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Syria. This circumstance is of no small moment to the whole cause of Christianity, as well as to the present subject. For, 1st, Hence it appears, that the appointed time of the Messiah's advent had now expired; the sceptre having entirely departed from Judah, and the Prefect of Syria exercising authority over the Governor of Judea ; which, as appears from sacred predictions,m could not have happened previously to the coming of the Messiah. “ The head of Syria is Da
mascus ;" not the head of Judea, which will not depend upon Damascus or Syria, until a Virgin shall have conceived and brought forth a Son." The Jews themselves bore witness to their own degradation, when they said to Pilate, “ It is not lawful for us to put any man “ to death ;"and when they exclaimed, “ We have “ no king but Cæsar.”p Whether they had been deprived of the power of life and death by the Romans, as is generally thought, or had lost it through the negligence of the Sanhedrim itself, as Lightfoot contends at great length,* it is not material to determine. 2dly, It was proper that the Redeemer of all, both Jews and Gentiles, whilst he suffered for all, should also suffer from all. “For of a truth, against thy ho
ly child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod “ and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people “ of Israel, were gathered together.”! 3dly, It behoved him to suffer under a Gentile, that, according to the Roman custom, he might be nailed to the cross, which was a form of punishment unusual amongst the Jews. John himself makes the following observation : “ The
* On John xviii. 31. and Mat. xxvi. 3. m Gen. xlix. 10. Is. vii. 8. n Is. vii. 8. comp. ver. 14.
o John xviii. 31. P John xix. 15.
4 Acts iv. 27.
" Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us “ to put any man to death, that the saying of Jesus “ might be fulfilled, which he spake, signifying what “ death he should die.” For had he been put to death according to the laws of the Jews, it is more probable that he would have been stoned than crucified.
XXVII. Let us now attend to the IMPROVEMENT of this article. Whatever is necessary to our instruction, our humiliation, our consolation, and, in a word, our salvation,-is to be seen in a SUFFERING CHRIST, provided we contemplate him in the exercise of faith. The sum of saving wisdom, as appears from our catechetical summaries, is comprised in these three heads,the knowledge of our MISERY, of our DELIVERANCE, and of the GRATITUDE we owe ;—which Paul also joins together in Romans vii. 24, 25. But we can attain from no other source a more clear or a more affecting knowledge of any of these points, than from the sufferings of Christ.
XXVIII. Our misery appears both from the evil nature of sin, and from its dreadful demerit. Take a view of each, 0 sinner, in the sufferings of Christ. Consider the hatred, the envy, the reproaches, the deliberate artifice and insidious designs, the cruelty, and, in fine, the diabolical fury, prompting them even to dreadful imprecations upon themselves and their posterity, with which both Jews and Gentiles pertinaciously pursued the most innocent and venerable person, and virtue herself invested with a human form ; which had for a considerable period confirmed her celestial origin, by her admirable doctrine and her stupendous works and wonders, performed in the presence and proclaimed by the tongues of the people themselves, and which had laid the whole Jewish nation under singular obligations to herself by curing so great a multitude of the lame, the blind, the lunatic, and persons possessed with demons, and by raising up such a number of the dead ;
r John xviii. 31, 32.
consider these things, I say, and it will be strange if, in this glass, you do not clearly perceive the extreme depravity of a world altogether lying in wickedness. The same perverseness is natural to our own minds. Left to ourselves, we should have acted a similar part. Were Christ to make another visit to our world, it is likely that he would not meet with a more favourable reception. As bulls are said to be enraged at the sight of purple, so the natural man is exasperated at the sight of the most beautiful and splendid virtue. The more brightly it reflects the rays of the divine image, the more doth our corruption exert its rage against it, perceiving in such virtue its own condemnation, and regarding all the favours which it confers as nothing but an upbraiding of its own ingratitude.
Learn also how abominable the stain of sin is, and how deeply it is fixed in our souls, since it could be washed away, only by the dreadful sufferings, and the blood, of the Son of God.
xxix. But besides, contemplate here, O sinner, the punishment due to thy crimes, namely, the wrath of God; who makes use of all creatures, and employs at once friends and enemies, in the execution of his venge
The severity of God may indeed be learned, in some degree, from the dreadful threatenings, with which he has fenced the law. It may be known, also, by the judgments which he has executed on some abandoned individuals, or on whole cities and nations, or even upon a whole world of ungodly men. Doubtless,
too, it would appear to us still more terrible, were we permitted to approach the iron gates of hell; and to see the torments, and hear the howlings, of damned spirits. But never, at any time, or in any place, did the severity of God discover itself by a more striking and awful proof, than when he avenged the sins of mankind on his well-beloved and only-begotten Son. Here, here truly, we behold both what our crimes have deserved, and how fearfully God will visit them upon all those, for whom Christ has not made satisfaction. For “ if these things be done in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry ?” Come near, O daring sinner, do you not see Jesus, after having suffered inconceivable agonies of soul, betrayed by one of his attendants, apprehended and loaded with chains by his enemies, deserted by his friends, accused of numerous crimes, condemned, delivered up to death by the pe
remptory sentence of a judge,—his body torn with į lashes, his mind with reproaches and scoffs,—and in all
these sufferings bearing the curse of God, than which nothing is more bitter and intolerable! Imagine yourself in this situation, and know that the time shall one day arrive, when your awakened conscience will lash you with merciless severity, and your associates in crime will not only abandon but also betray you; and yourself, bound with the cords of your iniquities, will be summoned, perhaps from the bed of sickness, to the tribunal of God, to be sharply accused by men whom you have injured, by the Devil, by your own conscience, by Moses the lawgiver,—to be justly condemned by God, -to be bound with chains of darkness,—to be exposed
s Luke xxiii. 31.
to the derision of men and devils, and thus to be reserved in a dark and doleful prison unto the judgment of the great day, till the Judge of the universe, sitting not in Gabbatha or the Pavement, but in the clouds of heaven, by a decisive sentence consign you to everlasting torments. Behold in the suffering Redeemer, a representation, and not merely a representation, but also the seal and confirmation of all these awful realities. Behold, and tremble.
xxx. But come thou, too, O believing soul, oppressed with the burden of thy sins, and behold, in a suffering Christ, thy deliverance infallibly secured. lst, Admire that love, a greater than which cannot even be conceived. “ Greater love," as our Lord once observed, “ hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life “ for his friends.” As this holds true amongst men, so our Lord himself has displayed a still greater love than that which he extolled as the greatest. For he “ commendeth his love towards us, in that while we
were yet sinners,” not friends, but altogether
mies,” “ he died for us.” 2dly, Consider that Christ, by undergoing these sufferings, has cancelled thy debts; has not merely mitigated, but even taken away, the wrath of God against thee, nay, turned it into love; has stopped the mouth of all thine accusers; has secured thee from suffering those evils which himself hath suffered ;-or if any of them befall thee, in order that thou mayest be conformed to his image, has entirely removed from them the curse of God, so that they are not the punishments of an angry Judge, but fatherly chastisements, exercises of faith and patience, trials of thy
u John xv. 13.
+ Jer. xv. 17. Ps, lii. 7. v Rom. v. 8, 10.