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On the DEATH of CHRIST.
[Preached at the Celebration of the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.]
JOHN, xvii. 1.
Jesus lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said,
HESE were the words of our blessed SERMON
feast of the passover drew nigh, at which he knew that he was to suffer. The night was arrived wherein he was to be delivered into the hands of his enemies. He had spent the evening in conference with his disciples; like a dying father in the midst of his family, mingling consolations with his last instructions. When he had ended his discourse to them, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and, with the words
SERMON which I have now read, began that solemn V. prayer of intercession for the church, which closed his ministry. Immediately after, he went forth with his disciples into the garden of Gethsemanè, and surrendered himself to those who came to apprehend him.
Such was the situation of our Lord at the time of his pronouncing these words. He saw his mission on the point of being accomplished. He had the prospect full before him, of all that he was about to suffer-Father! the hour is come. -What hour? An hour the most critical, the most pregnant with great events, since hours had begun to be numbered, since time had begun to run. It was the hour in which the Son of God was to terminate the labours of his important life, by a death still more important and illustrious; the hour of atoning, by his sufferings, for the guilt of mankind; the hour of accomplishing prophecies, types, and symbols, which had been carried on through a series of ages, the hour of concluding the old, and of introducing to the world the new dispensation of religion;
the hour of his triumphing over the SERMON world, and death and hell; the hour of his erecting that spiritual kingdom which is to last for ever. Such is the hour, such are the events, which you are to commemorate in the sacrament of our Lord's Supper. I shall attempt to set them before you as proper subjects, at this time, of your devout meditation. To display them in their genuine majesty, is beyond the ability of man.
I. THIS was the hour in which Christ was glorified by his sufferings. The whole of his life had discovered much real greatness, under a mean appearance. Through the cloud of his humiliation, his native lustre often broke forth; but never did it shine so bright, as in this last, this trying hour. It was indeed the hour of distress, and of blood. He knew it to be such; and when he uttered the words of the Text, he had before his eyes, the executioner and the cross, the scourge, the nails, and the spear. But by prospects of this nature his soul was not to be overcome. It is distress which ennobles every
SERMON great character; and distress was to glorify the Son of God. He was now to teach all mankind, by his example, how to suffer and to die. He was to stand forth before his enemies, as the faithful witness of the truth; justifying by his behaviour the character which he assumed, and sealing with his blood the doctrine which he taught.
What magnanimity in all his words and actions on this great occasion! The court of Herod, the judgment-hall of Pilate, the hill of Calvary, were so many theatres prepared for his displaying all the virtues of a constant and patient mind. When led forth to suffer, the first voice which we hear from him, is a generous lamentation over the fate of his unfortunate, though guilty, country; and, to the last moment of his life, we behold him in possession of the same gentle and benevolent spirit. No upbraiding, no complaining expression escaped from his lips, during the long and painful approaches of a cruel death. He betrayed no symptom of a weak or a vulgar, of a discomposed or impatient mind. With the utmost attention
of filial tenderness, he committed his aged SERMON mother to the care of his beloved disciple *. With all the dignity of a sovereign, he conferred pardon on a penitent fellowsufferer. With a greatness of mind beyond example, he spent his last moments in apologies and prayers for those who were shedding his blood.
By wonders in heaven, and wonders on earth, was this hour distinguished. All nature seemed to feel it; and the dead and the living bore witness to its importance. The veil of the temple was rent in twain. The earth shook. There was darkness over all the land. The graves were opened, and many who slept arose, and went into the Holy City. Nor were these the only prodigies of this awful hour. The most hardened hearts were subdued and changed. The judge who, in order to gratify the multitude, passed sentence against him, publicly attested his innocence. The Roman centurion who presided at the execution, glorified God, and acknowledged the sufferer to be more than man. After he saw the things which had passed,
John, xix. 26, 27.