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more than any man's; he was to be numbered with transgressors, and cut off by a judicial sentence out of the land of the living; his grave was appointed with the wicked, yet his tomb was to be with the rich man. And his sufferings were to be of no ordinary kind, and inflicted for no common cause. He was to be wounded for our transgressions, and smitten for our iniquities. Jehovah was pleased to put him to grief, and to make his soul an offering for sin, though he had “done no wrong, nor was any guile found in his mouth.” But after God had thus made his soul an offering for sin, then he was to revive again; to prolong his days; to erect a spiritual kingdom; to sprinkle many nations; to be advanced above kings, who should shut their mouths before him; to be exalted and extolled, and be very high; to see and be satisfied with the effect of the trav. ail of his soul; to justify many by his knowledge, and to make intercession for transgressors.
Now of these particulars it is evident, that most of them can be applied only to a few persons; some, from their very nature, to none but such a divine and extraordinary person as Jesus Christ; but that to him all are applicable in the plainest and most literal sense. We
may conclude, therefore, that if the real import of any prophecy is clear and indisputable, that of the text is so when it is made to refer to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
But I did not intend to touch, except incidentally, on the Person to whom this prophecy points. My principal object is to direct your attention to that part of the prophecy which explains the reason why the Messiah was permitted to endure sufferings. "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement” by which “our peace” was to be effected “was laid upon him, and by his stripes we are healed.''
That there should be a Divine Personage who, with any degree of propriety, could by be styled, in a peculiar sense, the son of God--that he should take upon him our nature, and suffer death upon the cross--is a fact so extraordinary, so entirely out of the common course of things, so unlike any thing else in the world, that we may justly require the strongest evidence of the fact, and expect also some explanation of its cause.
I. The evidence of the fact is to be collected from the accumulated testimonies of prophecy, from the acts and declarations of our blessed Lord, and from the decisive witness of the Holy Spirit, after the resurrection of Christ, in his various and miraculous influences.
1. How much the spirit of prophecy is the testimony to Jesus, we need not remark, after the striking and literal description given of him in my text. It is sufficient to observe, that the attention of mankind was directed towards this illustrious Person by a regular chain of prophecy, continued from the creation of the world. Other persons have been the subjects of prophecy, but of a single unconnected prophecy. Who but Jesus was ever the subject of prophecies, extending from the first record of inspiration to the ceasing of the prophetic spirit under the Jewish dispensation? Who, like him, was the subject of multiplied, distinct, and detailed prophecies; in delivering which the prophets were elevated to the highest tone of inspiration; and displayed the sublimest sentiments which the imagination could conceive, in the loftiest strains which language could dictate? Who but Christ had the universal testimony of the whole chorus of prophets? For to him all the prophets give witness. The harp of prophecy seemed to be formed only to celebrate Jesus; and the sacred melody of its highest and most celestial tones was directed to Him, as its inspiring theme, its object, and its glory.
2. And when our blessed Lord at length appeared upon earth, every circumstance relating to him, every action of his life, proved that he was a person totally different from the ordinary children of men. Who but himself was born in a supernatural manner? Whose birth was celebrated like his by multitudes of the heavenly host chaunting, while they contemplated the holiness and happiness of his kingdom, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and good will to men?" Who, like him, was entrusted with all the grand variety and boundless extent of the Divine power? Who, like him commanded the winds and seas, and they obeyed him? Who, like him, had the power to cure every disease by a word? When did the evil spirits acknowledge their inferiority in the same manner as they did to him, and promptly depart, as at his bidding, from the bodies of the possessed? When did the dead rise up from their graves, as at his command? All nature, animate and inanimate, acknowledged him, as its Lord. Angels, from above, ministered to him; hell from beneath, submitted to his power; the sea and the air paid homage to him; the sun refused to shine when he hung upon the cross; earth shook to its centre when he expired; and the voice of God, from heaven, audibly proclaimed him to be his beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased.
8. After such a display of Divinity, we shall be prepared to receive his own testimony concerning himself. No one of the children of men was ever less ostentatious, less assuming than Christ; for he was the model of lowliness and humility: yet he did not esteem it arrogance to maintain, constantly and plainly, that God was his Father; that he was his only Son; that he had dwelt in heaven before he came upon earth; that the Father had put all things into his hand; that, after suffering death, he should rise again on the third day, and ascend into heaven,—there to dwell with the father for ever, to sit at his right hand, and to be the intercessor for sinful man.
Now if we take a view of the prophecies concerning him, and the actions of his life, and compare them with his declarations, they will be found in unison with each other.
His declarations are uniformly confirmed and supported by both the prophecies and the acts.
4. Immediately upon his ascension into heaven, the extraordinary inspiration of the Spirit, which had long ceased, broke forth with irresistible power, and enlightened the world. Prophecy again revived, in order to speak of him; miracles were generally performed by his disciples in his name; myriads were converted to the Christian faith; the men so converted became witnesses of the truth and power of the Gospel, and cheerfully sealed their testimony with their blood; from the rising to the setting of the sun, Christ was worshipped and glorified: to him each dying believer has intrusted his soul, as to the only hope of mankind; and to him, for 1800 years, throughout the whole church, has every eve been directed, and every tongue been vocal, as their Master and Teacher, their Sacrifice and Saviour, their Lord and God.
Now we ought to observe that it is not on any single fact, any solitary testimony, that we found our persuasion of the high dignity and unrivalled glory of Christ, as the Son of God and the Saviour of the world; but on the whole united testimony of prophets, of miracles, of the declarations of Christ, of the effusion of the Spirit, and of the conduct of his disciples. It is upon the union and harmony of all these, forming a continued chain, an extensive mass of evidence, that we fix the foundation of our faith. All these concur, from century to century, from one region of the globe to another, to bear witness to Jesus: prophet answers prophet; earth replies to heaven; angels join their testimony with that of men; all with one consent pointing him out as the Son of God, the only Saviour of sinners?
II. It is necessary to prepare the mind, by previous reflection on the vast and decisive mass of evidence which proves the dignity and glory of Christ, for approaching in a proper frame to the consideration of the question, on what account the Son of God became incarnate and suffered on the cross. And, indeed, these two views of the subject serve strongly to illustrate each other; for if we consider the dignity of the Son of God, the high expectations raised of his approach, and the Divine testimonies given of his glory, we may be assured that the end which he came to accomplish must have been of the very first importance. On the other hand, if we contemplate that end, as it is made known to us in Scripture, its vast importance and immense inagnitude,-no less than the redemption of man, the expiation of sin, the restoration of a fallen world, it will evidently appear to be such as none but a Divine person could undertake. Its importance justifies the high-raised expectation which the long continued series of prophecy had inspired, and explains the propriety of all the illustrious testimonies which were given to the dignity and glory of Christ. The Saviour of man could not be less than Divine.
Accordingly we are told by the Prophet when he comes to speak of the sufferings of Christ, that they were inflicted not on his own account: he had done no violence, neither was guile found in his mouth;" but his sufferings were undertaken for our salvation. He was to be wounded for our transgressions; he was to be bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement by which our peace was to be effected was to be laid upon him, and by his stripes we were to be healed. His soul was to be made an offering for sin.
If there appears any difficulty in receiving this testimony concerning the end which the Saviour was to accomplish, let us reflect that it was a transaction entirely of its own kind, nothing similar to it being to be found, according to which we may measure its propriety or explain its nature. Let us also bear in mind, that heavenly subjects are not to be judged of by worldly ideas, or tried at the bar of human reason. And hence arises the difficulty of comprehending those parts of Revelation which relate to heavenly things. From the ignorance of our minds and the imperfection of our faculties, the Revelation must necessarily be accommodated to worldly ideas. It must be an approximation VOL. 11.