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Theophilus Gale (1628-1678) on Matthew 23:37

August 28, 2009

Gale:

(1.) Does Christ weep over the Sins and Ruins of impenitent Jerusalem? Hence then Infer, That Christ’s Affections are Relative: his sorrow stands in relation to the sinners miseries; as also his joy to the sinners good. All Christ’s Affections, while on earth, were very generous and public: he discovered little or nothing of private Interest and Passion: All his Affections, Actions, and Passions were relative. Yea, the whole of Christ as Mediator, is Relative: He espoused human Nature not for himself, but for sinners: He lived not for himself, but for his people: He died not for himself, but for sinners: Thus here he wept not for himself, but for Jerusalem.

(2.) This also discovers to us, The Heroic, and pure strain, or temperament of Christ’s Affections. Doth he, indeed, shed tears over Jerusalem, who is now meditating, how she may shed his blood: Has he so much pity and bleeding compassion for her, who hath so little pity and compassion for herself? Oh! what incomparable generous Affections are here? What an unparalleled sweet humor is there lodged in the heart of this great Emmanuel? Who could ever have imagined that human nature had been capable of such pure, and disinterested Affections, had we not so real an experiment thereof in this Sovereign Messiah?

(3.) Hence likewise we may collect, How really and cheerfully willing Christ is to save sinners. Certainly, he that makes such bitter Lamentation over the foreseen Ruins of Jerusalem, must needs have a very cordial, and unfeigned will and desire of her salvation. This we find expressed to the life, Matt. 23:37. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem–How oft would I have gathered thy children together, even as an hen gathers her chickens under her wings, and ye would not?” What a pathetic expostulation is here, which carries in it notices of vehement Affections? Oh! how willing is Christ to give unto sinners the things that belong unto their peace? Yea, is he not more willing to bestow great things than small? Doth not his willingness to give, infinitely exceed the sinners willingness to receive? Is not Christ more glad to receive poor and weary souls, than they are to come unto him? May sinners come too soon to Christ, or before they are welcome? Has Christ set any bars or rails about his Throne of Grace? May not whoever will, come and drink freely, and deeply of this living fountain? Is not every thing about Christ mighty drawing, alluring, and inviting? How drawing and encouraging is his Gospel? What alluring and inviting Arguments are there in his blood and passion? Has not Christ removed all groundless cavils and objections, which foolish sinners are apt to make against coming to him for life? Doth not Jerusalem first break with him, before he breaks with her? And when that unhappy breach is made, doth not his weeping over her sufficiently argue, how fain he would be reconciled to her? how much it would please him to see her but cast half an eye towards him? how much his heart would leap within him, to behold her, in the Prodigal’s posture, returning towards him? Did Christ ever cease to make tenders of Grace to her, til she ceased to accept or desire the tenders of his Grace? Yea, is not Christ’s forwardness to give, beyond the Sinners forwardness to receive? Did Christ ever refuse to give, til sinners refused to ask what they wanted? Oh! how oft doth Christ’s kindness overcome the Sinners unkindness? Did he not frequently express great love and pity, when he had the greatest cause to express severe wrath? Oh! what infinite pleasure and satisfaction doth Christ take, in his gracious effusions and communications to sinners? Doth he not think himself sufficiently paid for what Grace he hath given forth, if he may but obtain the souls desires after more? How industrious is he in seeking sinners, when they have lost themselves? Oh! what a sad consideration is it, that Christ should be so boundless and large in his offers, and we so narrow in our receivings?

(4.) Christ’s weeping over Jerusalem instructs us further, What a dreadful sin it is to reject Christ, and all other concerns of our peace. Christ’s gracious invitations unto, long waitings for, and at least tears over Jerusalem, do greatly aggravate her impenitence, and unbelief towards him. For the lower Christ condescends to sinners, the nearer he comes to them, and the more importunate he is in the offers of his Grace; the greater is their sin in rejecting such gracious and sweet offers. What? doth Christ come unto his own; his own children, spouse, subjects, brethren, and friends? and will not his own receive him? Doth he so freely open his gracious heart to sinners, and will they shut their hearts against him? Is he so forward to give, and shall we be so backward to receive? Doth Christ offer such great things to sinners, and shall they prefer such poor toys before them? Yea, is Christ in himself so incomparably excellent, and will sinners yet so much disdain him, and so proudly shift themselves of him? Can there be a more heinous sin than this, to meet Christ’s bowels and pity with kicks, and contempt? Oh! study the weight of this sin.

(5.) This Lamentation of Christ over impenitent Jerusalem teaches us also, That man’s Ruin is from himself? If after all Christ’s gracious Invitations; all his unwearied forbearances; all his bitter and salt tears, Jerusalem will still persist in her rebellious contempt of his gracious offers, how inexcusable is her sin, and inevitable her ruin? What will prevail upon her, if Christ’s Tears, and Entreaties will not prevail? What can save her, if her Redeemers Grace and Mercy save her not? What is it that keeps Evangelic sinners from being saved? is it any defect in the Object, or its Revelation? is it mere simple Ignorance, or Impotence in the subject? No; but it is willful blindness and impotence: they shut their eyes and will not see; they bolt their hearts and will not open to Christ, who knocks at the door of the soul, by many gracious Invitations of his Gospel and Spirit. And do not such deservedly perish, who electively embrace their own ruin, and willfully reject the things that belong to their peace, Matt. 23:37? Surely this willful Impotence, or rather impotent willfulness evidently demonstrates, That impenitent sinners frame their own Hell.

(6.) Hence also infer, That the greater privileges, and marks of favor Christ doth confer on any People or Church, the more sorely doth he resent any unkindness from such. The resentment of a final unkindness, from such as have been obliged by special favors, is more afflictive, than greater unkindnesses from others. For Jerusalem, who lay under so many, and essential obligations, to reject Christ, and all his gracious tenders of mercy, Oh! how much doth this break his heart? What swords and spears to pierce through his soul is this? For Jerusalem, when she is made fat with Divine mercies, to kick against those bowels, whence her mercies flowed, how much doth this wound and grieve the heart of Christ?

Theophilus Gale, Christ’s Tears for Jerusalem’s Unbelief and Ruine (London: Printed for M. Widdowes at the Green Dragon in St. Pauls Church-Yard, 1679), 64–69. [Some spelling modernized; and underlining mine.]

[Credit to Tony for the find.]

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