Imágenes de páginas

for a plain reason, because he had not yet finished the gracious work of our redemption. He had not yet offered himself up upon the cross as a sacrifice, a propitiation for the sins of the whole world. But after that great act of mercy was performed, it is then the uniform language of the sacred writers, "that we are justified freely by the grace of God, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus*.'

We must, therefore, collect the terms of our salvation, not from any one passage of Scripture, but from the whole tenour of the sacred writings taken together; and if we judge by this rule, which is the only one that can be securely relied upon, we shall find, that nothing less than a sincere and lively faith in Christ, producing in us, as far as the infirmity of our nature will allow, universal holiness of life, can ever make our final calling and election sure. But thus much we may certainly collect from our Lord's representation of our final judgment, that charity, or love to man, in the true scriptural sense of that word, is one of the most essential duties of our religion; and that to neglect that virtue, above all others, which our Redeemer and our Judge has selected as the peculiar object of his approbation, and as the representative of all the other evangelical virtues, must be peculiarly dangerous, and render us peculiarly unfit to appear at the last day before the great tribunal of Christ.

How soon we may be summoned there no one can tell. The final dissolution of this earthly system may be at a great distance; but, what is the same thing to every moral and religious purpose, death may be very near. It is at least, even to the youngest of us, uncertain, and in whatever state it overtakes us, in that state will judgment find us; for there is no repentance in the grave; and as we die, so shall we stand before our Almighty Judge. "Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and the cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come upon all them that dwell on the face of the earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Mant."

* Rom. iii, 24.

+ Luke xxi, 34, 35, 36.



We are now approaching the last sad scene of our Saviour's life, which commences with the twenty-sixth chapter, and continues in a progressive accumulation of one misery upon another to the end of St. Matthew's Gospel.

The twenty-sixth chapter, which will be the subject of the present Lecture, begins with informing us, that, two days before the great feast of the passover, the chief priests, and the scribes, and the elders of the people, assembled together unto the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and consulted that they might take Jesus by subtlety and kill him.

Whilst they were thus employed, Jesus himself was in Bethany (a small village near Jerusalem) at the house of a person called Simon, whom he had cured of a leprosy; and here an incident took place, which marks at once the manners of the country and the times, and places in a striking point of view the different characters of the several persons concerned in it.

As Jesus was sitting at meat in the house above mentioned, "there came unto him a woman, having an alabaster box of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head. But when his disciples saw it, they had indignation, saying, To what purpose is this waste? for this ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor. When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me. For ye have the poor always with you, but me ye have not always. For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial. Verily I say unto you, wheresoever this Gospel

shall be preached in the whole world, there also shall this, which this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her."

There are in this little story several circumstances that deserve our notice.

The first is, that the act here mentioned, of pouring the ointment on the head of Jesus, though it may appear strange to us, yet was perfectly conformable to the customs of ancient times, not only in Asia, but in the more polished parts of Europe. Chaplets of flowers and odoriferous unguents are mentioned by several classic authors as in use at the festive entertainments both of the Greeks and Romans; and particularly among the Jews, the custom of anointing the head seems to have been almost as common a practice as that of washing the face. For they are mentioned together by our Lord in his direction to his disciples on the subject of fasting: "But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which seeth in secret*."

But there was a much higher purpose to which the effusion of ointment on the head was applied by the Jews. It was by this ceremony that kings, priests, and prophets, were set apart and consecrated to their respective offices. And for this reason it was that our blessed Lord himself, who united in his own person the threefold character of king, priest, and prophet, was distinguished by the name of the MESSIAH, which in the Hebrew language means THE ANOINTED. It was therefore with peculiar propriety that this discriminating mark of respect was shown to Jesus by the devout woman here mentioned, though she herself was probably altogether unconscious of that propriety. Jesus, however, saw at once the piety of her heart, and the purity of her intentions; and with that sweetness of temper and urbanity of manners, which were natural to him, not only accepted her humble offering with complacency, but generously defended her against the illiberal cavils of his fastidious followers. And then he added a promise of that distinguished honour, which should perpetuate this meritorious act of hers to all future ages: "Verily I say unto you, that wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this that

* Matt. vi, 17, 18.

this woman hath done be told for a memorial of her." This we know was no vain prediction; it has been most literally and punctually fulfilled, and we ourselves are witnesses of its completion at this very moment.

The next remarkable occurrence in this chapter is the institution of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper by our Saviour, when he was eating the passover with his disciples.

The passover was one of the most solemn and sacred feasts of the Jews. It was so called because it was established in commemoration of the deliverance of the Jews from their bondage in Egypt, at which time the destroying angel, when he put to death the first born of the Egyptians, passed over the houses of the Israelites, which were all marked with the blood of the lamb that had been killed and eaten the evening before in every Hebrew house, and was therefore called the Paschal Lamb.

This great festival our Saviour observed with his disciples the evening before he suffered, and with them ate the paschal lamb, which was a prophetic type of himself. For he was the real paschal lamb, that was sacrificed for the sins of men. He was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world*; the lamb without blemish and without spott, as the paschal lamb was ordered to bet. There can be no doubt, therefore, that the paschal lamb of the Jews was meant to be an emblem of our Lord. The slaying of that lamb prefigured the slaying of Christ upon the cross; and as those houses which were sprinkled with the blood of the lamb were passed over by the destroying angel, so they whose souls are sprinkled with the blood of Christ are saved from destruction, and their sins passed over and forgiven for his sake. And it is a very remarkable circumstance, that our Saviour was crucified, and our deliverance from the bondage of sin completed, in the same month, and on the same day of the month, that the Israelites were delivered from the bondage of Egypt, by their departure from that land. For the Israelites went out of Egypt, and Christ was put to death, on the fifteenth day of the month Nisan.

I have premised thus much respecting the passover and the paschal lamb, because it will throw considerable + Exod. xii, 5.

* Rev, xiii, 8. + 1 Pet. i, 19.

light on the true nature and meaning of the sacrament of the Lord's supper, which Jesus now instituted, and of which the evangelist gives the following account: "When the even was come, our Lord sat down with the twelve to eat the passover; and as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to his disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." This is the whole of the institution of the sacred rite by our blessed Lord, as recorded in St. Matthew's Gospel; and nothing can be more evident, than that when he brake the bread, and gave it to his disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body;" he ment to say that the bread was to represent his body, and the breaking of it was to represent the breaking of his body upon the cross. In the same manner, when he took the cup and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink ye all of it, for this is my blood of the new testament (or new covenant), which is shed for many for the remission of sins;" his meaning was, that the wine in the cup was a representation of his blood, that was to be shed upon the cross as an expiation and atonement for the sins of the whole world. And his disciples were to eat the bread and drink the wine so consecrated, and so appropriated to this particular purpose, in grateful remembrance of what our Lord suffered for their salvation, and that of all mankind; for St. Luke adds these affecting and impressive words of our Saviour, "This do in remembrance of me."

The Lord's supper, therefore, was evidently to be a solemn commemoration and recognition of the redemption and deliverance of mankind by the death of Christ, as the feast of the passover was of the deliverance of the Israelites from the destroying angel. Nor is this all; for as the Jews were accustomed in their peaceofferings to eat a part of the victim, and thus partook of the sacrifice; so they would perceive, that in this new institution, the eating of the bread and drinking of the wine was a mark and symbol of their participating in the effects of this new peace-offering, the death of Christ; whose body was broken, and whose blood was shed for them on the cross.

They would also see, that this supper of our Lord was

« AnteriorContinuar »