Imatges de pÓgina
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satisfaction, was made for the sins of the whole world, they gradually become more and more circumstantial in their narrative; as if to impress upon the mind, even, of the least careful reader, that awful and mysterious fact, which is, alike, the basis of all scripture doctrine, and the foundation of all Christian hope.

Of the occurrences of the Thursday morning, we know but little. Our Lord appears to have passed it, in retirement, at Bethany; a lovely village, about two miles distant from Jerusalem, where, St. Matthew tells us, he lodged.* On the preceding days, he had always repaired early to the temple; and, after having instructed the people, or reproved the Pharisees, he returned to this sequestered resting-place at night. But, on this day, our divine example lingered, all the morning, among the peaceful olive gardens of Bethany; preparing his human nature, by meditation, fasting, and prayer, for undergoing the sorrows which he knew to be awaiting him, and the ignominious sufferings which he himself had, long since, predicted.

The only other circumstance recorded, is, that he miraculously evinced his divine prescience, by directing the two apostles whom he com

*Matt. xxi. 17.

*

missioned to prepare the passover, to the house of a certain man, who, he said, would meet them, as they entered the gates of the city. Now, as the anti-typical Lamb was to be sacrificed on the morrow, it would be impossible for our Lord to eat the passover, on the day appointed by the Pharisees, and observed, though not universally, yet, by the generality of the Jewish nation. The Lord Jesus may have, therefore, chosen to anticipate any objections on the part of his followers, by proving, through this fresh manifestation of his prophetic powers, that he, who was Lord of the Sabbath day, had equal authority over every festival, and every ordinance, instituted by Jehovah. (2) Or he may have intended, thus, to prepare his apostles for the change, which he contemplated in the ordinance itself: when he should convert a rite of the Jewish nation, into a sacrament of the Christian church; a festival which commemorated the deliverance of his people Israel from Egyptian bondage, into the eucharistic memorial of that greater deliverance, wrought for every spiritual child of Abraham, from the slavery of sin, and from its wages, everlasting death.

But, whatever may have been our Lord's de

Matt. xxvi. 17-19. Luke, xxii. 8-13. Mark, xiv. 13-16.

sign, such was the fact. And, when even was come, he repaired to that upper room, which, having been consecrated by his presence, afterwards became the first Christian church,.. and there he sat down to supper, with his twelve apostles. (3)

When we remember, that the blessed Jesus not only foreknew his approaching sufferings, but also foresaw, that, of the little family over which he vouchsafed to preside, one would betray, another deny, and all forsake him; when we bear in mind, that, although, on the present occasion, the hearts of all were disquieted within them, yet this was usually a season of gladness, festivity, and joy; when we reflect, too, on the sadness of soul, and depression of spirits, with which human nature is commonly affected, when that which is done, is done for the last time; when we ponder on all this,..there is something peculiarly solemn in the mournful tone, with which, as he took his place at the table, the Lord Jesus said, With desire have I desired to eat this passover with you, before I suffer; for I tell you, I shall not any more eat thereof, until it, that which was typified by it, be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.*

* Luke, xxii. 15.

Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end*: and, consequently, he had looked forward, with earnest desire, to that period, when, by instituting his new sacrament, he might apply to each, individually, the benefits resulting from the sacrifice of the antitypical Lamb; by the oblation of which, all, that had been pre-signified by all other sacrifices, would be accomplished and fulfilled.

In order to understand the conduct of the apostles, to account for their many inconsistencies, and to enter into their feelings, it may be expedient, before we proceed further, to refer, briefly, to what were the prevailing notions of the age, with respect to the character of the Messiah, and the nature of his office. (4)

That the Messiah would be the Son of God, appears to have been the general opinion; and hence, the accusation of blasphemy, whenever Jesus admitted himself to be this expected deliverer. They believed, also, that the Messiah would, in some manner or other, offer an expiatory sacrifice for sin; hence, they clearly understood the Baptist, when, pointing to Jesus, he called him the Lamb of God. But they considered, that this was to be done, without his undergoing the

* John, xiii. 1.

penalty of death; since the inference which they drew, from the fact of his being the Son of God, was, that Christ should abide for ever. They did not deny, that his kingdom was to confer spiritual, as well as temporal blessings; and they were ready to admit, that the Gentiles would be ultimately benefited by his coming: but they supposed, that, in the first place, he would restore the Jews to freedom; and, that, previously to the coming in of the Gentiles, and the general judgment, having rescued from the dominion of death the patriarchs and their descendants, he would reign with them, for a thousand years, on earth.

The difficulty, then, with the apostles, would consist, not in receiving Jesus as the Messiah, nor in admitting that he was the Son of the living God,.. but, in reconciling his actions with their pre-conceived notions of his dignity, and in understanding those predictions, which he repeatedly uttered, relating to his rejection, agony, and death, in a sense consistent with the prophetical Scriptures. Whenever he spake of his approaching death, they apprehended him to be speaking, not literally, but figuratively. They were prepared for some great impending misery and trial; they were prepared, also, to dare the worst in their Master's defence. But they ex

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