the knife Of horrid slaughter that is o’er you waved; No, ’tis the tender swain’s well guided shears, Who having now, to pay his annual care, Borrow’d your fleece, to you a cumbrous load, Will send you bounding to your hills again." It is the kicking and the struggling that make the shearing work at all hard, but if we are dumb before the shearers no harm can come. The Lord may clip wonderfully close: I have known him clip some so close that they did not seem to have a bit of wool left, for they were stripped entirely, even as Job when he cried, "Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither." Still, like Job, they have added, "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Notice that the shearers always shear at a suitable time. It would be a very wicked, cruel, and unwise thing to begin sheepshearing in winter time. There is a proverb which talks about God "tempering the wind to the shorn lamb." It may be so, but it is a very cruel practice to shear lambs while winds need tempering. Sheep are shorn when it is warm, genial weather, when they can afford to lose their fleeces, and are all the better for being relieved of them. As the summer comes on sheepshearing time comes. Have you ever noticed that whenever the Lord afflicts us he selects the best possible time? There is a prayer that he put into his disciples’ mouths, "Pray that your flight be not in the winter": the spirit of that prayer may be seen in the seasonableness of our sorrows. He will not send us our worst troubles at our worst times. If your soul is depressed the Lord does not send you a very heavy burden; he reserves such a load for times when you have joy in the Lord to be your strength. It has come to be a kind of feeling with us that when we have much delight a trial is near, but when sorrow thickens deliverance is approaching. The Lord does not send us two burdens at a time; or, if he does, he sends double strength. His shearing time is chosen with tender discretion. There is another thing to remember. It is with us as with the sheep, there is new wool coming. Whenever the Lord takes away our earthly comforts with one hand, one, two, three, he restores with the other hand six, a score, a hundred; we are crying and whining about the little loss, and yet it is necessary in order that we may be able to receive the great gain. Yes, it will be so, we shall yet have cause for rejoicing, "joy cometh in the morning." If we have lost one position, there is another for us: if we have been driven out of one place, a better refuge is prepared. Providence opens a second door when it shuts the first. If the Lord takes away the manna, as he did from his people Israel, it is because they have the old corn of the land of Caanan to live upon. If the water of the rock did not follow the tribes any longer, it was because they drank of the Jordan, and of the brooks. O sheep of the Lord’s fold, there is new wool coming: therefore do not fret at the shearing. I have given these thoughts in brief, that we may come to the last word. III. Let us, in the third place, endeavour to imitate the example of our blessed Lord when our turn comes to be shorn. Let us be dumb before the shearers, submissive, quiescent, even as he was. I have been giving, in everything I have said, a reason for so doing. I have shown that our shearing by affliction glorifies God, rewards the Shepherd, and benefits ourselves. I have shown that the Lord measures and tempers our affliction, and sends the trial at the right time. I have shown you in many ways that it will be wise to submit ourselves, as the sheep does to the shearer, and that the more completely we do so the better. We struggle far too much, and we are apt to make excuses for so doing. Sometimes we say, "Oh, this is so painful, I cannot be patient! I could have borne anything else but this." When a father is going to correct his child, does he select something pleasant? No. The painfulness of the punishment is the essence of it, and even so the bitterness of our sorrow is the soul of our chastening. By the blueness of the wound the heart will be made better. Do not repine because your trial seems strange and sharp. That would in fact be saying, "If l have it all my own way I will, but if everything does not please me I will rebel"; and that is not a fit spirit for a child of God. Sometimes we complain because of our great weakness. "Lord, were I stronger I would not mind this heavy loss; but I am frail as a sere leaf driven of the tempest." But who is to be the judge of the suitability of your trial? You or God? Since the Lord judges this trial to be suitable to your weakness, you may be sure that it is so. Lie still! Lie still! "Alas," you say, "my grief comes from the most cruel quarter; this trouble did not arise directly from God, it came through my cousin or my brother who ought to have treated me with gratitude. It was not an enemy: then I could have borne it." My brother, let me assure you that in reality trial comes not from an enemy after all. God is at the bottom of all your tribulation; look through the second causes to the great First Cause. It is a great mistake when we fret over the human instrument which smites us, and forget the hand which uses the rod. If I strike a dog, he bites my stick; poor creature, he knows no better: but if he could think a little he would bite me, or else take the blow submissively. Now, you must not begin biting the stick. After all, it is your heavenly Father that uses the staff; though it be of ebony or of blackthorn, it is in his hand. It is well to have done with picking and choosing our trials, and to leave the whole matter in the hand of infinite wisdom. A sweet singer has put this matter very prettily; let me quote the lines:— "But when my Lord did ask me on what side I were content, The grief whereby I must be purified, To me was sent, "As each imagined anguish did appear, Each withering bliss Before my soul, I cried, ‘Oh! spare me here, Oh, no, not this!’ "Like one that having need of, deep within, The surgeon’s knife, Would hardly bear that it should graze the skin, Though for his life. "Nay, then, but he, who best doth understand Both what we need, And what can bear, did take my case in hand, Nor crying heed." This is the pith of my sermon: oh, believer, yield thyself! Lie passive in the hands of God! Yield thee, and struggle not! There is no use in struggling, for our great Shearer, if he means to shear, will do it. Did I not say just now that the sheep, by struggling, might be cut by the shears! So you and I, if we struggle against God, will get two strokes instead of one; and after all there is not half so much trouble in a trouble as there is in kicking against the trouble. The Eastern ploughman has a goad, and pricks the ox to make it move more actively; he does not hurt it much by his gentle prodding, but suppose the ox flings out its leg the moment it touches him, he drives the goad into himself, and bleeds. So it is with us, we shall find it hard to kick against the pricks; we shall endure much more pain by rebelling than would have come if we had yielded to the divine will. What good comes of fretting? We cannot make one hair white or black. You that are troubled, rest with us, for you cannot make shower or shine, foul or fair, with all your groaning. Did you ever bring a penny into the till by fretting, or put a loaf on the table by complaint? Murmuring is wasted breath, and fretting is wasted time. To lie passive in the hand of God brings a blessing to the soul. I would myself be more quiet, calm, and self-possessed. I long to cry habitually, "Lord, do what thou wilt, when thou wilt, as thou wilt, with me, thy servant: appoint me honour or dishonour, wealth or poverty, sickness or health, exhilaration or depression, and I will take all right gladly from thy hand." A man is not far from the gates of heaven when he is fully submissive to the Lord’s will. You that have been shorn have, I hope, received comfort through the ever blessed Spirit of God. May God bless you. Oh that the sinner, too, would humble himself under the mighty hand of God! Submit yourselves unto God, let every thought be brought into captivity to him, and the Lord send his blessing, for Christ’s sake. Amen. Spurgeon, C. H. (1882). Farm Sermons. New York: Passmore and Alabaster. (Public Domain) Good Friday 1597 Bishop Lancelot Andrewes Good Friday 1597 — Bishop Lancelot Andrewes Zechariah 12:10 And they shall look upon Me, Whom they have pierced. That great and honourable person the Eunuch, sitting in his chariot, and reading a like place of the Prophet Esay, asketh St. Philip. "I pray thee,* Of Whom speaketh the Prophet this? of himself, or some other?" A question very material, and to great good purpose, and to be asked by us in all prophecies. For knowing who the party is, we shall not wander in the Prophet’s meaning. Now, if the Eunuch had been reading this of Zachary, as then he was that of Esay, and had asked the same question of St. Philip, he would have made the same answer. And as he out of those words took occasion, so may we out of these take the like, to preach Jesus unto them. For neither of himself, nor of any other, but of Jesus, speaketh the Prophet this;* and "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of this prophecy." That so it is the Holy Ghost is our warrant, Who in St. John’s Gospel reporting the Passion, and the last act of the Passion—this opening of the side, and piercing of the heart—our Saviour Christ saith plainly, that in the piercing the very words of the prophecy were fulfilled,* Respicient in Me Quem transfixerunt. Which term of piercing we shall the more clearly conceive, if with the ancient writers, we sort it with the beginning of Psalm 22. the Psalm of the Passion. For, in the very front or inscription of this Psalm, our Saviour Christ is compared cervo matutino, "to the morning hart;" that is, a hart roused early in the morning, as from His very birth He was by Herod, hunted and chased all His life long, and this day brought to His end, and, as the poor deer, stricken and pierced through side, heart, and all; which is it we are here willed to behold. There is no part of the whole course of our Saviour Christ’s life or death but it is well worthy our looking on, and from each part in it there goeth virtue to do us good; but of all other parts, and above them all, this last part of His piercing is here commended unto our view. Indeed, how could the Prophet commend it more, than in avowing it to be an act of grace, as in the fore part of this verse he doth? Effundam super cos Spiritum Gratiæ, et respicient, &c.* as if he should say; If there be any grace in us, we will think it worth the looking on. Neither doth the Prophet only, but the Apostle also, call us unto it,* and willeth us what to "look unto" and regard, "Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith." Then specially, and in that act, when for "the joy of our salvation set before Him He endured the cross, and despised the shame;" that is, in this spectacle, when He was pierced. Which surely is continually, all our life long, to be done by us, and at all times some time to be spared unto it; but if at other times, most requisite at this time, this very day which we hold holy to the memory of His Passion, and the piercing of His precious side. That, though on other days we employ our eyes otherwise, this day at least we fix them on this object, respicientes in Eum. This day, I say, which is dedicated to none other end,* but even to lift up the Son of Man, as Moses did the serpent in the wilderness, that we may look upon Him and live; when every Scripture that is read soundeth nothing but this unto us, when by the office of preaching Jesus Christ is lively described in our sight, and as the Apostle speaketh,* is "visibly crucified among us;" when in the memorial of the Holy Sacrament,* "His death is shewed forth until He come," and the mystery of this His piercing so many ways, so effectually represented before us. This prophecy therefore, if at any time, at this time to take place, Respicient in Me, &c. The principal words are but two, and set down unto us in two points. I. The sight itself, that is, the thing to be seen; II. and the sight of it, that is, the act of seeing or looking. Quem transfixerunt is the object, or spectacle propounded. Respicient in Eum, is the act or duty enjoined. Of which the object though in place latter, in nature is the former, and first to be handled; for that there must be a thing first set up, before we can set our eyes to look upon it. Of the object generally, first. Certain it is, that Christ is here meant: St. John hath put us out of doubt for that point. And Zachary here could have set down His name, and said, Respice in Christum; for Daniel before had named his name, Occidetur Messias;* and Zachary, being after him in time, might have easily repeated it. But it seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to him, rather to use a circumlocution; and suppressing His name of Christ, to express Him by the style or term, Quem transfixerunt. Which being done by choice, must needs have a reason of the doing, and so it hath. 1. First, the better to specify and particularize the Person of Christ, by the kind, and most peculiar circumstance, of His death.* Esay had said, Morietur, "Die He shall, and lay down His soul an offering for sin." 2. Die—but what death? a natural or a violent?* Daniel tells us, Occidetur; He shall die, not a natural, but a violent death. 3. But many are slain after many sorts, and divers kinds there be of violent deaths. The Psalmist, the more particularly to set it down, describeth it thus:* "They pierced My hands and My feet;" which is only proper to the death of the Cross. 4. Die, and be slain, and be crucified. But sundry else were crucified; and therefore the Prophet here, to make up all, addeth, that He should not only be crucifixus, but transfixus; not only have His hands and His feet, but even His heart pierced too. Which very note severs Him from all the rest, with as great particularity as may be; for that, though many besides at other times, and some at the same time with Him were crucified, yet the side and the heart of none was opened, but His, and His only. 2. Secondly, as to specify Christ Himself in Person, and to sever Him from the rest; so in Christ Himself, and in His Person, to sever from the rest of His doings and sufferings, what that is that chiefly concerneth us, and we specially are to look to; and that is this day’s work—Christ pierced. St. Paul doth best express this:* "I esteemed," saith he, "to know nothing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." That is, the perfection of our knowledge is Christ; the perfection of our knowledge in, or touching Christ, is the knowledge of Christ’s piercing. This is the chief sight; nay, as it shall after appear, in this sight are all sights; so that know this, and know all. This generally. Now, specially. In the object, two things offer themselves; 1. The Passion, or suffering itself, which was, to be "pierced." 2. And the Persons, by whom. For if the Prophet had not intended the Persons should have had their respect too, he might have said Respicient in Eum Qui transfixus est;—which passive would have carried the Passion itself full enough—but so he would not, but rather chose to say, Quem transfixerunt; which doth necessarily imply the piercers themselves too. So that we must needs have an eye in the handling, both to the fact, and to the persons, 1. quid, and 2. quibus, both what, and of whom. In the Passion, we first consider the degree; for transfixerunt is a word of gradation, more than fixerunt, or suffixerunt, or confixerunt either. Expressing unto us the piercing, not with whips and scourges; nor of the nails and thorns, but of the spear-point. Not the whips and scourges, wherewith His skin and flesh were pierced; nor the nails and thorns wherewith His feet, hands, and head were pierced; but the spear-point which pierced, and went through, His very heart itself; for of that wound,* of the wound in His heart, is this spoken. Therefore trans is here a transcendent—through and through; through skin and flesh, through hands and feet, through side and heart, and all; the deadliest and deepest wound, and of highest gradation. Secondly, as the preposition trans hath his gradation of divers degrees, so the pronoun me hath his generality of divers parts; best expressed in the original. "Upon Me;" not, upon My body and soul. "Upon Me" Whose Person, not Whose parts, either body without, or soul within; but "upon Me," Whom wholly, body and soul, quick and dead, "they have pierced." Of the body’s piercing there can be no question, since no part of it was left unpierced. Our senses certify us of that—what need we farther witness? Of the soul’s too, it is as certain, and there can be no doubt of it neither; that we truly may affirm; Christ, not in part, but wholly, was pierced. For we should do injury to the sufferings of our Saviour, if we should conceive by this piercing none other but that of the spear. And may a soul then be pierced? Can any spear-point go through it? Truly Simeon saith to the blessed Virgin by way of prophecy,* that "the sword should go through her soul," at the time of His Passion. And as the sword through hers, so I make no question but the spear through His. And if through hers which was but anima compatientis, through His much more, which was anima patientis; since compassion is but passion at rebound. Howbeit, it is not a sword of steel, or a spear-head of iron, that entereth the soul, but a metal of another temper; the dint whereof no less goreth and woundeth the soul in proportion, than those do the body. So that we extend this piercing of Christ farther than to the visible gash in His side, even to a piercing of another nature, whereby not His heart only was stabbed, but His very spirit wounded too. The Scripture recounteth two, and of them both expressly saith, that they both pierce the soul. The Apostle saith it by sorrow:* "And pierced themselves through with many sorrows."* The Prophet, of reproach: "There are whose words are like the pricking of a sword;" and that to the soul both, for the body feels neither. With these, even with both these, was the soul of Christ Jesus wounded. For sorrow—it is plain through all four Evangelists; Undique tristis est anima Mea usque ad mortem!* "My soul is environed on every side with sorrow,* even to the death." Cœpit Jesus tædere et pavere,* "Jesus began to be distressed and in great anguish."* Factus in agoniâ, "being cast into an agony."* Jam turbata est anima Mea; "Now is My soul troubled." Avowed by them all, confessed by Himself. Yea, that His strange and never else heard of sweat—drops of blood plenteously issuing from Him all over His body, what time no manner of violence was offered to His body, no man then touching Him, none being near Him; that blood came certainly from some great sorrow wherewith His soul was pierced. And that His most dreadful cry, which at once moved all the powers of Heaven and earth,* "My God, My God, &c." was the voice of some mighty anguish, wherewith His soul was smitten; and that in other sort, than with any material spear. For derelinqui a Deo—the body cannot feel it, or tell what it meaneth. It is the soul’s complaint, and therefore without all doubt His soul within Him was pierced and suffered, though not that which—except charity be allowed to expound it—cannot be spoken without blasphemy. Not so much, God forbid! yet much, and very much, and much more than others seem to allow; or how much, it is dangerous to define. To this edge of sorrow, if the other of piercing despite be added as a point, as added it was, it will strike deep into any heart; especially, being wounded with so many sorrows before. But the more noble the heart, the deeper; who beareth any grief more easily than this grief, the grief of a contumelious reproach.* "To persecute a poor distressed soul, and to seek to vex Him that is already wounded at the heart," why, it is the very pitch of all wickedness; the very extremity that malice can do, or affliction can suffer. And to this pitch were they come, when after all their wretched villanies and spittings, and all their savage indignities in reviling Him most opprobriously, He being in the depth of all His distress, and for very anguish of soul crying, Eli, Eli, &c., they stayed those that would have relieved him; and void of all humanity then scorned,* saying; "Stay, let alone, let us see if Elias will now come and take Him down." This barbarous and brutish inhumanity of theirs, must needs pierce deeper into His soul, than ever did the iron into His side. To all which if we it add, not only that horrible ingratitude of theirs, there by Him seen, but ours also no less than theirs by Him foreseen at the same time; who make so slender reckoning of these His piercings, and, as they were a matter not worth the looking on, vouchsafe not so much as to spend an hour in the due regard and meditation of them; nay, not that only, but farther by incessant sinning, and that without remorse, do most unkindly requite those His bitter pains, and as much as in us lies,* "even crucify afresh the Son of God, making a mock of Him and His piercings." These I say, for these all and every of them in that instant were before His eyes, must of force enter into, and go through and through His soul and spirit; that what with those former sorrows, and what with these after indignities, the Prophet might truly say of Him, and He of Himself in Me, "upon Me;" not whose body or whose soul, but whom entirely and wholly, both in body and soul, alive and dead, they have pierced and passioned this day on the cross. Of the persons;—which, as it is necessarily implied in the word, is very properly incident to the matter itself. For it is usual, when one is found slain as here, to make enquiry, By whom he came by his death. Which so much the rather is to be done by us, because there is commonly an error in the world, touching the parties that were the causes of Christ’s death. Our manner is, either to lay it on the soldiers, that were the instruments; or if not upon them, upon Pilate the judge that gave sentence; or if not upon him, upon the people that importuned the judge; or lastly, if not upon them, upon the Elders of the Jews that animated the people; and this is all to be found by our quest of enquiry. But the Prophet here indicted others. For by saying, "They shall look," &c., "Whom they have pierced," he intendeth by very construction, that the first and second "They," are not two, but one and the same parties. And that they that are here willed to look upon Him, are they and none other that were the authors of this fact, even of the murder of Jesus Christ. And to say truth, the Prophet’s intent is no other but to bring the malefactors themselves that pierced Him, to view the body and the wounded heart of Him, "Whom they have so pierced." In the course of justice we say, and say truly, when a party is put to death, that the executioner cannot be said to be the cause of his death; nor the sheriff, by whose commandment he doth it; neither yet the judge by whose sentence; nor the twelve men by whose verdict; nor the law itself, by whose authority it is proceeded in. For, God forbid we should indict these, or any of these, of murder. Solum peccatum homicida; sin, and sin only, is the murderer. Sin, I say, either of the party that suffereth; or of some other, by whose means, or for whose cause, he is put to death. Now, Christ’s own sin it was not that He died for. That is most evident.* Not so much by His own challenge, Quis ex vobis arguit Me de peccato?* as by the report of His judge, who openly professed that he had examined Him, and "found no fault in Him." "No, nor yet Herod," for being sent to him and examined by him also, nothing worthy death was found in Him.* And therefore, calling for water and washing his hands he protesteth his own innocency of the blood of this "Just Man;" thereby pronouncing Him Just, and void of any cause in Himself of His own death. It must then necessarily be the sin of some others, for whose sake Christ Jesus was thus pierced. And if we ask, who those others be? or whose sins they were? the Prophet Esay tells us,* Posuit super Eum iniquitates omnium nostrûm, "He laid upon Him the transgressions of us all;" who should, even for those our many, great, and grievous transgressions, have eternally been pierced, in body and soul, with torment and sorrows of a never-dying death, had not He stepped between us and the blow, and received it in His own body; even the dint of the wrath of God to come upon us. So that it was the sin of our polluted hands that pierced His hands, the swiftness of our feet to do evil that nailed His feet, the wicked devices of our heads that gored His head, and the wretched desires of our hearts that pierced His heart. We that "look upon," it is we that "pierced Him;" and it is we that "pierced Him," that are willed to "look upon Him." Which bringeth it home to us, to me myself that speak, and to you yourselves that hear; and applieth it most effectually to every one of us, who evidently seeing that we were the cause of this His piercing, if our hearts be not too hard, ought to have remorse to be pierced with it. When, for delivering to David a few loaves, Abimelech and the Priests were by Saul put to the sword, if David did then acknowledge with grief of heart and say,* "I, even I, am the cause of the death of thy father and all his house;"—when he was but only the occasion of it, and not that direct neither—may not we, nay ought not we much more justly and deservedly say of this piercing of Christ our Saviour, that we verily, even we, are the cause thereof, as verily we are, even the principals in this murder; and the Jews and others, on whom we seek to derive it, but only accessories and instrumental causes thereof. Which point we ought as continually, so seriously to think of; and that no less than the former. The former, to stir up compassion in ourselves, over Him that thus was pierced; the latter, to work deep remorse in our hearts, for being authors of it. That He was pierced, will make our bowels melt with compassion over Christ. That He was pierced by us that look on Him, if our hearts be not "flint," as Job saith, or as "the nether mill-stone,"* will breed remorse over ourselves, wretched sinners as we are. The act followeth in these words; Respicient in Eum. A request most reasonable, to "look upon Him"—but "to look upon Him," to bestow but a look and nothing else, which even of common humanity we cannot deny, Quia non aspicere despicere est. It argueth great contempt, not to vouchsafe it the cast of our eye, as if it were an object utterly unworthy the looking toward. Truly, if we mark it well, nature itself of itself inclineth to this act. When Amasa treacherously was slain by Joab, and lay weltering in his blood by the way side, the story saith that not one of the whole army, then marching by,* but when he came at him, "stood still and looked on him." In the Gospel, the party that goeth from Jerusalem to Jericho was spoiled and wounded and lay drawing on, though the Priest and Levite that passed near the place relieved him not, as the Samaritan after did; yet it is said of them, they "went near and looked on,"* and then passed on their way. Which desire is even natural in us; so that even nature itself inclineth us to satisfy the Prophet. Nature doth, and so doth Grace too. For generally we are bound to "regard the work of the Lord,* and to consider the operations of His hands;" and specially this work, in comparison whereof God Himself saith, the former works of His "shall not be remembered,* nor the things done of old once regarded." Yea Christ Himself, pierced as He is, inviteth us to it. For in the Prophet here it is not in Eum, but in Me; not ‘on Him,’ but "on Me Whom they have pierced." But more fully in Jeremy; for, to Christ Himself do all the ancient writers apply, and that most properly, those words of the Lamentation;* "Have ye no regard all ye that pass by this way? Behold and sec, if there be any sorrow like My sorrow, which is done unto Me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce wrath." Our own profit, which is wont to persuade well, inviteth us;* for that as from the brazen serpent no virtue issued to heal but unto them that steadily beheld it, so neither doth there from Christ but upon those that with the eye of faith have their contemplation on this object; who thereby draw life from Him, and without it may and do perish, for all Christ and His Passion. And if nothing else move us, this last may, even our danger. For the time will come when we ourselves shall desire, that God looking with an angry countenance upon our sins, would turn His face from them and us, and look upon the face of His Christ, that is, respicere in Eum; which shall justly be then denied us, if we ourselves could never be gotten to do this duty, respicere in Eum, when it was called for of us. God shall not look upon Him at ours, Whom we would not look upon at His request. In the act itself are enjoined three things: 1. That we do it with attention; for it is not Me, but in Me; not only "upon Him," but "into Him," 2. That we do it oft, again and again, with iteration; for respicient is re-aspicient. Not a single act, but an act iterated. 3. That we cause our nature to do it, as it were, by virtue of an injunction, per actum elicitum, as the schoolmen call it. For in the original it is in the commanding conjugation, that signifieth, facient se respicere, rather than respicient. First then, not slightly, superficially or perfunctorily, but steadfastly, and with due attention, to "look upon Him." And not to look upon the outside alone, but to look into the very entrails; and with our eye to pierce Him That was thus pierced. In Eum beareth both. 1. "Upon Him" if we "look," we shall see so much as Pilate shewed of Him;—ecce Homo, that He is a Man. And if He were not a man, but some other unreasonable creature, it were great ruth to see Him so handled. 2. Among men we less pity malefactors, and have most compassion on them that be innocent. And He was innocent, and deserved it not, as you have heard, His enemies themselves being His judges. 3. Among those that be innocent, the more noble the person, the greater the grief, and the more heavy ever is the spectacle. Now if we consider the verse of this text well, we shall see it is God Himself and no man that here speaketh, for to God only it belongeth to "pour out the Spirit of grace," it passeth man’s reach to do it; so that, if we look better upon Him, we shall see as much as the Centurion saw, that this party thus pierced "is the Son of God."* The Son of God slain!* Surely he that hath done this deed "is the child of death," would every one of us say; Et tu es homo, "Thou art the man," would the Prophet answer us. You are they, for whose sins the Son of God hath His very heart-blood shed forth. Which must needs strike into us remorse of a deeper degree than before; that not only it is we that have pierced the party thus found slain, but that this party, whom we have thus pierced, is not a principal person among the children of men, but even the only-begotten Son of the Most High God. Which will make us cry out with St. Augustine, O amaritudo peccati mei, ad quam tollendam necessaria fuit amaritudo tanta! ‘Now sure, deadly was the bitterness of our sins, that might not be cured, but by the bitter death and blood-shedding Passion of the Son of God.’ And this may we see looking upon Him. But now then, if we look in Eum, "into Him," we shall see yet a greater thing, which may raise us in comfort, as far as the other cast us down. Even the bowels of compassion and tender love, whereby He would and was content to suffer all this for our sakes.* For that, whereas "no man had power to take His life from Him," for He had power to have commanded twelve legions of Angels in His just defence;* and without any Angel at all, power enough of Himself with His Ego sum, to strike them all to the ground;* He was content notwithstanding all this, to lay down His life for us sinners. The greatness of which love passeth the greatest love that man hath; for "greater love than this hath no man, but to bestow his life for his friends,"* whereas He condescended to lay it down for His enemies. Even for them that sought His death, to lay down His life, and to have His blood shed for them that did shed it; to be pierced for His piercers. Look how the former in Eum worketh grief, considering the great injuries offered to so great a Personage; so, to temper the grief of it, this latter in Eum giveth some comfort, that so great a Person should so greatly love us, as for our sakes to endure all those so many injuries, even to the piercing of His very heart. Secondly, respicient, that is, re-aspicient; not once or twice, but oftentimes to look upon it; that is, as the Prophet saith here, iteratis vicibus, to look again and again; or, as the Apostle saith, recogitare,* "to think upon it over and over again," as it were to dwell in it for a time. In a sort, with the frequentness of this our beholding it, to supply the weakness and want of our former attention. Surely, the more steadily and more often we shall fix our eye upon it, the more we shall be inured; and being inured, the more desire to do it. For at every looking some new sight will offer itself, which will offer unto us occasion, either of godly sorrow, true repentance, sound comfort, or some other reflection, issuing from the beams of this heavenly mirror. Which point, because it is the chief point, the Prophet here calleth us to, even how to look upon Christ often, and to be the better for our looking; it shall be very agreeable to the text, and to the Holy Ghost’s chief intent, if we prove how, and in how diverse sorts, we may with profit behold and "look upon Him" Whom thus we have "pierced." First then, looking upon Him, we may bring forth for the first effect that which immediately followeth this text itself in this text, Et plangent Eum:—Respice et plange. First, ‘look and lament,’ or mourn; which is indeed the most kindly and natural effect of such a spectacle. "Look upon Him that is pierced," and with looking upon Him be pierced thyself; respice et transfigere. A good effect of our first look, if we could bring it forth. At leastwise, if we cannot respice et transfigere, ‘look and be pierced,’ yet that it might be respice et compungere, ‘that with looking on Him we might be "pricked in our hearts," ’* and have it enter past the skin, though it go not clean through. Which difference in this verse the Prophet seemeth to insinuate, when first he willeth us to mourn as for one’s only son, with whom all is lost. Or, if that cannot be had, to mourn as for a first-begotten son, which is though not so great, yet a great mourning; even for the first-begotten, though other sons be left. And,* in the next verse, if we cannot reach to natural grief, yet he wisheth us to mourn with a civil; even with such a lamentation as was made for Josias. And behold a greater than Josias is here. Coming not, as he, to an honourable death in battle, but to a most vile death, the death of a malefactor; and not, as Josias, dying without any fault of theirs, but mangled and massacred in this shameful sort for us, even for us and our transgressions. Verily, the dumb and senseless creatures had this effect wrought in them, of mourning at the sight of His death; in their kind sorrowing for the murder of the Son of God. And we truly shall be much more senseless than they, if it have in us no work to the like effect. Especially, considering it was not for them He suffered all this, nor they no profit by it, but for us it was, and we by it saved; and yet they had compassion, and we none. Be this then the first. Now, as the first is respice et transfigere, ‘look upon Him and be pierced;’ so the second may be, and that fitly, respice et transfige, ‘look upon Him and pierce;’ and pierce that in thee that was the cause of Christ’s piercing, that is, sin and the lusts thereof. For as men that are pierced indeed with the grief of an indignity offered, withal are pricked to take revenge on him that offers it, such a like affection ought our second looking to kindle in us, even to take a wreak or revenge upon sin, quia fecit hoc, ‘because it hath been the cause of all this.’ I mean, as the Holy Ghost termeth it, a mortifying or crucifying; a thrusting through of our wicked passions and concupiscences, in some kind of repaying those manifold villanies, which the Son of God suffered by means of them. At leastwise, as before, if it kindle not our zeal so far against sin, yet that it may slake our zeal and affection to sin; that is, respice ne respicias, respice Christum ne respicias peccatum. That we have less mind, less liking, less acquaintance with sin, for the Passion-sake. For that by this means we do in some sort spare Christ, and at least make His wounds no wider; whereas by affecting sin anew we do what in us lieth to crucify Him afresh, and both increase the number, and enlarge the wideness of His wounds. It is no unreasonable request, that if we list not wound sin, yet seeing Christ hath wounds enough, and they wide and deep enough, we should forbear to pierce Him farther, and have at least this second fruit of our looking upon Him; either to look and to pierce sin, or to look and spare to pierce Him any more. Now, as it was sin that gave Him these wounds, so it was love to us that made Him receive them, being otherwise able enough to have avoided them all. So that He was pierced with love no less than with grief, and it was that wound of love made Him so constantly to endure all the other. Which love we may read in the palms of His hands, as the Fathers express it out of Esay 49:16;* for "in the palms of His hands He hath graven us," that He might not forget us. And the print of the nails in them, are as capital letters to record His love towards us. For Christ pierced on the cross is liber charitatis, ‘the very book of love’ laid open before us. And again, this love of His we may read in the cleft of His heart. Quia clavus penetrans factus est nobis clavis reserans, saith Bernard, ut patcant nobis viscera per vulnera;* ‘the point of the spear serves us instead of a key, letting us through His wounds see His very bowels,’ the bowels of tender love and most kind compassion, that would for us endure to be so entreated. That if the Jews that stood by said truly of Him at Lazarus’ grave,* Ecce quomodo dilexit eum! when He shed a few tears out of His eyes; much more truly may we say of Him, Ecce quomodo dilexit nos! seeing Him shed both water and blood, and that in great plenty, and that out of His heart. Which sight ought to pierce us with love too, no less than before it did with sorrow. With one, or with both, for both have power to pierce; but specially love, which except it had entered first and pierced Him, no nail or spear could ever have entered. Then let this be the third, respice et dilige; ‘look and be pierced with love of Him’ that so loved thee, that He gave Himself in this sort to be pierced for thee. And forasmuch as it is Christ His Ownself That, resembling His Passion on the cross to the brazen serpent lift up in the wilderness, maketh a correspondence between their beholding and our believing—for so it is John 3:14.—we cannot avoid,* but must needs make that an effect too; even respice et crede. And well may we believe and trust Him, Whom looking a little before we have seen so constantly loving us. For the sight of that love maketh credible unto us, whatsoever in the whole Scripture is affirmed unto us of Christ, or promised in His Name; so that believe it, and believe all. Neither is there any time wherein with such cheerfulness or fulness of faith we cry unto Him,* "My Lord, and My God," as when our eye is fixed upon "the print of the nails, and on the hole in the side" of Him that was pierced for us. So that this fourth duty Christ Himself layeth upon us, and willeth us from His own mouth, respice et crede. And believing this of Him, what is there the eye of our hope shall not look for from Him? What would not He do for us, That for us would suffer all this? It is St. Paul’s argument,* "If God gave His Son for us, how shall He deny us any thing with Him?" That is, respice et spera. ‘Look upon Him, and His heart opened, and from that gate of hope promise thyself, and look for all manner of things that good are.’ Which our expectation is reduced to these too: 1. The deliverance from evil of our present misery; 2. and the restoring to the good of our primitive felicity. By the death of this undefiled Lamb, as by the yearly Passover, look for and hope for a passage out of Egypt, which spiritually is our redemption from the servitude of the power of darkness. And as by the death of the Sacrifice we look to be freed from whatsoever evil, so by the death of the High Priest look we for and hope for restitution to all that is good; even to our forfeited estate in the land of Promise which is Heaven itself, where is all joy and happiness for evermore. Respice et spera, ‘look and look for;’ by the Lamb that is pierced to be freed from all misery, by the High Priest that is pierced fruition of all felicity. Now, inasmuch as His heart is pierced, and His side opened; the opening of the one, and the piercing of the other, is to the end somewhat may flow forth. To which end, saith St. Augustine, Vigilanti verbo usus est Apostolus, ‘the Apostle was well advised when he used the word opening;’* for there issued out "water and blood," which make the sixth effect, Respice et recipe. Mark it running out, and suffer it not to run waste, but receive it.* Of the former, the water, the Prophet speaketh in the first words of the next chapter,* that out of His pierced side God "opened a fountain of water to the House of Israel for sin and for uncleanness;" of the fulness whereof we all have received in the Sacrament of our Baptism. Of the latter, the blood, which the Prophet,* in the ninth chapter before, calleth "the blood of the New Testament," we may receive this day; for it will run in the high and holy mysteries of the Body and Blood of Christ. There may we be partakers of the flesh of the Morning Hart,* as upon this day killed. There may we be partakers of "the cup of salvation,"* "the precious blood" "which was shed for the remission of our sins."* Our part it shall be not to account "the blood of the Testament an unholy thing,"* and to suffer it to run in vain for all us, but with all due regard to receive it so running, for even therefore was it shed. And so to the former to add this sixth, Respice et recipe. And shall we alway receive grace, even streams of grace issuing from Him That is pierced, and shall there not from us issue something back again, that He may look for and receive from us that from Him have, and do daily, receive so many good things? No doubt there shall, if love which pierced Him have pierced us aright. And that is, no longer to hold you with these effects, Respice et retribue. For it will even behove us, no less than the Psalmist, to enter into the consideration of quid retribuam.* Especially since we by this day both see and receive that, which he and many others desired to see, and receive, and could not.* Or if we have nothing to render,* yet ourselves to return with the Samaritan, and falling down at His feet, with a loud voice, to glorify His goodness, Who finding us in the estate that other Samaritan found the forlorn and wounded man, healed us by being wounded Himself, and by His own death restored us to life. For all which His kindness if nothing will come from us, not so much as a kind and thankful acknowledgment, we are certainly worthy He should restrain the fountain of His benefits, which hitherto hath flowed most plenteously, and neither let us see nor feel Him any more. But I hope for better things—that love, such and so great love, will pierce us, and cause both other fruits, and especially thoughts of thankfulness to issue from us. Thus many, and many more if the time would serve, but thus many several uses may we have of thus many several respects, or reflexed lookings upon Him Whom we have pierced. Thirdly, facient se respicere. For the Holy Ghost did easily foresee, we would not readily be brought to the sight, or to use our eyes to so good an end. Indeed, to flesh and blood it is but a dull and heavy spectacle. And neither willingly they begin to look upon it, and having begun are never well till they have done and look off of it again. Therefore is the verb by the Prophet put into this conjugation of purpose, which to turn in strict propriety is respicere se facient, rather than respicient. ‘They shall procure or cause, or even enjoin or enforce themselves to look upon it;’ or, as one would say, look that they look upon it. For some new and strange spectacle, though vain and idle, and which shall not profit us how strange soever, we cause ourselves sometimes to take a journey, and besides our pains are at expenses too to behold them. We will not only look upon, but even cause ourselves to look upon vanities; and in them, we have the right use of facient se respicere. And why should we not take some pains, and even enjoin ourselves to look upon this, being neither far off, nor chargeable to come to, and since the looking on it may so many ways so mainly profit us?* Verily it falleth out oft, that of Christ’s; violenti rapiunt illud, nature is not inclined, and where it is not inclined, force must be offered, which we call in schools actum elicitum. Which very act by us undertaken for God, and as here at His word, is unto Him a sacrifice right acceptable. Therefore facias, or fac facias; ‘do it willingly, or do it by force.’ Do it, I say, for done it must be. Set it before you and look on it; or if you list not, remove it, and set it full before you: though it be not with your ease, respice, ‘look back upon it’ with some pain; for one way or other, look upon it we must. The necessity whereof, that we may the better apprehend it, it will not be amiss we know, that these words are in two sundry places two sundry ways applied.* 1. Once by St. John in the Gospel, 2. and the second time again by Christ Himself in the Revelation. By St. John to Christ at His first coming, suffering as our Saviour upon the cross. By Christ to Himself at His second coming, sitting as our Judge upon His throne, in the end of the world:* "Behold He cometh in the clouds, and every eye shall see Him, yea, even they that pierced Him;" et plangent se super Eum omnes gentes terræ. The meaning whereof is, Look upon Him here if you will; enjoin yourselves if you think good, either here or somewhere else; either now or then, look upon Him you shall. And they which put this spectacle far from them here, and cannot endure to "look upon Him Whom they have pierced," et plangere Eum, "and be grieved for Him," while it is time; a place and time shall be, when they shall be enforced to look upon Him, whether they will or no, et plangent se super Eum, ‘and be grieved for themselves,’ that they had no grace to do it sooner. Better compose themselves to a little mourning here, with some benefit to be made by their beholding, than to be drawn to it there when it is too late, and when all their looking and grieving will not avail a whit. For there respicientes respiciet, et despicientes despiciet; ‘His look shall be amiable to them that have respected His piercing here, and dreadful on the other side to them that have neglected it.’ And as they that have inured themselves to this looking on here,* shall in that day "look up and lift up their heads with joy, the day of their redemption being at hand;" so they that cannot bring themselves to look upon Him here, after they once have looked upon Him there, shall not dare to do it the second time, but cry to the mountains, "Fall upon us, and to the hills,* Hide us from the face of Him That sits upon the throne." Therefore, respicient is no evil counsel. No, though it be facient se respicere. In a word, if thus causing ourselves to fix our eyes on Him we ask, How long we shall continue so doing, and when we may give over? let this be the answer; Donec totus fixus in corde, Qui totus fixus in cruce. Or if that be too much or too hard, yet saltem, ‘at the least,’ respice in Illum donce Ille te respexerit, ‘Look upon Him till He look upon you again.’ For so He will.* He did upon Peter, and with His look melted him into tears. He that once and twice before denied Him and never wept, because Christ looked not on him, then denied and Christ looked on him, and "he went out and wept bitterly." And if to Peter thus He did, and vouchsafed him so gracious a regard, when Peter not once looked toward Him, how much more shall He not deny us like favour, if by looking on Him first we provoke Him in a sort to a second looking on us again, with the Prophet, saying; Proposui Dominum coram me,* ‘I have set Thee, O Lord, before me;’* and again, Respice in me, &c. "O look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as Thou usest to do to those that love Thy Name." "That love Thy Name," which is Jesus, "a Saviour;" and which love that sight wherein most properly Thy Name appeareth, and wherein Thou chiefly shewest Thyself to be Jesus "a Saviour." And to conclude, if we ask, How we shall know when Christ doth thus respect us? Then truly, when fixing both the eyes of our meditation "upon Him That was pierced,"—as it were one eye upon the grief, the other upon the love wherewith He was pierced, we find by both, or one of these, some motion of grace arise in our hearts; the consideration of His grief piercing our hearts with sorrow, the consideration of His love piercing our hearts with mutual love again. The one is the motion of compunction which they felt, who when they heard such things "were pricked in their hearts."* The other, the motion of comfort which they felt, who, when Christ spake to them of the necessity of His piercing, said; "Did we not feel our hearts warm within us?"* That, from the shame and pain He suffered for us; this, from the comforts and benefits He thereby procured for us. These have been felt at this looking on, and these will be felt. It may be at the first, imperfectly, but after with deeper impression; and that of some, with such as nemo scit, ‘none knoweth,’ but He that hath felt them. Which that we may endeavour to feel, and endeavouring may feel, and so grow into delight of this looking, God, &c. Romans 2:22 - Adulterers All Romans 2:22 "You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?" (NASB) "Thou that sayest a man should not commit adultery, dost thou commit adultery? thou that abhorrest idols, dost thou commit sacrilege?" (KJV) "You say it is wrong to commit adultery, but do you commit adultery? You condemn idolatry, but do you use items stolen from pagan temples?" (NLT) "You who tell others not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?" (NET) "'Only an evil, adulterous generation would demand a miraculous sign, but the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.' Then Jesus left them and went away." (Mathew 16:4 NLT) "You adulterers! Don't you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God." (James 4:4) If we look toward history we will find that Adultery was a most common crime in Israel. The Jewish Historian, Josephus, give us a firm account of the widespread sin of this nation (Josephus, Ant. IV. 8, 10). Even the Jewish Talmud accuses, by name, the most celebrated Rabbis of adultery. (Dr. Albert Barnes) "The greatest obstructers of the success of the word are those whose bad lives contradict their good doctrine, who in the pulpit preach so well that it is a pity they should ever come out, and out of the pulpit live so ill that it is a pity they should ever come in." Mathew Henry "The apostle directs his discourse to the Jews, and shows of what sins they were guilty, notwithstanding their profession and vain pretensions. A believing, humble, thankful glorying in God, is the root and sum of all religion. But proud, vain-glorious boasting in God, and in the outward profession of his name, is the root and sum of all hypocrisy. Spiritual pride is the most dangerous of all kinds of pride. A great evil of the sins professors is, the dishonor done to God and religion, by their not living according to their profession. Many despise their more ignorant neighbors who rest in a dead form of godliness; yet themselves trust in a form of knowledge, equally void of life and power, while some glory in the gospel, whose unholy lives dishonor God, and cause his name to be blasphemed." Mathew Henry Mathew Henry could not have said it better. As we look into the mirror each morning, ought we not to consider that Grace is the reason that we have breath. It is God's longsuffering that stayed the day of our destruction against that day when we would believe. Saint Augustine said: "Love God, do as you please." For if we truly love God, then our actions are already pleasing. Then why is it that we instead take license of this Grace and live abhorrent lives. The original Greek meaning is to turn away from a horrible stench. God abhors sin! What then is our true witness as believers? Is it the words proceeding from our mouths as we tell others how to live? Or is it the way we live our lives the grandest of all witnesses. If, because of Grace within us, we live a life worthy of our calling then we are a witness unto life. If, because of our sin nature, we live a life that looks like the world around us we are a witness unto death. Let us begin each day with a joyous thanksgiving in our hearts knowing that our sins are no longer counted against us! Rather our lives have been covered by the blood of the Lamb. "The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT) Romans 3:01 - Home Court Advantage Romans 3:1 "Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision?" (NASB) "What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?" (KJV) "Then what's the advantage of being a Jew? Is there any value in the ceremony of circumcision?" (NLT) "Therefore what advantage does the Jew have, or what is the value of circumcision?" (NET) "Rom 3:1-8 - The law could not save in or from sins, yet it gave the Jews advantages for obtaining salvation. Their stated ordinances, education in the knowledge of the true God and his service, and many favors shown to the children of Abraham, all were means of grace, and doubtless were made useful to the conversion of many. But especially the Scriptures were committed to them. Enjoyment of God's word and ordinances, is the chief happiness of a people. But God's promises are made only to believers; therefore the unbelief of some, or of many professors, cannot make this faithfulness of no effect. He will fulfill his promises to his people, and bring his threatened vengeance upon unbelievers. God's judging the world, should for ever silence all doubtings and reflections upon his justice. The wickedness and obstinate unbelief of the Jews, proved man's need of the righteousness of God by faith, and also his justice in punishing for sin. Let us do evil, that good may come, is oftener in the heart than in the mouth of sinners; for few thus justify themselves in their wicked ways. The believer knows that duty belongs to him, and events to God; and that he must not commit any sin, or speak one falsehood, upon the hope, or even assurance, that God may thereby glorify himself. If any speak and act thus, their condemnation is just." Mathew Henry's Concise Commentary "Here the apostle answers several objections, which might be made, to clear his way. No truth so plain and evident but wicked wits and corrupt carnal hearts will have something to say against it; but divine truths must be cleared from cavil." Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible Cavil CAVIL, v.i. 1. To raise captious and frivolous objections; to find fault without good reason; followed by at. It is better to reason than to cavil. 2. To advance futile objections, or to frame sophisms, for the sake of victory in an argument. What value is there in the Excellency of the Christian faith? There must be value since Noah Webster wrote a book entitled, "Value of the Bible and Excellence of the Christian Religion." It is the same advantage that is given to the Jew! The faithfulness of God! So what if everyone of us is unfaithful? Does that limit the faithfulness of the Lord Jesus Christ? NO! Even if we are violators of the covenant, does that make His promises null? NO! Can anything ever separate us from Christ's love? Does it mean He no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, "For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.") No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:35-39) I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the LORD's anger. He has led me into darkness, shutting out all light. He has turned His hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and flesh grow old. He has broken my bones. He has besieged and surrounded me with anguish and distress. He has buried me in a dark place, like those long dead. He has walled me in, and I cannot escape. He has bound me in heavy chains. And though I cry and shout, He has shut out my prayers. He has blocked my way with a high stone wall; He has made my road crooked. He has hidden like a bear or a lion, waiting to attack me. He has dragged me off the path and torn me in pieces, leaving me helpless and devastated. He has drawn His bow and made me the target for His arrows. He shot His arrows deep into my heart. My own people laugh at me. All day long they sing their mocking songs. He has filled me with bitterness and given me a bitter cup of sorrow to drink. He has made me chew on gravel. He has rolled me in the dust. Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, "My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the LORD is lost!" The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss. Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the LORD never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, "The LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him!" The LORD is good to those who depend on Him, to those who search for Him. So it is good to wait quietly for salvation from the LORD. And it is good for people to submit at an early age to the yoke of His discipline: Let them sit alone in silence beneath the LORD's demands. Let them lie face down in the dust, for there may be hope at last. Let them turn the other cheek to those who strike them and accept the insults of their enemies. For no one is abandoned by the Lord forever. Though He brings grief, He also shows compassion because of the greatness of His unfailing love. For He does not enjoy hurting people or causing them sorrow. If people crush underfoot all the prisoners of the land, if they deprive others of their rights in defiance of the Most High, if they twist justice in the courts—doesn't the Lord see all these things? Who can command things to happen without the Lord's permission? Does not the Most High send both calamity and good? Then why should we, mere humans, complain when we are punished for our sins? Instead, let us test and examine our ways. Let us turn back to the LORD. Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven and say, "We have sinned and rebelled, and You have not forgiven us. "You have engulfed us with Your anger, chased us down, and slaughtered us without mercy. You have hidden Yourself in a cloud so our prayers cannot reach You. You have discarded us as refuse and garbage among the nations. "All our enemies have spoken out against us. We are filled with fear, for we are trapped, devastated, and ruined." Tears stream from my eyes because of the destruction of my people! My tears flow endlessly; they will not stop until the LORD looks down from heaven and sees. My heart is breaking over the fate of all the women of Jerusalem. My enemies, whom I have never harmed, hunted me down like a bird. They threw me into a pit and dropped stones on me. The water rose over my head, and I cried out, "This is the end!" But I called on Your name, LORD, from deep within the pit. You heard me when I cried, "Listen to my pleading! Hear my cry for help!" Yes, You came when I called; You told me, "Do not fear." Lord, You are my lawyer! Plead my case! For You have redeemed my life. You have seen the wrong they have done to me, LORD. Be my judge, and prove me right. You have seen the vengeful plots my enemies have laid against me. LORD, You have heard the vile names they call me. You know all about the plans they have made. My enemies whisper and mutter as they plot against me all day long. Look at them! Whether they sit or stand, I am the object of their mocking songs. Pay them back, LORD, for all the evil they have done. Give them hard and stubborn hearts, and then let Your curse fall on them! Chase them down in Your anger, destroying them beneath the LORD's heavens. (Lamentations 3:1-66 NLT) The Potter and the Clay The Potter and the Clay Jer. 18:1–6 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words. Then I went down to the potter’s house, and behold, be wrought a work on the wheels. And the vessel that be made of clay was marred in the hands of the potter, so be made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it. Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? faith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand so are ye in mine bandy O house of Israel. AT sundry times, and in divers manners, God was pleased to speak to our fathers by the prophets, before he spoke to us in these last days by his Son. To Elijah, he revealed himself by a small still voice. To Jacob, by a dream. To Moses, he spake face to face. Sometimes he was pleased to fend a favourite prophet on some especial errand; and whilst he was thus employed, vouchsafed to give him a particular message, which he was ordered to deliver without reserve to all the inhabitants of the land. A very instructive instance of this kind we have recorded in the passage now read to you. The first verse informs us that it was a word, or message, which came immediately from the Lord to the prophet Jeremiah. At what time, or how the prophet was employed when it came, we are not told. Perhaps, whilst he was praying for those who would not pray for themselves: Perhaps, near the morning, when he was slumbering or musing on his bed. For the word came to him, saying, "Arise." And what must he do when risen? He must "go down to the potter’s house" (the prophet knew where to find it) "and there (says the great Jehovah) I will cause thee to hear my words." Jeremiah does not confer with flesh and blood, he does not object that it was dark or cold, or desire that he might have his message given him there, but without the least hesitation is immediately obedient to the heavenly vision. "Then (says he) I went down to the potter’s house, and behold he wrought a work upon the wheels." Just as he was entering into the house or workshop, the potter, it seems, had a vessel upon his wheel. And was there any thing so extraordinary in this, that it should be ushered in with the word Behold? What a dreaming visionary, or superstitious enthusiast, would this Jeremiah be accounted, even by many who read his prophecies with seeming respect, was he alive now? But this was not the first time Jeremiah had heard from heaven in this manner. He therefore willingly obeyed; and had you or I accompanied him to the potter’s house, I believe we should have seen him silently, but intensely waiting upon his great and all-wife Commander, to know wherefore he sent him thither. Methinks I see him all attention. He takes notice, that "the vessel was of clay;" but as he held it in his hand, and turned round the wheel, in order to work it into some particular form, "it was marred in the hands of the potter," and consequently unfit for the use he before intended to put it to. And what becomes of this marred vessel? Being thus marred, I suppose, the potter, without the least imputation of injustice, might have thrown it aside, and taken up another piece of clay in its room. But he did not. "He made it again another vessel." And does the potter call a council of his domestics, to enquire of them what kind of vessel they would advise him to make of it? No, in no wise "He made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it." "Then," adds Jeremiah, whilst he was in the way of duty—then—whilst he was mentally crying, Lord what wouldst thou have me to do? "Then the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? faith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the hands of the potter (marred, and unfit for the first designed purpose) so are ye in O house of Israel." At length, then, Jeremiah hath his sermon given to him: short, but popular. It was to be delivered to the whole house of Israel, princes, priests, and people: short, but pungent, even sharper than a two-edged sword. What! says the sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, must I be denied the privilege of a common potter? May I not do what I will with my own? "Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hands, so are ye in mine hands, O house of Israel. I made and formed you into a people, and blessed you above any other nation under heaven: but, O Israel, thou by thy backslidings hast destroyed thyself. As the potter therefore might justly have thrown aside his marred clay, so may I justly unchurch and unpeople you. But what if I should come over the mountains of your guilt, heal your backslidings, revive my work in the midst of the years, and cause your latter end greatly to increase? Behold, as the clay is in the hands of the potter, lying at his disposal, either to be destroyed or formed into another vessel, so are ye in my hands, O house of Israel: I may either reject, and thereby ruin you, or I may revisit and revive you according to my own sovereign good will and pleasure, and who shall say unto me, what dost thou?" This seems to be the genuine interpretation, and primary intention of this beautiful part of holy writ. But waving all further enquiries about its primary design or meaning, I shall now proceed to shew, that what the glorious Jehovah here says of the house of Israel in general, is applicable to every individual of mankind in particular. And as I presume this may be done, without either wire-drawing scripture on the one hand, or wresting it from its original meaning on the other, not to detain you any longer, I shall, from the passage thus explained and paraphrased, deduce, and endeavour to enlarge on these two general heads. First, I shall undertake to prove, that every man naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, is in the sight of the all-seeing, heart-searching God, only as a "piece of marred clay." Secondly, That being thus marred, he must necessarily be renewed: and under this head, we shall likewise point out by whose agency this mighty change is to be brought about. These particulars being discussed, way will naturally be made for a short word of application. First, To prove that every man naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, is in the sight of an all-seeing, heart searching God, only as a piece of marred clay. Be pleased to observe, that we say every man naturally engendered of the offspring of Adam, or every man since the fall: for if we consider man as he first came out of the hands of his Maker, he was far from being in such melancholy circumstances, No: he was originally made upright; or as Moses, that sacred penman, declares, "God made him after his own image." Surely never was so much expressed in so sew words; which hath often made me wonder how that great critic Longinus, who so justly admires the dignity and grandeur of Moses’s account of the creation, and "God said, Let there be light, and there was light;" I say I have often wondered why he did not read a little further, and bestow as just an encomium upon this short, but withal inexpressibly august and comprehensive description of the formation of man, "so God created man in his own image." Struck with a deep sense of such amazing goodness, and that he might impress yet a deeper sense of it upon our minds too, he immediately adds, "in the image of God made he him." A council of the most adorable Trinity was called on this important occasion: God did not say, Let there be a man, and there was a man, but God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." This is the account which the lively oracles of God do give us of man in his first estate: but it is very remarkable, that the transition from the account of his creation to that of his misery, is very quick, and why? For a very good reason, because he soon fell from his primeval dignity; and by that fall, the divine image is so defaced, that he is now to be valued only as antiquarians value an ancient medal, merely for the sake of the image and superscription once stamped upon it; or of a second divine impress, which, through grace, it may yet receive. Let us take a more particular survey of him, and see whether these things are so or not: and first, as to his understanding. As man was created originally "after God in knowledge," as well as righteousness and true holiness, we may rationally infer, that his understanding, in respect to things natural, as well as divine, was of a prodigious extent: for he was made but a little lower than the angels, and consequently being like them, excellent in his understanding, he knew much of God, of himself, and all about him; and in this as well as every other respect, was, as Mr. Collier expresses it in one of his essays, a perfect major: but this is far from being our case now. For in respect to natural things, our understandings are evidently darkened. It is but little that we can know, and even that little knowledge which we can acquire, is with much weariness of the flesh, and we are doomed to gain it as we do our daily bread, I mean by the sweat of our brows. Men of low and narrow minds soon commence wise in their own conceits: and having acquired a little smattering of the learned languages, and made some small proficiency in the dry sciences, are easily tempted to look upon themselves as a head taller than their fellow mortals, and accordingly too, too often put forth great swelling words of vanity. But persons of a more exalted, and extensive reach of thought, dare not boast. No: they know that the greatest scholars are in the dark, in respect to many even of the minutest things in life: and after all their painful researches into the Arcanæ Naturæ, they find such an immense void, such an unmeasurable expense yet to be travelled over, that they are obliged at last to conclude, almost with respect to every thing, "that they know nothing yet as they ought to know." This consideration, no doubt, led Socrates, when he was asked by one of his scholars, why the oracle pronounced him the wisest man on earth, to give him this judicious answer, "Perhaps it is, because I am most sensible of my own ignorance." Would to God, that all who call themselves christians, had learnt so much as this heathen! We should then no longer hear so many learned men, falsely so called, betray their ignorance by boasting of the extent of their shallow understanding, nor by prosessing themselves so wife, prove themselves such arrant pedantic fools. If we view our understandings in respect to spiritual things, we shall find that they are not only darkened, but become darkness itself, even "darkness that may be felt" by all who are not past feeling. And how should it be otherwise, since the infallible word of God assures us, that they are alienated from the light and life of God, and thereby naturally as incapable to judge of divine and spiritual things, comparatively speaking, as a man born blind is incapacitated to distinguish the various colours of the rainbow. "The natural man, (says an inspired apostle) discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God;" so far from it, "they are foolishness unto him;" and why? Because they are only to be "spiritually discerned." Hence it was, that Nicodemus, who was blessed with an outward and divine revelation, who was a ruler of the Jews, nay a master of Israel, when our Lord told him, "he must be born again;" appeared to be quite grappled. "How (says he) can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born? how can these things be?" Were three more absurd questions ever proposed by the most ignorant man alive? or can there be a clearer proof of the blindness of man’s understanding, in respect to divine, as well as natural things? Is not man then a piece of marred clay? This will appear yet more evident, if we consider the perverse bent of his will. Being made in the very image of God; undoubtedly before the fall, man had no other will but his Maker’s. God’s will, and Adam’s, were then like unisons in music. There was not the least disunion, or discord between them. But now he hath a will, as directly contrary to the will of God, as light is contrary to darkness, or heaven to hell. We all bring into the world with us a carnal mind, which is not only an enemy to God, but "enmity itself, and which is therefore not subject unto the law of God, neither indeed can it be." A great many shew much zeal in talking against the man of sin, and loudly (and indeed very justly) exclaim against the Pope for sitting in the temple, I mean the church of Christ, and "exalting himself above all that is called God." But say not within thyself, who shall go to Rome, to pull down this spiritual antichrist? as though there was no antichrist but what is without us. For know, O man, whoever thou art, an infinitely more dangerous antichrist, because less discerned, even self-will, sits daily in the temple of thy heart, exalting itself above all that is called God, and obliging all its votaries to say of Christ himself, that Prince of peace, "we will not have this man to reign over us." God’s people, whose spiritual senses are exercised about spiritual things, and whose eyes are opened to see the abominations that are in their hearts, frequently feel this to their sorrow. Whether they will or not, this enmity from time to time bubbles up, and in spight of all their watchfulness and care, when they are under the pressure of some sharp affliction, a long desertion, or tedious night of temptation, they often find something within rising in rebellion against the all-wise disposals of divine Providence, and saying unto God their heavenly Father, "what dost thou?" This makes them to cry (and no wonder, since it constrained one of the greatest saints and apostles first to introduce the expression) "O wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" The spiritual and renewed soul groans thus, being burdened; but as for the natural and unawakened man, it is not so with him; self-will, as well as every other evil, either in a more latent or discernable manner, reigns in his unrenewed soul, and proves him, even to a demonstration to others, whether he knows, or will confess it himself or not, that in respect to the disorders of his will, as well as his understanding, man is only a piece of marred clay. A transient view of fallen man’s affections will yet more firmly corroborate this melancholy truth. These, at his being first placed in the paradise of God, were always kept within proper bounds, fixed upon their proper objects, and, like so many gentle rivers, sweetly, spontaneously and habitually glided into their ocean, God. But now the scene is changed. For we are now naturally full of vile affections, which like a mighty and impetuous torrent carry all before them. We love what we should hate, and hate what we should love; we fear what we should hope for, and hope for what we should fear; nay, to such an ungovernable height do our affections sometimes rise, that though our judgments are convinced to the contrary, yet we will gratify our passions though it be at the expence of our present and eternal welfare. We feel a war of our affections, warring against the law of our minds, and bringing us into captivity to the law of sin and death. So that video mcliora proboque, deteriora sequor, I approve of better things but follow worse, it too, too often the practice of us all. I am sensible, that many are offended, when mankind are compared to beasts and devils. And they might have some shadow of reason for being so, if we asserted in a physical sense, that they were really beasts and really devils. For then, as I once heard a very learned prelate, who was objecting against this comparison, observe, "a man being a beast would be incapable, and being a devil, would be under an impossibility of being saved." But when we make use of such shocking comparisons, as he was pleased to term them, we would be understood only in a moral sense; and in so doing, we assert no more than some of the most holy men of God have said of themselves, and others, in the lively oracles many ages ago. Holy David, the man after God’s own heart, speaking of himself, says, "so foolish was I, and as a beast before thee." And holy Job, speaking of man in general, says, that "he is born as a wild ass’s colt," or take away the expletive, which as some think ought to be done, and then he positively asserts, that man is a wild ass’s colt. And what says our Lord, "Ye are of your father the devil;" and "the whole world is said to lie in him, the wicked one, who now rules in the children of disobedience," that is, in all unrenewed souls. Our stupidity, proneness to fix our affections on the things of the earth, and our eagerness to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, evidence us to be earthly and brutal; and our mental passions, anger, hatred, malice, envy, and such like, prove with equal strength, that we are also devilish. Both together conspire to evince, that in respect to his affections, as well as his understanding and will, man deservedly may be termed a piece of marred clay. The present blindness of natural conscience makes this appear in a yet more glaring light; in the soul of the first man Adam, conscience was no doubt the candle of the Lord, and enabled him rightly and instantaneously to discern between good and evil, right and wrong. And, blessed be God! some remains of this are yet left; but alas, how dimly does it burn, and how easily and quickly is it covered, or put out and extinguished. I need not send you to the heathen world, to learn the truth of this; you all know it by experience. Was there no other evidence, your own conscience are instead of a thousand witnesses, that man, as to his natural conscience, as well as understanding, will and affections, is much marred clay. Nor does that great and boasted Diana, I mean unassisted unenlightened reason, less demonstrate the justness of such an assertion. Far be it from me to decry or exclaim against human reason. Christ himself is called the "Logos, the Reason;" and I believe it would not require much learning, or take up much time to prove, that so far and no farther than as we act agreeably to the laws of Christ Jesus, are we any way conformable to the laws of right reason. His service is therefore called "a reasonable service." And however his servants and followers may now be looked upon as fools and madmen; yet these will come a time, when those who despise and set themselves to oppose divine revelation, will find, that what they now call reason is only reason depraved, and as utterly incapable, of itself, to guide us into the way of peace, or shew the way of salvation, as the men of Sodom were to find Lot’s door after they were struck with blindness by the angels, who came to lead him out of the city. The horrid and dreadful mistakes, which the most refined reasoners in the heathen world ran into, both as to the object, as well as manner of divine worship, have sufficiently demonstrated the weakness and depravity of human reason: nor do our modern boasters afford us any better proofs of the greatness of its strength, since the best improvement they generally make of it, is only to reason themselves into downright wilful infidelity, and thereby reason themselves out of eternal salvation. Need we now any further witness, that man, fallen man, is altogether a piece of marred clay? But this is not all, we have yet more evidence to call; for do the blindness of our understandings, the perverseness of our will, the rebellion of our affections, the corruption of our consciences, the depravity of our reason prove this charge; and does not the present disordered frame and constitution of our bodies confirm the same also? Doubtless in this respect, man, in the most literal sense of the word, is a piece of marred clay. For God originally made him of the "dust of the earth." So that notwithstanding our boasting of our high pedigrees, and different descent, we were all originally upon a level, and a little red earth was the common substratum out of which we were all formed. Clay indeed it was, but clay wonderfully modified, even by the immediate hands of the Creator of heaven and earth. One therefore hath observed, that it is said "God built the man;" he did not form him rashly or hastily, but built and finished him according to the plan before laid down in his own eternal mind. And though, as the great God is without body, parts, or passions, we cannot suppose when it is said "God made man after his own image," that it has any reference to his body, yet I cannot help thinking (with Doctor South) that as the eternal Logos was hereafter to appear, God manifest in the flesh, infinite wisdom was undoubtedly exerted in forming a casket into which so invaluable a pearl was in the fulness of time to be deposited. Some of the ancients are said to have asserted, that man at the first, had what we call a glory shining round him; but without attempting to be wise above what is written, we may venture to affirm, that he had a glorious body, which knowing no sin, knew neither sickness nor pain. But now on this, as well as other accounts, he may justly be called Ichabod; for its primitive strength and glory are sadly departed from it, and like the ruins of some ancient and stately fabric, only so much left as to give us some faint idea of what it was when it first appeared in its original and perfect beauty. The apostle Paul, therefore, who knew how to call things by their proper names, as well as any man living, does not scruple to term the human body, though in its original constitution fearfully and wonderfully made, a "vile body;" vile indeed! since it is subject to such vile diseases, put to such vile, yea very vile uses, and at length is to come to so vile an end. "For dust we are, and to dust we must return." This among other considerations, we may well suppose, caused the blessed Jesus to weep at the grave of Lazarus. He wept, not only because his friend Lazarus was dead, but he wept to see human nature, through man’s own default, thus laid in ruins, by being subject unto such a dissolution, made like unto the beasts that perish. Let us here pause a while, and with our sympathizing Lord, see if we cannot shed a few silent tears at least, upon the same sorrowful occasion. Who, who is there amongst us, that upon such a melancholy review of man’s present, real, and most deplorable depravity both in body and soul, can refrain from weeping over such a piece of marred clay? Who, who can help adopting holy David’s lamentation over Saul and Jonathan? "How are the mighty fallen! How are they slain in their high places!" Originally it was not so. No, "God made man after his own image: in the image of God made he man." Never was there so much expressed in so few words. He was created after God in righteousness and true holiness. This is the account, which the sacred volume gives us of this interesting point. This, this is that blessed book, that book of books, from whence, together with an appeal to the experience of our own hearts, and the testimonies of all past ages, we have thought proper to fetch our proofs. For, after all, we must be obliged to divine revelation, to know what we were, what we are, and what we are to be. In these, as in a true glass, we may see our real and proper likeness. And from these only can we trace the source and fountain of all those innumerable evils, which like a deluge have overflowed the natural and moral world. If any should object against the authenticity of this revelation, and consequently against the doctrine this day drawn from thence, they do in my opinion thereby very much confirm it. For unless a man was very much disordered indeed, as to his understanding, will, affections, natural conscience, and his power of reasoning, he could never possibly deny such a revelation, which is founded on a multiplicity of infallible external evidences, hath so many internal evidences of a divine stamp in every page, is so suited to the common exigencies of all mankind, so agreeable to the experience of all men, and which hath been so wonderfully handed and preserved to us, hath been so instrumental to the convicting, converting, and comforting so many millions of souls, and hath stood the test of the most severe scrutinies, and exact criticisms of the most subtle and refined, as well as of the most malicious and persecuting enemies, that ever lived, even from the beginning of time to this very day. Persons of such a turn of mind, I think, are rather to be prayed for, than disputed with, if so be this perverse wickedness of their hearts may be forgiven them: "They are in the very gall of bitterness, and must have "their consciences seared as it were with a red-hot iron," and must have their eyes "blinded by the God of this world," otherwise they could not but see, and feel, and assent to the truth of this doctrine, of man’s being universally depraved; which not only in one or two, but in one or two thousands, in every page, I could almost say, is written, in such legible characters, that he that runs may read. Indeed, revelation itself is founded upon the doctrine of the fall. Had we kept our original integrity, the law of God would have yet been written in our hearts, and thereby the want of a divine revelation, at least such as ours, would have been superseded; but being fallen, instead of rising in rebellion against God, we ought to be filled with unspeakable thankfulness to our all bountiful Creator, who by a few lines in his own books hath discovered more to us, than all the philosophers and most learned men in the world could, or would, have discovered, though they had studied to all eternity. I am well aware, that some who pretend to own the validity of divine revelation, the notwithstanding enemies to the doctrine that hath this day been delivered; and would fain elude the force of the proofs generally urged in defence of it, by saying, they only bespeak the corruption of particular persons, or have reference only to the heathen world: but such persons err, not knowing their own hearts, or the power of Jesus Christ: for by nature there is no difference between Jew or Gentile, Greek or Barbarian, bond or free. We are altogether equally become abominable in God’s sight, all equally fallen short of the glory of God, and consequently all alike so many pieces of marred clay. How God came to suffer man to fall? how long man stood before he fell? and how the corruption contracted by the fall, is propagated to every individual of his species? are questions of such an abstruse and critical nature, that should I undertake to answer them, would be only gratifying a sinful curiosity, and tempting you, as Satan tempted our first parents, to eat forbidden fruit. It will much better answer the design of this present discourse, which is practical, to pass on II. To the next thing proposed, and point out to you the absolute necessity there is of this fallen nature’s being renewed. This I have had all along in my eye, and on account of this, have purposely been so explicit on the first general head: for has Archimedes once said, "Give me a place where I may fix my foot, and I will move the world;" so without the least imputation of arrogance, with which, perhaps, he was justly chargeable, we may venture to say, grant the foregoing doctrine to be true, and then deny the necessity of man’s being renewed who can. I suppose, I may take it for granted, that all of you amongst whom I am now preaching the kingdom of God, hope after death to go to a place which we call Heaven. And my heart’s desire and prayer to God for you is, that you all may have mansions prepared for you there. But give me leave to tell you, was you now to see these heavens opened, and the angel (to use the words of the seraphic Hervey) cloathed with all his heavenly drapery, with one foot upon the earth, and another upon the sea; nay, were you to see and hear the angel of the everlasting covenant, Jesus Christ himself, proclaiming "time shall be no more," and giving you all an invitation immediately to come to heaven; heaven would be no heaven to you, nay it would be a hell to your souls, unless you were first prepared for a proper enjoyment of it here on earth. "For what communion hath light with darkness?" Or what fellowship could unrenewed sons of Belial possibly keep up with the pure and immaculate Jesus? The generality of people form strange ideas of heaven. And because the scriptures, in condescension to the weakness of our capacities, describe it by images taken from earthly delights and human grandeur, therefore they are apt to carry their thoughts no higher, and at the best only form to themselves a kind of Mahometan paradise. But permit me to tell you, and God grant it may sink deep into your hearts! Heaven is rather a state than a place; and consequently, unless you are previously disposed by a suitable stats of mind, you could not be happy even in heaven itself. For what is grace but glory militant? What is glory but grace triumphant? This consideration made a pious author say, that "holiness, happiness, and heaven, were only three different words for one and the self-same thing." And this made the great Preston, when he was about to die, turn to his friends, saying, "I am changing my place, but not my company." He had conversed with God and good men on earth; he was going to keep up the same, and infinitely more refined communion with God, his holy angels, and the spirits of just men made perfect, in heaven. To make us meet to be blissful partakers of such heavenly company, this "marred clay," I mean, these depraved natures of ours, must necessarily undergo an universal moral change: our understandings must be enlightened; our wills, reason, and consciences, must be renewed; our affections must be drawn toward, and fixed upon things above; and because flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven, this corruptible must put on incorruption, this mortal must put on immortality. And thus old things must literally pass away, and behold all things, even the body as well as the faculties of the soul, must become new. This moral change is what some call, repentance, some, conversion, some, regeneration; choose what name you please, I only pray God, that we all may have the thing. The scriptures call it holiness, sanctification, the new creature, and our Lord calls it a "New birth, or being born again, or born from above." These are not barely figurative expressions, or the slights of eastern language, nor do they barely denote a relative change of state conferred on all those who are admitted into Christ’s church by baptism; but they denote a real, moral change of heart and life, a real participation of the divine life in the soul of man. Some indeed content themselves with a figurative interpretation; but unless they are made to experience the power and efficacy thereof, by a solid living experience in their own souls, all their learning, all their laboured criticisms, will not exempt them from a real damnation. Christ hath said it, and Christ will stand, "Unless a man," learned or unlearned, high or low, though he be a master of Israel as Nicodemus was, unless he "be born again, he cannot see, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." If it be enquired, who is to be the potter? and by whoso agency this marred clay is to be formed into another vessel? Or in other words, if it be asked, how this great and mighty change is to be effected? I answer, not by the mere dint and force of moral suasion. This is good in its place. And I am so far from thinking, that christian preachers should not make use of rational arguments and motives in their sermons, that I cannot think they are fit to preach at all, who either cannot, or will not use them. We have the example of the great God himself for such a practice; "Come (says he) and let us reason together." And St. Paul, that prince of preachers, "reasoned of temperance, and righteousness, and a judgment to come." And it is remarkable, "that whilst he was reasoning of these things, Felix trembled." Nor are the most persuasive strains of holy rhetoric less needful for a scribe ready instructed to the kingdom of God. The scriptures both of the Old and New Testament, every where abound with them. And when can they be more properly employed, and brought forth, than when we are acting as ambassadors of heaven, and beseeching poor sinners, as in Christ’s stead, to be reconciled unto God. All this we readily grant. But at the same time, I would as soon go to yonder church-yard, and attempt to raise the dead carcases, with a "come forth," as to preach to dead souls, did I not hope for some superior power to make the word effectual to the designed end. I should only be like a founding brass for any saving purposes, or as a tinkling cymbal. Neither is this change to be wrought by the power of our own free-will. This is an idol every where set up, but we dare not fall down and worship it. "No man (says Christ) can come to me, unless the Father draw him." Our own free-will, if improved, may restrain us from the commission of many evils, and put us in the way of conversion; but, after exerting our utmost efforts (and we are bound in duty to exert them) we shall find the words of our own church article to be true, that "man since the fall hath no power to turn to God." No, we might as soon attempt to stop the ebbing and flowing of the tide, and calm the most tempestuous sea, as to imagine that we can subdue, or bring under proper regulations, our own unruly wills and affections by any strength inherent in ourselves. And therefore, that I may keep you no longer in suspence, I inform you, that this heavenly potter, this blessed agent, is the Almighty Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, the third person in the most adorable Trinity, coessential with the Father and the Son. This is that Spirit, which at the beginning of time moved on the face of the waters, when nature lay in one universal chaos. This was the Spirit that over shadowed the Holy Virgin, before that holy thing was born of her: and this same Spirit must come, and move upon the chaos of our souls, before we can properly be called the sons of God. This is what John the baptist calls "being baptized with the Holy Ghost," without which, his and all other baptisms, whether infant or adult, avail nothing. This is that fire, which our Lord came to send into our earthly hearts, and which I pray the Lord of all lords to kindle in every unrenewed one this day. As for the extraordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, such as working of miracles, or speaking with divers kinds of tongues, they are long since ceased. But as for this miracle of miracles, turning the soul to God by the more ordinary operations of the Holy Ghost, this abides yet, and will abide till time itself shall be no more. For it is he that sanctifieth us, and all the elect people of God. On this account, true believers are said to be "born from above, to be born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." Their second, as well as their first creation, is truly and purely divine. It is, therefore, called "a creation;" but put ye on (says the apostle) the new man which is created—And how? Even as the first man was, "after God in righteousness and true holiness." These, these are the precious truths, which a scoffing world would fain rally or ridicule us out of. To produce this glorious change, this new creation, the glorious Jesus left his Father’s bosom. For this he led a persecuted life; for this he died an ignominious and accursed death; for this he rose again; and for this he now sitteth at the right hand of his Father. All the precepts of his gospel, all his ordinances, all his providences, whether of an afflictive or prosperous nature, all divine revelation from the beginning to the end, all center in these two points, to shew us how we are fallen, and to begin, carry on, and compleat a glorious and blessed change in our souls. This is an end worthy of the coming of so divine a personage. To deliver a multitude of souls of every nation, language and tongue, from so many moral evils, and to reinstate them in an incomparably more excellent condition than that from whence they are fallen, is an end worthy the shedding of such precious blood. What system of religion is there now, or was there ever exhibited to the world, any way to be compared to this? Can the deistical scheme pretend in any degree to come up to it? Is it not noble, rational, and truly divine? And why then will not all that hitherto are strangers to this blessed restoration of their fallen natures, (for my heart is too full to abstain any longer from an application) why will you any longer dispute or stand out against it? Why will you not rather bring your clay to this heavenly Potter, and say from your inmost souls, "Turn us, O good Lord, and so shall we be turned?" This, you may and can do: and if you go thus far, who knows but that this very day, yea this very hour, the heavenly Potter may take you in hand, and make you vessels of honour sit for the Redeemer’s use? Others that were once as far from the kingdom of God as you are, have been partakers of this blessedness. What a wretched creature was Mary Magdalene? And yet out of her Jesus Christ cast seven devils. Nay, he appeared to her first, after he rose from the dead, and she became as it were an apostle to the very apostles. What a covetous creature was Zaccheus? He was a griping cheating publican; and yet, perhaps, in one quarter of an hour’s time, his heart is enlarged, and he made quite willing to give half of his goods to feed the poor. And to mention no more, what a cruel person was Paul. He was a persecutor, a blasphemer, injurious; one that breathed out threatnings against the disciples of the Lord, and made havoc of the church of Christ. And yet what a wonderful turn did he meet with, as he was journeying to Damascus? from a persecutor, he became a preacher; was afterwards made a spiritual father to thousands, and now probably sits nearest the Lord Jesus Christ in glory. And why all this? That he might be made an example to them that should hereafter believe. O then believe, repent; I beseech you, believe the gospel. Indeed, it is glad tidings, even tidings of great joy. You will then no longer have any thing to say against the doctrine of Original Sin; or charge the Almighty foolishly, for suffering our first parents to be prevailed on to eat such four grapes, and permitting thereby their children’s teeth to be set on edge. You will then no longer cry out against the doctrine of the New Birth, as enthusiasm, or brand the assertors of such blessed truths with the opprobrious names of fools and madmen. Having felt, you will then believe; having believed, you will therefore speak; and instead of being vessels of wrath, and growing harder and harder in hell fire, like vessels in a potter’s oven, you will be made vessels of honour, and be presented at the great day by Jesus, to his heavenly Father, and be translated to live with him as monuments of rich, free, distinguishing and sovereign grace, for ever and ever. You, that have in some degree experienced the quickening influence (for I must not conclude without dropping a word or two to God’s children) you know how to pity, and therefore, I beseech you also to pray for those, to whose circumstances this discourse is peculiarly adapted. But will you be content in praying for them? Will you not see reason to pray for yourselves also? Yes, doubtless, for yourselves also. For you, and you only know, how much there is yet lacking in your faith, and how far you are from being partakers in that degree, which you desire to be, of the whole mind that was in Christ Jesus. You know what a body of sin and death you carry about with you, and that you must necessarily expect many turns of God’s providence and grace, before you will be wholly delivered from it. But thanks be to God, we are in safe hands. He that has been the author, will also be the finisher of our faith. Yet a little while, and we like him shall say "It is finished;" we shall bow down our heads and give up the ghost. Till then, (for to thee, O Lord, will we now direct our prayer) help us, O Almighty Father, in patience to possess our souls. Behold, we are the clay, and thou art the Potter. Let not the thing formed say to him that formed it, whatever the dispensations of thy future Will concerning us may be, Why dost thou deal with us thus? Behold, we put ourselves as blanks in thine hands, deal with us as seemeth good in thy fight, only let every cross, every affliction, every temptation, be overruled to the stamping thy blessed image in more lively characters on our hearts; that so passing from glory to glory, by the powerful operations of thy blessed Spirit, we may be made thereby more and more meet for, and at last be translated to a full, perfect, endless, and uninterrupted enjoyment of glory hereafter, with thee O Father, thee O Son, and thee O blessed Spirit; to whom, three persons but one God, be ascribed, as is most due, all honour, power, might, majesty and dominion, now and to all eternity. Amen and Amen. Whitefield, G. (1772). The Works of the Reverend George Whitefield (Vol. 5). London: Edward and Charles Dilly. (Public Domain) Comments are closed.