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SERM. together, at last the high-priest adjured Him, by the living LXV.
God, to say whether He was the MESSIAH, the Son of the most High God? Jesus could not deny it, though His life was at stake, but said, I am. The high-priest then declared that He had spoken blasphemy; and they all agreed that He was guilty of death. After this, shall we, any of us, complain of injustice, when the innocence of Christ could not escape?
It was now they used our Lord after a manner the most outrageous. They spit in His face, they smote Him, they blindfolded Him, and bade Him prophesy who smote Him;all which He bore with the greatest meekness and patience, because He was in the place of sinners, who really deserve such treatment: and yet sinners themselves, even they that pretend to be His followers, think they ought never to forgive far less injuries than these.
After this, we have a sad instance of human frailty when left to itself: St. Peter had declared, over and over again, that he would lay down his life for his Master ; but when he saw his Master in this danger, and was charged with being one of His disciples, he denied it after a manner the most weak and scandalous. This ought to be a warning to the best of us, not to trust in ourselves, without the grace and help of God, which we ought never to forget to pray for.
Our Lord indeed had pity on him, otherwise he might have gone the length of Judas' sin; the cock had spoken to his outward ears without any effect, till Jesus, with a most gracious and powerful look, touched his heart with a true sense of his crime, and melted it into tears of repentance. May the same eye
upon us whenever we shall do amiss, that we may be sensible of our fault, and return out of the way of ruin !
And now the whole multitude arose, and led Him to Pilate; and there they accused our Lord of treason, sedition, and blasphemy. Pilate found all this to be the mere effect of malice and envy, and declared, over and over again, that he found no fault in Him. But that would not satisfy the Jews. Pilate, still unwilling to condemn an innocent man against his conscience, orders our Lord to be scourged till He was covered with blood, hoping this would move their compassion, and that lle would not deserve, nor they desire, a greater punishment. But all this would not do with people who were under the power of Satan. Behold, saith he, the man! Is there any fear that He can hurt you?
The Jews indeed were not moved with this sad sight; but every Christian ought to be moved with it, and to beg of God to look upon His Son thus used, and to pardon our offences, which were indeed the cause of all the torments He endured, and which the best of us have deserved.
The chief-priest and elders still persisted in their demand to have Him crucified, and told the judge, he was not the emperor's friend, if he released the prisoner. This awakened his fears; and having washed his hands, and declared, that he was innocent of the blood of that just person, he condemned Him to be crucified, against all justice, against all law, and against his conscience. When he declared himself innocent of Christ's blood, the Jews cried out, “His blood be upon (Matt. 27.
25.] us and our children;" and so it is to this day. For though it was for our sins His blood was shed, yet their crime was exceeding great, as appeared by the punishment it brought upon them, in the destruction of their temple, their city, their nation, and themselves.
In this unhappy people, let us see the sad effects of malice and envy, and the power of the devil over such as give way to these vices. They had long expected the Messiah as the great blessing promised by God unto their nation, and when He came they murdered Him. They abhorred the government of the Romans, and now declare that they would have no king but Cæsar.
When Judas saw what his wickedness ended in, he repented of what he had done, went to those that had hired him, flung down his wages, and confessed his crime. Pray take notice of their answer: “ What is that to us? See thou to that.” (Matt. 27. This, God knows, is too often the case of others, who, after they have drawn men into sin, seldom or never trouble themselves with what must follow, or how to recover them out of it.
And now our Lord, the same day He was condemned, was carried out to be crucified; though, by the Tiberian law, there ought to have been ten days betwixt the sentence and execution.
SERM. The cross, as the manner was, was put upon Him to bear LXV.
it; but fainting under the burden, it was laid upon another to bear it after Him. And while they that followed Him lamented His sad fate, He assured them that they had more
need to weep for themselves and their children, for the mise(Luke 23. ries that were coming upon them : for if, saith He, the green 31.]
tree, which is not fit to burn, be thus dealt with, what will become of the dry ? that is, if innocent men be thus dealt with, what will be the punishment of the wicked ?
And now our Lord is nailed to the cross, to suffer the most lingering and painful death; and placed betwixt two thieves, to make Him still more contemptible. These people not
knowing, which they should have done, that the Messiah, Isa. 53. 12. according to their own Scriptures, was to be numbered with
Let us now, for a few minutes, suppose ourselves at the foot of the cross, and Jesus Christ speaking to us after this manner: 'It is for you, and on your account, that I undergo these pains and these indignities; to make an atonement for your sins; to obtain your pardon, that you may not suffer eternal torments; and that, being again reconciled to God, and restored to His favour, you may for ever enjoy that happiness for which you were at first created.'
Let us consider what ought to be the answer of every Christian that has any sense of gratitude and concern for his soul : ‘I abhor that sin for which you are so kind and merciful as to die. I am astonished at the love of God, who did not overlook lost mankind, (for ever blessed be His holy name !) but sent you His only Son, to redeem us, to redeem and save us from ruin, even when we were your Father's enemies. I shall be the most ungrateful creature, if I do not abhor and forsake those sins, which could not be forgiven without so great a sacrifice. And the sacrifice being so infinitely great, I will depend upon it for the pardon of all sins, though never so many and great.'
Such as these should be the thought and purposes of every Christian, when he goes to the Lord's Table, to call to mind what Jesus Christ has done and suffered for us.
But let us return again to the cross; where we shall find a superscription written in Greek, in Hebrew, and in Latin,
This is THE KING OF THE Jews; that all the world, being (Luke 23.
38.] concerned in His death, might read and see who He was, how wrongfully He suffered ; might enquire into the cause of His sufferings, that they might look upon Him in spirit, and be healed and freed from death, as the Israelites were by looking upon the brazen serpent in the wilderness : so the providence of God ordered it.
And now, to add to His afflictions, the rulers and chief priests mocked and reviled Him in these words: “He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him; for He said He was the Son of God.” This was a judicial blindness indeed ; that they should use the very words that the Spirit of God had, in their own Scriptures, foretold would Ps. 22. be said to Him whose hands and feet should be pierced. Amazing blindness! that they could not see, that they themselves were fulfilling that prophecy of the Messiah.
Others railed upon Him, and said, “He saved others, Him- [Matt. 27. self He cannot save;" “Let Him come down from the cross,
42.] and we will believe Him to be the King of the Jews.”
What blind and ignorant creatures we are when left to ourselves! These people did not consider, that faith is the gift of God, without which all the miracles in the world will not make us believe what we have no mind to believe.
To add still to His affliction, the very malefactors, one of them at least, reviled Him; the other, his heart being touched by the all-powerful Spirit of Christ, acknowledged his sins, and had the comfortable assurance of a pardon.
By these two instances we may receive instruction ; by one of them, to be careful and afraid to continue in sin till we come to die, lest we provoke God to leave us to ourselves, for then we shall never repent, never be saved; the other may preserve the greatest sinners from utter despair, for we do not know how far God's mercy may extend.
And indeed God makes use of a thousand ways and means to awaken and convert such sinners as have not hardened their hearts against all conviction ; for at this time a dreadful darkness on a sudden overspread the sky; an earthquake rent the very rocks of the place, and the great vail of their temple was torn from top to bottom.
Many, indeed, were affected with these wonderful things,
SERM. and smote their breasts, expecting some severe judgments for LXV.
the injustice done to a righteous man: even the centurion, an heathen, was one who gave glory to God on this occasion : others were hardened. So unsearchable are the judgments of God!
Our Lord, in the midst of His torments, shewed His in[Luke 23. finite love for sinners, and prayed for them, “Father, for34.)
give them, for they know not what they do." And for our comfort, we are sure, that even now He pleads in heaven for every poor sinner, who, for His sake, begs of God for pardon, and for grace to lead a godly life.
The exquisite pains our Lord had so long endured forced Him at last to cry out, My God, My God, WHY HAST Thou FORSAKEN ME? Which should convince all sinners, all mankind, in whose place He then was, that they deserve to be forsaken of God; and that they will be forsaken, and for ever lost, if they do not close with this mercy of Christ, in suffering for all those who will repent and turn to God, and, through faith in His blood, beg of God the pardon of their sins, and live like people whom Jesus Christ has redeemed from eternal death and misery.
And now, our Saviour said aloud, it is FINISHED; that is, I have now un dergone and performed all that I was to do, in order to atone for the sins of the world; and so gave up the ghost.
You have now, Christians, seen the manner of our Saviour's sufferings. This will be of very little service to us, if we do not know and lay to heart the reasons of His death and sufferings; as also, what will be required on our part to make them the greatest blessing to us that God can give to His sinful creatures.
Now, it concerns every soul of us, more than our lives are worth, to know the reasons of these sufferings of Christ which we have been setting before you.
It would be but small comfort for a sinner to know and believe in a God infinitely holy, just, and powerful, and who hates all iniquity, did we not know He is to be appeased when offended.
Now, this is the case of every man living, without the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and what He has dene for us.