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your minds are a favourable sign of a good influence. Only be afraid of resisting your present convictions: “Quench not the Spirit;' but yield yourselves obedient to his guidance.
The instance before us seems more especially addressed to presumptuous offenders. And are there not those amongst us, who, with as much rage as Pharaoh, continue to fight against God, and bid defiance to the Omnipotent himself? We entreat them to pause, and to consider what the issue of such a contest must be. What was the consequence, when there was war in heaven?' The angels, who were great in might, were vanquished, and cast into a lake of fire.' What advantage did Pharaoh gain, by his daring obstinacy in opposing the purposes of God? Alas! by every effort which he made, he did but wound himself, and hasten his own destruction. Shall we, then, 'provoke the Lord to jealousy ? Are we stronger than he ?"
Sinners presume upon the mercy of God, as if he would never punish. But has he not already, by various examples, displayed the terrors of his justice? The universal deluge,the conflagration of Sodom and Gomorrah,--and the entire overthrow of Pharaoh and his numerous host,—are all so many proofs that the Lord is a righteous God, who cannot bear iniquity. “Sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily;' but in order that it may be known, there is a God that judgeth in the earth;' he has, at different times, arrested some bold offenders, and exhibited them as public monuments of his vengeance. To this end, he is pleased, in general, to select those only, who are of most abandoned character; though every transgressor is liable to his wrath. By and by he will give to all'according to their works,' and will be honoured in the final perdition of those who refuse to submit to his grace. Nor will any of them who perish, be able to cast upon him the blame of their sin and ruin ; but all must confess at the last solemn day, “Righteous art thou, O Lord, and just are thy judgements !'-For the present, he is patient towards the most rebellious, and 'endures them with much long suffering ;' and when he shall arise to condemn the impenitent and unbelieving, every mouth shall be stopped. Long has he borne with our perverseness : let us no more despise the riches of his mercy : but may his goodness effectually lead us to repentance.
FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT.
CONDUCT UNDER PERSECUTION. Sr. Joan viïi. 46–Jesus said, Which of you convinceth me of sin ?
And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? 47. He that is of God, heareth God's words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God. 48. Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well, that thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil ? 49. Jesus answered, I have not a devil, but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me. 50. And I seek not my own glory; there is one that seeketh and judgeth. 51. Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man keep my saying, he shall never see death. 52. Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the Prophets : and thou sayest, if a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. 53. Art" thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the Prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself? 54. Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me, of whom ye say, That he is your God. 55. Yet ye have not known him; but I know him, and if I should say,
I know him not, I shall be a liar like unto you: but I know him, and keep his saying. 56. Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. 57. Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham ? 59. Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, before Abraham was, I am. 59. Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
[Gospel for the Day.] As the death of our blessed Saviour is the spring from whence flow all our hopes of happiness and mercy; and as the end of his sufferings is the benefit of wretched man; so the manner of those sufferings is likewise adapted to our good. And, if within these it be fit to comprehend, not the last black scene alone, but those many antecedent passages of his life, in which he endured the contradiction of sinners against himself;' the Gospel for this day may well deserve its place in our liturgy. Thus the Church rises very gradually; in the historical part, from opprobrious language, and a malicious, buť vain attempt upon his sacred life, to that violence which was permitted to take effect: in the instructive part, from a pattern of reproached and persecuted innocence, to one of faithfulness to the very death, and resisting even unto blood,' when God and duty call. This I conceive the proper method for improving that Scripture read in your ears this day. And therefore I shall first represent our Saviour's deportment upon this occasion ; and then
instance such particular virtues, deducible from thence, as would adorn our lives, if well observed, when it is our lot to fall under the like circumstances.
And first, we may, through the management of this whole affair, observe a divine prudence, in restraining at some times, and expressing at others, the just indignation our Lord conceived, at the malice and obstinacy of these wicked Jews. Of this we have a remarkable pattern in the return made to these words : 'thou art a Samaritan and hast a devil.' The reproach of Samaritan was one of the greatest affronts, capable of being passed upon any man. It implied him to be idolater and schismatic; and, according to the terms that people then stood upon with the Jews, every thing that was odious and despicable. Yet all this is answered only by silence, as not worthy our Lord's notice. But the other part of having a devil would draw down scandal upon his doctrine, and weaken the authority of his preaching; and therefore upon that point he condescends to reason with them. Hence we may learn how to distinguish injuries, and how we should proportion our resentments, according to the different sorts, and consequences of them. Where the provocation is private, and terminates in ourselves, it is a mark of a great and Christian mind, to put up with it, or softly to reprove it. But where it reaches farther, and wounds deeper, where truth and goodness are struck at through our side ; silence is tameness there: for then the cause ceases to be our own. God's glory and the good of mankind, are concerned, in the respect due to virtue and religion ; and that, which is none of ours, we ought not to recede from, nor can we give it up, without committing a fault. Well were it, if this rule were punctually observed: then we should see a stop put to prophaneness, and all wicked railleries upon holy things. These would not, with such a triumphant boldness, be uttered, and esteemed a part of mirth and wit in conversation, if they were not as wickedly received and applauded. Men would not be so jealous of their own reputation, and at the same time so injurious to God's. They would not for every small, for every supposed affront, require blood, and execute a murderous vengeance ; and yet sport with the majesty of heaven and his oracles, as if these were fit for nothing, but to furnish matter for a jest. As if the holiness of the Most High might be prostituted to the most contumelious usage; while what the profligate wretches falsely call their own honour, must be sacred and inviolable, and, like the ark of old, not touched but upon pain of death. So contradictory, it seems, are the notions some men now have, of contemptuous treatment, to those of our Great Master; so different their deportment under it.
He generously disdained the infamies levelled at himself; and his unspotted innocence gave him the advantage of doing it securely. Others, perhaps, are the more impatient of reproach, because guilt and self-condemnation give it a sting; they feel less concern for the vindicating One, whom the most blasphemous falsehoods cannot hurt, than for themselves, whose impurities are already so foul, as not to bear bold truths.
But, secondly, our Saviour's example instructs us, how to proceed in that defence, which God and religion require from us. For those very things, which we may, nay which we are bound to, vindicate, are not to be vindicated after every manner. Some order, and proper measures are to be observed, even in the most lawful, the most necessary returns, to those that traduce them, Jesus answered, I have not a devil, but I honour my Father, and ye do dishonour me.' Herein he only clears himself from their wicked suggestions, with all the mild. ness that became his character, and the justness of his cause. As on other the like occasions we find him returning cool rea. son to their rage, and barely exposing the absurdity, the impossibility, of their charge against him; the inconsistence of his actions with their blasphemous thoughts; and even, when the treachery of a disciple had done him the last injury, and given him the justest provocation, he chides his perfidiousness and ingratitude, with this sort of rebuke only, “Judas, betrayest thou the Son of Man with a kiss ?' So little countenance have we from his practice, for that clamour and bitterness, that furious and wild passion, to which men think themselves licensed, when their own, or God's cause has drawn them into a dispute. The studied abuse, and all the refined arts of railing and ridiculing, by which they endeavour to distinguish their parts or their zeal, may perhaps serve to recommend them to an ignorant or an ill natured world: but surely these men know not what spirit they are of.' They forget, that this is the effect of pride, and envy, and contention; not any part of Christianity; not any resemblance of its meek, its divine author;
net any advantage to the truth, which, in the esteem of good people, rather suffers by such indecencies and indiscretions. For, it is not without some difficulty, that an argument can deliver itself from the aversions, which unbecoming treatment, and ungoverned passion, raise against it. And most seasonable, upon these occasions, is that advice of St. James, that even then, when we are swift to speak, we should be slow to wrath,' remembering that the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.'
Thirdly. From the mention of our Saviour's hiding himself, in this Gospel, we may observe the lawfulness of avoiding danger and persecution. Which is indeed so agreeable to the first and fundamental principles of human nature, that it might seem impertinent and ridiculous to propose it; were it not, that some eminent patterns in antiquity are highly celebrated, for embracing those cruelties, and encountering those difficulties, which it seems to have been in their power to have escaped. Nay and this very Saviour, who hath left us an example of withdrawing from his enemies, and defeating their attempts at some times, did yet offer and yield himself up to their malice at another. So that the natural result of all this is, that there are some occasions, in which the dangers that threaten us may fairly be declined ; and others, wherein, without a breach of decency and duty, they cannot. Now, how to distinguish between these different cases, these two rules may be of some significancy to us.
First. Whatever difficulty cannot be otherwise avoided, than by violating our conscience, that, we are to conclude, God hath called us to suffer. For, what the wise son of Sirach hath long ago observed, is universally true, that he hath commanded no man to do wickedly, neither hath he given any man license to sin.' They are only the ignorant, or the unbelieving, that so much as put the question, Whether a known deliberate crime be allowable for our own preservation. For, who that has been taught, who that heartily entertains the Gospel, can make a doubt of it? Who that hears our Saviour rating the soul above the whole world, would think, though it were life itself (which, when rightly estimated, is but the prolonging an uncertain tenure for a short space, and that, in a state of infinite change and trouble) worth giving this in exchange for? Who must not see, that an eternity of torments, at least a manifest Vol. I.