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not,” (John xxi. 18.) And in this manner, we may suppose that Jesus was obliged to carry his cross. His extended arms were bound to the transverse beam, so that he was forced to exert all his strength in order to drag the whole cross after him.
Thus, as St. John observes, he went forth bearing his cross. He had from his childhood bore it on his heart; but now he first bears it on his sacred shoulders, while pain and ignominy attend his weary steps in this mournful walk. How often must our blessed Savi. our's knees, already so spent and enfeebled as to be scarce able to bear his own body, have sunk under this oppressive weight! At the same time, to drag after him that instrument of punishment on which he was to be crucified, as an aborrence and execration to all the people, was a circumstance of the most sensible reproach and ignominy. Oh, the inconceivable depth of the humiliation of the Son of God, who goes forth in the appearance of a wretched slave condemned to death, and bearing his own cross! Nay, this was the more painful to our blessed Saviour, who was the surety of mankind, as it was a peculiar punishment of sin; so that on this cross he was to become a curse for us, to be forsaken of God, and as it were to taste the bitterness of eternal death. From this circum stance of our Saviour's passion, we shall deduce the following truths :
1. The mournful walk of our blessed Lord to the place of his crucifixion, has been productive of many comforts and blessings to mankind.
Every step in this painful walk was marked with blood; but at the same time, every step dropped down comfort to our souls. Many painful, weary steps did the blessed Jesus take in his sufferings for our sake ; but all would have availed us nothing, had he not determined on this last sorrowful walk. We were all under sentence of death; and this sentence could no other way be reversed, than by our Media- . tor's suffering himself to be led to death in our stead.
To this he has submitted to the most chearful willingness and complacency. Our blessed Lord said to Peter, “Another shall carry thee whither thou wouldest not,' (John xxi. 18.) that is, contrary to thy natural inclination. But the Son of God was able to say to his Father,, 'Lo! I come : I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart, ,
0, , (Psalm xl. 7, 8.) He was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. He suffered himself to be led out of the earthly Jerusalem, to procure an entrance for us into the heavenly Jerusalem. He sub. mitted to be led as a sheep to the slaughter, that the precious souls of men might not be dragged as oxen to the slaughter by sin, the world, and the devil. The evil spirits would have dragged thee, O wretched sinner, from the grave to Judgment, and from thence to the infernal lake, according to the sentence passed on thee at the tribunal of God. But since thy Redeemer was thus voluntarily led away to his death, thou wilt never be led away by the powers of hell. For if thou dost believe in the Name Uf the Son of God, and givest thyself up diligently to follow him, and obey his precepts, thou shalt be enabled one day with joy to rise from the grave, and to approach the divine tribunal. Therefore let us praise and adore the Saviour of the world, who, by thus going to temporal death, hath rescued us from death eternal.
2. Nothing can make a christian more willingly and chearfully take up his cross, than the considera. tion that his Lord and Saviour bore the cross before him.
Who will now refuse to take upon him the cross, when he sees the Creator of the heavens bending under the weight of his cross on the earth ? When a person of such a transcendent dignity, whose love to mankind was so great, sets us the example, and calls to us saying, 'Whosoever will be my disciple, let him take up his cross and follow me,' it would be the basest crime to refuse it, if we should be required to
bear it for his sake. Whoever seriously considers that the eternal Son of God, who upholds all things by his powerful word, who always dwelt in the regions of bliss, and had dominion over innumerable hosts of adoring angels, should humble himself so low ; should put his shoulders under the ignominious cross for his sake, that he might be delivered from the curse of God, and crowned with eternal blessings; will be ashamed of his timorousness and ingratitude in avoiding the cross, will humbiy implore his Redeemer, and say with courage and resolution, While I live, will I follow thee, and bear thy cross.
If therefore we would have comfort in the cross of the blessed Jesus, we must necessarily resolve to enter into fellowship with him, both by the inward crucifixion of the flesh, and by outwardly taking upon us the reproach of Christ. Now as the Lord Jesus suffered internally and externally, both in soul and body; so must his followers taste of both kinds of sufferings in some degree, and bring themselves to a willing resignation to bear the cros. For these are our blessed Saviour's own words: 'Whosoever doth not bear his cross, and follow after me, cannot be my disciple,” (Luke xiv. 27.) If we are sometimes exempt from reproach and persecution, we are to shew ourselves the more faithful, by daily crucifying the old man with its affections and lusts, and by submitting to any inward sufferings, which it may please God to lay upon us.
. II. We come now, in the second place, to consider the company which attended the Lord Jesus to Golgotha, or the place of a skull. A multitude of people were got together on this occasion, which generally happens even when common malefactors are carried to execution. Curiosity brought many of them ; others came out of a malicious desire of entertaining their eyes with the pains and sufferings of Jesus of Nazareth. Others again were drawn to the place by different views. Nevertheless the love of God, from this attendance of the people, produced a salutary effect. The consequence of it was this, that they returned home in a quite different temper and disposition of mind, from that with which they had set out. For when they came to see the extraordinary miracles which followed our Saviour's death, St. Luke informs us, that “ All the people who came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned,' (Luke xxiii. 48.) Thus a blessing attends our attending on the Lord Jesus, and adherence to him; though at first it may not proceed from a heart entirely free from guile.
Besides this mixed multitude of the people, there were in particular two malefactors led in company with the Lord Jesus, in order to be crucified with him. It appears from the accounts of the Evange. lists, that these malefactors were murderers and rob. bers ; crucifixion being the punishment of those crimes among the Romans. These notorious crimi. nals, Pilate, the Roman governor, seems to have re. served for the feast of the Passover ; that by executing them before an extraordinary concourse of peo. ple, who were at Jerusalem on account of the feast, a greater number might take warning by their example. It is probable that these murderers were of the number of the seditious persons, who at that time swarmed in Judea, and declared against any subjection to the Roman governor, under pretence that a Jew was to acknowledge no other sovereign but God; and possibly they might have been among those, who were taken with Barabbas in an insurrection, (Mark xv. 7.) As our blessed Lord was also accused of rebellion and high treason, the governor ordered that he should be carried to execution with the other revolters, that they who were supposed to be guilty of the same crime might together suffer the same punishment.
The Lord Jesus by descending so low, and thus debasing himself so as to be put to the level with murderers and rebels, intended to atone for our associating.
1. With the wicked and profligate. Unto the wicked God sayeth, When thou sawest a thief, thou then consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers,' (Psalm l. 16, 18.) nay, with slanderers, murderers, profane swearers, drunkards, and other scandals to christianity. Thus by running with these in the same excess of riot, (1 Peter iv. 4.) when we either suffer ourselves to be carried away by other slaves of sin, or when we carry away others, and by our bad example draw them into sin ; we drew on the Son of God this indignity, that he was made a companion of murderers and robbers, and was led along with them to death. May this consideration create in us an abhorrence of all wicked company
2. Our blessed Lord, by this circumstance of his passion, intended to sanctify the sufferings of his followers. For they are often classed with heretics, rebels, and the worst of criminals; and are looked upon as people who deserve to be condemned to suffer the same punishment.
3. Our blessed Saviour by this intended to give us an intimation, how we ought to lead out our old man to be crucified with him. We have in us two notorious malefactors, who are guilty of all manner of disobedience and rebellion against the Divine Majesty, and transgress all his commands. If we would know them, they are presumptuous carnal reason, which refuses to submit itself to divine revelation, and our preverse self-will, which spurns at the yoke of Christ. Let us therefore without delay seize these two criminals, bind them, and fasten them to the cross of Christ. If we are desirous of inward peace and tranquillity, we must not spare these rebels from which all our disturbances arise ; and, if we would reap true com
, fort from the crucifixion of Christ, we must chearfully resolve to crucify those corruptions in us, that brought him to the cross.