Luk_19:41-42. And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.
IN profane history we are often called upon to admire the actions of conquerors, and of heroes. But most of the feats proposed for our admiration serve rather to evince the depravity of our nature; and are calculated only to excite horror and disgust in a well-instructed mind. Perhaps, of real magnanimity, the world never yet witnessed a more glorious instance than that before us; wherein we behold the Saviour of mankind weeping over his blood-thirsty enemies, and most pathetically lamenting their invincible ignorance and unbelief. To enter fully into the scope of his words, it will be necessary to consider them,
In reference to Jerusalem—
The Jews had long been the most favoured nation under heaven—
[They had had the oracles of God committed to them, when the rest of the world were left to the suggestions of unenlightened reason. The way of life and salvation was exhibited to them in their daily sacrifices, and more especially in those offered annually on the great day of atonement. They had been taught by a long succession of prophets, who were divinely qualified and commissioned to make known to them the will of God. Above all, they had now been privileged to hear the Messiah himself, and to see all his doctrines confirmed with the most numerous, most stupendous, and most unquestionable miracles. These were such advantages for the obtaining of eternal life as none others ever enjoyed, and such as must have proved effectual, if Satan had not blinded their eyes, and hardened their hearts.]
But they were now speedily to be given over to the judgments they had merited—
[They had in no respect rendered unto God according to the benefits received from him. On the contrary, they had made void the law, and established their own traditions as of superior obligation. Instead of hearkening to the prophets, they persecuted them unto death: and instead of yielding to the wisdom and authority of the Messiah, they imputed his miracles to a confederacy with the devil, and incessantly plotted to take away his life. Within the space of four days they were to fill up the measure of their iniquities by effecting their murderous purposes: and wrath was in due time to come upon them to the uttermost for all the righteous blood that they had spilled, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Christ and his Apostles. They were to be given up to judicial blindness and obduracy; and the whole nation were to suffer such calamities from the hands of the Romans, as never had been endured by any nation since the foundation of the world: and all this was but an earnest of infinitely heavier judgments, which were to abide upon them for ever and ever.]
Our Lord, foreseeing their impending miseries, was filled with compassion towards them—
[He might well have spoken to them in those terms of indignant triumph, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how shall ye escape the damnation of hell?” But he had far other thoughts on this occasion: knowing the full extent of the miseries that were coming on them, his bowels yearned over them. Nor did he only pity them as one possessed of human passions, but as their Mediator, who had come from heaven to seek and save them. Perhaps too the thought that he should one day be their Judge, and be necessitated to pass the awful sentence of condemnation on their souls, oppressed, and, for a moment, overwhelmed his spirit. Often had he already travailed, as it were, in birth with them; and now he was about to lay down his life for them. But, except to a little remnant, his efforts would be in vain. With respect to far the greater part of them, the things belonging to their peace were about to be hid from their eyes: yet if even at that hour they would have repented, he would gladly “have gathered them, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings.” But, alas! they would not; and he foresaw moreover that they never would: and therefore, despairing of ever bringing them to happiness, he looked on them with the tenderest emotions of pity, and with a flood of tears poured forth this pathetic lamentation.]
Nor could the circumstances he was in at all divert his attention from them—
[He was surrounded by vast multitudes of people; yet was he not ashamed to stop the procession, and to weep before them all. They were all crying “Hosannah to the Son of David; blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest;” yet was he deaf to their acclamations and hosannas. He foresaw all the conflicts which he was about to sustain, and the agonies he was speedily to suffer for the satisfying of divine justice; yet was he altogether insensible to his own concerns, and occupied about the welfare of his most inveterate enemies. Who but God could have exercised such magnanimity as this, or manifested such unbounded compassion?]
But, not to confine these things to the Jews, let us consider them further,
In reference to ourselves—
Peculiar as these circumstances were, they were both written for our admonition, and intended to represent the compassion which Jesus yet bears towards us.
We, like the Jews, have had a day of grace afforded us—
[The things belonging to our peace have been plainly revealed to us, and, we trust, faithfully declared amongst us. The way of acceptance through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, has incessantly been pointed out in the written word, in the offices of our Liturgy, in the administration of the sacraments, and in the preached Gospel. Moreover, the Holy Spirit has often striven with us to bring us to repentance; but, with respect to very many amongst us, the means have hitherto been used in vain. There are yet too many unacquainted with their depravity, and unsolicitous about an interest in the Saviour. Deeply as their eternal peace is involved in these things, they are ignorant of them, if not in theory, at least in their practical and sanctifying efficacy.]
With respect to many, this day of grace is quickly drawing to a close—
[Certain it is that, even while we are yet possessing the outward means of grace, the inward power, that alone can render them effectual, may be withdrawn. God plainly warns us that “his Spirit shall not alway strive with man:” and that by continuing to resist the Holy Ghost, we may not only “grieve” and “vex” him, but may ultimately “quench” his sacred motions. And how inexpressibly dreadful is the state of one, concerning whom God has said, “He is joined to idols, let him alone!” If once this sentence be pronounced, the things belonging to our peace will be as effectually hidden from our eyes, as if we were cut off out of the land of the living: and we shall live henceforth only to add sin to sin, and to “treasure up wrath against the day of wrath.” But at all events as soon as death comes, our day of grace must terminate; and, if we have lived all our days ignorant of Christ and his salvation, we have then no more hope of mercy than the fallen angels. And how many are there, not only of the aged and infirm, but also of the young and healthy, against whom death has already pointed his dart, and whose speedy dissolution is foreknown to God!]
And may we not suppose that Jesus is now looking, as it were, upon them with tender compassion?
[He has not now indeed the same susceptibility of grief and sorrow which once he had: but does be not long for the salvation of sinners as much as ever? Does lie not look on some, whose day of grace is nearly passed, and say, “O that thou mightest know, at least in this thy day, the things that belong unto thy peace? “Does he not behold even the proudest Pharisee, and the most abandoned profligate, and without excluding either of them from his mercy, say, O that thou, even thou, wouldest turn unto me, that I might save thee! Yes surely, his address to every sinner is, “Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways, for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” Let us suppose for a moment that he were to come into this assembly, and to look round about upon us all; what would be the feelings of his benevolent heart? Methinks, when he beheld so many ignorant of his salvation, and perishing in the midst of mercy, he would burst into a flood of tears. A sight of so many, who by disease or accident will soon be hurried into the eternal world, while yet they are unprepared to meet their God; a sight of so many continuing gay and thoughtless, or careful only about this present world, would pierce him with the deepest sorrow, and extort from him a lamentation similar to that before us. Yea, at this moment is he inspecting all our hearts, and, as far as his situation admits of it, is grieved on our account: nor can all the anthems of saints around the throne so occupy his attention, as to make him regardless of our deplorable condition.]
Let us then see the folly of an inconsiderate and careless state—
[Perhaps many in that day might wonder at this exercise of Christ’s compassion, and consider his weeping over the people as a mark of folly and extravagance: and many at this time, if they should behold a servant of Christ expressing a concern for immortal souls in the same way, would laugh at him as a weak enthusiast. But who that knows the value of a soul, and sees in what a delusive security the generality are living, must not confess, that there is just occasion for all the compassion we can exercise, and all the zeal we can put forth? Can we imagine that Jesus would have felt so much, or given such vent to his feelings on this occasion, if there had not been sufficient reason for it. Suppose we knew for certain, that one amongst us had lost his day of grace; would it not become us all to weep over him? Let us then learn to weep for ourselves; and seek the things belonging to our peace, lest they be speedily, and for ever, hid from our eyes.]
Let us also acknowledge the blessedness of a converted state—
[If our Lord wept over the ignorant and ungodly, we may well conceive that he would rejoice over those who are divinely instructed, and walking in the way of godliness. Indeed he has represented himself as the shepherd rejoicing over his recovered sheep, and the father over the returning Prodigal. He has even said, “He will rejoice over us with joy, he will rest in his love, he will joy over us with singing.” Surely then neither is this without a cause: there must be real reason for joy, if Jesus himself rejoice over us. A soul enlightened, sanctified, and saved! O what cause for joy! Who that knows the temporal, and much more the eternal, judgments that fell upon the great body of the Jewish nation, would not incomparably prefer the state of those, who are persecuted unto death, before that of their proud oppressors? Let us then improve “this our accepted time, our day of salvation.” Let us be earnest in fleeing from the wrath to come, and in laying hold on eternal life: so shall we have reason for triumph, though in the most afflictive circumstances; and shall rejoice for ever in the presence of our God, when all others shall be “cast into that lake of fire, where is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.”]