Page images

Prince, not the son of a great king but of the Most High God, had this indignity to undergo. The Jews were required by a divine command, in beating malefactors, not to exceed forty stripes, "lest their brother "should seem vile to them."k But that moderation was unknown to the Romans, who were not restricted to any particular number of blows. They often fastened also sharp-pointed needles and small iron hooks to their scourges, by which the wretched sufferers were lacerated even to the ribs and bones. Yet, as Scripture is silent on the point, we dare not affirm that Christ was beaten with scourges of that description. Some idea, however, of the inhumanity with which he was treated, may be gathered from the circumstance, that Pilate, after he had been scourged, brought him forth from the Prætorium, and presented him to the view of the people, with this memorable exclamation, BEHOLD THE MAN! That is, "Are you not touched with pity for a most miserable man, so dreadfully tortured and torn? Is all this insufficient to satisfy your ferocious cruelty and inveterate hatred ?"

XLVIII. But the most grievous matter to Christ was, that whilst his innocent back and breast were mangled with lashes, he experienced also in his soul the dreadful strokes of the rod of God, due to our sins, which he had taken upon himself. The stings of a tremendous curse were thus added to the stripes; for "he was "wounded for our transgressions; he was bruised for "our iniquities; and the LORD hath laid on him the "iniquity of us all."

XLIX. How bitter to Christ, too, was his EXPULSION

* Deut. xxv. 3.



1 Is. liii. 5, 6.


from the city to the place of punishment, bearing his cross; which was predicted by Moses and Elias on the holy mount,m 15 and prefigured by those animals, whose blood was brought by the Highpriest into the sanctuary as a sin-offering, and whose bodies were burnt without the camp. By this unjust expulsion he was not only declared unworthy to enjoy any longer the intercourse of reputable citizens; but there was here a deeper mystery, still more distressing to his mind. Jerusalem is called "the holy city," the holy city," "the city of the great King," "the city of God," "where Jehovah hath "his fire and his furnace ;" and on that account it was a type of heaven.s Christ, therefore, when he was ignominiously ejected, as offscourings, from the earthly Jerusalem, saw in this figure, that he was to be deprived for a time of delightful fellowship with angels and with his heavenly Father, and as an exile from heaven, to be consigned, in a manner, to hell.


L. But the pain and the shame were mightily increased by the ignominious BEARING OF THE CROSS. His body, feeble, exhausted by so many watchings and so many injuries, and recently wounded by so many stripes, proved unequal to so great a weight; and soon appearing ready to faint by the way, he required the assistance of Simon the Cyrenian. A sad spectacle, indeed, which, not without reason, drew floods of tears from the eyes of the daughters of Jerusalem. For the Lord of glory to carry, like a slave, the disgraceful cross!

m Luke ix. 31.

n Lev. iv. 12. Num. xix. 3. Heb. xiii. 11, 12.

• Mat. iv. 5.

P Ps. xlviii. 2.

9 Ps. lxxxvii. 3.

* Is. xxxi. 9.

$ Heb. xii. 22.

[ocr errors]

to be driven, beaten, and pushed forward, till he was obliged to stumble and stagger, if not to fall, under the pressure of the tree! For him who relieves all that are afflicted, now to stand in need of a helper!

LI. Had there been nothing more to press him down than what was external and visible, the burden would have been comparatively light. But to that was added the guilt of all our crimes, which were laid upon him, that he might bear them together with the tree; for "he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows,"t and "he bare our sins in his own body on the tree.”u David complains of the grievousness of this burden, saying, "Mine iniquities are gone over mine head, as "an heavy burden they are too heavy for me." Yet David never felt the burden in all its weight.

LII. It was also inexpressibly bitter to Christ to be STRIPPED OF HIS GARMENTS, both on account of the pain and the shame. The clothes being driven into the flesh by the stripes and wounds which he had received, could not be pulled off, at least in those parts of his body which had just been pressed by the cross, without the most exquisite sensations of pain. It was a great affront, too, for a venerable person, a distinguished Teacher, a holy Prophet, to be stripped naked in the presence of all, so that on this account he might say; "Shame hath covered my face." When the king of the Ammonites cut off the garments of David's servants in the middle even to their buttocks, and dismissed them in that condition, not only were they greatly ashamed; but King David himself avenged, by a destructive war, so heinous an insult offered to his

Is. liii. 4.

Ps. xxxviii. 4.

บ 1 Pet. ii. 24.

" Ps. lxix. 7.


ambassadors, contrary to the universal law and usage of But now a far greater indignity is done, not to a servant of David, but to his Son, to his Lord, nay, to the Ambassador of the great God, the Angel of the covenant; from whom not merely a part of his garments is cut off, but all of them are entirely pulled away, that he may be suspended naked, a spectacle to men and angels, an indignity which was avenged on the unprincipled men to whose counsels it was owing, by their own destruction and that of their city. And behold the surprising change that now took place in the state of things. A few days before, while Christ made his entry to Jerusalem, riding on an ass," a very

great multitude spread their garments in the way," exclaiming," Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed "is he that cometh in the name of the Lord!"y Now the same people, with emotions of joy see him, when expelled with disgrace from Jerusalem and about to suffer crucifixion, rudely divested of his own garments, which the profane soldiers divided by lot among themselves. O the impious madness of the inconstant populace!

LIII. But here also a mystery was not wanting. Although Christ was eminently adorned with the beauty of the purest holiness, yet because he was made sin for us, and substituted in the room of sinners that were destitute of all the glories of the divine image, it was proper that for a season he should be divested of all beauty, and covered only with ignominy, and that, in testimony of this, he should hang naked on the cross.

LIV. But ignominy, pain, and the curse, in the highest possible degree, appear to be summarily com

* 2 Sam. x.

y Mat. xxi. 8, 9.

prised in the punishment of the CROSS itself. What more contumelious could have befallen the King of kings, whom the choirs of celestial spirits adore with the most profound reverence, than to be numbered among robbers, placed in the middle between them, and disgracefully suspended betwixt heaven and earth, as unworthy of either, and as the chief of malefactors! What more unseemly than for those sacred feet with which he had traversed the whole land of Israel to lay every part of it under strong obligations to himself by deeds of beneficence, and for those hands which were distinguished by so many stupendous miracles, to be fastened with nails to the accursed tree! What more miserable than, during so many hours, without the least intermission of his agonies, to sustain a conflict with death, at once approaching and lingering! What more intolerable than, while afflicted with so many torments, to be deprived of every sensible expression of God's fatherly regard, which in time past had afforded him such sweet consolation! And not simply to suffer dereliction, but also to experience in his soul the dreadful pressure of Divine wrath and vengeance; and to be suspended on the tree in the sight of angels and men, as not merely a sinner but sin, as not merely cursed but` an execration and a curse!

LV. Who can doubt, besides, that it was grievous to Christ to be surrounded with a GUARD of barbarous soldiers, as if there were danger that others would rescue him, or that he would save himself from the pains of the cross; which, if such had been really his intention, not all the legions of Rome, nor all the forces of hell added to their number, could have been able to prevent. But that no instance of ignominy might be wanting, it behoved Christ to be guarded like a furious beast, so

« PreviousContinue »