« PoprzedniaDalej »
a moment to Calvary, and observe the scene that is there passing. Jesus is suspended on the engine of death, and surrounded by implacable enemies, who, having slain the Master, are now thirsting for the blood of his followers. His friends, his disciples, terrified, stand trembling at a distance. At such a time as this, three tender females, and the youngest of the apostles, to whom life would seem to be most valuable, have the courage to advance, to press through the crowd, and to go so near to the cross that they can see and hear their Lord. They know that the greatest perils attend this display of their affection; they know that it is the custom of the world to abandon virtue in disgrace; they know that they may plead the example of others to justify them for their dereliction of the Saviour; they know that their hearts will be pained by hearing the most contemptuous reproaches uttered against their Master, and by beholding his struggles with death. But no personal sorrows or dangers can make them resolve to abandon Jesus in his last moments, and in his deepest anguish. No personal woes or perils can induce them to forego the ardent desire that they have of attesting their love, of profiting by his example, of showing their compassion for his sufferings, and of receiving his last instructions. And do not suppose that they did not anticipate these woes and perils. It was impossible that they should overlook them: they beheld them in all their magnitude. Nature would have shrunk from them; grace rose superior to them. Faith and gratitude inspired these generous spirits with a resolution to lay down their lives, to mingle their blood with that of their Lord, rather than forsake him in his distresses.
You admire this model, my brethren; would you have imitated it? Alas! I fear that there are many of us who now term ourselves the disciples of Jesus, who, if we were called to bear our testimony to his name in the face of his cross, and in the midst of his enemies, would cry out with Peter, “ I know not the man!" or, with his ungrateful disciples, would keep aloof from danger. But leaving the consideration of these circumstances, which may never happen, let us attend to matters that are immediately before our eyes. What a reproof then does this display of fortitude and zeal give to you who are willing to follow Jesus, while he leads you through pleasant. and agreeable paths, but who turn your backs upon him as soon as persecution threatens ; who are willing to accompany him to Tabor, where every thing is glorious, but who forsake him as soon as you must bear the cross after him, and trace his bloody steps upon Calvary! What a reproof does it give to you who, when like these holy women you are in the midst of profane scoffers and deriders,
are ashamed of the Son of man and his words," tremble to own him in the midst of those who are
crucifying him afresh,” and blush to be esteemed his disciples! What a reproof does it give to you who, though ready to make some small sacrifice to the Saviour, yet shrink back as soon as life or its chief enjoyments are to be put to stake in order to evince your zealous devotion to him! Ah! temporary Christians, men influenced by a criminal shame, lukewarm professors, behold in these generous women and this beloved disciple, a pattern which condemns you! In the midst of the greatest perils, they are neither afraid nor ashamed to pour out their tears for the sorrows of their Saviour, and to declare,
by their whole deportment, that they glory in being his friends. They tremble not to meet death in the discharge of their duty; they would rejoice to be made conformed to their Lord in his sufferings. Act like them. Resolve to follow your Master with constancy and perseverance, with boldness and zeal,
through evil as well as good report,” or you will never partake of that glory in which they now dwell. And do not plead your weakness as an excuse for your coldness and your abandonment of the interests of Jesus. That grace which gave such courage to timid females, is able to inspire you with resolution; and if you fail, it is only because you do not, like them, seek from God the supports of this grace,
and the protection of the Most High.
2. But let us select the principal object from this little group,
and fix our contemplation upon the unhappy Mary. Come and behold this mother, all those of you who are repining at any afflictive visitations of Providence; who are exclaiming that you could have borne any other sorrows better than those which have befallen you; who are suffering imagination to magnify your little griefs till they appear to your prejudiced eye greater than any that have been experienced by mortals : come, mourn. ers of every class, carefully consider the woes of the Holy Virgin, that you may learn to bless God, who has spared you so many miseries that were felt by one so far exalted above you in piety and devotion towards God; plant yourselves with Mary at the foot of the cross, and whilst you there consider the sufferings of the Virgin Mother and the great Im. manuel, cease to repine at afflictions which, when compared with these, shrink into nothing.
And not only the magnitude of her griefs, but also the manner in which she endures them, should teach you
this useful lesson. She utters no passionate exclamations ; she pours forth no violent reproaches against the murderers of her son ; she indulges in no excessive expressions of her woe; she faints not under the pressure of anguish; but stands and silently acquiesces in the appointments of God. She feels; religion permits her to feel with exquisite sensibility this dreadful separation : but, at the same time, she submits to the righteous disposals of heaven, without murmuring or repining ; submits as becomes a Christian, as becomes the mother of the incarnate Saviour.
Imitate her example, Christian female, from whose embraces death has torn a beloved child or a husband, who was all your support and consolation. Feel your loss; but set bounds to your grief. Eye the hand of God in the bereavement: like Mary, look beyond the immediate cause of your sufferings; like Mary, look upon your Saviour, and he will cast upon you, as he does upon her, one of those glances which shall calm your agitated soul.
3, The conduct and words of Jesus are to be considered in the next division of our discourse.
Though the Saviour, having now hung for more than five hours upon the cross, was weighed down with unutterable agonies, yet his soul is not absorbed by his sufferings, nor by the prospect of that glory into which he is just ready to enter. He will not commend his spirit into the hands of his Father, till he has afforded some consolation to his dear friends. He interrupts, if I may speak so, the great sacrifice of redemption; he defers for some moments to con
summate it, that he may indulge the sentiment of filial affection. He turns then his face, which already began to be clouded with the shades of death, towards the little company of his friends. With a serenity which could result only from perfect innocence, with a firmness which made him disregard his own pains; with a sensibility exquisitely alive to the sufferings of his friends; with that tenderness which had accompanied him through all the scenes of his life-he bids his beloved disciple to revere and support Mary, and Mary, in her turn, to cherish John as a son. “ Hė saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son: he saith to the disciple, Behold thy mother."
Nothing is more variable than the modes of addressing persons, and testifying our respect for them. We should not now address a person whom we esteemed and loved, by the appellation of “ Woman :" yet every one who is in the least degree acquainted with the writers of antiquity, knows that it was formerly a most honourable title, frequently employed by those who meant to show the highest attention. Numerous examples might be produced from the ancient authors, where the most accomplished persons thus address their equals; where even slaves thus address their mistresses, and subjects their queens. You probably recollect that Xenophon puts this expression in the mouth of one of the Persians, when tenderly consoling a lady of quality ander severe afflictions. There is then no disrespect in this mode of address which Jesus employs. Besides, it was highly proper that he should speak to her by this title, rather than by that of Mother, both that her grief might not be too highly excited and her wounds opened afresh, by having this tender relationship