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of John, whom they durst not but acknowledge to have been a prophet, and to his own mighty works, in support of his claim ? But having fastened him upon the cross, they triumphed, and unwittingly expressed their exultation, in the very words which David had foretold should be used to Messiah. So exactly were the Scriptures fulfilled by those who used their utmost endeavours to evade them, and to prevent their accomplishment.
But what is all this to us? It is very much to us. Christ could suffer but once, yet we read of those who crucify him afresh.' His Gospel represents bis personal ministry, declares his character, reveals his love, produces the same effects in those who receive it; and they who oppose it are considered as opposing him, and are influenced by the same spirit which instigated the unbelieving Jews. It is to be hoped that many reject and scorn it, as the multitude did of old, through ignorance; and that the intercession of him, who prayed for those that knew not what they did, will prevail for their conversion. Whenever their eyes are opened, they will be pricked to the heart,'* and will then gladly inquire of those whom now they despise, What they must do to be saved? But it is to be feared, there are in Christian countries many persons who too nearly resemble the spirit and conduct of the Jewish rulers; whose opposition proceeds from rooted enmity to the truth, persisted in against light that has sometimes forced upon their minds, and who, though convinced, will not be persuaded. They who despise, calumniate, and scorn the believers of the Gospel, would certainly offer the like treatment to the author of it, if he was within their reach. They are ill-treated for his sake, and he considers it as an affront to himself. Thus he said to Saul of Tarsus, when breathing out threatenings against his disciples, “Why persecutest thou me? They who reject bis ministers, reject him.t They who speak disdainfully of his dying himself to save others; they who reproach or ridicule the humble confidence of his people; who censure and revile their hopes and comforts derived from his good word, as enthusiasm or hypocrisy ; who have no compassion for their distresses, but rather wound them as with a sword in their bones, saying unto them, • Where is now your God ??are certainly treading, if not altogether with equal vehemence, in the footsteps of the Jewish rulers. May the Lord, in mercy, show them the danger of their path, and give them a timely apprehension of the destruction to which it leads! That they may humble themselves to his will, implore bis pardon, espouse his cause and experience the comforts and privileges of that Gospel which they have hitherto reviled and scorned.
Acts, ii. 37. Luke, X. 16. Psalm, cxv. 2.
MESSIAH UNPITIED, AND WITHOUT COMFORTER,
PSALM, bxix. 20.
Reproach (Rebuke) hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness ; and I
looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none.
The greatness of suffering cannot be certainly estimated by the single consideration of the iminediate apparent .cause ; the impression it actually makes upon the mind of the sufferer, must likewise be taken into the account. That which is a heavy trial to one person, may to another be much lighter, and perhaps no trial at all. And a state of outward prosperity, in which the eye of a by-stander can see nothing wanting to happiness, may be, and I doubt not often is, a state of torment to the possessor.
On the other hand, we know that the consolations with which it has sometimes pleased God to cheer his suffering servants, have enabled them to rejoice in the greatest extremities. They have triumphed upon the rack, and while their flesh was consuming by the fire. The Lord has had many followers, who, for his sake, have endured scourgings, and tortures, and terrible deaths, not only without reluctance or dismay, but without a groan. But he himself was terrified, amazed, and filled with anguish, when he suffered for us. Shall we say, The disciples, in such cases, have been superior to their Master ; when yet they acknowledged that they derived all their strength and resolution from him? This difference cannot be well accounted for by those who deny that his sufferings were a proper atonement for sin, and who can see no other reason for his death, than that by dying be was to seal the truth of his doctrine, and to propose himself to us as an example of constancy and patience. But the great aggravation of Messiah's sufferings, was the suspension of those divine supports which enable bis people to endure the severest afflictions to which he calls them. Perhaps some persons who acknowledge our Lord's true character, may, upon that ground, think his ago nies less insupportable, since he was not a mere man, but God is the human nature. It was, indeed, the dignity of his person, that gave influence and efficacy to all that he did and suffered for sinVOL. III.
ners. It is likewise true, that the weight laid upon him was more than any mere creature could sustain. I would speak with reverence and reserve upon a point which is too high for our weak minds fully to comprehend. But in whatever way the nature of map, which he assumed, was upheld by his eternal power and Godhead, we may venture to affirm, that he derived no sensible comfort from it. For we have his own testimony, that in this sense · God had forsaken him.' The divine nature could neither bleed nor suffer. He was truly and properly a man; and as a man he suffered, and he suffered alone. Many of his servants have rejoiced while they were tormented, because God overbalanced all they felt, with the light of his countenance ; but the Saviour himself, deprived of this light, experienced, to the uttermost, all that sin deserved, that was not inconsistent with the perfection of his character. My text expresses, so far as human words and ideas can reach, bis exquisite distress, when he bore our sins in his own body, upon the tree : Reproach broke his heart, and when he looked for pity and comfort, he found none.'
1. • Reproach hath broken my heart.' We must not confine our thoughts here to the reproach of his enemies. The passage in the Messiah expresses it agreeably to the version of the Psalms used in our Liturgy, “Thy rebuke.' Though he knew no sin, he was made sin for us. He was accounted and treated as a sinner. Now a sinner is deservedly the greatest object of contempt in the universe, and indeed the only object of deserved contempt. Thus be incurred the reproach of the law and justice of God. The Holy Father, viewing the Son of his love in this light, as charged with the sins of his people, forsook him. God infinitely hates sin, and will have no fellowship with it; and of this he gave the most awful proof, by forsaking his beloved Son, when he took upon him to answer for the sins of men. Then the sword of the Almighty awoke* against him, and he spared him not.
This rebuke broke his heart. Let broken-hearted sinners look by faith upon a broken-hearted Saviour. The phrase denotes wo and dejection inconceivable, with a failure of all resource. Any thing may be borne while the spirit, the heart, remains firm ; but if the heart itself be broken, who can endure? 'A wounded spirit who can bear ???
It is not, therefore, surprising that he says, 'I am full of heavi. ness. In the evangelists we read, that he began to be sore amazed, and very heavy,'I and he said to his disciples, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. The most emphatical
* Zech. xiii. 7. Prov. xviii. 14. Matth. xxvi. 37, 38. Mark, xiv. 33.
words are used to describe his sensation of the bitter conflict of his soul in the garden of Gethsemane, when as yet the hand of man had not touched bim. He began to be amazed'* or astonished. It properly signifies, to be struck with terror and surprise by some supernatural power, such as Belshazzar felt when he saw the hand-writing against him upon the wall;t and to be very heavy'I sated with grief; full, so as to be incapable of more. Some critics explain the word, as importing such an oppression of mind as quite unfits a person for converse or society, [compare Job, xxx. 29.] He said, “I am exceeding sorrowfulif-surrounded, encompassed with sorrows. It is added, he was in an agody'l-a consternation of mind, such as arises from the prospect of some impending, unavoidable evil; like the suspense of mariners upon the point of shipwreck, who tremble equally at the view of the raging waves behind them, and the rocky shore before their eyes, on which they expect in a few moments to be dashed.
a The evils he was to bear, and to expiate, were now collecting to a point, and formed a dark tremendous storm just ready to break upon his devoted head; and the prospect filled his soul with unuterable horror ; so that his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling down to the ground. Many have sweat under extremity of pain or terror; but his agonies, and the effect of them, were peculiar to himself; his sweat was blood.
This is not a subject for declamation. It rather becomes us to adore, in bumble silence, the manifestation of the goodness and severity of God,'t in the Redeemer's sufferings, than to indulge conjecture, and the flights of imagination. What is expressly revealed we may assert, contemplate, and admire. His soul was made an offering for sin.'** We know but little of the extreme malignity of sin, because we have but faint views of the majesty, holiness, and goodness of God, against whom it is committed. Yet a single sin, if clothed with all its aggravations, and the guilt of it brought home with power to the heart, is sufficient to make the singer a terror to himself. Adam sinned but once, when he lost all comfort and confidence in God, and sought to hide himself. We have but slight thoughts of the extent of sin. Not only positive disobedience, but want of conformity to the law of God, is sinful. Every rising thought which does not comport with that reverence, dependence, and love, which is due to God, from creatures constituted, furnished, and indebted, as we are, is sinful. The sins of one person, in thought, word, and deed, sins of omission and commission are innumerable. What then is contained in the collective idea, in what the Scripture calls the sin of the world ? What then must be the atonement, the consideration, on the account of which, the great God is no less righteous than merciful, in forgiving the sins which his inviolable truth and the honour of his government engage him to punish. And they are punished, though forgiven. They were charged upon Jesus, they exposed him to a rebuke which broke his heart. They filled him with heaviness. When, therefore, we are assured that the justice of God is satisfied, with respect to every sinner of the race of mankind, who, in obedience to the divine command, makes the sufferings of the Saviour his plea for pardon, and trusts in bim for salvation ; and that upon this one ground they are freed from all condemnation, and accepted as children ; when we are told that the glory of the divine perfections is displayed in the highest, by this method of saving millions, who deserved to perish ; we safely infer the greatness of the cause from the greatness of the effect. The sufferings of Christ, which free a multitude of sinners from the guilt of innumerable sins, must have been inconceivably great indeed !
+ Dan. v. 6. 1 αδημονειν. 5 αγωνία. 11 SPIAUTO5. Luke, xxii. 44. Rom. xi. 22. ** Isa. liii. 10.
II. Under this accumulated distress, though his will was perfectly submissive to the will of God, and his determination fixed to endure all that the case required; yet as he was truly a man, he felt like a man. His fortitude was very different from a stoical hardness of spirit. All the affections of pure humanity, whatever does not imply sin, (such as impatience under suffering, and an undue, premature desire of deliverance, operated in him as they might do in one of us. It was no impeachment of his innocence, or of his willingness, that he wished, if it were possible, for some relief or alleviation of his misery. “He looked,' as we do when we are in heaviness, for some to have pity on him, and to comfort him,' but there was none. Though the pity of our friends is often ineflectual, and can afford us no real assistance; yet it gives a little relief to have those about us to whom we can open our minds ; who will sympathize with us, and compassionately attend to our complaints, if they can do no more. And to be neglected and forsaken in extremity, especially by those who have professed great friendship, or are under great obligations to us, will be felt as an aggravation of the most distressing case that can be imagined. But thus it was with MESSIAH. He had to complain, not only of the cruelty of his enemies, but of the insensibility and inconstancy of those who had professed the most cordial attachment to him. The impression this made upon him, as a man, was such, that it is distinctly specified in the prophetical enumeration of the ingredients which composed the bitter cup of his sufferings.