« PreviousContinue »
THE ATTRACTION OF THE CROSS.
John xii. 32. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men
HE sufferings of our blessed Lord had this peculiarity in them,-they were all exactly foreseen. In great mercy God hides from us the particular trials we shall hereafter endure. He knows our infirmities, and that the foresight of future calamities would not only deprive us of present enjoyment, but prevent our activity and usefulness in the world. But the Lord Jesus Christ (the speaker in our text) had an exact foreknowledge of all the sufferings he was to endure; and he often dropped a hint concerning them to his disciples, though they knew not well what he meant. To Nicodemus he had long before said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so shall the Son of Man be lifted up," and when he was journeying to Jerusalem, for the last time, he said to his disciples, "Behold we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man shall be delivered unto the chief priests and to the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles, and they shall mock him, and scourge him, and spit upon him, and shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise Z
again." Yet, with all these sufferings full in view, he was vigorous and active in all the work which the Father had given him to do, and never shrunk from his arduous undertaking, though he knew that suffering and death were at hand. Homer exalts the character of his hero Achilles, because, when going forth to the Trojan war, he knew he should fall in the conflict. Far greater was the fortitude of our Divine Saviour, who had in certain prospect, sufferings infinitely greater; so that it was truly said by our British poet, that
"This was compassion like a God,
These words of our text were spoken on a memorable occasion. Some pious strangers coming to Jerusalem, expressed to his disciples a wish to be introduced to him; "they desired to see Jesus." Our Lord rejoiced, because it was a prelude to the introduction of us poor Gentiles into his church; but before this could take place, he must die; for as a grain of wheat must first perish in the earth, before it is productive of fruit, so must Jesus become a sacrifice for sin by his death, that those who believe in him may not perish, but have everlasting life. And then observe in our text the happy effect. He, the blessed Redeemer, having been lifted up upon the cross, exalted to glory, and exhibited in the Gospel, he shall prove the grand attractive, the heavenly loadstone; he shall, by the preaching of his Gospel, and by the influence of his Spirit, draw to himself, in faith, and love, and obedience, all men," that is, all true Christians, in every country, and in every age. Yes, millions of millions of immortal souls, saved from sin, and hell, and the grave, shall forsake all and cleave to him, so that nothing shall be able to separate them from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
From these pleasing and instructive words we shall take occasion to consider,
"The elevation of the blessed Jesus upon "the Son of man shall be lifted up.'
First. the cross;"
Secondly. The attractive effect of that elevation ; "I will draw all men unto me.' ""
We are first to consider the elevation of the blessed Jesus upon the cross; for this is, doubtless, intended, as appears from the words immediately following the text-" this he spake, signifying what death he should die."
And here let us reflect both upon the matter of fact itself; and upon the great design of it. The matter of fact itself is deeply interesting and affecting. Behold the Sufferer! He is no ordinary person. He is a great; He is an innocent; He is a benevolent; yea, he is a divine person. The sufferings of the great and noble, of princes, and kings, usually excite peculiar interest. When did ever such a glorious person suffer? "They killed the prince of life;" "they crucified the Lord of glory:" and, if a person, innocent as well as exalted, expire like a criminal, what sympathy is excited! Never was there so innocent a sufferer as the Lord Jesus; it never could be said of any other, "he did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth;" for he was the holy "Lamb of God, without blemish and without spot. If a person of unusual benevolence suffer, every heart throbs with sorrow, if not with indignation; but never was there a sufferer so benevolent as Jesus; his heart was all goodness and tenderness, and he had spent all his time and his strength in going about to do good. O, if all the objects of his tender compassion had been collected around his cross, what an affecting group would they have formed! If all the persons whose eyes he had opened, whose ears he had unstopped, whose
limbs he had restored, whose diseases he had healed, whose sorrows he had assuaged,-had they all been gathered around the tree, what a numerous body would they have been! and would they not have been ready to exclaim, He must not die; or, if he must die, let us die with him: but the bulk of the spectators was very differently affected. Filled with rage, they added insult to cruelty, and they took a savage delight in his shame and torment. His glory was indeed veiled, and to the eyes of sense he appeared a forlorn and deserted malefactor; yet amidst all his sufferings, there were some enlightened persons who "beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Yea, the more thoughtful among the multitude were deeply affected with the awful prodigies which attended his crucifixion; and were constrained to say, "Surely this was the Son of God!"
Contemplate his sufferings, and say if ever there were "any sorrow like unto his sorrow." He was indeed “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;" but the keenest sufferings were reserved to the last. When "his hour" was approaching, hear what he says, "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say?" shall I say, "Father, save me from this hour?" No; he would not say that, because it was for that very purpose that he was come into the world.
Consider the agonies of his soul in the garden of Gethsemane. Think of them, you who have pleasant gardens; while you tread on the smooth walks, behold the beautiful flowers, and inhale their various sweets-think of the Lord of life and glory, in that garden where, to expiate the sins which first commenced in Eden, "he was sorrowful and very heavy;" he was "sorrowful even unto death." The agony of his soul forced great drops of blood from every pore of his body. Behold him prostrate on the cold ground, embracing, as it were, the dust for us, who are sinful dust and ashes, that he might raise us to
mansions above the stars. Hear his doleful cries. He had been accustomed to suffer, but not to complain: but now, he could no more be silent. "My soul, said he, is exceeding sorrowful even unto death. Abba, Father'; all things are possible with thee. my Father, if this cup may not pass from me, except I drink it, thy will be done: and again, being in an agony, he prayed the more earnestly," "pouring out strong cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death."
At length the traitor arrives, at the head of an armed banditti: the hypocritical Judas betrays him. Jesus speaks; and his adversaries fall, like dead men, to the ground; they rise, and renew the assault; he submits, and is bound; he is carried away like a criminal. O what sorrows succeeded throughout that tedious night! while he was hurried from place to place to the house of Caiaphas, of Pilate, of Herod, and Pilate again. He was falsely accused, and cruelly condemned. O what base falsehoods, what gross injustice! Smitten upon the cheek-spit upon-crowned with sharp thorns-and severely scourged in the Roman manner. See him, bearing, weary and spent, the heavy cross upon his bleeding shoulders! He is stretched, at length, upon the accursed tree; his hands and feet nailed to it with large spikes; from thence suspended, bleeding and agonizing, for several hours; exposed to the insults and mockery of an enraged multitude! In the mean time, there were sufferings far more severe than any that could be inflicted upon his body by the hands of wicked men-agonies that excruciated his whole soul! Who can explain the meaning of those mysterious words" My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me!" Yet, amidst all this scene of woe; heaven appears to commiserate. The sun, as if ashamed of the atrocious deed, withdrew its light, and the rocks, less insensible than the hearts of men, were cleft asunder; the solid earth itself was convulsed; and the graves, as if conscious