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the whole mystery of the cross ; an opinion supported by no historical monument whatever.
But granting we were to admit this principle, we must of necessity resist the consequence deduced from it, with respect to the apostles. It is very possible to have a clouded understanding amidst a luminous dispensation, and to grovel in ignorance be the age ever so enlightened. Had we a mind to demonstrate to what a degree the age in which we live surpasses those which preceded it, whether in physical discovery, or in metaphysical and theological speculation, would we go to collect our proofs among our common mechanics, or from among the fishermen 'who inhabit our sea-ports ? · Let us call to remembrance the indiscreet zeal of Peter, when Jesus Christ declared to him, “how he must
unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things and be killed,” Mat. xvi. 21. be it far from thee, Lord : this shall not be unto thee, ver. 22. Recollect the reply which Jesus made to that disciple: Get thee behind me, Satan : thou art an offence to me, ver. 23. Recollect farther the question which the apostles put to their Master some time before his ascension: Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Acts i. 6. Above all, recollect the conversation which passed between certain of them immediately after his resurrection : “ we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done,” Luke xxiv. 21, You trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel! Well! and wherefore trust no longer ? Whence then arises this diffidence
Wherein has his promise failed ? What oracle of the prophets has he neglected to fulfil ? “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory?" ver. 25, 26.
Taking it for granted, then, that the apostles had but confused ideas of the mystery of the cross, what offence must they not have taken, when they were called to be the witnesses of that fearful spectacle! From our being accustomed to hear the punishment of crucifixion spoken of in terms of high dignity, we lose sight of what was ignominious and humiliating in it. Represent to yourself a man whom you had made the centre, the fixed point of all your hopes. Represent to yourself a man, a God man, to whom you
had been accustomed to yield all the homage of adoration : represent to yourself this divine personage, whom you believed to have descended from heaen to remedy the woes of mankind; to remove your private distresses ; to re-establish your credit, and to restore to your country all its splendour and all its importance : represent to yourself this divine personage bound by the hands of an insolent rabble; dragged along from one tribunal to another ; condemned as a felon, and nailed to a tree. Can this be that Messiah, into whose hand God was to put a “ rod of iron to break the nations, and to dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel ?" Ps. ii. 9. Can this be that Messiah who should “have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth ?" Ps. lxxii. 8. Can this be the Messiahı who was to make us " sit on thrones, judging the
twelve tribes of Israel ?” Luke xxii. 30. As this was the grand offence with the apostles, their Master supplies them with more than one buckler to repel it.
1. The first buckler for repelling the offence of the cross The miserable condition of a lost world. “I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away the Comforter will not come unto you," ch. xvi. 7. Had not Jesus Christ been offered in sacrifice, there had been no Comforter, and no consolation for the wretched posterity of Adam. The anger of a righteous God was kindled against them. They had nothing to look for from heaven, but thunderbolts, and an horrible tempest, to crush their guilty heads. On the cross it was that Jesus Christ restored a blessed correspondence between heaven and earth: “for it pleased the Father, that in him should all fulness dwell; and, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven," Col. i. 19, 20.
2. The second buckler against the offence of the cross-The downfall of the enemy of mankind, I mean the Devil and his angels : “ the prince of this world is judged,” ch. xiv. 30. xvi. 11. The crucifixion of the Redeemer of the world, it is true, seemed to complete the triumph of Satan, but it was, in reality, precisely the point of his decline and fall. He bruised the heel of the promised seed, but Jesus Christ bruised his head, Gen. iii. 15. On the cross it was that Jesus executed the design of his coming into the world, namely, to destroy the works of the
devil, i John iii. 8. On the cross it was that Jesus Christ poured out the precious blood which was going to become the true seed of the church. On the cross it was that he dashed down to the ground the trophies of idolatry, and there he “ spoiled principalities and powers, and made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it,” Col. ii. 15.
3. The third buckler against the offence of the cross-The sovereign command of his heavenly Father : "the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me. But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do," chap. xiv. 30, 31. What was the commandment given of the Father to Jesus Christ? You know it, my brethren; the commission which he had given him, was to deliver from the dreadful abysses of hell a world of miserable wretches, whom divine justice had there doomed to undergo the punishment of everlasting fire. This was the supreme will which the Redeemer had continually before his eyes. For this it was that he saith, when he cometh into the world: “Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire: but a body hast thou prepared for me: burnt-offering and sin-offering hast thou not required: then said I, Lo, I come: in the volume of the book it is written of me: I delight to do thy will, O my God,” Ps. xl. 6, 7, 8. For this it was, that dismayed and cast down, as it were, to the ground, at Gethsemane, at the bare apprehension of approaching sufferings, he prayed, saying: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass
from me," but immediately added, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt,” Matt. xxvi. 39.
4. The fourth buckler against the offence of the cross--The idea of the storm which was ready to burst on the authors of those sufferings, and upon a whole guilty nation which had obstinately rejected his ministry: “If I had not come, and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth me, hateth my Father also,” ch. xv. 22, 23. This parricide filled up the measure of the incredulity and barbarity of the Jews: it was going to put the last hand to an accumulation of criminality. But let not the impatience of the flesh hurry the spirit into the formation of precipitate judgment : let not the libertine and the profane here display their abominable system: let them not say, as they point to the cross of the Saviour, on which innocence is immolated to iniquity, Where is that Providence which guides the helm of the universe? Where are those eyes which go up and down through the earth, to contemplate the actions of men ? Where is that righteous Judge of all the earth, ever ready to administer justice? Hare a little patience, and you shall see, that as ibis parricide constituted the most atrocicus of all crimes, it was likewise speedily followed by the most tremendous of all punishments. You shall behold the accomplishment of that prophetic denunciation:
Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children,'* Luke xxiii. 28. You shall behold the Jews driven to desperation, imploring assistance from the rocks and