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April 7.-"One of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith ce me thereout blood and water."-John xix. 34.
Let us view this fact as an instance of the indignity and insult to which the Saviour submitted. When we consider not only the pre-existence, but the original greatness of the Lord Jesus; and read all the magnificent things the sacred writers have said of him; how surprising do his grace and condescension appear! He took not on him the nature of angels—then they could not have pierced him; but because the children were partakers of flesh and blood, he likewise himself took part of the same. Yet he did not assume our nature in any of its higher forms or conditions. Some are rich; but he had not where to lay his head. Some are admired and caressed; he was despised and rejected of men. Some are nobles and princes; he made himself of no reputation, but took upon him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. The death was not only a scene of pain but of shame: and to render it the more ignominious, he was numbered with the transgressors, and crucified between two thieves. He was also insulted when dying-and mangled when dead. O my soul, was ali this humiliation for me? And shall I deem any thing too dear to resign, or too trying to endure for hin? How was that precious body prepared for him by the Holy Ghost treated ! How was his whole frame ago nized, when his sweat was, as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground! How was his flesh ravaged by the scourge when the ploughers ploughed upon his back, and made long their furrows! How were his temples lacerated with the crown of thorns! How was his face marred when they plucked off the hair! How were his hands and feet pierced with the nails-while the soldier's spear pierced his side! And how should I regard all this! The wounds of a general who bleeds in the defence of his country are deemed not disgraceful, but scars of honour; and viewed with emotions of tenderness, admiration, and praise. Jesus displayed much more than such memorials. He retained them after his resurrection. When he appeared to the Apostles, “ he showed them his hands and his feet." "Thomas was not then present, and continued incredulous, notwithstanding the testimony of ten witnesses— To him he also appeared ; and said, “Reach hither thy finger and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand and thrust it into my side, and be not faithless but believing." He wears them now. John saw him as a lamb that had been slain. He will wear them for ever, and the view of them will serve to excite the renewed praises of his people
Let us view it as a confirmation of the reality and certainty of his death. It could not be said he was only in a swoon; or half dead; or that his resurrection was nothing more than a recovery of suspended animation. His enemies were concerned to know that he had expired; and they fully ascertained it. The very act of wantonness in the ruffian soldier demonstrated it. He could not have survived the wound, had it been given him in perfect health. It penetrated the pericardium, and transfixed his vitals. But what is this to us! Every thing. Without his death the whole gospel is a cipher, and all our hopes are a delusion. He died for us. And he died for us not only or principally to confirm his doctrine, or to be
our example; but to bear our sins in his own body on the tree; and by the one offering up of himself to perfect for ever them that are sanctified. He made peace by the blood of his cross. He died too, as a testator: he made a new will, the legacies of which were invaluable ; but it could never have become valid without his death : "For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead : otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth." What therefore establishes my faith in his death is beyond expression important. If it be false, I am left to all the effects of the fall. If it be true, my triumph is complete-It is all my salvation and all my desire.
Let us view it also as a symbol of the manner of our recovery by him. Hear what the reporter of the fact has said concerning it in his epistle: “This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood.” It would be far short of the Apostle's meaning to consider the allusion as sacramental, looking only at Baptism and the Lord's Supper. The reference regards the double efficiency of the Lord's death-to satisfy and—to sanctify. Blood to redeem, and water to cleanse. The one to remove the curse of sin, the other the love of it. Neither of these blessings is to be found unless in the cross. But they are both to be derived from a dying Jesus: and therefore iniquity need not be our ruin if we apply to him. He is a Prince and a Saviour. He gives repentance and remission of sins.
Let us be convinced of our need of both ; and combine both in our creed and our experience. It is a defective view of the death of Christ, to look to it for comfort only: he died not only to atone, but to purify: "he loved the church, and gave himself for it, that he might cleanse it by the washing of water by the word.” The water and the blood were not severed in their effusion; neither can they be divided in their application. Happy they who value both; and can say, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength.”
Lastly, we may view it as a display of Providence in the fulfilment of the Scripture. Hence John immediately adds, “And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe.” Believe what? That Jesus was the Messiah, by the correspondence between him and the prophecies going before. Observe those he mentions: First, says he, “For these things were done, that the Scripture should be fulfilled, a bone of him shall not be broken.” Referring to the language of David, "He keepeth all his bones: not one of them is broken." This was not only foretold of him in words; but also prefigured in type. He was our Passover. Now of the Paschal Lamb it was said, “ Neither shall ye break a bone thereof”_ This could not have been verified had the soldier fractured his legs. Nor would another have been accomplished had he not pierced his side. “Again another Scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced :” referring to the language of Zechariah, “ They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” Thus the eye of prophecy, ages before the accomplishment, saw this soldier piercing him personally and literally; and the Jews by means of him: and therefore he adds, “and they shall mourn for him.” And some of them after they had crucified bim, were brought to repentance, and sorrowed after a godly sort. And others of them, yea all Israel will do this, when the veil is taken from their heart. It is also now realized in every penitent who mourns for his sins as the cause, whoever were the instruments, of the sufferings and death of the Saviour.
But how true is it that “the Scripture cannot be broken." And how wonderfully does God accomplish it-by friends-by foes-by the righteous—by the wicked-by what is casual-by what is criminal-Nothing was further from the thoughts of this unfeeling soldier than the end answered by his brutality—but he was God's instrument, and acted an important and indispensable part in proving his omniscience and veracity.
APRIL 8.—“They shall look on him whom they pierced.”—John xix. 37.
It is added in the prophecy from which these words are taken“And they shall mourn for him.” And who is not ready to say, “Nothing could have been more becoming in those who were chargeable with the deed, when they reflected that they had crucified an innocent being, a being who only went about doing good, a being made higher than the heavens-surely they ought to have mourned for him as one mourneth for his only son, and to be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.'” But suppose we should have been consenting unto his death ? Suppose we should have been the cause of it? Suppose his persecutors and murderers were only the instruments we employed ? Then our resentment will operate nearer home, and our grief will rend our own souls. And this is the case with a real penitent. By faith he perceives and realizes his own blood-guiltiness in this awful scene; and says,
“And now the scales have left mine eyes,
Now I begin to see ;
What murderous things they be!
Upon his guiltless head;
And let my sorrows bleed"
And there is no true repentance but what flows from the sight of the cross.
Yet they are not only to look upon him with godly sorrow, but also with enlivening hope. For he was not only pierced by them but for them; and by his stripes they are healed. Strong consolation is necessary to meet true conviction of sin. And here it is to be found, and here only. Every other refuge will be found a refuge of lies; every other comforter a miserable comforter. But that which satisfies the righteousness of God may well satisfy the alarmed and afflicted conscience of the sinner. We have redemption through his blood; and this blood cleanseth us from all sin. We oppose to the number and heinousness of our offences the infi
nite value of the sacrifice. We are reconciled unto God by the >> death of his Son. This death we plead, and are accepted in the
Beloved ; and we joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement,
We look on him also, and derive submission from the sight. The Apostle tells us to “consider him” as a sufferer, lest we“ be weary and faint in our minds." His cross is the tree by which the bitter waters in the wilderness are healed. His death has redeemed us from the curse of the law; and nothing penal is left in any of our trials. The most painful of them are only the medicines of our heavenly Physician; the corrections of a loving Father. They are blessings in disguise. Are we tempted to despond or complain at our afflictions? What are our endurings compared with his ?
We look on him also to excite and inflame our zeal. Many motives to obedience are mentioned in the Scriptures, and therefore it i cannot be improper to be influenced by them. Yet the purest and the most powerful motive is drawn from the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And the first Christians owned and felt it. The love of Christ, says Paul, constraineth us to live not to ourselves but him that died for us and rose again. The divinity is equal to the poetry, when the bard of night sings
It-O bleeding Calvary,
The true morality is love of thee." Hear Hervey-In a letter dated Weston-Favell, May 6th, 1748, he writes thus to a person he had befriended. “ With regard to the little assistance which I have contributed, and which Mrs. thinks worthy of her acknowledgments; I beg of her to observe, that it is owing, 'wholly owing, to her adored Redeemer. To him, to him alone, she is obliged-if there be an obligation in the case, for this friendly donation. He has been pleased to command this instance of my gratitude for his unspeakably tender mercies to my soul. He has been pleased to declare that he will look upon such a piece of kindness as done to his own blessed self. This makes me, this makes all believers, glad to embrace every such occasion of showing our thankfulness to our infinitely condescending, gracious Lord. The action which Mrs. -- calls generous, does not arise, as she expresses it, from any innate nobleness of mind. I remember the time when this heart was as hard as the flint, and these hands tenacious even to avarice. But it is Jesus, the quickening Spirit, and the lover of souls, who has made your friend to differ from his natural self. If the flinty heart is melted into compassion, it is melted by a believing consideration of his most precious blood. If the avaricious hands are opened and made ready to distribute, willing to communicate, they are made so by the free grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore not unto me, not unto me, but unto the great and good Redeemer, are all the returns of gratitude due."
APRIL 9.—" Joseph of Arimathea, (being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews,) besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus.” John xix. 38.
-We may consider this man in connexion with prophecy. Though all the prophets gave him witness, no one so specially testified of the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow, as Isaiah. Observe the whole of the fifty-third chapter-But it is the ninth verse that bears upon our subject. Bishop Lowth's rendering
has been universally deemed an improvement—"And his grave was appointed with the wicked, but with the rich man was his tomb." Here it is clearly intimated that there would be an instance of overruling providence. Had the common and natural course of things taken place, he would have been buried with other malefactors in Golgotha, the place of a skull. There were thrown the bodies of the two thièves—but had his been thrown there, the prediction could not have been verified. But the word was gone out of God's mouth, and was firmer than heaven and earth. And if we turn from the prophecy to the history, we shall see how, though his grave was likely to have been with the wicked, yet with the rich man was his tomb. “When the even was come, there came a rich man of Arimathea, named Joseph, who also himself was Jesus' disciple: he went to Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. Then Pilate commanded the body to be delivered. And when Joseph had taken the body, he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed." Let this induce and enable us to confide in the word of God more fully and more firmly. It is a tried word. For near six thousand years it has been continually put to the test; and it has always been found faithful-“The Scripture cannot be broken."
We may consider Joseph of Arimathea in reference to his rank in life. He was “a rich man.” How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! Yet we here see the camel drawn through the eye of the needle: for what is impossible with men is possible with God. He was “an honourable counsellor." Not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighıy, not many noble, are called. Have any of the rulers believed on him ? Suppose they have not? Is all goodness or sense confined to them? The common people gave much better proof even of their wisdom and taste than those who despised them; “ the common people heard himn gladly”-But we answer, yes; some of the rulers have believed on him: witness Joseph of Arimathea ; and Nicodemus. The wife of Herod's steward followed Jesus; we read in the Acts, of honourable women not a few; and in the Epistles, of saints in Cæsar's household. We find Abraham rich and powerful enough to furnish from his own family four hundred armed men. Godliness once rode in the second chariot of Egypt: and led Daniel, the prime minister of one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, to retire three times a day for praise and prayer: and in all ages there have been some instances of piety in the higher walks of life. There have indeed been few enough to show that the cause of Christ has not depended on them, while they have been numerous enough to confute the prejudice that religion is only suited to the ignorant and vulgar.
We may also view this man in connexion with his infirmity and imperfection. The Jews had passed a decree that if any man confessed Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Hence many who believed on him, yet feared to confess him. This was for some time the case with Joseph. He was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews.” “The fear of man bringeth a snare." It is this that leads many to ask, not whether such a thing be right; but what will people think and say of me if I adopt it?