« PreviousContinue »
Hereupon follows our Saviour's second answer in these words : “He said unto them, Ye say that I am.' Here Jesus gives them again a plain answer, and, as it were, repeats his declaration. As if he had said, “I am the Son of God in the same sense that your question proposes it. I am such a Son of God as is equal to his Father, and has in common with him the divine nature, and all its essential attributes." Now this was the confession which they wanted to hear; this declaration of Christ they catched at like ravenous wolves; for they pretended that now they might safely ratify the sentence of death. 'Hence we may deduce the following doctrines :
i. Obstinate infidelity is so far from being heroism, that it is the most culpable folly.
Our Saviour here expressly reproves the chief Priests and Scribes for not believing him to be the Messiah, after he had given sufficient proof of it by his wonderful works, and divine miracles. Nay, our blessed Lord was highly offended at the unbeliet of his own disciples; for, on some appearance of it in two of his followers, after his resurrection, he thus reproves them, “O fools! and slow of heart to be lieve all that the prophets have spoken,' (Luke xxiv. 25.) Here Christ gives their incredulity no better an appellation, than folly. However, there is a class of men among whom infidelity' passes for the standard of wisdom, and who highly value themselves on their singularity in not believing as others do. They would fain be looked upon as free-thinkers, who have a deeper insight into the nature of things; who have got over vulgar prejudices and the doctrines of religion, which, though swallowed by the ignorant herd, will not go down with them. But these free-thinkers, and heroic spirits, these refined geniuses who affect to distinguish themselves from the vulgar by infidelity, and, without any just grounds, or reasonable enquiry after truth, reject the very fundamental principles of Christianity, as things only fit for credu
lous minds; these, I say, are represented by the unerring Spirit of God as mere fools : · The fooi hath said in his heart there is no God,' (Psalm xiv. 1.) Satan, it is true, makes use of a weak credulity for plunging a person into ruin ; but an obstinate and insolent unbelief, which ridicules the clearest proofs, and will by no means be convinced, is certainly no virtue, or sign of an heroic spirit. Such an irrational fool, who boasts of his absolute infidelity, acts as absurdly, as if a deformed dwarf should entertain an high opinion of his person, because his shape is not according to the common proportions of nature ; or, as if a person who is born blind should value him. self on the want of sight, and would have it looked upon as a singular proof of the strength of his intellects, that he believes nothing of light and colours. Monsters of impiety and absurdity! who make God a liar, that they may pass for men of uncommon wisdom and penetration : for he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; (1 John v. 10.) and what more intolerable affront can be offered to the Supreme Being, than to make a liar of the God of wisdom and truth?
2. When the word of God reveals to us our condition, let us beware of hardening our hearts against its sacred influences by unbelief and self-love, lest this reproof of our blessed Saviour should be applicable to us, 'If I tell you, ye will not believe.'
Many when they read the word of God experience its illuminating power on their understanding, laying open
the condition of their souls; so that they plainly perceive, that they are not in that happy state of salvation which the word of God requires. But how superlatively unhappy is the man, who shuts his heart against these enlightening rays of the Divine word! who obstinately hardens his heart through unbelief against the testimony of unerring wisdom ; and though he be convinced of his impenitence, and that he is void of faith towards God, and love to mankind,
yet will by no means believe it. On the contrary, he suffers himself to be so blinded and seduced by selflove as to fancy his condition much better than in reality it is. Let every one, therefore, as he values the salvation of his immortal soul, beware of this fond error, since it leads to hardness of heart and final impenitence; and seriously think on these words which the Holy Spirit applies to every sinner, ‘To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts,' (Heb. iii. 7, 8.)
3. It is a melancholy case, when the conscience is so hardened that divine truths will make no impression on it, and the sinner is silent to all the remonstrances of grace.
Here our blessed Saviour had to do with such obdurate judges, that nothing he could urge to awaken their consciences could convince, or extort an answer from them ; so that to them might be rightly applied these words of the Psalmist, « Do ye indeed speak righteousness, O congregation? Do ye judge uprightly, 0 ye sons of men ?' (Psalm İviii. 1.) Alas! how many are there to be met with that call themselves Christians, who are of this stamp. If one enters into discourse with, and pathetically represents tv, them the dangerous state of their souls ; if one endeavours by the strongest and most convincing arguments to bring them to a sense of their sins, and by the most earnest and pressing exhortations to touch their hearts; what a melancholy sight is it to see such persons unmoved and unaffected, without giving the least assurance that they will use their endeavours to reform their lives? These are certainly very mortifying proofs of the depravity of the human heart, and the power of sin; which gradually hardens it, and renders the sinner insensible to all instruction, and the awakening calls of God's word.
4. We must pass through many examinations and severe trials before we can be owned for the sons of God,
When Christ first entered on his ministerial office, no sooner had the voice from heaven proclaimed, saying, “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, but he was tempted on this account by satan ; who presumptuously said to him, “If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread ; if thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down, &c. (Matt. iv. 3, 6.) And now, at the conclusion of his ministry, the engines of satan put this question to him twice successively within a few hours, Art thou the Son of God?' But as it was with our Head, the great Captain of our Salvation ; so is it now with his members and faithful followers.
While a man is walking on in his security before conversion, satan rejoices to find him reckoning himself among the adopted sons of God. Nay, he helps to strengthen him in his false opinion of his own sanctity; and represents to him, that to doubt whether he be the son of God is the most dangerous error he can be guilty of. Thus he works upon the minds of enthusiasts, who are generally puffed up with a high conceit of their own worthiness, and think themselves the
peculiar favourites of God. But no sooner is God pleased to receive a truly penitent and regenerated person, through faith in Jesus Christ, to be in reality his adopted son, than satan begins to fill his mind with a thousand scruples about his acceptance with God; lays hold of his foibles and the slightest faults, from which no man can be free in this life ; and endeavours to persuade him, that his hope and labour in the Lord are vain and fruitless. On the other hand, he, who never in his life had any doubt concerning his being the adopted son of God, has great reason to suspect his assurance and carnal security.
5. Christ, by his firm and resolute adherence to his declaration of the truth, has atoned for our wavering inconstancy; and irresolute behaviour in defending the truth.
This fault is frequently seen in courts of judicature, where those who are examined by the judges, concerning their real or supposed crimes, often have recourse to falsehood or equivocation ; and instead of adhering to the truth, relate things sometimes one way, and sometimes another, in order to puzzle the
This is likewise a fault in common conversation, and in private life. For as there are many who, according to the Scripture phrase, are double hearted;' so there are not a few who are likewise, as it were, double-tongued; who talk in a religious strain, when they are among the good and pious, and quite in a different language when among the dissolute and profane ; who would pass for virtuous men when it can be done without incurring danger ; but when any inconveniency is to be apprehended they disclaim the name of religious men, and rather join in ridiculing and reviling the godly.
There are many who every day pray, in repeating the Lord's Prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses, and deliver us from the evil one;' but soon after will devote themselves to the devil, and utter the most horrid oaths and imprecations without any remorse, or sense of their wicked habit. Such monsters of men are to be found among those who call themselves Christians ! Nay, we daily see great numbers of such profane swearers who yet make a great figure in the world, and hold very considerable employments. Oh, that they would acknowledge this their scandalous duplicity of tongue, and turn to the immaculate Lamb of God in whose mouth was no deceit, guile, or prevarication! That they would consider how absurd and monstrously wicked it must appear in the eye of God and all good men, that praying and cursing should proceed out of the same mouth!
II. The second sentence or condemnation of the Lord Jesus is thus described : ' And they said, What need we any farther witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth,' (Luke xxii. 71.)