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3. The persons for whom it is desired, his bloody murderers; Father, forgive them. 4. The argument used, or motive urged, to procure this mercy: Forgive them, for they himow not what they do. Learn hence, 1. That ignorance is the usual cause of enmity against Christ. 2. That there is forgiveness with God, for such as oppose, yea, persecute Christ out of ignorance. That to forgive enemies, and to beg forgiveness for them, is an evidence of a Christ-like frame of Spirit; Father, forgive them : not that the gospel requires of us an insensibility of wrongs and injuries; that allows us a sense of offered evils though it forbids us to revenge them; yet the more tender our resentments are, the more excellent our forgiveness is: so that a forgiving spirit doth not exclude a sense of injuries; but the sense of injuries graces the forgiveness of them : neither doth the gospel require us, under the notion of forgiving injuries, to deliver up our rights and properties to the lusts of every one that will invade them, but meekly to receive evil, and readily to return good.
35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ the chosen of God. 36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37 And saying, If thou be the King of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him, in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.
Observe here, 1. A mighty aggravation of our Lord's sufferings upon the cross; namely, the mocking derision which he met with in his dying moments. As he endured the pain so he despised the shame; cruel mockings was our Lord tried with, both from the common people and from the chief priests; yet the common people's reviling him, and wagging their heads at him, was not so much to be taken notice of, as the chief priests, who were men of age and gravity, and the ministers of religion : for them barbarously to mock him in his misery; and, what was worse, atheistically to jeer and scoff at his faith and affiance in God, saying, He trusted in God that he would deliver him ; let him deliver him, if he will have him; this was such an indignity as confounds our thoughts. But from hence we learn, 1. That persecutors are
generally atheistical scoffers : the chief priests and elders, who persecuted Christ, do blaspheme God; they mock at his power, and deride his providence, which was as wicked as to deny his being. 2. We learn from this example, that such as minister to God in holy things by way of office, if they be not the best, they are generally the worst of men; no such bitter enemies to the power of godliness, as such preachers who were never experimentally acquainted with the efficacy and power of it upon their own hearts and lives. Observe, 2. The inscription wrote by Pilate over our suffering Saviour, this is Jesus, the king of the Jews. It was the custom of the Romans, when they crucified a malefactor, to publish the cause of his death in capital letters, placed over the head of the person. Now it is observable how wonderfully the wisdom of God overruled the heart and pen of Pilate, to draw this title, which was truly honourable, and fix it to his cross. Pilate is Christ's herald, and proclaims him King of the Jews. Learn hence, That the kingship and regal dignity of Christ was proclaimed by an enemy, and that in time of his greatest sufferings and reproaches. Pilate without his knowledge did our Saviour an eminent piece of service: verily, he did that for Christ which none of his own disciples durst do ; not that he did it designedly, and with any intent to put honour upon Christ, but from the special overruling providence of God. No thanks to Pilate for all this; because the highest services performed for Christ undesignedly, shall never be acceptednor rewarded by him. 39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged, railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering, rebuked him, saying, Dost thou not fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation ? 41 And we indeed justly: for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. Here we have a further aggravation of our Lord's sufferings upon the cross, from the company he suffered with, the two thieves who reviled him with the rest. St. Matthew and St. Mark say, they both reviled him; St. Luke says one of them reviled; possibly both of them might do it at first, and one of them repent ; which, if so, increases the wonder of the penitent thief's conversion. From the impenitent thief's reviling of Christ, when he was at the very point of death, and even in the suburbs of hell, we learn, That neither shame nor pain will change the mind of a resolute sinner; but even then, when he is in the suburbs of hell, will he blaspheme. From the penitent thief's confessing of Christ, and praying to him, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom; we learn, both the efficacy and freeness of divine grace. 1. The efficacious power of it: O how powerful must that grace be, v iich wrought such a change in an instant, which supplied that heart in a moment, which had been hardening in sin for so many years. 2. The freeness of it; which takes hold of his heart, when he was at the height of sin, and was not only void of grace, but seemed past grace. O the powerful efficacy and adorable freeness of the heartchanging grace of God in this vile person; it disposed him to own his sin; to confess the justness of his punishment, to justify Christ's innocency, to reprove his fellow companion, to pray to a crucified Christ, and to intercede with him, not for present deliverance from death, but for a place in Christ's kingdom. Where we learn, 1. That true conversion is never too late for obtaining mercy and salvation. 2. That true conversion, how late soever, will have its fruits: the fore-mentioned fruits of faith and repentance were found with this penitent thief; yet must not this extraordinary case be drawn into example. This extraordinary and miraculous grace of God is not to be expected ordinarily : we have no warrant to expect an overpowering degree of God's grace to turn our heart in an instant at the hour of death, when we have lived in forgetfulness of God, and in a supine neglect of our soul's concerns all the days of our life; for it is evident as to this case of the penitent thief’s conversion at the last hour, 1. It is an example without a promise. 2. It is but a single example. 3. It is an example recorded but by one evangelist: the Spirit of God, foreseeing what an ill use some would make of this instance, leaves one example upon record, that none might despair; and but one, that none might presume. 4. This thief probably had never any knowledge of Christ before. 5. This thief improved his time at last, as never did any before or after; for he believed Christ to be the Saviour of the world; when one disciple had betrayed, another denied, and all had forsaken him; he owned him to be the Son of God, the Lord of life, when he was suf
fering the pains of death, and seemingly deserted by his Father: he proclaims him Lord of paradise, and disposer of the kingdom of heaven, when the Jews had condemned him, and the Gentiles cruci. fied him as the vilest of impostors. He feared God, owned the justice of his punishment; was solicitous, not for the preservation of his body, but for the sak vation of his soul; yea, not for his own only, but of his brother's that suffered with him; so that he glorified Christ more at the moment of his death, than some do in the whole course of their lives. 6. This was a miracle, with the glory whereof Christ would honour the ignominy of his cross: so that we have no more ground to expect such another conversion, than we have to expect a second crucifixion. This converted person was the first fruits of the blood of the cross. From whence we learn, That God can, and sometimes doth, though very seldom, prepare men for glory, immediately before their dissolution by death. His grace is his own, he may dispense it how, and when, where, and to whom he pleases; yet this is no more warrant to neglect the ordinary, because God doth sometimes manifest his grace in an extraordinary way. True, in this conversion, we have a pattern of what free grace can do; but it is a pattern without a promise: where we have not a promise to encourage our hope, our hope is nothing but presumption.
43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To-day shalt thou be with me in paradise.
These words are our Saviour's gracious answer to the penitent thief's humble prayer, Lord, remember me in thy kingdom, says the thief; To-day shalt thou be with me in my kingdom, says our Saviour. Where note, 1. The immortality of the souls of men is without all doubt: our desires after, and hopes for, immortality, do prove our souls immortal, and capable of that state. The souls of men die not with their bodies, but remain in a state of sensibility. 2. That there is a future and eternal state, into which souls pass at death. Death is our passage out of the swift river of time, into the boundless and bottomless ocean of eternity. 3. That the souls of all the righteous at death are immediately received into a state of happiness and glory; This day shalt thou be with me; not after the resurrection, but immediately after thy dissolution. That man's soul is asleep, or worse, that dreams of the soul's sleeping till the re. surrection: for why should the believers'
happiness be deferred, when they are immediately capable of enjoying it? Why should their salvation slumber, when the wicked's damnation slumbereth not ? How do such delays consist with Christ's ardent desires, and his people's vehement longing to be together? 44 And it was about the sixth hour, and there was a darkness over all the earth, until the ninth hour. 45 And the sun was darkened, and the vail of the temple was rent in the midst. 46 And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. 47 Now when the centurion saw what was done, he glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man. 48 And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned. 49 And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Gallilee, stood asar off, beholding these things.
Observe here, 1. What prodigies in nature happened and fell out at the crucifixion of our Saviour; the sun was darkened at the setting of the Sun of Righteousness; and the veil of the temple was rent; signifying that God was now about to forsake his temple; that the ceremonial law was now abolishing, and the partition-wall betwixt Jew and Gentile being now pulling down, all may have access to God through the blood of a Mediator. Observe, 2. The last prayer of our Saviour before his death, Father, into thy hands Icommend my spirit, they are words full of faith, and comfort, fit to be the last breathings of every gracions soul in this world. Learn hence, That dying believers are both warranted and encouraged by Christ's example, believingly to commend their precious souls into the hands of God as a gracious father, Father, into thy hands. Observe, 3. What influence our Saviour's death had upon the centurion: He glorified God, saying, Verily, this was a righteous man. Here note, That Christ had a testimony of his innocency and righteousness given unto him from all sorts of persons whatsoever: Pilate and Herod pronounced him innocent; Pilate's wife proclaimed him a righteous person; Judas, the traitor, declared it was innocent blood; the thief on the cross affirmed he had done nothing amiss; and the centurion owned him to
be a righteous man; yea, the Son of God. Mark rv. 39. Only the Pharisees and chief priests, which were teachers of others; not ignorance, but obstinacy and malice, blinded and hardened them to their ruin and destruction; instead of owning and receiving him for their Saviour, they ignominiously put him to death as the vilest impostor. 50 And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just: 51 (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them :) he was of Arimathea, a city of the Jews; who also himself waited for the kingdom of God. 52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus. 53 And he took it down, and wrapped it in linen, and laid it in a sepulchre that was hewn in stone, wherein never man before was laid. 54 And that day was the preparation, and the sabbath drew on. 55 And the women also, which came with him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how the body was laid. 56 And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments: and rested the sabbath-day, according to the coinmandments. The circumstances of our Lord's funeral and honourable interment are here recorded by our evangelist; such a funeral as never was since graves were first digged. Where observe, 1. Our Lord's body must be begged before it could be buried; the dead bodies of malefactors being in the power, and at the disposal, of the judge that condemns them. Observe, 2. The person that begged his body, and bestowed a decent and honourable burial upon it: Joseph of Arimathea, a worthy, though a close disciple. Grace does not always make a public and open show where it is: but as there is much secret treasure in the bowels of the earth, though unseen, so is there much grace in the hearts of some saints, which the world takes little notice of Observe, 3. The mourners that followed our Saviour's hearse to the grave; the women which came out of Galilee; a poor train of mourners. The apostles, who should have been most officious to bear his holy body to the ground, were some time since all scattered, afraid to own their Master, either dying or dead. Funeral pomp had been no way suitable, either to the end or one: of our Lord's 2
death, and accordingly here is nothing like it. Observe, 4. The grave or sepulchre in which our holy Lord lay; it was a sepulchre hewn out of a rock; that so his enemies might have no occasion to say, that his disciples stole him away by secret holes, and unseen passages under ground. It was in a new sepulchre, wherein never man was laid before, lest his adversaries should say, it was another that was risen, who was buried there before him. And he was buried in a garden; as by the sin of the first Adam we were driven out of the garden of pleasure, the earthly paradise, so by the sufferings of the second Adam, who lay buried in a garden, we may hope for entrance into the heavenly paradise. Observe, 5. The manner of our Lord's funeral; it was hasty, open, and decent. Hasty, because of the preparation for the Sabbath; open, that all persons might be spectators, and none might say, he was buried before he was dead; decent, being wrapped up in fine linen, and perfumed with spices. Observe, 6. The reason why our Lord was thus buried, seeing he was to rise again in as short a time as other men lie by the walls; doubtless it was to declare the certainty of his death, to fulfil the types and prophecies which went before him; as Jonas's being three days and three nights in the whale's belly. He was also buried, to complete his humiliation. This was the lowest step to which he could descend in his abased state. In a word, Christ descended into the grave, that he might conquer death in its own territories and dominions. Observe, 7. Of what use our Lord's burial is to his followers; it shows us the amazing depths of his humiliation, from what, and to what, his love brought him, even from the bosom of his Father, to the bosom of the grave. It may comfort us against the fears of death, and the terrros of the grave: the grave could not long keep Christ, it shall not always keep Christians: it was a loathsome prison before, it is a perfumed bed now : he whose head is in heaven, need not fear to put his feet into the grave. Awake and sing, thou that dwellest in the dust, for the enmity of the grave is slain by Christ.
The last chapter of St. Luke's Gospel contains the History of our Saviour's resurrection, and gives us an account of what he did upon earth, between the time of his glorious resurrection and triumphantascension,
OW upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, hey came unto the sepulchre, bring
ing the spices which they had pre: pared, and certain others with them. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus, 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you, when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words, 9 And returned from the sepulchre and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. 12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre, and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass. The Lord of life, who was put to death upon the Friday, was buried in the evening of the same day; and his holy body rested in the silent grave all the next day, being the Jewish sabbath, and some part of the morning following. Thus rose he again the third day, according to the scriptures, neither sooner nor later; not sooner, lest the truth of his death should have been questioned that he did not die at all; not later, lest the faith of his disciples should have failed. Accordingly, when the sabbath was passed, Mary Magdalene getting the other women together, she and they set out very early in the morning, to visit the holy sepulchre, and about sunrising they get to it, intending with their spices and odours farther to embalm the Lord's body. Observe here, 1.That although the hearts of these holy women did burn with an ardent zeal and affection to their crucified Lord ; yet the commanded duties of the sabbath are not omitted by them;
they keep close, and silently spend that holy day in a mixture of grief and hope. A good pattern of sabbath sanctification, and worthy of our imitation. Observe, 2. These holy women go, but not empty handed: she that had bestowed a costly alabaster upon Christ whilst alive, prepares no less precious odours for him now dead; thereby paying their last homage to our Saviour's corpse. But what need of odours to perfume a precious body, which could not see corruption 4 True, his holy body did not want them, but the love and affection of his friends could not withhold them. Observe, 3. How great a tribute of respect and honour is due and payable to the memory of these holy women, for their great magnanimity and courage : they followed Christ when his cowardly disciples left him; they accom
anied him to his cross, they attended his
earse to the grave, when his disciples did not, durst not appear, and now very early in the morning they visit his sepulchre, fearing neither the darkness of the night, nor the presence of the watchmen, though a band of rude soldiers. Learn hence, That courage and resolution is the special gift of God: if he gives it to the feeble sex, even to timorous and fearful women, it shall not be in the power of armed men to make them afraid, But to a close consideration of the several circumstances relating to the resurrection of our holy Lord : Note 1. With what pomp and triumph our holy Lord arises; two men, that is, two angels in the shape of men, ver, 4. are sent from heaven to roll away the stone. But could not Christ have risen then without the angels' help ? Yes, doubtless he that raised himself could easily have rolled away the stone himself; but God thinks fit to send an officer from heaven to open the prison door of the grave; and by setting our Surety at liberty, proclaims our debt to the divine justice fully satisfied. Besides, it was fit that the angels who had been witnesses of our Saviour's passion, should also be witnesses of his resurrection. Note, 2. Our Lord's resurrection declared, He is risen, he is not here. Almighty God never intended that the darling of his soul should be left in an obscure sepulchre. He is not here, said the angels, where you laid him, where you left him; death has lost its prey, and the grave has lost its prisoner. Note, 3. It is not said, He is not here, for he is raised; but He is risen ver 6. The original word imports the active power of Christ, or the self-quickening principle by which Christ raised himself from the dead, Acts i. He showed himself alive after his
passion. Hence learn, That it was the divine nature or Godhead of Christ, which raised the human nature from death to life; others were raised from the grave by Christ's power, but he raised himself by his own power. Note, 4. The persons to whom our Lord's resurrection was first declared and made known ; to women, to the two Marys. But why to women? and why to these women To women first, because God sometimes makes choice of weak means for producing great effects; knowing that the weakness of the instrument redounds to the greater honour of the agent. In the whole dispensation of the gospel, God intermixes divine power with human weakness. Thus the conception of Christ was by the power of the Holy Ghost; but his mother, a poor woman, a carpenter's spouse. So the crucifixion of Christ was in much meanness and outward baseness, being crucified between two thieves ; but the powers of heaven and earth trembling,the rocks rending, the graves opening, showed a mixture of divine power. Thus here, God selects women to declare, that he will honour what instruments he pleases, for the accomplishment of his own purposes. But why to these women, the two Marys, is the first discovery made of our Lord's resurrection 1 Possibly it was a reward for their magnanimity and masculine courage. These women clave to Christ, when the apostles forsook him: they assisted at his cross, they attended at his funeral, they waited at his sepulchre; these women had more courage than the apostles, therefore God makes them apostles to the apostles. This is a tacit rebuke, a secret check given to the apostles, that they should be thus outdone by women; these holy women went before the apostles in the last services that were done for Christ, and therefore the apostles here come after them in their rewards and comforts. Note, 5, The quick message which these holy women carry to the disconsolate disciples, of the joyful news of our Saviour's resurrection; they returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things to the eleven, ver. 9. And the other evangelists say, That they were sent and bidden to go to the apostles with the notices of the resurrection, Go tell the disciples, says the angel, Matt. xxviii. 7. Go tell my brethren, says Christ, ver. 10. A most endearing expression. Christ might have said, “Go tell my apostate apostles, my cowardly disciples, that left me in my danger, and durst not own me in the high-priest’s hall, that durst not come within the shadow of my cross, not