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by private men and soldiers. Thus all the waves and floods of abuse went over the soul of our blessed Lord with combined violence. But it may here be asked, what could move the Divine wisdom to permit so many scoffers to assault our blessed Saviour with their envenomed tongues? It was,
1. To shew in this mirror that corrupt inclination of making a mock of the distressed and afflicted, and of ridiculing the most sacred persons and things, which has by the fall generally infected the human heart, and prevails in every rank, age, and sex. What St. Paul says of carnal men, namely, that the poison of asps is under their lips,' (Rom. iii. 13.) displays itself particularly in the abominable mockeries and invectives, which were poured forth by the engines of satan against our blessed Lord. But,
2. The Son of God intended, by patiently submitting to these keen arrows of reproach and mockery, to procure forgiveness of such grievous sins to those who commit them whether they be Jews or Gentiles; so that every one who is guilty, and penitently acknowledges these heinous sins, heartily bewailing, and sincerely abhorring them, may find remission of them by the merits and intercession of Christ.
3. He has hereby delivered from the bonds and fetters of the spirit of mockery, all those, who are but willing to be released, and apply to him for succour, with a firm resolution of amendment.
Secondly, The same sins may be committed by different persons; and yet the guilt may be greater in some than in others.
Here both Jews and Gentiles reviled and mocked our blessed Saviour; but it is certain, that the Jews sinned much more grievously than the Gentiles; since they mocked that Jesus, whom they might have known to be the Messiah and the Son of God, from the writings of the prophets. Besides, our blessed Ford had hitherto conversed with, and lived among
them, and done many surprising miracles to the souls and bodies of their countrymen. They were likewise obliged, as the peculiar people of God, to set a better example to the uncircumcised Gentiles. Nay, we find that the chief Priests also mocked him, together with the people; but it is evident that the former were guilty of a greater crime than the latter. For Christ had before reproved them, (Luke xvi. 14, 5.) for their wicked derisions. Besides, they pretend d to have the key of knowledge, and, from the prophetical writings, consequently ought to have been better informed concerning the Messiah's state of humiliation. On the contrary, they should have reproved the scoffing multitude, and withheld them from increasing the sorrows of the afflicted; instead of beginning the railing and mockery, and inciting the people to scoff and inveigh against Christ by their ill example. Thirdly, Punishment in itself makes no criminal better without the concurrence of Divine grace.
An instance of this is here seen in one of the robbers, who, notwithstanding all his pains, joined with those who mocked the blessed Jesus; and as his hands were bound, so that he could not lay hold on the sacred person of Christ, he made his tongue, as it were, the bow to discharge the envenomed arrows of abuse and mockery against him. Could the punishment inflicted by the law produce amendment, this malefactor would have been converted as well as the other. But a contrary effect not only happened in the instance before us, but may be observed every day. Neither the sword, the gallows, nor the wheel, have the power of converting a criminal, unless grace interposes to change and molify the heart. Nay, it is often seen that profligate sinners are rather hardened than reformed, not only by temporal punishments, but even by Divine chastisements. Such is the corruption of human nature! so deeply rooted in man is the love of, and propensity to sin! O that there may be none who read these pages, to whom this complaint of the
prophet may be applied: "Thou hast stricken them, but they have not grieved; thou hast consumed them, but they have refused to receive correction; they have made their faces harder than a rock, they have refused to return,' (Jer. v. 3.)
II. We come, in the next place, to consider the instruments which occasioned our blessed Lord's mental sufferings on the cross. These were,
1. Bold and insulting looks.
2. Deriding gestures.
3. Abusive words.
1. Bold and audacious looks darted from the eyes of the people; for St. Luke says, 'the people stood beholding, and the rulers also with them derided him, &c. Probably this melancholy spectacle was an entertainment to many of them; and their insolent eyes, which ought to have wept blood on account of the pain and tortures which the Lord of Glory endured, sparkled with a malignant joy at his bitter pains. It is usual for the people generally to express a concern for malefactors under sentence of death, since they partake the same nature. And this sympathetic concern and pity is the greater, when they see a man languishing in the extreme tortures of a lingering death. But there was not the least traces of any such humane concern to be found in the enemies of Christ. How must his generous soul have been affected with the rudeness, insolence, and cruelty, which appeared in the looks of so many thousands of inhuman spectators! Of this the Messiah had long before complained by the mouth of David, (Psalm xx. 17.) in these words: They stand staring and looking upon me: They opened their mouth wide against me, and said, Aha! Aha!' (Psalm xxxv. 21.) But these looks were agravated
2. By the deriding gestures of the people who passed by: For St. Matthew and St. Mark observe, that they who passed by reviled him, wagging their heads.' This gesture, among the Jews and other
eastern nations, was expressive of the utmost contempt, In the second book of Kings it is said, (Chap. xix. 21.) The virgin, the daughter of Sion, hath despised thee, and laughed thee to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken the head at thee.' From several other passages of Scripture, (See Job xvi. 4.) it appears, that the shaking of the head was used as a mark of the greatest contempt. But it is remarkable, that it was foretold that the crucified Messiah would experience this kind of mockery: For he is represented in the Psalms making this complaint: All they that see me laugh me to scorn; they shoot out the lip, and shake the head,' (Psalm xxii. 7.) I became also a reproach unto them; when they looked upon me, they shaked their heads,' (Psalm cix. 25.) St. Luke says of the rulers of the people, that they also derided him, (Luke xxiii. 35.) which word in the original properly signifies, by turning up the nose, to express a look of disdain and derision. The soldiers also, by way of mockery, came unto him, and offered him vinegar or sour wine, instead of a cordial to support his spirits which were now quite exhausted. Probably these were not all the deriding gestures which the Son of God beheld, but are set down only as specimens of the malice and barbarity of his cnemies. How must this express Image of the Deity have grieved to see the odious disguise of Satan in the attitudes, grimaces, and gestures of these his slaves ! That it was very painful to his soul may be sufficiently inferred from the bitter complaints, ascribed to the the Messiah in the book of Psalms, on account of this scurrilous wickedness of his enemies. To these insulting looks and deriding gestures were likewise added,
3. Abusive words and invectives; some of which, the three Evangelists St. Matthew, St. Mark, and St. Luke concludes his account of the mockeries and insulting speeches made against Christ in Caiaphas's house, with these words: And many other things
blasphemously spake they against him,' (Luke xxii. 65.) Hence we may conclude that this specimen of the abusive words, which our blessed Saviour was obliged to hear on the cross, were but a part of the invectives poured out against him. Now all these opprobrious words are to be looked on as so many envenomed arrows, discharged against the heart of the blessed Jesus by the prince of darkness, by means of the tongues of these scoffers. His soul, indeed, was not in the least polluted by them, but it was extremely wounded and tortured. In these opprobrious words, they,
First, Derided his truth and omnipotence, saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days; save thyself and come down from the cross!' The preceding night, when Jesus stood before the Sanhedrim, the Jews had very much abused these words of our blessed Lord, and scandalously perverted them by the tongues of their false witnesses. Here they are again cast in his teeth; and it is not improbable that those very false witnesses, who had slanderously perverted these innocent words of Jesus, here began again to reproach him with the same words which were immediately catched by others among the multitude, who seconded those perjured scoffers in their revilings. By this, their intention was to expose our blessed Lord as a chimerical boaster, and one who pretended to perform great things, when at the same time, he was not able to make good his mighty pretensions. Thus they impiously perverted his words, and ridiculed his omnipotence. Thus the Eternal Truth submitted to pass for a liar, and the power of the Most High was accounted a vain, impotent man.
Secondly, They derided the honour of the eternal Sonship of Jesus Christ. They who passed by said, if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross.' But in this the chief Priests and Elders had already set them a pattern by saying, 'If he be Christ,