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He needs doctrinal instructions, providential warnings, and internal excitements, to put him on the use of any means for obtaining a better disposition of mind; and he needs the grace of God to give efficacy to the means and to form in him the good disposition. The apostle speaks of the new creature as God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to good works.
2. It is matter of great thankfulness, that God has placed sinners under a possibility and hope of being recovered from their dangerous malady. He has given them his holy word—has appointed the stated preaching of this word-sends them the private admonitions of friends-warns them by solemn events in his providence, and strives 'with them by the motions of his Spirit. And however incapable they are of themselves to effect their own recovery; yet under these advantages they may do something-they may apply the means in their hands; and in the diligent application of these means they may hope for those energies of divine grace, which will renew them to a sound mind.
3. As the madness of sinners is of the moral kind; as it consists not in the want, but in the perversion of reason, so they are subjects of reproofs, counsels and instructions. It is therefore our duty to address ourselves to them in these ways, that we may bring them to a right use of their reason. It is the direction of the apostle, 'Exhort one another daily, while it is called to day, lest any be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.' If we would be faithful to warn and rebuke the ungodly, we doubtless might reclaim some. And he that converteth a sinner from the error of his ways, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.' If a neighbor should lose his reason, we should look upon him with pity, and should spare no means in our power which had a hopeful tendency to his recovery, even though the success might be doubtful. But are there not some, who are under a more dangerous insanity? Let us not forget these. Of some have compassion, making a difference; and others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire.
4. What reason have many to be thankful for affliction-for sickness-for poverty-for worldly disappointment. How often are these the means of bringing mad sinners to their reason. The
prodigal who went away from his father, and spent his substance in riotous living, was brought to himself by means of a mighty famine, which reduced him to want and distress. When sinners are holden in cords of affliction, God opens their ears to instruction. It is of great importance that they attend to the admonitions of Providence and the excitements of the Spirit. If hereby they are brought to any sober and rational sentiments, there is hope that they may recover themselves from their dangerous malady. Let them seek an acquaintance with themselves; know the plague of their hearts; reflect on the madness of their past life; contemplate the fatal consequence of continuing in it; cultivate the hopeful beginnings which appear; avoid whatever might plunge them again into their distracted state, and commend themselves to the grace of God which is able to heal their souls and give them perfect soundness. If after they have begun to emerge from a state of folly and madness, through the knowledge of the truth, they should relapse into it, the latter end will be worse with them than the beginning.
UNREASONABLE DEMANDS IN RELIGION EXPOSED AND CONDEMNED.
MATTHEW xxvII. 41, 42.
Likewise also the chief priests, mocking him with the scribes and elders, said, he saved others; himself he cannot save: If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross; and we will believe him.
THE manner of our Saviour's death was the most painful that can be imagined; and his sufferings, great in their nature, were heightened by some peculiar circumstances.
In the day of affliction it is no small consolation to have our friends around us, and to observe their tender sympathy with us. Of this consolation our Lord was deprived. When his enemies had seized him, his disciples all forsook him. One had before betrayed him; another now denied him; and the rest stood at a distance. The heart of an enemy will sometimes melt at the sight of the misery which he inflicts; but the enemies of Jesus, far from being softened into compassion by his sufferings, took from thence occasion to inflict and mock him more. "They who passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying; ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days; save thyself, and come down from the cross." And the chief priests with the scribes and elders, imagining that his pretensions to the mes
siahship were fully confuted, ridiculed him on the subject, in the language of our text. "He saved others;" or pretended to do so; "himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him."
My design from these words is, to shew the unreasonableness of this demand of the Jewish rulers, as the condition of their faith; and then to improve this instance of perverseness for the conviction of those who demand better advantages, or higher evidences in order to their compliance with the gospel.
I. We will show the unreasonableness of the demand made by the Jewish rulers, as the condition of their faith in Christ. "Let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him."
Jesus declared, that he came to save those who were lost. To support this declaration, it was necessary, that he should give some proof his power to save.› Of this he gave sufficient proof in the miraculous works which he performed. This proof, the prejudice of the Jews rejected. Sometimes they demanded greater works than they had seen him do; and when he did his greatest works, these they ascribed to the power of the devil. It was their constant study to evade the force of evidence, and defeat the means of conviction. But when they saw him on the cross, then they triumphed in their unbelief. "Surely," said they, "if he possessed a supernatural power, he would employ it in his own case: if he could save himself, he would not hang there a miserable spectacle. Let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe."
However plausible this demand might appear to them, we see it to be perfectly absurd: for,
1. It was a demand which could not be complied with, and which, if they had understood their own scriptures, they must have known could not be complied with.
It had been abundantly foretold in prophecy, that the Messiah, when he came, would be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief that he would be cut off out of the land of the livingthat he would make his soul an offering for sin yea, that he would suffer the same kind of death, which he was now suffer
ing-would be taken from prison and judgment—would be scourged and spitted on-pierced in his hands and feet-and mocked and insulted in his anguish. He himself had declared, that he must go up to Jerusalem; suffer many things of the priests and elders; be put to death on the cross and made a sacrifice for the sins of men. Had he, now rescued himself from the hands of his enemies, and effected an escape from the death of the cross, he would have shown that he was not the Saviour whom the prophets foretold, and whom he professed to be. The salvation which men needed was deliverance from the guilt of sin and from the curse of the law. That he might redeem them from the curse of the law, he must be made a curse for them-that they might be made the righteousness of God in him, he must be made a sin-offering for them. To have saved himself, therefore, from the cross, would have been to contradict all that the prophets had spoken concerning him, and his own professed design in coming into the world.
It appears, then, that the evidence which the rulers demanded of Christ's power to save, was of such a nature, that had it been granted, it must have proved the contrary.
2. This evidence, had it been given, would have been no more likely to convince them, than was that which had been given already.
They said, "Let him now come down from the cross and save himself, and we will believe" that he can save others. Why, then, did they not believe, when they had seen him perform acts of power as great and wonderful as this would have been? He had by his word healed the most inveterate diseases-restored sight to the blind, and to one born blind-cast out devils from their ancient possessions-recovered to reason the lunatic and distracted-raised to life them who were dead,, and one who had been four days dead-turned water into wine-multiplied a few loaves of bread to a quantity sufficient to feed many thousands-escaped the hands of his enemies when they attempted to take him— struck the soldiers to the ground when they came to seize him. What room was there now to doubt, whether he was able to save himself and others? Had he broken the nails which fastened him