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crifice had bled, and there it dies. Were a respite from death offered to the most part of men after they have endured severe agony for hours, it would be gladly accepted. The last shock is more frightful to nature than all the previous gloom, pain, and anxiety of a sickbed; but that generous love which brought Christ to this hour sustained him to its close, and no consideration could induce him to come down from the cross, and leave his work unfinished.
Christ commended his spirit into his Father's hands, that he might make it happy with himself during its separation from the body, and re-unite both parts of his nature in the resurrection. The idea of the separation of soul and body is painful to nature, and the struggles arising from their appetites and corrupt tendencies, which weaken the attachment of the spirits of good men to their bodies, could not operate on the soul of our Lord. But this was his hope, “ Thou wilt not leave my soul in a state of separation from the body, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption. Thou wilt shew me the path of life. In thy presence there is fulness of joy, and at thy right hand there are pleasures evermore.” He believed that his spirit would rest in the bosom of that Father, the power of whose anger he had now felt, and that his descent into Joseph's sepulchre would be the conquest of the grave. He trusted that his spirit would return to a body powerful, incorruptible, and immortal. His soul and body had hitherto been companions in pain and toil, but hereafter they would be associated in rest and joy. All the perfections of God warranted this hope. His justice was to receive an answer to its last demand in the separation of soul and body, and it would require their re-union, which the power of Jehovah could easily effect. And to a Son so dear, and so worthy, what could
the Father of mercies refuse! He had assured him of this in a variety of promises; and Jesus knew that none of his words could pass away.
But our Lord commended his spirit into his Father's hands, as an example to his people. The soul is the chief care of the good in dying. They can leave the body to friends and neighbours to give it a decent burial; their worldly possessions they resign to those who shall succeed them; and with regard to relatives, however helpless, they hope that the kindness of the humane, and the care of Providence will plead for the fatherless, but they feel many anxieties about the immortal spirit. They see guilt on it more than sufficient to crush it into the lowest hell; evil spirits they know are meeting and plotting to drag it down to destruction; and though good angels care for their souls, yet heaven is not theirs, and they can procure admission to none. But rejoice that Christ hath secured your reception to glory, and there is nought that is stern, or repulsive, in the voice or countenance of the Lord of that place; he will receive the spirit to the highest blessings of his love, and to employment which, of itself would constitute a heaven. Your Lord hath authorised you to expect this welcome, and to express your hope of it in his own language. Many good men have used these words when they were dying, and are now blessing him in heaven for that everlasting consolation, and that good hope with which they inspired them in their last hour. And to thy honour, O blessed Jesus, we will now say, that all that is pleasing in life thou affordest and heightenest, and that in thee, we will trust for comfort and safety, and victory in death.
Is Jesus precious to you, Christians, in these views of his death? If we love the man whose influence secures us a safe passage through difficulties and dangers, we
ought certainly to yield the best affections of our hearts to him who hath made death a translation to a Father and to a home. What are you willing to give up to him who for your sakes yielded up the ghost? Can you say, I will renounce every thing but the grace he hath given me? The dearest connexion, and the most valued possession shall be surrendered at his call. What think ye of his atoning death? To this question I hope you can thus reply: So much do I value it, that I have fixed on it my dependence for eternity. I glory in it for the redemption it obtained, for the peace which it made, and for the graces which it displayed. It is the common centre of faith, love, and joy to Christians on earth, and of admiration and triumph to spirits in glory. And while you now commemorate that death, may the eternal Father, to whom it was an offering and a sacrifice of a sweet smelling savour, ac. cept, strengthen, and maintain your delight and your confidence in the cross of his Son.
After the Service
It is worthy of notice, that the language in which Christ commended his soul into his Father's hands was that of David, whose Son, and whose Lord he was; and thus he hath recommended to us the petitions of good men, which are recorded in Scripture, to be used in devotion, and especially in the supplications of the dying. Were I to complain of any want in the narra. tives of the last hours of some good men, it would be of the language of Scripture. These words of eternal life must have a sweetness and power to the heart of the man that utters them, and of those that hear them, which none of the expressions of human wisdom or
genius can possess. In using the language of Scripture, let your application of it be judicious and suitable, and let it be done with the reverence which is due to that word which God hath magnified above all his
It is also worthy of our attention, that our Lord did this with a loud voice. His expressions of relation to God had been derided by his enemies; but, to shew that he had made no claim to which he was not fully entilled, he committed his soul to his Father with a voice which might reach the surrounding multitude, and strike insolence and cruelty dumb. The eternal Father heard him with approbation and delight, and a voice from the excellent glory reached the heart of the expiring sufferer, “ This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased."
It is very remarkable that our Lord, in using these words of David, begins them in a manner which shews his affection to God, and employs the term “ Father,” which is not to be found in the verse of the Psalm to which he refers. His Father's wrath had overwhelmed him with anguish, and in him he had seen an avenging Judge, yet he calls him by this most endearing name, and commits the spirit which he had tried so severely into his hands. We find it difficult, in the hour of God's anger against us, to address him in the language of hope and love, and imagine that the frowns of his face, and the blows of his rod, are intended to repress it; but Christ's affection to his Father could not be shaken by all the horrors of Calvary. Satan laboured to suggest to him many hard thoughts of God, but they were expelled instantly from that heart in which piety had the undivided throne, and which looked for its rest, reward and bliss, in God alone, and in him for ever. In the spirit of your Lord, call Jehovah your Father,
even when he speaks roughly to you, and demands from you your dearest comforts, and say, “ Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him.”
No sooner had our Lord uttered these words than he gave up the ghost. Man, in dying, obeys the law of his nature, and the spirit, thus required of him, he can no longer retain : but Christ had power to lay down his life. Death was in him an act of sovereignty, and not the sinking of exhausted nature. The loudness of his last cry shewed the strength of the vital principle. It was not necessary that life should be protracted any longer, for every prediction about his sufferings had been fulfilled, and it only remained for him to lay it down for us, and this he did with generous prompti. tude at the appointed moment.
O ye, from whom life must be torn as it were by violence, and who testify your reluctance to die by your sobs, and cries, and vows, behold Jesus yielding it up while he had power to retain it, and you will feel ashamed to struggle. And let those who are tempted to take away their own lives, in the agony of disappointed passion, or utter despair, look to Jesus enduring the cross, and their gloom will be scattered, and their fatal purposes repressed.
Keep your hearts with all diligence, for with no cone fidence can you commend to God when you are dying, a spirit which anger has inflamed, unchastity has defiled, or avarice hath engrossed? Let meekness keep them in perfect peace, let temperance guard them from every sensual desire, and charity influence them with every feeling of kindness.
rises check it by thinking on the long suffering of your Lord ; when corruption is excited, repress it by crucifying the flesh; and when the world solicits, look from it to the grave and to heaven,