Page images

he was under penal subjection to the law for himself; he had no sin, consequently was entitled to no degree of suffering on his own account; he had no iniquity of his own for which he required to atone by his sufferings; nor was there any moral discipline of a personal nature to be subserved by what he endured. It pleased God, indeed, to make the captain of our salvation perfect through suffering; but it was a relative perfection as the surety of sinners, not a personal perfection as the Son of God, that was, in this way, promoted. What is said of his death, may be affirmed of every suffering by which it was preceded it was NOT FOR himself. Not one throb of pain did he feel, not one pang of sorrow did he experience, not one sigh of anguish did he heave, not one tear of grief did he shed, for himself. All were for men; all were for us. If not one of his sufferings was personal, it follows that they were all substitutionary, that they were all, of course, included in the matter or substance of his atoning sacrifice. During the whole period of his mortal life the victim was a-slaying. At the moment of his birth, the sword of justice was unsheathed against the man who is Jehovah's fellow, and returned not to its scabbard till it had been bathed in the blood of Calvary.

It may be deemed at variance with this view of the subject, that the redemption of man is sometimes in scripture ascribed simply to the blood of Christ, or to his death alone. But such language is not to be understood as limiting the atonement of Christ to the simple act of dying, or to those sufferings in which

there was an effusion of literal blood. The bloody agony of the garden, and the accursed death of the cross were prominent and concluding parts of his sufferings, and, by a common figure, were fit representatives of the whole. They were the last portions, so to speak, the completion of his humiliation, without which all that went before must have been vain; and may be regarded as having procured salvation, in the same way as the last instalment of a sum which is paid by degrees, may be supposed to cancel the debt and procure a discharge. But, as when Christ is said to have been 'obedient unto death,' we are to understand the phrase, not of a single act, but of the duration of his obedience throughout the whole period of his life, so may it be said that he suffered unto death, as expressive of the duration of his suffering throughout the whole of his earthly course.

III. Yet is it not intended by these remarks to deny that a special importance attaches to the sufferings of Christ's soul, and of the concluding period of his life.

It is impossible to peruse the scriptures attentively and not perceive that a special emphasis is put upon these. We are not to confine the matter of atonement to any one kind or degree of suffering; but as little are we at liberty to overlook the speciality that attaches to those sufferings to which we now refer. His bodily pains were of consequence, but the agonies of his holy soul were of more consequence. The suffering of infancy and childhood and youth are not to be lost sight of, but those of the final conflict call for particular notice.

The soul is often spoken of with peculiar emphasis. "Thou shalt make his SOUL an offering for sin-The waters are come in unto my sOUL-MY SOUL is full of troubles and my life draweth nigh to the graveMy Soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto deathNow is my soul troubled, and what shall I say ?" What our divine surety suffered in his soul must ever surpass all our powers of description or conception. The language used by the inspired writers denotes the highest pitch of intensity, while we have the best reason to suppose that every variety of inward agony which a sinless spirit can possibly feel was experienced by him. His soul was exceeding sorrowful;the most pungent sorrow filled his bosom; his heart was pierced through with many sorrows; he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He began to be very heavy:—an unutterable load of dejection, an overpowering weight of consternation pressed down his spirits to the lowest depth of depression. He was sore amazed:-filled with inexpressible wonder and horrific terror at the evil of sin, and the magnitude of the curse to be endured for its expiation. His soul was troubled;-agitated with alarm, filled with apprehension, overwhelmed with anguish, at thought of that awful wrath which he had to endure; at sight of that thick darkness, that midnight gloom of hell which he had to approach and to dissipate; at experience of that condemnation which now weighed him down under its mountain load; at taste

1 Is. liii. 11; Ps. lxix. 1.—lxxxviii. 3; Mat. xxvi. 38; John xii. 27.

of that cup of gall which had to be drunk with all its wormwood bitterness. Well might he take up the complaint, 'My soul is full of troubles; the waters are come in unto my soul.' And thus was it that 'he made his soul an offering for sin.'

Nor can it be doubted that the sufferings of the latter period of his life possess a speciality of interest. The period of his mysterious agony, his awful desertion, and his actual death calls for particular notice. This is what is emphatically called 'his hour-the hour and the power of darkness-the hour that he should depart out of this world." It was now that he was subjected to that inexplicable agony which, in the absence of every adequate external cause, covered him over with a copious sweat of blood. It was now that he was cruelly deserted by all his former friends, there not being among the whole multitude of those whom he had cured of their sicknesses, to whom he had preached the gospel of salvation, and whom he had chosen as his disciples, one to abide with him in his dire extremity, but being left to utter the heavy complaint, 'I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none."" It was now that he suffered the withdrawment of all sensible tokens of his Father's love; the suspension of every kind of sensible support, of every display of divine complacency; the felt manifestation of God's righteous displeasure at sin; the total eclipse of the hallowed light which

2 John vii. 30; Luke xxii. 53; John xiii. 1.

3 Psalm lxix. 20.

had formerly cheered him amid the deepest gloom;
the paternal desertion which drew from him the
deep groan of bereavement, 'My God, my God,
why hast thou forsaken me.' It was now that he
suffered the pains of actual dissolution; he died the
death of the cross; he bowed the head and gave up
the ghost. It was no faint, no swoon, no tempo-
rary suspension of the vital functions. It was death,
-a complete separation of the soul and body; the
heart having been pierced by the soldier's spear, and
his enemies themselves bearing witness to the reality
of his departure. Then came the soldiers and
brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was
crucified with him: but when they came to Jesus
and saw that HE WAS DEAD ALREADY, they brake not
his legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced
his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and wa-
This was the period when emphatically the
Son of God made atonement for sin; when the tide of
suffering rose to its height; when the dregs of the bit-
ter cup of anguish were wrung out; when the sen-
tence of woe reached its climax. A period, into
which whatever is painful in torture, ignominious in
shame, distressing in privation, terrific in satanic as-
sault, and overwhelming in experienced wrath, was,
as it were, compressed!-a period, whether to the
sufferer himself or to the guilty world whose cause
he undertook, the most awfully momentous that had
ever occurred since the commencement of time.

4 John xix. 32-34.


« PreviousContinue »