« PreviousContinue »
and be most impatient of those temptations which seduce us into ease, and divorce us from the cross, as being opposite to our greatest hopes and most perfect desires. But still this humour of St. Peter's imperfection abides amongst us: he that breaks off the yoke of obedience, and unties the bands of discipline, and preaches a cheap religion, and presents heaven in the midst of flowers, and strews carpets softer than the Asian luxury in the way, and sets the songs of Sion to the tunes of Persian and lighter airs, and offers great liberty of living, and bondage under affection and sins, and reconciles eternity with the present enjoyment, he shall have his schools filled with disciples; but he that preaches the cross, and the severities of Christianity, and the strictnesses of a holy life, shall have the lot of his blessed Lord; he shall be thought ill of, and deserted.
3. Our blessed Lord, five days before his passion, sent his disciples to a village to borrow an ass, that he might ride in triumph to Jerusalem; he had none of his own; but yet he, who was so dear to God, could not want what was to supply his needs. It may be, God hath laid up our portion in the repositories of other men, and means to furnish us from their tables, to feed us from their granaries, and that their wardrobe shall clothe us; for it is all one to him to make a fish bring us money, or a crow to bring us meat, or the stable of our neighbour to furnish our needs of beasts. If he brings it to thy need as thou wantest it, thou hast all the good in the use of the creature which the owners can receive; and the horse which is lent me in charity does me as much ease, and the bread which is given me in alms feeds me as well, as the other part of it, which the good man, that gave me a portion, reserved for his own eating, could do to him. And if we would give God leave to make provisions for us in the ways of his own choosing, and not estimate our wants by our manner of receiving, being contented that God, by any of his own ways, will minister it to us, we should find our cares eased, and our content increased, and our thankfulness engaged, and all our moderate desires contented, by the satisfaction of our needs. For if God is pleased to feed me by my neighbour's charity, there is no other difference, but that God makes me an occasion of his ghostly good, as he is made the occasion of my temporal; and if we think it disparagement,
we may remember, that God conveys more good to him by me, than to me by him: and it is a proud impatience to refuse or to be angry with God's provisions, because he hath not observed my circumstances and ceremonies of election.
4. And now begins that great triumph, in which the holy Jesus was pleased to exalt his office, and to abase his person. He rode, like a poor man, upon an ass, a beast of burden and the lowest value, and yet it was not his own; and in that equipage he received the acclamations due to a mighty prince, to the Son of the eternal King; telling us, that the smallness of fortune, and the rudeness of exterior habiliments, and a rough wall, are sometimes the outsides of a great glory; and that when God means to glorify or do honour to a person, he needs no help from secular advantages. He hides great riches in renunciation of the world, and makes great honour break forth from the clouds of humility; and victory to arise from yielding, and the modesty of departing from our interest; and peace to be the reward of him, that suffers all the hostilities of men and devils. For Jesus, in this great humility of his, gives a great probation that he was the Messias, and the King of Sion; because no other king entered into those gates riding upon an ass, and received the honour of "Hosannah," in that unlikelihood and contradiction of unequal circum
5. The blessed Jesus had never but two days of triumph in his life; the one was on his transfiguration upon Mount Tabor; the other, this his riding into the holy city. But, that it may appear how little were his joys and present exterior complacencies; in the day of his transfiguration, Moses and Elias appeared to him, telling him what great things he was to suffer; and in this day of his riding to Jerusalem, he wet the palms with a dew sweeter than the moistures upon Mount Hermon, or the drops of manna: for, to allay the little warmth of a springing joy, he let down a shower of tears, weeping over undone Jerusalem in the day of his triumph, leaving it disputable whether he felt more joy or sorrow in the acts of love; for he triumphed to consider that the redemption of the world was so near, and wept bitterly that men would not be redeemed; his joy was great, to consider that himself was to suffer so great sadness for our good; and his sorrow was very great, to consider that we would not
entertain that good, that he brought and laid before us by his passion. He was in figure, as his servant, St. Paphnutius, was afterwards, in letter and true story, " crucified upon palms :" which, indeed, was the emblem of a victory'; but yet such as had leaves sharp, poignant, and vexatious. However, he entered into Jerusalem dressed in gaieties, which yet he placed under his feet; but with such pomps and solemnities, each family, according to its proportion, was accustomed to bring the paschal lamb to be slain for the passover: and it was not an indecent ceremony, that "the lamb slain from the beginning of the world" should be brought to his slaughter, with the acknowledgments of a religious solemnity; because, now that real good was to be exhibited to the world, which those little paschal lambs did but signify and represent in shadow and that was the true cause of all the little joy he had.
6. And if we consider what followed, it might seem also to be a design to heighten the dolorousness of his passion: for to descend from the greatest of worldly honours, from the adoration of a God, and the acclamations to a king, to the death of a slave, and the torments of a cross, and the dishonours of a condemned criminal, were so great stoopings and vast changes, that they gave height, and sense, and excellency to each other. This, then, seemed an excellent glory; but, indeed, was but an art and instrument of grief: for such is the nature of all our felicities, they end in sadness; and increase the sting of sorrows, and add moment to them, and cause impatience and uncomfortable remembrances; but the griefs of a Christian, whether they be instances of repentance, or parts of persecution, or exercises of patience, end in joy and endless comfort. Thus Jesus, like a rainbow, half made of the glories of light, and half of the moisture of a cloud; half triumph, and half sorrow; entered into that town where he had done much good to others, and to himself received nothing but affronts: yet his tenderness increased upon him; and that very journey, which was Christ's last solemn visit for their recovery, he doubled all the instruments of his mercy and their conversion. He rode in triumph; the
a Palma est victorum, palmæ tu affixus es; ergò Lætus obi, quoniam non nisi victor obis.
children sang hosannah to him; he cured many diseased persons; he wept for them, and pitied them, and sighed out the intimations of a prayer, and did penance for their ingratitude, and staid all day there, looking about him towards evening; and no man would invite him home, but he was forced to go to Bethany, where he was sure of an hospitable entertainment. I think no Christian that reads this, but will be full of indignation at the whole city; who, for malice or for fear, would not, or durst not, receive their Saviour into their houses; and yet we do worse: for now that he is become our Lord, with mightier demonstrations of his eternal power, we suffer him to look round about upon us for months and years together, and possibly never entertain him, till our house is ready to rush upon our heads, and we are going to unusual and stranger habitations. And yet, in the midst of a populous and mutinous city, this great King had some good subjects; persons that threw away their own garments, and laid them at the feet of our Lord; that, being divested of their own, they might be re-invested with a robe of his righteousness, wearing that till it were changed into a stole of glory: the very ceremony of their reception of the Lord became symbolical to them, and expressive of all our duties.
7. But I consider that the blessed Jesus had affections not less than infinite, towards all mankind; and he who wept upon Jerusalem, who had done so great despite to him, and within five days were to fill up the measure of their iniquities, and do an act, which all ages of the world could never repeat in the same instance, did also, in the number of his tears, reckon our sins, as sad considerations and incentives of his sorrow. And it would well become us to consider what great evil we do, when our actions are such as for which our blessed Lord did weep. He who was seated in the bosom of felicity, yet he moistened his fresh laurels upon the day of his triumph, with tears of love and bitter allay. His day of triumph was a day of sorrow; and if we would weep for our sins, that instance of sorrow would be a day of triumph and jubilee.
8. From hence the holy Jesus went to Bethany, where he had another manner of reception than at the holy city. There he supped; for his goodly day of triumph had been with him a fasting-day. And Mary Magdalen, who had
spent one box of nard pistic upon our Lord's feet, as a sacri fice of eucharist for her conversion, now bestowed another, in thankfulness for the restitution of her brother Lazarus to life, and consigned her Lord unto his burial. And here she met with an evil interpreter. Judas, an apostle, one of the Lord's own family, pretended it had been a better religion to have given it to the poor; but it was malice, and the spirit, either of envy or avarice, in him that passed that sentence; for he that sees a pious action well done, and seeks to undervalue it by telling how it might have been better, reproves nothing but his own spirit. For a man may do very well, and God would accept it; though to say he might have done better, is to say only, that action was not the most perfect and absolute in its kind: but to be angry at a religious person, and without any other pretence but that he might have done better, is spiritual envy; for a pious person would have nourished up that infant action by love and praise, till it had grown to the most perfect and intelligent piety. But the event of that man gave the interpretation of his present purpose; and at the best it could be no other than a rash judgment of the action and intention of a religious, thankful, and holy person. But she found her Lord, who was her beneficiary in this, become her patron and her advocate. And hereafter, when we shall find the devil, the great accuser of God's saints, object against the piety and religion of holy persons; a cup of cold water shall be accepted unto reward, and a good intention heightened to the value of an exterior expression, and a piece of gum to the equality of a holocaust; and an action, done with great zeal and an intense love, be acquitted from all its adherent imperfections; Christ receiving them into himself, and being like the altar of incense, hallowing the very smoke, and raising it into a flame, and entertaining it into the embraces of the firmament and the bosom of heaven. Christ himself, who is the judge of our actions, is also the entertainer and object of our charity and duty, and the advocate of our persons.
9. Judas, who declaimed against the woman, made tacit reflections upon his Lord for suffering it: and, indeed, every obloquy against any of Christ's servants, is looked on as an arrow shot into the heart of Christ himself. And now, a persecution being begun against the Lord within his own family,