The Passion of Christ!
by Thomas Adams (1583-1653)
"He has given himself for us — an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor." Ephesians 5:2
This latter part of the verse is a lovely and living crucifix, cut by the hand of a most exquisite carver — not to amaze our eyes with a piece of wood, brass, or stone, curiously engraved, or to the increase of a carnal devotion — but to present to the eye of the conscience the grievous passion, and gracious compassion of our Savior Jesus Christ. This crucifix presents to our eye, seven considerable aspects:
1. Who? — Christ.
2. What? — Gave.
3. Whom? — Himself.
4. To whom? — To God.
5. For whom? — For us.
6. After what manner? — An offering and sacrifice.
7. Of what effect? — For a sweet smelling savor.
The points, you see, lie as ready for our discourse as the way did from Bethany to Jerusalem. Only fail not my speech, nor your attention, until we come to the journey's end.
1. Who? — Christ.
The person who gives, is Christ; the quality of his person does highly commend his exceeding love to us. We will ascend to this consideration by four stairs or degrees, and descend by four others. Both in going up and coming down — we shall perceive the admirable love of the giver.
1.We will consider him — as a man. "Behold the man!" (John 19:5), says Pilate. We may tarry and wonder at his lowest degree, that a man should give himself for man. "For scarcely for a righteous man, will one die," (Romans 5:7). But this man gave himself for unrighteous men, to die, not an ordinary — but a grievous death; exposing himself to the wrath of God, to the tyranny of men and devils. It would pity our hearts to see a poor dumb beast so terrified; how much more a man, the image of God!
2.The second degree gives him — as an innocent man. Pilate could say, "I have found no fault in this man" (Luke 23:14), no, nor yet Herod. No, nor the devil, who would have been glad of such an advantage. So Pilate's wife sent her husband word, "Have nothing to do with that just man," (Matt 27:19). So the person is not only a man — but a just man, who gave himself to endure such horrors for us. If we pity the death of malefactors — then how should our compassion be to one innocent!
3.In the third degree, he is not only a man, and a good man; but also a great man, royally descended from the ancient patriarchs and kings of Judah. Pilate had so written his title, and he would not alter it, "What I have written, I have written." And what was that? "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews," (John 19:19).
Now as is the person — so is the passion. The more noble the giver — the more excellent the gift. That so high a king would allow such contempt and obloquy to be cast upon him — when the least part of his disgrace had been too much for a man of base condition! That a man, a good man, a great man, bore such calumny, such calamity, for our sakes — here was an unmatchable, an unspeakable love!
4.This is enough — but this is not all. There is yet a higher degree in this ascent; we are not come to our full ascent. It is this — he was more than man; not only the greatest of men; yes, greater than all men — even the Son of God. As the centurion acknowledged. "Truly this man was the Son of God" (Mark 15:39).
Here are all the four stairs upwards:
a blameless man,
a princely man,
and yet more than man, even God himself!
Solomon was a great king — but here is a greater than Solomon. Solomon was the anointed by the Lord — but this is the Lord himself anointed. And here all tongues grow dumb, and admiration seals up every lip. This is a depth beyond sounding. You may perhaps drowsily hear this, and coldly be affected with it; but let me say, principalities and powers, angels and seraphims, stood amazed at it! We see above, the ASCENT.
Shall we bring down again this consideration by as many stairs? Behold the DESCENT!
(1.)Consider him, Almighty God, taking upon him man's nature. This is the first step downwards. "The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14). "God sent forth his Son, born of a woman" (Galatians 4:4). And this was done, by putting on our nature, not by putting off his own. (Humanity is united to the Godhead — but the Godhead is not disassociated from itself.) He is both God and man, yet but one Christ; one, not by confusion of substance — but by unity of person.
Now in that this eternal God became man, he suffered more than man can suffer. That man should be turned into a beast, into a worm, into dust, into nothing — is not so great a disparagement as that the glorious God should become man! "He who thought it not robbery to be equal with God, was made in the likeness of man." He who is "more excellent than the angels," became lower than the angels. Even the brightness of God's glory, takes on him the baseness of our nature. He who laid the foundations of the earth, and made the world — is now in the world made himself. This is the first descending degree.
(2.)The second stair brings him yet lower. He is made man — but what kind of man? Let him be universal monarch of the world, and have fidelity and homage acknowledged to him from all kings and emperors, as his viceroys. Let him walk upon crowns and scepters, and let princes attend on his court — here was some majesty that might a little become the Son of God.
No such thing! "He took upon him the form of a servant," (Philippians 2:7). He instructs us to humility by his own example. "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto — but to minister," (Matthew 20:28). "O Israel, you have made me to serve with your sins," (Isaiah 43:24). He gave himself as a minister, not as a master. He who is God's Son — is made man's servant!
Proudly blind, and blindly poor man, that you should have such a servant, as your Maker, the Son of God! This is the second step downwards.
(3.)This is not low enough yet; "I am a worm, and no man," says the Psalmist in his person. Yes, the shame of men — and contempt of the people. He is the King of glory (Psalm 24:7). But Isaiah says, "He is despised and rejected of men; we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
O the astonishing pity of God, that those two should come so near together — the King of glory, and the shame of men. The loftier the majesty — the lovelier the humility. Thus says the apostle, "He made himself of no reputation," (Philippians 2:7). He who requires all honor as properly due to him — makes himself (not of little — but) of no reputation. Here was humiliation, yes, here was rejection.
Let him be laid in his poor cradle, the Bethlehemites reject him; the animal's feeding trough must serve. There is no room for him in the inn for him.
Yes, "He came unto his own, and his own received him not" (John 1:11). All Israel is too hot for him; he is glad to fly into Egypt for protection.
He comes to Jerusalem, which he had honored with his presence, instructed with his sermons, amazed with his miracles, wet and bedewed with his tears! Yet they reject him! "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!" Matthew 23:37
He comes to his kindred. They deride and traduce him, as if they were ashamed of his alliance.
He comes to his disciples. "From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." (John 6:66).
Will yet his apostles tarry with him? So they say (verse 68), "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." Yet at last one betrays him, another forswears him; all forsake him! And Jesus is left alone in the midst of his enemies!
Can malice yet add some further aggravation to his contempt? Yes, they crucify him with malefactors. The character of his company is made to increase his dishonor. In the midst of thieves, as it were the prince of thieves, He who "thought it no robbery to be equal to the most holy God," is made equal to thieves and murderers! Yes, as it were, he was a captain among them. This is the third step.
(4.)But we must go yet lower. Behold now the deepest stair and the greatest rejection. "The Lord has afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger" (Lamentations 1:12). "It pleased the Lord to bruise him; he has put him to grief," (Isaiah 53:10).
No burden seems heavy, when the comforts of God help to bear it. When God will give solace, vexation makes but idle offers and assaults. But now, to the rejection of all the former, the Lord Himself turns his back upon him as a stranger! The Lord Himself wounds him as an enemy! He cries out, "My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?" How could the sun and stars, Heaven and earth, stand — while their Maker thus groaned!
The former degree was deep; he was crucified with evil-doers; reckoned among the wicked. Yet thieves fared better in death, than he! We find no derision, no insultation, no taunts, no invectives against them. They had nothing upon them but pain. Christ had both contempt and torment. If scorn and derision can vex his good soul — then he shall have it shot against him! Even the basest enemies shall give it; Jews, soldiers, persecutors, yes, suffering malefactors — spare not to flout him. His blood cannot appease them, without their reproaching him.
But yet, the disciples are but weak men,
the Jews are but cruel persecutors,
the devils are but malicious enemies —
all these act according to their natures.
But the lowest degree is, God forgets him — he is forsaken by his own Father! Weigh all these circumstances, and you shall truly behold the person who gave himself for us!
2. What? — Gave.
We come to the action. Giving is the result of a free disposition. "I lay down my life; no man takes it from me — but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again," (John 10:17, 18). He who gives life to us — gave up his own life for us! He did not sell, or lend — but give. He was offered — because he wanted to be offered. No hand could cut that stone from the quarry of heaven; no violence pull him from the bosom of his Father — but his own mercy!
He gave! "He comes leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills," (Song 2:8). He comes with willingness and celerity! No human resistance could hinder him — not the hills of our lesser infirmities, not the mountains of our grosser iniquities — could stay his merciful pace towards us.
He gave his life — who could bereave him of it? To all the high priest's armed forces, he gave but a verbal encounter, "I am he!" and they retire and fall backward — his very breath dispersed them all. He could as easily have commanded fire from heaven to consume them, or vapors from the earth to choke them! He who controls devils, could easily overpowered men. More than twelve legions of angels were at his beck, and every angel able to conquer an army of men!
He gives them permission to capture him, yes power to kill him. From himself is that power which apprehends himself. Even while he stands before Pilate scorned, yet he tells him, "You could have no power against me — unless it were given you from above." His own strength leads him, not his adversaries; he could have been freed — but he would not.
The loss of his life was necessary — yet was it also voluntary; therefore he gave up himself. In spite of all the malice of the world, he could have lived — but he would not. The world should have been burned to cinders, and all creatures on earth resolved to their original dust — before he could have been forced! Man could not take away his life; therefore he gave it. Otherwise, his passion could not have been meritorious, or afforded atonement for us. For that is only done well, which is done willingly.
But it is objected out of (Hebrews 5:7), that "he offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears, unto him who was able to save him from death." Hence some blasphemers say, that Christ was a coward in fearing the natural death of the body. If he had so feared it — then he needed not to have tasted it. Christ indeed did humanly fear death, otherwise he had not been so affected as an ordinary man.
Yet he willingly suffered death, otherwise he had not been so well impacted as an ordinary martyr. But he prays thrice, "Let this cup pass from me." Divines usually distinguish here thus: That there was in Christ a double human or created will, the one a natural will; the other a reasonable will. Christ, according to his natural will, trembled at the pangs of death, and this without sin; for nature abhors all destructive things. But in regard of his rational will, he willingly submits himself to drink that cup. "Not as I will, O Father — but as you will."
A man, says Aquinas, will not naturally endure the cutting off of any member, yet by his reasonable will, he consents to it. For the good of the whole body, reason masters sense — and cutting is endured.
Just so, Christ, by the strength of his natural will, feared death. But by his reason, perceiving that the cutting, wounding, crucifying of the Head — would bring health to the whole body of his church, and either he must bleed on the cross — or we must all burn in Hell! Behold how he willingly and cheerfully gives himself an offering and sacrifice to God for us.
But was it a mere physical death that our Savior feared? No, he saw the fierce wrath of his Father, and therefore feared. Many resolute martyrs have endured great torments with magnanimity. But now when he who gave them strength quakes at death, shall we say he was a coward? Alas, that which would have overwhelmed mere man, would not have made him shrink. That which he feared, no mortal man but himself ever felt; yet he feared. The despair of many thousand men was not so much as for him to fear. He saw that which none saw — the anger of an infinite God! He perfectly apprehended the cause of fear — our sin and torment! He saw the bottom of the cup, how bitter and dreggish every drop of that vial was! He truly understood the burden which we make light of.
Men do not fear Hell, because they neither know it or believe it. If they could see through the opened gates, the insufferable horrors of that infernal pit — trembling and quaking would run through their bones!
This insupportable load he saw — that the sponge of vengeance must be wrung out to him, and he must suck it up to the last and least drop! Every pound of our iniquities must be laid upon him, until, as "a cart, he is laden with sheaves," (Amos 2:13). And with all this pressure he must mount his chariot of death, the cross, and there bear it, until the appeased God gave way to a completion: "It is finished."
The philosopher could say, that a wise man miserable, is more miserable than a fool miserable — because he understands his misery. Just so, our Savior's pangs were aggravated by the fullness of his knowledge. It is no marvel that he might justly take David's words out of his mouth, "Why, O LORD, do You reject me and hide Your face from me? From my youth I have been afflicted and close to death; I have suffered Your terrors and am in despair. Your wrath has swept over me; Your terrors have destroyed me!" Psalm 88:14-16
This thought drew from him those tears of blood. His eyes had formerly wept for our misdoings — his whole body now weeps — not a faint dew — but he sweat out solid drops of blood. The thorns, scourges, nails, fetched blood from him — but not with such pain as this bloody sweat. External violence caused those; but the bloody sweat was caused by the extremity of his anguished soul.
Here, then, was his cause of fear. He saw our everlasting destruction — if he suffered not. He saw the horrors which he must suffer to ransom us, hence those groans, tears, cries, and sweat — yet his love conquered all. By nature he could willingly have avoided this cup; for love's sake to us, he took it in a willing hand — so he had purposed, so he has performed. And now to testify his love, says my text, he freely gave.
3. WHOM? — Himself.
This is the third circumstance, the gift is himself!
Not an angel; for an angel cannot sufficiently mediate between an immortal nature offended, and a mortal nature corrupted. The glorious angels are blessed — but are finite and limited, and therefore unable for this expiation. They cannot be so sensibly, "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" (Hebrews 4:15), as he who was, in our own nature, in all points tempted like as we are, sin only excepted.
Not saints, for they have no more oil than will serve their own lamps. They have enough for themselves — not of themselves, all of Christ — but none to spare. Fools cry, "Give us some of your oil!" They answer, "Not so, lest there be not enough for us and you!" (Matthew 25:9). They could not propitiate for sin — who were themselves guilty of sin, and by nature liable to condemnation.
Not the riches of the world, "We were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold," (1 Peter 1:18). Were the riches of the old world brought together, and added to the riches of the new world; were all the mineral veins of the earth emptied of their purest precious metals — all this would not be acceptable to God, for the price of man's sin. It will cost more to redeem souls! "They trust in their wealth, and boast in the multitude of their riches — yet cannot by any means redeem their brother, nor give to God a ransom for him," (Psalm 49:6, 7).
Not the blood of bulls or goats (Hebrews 9), Alas! those legal sacrifices were but emblems of this tragedy of the cross — the mere figures of this oblation, mystically presenting to their faith, that "Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world." This Lamb was prefigured in the sacrifices of the law, and now presented in the sacraments of the gospel.
Whom did he give then? HIMSELF, who was both God and man; that so participating of both natures — our mortality and God's immortality — he might be a perfect mediator. He came between mortal men and immortal God — mortal with men, and just with God. As man he suffered — as God he satisfied divine justice. As God and man he saved his people. He gave himself — Himself wholly, Himself alone.
1. He gave ALL of himself, his whole person, soul and body, godhead and manhood. Though the Deity could not suffer, yet in regard of the personal union of these two natures in one Christ, his very passion is attributed in some sort to the Godhead. So (Acts 20:28), it is called the "blood of God." and (1 Corinthians 2:8), "The Lord of glory" is said to "be crucified."
As God alone, he would not, make this satisfaction for us. As man alone, he could not make this satisfaction for us. The Deity is impassible; yet was it impossible, without this Deity, for the great work of our salvation to be wrought.
If any ask, how the manhood could suffer without violence to the Godhead, being united in one person, let him understand it by a familiar comparison. The sunbeams shine on a tree, the axe cuts down this tree — yet can it not hurt the beams of the sun. So the Godhead still remains unharmed, though the axe of death did for a while fell down the manhood. His body suffered both sorrow and the sword. His soul suffered sorrow — but not the sword. His deity neither suffered sorrow nor the sword. The Godhead was in the person pained, yet not in the pain.
2. He gave Himself alone, and that without a partner or a comforter.
(1.) He suffered without a partner who might share either his glory or our thanks — of both which he is justly jealous. The sufferings of our Savior need no help.
Upon good cause, therefore, we abhor that doctrine of the papists, that our offences are expiated by the passions of the saints. No, not even the blessed Virgin has performed any part of our justification, nor paid any farthing of our debts. But thus sings the choir of Rome (Holy Virgin, enrich us with your virtue, create in us new hearts!) Wherein there is pretty rhyme, pretty reason — but great blasphemy! As if the Virgin were able to create a new heart within us. No, "but the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin," (1 John 1:7).
His blood, and his only. O blessed Savior, every drop of your blood is able to redeem a believing world. What then, need we the help of men? How is Christ a perfect Savior — if any act of our redemption is left to the performance of saint or angel? No, our souls must die — if the blood of Jesus cannot save them. And whatever witty error may dispute for the merits of saints, the distressed conscience cries, "Christ, and none but Christ!" They may sit at tables and discourse, enter the schools and argue, get up into the pulpits and preach that the works of good men is the church's treasure, given by indulgence, and can give indulgence, and that they will do the soul good.
But when we lie upon our deathbeds, panting for breath, driven to the push, tossed with tumultuous waves of afflictions, anguished with sorrow of spirit, then we sing another song, "Christ, and Christ alone! Jesus, and Jesus alone! Mercy, grace, pardon, comfort, for our Savior's sake!"
"Neither is there salvation in any other; for there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved," (Acts 4:12).
(2.) He suffered without a Comforter. He was so far from having a sharer in his passion, that he had none in compassion, who might anyways ease his sorrows. Pity is but a poor comfort in calamity — yet even that was lacking. "Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?" (Lam 1:12). Is it so sore a sorrow to Christ — and is it nothing to you? It is a matter not worth your regard, your pity? Man naturally desires and expects, if he cannot be delivered — yet to be pitied. "Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O my friends, for the hand of God has touched me!" (Job 19:21). Christ might make that request of Job — but in vain; there was none to comfort him, none to pity him.
It is yet a little bit of comfort if others are touched with a sense of our misery; that in their hearts they wish us well, and would give us ease if they could. But Christ has in his sorest pangs not so much as a comforter!
The martyrs have fought valiantly under the banner of Christ, because he was with them to comfort them. But when himself suffers, no relief is permitted.
The most grievous torments find some mitigation in the pity of friends and comforters. Christ after his combat with the devil in the desert, had angels to attend him. In his agony in the garden, an angel was sent to comfort him. But when he came to the main act of our redemption, not an angel must be seen! None of those glorious spirits may look through the windows of heaven, to give him any ease. And if they would have relieved him, they could not. Who can lift up, where the Lord will cast down? What surgeon can heal the bones which the Lord has broken?
But his mother, and other friends, stand by, seeing, sighing weeping. Alas! What do those tears do, but increase his sorrow? Might he not justly say with Paul, "Why are you weeping and breaking my heart?" (Acts 21:13).
Of whom then, shall he expect comfort? Of his apostles? Alas! they turn their heels on Christ. Fear of their own danger, drowns their compassion of his misery. He might say with Job, "Miserable comforters are you all!"
Of whom, then? The Jews are his enemies, and vie in unmercifulness with devils!
There is no other refuge but his Father. No, even his Father is angry; and he who once said, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," (Matthew 3:17) — is now incensed. He hides his face from him — but lays his hand heavy upon him, and buffets him with anguish. Thus, he gave himself, and only himself, for our redemption.
4. To whom? — To God.
That is the fourth circumstance. To whom should he offer this sacrifice of expiation, but to him that was offended? And that is God. "Against you, you only have I sinned, and done this evil in your sight," (Psalm 51:4). "Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight," (Luke 15:21). All sins are committed against him! His justice is displeased, and must be satisfied.
He offered this sin-atoning sacrifice to God — for God is angry. What is God angry with — and whom? With sin and us — and us for sin. In his just anger he must smite — but whom? In Christ was no sin.
Now shall God do like Annas or Ananias? "If I have spoken evil," says Christ, "bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you smite me?" (John 18:23).
So Paul to Ananias, "God shall smite you, you white-washed wall; for sit you to judge me after the law, and command me to be smitten contrary to the law!" (Acts 23:3).
So Abraham pleads to God, "Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen 18:25). Especially right to his Son, and to that Son who glorified him on earth, and whom he has now glorified in Heaven?
We must fetch the answer from Daniel's prophecy, "The Messiah shall be cut off — but not for himself," (Daniel 9:26). Not for himself? For whom, then? For solution hereof we must step to the fifth point, and we shall find.
5. For whom? — For us!
He became surety for us; and, lo! now the course of divine justice may proceed against him! He who will become a surety, and take on him the debt, must be content to pay it. Hence that innocent lamb must be made a sacrifice. "He who knew no sin in himself, must be made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him," (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Seven times in three verses does the prophet Isaiah inculcate this: we, ours, us; (Isaiah 53:4, 5, 6). We were all sick, grievously sick; every sin was a mortal disease. "He heals our infirmities," says the prophet; he was our physician, a great physician. The whole world was sick to death, and therefore needed a powerful physician.
So Christ took a strange course for our cure; which was not by giving us medicine — but by taking our medicine for us. Patients must themselves drink the prescribed potion — but our Physician drank the bitter potion himself, and so recovered us!
FOR US! He who had no cause to suffer for himself, suffered for me! O Lord Jesus you suffer for my sins!
So monstrous were our sins, that the hand of the everlasting justice was ready to strike us with a fatal and final blow. Christ steps between the stroke and us, and bore that penalty which would have sunk us forever!
Christ loved US — and such us, who were his utter enemies. "Christ died for the ungodly. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!" Romans 5:6, 8
Here then was love without limitation — beyond imitation! "Unspeakable mercy," says Bernard, "that the King of eternal glory should yield himself to be crucified for so poor a wretch — yes, for a worm — and that not a loving worm, not a living worm — for we both hated Him and were dead in sins and trespasses."
We are those for whose cause our blessed Savior was crucified.
For us, he endured those grievous pangs — that we might never taste them.
Let him be fixed wholly in our hearts — who was wholly for us fastened to the cross!
We shall consider the USES we are to make of this, by the ENDS for which Christ performed this.
It serves to save us — and to move and to mortify us.
1. To save us. This was his purpose and performance: all he did, all he suffered — was to redeem us. "By his stripes we are healed," (Isaiah 53:5).
By his sweat, we are refreshed;
by his sorrows, we are comforted;
by his death, we are saved.
For even that day, which was to him, the heaviest day that ever any man bore, was to us "the accepted time, the day of salvation," (2 Corinthians 6:2). The day was evil in respect of our sins and his sufferings; but eventually, in regard of what he paid and what he purchased — it was a good day, the best day, a day of joy and jubilation.
But if this salvation is wrought for us, it must be applied to us. For that some receive more profit by his passion than others, is not his fault who suffered it — but theirs who do not believe it; to apply it to their own consciences. We must not only believe this text in gross; but let everyone take a handful out of this sheaf, and put it into his own bosom. So turn this 'for us' into 'for me.' As Paul, "I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me," (Galatians 2:20). Blessed faith, that into the plural, 'us,' puts in the singular soul, 'me.' Everyone is a rebel, guilty and convicted by the supreme law; death waits to arrest us, and damnation to receive us. What should we do but pray, beseech, cry, weep, until we can get our pardon sealed in the blood of Jesus Christ, and find a sure testimony our soul, that Christ gave himself for me.
2. This should move us. Was all this done for us, and shall we not be stirred? "Have you no regard? Is it nothing to you, that I suffer such sorrow as was never suffered?" (Lam. 1:12). All his agony, his cries, and tears, and groans, and pangs, were for us. Shall he thus grieve for us — and shall we not grieve for ourselves? For ourselves, I say; not so much for him. Let his passion move us to compassion, not for his sufferings (alas! our pity can do him no good); but for our sins which caused them. "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me — but weep for yourselves, and for your children, (Luke 23:28).
Shall he weep to us, for us — and shall we not mourn? Shall he drink so deeply for us in this cup of sorrow — and shall we not pledge him? Does the wrath of God make the Son shriek out — and shall not the servants for whom he suffered tremble? Every creature seems to suffer with Christ; sun, earth, rocks, sepulchers. Only man suffers nothing — for whom Christ suffered all.
Does his passion tear the veil, rend the stones, cleave the rocks, shake the earth, open the graves — and are our hearts more hard than those insensible things, that they cannot be penetrated? Does heaven and earth, sun and elements, suffer with him — and is it nothing to us? We, wretched men that we are — were the principals in this murder of Christ! Whereas Judas, Caiaphas, Pilate, soldiers, Jews, were all but accessories and instrumental causes. We may seek to shift it from ourselves, and blame this heinous fact upon the Jews. But sin, our sins, were the murderers! For us, he suffered. Unite these in your thoughts, and tell me if his passion does not move us.
And yet so obdurate are our hearts, that we cannot endure one hour's discourse of this great business. Christ was many hours in dying for us — we cannot sit one hour to hear of it. O that we should find fault with heat or cold in harkening to these heavenly mysteries — when he endured for us such a heat, such a sweat, such agony, that through his flesh and skin, he sweat drops of blood. Does he weep tears of gore-blood for us — and cannot we weep tears of water for ourselves? Alas! how would we die for him — when we are weary of hearing what he did for us.
3. This should mortify us. Christ delivered himself to death for our sins, that he might deliver us from death and our sins. He came not only to destroy the devil — but to "destroy the works of the devil," (1 John 3:8). Neither does he take only from sin, the power to condemn us — but also, (Romans 6:6, 12), the power to rule and reign in us. So that Christ's death, as it answers the justice of God for our misdeeds — so it must kill in us the will of sinning. Christ in all parts suffered — that we in all parts might be mortified. His sufferings were so abundant, that men cannot know their number — nor angels their nature — neither men nor angels their measure. His passion found an end — our thoughts cannot fathom them.
He suffered at all times, in all places, in all senses, in all members, in body, and soul also — all for us!
(1.) He suffered in all times. In his childhood by poverty, and Herod. In the strength of his days, he suffered by the powers of earth, and by the powers of Hell. In the day he lacks food — in the night he lacks a pillow for his head.
Even that holy time of the great Passover is destined for his dying. When they should kill the paschal lamb in thankfulness — they slay the lamb of God in wickedness. They admire the shadow — yet condemn the substance! All for us; that all times might yield us comfort. So the apostle sweetly, "He died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him," (1 Thessalonians 5:10).
(2.) He suffered in all places.
In the cradle, by that fox Herod.
In the streets, by revilers.
In the the mountain, by those who would have thrown him down headlong.
In the the temple, by those who "took up stones to cast at him," (John 8:59).
In the the garden, by betrayers.
In the the high priest's hall, by buffeters.
Along the way, laden with his cross.
Lastly, in Calvary, a vile and stinking place, among the bones of crucified malefactors.
Still he suffered all for us, that in all places the mercy of God might protect us.
(3.) He suffered in all senses.
For his taste, lo! it is afflicted with gall and vinegar — a bitter draught for a dying man!
His touch felt more — the nails driven into his hands and feet — places most sensible of pain, being the most sinewy parts of the body.
His ears are full of the blasphemous insults which the savage multitude belched out against him. "Not him — but Barabbas!" they cry to Pilate — preferring a murderer before a Savior. (See Matthew 27:29, 39, 42, 44, 49.) Consider their blasphemy — and his patience.
For his eyes, where can he turn them without spectacles of sorrow? The despite of his enemies on the one side, showing their extreme malice. The weeping and lamenting of his mother on the other side, whose tears might wound his heart.
If any sense were less afflicted, it was his smell; and yet the putrified bones of Calvary could be no pleasing savor.
Thus suffered all his senses!
That taste which should be delighted with the wine of the vineyard, that "goes down sweetly" — is fed with vinegar. He looks for good grapes — behold "sour grapes" (Isaiah 5:4). He expects wine — he receives vinegar.
That smell which should be refreshed with the odoriferous scent of the "beds of spices," the piety of his saints — is filled with the stench of iniquities!
Those hands which sway the scepter of the heavens — are glad to carry the reed of reproach, and endure the nails of death.
Those eyes that were as a "flame of fire" (Rev. 1:14), in respect of which the very sun was darkness — must behold the afflicting objects of shame and tyranny.
Those ears, which to delight the high choristers of Heaven, sing their sweetest notes — must be wearied with the taunts and scoffs of blasphemy.
And all this for us! Not only to satisfy those sins which our senses have committed — but to mortify those senses, and preserve them from those sins.
That our eyes may be no more full of adulteries, nor throw covetous looks on the goods of our brethren.
That our ears may no more give so wide admission and welcome entrance to lewd reports — the incantations of Satan.
That sin in all our senses might be put to death — the poison exhausted, the sense purified.
(4.) He suffered in all members. Look on that blessed body, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of a pure virgin — it is scourged all over, stricken, smitten, tortured, mangled! What places can you find free?
That head which the angels reverence — is crowned with thorns!
That face, which is "fairer than the sons of men" (Psalm 45:2) — must be odiously spit on by the filthy Jews!
Those hands which made the heavens — are extended and fastened to the cruel cross!
The feet which tread upon the necks of his and our enemies — feel the like anguish.
And the mouth must be buffeted — which "spoke as never man spoke," (John 7:46).
Still all this was suffered for us!
His head bled, for the wicked imaginations of our heads.
His face was besmeared with spittle, because we had spit impudent blasphemies against Heaven.
His lips were afflicted, that our lips might henceforth yield savory speeches.
His feet bled, that our feet might not be swift to shed blood.
All his members suffered — for the sins of all our members, and that our members might be no more servants to sin — but "servants to righteousness unto holiness," (Romans 6:19).
He would be polluted with their spittle, that he might wash us.
He would be blindfolded, that he might take the veil of ignorance from our eyes.
He allowed his head to be wounded, that he might renew health to all the body.
Six times we read that Christ shed his blood:
1. When he was circumcised; at eight days old his blood was spilt.
2. In his agony in the garden, where he sweat drops of blood.
3. In his scourging, when the merciless tormentors fetched blood from his holy back and sides.
4. When he was crowned with thorns; those sharp prickles raked and harrowed his blessed head, and drew forth blood.
5. In his crucifying, when his hands and feet were pierced, blood gushed out.
6. Lastly, after his death, "one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water," (John 19:34).
All his members' bled — to show that he bled for all his members. Not one drop of this blood was shed for himself — all was for us; for his enemies, persecutors, crucifiers — for ourselves!
But what shall become of us, if all this cannot mortify us? We are dead indeed unto sin — but living unto righteousness. As Elisha revived the Shunamite's child: "He lay upon it; put his mouth upon the child's mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands, and stretched himself upon the child, and the flesh of the child waxed warm," (2 Kings 4:34). So the Lord Jesus to recover us that were dead in our sins and trespasses, spreads and applies his whole passion to us! He lays . . .
his mouth of blessing, upon our mouth of blasphemy;
his eyes of holiness, upon our eyes of lust;
his hands of mercy, upon our hands of cruelty!
He stretches his gracious self upon our wretched selves, until we begin to wax warm, to get life, and the Holy Spirit revives us.
(5.) He suffered in his soul. All the previous, was but the outside of his passion. "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour; but for this cause came I unto this hour," (John 12:27).
The pain of the body — is but the body of pain.
The very soul of his sorrow — is the sorrow of his soul.
All the outward afflictions were but gentle prickings — in comparison to what his soul suffered. "The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?" (Proverbs 18:14). He had a heart within that suffered unseen, unknown anguish! This pain drew those strong cries, those bitter tears, (Hebrews 5:7). He had often sent forth the cries of compassion — but of soul passion and distress, not until now. He had wept the tears of pity, the tears of love — but never before the tears of anguish. When the Son of God thus cries, thus weeps — here is more than the body distressed — the soul is agonized!
Still all this he suffered for us!
His soul was in our souls' stead — and all for us!
For your drunkenness and pouring down strong drinks — he drunk vinegar.
For your intemperate gluttony — he fasted.
For your sloth — he himself suffered the pains of crucifixion.
You sleep secure — your Savior is then waking, watching, praying.
Your arms are accustomed to lustful embracings — he for this, embraces the rough cross.
You deck yourself with proud attire — he is humble and lowly for it.
You ride in pomp — he journeys on foot.
You wallow on your down beds — your Savior has not a pillow to lay his head.
You fill your stomachs — and he sweats out a bloody sweat.
You fill and swell yourself with wickedness. Behold, your Savior bleeds to death!
Since Christ did all this for you and me; pray then with Augustine: "Lord give me a heart to desire you; desiring to seek you; seeking to find you; finding to love you; loving, no more to offend you."
There are two main parts of this Crucifix yet to handle. I must only name them, being sorry that it is still my custom to trouble you with prolixity of speech.
6. After what manner? — An offering and sacrifice.His whole life was an offering. His death was a sacrifice. He gave himself for us once an expiatory sacrifice. In his life, he did for us all that we should do; in his death, he suffered for us all that we should suffer. "Who his own self bore our sins in his own body on the tree," (1 Peter 2:24).
Some of the Hebrews have affirmed that in the fire which consumed the legal sacrifices, there always appeared the face of a lion, which mystery they thus resolve, that the Lion of Judah should one day give himself for us, a perfect expiatory sacrifice. Thus, "once in the end of the world has he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself," (Hebrews 9:26).
7. Of what effect? — For a sweet smelling savor.Here is the fruit and efficacy of all. Never was the Lord pleased with sinful man, until now. Were he ever so angry — here is a pacification, a sweet savor. If the whole world were quintessenced into one perfume, it could not yield so fragrant a smell. We are all of ourselves, dead and stinking carcasses — the pure nostrils of the Most Holy cannot endure us. Behold the perfume that sweetens us — the redeeming blood of the Lord Jesus. This so fills him with a delightful fragrance, that he cannot smell our putrid wickedness!
Let me leave you with this comfort in your bosoms. However unsavory our own sins have made us, yet if our hand of faith lays hold on this Savior's censer — God will smell none of our corruptions; but we shall smell sweetly in his nostrils.
We should die, and Jesus died in our stead!
We have offended, and Jesus is punished!
This is . . .
a mercy without example,
a favor without merit,
a love without measure!
Therefore I conclude my sermon, as we all end our prayers, with this one clause, "Through our Lord Jesus Christ!"
O Father of mercy, accept our sacrifice of prayer and praise — for his sacrifice of pain and merit — even for our Lord Jesus Christ's sake! To whom, with the Father and blessed Spirit, be all glory, forever and ever. Amen.