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then say, These are the fruits of his love to me; these things he endures, to rescue me from "everlasting shame and contempt." Then ask yourselves, What returns he merits at your hands? Surely to compliment him with the name of Saviour, will not be thought sufficient: there must be a tribute, not of the lip only, but of the heart; in the heart a flame of love should be kindled, which, like the fire upon the altar, should never go out -]
3. To stimulate your exertions
[There is no one so blind as not to see that our acknowledgments to Christ should shew themselves, not in sentiment only, but in action. Indeed he himself tells us, that it is by obedience to his commands we are to prove our love to him1. What then shall we do, to evince our love to him? What? Let us follow the example of his love to us. When the people sought him to make him really a king, he refused their services, and hid himself from them: but when they arrayed him in mock majesty, and put a crown of thorns upon his head, he submitted willingly to that, because it would conduce to our benefit. Thus let us be regardless of all personal gratifications, that we may exalt and honour him: and if we are called to suffer for his sake, let us suffer willingly and meekly. As" he endured the contradiction of sinners against himself," "sustaining the cross and despising the shame" for us, let us "follow him, bearing his reproach." If we be made "a gazing-stock" and "a spectacle to the world," let us be content to be loaded with every species of ignominy for his sake. Let us remember, that "he gave himself for us, to purchase unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works," and let it be our fixed determination to answer in this respect the end of his sufferings; and, provided" he be magnified in our body," let it be a matter of indifference to us "whether it be by life or by death."]
1 John xiv. 15, 21. and xv. 14.
THE SUPERSCRIPTION AFFIXED TO THE CROSS.
John xix. 19-22. And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZAREth the King OF THE JEWS. This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin. Then said the chief priests of the Jews to Pilate, Write not, The King of the Jews; but that he said, I am King of the Jews. Pilate answered, What I have written I have written.
NOTHING was left undone which could add to the sufferings of our blessed Lord. From the tribunal at which he was condemned, he was hurried away to execution, and crucified between two most notorious malefactors, as being himself the vilest of the human race. This however served only to fulfil the Scripture, which had said, "He was numbered with the transgressors." On such occasions it was common to place above the head of the criminal an inscription, by which all the spectators might know both his name and the crime for which he suffered. This was observed at the crucifixion of our Lord: and (as no circumstance respecting him is uninteresting) we shall call your attention to,
I. The superscription put over him
This, however intended at first, must certainly be considered by us in a two-fold view;
1. As an accusation against him—
[The principal charge which had been exhibited against him before Pilate, was, that he had professed himself to be "Christ, a Kinga." On this point he had been interrogated by Pilate; and had "witnessed a good confession," acknowledging plainly, that he was a King, though his kingdom was not of this world". Pilate, seeing that this claim did not at all interfere with the temporal government of Cæsar, considered it as unworthy his attention; and therefore sought by all possible means to release him. But the chief priests, being determined to prevail, represented this claim of his as an avowed hostility to Cæsar; and declared that the protecting of Jesus was nothing less than treason. This terrified Pilate into a compliance with their wishes. He instantly consented to his death; and, according to custom, ordered the crime of which Jesus was accused to be affixed to his cross, in these memorable words, "JESUS OF NAZARETH the King of tHE JEWS."]
2. As a testimony in his favour—
[As Caiaphas, when designing only to destroy Jesus, unconsciously declared the extensive benefits which would flow from his death, so Pilate, meaning only to inform the people for what reason Jesus was put to death, unintentionally attested his innocence. Had Jesus falsely pretended to be the King of
a Luke xxiii. 2.
b John xviii. 36, 37. and 1 Tim. i. 16.
© ver. 12.
the Jews, he would have been guilty of fraud and imposture: but as he really was what he pretended to be, the title placed over his head was nothing more than a plain truth, containing not only no crime at all, but not even the smallest charge of crime. What could be a stronger testimony in his favour than this?
The testimony itself contained the most important truth that could possibly be affirmed: it declared that Jesus was the King of Israel, that very King predicted in the prophets, even "Messiah the Prince, who should be cut off, not for his own sins," but for the sins of others. And, that it might be universally known, it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin; (the three languages most known in the world at that time:) so that, in fact, Pilate himself became the first preacher of a crucified Redeemer.]
Whether the precise mode of expressing the accusation was intentional on the part of Pilate, or not, we cannot but wonder at,
II. The firmness of Pilate in relation to it
That the superscription would give great offence, we may easily conceive: for the priests, so far from acknowledging Jesus as their king, had got sentence of death pronounced against him for arrogating to himself that honour. They did indeed expect the promised Messiah, and supposed that he would erect a temporal kingdom amongst them; and this very expectation made them feel still more keenly the indignity which this inscription offered them; since it intimated, that any person who should hereafter attempt to rescue them from the dominion of Cæsar, should be crucified in like manner.
Without delay they make known to Pilate their wishes upon the subject, and propose an alteration in the words: but behold, he is firm and immoveable: his only answer to them is, "What I have written, I have written."
Now to understand his answer aright, we must consider him,
1. As incensed against them—
[They had urged, and (so to speak) compelled him to give sentence against a man whom he knew to be innocent: and,
d Jer. xxiii. 5, 6. Zech. ix. 9.
e Dan. ix. 26.
being condemned in his own conscience, he could not but feel exceedingly displeased with them. The alteration which they proposed in the inscription was very trifling: it might have been made without in the least derogating from his authority: and, no doubt, if he had not been offended with them, he would have readily complied. But to a person irritated, no concession appears trifling. He felt himself injured by them: and therefore would not give way, even for a moment. His pride was hurt: and he determined that he would make them sensible of his displeasure. Hence he not only refused their petition, but expressed his refusal in terms most authoritative, most contemptuous, and most repulsive.]
2. As over-ruled by God—
[Though perfectly free to follow the dictates of his own mind, he was undoubtedly under the influence of God; just as Balaam was, who though of himself disposed to curse Israel, was invariably constrained to bless them. The truth exhibited in that inscription was itself unalterable, and was to be proclaimed to every people of every language under heaven. It was the corner-stone on which all mankind were to build their hopes and therefore God, who had left Pilate to his natural timidity for the crucifying of his Son, now emboldened him to withstand their renewed solicitations, though in a matter of comparatively no importances.
Thus it was on that occasion, and thus it ever shall be; "the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand, and he will do all his will." As far as "the wrath of man will praise him," he will suffer it to act; but the remainder of it he will restrain.] We may NOTICE from hence,
1. What care God will take of his people
[He permitted his Son to be put to death, because that was necessary for the accomplishment of the Divine purposes in the work of redemption. But he took care that all his enemies should attest his innocence: and where so small a concession as that before us might have counteracted their testimony, he makes a poor shaking reed as firm and immoveable as a rock. Who then will be afraid to trust him? will not cheerfully commit his reputation, his interest, yea his very life, into the hands of such an almighty Friend? Know, beloved, that he is to his people both a sun and a shield; and that whilst he directs and invigorates them by his beams, he will protect and uphold them by his power "The Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice, and the multitude of the isles be glad thereof."]
f Numb. xxii. 18, 38. and xxiii. 8, 11, 12, 26. and xxiv. 10, 13. Acts iv. 27, 28.
2. In what way they must attain to his kingdom
[That which is the highest privilege of the saints may be made the strongest article of accusation against them. In the primitive times, to be a Christian was to expose oneself to all manner of calumny and danger. And thus at this time, to be numbered with the saints is to be classed with enthusiasts, fools, and hypocrites. A man need have no other inscription over his head than, "This is one of the saints," and he shall never want for contempt or hatred. Let him call himself "a King," and men will be ready to cry out, " Crucify him! crucify him!" But this should not discourage us: it is the way the Saviour trod before us. We, like him, are kings1; we have a crown and "a kingdom given to usi:" and in due time shall be "seated with Christ on his throne, even as he now sitteth on his Father's throne." But we must "suffer with him, if we would reign with him." Even he, "though a Son, was made perfect through sufferings;" and we also must "go through much tribulation, before we can enter into the kingdom of heaven"." Let us then consider what he endured for us; and "let us arm ourselves with the same mind":" and let us rest assured, that, "if we suffer with him, we shall also be glorified together"."]
h Rev. i. 6.
i Luke xxii. 29. m Acts xiv. 22.
* Rev. iii. 21.
n 1 Pet. iv. 1.
CASTING LOTS FOR OUR LORD'S VESTURE.
John xix. 23, 24. Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took his garments, and made four parts, to every soldier a part; and also his coat: now the coat was without seam, woven from the top throughout. They said therefore among themselves, Let us not rend it, but cast lots for it, whose it shall be: that the Scripture might be fulfilled, which saith, They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots. These things therefore the soldiers did.
ON reading the history of our blessed Lord, we cannot but be struck with the extreme simplicity with which the most important circumstances of it are related. The historians never go out of their way to impress things on our minds; but leave truth to