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What hour?-An hour the most critical, the most pregnant with great events, since time had begun to run. Some of them I shall attempt to set before you as proper subjects, at this time, of your devout meditation: to display them in their genuine majesty, is beyond the ability of man.
I. This was the hour, in which Christ was glorified by his sufferings. The whole of his life had discovered much real greatness, under a mean appearance. Through the cloud of his humiliation, his native lustre often broke forth; but never did it shine so bright, as in this last, this trying hour. It was indeed the hour of distress, and of blood. He knew it to be such; and when he uttered the words of the text, he had before his eyes the executioner and the cross, the scourge, the nails, and the spear. But, by prospects of this nature, his soul was not to be overcome. It is distress which ennobles every great character; and distress was to glorify the Son of God. He was now to teach all mankind, by his example, how to suffer and to die. He was to stand forth before his enemies, as the faithful witness of the truth; justifying by his behaviour the character which he assumed, and sealing with his blood the doctrines which he taught.
What magnanimity in all his words and actions, on this great occasion! The court of Herod, the judgement-hall of Pilate, the hill of Calvary, were so many theatres, prepared for his displaying all the virtues of a constant and patient mind. When led forth to suffer, the first voice which we hear from him, is a generous lamentation over the fate of his unfortunate, though guilty, country; and, to the last moment of his life, we behold him in possession of the same gentle and benevolent spirit. No upbraiding, no complaining expression escaped from his lips, during the long and painful approaches of a cruel death. With the utmost attention of filial tenderness, he committed his aged mother to the care of his beloved disciple. With all the dignity of a sovereign, he conferred pardon on a penitent fellow-sufferer. With a greatness of mind beyond example, he spent his last moments in prayers for those who were shedding his blood.
By wonders in heaven, and wonders on earth, was this hour distinguished. All nature seemed to feel it; and the dead and the living bore witness of its importance. of the temple was rent in twain.' The earth shook.
was darkness over all the land. The graves were opened, and many who slept, arose, and went into the Holy City.' Nor were these the only prodigies of this awful hour. The most hardened hearts were subdued and changed. The judge who, in order to gratify the multitude, passed sentence against him, publicly attested his innocence. The Roman centurion who presided at the execution, glorified God,' and acknowledged the sufferer to be more than man. After he saw the things which had passed, he said, Certainly this was a righteous person; truly this was the Son of God.' The Jewish malefactor who was crucified with him, addressed him as a king, and implored his favour. Even the crowd of insensible spectators, who had come forth as to a common spectacle, and who began with clamours and insults, returned home smiting their breasts.'-Look back on the heroes, the philosophers, the legis lators of old. View them in their last moments. Where can you find such an assemblage of high virtues, and of great events, as concurred at the death of Christ? Where so many testimonies given to the dignity of the dying persons, by earth and by heaven?
II. This was the hour, in which Christ atoned for the sins of mankind, and accomplished our eternal redemption. It was the hour when that great sacrifice was offered up, the efficacy of which reaches back to the first transgression of man, and extends forward to the end of time; the hour when, from the cross, as from a high altar, the blood was flowing, which washed away the guilt of the nations. The death of Christ was the interposition of Heaven for preventing the ruin of human kind. We know that, under the government of God, misery is the natural consequence of guilt. After rational creatures had, by their criminal conduct, introduced disorder into the Divine kingdom, there was no ground to believe, that by their penitence and prayers alone they could prevent the destruction which threatened them. The prevalence of propitiatory sacrifices throughout the earth, proclaims it to be the general sense of mankind, that mere repentance was not of sufficient avail to expiate sin, or to stop its penal effects. By the constant allusions which are carried on in the New Testament to the sacrifices under the law, as pre-signifying a great atonement made by Christ, and by the strong expressions which are used in describing the effects of his death, the sacred
writers show, as plainly as language allows, that there was an efficacy in his sufferings, far beyond that of mere example and instruction. We discern, in this plan of redemption, the evil of sin strongly exhibited; and the justice of the Divine government awfully exemplified, in Christ suffering for sinners.
But let us not imagine, that our present discoveries unfold the whole influence of the death of Christ. It produces consequences too extensive for us to explore. In all things we see only in part;' and here, if anywhere, we see also 'as through a glass, darkly.' This, however, is fully manifest, that redemption is one of the most glorious works of the Almighty. If the hour of the creation of the world was great and illustrious; that hour, when, from the dark and formless mass, this fair system of nature arose at the Divine command; when the morning stars sang together, and all the Sons of God shouted for joy;' no less illustrious is the hour of the restoration of the world, the hour when, from condemnation and misery, it emerged into happiness and peace.
III. In this hour, the long series of prophecies, visions, types, and figures were accomplished. You behold the law and the prophets standing, if we may speak so, at the foot of the cross, and doing homage. You behold Moses and Aaron bearing the ark of the covenant; David and Elijah presenting the oracle of testimony. You behold all the priests and sacrifices, all the rites and ordinances, all the types and symbols assembled together to receive their consummation. Without the death of Christ, the worship and ceremonies of the law would have remained a pompous, but unmeaning, institution. In the hour when he was crucified, the book with the seven seals' was opened. Every rite assumed its significancy; every prediction met its event; every symbol displayed its correspondence.
The dark and seemingly ambiguous method of conveying important discoveries under figures and emblems, was not peculiar to the sacred books. By enigmatical rites, the Priest communicated his doctrines; by parables and allegories, the Philosopher instructed his disciples; even the Legislator, by figurative sayings, commanded the reverence of the people. Agreeably to this prevailing mode of instruction, the whole dispensation of the Old Testament was so conducted, as to be the shadow and figure of a spiritual system. Every remark
able event, every distinguished personage, under the law, is interpreted in the New Testament, as bearing reference to the hour of which we treat. If Isaac was laid upon the altar as an innocent victim; if David was driven from his throne by the wicked, and restored by the hand of God; if the brazen serpent was lifted up to heal the people; if the rock was smitten by Moses, to furnish drink in the wilderness; all were types of Christ, and alluded to his death.
In predicting the same event, the language of ancient prophecy was magnificent, but seemingly contradictory: for it foretold a Messiah, who was to be at once a sufferer and a conqueror. The star was to come out of Jacob, and the branch to spring from the stem of Jesse. The Angel of the covenant, the Desire of all nations, was to come suddenly to his temple; and to him was to be the gathering of the people.' Yet, at the same time, he was to be despised and rejected of men; he was to be taken from prison and from judgement,' and to be led as a lamb to the slaughter.' Though he was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief,' yet the Gentiles were to come to his light, and kings to the brightness of his rising. In the hour when Christ died, those seeming contradictions were reconciled. The obscurity of oracles, and the ambiguity of types, vanished. The sun of righteousness rose ;' and, together with the dawn of religion, those shadows passed
IV. This was the hour of the abolition of the law, and the introduction of the gospel; the hour of terminating the old and of beginning the new dispensation of religious knowledge and worship throughout the earth. It is finished.'-When he uttered these words, he changed the state of the universe. At that moment the law ceased, and the gospel commenced. This was the ever-memorable point of time, which separated the old and the new world from each other. On one side of the point of separation, you behold the law, with its priests, its sacrifices, and its rites, retiring from sight. On the other side, you behold the gospel, with its simple and venerable institutions, coming forward into view. Significantly was the veil of the temple rent in this hour; for the glory then departed from between the cherubim. The legal high-priest delivered up his Urim and Thummim, his breast-plate, his robes, and his incense and Christ stood forth as the great High-Priest of all
succeeding generations. By that one sacrifice, which he now offered, he abolished sacrifices for ever. Altars on which the fire had blazed for ages, were now to smoke no more. Victims were no more to bleed. Not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with his own blood, he now entered into the Holy Place, there to appear in the presence of God for us.'
This was the hour of association and union to all the worshippers of God. When Christ said, 'It is finished,' he threw down the wall of partition, which had so long divided the Gentile from the Jew. He proclaimed the hour to be come, when the knowledge of the true God should be no longer confined to one nation, nor his worship to one temple; but over all the earth, the worshippers of the Father should serve him in spirit and in truth.' From that hour they who dwelt in the ' uttermost ends of the earth, strangers to the covenant of promise,' began to be brought nigh.
During a long course of ages, Providence seemed to be occupied in preparing the world for this revolution. The whole Jewish economy was intended to usher it in. The knowledge of God was preserved unextinguished in one corner of the world, that thence, in due time, might issue forth the light which was to overspread the earth. Successive revelations gradually enlarged the views of men beyond the narrow bounds of Judæa, to a more extensive kingdom of God. Signs and miracles awakened their expectation, and directed their eyes towards this great event. Whether God descended on the flaming mountain, or spoke by the Prophet's voice; whether he scattered his chosen people into captivity or re-assembled them in their own land; he was still carrying on a progressive plan, which was accomplished at the death of Christ.
Not only in the territories of Israel, but over all the earth, the great dispensations of Providence respected the approach of this important hour. If empires rose or fell; if war divided, or peace united, the nations; if learning civilized their manners, or philosophy enlarged their views; all was, by the secret decree of heaven, made to ripen the world for that fulness of time,' when Christ was to publish the whole counsel of God. The Persian, the Macedonian, the Roman conqueror, entered upon the stage, each at his predicted period; and "though he meant not so, neither did his heart think so,' ministered to this hour. The revolutions of power, and the suc