Imatges de pàgina


answered, I am a Christian? It is to be feared, that if the consequence of such a declaration were death, many of us would hesitate, and be at a stand. How. ever, we must be ready to undergo something for the sake of our king when called upon to suffer. Did our blessed Saviour for our sake undergo such a series of sufferings ? and shall we not for his sake and for the confession of his kingdom, suffer ourselves to be mocked and despised ?

Fourthly, as God can so incline the hearts of his enemies as to make them subservient to his decrees, we, who are under the protection of Jesus Christ, ought to lay aside all fear of men.

What a remarkable proof was it of God's power in turning the human heart, that Pilate, almost like Caiaphas, (John xi. 51.) should write the truth unknowingly and against his will; and that he should be, as it were, the first Apostle, in proclaiming the Gospel of the kingdom of Jesus Christ in three different languages ! This instance should be an assurance to believers; that all things shall work together for their good; and that even the devices and schemes of their enemies shall terminate in promoting the de. crees of God.

Who then will be terrified at the enterprizes of their enemies? who will be afraid of them, so as to be deterred from following Christ? They have no power of themselves to hurt us; they cannot do what they will; but, even against their will must execute what God has appointed concerning his servants.

Fifthly, when the cause of Christ seems to be in the greatest danger, then God more eminently displays

his glory.

The enemies of Christ little expected, when he was once fastened on the cross, that they should ever hear of him again. But behold! while Jesus was yet hanging on the cross, God begins to glorify his name, by directing Pilate to say, What I have written, I have

• written. Thus for the consolation of his oppressed

' VOL. II.

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people, God stiles himself 'I am that I am,' (Exodus

( ii. 14.) The case is still the same; when, to men, things seem irretrievable, God shews himself in his incontroulable power, and draws a line and sets bounds to the desire of the wicked, saying, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further; here shall thy proud waves be staid,' (Job xxxviii. 11.)

II. We come, in the next place, briefly to consider the second remarkable circumstance which happened at the crucifixion; namely, the dividing of our blessed Saviour's garments. The account of this circumstance presupposes, that Jesus was stripped of his

, garments before he was lifted up on the cross; and as his body was lacerated with scourging, it must have occasioned a sensible pain. But neither the pain, nor the ignominy with which this indignity was attended, caused the Lamb of God to make any resistance. He quietly suffered his garments to be taken from him, that he might be a complete burnt offering to the Divine justice. As he came naked and helpless into the world, it pleased him also to go naked out of it. Thus our blessed Lord patiently submitted to this last reproach of being exposed naked before so many thousands; and likewise descended to the lowest step of poverty, being stripped of every thing that belonged to him. It may therefore well be said, that he became poor for our sake, that we through his poverty might be rich,' (2 Cor. viii. 9.)

The Lord Jesus having been thus fastened naked to the cross : his clothes, according to the usage of the Romans, fell to the lot of the soldiers who had performed the execution. And as there were four of them concerned in crucifying our blessed Saviour, they now set about dividing his garments. These were of two kinds, namely, a large upper garment which came down to the feet, according to the custom of the Orientals; and under this, a close vest. Hence the Evangelists, particularly St. John, who was present on Mount Golgotha, informs us how the soldiers proceeded in dividing each of these robesa

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Of the upper garment they made four parts, to every soldier a part; so that this loose robe was cut into four pieces. Some commentators have observed, that such garments were made of four pieces sewed together, and therefore might be very conveniently divided into four parts. As for the close vest or coat, as it did not consist of several pieces sewed together, but was woven without any seam; they thought it best, instead of cutting it, to cast lots whose it should be. The Evangelists take notice of three particulars relating to this circumstance.

1. They observe, that by this division of our Saviour's garments that scripture was fulfilled, in which David introduces the Messiah, making this complaint: They parted my raiment among them, and for my vesture they did cast lots.' This prophecy, which even the ancient Jewish Church understood of the Messiah, was now fulfilled; and this accomplishment of it is here mentioned by St. John, in order to guard the faithful against the offence of the cross.

If our Saviour's garments had been only divided, it might be said, that this was no more than David might very easily have conjectured; it being customary almost in every country, for the clothes of executed cri. minals to fall to the executioner's share. Therefore, as David probably knew by the spirit, that the Messiah was to be crucified, he might naturally conclude that he must give up his garment to the executioners, And as the punishment of crucifixion was inflicted by more than one executioner, it might be supposed that his garments would be divided among them. But how could David, from mere conjecture, foretel that lots would be cast for the Messiah's vesture? This circumstance entirely depended on the free will of the Roman soldiers; and yet the Holy Spirit caused it to be predicted many hundred years before; that, by the accomplishment of it, we might be assured that ihçse things had not fallen out fortuitously, and without any design. No one that lived in the time, when this


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phecy was delivered in the Old Testament,'could have thought that it would be fulfilled literally, and in the very order of the words as delivered by the Psalmist, (Psalm xxii. 18.) But who could have less intention of fulfilling the Scripture than these soldiers, who did not so much as know that any such occurrence had been foretold by the Prophet? This is a miracle of Divine wisdom, in directing these circumstances in such a manner, that men unknowingly fulfil what he has determined ; and yet not by compulsion, but still retaining their full freedom. Therefore St. John, who was an eye witness of the whole transaction, breaks out into an exclamation of wonder, · These things therefore the soldiers did ! The pious Luther has a very remarkable passage on this procedure of the soldiers : “ It is my opinion, says that learned divine, that the soldiers did not divide our Saviour's garments for the sake of any profit or advantage, but merely by way of ridicule and jest ; as a token that all was over with Jesus, and that he was lost, destroyed, extinct, and utterly forgotten, as tlfe basest and most contemptible of men. Therefore they not only deprived him of life, but would not let his friends or relations have even his clothes for a memorial of him :

a These miscreants neither expected that he would rise again, nor were afraid that his death would be avenged by his heavenly Father.”

2. St. Matthew observes, that the soldiers, after they had divided his garments, sat by the cross, and watched the Lord Jesus. This was done likewise according to the Roman custom : for it was usual to set a soldier or two, and sometimes more, to watch such as were crucified, lest their relations should carry them off either living or dead, and decently inter them. This, in some measure, was also designed as a reflection on the followers of Christ, who were looked upon as a set of people that were for opposing the public execution of justice; and upon this unjust supposition, the disciples were afterwards charged

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" 'with having stolen away their master's body out of the

sepulchre. Now, whether they had any thoughts that Jesus, by magical arts, would escape from the cross; or whether they apprehended that he would be rescued by the populace ; both these suspicions were extremely injurious to our blessed Saviour. Some are likewise of opinion, that a stronger guard than usual was appointed to watch our Saviour on the cross, at the solicitation of the chief priests; yet, by the Divine superintendency, this precaution served only to confirn, before all the people, first the reality, of his death, and afterwards of his resurrection.

3. St. Mark observes, that this division of Christ's garments, was made about the third hour, i. e. in the third temple hour or great division of the day, which begun at noon, and ended at three in the afternoon: For the Jews divided both night as well as day into four quarters, each of which contained three common hours. If in this circumstance of our Saviour's

passion, namely, the dividing of his garments, we consider the behaviour of the Roman soldiers, it must be owned, that they may put many Christians to the blush, who, in the division of inheritances, often break out into violent quarrels, and irreconcilable enmities, and engage in chargeable law-suits. This division, on the contrary, was carried on without the least dispute or wrangling; and such was the prudence and moderation of the parties, that they consented the whole coat should fall by lot to one of them, rather than be spoiled by cutting it asunder. Will not these Pagan soldiers rise in judgment at the last day, to the condemnation of those malignant Christians, who, rather than gratisy their neighbour, will suffer a thing to be destroyed, or consume it among lawyers, rather than come to an amicable agreement with their relations. These soldiers are likewise an emblem of

. those who are satisfied, if they can only get food and raiment by their external profession of religion. Had these wretched men humbled themselves, before

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