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gravating circumstances which attended the death of the cross, in the case of our Lord, this was not the least,--that it pointed him out as the victim of divine yengeance, a sufferer for sins, though not his own.
That the death of the Son of God would have been efficacious for the redemption of his people, in whatever way it had been effected, we have no reason to doubt. The efficacy of his blood depends on its being the blood of a person of infinite dignity, and shed by the appointment of the Supreme Legislator; and not on the particular manner in which it was shed. Without doubt, however, there were wise and good reasons why, out of the countless variety of violent deaths, the most painful and shameful of all should have been chosen as that by which the Messiah should glorify God, and ransom mankind. Many of these
lie hid in the divine mind; but, we apprehend, so many of them are apparent as may and ought to lead us to recognize the wisdom, as well as the sovereignty of God, in appointing the sins of the world to be expiated by the death of the cross.
To some of the ends, which the death of Jesus on a cross was calculated to answer, and has in effect an. swered, I am now for a little to solicit your attention, The death of the cross proved our Lord's divine mise sion,--pointed him out as a sufferer for sin,-illustrated the inconceivable love of the divine Father and Son,-shewed the prodigious malignity of human transgression,—discovered the spiritual nature of the Redeemer's kingdom,-rendered the ulterior success of the gospel more illustrious, crucified the world to his followers,--and furnishes them with the most powerful motives for avoiding sin, and performing duty. To the different parts of this enumeration, we shall successively direct your attention.
1st, The crucifixion of Christ Jesus proved the di.
vinity of his mission. This declaration may at first view appear paradoxical. To deduce a proof of his Messiahship, from the purity of his life, the reasonableness of his doctrines, and the splendour of his miracles, may appear sufficiently natural; but how his death, and especially his death upon a cross, can afford evidence of his being a divinely appointed Saviour, may not, at first view, be very apparent. Without doubt, neither crucifixion, nor any of the other sufferings of our Lord, are in themselves evidences of his Messiahship; but they are so, both as they clearly prove that our Lord himself believed in his own divine mission, which he could not have done unless it had been real, and as they are the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy.
No man will suffer and die in attestation of what he knows to be false, when there is no object to be gained by persisting in falsehood, and when life may be purchased by an acknowledgment of the truth. The application of this general principle to the case of Jesus is
In a discourse on the death of Christ, lately delivered to you, I endeavoured briefly to unfold this argument *. All that was said then is equally applicable to the present subject, with this addition, that the death of the cross being of all deaths the most opprobrious and agonizing, was in every respect the least likely to be voluntarily submitted to by a deceiver in support of his imposture.
It is, however, principally in the second point of view, that I intend at present to consider the crucifixion of Jesus, as a proof of his divine mission. That the Messiah was to be a sufferer in an extreme degree, and that, after a life of labour and sorrow, he should die a death of agony and shame, was plainly foretold
Vide Sermon I.
by the Old Testament prophets. But this is not all. The mode of his death, a mode of capital punishment, at the time of the publication of the prophecy, it is likely, altogether unknown among the Israelites, is particularly predicted. In the twenty-second Psalm, the whole of which is a very striking prophetic account of “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory which should follow," it is expressly foretold, that, when “the assembly of the wicked had inclosed him, they would pierce his hands and feet.” To the same circumstances does the prophet Zechariah refer, when he says, in the person of the Messiah, “They shall look on me whom they have pierced.”
The manner of our Lord's death was predicted, not only by the Old Testament prophets, but by himself; so that it at once proved him to be the Messiah promised to the fathers by the fulfilment of their predictions, and directly proved that he was a true prophet by the accomplishment of his own. He intimated the mode of his death at a very early period of his ministry: “As Moses,” said he, “ lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, éven so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life.” “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. This he said,” adds the evangelical historian, “signifying what death he should die.” Nor did he speak of the manner of his death in figurative language merely, which it might be supposed the imagination of his followers applied to the event. On this subject he “speaks plainly, and speaks no proverb." "Behold," said he to the disciples, as they journeyed in Jerusalem, "we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests, and unto the Scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles, to mock, and to scourge, and to orucity :
and the third day he shall rise again.” “Ye know," said he on another occasion, “that after two days is the passover, and the Son of man is betrayed to be crucified."
No single prediction, by its fulfilment, more strikingly proves the Messiahship of Jesus than that of his crucifixion. It was an event entirely beyond the reach of human foresight; and the prediction is far too cir. cumstantial to allow of the supposition that the fulfil. ment was accidental. That the Messiah, whom the Jews so long and anxiously expected, should, when he made his appearance, be put to death by his countrymen, was in itself a very improbable event. That he should be crucified, was all but impossible. Crucifixion was not a Jewish, but a Roman punishment. Stoning to death was the punishment appointed by the Mosaic law, for the crimes of which Jesus was accused, and, but for circumstances in the highest degree contingent,—the subjugation of Judea by the Romans, and the weak and unprincipled character of the Roman governor,—this punishment, rather than crucifixion, would have been inflicted. Thus we find the Jewish rulers, in bringing about the crucifixion of Jesus, were the unconscious agents of fulfilling a prediction, by the accomplishment of which the victim of their ma. lignity was "powerfully declared to be the Son of God.” “Wonderful catastrophe ! replete with mysteries, among which the harmony of Divine Providence with human liberty is not the least. Mechanical causes, governed by a single intellect, could not with more certainty have wrought the pre-determined effect. Independent beings could not have pursued with greater liberty than the persons concerned in this horrid transaction, each his separate design *." Truly,
O Lord, thou art greater than all gods: for, in the things wherein men deal proudly, thou art above them.”
2d, The crucifixion of Christ pointed him out, as a sufferer for sin, the victim of human transgression.
The sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ, which terminated in his death on the cross, considered in them. selves, prove nothing but that he was the object of the extreme malignity of those who inflicted them. Considered in connection, however, with his absolute innocence and perfection, they are altogether unaccountable, but on the supposition of his occupying the place of guilty man. We find no difficulty in accounting for the severest afflictions, which the best of the children of men meet with; for wall have sinned,” and every sin deserves suffering, indefinite suffering. But how shall we account for the sufferings, the apparently, the obviously penal sufferings of the man Christ Jesus; “a just man, and a perfect ;" a man whose conscience reproached him with no vice or folly ; a man whose life had been piety and love, unaffected piety, disinterested love ; a man assuredly entitled to every comfort which the consciousness of perfection, of perfect virtue, and perfect wisdom can bestow ?-How shall we account for this man-this good, this perfect man; this man, in union with the Divi. nity, being the victim of poverty and reproach, apprehended and judged, and condemned as a criminal, and executed as a felon and a slave, a blasphemer and a traitor?
Was it merely that truth might be confirmed by a powerful testimony, and patience taught by an eloquent example ? Important as are these benefits, they are purchased at too dear a rate, when the order of God's moral government is deranged, and his innocent Son treated as a criminal. Besides, if Jesus died but as an example and a martyr, why was not some mode