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unrequired. O Saviour, thou didst not snatch the cross out of the soldiers' hands, and cast it upon thy shoulder; but, when they laid it upon thy neck, thou underwentest it. The constraint was theirs; the will was thine. It was not so heavy to them, or to Simon, as it was to thee: they felt nothing but the wood; thou feltest it clogged with the load of the sin of the whole world. No marvel if thou faintest under that sad burden; thou that bearest up the whole earth by thy word, didst sweat, and pant, and groan under this unsupportable carriage. O blessed Jesu, how could I be confounded in myself to see thee, after so much loss of blood, and over-toiledness of pain, languishing under that fatal tree! and yet, why should it more trouble me to see thee sinking under thy cross now, than to see thee anon hanging upon thy cross! In both thou wouldst render thyself weak and miserable, that thou mightest so much the more glorify thy infinite mercy in suffering.
It is not out of any compassion of thy misery, or care of thine ease, that Simon of Cyrene is forced to be the porter of thy cross; it was out of their own eagerness of thy despatch: thy feeble paces were too slow for their purpose; their thirst after thy blood made them impatient of delay. If thou hast wearily struggled with the burden of thy shame all along the streets of Jerusalem, when thou comest once past the gates, an helper shall be deputed to thee: the expedition of thy death was more sweet to them than the pain of a lingering passage. What thou saidst to Judas, they say to the executioner, 'What thou dost, do quickly.' While thou yet livest, they cannot be quiet, they cannot be safe: to hasten thine end, they lighten thy carriage.
Hadst thou done this out of choice, which thou didst out of constraint, how I should have envied thee, O Simon of Cyrene, as too happy in the honour to be the first man that bore that cross of thy Saviour, wherein millions of blessed martyrs have, since that time, been ambitious to succeed thee! Thus to bear thy cross for thee, O Saviour, was more than to bear a crown from thee. Could I be worthy to be thus graced by thee, I should pity all other glories.
While thou thus passest, O dear Jesu, the streets and ways resound not all with one note. If the malicious Jews and cruel soldiers insulted upon thee, and either hailed or railed thee on with a bitter violence, thy faithful followers were no less loud in their moans and ejaculations; neither would they
endure, that the noise of their cries and lamentations should be drowned with the clamour of those reproaches: but especially thy blessed mother, and those other zealous associates of her own sex, were most passionate in their wailing. And why should I think that all that devout multitude, which so lately cried Hosanna in the streets, did not also bear their part in these public condolings? Though it had not concerned thyself, O Saviour, thine ears had been still more open to the voice of grief than of malice: and so thy lips also are open to the one, shut to the other: Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me; but weep for yourselves and for your children.' Who would not have thought, O Saviour, that thou shouldst have been wholly taken up with thine own sorrows? The expectation of so bitter a death had been enough to have overwhelmed any soul but thine: yet even now can thy gracious eye find time to look beyond thine own miseries, at theirs; and to pity them, who, insensible of their own ensuing condition, mourned for thine now present. They see thine extremity, thou foreseest theirs they pour out their sorrow upon thee, thou divertest it upon themselves. We, silly creatures, walk blindfolded in this vale of tears, and little know what evil is towards us: only, what we feel we know; and while we feel nothing, can find leisure to bestow our commiseration on those who need it, perhaps, less than ourselves. Even now, O Saviour, when thou wert within the view of thy Calvary, thou canst foresee and pity the devastation of thy Jerusalem, and givest a sad prophecy of the imminent destruction of that city, which lately cost thee tears, and now shall cost thee blood. It is not all the indign cruelty of man, that can rob thee of thy mercy.
Jerusalem could not want malefactors, though Barabbas was dismissed. That all this execution might seem to be done out of the zeal of justice, two capital offenders, adjudged to their gibbet, shall accompany thee, O Saviour, both to thy death and in it. They are led manacled after thee, as less criminous : no stripes had disabled them from bearing their own crosses. Long ago was this unmeet society foretold by thine evangelical seer, He was taken from prison and from judgement; he was cut out of the land of the living; he made his grave with the wicked.' O blessed Jesu, it had been disparagement enough to thee to be sorted with the best of men, since there is much sin in the perfectest, and there could be no sin in thee; but to be matched with the scum of mankind, whom vengeance.
would not let to live, is such an indignity as confounds my thoughts. Surely there is no angel in heaven, but would have been proud to attend thee; and what could the earth afford worthy of thy train? Yet malice hath suited thee with company next to hell; that their viciousness might reflect upon thee, and their sin might stain thine innocence. Ye are deceived, O ye fond judges: this is the way to grace your dying malefactors; this is not the way to disgrace him, whose guiltlessness and perfection triumphed over your injustice: his presence was able to make your thieves happy; their presence could no more blemish him than your own. Thus guarded, thus attended, thus accompanied, art thou, blessed Jesu, led to that loathsome and infamous hill, which now thy last blood shall make sacred: now thou settest thy foot upon that rising ground which shall prevent thine Olivet, whence thy soul shall first ascend into thy glory.
There, while thou art addressing thyself for thy last act, thou art presented with that bitter and farewell portion, wherewith dying malefactors were wont to have their senses stupified, that they might not feel the torments of their execution. It was but the common mercy of men to alleviate the death of offenders; since the intent of their last doom is not so much pain as dissolution.
That draught, O Saviour, was not more welcome to the guilty than hateful unto thee. In the vigour of all thine inward and outward senses, thou wouldst encounter the most violent assaults of death, and scornedst to abate the least touch of thy quickest apprehension. Thou well knewest that the work thou wentest about, would require the use of all thy powers: it was not thine ease that thou soughtst, but our redemption; neither meanst thou to yield to the last enemy, but to resist and to overcome him: which that thou mightst do the more gloriously, thou challengedst him to do his worst ; and, in the mean time, wouldst not disfurnish thyself of any of thy powerful faculties. This greatest combat that ever was, shall be fought on even hand: neither wouldst thou steal that victory, which thou now achievedst over death and hell. Thou didst but touch at this cup; it is far bitterer than this, that thou art now drinking up to the dregs. Thou refusedst that which was offered thee by men ; but that which was mixed by thine eternal Father, though mere gall and wormwood, thou didst drink up
to the last drop. health and salvation.
And therein, O blessed Jesu, lies all our
in thy pain, or joy in the issue of thy suffering.
Now, even now, O Saviour, art thou entering into those dreadful lists, and now art thou grappling with thy last enemy; as if thou hadst not suffered till now, thy bloody passion begins : a cruel expoliation begins that violence. Again do these grim and merciless soldiers lay their rude hands upon thee, and strip thee naked; again are those bleeding weals laid open to all eyes; again must thy sacred body undergo the shame of an abhorred nakedness. Lo, thou that clothest man with raiment, beasts with hides, fishes with scales and shells, earth with flowers, heaven with stars, art despoiled of clothes, and standst exposed to the scorn of all beholders. As the First Adam entered into his Paradise, so dost thou, the Second Adam, into thine, naked; and as the First Adam was clothed with innocence when he had no clothes, so wert thou (the Second) too and more than so; thy nakedness, O Saviour, clothes our souls, not with innocence only, but with beauty. Hadst not thou been naked, we had been clothed with confusion. O happy nakedness, whereby we are covered from shame! O happy shame, whereby we are invested with glory!
Shame is succeeded with pain. O the torment of the cross! Methinks I see and feel, how, having fastened the transverse to the body of that fatal tree, and laid it upon the ground, they racked and strained thy tender and sacred limbs, to fit the extent of their fore-appointed measure; and having tentered out thine arms beyond their natural reach, how they fastened them with cords, till those strong iron nails, which were driven up to the head through the palms of thy blessed hands, had not more firmly than painfully fixed thee to the gibbet. The tree is raised up, and now, not without a vehement concussion, settled in the mortise. Wo is me, how are thy joints and sinews torn, and stretched till they crack again, by this torturing distension! How doth thine own weight torment thee, while thy whole body rests upon this forced and dolorous hold, till thy nailed feet bear their part in a no less afflictive supportation! How did the rough iron pierce thy soul, while, passing through those tender and sensible parts, it carried thy flesh before it, and, as it were, rivetted it to that shameful tree!
There now, O dear Jesu, there thou hangest between heaven
and earth, naked, bleeding, forlorn, despicable, the spectacle of miseries, the scorn of men. Be abased, O ye heavens and earth, and all ye creatures wrap up yourselves in horror and confusion, to see the shame, and pain, and curse of your most pure and omnipotent Creator. How could ye subsist, while he thus suffers in whom ye are? O Saviour, didst thou take flesh for our redemption, to be thus indignly used, thus mangled, thus tortured? Was this measure fit to be offered to that sacred body, that was conceived by the Holy Ghost, of the pure substance of an immaculate virgin? Wo is me, that which was unspotted with sin, is all blemished with human cruelty, and so wofully disfigured, that the blessed mother that bore thee, could not now have known thee; so bloody were thy temples, so swoln and discoloured was thy face, so was the skin of thy whole body streaked with red and blue stripes, so did thy thorny diadem shade thine heavenly countenance, so did the streams of thy blood cover and deform all thy parts! The eye of sense could not distinguish thee, O dear Saviour, in the nearest proximity to thy cross: the eye of faith sees thee in all this distance; and by how much more ignominy, deformity, pain, it finds in thee, so much more it admires the glory of thy mercy. Alas! is this the head that is decked by thine eternal Father with a crown of pure gold, of immortal and incomprehensible majesty, which is now bushed with thorns? Is this the eye that saw the heavens opened, and the Holy Ghost descending upon that head-that saw such resplendence of heavenly brightness on Mount Tabor, which now begins to be overclouded with death? Are these the ears that heard the voice of thy Father owning thee out of heaven, which now tingle with buffetings, and glow with reproaches, and bleed with thorns? Are these the lips that spake as never man spake, full of grace and power,' that called out dead Lazarus, that ejected the stubbornest devils, that commanded the cure of all diseases, which now are swoln with blows, and discoloured with blueness and blood? Is this the face that should be fairer than the sons of men,' which the angels of heaven so desired to see, and can never be satisfied with seeing, that is thus foul with the nasty mixtures of sweat and blood, and spittings on? Are these the hands that stretched out the heavens as a curtain,' that, by their touch, healed the lame, the deaf, the blind, which are now bleeding with the nails?