« PreviousContinue »
and thus display the virtoes suitable to his high characa, ter, in the season of so severe a trial.” Every thing be. ing now prepared, Jesus stripped of bis garments, and the cross laid on the ground, he was extended on it, and his mangled naked body, already covered with 'wounds and bruises, was fastened to it by large nails which were driven through his hands and feet. When 'the executioners had performed their cruel office, the cross was raised from the ground, and fixed in a hole prepared to receive it. What excruciating torment must our LORD endure! Yet not a murmur or com. plaint escaped his lips ; but, with unexampled charity and greatness of mind, he prayed for his murderers, at the very time they were executing the wicked design of his enemies against him. · That his death might be rendered as ignominious as possible, and the multitude prejudiced against him, crosses were erected on each side of that to which he was nailed, on which were crucified two infamous malefactors, condemned to death for theft; Thus was ful. falled a prediction of Isaiah *, " that be should be numbered with the transgressors."
As soon as Jesus was fixed on the cross, the soldiers; with that unfeeling attention to their own interest so commen *o vulgar minds, seized on his garments as their perquisite; the manner of their parting them was 'predicted by the royal Psalmist t.
It was usual, in cases of crucifixion, to put upon the cross, over the head of the criminal, an inscriprion, con. taining the substance of the crime for which he was exóa cuted. It is very remarkable, that Pilatê was so overruled by divine Providence, that instead of casting reproach upon Jesus, and exposing him to ridicule, he
* Isaiah liji.
+ Psalm xxii, 18.
declared his real character, and proclaimed his kingdors. The inscription was written in three languages, that is might be intelligible to Jews, Romans, and most other foreigners. Though the Chief Priests made great ob jections to the form of this inscription, Pilate could not be prevailed on to alter it. Happy would it have been for him, had he shown the same formmess before! When the Chief Priests and rulers found that they could not procure an alteration, they mixed themselves with the throng, to feast their eyes with the miseries of the holy Sufferer, triumphing over his last agonies, blasphem. ing, mocking, and reviling him, and even upbraiding him, because he did not exert for his own deliverance that saving power, by which they could not deny num. bers had been benefited. Our blessed LORD remained unmoved at their insults, and made no attempt to jus. tify himself; and when one of the malefactors, who was executed with him, reproached him, he answered mot : but when the other addressed him as a King, he received his homage, and promised to reward his peni. terce.
What agonizing sorrow must the mother of Jesus have felt, when she saw her beloved Son thus tortured, and heard the reproaches of his cruel enemies.! Now was fulfilled the prediction of Simeon, that a sword should pierce through her own soul.” Jesus saw his mother standing, and knew what she suffered; he saw also his beloved disciple Fobn, who, he was certain, would, for his sake, gladly perform any office of filial love to. wards her : our LORD, therefore, commended his mõne ther to the care of his benevolent Apostle, with whom she is said to have lived many years. His attention to this circumstance, in the midst of such agonies, was a great instance of the composure of his mind. I 6
The darkness which happened at noon-day, while Our Saviour hung on the cross, was out of the common. course of nature; for a total eclipse of the sun could not take place, as it was the full of the moon: we may, then, consider it as caused by the immediate power
* See Psalm, Ixix. 21.
his spirit, with a lively faith and holy joy committing it to the hands of the Father, in full assurarue that He would not leave his soul in death, nor suffer his Hely One to see corruption *. Our LORD was nailed to the cross between 9 and 12 o'clock, in the forenoon, and expired between 3 and 4 in the afternoon, which was the time of offering the evening sacrifice, and also for killing the Paschal Lamb. It was at this hour that the angel Gabriel delivered to the prophet Daniel that glorious prediction of the Messiah; and some learned authors conjecture, that from that time to the kour of Christ's death was exactly seventy weeks of years +.
Our Lord in his last moments called upon God as his FATHER, and to shew the unbelieving Jews, that God acknowledged him as his Son, the veil of the. Temple, which separated the Holy Place from the most Holy, though made of the richest and strongest tapestry, was miraculously rent in two, from the top to the boi. tom; so that while the priest was ministering at the golden altar, the sacred Oracle was laid open to full view ; which was a token of the abolition of the Mosaic
7 ritual, aud a type that a passage was opened to the preSENCE of God in heaven by the sacrifice of CHRIST, the trile PASCHAL LAMB.
As a farther emblem of the approaching destruction of the temple, its very foundation was shaken by an earthquake; and many rocks in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem torn asunder in so wonderful a manner, as to retain, according to the report of authentic travellers, even to the present times, visible marks of miraculous power I. Thus, when the Jews refused to acknowledge * Henry's Annotations. : + See Sect. xxxi. Vol. V..
Maundrell's Travek. Bee Doddridge, Vol. II. p. 229, in the poteso
the Messiah, did the very stones help to proclaim him; and the centurion who guarded our LORD during his execution, though a Gentile, struck with his amazing fortitude, and the prodigies that followed his death, expressed a thorough conviction that Jesus was not only a righteous man, but the Son of God.
The poor women, who with affectionate courage had' followed our Lord to the cross, even after his disciples forsook him and fled, being no longer able to give him any charitable assistance, retired to some distance : perhaps they turned their care to the consolation of his aflicted mother, or sought a situation where they might mingle their tears with her's, without exposing them.' selves to the insults of a furious rabble.
Those who were disinterested spectators of the won. derful scene, whom curiosity alone had assembled, were so affected with it, that they smote their breasts, which heaved with pity and commiseration, fear and dread; yet they returned to their own houses, without professing their belief in CHRIST; though it is very probable, that the impressions which the sight of the crucifixion made, prepared their minds for the preaching of the Apostles afterwards, and that many were then con. verted.
This portion of Sacred History demands our particu. lar attention ; let us therefore see what practical instruc.
; tion we may derive from it.
From our LORD's address to the women who followed him, “ Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, &c." we are taught, that we should not entertain the same kind of sorrow for the sufferings and death of CHRIST, which we feel for the distresses. of mankind. useless to weep for him at the very time he endured them, it certainly must be so now that he sits at the
If it was