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condemn you for what you have done. This condemning voice of conscience is a terrible voice. You may see the horror of it in Cain, the vigor of it in Judas, the doleful effects of it in Spira. It will produce shame, fear, and despair, if God give not repentance to life. The shame it works will so confound you, that
you will not be able to look up. Job, 31: 14; Ps. 1:5. The fear it works will make you wish for a hole in the rock to hide you. Isa. 2: 9, 10, 15, 19. And its despair is a death-pang. Oh! who can bear such a load as this? Prov. 18: 14.
Consider the nature of your present actions; they are seed sown for eternity, and will spring up again in suitable effects, rewards and punishments, when you that did them are turned to dust. What a man sows, that shall he reap. Gal. 67. And as sure as the harvest follows the seed-time, so sure shall shame, fear, and horror follow sin. Dan. 12 2. What Zeuxis, the famous painter, said of his work, may much more truly be said of ours; "I paint for eternity." Ah! how bitter will those things be in the day of reckoning, which were pleasant in the acting! It is true, our actions, physically considered, are transient; how soon is a word or action spoken or done, and there is an end of it! But morally considered, they are permanent, being put upon God's book of account. Oh, therefore, take heed what you do: so speak, and so act, as they that must give an account.
Consider how by these things men do but prepare for their own torment in a dying hour. There is bitterness enough in death, you need not add more gall and wormwood to increase it. What is the forcing and wounding of conscience now, but putting thorns in your death-bed, against you come to lie down on it? This makes death bitter indeed. How many have wished in a dying hour, they had rather lived poor and low all their days, than to have strained their consciences for the world! Ah!
how is the aspect of things altered in such an hour!
4. Did Christ stand arraigned and condemned at Pilate's bar? Then the believer shall never be arraigned and condemned at God's bar. This sentence that Pilate pronounced on Christ gives evidence that God will never pronounce sentence against such for had he intended to have arraigned them, he would never have suffered Christ, their surety, to be arraigned and condemned for them. Christ stood at this time before a higher judge than Pilate; he stood at God's bar as well as his. Pilate did but that which God's own hand and counsel had before determined to be done, and what God himself at the same time did: though God did it justly and holily, dealing with Christ as a creditor with a surety; Pilate most wickedly and basely dealing with Christ as a corrupt judge, that shed the blood of a known innocent to pacify the people. But certain it is, that out of his condemnation flows our justification; and had not sentence been given against him, it must have been given against us. Oh what a melting consideration is this! that out of agony comes our victory; out of his condemnation, our justification; out of his pain, our ease; out of his stripes, our healing; out of his curse, our blessing; out of his crown of thorns, our crown of glory; out of his death, our life. If he could not be released, it was that you might. If Pilate gave sentence against him, it was that the great God might never give sentence against you. Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift.
CHRIST'S ADDRESS TO THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM.
"And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him. But Jesus turning unlo them, said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children." Luke, 23:27, 28, &c.
The sentence of death being given against Christ, the execution quickly follows. The evangelist here observes a memorable occurrence in their way to the place of execution; the lamentations and wailing of some that followed him out of the city, who expressed their pity and sorrow for him most tenderly and compassionately: all hearts were not hard, all eyes were not dry. "There followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him."
The text calls them "Daughters, that is, inhabitants of Jerusalem; like the expression, daughters of Zion, daughters of Israel." There were many of them, a troop of mourners, that followed Christ out of the city towards the place of his execution, with lamentations and wailings.
What the principle or ground of these their lamentations was, is not agreed by those that have pondered the story. Some suppose their tears and lamentations were but the effects of their more tender and ingenuous natures, which were moved and melted with so tragical and sad a spectacle as was now before them. But Calvin and others attribute it to their faith, regarding them as a remnant reserved by the Lord in that lamentable dispersion of Christ's followers.
Christ's reply to them is, "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me." Strange, that Christ should forbid
them to weep for him under such unparalleled sufferings and miseries. If ever there was a heart-melting sight, it was here. Oh who could refrain from weeping?
Those that look upon their sorrow as merely natural, take Christ's reply in a negative sense, prohibiting such tears as those. They that expound their sorrow as the fruit of faith, tell us, though the form of Christ's expression be negative, yet the sense is comparative. Weep rather upon your own account than mine; reserve your sorrows for the calamities coming upon yourselves and your children. You are greatly affected, I see, with the misery that is upon me; but mine will be quickly over, yours will lie long. In which he shows his merciful and compassionate disposition, who was still more mindful of the troubles and burdens of others than of his own. And indeed, the days of calamity coming upon them and their children were doleful days. What direful and unprecedented miseries befel them at the breaking up and devastation of the city, who hath not read or heard? And who can refrain from tears that hears or reads it?
Now, if we take the words in the first sense, as a prohibition of their merely natural grief, expressed in tears and lamentations for him, just as they would have been upon any other like tragical event; then the observation from it will be, 1. That melting affections and sorrows, even from the sense and consideration of the sufferings of Christ, are no infallible signs of grace.
If you take it in the latter sense, as the fruit of their faith, as tears flowing from a gracious principle; then the observation will be, 2. That the believing meditation of what Christ suffered for us, is of great force and efficacy to melt and break the heart.
I rather choose to prosecute both these branches than to decide which is the true interpretation, especially as each of them may be useful to us. I begin with the first,
Melting affections and sorrows, even from the sense of Christ's sufferings, are not infallible marks of grace. The truth of this proposition will appear from the following reasons:
1. Because we find all sorts of affections manifested by those who have been but temporary believers. The stony-ground hearers, Matt. 13:20,"received the word with joy ;" and so did John's hearers, who for " a season rejoiced in his light." John, 5:35. Now, if the affections of joy under the word may be exercised, why not of sorrow also? If the comfortable things revealed in the Gospel may excite the one, by a parity of reasoning, the sad things it reveals may awaken the other. Even those Israelites whom Moses told they should fall by the sword, and not prosper, for the Lord would not be with them, because they were turned away from him; when Moses rehearsed the message of the Lord in their ears, mourned greatly. Numb. 14:39. I know the Lord pardoned many of them their iniquities, though he took vengeance on their inventions; and yet it is as true, that with many of them God was not well-pleased. 1 Cor. 10:5. Many instances of their weeping and mourning before the Lord we find in the sacred history; and yet their hearts were not stedfast with God.
2. Because though the object about which our affections and passions are moved may be spiritual; yet the motives and principles brought into exercise may be but carnal and natural. When I see a person affected in the hearing of the word, or prayer, even unto tears, I cannot at once conclude that this is the effect of grace; for it is possible the pathetical nature of the subject, the eloquence of the speaker, the affecting tone and modulation of the voice may draw tears as well as faith.
Whilst Augustin was a manichee, he sometimes heard Ambrose; and, saith he, "I was greatly affected in hearing him, even unto tears many times:" howbeit, it was