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As might be expected, many people loved him, and believed him to be a prophet of the Lord; but many people perversely hated him, and wished to kill him. He chose twelve disciples, and even one of them went to his bitterest enemies, and for thirty pieces of silver engaged to betray him into their hands. While this traitor was making all things ready, Jesus with the other disciples sang an evening hymn; he then walked with them in pleasant and heavenly converse to a mountain, where he offered up a solemn prayer, affectionately commending them to God, (John xvii.); and then, passing over the brook Cedron into a garden, he withdrew himself from them about a stone'sthrow, and kneeled down in solitary prayer. As he prayed he was in an agony, and his agony being intense, he prayed the more earnestly, while his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling to the ground. God heard his prayer, and sent an angel to strengthen him.
Presently came Judas the traitor with an armed band, who bound him and led him away to the high-priest. Then they brought Jesus from the high-priest to the hall of judgment, and accused him of many things before Pilate, the Roman governor of the land. They could establish no charge against him. Pilate said, “ I find in him no fault at all." Nevertheless they treated him cruelly and shamefully; and, to allay the turbulence of the people, who clamorously demanded his death, Pilate, afier washing his hands, as a vain token that he did not share in the crime, delivered him to them to be crucified. Then they led him away to a place called Golgotha, where they nailed him to a cross, and crucified him between two thieves. On that cross he hung for about six hours in bodily torture and mental an. guish. There was darkness over the whole earth from the sixth hour till the ninth, that is, in our time, from twelve o'clock till three in the afternoon. “ And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glori. fied God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned,” Luke xxiii. 46–8. In this shameful and awful death is a great mystery, but it is explained by one short sentence in the prophecy of Isaiah, liii. 5, “ He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” Jesus Christ was crucified and slain for the sins of men. How glorious, affecting, and consolatory is this truth!
How glorious! The Lord Jesus Christ puts himself in the place of sinners, and bears the punishment which they de
WHY DID HE die?
this, or one man who had done it for another, we should have admired such disinterested conduct. But it would have fallen infinitely below the glory of the Saviour's substitution. What forbearance does he manifest! Christ is the Son of God as well as the Son of man. In his Divine nature he is equal with God; essentially one with God. But sinners live in hatred of God's law, in disregard of his character, in neglect, sometimes even in contempt, of his authority. What longsuffering, then, it was in the Divine Word, himself the Creator and Governor of all, to spare them, and not rather destroy them for their sins. Having broken the law, they were condemned by the law; “ For it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them."
The Lord Jesus voluntarily “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." He was under the curse of the law of God when he was crucified, and cried, “ My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” Then he stood in the place of sinners: “ He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities.” This substitution is a glorious truth, and most worthy of the earnest thoughts of rational beings.
It is also deeply affecting. Here is the innocent undergoing severe, public, and prolonged suffering. If we look at this suffering even in the ancient type, it should deeply affect us. The patriarch brings a lamb from the flock, binds it for sacrifice, lays it upon the altar, takes his knife, and slays it. There is the animal struggling, gasping, and dying. Who can look upon that blood and those expiring agonies without being moved? Why should it suffer and die? But let us turn to the anguish and death of our Lord. He did no evil. He wronged no one. He spoke nothing amiss. Never had he an evil thought or a wicked desire. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him: he hath put him to grief.” Never was any sorrow like unto his sorrow. What inward torment was that which wrung a bloody sweat from his body in the garden, and which agonized his spirit upon the cross? It is affecting to think that one thus perfectly innocent should be put to such suffering; and equally so that one " altogether lovely” should be put to such shame. The death of the cross was the death usually inflicted on the greatest criminals. A mover of sedition, a perpetrator of horrible and base crimes, a very pest to society, could not be put to a viler death. How affecting, then, to think of the mild, compassionate, kind, benevolent, and peaceful Jesus bound by cruel soldiers, arrayed in the garments of mockery, buffeted, spit upon, 'scourged, nailed to a cross, and lifted up to be a mark for insult, to suffer dreadfully in his body and soul, and to die under every token of being an execrated being. Who can revolve this fact in his mind without being deeply affected by it, especially when he remembers that the pardon of his sin required the humiliation and the woe? In the cross of Christ we see it proved beyond doubt, that without shedding of blood there is no remission, and that it required a sacrifice of infinite value for the pardon of sin. In what a humbling light, then, does it place every child of Adam. My soul, thou hast sinned. None can atone for thy offences but the Son of God. Nothing can expiate thy crimes but the agonies, the shame, and the death of Jesus. Alas, then, where must I have been but for the tender compassion of Christ ? Were the wrath which came upon him to fall on me, it would sink me to the lowest hell. But what mercy! “ He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed.”
What consoling truths are these! Who henceforth need despair? What though my sins be many and great; what though I justly deserve the punishment of hell; here is an illustrious Substitute, a precious Sacrifice. Paul reckoned himself the chief of sinners, and under a deep sense of his vileness exclaimed, “ O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?" but in triumph he added, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Why, then, should any one hesitate to trust his soul with Jesus for salvation ? He who so loved poor sinners as to die the death of the cross for them deserves all confidence and affection; and for the encouragement of all who trust him, he hath said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” “ It is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners." This is why he died.
After these glorious tidings have reached the ears, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit have penetrated the heart, who shall be afraid to enter eternity? The compassionate Redeemer stands beyond the valley of the shadow of death ready to receive all who through grace have trusted in him. What, then, is there in death to dread, or in eternity to fill us with dismay? Jesus will even be the Judge at last; and when he comes to call the nations before him, it will be to vindicate his true disciples from all charges, and to declare them justified, accepted, and blessed for ever in him. With such a glorious prospect, who would not willingly enter upon the eternal state ? Reader, see that you accept Christ for your Saviour with true faith. By the aid of the Holy Spirit embrace him, love him, serve him; and all is safe. Neglect him and his salvation, and you are lost for ever. For it is written, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be anathema maran-atha."
“Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous :" this shows what man's heart leads him to. “ Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself:” this shows what the Spirit of God leads a man to do.
Cruelty, hatred, malice, ill-will-all these are the fruits of the flesh. Kindness, love, gentleness, goodness—all these are the fruits of the Spirit. It was an envious and a malicious heart that led Cain to murder his brother Abel. Envy and malice led the rulers of the Jews to murder the Lord Jesus Christ. Envy and malice, too, stirred up Satan to tempt man in paradise. He saw Adam and Eve sinless and happy. He envied them and hated them, and by tempting them he made them wicked and wretched.
What, then, is a malicious man like? He is like Cain who slew his brother: he is like the Jews who crucified the Lord of glory: he is like the devil himself, the author of all evil.
But what should a man be like? He should be like Jesus. He should learn of him who was meek and lowly in heart. If he has enemies, he should forgive them, and pray for them. If he has received injuries, he should not render evil for evil, but contrariwise, blessing. This must be done before a man can
prove himself a Christian. A revengeful man is not a Christian ; a malicious man is not a Christian ; a cruel man is not a Christian : “ Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer; and ye' know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him," 1 John iii. 15.
The Spirit of Christ alone makes a Christian ; and he that hath the Spirit of Christ will follow the example of Christ.
No religious forms or ceremonies will save a soul from hell : a man may attend all the rites of a church from childhood to old age, and yet plainly prove himself a child of the devil by his ungoverned temper, malicious disposition, and unchristian deeds of cruelty.
Satan is content with a religion which leaves a man under the power of sin, while it deludes him with the name of a Christian. The man may call himself Catholic or Protestant, or what else he will; but as long as he is revengeful, malicious, or cruel, the devil cares not for his religion, for he knows well enough that such a man is not a Christian.
In vain does such a man profess to pray; he regards iniquity in his heart, and the Lord does not hear him. In vain does he pretend to take part in public worship; he brings “the sacrifice of the wicked,” which is an abomination to the Lord,” Prov. xv. 8. In vain does he call Christ his Lord; for Jesus says to him, " Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” Luke vi. 46. Such men may venture to use the Lord's prayer, and call God their Father ; but Christ says of them, “ Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning," John viii. 44,
Whatever men of this world may think to the contrary, neither injustice nor oppression, nor the deepest wrongs, will be an excuse for revenge and malice in the sight of God. Every person of such a character is assuredly in danger of the anger of God; “ the wrath of God abideth on him," John iii. 36.
As long as a man allows himself to cherish ill-will against any one, so long is that man in a state which shuts him out from mercy. An unforgiving man cannot be forgiven. No man living in malice can be pardoned. This is truth, for Christ has said it.
Many, it is to be feared, fail to think of the weight and force of this truth. They flatter themselves, while the daily duties of life, and those of religion, are regularly gone through, that they are safe for eternity. The kindness and affection which they show towards their families and friends, lead them to believe that they are not the malicious characters condemned in the Bible. But God seeth not as man seeth. Many a man, calling