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judiced men prompted them to do to him, and patiently waited for the full vindication which in due time would be given of his innocence and great character."
5. Another mark of greatness is the regard shewn by our Lord to the penitent thief. For, as St. Luke proceeds to relate in the forecited twenty-third chapter of his gospel : of the malefactors railed at him, saying, If thou be the Christ, save thyself and us.” But he was rebuked for it by the other, who also said unto Jesus: “ Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdoin. And Jesus saith unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, this day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
He bears all the reproaches of his enemies without saying a word. But he hears and answers the petition of a humbled, penitent sufferer. This request of the malefactor is a proof that he had seen something very great and extraordinary in the person and behaviour of Jesus under his sufferings. If before he was set upon the cross, he had some knowledge of Jesus, and a faith in him, as the Christ (which may be reckoned probable) yet, undoubtedly, his faith was increased and confirmed by the excellent behaviour of Jesus, during this afflictive and melancholy season. And our Lord's answer sets before us another and manifest instance of the excellent frame of his mind. Verily, I say unto thee, This day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” Which shews that his spirit was not broken, sunk down, and dejected by the continued scene of various afflictions of the most trying nature. He is still composed. He is persuaded of the happy issue of all.
He knows his own innocence, and eyes the reward set before him. He receives the profession made of a belief in his character and kingdom. He shews his approbation of it, and his satisfaction therein: and with full authority he promises a place that very day in paradise. How great is Jesus here! He triumphs every where: and how glorious is this triumph! On the cross, during the very time of his most ignominious sufferings, he carries on, and accomplishes his great design of converting and saving sinners. Truly the Pharisees had still cause of envy and indignation. They were before offended, because sinners resorted to him to hear him, and he taught them: or because he received them, and comforted them with assurance of pardon, when they gave tokens of compunction and repentance. They make him suffer with sinners, yea with malefactors. And one of them openly professes faith in him, and humbly seeks to him. And Jesus receives him, and promises him immediate admission, together with himself, into paradise.
In a word, Jesus is the same every where. And on the cross he receives penitent sinners with like readiness and satisfaction, as when sitting at table in the house of a Pharisee. Such uniformity is there in his life and in his death!
6. Another thing very observable is the regard that Jesus shewed to his mother Mary. “ Now there stood by the cross of Jesus, his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalen. When therefore Jesus saw his mother and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother: Woman, behold thy son.
Then saith he to the disciple: Behold thy mother. And from that hour that disciple" took her to his own home,” John six. 25-27.
Certainly never was there a greater instance of full composure under sufferings than this. On the cross our Lord disposes his only worldly concern, and recommends his mother to the person fittest to take care of her, to comfort her, and secure her from contempt and injury, so long as she should survive himself on this earth.
It is much to the honour of Mary, that we find her present at this mournful scene; as it is to the honour of our Lord that he took such notice of her.
7. I add but one thing more, the conclusion of these sufferings, or the greatness and majesty of our Lord in his death; though it will contain more particulars than one.
Matt. xxvii. 46-50. “ And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani! that is to say, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken ine?” St. John, omitting that particular, says, “ After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished: (that is, knowing that all things were now near a full and entire accomplishment] saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar: and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When therefore Jesus had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished. And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost," ch. xix. 28-30. * Our Saviour's meekness under sufferings is prophetically represented in a beautiful similitude: “ and as a sheep before
its shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth," Is. liii. 7.
I once intended, after going through the several tokens of greatness and majesty appearing in our Lord's last sufferings, tu consider those words as an objection, which were just now recited from St. Matthew, where our Lord says, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But I now rather think it best to clear them as we go along. The same expressions are also in St. Mark: “ And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" ch. xv. 34.
Some may apprehend that these words import uneasiness and impatience of mind. But when duly attended to, I think there will be no foundation for that supposition. The address, “ My God, iny God," shews a claim of interest, and a persuasion of acceptance. And the whole, if rightly understood, will be perceived to be a request to be now released from these troubles, and presented with a full belief that he should now be released, all things concerning the sufferings of the Messiah being quite, or well nigh, accomplished.
The words are at the beginning of the twenty-second psalm, entitled, A psalm of David. And in them our Lord chose to offer up his petition at this time: “ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" It follows: “Why art thou so far from helping me?”
Our Lord's expiring is thus related by St. John in the text. " When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, it is finished. And he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.” In St. Luke xxiii. 46. “ And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. And having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” Joining together those two evangelists, the history, I think, is thus : having received the vinegar, he said, “ It is finished.” And soon after that he said: “ Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” And then declining his head, he gave up the ghost.
Thus died Jesus, after having endured all manner of indignities, as well as the most exquisite pain, with perfect composure of mind, and full confidence in God. Having offered up an earnest request to be released and dismissed, he says, “ I thirst.”
“ I thirst.” And having then received one indignity more of a very affecting nature, he cried out again: “ It is finished.” • Every • humbling circumstance concerning the life of the Messiah, that had been foretold, is accom• plished. And I have now done and suffered all that my office required.' And knowing, that the prayer before offered was acceptable to the Father, he bowed his head, and willingly resigned his spirit, in hope of a resurrection to life, and the glorious exaltation that had been set before him.
Herein must be allowed to be every thing great and excellent: meekness toward men, peace of mind within, resignation to the will of God, confidence of his approbation, hope of after, glory and honour.
That there was somewhat very great and admirable in the concluding circumstances of this amazing scene, is evident from the confession of the centurion, who presided at the crucifixion. “ And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said: Truly, this man was the Son of God,” Mark xv. 39. St. Luke's words are, “ Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying: Certainly this was a righteous man. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things that were done, smote their breasts, and returned,” ch. xxiii. 46, 47.
Let me add a few thoughts by way of reflection.
1. From the view which we have now taken of our Lord's sufferings, we may perceive it was with good reason he prayed, that “this cup might pass from him," if it were pleasing to the Father: and that, when he attentively considered those sufferings which were near at hand, he was amazed, and sorrowful unto death, or was under great concern, accompanied with an uncommon sweat, Luke xxii. 39–41.
For it was a cup, filled with bitter ingredients, the pain, and the shame of the cross : reproaches and scoffs, injurious to his high character, and the belief of his mission. Beside all the sufferings to be inflicted upon himself, he felt, undoubtedly, in that preparatory meditation, the grief, the doubts, the fears, and even the guilt, and miseries, which his ignominious sufferings would occasion in others. If the Father did not see fit to interpose for preventing the sufferings of his Son, he should be betrayed by one of his own disciples, who thereby would incur a most
Contristabatur autem non timore patiendi, qui ad hoc tolorum, et rejectionem populi Judæorum, et eversionem venerat, ut pateretur, et Petrum timiditatis arguerat : sed miseræ Jerusalem. Hieron. in Matt. xxvi. 37. p. 129. propter infelicissimum Judam, et scandalum omnium Apos- Vid. et in ver. 39. p. 129, 130.
heavy doom: so that it would be better for him, that he had not been born. He would likewise be disowned, and denied by another disciple: and all the rest would be offended in him. The minds of all his friends and followers, in general, would be pierced with inexpressible grief: and their just and reasonable belief in him, as the Messiah, built upon his mighty works, and the testimonies that had been given him from heaven, would be greatly shaken, if not quite overthrown. The Jewish people, with their rulers, would contract much guilt, and bring upon themselves heavy judgments and calamities. And how our Lord's mind was affected with the foresight of the desolations of Jerusalem, we well know from the tears which it drew from his eyes, and from the mournful lamentation which he made over that city, Matt. xxiii. 37–39. Luke xiii. 34, 35; ch. xix. 41-44.
From these, and other thoughts and considerations, present to the comprehensive mind of the blessed Jesus, justly did he renew that prayer: “ Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me."
I am aware that some would affix another meaning to that prayer, and argue that our Lord did not deprecate his passion. But I think, with little success, and with less reason.
They say, how could our Lord pray against his passion, when he had reproved Peter for attempting to divert him from the thought of it? But our Lord's prayer was not founded upon Peter's views. Nor did it proceed from Peter's worldly temper. And after all, he added: “ Not my will, but thine be done." He was resigned, and willing, and ready to take the cup, if infinite wisdom saw fit that he should take it, for advancing the interest of religion, and the good of men.
Some reluctance of nature upon this occasion, was not inconsistent with consummate virtue, and a full determination to acquiesce in what divine wisdom appointed. There is another plain instance of the like reluctance in regard to the same thing. “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour. But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name,” John xii. 27, 28. *
These persons say, that by the cup which our Lord prayed might pass from him, he meant his agony in the garden, being afraid he should expire there. But is not that imputing to our Lord what is manifestly derogatory to his honour upon many accounts ? For it implies distrust and want of faith, not easy to be accounted for, or reconciled with his high character, and his large experience of the divine presence with him. And it would be as difficult to reconcile this sense with the predictions concerning his dying the death of the cross, as any other interpretation whatever.
Once more, then, it is objected: How could our Lord pray, that the cup of his passion might pass from him, when he had foretold that he should suffer and die, and be raised again the third day?
But this objection likewise is of small moment, though of specious appearance. For, notwithstanding predictions, intervening events as they occur, both the good and the evil things of this life, and the actions of moral agents, will operate and influence the mind.
And whatever things are foreseen and foretold, we are to perform our duty to God and men, suitably to the circumstances which we are brought into in the intermediate space.
Our Lord foretold the treachery of Judas. And yet he often warned that disciple, and said enough to discourage and dissuade him from that evil conduct, and said in his hearing: Woe to that man by whom the Son of inan is betrayed. Good were it for that man if he had not been born,” Matt. xxvi. 24; Mark xiv. 21.
He also foretold the fall of Peter : and yet did a great deal to prevent it, giving such warnings and directions to him and the rest, as were most likely to secure their steadiness.
He foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, and the overthrow of the Jewish nation. Never
Et in passione. Pater, si fieri, inquit, potest, transeat calix iste a me. Qui locus hunc sensum habet : Si potest fieri, ut sine interitu Judæorum, credat Gentium multitudo, passionem recuso. Sin autem illi excæcandi sunt, ut omnes gentes videant, fiat, Pater, voluntas tua. Id. in Is. cap. vii. p. 84. Conser. Euseb. in Ps. 87. al. 88. p. 548, 551, 552.
• Which place is exactly parallel with that which we are now considering. For it is, as if he had said: 'I have prayed,
“ Father save me from this hour." Yet I am wil. ling to do and suffer what shall be most for the advancement • of thy glory, and the interest of religion in the world. My • first and chief desire is, ibat “thy name may be glorified." • Thou therefore by thy all-wise Providence, order what may
be most couducive to that end i and I acquiesce, whatever • it is.'
theless, after bis ascension, his apostles, by his special direction, did all that was in their power, by preaching and working miracles among that people for a long season, to bring them to repentance, and to prevent their final ruin.
In like manner our Lord had foretold his own ignominious sufferings and death, and his resurrection afterwards. Nevertheless he was greatly concerned in the near view and approach of those sufferings. If he had not he had not been man. Nor does he dissemble it. For going out with his disciples after supper to the mount of Olives, when he came to the place called Gethsemane, he said to the rest, “Sit ye here whilst I go and pray yonder. And he taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy,” or to be in great concern of mind. “Then he saith unto them: My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. Tarry ye here and watch with me. And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” Which prayer he also repeated.
Meditating in this retirement on the sufferings he had in view, he earnestly recommended his case to infinite wisdom, expressing acquiescence in the divine will whatever it should be. After which he was strengthened and comforted by the presence of an angel sent to him from heaven, and by considering “ the joy that was set before him," Heb. xii. 2, and the benefits that would accrue to mankind by his death and resurrection.
Whereupon he arose, went out to meet him that betrayed him, and those who came to apprehend him, and went through the amazing scene of sufferings that followed, with full composure, and all the indications of a most excellent temper, which have been delineated, though too faintly, in the preceding part of this discourse.
Our Lord said to his disciples, “Watch, and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing ; but the flesh is weak.” He was himself an example of those duties, suited to all, the best, and the strongest, in a state of trial. And he was an instance of the benefit of them.
There can be no doubt, that the apostle refers to these devotions of our Saviour, in those words, “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears, to him that was able to save him from death. And was heard in that he feared," "Heb. y. 7. Or, was delivered from his fear.
Our Lord's devotions in the garden, if duly considered, are liable to no exceptions. They are edifying, and exemplary. Acquiescence in the divine will is always reckoned by wise men a proof of perfection of virtue, or of great progress therein. If there be no sensibility to pain and shame, nor any apprehensiveness of mind in the prospect of sufferings, there can be no virtue in resignation to the disposals of Providence. The greater the sensibility of the evils of this life, the greater must be the virtue of resignation under them; and the more engaging is the example of such " patience.
2 The view which we have now taken of our Lord in his last sufferings, may be of use to confirm our faith in him, and increase our esteem for him, and enable us to vindicate him against such as would detract from him. Indeed he is, in all respects, the greatest character that has appeared on this earth. “ Never man spake like him,” John vii. 46. Nor has there ever been any other man who lived and died as he did.
3. The view which we have now taken of our Lord in his last sufferings may be of use to lessen our regard for worldly honour and grandeur, and to abate our dread of the evils of this life.
* Matt. xxvi. 36–46. Mark xiv. 32–42. Luke xxii. our griefs."'. And this he expressed both in his agony in the 39–46.
garden, and in his behaviour upon the cross. He did not See Whitby upon the place.
despise pain, but dreaded it, and yet submitted to it. He did • Ινα δύναται λέγειν εν τη φυλακή, ω φιλε κριτων, ει ταυτη 'not outbrave his sufferings, but bore them decently. He τοις θεοις φιλον, ταυτη γενεσθω. Arrian. Epict. 1. 1. c. 4.
had a human sense of them, but bore them with a divine • Vid. Cleric. H. E. ann. 29. n. xliii.
patience, resigning himself absolutely to the will of God, Says that good man, and great preacher, Abp. Tillotson : · when he saw them coming : and when they were upon him, • All this our Lord bore, not with a stoical and stupid insensi- 'expressing a great sense of pain without the least sign of (bility, but with a true patience. For no man had greater ap- impatience. And hereby he was a pattern accommodated to ' prehensions of suffering, and a more quick and tender sense of ' the weakest and tenderest of mankind. He did not give us ' it than he had. He had not only the more manly virtues of • an extragavant example of bravery, and a sturdy resolution ; 'wisdom, and resolution, and constancy ; but was clothed • but, which was much fitter for us, of a patient submission • also with the softer passions of human nature, meekness and to the will of God, under a great sense of suffering.” Serm.
compassion and grief, and a tender sense of pain and suffer- 166. the second upon 1 Pet. ii. 21, near the end. See like* ing; "He took our infirmities," says the prophet," and bore wise the beginning.
If we should have a prospect of any great trial, we are to recommend ourselves to the disposal of Providence, and should submit our will to the will of God. If troubles befall us, we should aim to bear them with a greatness of mind resembling that of our great Master: that is, without murmurings and complaints, or dejection of spirits, with meekness and patience, and a comfortable hope and expectation of being vindicated, and rewarded in due time.
Such are the words of St. Peter, with which I conclude: “For hereunto were ye called : because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps : who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth : who, when he was reviled, reviled not again : when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” 1 Pet. ii. 21, 22.
DIVINE TESTIMONIALS GIVEN TO JESUS DURING HIS LAST SUFFERINGS.
And the graves were opened, and many bodies of saints, which slept, arose : and came out of the
graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared to many. Matt. xxvii. 52, 53, I HAVE
HAVE lately considered our blessed Lord's sufferings, chiefly in one particular light, for shewing the excellency of his behaviour under them, his greatness and majesty during a scene of the utmost scorn and ignominy, his meekness under the most heinous provocations, and his full trust and confidence in God during that hour of darkness which concluded his wonderful life.
I would now observe, in one single discourse, the extraordinary testimonials given from heaven in.that season, to his innocence, and the dignity of his person and character.
The miracles of our Saviour's ministry, the spotless innocence, and the unparalleled excel. lency of his life and death, his resurrection on the third day, together with the mighty works done after his ascension by his apostles in his name, would have been a sufficient vindication of his character, and a full attestation to the truth of his doctrine, and the divine original of his mission : notwithstanding the reproaches, and other indignities cast upon him by envious and designing men.
Nevertheless the Divine Wisdom saw fit not to leave him without witness at that very season. And though our Lord was so far left and forsaken of God the Father, as to be given up into the hands of sinful men: and they were allowed to carry into execution their malicious purposes, so far as to put him to a painful and ignominious death : there appeared, even then, some tokens of God's especial favour and approbation of him who suffered, and of his displeasure against those who presumed to touch that excellent person.
1. In the first place, I observe what is said by the evangelist Matthew at the nineteenth verse of this chapter, speaking of Pontius Pilate the Roman governor in Judea.
- When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man : for I have suffered many things this day in a dream, because of him.
There can be no reason to doubt that the terrifying thoughts of this dream were owing to a divine impulse. There are in the scriptures many instances of extraordinary intimations given to heathen people as well as others, in dreams, which must have been of divine operation : as Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Joseph's fellow-prisoners, and others; and to bad as well as to good men.
Pilate's wife when he was set down on the judgment seat, sent him a message, carnestly intreating him not to pronounce a sentence, or do any thing whatsoever to the prejudice of the person now brought before him, and accused by the Jewish rulers. For she had that morning a dream, in which her thoughts had been mightily disturbed with the apprehension of calamities likely to befall Pilate and his family, if he should pronounce sentence against that person, who was just and innocent.
It was a testimony to our Lord's innocence, at the time that he was accused by the Jews. It was delivered publicly. Nor would the message have been brought at all, if it had not been