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tion, in possession of the facts of his own guilt and depravity, and of the purity of the divine nature, and the rectitude of the givine government; tell him that man is guilty, and that God will by no means clear the guilty; and bid him conjecture some possible method by which the honours of divinity may be reconciled with the interests of mankind, and they delivered from the punishment which they have merited, and to which they are doomed. Alas! “such knowledge is too wonderful for him ; it is high, he cannot attain to it.” The rights of Deity, and the interests of man, seem to him altogether incompatible; and his most earnest inquiries terminate but in hopeless wishes, that some benignant being of a higher order would interpose in his behalf, though how even such an interposition could avail him, he cannot conjecture. This is the melancholy result of all his inquiries: “The redemption of the soul is precious, (O how precious !), but it must cease for ever.”
Let him now be informed, that the Divinity, infinite in mercy as well as justice, has determined to save a lost world ; and let him be called on to say, what are the probable means which he will employ, in order to gain an end so great and beneficent? He will find himself equally at a loss as before. He may think, perhaps, of the agency of some of those angelic beings, so far superior to him in wisdom, power, and purity, as likely to be employed, though altogether incapable of forming any distinct conception how even their agency could accomplish the intended purpose. Whatever notion he might form, we may safely assert that the truth would never occur to his mind ;—the apparently most presumptuous thought would never arise, that the Son of God, "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person," the part
ner of his counsels, and the equal sharer of his felicities and honours, should become the minister of his mercy to the worthless rebel, man.
But suppose him in possession of this important and wonderful fact, that the eternal Father had determined, by means of his eternal Son, to save a ruined race ; in what manner would he think it likely that this illustrious personage would accomplish his great and god- . like enterprize? This inquiry seems, at first view, somewhat more within the range of the human facul. ties, and he would readily picture to himself that wisest and best of Beings descending from his native heaven, in all the pomp of filial Godhead, into the world he was to regenerate; terrifying, by the lightnings of his anger, the rebellious into obedience; banishing, by the word of his power, all the varied forms of crime and wretchedness from the earth; while knowledge and purity, order and peace, religion and virtue, spring up and flourish under his smile.
But “ the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.” “ Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also must take part of the same. The Word must be made flesh, and dwell among men.” The Son of God must become the man Christ Jesus. But surely, if this illustrious person is to assume human nature, he will assume it, not in its present degraded state, liable to pain, decay, and death, but as it was possessed by our original parent, beautiful, vigorous, and immortal : his rank will be the most ex. alted known among mankind, and his life an even tenor of uninterrupted enjoyment. No; "made in the likeness of sinful flesh, he must be a man of sor. rows and acquainted with grief; his countenance must be more marred than any man's, and his form than the sons of men;" and even He can procure the forfeited
life of mankind at no easier price than the sacrifice of his own.
But, might the amazed mortal exclaim, if the unbending severity of justice render his death necessary, and if his matchless love render him willing to die, surely the bands of mortality will be gently unloosed, and death, in its least alarming form, (for in all its forms it is alarming), be the lot of the Saviour of men -of the Son of God. Humble thyself to the dust, proud human reason, nor dare to eit in judgment on the counsels and dispensations of God. “It became Him, by whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory,” to devote his only begotten and well beloved Son to the death of the cross. “Oh the depth of the riches, both of the knowledge and the wisdom of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!”
To that highly mysterious part of the economy of human redemption, the death of the Son of God upon a cross, the words of my text, and the design of our meeting, equally call on us to direct our devout and admiring minds. After a brief account of that mode of capital punishment to which the Saviour submitted to procure our redemption, I shall institute an inquiry into some of the important ends which are answered, by his undergoing death in a form so disgraceful and agonizing ; in the prosecution of which it will, I trust, become apparent, that we have reason, not merely to adore the depth, but to admire the wisdom of this divine dispensation.
In no page of the history of man is the depravity of his nature more decidedly recorded than in that which treats of capital punishments. That crimes of a nature peculiarly hazardous to society may and ought to be punished by the infliction of death on the offender, is
the dictate of reason and the command of God. But the malignity and hard-heartedness of depraved humanity have been strikingly displayed in multiplying unnecessarily the offences which expose to this severest of punishments, and in attaching to its infliction many circumstances of pain, shame, and horror, which, while they added largely to the sufferings of the individual, were of no use in promoting the only object which public justice ought to have in view, the deterring others from the commission of similar enormities.
Among these modes of punishment, which seem to have been invented rather to glut revenge than to satisfy justice, must be numbered that to which the Saviour of the world submitted for its redemption. The punishment of the cross seems to have originated among the Romans, people remarkable for their ferocious and sanguinary disposition, and was among them inflicted only on offenders of the meanest rank and most atrocious character. After being stripped of his garments, and lacerated by rods, the criminal, condemned to this punishment, was fastened to the cross, which was formed of a large plank of timber placed upright in the earth, with a transverse beam near the upper
end of it. To this dreadful instrument of death the miserable victim was fastened by iron bolts driven through the hands and feet,--the feet being nailed to the upright post, and the hands in an extend. ed posture to the extremities of the transverse beam. In this situation the unhappy subjects of this barbarous punishment were left to consume in lingering and dreadful torments. As none of the parts essential to life were immediately injured, none of the vital actions directly impeded, and none of the larger blood vessels set open, the death was necessarily slow; while the multitude of nerves, which terminate in the hands and
feet, giving these parts the nicest sensibility, rendered the degree of suffering exquisitely severe.
Such was the death, to which it seemed meet to Infinite Wisdom, that the incarnate Son of God should submit for man's salvation. From the above account it is obvious, that this mode of suffering death was in. tensely painful. The body was placed and kept in a most uneasy posture, the most sensible parts of it rude. ly torn by rugged pieces of iron, and the open wounds exposed to all the injuries of the weather. Nor was the pain merely intense ; it was also protracted. In some cases criminals continued alive for days on the cross. The period of Jesus' agony indeed was, from circumstances peculiar to his case, shortened ; yet, during the hours he hung upon the cross, it may be safely asserted, that he suffered every moment more than the pangs of an ordinary death.
The punishment of the cross was, moreover, peculiarly opprobrious. It was a servile punishment. No Roman citizen could be legally crucified, whatever was his crime. It was appropriated to slaves, a class of men whom the ancients seem to have considered as an inferior order of beings, and scarcely, if at all, entitled to the ordinary rights of humanity. When our Lord was crucified, he endured the highest indignity which his enemies could put upon him. “He was as a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people."
In addition to its extreme pain and shame, this mode of punishment was marked with the divine malediction. It is written in the law of Moses, which is the law of God, “Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.” The cause of this malediction has afforded room for many inquiries and conjectures among speculative theologians. But it is enough for us to sured of the fact, and to know, that among all the ag..