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Surrounded on every side by human guilt and misery, looking forward to an open contest with the powers of darkness, and the rulers of the Jews, treasuring up all the wisdom and knowledge which his ministry could demand, and meanwhile, in labor and in toil, in fastings and prayers, in watchings, in meditation, and in self denial, exercising himself in the discipline which was to fit him for his high and glorious qonquest over sin and death, he passed thirty years in patient expectation of the appointed time; and then, having received the public testimony of his heavenly" Father, and the Holy Ghost, in bodily form like a dove, having descended upon him, he began to preach in the words of his Forerunner, ' Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'
But what a display was now exhibited to the astonished inhabitants of Judea:—a mortal man, meek, lowly, and poor, clothed with Almighty power, speaking with the authority of the Most High, rebuking the rich, the great, and the learned with holy freedom, denouncing woe to the sanctimonious Pharisee, confounding the subtle and disputatious Sadducee> commanding devils, calming the sea, conferring miraculous powers on his disciples, reading the hearts of all, receiving worship as his undoubted right, claiming all the honors of Divinity, forgiving every sin, and bestowing every blessing, and yet meek, and lowly, and poor as before, without a place to lay his sacred head, the voluntary guest of the publican and the sinner, refusing to be made a king, and withdrawing himself from the praises and acclamations of the multitude, that he might spend nights in prayer. Blessed, blessed model of the most touching perfection! Marvellous, marvellous union of human loveliness and celestial majesty :—now commanding the elements like a God, now dissolving into tears with all the tenderness of the deepest human sympathy, now dispensing the richest treasures of heaven, and now patiently wanting the meanest comforts of earth—ah! my brethren, no thought can estimate, no tongue describe the wonders of his character, and alas! but few hearts can feel them.
Soon, however, the malignity of envy and the rancor of hatred were aroused, and they whom he came to save, conspired against him. Doctors of the law, Scribes and Pharisees, Herodians and Sadducees by turns beset him, 'and put captious questions in order that they might accuse him. However these various sects differed among themselves, they all agreed in their hostility to so holy and pure a teacher as Christ. By their arts, the fickle minds of the multitude were turned away from their benefactor and friend, and of the thousands upon thousands whom he had fed, and instructed, and healed of every sickness and disease, not one remained to testify his gratitude and his devotion. The twelve Apostles alone seemed steadfast amidst the storm of persecution; and even amongst these, there was one vile traitor, who was preparing to make merchandise of his Divine Redeemer. Thus surrounded by malice and treachery, his grief was continually enlarged and his sorrows multiplied, until, at last, all forsook him and fled;—the awful climax was completed by his death, and the heavens and the earth manifested that feeling which men were too callous to display.
Fain, my brethren, would we continue this melancholy subject, so deeply interesting to the Christian's heart, but our limits warn us to conclude. Yet we may not close without beseeehing you to ask your own breasts, whether any sympathy is stirring there, for the bitter anguish of the Saviour. Can you enter with compassionate interest upon the recital of his sufferrings, can you mourn over his pangs, and weep at the remembrance of his agony? O! if you can, forget not to deplore, with genuine penitence, the sins which rendered his sufferings necessary. We have a share of that heavy burden resting on our souls. We are, in part, the cause of the terrible infliction. 'He bore our griefs, he carried our sorrows,' for the Lord laid upon his innocent head 'the iniquity of us all.' Yes, my fellow sinners, even at such a price have we been redeemed—at such a price have we been ransomed from destruction. And can you reject such marvellous love? Can you be insensible to' such a display of tenderness and mercy? God forbid! my brethren, God forbid. May the Spirit of his grace preserve you from this tenfold condemnation, that Christ died to save you, but you refused to be saved.
Hebrews Ix. 9. That He, By The Grace Of God, Should Taste Death For Every Han.
In tracing the affecting history of the sufferings of our Lord, my brethren, we are brought to the consideration of the circumstances which attended his apprehension, condemnation, death, burial, and descent into the place of departed spirits. These topics we design now to set before you, with the fervent prayer, that our humble labors may not be in vain.
1. After our Lord had clearly predicted to his disciples that he should be betrayed and crucified, he commanded them to assemble together for the last time, to eat the passover. There he discoursed to them at large, upon the precious proof he was about to give of his love for mankind; and having established the new memorial of his death, by the sacramental bread and wine, which he distributed amongst them, he retired to a garden, and withdrew from them a little space, that he might pray alone* Now was the time of a mysterious and awful conflict, which divines have often endeavored to explain, but of the nature of which we can know nothing certain. We only know that it must have been dreadful in the extreme, since it extorted from his human fears the affecting prayer, 'O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.' This was the grievous depression that made 'his soul sorrowful even unto death.' Here was the infliction, at the bitterness of which ' he was sore amazed, and very heavy.' But the decree had gone forth and could not be annulled. It pleased the Lord, in mercy to our apostate race, ' to bruise him, to put him to grief,' as said the Prophet, 'to make his soul an offering for sin.' Crushed to the earth, he seeks even for mortal sympathy, and cometh to his disciples, but ' they were sleeping for sorrow.' O! how desolate and deep must that feeling of misery have been, which forced from his lips the complaint, 'What, could ye not watch with me one hour? Again he retires—again he prostrates himself. All around him is thick darkness:—all within him, wretchedness unutterable. Again he prays, 'O my Father, if this cup may not pass from me except I drink it, thy will be done.' Alas! alas! blessed Sufferer! what agony of soul he must have endured—what torment of the body, when the bloody sweat oozed from every pore, and 'fell in great drops to the ground!'
But the extremity of internal torture is somewhat lightened. 'The spirit is willing,' and an angel from heaven is sent to sustain the weakness of the flesh. The traitor Judas approaches. With the cowardice of conscious guilt, he comes, surrounded by an armed multitude in the obscurity of night, to seize the peaceable and unoffending Jesus. Bound as if he were a felon, he is led to Pilate's judgmenthall, ' like a lamb to the slaughter.' He is condemned by the priests and elders in the assembled council, and the infatuated multitude, led by their abandoned rulers, demand vengeance upon him whose whole life had been devoted to their service. In vain the Roman governor, though himself an unprincipled tyrant, demands what evil Jesus had done. In vain he protests that he finds no fault in his prisoner. In vain he washes his hands before them all, saying, that he is 'clear of the blood of this just man.' It was the hour when