« הקודםהמשך »
children of Israel depart out of his land, the sable veil of darkness was for three days drawn over Egypt : but this darkness was confined to a part of that kingdom; whereas this that happened at our Saviour's crucifixion, was universal, and not merely local.
The disciples naturally considered the darkness, when it began, as a prelude to the deliverance of their Master: for though the chief priests, elders, and people, had sarcastically desired him to descend from the accursed tree, his friends could not but be persuaded, that he who had delivered so many from incurable diseases, who had created limbs for the maimed, and eyes for the blind, who had given speech to the dumb, and called the dead from the chambers of the dust, might easily save himself even from the cross. When, therefore, his mother, his mother's sister Mary Magdalene, and the beloved disciple observed the veil of darkness begin to extend over the face of nature, they drew near to the foot of the cross, probably in expectation that the Son of God was going to shake the frame of the universe, unloose himself from the cross, and take ample vengeance on those cruel and perfidious enemies who had so despitefully treated him.
At this awful period, the blessed Jesus was in the midst of his sufferings; yet when he saw his mother and her companions, their grief greatly affected his tender breast, especially the distress of his mother. The ago. nies of death, under which he was now labouring, could not prevent his expressing the most affectionate regard both for her and for them: for that she might have some consolation to support her under the greatness of her sorrows, he told her, the disciple whom he loved, would for the sake of that love, supply his place to her after he was taken from them, even the place of a son; and, therefore, he desired her to consider him as such, and expect from him all the duties of a child: IVoman, said he, behold thy son!
This remarkable token of filial affection towards his mother, was not the only instance the dying Jesus gave of his sincere love for his friends and followers; the beloved disciple had also a token of his high esteem: he singled him out as the only person among his friends, to supply his place with regard to his mother. Accordingly, he desired him expressly to reverence her in the same manner as if she had been his own parent: a duty which the favourite disciple gladly undertook; for he carried her with him to his house, and maintained her from that hour, to the day of her death; her husband Joseph having been dead some time before.
We have now before us an evident proof, that in the midst of the heaviest sufferings human nature ever sustained, the blessed Jesus demonstrated a divine strength of benevolence; even at the time when his own distress was at the highest pitch, and nature was dressed in the robe of mourning for the sufferings of her great Creator : his friends had so large a share of his concern, that their happiness interrupted the sharpness of his pains, and for a short time engrossed his thoughts.
Now the moment when Jesus should resign his soul into the hands of his heavenly Father, approached, and he repeated part of the twenty-second Psalm, uttering with a loud voice, these remarkable words, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani? that is, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? Or, My God, My God, how long a time hast thou forsaken me! as the words may be rendered.
It is believed by some, that our blessed Saviour repeated the whole Psalm, as it was customary with the Jews, in making quotations, to mention only the first words of the Psalm or section which they citc. If so, as this Psalm contains the most remarkable particulars of our Redeemer's passion, being as it were a summary of all the prophecies relative to that subject, by re
peating it on the cross, the blessed Jesos signified that he was now accomplishing the things that were predicted concerning the Messiah. And as the Psalm is composed in the form of a prayer, by pronouncing it at this time, he also claimed of his Father, the performance of all the promises he had made, whether to him or to his people; the chief of which are recorded in the latter part of the Psalm above mentioned.
When some of the people, who stood by, heard our blessed Saviour pronounce the first words of this Psalm, they misunderstood him, probably from their not hearing him distinctly, and concluded that he called for Elias; upon which one of them filled a spunge with vinegar, put it on a reed, and gave him to drink, being desirous of keeping him alive as long as possible, to see whether Elias would come to take him down from the cross. But as soon as Jesus had tasted the vinegar, he said, It is finished: that is, the work of inan's redemption is accomplished; that great work which the only begotten Son of God came into the world to perform, is finished. In speaking these words, he cried with an exceeding loud voice, and after that, he addressed his Almighty Father in words which form the best pattern of recommendatory prayer at the hour of death; Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit; and having uttered these words, he bowed his head, and yielded up the ghost.
At the very instant that the blessed Jesus resigned his soul into the hands of his heavenly Father, behold, the veil of the temple was miraculously rent from the top to the bottom: probably in the presence of the priest who burnt incense in the holy place, and who doubtless published the account when he came out: for our blessed Saviour expired at the ninth hour, the very time of offering the evening sacrifice. Nor was this the only miracle that happened at the death of the great Messiah; no, the earth trembled from its very loundations, the flinty rocks burst asunder, and the se
pulchres hewn in them were opened, and many bodies of saints deposited there, awaked after his resurrection from the sleep of death, left the gloomy chambers of the tomb, went into the city of Jerusalem, and appeared unto many. In all probability these saints were disciples of our blessed Saviour, who had but lately passed through the valley of the shadow of death; for when they went into the city, they were known to be saints by the persons who saw them, which could not well have happened if they had not been cotemporaries with them.
As the rending of the veil of the temple intimated, that the entrance into the holy place, the type of heaven, was now laid open to all nations; so the resurrection of a number of saints from the dead, demonstrat. ed that the power of death and the grave was broken: the sting was taken from death, and the victory wrested from the grave. In short, our dear Redeemer's conquests over the enemies of mankind, were shewn to be complete, and an earnest was given of the general resurrection.
The remarkable events which attended that awful period when Jesus gave up the ghost, did not only affect the natives of Judea, but the Roman centurion, who was placed near the cross, to prevent disorders of any kind, glorified the Almighty, and cried out, Truly this man was the Son of God. And all the people when they beheld heaven itself bearing witness of the truth of our great Redeemer's mission, smote their breasts and returned. They had been instant with loud voices to have him crucified; but when they saw the face of the creation wrapt in the gloomy mantle of darkness during his crucifixion, and found his death accompanied with an earthquake, as if nature had been in agony when he died, they rightly interpreted these prodigics to be so many testimonies from the Almighty of his innocence, and their passions which had been inflamed and exasperated against him, became quite calm, or exerted in his behalf.
Some were angry with themselves for neglecting the opportunity the governor gave them of saving his life; some were stung with remorse for having been active in procuring Pilate to condemn him, and even offering the most bitter insults, while he laboured under the cruellest of sufferings; and others were deeply affected at beholding the pains he had suffered, which were as severe as they were undeserved. These various passions being visibly painted in their countenances, afforded a melancholy spectacle; the whole multitude returning from the cruel execution, with their eyes fixed upon the earth, pensive and silent; their hearts ready to burst with grief, groaning deeply within themselves, shedding Hoods of tears, and smiting on their breasts, to testify their sorrow.
It is observable that the grief they now felt for the blessed Jesus was distinguished, from their former rage against him by this remarkable particular, that their rage was entirely owing to the artful insinuations of the priests; whereas their grief was the genuine, the natural feeling of their own hearts, greatly affected with the truth and innocence of him who was the object of their commiseration: and as flattery had no share in this mourning, so the expressions of their sorrow was such'as became a real, an unfeigned passion. Nor was this unaffected mourning shewn by only a few persons, who might have been represented as the particular friends of the suffering Jesus; no, it was the general condition of the people who had repaired to Calvary, in order to behold the crucifixion of our dear Redeemer, that when they parted after he had given up the ghost, they covered the roads, and, as it were, darkened all the surrounding country.