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3. Let this be a call and caution to all the young to begin with God betimes, and take heed of delaying till the last, as many thousands have done, to their eternal ruin. Now is your time, if you desire to be in Christ; if you have any sense of the weight and worth of eter nal things upon your hearts. I know your age is one that delights not in the serious thoughts of death and eternity: you are more inclined to enjoy your pleasures and leave these serious matters to old age; but let me persuade you against that, by these considerations.
Oh seek religion now, because this is the moulding age. Now your hearts are tender, and your affections flowing now is the time when you are most likely to be' wrought upon.
Now, because this is the freest part of your time. It is with the morning of life, as with the morning of the day: if a man have business to be done, let him take the morning for it; for in the after-part of the day a hurry of business comes on, so that you either forget it, or want opportunity for it.
Now, because your life is immediately uncertain ; you are not certain that ever you shall attain the years of your fathers: there are graves in the church-yard just of your length, and skulls of all sorts and sizes in Golgotha, as the Jews' proverb is.
Now, because God will not spare you on account of your youth, if you die without an interest in Christ.
Now, because your life will be the more eminently useful, and serviceable to God, when you know him betimes, and early begin his service. Augustin repented, and so have many thousands since, that he began so late, and knew God no sooner.
Now, because your whole life will be happier, if the morning of it is dedicated to the Lord. The first fruits sanctify the whole harvest: this will have a sweet influence upon all your days, whatever changes, straits, or troubles you may meet.
FOURTH SAYING OF CHRIST ON THE CROSS
"MY GOD, MY GOD," &c.
"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabuchthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Matt. 27: 46.
These are words that might rend the hardest heart: it is the voice of the Son of God in an agony: his sufferings were great, very great before, but never in such extremity as now; when this heaven-rending and heartmelting outcry broke from him upon the cross, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani!" In which observe,
1. The time when it was uttered was "about the ninth hour," or about three in the afternoon. For as the Jews reckoned the hours of the day from six in the morning, their ninth hour answered to our third in the afternoon. And this is particularly marked by the evan. gelists, to show us how long Christ hung in distress upon the cross, both in soul and body, which at least was full three hours: towards the end whereof his soul was so distressed and overwhelmed, that he uttered this doleful cry in his bitter anguish.
2. The manner of the complaint. It is not of the cruel tortures he felt in his body, nor of the scoffs and reproaches of his name; they were all swallowed up in the sufferings within, as the river is swallowed up in the sea, or the lesser flame in the greater. He seems to neglect all these, and only complains of what was more burdensome than ten thousand crosses; even his Father's deserting him," My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It is a more inward trouble that burdens him, and darkens his spirit: the hidings of God's face,
an affliction to which he was totally a stranger until now.
3. The manner in which he uttered his sad complaint, was with a remarkable vehemency: "he cried with a loud voice," not like a dying man, in whom nature was spent, but as one full of vigor, life, and sense He stirred up the whole power of nature when he made this grievous outcry. There is in it also an emphatical reduplication, which shows with what vehemency it was ut tered; "My God, my God." Nay, to increase the force and vehemency of this complaint, here is an affectionate interrogation, "Why hast thou forsaken me?" It is as if he were surprised by the strangeness of this affliction : and rousing up himself with an unusual vehemency, turns himself to the Father, and cries, Why so, my Fa ther? Oh what dost thou mean by this? What! hide that face from me that was never hid before! What! hide it from me now, in the depth of my other torments and sorrows! O what new, what strange things are these! Hence,
God, to heighten the sufferings of Christ to the uttermost, forsook him in the time of his greatest distress, to the unspeakable affliction and anguish of his soul. This proposition shall be considered in respect to the desertion itself; the design or end of it; and its effect and influence on Christ.
I. The desertion itself. Divine desertion, generally considered, is God's withdrawing himself from any, not as to his essence, for that fills heaven and earth, and constantly remains the same; but as to the manifestation of his favor, grace, and love: when these are gone, God is said to be gone. Devils and the damned are absolutely and for ever forsaken of God. It is in another sense that he sometimes forsakes his dearest children, that is, he removes all sweet manifestations of his favor and love for a time. This desertion of Christ by his Father, was,
1. A very sad desertion, such as was never in all respects experienced by any, nor can be to the end of the world. All his other sufferings were but small to this; they bore upon his body, this upon his soul; they came from the hands of vile men, this from the hands of his Father. He suffered both in body and soul; but the sufferings of his soul were the very soul of his sufferings. Under all his other sufferings he opened not his mouth; but this touched the quick, so that he could not but cry out, "My God, my God, why hast thou for. saken me?"
2. It was a penal desertion, inflicted on him as a satisfaction for those sins of ours which deserved that God should forsake us for ever, as the damned are forsaken by him. As there lies a twofold misery upon the damned in hell, namely, pain of sense, and pain of loss; so upon Christ answerably, there was not only an impression of wrath, but also a subtraction or withdrawment of all sensible favor and love.
3. It was a real, not fictitious desertion. He doth not personate a deserted soul, and speak as if God had withdrawn the comfortable sense and influence of his love from him; but the thing was so indeed. The Godhead restrained and kept back, for this time, all its joys, comforts, and sense of love from the manhood. This bitter doleful outery of Christ gives evidence enough of its reality.
4. This desertion took place in the time of Christ's greatest need. His Father forsook him at that time, when all earthly comforts had forsaken him, and all outward evils had broken in together upon him; when men, yea, the best of men stood afar off, and none but barbarous enemies were about him. When pain and shame, and all miseries weighed him down; then, to complete and fill up his suffering, God stands afar off too.
5. It was such a desertion as left him only to the sup
ports of his faith. He had nothing now to rest upon but his Father's covenant and promise. And indeed, the faith of Christ manifested itself in these very words of complaint in the text. For though all comfortable sights of God and sense of love were obstructed, yet you see his soul still cleaves to God. His faith laid hold on God, "Eli, Eli:" "My God, my God;" thou, with whom is infinite and everlasting strength; thou that hast hitherto supported my manhood, and according to thy promise upheld thy servant; what! wilt thou now forsake me? My God, I lean upon thee. To these supports and refuges of faith this desertion shut up Christ: by these things he stood, when all other visible and sensible comforts shrunk away, both from his soul and body.
II. Consider the designs and ends of Christ's desertion, which were principally satisfaction and sanctification. Satisfaction for those sins of ours which deserved that we should be totally and everlastingly forsaken of God. This is the desert of every sin, and the damned do feel it, and shall to all eternity. God is gone from them for ever: not essentially; the just God is with them still, the God of power is still with them, the avenging God is ever with them; but the merciful God is gone, and gone for ever. And thus would he have withdrawn himself from every soul that sinned, had not Christ borne that punishment for us in his own soul. If he had not cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" we must have howled out this hideous complaint in the lowest hell for ever, "O righteous God, thou hast for ever forsaken me.'
And as satisfaction was designed in this desertion of Christ, so also was the sanctification of every desertion of the saints. For he having been forsaken before us, and for us, whenever God forsakes us, that very forsaking is sanctified, and thereby turned into a mercy to