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persecuted him till at length the hour being come, which he knew was the proper one to yield himself up to them, they bribed one of his disciples to betray him into their hands; terrified the rest into forsaking him; and after a most unjust condemnation, followed by a variety of despiteful usage amongst themselves, to obtain the execution of their sentence, they accused him to the Roman power; first as a blasphemer against their law; and, failing in this, then as a rebel against the emperor, Tiberius Cæsar, the most suspicious of men by which last suggestion they forced the governor, though declaring himself to be satisfied of his innocence, yet to comply with them for his own safety. After this he was abused and scourged by the soldiers, crowned in cruel mockery with thorns, and loaded, probably, till he sunk under it, with the cross on which he was to suffer.
This instrument of death consisted, as its name denotes, of two large pieces of wood, crossing each other. On one the arms of the condemned person were stretched out, and his hands nailed; on the other his feet, joined together, were fastened in the same manner; and thus he was to hang naked, exposed to heat and cold, till pain and faintness ended his life. The Jews, while they executed their own laws, never crucified any, till they were first put to death some other way; after which their bodies were sometimes hanged on a tree till the evening. But it seems that only the worst of malefactors were thus treated; who are, therefore, styled in the law of Moses, "ac"cursed."3 The Romans, indeed, and other notions, crucified men alive but usually none besides their slaves; a sort of persons, most of them, far lower than the lowest of servants amongst us.
(3) Deut. xxi. 23.
This, then, was what the Son of God underwent, when, having "taken upon him the form of a servant, he became obedient unto death, even "the death of the cross."4 Now, the torment of hanging thus by nails, that pierced through parts of so acute a feeling as the hands and feet, could not but be exquisite; especially as it was almost always of long duration. And, therefore, this punishment was accounted, in every respect, the severest of any. Our Saviour, indeed, continued under it only about three hours; a much smaller time, though a dreadful one, than was usual. And there are plain reasons for his expiring so soon. He had suffered the whole night before, and all that day, a course of barbarous treatment, sufficient to wear down the strength of a much rougher and robuster make than, probably, his was. Before this he had felt agonies within, grievous enough to make him "sweat, as it were,
great drops of blood." Partly the near view of what he was just going, most undeservedly, to suffer, might thus affect a mind, which, having so much tenderness and sensibility in the case of others, could not be without some proportionable degree of it in his own. And further, the thought, how sadly, from the time of their creation to that day, men had contradicted the end for which they were created; how large a part of the world would still reject the salvation which he came to offer, and how few receive it effectually; what guilt even good persons often contract, and how tremendous will be the final doom of bad ones; these reflections, which naturally would all present themselves to him in the strongest light on this great occasion, could not but cause vehement emotions in his breast, zealous as he was for the glory of God, and the eternal happiness of men.
(4) Phil. ii. 7, 8.
(5) Luke xxii. 44.
But chiefly beyond comparison, the awful sense, that he was to bear all these innumerable sins of mankind "in his own body on the tree," "being "made a curse for us, to redeem us from the "curse of the law,"7 might well produce feelings inexpressible and inconceivable, which, operating much more powerfully than mere bodily tortures, and making "his soul exceeding sorrowful, even "unto death," might so exhaust his strength, by heigthening his sufferings, as to shorten them very considerably. And accordingly we read, that when he had hung on the cross from the sixth hour to the ninth, he cried with a loud voice, in the words of the twenty-second psalm, where David speaks, as a type and representative both of his sufferings and his following glory, "My God, my "God, why hast thou forsaken me?" not in the least intending, as David before him did not, to signify a distrust of his love, in whom, at the same time, he claimed an interest as his God; but only to express, that those comforts of the divine presence, which he used to feel, were now, for mysterious reasons, withheld from him in that concluding hour of temptation, which himself so emphatically called "the power of darkness."" Then adding words of the firmest trust, "Father, into "thy hands I commend my Spirit, he bowed his "head, and gave up the Ghost.'
Thus did God "fulfil what he before had showed "by the mouth of all his Prophets, that Christ "should suffer." "2 It was intimated in the first prediction, made upon the fall; namely, that the "seed of the woman should be bruised."3 It was prefigured, both in the sacrifices of the Old Testament, and several remarkable portions of its history. He is mentioned by David, as having
(6) 1 Pet. ii. 24.
(7) Gal. iii. 13. (8) Matt. xxvi. 38.
"his hands and his feet pierced :" He is largely described by Isaiah as a 66 man of sorrows, and ac"quainted with grief; wounded and bruised for "our iniquities, and brought as a lamb to the slaughter:" He is expressly styled by Daniel, Messiah, the prince that should be cut off." These prophecies, the Creed informs us, were fulfilled under Pontius Pilate, for so was the then Governor of Judea under the Roman Emperor called. And he is named, because the most usual way of signifying at what time any thing was done anciently, was by mentioning the person under whose government it was done; there not being any other method of reckoning universally received, as that of counting by the year of our Lord is now among Christians. And it was very useful to preserve the memory of the date; partly, that in after ages inquiry might be better made into the histories and records of that age, concerning these extraordinary events, said to have then happened; and chiefly that the Messiah might appear to have come and died at this exact fulness of time, when it was foretold he should. One mark of it was, that the sceptre was then to be departed from Judah," which evidently was departed, when it was reduced to be a Roman province. Another was, that the second temple was to be yet standing; for the "glory of it was "to be greater than the glory of the former :” 9 and this could be true only by the fulfilling of another prophecy, "The Lord, whom ye seek, "shall come to his temple, even the messenger of "the covenant, whom ye delight in." Accordingly he did come to it, and stood but a few years longer. A third mark was, that from "the "restoring of Jerusalem, to the Messiah's being
"cut off," were to be such a number of weeks; each plainly consisting, not of seven days, but of seven years; which number was completed, while Pontius Pilate was governor; and, therefore, it was requisite to observe, that under him our Saviour suffered.
Next to the mention of his death, in the Creed, follows that of his burial; a favour not allowed by the Romans to those who were crucified, unless some considerable person interceded for it. But the Jewish law requiring that they should be taken down and buried before night, and the next day being a great festival, when the violation of this law would give more than ordinary offence to the people, "Joseph of Arimathea, an honourable counsellor, who also waited for the kingdom of "God, craved the body of Jesus from Pilate, "who (after making due inquiry if he were al"ready, and had been any while dead) gave the body to Joseph, who buried him respectfully in "his own new tomb-a sepulchre hewn out of a "rock :"4 the entrance into which the Jews sealed up, and set a guard over. And thus were his own predictions fulfilled, that he should be crucified the most unlikely of all deaths; and at the same time that of Isaiah, that he should not only be buried, but with the most unlikely of all burials in such a case, "making his grave with the "rich."7
The last part of this Article is, that he "de"scended into hell;" an assertion founded on Psal. xvi. 10. where David prophesies of Christ, what St. Peter, in the Acts of the Apostles, explains of him, "that his soul should not be left in hell;" which imports, that once he was there. And
(2) Dan. ix. 25, 26.
(3) Deut. xxi. 22, 23.
(4) Matt. xxvii. 57–60. Mark xv. 43-46. Luke xxiii. 50-58. (5) Matt. xxvii. 62—66. (6) Matt. xx. 19. John iii. 14. xii. 32, 33. (7) Isa. liii. 9. (8) Acts i. 24-32.