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theless, after his 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 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. v. 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 any human frame to 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 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. 39-46.
See Whitby upon the place.
• Ινα δύνηται λέγειν εν τη φυλακή, ω φιλε κριτών, ει ταύτη τοῖς θεοῖς φιλον, ταύτῃ γενεσθώ. Arrian. Εpict. 1. 1. c. 4.
d Vid. Cleric. H. E. ann. 29. n. xliii.
Says that good man, and great preacher, Abp. Tillotson: All this our Lord bore, not with a stoical and stupid insensibility, but with a true patience. For no man had greater ap'prehensions of suffering, and a more quick and tender sense of "it than he had. He had not only the more manly virtues of 'wisdom, and resolution, and constancy; but was clothed ' also with the softer passions of human nature, meekness and 'compassion and grief, and a tender sense of pain and suffer"ing; "He took our infirmities," says the prophet," and bore
our griefs." And this he expressed both in his agony in the
garden, and in his behaviour upon the cross. He did not
despise pain, but dreaded it, and yet submitted to it. He did not outbrave his sufferings, but bore them decently. He had a human sense of them, but bore them with a divine 'patience, resigning himself absolutely to the will of God, when he saw them coming: and when they were upon him, expressing a great sense of pain without the least sign of 'impatience. And hereby he was a pattern accommodated to 'the weakest and tenderest of mankind. He did not give us an extragavant example of bravery, and a sturdy resolution; but, which was much fitter for us, of a patient submission 'to the will of God, under a great sense of suffering." Serm. 166. the second upon 1 Pet. ii. 21, near the end. See likewise 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 HAV
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 excellency 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.
I. 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
judged important: but though it deserved the notice of all, it was more especially a warning to Pilate. It was a warning of an extraordinary kind, sent to him by his nearest relative, to deter and dissuade him from an action that could not but be criminal, and might be of fatal consequence.
Solomon says, "A dream cometh through the multitude of business," Eccl. v. 3; which may be a good way of accounting for ordinary dreams. In the night season, when the body is at rest, those things about which the mind was much engaged in the day time, may disturb the thoughts and produce dreams. But it does not appear that Pilate's wife could at this time have any knowledge of the Jewish prosecution of our Lord in an ordinary way. Jesus was not a prisoner that had been long in custody. He was apprehended late in the night, and was hurried away to the house of Annas, and then of Caiaphas. Having been there examined, and detained some while by the Jewish council, he was carried by them early in the morning to Pilate: about which time his wife, still at rest, had a dream of an uncommon nature, in which she was admonished, and by which she was greatly affected. As soon as she awoke, she by the first opportunity sent this warning to Pilate, then upon his tribunal: "Have thou nothing to do with that just man ; for I have suffered many things this day in a dream, because of him."
Elihu says excellently well: "God speaketh once, yea twice: yet man perceiveth it not. a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed. Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction. That he may withdraw man from his purpose and hide pride from man," Job xxxiii. 14-17. Those observations may have been founded upon facts. There is an instance of a warning given to Abimelech, king of Gerar, in the time of Abraham, for preventing sin, and with effect, Gen. xxx. The warning, of which we are now speaking, was for the very same purpose. Nor was it altogether without effect. For this warning, now sent to Pilate, may be well supposed to have been one reason, together with his own clear discernment of the innocence of Jesus, upon examination, why he so long withstood the importunate and clamourous demands of the Jewish rulers and the multitude to pass sentence upon him.
II. In the next place we observe the darkness at this time, mentioned by three Evangelists. Matt. xxvii. 45. "Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour." Mark xv. 33. "And when the sixth hour was come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour." Luke xxiii. 44, 45." And it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And the sun was darkened.”
That is, there was darkness for the space of three hours, from the sixth to the ninth hour, according to the computation of the hours of the day in those times, reckoning the day from sunrising to sun-setting: according to our method of computation, from about twelve at noon till three afternoon.
How great this darkness was, is not distinctly said. It might resemble that of a total eclipse of the sun, though there were glimmerings of light, whereby business might be transacted.
It was not in Jerusalem only, but in all the land of Judea.
That this general darkness was not natural, is apparent: for our Saviour suffered at the time of the Jewish passover, when the moon was at full. But natural eclipses of the sun, as all know, happen at the time of new moon.
This remarkable darkness must have been very awful and affecting, reaching all over the land of Israel where Christ had preached, and wrought many miracles. It continued three hours, and manifestly denoted the divine displeasure against the Jewish people for an action in which they and their rulers were guilty. Indeed, the main body of the nation was now assembled at Jerusalem, where Jesus suffered: and they could not but know for whose sake this darkness happened. However, that it might be the more observable, it was universal, over all the land of Judea, and for three hours; which was a remarkable testimony to the innocence and the dignity of the Lord Jesus.
III. The next extraordinary thing is the rending the veil of the temple.
At the fifty-first verse of this chapter: "And behold the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom." So likewise Mark xv. 38. "And the veil of the temple was rent from the top to the bottom." And Luke xxiii. 45. "And the sun was darkened. And the veil of the temple was rent in the midst."
* See Mattt. xxvii. 1, 2. Mark xv. 1. John xviii. 27, 28.
There were two veils at the temple: one at the entrance into the holy place; the other between the holy place, or the sanctuary, and the most holy, or the holy of holies, called the inner veil, and the second veil, in the epistle to the Hebrews, ch. ix. 3. It is particularly described Exod. xxvi. 31-33; that is the veil here intended. It was of the strongest contexture, as well as of the richest materials, and the finest workmanship.
It has been thought by some, that the high priest might now, at this very time, be present in the temple, performing the solemn act of burning incense before the veil. There can be no doubt that many of the Jewish priests saw the veil after it was rent, and they must have been as fully convinced of the reality of this extraordinary event, as if they had been present when it happened.
It has been supposed by some, that this rending of the veil denoted and foresignified the sudden destruction of the temple, and the speedy abolition of the rites of the Mosaic law. But without relying too much upon any conjectural speculations, it may be reckoned certain, that it must have greatly surprised the Jewish priests, who entered into the holy place: and it gave ground to believe that the Divine Being was displeased with the Jewish nation. And reflection and consideration they might know the reason of the divine displeasure.
upon a little IV. At the same time there was an earthquake at Jerusalem, but especially at mount Calvary, where our Lord was crucified.
So this is expressed by St. Matthew very briefly, yet fully, ver. 51: "and the earth did quake and the rocks were rent.' How this extraordinary event was then understood, and how it ought to be still understood by us, appears from what is added at ver. 54. "Now when the centurion, and they that were with him watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God."
V. The fifth and last particular, is that in the text which may be reckoned a difficult portion of scripture, and the more so for being singular, without any parallel place. The words în connection are these, ver. 50-53: "Jesus, when he had cried with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake; and the rocks were rent; and the graves," or tombs, "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(meaning Jerusalem, so called Matt. iv. 5, comp. Luke iv. 9) and appeared unto many."
Here it will be proper to consider several queries. 1. The place where this resurrection happened. 2. Who were raised. 3. The time when they were raised. 4. To whom they appeared. 5. Whether they soon after ascended up to heaven, or died again. 6. The truth of this history. 7. The use of this extraordinary event.
First, The place of this resurrection. Some have thought it might be done in several parts of Judea. But, upon due consideration, I believe it will be reckoned more probable, that the tombs here spoken of were near to Jerusalem, the holy city, into which these saints went soon after their resurrection. There was an earthquake at mount Calvary, where our Lord was crucified. There the rocks were rent. And by that concussion the doors of many tombs upon that mount and near it were thrown open.
It is well known to have been the custom of the ancients to bury without the walls of their cities. Here, upon mount Calvary, and near it, were many tombs: it being a rock it was a suitable place. We perceive as much from the evangelists: Matt xxvii. 58-60. "Joseph, a rich man of Arimathea, begged of Pilate the body of Jesus-and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock." John xix. 41. "Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man laid. There laid they Jesus." Compare Mark xv. 43-46; and Luke xxiii. 50-53. So eminent a person as Joseph of Arimathea had a sepulchre in this place. It may be inferred, that there were other tombs there, and some of persons of distinction. Out of those tombs, now opened, came the bodies of the saints here mentioned.
Secondly, Who were now raised? Some have imagined that the persons here intended were the most eminent patriarchs and prophets of the Old Testament; but that opinion is without foundation. The tombs now opened, and out of which these saints came, as has been already argued, were near Jerusalem. But the patriarchs and ancient prophets could not be all interred in this place, or near it: nor could they at this time have any known tombs remaining. And there is an argument insisted on by St. Peter, after our Lord's ascension, which may be reckoned
to overthrow this supposition. Having largely cited the sixteenth psalm, he says to the company then present at Jerusalem: "Men and brethren, let me freely speak unto you concerning the patriarch David: that he is both dead and buried, and his sepulchre is with us unto this day," Acts iii. 25-31. But if any of the ancient patriarchs had been now raised, in order to be assumed up to heaven, it might be reasonable to think that David would have been one of them.
Without offering any more arguments against that opinion, we may reckon it to be more probable, that the saints now raised up were good men, who had died lately, a few years, or rather perhaps not may weeks or days before, who upon going into Jerusalem would be well known to their friends still living. The miracle is more evident in the resurrection of such than of any others who had been dead and buried long ago, so as to be known by face to none then living on this earth.
The evangelist calls them saints: which word in the New Testament often denotes disciples of Jesus, who believed in him as the Christ. Acts ix. 12. "Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem.” Compare xxvi, 10. and ch. ix. 32. "And it came to pass, as Peter passed through all quarters, he came down also to the saints which dwelt at Lidda." And see there ver. 41, and Rom. xv. 25, 26, and 2 Cor. i. 1; and other places. It is very likely therefore that the persons here intended by St. Matthew are disciples, or believers in Jesus, who had died not long ago.
Thirdly, We are to consider the time when these saints were raised. Were they raised when our Saviour expired? or, were they not restored to life until after his resurrection?
The words of the evangelist are: "And the graves were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept arose and came out of the graves after his resurrection." They did not come out of their graves till after Christ's resurrection: consequently I think they were not restored to life before he had risen. When our Lord expired, the rocks were rent by the earthquake, and the doors of the tombs were shaken and loosed and flew open. Nevertheless the bodies of these persons still rested there. We are therefore led to think, that when Christ arose from the dead, or soon after, these saints were restored to life; and then they came out of their tombs. and went to Jerusalem early in the morning of the first day of the week.
Fourthly, To whom did they appear?
The text says, to many. We have already argued, that the saints, now raised, were persons who had not been long dead. It is likely, that they first went to their friends and acquaintance. To them they appeared: to them they were manifested to be the same persons, whom they knew to have lately died. They were known to them by their shape, their features, their discourse, their action. Thus they were known to their friends and relatives at their return to them. They therefore, who had been before acquainted with them, and knew, that they had been dead and buried, were now fully persuaded, that they had been raised from the dead. When these had been satisfied about their resurrection, they might be seen also by others, who, upon serious. inquiries, were likewise persuaded of the wonderful work which God had wrought upon them.
Fifthly, What became of the persons, who were now raised? Were they soon after this assumed up to heaven? or did they die after their resurrection?
I answer, that there is no account of their ascending, or being assumed up to heaven. Which is so important a thing, that I think, it could not have been omitted, if it had been done. It is. more probable therefore, that they died afterwards, as Lazarus did: whom our Lord, in a very signal manner, called forth out of his grave, after he had been dead four days. They behaved here among their friends and acquaintance with great modesty and humility: shewing little relish of the delights and entertainments of this life. Having been for a while examples of undissembled piety in this world, God gave them a comfortable and placid exit out of it.
In the sixth place, let us observe the truth of this history.
There can be no reason to doubt of it. Its being related by one evangelist only, is no objection. Each one of the evangelists has some things peculiar to himself, not mentioned by any of the rest. Nor is that at all strange, considering the copiousness of the subject. St. John, who had seen and read the first three evangelists, before he wrote, has confirmed their histories, and has also added divers things omitted by them. And yet he assures us, that there were still "many other signs" done by Jesus, John xx. 30, and that they were too numerous to be all written, and that those recorded are sufficient.