« PreviousContinue »
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.
1. This was the hour in which Christ
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 overIt 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.
SERMON he said, Certainly this was a righteous per
son; truly this was the Son of God. The
II. 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 SERMON blood was flowing, which washed
the guilt of the nations.
This awful dispensation of the Almighty contains mysteries which are beyond the discovery of man. It is one of those things into which the Angels desire to look. What has been revealed to us is, That the death of Christ was the interposition of Heaven for preventing the ruin of human kind. We know, that, under the government of God, misery is the natural consequence of guilt. After rational creatures had, by their criminal conduct, introduced disorder into the Divine kingdom, there was no ground to believé, that by their penitence and prayers alone they could prevent the destruction which threatened them. The prevalence of propitiatory sacrifices throughout the earth, proclaims it to be the general sense of mankind, that mere repentance was not of sufficient avail to expiate sin, or to stop its penal effects. By the constant allusions which are carried on in the New Testament to the sacrifices under the Law, as pre-signifying a great atoneVol. I.