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“ BEHOLD THE MAN!" If such was the exclamation of the Roman governor when he 6 brought Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe," John xix. 5, although he knew him not, well may those who are called by the name of that meek and patient Saviour turn aside to "behold” him likewise.
Never was there such a sufferer as He to whom Pilate thus directed the attention of the Jewish people. He had passed a night of the bitterest agony; he had been betrayed, forsaken, and denied by intimate friends ; had been hurried from one judgment-seat to another; had been reproached, and mocked, and buffeted, and insulted, with every expression of the rudest scorn; had been scourged after the severe manner in which that punishment was inflicted by the Romans, and was about to be led forth as the vilest of criminals, to a death of the deepest disgrace, and of the most dreadful torture. Behold the man!
But let us take a nearer look than this. That countenance “ marred more than any man," and that “ form more than the sons of men,” are outward signs of a hidden load of anguish which words cannot tell. There was that in his cup of woe, which no martyr for his sake ever tasted. The sorrow which overwhelmed him, was not only permitted by the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, but was in a mysterious but especial manner inflicted by God himself. Witness his bloody sweat in Gethsemane; witness his dying agony, which told not of any mere bodily suffering, and which vented itself at last in the cry, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” “ It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief;" he made his soul “an offering for sin,” Isa. liii. 10. We can easily understand how his hands and his feet were pierced, and his sacred body bruised and broken; but who can tell what were those arrows of the Almighty which drank up his spirit? Who can conceive what agony penetrated his soul when that ancient prophecy was fulfilled "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts : smite the shepherd ?" Zech. xiii. 7. Behold the man!
But how is this? A just and righteous man is condemned. Jesus Christ was absolutely righteous, there was no fault in him ; yet was he condemned, smitten, made a curse by the holy and just God himself. There is clearly only one way in which the mystery can by any possibility be explained, but how much does that one concern our welfare! He died FOR us, that is, in our place as a substitute. He was "wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities,” Isa. liii. 5. God made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. In other words, the “ Lord our righteousness” so loved us as to offer up himself as an atoning sacrifice, that we might go free for ever; that by his stripes we might have healing; by his death, life everlasting.
And thus that which, as regards human laws, cannot be done, namely, to maintain the law and yet clear the guilty, was, as regards the Divine law, perfectly accomplished by the incarnation and atonement of Jesus Christ. God must punish sin. If he did not punish it, he must cease to be holy and just, which cannot be, and if it could, would reduce the whole universe to misery and ruin. But God loved our world, and desired to save us. How then was it to be done? His own infinite wisdom formed the great plan. He “so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" to be born and to die for us. Jesus Christ, by his obedience and sufferings, magnified the law of God, and made it honourable. God can therefore now be “just," and yet “justify the ungodly," when they repent and believe on his Son Jesus Christ. Rom. iii. 26, iv. 5. He can save the guilty and lost children of men, and yet uphold the honour of his law, and the authority of his righteous government; so that not only his mercy and his love, but his very righteousness is magnified and honoured in the forgiveness of sins. This results from the wonderful nature of our Saviour. Had he been God only, he could not have obeyed and suffered
" BEHOLD THE MAN!"
and free from all sin, there would have been no merit in his obedience and sufferings to satisfy the law and justice of God for the sins of others. But lo! he is God and man in one person. This is the great “mystery of godliness," “ God was manifest in the flesh,” 1 Tim. ii. 16. He is “Emmanuel," “God with us." In the man of Nazareth, whom Pilate exhibited to the wondering gaze of the Jews as “ wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe," dwelt 's all the fulness of the Godhead bodily,” Col. ii. 9. Behold the man!
The eye of sense beholds him, and it sees poverty, weakness, disgrace, pain, mental anguish in its highest degree, and death in all its bitterness. The eye of faith beholds him, and it sees in those darkest of all hours, strength, and glory, and victory, and triumph; the law of God glorified, his justice satisfied, an eternal redemption accomplished, the “sharpness of death overcome,” and “the kingdom of heaven," with all its unspeakable glories, opened “to all believers."
Behold the man! Is it not possible, may it not be but too probable, that the reader may never yet have so beheld him as to mourn in bitterness of soul for the sins which occasioned all these sufferings? “ They shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn," Zech. xii. 10. This is the description given of true penitents. Have you ever really thus looked on him ? Consider for a moment how great an evil in the sight of God must sin be, that it could not be pardoned in any other manner than that just described. And what is sin ? Every want of conformity to the holy law of God, and every transgression of it, although but in thought only. How innumerable are the sins of every man ! Well has it been said with regard to the evil and guilt of sin, that “the strongest expressions of selfabhorrence and debasement which any fallen mortal has ever uttered, are far short of the reality. God's eye discerns, and God's purity abhors, in our sin-tainted nature, far more than any mere man has yet discovered. Those of our race who have most clearly discerned it, have only advanced a little beyond their fellows, but have never wholly learned the awful reality." And you may never have repented of your sins, with all their aggravations, committed it may be against knowledge, against conscience, against all the love God has manifested towards you, and notwithstanding all the blessings he has conferred upon you. But without repentance, genuine, heartfelt repentance, there is no faith; without faith, no salvation. “Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish:"-" He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him,” Luke xii. 5; John iïi. 36.
Oh, then, Behold the man! Behold him, and live. He still invites you. He yet addresses you as truly as if there were not another individual upon the earth, “Look unto me, and be ye saved," Isa. xlv. 22. Look then to him, by faith with prayer, for the gift of the Holy Spirit; plead his merits before the throne of grace, trust alone to what he has done and suffered ; he is " exalted to give repentance and remission of sins."
Yet a very little while, and every reader of these lines will certainly and personally “behold the man !” For, “ Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him," Rev. i. 7. Men may neglect his offered mercy now; they may refuse to behold “ the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world;" they may even despise as well as reject him, as those did by whom he was crucified: but what will be their emotions then, when they shall behold, instead of a crown of thorns, the crown of everlasting glory; instead of a reed thrust into his hand in mockery, the sceptre of universal dominion ; instead of a few despised followers, thousand thousands ministering unto him, and ten thousand times ten thousand standing before him ; the day of his grace for ever past, the “great day of his wrath come !" Who then shall be able to stand ? Rev. vi. 17.
Sinners, awake betimes ; ye foois, be wise;
Alas! and did my Saviour bleed,
And did my Sov’reign die?
For such a worm as I?
He groan'd upon the tree?
And love beyond degree!
And shut his glories in,
For man, the creature's sin.
While his dear cross appears,
And melt my eyes to tears:
The debt of love I owe;
'Tis all that I can do.
No one who believes the Bible can have any doubt of the power of God and of the efficacy of the blood of Christ to save sinners. Those sinners who seek for mercy, whether at the first or at the eleventh hour, shall find it. But the ungodly ought to be assured, that every sin they commit makes it more and more unlikely that they will be converted to God. Sin is of a hardening nature, as the apostle Paul shows when he points out the danger of being “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin,” (Heb. iii. 13;) and the conscience which is being hardened by sin from day to day, becomes less and less sensible to the claims of the gospel of Christ, and to the consequences of neglecting the great salvation. So long as a man remains an alien from the life of God, his spiritual condition gets worse and worse. His principles are evil, and radically unsound; for although he may be naturally an amiable and a moral man, he does not love God, nor obey his will, and he is rapidly advancing, with the full tide of misdirected purposes and affections, to a state of entire and eternal separation from God, with all its unending misery. All the actions of such a man are the deeds of an unbeliever; and as he acts, in the regular and settled progress of life, from