<< Matthew XXVII: The Son Praying to the Father >>
46And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? MATTHEW 27
17Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father. JOHN 10
The agonizing words which are at the commencement of our text were spoken at the most solemn juncture which has ever occurred. The Divine Man was at the depth of His suffering. He was the one marked object of the malice of earth and hell. There was no sorrow like His sorrow. The world He came to save was crucifying Him. His disciples had forsaken Him. None of those who had followed Him for years, and witnessed His goodness and His miracles remained, but a few women and the beloved John. His own nation now fully rejected Him. They had treated His person with similar signs of mock homage, but real opposition, with which they had treated His Word, and now they completed their wickedness by murder, from undisguised malice. They hated the mental Word, and the Incarnate Word, with a similar hatred, and destroyed both as far as they could. All things corresponded to this dreadful act. The land was wrapped in gloom; the sun was darkened. Two malefactors were crucified with Him, one hardened, the other inwardly good. The locality was called Golgotha, the place of a skull. There hung the illustrious sufferer; without, assailed, tortured, crucified, by wicked men ; within, assailed by all the powers of darkness. "This is your hour,'' he said, " and the power of darkness.'' — Luke xxii. 53.
"He trod the dismal vale of death,
The human form resigned its breath.
And like a mortal died!
But death was trod beneath his feet.
He rose both God and Man complete,
His human glorified!"
There are intimations in many parts of the Word, that the most terrible pains the Lord suffered were not those of the body, excruciating though these were. In the first prophecy, which spoke of the seed of the woman which should save us from the effects of the fall, it is said of the serpent, the symbol of self both in men and spirits, "He shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." The head of the serpent is to be found in that great mass of selfishness which exists under the name of "the powers of darkness." The Lord would bruise the head, but they should bruise his heel. In the Prophets, in the Psalms, in the Gospel, the redemption the Lord would effect is constantly shown to be a deliverance of mankind from the powers of darkness; a difficult deliverance. Thus the prophet says, "Shall the prey be taken from the mighty, or the lawful captive delivered? But thus saith the Lord, Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken away, and the prey of the terrible shall be delivered: for I will contend with him that contendeth with thee, and I will save thy children. And I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob."— Isa. xlix. 24—26. Again : " I will ransom them from the power of the grave (hades); I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues. O grave (hades), I will be thy destruction." The Lord gave several intimations in the Gospel of His approaching conflict with the powers of darkness. In that divine discourse in which He instructed Philip that He was our heavenly Father Himself, He also said, " Hereafter, I will not talk much with you: for the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me." — John xiv. 30. On another occasion the Lord said, " Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me." — John xii. 31, 32. This He said in relation to His death." — Ver. 33. In the Book of Psalms, one occurs which commences with the words of the Lord's exclamation on the cross, which forms the first portion of our text — " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?" It has also two other allusions to the circumstances connected with the crucifixion, which are quoted in the Gospel. There can be no doubt, therefore, that it describes the scene of the Lord's death, and the sorrows which then enveloped Him. And they are thus described: “For dogs have compassed Me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed Me: they pierced My hands and My feet. I may tell all My bones: they look and stare upon Me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. But be not thou far from Me, O Lord: my strength, haste thee to help Me. Deliver My soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. Save Me from the lion's mouth : for thou hast heard Me from the horns of the unicorns." — Psalm xxii. 16 — 21.
Here the powers of evil are described by the terms, " dogs," "assembly of the wicked," " the sword," " the lion." And these are said to compass him about — to enclose Him. Their subtle, terrible, and malignant influences, super-added to the physical tortures, were what constituted the chief sorrows of the Redeemer. They operated upon what was left of the merely human, with every infernal suggestion, to turn him aside, or to baffle Him in His divine work of saving the world : but, happily for us, in vain.
And here we must make another reflection. We sometimes think that temptations will be bitter in proportion to the amount of evil in any one. But the case is not so. Temptation is bitter in proportion to the good we have in us. We are young in the ways of religion, and goodness has acquired little power in us; a temptation makes but little anguish in the soul. We resist and overcome, it may be, but the disturbance has been comparatively small. When, however, we have advanced far in the regenerate life, and divine things have heightened their value in us, so that we tremble for their safety, a temptation, when it comes, is felt to agitate and agonize the whole soul. When a temptation threatens the loss of what we value slightly, it but slightly pains; but when it threatens the destruction of what we value more than life, it strikes, as it were, against the very fibres of our being.
If a mother sees some object of rude household value likely to be crushed by the wheel of a heavy cart, she would fain save it probably, but for it she feels comparatively but little concern. If, however, she sees her darling child in similar danger, then she is roused to the most intense feeling. She flies, she shrieks, she agonizes, she calls on heaven and earth for help; and if she succeeds in rescuing the babe, her gratitude is unspeakable. The pain of danger is then in proportion to our love for the object endangered. The pain then of temptation is in proportion to the value we have for goodness, for our souls, and for the Lord's kingdom. The temptations of advanced life are much more grievous than those of early life. We feel, with all the power of life-deep feelings, the awful wreck of heaven lost, and a ruined soul. This may faintly assist us to conceive of the awful agony of tho Lord's last struggle, the passion, the suffering, of the cross. The salvation of the universe was the great object of His life, death, and resurrection. All the (infernal powers were His opponents. His love was divine. The Humanity had to bear the conflict as of itself, receiving help from the Divine only hiddenly and distantly; just as man has to bear his temptations as of himself: for "He was tempted in all points like as we are." As, therefore, the temptation continued and increased, the gloom would gather around, and within, the darkness and the sorrow would increase, as it is with man. The light and the warmth of Divine Love and Wisdom would be perceived less and less, and at length would seem to be gone, and then would come the agonizing cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Here, let us remark, that some have conceived the weightiest suffering the Saviour had to bear to be the displeasure of the Father, deserved by man, but poured upon Him as man's substitute. A nd, looking from this point of view, they had regarded the Lord's words, "Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matt. xxvi. 39), as expressive of this infliction from the Father. Nothing, however, can be more foreign from their true sense. The will of the Father is the will of Infinite Divine Love for the salvation of the human race. ''This is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life." — John vi. 40. " God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."— John iii. 16. That the Divine Love caused the Humanity to bear all that earth and hell could inflict is true, but that any sufferings were inflicted by the Father, is an idea totally unfounded and impossible. The words import nothing of the kind. They imply that the cup came from some other quarter, not from the Father Himself. It is true we may infer that the Father might, if He would, have suffered the cup to pass, and that He would not: that in the language of the prophet Isaiah, " It pleased the Lord to bruise Him: He hath put Him to grief."— Isa. liii. 10. But we must bear in mind that if the Lord had not been tempted and suffered, His Humanity would not have been glorified, and if His Humanity had not been glorified the human race could not have been saved. It was love that impelled Him to suffer for us, not wrath. Divine Love would not spare a single tear, a single groan, a single pang, because thereby, Redemption would have failed. “Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory?” (Luke xxiv.26.)
We may illustrate this by the case of a patriot, who sees his country bleeding under oppression from the yoke of tyrants, sverywhere crashing down its energies and destroying its strength, preying upon its children. Suppose such a one to see in vision, before entering on his dangerous labours, the sorrows, the pains, the wounds, the captivity, it may be the almost death he most undergo before his country could be freed, and shrunk from the peril, yet urged on by his love to sacrifice himself for his country's good, we should see a faint imitation of the case of the Saviour. His love would not suffer the cup of sorrow to be passed undrained, though nature shrank from it. So was it with the Lord. The Humanity shrunk from the dreadful agony, the multiplied affliction, but the divine love for man's salvation persevered, the cup was drained to the bottom, and man was saved. “ Jesus died, and rose, and revived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living.'' — Rom. xiv. 10.
We may take another illustration of the power of love which will not spare suffering, when it is needed, for some great good, either of the sufferer, or through him of others.
Suppose a child, most fondly loved, with powers likely to be a blessing to himself and to the world, but afflicted with some malformation which only a severe surgical operation could cure. Without the operation, he would be a burden to himself and of little use to mankind; with it, he would be a benefit to his race, the wise love of his parents would bring him to the pain. The child, at the sight of the preparation, would shrink, and under the knife would cry piteously to his parents to save him, to take him away. But a wise far-seeing love would forbid them to do so. They would seem to him to be hard, while in "all his afflictions they would be afflicted." The power of love would keep them firm, though deeply moved. The greater the suffering necessary, the greater the love to cause them to be endured, for the sake of the ultimate triumph. So was it with the Divine Love, the Father within the Lord. Only with Him it was not the suffering of another, but His own suffering in the Humanity or the salvation of the human race. “He trod the wine-press done, and of the people there was none with Him (Isa. lxiii. 3). “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; And with His stripes we are healed." — Isa. liii. 4, 5. " We did esteem Him smitten of God, but, in reality , He was smitten by the evil of both earth and hell, while He was in every deed God, reconciling tho world unto Hiimself, not imputing their trespasses unto them (2 Cor. v. 19). While He bruised the serpent's head, the serpent bruised His heel (Gen. iii. 15).
That the Lord 's sufferings were those of temptations endured from the powers of darkness, is confirmed by His reply to the mother of James and John, when she requested they might sit, one on His right hand and one on His left, in His kingdom. He said, "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with ? They say unto Him, We are able. And He saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, except to whom it is prepared of my Father.'' — Matt. xx. 22, 23. The cup which these disciples would drink of could only mean the sufferings which they would have to go through from human and spiritual persecutors: the trials of soul, and the pains of body, which they would have to endure. Yet this is called drinking of the cup which He drank of, and being baptized with the baptism with which He was baptized. Tho sufferings of the Lord, then, were the pains inflicted by His assailants, especially His infernal ones, corresponding to those we suffer in temptation, but with this difference, that whereas we are opposed and tempted by one, or a few infernals, He was tempted by all hell. When the enemy came in like a flood, the spirit of the Lord lifted up a standard against Him, and the Redeemer came to Zion (Isa. lix. 19, 20).
We would next draw attention to the fact, that in all cases of temptation and mental trial, the consciousness is double, or even manifold. The part where we suffer complains, and strongly attracts attention to itself. The higher principles of the soul sympathize and console. The distinction is so great, occasionally, that it seems almost as if different personalities were within us, but of course it is only an appearance. The evil principle roused up tempts us to sin, it entices, it persuades, it attracts to evil; the love of right resists, and when the temptation becomes severe, it cries out with the apostle, "O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death ?" — Rom. vii. 24. Memory says, recollect who has delivered you a thousand times in days gone by. Faith, with firm and trustful tone, points to the Saviour, whose help is omnipotent, and who has said, " Fear not, I am the First and the Last." Patience exhorts to wait and endure, “for he who endures to the end shall be saved.” Hope whispers of brighter things, and speaks of the glorious future which awaits the conquering Christian. All these seem like distinct voices, but they are all from principles in the mind of the same man. The mind has several regions, and these often feel and think differently at the same time. Have you never noticed the atmosphere, which seems to the careless observer to be one? Its lower region, on a troubled night, is rough and tempestuous. The clouds career along wildly, and assume the most fantastic forms. Above these, however, you observe another stratum, finer, whiter, and moving in quite an opposite direction. And, above all, there is the calm blue arch, deep, silent and majestic, in which the glorious moon holds on her peaceful way; and from which a calm quiet seems to descend, which betokens speedy rest. So is it in the turbulences of the soul. Storms rage in its lower atmosphere, tossings of mind and vexations of spirit there harass and annoy, hurrying to worldly tumult and distress. But above, there is a current of an opposite kind, persuading to purity and rectitude. While deeply within, there reigns a grounded communion with the highest. The sun of His love, or the moon of His wisdom, shines gloriously there, and thence descends a spirit of inward peace, which in due time subdues the storm and tranquillizes the whole mind.
Such being the case with the soul, we need not be surprised at those declarations of the Scriptures which speak of man as having double and contrary consciousness. Thus, in the Psalms : “Why art thou cast down, my soul ? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God." — Chap. xlii. 11. Here the higher principle of the soul addresses the lower when it is cast down, and calls it to trust and hope. The lower is depressed, and the higher hopeful; but they are not two souls. They are only two degrees of the same soul, like the two regions of the atmosphere.
Jacob in speaking of his wicked sons, says, "O my soul, come not thou into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united." — Gen. xlix. 6. That would be a strange interpretation which made Jacob, his soul, and his honour, three distinct persons, because they are thus personified. In the gospel the Lord represents the rich covetous man as addressing his soul, and saying, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry." — Luke xii- 19. The rich man and his soul were undoubtedly one person, though two regions of mind are implied in the conversation. In the Greek language two words are provided for the distinct regions of the soul. Pneuma designates the higher, while psyche denotes the lower region: in the Latin language the same distinction is expressed by mens, the upper, and animus, the lower region of the mind. But both are enclosed in one person, one man.
Granting that different principles in the same mind are sometimes, both in the Scriptures and in other writings, represented by different speakers and other personifications, it may be asked, How are we to know when the speakers mean different persons, and when they are only personified principles ? The answer is not difficult. When either from the known nature of the case, or from direct declaration, we know that the speaker are one within the other, we may be assured that they relate only to one person, however many principles may be described, and however different the sensations described really are. A man and his soul for instance. They are one within the other, and are obviously, therefore, only one person, though represented as speaking to each other. In this way we may discern the distinction as to principle, and yet the union as to person, of the Father and the Son. They were like the two degrees of the human mind; the pneuma and the psyche. The consciousness would be different so long as the Son was not completely glorified, especially in times of temptation and suffering. The Father was beyond all temptation and all suffering. Nothing could sully infinite divine perfections. The Father is the All-perfect Divine Love. The Son, being the Humanity in which the Word or divine truth was received into a human organization, could be tempted, and could suffer; could be agitated almost as we are agitated, but ever with a certain difference, as even here He was not merely human. He was the only-begotten Son of the Father. Just as in the lower degree of the mind we frequently are disturbed, suffer, and arc deeply depressed, while from the higher degree come urgent exhortations to trust, faith, and hope. At times the suffering is so great that all cheering light is excluded, and we seem entirely closed up for a period, happily not often long, from hope and comfort: so was it with the Lord in the depth of His sorrow, marked by the despairing cry.
The different states of feeling experienced by the Lord, appear to be intimated in the accounts of the crucifixion as given by the evangelists, and in the order in which the gospels occur. In Matthew and Mark the Lord is described as uttering the agonizing words, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ;" expressive of the deepest suffering, even to despair. Such would be the awful agony felt bin the lower region of the Saviour's consciousness in the depth of His fearful conflict. The interior lights of His Divine Love and Wisdom would, for the time, disappear, and apparently unaided and alone, He would have to sustain the direful horrors of the dark valley in which He was. Who that has felt the bitterness of temptation, such as we experience when one dark cloud after another rolls over us, does not experience the most intense sympathy with the crucified? But what is our sorrow compared to His ? All the malignant powers of darkness were doing their utmost not to be despoiled of their prey. A whole ocean of vileness and wickedness was rolling tremendous waves against this only hope of the universe, wave after wave beat on. Anguish after anguish was experienced. The darkness thickened within the sacred Sufferer. To symbolize this, the sun was shut out, and darkness covered th whole land. At this juncture, to express this state, and to mark the similarity of the Saviour's experience in kind, though immeasurably deeper in degree to ours, the appalling cry was , " My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me ?" We, in the depths of our misery, make a similar cry. It is not true that the Lord has forsaken us, but we express our feelings, and must speak as it appears. In like manner the Divine had not forsaken the Human in the Lord, but such was also the appearance.
In the Gospel according to Luke there is no account of the agonizing cry of our text. It has been noticed by close observers that the different gospels when they describe the same general scene, do so one after another in a more interior manner. This appears very strikingly in the subject before us. Luke says nothing of the despairing cry uttered by the Redeemer, and he describes only the utterances which express the inner feelings of Divine Humanity, and its entire harmony with the Divine Love. Of His tormentors, He said, " Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do;'' intimating His full acquiescence in the impulses of mercy and love. He is next represented as exercising His Divine Sovereignty in relation to the penitent malefactor : “To-day, shalt thou be with me in paradise,'' thus displaying His knowledge of the real state of the man, and his fitness for paradise, as well as admitting that He is the being that can admit His creatures into His "kingdom;" and lastly, He said, ''Father into thy hands I commit my spirit ;" thus intimating the entire devotion of the now sanctified Humanity to the Father. In Luke, there is nothing of the despairing distress expressed which is so manifest in the first two Gospels, but yet there is a slight conscious distinction of the Son from the Father manifested; the cessation of which is intimated by the words: ''Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit" Hence we may infer that Luke describes the Lord as to the sensations of a degree in His Humanity higher than that described by the two former evangelists.
John speaks of no words of pain, nor of any that imply a feeling of separation of the Son from the Father. The Lord is represented as caring for His mother according to the flesh, yet not recognizing her as His mother now, but rather as the mother of John. He called her woman. He said to Mary, directing her attention to the beloved disciple, "Woman, behold thy son." And to John He said, “Behold thy mother ;" thus disclosing the end of all human relation to Mary, and in a figure displaying His care for His Church of which the mother Mary was then the representative, and whose genuine sons are such as, like John, are in true charity or love for the brethren. The Lord added shortly after, “I thirst,'' and then having received vinegar put on hyssop, He said, "It is finished; and gave up the ghost" All here is expressive of divine care for His Church, rather than attention to bodily or mental pain. For the Lord thirsts for communion with His creatures that He may bless them. He saw of the travail of His soul and was satisfied. He would not drink the vinegar mixed with gall, but that mixed with hyssop He received. The vinegar or spoiled wine represented truth perverted or falsified, and when mixed with gall, it signifies error united to evil; this the Lord cannot receive. When on the hyssop, the vinegar still represents error, but error united to purposes of amendment; this the Lord will receive. The whole of this description is indicative of the peaceful love of a region far above the sensation of personal pain.
The distinction of consciousness in the fully glorified, and the not yet fully glorified portions of the Lord's Humanity is strikingly exhibited in the second text which we have selected for this discourse. " I lay down my life (psyche), that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself, I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." — John X. 17. 18. This commandment have I received of my Father. Here the life laid down must of course refer to that portion of the Lord which could sufFer and die,- (the psyche,) the lower degree of life and bodily feeling. Then the " I that laid the life down, and took it again,'' must refer to a higher region which was previously glorified, and perfectly united to the Father. This was already divine, and this raised that portion which was through the last sufferings made perfect. Yet both of these, the raiser and the raised, manifestly were the Lord. The external was suffering, the internal was already God, made divine from the Father, and from it all the the further sanctification and perfection of the humanity proceeded to resurrection. Whether, therefore, we say the Lord Jesus raised Himself from the dead, according to what He declared He would do; or we say God raised Him from the dead, the same thing is implied, for we must ever bear in mind that God was in Him; that as to His inner nature He was the mighty God, the everlasting Father, and at length as to His whole humanity He became perfectly divine, so that it could he said, ''Unto the Son He saith. Thy throne, God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of joy above thy fellows." — Heb. I. 8, 9.
In the Lord's prayer to the Father, and especially in the exclamation on the cross, there is no evidence that the Lord and God whom He addressed, or the Father, were separate persons, only that in the humanity so far as it was unglorified, there was necessarily a consciousness different from that which existed in the inner region where the Divine Love and Wisdom, the Father and God, were in infinite perfection. This difference of consciousness existed until the full glorification of the Lord's Humanity, but no longer ; the third day He was perfected.
And, now, we must notice a strange idea which is entertained those who suppose the Lord had a divine person in Him separate from His humanity, and also separate from the Father. These sometimes bring forward the exclamation on the cross to prove that the Son and the Father are two separate divine persons, although they must admit that this exclamation came from what suffered intense agony in the Lord, and this could only be what was human, for what was divine could not suffer. Manifestly then the exclamation was the outcry of the suffering human to the divine, for help, and proves nothing but that. But, while it is admitted, that the suffering human cried for help, had there been a divine person belonging to Himself separate from the Father how was it He did not cry to this His own His own divine person, or at least take some notice of him ? why cry only to the Father, and address the Father ? Surely, in this most solemn, awful, and trying hour, when evidently the human nature of our blessed Lord was suffering all that could be inflicted upon it, had there been a second divine person in Him distinct from, but omnipotent as the Father, the Saviour would have looked up to and implored the help of this His own proper divine person. Can any one conceive, He would have gone round him, as it were, and addressed another, taking no notice of this his own peculiar divinity, and imploring the Father for help. This consideration alone would suffice with a reflecting mind to suspect that what did not appear at a crisis so momentous as the Lord's last passion, really had no existence. The only proper divine person is He who, as to His interior nature, was the Father and God within the Saviour, as to His external, yet not fully glorified, was capable of suffering, did suffer, and by suffering was made perfect.
The exclamation on the cross — "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me " — was recorded, to show the strict analogy between the temptation by which He sanctified Himself, and those by which we are regenerated. We have a divided consciousness in temptation; so had He. We seem gradually to lose sight of all our holiest feelings; so did He. We at last seem to be completely forsaken, and finally to utter a despairing prayer ; and so did our great prototype and head. As in man's case, however, the higher feelings which are obscured, and at length seem to become absent in temptation, are really part of him, as well as his lower and suffering ones, and are his prevalent tone of mind on other occasions, so was it with the Lord. As with man, when the temptation is over, the higher principles return, and when the last is over, they return to be his governing principles for ever, so was it with the Lord. The Father, who seemed to be absent in His temptations, was not really so; the sun, which appears to be gone on a cloudy day, is as near to the earth as ever, acts as powerfully for its benefit, and reappears an soon as the dark mass rolls by. When the temptation and suffering in a particular case was over, the Divinity appeared more fully to manifest itself in the Humanity, and it was seen more manifestly that “th Father and He were one," that "all things which the Father hath are His,'' so that every one who "saw Him saw the Father.'' Thus the whole Scriptures harmonize, and we can adore one glorious God, who is "King of kings, and Lord of lords."
And if we do not acknowledge God as being truly in the person of the Lord Jesus as well as the Humanity which suffered, what becomes of all those passages which declare that Jehovah God Himself would become our Saviour, that "God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. iii. 16); "God was Christ" (2 Cor. v. 19); “Christ was God over all, blessed for ever”? Rom. ix. 5. If God did not properly exist in the person of the Lord Jesus, then God never became incarnate, and all the prophecies which declare that Jehovah would become the Saviour, have never been fulfilled. But can we indeed admit this? What, when the Eternal Himself declares, "I, even I, am Jehovah, and beside me there is no Saviour!" — Isa. xliii. 11. ''Thus saith Jehovah, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, Jehovah of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.'' — Isa. xliv. 6. " Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else." — Isa. xlv. 22. "I am Jehovah thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me; for there is no Saviour beside Me. — Hosea xiii. 4. Shall we not receive the testimony? And if we admit that Jesus was Jehovah our God as to His interior nature, then the God to whom He appealed and cried must be that interior Divine nature which, when the Humanity was in extreme sorrow, was for a time obscured. When the suffering was over, the obscurity passed by, and the Divine Love and Wisdom manifestly took possession of the whole nature of the Lord, then " Thomas answered and said unto Him, My Lord and my God.'' —John XX. 28. And the Lord Jesus, sending from the Father within the emanations of light and love, mercy and peace, breathed upon the disciples among whom He stood, and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit" — John xx. 22.
Let us not, then, make the very tenderest manifestations of the Lord's love, in what He suffered for us to bring us to Himself, the means of turning us elsewhere to adore, but rather as the grandest attraction to draw us to Himself. " And I, if I be lifted up from the earth," He said, "will draw all men unto me."— John xii. 32. Each sorrow, each suffering, each pain, should be a fresh golden link to bind us to Him who lived and died for us, and now ever reigns as the Almighty, in Divine Human form (Rev. i. 8).
Lastly, let us learn to be faithful unto death, and to rest assured, by our Lord's example, of "full deliverance." The Lord who descended from heaven and died for us will assuredly never fail us, nor forsake us. He who liveth, and was dead, lives for ever and ever, as a Mediator, an Intercessor, a new and living way between fallen man and the invisible Father, by which He can dwell in us, and we in Him.
In our trials, however, while we follow the Lord in the regeneration, we may be, and probably shall be, sorely tried. Our expectations may be thwarted, our hopes blighted, our deliverance delayed. The things upon which we set our hearts may altogether fail, at least to appearance, and we may be brought into states of gloom, dejection, and almost to despair. Our Lord was so, and why not we ? " The servant is not greater than his Lord.” Let us not repine, but patiently bear. Let us bravely suffer in his strength who sanctified Himself that we might be sanctified by the truth. Trust on, love on, labour on, believe on, should be our steady motto. Our Lord's presence and example ever sustaining us, —
"Amazing mercy! Love immense,
Surpassing every human sense,
Since time and sense began;
That man might shun the realms of pain,
And know and love his God again.
His God became a man."
The darkest hour of night is just before the morning, darkest period of temptation is just before deliverance. It may appear to us that no help is nigh; that the Lord takes no notice of us; that billow after billow rolls over us, and at last we shall be overwhelmed. Nay, a time may come, in which it may seem that we are completely forsaken, and left to the malice of enemies. But it is not really so. Divine mercy never forsakes us. We are watched over with infinite care, when we seem most left to ourselves. And if we are more deeply tried than usual, it is to purify us more thoroughly and prepare us for more lasting and more glorious peace. The soil that has been most penetrated by winter's frost is most mellowed for the summer's harvest. The jewel that has been most rubbed will be most brilliant. The suffering is temporary; the gain is everlasting. The cross of to-day will soon pass, the crown of to-morrow will be worn for ever. Should then a dark hour come over us in which good seems to fail, and gloom and sadness multiply beyond measure, yet let us trust in the Lord, and in quiet confidence stand by the right, gently bearing on. The dreary time will pass, as it did with the Lord Himself, and the fearful sorrow will be turned to lasting joy. Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of His servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light ? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God." — Isa. l. 10. And as surely as the same Jesus who suffered was exalted, and had a name given to Him which is above every name : ''That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth and things under the earth," Phil. ii. 10, so surely —
" From all our distresses salvation shall spring,
The deeper our sorrows the sweeter we'll sing.”
Let us greatly beware of making the grandest act of Divine mercy the means of hiding from ourselves one great purpose of the incarnation, that of bringing God Himself to His creature's view. No man had seen God at any time, but the only-begotten Son who was in the bosom of the Father, He declared Him, or brought Him to view (John i. 18). We need a definite idea of the God we worship, we cannot love an abstraction. To meet this want of His creatures God manifested Himself. In Jesus, God displayed His love. His wisdom, His power. His pity. There was no further room for hesitation as to the real character of God. He who saw Jesus saw the Father (John xiv. 9). In Him we can love all that is pure, loving, merciful, and forbearing even unto death, breathing forgiveness even on the cross, and have no fear of being rejected if we sincerely seek Him. Our love to God needs nourishing, and oh, what a strength it receives by the contemplation of Him as the Saviour! Great is the divine benevolence displayed in the works of creation, in the gifts of food, raiment, and habitation, and all our bodily blessings. But far greater is the love which follows us in our evils, and seeks to save us from them: which did for us all that Jesus did, and promised to be always near us as a Saviour. Do we wonder that He hid His glories while He sojourned on earth ? It was of His divine order to do so, and was so prophesied. ''Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, God of Israel, the Saviour." — Isa. xlv. 15.
He had not only to display the energies of God in our redemption, however, but, by the wondrous lesson of His glorification, to teach us how to become prepared for heaven. To do this He must be in all points tempted as we are. He must unfold the bravery of bearing. He must afford a divine example of suffering and yet blessing, of repaying evil with good. For this end "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as the sheep before the shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.'' This sublime lesson of triumphing by endurance is especially divine. Hence that line of Rousseau, "Socrates died like a martyr , but Jesus Christ like a God."
We cannot too highly value the acts of His divine life and death as unerring examples to be followed by us all ; examples quite as needful to teach us how patiently to suffer, as to teach us how to triumph. But these examples could not have been fully given without the last dreadful grief upon the cross, and the piercing cry of the Humanity at its most fearful agony. Let us be grateful, then, that our Heavenly and omnipotent Father became our Saviour and Father.
“Redemption's wondrous plan,
How God descended down to man
That man might rise above.”
And while we ponder over the Gospel of good tidings which was ushered in by angelic song, the wonderful grandeur of the divine work of deliverance and salvation will rise upon us in all their majesty, as supplying the great link previously wanting between God and His intelligent, but fallen creatures; and we shall rejoice, from the inmost of our hearts, to say with the prophet, "Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace."
Author: JONATHAN BAYLEY --From The Divine Word Opened (1887)
Pictures: James Tissot ----Courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum