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They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. It appears from the gospel history, that there were four soldiers more immediately concerned in the act of Christ's crucifixion.—John xix. 23, 24. Though it was customary to strip the victim naked before placing him upon
the cross, yet it was not till after he had expired, that the executioners of the dreadful sentence were entitled to receive their wonted perquisite. When, therefore, Jesus was crucified, the soldiers parted equally amongst themselves his upper garments; and, because they perceived the superior value of his seamless robe, they determined to cast lots, in order to decide who should be its future possessor. In all this they were guided by the influence of their own feelings, and were altogether unconscious of any agency acting upon them, save the dictates of their own rational minds : but who does not perceive that they were chosen instruments of God for the fulfilment of Scripture; and, though they were ignorant of it, they were verifying that sure and unerring word of prophecy, the minutest parts of which shall in no way pass till all be fulfilled.
This probably was the first time that this thief had the knowledge of Christ. He improved his time at last, in that extraordinary manner, as perhaps no man ever did before, or will hereafter. He then believed Christ to be the Saviour of the world, when one of his disciples had betrayed, another had denied him, and all of them had forsaken him ; to be the Son of God, the Lord of life, when he was hanging on the cross, suffering the pangs of death, and seemingly deserted by his Father : he proclaims him the Lord of Paradise, when all the Jews condemned him, and the Gentiles crucified him as an impostor and a malefactor. He feared God, acknowledged the justice of his punishment, and did with patience submit to it: he condemned himself, and justified the holy Jesus, declaring that “ he had done nothing amiss.” He was solicitous, not for the
preservation of his body, but the salvation of his soul; not only for his own, but the salvation of his brother-thief, whom he so charitably reprehends, so earnestly requests not to proceed in his blasphemous language, so lovingly inviteth to the fear of God. So that the glory which he did to Christ, by his faith and piety on the cross, seems such as the whole series of a pious life in other men can hardly parallel.
How great and glorious does the Lord Jesus Christ appear in the midst of all those dishonours which his enemies were now heaping upon him ! While these rapacious soldiers were dividing the spoils, parting his raiment among them, and casting lots for his vesture, God was working in all, to crown him with a glory which none could take from him.
His enemies upbraided him as an abandoned miscreant, deserted both by God and man.
But as soon as the penitent thief addressed him with that humble supplication, the language of repentance, faith, and hope, “ Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom,” he immediately hears and answers him; and in how gracious and remarkable a phrase ! “ This day shalt thou be with me in paradise !” What a triumph was here, not only of mercy to the dying penitent, but of the strongest faith in God, that, when to an eye of sense he seemed to be the most deserted and forgotten by him, and was on every side beset with the scorn of them that were at ease, and with the contempt of the proud, he should speak from the cross as from a throne, and undertake from thence, not only to dispense pardons, but to dispose of seats in Paradise !
Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, Christ, Jehovah's shepherd : for these are the words of Jehovah, the Father, concerning his Son, whom he calls My Shepherd. By the sword awakened against him, is meant, the glittering sword of justice, which is called upon to awake, it seeming as though it was asleep ; it having been a long time since the first sin of Adam was committed, for which satisfaction to Divine justice must be made. Against the Man that is my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts. The human nature of Christ is expressed by being the fellow of the LORD of hosts ; not only being near to him in place and affection, but his equal, being truly a Divine person. Smite the Shepherd: the order is given to the sword of justice by the LORD of hosts, to smite the Messiah, the Shepherd, even unto death!
Christ suffered in such a manner as a being perfectly holy could suffer. Though, animated by the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross and despised the shame, yet there appeared to have been seasons in the hour of his deepest extremity, in which he endured the entire absence of Divine joy and every kind of comfort or sensible support. What, but a total eclipse of the sun of consolation, could have wrung from him that exceedingly bitter and piercing cry, “ My God! my God! why hast thou forsaken me?” The fire of heaven consumed the sacrifice. The tremendous effects of God's manifested displeasure against sin he endured, though in him was no sin : and these he endured in a manner of which even those unhappy spirits who shall drink the fierceness of the wrath of Almighty God, will never be able to form an adequate idea ! DR. J. P. Smith.
Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. He dismissed his spirit. He himself willingly gave up that life which it was impossible for man to take away. It is not said that he hung on the cross till he died through pain and agony; nor is it said that his bones were broken, the sooner to put him out of pain, and to hasten his death ; but that himself dismissed the soul, that he might thus become, not a forced sacrifice, but a free-will offering for sin.
Every man, since the fall, has not only been liable to death, but has deserved it; as all have forfeited their lives because of sin. Jesus Christ, as born immaculate, and having never sinned, had not forfeited his life, and therefore may be considered as naturally and properly immortal. No man, says he, taketh it, my life, from me, but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; therefore doth
my Father love me, because I lay down my life that I might take it again.—John x. 17, 18. We translate Luke xxiii. 46. O Father, into thy hands I commit my Spirit: that is, I place my soul in thy hand : proving that the act was his own; that no man could take his life away from him ; that he did not die by the perfidy of his disciple, or the malice of the Jews, but by his own free act. Thus He LAID Down his life for the sheep. Of Ananias and Sapphira, Act. v. 5, 10, and of Herod, xii. 23, our translation says, They gave up the ghost ; but the word in both places simply means to breathe out, to expire, or die : but in no case, either by the Septuagint in the Old, or any of the sacred writers in the New Testament is, he dismissed his spirit
, or delivered up his spirit, spoken of any person but Christ. Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob, &c. breathed their last; Ananias, Sapphira, and Herod expired; but none, Jesus excepted, gave up the ghost, dismissed, or delivered up his own spirit, and was, consequently, free among the dead.
DR. A. CLARKE.
I asked the heavens ;- “ What foe to God had done
This unexampled deed ?”—The heavens exclaim,
From such a spectacle of guilt and shame.”
166 'Twas man ;
Disclosed the abyss,—and from the centre ran."
and such strange pangs my bosom rent,
-To man, gay, smiling, thoughtless man I went,
6 Father, the hour is come !” This was the hour in which Christ atoned for the sins of mankind, and accomplished our eternal redemption. It was the hour when that great sacrifice was offered up, the efficacy of which reaches back to the first transgression of man, and extends forward to the end of time; the hour when, from the cross, as from an high altar, the blood was flowing, which washed away the guilt of the nations.
In this hour, the long series of prophecies, visions, types, and figures were accomplished. You may behold the Law and the Prophets standing, if we may speak so, at the foot of the cross, and doing homage. You behold Moses and Aaron bearing the ark of the covenant; David and Elijah presenting the oracle of testimony. You behold all the priests and sacrifices, all the rites and ordinances, all the types and symbols assembled together to receive their consummation. Without the death of Christ, the worship and ceremonies of the Law would have remained a pompous, but unmeaning institution. In the hour when he was crucified, every rite assumed its significancy; every prediction met its event; every symbol displayed its correspondence. Every remarkable event, every distinguished personage, under the Law, is interpreted in the New Testament, as bearing reference to this hour. If Isaac was laid upon the altar as an innocent victim; if David was driven from his throne by the wicked, and restored by the hand of God; if the brazen serpent was lifted up to heal the people; if the rock was smitten by Moses, to furnish drink in the wilderness; all were types of Christ, and alluded to his death.
“ It is finished.” When Christ uttered these words, the Law ceased, and the Gospel commenced. This was the ever-memorable point of time which separated the old and the new world from each other. On one side of the point of separation, you behold the Law, with its priests, its sacrifices, and its rites, retiring from sight. On the other side, you behold the Gospel, with its simple and venerable institutions, coming forward into view. Significantly was the veil of the temple rent in this hour; for the glory then departed from between the cherubim. The legal high-priest delivered up his Urim and Thummim, his breast-plate, his robes, and his incense: and Christ stood forth as the great High-Priest of all succeeding generations. By that one sacrifice, which he now offered, he abolished sacrifices for ever. Altars on which the fire had blazed for ages, were now to smoke no more. Victims were no more to bleed. 66 Not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with his own blood, he now entered into the holy place, there to appear in the presence of God for us."
IT IS FINISHED. The death of Christ, as his atonement presented to God, exhibited the excellence of the Divine law: it manifested the holiness and the justice of God. On many occasions has Jehovah displayed his hatred against sin. The destruction of the old world, the fire and brimstone that laid waste the cities of the plain, the calamities and captivities of the Jews, are striking indications of the essential purity of the Divine character. But we must ascend to Calvary to witness the most vivid, as well as the most unequivocal display of this perfection. We must see the man who was God's fellow—a being who, being personally considered, was spotless; who was not himself a sinner, but merely stood in the place of the transgressor — smitten, stricken of God, and afflicted, we must see the rocks rending, and the graves opening, and the dead arising, in token of the unparalleled nature of the transaction, to form anything like an adequate idea of the Divine abhorrence of sin. In the cross of Christ we see the Father hiding his face from his Son,- his own Son, his only begotten Son, when bearing, by imputation only, the guilt of men, though himself uncontaminated by depravity! How unutterably opposed must then be the nature of God to all species and degrees of moral defilement !
God “ laid on his own Son the iniquities of us all.”
It was necessary Christ should suffer for the redemption of lapsed man, and their reconciliation unto God; which was not otherwise to be performed than by a plenary satisfaction to his will. He, therefore, was by all his sufferings made an expiation, atonement, and propitiation for all our sins. For salvation is impossible unto sinners without remission of sin; and remission, in the decree of God, impossible without effusion of blood. Our redemption, therefore, could not be wrought but by the blood of the Redeemer, but by a Lamb slain, but by a suffering Saviour.
Notwithstanding, therefore, that God loved men whom he created; yet he was offended with them when they sinned, and gave his Son to suffer for them. This reconciliation is clearly delivered in the Scriptures as wrought by Christ; for “ all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ;" (2. Cor. v. 18;) and that by virtue of his death ; for “ when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." - Rom. v. 10. But it is most evident that the life of Christ was laid down as a price; neither is it more certain that he died, than that he bought us : “ Ye are bought with a price," saith the apostle, (1. Cor. vi. 20. vii. 23;) and it is the “ Lord who bought us,” (2. Pet. ii. 1;) and the price which he paid was his blood; for “ we are not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ."-1. Pet. i. 18, 19. Now as it was the blood of Christ, so it was a price given by way of compensation : and as that blood was precious, so it was a full and perfect satisfaction. God is of infinite majesty, against whom we have sinned; and Christ is of the same Divinity, who gave
his life a ransom for sinners : for God “ hath purchased his church with his own blood.”—Acts. xx. 28.
Atonement cannot be made but by a substitute, unless the same end be answered by his interposition, as if the guilty had personally suffered. Now in the redemption of man, this end could never have been gained by the sufferings of a mere creature, whose obedience could have been no more than duty. But whilst the human nature of Jesus gave him a brother's right and interest in mankind, his Divine nature made his sacrifice available, and invested the law under which he placed himself, with a glory infinitely beyond what it could have acquired by the penal ruin of the race.
The Apostles and Prophets expatiate on his pre-eminent dignity, as Emanuel, and they never place the value of his sacrifice in mere suffering, nor do they infer it from the sovereign appointment of Heaven. Their object evidently is, to exhibit the dignity and glory of their Lord, and the hallowed principles of his character; and the value of his sacrifice they thus trace to his glory, as the Son of God. All his doings and his sufferings when he appeared, as our surety, were his personal acts. We are accordingly informed, that " he gave himself an offering and a sacrifice unto God," and that “ by himself he purged our sins." And to the beloved disciple, his reviving and consolatory language was: “ Fear not; I am the first and the last; the living one and was dead; and behold I am alive for evermore, Amen ; and have the keys of hell and death.” the Lamb which was slain is declared to be worthy of blessing, and honour,