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believers. Hence are all the precious fruits and effects of our desertions: such as the earnest exciting of the soul to prayer, Psa. 77:2; 88: 1-9; fortifying the tempted soul against sin; reviving former experiences; Psa. 77:5; enhancing the value of the Divine presence with the soul, and teaching it to hold Christ faster than ever before. These, and many more, are the precious effects of sanctified desertion; but how many or how good soever these effects are, they all owe themselves to Jesus Christ, as their Author; who, for our sakes, would pass through this sad and dark state, that we might find in it such blessings.
III. Consider the effects and influence of this desertion upon the spirit of Christ. It did not drive him to despair, yet it even amazed him, and almost swallowed up his soul in the deeps of trouble and consternation. This cry is a cry from the deeps, from a soul oppressed even to death. Let but five particulars be weighed, and you will say, never was there any darkness like this; no sorrow like Christ's sorrow in this deserted state.
1. This was a new thing to Christ, such as he never was acquainted with before. From all eternity until now there had been constant and wonderful outpourings of - love, delight, and joy, from the bosom of the Father into his bosom. He never missed his Father before; never saw a frown or a veil upon that blessed face before. This made it a heavy burden indeed.
2. As it was a new thing, and therefore he more amazing, so it was a great thing to Christ; so great, that he scarce knew how to support it. Had it not been a great trial indeed, so great a spirit as his would not have so drooped under it, and made so sad a complaint of it. It was so sharp, so heavy an affliction to his soul, that it caused him, who was meek under all other sufferings as a lamb, to roar under this like a lion; for so much those words of Christ signify; "My God, my
God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from the voice of my roaring?" Psalm 22 : 1.
3. It was, too, a burden laid on in the time of his greatest distress; when his body was in tortures, and all about him was full of horror and darkness. He suffered this desertion at a time when he never had such need of Divine supports and comforts.
4. So heavy was this pressure upon Christ's soul, that in all probability it hastened his death. It was not usual for crucified persons to expire so soon; and those that were crucified with him were both alive after Christ's spirit was gone. Some have hung more than a day and a night, some two full days and nights, in those torments alive; but never did any feel inwardly what Christ felt. He bore it till the ninth hour-then makes a fearful outcry and dies.
INFERENCE 1. Did God forsake Christ upon the cross as a punishment to him for our sins? Then as often as we have sinned, so oft have we deserved to be forsaken of God. This is the just recompense and desert of sin. And, indeed, here lies the principal evil of sin, that it separates between God and the soul. By sin we depart from God, and, as a due punishment of it, God departs from us. This will be the dismal sentence in the last day, "Depart from me, ye cursed." Matt. 25. Thenceforth there will be a gulf fixed between God and them. Luke, 19: 20. No more friendly intercourse with the blessed God for ever. Beware, sinners, how you say to God now, Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of thy ways," lest he say, "Depart from me," shall never see my face.
2. Did Christ never make such a sad complaint and outcry till God hid his face from him? of God's face is certainly the greatest
Then the hiding
misery that can
possibly befall a gracious soul in this world. When they scourged, buffeted, and smote Christ, yea, when
409 they nailed him to the tree, he opened not his mouth; but when his Father hid his face from him, he cried out; yea, his voice was the voice of roaring: this was more to him than a thousand crucifyings. And, surely, as it was to Christ, so is it to all gracious souls, the saddest stroke, the heaviest burden they ever felt. When David forbade Absalom to come to Jerusalem to see his father, he complains, "Wherefore am I come from Geshur, if I may not see the king's face?" 2 Sam. 14 : 32. So doth the gracious soul bemoan itself; Wherefore am I redeemed, called, and reconciled, if I may not see the face of my God?
It is said of Tully, when he was banished from Italy, and of Demosthenes, when he was banished from Athens, that they wept every time they looked towards their own country: and, is it strange that a poor deserted believer should mourn every time he looks heaven-ward? Say, christian, did the tears never trickle down thy cheeks when thou lookedst toward heaven, and couldst not see the face of thy God as at other times? If two dear friends cannot part for a season, but that parting must be in a shower, blame not the saints if they sigh and mourn bitterly when the Lord, who is the life of their life, depart, though but for a season; for if God depart, their sweetest enjoyment on earth, the very crown of all their comforts is gone: and what will a king take in exchange for his crown? What can recompense a saint for the loss of his God? Indeed, if they had never seen the Lord, or tasted the incomparable sweetness of his presence, it were another matter; but the darkness which follows the sweetest light of his countenance is double darkness.
And that which doth not a little increase the horror of this darkness is, that when their souls are thus benighted, and the sun of their comfort is set; then doth Satan, like the wild beasts of the desert, creep out of his
den, and roar upon them with hideous temptations. Surely this is a sad state, and deserves tender pity! Pity is a debt due to the distressed, and the world shows not a greater distress than this. If ever you have been in trouble of this kind, you will never slight others in the same case: nay, one end of God's exercising you with troubles of this nature, is to teach you compassion towards others. Do they not cry to you, as Job, 19:21, Have pity, have pity upon me, O ye my friends, for the hand of God hath touched me." Draw forth bowels of mercy and tender compassion to them; for, either you have been, or are, or may be in the same case. However, if men do not, most certainly Christ, who hath felt it before them, and for them, will pity them.
3. Did God really forsake Jesus Christ upon the cross? Then from the desertion of Christ singular consolation springs up to the people of God; yea, manifold consolation. Christ's desertion is the preventive of your final desertion; because he was forsaken for a time, you `shall not be forsaken for ever; for he was forsaken for you; and God's forsaking him, though but for a few hours, is equivalent to his forsaking you for ever. It is every way as much for the dear Son of God, the delight of his soul, to be forsaken of God for a time; as if such a poor inconsiderable thing as thou art should be cast off to eternity. Now this being equivalent, and borne in thy room, must needs give thee the highest security in the world that God will never finally withdraw from thee: had he intended to have done so, Christ had never made such a sad outery, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?"
Moreover, this sad desertion of Christ becomes a comfortable pattern to poor deserted souls in divers respects; and the proper business of such souls, at such times, is to eye it believingly, in these six respects:
Though God deserted Christ, yet at the same time he powerfully supported him: his omnipotent arms were under him, though his face was hid from him: he had not indeed his smiles, but he had his supports. So, christian, just so shall it be with thee: thy God may turn away his face, but he will not pluck away his arm.
Though God deserted Christ, yet he deserted not God: his Father forsook him, but he could not forsake his Father, but followed him with this cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" And is it not even so with you? God goes from your soul, but you cannot go from him. No, your heart is mourning after the Lord, seeking him carefully with tears; complaining of his absence as the greatest evil in this world.
Though God forsook Christ, yet he returned to him again. It was but for a time, not for ever. In this also doth his desertion parallel yours. God may, for wise and holy reasons, hide his face from you, but not as it is hid from the damned, who shall never see it again. This cloud will pass away; this night shall have a bright morning: "I will not contend for ever, neither will I be always wroth; for the spirit shall fail before me, and the souls which I have made."
Though God forsook Christ, yet at that time he could justify God. "O my God, (saith he,) I cry in the daytime, but thou hearest not; and in the night-season, and am not silent but thou art holy." Psalm 22: 2, 3. Is not thy spirit, according to its measure, framed like Christ's in this; canst thou not say, even when he writes bitter things against thee, he is a holy, faithful, and good God for all this? There is not one drop of injustice in all the sea of my sorrows. Though he condemn me, I must and will justify him.
Though God took from Christ all visible and sensible comfort, inward as well as outward; yet Christ subsisted by faith, in the absence of them all: his desertion