Immagini della pagina

that he died in a state, where, after suffering an agony of spirit, he was at last forsaken by his father in heaven. While the two former of these can hardly be paralleled in all their circumstances, the last is entirely peculiar to our Lord, and constitutes the chief branch of his sufferings.

First, He died in a state where he was abandoned by his friends and by mankind. From the beginning he found the world against him. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. He was to be made perfect through sufferings, and many were the distresses which wrung his heart, before the decease which he accomplished at Jerusalem. This was the severest of all, from the manifold terrors that were now combined together. He had not only to carry his own cross, to have his head crowned with thorns, to be derided and buffeted, to be extended upon the accursed tree, to suffer the scourge, the nails, and the spear. All this he was superior to ; but to be abandoned by his friends, and by all mankind, at the very time he was suffering for their sakes, was the peculiar and forlorn fate of the Saviour of the world. The

presence of our friends, in the hour of trial, gives a secret strength to the mind ; it is a melancholy pleasure to die among those with whom we lived. But this consolation our Saviour had not. He had chosen twelve friends to be the partners of his life, and the companions of his death. One of these betrayed him, another denied him ; all forsook him and fled.

It is some relief to the unhappy sufferer, to have the passions of the spectators on his side ; from their sympathy he derives courage, and the pain that is felt by many, is alleviated to the one who suffers, But the high and the low, the Jew and the Heathen, entered into the conspiracy against Christ. The priests and elders accused him.. The High Priest cried out, “ He is guilty of death." Pilate, his judge, though conscious of his innocence, though he washed his hands from the guilt of his death, or

[ocr errors]

dered hiin to be scourged, and allowed him to bs crucified. The people, with a frantic ardour sought his death. That very people, who, a few days before, upon his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, had strewed the way with palm branches, and cried out, “ Hosanna to the Son of David," that very people, such is the giddiness of the multitude, now cried out, Crucify brim, 'crucify him.” Thus, in his sorrow's he stood by himselt, a wretched individual without a friend. When the Shepherd was smitten, the sheep were scattered abroad. He trode the winepress alone. Of the people there were none with him. When he died for all, he was pitied by none.

In the second place, be died in a state of ignominy. The death of the cross was not only painful and tormenting, but ignominious also, and accursed.

As death that was never inflicted upon free men, but reserved for slaves and malefactors, for the basest and the vilest of the human kind. There is implanted in the mind of man a strong abhorrence of shame and disgrace. The sense of ignominy is more pungent in a noble nature, than the feeling of pain. To want the appearance of innocence, while, at the same time, we preserve the reality ; to lie, under the imputation of heinous crimes, to die the death of a criminal, and leave the world with an indelible stain upon our name and

memory, is one of the sorest trials that virtue can meet with upon earth. Yet even this our Lord had to suffer. He had to endure the cross, and submit to the shame. It was foretold by the prophet, that he should be “ numbered among transgressors.' And although he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners, yet he was impeached of the highest crimes : Not only as a violater of the Divine law, in breaking the Sabbath, and frequenting the company of sinners, but also as an impostor, deluding the people; as a blasphemer, assuming to himself the prerogatives of God; and as a seditious person perverting the nation, usurping royal authority, and forbidding to give tribute to Cæsar. “ If he had

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

« not been a malefactor,” said the Jews to Pilate, “ we should not have delivered him up to thee." The resentment of such a situation or Lord felt strongly, and discovered in that remarkable speech, “ Are ye come against me as against a thief, with 6 swords and with staves ?”. Thus, our Lord was not only a sufferer, but in appearance a criminal : he had not only to endure the pain, but the ignominy of the cross; not only to be wounded and tormented, but also to be mocked, reviled, and scorned by the vilest of mankind. Then were fulfilled the words of the mystical Prophet, “ I am a reproach of men, and “ despised of the people. All they that see me, “ laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they. “ shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord “ that he would deliver him: Let him deliver him, “ seeing he delighted in him.!! There is not a circumstance in the history of mankind so ignominious, and to an ingenious nature so tormenting, as the following, which is recorded by the Evangelists. Pilate said, 66 Shall I release Jesus? They all cried, Not is this man, but Barabbas. Now Barabbas was a 's robber.”

There is a misapprehension into which we are apt to fall, in considering the sufferings of Jesus Christ. Whenever he appears before our eyes, the splendour of his Divinity overcomes the mind, and in the Lord of glory the man' of sorrows is forgotten. But, my friends, you ‘are to remember that as God is by his nature-incapable of pain or sorrow, in all scenes of distress, the Divinity withdrew, that the Humanity Inight suffer. "Yes, Christians,' the man Christ Jesus was like one of ourselves, as' encompassed with the same infirmities, and subjected to the same distresses as accessible to sorrow, and as sensible of ignominy and pain." · Thirdly, Our Lord died in a state, where, after undergoing in agony of spirit, he was at last forsaken by his father in heaven. The presence of God, and the aids of his lloly Spirit, have always been the con

[ocr errors]

solation of good men in their afflictions. They experienced the fulfilment of these promises. “ As thy

days are, so shall thy strength be. When thou “ goest through the waters I will go with thee, and “ through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee, “Our fathers trusted in thee,” saith the Psalmist, * they trusted, and thou didst deliver them.” But in the sufferings endured by the Redeemer in the garden, and on the cross, God departed from him, and the Divine presence was withdrawn,

Christians! what an hour was that, which our Saviour passed in the garden of Gethsemane! In the time of his passion, his torments succeeded one another. He was not at the same time betrayed, mocked, scourged, crowned with thorns, pier. ced with a spear, extended on a cross, and forsak. en by his Father; but here all these torments rose before him at once : all his pains were united together; what he was to endure in succession now crowded into one moment, and his soul was over

At this time, too, the powers of darkness, it should seem, were permitted to work upon his imagination, to disturb' his Spirit, and make the vale through which he was to pass, appear more dark and gloomy.

Add to this, that our Saviour having now come to the close of his public life, his whole mediatorial undertaking presented itself to his view ; his eye ran over the history of that race which he came to save from the beginning to the end of time ; he had a feeling of all the misery, and a sense of all the guilt of men.

If he looked back into past times, what did he behold? The earth a field of blood, a vale of tears, a theatre of crimes. If he cast his eyes upon that one in which he lived, what did he behold? That nation to whom he was sent, rejecting the counsel of God against themselves, imprecating his blood to be upon them and their children, and bringing upon themselves such a desolation as has not happened to any other people. When he looked forward to suc


ceeding ages, what did he behold? He saw that the wickedness of men was to continue and abound, to erect a Golgotha in every age, and by obstinate impenitence to crucify afresh the Son of God. He saw that in his blessed name, and under the banners of his cross, the most atrocious crimes were to be committed, the sword of persecution to be drawn, the best blood of the earth to be shed, and the noblest spirits that ever graced the world to be cut off; he saw that for many of the human race all the efforts of saving mercy were to be defeated'; that his death was to be of no avail; that his blood was to be shed in vain ; that his agonies were to be lost, and that it had been happy for them, if he had never been born. He saw that he was to be wounded in the house of his friends; that his name was to be blasphemed among his own followers ; that he was to be dishonoured by the wicked lives of those who called themselves his disciples; that one man was to prefer the gains of iniquity, another the blandishments of pleasure, a third the indulgence of malicious desire, and all of you; at times, the gratification of

your favourite passion, to the tender mercies of the God of peace, and the dying love of a crucified Redeemer: While the hour revolved that spread forth all these things before his eyes, we need not wonder that he began to be in agony, and that he Sweated as it were great drops of blood.

On the cross that agony returned, and was redoubled. Judge of what he felt by the expressions of the Prophet in the mystical psalm, “ My God, my God, “ why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far " from helping me, and from the words of my roar“ ing? O my God, I cry in the day-time, but thou “ hearest not, and in the night-season I am not silent. “ Our fathers trusted in thee; they trusted, and thou "s didst deliver them. But I am a worm, and no man

a reproach of men, and despised of the people. I " am poured out like water. My heart is melted VOL. I.


« IndietroContinua »