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LIFE OF CHRIST.
HIS CRY UPON THE CROSS UNDER HIS DERELICTION.
MARK XY. 34.
And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying,
Eloi, Eloi, Lama sabacthani, which is, being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
The death of illustrious men is almost always the most interesting and affecting part of their history, We love to contemplate their behaviour in those last moments in which they leave a world, where they have acted so distinguished a part. Our interest is inconceivably heightened, when we have been connected with them by esteem or friendship, or when we have received from them any signal favour. Then we hang upon those lips, which are so soon to be closed for ever; we drink in with avidity the last accents of that tongue which is so soon to be silenced; we endeavour to catch the last flashes of that mind that is no longer to instruct us, the last sentiments of that heart which will shortly beat no more. The minutest details that relate to the death of a father, of a friend, of a benefactor, appear important, and we cannot recall without tears what they said or did, when combating with the king of terrors. Every thing then must be interesting to us, in the detail of the death and sufferings of the Redeemer of the world: there is not a single circumstance of this death that ought to be remembered without emotion. But especially does that part of our Saviour's passion, that we have selected for our meditation, claim your attention and sympathy. It presents to you Jesus Christ expiring upon the cross; Jesus Christ plunged into an abyss of woes, and about to commend his soul into the hands of his Father. It presents to you your friend, your brother, your Saviour, contending with the most painful death, sinking, for your sakes, under the avenging justice of God, and making Calvary resound with that sorrowful exclamation, “ My God, my God! why hast thou forsaken me?"
While all nature then sympathized with the Saviour, what should be our emotions, Christians, at beholding a spectacle so afflictive, at hearing a cry so distressing? Can we fail to participate in the dying groans of him who is expiating our sins, and consummating the work of our redemption ? Ah! if ever your hearts were affected by the great truths announced to you from this sacred desk; if ever your souls were moved by the exhortations of your pastors, these affections and emotions should be exercised to-day. You owe them to this recital of the most interesting part of your Saviour's passion; you owe them to the love which the Son of God displayed for you till his last sigh; you owe them to the wrath of God, which he bore for you; to that anguish, to those conflicts, which he endured for your sakes; to that voice, capable of penetrating hearts harder than the rocks themselves.
This discourse shall have two parts. In the
First, We shall endeavour to show the true sense of this exclamation of our Saviour, and the nature of that grief which caused him to utter it. In the
Second, We shall inquire what sentiments ought to be produced by this afflictive cry of Jesus, in the hearts of those who profess to consider him as the victim immolated for their sins.
I. In seeking the true sense of this exclamation of the Saviour, it is not necesssary to enumerate the various improper interpretations that have been given to it. It will be sufficient if we first remove the false senses of which it may appear susceptible, and then establish its real meaning.
1. Do not suppose that this exclamation indicates any repugnance to the great sacrifice that the Saviour was then offering to God for the salvation of mankind, any repentance for the submission he had exercised to the will of his heavenly Father. Jesus Christ had clearly foreseen his death, with the most afflictive circumstances that were to accompany it : he had frequently predicted it; he knew that he came, into the world in order to suffer it; he had always rebuked with severity his disciples, when they would dissuade him from it; he had expressed the most ardent desire for its approach.
“ I have a baptism (of suffering] to be baptized with, and how am I straightened until it be accomplished ?" was his language on one occasion, “ I have desired to eat this passover with you," was his expression, the same night he instituted the holy supper, to be a memorial of his death. Jesus Christ then perfectly knew the greatness of the work he had undertaken, and clearly foresaw all that he had to suffer as our Redeemer; and yet voluntarily and deliberately braved it all. Witness the resolution with which he advanced to
those who came to apprehend him; witness the silence which he kept before Caiaphas when false witnesses were produced against him; witness the confession which he made in the presence of this judge ; witness his replies to Pilate; witness the whole history of the passion. He cannot then be considered as a victim dragged to the altar, but as a free, voluntary victim, who, knowing all the circumstances of his death, submitted to it freely and cheerfully, from charity to man. Of consequence, this exclamation cannot be attributed to any want of courage or resignation, to any regret for having engaged in this painful work. No, my brethren, the same submission to God, which led Jesus Christ to devote himself to the death of the cross for us, attended him, supported him, all the time he was fastened to it, until he had uttered his last sigh. These words then do not denote any change of will in the Saviour, any repugnance to fulfil the purposes of his heavenly Father.
2. This exclamation does not denote the least doubt or distrust in Jesus Christ, of the love that his Father entertained for him. We may confidently assert, without fear of contradiction, that there never was an instant in which Jesus Christ ceased to trust in God, and regard him as a tender Father; never an instant in which he was not persuaded that he was God's beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased. And especially now that he was on the cross accomplishing the eternal purposes of God, giving the strongest proof of devotion to his will, and the most amazing exhibition of that charity in which he delights, he was, if possible, more fully than ever persuaded of the infinite love of his father for him. This assertion is proved by our text itself, in which the Saviour, at the height of his sufferings, addresses
his Father, by a title full of love and confidence, “ My God, my God.” It is proved by the sentiments that he expressed some moments after, when he uttered his last sigh, saying, “ Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” It is proved by a passage in the tenth chapter of John, where Christ himself mentions his death as the foundation of that tender affection which his Father had for him. 4 The Father loveth me, because I lay down my life for the sheep.” It is certain then, that Jesus, when
the cross, ceased not to regard God as his God and Father; and we must, therefore, not consider this exclamation as implying any doubt or distrust of the affection of his Father.
3. This, exclamation is not to be interpreted as if the divine nature of Christ experienced any sufferings. The divine nature, possessed of immutable happiness and infinite joy, is incapable of sorrow or pain. The two natures were so united in the Saviour as not to be confounded and mingled together, and in all his sufferings, the divinity was quiescent, and ceased to exert itself. It gave dignity and value to his sufferings; it so supported the humanity as to prevent it from being crushed by the infinite agonies which descended on the Saviour; but it neither partook of, nor diminished the severity of these agonies.
Having separated all these false ideas from the text, we ask, what is the true sense of this expression, and what were the sufferings which caused it? If these words express no murmuring nor distrust, nor want of resolution and courage, what do they signify? For the more the Saviour was resigned to death, the more he trusted in God, the more he was persuaded of the affection of his Father, by so much