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to him, and those by whom they were offered. He therefore was silent, and referred himself to the judgment of God: as St. Peter says admirably: "Who when he was reviled, reviled not again when he suffered, he threatened not: but committed himself to him who judgeth righteously," 1 Pet. ii. 23.
Sect. II. Having already observed the account of our Lord's being apprehended, with the circumstances of it, and many marks of meekness and greatness therein, and the history of our Lord's being carried to Annas and Caiaphas, and then to Pontius Pilate the Roman governor in Judea, with the indignities there cast upon him, and his admirable behaviour upon every occasion, till Pilate unwillingly pronounced sentence that he might be crucified:
I now proceed to the remaining part of this affecting history, written indeed, as every other part of the gospels is, without ornaments and embellishments, and without any designed artifice to raise the passions, being throughout only plain relations of matters of fact, with their several circumstances. Which, however, being for that very reason the more apparently credible, are moving in a great degree, and afford ground for many just reflections and observations, and secure the truest respect and esteem for him whose history is here related.
1. Our Lord is now carried away to the common place of execution, without the city of Jerusalem, bearing his own cross according to the custom of the Romans, till he having been much fatigued by the sufferings already endured, they compelled another to carry it, or help in bearing it, holding up the hinder part of it.
Here offers itself to our consideration the answer which our Lord made to those who lamented and bewailed him. Says St. Luke: " And as they led him away, they laid hold upon one Simon a Cyrenian coming out of the country. And on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus. And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed him, and lamented him. But Jesus turning unto them, said: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For behold the days are coming, in which they shall say: Blessed are the barren, and [or even] the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains: Fall on us: and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do such things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" Luke xxiii. 26. That is, bewail not me, but rather think of the dreadful calamities which are coming upon this city and people, for rejecting my mission, and putting me to death, and for the other sins which they will be guilty of: even as I myself, beholding this city some while ago, wept over it in the prospect of the heavy judgments impending
This is a demonstration of a most excellent temper. At the very time that our Lord is illtreated in the most unrighteous manner, and has a near prospect of the pain and shame of the cross, he breaks out into compassionate expressions for his enemies, and appears to be touched with a concern for those calamities which were coming upon the most hardened sinners. His concern for them seems to make him forget and overlook his own afflictions. That is the first thing.
2. We are led in the next place to observe our Lord's refusing a stupifying potion of liquor offered to him, mentioned Mark xv. 22, 23. "And they bring him to the place called Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, the place of a skull. And they gave him to drink wine mingled with myrrh. But he received it not.' It is probable, that this was a draught of generous wine, improved likewise with spices, and made intoxicating and stupifying in a great degree. It was either a potion ordinarily allowed to malefactors condemned to the cross: or else was prepared by some who had an affection for our Lord, to abate the pain of the piercing and lingering sufferings which he was going to endure. "But he did not receive it:" being determined to give a complete example of patience, by enduring all the pain of the death assigned him without any abatement.
There is no need to add remarks on this particular. Every one sees the composure of our Lord's mind, and the propriety of his action. To have received it might have been no disparagement to a person of an ordinary character. But it was very becoming Jesus to reject it.
Noluit autem imbibere Christus, quia, ut diximus, menti exsternendæ adhibebatur. In cruce antem. pendens postea, quia sitiebat, shadero ogos, • accepit acetum,' id est, imbibit, John xix. 30. Grot. ad Matt. xxvii.. 34.
And yet, whilst he does what is a very great instance of resolution and fortitude, the principle, from which it proceeded, is not particularly mentioned. "He received it not." That is all which is here said. Nothing is added to enhance such generous self-denial.
3. We now observe our Lord's prayer for his enemies: which follows next after the words before cited from St. Luke, ch. xxiii. 32–34. “And there were also two others, malefactors, led with him to be put to death. And when they were come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand, and the other on the left. Then said Jesus: Father, forgive them: for they know not what they do."
It is plain, that it was now the beginning of the crucifixion. I think it likely that this compassionate prayer was offered up by our Lord at the very time that they were nailing his hands and feet to the wood of the cross, or else, immediately afterwards, as soon as the cross was set up: at which time the pain felt by him must have been the most acute that can be conceived.
In this prayer are divers things remarkable, proofs of an heroic mind.
Here appear, at this time, under the heaviest load of ignominy, and the most painful sufngs, a calm and composed frame, acquiescence in the disposal of Providence, and a full persuasion of the favour and good will of God.
Toward men here appear meekness and benevolence. The mind is not filled, as it justly might, with bitter resentment and indignation, manifesting itself in loud complaints of injustice, appeals to heaven for the innocence of the sufferer, and earnest expostulations of immediate and exemplary vengeance upon unrighteous enemies.
Instead thereof, our Lord, sensible indeed of their guilt, and conscious of his own innocence, and persuaded that this treatment of him was offensive to the supreme Judge, intercedes in behalf of those who were the instruments of such pain: desiring that they might be forgiven, and alleging the only thing that could alleviate their guilt or punishment: "they know not what they do." This may relate more especially to the heathen soldiers, the immediate instruments. But it will comprehend, and undoubtedly was designed in favour of the Jews also, or many of them, whose prejudices prevailed against evidence. So St. Paul speaks of the Jews at Jerusalem, Acts xiii. 27. "because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets--they have fulfilled them in condemning him." And 1 Cor. ii. 2. "Had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." The like is said by St. Peter, Acts iii. 17. " And now, brethren, I know, that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers."
That is the third thing, our Lord's compassionate prayer for his enemies. And we should remember the time when it was offered: not before his passion nor after it, when the pain and anguish of his sufferings were over, and he was raised from the dead: but at the time when pain and shame, and every evil thing that can be thought of, concurred to excite displeasure and
4. Another thing, which cannot be unobserved by us, is our Lord's amazing patience, and wonderful silence, under all the reproaches cast upon him at this time. So it follows in St. Luke, soon after the forementioned prayer, ch. xxiii. 35, 36. " And the people stood beholding, and the rulers also with them derided him, saying: He saved others. Let him save himself, if he be the Christ, the chosen of God. And the soldiers also mocked him, saying: If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself." Or as in St. Matthew, ch. xxvii. 39, 42, 43. " And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads-Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said: He saved others, himself he cannot save. If he be the king of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God. Let him deliver him if he will have him."
These scoffs must have been very trying. Nevertheless our Lord bears them meekly and patiently. He does not come down from the cross as he might: nor strike these blasphemers dead as he could. He does not make any reply as he might have done, to those especially who stood near the cross: reminding them of the innocence of his life, the greatness of his works, or any other demonstrative proofs of the special regard and approbation of the Father. Nor does he remind them of his expected resurrection, which he had foretold. But he silently bears all the reproaches which the present circumstance seemed to justify. This silence is greater than all words. It was, as he said at the beginning of this strange scene, "their hour, and the power of darkness." And he had "committed himself to him that judgeth righteously." He now therefore meekly endures all, which the malice of evil and pre
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 : "And one 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 kingdom. 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. 66 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 xix. 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 me?" 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, to 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, my 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." 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 accomplished. 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
a Contristabatur autem non timore patiendi, qui ad hoc venerat, ut pateretur, et Petrum timiditatis arguerat: sed propter infelicissimum Judam, et scandalum omnium Apos
tolorum, et rejectionem populi Judæorum, et eversionem
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 cyes, 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
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 man 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. viii. 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,