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their abhorrence of their past ways, and to bring their souls to a fit state for the enjoyment of God's mercy: but to atone for sin, he needs not to repent: the offering of the body of Jesus Christ upon the cross is a sufficient propitiation for the sins of the whole world. It is true also, that man must obey: but he need not to obey in order to form for himself a justifying righteousness before God: he can never add to the perfection of Christ's righteousness; and any attempt to add to it will defeat, instead of furthering, his acceptance through it. Whatever obedience men may render for the honouring of God, and the adorning of their profession, they must renounce it utterly in point of dependence, and must look for salvation solely through the righteousness of Christ". Nothing remains for man but to accept the salvation which Christ has purchased: and if he be enabled in his last hour (like the dying thief) to rely on the blood and righteousness of the Lord Jesus, he shall as assuredly be saved, as if he had repented and obeyed a thousand years. We do not say this to lessen the importance of repentance and obedience (for in their proper place they are of infinite importance); but only to explain and vindicate our Lord's assertion in the text.]
The meaning of our Lord's declaration being ascertained, let us bring forth,
II. The truths to be deduced from it—
Selecting such inferences only as are most prominent, we observe,
1. That there is a sure ground of hope for all who feel their need of mercy
["If persons of a desponding frame would state what they could wish God to do for them, in order to remove their fears; we are well persuaded, not only that every thing they can desire has been already done, but that infinitely more has been done for them than they could even ask or think. Would they have an atonement made for their sins, even such an atonement as shall perfectly satisfy Divine justice, and discharge the utmost farthing of their debt? We must say to them, It is done;' "It is finished." Would they have a perfect righteousness wrought out for them? Would they be invited and commanded by God himself to clothe themselves with it as a robe, so that not even the piercing eye of God should be able to behold a spot or blemish in them? "It is finished." Would they have the gift of the Holy Spirit purchased for them, so that they may be assured of almighty aid in all their difficulties and conflicts? "It is finished." Let them
h Phil. iii. 9.
state what they will, (provided it be really calculated to inspire confidence, and suited to the condition of the Church militant,) and we do not hesitate to say respecting it," It is finished." Why then should any despond, as though their guilt were too great to be forgiven, or their corruptions too strong to be subdued? Let the humble and contrite only reflect on this dying declaration of our Lord, and they can never want encouragement to trust in him.]
2. That they in whom a good work is begun, have reason to hope that it shall be carried on and perfected to the day of Christ
[The work of bringing sinners to repentance, and of renewing them after the Divine image, is committed to Christ. "He is exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins." In him, according to the Father's appointment, all fulness dwells; and out of his fulness all his people are to receive the grace that shall be needful and sufficient for them. Now if in the arduous work which Christ undertook to do for men, he persisted till he could say, "It is finished;" why should he not do the same in the work that he has engaged to accomplish in them? If he stop short in this, it must be either from a want of power, or a want of inclination, to persist in it. But it cannot be from want of power; since it is surely an easier thing to preserve life than to give it; and therefore if he have given it, he cannot want power to maintain it. Nor can it be from a want of inclination; for, if he had not been carried on by an irresistible inclination to save us, he would not have persisted in his former work; he would have put away the bitter cup from his lips, instead of drinking it, as he did, to the very dregs. If therefore he drew not back in the former case, we may be sure he will not in this case: he will never cease from working effectually in us, till he can say, "It is finished." That this deduction is clear and scriptural, we have very abundant evidence. The prophet declares, that "He who has laid the foundation of the spiritual temple, will also finish it:" and that he will bring forth the top-stone thereof with shoutings, crying, "Grace, grace, unto it." On this account the Apostle also calls him, "The Author and Finisher of our faith;" and declares himself" confident of this very thing, that He who hath begun the good work, will perform it till the day of Christ." Let believers then "cast their care on Him who careth for them," and know assuredly, that "he will keep the feet of his saints, and "perfect that which concerneth them."] 3. That those who have obtained mercy have the strongest possible incentive to maintain good worksi Zech. iv. 7, 9.
k Phil. i. 6.
[We have before stated, that Christ has done every thing that was necessary for man's salvation; and that nothing remains for man to add to the finished work of Christ. But we also noticed, that, though man has nothing to do for the purpose of meriting salvation, or for laying a foundation of his acceptance with God, yet in other points of view he has abundant occasion to work; yea, he is commanded to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling." We have no other way of proving the truth of our faith, or the sincerity of our love, than by bringing forth the fruits of righteousness. Shall this then be thought a wearisome task by any of us? Shall we wish to intermit our labours, or to stop short of the highest attainments? Surely not: for if Christ finished the work assigned him, because of his love to us, we can do no less than persist in our work, whereby we are to evidence our love to him. Let us then " go on towards perfection:" let us "forget what is behind, and press forward towards that which is before:" let us "work while our day lasts;" that in the evening of our life we may be able to say with Christ, "Father, I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou hast given me to do." Then, while hypocrites and apostates shall take up this expression in reference to their hopes of salvation, and say, "My day of grace is finished, and all possibility of obtaining mercy is finished;" we shall shout in heaven, "It is finished, it is finished!" "fears, temptations, conflicts, are all finished!" "I have fought the good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith;" and nothing now remains to me but an eternity of uninterrupted happiness and glory.]
THE TREATMENT OF OUR LORD'S BODY ON THE CROSS. John xix. 31-37. The Jews therefore, because it was the preparation, that the bodies should not remain upon the cross on the sabbath day, (for that sabbath day was an high day,) besought Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. Then came the soldiers, and brake the legs of the first, and of the other which was crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they brake not his legs: but one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came thereout blood and water. And he that saw it bare record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe. For these things were done, that the Scrip
ture should be fulfilled, A bone of him shall not be broken. And again another Scripture saith, They shall look on him whom they pierced.
UNSEARCHABLE is the depravity of the human heart. Who that had not seen it recorded in the Holy Scriptures, would conceive it possible, that those who felt no remorse for having crucified the Lord of Glory, should yet pretend to feel such reverence for the Sabbath-day, as not to endure the thought of its being profaned by his body remaining on the cross on that day? Horrid hypocrisy! This was indeed to "strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel." What if there were extraordinary reasons for sanctifying that day, as being the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread"; could they be supposed to operate on a mind that was dead to all sense of justice or of mercy? But all was wisely ordered and overruled by God, who by this means wrought more effectually to the establishing of the claims of Jesus to the Messiahship for from hence arose their singular treatment of our Lord's body; which, together with the instruction to be gathered from it, will form the subject of our present discourse.
Let us consider,
I. Their singular treatment of our Lord's body-
[The Romans were accustomed to leave upon the cross those who were so put to death, in order that they might be devoured by birds of prey. Agreeably therefore to their customs, the bodies of Jesus and of the malefactors should
have been kept upon the cross. But the Jews, who on some
occasions put persons to death by hanging, were forbidden to keep them on the tree all night: and, as the next day was so great a day, they thought it right to interest themselves with the governor to adopt on that occasion the Jewish, instead of the Roman, plan; proposing however, that the legs of the
a Lev. xxiii. 5-7. Whitby, and others after him, appear to me to be under a mistake in calling it the second day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and the day for presenting the sheaf of new corn; which was to be, not on the sabbath-day, but on the morrow after it. Lev. xxiii. 15, 16.
b Deut. xxi. 23.
crucified persons should be broken, in order to effect and secure their death; thus making up by increased agony what might be equivalent to the longer duration of their misery. Permission is granted; the order given; and in part executed: the legs of both the malefactors were broken; but, our Lord being already dead, the soldiers forbore to execute this order upon him. But one of the soldiers, wantonly and of his own mind, thrust a spear into his side; from whence issued a stream of blood and water; the water flowing from the pericardium, and the blood from the heart itself.
Now this we call singular: for it was strange, that an order given in relation to him as well as the other two, should be executed on them, and not on him; and it was strange also that an unauthorized act of violence should be committed upon him, and not on them: for, if done to them, it would have been an act of mercy; but, as done to him, it was only an act of malice, as impotent as it was inhuman.]
But God had wise ends in permitting this
[There were prophecies yet remaining to be accomplished: and it was necessary that every part of Scripture should be fulfilled. Now it had been ordained respecting the paschal lamb, that "not a bone of it should be broken." This lamb was intended to be a type of Christ; and that peculiar appointment in the type must be verified in the antitype: and, if not verified in him, Christ's claim to the Messiahship must be void. Behold then, how nearly Jesus' title to the Messiahship was destroyed! The proposal of breaking the legs was made, and acceded to, in reference to him as well as to the malefactors who were crucified with him: it was also executed first on one of the malefactors, then on the other. Why does not the man proceed? Why does he presume to disobey the order? Who has told him to exercise his own discretion? Who interferes about the matter, or attempts either to restrain or to dissuade the executioner. Had he but given the intended blow, there had been an end to all Jesus' pretensions to the Messiahship. But an invisible hand restrained him; God himself overruled his mind; and therefore overruled it, that the Scripture might not be broken.
But why does one of the soldiers take upon him to offer an indignity to the body of Jesus, without any commission or order from his superiors? There was another prophecy to be fulfilled, which had said, that the Jews should look on Him whom they had piercedd:" therefore God put it into the heart of his enemies to do to him what they did not to the others, and to refrain from doing to him what they did to the others; to
e Exod. xii. 46. Numb. xv. 12.
d Zech. xii. 10.