The Golden Key to Open Hidden Treasures
By Thomas Brooks, 1675
QUESTION. Whether it were not against the justice of God that Christ, who was in himself innocent, without any sin, a Lamb without any spot—should bear and endure all these punishments for the elect, who were the offending and guilty and liable people? Or if you please thus—Whether God was not unjust to give his Son Jesus Christ to be our surety and mediator and redeemer and Savior, forasmuch as Christ could not be any one of these for and unto us but by a willing receiving of our sins upon himself, to be for them responsible unto the justice of God, in suffering those punishments which were due for our sins?
I shall speak a few words to this main question. I say, then, that it is not always and in all cases unjust—but it is sometimes and in some cases very just, to punish one who is himself innocent, for him or those who are the criminal and guilty. Grotius in his book, gives divers instances—but I shall mention only two.
First, In the case of conjunction, where the innocent party and the criminal and guilty party do become legally one party; and therefore if a man marries an indebted woman, he thereupon becomes liable to pay her debts, although, absolutely considered, he was not liable thereunto. But,
Secondly, In case of suretyship, where a person, knowing the weak and insufficient condition of another, does yet voluntarily put forth himself, and will be bound to the creditor for him as his surety to answer for him, by reason of which suretyship the creditor may come upon him, and deal with him as he might have dealt with the principal debtor himself. This course we do ordinarily take with sureties for the recovery of our right, without any violation of justice. Now, both these are exactly applicable to the business in hand; for Jesus Christ was pleased to marry our nature unto himself; he did partake of our flesh and blood, and became man, and one with us. And besides that, he did, both by the will of his Father and his own free consent, become our surety, and was content to stand in our stead or place, so as to be made sin and curse for us—that is, to have all our debts and sorrows, all our sins and punishments laid upon him; and did engage himself to satisfy God by bearing and suffering what we would have borne and suffered. And therefore although Jesus Christ, absolutely considered in himself, was innocent and had no sin inherent in himself, which would have made him liable to death and wrath and curse—yet by becoming one with us, and sustaining the office of our surety—our sins were laid on him. And our sins being laid upon him, he made himself therefore liable, and that justly, to all those punishments which he did suffer for our sins. I do confess, that had Christ been unwilling and forced into this suretyship, or had any detriment or prejudice risen to any party concerned in this transaction, then some complaint might have been made concerning the justice of God. But,
First, There was a willingness on all sides for the passive work of Christ. First, God the Father, who was the offended party, he was willing, which Christ assures us of when he said, "Your will be done," Mat. 26:42; Acts 4:25-28.
Secondly, We poor sinners, who are the offending party, are willing. We accept of this gracious and wonderful redemption, and bless the Lord who "so loved us as to give his Son for us."
And, thirdly, Jesus Christ was willing to suffer for us: "Behold I come," Psalm 40:7: "And shall I not drink of the cup which my Father has given me to drink?" John 18:11: "I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed!" Luke 12:50. He calls the death of his cross a baptism, partly because it was a certain immersion into extreme calamities into which he was cast, and partly because in the cross he was so to be sprinkled in his own blood as if he had been drowned and baptized in it. The Greek word that is here rendered distressed, signifies to be pained, pressed, or pent up, with such grief as made him desire that it were once over. "There seems," says Grotius, "to be a similitude implied in the original word, taken from a woman with child, who is so distressed with the birth, that she would sincerely be eased of her burden."
John 10:11, "I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep." Christ is that good Shepherd who laid down his dear life for his sheep's safety: ver 15, "I lay down my life for the sheep" verse 17, "Therefore does my Father love me, because I lay down my life:" verse 18, "No man takes it from me—but I lay it down of myself." A necessity there was, of our Savior's death—but it was a necessity of immutability—because God had decreed it, Acts 2:23—not a forced necessity. He laid down his life freely, he died willingly. But,
[2.] Secondly, None of the parties involved, receive any loss by it. We lost nothing by it, for we are saved by his death, and reconciled by his death. Christ lost nothing by it: "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and enter into his glory?" Luke 24:26. "The Captain of our salvation is made perfect through sufferings," Heb. 2:10. You may see Christ's glorious rewards for his sufferings in Isaiah 53:10-12. And God the Father lost nothing by it, for he is glorified by it: "I have glorified you on earth, I have finished the work which you gave me to do," John 17:4. Yes, he is fully satisfied and restored again in all the honor which he lost by our sinning. I say he is now fully restored again by the sufferings of Christ, in which he found a price sufficient, and a ransom, and enough to make peace forever. In the day of account, a Christian's great plea is—that Christ has been his surety, and paid his debts, and made up his accounts for him.
II.Now, from what has been said last, a Christian may form up this second plea to the ten scriptures in the margin, [Eccles. 11:9, and 12:14; Mat. 12:36, and 18:23; Luke 16:2; Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27, and 13:17; 1 Pet. 4:5.] that refer either to the general judgment or to the particular judgment, which will pass upon every Christian immediately after death.
"O blessed Lord! upon my first believing and closing with Jesus Christ, you did justify me in the court of glory from all my sins, both as to guilt and punishment. Upon my first act of believing, you did pardon all my sins, you did forgive all my iniquities, you did blot out all my transgressions! And as upon my first believing you did give me the remission of all my sins, so upon my first believing you did free me from a state of condemnation; and gave me a saving interest in the great salvation. Upon my first believing, I was united to Jesus Christ, and I was clothed with the righteousness of Christ, which covered all my sins and discharged me from all my transgressions, Romans 8:10; Heb. 2:3. And remember, O Lord, you did really, perfectly, universally, and finally forgive all my sins. Every debt, was at that moment was discharged; and every score, was at that moment was crossed; and every bill and bond, was at that moment was cancelled, so that there was not left in the book of your remembrance one sin, no, not the least sin, standing upon record against my soul! And besides all this, you know, O Lord, that all my sins were laid upon Christ my surety, Heb. 7:21-22, and that he became responsible for them all. He died, he laid down his life, he made his soul an offering for my sins, he became a curse, he endured your infinite wrath, he gave complete satisfaction, and a full compensation unto your justice for all my sins, debts, trespasses. This is my plea, O Lord! and by this plea I shall stand!"
"Well," says the Lord, "I allow of this plea, I accept of this plea as just, honorable, and righteous. Enter into the joy of your Lord!" But,
SEVENTHLY, Consider, that whatever we are bound to do, or to suffer by the law of God—all that did Christ do and suffer for us, as being our surety and mediator. Now the law of God has a double challenge or demand upon us; one is of active obedience—in fulfilling what it requires; the other is of passive obedience—in suffering that punishment which lies upon us, for the transgression of it, in doing what it forbids. For as we are created by God, we did owe unto him all obedience which he required. And as we sinned against God, we did owe unto him a suffering of all that punishment which he threatened. And we being fallen by transgression, can neither pay the one debt, nor yet the other debt. We cannot do all that the law requires, nay of ourselves we can do nothing; neither can we so suffer as to satisfy God in his justice wronged by us, or to recover ourselves into life and favor again. And therefore Jesus Christ, who was God, made man, did become our surety, and stood in our stead or place; and he did perform what we should—but could not perform; and he did bear our sins and our sorrows. He did suffer and bear for us what we ourselves should have borne and suffered, whereby he did fully satisfy the justice of God, and made our peace, and purchased life and happiness for us. Let me a little more clearly and fully open this great truth in these few particulars.
(1.)First, Jesus Christ did perform that active obedience unto the law of God, which we should have performed—but, by reason of sin, could not perform; in which respect he is said, Gal. 4:4, "to be made under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law." So far was Christ under the law—as to redeem those who were under the law. But redeem those who were under the law he could not, unless by discharging the bonds of the law in force upon us; and all those bonds could not be, and were not discharged, unless a perfect righteousness had been presented on our behalf, who were under the law, to fulfill the law.
Now there is a twofold righteousness necessary to the actual fulfilling of the law: one is an internal righteousness of the nature of man; the other is an external righteousness of the life or works of man: both of these do the law require. The former, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart," etc., which is the sum of the first table; "And you shall love your neighbor as yourself," which is the sum of the second table: the latter. "Do this and live," Lev. 18:5, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law," Gal. 3:10. Now both these righteousnesses were found in Christ.
First, the internal: Heb. 7:26, "He was holy, harmless, undefiled, separated from sinners;" Heb. 9:14, "And offered himself without spot to God;" 2 Cor. 5:21, "He knew no sin."
Secondly, external: 1 Peter 2:22, "He did no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth;" John 17:4, "I have finished the work which you gave me to do;" Mat. 3:15, "He must fulfill all righteousness," Romans 10:4; "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes."
Now concerning Christ's active obedience to the law of God, these things are considerable in it.
 First, The universality of it: he did everything his Father required, and left nothing of his Father's will undone. He kept the whole law, and offended not in any one point. Whatever was required of us, by virtue of any law—that he did, and fulfilled. Hence he is said to be made under the law, Gal. 4:4, subject or liable to it, to all the precepts or commands of it. Christ was so made under the law—as those were under the law, whom he was to redeem. Now we were under the law, not only as liable to its penalties—but as bound to all the duties of it. That this is our being under the law, is evident by that challenge of the apostle: Gal. 4:21, "Tell me, you who desire to be under the law." Surely it was not the penalty of the law they desired to be under—but to be under it in respect of obedience. Just so, Mat. 3:15. Here Christ tells you, that "it became him to fulfill all righteousness," all manner of righteousness whatever; that is, everything that God required. But,
[2.] Secondly, The exactness and perfection of it. He kept the whole law exactly. As he was not lacking in matter, so he did not fail in the manner of performing his Father's will. There were no defects, nothing lacking in his obedience; he did all things well. What we are pressing towards, and reaching forth unto—he attained! He was perfect in every good work and stood complete in the whole will of his Father. And hence it is, that it is recorded of him, that he was without sin, knew no sin, did no sin—which could not be, if he had failed in anything. But,
[3.] Thirdly, The constancy of it. Christ did not obey by fits—but constantly. Though we cannot persevere in obedience—yet he "continued in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." This righteous One held on his way, he did not fail, nor was he discouraged; yes, when persecution and tribulation did arise against him, because of his doing the will of his Father, he did not give up—but did always do the things which pleased his Father, as he told the Jews, John 8:29.
[4.] Fourthly, The delight that he took "in doing the will of his Father." Psalm 40:8, "I delight to do your will, O my God; yes, your law is within my heart," or in the midst of my heart, as the Hebrew runs. By the law of God we are to understand all the commandments of God. There is not one command which Christ did not delight to do. Christ's obedience was without murmuring or grudging; his Father's commandments were not grievous to him; he tells his disciples, that it was his "food to do the will of him who sent him, and to finish his work," John 4:34. But,
[5.] Fifthly, The virtue and efficacy of it. For his obedience—his righteousness never returns to him void—but it always "accomplishes that which he pleases, and prospers in the thing whereto he ordains it," and that is the making others righteous, according to the apostle Paul: Romans 5:19, "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the disobedience of one shall many be made righteous." 2 Cor. 5:21, "God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." Accordingly we are righteous, "for of God he is made unto us righteousness," 1 Cor. 1:30.
The perfect complete obedience of Christ to the law, is certainly reckoned to us. That is an everlasting truth, "If you will enter into life, keep the commandments," Mat. 19:17. The commandments must be kept either by ourselves—or by our surety—or there is no entering into life. Christ did obey the law, not for himself but for us, and in our stead. Romans 5:18-19, "By the righteousness of one, the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life; by the obedience of one, many shall be made righteous." By his obedience to the law, we are made righteous. Christ's obedience is reckoned to us for righteousness. Christ, by his obedience to the royal law, is made righteousness to us, 1 Cor. 1:30. We are saved by that perfect obedience, which Christ, when he was in this world, yielded to the blessed law of God.
Mark, whatever Christ did as mediator, he did it for those whose mediator he was, or in whose stead and for whose good he executed the office of a mediator before God. This the Holy Spirit witnesses: Romans 8:3-4, "For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us." The word "likeness," is not simply to be referred to flesh—but to sinful flesh, as Basil well observes; "Christ was like unto us in all things—sin only excepted." If with our justification from sin, there is joined that active obedience of Christ, which is imputed to us, we are just before God, according to that perfection which the law requires.
Because we could not, in this condition of weakness whereinto we are cast by sin, come to God, and be freed from condemnation by the law, God sent Christ as a mediator to do and suffer whatever the law required at our hands for that end and purpose, that we might not be condemned—but accepted by God. It was all to this end, that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us; that is, which the law required of us, consisting in duties of obedience. This Christ performed for us. This expression of the apostle, "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh," if you will add to it that of Gal. 4:4—that he was so sent forth, as that he was "made under the law;" that is, submissive to it, to yield all the obedience that it does require, comprises the whole of what Christ did or suffered. And all this, the Holy Spirit tells us was for us, verse 5. He who made the law as God, was made under the law as God-man, whereby both the obligations of the law fell upon him—both the Penal and the Preceptive obligations. First, The penal obligation to undergo the curse—and so to satisfy divine justice. Secondly, The preceptive obligation—to fulfill all righteousness, Mat. 3:15. This preceptive obligation he fulfilled by doing; the penal obligation he fulfilled by dying.
Mark, this double obligation could not have befallen the Lord Jesus Christ upon any natural account of his own—but upon his mediatory account only—as he voluntarily became the surety of this new and better covenant, Heb. 7:22; so that the fruit and benefit of Christ's voluntary subjection to the law, redounds not at all to himself, "but unto the people who were given him of the Father," John 17, whose sponsor he became. For their sakes he underwent the penal obligation of the law, that it might do them no harm, "He being made a curse for us," Gal. 3:13; and for their sakes he fulfilled the preceptive obligation of the law, "do this," so that the law might do them good.
This the evangelical apostle clearly asserts, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, to everyone who believes," Romans 10:4, "Christ is the end of the law." What end? why, the perfection and accomplishment of the law. He is the end of the law for righteousness, that is, to the end that by Christ's active obedience, God might have his perfect law perfectly kept, so that there might be a righteousness existing in the human nature, every way adequate to the perfection of the law. And who must wear this garment of righteousness, when Christ has finished it? Surely the believer who lacked a righteousness of his own; for so it follows, "for righteousness to everyone who believes," that is, that every poor naked sinner, believing in Jesus Christ, might have a righteousness, wherein being found, he might appear at God's tribunal. But his nakedness does not appear—but as Jacob in the garment of his elder brother Esau, so the believer in the garment of his elder brother Jesus, might inherit the blessing, even the great blessing of justification.
The only matter of man's righteousness, since the fall of Adam, wherein he can appear with comfort before the justice of God, and consequently, whereby alone he can be justified in his sight—is the obedience and sufferings of Jesus Christ, the righteousness of the mediator. There is not any other way imaginable, how the justice of God may be satisfied, and we may have our sins pardoned in a way of justice—but by the righteousness of the Son of God. Therefore is his name Jehovah Tsidkenu, "The Lord our righteousness," Jer. 23:6. This is his name; that is, this is the prerogative of the Lord Jesus, a matter that appertains to him alone, to be able to bring in "an everlasting righteousness, and to make reconciliation for iniquity," Dan. 9:24. It is by Christ alone, that those who "believe are justified from all things, from which they cannot be justified by the law of Moses," Acts 13:39.
III.Now from the active obedience of Christ, a sincere Christian may form up this third plea as to these ten scriptures, [Eccles. 11:9, and 12:14; Mat. 12:36, and 18:23; Luke 16:2; Romans 14:10, 12; 2 Cor. 5:10; Heb. 9:27, and 13:17; 1 Pet. 4:6.] which refer either to the general judgment, or to the particular judgment that will pass upon every Christian immediately after death.
"O blessed God, you know that Jesus Christ, as my surety, did perform all that active obedience unto your holy and righteous law that I should have performed—but by reason of the indwelling power of sin, and of the vexing and molesting power of sin, and of the captivating power of sin—could not!"
There was in Christ a habitual righteousness, a conformity of his nature to the holiness of the law: 1 Pet. 1:19, "For he is a lamb without spot and blemish." The law could never have required so much righteousness—as is to be found in him. And as for practical righteousness, there was never any aberration in his thoughts, words, or deeds, Heb. 7:25; "The prince of this world comes, and has nothing in me," John 14:30. The apostle tells us, that "we are made the righteousness of God in him," 2 Cor. 5:21. He does emphatically add that clause, in him, that he may take away all conceit of inherent righteousness in us, and establish the doctrine of imputation. As Christ is made sin in us by imputation, so we are made righteousness in him by the same way. "God the Father," says Augustine, "made Christ to be sin, who knew no sin, that we might be the righteousness of God, not our own; and in him, that is in Christ, not in ourselves. And being thus justified, we are so righteous, as if we were righteousness itself!"
"Oh, holy God, Christ my surety has universally kept your royal law, he has not offended in any one point!" Yes, he has exactly and perfectly kept the whole law of God; he stood complete in the whole will of the Father; his active obedience was so full, so perfect, and so adequate—as to all the law's demands. The law now says, 'I have enough, I am fully satisfied; I have found a ransom, I can ask no more.' Neither was the obedience of Christ fickle or transient—but permanent and constant; it was his delight, his food and drink, yes, his heaven, to be still a-doing the will of his Father, John 4:33-34. Assuredly, while our Lord Jesus Christ was in this world, he did in his own person fully obey the law; he did in his own person perfectly conform to all the holy, just, and righteous commands of the law. Now this his most perfect and complete obedience to the law is made over to all his members, to all believers, to all sincere Christians; it is reckoned to them, it is imputed to them, as if they themselves, in their own persons, had performed it.
All sound believers being in Christ, as their head and surety—the law's righteousness is fulfilled in them legally and imputively, though it is not fulfilled in them formally, subjectively, inherently, or personally; suitable to that of the apostle, that "the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us," Romans 8:4. Mark, not by us—but in us; for Christ in our nature has fulfilled the demands of the law, and therefore in us, because of our communion with him, and our ingrafting into him. God has condemned sin in the flesh of his Son, that all that which the law by right could require of us—might be performed by him for us—as if we ourselves had in our own persons performed the same. The demands of the law must be met, before a sinner can be saved; we cannot of ourselves fulfill the demands of it. But here is the comfort—Christ our surety has fulfilled it in us, and we have fulfilled it in him.
Certainly, whatever Christ did concerning the law is ours by imputation so fully—as if we ourselves had done it. Does the law require obedience? says Christ, "I will give my obedience!" Mat. 3:15. Does the law threaten curses? says Christ, "I have borne all their curses!" Mat. 5:17-18. "The precept of the law," says Christ, shall be kept, and the promises received, and the punishments endured—that poor sinners may be saved!" Our righteousness and title to eternal life indispensably depend upon the imputation of Christ's active obedience to us. There must be a perfect obeying of the law, as the condition of life, either by the sinner himself or by his surety—or else no eternal life for us; which does sufficiently evince the absolute necessity of the imputation of Christ's active obedience to us. The sinner himself being altogether unable to fulfill the law, that he may stand righteous before the great and glorious God; Christ's fulfilling of it must necessarily be imputed to him in order to righteousness.
There are two great things which Jesus Christ undertook for his redeemed ones; the one was to make full satisfaction to divine justice for all their sins. Now this he did by his blood and death. The other was to yield most absolute conformity to the law of God, both in nature and life. By the one he has freed all his redeemed ones from hell, and by the other he has qualified all the redeemed ones for heaven. "Christ alone is my plea, O Lord, and by this plea I shall stand!" "Well," says the Lord, "I accept of this plea as honorable, just, and righteous. Enter into the joy of your Lord."
(2.) Secondly, As Jesus Christ did perform for us, all that active obedience which the law of God required; so he did also suffer all those punishments which we had deserved by the transgression of the law of God, in which respect he is said, 2 Cor. 2:22, "To be made sin for us." 1 Pet. 2:24, "He himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree." 1 Pet. 3:18, "For Christ also has once suffered for sin, the just for the unjust—that he might bring us to God." Phil. 2:8, "He humbled himself and to become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Gal. 3:13, "He was made a curse—an execration for us." Eph. 5:2, "He gave himself for us, as an offering and sacrifice unto God." Heb. 9:15, "For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."
Now concerning the PASSIVE obedience, or suffering of Christ, I would present unto you these conclusions.
[1.] First, That the sufferings of Jesus Christ were free and voluntary, and not constrained or forced. John 10:17, "I lay down my life." Verse 18, "No man takes it from me—but I lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again;" Gal. 2:20, "Who gave himself for me." Christ's sufferings rose out of obedience to his Father: John 10:18, "This commandment have I received from my Father;" and John 18:11, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" And Christ's sufferings also sprang and rose out of his love to us, "who loved me, and gave himself for me." Gal. 2:20. Just so, in Eph. 5:25, "Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it." And indeed, had Christ's sufferings been involuntary, they could not have been a part of his obedience, much less could they have mounted to anything of merit for us.
Christ was very free and willing to undertake the work of man's redemption. When he came into the world, he said, "Sacrifice and offerings you would not—but a body have you prepared me. Look, I have come to do your will," Heb. 10:5, 7. It is the expression of one overjoyed to do the will of God.
Just so, Luke 12:50, "There is a terrible baptism ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished." There was no power, no force to compel Christ to lay down his life, therefore it is called the offering of the body of Jesus, Heb. 10:10. Nothing could fasten Christ to the cross—but the golden link of his free love. Christ was filled with love, and therefore he freely opens all the pores of his body, that his blood may flow out from every part, as a precious balm to cure our wounds. The heart of Christ was so full of love that he could not hold it in—but must needs burst out through every part and member of his body into a bloody sweat, "Being in anguish, He prayed more fervently, and His sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground." Luke 22:44. At this time it is most certain that there was no manner of violence offered to the body of Christ; no man touched him, or came near him with whips, or thorns, or spears, or lances. Though the night was cold, and the air cold, and the earth on which he kneeled cold—yet such a burning love he had in his heart to his people, as cast him into a bloody sweat.
It is certain that Christ never repented of his sufferings: Isaiah 53:11, "He shall see of the travail of his soul—and shall be satisfied." It is a metaphor that alludes to a mother, who though she has had hard labor—yet does not repent of it, when she sees a child brought forth. Just so, though Christ had hard travail upon the cross—yet he does not repent of it—but thinks all his sweat and blood well bestowed, because he sees the man-child of redemption is brought forth into the world. He shall be satisfied: the Hebrew word signifies such a satiating as a man has, at some sweet feast or banquet. And what does this speak out—but his freeness in suffering?
OBJECTION. But here some may object, and say, that the Lord Jesus, when the hour of his sufferings drew near, did repent of his suretyship; and in a deep passion prayed to his Father to be released from his sufferings: "Father, if it be possible—let this cup pass from me;" and that three times over, Mat. 26:39, 42, 44.
ANSWER 1. Now to this objection I shall answer, first more generally, and secondly more particularly.
[1.] First, in the general, I say that this earnest prayer of his does not denote absolutely, his unwillingness—but rather sets out the greatness of his willingness; for although Christ as a man was of the same natural affections with us, and desires, and abhorrences of what was destructive to nature, and therefore did fear and deprecate that bitter cup which he was ready to drink. Yet as our mediator and surety, and knowing it would be a cup of salvation to us, though of exceeding bitterness to himself—he did yield and lay aside his natural reluctancies as man, and willingly obeyed his Father's will to drink it, as our loving mediator. It is as if he should say, "O Father, whatever becomes of me, of my natural fear or desire, I am content to submit to the drinking of this cup; may your will be done." But,
[2.] Secondly, and more particularly, I answer, that in these words of our Lord there is a twofold voice. 1. There is the voice of nature; "Let this cup pass from me." 2. There is the voice of his mediatorial office; "Nevertheless, not as I will—but as you will."
The first voice, "Let this cup pass," expresses the voice of the inferior part of his soul, the sensitive part, proceeding from natural abhorrency of death as he was a creature. The latter voice, "Nevertheless, not as I will—but as you will," expresses the full and free consent of his will, complying with the will of his Father in that grand everlasting design of "bringing many sons unto glory, by making the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings," Heb. 2:10.
It was an argument of the truth of Christ his human nature, that he naturally dreaded the cruel sufferings and death. He owed it to himself as a creature to desire the conservation of his being, and he could not become unnatural to himself, "For no man ever yet hated his own flesh," Eph. 5:29: Phil. 2:8, "But being a son, he learned submission, and became obedient to the death, even the death of the cross;" that shameful, cruel, cursed death of the cross, the suffering whereof he owed to that solemn agreement, which from everlasting passed between his Father and himself, the third person in the blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit being witness. And therefore, though the cup was the bitterest cup which ever was given man to drink, as wherein there was not death only—but wrath and curse! Yet seeing there was no other way left of satisfying the justice of his Father, and of saving sinners—he most willingly he took the cup, and having given thanks, as it were, in those words, "The cup which my Father has given me, shall I not drink it?" never did bridegroom go with more cheerfulness to be married to his bride, than our Lord Jesus went to his cross, Luke 12:50.
Though the cup that God the Father put into Christ's hand was bitter, very bitter, yes, the bitterest that ever was put into any hand—yet he found it sweetened with three ingredients. 1. It was but a cup, it was not a sea; 2. It was his Father, and not Satan, who mingled it, and who put in all the bitter ingredients that were in it; 3. It was a gift, not a curse, as to himself: "The cup which my Father gives me." He drank it, I say, and drank it up every drop, leaving nothing behind for his redeemed people, but large draughts of love and salvation, in the sacramental cup of his own institution, saying, "This cup is the new testament in my blood, for the remission of sins; this do you in remembrance of me," 1 Cor. 11:25; Mat. 26:28. Thus, my friends, look upon Christ as mediator, in which capacity only he covenanted with his Father for the salvation of mankind; and there was not so much as a shadow of any receding from, or repenting of what he had undertaken. But,
Answer. 2. Secondly, As the sufferings of Jesus Christ were very free and voluntary, so they were very great and heinous. What agony, what torment was our Savior racked with! How deep were his wounds! How weighty his burden! How full of trembling his cup, when he lay under the mountains of the guilt of all the elect! How bitter were his tears! How painful his bloody sweat! How sharp his encounters! How dreadful his death! Who can compute how many vials of God's inexpressible, insupportable wrath which Christ drank off? In that 53rd chapter of Isaiah you may read of despisings, rejections, stripes, smitings, wounds, sorrows, bruisings, chastisements, oppressions, afflictions, cutting off, putting to grief, and pouring out of his soul to death; all these put together speaks out Christ to be a very great sufferer.
Isaiah 53:3, "He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief!" He was a man of sorrows, as if he were a man made up of sorrows: as the man of sin, as if he were made up of sin, as if he were nothing else. He knew more sorrows than any man, yes, than all men ever did; for the iniquity, and consequently the sorrows, of all men met in him as if he had been their center; and he was acquainted with griefs; grief was his familiar acquaintance, he had no acquaintance with laughter. We never read that Jesus laughed at all, when he was in the world. His other acquaintances stood afar off—but grief followed him to the cross. From his birth to his death, from his cradle to the cross, from the womb to the tomb, he was a man of sorrows, and never were sorrows like his; he might say, "Never grief or sorrow like mine!"
It is indeed impossible to express the sufferings and sorrows of Christ; and the Greek Christians used to beg of God, that for the unknown sufferings of Christ—he would have mercy upon them! Though Christ's sufferings are abundantly made known—yet they are but little known; eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it or can it enter into the heart of man to conceive what Christ suffered; "who has known the power of God's wrath?" Christ Jesus knew it, for he underwent it. His whole life was made up of suffering. He was no sooner born—but sufferings came trooping in upon him. He was born in an inn, yes, in a stable, and had but a feeding-trough for his cradle. As soon as his birth was noised abroad, Herod, under a pretense of worshiping of him, had a design to murder him, so that his supposed father was forced to fly into Egypt to secure his life. He was persecuted before he could, humanly speaking, be sensible of persecution. And as he grew up in years, so his sufferings grew up with him. Hunger and thirst, journeyings and weariness, scorns and reproaches, false accusations and contradictions still waited on him, and he had not where to lay his head.
1 Pet. 3:18, "Christ has suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous." This is the wonderment of angels, the happiness of fallen man, and the torment of devils, etc., that Christ has suffered. The apostle's words look like a riddle, "Christ has suffered;" as if he should say, "read if you can, what he has suffered; as for my part his sufferings are so many, that in this short epistle I have no mind to record them; and they are so grievous, that my passionate love won't allow me to repeat them, and therefore I content myself thus abruptly to deliver them, "Christ has suffered." Christ's sufferings were unspeakable, his sufferings were unutterable; and therefore the apostle satisfies himself with this imperfect, broken speech, "Christ has suffered." Oh, what woes and lamentations, what cries and exclamations, what complaints and sorrows, what wringing of hands, what beating of breasts, what weeping of eyes, what wailing of tongues—belong to the speaking and hearing of this doleful tragedy!
Even in the prologue I tremble, and at the first entrance I am as perplexed, that I know not with what woeful gesture to act it, with what moanful voice to pronounce it, with what mournful words, with what pitiful speeches, with what emphatic phrases, with what interrupted accents, with what passionate compassionate plaints to express it. The multiplicity of the plot, and the variety of the acts and scenes is so intricate, that my memory fails to comprise it! The matter so important, and the story so excellent, that my tongue fails to declare it! The cruelty so savage, and the massacre so barbarous, that my heart even fails to consider it! Therefore I must needs content myself, with the apostle here, to speak but imperfectly of it, and think this enough to say, "Christ has suffered!" And well may I think this enough, for behold what perfection there is in this seeming imperfect speech. For,
First, To say indefinitely, he "suffered" without any limitation of time, what is it but to say that he always suffered without exception of time? And so indeed the prophet speaks of him, namely, "That he was a man of sorrows," Isa, 53:3. His whole life was filled up with sufferings. But,
Secondly, To say only he "suffered," and nothing else, what is it but to say that he patiently suffered; he never resisted, never rebelled, never opposed? "He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and as a lamb is silent before the shearer, so opened he not his mouth," Acts 8:32; Isaiah 53:7. "And when he was reviled, he reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not," 1 Pet. 2:23. But,
Thirdly, To say precisely he "suffered," and no more, what is it but to say that he freely suffered, that he voluntarily suffered? Christ was under no force, no compulsion—but freely allowed himself to suffer, and voluntarily allowed the Jews to make him suffer, having power to stop himself from suffering if he had pleased. "I lay down my life, no man takes it from me—but I lay it down of myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again," John 10:17. But of this before.
Fourthly, To say plainly he "suffered," what is it but to say that he innocently suffered, that he wrongfully suffered? For had he been a malefactor, or an offender, it would have been said that he was punished, or that he was executed—but he was full of innocence—he was holy and harmless; and so it follows in that 1 Pet. 3:18, "The just for the unjust." But,
Fifthly, To say peremptorily he "suffered," what is it but to say that he principally suffered, that he excessively suffered? To say he suffered, what is it but to say he was the chief sufferer, the arch-sufferer? and that not only in respect of the manner of his sufferings, that he suffered absolutely so as never any person did—but also in respect of the measure of his sufferings, that he suffered excessively beyond what ever any person did. And thus we may well understand and take those words, "He suffered."
That lamentation of the prophet, Lam. 1:12, is very applicable to Christ, "Look and see! Is there any pain like mine, which was dealt out to me, which the Lord made me suffer on the day of His burning anger?" Now, is it not enough for the apostle to say that "Christ has suffered;" but will you yet ask what he suffered? But please, friends, be satisfied to know that Christ suffered for your sins. For what sufferings can you think of, that Christ did not suffer? Christ suffered in his birth, and he suffered in his life, and he suffered in his death. He suffered in his body, for he was diversely tormented. He suffered in his soul, for his soul was exceeding sorrowful. He suffered in his estate, they parted his clothing, and he had nowhere to rest his head. He suffered in his reputation, for he was called a Samaritan, a devilish sorcerer, a drunkard, an enemy to Caesar, etc. He suffered from heaven, when he cried out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" He suffered from the earth, when, being hungry, the fig-tree proved fruitless to him. He suffered from hell, Satan assaulting and encountering of him with his most black and horrid temptations. He began his life lowly and basely, and was sharply persecuted. He continued his life poorly and distressedly, and was cruelly hated. He ended his life woefully and miserably, and was most grievously tormented with whips, thorns, nails, and, above all, with the terrors of his Father's wrath and horrors of hellish agonies!
"I am the man who have sinned—but these sheep, what have they done?" said David, when he saw the angel destroying his people, 2 Sam. 24:17. And the same speech may everyone of us take up for ourselves and apply to Christ, and say, "I have sinned, I have done wickedly—but this sheep—this Lamb of God—what has he done?" Yes, much more cause have we than David had to take up this complaint. For,
First, David saw them die, whom he knew to be sinners—but we see him die, who "knew no sin," 2 Cor. 5:21. But,
Secondly, David saw them die a quick, speedy death; we see him die with lingering torments. He was a-dying from six to nine, Mat. 27:45-46. Now in this three hours' darkness, he was set upon by all the powers of darkness with utmost might and malice—but he foiled and spoiled them all, and made an open show of them, as the Roman conquerors used to do, triumphing over them on his cross, as on his chariot of state, Col. 2:15, attended by his vanquished enemies, with their hands bound behind them, Eph. 4:8. But,
Thirdly, David saw them die, who, by their own confession, was worth ten thousand of them; we see him die for us, whose worth admits no comparison. But,
Fourthly, David saw the Lord of glory destroying mortal men, and we see mortal men destroying the Lord of glory, 1 Cor. 2:8. Oh, how much more cause have we then to say as David, "I have sinned, I have done wickedly—but this innocent Lamb, the Lord Jesus, what has he done? What has he deserved, that he should be thus greatly tormented?" Tully, though a great orator—yet when he comes to speak of the death of the cross, he lacks words to express it, "What shall I say of this death?" says he. But,
Answer. 3. Thirdly, As the sufferings of Christ were very great—just so, the punishments which Christ did suffer for our sins, these were in their kinds and parts and degrees and proportion—all those punishments which were due unto us by reason of our sins, and which we ourselves would otherwise have suffered. Whatever we would have suffered as sinners—all that did Christ suffer as our surety and mediator, always excepting those punishments which could not be endured without a pollution and guilt of sin: "The chastisement of our peace was upon him," Isaiah 53:5; and including the punishments common to the nature of man—arising out of imperfection and defect and distemper. Now, the punishments due to us for sin were corporal and spiritual. And again, they were the punishments of loss, and punishments of sense. All these did Christ suffer for us, which I shall evidence by an induction of particulars.
I. First, That Christ suffered corporal punishments is most clear in Scripture. You read of the injuries to his body—of the crown of thorns on his head, of the smiting of his cheeks, of spitting on his face, of the scourging of his body, of the cross on his back, of the vinegar in his mouth, of the nails in his hands and feet, of the spear in his side, and of his crucifying and dying on the cross: 1 Pet. 24, "Who himself in his own body on the tree bore our sins." 1 Cor. 15:3, "Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures." Rev. 1:5, "And washed us from our sins in his own blood." Col. 1:14, "In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins." Mat. 26:28, "For this is my blood of the New Testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."
Christ suffered derision in every one of his offices.
First, In his kingly office. They put a scepter in his hand, a crown on his head, and bowed their knees, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" Mat. 27:29.
Secondly, In his priestly office. "They put upon him a gorgeous white robe," such as the priests wore, Luke 23:11.
Thirdly, In his prophetic office. "When they had blindfolded him, Prophesy, say they, who it is that smites you," Luke 22:64. Sometimes they said, "You are a Samaritan, and have a devil," John 8:48; and sometimes they said, "He's out of his mind!" Mark 3:21.
And as Christ suffered in everyone of his offices, so he suffered in every member of his body. He suffered in his hearing, by their reproaches, and crying, "Crucify him, crucify him!" He suffered in his sight, by their scoffings and scornful gestures. He suffered in his smell—in his being in that noisome place Golgotha, Mat. 27:33. He suffered in his taste, by his tasting of vinegar mingled with gall, which they gave him to drink, Mat. 27:33. He suffered in his feeling, by the thorns on his head, blows on his cheeks, spittle on his face, the spear in his side, and the nails in his hands. He suffered in all parts and members of his body from head to foot. His head, which deserved a better crown than the best in the world, was crowned with thorns, and they smote him on the head.
Osorius, writing of the sufferings of Christ, says, "That the crown of thorns bored his head with seventy-two wounds." To see that head, before which angels cast down themselves and worshiped, as I may say—crowned with thorns—might well astonish us! To see those eyes, which were purer than the sun, put out by the darkness of death; to see those ears which heard nothing but halleluiahs of saints and angels, to hear the blasphemies of the multitude; to see that face which was fairer than the sons of men—for being born and conceived without sin, he was freed from the contagious effects of it, deformity, and was most perfectly beautiful, Psalm 45:2; Cant. 5:10—to be spit on by those beastly, wretched Jews; to see that mouth and tongue, which "spoke as never man spoke," accused for false doctrines, nay blasphemy; to see those hands, which freely swayed the scepter of heaven, nailed to the cross; to see those feet, "like unto fine brass," Rev. 1:15, nailed to the cross for man's sins! Who can behold Christ thus suffering in all the members of his body, and not be struck with astonishment?
Who can sum up the horrible abuses that were put upon Christ by the vile guards? The evangelist tells us that they spit in his face and buffeted him, and that others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, "Prophesy unto us, you Christ, who is he who smote you?" Mat. 26:67-68; and, as Luke adds, "many other things blasphemously spoke they against him," Luke 22:65. What those many other things were, is not made known; only some ancient writers say, "That Christ in that night suffered so many and such hideous things, that the whole knowledge of them is reserved only for the last day of judgment." Maldonatus writes thus, "After Caiaphas and the priests had sentenced Christ as worthy of death, they committed him to their ministers, to keep until day, and they immediately threw him into the dungeon in Caiaphas's house; there they bound him to a stony pillar, with his hands bound on his back, and then they fell upon him with their palms and fists." Others add that the soldiers, not yet content, they threw him into a filthy, dirty puddle, where he abode for the remainder of that night; of which the psalmist seems to speak, "You have laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, and in the deeps, and I sink in the deep mire, where there is no standing," Psalm 88:6, and 69:2. But that you may clearly see what horrible abuses were put upon Christ by his guards, consider seriously of these particulars—
[1.] First, "They spit in his face." Mat. 26:67. Now, this was accounted among the Jews a matter of great infamy and reproach: Num. 12:14, "And the Lord said to Moses, If her father had spit in her face, should she not be ashamed seven days?" Spitting in the face among the Jews was a sign of anger, shame, and contempt! Job 30:10, "They abhor me, they flee far from me, and spit in my face." The face is the place of beauty or loveliness—and when it is spit upon—it is made the seat of shame. Spitting in the face was a sign of the greatest disgrace that could be put upon a person; and therefore it could not but be very bitter to see base beggars spit in Job's face, which was accustomed to be honored by princes. But this we are not to wonder at, for there is no indignity so base and ignominious, but the choicest saints may meet with it in and from this evil world.
Afflicted people are sacred things, and by the laws of nature and nations, should not be misused and trampled upon—but rather pitied and lamented over. But barbarous miscreants, when they have an opportunity, they will not spare to exercise any kind of cruelty, as you see by their spitting in the very face of Christ himself! "I hid not my face," says Christ, "from shame and spitting," Isaiah 50:6, 2. Though "I was fairer than the children of men," Psalm 45:2, yet I used no mask to keep me fair. Though "I was radiant and ruddy," "the chief among ten thousand," Cant. 5:10, yet I preserved not my beauty from their nasty spittle. Oh, that that sweet and blessed face of Jesus Christ, that is so much honored and adored in heaven, should ever be spit upon by such beastly wretches!
[2.] Secondly, "They struck him." John 18:22, "One of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Do you answer the high priest so?" Because our Savior gave not the high priest his usual titles—but dealt freely with him, this impious officer, to curry favor with his master, strikes him with his hand, with his rod, say some, with his stick, say others; like master like man. Oh, that that holy face which was designed to be the central object of heaven, in the beholding of which much of the celestial glory does consist—that that face which the angels stare upon with wonder, like infants at a bright sunbeam—should ever be smitten by a base varlet servant in the presence of a judge! Among all the sufferings of Christ, one would think that there was no great matter in this, that a vain officer did strike him with the palm of his hand—and yet if the Scriptures are consulted, you will find that the Holy Spirit lays a great stress upon it. Thus Jeremiah: "He gives his cheek to him who smites him; he is filled full with reproach," Lam. 3:30.
Christ did patiently and willingly take the stripes that vain men did injuriously lay upon him; he sustained all kinds of vexations from the hands of all kinds of ungodly ones. Thus Micah, speaking of Christ, says, "They shall smite the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek," Micah 5:1. Hugo, by this Judge of Israel, understands our Lord Jesus Christ, who was indeed at his passion devastatingly "buffeted and smitten with rods upon the cheek," Mat. 26:67. By smiting the Judge of Israel with a rod upon the cheek, they express their scorn and contempt of Christ. Smiting upon the face the apostle makes a sign of great reproach: 2 Cor. 11:20, "If a man smites you on the face." "There is nothing more disgraceful," says Chrysostom, "than to be smitten on the cheek." And the diverse reading of the original word does fully evidence it: "He struck him with a rod," or he struck him with the palm of his hand. Now, the word, say some, refers to his being struck with a rod, or club, or shoe. Others say it refers to his being struck with the palm of men's hands. Now, of the two, it is generally judged more disgraceful to be struck with the palm of the hand than to be struck with either a rod or a shoe; and therefore we read the text thus, "He struck Jesus with the palm of his hand," that is, with open hand, or with his hand stretched out.
Some of the ancients, commenting on this cuff, say, "Let the heavens be afraid, and let the earth tremble, at Christ's patience and his servant's impudence! O you angels! how were you silent? how could you contain yourselves when you saw that soldier's hand striking at God?" "If we consider him," says another, "who took the blow, was not he who struck him worthy to be consumed by fire, or to be swallowed up by the earth, or to be given up to Satan, and thrown down into hell." Bernard says, "That his hand that struck Christ was armed with an iron glove." And Vincentius affirms, "That by the blow Christ was felled to the earth." And Ludovicus adds, "That blood gushed out of his mouth; and that the impression of the soldier's fingers remained on Christ's cheek with a swelling and bruised color." If a subject should but lift up his hand against a sovereign, would he not be severely punished? But should he strike him, would it not be present death? Oh, what desperate madness and wickedness was it then to strike the King of kings and Lord of lords, whom not only men—but the cherubim and seraphim, and all the celestial powers above, adore and worship? Rev. 17:16; Heb. 1:6.
Those monsters in that Mat. 26:67 did not only strike Christ with the palm of their hands—but they buffeted him also. Now, some of the learned observe this difference between the two words; the one is given with the open hand, the other with the fist shut up; and thus they used him at this time. They struck him with their fists, and so the stroke was greater and more offensive; for by this means they made his face to swell, and to become full of bunches all over. One gives it in thus: By these blows of their fists his whole head was swollen, his face became black and blue, and his teeth ready to fall out of his jaws. Very probable it is that, with the violence of their strokes, they made him reel and stagger, they made his mouth, and nose, and face to bleed, and his eyes to startle in his head.
Now, concerning Christ's sufferings on the cross, I shall only hint a few things, and so close up this particular concerning Christ's corporeal sufferings. Take me thus,
1. First, The death of Christ on the cross, it was a bitter death, a sorrowful death, a bloody death. The bitter thoughts of his sufferings put him into a most dreadful agony: Luke 22:44, "Being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was as great drops of blood falling to the ground." The Greek word that is here used, signifies a striving or wrestling against, as two combatants or wrestlers do strive each against other. The things which our Savior strove against was not only the terror of death, as other men are accustomed to do—for then many Christians and martyrs might have seemed more fearless and courageous than he—but with the terrible justice of God, pouring out his high anger and indignation upon him on the account of all the sins of his chosen ones, which were laid upon him, than which nothing could be more dreadful, Isaiah 53:4-6. Christ was in a vehement conflict in his soul, through the deepest sense of his Father's wrath against sinners, for whom he now stood as a surety and Redeemer, 2 Cor. 5:21. And for a close of this particular, let me say that God's justice which we have provoked, being fully satisfied by the inestimable merit of Christ's sufferings—is the surest and highest ground of consolation that we have in this world! ut for the more full opening of this blessed scripture, let us take notice of these following particulars:
(1.) First, "His sweat was, as it were blood." Some of the ancients look upon these words only as a similitude or figurative hyperbole, it being a usual kind of speech to call a vehement sweat a bloody sweat, as he who weeps bitterly is said to weep tears of blood. But the most and best of the ancients, understand the words in a literal sense, and believe it was truly and properly a bloody sweat, and with them I close. But some will object, and say it was—as it were drops of blood. Now to this I answer, first, if the Holy Spirit had only intended that for a similitude or hyperbole, he would rather have expressed it—as it were drops of water, than "as it were drops of blood;" for we all know that sweat is more like to water than to blood.
But, secondly, I answer that 'as it were', as in Scripture phrase, does not always denote a similitude—but sometimes the very thing itself, according to the verity of it. Take an instance or two instead of many: "We beheld his glory, as the glory of the only begotten of the Father." "Their words seemed to them as it were idle tales, and they believed them not." The words in the original are the same. Certainly Christ's sweat in the garden was an astonishing sweat, not a sweat of water—but of red gore-blood. But,
(2.) Secondly, He sweat great drops of blood, clotty blood, issuing through flesh and skin in great abundance—clotted or congealed blood. There is a thin faint sweat, and there is a thick clotted sweat. In this sweat of Christ blood came not from him in small dews—but in great drops, they were drops, and great drops of blood, crassy [thick, fat] and thick drops. Some read it droppings down of blood; that is, blood distilling in greater and grosser drops; and hence it is concluded as preternatural; for though much may be said for sweating blood in a course of nature, according to what Aristotle affirms, and Austin says that he knew a man who could sweat blood, even when he pleased; and it is granted on all hands that in faint bodies a subtle thin blood like sweat may pass through the pores of the skin—but that through the same pores thick, and great drops of blood should issue out—it was not, it could not be without a miracle. Certainly the drops of blood that fell from Christ's body were great, very great; yes, so great as if they had started through his skin to outrun the streams and rivers of his cross. But,
(3.) Thirdly, These great drops of blood did not only drip out—but run down like a stream, so fast, as if they had issued out of most deadly wounds. They were great "drops of blood falling down to the ground!" Here is magnitude and multitude; great drops, and those so many, so plenteous, as that they went through his apparel, and all streamed down to the ground; now was the time that his garments were dyed with crimson red. That of the prophet, though spoken in another sense—yet in some respect may be applied to this, "Why are your garments red, like those of one treading the winepress?" Isaiah 63:2. Oh, what a sight was here! His head and members are all in a bloody sweat, and this sweat trickles down, and bedecks his garments, which stood like a new sky, studded with stars, portending an approaching storm. The blood does not stay in the garment—but it falls down to the ground. Oh, happy garden that was watered with such tears of blood! Oh, how much better are these rivers than Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, yes, than all the waters of Israel; yes, than all those rivers which water the garden of Eden!
So great was Scanderbeg's ardor in battle, that the blood burst out of his lips. But from our Champion—not his lips only—but his whole body, burst out a bloody sweat. Not his eyes only were fountains of tears, or his head waters, as Jeremiah wished, Jer. 9:1—but his whole body was turned, as it were, into rivers of blood. A sweet comfort to such as are cast down, because their sorrow for sin is not so deep and penetrating as they could desire.
Christ's blood is put in Scripture by a synecdoche of the part—for all the sufferings which he underwent for all the sins of the elect, especially his bloody death with all its accompaniments, so called. First, because death, especially when it is violent, is joined with the effusion of blood: "If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets," that is, of their death. Mat. 23:30. And so again, Pilate said, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person," that is, of his death, Mat. 27:24.
Secondly, Herein respect is had to all the sacrifices of the law, whose blood was poured out when they were offered up. "Almost all things are by the law purged with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission of sin," Heb. 9:22; so that the blood of Christ is the antitype aimed at in the blood of those sacrifices, which were slain for sinners' sins. But,
2. Secondly, as the death of Christ on the cross, was a bitter death, a bloody death—so the death of Christ on the cross was a lingering death. It was more for Christ to suffer one hour—than for us to have suffered forever. But his death was lengthened out, he hung three hours on the cross, he died many deaths before he could die one: "from the sixth until the ninth hour"—that is, from twelve until three in the afternoon—"there was darkness over all the land," Mat. 27:45. About twelve, when the sun is usually brightest, it began now to darken, and this darkness was so great that it spread over all the land of Jerusalem; yes, some think over all the world. Just so, we translate it in Luke, "And there was darkness over all the earth," Luke 23:44, to show God's dislike of their horrid cruelty. He would not have the sun give light to so horrid an act. The sun as it were, hid his face that he might not see the Sun of righteousness so unworthily, so wickedly handled.
It was dark:
1. To show the blindness, darkness, and ignorance of the Jews in crucifying the Lord of glory;
2. To show God's detestation of the fact;
3. To show the vileness of our sins.
This darkness was not a natural eclipse of the sun; for, first, it cannot be so total, so general; nor secondly, it could not be so long, for the interposed moon goes swiftly away. Certainly this was no ordinary eclipse of the sun, seeing the Passover was kept at the full moon, when the moon stands right opposite to the sun on the other side of the heaven, and for this cause cannot hinder the light of the sun. this was a supernatural work of God coming to pass by miracle, "like as the darkness in Egypt," Exod. 10:22. The moon being now in the full, it being in the midst of the lunar month when the Passover was killed, and so of necessity the body of the moon—which sometimes eclipsed the sun by its interposition, and being between us and the sun—must be opposite to and distant from the sun the diametrical breadth of the hemisphere, the full moon ever rising at the sun's setting, and therefore this eclipse could never be a natural eclipse. Many Gentiles besides Jews observed this darkness as a great miracle. Dionysius the Areopagite, could say at first sight of it, "Either the world is ending, or the God of nature is suffering in this darkness."
Amos long before had prophesied: "And it shall come to pass in that day, that I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the clear day," Amos 8:9. The opinion of authors concerning the cause of this darkness are various. Some think that the sun by divine power, withdrew and held back its beams; others say that the obscurity was caused by some thick clouds which were miraculously produced in the air, and spread themselves over all the earth; others say that this darkness was by a wonderful interposition of the moon, which at that time was at full—but by a miracle interposed itself between the earth and sun. Whatever was the cause of this darkness, it is certain that it continued for the space of three hours as dark as the darkest winter nights.
About three in the afternoon, Mat. 27:46, the sun now beginning to receive his light, Jesus cried with a loud voice, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And then, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, he said "I thirst;" and when he had received the vinegar, he said, "It is finished," John 19:28, 30. And at last, crying with a loud voice, he said, "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit;" and having said thus, "he gave up the Spirit," Luke 23:46. Christ's words were ever gracious—but never more gracious than at this time. You cannot find in all the books and writings of men, in all the annals and records of time, either such sufferings or such sayings, as were these last words and wounds, sayings and sufferings of Jesus Christ. "And having said thus, he gave up the Spirit;" or as John relates it, "He bowed his head and gave up the Spirit," John 19:30. Christ would not come off the cross until all was done—which he was here to accomplish. Christ bowed not because he was dead—but first he bowed and then died; that is, he died freely and willingly without constraint, and he died cheerfully and comfortably without murmuring or repining. Oh, what a wonder of love is this, that Jesus Christ, who is the author of life, the fountain of life, the Lord of life, that he should so freely, so readily, so cheerfully lay down his life for us!
About four in the afternoon he was pierced with a spear, and there issued out of his side, both blood and water: "One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water flowed out." John 19:34. Out of the side of Christ, being now dead, there issues water and blood, signifying that he is both our justification and sanctification.
Thus was fulfilled that which was long before foretold: "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced," Zech. 12:10. Thus "Jesus came by water and by blood," 1 John 5:6. Thus was there "a fountain opened to the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem," even to all the elect, "for sin and for uncleanness," Zech. 13:1. The soldier's malice lived when Christ was dead. The water and blood forthwith issuing out as soon as it was pierced with a spear, did evidently show that he was truly dead. It is very likely that the very pericardium was pierced. Now the pericardium is a film or skin, like unto a purse, wherein is contained clear water to cool the heat of the heart. The blood, says one, signifies the perfect expiation of the sins of the Church. And the water, the daily washing and purging of it from the remainder of her corruption. "Water and blood issued out of Christ's side," says another, "to teach us that Christ justifies none by his merit—but such whom he sanctifies by his Spirit." Christ was pierced with a spear, and water and blood presently issued out of his side, that his enemies might not object that he rose again because he was but half dead on the cross, and being so taken down he revived in the grave. To testify the contrary truth, John so seriously affirms the certainty of his death, he being an eye-witness of the streaming out of Christ's blood as he stood by Christ's cross. O gates of heaven! O windows of paradise! O palace of refuge! O tower of strength! O sanctuary of the just! O flourishing bed of the spouse of Solomon! Methinks I see water and blood running out of his side more freshly than these golden streams which ran out of the garden of Eden and watered the whole world. But here I may not dwell, etc.
But to shut up this particular, about five, which the Jews call the eleventh and the last hour of the day, Christ was taken down and buried by Joseph and Nicodemus. But,
3. Thirdly, As the death of Christ on the cross was a lingering death, so the death of Christ was a painful death. This appears several ways.
[1.] First, His legs and hands were violently racked and pulled out to the places fitted for his fastenings, and then pierced through with nails. His hands and feet were nailed, which parts being full of sinews, and therefore very tender, his pains could not but be very acute and sharp.
[2.] Secondly, By this means he lacked the use both of his hands and feet, and so he was forced to hang immovable upon the cross, as being unable to turn any way for his ease, and therefore he could not but be under very dolorous pains.
[3.] Thirdly, The longer he lived, the more he endured; for by the weight of his body his wounds were opened and enlarged, his nerves and veins were rent and torn asunder, and his blood gushed out more and more abundantly still. Now the envenomed arrows of God's wrath shot to his heart. This was the direful catastrophe, and caused that vociferation and outcry upon the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" The justice of God was now inflamed and heightened to its full. Romans 8:32, "God spared not his Son;" God would not abate one farthing of the debt. But,
[4.] Fourthly, He died by piece-meals, he died little by little, he died not all at once. He who died on the cross, was long a-dying. Christ was kept a great while upon the rack; it was full three hours between his crucifixion and his expiration; and certainly it would have been longer if he had not freely and willingly given up the Spirit. I have read that Andrew the apostle was two whole days on the cross before he died; and so long might Christ have been a-dying, if God had not supernaturally heightened the degrees of his torment. Doubtless when Christ was on the cross he felt the very pains of hell, though not locally—yet equivalently. But,
4. Fourthly, As the death of Christ on the cross was a painful death, so the death of Christ on the cross was a shameful death. Christ was hung between two thieves—as if he had been the principal malefactor, Mark 27:38. Here they placed him to make the world believe that he was the great ringleader of such men. Christ was crucified in the midst as the chief of sinners—that we might have place in the midst of heavenly angels. One of these thieves went railing to hell, the other went repenting right forth to heaven, living long in a little time, Zech. 3:7.
If you ask me the names of these two thieves who were crucified with Christ, I must answer, that although the Scripture nominates them not—yet some writers give them these names, Dismas and Gesmas; Dismas the happy, and Gesmas the miserable thief, according to the poet—
When Gesmas died, to hell he was sent;
When Dismas died, up to heaven he went.
Well might the lamp of heaven withdraw its light and mask itself with darkness, as blushing to behold the Sun of righteousness hanging between two thieves! He shall be an Apollo to me—who can tell me which was the greater, the suffering of the cross, or the shame of the cross, Heb. 12:2. It was a mighty shame that Saul's sons were hanged on a tree, 2 Sam. 21:6. Oh, what a shameful death was it for Christ to hang on a tree between two notorious thieves! But,
5. Fifthly and lastly, As the death of Christ was a shameful death, so the death of Christ was a cursed death. "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree," Deut. 21:23. The death on the tree was accursed above all kinds of death—"as the serpent was accursed above all beasts of the field," Gen. 3:14, both for the first transgression, whereof the serpent was the instrument, the tree the occasion. Since the death of any malefactor might be a monument of God's curse for sin, it may be questioned, why this brand is peculiarly set upon this kind of punishment; that he who is hanged is accursed of God. To which I answer, because this was esteemed the most shameful, the most dishonorable and infamous of all kinds of death; and was usually therefore the punishment of those who had by some notorious wickedness provoked God to pour out his wrath upon the whole land, and so were hanged up to appease his wrath, as we may see in the hanging of those princes who were guilty of committing whoredom with the daughters of Moab, Num. 25:4; and in the hanging of those sons of Saul in the days of David, when there was a famine in the land, because of Saul's treacherous oppressing of the Gibeonites, 2 Sam. 21:6.
Nor was it without cause, that this kind of death was both by the Israelites and other nations esteemed the most shameful and accursed; because the very manner of the death did intimate that such men as were thus executed were such execrable and accursed wretches, that defiled the earth with treading upon it, and would pollute the earth if they should die upon it; and therefore were so trussed up in the air as not fit to live among men; and that others might look upon them as men made spectacles of God's indignation and curse, because of the wickedness they had committed, which was not done in other kinds of death. And hence it was that the Lord God would have his Son, the Lord Christ, to suffer this kind of death, that even hence it might be the more evident, that in his death he bore the curse due to our sins, according to the apostle: "Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law—being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree," Gal. 3:13. The Chaldee translates it, "For because he sinned before the Lord—he is hanged." The tree whereon a man was hanged, the stone wherewith he was stoned, the sword wherewith he was beheaded, and the napkin with which his face was covered—they were all buried, that there might be no evil memorial of such a one, to say—This was the tree, sword, stone, napkin—with which Jesus was executed.
This kind of death was so execrable, that Constantine made a law that no Christian should die upon the cross; he abolished this kind of death out of his empire. When this kind of death was in use among the Jews, it was chiefly inflicted upon slaves, who either falsely accused, or treacherously conspired their master's death. But on whoever it was inflicted, this death in all ages among the Jews had been branded with a special kind of ignominy; and so much the apostle signifies when he says, "He abased himself to the death—even to the death of the cross," Phil. 2:2. I know Moses' law speaks nothing in particular of crucifying—yet he does include the same under the general of hanging on a tree; and some conceive that Moses, in speaking of that curse, foresaw what manner of death the Lord Jesus should die. And let thus much suffice concerning Christ's sufferings on the cross, or concerning his bodily sufferings.