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II. THE MANNER IN WHICH IT WAS RECEIVED BY OUR LORD.
1. While the chief priests mocked their innocent victim, in his last agony, and said, with the scribes and elders, “ He saved others, Himself He cannot save : if He be the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God that He would deliver Him, let Him deliver Him now, if He will have Him ; for He said, I am the Son of God,” the thieves also, as St. Matthew relates, “ cast the same in his teeth." St. Luke, however observes, that only one of the two malefactors who were hanged with Him, railed on Him. Perhaps both were at first equally hostile, equally inveterate; but God, having touched the heart of one of them with a godly sorrow, which, probably, the other never felt ; that happy penitent, not merely ceased from his wicked reproaches, but reproved his obdurate companion, when the seasonable time arrived. I observe, then,
(1.) The amazing simplicity and strength of this man's faith. At the moment of the Lord's crucifixion, now under review, what was there beyond weakness, pain, ignominy, torture, death, and perhaps guilt, to the eye of mere carnal observation, in Him, who,“ being found in fashion as a man, humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross ?” His enemies seemed to have prevailed against Him; his hope in God to have perished. They who nailed Him to the cross were making merry over their work of darkness and blood. “All they that saw Him, laughed Him to scorn, they thrust out the lip and shook their heads,” in the very sport of satiated cruelty. He was forsaken by those who were most dear to his earthly love ; for there stood by Him only the Maries, and St. John, of all to whom He had taught the words of eternal life. None
of those signs had been wrought, which made the amazed and convinced Centurion cry out, “ Truly this man was the Son of God!” And yet, at this moment, probably the darkest in the whole history of the Lord Jesus, while He wrought out the work of salvation upon earth, did this malefactor look upon Him with the eye of faith, and see the Lord of infinite and eternal glory, through all the depths of his humiliation : and own Him, as his Saviour, his Portion, his Hope, and his King. “Lord, remember me, when thou comest into thy kingdom!”
He fixed his spiritual eye, his spiritual affection, his whole heart upon Jesus: and his soul seemed to hear the proclamation of God the Father, at the moment when hardly another appeared to receive it. “ The man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts."
If the Redeemer were, to man's apprehension, unable to save his own life, by coming down from the cross, where was the probability that He should save
from endless death, and enrich with life and glory everlasting, one who was, outwardly and judicially only, in the same condemnation? If our Saviour was in that hour the mockery of men, how should any one see in Him, the Lord of angels, the light, the glory, the praise, the blessedness of all in heaven? How, indeed, except by God's most free and sovereign gift of faith? That “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” It can discover the Sun of Righteousness, under the thickest cloud; it can see Christ a Saviour, under the despised, persecuted, and dying Jesus; and own Him, as the believing sinner's Lord and hope. It can come behind Him in the press, and say in defiance of all that is called reasonable expectation, “If I do but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be made whole.” It can see a glory in a crucified Redeemer, when others deride Him. It can gladly own Him, when others deny Him. Like Abraham, it can hope,
even against hope. " Christ crucified” is to the Jews a stumbling-block, and to the Greeks foolishness; but unto them who are called—and they only are believers, He is Christ, the power of God, and the wisdom of God. None of that imaginary inconsistency, which the reasoning idolatry of Socinianism thinks it has detected, between the death of Jesus, and the salvation of man, can hinder the believer, who is saved by grace, through faith, from clinging with all his soul's hope to the amazing atonement of the cross, as to an infinitely needful interference, and from regarding the price of that atonement as infinitely precious, because it is the blood of God manifest in the flesh. And no sense of vileness in the Christian, when once the Holy Ghost hath taught him to realize the nature and grace of his Lord, can dissuade or prevent him from coming, in the assurance of that blessed record, “that God hath give to sinners eternal life, and this life is in his Son."