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a faint attempt to mock, a solemn feeling of a great crime committed, gradually settles down upon the crowd.
John xix. 28, 29.“ After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, saith, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar : and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop.”
MATTHEW xxvii. 48–50. “And straightway one of them ran, and took the spunge filled with vinegar, and gave him to drink. The rest said, Let be, let us see whether Elias will come to save him. He cried again with a loud voice, and said, (John xix. 29.) It is finished : (LUKE xxiii. 46.) Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” (John xix. 30.) And he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost."
It is finished. The Great Redemption is complete, and Satan's power overthrown.
verses 51, 52. "And behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent; and the graves were opened.” *
None who have heard the sound of an earthquake can ever forget it, and those who have witnessed one of those awful convulsions of nature, confess that it is impossible for the time, not to think that the end of the world has come. The sound, the sight, the feeling, is so entirely beyond nature, that it fills the mind with horror, and the voice of the earthquake in a moment silences the doubts of the unbeliever. Before it, and after it, man may reason upon natural causes, but at the time the soul quails before the power and the presence of God. Judge then the horror that must have fallen on Jerusalem, when the mad excitement of that fearful morning had sunk down beneath the power of the solemn darkness that at noon-day fell like a shroud upon the city, and the silence was broken by a loud cry from the cross on which they had nailed Him who claimed to be the Messiah, and the earth quaked, and the rocks rent! Jesus expired at the moment of the evening sacrifice, and the Priests were ministering in the Temple. They had left the scene of blood in which they had been so cruelly active in the morning, and were now employed in offering up the sacrifice of the Lamb, when lo ! the very temple heaves and rocks, and the great thick veil which hides the Holy of IIolies from mortal eye is rent in twain from the top to the bottom, and the mercy-seat is revealed to the gaze of every worshipper! The way. is open. Dare they venture in ? Once, and only once, every year, the high priest by God's command, had entered into that solemn place, bearing in his hands the blood of the sacrifice to atone for his own sins, and the sins of the nation ; now he sees the veil torn asunder, and an entrance made for all. The blood of the true Lamb of God has been shed,—the great and all-prevailing Atonement for sin has been made, and all may now approach the Mercy-seat. In the amazement of the moment, these precious truths could not be understood. It was by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, not long after, when “a great company of the Priests became obedient to the faith," that they were brought to understand how all these things, the Temple, the veil, the sacrifice, yea even the high priest him self, were all types of Him who had that instant expired upon the
* Both the darkness and the earthquake are mentioned by very ancient heathen writers; for Julius Africanus, the first Christian Author of an historical work, says, that the heathen historian, Thallus, described this darkness as an eclipse. Africanus rightly contradicts this, since no eclipse could possibly have taken place at this time, (the moon at the passover being always at the full) and infers justly that the darkness could only have been caused by a real miracle. The Fathers of the first century refer frequently to a statement made by Phlegon, the Author of a “Chronicle," under the Emperor Adrian. Eusebius quotes his words from the Chronicle, under the fourth year of the 202nd Olympiad.-"A great earthquake in Bithynia had destroyed most part of Nicæa.” -See note in Neander's Life of Christ, p. 467.
The veil was rent that had hidden the Tabernacle which was the appointed sign of God's presence with his people Israel. They had rejected His Son foretold to them by all their prophets, and represented to them by every figure in their service ; therefore He no more would dwell among them. To them, the rending of the veil was a sign of awful meaning. Their nation, their religion, all which had made them a peculiar people, must now give place to a new order of things. The way to the mercyseat is thrown open. The hour foretold by Christ is come, when the Father shall no more be worshipped in Jerusalem, but wherever there are true worshippers to worship Him “in spirit and in truth.” “ Through their fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles." Let us therefore, while we read of this solemn scene in the Temple, pause a moment to adore Him who has thus given us " boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which He hath consecrated for us through the veil, that is to say His flesh ”—then turn to the awful scenes without, which proclaimed that “The seed of the woman had bruised the serpent's head.”
Prayer. O Lord God, Lamb of God, Holy Son of the Father, Thou who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Thou hast died for us-paid for us the whole debt of sin-thrown open for us the mercy-seat, where we may find Thy God and our God, no longer an angry judge, but our reconciled Father, reconciled to us by Thee. Oh, give us now thy Holy Spirit, " that we may present ourselves, souls and bodies, to be a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto Thee,” that by Thee we may be made able “ to walk worthy of the vocation wherewith we are called;" remembering Thee in every duty; performing them all as unto Thee with the glad service of thankful hearts. Praising Thee in all our pleasures, with the grateful acknowledgment that we owe them all to Thee. Trusting to Thee in every grief and trouble, for in Thee is all our hope, our help, and comfort, Thou God of all consolation.
“For Thou only art holy, Thou only art the Lord, Thou only O Christ with the Holy Ghost, art most high in the glory of God the Father." Amen.
In every city our thoughts are with the living. We forget the silent dead, far more numerous than the crowds who fill the streets with the noise of life's business; the many generations who have passed to their silent homes. Jerusalem sat like a Queen upon Mount Zion, and her palaces were fair to look upon ; but round her lay a city of the dead. Chambers were hewn in the hills and rocks around, and to them were gathered her departed people—“Kings and Councillors in the desolate places they had built for themselves.” Prophets and saints were there. There “the wicked ceased from troubling, and the weary were at rest." *
The deep repose bore witness to the solemn truth that “death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Since Adam, death had reigned, and all lay bound by his chain in his prison-house, the grave. But now the sinless dies ! and behold! the power of death is ended! The shock of the earthquake rends the tombs, and the graves are opened in sign that the chain is broken, that the earth shall give up her dead, and the saints shall arise ; but not yet, not till Christ the firstborn from the dead shall lead the way, for though at the moment the Messiah yielded up the ghost " the graves were opened,” they who had been buried in them did not yet appear. It is written
* Job iii. 14.
MATTHEW xxvii. 52, 53. “ And many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many."
The cry of Jesus, the darkened sky, the noise and heaving of the earthquake, and the rending rocks, filled the minds of those who had been the executioners of the Lord with alarm. St. Luke relates that the Centurion who was in charge,
LUKE xxiii. 47. “ When he saw what was done, glorified God, saying, Certainly this was a righteous man.”
St. Matthew and St. Luke further add that when he heard Jesus so cry out and give up the Ghost, he
MATTHEW xxvii. 54. “And they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God."
LUKE xxiii. 48. “And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things that were done, smote their breasts and returned.”
Well might they smite their breasts; for though the deed which that day had been done, was to save the world, they by their share in its guilt had brought ruin upon their country. The chief actors in the crime were hardened in their sins. Their only care was now to reap the benefit they desired, that Jesus and his religion might be named no more.
At sunset the Sabbath would begin. It must not be polluted by the exposure of the bodies left
the John xix. 31–35. “ The Jews therefore, because it was the