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We now proceed to the illustration of some extraordin ary and miraculous testimonies of acceptance and complacency, with which it pleased God to honor and magnify the death of his Son. While alive upon the tree, every sensible testimony of favor and complacency was withheld. He cried, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" and God answered him not. On every side men despised his person, and insulted his sufferings; and Heaven continued silent and inactive. But no sooner was his work finishcd, and his life laid down, than the following extraordinary testimonies of complacency in his person and undertaking were given.
First, The vail, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine-twined linen, made and hung, by divine appointment, between the holy and the holy of holies, in the temple, rent quite through from top to bottom. The tearing of this piece of sacred furniture was the mysterious action of an invisible hand, and in respect of time wonderfully circumstanced. In the worship of the temple, the day was a solemn day, and the hour of the day the hour of the evening sacrifice. While Caiaphas, who that morning had pronounced the Son of God a blasphemer, and the rest of the priests were officiating in their robes, and offering the evening sacrifice, the vail suddenly rent before their eyes, and laid open the hidden and awful glory of the sanctuary. This action is both miraculous and mysterious. The miricle was an effect of invisible power; and the object of sense. The mystery is an effect of glorious grace, and the object of faith and adoration. When the "new and
living way into the holiest was consecrated through the "the vail, that is to say the flesh of the Son of God," the vail typical of his flesh rent in twain, and refused to hide any longer from the world the awful glories in the sanctuary of the Holy One of Israel. This sacred chamber of the God of Israel being broke open, Gentiles, by the new and living way, draw near, and, with a true heart and full assurance of faith, enter into his presence, and look upon all that is awful and glorious in his face, with greater boldness than the high priest, when he went into the holiest of all; than the Levites when they officiated in the holy place; or than the people, when they appeared and worshipped in alie outward court of his tabernacle and temple.
Secondly, The earth quaked, and the rocks rent. These parts of creation heard the mighty voice which the Sufferer uttered, spread the news of his victory through Jerusalem, and all over Palestine, in terrific language; and began to celebrate his triumph, which is not yet ended, and which never will be ended. When he descended, and published the law, Sinai trembled at his presence, and everlasting hills bowed themselves under the weight of his glory; and when his death, under the curse and upon the tree, magnified and made the law honorable, the earth quaked, and the rocks rent, at the sound of his voice and the bowing of his head. These commotions were immediate and instantaneous impressions of almighty power, glorious testimonies of the complacency of Heaven in the death of the Sufferer, and extraordinary calls to acknowledge the divinity of his person, and the triumph of his Cross. The author of nature dying on a tree the death of a slave, is an unparalleled event in the history of nature; and hearing his dignity insulted and his love despised, nature awoke, in anguish threw itself into convulsions, and groaned to be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. O the insensibility and hardness of men-Scornful men ruling in Jerusalem, and malignant priests officiating in the temple, stood unmoved in this glorious uproar of nature!
Thirdly, Graves opened, and the dust of saints quickened and awakened into life. "The graves were opened, "and many bodies of saints, which slept, arose; and come "out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the "holy city, and appeared unto many,' The names of the saints, who were quickened and awakened, are concealed; but from their appearing in Jerusalem unto many, it may be inferred, that they had died lately, that they rose in the self-same bodies, and that they made themselves known to saints who had conversed with them when they were formerly alive. Their graves opened at the crucifixion, when the Lord our Righteousness laid down his life; and when he took it again, he brought with him, out of the grave, into the paths of life, these trophies of his victory over the power of death. His death is mysterious in every consideration. In ordinary cases, death puts an end
*Matt. xxvii. 52, 53.
to the strength and activity of men. A dying person is a suffering patient, and in his death is incapable of action. But the Lord our Righteousness, though crucified through weakness, died in the vigour of his strength, through death dissolved the power which the devil had of death; and, forcing open graves, and entering in the glory of a conqueror the strong-holds where the enemy reigned, he brought away, in the power of his resurrection, a number of prisoners, redeemed unto God by his blood. "I will "ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem "them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, "I will be thy destruction; repentance shall be hid from "mine eyes."* "*"Blessed and holy is he who hath part in "the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no "power."
Fourthly, A confession of his divinity and sonship was extorted from the Roman guard. "When the centurion, "and they who were with him watching Jesus, saw the "earthquake, and those things which were done, they fear"ed greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God." Son of God is the glorious title which his betrayers and murderers denied and abhorred. When he claimed it before the council, they pronounced him guilty of blasphemy, and worthy of death. After he was nailed to the cross, the priests, the scribes, the elders, the rabble on every side, turned his claim into derision: "If thou be the "Son of God, come down from the cross." And when they saw him yield up the ghost, they supposed that both he and his claim were effectually, and for ever, crushed. But vain are the imaginations of adversaries against the titles and claims of the Lord our Righteousness. At the very moment in which it was imagined these were crucied with him, the sound of their resurrection arose. In direct opposition to the blasphemous words, which, for three hours, were spoken around the cross, the centurion and his men said, "Truly this was the Son of God." The triumph which deniers and crucifiers of his deity enjoy, is short and imaginary. After heresy has tried every sophism which riotous imaginations are able to invent, and
*Ho8. xiii. 14.
Matt. xxvii. 54.
blasphemy has foamed out all that it hath to say, the fame of his godhead revives, and flourishes over the graves of men, who, while they lived, "crucified to themselves the "Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame."
After a display of the person and glory of the Son of God in our nature; of the mystery and effect of his death; and of the testimonies of acceptance and complacency with which it was honoured, some observations present themselves to our minds, and illustrations of these are among the means of elevating our affections, and preparing us for glorifying and enjoying him in the solemnities of this day.
First, The dying of the Lord our Righteousness is an action of passive obedience. "Though he were a Son, "yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffer"ed." In suffering he was passive. "When reviled he
reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, "but committed himself to him who judgeth righteous"ly." In obedience he was active, and active to the last moment. "He became obedient unto death, even the "death of the cross." Activity in dying distinguishes him from, and raises him above, martyrs and dying men. "No man hath power over his spirit, neither hath any man "power in the day of death." This is universally true with respect to men; but is not applicable to God-man. He had power in the day of death, power to give up his life; and, after giving it up, power to take it again. "No "man," neither Judas, nor Caiaphas, nor Pontius Pilate, "taketh my life from me, but I lay it down of myself"I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take "it again."§
Secondly, The dying of the Son of God, in the nature of man, and in the stead of the elect, is an action which, among principalities and powers in heavenly places, was universally admired and applauded. When the first and only begotten of the Father, whom they had received a commandment to worship, was nailed to the cross, and lifted up between two thieves, these holy principalities left their thrones, descended into the air, and, fixing their
eyes upon the suffering God, beheld the action with the rebel-part of their own order. Our information here is not particular, but general hints are given of the truth of the fact. After mentioning the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which followed, one apostle says, "Which things "the angels desire to look into,"* and another observes, "That by the church the manifold wisdom of God is "made known unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places."+ From these texts it is justly inferred, that holy angels were allowed the satisfaction of looking down upon the cross, where Christ appears to be the wisdom of God and the power of God. And, O with what elevation and pleasure would they behold the divine persons manifested; the divine attributes glorified, the divine works magnified; the law fulfilled; the curse executed; the gates of hell dissolved; millions of slaves redeemed; and heaven opened for their admission among themselves! "And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round "about the throne, and the beasts, and the elders, and the "number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, "and thousands of thousands, Saying, with a loud voice, "Worthy is the Lamb, that was slain, to receive power, "and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and "glory, and blessing!"
Thirdly, Through the death of the Son of God, the devices of the powers of darkness, in their issues, became means and occasions of spoiling and destroying themselves. By the curse of the law they had obtained dominjon, and possessed themselves of thrones in this world.For many ages they reigned over the earth, with the consent of the greater number of its inhabitants. These they found submissive, loving the bondage of corruption, and fond of tyranny and slavery. But in Paradise they had heard of an enterprize of redemption, and of a descent upon their dominions by the Son of God, who, under the character of the Seed of the woman, would dissolve their power, overturn their thrones, cast them out of the world, and make millions of their slaves to revolt. They suspected his birth in Bethlehem, and attempted to kill him with the sword of Herod; tried his strength in the wilderness, and found themselves disconcerted at the advantages
* 1 Pet. i. 12. ↑ Eph. iii, 10. Rev. v. 11, 12.