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During these melancholy transactions, the whole frame of nature began to be chan... ged: The sun withdrew its light t; the stars appeared; and the eclipse was the more vo, remarkable, because the moon, being then at full, could not be in conjunction. This *c. or 3. eclipse began about twelve, and lasted till three in the afternoon; when all things were T full of horror and amazement. Mens hearts began to relent, and, instead of their former insults, they stood in silent expectance of what would be the issue. All this while our Blessed Lord continued meek and silent, though languishing and wasting under the agonies which his body endured, and the heavy load of the Divine indignation against sin; till, in the words of the Psalmist, he complained at last, “Eli Eli Lamasabacthani, i.e. +* My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” One of the soldiers, hearing the word Eli, or Elohi, out of ignorance of the Hebrew tongue, thought that he called for Elias to help him in his distress; and thereupon dipping a sponge in vinegar, f* put it on a reed, which St John calls a stalk of hyssop f,
her corpse, they opened her tomb again; but not finding the body there, they thence concluded that God had been pleased to honour it with immortality, by a resurrection previous to that of other men. But these are traditions that (to speak the softest thing of them) deserve no regard at all. Calmet's Dictionary under the word Mary. + Whether this darkness was confined to the land of Judea, or extended itself much farther, even over the whole hemisphere where it happened, is a question wherein the ancients are not so well agreed. Origen and some others are of the former opinion; but the majority differ from them, and for this they quote Phlegon, the famous astronomer under the emperor Trajan, affirming, that in the fourth year of the CCIId Olympiad (which is supposed to be that of the death of Christ), there was such a total eclipse of the sun at noon-day, that the stars were plainly to be seen ; and from Suidas they likewise cite Dionysius the Areopagite, then at Heliopolis in Egypt, expressing himself to his friend Apollophanes, upon this surprising phenomenon, “either that the Author of Nature suffered, or that he was sympathising with some one who did: For, whereas in common eclipses the sun’s total darkness can continue but twelve or fifteen minutes at most, this is recorded to have lasted no less than three full hours, Matth. xxvii. 45. Universal History, lib. ii. c. 11. t”. In the Hebrew way of speaking, it is certain, that God is said to leave or forsake any person, when he suffers him to fall into great calamities, and lie under great misfortunes, and does not help him out of them. To this purpose Zion, having been long af. flicted, is brought in by the prophet complaining, “the Lord hath forsaken me, the Lord hath forgotten me,” Isaiah xlix. 14. ; and as the royal Psalmist is very frequent in such complaints, so he explains the sense of them when he addresses himself to God, “why art thou so far from my prayer, so that, though I cry in the day-time, thou hearest not *" Psal. xxii. 1, 2. That David was not fallen into any despondency, is manifest from his calling God so emphatically his God; and that our Blessed Saviour was not, as some think, under any failure of his trust in God, or any perturbation of spirit from the sense of Divine wrath, is cwident from his saying of his suffering con
dition, “It is finished,” and from the very words wherein he breathed his last, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” The truth is, this very thing shews the great composure of his mind; that while he was hanging upon the cross, he was so far master of himself as to repeat the twenty-second psalm, whereof the title or first words are, “Eli, Eli,” &c.; a psalin which is allowed by all commentators to relate to the Messiah; which contains a most lively de.. . scription of all the remarkable particulars of his passion, and for that reason was a portion of Scripture which he thought proper to recite upon this mournful occasion. Upon the supposition, then, that our Lord was now repeating that noble psalm, which, after a recapitulation of his sufferings, concludes with very comfortable promises both to him and his followers; this shews that he was far from being under any doubt or despair, that he kept his mind indeed all along calm and serene, and under the pressure of whatever he suffered, supported himself with the comfortable prospect of what was to follow. Whitby's Annotations, and Universal History, lib. ii, c. 11. +* The vinegar and sponge, in executions of condemned persons, were set ready to stop the too violent flux of blood, that the malefactor might be the longer in dying, but to the Blessed Jesus they were exhibited in scorn; for, being mingled with gall, the mixture was more horrid and unpleasant. Howell's History in the notes. i It may be pretended perhaps, that a branch of hyssop might not be long enough to reach our Saviour's mouth, as he was hanging upon the cross; but besides that crosses were not, in some places, erected so high, but that beasts of prey could reach the bodies that were fastened to them; and that hyssop, in those countries, as well as mustard-seed, was of a much longer growth than it is with us; I cannot see why the person that offered our Saviour this vinegar might not make use of a ladder, if the cross was so high that he could not fairly reach him. Nor is the difference in St Matthew's calling that a reed, which St John calls hyssop, of any manner of moment, because the Greek word Kaxatzes, is put to signify a stalk, a shoot, or branch of any kind; so that St Matthew speaks of that in the general, which St John specifies in particular. Calmet's Commentary.
and, as he complained of being thirsty, gave it him to drink. Others however were for from Matth. letting it alone, to see whether Elias t would come and help him; but when he had.o.o. tasted the vinegar, and now knew that all the types and prophecies concerning him iś, were fulfilled, his Father's wrath appeased, and the great work of man's redemption ac-.” complished, he said, “It is finished,” and then, “ bowing down his head,” he recom-joii. mended his soul into his Father's hands, and so “gave up the ghost +2.” - 19. to the end. Upon his expiration, there immediately happened a terrible earthquake +3, which rent the vail to of the temple from top to bottom, split the rocks to, and opened the
graves and tombs, so that the bodies of several who were dead to arose, and went into
+ There was a tradition among the Jews, that it was Elias's proper office to come and succour such as were in misery: And, accordingly, some of the Jews, either deceived with the resemblance of the words, thought that our Lord called Elias to his help; or, giving a malicious turn to the sense of the words, which they well enough understood, did thereby insult him for his calling in vain Elias to his help. Beausobre's Annotations.
+*The original phrase may denote a delivering up, or (as our Saviour expresses it, Luke xxiii. 46.) a “committing his spirit into the hands of God,” as a sacred trust to be restored again, and united to his body, at the time prefixed by his own infinite wisdom; and plainly implies such a dissolution, and actual separation of soul and body, as every common man undergoes when he dies: But herein is a remarkable difference, that what is in other men the effect of necessity, was in Jesus a voluntary act, and the effect of his own free choice. Hence the generality of interpreters have thought, that St John takes notice, that Christ bowed his head before he gave up the ghost, whereas, in common cases, the falling of the head fol. lows after the breath's going out of the body: And hence also St Mark observes, that Jesus's crying out with so loud and strong a voice, in mediately before his expiring, was one reason that moved the centurion to think him an extraordinary person; for this shewed that it was not the excess of pain and sorrow that had tired out nature and hastened his death, but that he who (as himself professes, John x. 18.) “had power to lay down his life,” and could not have it taken from him without his own permission and consent, did freely and voluntarily lay it down at such a time as himself saw convenient. Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. ii.
+3 Some are of opinion, that this was the same earthquake that happened in the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and was the greatest that ever was known in the memory of man. Both Pliny and Macrobius make mention of it; and the latter informs us, that it destroyed no less than twelve cities in Asia; but by the Sacred text it appears, that the earthquake here mentioned affected only the temple of Jerusalem, and the parts which are there specified, the vail, the ground, the rocks, the tombs, &c. Nor does it seem improbable, that this prodigy was shewn particularly in this
lace, to foretel the destruction of the temple, and
its worship, upon the people's sad impiety in crucifying the Lord of Life. Hammond's Annotations.
+* In the second temple, between the holy place
one, built of the thickness of a cubit.
and the most holy (says Maimonides) there was no partition-wall, though in the first temple there was The division between them was made by two vails, one from the extremity of the holy place, and the other from the extremity of the most holy, with a void space of a cubit between. The like form of separation was observed in the temple which Herod rebuilt, as Josephus informs us (de Bello Jud. lib. vi. c. 14), and therefore it must be a mistake in those who think that this wail was a partition wall of stones. Whether of the two vails, that which belonged to the holy place, or that which hung in the most holy, was at this time rent in twain, is a question among the ancients, though the words of the author to the Hebrews, where he tells us, that Christ, as our high priest, “ has consecrated for us a new way, through the vail,” so that we may with “boldness enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,” Heb. x. 19, &c. seems to be a pretty clear determination of it. Whitby's Annotations, and Calmet's Commentary. to In the “church of the sepulchre” (which stands on Mount Calvary) is still to be seen that memorable cleft in the rock, occasioned, as it is said, by the earthquake which happened at our Lord's crucifixion. This cleft (as to what now appears of it) is about a span wide at its upper part, and two deep. After this it closes; but then it opens again below, and runs down to an unknown depth of earth. That this rent was made by the earthquake which happened at our Lord's passion, there is only tradition to prove: but that it is a natural and genuine breach, and not counterseited by any art, the sense and reason of every one that sees it may convince him; for the sides of it fit like two tallies to each other, and yet it runs in such intricate windings, as could not be well counterfeited by art, or performed by any instrument. Wells's Geography of the New Testament, part i. and Mr Maundrell's Journey, &c. +* Since St Paul styles our Saviour, “the firstborn from the dead,” Coloss. i. 18. and “ the firstfruits of them that slept,” 1 Cor. xv. 20. most commentators are of opinion, that though several tombs were opened, as soon as our Saviour expired, yet none of the saints arose until he returned from the grave: but then, who these saints were, it is no easy matter to conjecture. Some think, that the “man after God's own heart,” king David, or some of the ancient patriarchs, might best deserve this pre-eminence: but on the day of Pentecost, St Peter tells the Jews plainly, that the body of David was still in
A. M. 4031, Jerusalem, where they were seen, and known by many. These prodigies which attend. "...o. ed our Lord's death, struck the spectators with such amazement, that, as they returned vig. Æ.33, home, they smote upon their breasts, and with great lamentation declared, that the per
* * *_son who had suffered that day was innocent. Nay, the very centurion +, and other
soldiers who attended the execution, from a conviction of what they had seen, were
not afraid to affirm, that he certainly was f* “the Son of God.”
That therefore so great and solemn a day might not be profaned f* by the
suspension of the bodies on the cross, the rulers of the Jews came and requested of Pilate that their legs might be broken to hasten their deaths, and their bodies taken down; which accordingly was executed upon the two thieves: But when the soldiers came to Jesus, and found him already dead, instead of breaking his legs ++, one of them pierced his side with a spear f*, from which issued out a great quantity of #6 blood and Among the disciples of our Lord there was one named Joseph, a man of great wealth from Matth. and honour +, born in Arimathaea f*, and not improbably one of the council of the ...'...'. Sanhedrim, but who stood in some fear of them while our Saviour was alive. After is to them. his death #3 however he took courage, and going to Pilate, begged leave of him to let ...".
its sepulchre, and not “ascended into heaven,” Acts ii. 29.34. and St Paul, in his epistle to the Hebrews, tells us of the patriarchs, that “they had not received the promise, God having designed that they, without us, should not be made perfect,” Heb. xi. 39, 40. The most probable conjecture, therefore, is, that they were some of those who believed in Jesus (as old Simeon did), and died a little before his crucifixion; because, of these persons it is said, that they “went into the holy city, and appeared to many,” and so very probably were well known to those to whom they appeared, as having been their contemporaries. Calmet's Commentary, and Whitby's Annotations. + This officer, according to some, was named Longinus, and the tradition is, That, upon his conversion to the Christian faith, being expelled from the Roman army, wherein he served, he returned to Cappadocia, where he began to preach Jesus Christ, but was there beheaded, and his head carried to Pilate. But all this seems to be a fable, for which there is no foundation in history. Calmet's Commentary. +* That the Son of God did not always signify one who was so by an eternal generation, but only one that was his beloved and adopted Son, is apparent from hence, that what is here called the Son of God [or rather a Son of God, there being no article], is in St Luke, chap. xxiii. 47. said to “be a just man.” For, though the Jews very well knew, from the second psalm, that their Messiah was to be the Son of God; yet, that they did not know him to be so in the higher sense of the word, seems to be evident, because they did not know how David could call him Lord, Matth. xxii. 45. +3 The Jews had a strict injunction in their law, that the dead bodies of those who were executed should not hang all night, but by all means be buried that day, Deut. xxi. 22, 23. but the Romans used to do otherwise. They suffered the bodies to hang upon the cross always until they were dead, and in some cases a considerable time longer. On this occasion it seems as if the Jews had left the Romans to follow their own custom, in relation to the crucified persons,
and were in no concern to have them taken down, had it not been for the near approach of their passo. ver, whose joy and festivity they thought might be dampt by so melancholy a sight. Upon this account they petition Pilate to have them removed: And the reason why Pilate might be rather induced to grant their request, was, that the Romans them. selves had such respect for the feasts of their em. perors, that on those days they always took down the bodies from the cross, and gave them to their pa. rents. Calmet's Commentary. to The prophecy which foretold, “ that a bone of him should not be broken,” is usually referred to the command concerning the paschal lamb, “Thou shalt not break abone of it,” Exod. xii. 46. But, as Dayid was likewise a type of Christ, we cannot see why it may not refer to these words of his, “He keepeti, all his bones, so that none of them is broken,” iosal. xxxiv. 20 or why the promise, which respects all righteous persons, might not more particularly be fulfilled in the just One. Whitby's and Beausobre's Annotations. f* The man who did this was not one of the horse (as he is usually painted) but of the foot soldiers; because a spear, or short spike, was one part of the armour belonging to the lioman infantry; and the reason why this was done, was not only that a prediction concerning him might be fulfilled, (Zech. xii. 10. which the Jews apply to the Messiah), but that his death might be put beyond all dispute, which, had it been doubtful, must have made his resurrection (upon which the truth of our religion depends) remain doubtful likewise. Calmet's Commentary, and Whitby's Annotations. to St John the evangelist, who was an eye-witness of this passage, affirms it in a particular manner, chap. xix. 35. and in his first Epistle, chap. v. 6. makes it a matter of great moment, when he tells us, “This is he that came by water and blood; not by water only, but by water and blood.” The force of whose reasoning (according to the learned Hammond) is this, “That as water was the emblem of our Sao viour's Purity, and blood the evidence of his forti.
- - a r- - to the end, and him take down the body of Jesus and bury it. The governor was surprised to hear o the end, an
John xii. 19. to that he was dead so soon; but being informed by the centurion that it actually was so, the end. he ordered the body to be delivered to Joseph, who, for the present, wrapped it up in T fine linen cloths, which he had provided for that purpose ; and, at the same time, Nicodemus to (another private disciple of our Lord's) brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, with other spices and perfumes, to embalm his body, according to the manner of
tude and patience, and both of these proceeded from his side, they jointly evince the necessity of such purity and patience in every one that claims a right in Christ.” The Jewish doctors have. a tradition (as Dr Lightfoot acquaints us), that when Moses smote the rock, there first came forth blood, and then water. Whether the apostle might have respect to that tra. dition, when he calls Christ that rock, 1 Cor. x. 4. is uncertain; but among the many other important designs of this water and blood, the ancients have well observed, that by a special act of God’s Providence, there flowed, at this time, from our Saviour's side the two sacraments of his church, baptism and the supper of the Lord. As to the natural reason of this flux of water and blood from our Lord's body, amatomists tell us, that there is a capsula near the heart, called the pericardium, which hath water in it, of continual use to cool the heart, and that the coming out of water here with the blood, was a sure evidence of the wounding his very heart, and consequently of the certainty of his death. Hammond's Annotations, and Howell's History in the Notes. + His riches and honourable station are mentioned, not out of any vanity and ostentation, that a person of so considerable a figure should pay respect to the body of our Blessed Lord; but chiefly to shew how strangely God brought an ancient prophecy concerning the Messiah, viz. that notwithstanding the infamous manner of his dying, he should “make his grave with the rich at his death,” Isa. liii. 9. which in itself was a most unlikely thing, not only because the bodies of them that were crucified did, by the Roman laws, hang upon the gibbet sometimes until they were consumed; but because the Jews (though they did not allow of this severity to the dead) did nevertheless always bury their malefactors in some public, neglected, and ignominious place; and so, in all probability, must our Saviour have been treated, had not Joseph applied himself to the governor, in whose disposal the bodies of executed persons were. Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. ii. to Ramatha (from whence Arimathasa is formed) signifies height. It is placed by St Jerom between Lydda and Joppa, but modern travellers speak of it as lying between Joppa and Jerusalem, and situated on a mountain, though very different from Ramathaim-Zophim, the place where Samuel was born, 1 Sam. i. 1. and which lay to the north, whereas Arimathaea was to the west of Jerusalem, Calmet's
Dictionary under the word.
to It may well seem strange that Joseph, who never durst openly profess a regard to Jesus while living, should now, when he had suffered all the ignominy of a malefactor, not stick to interest himself for his honourable interment. But besides that this might be an instance of the efficacy of those impressions which God makes upon mens minds, even at the most unlikely seasons of prevailing, the desire which Pilate had expressed to save our Lord's life, and avowed unwillingness to condemn him, together with the prodigies that had accompanied his crucifixion, and made now every heart relent, might be motive enough for him to go in boldly to Pilate, (as St Mark expresses it) and beg the body of him before it was taken from the cross. According to the Mishna, the nearest relations of those that suffered as criminals, were not permitted to put their bodies into their family tombs, until their flesh was all consumed in the public sepulchres: And this might possibly be the reason why Joseph made such haste with his request to the governor, viz. that he might. preyent our Lord from being cast into one of the public charnel-houses, appointed for the reception of malefactors bodies. Stanhope on the Epistles and Gospels, vol. ii. and Calmet's Commentary.
t". This is the same ruler of the Jews, and master of Israel, as the evangelist calls him, John iii. 1. 10. who at our Lord's first coming to Jerusalem, after he had entered upon his ministry, held a private conference with him, and for ever after was his disciple, though he made no open profession of it till after his passion. Whether it was before or after this time that he received baptism from some of Christ's disciples is a thing uncertain; but there is reason to be. lieve that the Jews, when they came to be informed of this, deposed him from the dignity of a senator, excommunicated him, and drove him out of Jerusa. lcm. Nay, it is farther said, that they would have put him to death, but that, in consideration of Gamaliel, who was his uncle or cousin german, they contented themselves with beating him almost to death, and plundering his goods. It is added likewise, that Gamaliel conveyed him to his country house, where he provided him with things necessary for his support, and when he died buried him honourably by St Stephen. Calmet's Dictionary under the Ilanles
Not far from the place of execution, there was a garden f belonging to Joseph, “. . where he had lately hewn out of a to rock a sepulchre f* for his own proper interment. voi. Eros, Having therefore embalmed our Saviour's body, and wound it up in the linen cloths, * * *_here they buried it, and, with a large stone cut out of the rock for that purpose, closed the mouth of the sepulchre: But Mary Magdalene, and the other women, who were present at his death, and assisted at his burial, having taken good notice of the place where he was laid, went and prepared fresh spices for his farther embalment as soon as the Sabbath-day was over. On the Sabbath-day the rulers of the Jews came to Pilate, and informing him, “That our Lord (whom they called an impostor) having, in his lifetime, made it his boast that on the third day he would rise again from the dead, they therefore requested of him, that he would order the sepulchre to be kept under a strong guard until that day was past, lest his disciples should steal him away by might, and then give it out, that he was risen from the dead, which might prove a more dangerous seduction to the people than any thing they had yet fallen into.” Whereupon he gave them leave to take a detachment of the guard f* of the temple, and to post them near the sepulchre; which ac
+ This garden has been long since converted into a church, called the Church of the Sepulchre, as being built over the place where our Lord's sepulchre was. To fit this place for the structure of a church, the first founders were obliged to reduce it to a plain area, which they did, by cutting down several parts of the rock, and by elevating others: But in this work, care was taken that none of those parts of the place which were more immediately concerned in our Lord's passion, should be either altered or diminished; insomuch, that that part of it where Christ is said to have been fastened to and lifted upon the cross, is left entire, standing at this day eighteen steps above the common floor of the church; and the holy sepulchre itself, which was at first a cave, hewn into a rock under ground, having had the rock cut away from it all around, is now, as it were, a grotto above ground. [There is reason however to doubt, whether the place which is shown as our Lord's sepulchre be indeed the cave in which he was buried. One of the most intelligent of all our modern travellers in the Holy Land is of opinion that it is not, and has brought very strong arguments to prove that the holy sepulchre was another cave, of which he gives a particular and interesting description. The question however is not of sufficient importance to be discussed at length in this work, and therefore the reader is referred to] Wells's Geography of the New Testament, part i. and Dr Clarke's Travels in the Holy Land..
+*There are several circumstances in the description of our Saviour’s tomb, which contribute very greatly to the confirmation of the truth of his resurrection. As, 1st, The place of his interment was near adjoining to the city, that thereby the miracle of his resurrection might be better known to all the Jews, and his own apostles more especially. 2dly, His tomb was a “new one, wherein never man before was laid,” and therefore, when his body left this sepulchre empty, no suspicion could remain of its being any other body than that which Joseph had taken down from the cross, and disposed of in that place. 3dly, It was “hewn out of a rock,” uncapable of being under
mined, or dug through; and therefore there was no