Page images

Apostles, to the house of one of his followers, which tradition places on Mount Sion, where Peter and John had, by his directions, prepared the paschal supper. In consequence of a dispute which had arisen among the Apostles as to superiority, our Lord gave them some admonitions on the subject; and after the supper came, he rose from table and washed their feet, to teach them humility, and readiness for the mutual services of love. He then declared the purposes of the traitor, who immediately went out to carry them into effect. This might be about ten o'clock. After Judas had left the chamber, our Lord declared, once and again, that Peter would deny him; and also that the prophecies concerning his own sufferings were now about to be accomplished. He then proceeded to institute the ordinance commemorative of his death, which is so admirably calculated to cherish faith and love and gratitude towards him, and to impress a a practical conviction of the purposes and obligations of the New Covenant. Before he rose from supper, he administered to his troubled disciples those consolations which he knew they would require, and which the beloved Apostle has recorded, so as to be the source of holy peace and comfort to the faithful heart, till the period when sorrow shall be for ever ended, and, after that period, of holy gratitude. On rising from the paschal table, he delivered those impressive discourses which John alone has recorded; and he then offered that prayer to the Father which he alone could have offered, and which indicates the most perfect consciousness of divine authority, and the fullest confidence in the accomplishment of the purposes for which he came from God, together with earnest desires for the welfare of those whom he especially loved, and who had thus far continued with him in his trials. They then sung a hymn, according to the custom of the paschal supper; and went forth to go to the Garden of Gethsemane. On the way thither, he told the Apostles that they all would fall away from him that very night; and this led to renewed professions of attachment on the part of Peter, and to a third warning of his approaching fall.

When they arrived at Gethsemane, probably about midnight, Jesus retired with Peter, James, and John, to some distance from the rest; and it was then that he experienced those agonizing emotions which displayed an acute susceptibility of suffering, attended with the most perfect trust and the sublimest resignation. The simple delineation of these, in the first three Gospels, is inimitable; and the reference to them in Heb. v. 7-9, shows how they were dwelt upon by the first Christians. About an hour after midnight, Judas came, attended by the Officers of the Chief Priests and

This is upon the supposition that the record in Luke (p. 243) respects a warning subsequent to that in John. Mr. Greswell has led me to the conclusion that it does.

Rulers; and he delivered up his Master to them, after a striking proof that Christ's devotement of himself to death was perfectly voluntary and then all his disciples forsook him and fled.* Our Lord was then taken, first to the House of Annas, and afterwards to the Palace of Caiaphas, where a few of the Sanhedrim had already collected; where, afterwards, a large part of them, especially those who were the High Priest's partisans, assembled; and where Peter, before the second cock-crowing, denied Jesus thrice. Some hours appear to have been occupied in endeavours to obtain witnesses for the purpose of legal condemnation; but as soon as it was day, Jesus was led, from the High Priest's Palace, to the Hall of the Sanhedrim, in the Inner Court of the Temple, where he was formally pronounced to be worthy of death; and he was then led away to the Prætorium, for the sentence of the Roman Governor. Before the Chief Priests had left the Temple, the wretched Judas, full of remorse, went to them to give back the wages of his treachery; and he afterwards departed and hanged himself.

Probably about seven in the morning, our Lord was brought before the Roman Governor, by whom he was soon after sent to the Palace of Herod, which was on Bezetha, and at no great distance from the Prætorium; and after the cruel Tetrarch had treated him with malicious derision, he sent him back to the Prætorium. Impressed with the innocence of Christ, and awed probably by his manifest dignity, the Governor did all he could, short of the determined exercise of his authority, to save him from the purpose of the Jews; but, at last, after our Saviour had undergone mocking and scourging, Pilate formally condemned him, and delivered him up to be crucified. This was about nine o'clock in the morning. The preparations were speedily completed, and Jesus was led forth from the Prætorium, bearing his cross; but they soon met with a person who was coming from the country, and they compelled him to bear it after Jesus. A great number of people followed, and among them many women of Jerusalem, wailing and beating their breasts: Weep not for me,' said the compassionate Saviour, but weep for yourselves and your children.' Two malefactors were taken to be crucified with him. When they came to Golgotha, a stupefying potion was offered him; but he received it not. Then they crucified him, and also the malefactors, one on each side of him. It was at this time that Jesus said, 'Father forgive them, for they know

* Sect. ix. p. 255. In this section, and in some others, a statement is given in the Notes which are subjoined, of the order in which the circumstances probably occurred.

+ The order of the circumstances respecting Peter's denials, which are recorded by the different Evangelists, is fully considered in a Note at the end of Part IX., p. 280.

not what they do.' An inscription was put over him, which the Chief Priests read from the walls, and wished to have altered; but Pilate refused. The soldiers then divided his garments among them; and he was exposed to the cruel and malicious revilings of the Chief Priests and Rulers, as well as the scoffs of those who were passing by, and even of one of the persons who were crucified with him. But he was not deserted by all his earthly friends his Mother and her sister, and Mary of Magdala, were standing by his cross, and the beloved Disciple was also with them. Jesus saw them, and commended his Mother to the care of this Disciple; and the Disciple to the affection of his Mother. At noon, darkness spread over the whole land; and it continued for three hours, till the time when the evening sacrifice was offered, and the paschal lambs began to be slain. that hour, Jesus uttered the words with which the twenty-second Psalm commences, thus indicating not only his intense agony, but also his reliance on God for deliverance; and he then spoke of that thirst which forms one of the severest pangs of crucifixion: this led some one who was by, to give him a momentary assuagement; but as soon as he had received the vinegar, he cried, with a loud voice, It is finished!' He then said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit!' and bowed his head, and expired. Then the veil of the Temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom, the earth was shaken, and the rocks were rent. The Roman soldiers who were attending the crucifixion, were impressed with awe at these circumstances, and with belief in his supernatural greatness; and the multitudes who were present at the sight, smote their breasts and returned.

In order that the sabbath might not be polluted, the Jews requested that the legs of the persons who had been crucified should be broken, to hasten their death. The soldiers to whom the charge was given, found Jesus already dead, and did not break his legs; but one of them pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came forth. If he had not been already dead, this wound, from the direction and effect, must have caused his death.

Two of the Sanhedrim, who, with others of the Rulers, had secretly espoused the cause of Christ, now came forwards to perform for him the last marks of respect and sorrow; perhaps we may justly add, of reverence and of faith. Joseph of Arimathæa courageously asked Pilate for the body of Jesus; and he and Nicodemus took it down from the cross; and having prepared it for burial,-winding round it fine linen bands, with an abundance of aromatic substances,they placed it in a new and as yet unemployed sepulchre, which Joseph had hewn out in the rock, in a garden near the place of Crucifixion, to the entrance of which they rolled a large

stone. Mary of Magdala, and other female Disciples, observed the place of burial; and then withdrew to prepare spices and ointments for a more complete embalment after the sabbath was ended. The feelings of that day, in the minds of the enemies of Christ, of his friends and disciples, and of the people at large, may be in some measure imagined; and if we take single individuals, whose character is more or less known to us, we may find abundance so to exercise the imagination, as to increase the vividness of the conviction that all which is recorded was reality.

PART X. From the Burial of our Lord in the Tomb of Joseph, to his Ascension into Heaven.

On the day after the Crucifixion, (that is, on the sabbath of the Jews), the Chief Priests and Pharisees, having received authority from Pontius Pilate, set a guard of Roman soldiers over the sepulchre, to prevent the body from being taken away by violence; and they sealed the sepulchre to prevent the withdrawal of it by stealth. But they contended with power, before which human power is nothing: God raised up Jesus'. Early on the following morning, the first day of the week, the third day from his burial, our Saviour rose triumphantly from the tomb, to die no more; and became the first-fruits of them that sleep'. The disclosures of this great event are recorded by the several Evangelists, each giving what he had himself learnt from undoubted testimony. The probable order of the occurrences on the morning of the Resurrection, is stated in the observations at the beginning of the section; and a scheme illustrating the succession of the visits to the Sepulchre, is also given there: to these I must refer the reader, as I have nothing to add or to correct. In the afternoon, our Lord presented himself to two of his Disciples on the way to Emmaus, and discoursed to them on the prophecies concerning himself; and before they had reached Jerusalem, he had appeared to Simon. In the evening, when the Apostles in general had assembled together, not improbably in the paschal chamber, he presented himself to them also, and gave them indubitable proof that he had arisen from the dead. And thus closed that great and glorious day, on which Jesus Christ was declared to be the Son of God with power,' and on which, for all mankind, life and immortality were brought to light.'

[ocr errors]

On the first day of the following week, our Lord presented himself again to the Apostles generally, when Thomas was present. After this second manifestation, the Apostles appear to have all gone immediately to Galilee; and in that region Jesus showed himself to Peter, John, Thomas, Nathanael, and two others, at the Lake, where occurred that most interesting scene in which the respective characters of the two former were

so strikingly displayed. Soon after, he met the Apostles, on a mountain which he had before appointed; and there gave them instructions relative to their commission. It is not improbable that it was at this time that 'he was seen by above five hundred brethren at once' (1 Cor. xv. 6), and we may conjecture that the appointed mountain was that central and commanding elevation near the Lake, which has been described in p. xcix. The Eleven must afterwards have returned to Jerusalem, where, probably, our Lord was seen by James' alone, as mentioned by the Apostle Paul. After having, for forty days, given them various opportunities of becoming infallibly certain of the reality of his resurrection, and of listening to his instructions respecting the kingdom of God, and their own duties in promoting it, he finally gave them a comprehensive view of the objects of his Gospel, and directed them to wait in Jerusalem till they were themselves 'endued with power from on high.' He then led them out to that part of the Mount of Olives which adjoins Bethany; and, after giving them his final directions, while they were beholding him, he was taken from the earth and carried into heaven.

The Apostles continued looking steadfastly towards heaven as their Lord ascended; and if we try to realize the scene, we find every thing to fix the attention, and to give a cheering resting-place to the imagination. It might have been enough to know, from indubitable proofs, that the Son of Man really entered into his glory; but it is delightful to the eye of faith to see him, in gentle majesty, ascending there. Angels might have accompanied him while mounting towards the throne of Jehovah. Angels will attend him, when he sitteth on that throne to judge the world in righteousness but it suits more the purposes of the glorious scene on the Mount of Olives, that there should be nothing to dazzle the imagination, or to divide the attention. The Apostles saw him rising from the earth, while praying for them to his God and Father; ascending with tranquil dignity; gradually lessening to their fixed sight; and, before distance rendered him invisible to them, received into a cloud-bright we may reasonably suppose as that which overshadowed him on the Mount of Transfiguration-like that, too, an emblem, to the Jewish disciple, of the shechinah which rested on the ark, and which manifested the presence of Jehovah.

They saw their Lord no more. They witnessed his triumphs; they shared his favour; they wrought miracles by his power; they loved him with a love which stood the test of reproach and toil and suffering and death; they rejoiced in him with joy unspeakable and full of glory; and they looked forwards to the time when they should again see him, and be received into his glory; but on earth they saw him no more. Yet they

« PreviousContinue »