Was crucified, dead and buried
Having spoken of the whole arraignment of Christ, and of His passion in general, now let us proceed to the parts of the passion, which are three: ChristŐs execution, His burial and His descending into hell. This being withal remembered that these three parts are likewise three degrees of ChristŐs humiliation.
I. Crucified, dead.
ChristŐs execution is that part of His passion which He bare upon the cross, expressed in the words of the Creed: He was crucified and died. In handling of it, we must observe five things:
1. The Person that suffered.
2. The place where He suffered.
3. The time when He suffered.
4. The manner how He suffered.
5. The excellency of His passion.
1. For the first, the person that suffered was Christ the just, As Peter saith (1 Pet. 3:18), Christ also hath once suffered for sins; the just for the unjust; and again (1 John 2:2), Christ Jesus the just (saith St. John) is the reconciliation for our sins. And in His execution, we shall have manifest declarations of His righteousness and justice, consisting in two most worthy points:
(1) First, when He was upon the cross, and the soldiers were nailing His hands and feet thereunto, and racking His body most cruelly, He prayed (Luke 23:34), Father forgive them, they know not what they do. These soldiers were by all likelihood the very same that apprehended Him and brought Him before Caiaphas, and from thence to Pontius Pilate, and there plaited a crown of thorns and set it upon His head and buffeted Him and spitefully entreated Him as we have heard; and yet Christ speaks no word of revenge unto them, but with all patience in the very extremity of their malice and injury, He prayeth unto His Father to forgive them. Hence we are taught that when injuries are done to us, we ought to abstain from all affections to revenge, and not so much as manifest the same either in word or deed. It is indeed a hard lesson to learn and practise; but it is our parts to endeavour to do it; and not only so, but to be ready, for evil, to do good; yea, even at that instant when other men are doing us wrong; even then (I say) we must be ready, if it be possible, to do them good. When as ChristŐs enemies were practising against Him all the treachery they could, even then He performeth the work of a Mediator, and prayeth for them unto His Father, and seeketh their salvation. Again, whereas Christ prayeth thus, Father, forgive them, we gather that the most principal thing of all that man ought to seek after in this life, is the forgiveness of his sins. Some think that happiness consisteth in honour, some in wealth, some in pleasure, some in this, some in that; but indeed the thing which we should most labour for is reconciliation with God in Christ; that we may have the free remission of all our sins. Yea, this is blessedness itself, as David saith (Psa. 32:1), Blessed is he whose iniquity is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. Here then behold the madness of the men of this world that either seek for this blessing in the last place, or not at all.
(2) The second testimony of ChristŐs righteousness given in the midst of His passion was that He beheld His mother standing by, and commended her to the custody of John His disciple (John 19:26,27); whereby He gave an example of most holy obedience unto the fifth commandment, which prescribeth honour unto father and mother. And this his fact sheweth that the observing of this commandment standeth not in outward shew and reverence only; but in a godly recompense in procuring unto parents all the good we can, both concerning this and a better life. It often falls out that children be as it were chains to father and mother; some rail on them, some fight with them; others see them pine away and starve and not relieve them. But all dutiful children must here learn that as their parents have done many duties unto them and brought them up; so they again must in all reverence perform obedience unto them both in word and deed; and when occasion is offered relieve them, yea in all they can, do good unto them. Again, in this we may see what a wretched state is that which the church of Rome calleth the state of perfection; namely, to live apart from the company of men, in fasting and praying all the days of a manŐs life; for hereby the bond of nature is broken, and a man cannot do the duty unto his parents which GodŐs law requireth and Christ here Himself practiseth; nor the duties of a member of Christ which are to be done to the whole church, and to the rest of the members thereof.
2. The place where Christ suffered is called Calvary or Golgotha (Luke 23:33; Mark 15:22), that is, the place of dead menŐs skulls, without the walls of Jerusalem. Concerning the reason of this name, men be of divers opinions. Some say it was so called because Adam was buried there, and that his skull being there found, gave the name to the place. And this is the very opinion of some ancient divines, that Christ was there crucified where Adam was buried; but because it hath no certain ground, I leave it as uncertain. Others think it was called Calvary because the Jews were wont to carry out the bones of the dead men, and there to heap them together, as in times past the manner was in the vaults of sundry churches in this land. And some others think it was called Golgotha or Calvary because thieves and murderers and malefactors were there executed, stoned, burned; whereby it came to pass that many skulls and bones of dead men were found there.
3. The time when Christ was executed was at the JewsŐ Passover, when not only the Jews, but also many proselytes of many countries and nations were assembled; and therefore this execution was not in a private corner, but openly in the view of the world. For as He was a Saviour not to the Jews only but also to the Gentiles; so it was requisite that His death should be public before all men, both Jews and Gentiles. As for the hour of the day in which he suffered, there is some difficulty in the evangelists (John 19:14; Mark 15:25); for St John saith that He was condemned about the sixth hour of the day, and St Mark saith He was crucified the third hour. Hence it may be demanded how both these can stand together. Answer: Howsoever the JewsŐ natural day began at evening, yet the artificial day began at sun rising and ended at sun setting; and it was divided two ways: First, into twelve parts called twelve hours, whether the days were longer or shorter. Secondly, into four parts or quarters, and every part contained three hours; as from the first hour to the third, was one part called morning; from the third hour to the sixth, another part called the sixth hour; from the sixth hour to the ninth, the third part called the ninth hour; and from the ninth hour to the twelfth, the fourth part called evening. Now when St John saith Christ was condemned about the sixth hour, it must be understood of the second quarter of the day called the sixth hour; and whereas St Mark saith He was crucified the third hour of the day, he speaks of the lesser hours, twelve whereof made the whole day; and thus they both agree, for the third hour of the day and the beginning of the second quarter follow each other immediately. Again, it may be answered that Christ was condemned at six of the clock after the Roman account, which begins the day at midnight; and crucified at three (which is nine of the clock in the morning with us) after the JewsŐ account who began their artificial day, as I said, at the sun rising.
4. The fourth and last point is the order and whole proceeding of ChristŐs execution; which may be reduced to four heads:
(1) His going to execution.
(2) His crucifying.
(3) His death.
(4) The consequences of His death.
(1) Again, in His going to execution, we may consider many points:
(i) The first, that He is brought out of Jerusalem as a malefactor. For the old and ancient custom of the Jews was to put those whom they judged to be notorious offenders to death without their tents when they wandered in the wilderness and without the walls of Jerusalem, lest they should be defiled with their blood (Josh. 7:24; Lev. 24:14; Acts 7:58). And this fell out by the special providence of God that that might be fulfilled in Christ which was prefigured in the sacrifices of the Old Testament (Lev. 8:17), when the bodies of beasts were not eaten of the priests, but burnt without the camp; therefore saith the Holy Ghost (Heb. 13:11,12), Even Jesus that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate.
Hence may all Christians learn to know their own estate and condition; first, in this world they must look to be accounted the offscouring of the earth and the filth of the world (1 Cor. 4:13), as the apostle saith, and we must all prepare ourselves to bear this estate. They that will be GodŐs children must not look to be better accepted of in the world than Christ was. Secondly, by this every one of us must learn to be content to use this world as strangers and pilgrims; being every day and hour ready to leave the same. For if Christ the Son of God Himself was brought out of Jerusalem as not being worthy to have His abode there, then must every Christian man look much more for the like extremity. And therefore it is not for us to have our hearts tied to the world and to seek always to be approved of the same; for that argueth that we are not like to Christ; but we must rather do as poor pilgrims in strange countries; and that is, only look for safe conduct through the miseries in this world, having in the mean season our hearts, wills and affections set on the kingdom which is in heaven.
(ii) The second thing is that Christ was made to bear His own cross, for so it seems to the manner of the Romans was to deal with malefactors. And this must put us in mind of that notable lesson which Christ Himself taught His disciples; namely (Luke 9:23), that if any man will be my disciple, he must deny himself, take up his own cross daily and follow him; where by the cross we must understand that portion of affliction which God hath allotted to every one of His children; for there is no child of God to whom He hath not measured out as it were some bitter cup of misery in this life. And therefore Paul saith (Col. 1:24), Now rejoice I in my sufferings for you, and fulfil the rest of the sufferings of Christ in my flesh. By ChristŐs sufferings, he meaneth not the passion of Christ, but the sufferings of the body of Christ, that is, the church whereof Christ is the Head. Moreover, we must suffer as He did, and that daily; because as one day followeth another, so one cross comes in the neck of another. And whereas Christ bears the cross that was laid on Him by the hands of the soldiers, it must teach us not to pull crosses upon ourselves, but wait till God lay them on us; when that time comes we must willingly bend our shoulders, stoop down and take them up; whether they be in body or in soul; and that every day, if it be GodŐs will, so long as we live; and by this shall we most notably resemble our Saviour Christ.
(iii) Thirdly, when Christ had carried His cross so long till He could carry it no longer, by reason of the faintness of His body, which came by buffets, whippings and manifold other injuries, then the soldiers meeting with one Simon of Cyrene a stranger (Luke 23;26), made him to bear the cross; where we are put in mind (Matt. 11:28) that if we faint in the way and be wearied with the burden of our afflictions, God will give good issue, and send as it were some Simon of Cyrene to help us and to be our comforter.
(iv) The fourth point is that when Christ was carrying His own cross, and was now passing on towards Golgotha, certain women met Him, and pitying His case wept for Him (Luke 23:27,28); but Christ answered them and said, Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and your children etc. By this we are first of all taught to pity the state of those that be the children of God; as the apostle exhorteth us, saying (Heb. 13:3), Remember them that are in bonds as though you were bound with them; and them that are in affliction as though you were afflicted with them. In this land by GodŐs especial blessing we have enjoyed the gospel of Christ with peace a long time, whereas other countries and churches are in great distress; some wallow in palpable ignorance and superstition; others have liberty to enjoy the gospel and want teachers; and some have both the Word and teachers, and yet want peace and are in continual persecution. Now when we that have the gospel with peace do hear of these miseries in our neighbour churches, we ought to be moved with compassion towards them, as though we ourselves were in the same afflictions. Secondly, where Christ saith, Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, He doth teach us to take occasion by other menŐs miseries to bewail our own estate; to turn our worldly griefs into godly sorrow for our sins, which causeth us rather to weep for our offences than for our friends, although even this may also be done in godly manner. When a man bleeding at the nose is brought in danger of his life, the physician lets him bleed in another place, as in the arm, and turns the course of the blood another way to save his life; and so must we turn our worldly sorrows for loss of goods or friends, to a godly sorrow for our offences against God; for so St Paul saith (2 Cor. 7:10), Godly sorrow causeth repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of; but worldly sorrow causeth death.
(v) The fifth point is that when Christ was brought to the place of execution, they gave Him vinegar to drink, mingled with myrrh and gall; some say it was to intoxicate His brain and to take away His senses and memory. If this be true, we may here behold in the Jews a most wicked part, that at the point of death, when they were to take away the life of Christ, they for their parts had no care of His soul. For this is a duty to be observed of all magistrates, that when they are to execute malefactors, they must have a special regard to the good and salvation of their souls. But some think rather that this portion was to shorten and end His torments quickly. Some of us may peradventure think hardly of the Jews, for giving so bitter a potion to Christ at the time of His death; but the same doth every sinner that repenteth not. For whenever we sin, we do as much as temper a cup of gall, or the poison of asps, and as it were give it to God to drink; for so God Himself compareth the sin of the wicked Jews to poison, saying (Deut. 32:32,33), Their vine is of the vine of Sodom, and of the vines of Gomorrah, their grapes are grapes of gall, their clusters be bitter; their wine is the poison of dragons and the cruel gall of asps. And for this cause we ought to think as hardly of ourselves as of the Jews, because so oft as we commit any offence against God, we do as much as mingle rank poison and bring it to Christ to drink. Now afterward, when this cup was given Him, He tasted of it; but drank not, because He was willing to suffer all things that His Father had appointed Him to suffer on the cross, without any shortening or lessening of His pain.
(2) Thus we see in what manner Christ was brought forth to the place of execution; now followeth His crucifying. Christ in the providence of God was to be crucified for two causes:
(i) One, that the figures of the Old Testament might be accomplished and verified. For the heave offering lifted up and shaken from the right hand to the left, and the brazen serpent erected upon a pole in the wilderness, prefigured the exalting of Christ upon the cross.
(ii) The second, that we might in conscience be resolved that Christ became under the law and suffered the curse thereof for us, and bare in His own body and soul the extremity of the wrath of God for our offences (Gal. 3:13). And though other kinds of punishments were notes of the curse of God, as stoning, and such like; yet was the death of the cross in special manner above the rest accursed, not by the nature of the punishment, not by the opinions of men, not by the civil laws of countries and kingdoms, but by the virtue of a particular commandment of God, foreseeing what manner of death Christ our Redeemer should die (Deut. 21:22,23). And hereupon among the Jews in all ages this kind of punishment hath been branded with special ignominy, as Paul signifieth (Phil. 2:8), when he saith, He abased Himself to the death, even to the death of the cross; and it hath been allotted as a most grievous punishment to most notorious malefactors (Num. 25:4; 2 Sam. 21:6). If it be said that the repentant thief upon the cross died the same death with Christ and yet was not accursed; the answer is that in regard of his offences he deserved the curse, and was actually accursed; and the sign of this was the death which he suffered, and that in his own confession; but because he repented, his sins were pardoned and the curse removed. It may further be said that crucifying was not known in MosesŐ days, and therefore not accursed by any special commandment of God in Deuteronomy. Answer: Moses indeed speaks nothing in particular of crucifying, yet nevertheless he doth include the same under the general. For if everyone which hangs upon a tree be accursed, then he also which is crucified; for crucifying is a particular kind of hanging on a tree. Lastly, it may be alleged that Christ in His death could not be accursed by the law of Moses because He was no malefactor. Answer: Though in regard of Himself He was no sinner, yet as He was our surety He became sin for us, and consequently the curse of the law for us, in that the curse every way due unto us by imputation and application was made His.
Furthermore, Christ was crucified not after the manner of the Jews, who used to hang malefactors upon a tree, binding them thereto with cords (Psa. 118:17), and that when they were dead; but after the usual manner of the Romans; His body being partly nailed to the cross and partly in the nailing extremely racked, otherwise I see not but that a man might remain many days together alive upon the cross. And here we have occasion to remember that the papists who are so devout and zealous towards crucifixes, are far deceived in the making of them. For first of all, the cross was made of three pieces of wood, one fastened upright in the ground, to which the body and back leaned; the second fastened towards the top of the first overthwart, to which the hands were nailed; the third fastened towards the bottom of the first, on which the feet were set and nailed; whereas contrariwise popish carvers and painters fasten both the feet of Christ to the first. Secondly, the feet of Christ were nailed asunder with two distinct nails, and not nailed one upon another with one nail alone, as papists imagine, and that to the very body of the cross; for then the soldiers could not have broken both the legs of the thieves, but only the outmost, because one of them lay upon the other.
Let us now come to the use which may be made of the crucifying of Christ.
(i) First of all here we learn with bitterness to bewail our sins; for Christ was thus cruelly nailed on the cross, and there suffered the whole wrath of God, not for any offence that ever He committed, but being our pledge and surety unto God, He suffered all for us; and therefore just cause have we to mourn for our offences, which brought our Saviour Christ to this low estate. If a man should be so far in debt that he could not be freed unless the surety should be cast into prison for his sake; nay, which is more, be cruelly put to death for his debt, it would make him at his wits end and his very heart to bleed. And so is the case with us by reason of our sins; we are GodŐs debtors, yea bankrupts before Him (Matt. 6:12), yet have we gotten a good surety, even the Son of God Himself, who to recover us to our former liberty, was crucified for the discharge of our debt. And therefore good cause have we to bewail our estate every day, as by the prophet it is said (Zech. 12:10), They shall look upon Him whom they have pierced, they shall lament for Him as one mourneth for his own son; they shall be sorry for Him as one is sorry for his firstborn. Look as the blood followed the nails that were stricken through the blessed hands and feet of Christ, so should the meditation of the cross and passion of our Redeemer be as it were nails and spears to pierce us, that our hearts might bleed for our sins; and we are not to think more hardly of the Jews for crucifying Him than of ourselves, because even by our sins we also crucify Him. These are the very nails which pierce His hands and feet, and these are the spears which pierce through His side. For the loss of a little worldly pelf, oh how are we grieved! But seeing our transgressions are the weapons whereby the Son of God was crucified, let us (I say again and again) learn to be grieved for them above all things, and with bleeding and melting hearts bow and buckle under them, as under the cross.
(ii) Secondly, Christ saith of Himself (John 3:14), As Moses lift up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; the comparison is excellent and worthy the marking. In the wilderness of Arabia the people of Israel rebelled against God, and thereupon He sent fiery serpents among them, which stung many of them to death. Now when they repented, Moses was commanded to make a brazen serpent and to set it upon a pole, that as many as were stung might look unto it and recover; and if they could but cast a glance of the eye on the brazen serpent when they were stung even to death, they were restored to health and life. Now every man that liveth is in the same case with the Israelites: Satan hath stung us at the heart and given us many a deadly wound, if we could feel it; and Christ who was prefigured by the brazen serpent, was likewise exalted on the cross, to confer righteousness and life eternal to everyone of us. Therefore if we will escape eternal death, we must renounce ourselves, and lift up the eyes of our faith to Christ crucified, and pray for the pardon of our sins; and then shall our hearts and consciences be healed of the wounds and gripes of the devil; and until such time as we have grace to do this, we shall never be cured, but still lie wounded with the stings of Satan, and bleeding to death at the very heart, although we feel no pain or grief at all. But some may ask how any man can see Him crucified now after His death? Answer: Wheresover the Word of God is preached, there Christ is crucified, as Paul saith (Gal. 3:1), O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, to whom before Jesus Christ was described in your sight, and among you crucified? Meaning that He was lively preached among them. We need not to go to wooden crosses, or to golden crucifixes to seek for Him; but where the gospel is preached, thither must we go, and there lift up our eyes of faith to Christ, as He is revealed unto us in the Word; resting on Him and His merits with all our hearts, and with a godly sorrow confess and bewail our sins, craving at His hands mercy and pardon for the same. For till such time as we do this, we are grievously stung by Satan, and are every moment even at deathŐs door. And if we can thus behold Christ by faith, the benefits which come hereby shall be great; for as Paul saith (Rom. 6:6), The old man, that is, the corruption of our nature and the body of sin that reigneth in us, shall be crucified with Him; for when Christ was nailed on the cross, all our sins were laid upon Him; therefore if thou doest unfeignedly believe, all thy sins are crucified with Him and the corruption of thy nature languisheth and dieth, as He languished and died upon the cross.
(iii) Thirdly we must learn to imitate Christ as He suffered Himself to be nailed to the cross for our sins, so answerably must every one of us learn to crucify our flesh and the corruption of our nature, and the wickedness of our own hearts, as Paul saith (Gal. 5:24), They that are ChristŐs have crucified the flesh with lusts and affections thereof. And this we shall do, if for our sins past we wail and mourn with bitterness, and prevent the sins to come, into which we may fall by reason of the corruption of our natures, by using all good means, as prayer, fasting and the Word of God preached, and by fleeing all occasions of offence. We are not to destroy our bodies or to kill ourselves, but to kill and crucify sin that liveth in us, and to mortify the corruption of our nature that rebels against the spirit. Christianity stands not in this: to hear the Word of God and outwardly to profess the same, and in the mean season still to live in our sins and to pamper our own rebellious flesh; but it teacheth us always to have in readiness some spear or other to wound sin, and the sword of the Spirit to cut down corruption in us, that thereby we may shew ourselves to be lively followers of Christ indeed.
(iv) Fourthly, by this we may learn that the wrath of God against sin is wonderfully great, because His own Son bearing our person, and being in our place, was not only crucified and racked most cruelly, but also bare the whole wrath of God in His soul; and therefore we must leave off to make so little account of sin as commonly we do.
(v) Fifthly, whereas the Person crucified was the Son of God, it sheweth that the love of God which He bare unto us in our redemption is endless; like a sea without a bank or bottom, it cannot be searched into, and if we shall not acknowledge it to be so, our condemnation will be the greater.
(vi) Sixthly, in this that Christ bare the curse of the law upon the cross; we learn that those that be the children of God, when they suffer any judgment, cross or calamity, either in body or in mind or both, do not bear them as the curses of God, but as the chastisements of a loving Father. For it doth not stand with the justice of God to punish the fault twice; and therefore when any man that putteth his whole confidence in God, shall either in his own person, in his good name, or in his goods feel the heavy hand of God, God doth not as a judge curse him, but as a Father correct him. Here then is condemned the opinion of the church of Rome, which hold that we by our sufferings do in some part satisfy the justice of God; but this cannot stand because Christ did make a perfect satisfaction to the justice of His Father for all punishment. And therefore satisfaction to God made by man for temporal punishment is needless, and much derogates from ChristŐs passion.
In the crucifying of Christ, two things specially must be considered: (i) The manner of the doing of it, and (ii) His continuance alive upon the cross.
(i) Touching the manner, the Spirit of God hath noted two things:
(a) The first, that Christ was crucified between two thieves, the one upon His left hand, the other upon His right; in which action is verified the saying of the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 53:12), He was numbered among the wicked; and the Jews for their parts do hereby testify that they esteemed Him to be, not some common wicked man, but even the captain and ringleader of all thieves and malefactors whatsoever. Now whereas Christ standing upon the cross in our room and stead, is reputed the Head and Prince of all sinners, it serveth to teach every one of us that believe in Him, to judge ourselves most vile and miserable sinners, and to say of ourselves with Paul (1 Tim. 1:15), that we are the chief of all sinners.
(b) The second thing is that Christ was crucified naked; because He was stripped of His garments by the soldiers when He was to be crucified. The causes why He suffered naked are these:
i. First, Adam by his fall brought upon all mankind death both of body and soul; and also the curses of God which befall man in this life; among which this was one: that the nakedness of the body should be ignominious; and hereupon when Adam had sinned and saw himself naked, he fled from the presence of God (Gen. 3:7,8), and hid himself even for very shame. Christ therefore was stripped of His garments and suffered naked, that He might bear all the punishment and ignominy that was due unto man for sin.
ii. Secondly, this came to pass by the goodness of God, that we might have a remedy for our spiritual nakedness; which is, when a man hath his sins lying open before GodŐs eyes; and by reason thereof he himself lieth open to all GodŐs judgments. Hereof Christ speaketh to the angel of Laodicea (Rev. 3:17), saying, Thou sayest, I am rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and knowest not how thou art wretched, miserable, blind and naked. So when the Israelites had committed idolatry by the golden calf (Exod. 32:25), Moses telleth them that they were naked; not only because they had spoiled themselves of their earrings, but especially because they were destitute of GodŐs favour, and lay open and naked to all His judgments for that sin. And Solomon saith (Prov. 29:18), Where there is no vision, the people are made naked, that is, their sins lie open before God; and by reason thereof they themselves are subject to His wrath and indignation. Now Christ was crucified naked that He might take away from us this spiritual nakedness; and also give unto us meet garments to clothe us withal in the presence of God, called white raiment, as Christ saith (Rev. 3:18), I counsel thee to buy of me white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that thy filthy nakedness do not appear; and (Rev. 7:14) long white robes dipped in the blood of the Lamb, which serve to hide the nakedness of our souls. What these garments are, the apostle sheweth when he saith (Gal. 3:27), All that are baptised into Christ, have put on Christ; and (Eph. 4:24), Put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Our nakedness maketh us more vile in the sight of God than the most loathsome creature that is, can be to us; until we have put on the righteousness of Christ to cover the deformity of our souls, that we may appear holy and without spot before God.
iii. Thirdly, Paul saith (2 Cor. 5:1-3), We know if our earthly house of this tabernacle be destroyed, we have a building given of God, etc. For therefore we sigh, desiring to be clothed with our house which is from heaven, because if we be clothed, we shall not be found naked. Where it is like that the apostle alludeth to the nakedness of Adam after his fall; and therefore giveth us another reason why Christ was crucified naked, namely, that after this life He might clothe all His members with eternal glory.
If this be so, that a part of our rejoicing stands in the glorious nakedness of Christ crucified, there is no reason why we should be puffed up with the vanity of our apparel. It should rather be an occasion to make us ashamed than to make us proud. The thief may as well brag of the brand in his hand, or of the fetters on his heels, as we may of our attire; because it is but the covering of our shame, and therefore should put us in mind of our sin and shameful nakedness.
(ii) The abode of Christ upon the cross was the space of six hours. For the death of the cross was no sudden but a lingering death. And in this space of time there fell out five notable events:
(a) The first (Mark 15:24), the soldiers having stripped Christ of His garments, divided them into four parts, and cast lots for His coat because it was woven without seam. And by this appears the great love of Christ to man, who was not only content to suffer, but also to lose all that ever He had, even to the garments on His back to redeem us; teaching us answerably that if it please God to call us to any trial hereafter, we must be content to part with all for His sake, that we may win Him. Again in these soldiers we may behold a picture of this world. When they had nailed Christ to the cross, they will not lose so much as His garments, but they come and divide them, and cast lots for them. As for Christ Himself, the Saviour and Redeemer of mankind, they regard Him not. And thus fareth the world; it is a hard thing to find a man to accept of Christ because He is Christ His Redeemer; but when gain comes by Christ, then He is welcome. Esau, that esteemed nothing of his fatherŐs blessing, made great account of his brotherŐs pottage. The Gadarenes made more account of their swine than of Christ, for when they heard that they were drowned, they besought Him to depart out of their coasts. Nay, so bad is this age that such as will be taken to be the special members of Christ, do not only with the soldiers strip Christ of His garments, but more than this, they bereave Him of His natures and offices. The church of Rome, by their transubstantiation, strip Him of His manhood; and by making other priests after the same order with Him, which do properly forgive sins, strip Him of His priesthood; and of His kingly office, by joining with Him a vicar on earth and head of the Catholic Church, and that in His presence; whereas all deputyships and commissions cease in the presence of the principal. And when they have done all this, then they further load Him with a number of beggarly ceremonies; and so do nothing else but make a feigned Christ instead of the true and alone Messiah.
(b) The second event was that Christ was mocked of all sorts of men. First, they set up the cause written why He was crucified, namely (Matt. 27:37-44), This is the King of the Jews; then the people that passed by reviled Him, wagging their heads at Him and said, Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save thyself, etc. Likewise, the high priests mocking Him, with the scribes and Pharisees and the elders said, He saved others, let Him save Himself. The same also did one of the thieves that was crucified with Him, cast in His teeth. Behold here the wonderful strange dealings of the Jews; they see an innocent man thus pitifully and grievously racked and nailed on the cross, and His blood distilling down from hands and feet; and yet are they without all pity and compassion, and do make but a mock and a scoff at Him. And in this we may plainly see how dangerous and fearful their case is who are wholly given up to the hardness of their own hearts; and we are further admonished to take heed how we give ourselves to jesting or mocking of others. And if any think it to be a light sin, let them consider what befell the Jews for mocking Christ. The hand of God was upon them within a while after, and so remaineth to this day. Little children wickedly brought up, when they saw Elisha the man of God coming (2 Kin. 2:23,24), they mocked him, and said, Come up thou bald pate, come up thou bald pate; but Elisha looked back on them and cursed them in the name of the Lord, and two wild bears came out of the forest and did tear in pieces two and forty of them. Julian, once a Christian emperor, but after an apostate, did nothing else but mock Christ and His doctrine, and made jests of sundry places of Scripture; but being in fight against the Persians, was wounded with a dart (no man knowing how) and died scoffing and blaspheming. And such like are the judgments of God which befall mockers and scorners. Let us therefore in the fear of God learn to eschew and avoid this sin.
Furthermore, if we shall indifferently consider all the mocks and scorning of the Jews, we shall find that they cannot truly convince Him of the least sin; which serveth to clear Christ, and to prove that He was a most innocent man, in whose ways was no wickedness, and in whose mouth was found no guile; and therefore He was fittest to stand in our room and suffer for us which were more vile and sinful. And here by the way a question offereth itself to be scanned: St Matthew saith (Matt. 27:44), The thieves which were crucified with Him cast the same in His teeth, which the scribes and Pharisees did. St Luke saith (Luke 23:39) that one of the thieves mocked Him. Now it may be demanded how both of these can be true? Answer: Some reconcile the place thus: that the Scripture speaking generally of anything, by a figure doth attribute that to the whole, which is proper to some part only; and so here doth ascribe that to both the thieves which agreeth but to one. Others answer it thus: that at the first both of the evildoers did mock Christ, and of that time speaks Matthew; but afterward one of them was miraculously converted, then the other alone mocked Him, and of that time spake St Luke. And this I rather take to be the truth. But what was the behaviour of Christ, when He is thus laden with reproach? In wonderful patience He replies not, but puts up all in silence. Where we are taught that when as a man shall rail on us wrongfully, we must not return rebuke for rebuke, nor taunt for taunt; but we must either be silent, or else speak no more than shall serve for our just defence. This was the practice of the Israelites by the appointment of Hezekiah (2 Kin. 18:36), when Rabshakeh reviled the Jews and blasphemed the name of God; the people held their peace, and answered him not a word, for the kingŐs commandment was, Answer him not. So Hannah (1 Sam. 1:14), being troubled in mind, prayed unto the Lord, and Eli marked her mouth, for she spake in her heart and her lips did move only but her voice was not heard; therefore Eli thought she had been drunken, and said, How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy drunkenness from thee. Such a speech would have moved many a one to very hard words; but she said, Nay, my lord, but I am a woman troubled in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink; but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. This is a hard lesson for men to learn; but we must endeavour ourselves to practise it, if we will be followers of Christ, and overcome evil with good.
(c) The third thing that fell out in the time of ChristŐs crucifying, was the pitiful complaint in which He cried with a loud voice (Matt. 17:46), Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani, that is, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? In the opening of this complaint many points must be scanned:
i. The first is, what was the cause that moved Christ to complain? Answer: It was not any impatience or discontentment of mind or any despair or any dissembling, as some would have it; but it was an apprehension and a feeling of the whole wrath of God which seized upon Him both in body and soul.
ii. The second, what was the thing whereof He doth complain? Answer: That He is forsaken of God the Father. And from this point ariseth another question: How Christ being God, can be forsaken of God, for the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are all three but one and the same God? Answer: By God we must understand God the Father the first Person. According to the common rule, when God is compared with the Son or the Holy Ghost, then the Father is meant by this title, God; as in this place; not that the Father is more God than the Son, for in dignity all three Persons are equal; but they are distinguished in order only, and the Father is first. And again, whereas Christ complaineth that He was forsaken, it must be understood in regard of His human nature, not of His Godhead. And ChristŐs manhood was forsaken, not that His Godhead and manhood were severed, for they were ever joined together from the first moment of the incarnation; but the Godhead of Christ, and so the Godhead of the Father did not shew forth His power in the manhood, but did as it were lie asleep for a time, that the manhood might suffer. When a man sleepeth, the soul is not severed from the body, but lieth as it were dead, and exerciseth not itself; even so the Godhead lay still, and did not manifest His power in the manhood, and thus the manhood seemed to be forsaken.
iii. The third point is the manner of this complant, My God, my God, saith He; these words are words of faith, I say not of justifying faith whereof Christ stood not in need but He had such a faith or hope whereby He did put His confidence in God. The last word, Why hast thou forsaken me? seem at the first to be words of distrust. How then (will some say) can these words stand with the former, for faith and distrust are flat contraries? Answer: Christ did not utter any speech of distrust, but only made His moan and complaint by reason of the greatness of His punishment. And yet still He relied Himself on the assistance of His Father. Hence we learn first, that religion doth not stand in feeling but in faith, which faith we must have in Christ, though we have no feeling at all; for God oftentimes doth withdraw His grace and favour from His children that he may teach them to believe in His mercy in Christ, then, when they feel nothing less than His mercy. And faith and feeling cannot always stand together, because faith is a subsisting of things which are not seen, and the ground of things hoped for, and we must live by faith and not feeling. Though feeling of GodŐs mercy be a good thing, yet God doth not always vouchsafe to give it to His children; and therefore in the extremity of afflictions and temptations, we must always trust and rely on God by faith in Christ; as Christ Himself doth when He is as it were plunged into the sea of the wrath of God. Secondly, here we may see how God deals with His children; for Christ in the sense and feeling of His human nature was forsaken, yet he had sure trust and confidence in God that caused Him to say, My God, my God. God will oftentimes cast His dear children into huge gulfs of woe and misery, where they shall see neither bank nor bottom, nor any way to get out; yet men in this case must not despair, but remember still that that which befell Christ the Head, doth also befall His members. Though Christ Himself at His death did bear the wrath of God in such measure, as that in the sense and feeling of His human nature He was forsaken; yet for all this He was the Son of God, and had the Spirit of His Father, crying, My God, my God. And therefore though we be wonderfully afflicted either in body or in mind, so as we have no sense or feeling of GodŐs mercy at all, yet must we not despair and think that we are castaways, but still labour to trust and rely on God in Christ, and build upon Him that we are His children, though we feel nothing but His wrath upon us; against mercy cleaving to His mercy. This was DavidŐs practice (Psa. 77:2,3), In day of trouble (saith he) I sought the Lord; my sore ran and ceased not in the night; my soul refused comfort. I did think upon God and was troubled; my soul was full of anguish, and so he continueth on saying (vv. 7.8), Will the Lord absent Himself for ever, and will He shew no more favour? Hath God forgotten to be merciful? But in the end he recovered himself out of this gulf of temptation, saying (v. 11), Yet I remember the years of the right hand of the most High; I remember the works of the Lord, certainly I remember the wonders of old. Wherefore this practice of Christ in His passion must then be remembered of us all when God shall humble us either in body or soul, or both.
(d) The fourth thing which fell out when Christ was on the cross was this: after Christ knew that all things were performed and that the Scriptures were fulfilled, He said (John 19:28-30), I thirst, and then there standing a vessel full of vinegar, one ran and filled a sponge therewith and put it about an hyssop stalk, and put it in His mouth; which when He had received, said, It is finished. The points here to be considered are four:
i. The first, that Christ thirsteth. And we must know that this thirst was a part of His passion; and indeed it was no small pain, as we may see by this: when Sisera was overcome by Israel, and had fled from his enemies to JaelŐs tent (Jud. 4:19), he called for a little water to drink, being more troubled with thirst than with the fear of death at the hands of his enemies. And indeed thirst was grievous to men in the East country, as torment anywhere else. And hereupon, Samson was more grieved with thirst than with fear of many thousand Philistines (Jud. 15:18).
Again, whereas Christ complaineth that He thirsteth, it was not for His own sake but for our offences; and therefore answerably we must thirst after Christ and His benefits, as the dry and thirsty land (Psa. 143:6) where no water is, doth after rain; and as the hart brayeth after the rivers of water, so must we say with David, My soul panteth after thee O Lord, and the benefits of thy death.
ii. The second, that a sponge full of vinegar tied upon an hyssop stalk was reached to Christ upon the cross. Now it may be demanded, how could this be, considering the stalk of the hyssop is not past a foot long? Answer: As the tree of mustard seed with the Jews is far greater and taller than with us, in so much that the birds of heaven build their nests in it (Luke 13:19); so it may be that hyssop groweth much longer in those countries than with us. Or as I take it rather, the hyssop stalk was put upon a reed, and by that means the sponge was put to the mouth of Christ.
iii. The third point is that Christ drinketh the vinegar offered; but when? Not before all things were finished that were to be done on the cross. And by this He sheweth His exceeding care for our salvation. He laid aside all things that would turn to His own ease, that He might fully work our redemption and fulfil the will of His Father who sent Him into the world for that end. The like care must every one of us have to walk dutifully, and, as it were, to go through-stitch in our particular callings, that God might be glorified in us. When AbrahamŐs servant came to Bethuel to get a wife for Isaac, meat was set before him, but he said (Gen. 24:33), I will not eat before I have said my message; so likewise we must first see GodŐs glory procured in our affairs, and in the second place, if commodity or praise redound to us, we must afterward take it.
iv. The last point is that when Christ had drunk the vinegar, He said, It is finished. Which words may have a double sense: one, that such things as were figured by the sacrifices of the Old Testament are accomplished; the other, that now upon the cross He had finished the satisfaction to the justice of His Father for manŐs sin. And this of the twain I rather think to be His meaning. If it be said that the burial and resurrection and ascension of Christ etc., which are necessary to manŐs redemption, were not yet begun, the answer is that the works of ChristŐs priesthood which follow His death, serve not to make any satisfaction to GodŐs justice for sin, but only to confirm or apply it, after it is made and accomplished on the cross. And if this be so, that Christ in His own Person accomplished the work of redemption, and made a full and perfect satisfaction for us, as these words import, It is finished, then human satisfactions to GodŐs justice for sin are altogether superfluous.
(e) The fifth event that fell out when Christ was upon the cross was that He cried with a loud voice, and said (Luke 23:46), Father, into thy hand I lay down my spirit, that is, I commend my soul, as being the most precious thing which I have in this world, into thy custody, who art a most faithful keeper thereof. These words are taken by Christ out of the psalms; for when David was in danger of his life by reason of Saul, and had no friends to trust, he makes choice of God to be his keeper, and said (Psa. 31:5), Into thy hands, O Lord, do I commit my spirit. Now our Saviour Christ being in the like distress, both by reason of the Jews, who every way sought His final destruction and confusion, and especially because He felt the full wrath of God seizing upon Him, doth make choice of DavidŐs words and apply them to Himself in His distress. And by His example we are taught not only to read the general history of the Bible, but also to observe the things commanded and forbidden, and to apply the same unto ourselves and to our particular estates and dealings whatsoever. Thus the prophet David saith (Psa. 40:7), In the roll of the book it is written of me, that I should do thy will, O my God. How can this be? For no part of Scripture penned before the days of David sayeth thus of him. True indeed, but as I take it, DavidŐs meaning is that he read the book of the law and found general precepts and commandments given to kings and princes, that they should keep all the ordinances and commandments of God; which he being a king applies particularly to his own person, and thereupon saith, In the volume of the book it is written of me etc. And this duty is well practised by the people of God at this day; for the psalms of David were penned according to the estate of the church in his time; and in these days the church of God doth sing the same with the same spirit that David did, and doth apply their several estates and conditions.
Now in that Christ commends His soul into the hands of the Father, He doth it to testify that He died not by constraint, but willingly; and by His own practice He doth teach us to do the like, namely, to give up our own souls into the hands of God; and because this duty is of some difficulty, we must observe three motives or preparatives which may induce us to the better doing of it:
i. The first is to consider that God the Father of Christ is the Creator of our souls, and therefore He is called the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9). And if He be a Creator of them, then is He also a faithful preserver of them. For sure it is that God will preserve His own workmanship. Who is or can be so careful for the ornament and preservation of any work as the craftsmaster? And shall not God be more careful than man? Wherefore St Peter exhorteth us (1 Pet. 4:19), to commit our souls unto God, as unto a faithful Creator.
ii. The second motive is this: we must look to be resolved in our consciences that God the Father of Christ is our Father; every man for himself must labour to have the assurance of the pardon of his own sins, and that the corruption of his soul be washed away in the blood of Christ, that he may say, I am justified, sanctified and adopted by Christ. And when any man can say thus, he shall be most desirous and willing to commit his soul into the hands of God. This was the reason which moved Christ to lay down His soul into the hands of God, because He is His Father.
iii. The third motive or preparative, is a continual experience and observation of GodŐs love and favour toward us, in keeping and preserving him; as appears by DavidŐs example (Psa. 31:5), Into thy hands (saith he) I commend my soul; for thou hast redeemed me, O thou God of truth.
The time when we are specially to commend ourselves into the hands of God, is first of all the time of any affliction or danger. This was the time when David commended his soul into the hands of God in the psalm before named. We know that in any common danger or peril, as the sacking of a city, or burning of an house, if a man have any precious jewel therein, he will first fetch that out and make choice of a faithful friend, to whose custody he will commit the same; even so, in common perils and dangers we must always remember to commit our souls as a most precious jewel into the hands of God, who is a faithful Creator. Another more special and necessary time of practising this duty, is the hour of death, as here Christ doth, and Stephen, who when the Jews stoned him to death, called on God and said (Acts 7:59), Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And as this duty is very requisite and necessary at all times, so most especially in the hour of death; because the danger is great by reason that Satan will then chiefly assault us, and the guilt of sin will especially then wound the conscience. Lastly, at all times we must commit our souls into GodŐs hands; for though we be not always in affliction, yet we are always in great danger; as when a man lieth down to rest, he knoweth not whether he shall rise again or no; and when he ariseth, he knoweth not whether he shall lie down again; yea, at this very hour we know not what will befall the next.
And great are the comforts which arise by the practice of this duty. When David was in great danger of his life, and his own people would have stoned him because their hearts were vexed for their sons and daughters which the Amalekites had taken, it is said (1 Sam. 30:6), He comforted himself in the Lord his God. And the practice of Paul in this case is most excellent (2 Tim. 1:12), For the which cause (saith he) I suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day. This worthy servant of God had committed his life and soul into GodŐs hand; and therefore he saith, In all my sufferings I am not ashamed; where we see that if a man have grace in his lifetime to commit his soul into GodŐs hands, it will make him bold even at the point of death. And this must be a motive to cause every man daily and hourly to lay down his soul into the hands of God, although by the course of nature he may live twenty or forty years longer. But howsoever this duty be both necessary and comfortable, yet few there be that practise the same. Men that have children are very careful and diligent to bring them up under some manŐs tuition; and if they have cattle, sheep or oxen, they provide keepers to tend them; but in the mean season for their own souls they have no care; they may sink or swim or do what they will. This shews the wonderful blindness or rather madness of men in the world, that have more care for their cattle than for their own souls; but as Christ hath taught us by His example, so let every one of us in the fear of God, learn to commit our souls into the hand of God.
Again, in that Christ lays down His own soul, and withal the souls of all the faithful into the hands of the Father, we further learn four things:
i. The first, that the soul of man doth not vanish away as the souls of beasts and other creatures; there is great difference between them; for when the beast dieth, his soul dieth also; but the soul of man is immortal. The consideration whereof must move every man above all things in this world to be careful for his soul; if it were to vanish away at the day of death as the souls of beasts do, the neglect thereof were no great matter; but seeing it must live for ever either in eternal joy, or else in endless pain and torments, it stands us upon every man for himself, so to provide for his soul in this life that at the day of death when it shall depart from his body, it may live in eternal joy and happiness.
ii. The second, that there is an especial and particular providence of God, because the particular soul of Christ is committed into the hands of the Father, and so answerably the souls of every one of the faithful are.
iii. The third, that every one which believes himself to be a member of Christ, must be willing to die when God shall call him thereunto. For when we die in Christ, the body is but laid asleep and the soul is received into the hands of a most loving God and merciful Father, as the soul of Christ was.
iv. Lastly, whereas Christ surrendering His soul into His FatherŐs hands, calls it a spirit, we note that the soul of man is a spirit, that is, a spiritual, invisible, simple essence without composition, created as the angels of God are. The question whether the soul of a child come from the soul of the parents, as the body doth come from their bodies, may easily be resolved. For the soul of man being a spirit, cannot beget another spirit; as the angels being spiritual do not beget angels; for one spirit begetteth not another. Nay, which is more, one simple element begetteth not another, as the water begetteth not water, nor air begetteth air; and therefore much less can one soul beget another. Again, if the soul of the child come from the souls of the parents, then there is a propagation of the whole soul of the parent or of some part thereof. If it be said that the whole soul of the parents is propagated, then the parents should want their own souls and could not live. If it be said that a part of the parentŐs soul is propagated; I answer that the soul being a spirit or a simple substance, cannot be parted; and therefore it is the safest to conclude that the body indeed is of the body of the parents, and that the soul of man while the body is in making, is created of nothing; and for this very cause God is called the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9).
(3) Thus much of the crucifying of Christ; now followeth His death. For having laid down His soul into the hands of the Father, the Holy Ghost saith (Luke 23:46), He gave up the ghost, to give us to understand that His death was no fantastical, but a real death, in that His body and soul were severed as truly as when any one of us die. In treating of ChristŐs death we must consider many points:
(i) The first, that it was needful that He should die, and that for two causes:
(a) First, to satisfy GodŐs justice; for sin is so odious a thing in GodŐs sight that He will punish it with an extreme punishment; therefore Christ standing in our room must not only suffer the miseries of this life, but also die on the cross, that the very extremity of punishment which we should have born, might be laid on Him; and so we in Christ might fully satisfy GodŐs justice; for (Rom. 6:23), The wages of sin is death.
(b) Secondly, Christ died that He might fulfil the truth of GodŐs Word which had said (Gen. 2:17) that man for eating the forbidden fruit should die the death.
(ii) The properties of ChristŐs death are two: the first, that it was a voluntary and willing death; the second, that it was a cursed death.
(a) For the first, whereas I say ChristŐs death was voluntary, I mean that Christ died willingly and of His own free accord gave up Himself to suffer upon the cross. Howsoever the Jews did arraign and condemn and crucify Him, yet if He had not willed His own death, and of His free accord given Himself to die; not the Jews, nor all the whole world could ever have taken away His life from Him. He died not by constraint or compulsion, but most willingly; and therefore He saith (John 10:18), No man taketh my life from me, but I (saith He) lay it down of myself; I have power to lay it down and have power to take it up again. And our Saviour Christ gave evident tokens hereof in His death, for (Matt. 27:50; Luke 23:46) then Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. Ordinarily, men that die on the cross, languish away little by little, and before they come to yield up their lives they lose their speech, and only rattle and make a noise in the throat; but Christ at that very instant when He was to give up the ghost, cried with a loud voice; which sheweth plainly that he in His death was more than a conqueror over death. And therefore to give all men a token of His power, and to shew that He died voluntarily, it pleased Him to cry with a loud voice. And this made the centurion to say that He was the Son of God (Mark 15:39). Again, Christ died not as other men do; because they first give up the ghost, and then lay their heads aside; but He in token that His death was voluntary (John 19:30), first lays His head aside after the manner of a dead man; and then afterward gives up the ghost. Lastly, Christ died sooner than men are wont to do upon the cross, and this was the cause that made Pilate wonder that He was so soon dead (Mark 15:44). Now this came to pass, not because He was loath to suffer the extremity of death; but because He would make it manifest to all men that He had the power to die or not to die. And indeed this is our comfort, that Christ died not only for us by constraint, but willingly of His own accord.
(b) And as ChristŐs death was voluntary, so was it an accursed death, and therefore it is called the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8). And it containeth the first and the second death; the first is the separation of the body from the soul; the second is the separation of body and soul from God; and both were in Christ; for beside the bodily death, He did in soul apprehend the wrath of God due to manŐs sin; and that made Him cry (Matt. 27:46), My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
(iii) And here we must not omit a necessary point, namely, how far forth Christ suffered death? Answer: Some think that He suffered only a bodily death, and such pains as follow the dissolution of nature; but they no doubt come too short; for why should Christ have feared death so greatly, if it had been nothing but the dissolution of nature? Some again think that He died, not only the first, but also the second death; but it may be they go too far; for if to die the first death be to suffer a total separation of body and soul, then also to die the second death is wholly and every way to be severed from all favour of God, and at the least for a time to be oppressed of the same death as the damned are. Now this never befell Christ, no not in the midst of His sufferings, considering that even then He was able to call God His God. Therefore the safest is to follow the mean, namely that Christ died the first death, in that His body and soul were really and wholly severed, yet without suffering any corruption in His body, which is the effect and fruit of the same; and that withal He further suffered the extreme horrors and pangs of the second death, not dying the same death, nor being forsaken of God more than in His own apprehension or feeling. For in the very midst of His sufferings the Father was well pleased with Him. And this which I say doth not any whit lessen the sufficiency of the merit of Christ; for whereas He suffered truly the very wrath of God, and the very torments of the damned in His soul, it is as much as if all the men in the world had died the second death and had been wholly cut off from God for ever and ever. And no doubt Christ died the first death, only suffering the pangs of the second; that the first death might be an entrance not to the second death, which is eternal damnation, but a passage to life eternal.
(iv) The benefits and comforts which arise by the death of Christ are especially four:
(a) The first is the change of our natural death, I say not the taking of it away, for we must all die; but whereas by nature death is a curse of God upon man for eating the forbidden fruit, by the death of Christ it is changed from a curse into a blessing, and is made as it were a middle way and entrance to convey men out of this world into the kingdom of glory in heaven; and therefore it is said (Heb. 2:15), Christ by His death hath delivered them from the fear of death, which all the days of their life were subject to bondage. A man that is to encounter with a scorpion, if he knows that it hath a sting, he may be dismayed; but being assured that the sting is taken away, he need not fear to encounter therewith. Now death in its own nature considered, is this scorpion armed with a sting; but Christ our Saviour by His death hath pulled out the sting of our death, and on the cross triumphantly saith (1 Cor. 15:55), O death where is thy sting, O grave where is thy victory? And therefore even then when men feel the pangs of death approach, we should not fear but conceive hope, considering that our death is altered and changed by the virtue of the death of Christ.
(b) Secondly, the death of Christ hath quite taken away the second death from those who are in Christ; as Paul saith (Rom. 8:1), There is no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, which walk not after the flesh but after the spirit.
(c) Thirdly, the death of Christ is a means to ratify His last will and testament (Heb. 9:15-17). For this cause was Christ the Mediator of the New Testament, that through death (which was for the redemption of the transgressions which were in the former testament) they which were called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must be the death of him that made the testament; for the testament is confirmed when men are dead; for it is yet of no force so long as he is alive that made it. And therefore the death of Christ doth make His last will and testament, which is the Covenant of grace, authentical unto us.
(d) Fourthly, the death of Christ doth serve to abolish the original corruption of our sinful hearts. As a strong corrosive laid to a sore eats out all the rotten and dead flesh; even so, ChristŐs death being applied to the heart of a penitent sinner by faith, weakens and consumes the sin that cleaves so fast unto our natures and dwells within us. Some will say, how can ChristŐs death which now is not because it is long ago past and ended, kill sin in us now? Answer: Indeed if we regard the act of ChristŐs death, it is past, but the virtue and power thereof endureth for ever. And the power of ChristŐs death is nothing else but the power of His Godhead, which enabled Him in His death to overcome hell, the grave, death and condemnation, and to disburden Himself of our sins. Now when we have grace to deny ourselves and to put our trust in Christ, and by faith are joined to Him, then as Christ Himself by the power of His Godhead overcame death, hell and damnation in Himself; so shall we by the same power of His Godhead kill and crucify sin and corruption in ourselves. Therefore seeing we reap such benefit by the death of Christ, if we will shew ourselves to be Christians, let us rejoice in the death of Christ; and if the question be, What is the chiefest thing wherein we rejoice in this world? We may answer, The very cross of Christ, yea, the very least drop of His blood.
The duties to be learned by the death of Christ are two:
(i) The first concerns all ignorant and impenitent sinners. Such men whatsoever they be, by the death of Christ upon the cross, must be moved to turn from their sins; and if the consideration hereof will not move them, nothing in the world will. By nature every man is a vassal of sin and a bondslave of Satan; the devil reigns and rules in all men by nature, and we ourselves can do nothing but serve and obey him. Nay, which is more, we live under the fearful curse of God for the least sin. Well now, see the love of the Son of God, that gave Himself willingly to death upon the cross for thee, that he might free thee from this most fearful bondage. Wherefore let all those that live in sin and ignorance reason thus with themselves: Hath Christ the Son of God done this for us, and shall we yet live in our sins? Hath He set open as it were the very gates of hell, and shall we yet lie weltering in our damnable ways and in the shadow of death? In the fear of God let the death of Christ be a means to turn us to Christ; if it cannot move us, let us be resolved that our case is dangerous. To go further in this point, every one of us is by nature a sick man, wounded at the very heart by Satan; though we feel it not, yet we are deadly sick; and behold, Christ is the good Physician of the soul and none in heaven or earth, neither saint, angel nor man, can heal this our spiritual wound, but He alone; who though He were equal with the Father, yet He came down from His bosom and became man, and lived here many years in misery and contempt; and when no herb nor plaister could cure this our deadly wound or desperate sickness, He was content to make a plaister with His own blood; the pain He took in making it caused Him to sweat water and blood; nay the making of it cost Him His life, in that He was content by His own death to free us from death; which if it be true, as it is most true, then woeful and wretched is our case if we will still live in sin, and will not use the means to lay this plaister to our hearts. And after this plaister is applied to the soul, we should do as a man that hath been grievously sick, who when he is on the mending hand, gets strength little by little. And so should we become new creatures, going on from grace to grace, and shew the same by living godly, righteously and soberly, that the world may see that we are cured of our spiritual disease. O happy, yea thrice happy are they that have grace from God to do this.
(ii) The second duty concerns them which are repentant sinners. Hath Christ given Himself for thee, and is thy conscience settled in this? Then thou must answerably bear this in mind, that if thy life would serve for the glory of God and the good of the church, thou wouldest then give it most willingly if thou be called thereto. Secondly, if Christ for thy good hath given His life, then thou must in like manner be content to die for thy brethren in Christ if need be. He (saith St John (1 John 3:16)) laid down His life for us, therefore we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. Thirdly, if Christ was content to shed His own heart-blood not for Himself, but for the sins of every one of us, then we must be thus affected: that rather than by sinning we would willingly offend God, we should be content to have our own blood shed; yea, if these two things were put to our choice, either to do that which might displease God, or else to suffer death, we must rather die than do the same. Of this mind have been all the martyrs of God, who rather than they would yield to idolatry, were content to suffer most bitter torments and cruel death. Yea, every good Christian is so affected that he had rather choose to die than to live, not moved by impatience in respect of the miseries of this life; but because he would cease to offend so loving a Father. To sin is meat and drink to the world, but to a touched and repentant heart, there is no torment so grievous as this is, to sin against God, if once he be persuaded that Christ died for him.
(4) Thus much for ChristŐs death. Now follow those things which befell Christ when he was newly dead; and they are two especially:
(i) The first, that His legs were not broken as the legs of the two thieves were. Of the first, Scripture renders a reason, namely, that the Scripture might be fulfilled which saith (John 19:36; Exod. 12:46), Not a bone of him shall be broken; which words were spoken by Moses of the paschal lamb, and are here applied to Christ as being typically figured thereby. And hence we observe these two things:
(a) First that Christ is the true paschal lamb, as St Paul saith (1 Cor. 5:7), Christ our Passover is sacrificed; and St John saith (John 1:29), Behold the Lamb of God, distinguishing Him thereby from the typical lamb. In this, that Christ crucified is the true paschal lamb, the child of God hath wonderful matter of comfort. The Israelites did eat the Passover in Egypt, and sprinkled the blood of the lamb on the posts of their doors that when the angel of God came to destroy the firstborn of man and beast, and saw the blood upon their houses, he might pass over them that the plague should not be upon them to destruction. So likewise if thou dost feed on the Lamb of God, and by a lively faith sprinkle the door of thine heart with His blood, the judgment of God in this life and the terrible curse of death, with the fearful sentence of condemnation at the day of judgment, and all punishments due unto thy sins, shall pass over thee and not so much as touch thee.
(b) And whereas the legs of our Saviour Christ were not broken by the soldiers, who sought by all means possible to work against Him all the mischief they could; we may note that the enemies of Christ and His church, let them intend to shew never so much malice against Him, they cannot go beyond that liberty which God giveth them, they can do no more for their lives than that which God willeth. The Medes and Persians are called the LordŐs sanctified ones (Isa. 13:3); Cyrus is called the man of GodŐs counsel (Isa. 46:11), because whatsoever they intended against the people of God, yet in all their proceedings they did nothing but that which God had determined before to be done. And when Sennacherib came against the Jews as a wild beast out of his den (Isa. 37:29), the Lord telleth Hezekiah concerning Assyria, that He will put His hook in his nostrils, and His bridle in his lips, and bring him back again the same way that he came; that is, He will so rule him that he shall not do the least hurt unto the Jews, more than God will. This is a matter of great comfort to GodŐs church oppressed with manifold enemies, papists, Jews, Turks and all infidels maliciously bent against it, for ChristŐs sake. For though they intend and practise mischief, yet more than GodŐs will and counsel is, they cannot do; because He hath His ring in their nostrils and His bridle in their lips to rule them as He listeth.
(ii) The second thing which fell out immediately upon the death of Christ, is that the soldiers pierced His side with a spear and issued water and blood. The use which ariseth of this point is twofold:
(a) First it seems to prove that Christ died truly and not in shew or a feigned death; for there is about the heart a film, or skin like unto a purse, wherein is contained clear water to cool the heat of the heart; and therefore when water and blood issued out after piercing of the side, it is very likely that that very skin was pierced; for else in reason we cannot conjecture whence this water should come. St John an eyewitness of this thing, being about to prove that Jesus the son of Mary was the true Messiah, bringeth in six witnesses (1 John 5:7,8): three in heaven, the Father, the Word and the Holy Ghost; and three in earth, the water, the Spirit and the blood; where no doubt he alludeth to the water and blood that issued out of the side of Christ; by Spirit, we may understand the efficacy and operation of GodŐs Spirit, making men to bring forth the fruits of the same, as love, peace, joy etc., And the second witness, namely water, hath relation to the water that came forth of ChristŐs side, which signifieth the inward washing away of sin and the purging of the heart by ChristŐs blood; which also is and was signified by the outward washing of the body with water and baptism. The third witness he calls blood, alluding to the blood that issued out of ChristŐs side; whereby is signified the expiation or satisfaction made to GodŐs justice for manŐs sin. The same use had the ceremonial sprinkling in the Old Testament, typically signifying the sprinkling of ChristŐs blood. Now these three witnesses are not to be sought for in heaven, but every Christian man must search for them in his own heart and conscience, and there shall he find them in some measure.
(b) And this water and blood flowing out of the side of Christ being now dead, signifieth that He is our justification and sanctification, even after His death; and that out of His death springs our lives and therefore as Eve was made of a rib taken out of the side of Adam; so springs the church out of the blood that flows out of the side of the second Adam.
5. Having thus entreated of ChristŐs execution, let us now come to the last point, namely the excellency of ChristŐs passion, consisting in these two points: (1) a sacrifice; (2) a triumph.
(1) For the first, when Christ died He offered a propitiatory and real sacrifice to His Father; and herein His death and passion differeth from the sufferings and deaths of all men whatsoever. In this sacrifice, we must consider four things:
(i) Who was the priest.
(ii) What was the sacrifice.
(iii) What was the altar.
(iv) The time wherein this sacrifice was offered.
(i) The priest was Christ Himself, as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews proves at large from the third chapter to the ninth, and of Him we are to consider these four points:
(a) The first, What is the office of ChristŐs priesthood? Answer: The office of ChristŐs priesthood stands in three things:
i. To teach doctrine, and therefore He is called (Heb. 3:1) the high priest of our profession, that is, of the gospel which we profess, because He is the author and doctor of the same.
ii. To offer up Himself unto His Father in the behalf of man, for the appeasing of His wrath for sin.
iii. To make request or intercession to God the Father that He would accept the sacrifice which He offered on the cross for us.
(b) The second point is, According to which nature He was priest; whether in His manhood or His Godhead, or both together? Answer: The office of His priesthood is performed by Him according to both His natures; and therefore He is a priest not as the papists would have Him, according to His manhood only, but as He is both God and man; for as He is a Mediator, so is He a priest; but Christ is a Mediator according to both natures; each nature doing that which is peculiar to it, and conferring something to the work of redemption; and therefore He is a priest as He is both God and man.
(c) The third point is, After what order is He a priest? Answer: The Scripture mentioneth two orders of priests: the order of Levi and the order of Melchizedek.
i. Christ was not a priest after the order of Aaron; and yet notwithstanding in that priesthood were many notable rites whereby the priesthood of our Saviour Christ was resembled, and we may note five especially:
a. First, in the anointing of the high priest (Exod. 29:7; Psa. 133:2); as of Aaron and his sons after him, oil was poured on his head, and it came down to the very edge of his garments, whereby was signified that Christ the true high priest was anointed (Psa. 45:7) with the oil of gladness above his fellows; that is, that His manhood was filled with the gifts and graces of God, both in measure, number and degree above all men and angels.
b. Secondly, the sumptuous and gorgeous apparel which the high priest put on when he came into the sanctuary (Exod. 28:2) was a sign of the rich and glorious robe of ChristŐs righteousness, which is the purity and integrity of His human nature and of His life.
c. Thirdly, the special parts of the high priestŐs attire were first the ephod (Exod 28:12), the two shoulders whereof had two onyx stones, whereon were engraven the names of the twelve tribes of Israel; six names on the one stone and six on the other, as stones of remembrance of the children of Israel to Godward. Secondly, the breastplate of judgment (Exod. 28:22-25) like the work of the ephod, wherein were set twelve stones according to the names of the children of Israel, graven as signets every one after his name. Now by these two ornaments were figured two things in Christ: by the first that He carried all the elect on His shoulders, and supports them by His Spirit so long as they are in the world, against the world, the flesh and the devil. By the second, that Christ our high priest being now in His sanctuary in heaven, hath in memory all the elect, and their very names are written as it were in tables of gold before His face; and He hath an especial love unto them and care over them. Upon this ground the church in the Canticles (Song 8:6) prays on this manner: Set me a seal on thy heart and as a sign upon thine arm. And indeed this is a matter of comfort unto us all, that Christ hath our several names written in precious stones before His face; though He be now in heaven and we on earth; and that the particular estate of everyone of us is both known and regarded of Him.
d. Again, God gave to Moses the Urim and Thummim (Exod. 28:30), which was put on the breastplate of the high priest when he was to ask counsel from God of things unknown, before the mercy seat, whence God gave answer. What the Urim and Thummim was, it is not known; and it is like it was not made by any art of man, but given by God; and how it was used we cannot tell; but yet the signification of the words affordeth matter of meditation. Urim signifieth lights, and Thummim signifieth perfections. And by this a further matter was prefigured in Christ, who hath the perfect Urim and Thummim in His breast; first, because in Him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3); secondly, because He reveals to His church out of His Word such things as none can know but the children of God; as David saith (Psa. 25:14), The secret of the Lord is revealed to them that fear Him. And for this cause the Spirit of Christ is called (Eph. 1:17) the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, and (1 Cor. 2:12) the Spirit of God whereby we know the things that are given unto us of God; as namely, our election, vocation, justification and sanctification in this life, and our eternal glorification after this life; yea to every member of Christ within His church He gives a special spirit of revelation out of the Word whereby he may know that God the Father is his Father; the Son the Redeemer, his Redeemer; and the Holy Ghost his sanctifier and comforter.
e. Lastly, the high priest had a plate on his forehead (Exod. 38:36), and thereon was engraven the holiness of Jehovah; this signified the holiness of Christ; for as He is God, He is holiness itself; and as He is man, He is most holy, being sanctified by the Holy Ghost for this end: that He might cover our sins and unrighteousness with His righteousness and holy obedience.
ii. The second order of priesthood is the order of Melchizedek of which order Christ was (Heb. 7), as David saith (Psa. 110:4), Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek; and that in two special respects:
a. Melchizedek was both a priest and a king; so was Christ.
b. Melchizedek had neither father nor mother, because his history is set down with mention of neither; so likewise Christ as He is God had no mother; and as He is man He had no father.
The papists avouch Christ to be a priest of this order in a new respect, in that Melchizedek offered bread and wine when Abraham came from the slaughter of the kings (Gen. 14:18); so (say they) Christ in His last supper did offer His own body and blood under the forms of bread and wine. But this is a frivolous device of theirs; for if we read Hebrews chapter 7, where this point is handled, there is no comparison at all made of their two sacrifices; but the resemblances before named are set down, in which person is compared with person. Again, it is not said in Genesis that Melchizedek offered sacrifice; but that he brought forth bread and wine, and made a feast to Abraham and his company. And if Christ should be of the order of Melchizedek in regard of the offering of bread and wine, yet would this make much against the papists. For Melchizedek brought forth true bread and true wine; but in the sacrifice of the mass there is no true bread nor true wine; but (as they say) the real body and blood of Christ under the form of bread and wine.
(d) The fourth point is, whether there be any more real priests of the New Testament beside Christ or no? Answer: In the Old Testament there were many priests one following another in continual succession, but of the New Testament there is only one real priest, Christ Jesus God and man, and no more; as the author of the Hebrews saith (Heb. 7:24), because he endureth for ever, He hath an everlasting priesthood; and the word translated everlasting signifieth such a priesthood which cannot pass from Him to any other, as the priesthood of Aaron did. And therefore the priesthood of Christ is so tied to His own Person that none can have the same but He; neither man, nor angel, nor any other creature, no not the Father, nor the Holy Ghost. But the factors of the church of Rome will say that Christ may have men to be His deputies in His stead to offer sacrifice. Answer: We must consider Christ two ways: i. as He is God; ii. As He is Mediator.
i. As He is God with the Father and with the Holy Ghost, He hath kings and magistrates to be His deputies on earth; and therefore they are called (Psa. 82) Elohim, that is, gods.
ii. But as He is Mediator, and so consequently a priest and a king, He hath neither deputy nor vicegerent; neither king to rule in His stead over His church, nor priests to offer sacrifice for Him; nay He hath no prophet to be His deputy, as He is the Doctor of the church. And therefore He saith to His disciples (Matt. 23:10), For one is your Doctor. Indeed He hath His ministers to teach men His will; but a deputy to offer sacrifice in His stead He hath not. And therefore we may with good conscience abhor the massing priesthood of the church of Rome, as a thing fetched from the bottom of hell; and their massing priests as instruments of Satan; holding this for a very truth: that we have but one only priest even Christ Himself, God and man. Indeed all Christians are priests to offer up spiritual sacrifice; but it is the property of Christ alone to offer an outward and real sacrifice unto God now in the New Testament.
(ii) Thus much of the first point, who is the priest. The second followeth: What is the sacrifice? Answer: The sacrifice is Christ, as He is man, or the manhood of Christ crucified. As the priest is both God and man; so the sacrifice is man, not God. So it is said (Heb. 10:10), We are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ. Touching this sacrifice, sundry questions are to be scanned:
(a) The first, What kind of sacrifice it was? Answer: In the Old Testament there were two kinds of sacrifices, one propitiatory which served to satisfy for sin; the other eucharistical for praise and thanksgiving. Now the sacrifice of Christ was a sacrifice propitiatory especially prefigured by the typical sacrifice called the whole burnt offering (Gen. 8:20; Job 1:5); for it was all consumed to ashes upon the altar and turned into smoke, so the fire of GodŐs wrath did cease upon Christ upon the cross and did consume Him as it were to nothing, to make us something. When Noah offered an whole burnt offering after the flood, it is said (Gen. 8:21), God smelled a savour of rest; not because He was delighted with the smell of the sacrifice, but because He approved his faith in Christ. And hereby was figured that Christ upon the cross was an offering and (Eph. 5:2) a sacrifice of sweet smelling savour unto God; because God was well pleased therewith. Now whereas Christ was content wholly to offer up Himself to appease the wrath of His Father for us; it must teach us to give our bodies and souls as holy, living and acceptable sacrifices, wholly dedicating them to the service of God.
(b) The second question is, How oft Christ offered Himself? Answer: Once only and no more. This must be held as a principle of divinity (Heb. 10:14), Which once offering hath He consecrated for ever them that are sanctified; and again (Heb. 8:28), Christ was once offered to take away the sins of many. And it serveth to overthrow the abominable sacrifice of the mass, in which the true body and blood of Christ is offered under the forms of bread and wine, really and substantially (as they say) for the remission of the sins of the quick and the dead, and that continually; but if this unbloody sacrifice of Christ be good, then it is either the continuing of that which was begun on the cross by Christ Himself, or the iteration of it by the mass priest. Now let papists choose whether of these two they will, if they say it is the continuing of the sacrifice of Christ, then they speak outrageous blasphemy; for it is in effect to say that ChristŐs sacrifice was not perfect but only begun on the cross, and must be accompanied by the mass priest to the end of the world. If they affirm the second, that it is an iteration of ChristŐs sacrifice, then also they speak blasphemy; for hereby they make it also an imperfect sacrifice because it is repeated and iterated; for upon this ground doth the author to the Hebrews prove that the sacrifices of the Old Testament were imperfect because they were daily offered. And whereas they say that there be two kinds of sacrifices, one bloody once only offered upon the cross; the other unbloody which is daily offered; I answer that this distinction hath no ground out of GodŐs Word; neither was it known to the Holy Ghost who saith (Heb. 10:18) that without blood there is no remission of sins.
(c) The third question is, What is the fruit of this sacrifice? Answer: The whole effect thereof is contained in these four things:
i. The oblation of Christ purgeth the believer from all his sins, whether they be original or actual; so it is said (1 John 1:7), If we walk in the light we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son purgeth us from all sin; whether they be sins of omission in regard of our duties; or of commission in doing evil.
ii. The oblation serveth for the justifying of a sinner before God, as Paul saith (Rom. 5:9,10), we are justified by His blood, and are reconciled to God by His death. This being remembered: that in the passion of Christ we include His legal obedience, whereby He fulfilled the law for us.
iii. The oblation of Christ serves to purge menŐs consciences from dead works (Heb. 9:14), How much more then shall the blood of Christ, which through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your consciences from dead works to serve the living God?
iv. The oblation of Christ procures us liberty to enter into heaven (Heb. 10:19,20), By the blood of Christ Jesus we may behold to enter into the holy place by the new and living way which He hath prepared us through the veil, that is, His flesh. By our sins there is a partition wall made between God and us; but Christ by offering Himself upon the cross, hath beaten down this wall, opened heaven and as it were, trained the way with His own blood, whereby we may enter into the kingdom of God, and without the which we cannot enter in at all.
(d) The last question is, How this sacrifice may be applied to us? Answer: The means of applying this sacrifice are two:
i. The hand of God which offereth;
ii. The hand of the believer that receiveth the sacrifice offered.
i. The hand of God whereby He offereth unto us His benefit, is the preaching of the Word and the administration of the sacraments, baptism and the LordŐs supper; and wheresoever these His holy ordinances are rightly administered and put in practice, there the Lord puts forth His hand unto us, and offereth most freely the virtue and benefit of the death of Christ.
ii. And then in the next place cometh the hand of the believer which is faith in the heart; which, when God offereth, doth apprehend and receive the thing offered, and makes it ours.
(iii) The third thing to be spoken of is, the altar whereon Christ offereth Himself. The altar was not the cross, but rather the Godhead of Christ. He was both the priest, the sacrifice and the altar. The sacrifice as He is man; the priest as He is both God and man; the altar as He is God. The property of an altar is to sanctify the sacrifice; as Christ saith (Matt. 23:17), Ye fools and blind, whether is greater, the offering or that altar that sanctifieth the offering? Now Christ as He is God, sanctifieth Himself as He was man; and therefore (saith He (John 17:19)), For their sakes sanctifieth I myself, by doing two things: (a) By setting apart the manhood to be a sacrifice unto His Father for our sins. (b) By giving to this sacrifice merit or efficacy to deserve at GodŐs hands remission of our sins. The manhood of Christ without the Godhead hath no virtue nor efficacy in itself to be a meritorious sacrifice; and therefore the dignity and excellency which it hath is derived thence. As for the chalky and stony altars of the church of Rome, they are nothing else but the toys of manŐs brain. Christ Himself is the only real altar of the New Testament. And instead of altars which were under the law, we have now the LordŐs table whereon we celebrate the sacrament of His body and blood, to shew forth His death till He come.
(iv) The fourth point, is concerning the time of ChristŐs oblation, which He Himself calleth (Luke 4:19; Lev. 25:10) the acceptable year of the Lord; alluding unto another year under the law called the year of Jubilee, which was every fifty years among the Jews, in which at the sound of a trumpet all that had set or sold their possessions received them again. All that were bondmen were then set at liberty. This Jubilee was but a figure of that perfect deliverance which was to be obtained by ChristŐs passion, which was not temporary deliverance for every fifty years, but an eternal freedom from the bondage of sin, hell, death and condemnation. And the preaching of the Word is the trumpet sounded which proclaimeth unto us freedom from the kingdom of darkness, and invites us to come and dwell in perfect peace with Christ Himself. Well, if the year of perpetual Jubilee be now come, in what a wretched estate are all our loose and blind people that esteem nothing of that liberty which is offered to them, but choose rather to live in their sins, and in bondage under Satan and condemnation, than to be at freedom in Christ?
Now follow the uses which are to be made of the sacrifice of Christ. The prophet Haggai saith (Hag. 2:3) that the second temple built by Zerubabbel was nothing in beauty unto the first which was built by Solomon; and the reason is plain, for (as the Jews write) it wanted five things which the first temple had:
(i) The appearing of the presence of God at the mercy seat between the two cherubim.
(ii) The Urim and Thummim on the breastplate of the high priest.
(iii) The inspiration of the Holy Ghost upon extraordinary prophets.
(iv) The ark of the covenant; for that was lost in the captivity.
(v) Fire from heaven to burn the sacrifices.
Yet for all this, the prophet afterward saith (Hag. 2:9), The glory of the last house shall be greater than the first. Now it may be demanded how both these sayings can stand together. Answer: We are to know that the second temple was standing in the time when Christ was crucified for our sins; and it was the sacrifice of Christ which gave glory and dignity to the second temple, though otherwise for building and outward ornament it was far inferior to the first. And by this we are taught:
(i) Firstly, that if we would bring glory unto our own selves, unto our houses and kindred, either before God or before men, we must labour to be partakers of the sacrifice of Christ and the sprinkling of His blood to purge our hearts. This is the thing that brings renown both to place and person, how base soever we be in the eyes of the world.
(ii) Secondly, all oblations and meat offerings were sprinkled with salt, and every sacrifice of propitiation which was to be burned to ashes was first salted (Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24); and hereby two things were signified: The first, that every one of us ourselves are loathsome or vile in the sight of God (Ezek. 16:4); like unto stinking carrion or raw flesh kept long unpowdered. A dead and rotten carcass is loathsome to us; but we ourselves are a thousand times more loathsome unto God. The second, that we are as it were salted and made savoury and acceptable to God by the virtue of the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. Our duty then is to labour that we may feel in ourselves the biting sharpness of the oblation of Christ, to waste and consume the superfluities of sin and the corruptions of our nature. And we must with all endeavour that the whole course of our lives and our speech itself be gracious and powdered with salt, lest God at length spue us out of His mouth. To this end hath God appointed His ministers to be the salt of the earth (Col. 4:6; Matt. 5:13)His H, that by their ministry they might apply the death of Christ, and season the people. And it hath pleased God to besprinkle this land with more plenty of this salt than hath been heretofore. But, alas, small is the number of them that give any relish of their good seasoning. The more lamentable is their case. For as flesh that cannot be seasoned with salt, putrifies; so men that cannot be sweetened and changed by the sacrifice of Christ, do rot and perish in their sins. The waters that issued from under the threshold of the sanctuary, when they came into the Dead Sea, the waters thereof were wholesome, but miry places and marishes which could not be seasoned, were made salt pits. Now these waters are the preaching of the gospel of Christ, which flowing through all parts of this isle; if it do not season and change our nation, it shall make it as places of nettles and salt pits, and at length be an occasion of the eternal curse of God.
(iii) Thirdly, ChristŐs priesthood serves to make every one of us also to be priests. And being priests, we must likewise have our sacrifice and our altar; our sacrifice is the clean offering which is the lifting up of pure hands to God without wrath or doubting in our prayers (Mal. 1:11; 1 Tim. 2:8); also our bodies and souls, our hearts and affections, the works of our lives, and the works of our callings; all which must be dedicated to the service of God for His glory and the good of His church. The altar whereon we must offer our sacrifice, is Christ our Redeemer, both God and man, because by virtue of His death, as with sweet odours, He perfumes all our obedience, and makes it acceptable to God (Rev. 8:3; Heb. 13:10). The ministers of the gospel are also in this manner priests, as Paul insinuateth when he calleth the Gentiles his offering unto God (Rom. 15:16). And the preaching of the Word is as it were a sacrificing knife, whereby the old Adam must be killed in us; and we made an holy and acceptable sweet smelling oblation unto God, sanctified by the Holy Ghost. Therefore everyone that heareth GodŐs Word preached and taught, must endeavour that by the profitable hearing thereof, his sins and whole nature must be subdued and killed; as the beast was slain and sacrificed upon the altar by the hand of the Levite.
(iv) Lastly, the exhortation of the Holy Ghost must here be considered (Heb. 10:21,22): Seeing (saith He) we have an high priest, which is over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in assurance of faith, sprinkled in our hearts from an evil conscience, and washed in our bodies with pure water. The meaning of the words is this: that if Christ have offered such a sacrifice of such value and price, which procureth pardon of sin, justification, sanctification and redemption, then we must labour to be partakers of it; to have our bodies and souls purified and cleansed by His blood and sanctified throughout by the Holy Ghost, that thereby we may be made fit to do sacrifice acceptable to God in Christ.
This is the use which the apostle maketh of the doctrine of ChristŐs priesthood in that place, which also every man should apply unto Himself; for why should we live in our sins and wicked ways, every hour incurring the danger of GodŐs judgments, seeing Christ hath offered such a sacrifice whereby we may be purged and cleansed, and at length freed from all woe and misery?
(2) Thus much of ChristŐs sacrifice; now followeth His triumph upon the cross. That Christ did triumph when He was upon the cross, it is plainly set down by the apostle Paul, where he saith (Col. 2:14,15) that putting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, He even took it out of the way, and fastened it upon the cross, and hath spoiled the principalities and powers, and hath made shew of them openly, and hath triumphed over them in the same cross. This triumph is set forth by signs and testimonies of two sorts:
(i) By signs of His glory and majesty.
(ii) By signs of His victory upon the cross.
(i) The signs of His glory and majesty are principally seven:
(a) The first is the title set over His head upon the cross (John 19:18), Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews. The end why titles were set over malefactors was that the beholders might know the cause of the punishment, and be admonished to take heed of like offences, and be stirred up to a dislike of the parties executed for their offences. And therefore no doubt, Pilate wrote the title of Christ for the aggravating of his cause, and that with his own hand. Yet mark the strange event that followed; for when Pilate was about to write the superscription, God did so govern and overrule both his heart and hand, that instead of noting some crime, he sets down a most glorious and worthy title, calling Him Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews; which words contain the very sum and pith of the whole gospel of Christ, delivered by the patriarchs and prophets from age to age. We must not think that Pilate did this of any good mind, or upon any love or favour that he bare to Christ; but only as he was guided and overruled by the power of God for the advancement of the honour and glory of Christ. The like did Caiaphas who though a sworn enemy to Christ, yet he uttered a prophecy of Him, saying (John 11:50), that it was necessary that one should die for the people; not that he had any intent to prophesy; but because the Lord used him as an instrument to publish His truth. And when Balaam for the wages of unrighteousness would have cursed the LordŐs people, for his life he could not; nay, all his cursings were turned into blessings. By this then it appears that it is not possible for any man, do what he can, to stop the course of the gospel of Christ; nay (as we see), God can raise up the wicked sometime to spread abroad and to publish the truth, though they themselves intend the contrary. Furthermore, let us mark that when the Jews did most of all intend to bring disgrace and ignominy upon our Saviour Christ; then did they most of all extol and magnify His name; they could not for their lives have given Him a more renowned title than this: that He was King of the Jews. And the same is the case of all the members of Christ; for let a man walk in a good conscience before God and man, he shall find this to be true: that when he is most disgraced in the world, then commonly he is most honoured with God and men.
Further, Pilate wrote this superscription in three languages: Hebrew, Greek and Latin. And no doubt the end thereof in the providence of God was that the passion of Christ, as also the publishing of His kingdom and gospel might be spread over the whole world. This shews the malice of the church of Rome, which will not suffer the Word of God to be published but in the Latin tongue, lest the people should be entangled in errors.
Again, when Pilate had thus written the superscription, the high priests and Pharisees, offended thereat, came to Pilate, willing him to change the title, saying (John 19:21,22), Write not The King of the Jews, but that He said I am the King of the Jews; but Pilate answered them again, That which I have written, I have written. Though Pilate had been overruled before to condemn Christ to death, against his own conscience, yet will he not in any wise condescend to change the superscription. How comes this to pass? Surely, as he was ruled by the hand of God in penning it, so by the same hand of God was he confirmed in not changing it. Hence we learn sundry instructions:
i. First, that no man in the world, let him endeavour himself to the utmost of his power, is able to stop the cause of the kingdom of God; it stands firm and sure, and all the world is not able to prevail against it.
ii. Secondly, whereas Pilate being but a heathen man was thus constant, that he will not have his writing changed; we may note how permanent and unchangeable the writings of the holy Word of God are. They are not the words of heathen men, but were spoken by the mouth of the prophets and apostles, as God gave them utterance. The book of Scripture therefore is much more immutable, so as no creature shall be able to change the least part of it till it be fulfilled.
iii. Thirdly, by PilateŐs constancy, we learn to be constant in the practice and professions of the religion of Christ. This is a necessary lesson these days, wherein menŐs professions do fleet like water, and go and come with the tide. Many, zealous professors today but tomorrow as cold as water. And the complaint of the Lord touching times past, agrees to our days (Hos. 6:4), O Ephraim, What shall I say to thee? Thy righteousness is like the morning dew.
(b) The second is the conversion of the thief; a most worthy argument of the Godhead of Christ. For by it when He was upon the cross and in the very midst of His passion He gives unto all the world a lively and notable experience of the virtue and power of His death, so as His very enemies might not only behold the passion itself, but also at the same time acknowledge the admirable efficacy thereof. And therefore with the passion of Christ, we must join the conversion of the thief; which is as it were a crystal glass wherein we may sensibly behold the endless merit and virtue of the obedience of Christ to His Father, even to the death of the cross. And therefore I will briefly touch the special instructions which are to be learned by it.
i. First, let us mark that both the thieves in every respect were equal, both wicked and lewd livers; and for their notorious faults both attached, condemned and executed both on the cross at the same time with Christ; yet for all this, the one repenting was saved, the other was not. And in their two examples we see the state of the whole world, whereof one part is chosen to life eternal, and thereupon attains to faith and repentance in this life; the rest are rejected in the eternal counsel of God, for just causes known to Himself, and such beings left to themselves never repent at all.
ii. Secondly, we are taught hereby that the whole work of our conversion and salvation must be ascribed wholly to the mere mercy of God; of these two thieves the one was as deeply plunged in wickedness as the other, and yet the one is saved, the other condemned. The like was in Jacob and Esau (Rom. 9:13), both born at one time, and of the same parents, and neither of them had done good, nor evil, when they were born; yet one was then loved, the other was hated; yea if we regard outward prerogatives (Gen. 35:12), Esau was the firstborn, and yet was refused.
Furthermore, the thief on the cross declared his conversion by manifest signs and fruits of repentance, as appears by the words which he spake to his fellow (Luke 23:40), Fearest thou not God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? Though hands and feet were fast nailed on the cross, yet heart and tongue are at liberty to give some tokens of his true repentance. The people of this our land hear the Word, but for the most part are without either profit in knowledge or amendment of life; yet for all this, they persuade themselves that they have good hearts and good meanings, though they cannot bear it away and utter it so well as others. But alas, poor souls, they are deluded by Satan; for a man that is converted cannot but express his conversion and bring forth the fruits thereof. And therefore our Saviour Christ saith (John 7:38), If a man believe in me, out of his belly shall flow rivers of water of life. The grace (as Elihu saith (Job 32:19)) of God is like new wine in a vessel which must have a vent, and therefore he that sheweth no tokens of GodŐs grace in this life, is not yet converted; let him think and say of himself what he will. Can a man have life and never move, nor take breath? And can he that brings forth no fruit of conversion live unto God? Well, let us now see what were the fruits of the thiefŐs repentance. They may be reduced to four heads:
i. First, he rebukes his fellow for mocking Christ, endeavouring thereby to bring him to the same condition with himself, if it were possible; whereby he discovers unto us the property of a true repentant sinner, which is to labour and strive, so much as in him lieth, to bring all men to the same state as he is in. Thus David, having tried the great love and favour of God toward himself, breaketh forth and saith (Psa. 34:11), Come children, hearken unto me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord; shewing his desire that the same benefits which it had pleased God to bestow on him, might also in like manner be conveyed to others. Therefore it is a great shame to see men professing religion, carried away with every company, and with the vanities and fashions of the world, whereas they should rather draw even the worst men that be to the fellowship of those graces of God which they have received. That which the Lord spake to the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 15:19) must be applied to al men: Let them return unto thee, but return not thou unto them. In instruments of music the string out of tune must be set up to the rest that be in tune, and not the rest to it.
Again, in that he checks his fellow, it shews that those which be touched for their own sins, are also grieved when they see other men sin and offend God. But to go further in this point, let us diligently and carefully mark the manner of his reproof, Fearest thou not God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation. In which words he rips up his lewdness even to the quick, and gives him a worthy item, telling him that the cause of all their former wickedness had been the want of the fear of God. And this point must every one of us mark with great diligence. For if we enter into our hearts and make a thorough search, we shall find that this is the root and foundation of all our offences. We miserable men for the most part have not grace to consider that we are always before God; and to quake and tremble at the consideration of His presence; and this makes us so often to offend God in our lives as we do. Abraham coming before Abimelech, shifting for himself said that Sara was his sister; and being demanded why he did so, answered (Gen. 20:11), Because I thought the fear of God was not in this place; insinuating that he which wants the fear of God, will not make conscience of any sin whatsoever. Would we then even from the bottom of our hearts turn to God and become new creatures? Then let us learn to fear God; which is nothing else but this: when a man is persuaded in his own heart and conscience that wheresoever he be, he is in the presence and sight of God, and by reason thereof is afraid to sin. This we must have fully settled in our hearts, if we desire to learn but the first lesson of true wisdom. But what reason useth the thief to draw his fellow to the fear of God? Thou art, saith he, in the same condemnation, that is, by thy sins and manifold transgressions, thou hast deserved death, and it is now most justly inflicted upon thee, wilt thou not yet fear God? Where we art taught that temporal punishments and crosses ought to be a means to work in us the fear of God; for that is one end why they are sent of God. It is good for me (saith David (Psa. 119:71)) that I have been chastened, that I may learn thy statutes. And Paul saith (1 Cor. 11:32), When we are chastised, we are nurtured of the Lord. And the Jews are taught by the prophet Micah to say (Mic.7:9), I will bear the wrath of the Lord because I have sinned against Him.
ii. The second fruit of his conversion is that he condemneth himself and his fellow for their sins, saying, Indeed we are righteously here, for we receive things worthy for that we have done; that is, we have wonderfully sinned against GodŐs majesty, and against our brethren; and therefore this grievous punishment which we bear, is most just and due unto us. This fruit of repentance springs and grows very thin among us, for few there be which do seriously condemn themselves for their own sins, the manner of men is to condemn others, and to cry out that the world was never so bad; but bring them home to themselves, and you shall find that they have many excuses and defences as plasterwork to cast over their foul and filthy sins; and if they be urged to speak against themselves, the worst will be thus: God help us, we are all sinners, even the best of us. But certain it is that he which is throughly touched in conscience for his sins, both can and will speak more against himself for his manifold offences, than all the world besides. This Paul when he was converted calls himself (1 Tim. 1:15) the chief of all sinners. And the prodigal child (Luke 15:18,19) confessed that he had sinned against heaven and against his father, and was not worthy to be called his child.
iii. The third fruit of his conversion is that he excuseth our Saviour Christ, and giveth testimony of His innocency, saying, But this man hath done nothing amiss. Mark here: Pilate condemned Christ, Herod mocked Him, all the learned scribes and Pharisees condemned Him, and the people cry, Away with Him, let Him be crucified; and among His own disciples, Peter denied Him, and the rest ran away; there remains only this poor silly wretch upon the cross to give testimony of ChristŐs innocency; whereby we learn that God chooseth the simple ones of this world to overthrow the wisdom of the wise; and therefore we must take heed that we be not offended at the gospel of Christ, by reason that for the most part simple and mean men in the world embrace it. Nay mark further, this one thief being converted had a better judgment in matters concerning GodŐs kingdom than the whole body of the Jews. And by this also students may learn that if they desire to have in themselves upright judgment in matters of religion, first of all they must become repentant sinners; and though a man have never so much learning, yet if he be carried away with his own blind affections and lusts, they will corrupt and darken his judgment. Men which work in mines and coal pits under the earth, are troubled with nothing so much as with damps, which make their candle burn dark, and sometimes put it quite out. Now every manŐs sins are the damps of his heart, which when they take place, do dim the light of his judgment and cast a mist over the mind, and darken the understanding and reason; and therefore a needful thing is that men in the first place should provide for their own conversion.
iv. The fourth fruit of his repentance is that he prayeth for mercy at ChristŐs hands, Lord (saith he) remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. In which prayer we may see what is the property of faith. This thief at this instant heard nothing of Christ but the scornings and mockings of the people, and he saw nothing but a base estate full of ignominy and shame, and the cursed death of the cross, yet nevertheless he now believes in Christ, and therefore entreats for salvation at His hand. Hence we learn that it is one thing to believe in Christ, and another to have feeling and experience; and that even when we have no sense nor experience we must believe; for (Heb. 11:1) Faith is the subsisting of things which are not seen; and (Rom. 4:18), Abraham above hope did believe under hope; and Job saith (Job 13:15), Though He slay me, yet will I believe in Him. In philosophy a man begins by experience, after which comes knowledge and belief; as when a man hath put his hand to the fire, and feels it to be hot, he comes to know thereby that fire burns; but in divinity we must believe though we have no feeling; first comes faith, and after comes sense and feeling. And the ground of our religion stands in this: to believe things neither seen nor felt, to hope above all hope, and without hope; in extremity of affliction to believe that God loveth us when He seemeth to be our enemy, and to persevere in the same to the end.
The answer which Christ made to his prayer was (Luke 23:43): This day shalt thou be with me in paradise. Whereby He testifies in the midst of His sufferings the power which He had over the souls of men; and verifies that gracious promise (Matt. 7:7): Ask and ye shall receive, seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened to you; and withal confutes the popish purgatory. For if any man should have gone to that forged place of torment, then the thief upon the cross who, repenting at the last gasp, wanted time to make satisfaction for the temporal punishment of his sins. And by this conversion of the thief we may learn that if any of us would turn to God and repent, we must have three things:
i. The knowledge of our own sins.
ii. From the bottom of our hearts we must confess and condemn ourselves for them, and speak the worst that can be of ourselves, in regard of our sins.
iii. We must earnestly crave pardon for them, and call for mercy at GodŐs hands in Christ, withal reforming our lives for the time to come. If we do, we give tokens of repentance; if not, we may think what we will, but we deceive ourselves and are not truly converted.
And here we must be warned to take heed lest we abuse, as many do, the example of the thief, to conclude thereby that we may repent when we will, because the thief on the cross was converted at the last gasp. For there is not a second example like to this in all the whole Bible; it was also extraordinary. Indeed sundry men are called at the eleventh hour and at the point of the twelfth. This mercy God vouchsafed this one thief that he might be a glass in which we might behold the efficacy of ChristŐs death, but the like is not done to many men; no, not to one of a thousand. Let us rather consider the estate of the other thief, who neither by the dealing of his fellow nor by any speech of Christ could be brought to repentance. Let us not therefore defer our repentance to the hour of death; for then we shall have sore enemies against us: the world, the flesh and the devil; and a guilty conscience; and the best way is beforehand to prevent them. And experience shews that if a man defer repentance to the last gasp, often when he would repent he cannot. Let us take SolomonŐs counsel (Eccl. 12:1), Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the evil days come. If we will not hear the Lord when He calls us, He will not hear us when we call on Him.
(c) The third sign was the eclipsing or darkening of the sun from the sixth hour to the ninth. And this eclipse was miraculous. For by the course of nature the sun is never eclipsed but in the new moon; whereas contrariwise this eclipse was about the time of the Passover which was always kept at the full moon. Question is made touching the largeness of it; some moved by the words of Luke (Luke 23:44), who saith that darkness was upon the face of the whole earth, have thought that the eclipse was universal over the whole world; but I rather think that St LukeŐs meaning is that it was over the whole region or country of Jewry. For if such a wonder had happened over the whole world, all historiographers Greek and Latin, and astronomers, diligent observers of all eclipses, would have made special mention thereof. And though some writers say that it was over the whole earth, and that it was set down in record both by the Romans and Grecians; yet all their writings prove no more than this: that it was over Jewry and Galilee and the countries bordering near unto.
The uses of this miracle are manifold:
i. This darkening of the sun gives a check to the Jews for their crucifying of Christ. They were not ashamed to apprehend, accuse and condemn Him, yet this glorious creature the sun pulleth in his beams, being as it were ashamed to behold that which they were not ashamed to do.
ii. It serves to signify the great judgment of God to come upon the Jews. For as when Christ suffered, darkness was over all the land of Jewry, and all the world beside had the light of the sun, so shortly after blindness of mind (2 Cor. 3:14) was over the whole nation of the Jews and all the world besides saw the Sun of righteousness shining unto them in the preaching of the gospel (Mal. 4:1,2).
iii. It serves to advertise us that such as carry themselves towards Christ as the Jews did, have nothing else in them but darkness, and that they (Isa. 8:20; Luke 1:79) sit in the darkness and shadow of death; and therefore not able any whit better to see the way that leadeth unto life than he which is cast into a dark dungeon can; who, if they thus remain, shall at length be cast into utter darkness. This being the estate of all them that be forth of Christ, we must labour to be freed from this darkness, that the day star may arise in our hearts (2 Pet. 1:19), and shine upon us and put life into us.
iv. This miraculous and wonderful darkening of the sun doth convince the Jews that Christ whom they crucified was the Lord of glory, and the Saviour of the world; and it is very like that this was the principal end of this miracle. For whereas neither His doctrine nor His former miracles could move them to acknowledge Him for the Messiah, yet this one work of God doth as it were strike the nail to the head, and stop all their mouths.
v. Besides this, whereas at the very instant when Christ was about to make satisfaction to the justice of His Father for our sins, the sun was thus darkened; it teacheth us first, to think of the passion of Christ, not as of a light matter, but as one of the greatest wonders of the world, at the sight whereof the very frame of nature was changed; secondly, to think of our own sins as the vilest things in the world, and that they deserve the intolerable wrath of God; considering that at the time when they were to be abolished, the course of nature even in the very heavens is turned upside down.
(d) The fourth thing is the rending of the veil of the temple from the top to the bottom. The temple was divided into two parts; the more inward, into which no man might come but the high priest, and that once a year; and it was called the holy of holies; the other was that where the people came and offered sacrifices unto the Lord. Now that which parted the temple into these two parts was called the veil, and at the time of ChristŐs passion it was rent from the top to the very bottom. This hath divers uses:
i. The holy of holies signified the third heaven, where God sheweth Himself in glory and majesty unto His saints; and the rending of the veil figureth unto us that by the death of Christ, heaven which was otherwise shut by our sins, is now set open and a way made to enter thereto.
ii. It signifieth that by the death of Christ we have without impediment, free access to come to God the Father by earnest prayer in the name of Christ; which is a most unspeakable benefit.
iii. It signifieth that by ChristŐs death an end is put to all ceremonies, to ceremonial worship and the sacrifices of the Old Testament; and that therefore in the New Testament there remaineth one only real and outward sacrifice, that is, Christ crucified on the cross; and the whole service and worship of God for outward ceremonies most simple and plain.
iv. The temple was the chief and one of the most principal prerogatives that the Jews had; it was their glory that they had such a place wherein they might worship and do service to the true God; and for the templeŐs sake God often spared them, and therefore Daniel prays (Dan. 9:17), O Lord, hear the prayer of thy servant, and his supplication, and cause thy face to shine upon the sanctuary that lies waste for the LordŐs sake. Yet for all this, when they began to crucify the Lord of life, their prerogatives help them not, nay they are deprived thereof, and God even with His own hands rends the veil of the temple in sunder, signifying unto them that if they forsake Him He will also forsake them. And so we may say of the Church of England, no doubt for the gospelŐs sake we have outward peace and safety, and many other blessings, and are in account with other nations; yet if we make no conscience to obey the Word of God, and if we have no love of Christ and His members, God will at length remove His candlestick from us, and utterly deprive us of this ornament of the gospel, and make our land as odious unto all the world as the land of the Jews is at this day. Let us therefore with all care and diligence shew forth our love both to Christ Himself and to His members, and adorn the gospel which we profess, by bringing forth fruits worthy of it.
(e) The fifth sign is the earthquake, whereby hard rocks were cloven asunder. And it serves very fitly to signify further unto us:
i. That the sin of the Jews in putting Christ to death was so heavy a burden that the earth could not bear it but tremble thereat, though the Jews themselves made no bones of it. And it is a thing to be wondered at, that the earth doth not often in these days tremble and quake at the monstrous blasphemies and fearful oaths by the wounds and blood and heart of Christ, whereby His members are rent asunder, and He treacherously crucified again.
ii. Secondly, the earthquake shews unto us the exceeding and wonderful hardness of the hearts of the Jews, and ours also. They crucified Christ and were not touched with any remorse; and we can talk and hear of His death; yea, we can say He was crucified for our sins; and yet we are nothing affected therewith, our hearts will not rend, when as hard rocks cleave asunder.
iii. Thirdly, the moving of the earth and the rending of the rocks asunder, may be a sign unto us of the virtue of the doctrine of the gospel of Christ; which is nothing else but the publishing of the passion of His death; which being preached, shall shake heaven and earth, sea and land (Hag. 2:7). It shall move the earthen, hard and rocky hearts of men; and raise up of mere stones and rocks children unto Abraham.
iv. But the main use and end of this point is to prove that He that was crucified, was the true Messiah the Son of God, and therefore had the power of heaven and earth, and could move all things at His pleasure.
(f) The sixth sign of the power of Christ, is that graves did open and many bodies of the saints which slept arose (Matt. 27:52), and came out of their graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city and appeared unto many. The use of this sign is this: it signifies unto us that Christ by His death upon the cross did vanquish death in the grave, and opened it, and thereby testified that He was the resurrection and the life; so that it shall not have everlasting dominion over us; but that He will raise us up from death to life, and to everlasting glory.
(g) The seventh sign is the testimony of the centurion with his soldiers which stood by to see Christ executed. St. Mark saith (Mark 15:39), when he saw that Christ thus crying gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this was the Son of God.
Thus we see it is an easy matter for Christ to defend His own cause. Let Judas betray Him, Peter deny Him, and all the rest forsake Him, yet He can, if it so please Him, make the centurion that standeth by to see Him executed, to testify His innocency. But what was the occasion that moved him to give so worthy a testimony? St Matthew saith (Matt. 27:54) it was fear, and that fear was caused by hearing the loud cries of Christ, and by seeing the earthquake and things which were done. And this must put us in mind not to pass by GodŐs judgments which daily fall out in the world, but take knowledge of them, and as it were, to fix both our eyes on them. For they are notable means to strike and astonish the rebellious heart of man and to bring it in awe and subjection to God. After that the two first captains with their fifties, commanding the prophet Elijah to come down to king Ahaziah, were consumed with fire from heaven, the king sent his third captain over fifty with his fifty to fetch him down; but what doth he? It is said (2 Kin. 1:13), he fell on his knees before Elijah and besought him saying, O man of God, I pray thee, let my life and the lives of these fifty servants be precious in thine eyes. But what was the cause why he prayed thus? Surely he observed what judgments of God fell upon his two former fellow captains. Behold, saith he (v.14), there came down fire from heaven and devoured the two former captains with their fifties; therefore let my life be precious now in thy sight. Thus laying to his own heart and making use of GodŐs judgments, he humbled himself and was spared with his fifty. And Habakkuk saith (Hab. 3:16), When I heard thy voice, namely, of GodŐs judgments, rottenness entered into my bones, and I trembled in myself that I might be safe in the day of the Lord. Now what this fear of the centurion was, there is a further question, and it is very like that it was but a sudden motion, or a certain preparation to better things. For he was but an heathen man, and had as yet no knowledge of Christ, and whether he repented or not, it is uncertain; and we must not marvel at this; for there are many sudden motions in shew very good, that upon like occasions rise in the hearts of natural men. When God plagued the land of Egypt, then Pharoah sent for Moses and confessed (Exod. 9:27) that the Lord was righteous, but he and his people were wicked, and desired Moses to pray to God to take away the plague, who did so. But so soon as the hand of God was stayed (v.34), he returned to his old rebellion again. And as a dog that cometh out of the water shaketh his ears, and yet returneth unto it again; so is the manner of the world; when crosses and calamities befall men, as sickness, loss of friends or goods, then with Ahab they outwardly humble themselves, and go softly; they use to frequent that place where the Word is preached and GodŐs name called upon; but alas, common experience shews that those things are but fits arising of uncertain and flittering motions in the heart. For so soon as the cross is removed, they return to their old bias again, and become as bad and as backward as ever they were; being like to the tree that lies in the water, which for a while is green, but afterward withereth. And therefore we for our parts, when any good motions come into our hearts as the beginnings of further grace, we (I say) must not quench them, but cherish and preserve them, remembering (Matt. 13:31,32) that the kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed, which when it is sown is the least of all seeds; but afterward it groweth up into a tree, that the fouls of heaven may build their nests in it; and like to this are the first motions of GodŐs Spirit, and therefore they must be cherished and maintained.
(ii) And thus much for the seven signs of the power of ChristŐs Godhead. Now follows the second part of the triumph of Christ, which containeth signs of His victory upon the cross, notably expressed by Paul when he saith (Col. 2:14,15), And putting out the handwriting of ordinances which was against us, which was contrary to us, he even took it out of the way, and fastened it upon the cross, and hath spoiled the principalities and powers, and hath made a shew of them openly, and hath triumphed openly in the same. In which words he alludes to the manner of heathen triumphs; for it was the custom of the heathen princes, when they had gotten the victory over their enemies, first to cause a pillar of stone or some great oak to be cut down, and set up in the place of victory, upon which either the names of the chief enemies were set, or their heads were hanged, or words were written in the pillar to testify the victory. This being done, there followed an open shew, in which first the conqueror prepares for himself a chariot of victory wherein he was himself to ride, and then the chief of his enemies bound and pinioned, were led openly after him. Now on the same manner upon the cross there was a pitched field; the conqueror on the one side was Christ; His enemies on the other side were the world, the flesh, hell, death, damnation, the devil, and all his angels; all which, banding themselves against Him, were all subdued by Him upon the same cross; and He Himself gave two signs of His triumph, one was a monument of the victory, the other open shew of His conquest.
(a) Now the monument of ChristŐs victory was the cross itself whereon He nailed the obligation or bill which was against us; whereby Satan might have accused and condemned us before God. For we must consider that God the Father is a creditor and we all debtors unto Him; He hath a bill of our hands which is the law, in that it giveth testimony against us; first, by the legal washing, which did shew and signify that we were altogether defiled and unclean; secondly, by the sacrifices that were daily offered for the propitiation of our sins. Now Christ was our surety, and paid every jot of the debt which we should have paid, and requiring the acquittance, taketh the ceremonial law, and the curse of the moral law, and nails them to the cross.
(b) Furthermore in the shew of conquest, the chariot is the cross likewise; for it was not only a monument of victory, but also a chariot of triumph. And the captives bound and pinioned which follow Christ, are the principalities and powers, that is, the devil and his angels, hell, death and condemnation; all which are as it were taken prisoners, their armour and weapons are taken from them, and they chained and bound each to other.
The meditation of this point serveth:
(a) To admonish us to abandon all manner of sin, and to make conscience of every good duty, if we will aright possess the gospel of Christ; for when we sin, we do as it were pull Christ out of His chariot of triumph, and untie SatanŐs bonds, and give him weapons, and (as much as we can) make him valiant and strong again. Now for any man to make Satan and sin valiant and strong against himself, whereas Christ hath weakened him and bruised his head, is no better than to become an enemy of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18).
(b) Again, hereby we are taught to pray unto God that our blind eyes may be opened that we may discern aright of the passion of Christ. It is a wonder to see how men are carried away with a liking of vain shews, games and interludes; how they spend even whole days in beholding them, and their money also that they may come to the places where they are. Oh then how exceedingly ought our hearts to be ravished with this most admirable shew in which the Son of God Himself rides most gloriously in His chariot of triumph, and leads His and our most cursed enemies captive, yea treads them under His foot. This triumph is set forth unto us in the preaching of the gospel, and may be seen of us all freely without money, or moneyŐs worth. What wretches then shall we be if we suffer our hearts to be filled with earthly delights, and in the mean season have little or no desire to behold with the eyes of our mind this goodly spectacle that is to be seen in the passion of Christ that serves to revive and refresh our souls to life eternal?
(c) Thirdly, if Christ when He was most weak and base in the eyes of men, did most of all triumph upon the cross; then every one of us must learn to say with the apostle Paul (Gal. 6:14), God forbid that I should rejoice in anything, but in the cross of Christ Jesus our Lord. That we may say this truly, first of all we must labour to have the benefit of the cross of Christ, not only in the remission, but also in the mortification of our sins. Secondly, we must not be discomforted but rather rejoice and triumph therein. A Christian man can never have greater honour than to suffer for the gospel of Christ, when God calls him thereunto (1 Cor. 4:9); and therefore Paul setteth forth another most glorious shew which all those must make that suffer anything for GodŐs cause. They must encounter with the world, the flesh and the devil, and are placed as it were in a theatre; and in this conflict the beholders are men and angels; yea the whole host of heaven and earth; the umpire or judge is God Himself, who will give sentence of victory on their side, and so they shall overcome. We must not hereupon thrust ourselves into danger; but when it shall please God to call us thereunto, we must think ourselves highly honoured of Him. As when God sendeth loss of friends, of substance, or good name, or any other calamity, we must not despair or be over grieved, but rather rejoice and address ourselves then with our Saviour Christ to make a triumph.
II. And buried.
Thus much of ChristŐs triumph and the passion of His cross. Now followeth the second degree of His humiliation in these words: And buried. Where we must consider these points:
1. Why it was needful that Christ should be buried.
2. Who was the author of His burial.
3. The manner or preparation to His burial.
4. The place and time where and when He was buried.
Of these in order:
For the first, the causes are many, but especially four, why Christ was to be buried:
(i) That the truth and certainty of His death might be confirmed to us, and that no man might so much as imagine that His death was a fantastical death, or His body a fantastical body; for men use not to bury a living but a dead man; or a man in shew, but a true man.
(ii) That His burial might be unto Him a passage from the estate of humiliation to the estate of exaltation, which began in His resurrection; and He could not have risen again, if He had not been first of all buried.
(iii) That the outward humiliation in the form of a servant, which He took upon Him, might be continued upon Him to the lowest degree of all; and therefore it was not sufficient that He should be crucified even to death, but being dead, He must also be buried.
(iv) Christ was buried that He might not only vanquish death on the cross, but even after the manner of conquerors, subdue him at his own home, and as it were, pluck him out of his own cabin or den.
The authors of ChristŐs burial were (Matt. 27:57,58; Mark 15:43; John 19:38,39) Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who came to Jesus by night. Now concerning them and this their fact, there are many things worthy to be considered in this place:
(i) First of all, they were disciples of Christ, and the difference between them and the rest is to be considered. The other disciples though in number they were but few, yet in the feast before His passion they openly followed Him; but when Christ was to be arraigned, and the persecution of the church of the New Testament began in Him, then Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and the rest fled away; yet even at the same instant these two secret disciples of our Saviour Christ, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus take courage to themselves, and in time of danger openly profess themselves to be ChristŐs disciples by an honourable and solemn burial; God no doubt opening their hearts and enabling them to do so. The like is to be seen in all ages since the passion of Christ in the church of God, in which men zealous for the gospel in peace have been timorous in persecution, whereas weak ones have stood out against their enemies even unto death itself. The reason is because God will humble those His servants which are oftentimes endued with great measure of graces, and contrariwise exalt and strengthen the weak and feeble; and the same no doubt will be found true amongst us, if it should please God to send any new trial in the Church of England. This serves to teach us to think charitably of those which are as yet but weak among us; and withal in our profession to carry a low sail, and to think basely of ourselves, and in the whole course of our lives creep low by the ground, running on in fear and trembling, because the Lord oftentimes humbles those that be strong, and gives courage and strength to weak ones to boldly confess His name.
(ii) Secondly, whereas these two disciples have such care of the burial of Christ, we learn that it is our duty to be careful also for the honest and solemn burial of our brethren. The Lord Himself hath commanded it (Gen. 3:19), Thou art dust and to dust thou shalt return. Also the bodies of men are the good creatures of God, yea the bodies of GodŐs children are the temples of the Holy Ghost, and therefore there is good cause why they should be honestly laid in the earth. And it was a curse and judgment of God upon Jehoiakim (Jer. 22:19) that he must not be buried but like a dead ass be drawn and cast out of the gates of Jerusalem. And so the Lord threatens a curse upon the Moabites (Amos 2:1) because they did not bury the king of Edom, but burnt his bones into lime. And therefore it is a necessary duty, one neighbour and friend to look to the honest burial of another. Hence it follows that the practice of Spain and Italy and all the popish countries, which is to keep parts of menŐs bodies and such like relics of saints unburied, that they may be seen of men and worshipped, hath no warrant; dust they are, and to dust they ought to be returned.
Furthermore, the properties and virtues of both these men are severally to be considered:
(i) And first to begin with Joseph, he was a senator, a man of great account, authority and reputation among the Jews. It may seem a strange thing, that a man of such account would abase himself so much as to take down the body of Christ from the cross. It might have been a hindrance to him, and a disgrace to his estate and calling; as we see in these days, it would be thought a base thing for a knight or lord to come to the place of execution and take down a thief from the hands of the hangman to bury him; but this noble senator Joseph for the love he bare to Christ, made no account of his estate and calling, neither did he scorn to take upon him so base an office, considering it was for the honour of Christ. Where we learn that if we truly love Christ, and our hearts be set to believe in Him, we will never refuse to perform the basest service that may be for His honour; nothing shall hinder us. It is further said ((Luke 23:50,51) that he was a good man and a just, and also (Matt. 27:57) a rich man. And the first appeareth in this: that he would neither consent to the counsel nor act of the Jews in crucifying Christ. It is rare to find the like man in these days.
From this example we learn these lessons:
(a) That a rich man, remaining a rich man, may be a servant of God, and also be saved; for riches are the good blessings of God, and in themselves do no whit hinder a man in coming to Christ. But some will say, Christ Himself saith (Matt. 19:24), It is easier for a cable to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Answer: It is to be understood of a rich man, so long as he swelleth with a confidence in his wealth; but we know that if a cable be untwisted and drawn into small threads, it may be drawn through the eye of a needle; so he that is rich let him deny himself, abase himself and lay aside all confidence in himself, in his riches and honour, and be as it were, made small as a twine thread, and with this good senator Joseph become the disciple of Christ, he may enter into the kingdom of heaven. But Christ saith in the parable that riches are thorns (Matt. 13:7) which choke the grace of God. Answer: It is true, they are thorns in that subject or in that a man that putteth his trust in them; not in their own nature, but by reason of the corruption of manŐs heart, who makes of them his God.
(b) St John saith further that Joseph was a disciple of Christ (John 19:38), but yet a close disciple for fear of the Jews. And this shews that Christ is most ready to receive them that come unto Him, though they come laden with manifold wants. I say not this that any hereby should take boldness to live in their sins, but my meaning is that though men be weak in the faith, yet are they not to be dismayed, but to come to Christ, who refuseth none that come to Him. Draw near to God (saith St James (Jam. 4:8)) and He will draw near to you. Christ doth not forsake any, till they forsake Him first.
(c) Lastly, the Holy Ghost saith of him that he waited for the kingdom of God (Mark 15:43), that is, he did believe in the Messiah to come, and therefore did wait daily till the time was come, when the Messiah by His death and passion should abolish the kingdom of sin and Satan, and establish His own kingdom throughout the whole world. The same is said of Simeon (Luke 2:25), that he was a good man, and feared God, and waited for the consolation of Israel. This was the most principal virtue of all that Joseph had, and the very root of all his goodness and righteousness, that he waited for the kingdom of God; for it is the property of faith, whereby we have confidence in the Messiah to change our nature, and to purify the heart, and to make it bring forth works of righteousness. There be many among us that can talk of ChristŐs kingdom, and of redemption by Him, and yet make no conscience of sin, and have little care to live according to the gospel which they profess; and all is because they do not soundly believe in the Messiah, and they wait not for the kingdom of heaven, and therefore there is no change in them. But we for our parts must labour to have this affiance in the Messiah with Joseph, and to wait for the second appearance, that thereby we may be made new creatures, having the kingdom of Satan battered and beaten down in us, and the kingdom of God erected in our hearts.
(ii) Touching Nicodemus, St John saith (John 19:39) that he came to Jesus by night. Many men build upon this example, that it is lawful to be present at the mass; so be it in the mean season we keep out hearts to God; and indeed such men are like Nicodemus in that they labour to bury Christ as much as they can, though now after His resurrection He should not be buried again. But though Nicodemus durst not openly at the first profess the name of Christ, yet after His death when there is most danger, he doth; and by this means he reformeth his former action.
Thus much for the persons that buried Christ. The third thing to be observed is the manner of ChristŐs burial, which standeth in these four points:
(i) First, they take down His body from the cross.
(ii) Secondly, they wind it.
(iii) Thirdly, they lay it in a tomb.
(iv) Fourthly, the tomb is made sure.
Of these in order:
(i) First, Joseph taketh down the body of Christ from the cross whereon He was executed; but mark in what manner: he doth it not on his own head without leave, but he goeth to Pilate and beggeth the body of Christ and craveth liberty to take it down, because the disposing of dead bodies was in PilateŐs hand, he being deputy at that time; whereby we learn that in all our dealings and actions (though they have never so good an end) our duty is to proceed as peaceably with all men as may be, as St James saith (Jam. 3:17), The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, etc. Again, this teacheth us that in all things which concern the authority of the magistrate, and belong to him by the rule of GodŐs Word, we must attempt to do whatsoever we do by leave. And by this we see what unadvised courses they take, that being private men in this our church, will notwithstanding take upon them to plant churches without the leave of the magistrate being a Christian prince.
(ii) Having thus taken the body of Christ down, they go on to wind it. And Joseph for his part brought linen clothes (Mark 15:46), and Nicodemus a mixture of myrrh and aloes to the quantity of an hundred pounds for the honourable burial of Christ (John 19:39; Luke 24:1). His winding was on this manner: they wrapped His body hastily in linen cloths, sweet odours put thereto. Besides all this, in the JewsŐ burials there was an embalming and washing of the body, but ChristŐs body was not embalmed or washed, because they had no time to do it, for the preparation of the Passover drew near. And whereas these two men bury Christ at their own cost and charges, we are taught to be like affected to the living members of Christ; when they want, we must relieve and comfort them liberally and freely. It may be here demanded whether men may not be at cost in making funerals, considering even Christ Himself is with much cost buried. Answer: The bodies of all dead men are to be buried in seemly and honest manner, and if they be honourable, they may be buried honourably; yet now there is no cause why menŐs bodies should be washed, anointed and embalmed, as the use was among the Jews; for they used embalming as a pledge and sign of the resurrection but now since ChristŐs coming we have a more certain pledge thereof (1 Cor. 15:19), even the resurrection of Christ Himself, and therefore it is not requisite that we should use embalming and washing as the Jews did. And the clause which is specified in St Matthew (Matt. 27:59) is not to be omitted, that Joseph wrapped ChristŐs body in a clean linen cloth; whereby we learn that howsoever the strange fashions fetched from Spain and Italy are monstrous and to be abhorred, yet, seeing the body of a man is the creature of God, therefore it must be arrayed in cleanly manner, and in holy comeliness (Tit. 2:3). Paul requires the ministers of the gospel in all things be seemly or comely; and herein he ought to be a pattern of sobriety unto all men (1 Tim. 3:2).
(iii) Thirdly, after they have wound the body of Christ, they lay it in a tomb (John 19:42), and,
(iv) Lastly, they make it sure, closing it up with a stone rolled over the mouth of it. Also the Jews request Pilate to seal it that none might presume to open it (Matt. 27:60,66). Besides they set a band of soldiers to watch the tomb and to keep it that His body be not stolen away. Many reasons might be alleged of this their dealing, but principally it came to pass by the providence of God that hereby He might confirm the resurrection of Christ. For whereas the Jews would neither be moved by His doctrine, nor by His works and miracles to believe, He causeth this to be done, that by the certainty of His resurrection, He might convince them of hardness of heart, and prove that He was the Son of God.
Thus much of the manner of His burial. Now follows the place where Christ was buried. In the place we are to mark three things:
(i) First, that Christ was laid in JosephŐs tomb, whereby we may gather the greatness of ChristŐs poverty in that He had not so much ground as to make Himself a grave in; and this must be a comfort to the members of Christ that are in poverty. And it teacheth them, if they have no more but food and raiment, to be therewith content (1 Tim. 6:8), knowing that Christ their Head and King hath consecrated this very estate unto them.
(ii) Secondly, the tomb wherein Christ was laid was a new tomb wherein never man lay before. And it was the special appointment of GodŐs providence that it should be so, because if any man had been buried there aforetime, the malicious Jews would have pleaded that it was not Christ that rose again, but some other.
(iii) Thirdly, we must observe that this tomb was in a garden, as the fall of man was in a garden and as the apprehension of Christ in a garden beyond the brook Kidron (John 19:41; Gen. 3:8; John 18:1). And here we must note the practice of a good man: this garden was the place of JosephŐs delight and holy recreation, wherein he used to solace himself in beholding the good creatures of God; yet in the same place doth he make his own grave long before he died; whereby it appears that his recreation was joined with a meditation of his end; and his example must be followed of us. True it is, God hath given us His creatures not only for necessity, but also for our lawful delight; but yet our duty is to mingle therewith serious meditation and consideration of our last end. It is a brutish part to use the blessings and creatures of God, and not at all to be bettered in regard of our last end by a further use thereof.
The time when Christ was buried was the evening, wherein the Sabbath was to begin according to the manner of the Jews, which began their days at sun-setting, from evening to evening, according to that in Genesis: The evening and the morning was the first day (Gen. 1:5,8,13,19,23,31). Now Joseph cometh a little before evening and beggeth the body of Christ and burieth it; where note that howsoever we are not bound to keep the Sabbath so strictly as the Jews were, yet when we have any business or work to be done of our ordinary calling, we must not take part of the LordŐs Sabbath to do it in, but prevent the time, and do it either before, as Joseph did, or rather after the Sabbath. This is little practised in the world. Men think, if they go to church before and afternoon to hear GodŐs Word, then all the day after they may do what they list, and spend the rest of the time at their own pleasure; but the whole day is the LordŐs and therefore must be spent wholly in His service, both by the public hearing of the Word, and also by private reading and meditation on the same.
To conclude the doctrine of ChristŐs burial. Here it may be demanded how He was always after His incarnation both God and man, considering that He was dead and buried, and therefore body and soul was sundered, and a dead man seems to be no man? Answer: A dead man in his kind is a true man as a living man; for though body and soul be not united by the body of life, yet are they united by a relation which the one hath to the other in the counsel and good pleasure of God; and that as truly as man and woman remain coupled into one flesh by covenant of marriage, though afterward they be distant a thousand miles asunder. And by virtue of this relation, every soul in the day of judgment shall be reunited to his own body, and every body to his own soul. But there is yet a more straight bond between the body and soul of Christ in His death and burial. For as when He was living, His soul was a mean or bond to unite His Godhead and His body together; so when He was dead His very Godhead was a mean or middle bond to unite the body and soul; and to say otherwise is to dissolve the hypostatical union, by virtue whereof ChristŐs body and soul though severed from each other, yet both were still joined to the Godhead of the Son.
The use and profit which may be made of ChristŐs burial is twofold:
1. It serveth to work in us the burial of all our sins. Know ye not (saith Paul (Rom. 6:3,4)) that all who have been baptised into Christ have been baptised into His death, and are buried with Him by baptism into His death? If any shall demand how a man is buried into the death of Christ, the answer is this: Every Christian man and woman are by faith mystically united to Christ, and made all members of one body, whereof Christ is the Head. Now therefore as Christ by the power of His Godhead when He was dead and buried, did overcome the grave and the power of death in His own Person; so by the very same power, by means of His spiritual conjunction doth He work in all His members a spiritual death and burial of sin and natural corruption. When the Israelites were in burying of a man (1 Kin. 13:1), for fear of the soldiers of the Moabites, they cast him for haste into the sepulchre of Elisha. Now the dead man, so soon as he was down and had touched the body of Elisha, he revived and stood upon his feet; so let a man that is dead in sin be cast into the grave of Christ, that is, let him by faith but touch Christ dead and buried, it will come to pass by the virtue of ChristŐs death and burial, that he shall be raised from death and bondage of sin to become a new man.
2. Secondly, the burial of Christ serves to be a sweet perfume of all our graves and burials; for the grave in itself is the house of perdition, but Christ by His burial hath as it were consecrated and perfumed all our graves; and instead of houses of perdition hath made them chambers of rest and sleep (Isa. 57:2), yea beds of down; and therefore howsoever to the eye of man the beholding of a funeral is terrible, yet if we could then remember the burial of Christ, and consider how He thereby hath changed the nature of the grave, even then it would make us to rejoice. Lastly, we must imitate ChristŐs burial in being continually occupied in the spiritual burial of our sins.
Thus much of the burial.