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Mark xv. 34. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying.. Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabacthani, which is, being interpreted. My God, my God, ivhy hast thou forsaken me? The death of illustrious men is almost always the most interesting and affecting part of their history. We love to contemplate their behaviour in those last moments in which they leave a world, where they have acted so distinguished a part. Our interest is inconceivably heightened, when we have been connected with them by esteem or friendship, or when we have received from them any signal favour. Then we hang upon those lips, which are so soon to be closed for ever ; we drink in with avidity the last accents of that tongue which is so soon to be silenced ; we endeavour to catch the last flashes of that mind that is no longer to instruct us, the last sentiments of that heart which will shortly beat no more. The minutest details that relate to the death of a father, of a friend, of a benefactor, appear important, and we cannot recall without tears what they said or did,
390 SERMO LXI. when combating with the king of terrors. Every thing then must be interesting to us, in the detail of the death and sufferings of the Redeemer of the world : there is not a single circumstance of this death that ought to be remembered without emotion. But especially does that part of our Saviour's
passion, that we have selected for our meditation, claim your attention and sympathy. It presents to you Jesus Christ expiring upon the cross; Jesus Christ plunged into an abyss of woes, and about to commend his soul into the hands of his Father. It presents to you your friend, your brother, your Saviour, contending with the most painful death, sinking, for your sakes, under the avenging justice of God, and making Calvary resound with that sorrowful exclamation, " My God, my God ! why hast thou forsaken me ?" While all nature then sympathized with the Saviour, what should be our emotions, Christians, at beholding a spectacle so afflictive, at hearing a cry so distressing ? Can we fail to participate in the dying groans of him who is expiating our sins, and consummating the work of our redemption ? Ah ! if ever your hearts were affected by the great truths announced to you from this sacred desk; if ever your souls were moved by the exhortations of your pastors, these affections and emotions should be exercised to-day. You owe them to this recital of the most interesting part of your Saviour's passion; you owe them to the love which the Son of God displayed for you till his last sigh ; you owe them to the wrath of God, which he bore for you ; to that anguish, to those conflicts, which he endured for your sakes ; to that voice, capable of penetrating hearts harder than the rocks themselves.
LIFE OF CHRIST. 391 This discourse shall have two parts. In the First, We shall endeavour to show the true sense of this exclamation of our Saviour, and the nature of that grief which, caused him to utter it. In the
Second, We shall inquire what sentiments ought to be produced by this afflictive cry of Jesus, in the hearts of those who profess to consider him as the victim immolated for their sins. I. In seeking the true sense of this exclamation of the Saviour, it is not necesssary to enumerate the various improper interpretations that have been given to it. It will be sufficient if we first remove the false senses of which it may appear susceptible, and then establish its real meaning. 1. Do not suppose that this exclamation indicates any repugnance to the great sacrifice that the Saviour was then offering to God for the salvation of mankind, any repentance for the submission he had exercised to the will of his heavenly Father. Jesus Christ had clearly foreseen his death, with the most afflictive circumstances that were to accompany it : he had frequently predicted it ; he knew that he came into the world in order to suffer it; he had always rebuked with severity his disciples, when they would dissuade him from it ; he had expressed the most ardent desire for its approach. " I have a baptism [of suffering] to be baptized with, and how am I straightened until it be accomplished ?" was his language on one occasion, " I have desired to eat this passover with you," was his expression, the same night he instituted the holy supper, to be a memorial of his death. Jesus Christ then perfectly knew the greatness of the work he had undertaken, and clearly foresaw all that he had to suffer as our Redeemer; and yet voluntarily and deliberately braved it all. Witness the resolution with which he advanced to
392 SERMO LXI.
those who came to apprehend him ; witness the silence which he kept before Caiaphas when false witnesses were produced against him; witness the confession which he made in the presence of this judge ; witness his replies to Pilate ; witness the whole history of the passion. He cannot then be considered as a victim dragged to the altar, but as a free, voluntary victim, who, knowing all the circumstances of his death, submitted to it freely and cheerfully, from charity to man. Of consequence, this exclamation cannot be attributed to any want of courage or resignation, to any regret for having engaged in this painful work. o, my brethren, the same submission to God, which led Jesus Christ to devote himself to the death of the cross for us, attended him, supported him, all the time he was fastened to it, until he had uttered his last sigh. These words then do not denote any change of will in the Saviour, any repugnance to fulfil the purposes of his heavenly Father. 2. This exclamation does not denote the least doubt or distrust in Jesus Christ, of the love that his Father entertained for him. We may confidently assert, without fear of contradiction, that there never was an instant in which Jesus Christ ceased to trust in God, and regard him as a tender Father ; never an instant in which he was not persuaded that he was God's beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased. \nd especially now that he was on the cross accomplishing the eternal purposes of God, giving the strongest proof of devotion to his will, and the most amazing exhibition of that charity in which he delights, he was, if possible, more fully than ever persuaded of the infinite love of his Father for him. This assertion is proved by our text itself, in which the Saviour, at the height of hie sufferings, addresses
LIFE OP CHRIST. 393
his Father, by a title full of love and confidence, « ; My God, my God." It is proved by the sentiments that he expressed some moments after, when he uttered his last sigh, saying, " Father, into thy hands J commend my spirit." It is proved by a passage in the tenth chapter of John, where Christ himself mentions his death as the foundation of that ten* der affection which his Father had for him. " The Father loveth me, because I lay down my life for the sheep." It is certain then, that Jesus, when upon the cross, ceased not to regard God as his God and Father ; and we must, therefore, not consider this exclamation as implying any doubt or distrust of the affection of his Father. 3. This exclamation is not to be interpreted as if the divine nature of Christ experienced any sufferings. The divine nature, possessed of immutable happiness and infinite joy, is incapable of sorrow or pain. The two natures were so united in the Saviour as not to be confounded and mingled together, and in all his sufferings, the divinity was quiescent, and ceased to exert itself. It gave dignity and value to his sufferings ; it so supported the humanity as to prevent it from being crushed by the infinite agonies which descended on the Saviour; but it neither partook of, nor diminished the severity of these agonies. Having separated all these false ideas from the text, we ask, what is the true sense of this expression, and what were the sufferings which caused it ? If these words express no murmuring nor distrust, nor want of resolution and courage, what do they signify ? For the more the Saviour was resigned to death, the more he trusted in God, the more he was persuaded of the affection of his Father, by so much vol. ii. 50
394 SERMO LXI. the more strange does it appear that he should cry, " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?" How different is this language from that of the ancient martyrs ! When we read the history of their sufferings, and of their last hours, we cannot but perceive an immense difference between their death and that of Jesus Christ. Their souls appear to have been inaccessible to the most cruel torments, and no complaint issues from their mouth. On the contrary, they esteemed themselves happy to be permitted to sutler for the Redeemer, and were tranquil and joyous in the midst of their pains. To discern the cause of this difference between the martyrs and the Saviour, and at the same time to perceive the nature of the sufferings, which then afflicted Jesus Christ, and produced this expression, attend to the situation in which your Redeemer then was. We had broken the just and holy law of God, and had become exposed to endless punishment, both in soul and in body. Jesus Christ, to deliver us, became our pledge and surety ; consented to bear the punishment due to us, and, " though he knew no sin, was made a sin-offering for us," and " bore our sins in his own body on the cross." As we had sinned both in body and in soul, both our bodies and our souls were exposed to punishment; Christ, standing in our place, must suffer, therefore, both in his body and his soul. You know his corporeal pains, they have often been described to you ; but in vain would you attempt to conceive those sufferings of his soul, which caused him to utter the words of our text. Although, considered as the Son of God, he was still the object of his paternal love, yet, considered as our surety, bearing the load of our sins, he had all the terrors of the Lord set in array against him ; he
LIFE OF CHRIST. 395 was encompassed by the indignation of the Almighty; he experienced agonies which none but a God could inflict, and none but one who had the strength of Deity to support him, could for a moment have sustained ; by the woes which entered into his soul,while he hung upon the cross, he counterpoised the eternal damnation of so many millions of mankind. Although as the Son of God, he was assured of the favourable regards of his Father, yet, as Saviour, he was deprived of that joyful sense of the divine presence and consolations which forms the felicity of angels and glorified spirits ; and his soul, pressed down by the sins of the world, felt a deprivation of the cheering light of God's favour, and made him cry out in anguish, " My God ! my God ! why hast thou forsaken me ?" This exclamation, then, is not the language of the Son of God, considered as such ; since the Son of God has never been abandoned by his Father; neither is it the language of a mere martyr, who suffers and dies to seal with his blood the gospel he has preached ; but the voice of the " Lamb without blemish and without spot, slain from the foundation of the world ;" the voice of the Saviour, who is experiencing not merely the bitterness of death, not merely the tortures of the cross, but tortures infinitely more severe and overwhelming that were felt in his soul, and that were inseparably connected with the propitiatory sacrifice that he then was offering ; the voice of our Surety, who remained under the frowns of the Judge of the earth, that " the propitious smiles of a reconciled Father might be vouchsafed to his people, to cheer them amidst all the afflictions of a frowning world, to gild their last moments with peace and triumph, and to consum-
39b' SERMO LXI. mate their joys in the eternal sunshine of uncreated bliss in the kingdom of God." But it is not sufficient for us to discover the sense of these words, and the reasons that the Saviour had to utter this pathetic lamentation. We must also see what effects it ought to produce in our hearts, what sentiments it ought to excite in our bo soms. This is our Secoiid division. 1. What tender sympathy and compassion should be excited in our hearts by these sufferings of the Saviour ! For do not think that because this death had been predicted and determined in the counsel of God, because it was absolutely necessary for the redemption of the world, that therefore you need not sympathize with the woes of Jesus. If he had been merely a great man, an illustrious prophet, could you without emotion see him nailed to the accursed cross ? It is natural to compassionate the miseries of the unhappy. A virtuous heart suffers every time that it sees innocence oppressed, or the pious sacrificed to the hatred or vengeance of the wicked. If, therefore, Jesus Christ were, in your estimation, only a holy man, whom so many virtues ought to have rendered dear to his nation, still his punishment ought to affect you, ought to draw forth those regrets and sympathies which we never refuse to the unhappy. But, my brethren, in what manner will you view this death, when you consider it not merely as the death of a holy man, worthy of a better lot, but as the death of the Son of God; as the death of a brother, of a friend, of the most tender
friend that you have ever possessed ; as a cruel, accursed death, accompanied with the severest and most bitter griefs ; as a death from which he mig,h<
LIFE OF CHRIST. 397 in an instant have delivered himself, but which he voluntarily suffered for the sake of you, and to deliver you from misery inconceivable ? Judge of the weight of his sufferings by the bitterness of his cry ; judge of it by the magnitude of the supports by which he was sustained, but to which in this moment he appears insensible. Jesus Christ, it is true, is nailed to the cross, exposed to the wrath of God, but he just touches the moment of his deliverance. He has endured, without complaining, the most inhuman and most barbarous treatment, and he now sees the moment approaching, which is to terminate his miseries and crown his labours ; he sees the salvation of mankind almost consummated ; he sees heaven opened, his throne erected, the angels preparing to attend his triumph. evertheless, notwithstanding supports so powerful, lie is absorbed by the immensity of his woes ; what he is suffering for us upon the cross eclipses from his eyes all the glory with which he is just ready to be crowned; and he cries out, " My God, my God ! why hast thou forsaken me ?" What ! my brethren, have you tears and regrets to pay for the death of a child, of a brother, of a friend, who was dear to you ? Have you tears to bestow on the recital of the sorrows of an unknown person, of a stranger ? And can you, then, contemplate with indifference and without emotion the bitter death of your brother, of your friend, of that adorable Saviour, who has loved you more than his own life ? 2. But tears and sympathy are not all that we owe to the Saviour; he demands from us also our love,
our gratitude, the unreserved consecration of our hearts to him. And what love, what devotion, can ever equal the love which Jesus Christ manifested in dying for us ? Though our heart should be warmed
398 SERMO L\l, with the most ardent and tender affection; though we should consecrate to him every instant of our lives ; though all our desires should be centered in him; though our whole life, in this world and throughout eternity, should be spent in celebrating his praises, in admiring what he has done and suffered for us ; do you think that you would have made an equal return for the love of Jesus? "Greater love than this hath no man, that a man lay down his life for his friends ;" and when you were his enemies, Jesus did not merely lay down his life for you, endured not only the punishment of the cross, but sorrows and agonies a thousand times more bitter than the cross itself. The waves of divine vengeance rolled over his head, and beat upon his soul, to procure for you salvation. What does so much love deserve ? Jesus Christ gave himself for us ; we must give ourselves to him without reserve. Jesus Christ was for our sakes forsaken of God ; we must for his sake renounce our dearest attachments, and have no desire or inclination except to please and obey him. Jesus Christ has loved us more than life : we ought to give him love for love, and entertain for him an affection far superior to our attachment to any earthly object. Oh! what powerful claims has he to our undivided hearts ; how dearly has he purchased them ! He claims them by the blood which he has shed, by the nails which have pierced his hands and his feet, by the torments which he has suffered, by the severity of those pangs which pressed heavy upon his soul. And will you refuse these hearts which he
demands of you, as the only return that he expects for all that he has done and suffered, and which he has so dearly purchased ? Will you continue to give !hem to the world and its vanities? o. bles-
LIFE OF CHRIST. 399 ed Jesus, merciful Redeemer, our hearts shall be thine ; they shall henceforth burn with no other love than love to thee; they shall live and breathe but for thee ; thou shalt reign in them supreme and unrivalled.
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