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do to him what they were not ordered, and to refrain from doing what they were ordered. If this also had not been done, our Lord's claim to the Messiahship had failed; and equally so, if the spear, instead of piercing between the bones, had struck a rib. But there are no such things as casualties, where God's will is concerned: for though every person is a free agent in what he does, he acts no less certainly, than if God used him as an involuntary machine: "God's counsel shall stand, and he will do all his pleasure." The Scriptures had spoken these things, and it was not possible that "one jot or tittle of them should fail."]
The more minutely we consider this subject, the more important will appear,
II The instruction to be gathered from it—
Whilst the foregoing circumstances evince the universal agency of God's providence, they are particularly suited to shew us,
1. What grounds we have for hope
[The preceding circumstances fully establish the Messiahship of Jesus. But here arises a question; How do I know that he really died? I know that he was to " pour out his soul unto death":" but am I sure that he really died? I know that just before the time he was supposed to die, he spoke repeatedly with so loud a voice, as clearly to prove that his strength was by no means exhausted: I know that " Pilate himself marvelled at his being reported to be so soon dead:" am I sure then that he was not merely in a swoon? for if that were the case, all that he did and suffered can be of no avail for my salvation. If he did not die, he did not atone for sin: if he did not die, the story of his resurrection is false; and, as the Apostle himself has said, our faith is vain.' But, blessed be God! we are not left to entertain any such doubts: for the officious malice of the soldier who pierced him to the heart, put it beyond a possibility of doubt. Had Jesus been in perfect health, this wound must have killed him instantly: and so publicly was it given, that amidst all the falsehoods invented by the Jews to justify their rejection of him, they never thought of saying that he did not die. Behold then, this point is clear: the Messiah was to die; and this person, to whom so many testimonies were given, did really die; "he became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." The atonement then that was to be made for sin, was really made: the debt due for our iniquities was discharged: and since " He who knew no sin was made a f Isai. liii. 12.
e Isai. xlvi. 10.
sin-offering for us, we, who have no righteousness, may be made the righteousness of God in him."]
2. What blessings we are to expect
[The Apostle's solicitude to impress our minds with the things which he beheld, marks unquestionably the importance of them. He declares that his testimony was founded, not on report, but on ocular demonstration; and he demands credit of us upon that ground. But what was it which he so particularly noticed? was it the wound inflicted with the spear? No; it was the issue of water and of blood from the wound. And why was he so particular in the mention of it? it was because there was a deep mystery contained in it, even a typical exhibition of those blessings which we are to receive from him. If we look into the Scriptures, we shall find our justification constantly ascribed to his blood, as cleansing us from sin; and, in like manner, our sanctification as uniformly ascribed to his Spirit. Under the law, these two blessings, together with the mode of their conveyance to our souls, were typified by the blood of the sacrifices, which purged from guilt, and by the various washings, which cleansed from defilement: and they were distinctly promised to the Church by express declarations of God himself. At the introduction of the Christian dispensation, they were mystically represented by the event of which we are speaking, where the blood and water, though flowing in one stream, were distinctly seen. This surprising appearance was designed to shew, that both blessings flow equally from the pierced side of Christ. They flow together, to shew, that we are not to expect the one without the other; and they are kept distinct, to shew, that the blessings are perfectly distinct, and must never be confounded.
We will endeavour, in few words, to render this more clear. Faith and holiness are distinct things, even as blood and water are distinct faith is necessary to procure for us a title to heaven; and holiness is necessary to make us meet for heaven: moreover, we must apply to ourselves the blood, in order to obtain the one; and we must also be sprinkled with the water, in order to obtain the otherk. We must take care also not to mix the two: it is the blood alone that justifies, and the Spirit alone that renews: our justification by faith will not supersede the necessity of holiness; nor will our renovation by the Spirit supersede the necessity of faith in Christ. We must understand the proper offices of each; and must keep each in its proper
8 Rom. v. 9. Eph. i. 7. and ii. 13. Heb. ix. 14. 1 Pet. i. 19. Rev. i. 5.
h Rom. viii. 9, 13. 2 Thess. ii. 13. Eph. v. 25—27. i Zech. xiii. 1. Ezek. xxxvi. 25, 26.
k Heb. x. 22.
place only we must remember, that they both flow from the wounded side of Christ; and that Christ is the only fountain from whence either the one or the other can be derived.
It is possible that this interpretation may appear fanciful: but it will no longer be thought so, if only we consult the exposition which St. John himself has given us of this mystery: "This," says he, "is He that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood1: from whence we may fairly infer, that "what God has so joined together, we must never attempt to put asunder."]
3. What dispositions we are to cultivate
[The latter prophecy referred to in our text says, "They shall look on Him whom they have pierced:" and the prophet adds, "They shall mourn and be in bitterness, as one mourneth for his only son." Now this shews the two dispositions which we should exercise towards our adorable Lord and Saviour: we should "look to him" with penitence and faith. Never can we mourn too deeply, when we reflect that it was our sin that crucified the Lord of glory: the Jews and Romans were the instruments; but our iniquities were the cause of all his sufferings: "He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities." Nay more, by our sins we have "crucified the Lord afresh, and put him to an open shame "." If then we feel that the Jews have cause to mourn, how should we mourn, who have done that with our eyes open, which they did only through the blindness and ignorance of their hearts! Yet, whilst we mourn and are in bitterness, we should not forget that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins, that he "bare them all in his own body on the tree," and that, by becoming a curse for us, he has redeemed us from the curse which our sins had merited. We should resemble the penitent under the law, who, whilst he presented his sacrifice to God and confessed over it his sins, put his hand upon the head of his sacrifice, and transferred his guilt to that as his substitute and surety. Thus should we do: in our view of Christ upon the cross, we should unite penitence and faith: to separate the two will destroy their efficacy altogether: an impenitent faith, and an unbelieving penitence, will leave us in no better state than that of devils, of whom St. James says, that "they believe and tremble"." Let us then cultivate these dispositions to our dying hour; and look unto Jesus with penitential faith, and with believing penitence.]
1 1 John v. 6.
m Heb. vi. 6.
n Jam. ii. 19.
THE BURIAL OF JESUS.
John xix. 38-42. And after this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus therefore because of the Jews' preparation day; for the sepulchre was nigh at hand.
THE smallest circumstances relative to the life and death of our blessed Lord may well be supposed to deserve peculiar attention: but the mere interment of his body one would imagine might be passed over as a matter of no moment. Yet we find our Lord himself repeatedly referring to it, during the course of his ministry. He mentions the indispensable necessity of his interment, in order to complete the purposes of his grace: he specifies the term of his intended continuance in the heart of the earth': and he commends the fervent love of Mary in pouring ointment on his head, as a prophetic, though not an intended, preparation for his burial. In fact, the
inspired history does not record any thing more minutely and circumstantially than the funeral of our Lord and the more carefully we attend to what is spoken respecting it, the more interesting and instructive it will appear. Let us consider then, I. The peculiar circumstances of his interment-
[In the moment when our Lord seemed abandoned by all, except a few women and his beloved Disciple, and when, as it should appear, no motive could any longer exist for shewing a regard for him, God raised up two persons of eminence and distinction to pay that respect to him when dead, which had been refused to him when living. One of these persons
a John xii. 24.
b Matt. xii. 40.
c Matt. xxvi. 12.
is very particularly described: the different Evangelists being consulted, we learn his name and place of abode he was "Joseph of Arimathea," or Ramah, in the tribe of Ephraim, the birth-place and residence of Samuel. Next, we have his rank and condition: he was "a rich man, and an honourable counsellor," one of the Jewish Sanhedrim. Further, we are informed of his character and conduct: he was "a just and good man," who, when the Sanhedrim had condemned our Lord as guilty of death, "had not consented to the counsel and deed of them." Lastly, mention is made of his principles and attainments: he was "a Disciple of Christ," who even then, when the Apostles had lost all thought that Christ's kingdom should ever be established, actually "waited for the kingdom of God," in expectation that it should yet appeard. This person went in "boldly" to Pilate, and begged to have the body of Jesus at his disposal. This conduct of his manifested a considerable degree of fortitude: for it could not but be very offensive to the rest of the Jewish council to see one of their own body paying funeral honours to one, whom, but a few hours before, they had condemned and crucified as a malefactor: besides, if Jesus should rise again according to the expectations that had been formed, he would infallibly be accused as a confederate with the other Disciples, and as having assisted them in stealing away the corpse from the tomb. Pilate, not believing that Jesus was so soon dead, sent for the centurion who superintended the execution, to inquire respecting it: and, on being assured by him that he was really dead, and that, subsequent to his death, he had been stabbed to the heart with a spear, he gave his consent. Joseph therefore went and took down the body, and wrapped it in some fine linen which he had bought for the purpose. But in this he was assisted by another person of eminence, Nicodemus by name, "the same man who, three years before, had come to Jesus by night," to inquire into his doctrine; and who on one occasion had befriended him before the Jewish council, by stating, that the Jewish law did not admit of any person being condemned till after an opportunity of vindicating his own innocence had been afforded him. This man " bought a large quantity of myrrh and aloes, and other spices, about an hundred pound weight;" and, together with Joseph, wrapped up the dead body in it for the present, intending, probably after the sabbath, to embalm it with greater care.
Joseph, after the custom of the Jews, had provided for himself a new tomb, hewn out of a rock: and, it being near to the
d Compare Matt. xxvii. 57–60. Mark xv. 42-46. and Luke xxiii. 50-53. with the text.
e John vii. 50-52.