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we are to consider his condescending love in giving his life a ransom for us; and, in order to our being affected therewith, and to excite our admiration and thankfulness for it, we must contemplate the divine excellency and glory of his Person; which adds an infinite value to every part of his obedience and sufferings. We must also consider the kind of death he died; which is called his being wounded, bruised, Isa. liii. 5. cut off Dan. ix. 26. and is represented as that which had the external mark of the curse of God annexed to it; upon which account he is said to have been made a curse for us, Gal. iii. 13.
We are also to consider the character of the persons for whom he laid down his life; who are described as being without strength, or ability to do what is good, and ungodly, and so open enemies to him, Rom. v. 6, 8, 10. and therefore there was nothing in us that could induce him to do this for We are also to consider, that he died in our room and stead, as bearing our griefs, and carrying our sorrows, Isa. liii. 4. and being delivered for our offences, Rom. iv, 25. And we are also to consider the great ends designed thereby, as God is hereby glorified, his holiness and justice in demanding and receiving a full satisfaction for sin, illustrated in the highest degree; so that he declares himself well-pleased in what Christ has done and suffered, Matt. iii. 17. and well-pleased likewise, as the prophet expresses it, for his righteousness' sake, Isa. xlii. 21. We are also to consider the great advantage that we hope to receive thereby, as being justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him, Rom. v. 9. This is therefore the highest inducement to us, to give up ourselves entirely to him.
3. We are, in this ordinance, to stir up ourselves to a vigorous exercise of those graces that the nature of the ordinance requires: And accordingly we are,
(1.) To judge ourselves; as the apostle says, If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged, 1 Cor. xi. 31. and this we ought to do, by accusing, condemning, and passing sentence against ourselves, for those sins which we have committed against Christ, whereby we were plunged into the ut most depths of misery, in which we should for ever have continued, had he not redeemed us by his blood. We are also to acknowledge our desert of God's wrath and curse; so that if he should mark iniquity, we could not stand, Psal. cxxx. 3. and this sense of sin ought to be particular, including in it those transgressions which are known to none but God and ourselves; as we ought to make a particular application of the blood of Christ for the forgiveness thereof. This is certainly very suitable to the nature of the ordinance we are engaged in, wherein Christ is set forth as a sacrifice for sin, and we
are led, at the same time, to be duly affected with our malady, and the great remedy God has provided; which will have a tendency to enhance our praise and thankfulness to him, who loved us, and gave himself for us.
(2.) We are to exercise a godly sorrow for sin, which is the ground of all that distress and misery which we are liable to: This ought to take its rise from the corruption of nature, from whence all actual sins proceed; and we are to bewail our sins of omission, as well as commission; our neglect to perform duties that are incumbent on us, as well as those sins that have been committed by us with the greatest presumption, deliberation, wilfulness, and obstinacy, which contain in them the highest ingratitude and contempt of the blood of Christ, and the method of salvation by him. And this sorrow for sin ought to produce those good effects of praying and striving against it, endeavouring to return to God, from whom we have backslidden. The apostle calls it, sorrowing after a godly sort; and speaks of it as attended with carefulness, that we may avoid it for the future; clearing of ourselves, so that either be encouraged to hope that we have not committed the sins which we are ready to charge ourselves with, or, that the guilt thereof is taken away by the atonement that Christ has made for us. It ought also to produce an holy indignation, and a kind of revenge against sin, as that which has been so prejudicial to us; as likewise a fear of offending; a zeal for the glory of God, whom we have dishonoured; and a vehement desire of those blessings which we have hereby forfeited. This sorrow for sin ought to proceed from an inward loathing and abhorrence of it; and the degree thereof ought to bear some proportion to its respective aggravations, and the dishonour we have brought to God thereby; which would be an effectual means to incline us to abhor ourselves, and repent in dust and ashes.
This is very agreeable to the nature of the ordinance we are engaged in, since nothing tends more to enhance the vile and heinous nature of sin, than the consideration of its having crucified the Lord of glory; which is to be the immediate subject of our meditation therein. We read that Christ, in his last sufferings, was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, Matt. xxvi. 38. which could not proceed from the afflictive view that he had of the pains and indignities he was to suffer in his crucifixion; for that would argue him to have a less degree of holy courage and resolution than some of the martyrs have expressed when they have endured extreme torments, and most ignominious reproaches for his sake: Therefore his sorrow proceeded from the afflictive sense that he had of the guilt of our sins which he bore. If therefore he not only suffered,
but his soul was exceeding sorrowful for our sins; this ought to excite in us the exercise of that grace in this ordinance, in which it is brought to our remembrance.
(3.) We are to hunger and thirst after Christ; which implies in it an ardent desire of having communion with him: Thus the church says, With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit will I seek thee early, Isa. xxvi. 9. and the Psalmist compares this to the hunted hart, that is ready to die for thirst, which pants after the water-brooks, Psal. xlii. 1. This arises from a deep sense of our need of Christ, and farther supplies of grace from him, and is attended with a firm resolution that nothing short of him shall satisfy us, as not being adapted to supply our wants. Such a frame of spirit is agreeable to the ordinance we are engaged in, since Christ is therein represented as having purchased, and being ready to apply to his people, those blessings which are of a satisfying and comforting nature.
(4.) We are to feed on Christ by faith, and thereby receive of his fulness, as he is frequently represented in scripture, under the metaphor of food: Thus he styles himself, The bread of life, John vi. 35. and the blessings he bestows, are called,
The meat which perisheth not, but endureth to everlasting 'life,' ver. 27. and the gospel-dispensation is set forth by a 'feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things 'full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined,' Isa. xxv. 6. Thus our Saviour also represents it in the parable, Matt. xxii. 4. in which he commands his servants to invite those that were bidden to the marriage-feast, by telling them what things he had prepared for their entertainment, as an encouragement to their faith. Thus we are to consider that fulness of grace that is in Christ, (when drawing nigh to him in this ordinance,) of merit, for our justification, of strength to enable us to mortify sin, and resist temptations, of wisdom to direct us in all emergencies and difficulties, of peace and comfort, to revive and encourage us under all our doubts and fears, and to give us suitable relief when we are ready to faint under the burdens we complain of. All these blessings are to be apprehended and applied by faith, otherwise we cannot conclude that they belong to us; and nothing can be more adapted to this ordinance, wherein Christ is represented as having all those blessings to bestow, which he has purchased by his blood, and these are signified or shewed forth therein.
(5.) We are, in this ordinance, to trust in the merits of Christ, or to exercise an entire confidence in him, who, by his death, has purchased for us all spiritual and saving blessings. This ought to be attended with an humble sense of our own unworthiness, as being less than the least of all God's mer
cies, Gen. xxxii. 10. and as deserving nothing but his fierce wrath for our iniquities. And, since he has paid a full and satisfactory price of redemption for us, and thereby procured the blessings that we had forfeited, which have a tendency to make us completely happy, we ought to lay the whole stress of our salvation on him, as being sensible that he is able to save to the uttermost, all that come unto God by him, Heb. xii. 25.
(6.) We are to rejoice in Christ's love, which is infinitely greater than what can be in the heart of one creature towards another: This love of Christ has several properties;
1st, It doth not consist merely in his desiring our good, or wishing that we were happy, but in making us so; nor does it only consist in his sympathizing with us in our miseries, but delivering us from them, and discovering himself as our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2dly, As Christ's love to his people did not take its motive at first from any beauty or excellency which he found in them who were deformed, polluted, and worthy to be abhorred by him, but afterwards adorned and made comely through his comeliness put upon them, Ezek. xvi. 14. so when they forfeit his love by their frequent backslidings, and deserve to be cast off by him, it is nevertheless unchangeably fixed upon them, inasmuch as having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end, John xiii. 1.
3dly, Christ's love is infinitely condescending, which arises not only from that infinite distance which there is between him and his people, but from his remembring them in their low estate, having compassion on them whom no eye pitied, and saving them when they were in the utmost depths of despair and misery, saying to them when they were in their blood, live, Ezek. xvi. 6.
4thly, It is not like the love of strangers, which contents itself with some general endeavours to do good to them whom they design not to contract an intimacy with, but it is attended with the highest acts of friendship and communion, imparting his secrets to them, as he promises to love, and manifest himself to them, John xiv. 21. and tells his disciples, 'Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: But I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father, I have made known unto you,' chap. xv. 15.
5thly, It is such a love as forgives all former injuries, and upbraids not his people for what they have done against him, either before or since they believed in him. Thus God is said to pardon the iniquity, and pass by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage,' and to cast all their sins into the VOL. IV. M m
depths of the sea,' Micah vii. 18, 19. and to blot out their transgressions for his own sake, and not to remember their sins, Isa. xliii. 25.
6thly, It is such a love as affords us all seasonable and necessary help in times of our greatest straights and difficulties, Psal. xlvi. 1. and makes provision for our future necessities; as he tells his disciples, I go to prepare a place for you, John xiv. 2. that they might be assured of being happy in another world; and accordingly he expresses himself in his mediatorial prayer, Father, I will that these whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, that they may behold my 'glory,' John xvii. 24.
7thly, It is such a love, as puts him upon reckoning all injuries done against his people, as though they were done against himself, and the kindnesses expressed to them, as though they were expressed to him, as it is said, He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye, Zech. ii. 8. and, he that despiseth you, despiseth me, Luke x. 16. And, when he takes notice of those expressions of kindness, which his people had shewn to one another, he says, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me, Mat.
8thly, It is such a love as inclines him to interpose himself between his people and all danger, whereby he prevents their being overcome by their enemies; and indeed, he not only hazarded, but as a good shepherd gave his life for his sheep, John x. 11.
This is that love which is to be the subject of our meditation in this ordinance; accordingly we are first to endeavour, to make out our interest in him, by faith, which will be evinced by those acts of love to him that flow from it, and then we may rejoice in it as a constant spring of peace and blessedness.
(7.) The next grace to be exercised in this ordinance, is thankfulness, adoring and praising him that he has been pleased to extend compassion to us in bestowing those blessings, which are the result of his discriminating grace, the instances whereof are various, viz. as he delivers us from the ruin that sin would have inevitably brought upon us, prevents us with the blessings of goodness, and restrains the breaking forth of our corruptions, which would otherwise have inclined us to commit the vilest abominations; and, more especially, as he renews our nature, changes our hearts, creates us unto good works, and then quickens and excites that grace in us which his own hand wrought, and comforts us when our spirits are overwhelmed with sorrow, whereby he enables us to go on in his way rejoicing, and so carries on the work which he has begun