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unable to bear the weight of his cross,-He was willing, but he was not able. Ob, may we not trust Him to pity us when fainting beneath those griefs and trials which he has Himself “ called taking up the cross ; we are unable to follow Him as fully as we desire. Each painful step was taken for our sakes. He remembers now, what he endured then. He bent beneath the weight, that our load might be lightened, and it is lightened by the very knowledge that He knows what we feel, that He pities and sympathizes with us, and that He will send us help in our hour of need; He will not lay upon us more than we are able to bear. When His bodily strength failed, He was Himself eased of the burden : perhaps God so ordered it to show, as in a picture, to all the followers of Christ, that they shall not be tried beyond what they are able. Certainly we have no reason to think that it was out of pity that the cruel soldiers who guarded our blessed Lord, took from him the burthen of the
Far more likely it was to hurry him on ; His fainting steps were slow, and the day was wearing away. They looked about for some one on whom to lay the shameful burthen. There was coming up to Jerusalem that way, a stranger from a far distant land, Simon from Cyrene, a place where there was settled a great number of Jews : on him the soldiers seized, and forced him to bear the cross for Jesus. It is written,
LUKE xxiii. 26. “They laid hold upon one Simon, a Cyrenian, coming out of the country, and on him they laid the cross, that he might bear it after Jesus.”
Matthew and Mark tell us that they compelled, forced, him to bear it. Perhaps He had stopped amazed, as He came nigh the city gates, to see come forth from them, at this time of public rejoicing, so sad a spectacle. It was in the midst of the passover, to which it is probable he was hastening. Jerusalem ought at that time to be filled with religious gladness; it was a season of sacred joy, and behold, from its gates comes forth a savage crowd, and among them priests and elders of the people. The name of Christ is shouted forth, with frantic yells of “Crucify Him, crucify Him!” and He, the fame of whose miracles of love and power had filled the land, is seen fainting beneath the burthen of the shameful cross ! No wonder if Simon stood amazed, and showed his feelings by his looks of pity and astonishment. If this were so, and it could scarcely have been otherwise, it was quite enough to induce the jeering soldiers to seize upon him for their purpose, and to lay upon his shoulders the cross, even the sight of which at such a time must have been to him so unseemly. We do not know whether this Simon had been favorable to the cause of Christ, but little could he have dreamed when he left his house a thousand miles away, how his long journey was to end ! * His name has become almost sacred in our memory, for he lightened the Saviour's burden. It was no apostle, no known disciple, who could have the blessed remembrance, that on him had been laid the load beneath which our Lord was fainting ; but one who came unawares upon the cruel scene. St. Mark adds, that he was the father of Alexander and Rufus, and by thus naming his sons, he no doubt explained to those for whom his gospel was at first written, who Simon was. They must therefore have been wellknown among the early Christians. Now we find the Apostle Paul mentions as one of the saints, “Rufus, chosen in the Lord;” and his mother surely must have been one of those who for Christ's sake “bestowed much labour” upon his apostle ; for in writing of her and Rufus, he says "his mother and mine."
These things have caused it to be believed, that whatever Simon of Cyrene had been before, he and his family became con
* Cyrene was a city of Lybia, on the African coast, between Carthage and Egypt. It was inhabited by Jews who had a Synagogue there; and they maintained so close a connection with Jerusalem, that there was in it a Synagogue for their especial use. We know from the 10th verse of the with. chapter of Acts, that they were in the habit of attending the Jewish feasts.-See Lessons on the Diatessaron, Oxford, p. 669.
verted to the faith as it was in Christ Jesus. We
may that in all that crowd there was not one who would willingly have changed places with Simon when the soldiers first laid hold of him; yet that which to others seemed a grief and a shame was probably the turning-point of his life, and that painful walk to Calvary, the beginning of the way to everlasting life. Happy are those who endure for Christ's sake. We have no need to make crosses for ourselves. We have but to follow where the Saviour leads ; for all, (but those who die young) find that they must tread a blood-stained path that leads to death. Ye who read these lines, look back upon your lives. How many tears have you already shed! How have your years been marked in your remembrance by the tombs that have been raised over those you loved, as it were by the way-side of your daily path! Whither are you going ? To the grave, you know it; but you know not by what death you shall die, when others in their turn shall weep for you. Take comfort;--the Saviour, the blessed and holy Jesus, trod that path before you, each step is marked by his precious blood. Bear the cross and follow Him. It is true he leads to death, but death by IIis power has been robbed of its terrors. He has become the angel of Life; and the grave is to Christ's redeemed, the gate of Heaven. Murmur not, then, O Christian, if the story of your life is pictured in Simon's history. Like him, you may have left the far-off land in which you were born, distant by nature from the true church of God; you may have travelled on, glad of heart, thinking only of the joy of the passover, of your escape from condemnation through Christ your surety, and your substitute. Murmur not, if near your journey's end, you find weeping and suffering where you had only looked for joy and peace. You may be " laid hold of” and a heavy cross laid upon your shoulders; you are weary, for you are old or feeble, but you are able to bear it. Fear not, Christ is before you. He has borne it. Do you bear it after Him. It is his blood that marks your way. Follow on, and thou shalt find
thyself, or ever thou art aware, amidst that white-robed throng that evermore rejoice before the throne of God and of the Lamb; and even as thou hast followed Christ, so may those whom thou hast loved on earth follow thy steps. Thy children, like Simon's, may be “chosen in the Lord.” Thy wife may be as a“ mother' the saints.”
This is no imaginary picture. How often have I seen it ! The holy saint-like spirit growing brighter and brighter as the cross of age, or pain, or trouble, pressed more heavily, while the faith, that so hopefully followed Christ in the painful path that was surely leading to the grave, cheered and strengthened those who watched around, making them know assuredly that when the end was won, it was glory and joy and peace with Cbrist for evermore.
LUKE xxiii. 27. " And there followed him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented him.
Hundreds of thousands were assembled at Jerusalem during the time of the Passover. The knowledge that Jesus was indeed the Messiah, with the hope "that it was He who should redeem Israel," was just beginning to dawn upon the minds of a few; but even among those who were not bis open enemies, there must have been many who knew not what they thought of Him. His miracles, all of them of mercy; his kind and gentle words, his pure and holy life, his spiritual teaching, comforting the sorrowful, and inviting the ignorant and the poor, were in open contradiction to the horror of Him and his doctrine, which was expressed by the elders and chief priests, whom the people had been taught to look to as their guides in religion. With mixed feelings of pity and wonder, many must have followed Jesus to his crucifixion, and among these must have been the women who bewailed and lamented him. They could not have been the holy women who believed on Him; for if they had, our Lord would surely have spoken to them words more particularly suited to them as believers. It seems that as soon as the weight of the cross was taken from Him and laid upon Simon, He immediately observed and spoke to the women, who by their tears and lamentations showed how deeply they felt for his sufferings.
LUKE xxiii. 28–31. “Daughters of Jerusalem (he said,) weep not for me, but for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the breasts which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, fall on us; and to the hills cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry ?”
How touching is the loving-kindness of our Lord! In the midst of his own deep distress, his thoughts are turned in pity to the feeble ones who are pitying Him. He has but one moment's pause in that fearful march to death, and he makes use of it for them. His dying words will be remembered by them. They have no share in the crime that is doing, but unless they learn fully to understand its guilt and its meaning, they must share in the fearful punishment that will shortly overtake the murderers of “the holy one and the just.”
Those among them who were now young should see it, and the infants now smiling in their arms should suffer it. The very ground on which they were standing without the gates should be crowded with the crosses on which their children