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To the penitent thief, he said, "This day shalt thou be with me in paradise." He committed the care of his mother to John, his beloved disciple. All this was done while he suffered the most shocking pains. But the agony of his mind, it should seem, far exceeded them :—he was suffering the wrath of God due to sin. The horrible darkness that for three hours covered the land, was an emblem of the more dreadful darkness and terror of soul which he endured, and which extorted that mysterious cry—" My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?"
But the painful scene draws to a close. All the prophecies were fulfilled: all that the Father gave him to do was accomplished: his sufferings, therefore, must terminate. Exulting, then, in the completion of his vast and glorious work, he cried, It is finished; and then, that with his dying breath he might teach us how to die, he said, "Father into thy hand I commit my spirit; and having said thus, "bowing his head, he gave up the ghost," or dismissed his spirit.
Thus have we taken a brief view of the cross of Christ. We have seen the blessed Redeemer taken and bound as a thief; hurried from place to place through the night; unjustly condemned, both in the ecclesiastical and civil court; treated with all the indignity and insult that hellish malice could devise; buffeted, scourged, and spit upon; and at length put to death on the cross. In all this the carnal eye beholds nothing but weakness, pain, and ignominy; but the enlightened eye of Faith sees a beauty, a grandeur, a glory, far surpassing the brightest objects^of sense. So far from blushing at the meanness or shame of the cross, the true believer will cordially unite with St. Paul, and say,—" God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Let us then proceed to consider,
II. The reasons we have for glorying in the cross.
Many reasons may be offered; but we have room to
mention only three. By the cross of Christ, the perfections of God are displayed; the believing sinner is fully justified; and provision is made for his sanctification.
We glory in the cross of Christ, because God is glorified in it. The goodness, mercy, and love of God appear in all his gifts to men; but most of all in this unspeakable gift. Of no other gift is it said "God so loved the world as to bestow it." "Herein is love;" a love so great, that it includes and insures every other good; "for he that spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all, will assuredly deny us nothing good." And, O," the manifold wisdom" that beams from the cross! How deep the contrivance, to make " mercy and truth meet together,—righteousness and peace embrace each other!" Never did the spotless holiness and the inflexible justice of God appear with such awful splendour as at Calvary. Not all the sufferings of the damned, can put such honour on the holy law as it received from the sufferings of Jesus upon the cross: those sufferings magnified the law, and made it honourable." Thus God " declared his justice in the remission of sins," so that the law, as well as the sinner, may justly glory in the cross of Christ; for both receive eternal honour from it.
Again. That which endears the cross of Christ to believers is, That from thence they derive free and full justification ; they are justified freely, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." How glorious is that declaration,—" The Lord laid upon him the iniquities of us all!"—That heavy burden, enough to crush a world, was borne by him; and, blessed be God, borne away by him; so borne away, that, if sought for, it should not be found. We behold, then, in a crucified Saviour, "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world." The real Christian will glory in nothing else : he places no dependence on his prayers, his repentance, his duties, his charity, his
s sufferings; all these are for ever discarded, in respect of justification by them. To trust uponl these, in whole or in part, would be the greatest dishonour to Christ, and render his cross a needless useless thing. This he abhors from his heart, as the vilest blasphemy and sacrilege; and therefore sincerely says, with the apostle, "God forbid that 1 should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ."
But there is another reason for glorying in the cross; namely, it is the cause and the instrument of our sanctification :—hereby the world is crucified unto us, and we are crucified to the world. Nothing but a spiritual sight of the glory of the cross, and a good hope of personal interest in its blessings, will ever effectually wean our hearts from the world. To be dead to the world, is of the utmost importance in the matter of our sanctification; for the love of the world is the principal source of our sins. We shall never cease to make the world our portion, till we get something better in its stead. It is by the doctrine of Christ, that we learn its vanity;—it is by the example of Christ, we learn to despise it. His whole humiliation, from the manger to the cross, poured contempt on human greatness, and has sanctified to his followers a life of labour, poverty, and reproach. A true follower of Christ will be ashamed to glory in those worldly objects which our Saviour trampled beneath his feet, while it will sweetly reconcile him to a humble lot that his Master endured the same; and thus will we learn "to denv himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus."
When the people who came together to see the doleful spectacle of the crucifixion, beheld the things that were done, they smote their breasts and returned.—And surely, when we return from the view of the cross, and consider what we have seen and heard, we have reason to smite our breasts, and be deeply affected with our sins and his sufferings. Nature itself seemed to sympathize with our suffering Lord. The sun was darkened! the earth quaked! the rocks were torn asunder! the veil of the temple was rent! the graves were opened! and the heathen guards were constrained to say, "Truly, this was the Son of God!" And now, how are our hearts affected? Is all this "nothing to us?" Can we behold this awful scene with cold indifference? If we can, it may be feared that our hearts are harder than the rocks, and that we have no part or lot in the matter. Surely this awful spectacle will command our attention, and excite our serious thoughts. Comei you who have loved and lived in sin, who have rolled it as a sweet morsel under your tongues, who have laughed at, and often said, what harm is there in it? —Come and see the Saviour in his agony, sweating blood! see him buffeted and despised; see him bleeding, groaning, and dying on the cross! And what was all this for? It was for sin!—it was to make atonement for sin. He died,—" the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God!" It was to save such sinners as you from eternal sufferings.—Such was his love! O sinner, let this love constrain thee to forsake thy sins, and come to him that thou mayesthave life. "When I am lifted up" said Jesus, before his crucifixion, " I will draw all men unto me." 0 what blessed attraction is there in the cross of Christ! Here is salvation: a salvation complete and free: just such as a guilty helpless sinner needs. When Christ crucified was first preached by Peter, three thousand souls, and among them perhaps many of his murderers, were drawn to him in one day. To-day, by this sermon, he is lifted up; "crucified before your eyes.'' O for the power of the Holy Spirit, to draw your hearts to him! Come, and he will receive you; Come, and he will pardon you! Come, and he will give you rest! His arms, once extended on the cross, are still open to receive the chief of sinners. His blood still cleanseth from all sin.
"Each purple drop proclaims there's room,
And now, O that every professed disciple of Christ would consider the latter part of the text, and ask himself this question,—Is the world crucified to me, and / to the world? Does the cross of my Saviour throw a salutary shade over the gaudy glories of the world? Is it crucified 1 Is it a dead, or at least a dying thing, in my esteem? and am I, because of my attachment to the truth, cause and people of Christ, become like a dead man in the world's esteem?—Such, brethren, in some happy degree, is the true influence of the cross of Christ.—Such is the holy, practical tendency of gospel truth! and whoever finds this in himself has abundant cause to glory in the cross of Christ.
May the divine grace teach us more and more to esteem the cross of Christ, and to glory in nothing but our knowledge of it, interest in it, expectations from it, and its practical influence on our hearts. Then may we hope, ere long, to see "the Lamb that was slain seated in the midst of the throne;" and with our feeble voices to make some little addition to the grand chorus of the redeemed, singing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain! and who hath redeemed us to God by his blood!"