"And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem." (Luke 24:46,47)
In the beginning of this Chapter, we have an account of Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others going very early in the morning to the sepulcher for the purpose of embalming the body of the Lord Jesus. To their surprise they found the stone removed from the sepulcher; but entering in, and not finding the body of their Lord and Saviour, they are much astonished and perplexed in their minds, when there appeared unto them two men in shining garments, who said, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen; remember how he spake unto you when he was yet with you in Galilee, saying, the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again." The women then returned, and told the disciples all that they had heard and seen; but it was to them as idle tales, for they believed them not. Peter, however, to prove the truth of what had been related, arose and ran to the sepulcher, when stooping down, and perceiving not the body of the Lord Jesus, but seeing the linen clothes laid by themselves, he went away wondering in himself at that which had come to pass. In this chapter also, we have an account of two of the disciples going the same day to Emmaus. As they journeyed, they were talking of the things that had taken place in Jerusalem: and whilst they were thus conversing, Christ himself joins company with them, and inquires about their conversation. He saw they were sad, as well they might, for their Lord was taken away from them they knew not where. They say to him, "Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?" He said unto them "What things?" Then they informed him of all the things that had taken place concerning Christ, of his being condemned to death, of his crucifixion, of his being laid in the sepulcher, and of his wonderful resurrection as related to them by the women of their company. After they had finished their account, he said unto them, "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the Prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself." By this time they drew near the village whither they went, and he made as though he would have gone further; but they constrained him to tarry with them, and then, he made himself known to them in breaking of bread, and afterwards vanished out of their sight. Until this time their eyes were holden that they should not know him. This is most wonderful, when we consider that he appeared in the very same body in which he had been conversant with them for at least three years; but it proves to us, that if the Lord hides himself, none can perceive him; that if he holds man's eyes, none can know him, however clearly he may be revealed and set forth, either in the written or preached word. But, though they knew him not, they could appeal to each other, with, "Did not our hearts burn within us, whilst he talked with us by the way and opened to us the scriptures? His conversation was unctuous, sweet, savory, and powerful; it warmed their hearts, and caused their souls to glow with love to their, then, unknown companion. And it is so even now, at times, with the disciples of the Lord. The word comes with power into their hearts, and the work of God is revived in their souls; the favor of God distills upon their spirits like the dew, and like a cloud of the latter rain, and then they say, "With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early." (Isa. 26:9) "Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee." (Ps. 73:25) And sometimes the word drops into the heart with such sweetness that it is "more to be desired than gold, yea, than much fine gold, and sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb." (Ps. 19:10) And yet they are very far at times from being satisfied from whence these things come, or who it is that thus speaks to them.
But to return. When their Lord was gone, they returned immediately to Jerusalem, and told the disciples all that they had seen and heard: and whilst they were relating these things, Jesus himself stood in their midst, and saluted them with, "Peace be unto you." But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. In order to convince them of their mistake, he said unto them, "Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see, for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And when he had thus spoken, he showed them his hands and his feet." But even this was not sufficient to convince them; for it is added, "while they yet believed not for joy and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?" And when they gave him meat, he ate in their presence. Here we may see the true nature and power of unbelief; that the most conspicuous events, and plainest matters of fact, were insufficient to convince them of the reality of their Lord having risen from the dead; for what had now taken place were the very things that he had told them but a few days before his crucifixion should come to pass, when discoursing of his sufferings, death, and resurrection, "These things," said he, "have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them." And yet, in the face of these things, together with the testimony of the women, and of the two disciples, and the witness of their own eyes, for they saw his hands and his feet, they still doubted. Could they have believed what they had heard and seen, it would have made their hearts leap for joy. But it was too great and good news for their weak faith fully to credit; and, fearing lest they should be deceived, they called in question all that they had seen and heard. These things teach us, my friends, that nothing short of the mighty power of God displayed in the sinner's heart will enable him to believe. The most striking tokens for good; the most conspicuous events; the plainest matters of fact, all fail to convince the mind, unless the power of God attends them. Witness the case of Gideon, with his fleece of wool; and Job also, when he said, "If I had called, and he had answered me: yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice." (Job 9:16) This arises from a mixture of jealous suspicious fear of being deceived, and unbelieving fears, questioning and doubting every thing that is calculated to comfort the sorrowful heart. Thus, the dreadful sin of unbelief runs in the night season, and ceases not; so that the sorrowful soul refuses to be comforted; and none but the God of Jacob can persuade him to believe to the joy of his heart.
But to return. After the Lord had eaten in their presence, he said unto them, "These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you; that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning me." Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the scriptures; and said unto them in the words of our text, "Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jesusalem.
In speaking upon the text, I shall,
First; take a cursory view of the things that are written in the law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Christ.
Secondly; make a few remarks on the sufferings of Christ; and why "it behoved him to suffer."
First, then, let us notice, the "things that are written in the law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms," concerning Christ. It is remarkable what clear views the different Prophets had of the person, birth, work, sufferings, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus; so that they spake of things and events with the same clearness as though they had been both eye and ear-witnesses of the whole. For instance. The Prophet Habakkuk saw him going forth from everlasting with his heavenly Father for the salvation of his people, and saith, "Thou wentest forth for the salvation of thy people, even for salvation with thine Anointed." (Hab. 3:13) The Prophet Isaiah saw him conceived in the womb of a virgin, and saith, "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isa. 7:14) This same Prophet also saw him as the "child born, and Son given;" (Isa. 9:6) and speaks of it in the present tense, as though it had already taken place: thus, speaking of things that were not as though they were. The Prophet Micah points out his birth-place, and saith, "And thou, Bethlehem-Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me, that is to be the ruler of Israel." (Micah 5:2) The Prophet Jeremiah saw the blood-hound Herod murdering the children in Judea under two years of age, in order to make sure of destroying the Holy Child Jesus; he heard "Rachel weeping for her children, and refusing to be comforted, because they were not." (Jer. 31:15) Hosea saw him coming out of Egypt after the death of Herod, and saith, "I have called my son out of Egypt." (Hosea 11:1) Moses saw him in his prophetic office, and saith, "The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee of my brethren, like unto me, unto him ye shall hearken." (Deut. 18:15) And then he tells them, that whosoever will not hear him shall be cut off. Isaiah beheld him going forth in the great and important work of man's salvation; and with astonishment asks this important question, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?" and receives this reply, "I that speak in righteousness, mighty to save." (Isa. 63:1) He also saw the anguish and sorrow of his heart; and tells us, "He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." (Isa. 53:3) He saw him with his visage more marred than any man's, and his form than the sons of men. (Isa. 52:14) David also when he said, "When the wicked, even my enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell," (Ps. 27:2) saw in prophecy the great multitude which should come against Jesus with swords and staves, with Judas at their head, when they went backward and fell to the ground, while Jesus said unto them, "I am he." Zechariah saw his disciples forsaking him and fleeing away in this trying hour, saying, "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts; smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." (Zech. 13:7) Jeremiah saw him agonizing in the garden, overwhelmed with grief and sorrow, when his precious soul was exceedingly sorrowful even unto death, and saith, "Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of his fierce anger." (Lam. 1:12) Isaiah saw him led to Pilate's bar; and tells us, "He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth." (Isa. 53:7) David saw him at the bar, and heard his enemies bearing false witness against him, and saith, "False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not." (Ps. 35:11) Isaiah heard Pilate pass the unjust sentence on him; for, though he found no fault in him, he sentenced him to death, and delivered him to his enemies to be crucified. This Isaiah saw; and tells us, that "in his humiliation his judgment was taken away. (Acts 8:33) And this truly was the case; for to condemn an innocent person to death is contrary to all law, either human or divine; this was taking his judgment from him with a witness. Isaiah follows him to the cross, and says, He "trod the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with him." (Isa. 63:3) David also saw the heaviness of his precious soul, and heard him exclaiming, "Reproach hath broken my heart, and I am full of heaviness; and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none." (Ps. 69:20) He saw his enemies insulting him, with, "He saved others, himself he cannot save; and saith, "They persecute him whom thou hast smitten, and talk to the grief of those whom thou hast wounded." (Ps. 69:26) He saw him with the intolerable load of the sins of all his people upon him, enduring the wrath of God to the very utmost under the hidings of his Father's face, and heard his dolorous cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1) He also saw his enemies presenting him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall; he saw them nail him to the cross, and the soldiers pierce his side, and saith, "They pierced my hands and my feet; I may tell all my bones, they look and stare upon me." (Ps. 22:17) He saw them parting his garments among them, and casting lots upon his vesture. David also follows him to the tomb, and predicts his resurrection on the third day; for, he says, "Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption." (Ps. 16:10) Isaiah saw him rise from the dead, and heard him exclaim, "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise." (Isa. 26:19) David saw him ascend into heaven, and saith, "Thou hast ascended on high; thou hast led captivity captive." (Ps. 68:18) Also, "God is gone up with a shout; the Lord with the sound of a trumpet." (Ps. 47:5) Yea, David heard the heavenly host exclaim, "Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in." (Ps. 24:7) Yea, David follows him to the throne of the Majesty on high, saw him seated at the right hand of his heavenly Father, and heard him saying unto Him, "Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." (Ps. 110:1)
Thus, my friends, we see, that the different Prophets traced and followed the Lord Jesus Christ from his goings forth from everlasting, and never lost sight of Him, until as a mighty conqueror he sat down upon his throne, there to reign till all his enemies became his footstool; and we know, "the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (1 Cor. 15:26)
But having given a brief account of some of "the things that are written in the law of Moses, in the Prophets, and in the Psalms concerning Christ," (Luke 24:44) I will now endeavor,
Secondly; to treat on the sufferings of Christ; and on what grounds "it behoved him to suffer."
1. Christ suffered from poverty. He was "the poor and needy man," who drank the deepest of this cup of sorrow. He said, "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head." (Matt. 8:20) He knoweth the heart of a stranger; and he well knows the trials of his poor and needy followers. He is well acquainted with the many sleepless nights and restless days, the sorrowful hearts, and downcast countenances of his people through the tribulation arising from this quarter. He knows the many fears, the anxious thoughts, and the dreadful forebodings of mind they have, that they shall not be able to bear up under their many and accumulated trials, that the Lord will not appear for their help; that they shall faint in the day of adversity; turn back in the day of battle, and thus open the mouth of enemies, wound the saints of God, and bring an evil report upon the good ways of the Lord. What some suffer on this ground no tongue can tell. But here is a door of hope, He is a "brother born for adversity;" and a Friend that loveth at all times;" (Prov. 17:17) yea, he "sticketh closer than a brother." (Prov. 18:24) Thus, He not only knows their trials; but he is a sympathizing friend, and knows how to deliver his people out of them all.
2. Again. Christ suffered persecution, even from the cradle to the cross. The enmity in "the seed of the serpent" against "the seed of the woman" (Gen. 3:15) showed itself as soon as the man-child was brought forth. All the persecution he endured from the Scribes and Pharisees took its rise in the enmity of their hearts both to his Person and truth. It was enmity that kept them at it till they had done all that the lord determined should be done. In this also, his followers have to drink of the same cup; to be baptized with the same baptism; for "all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution." (2 Tim. 2:12) And one reason why there is not more persecution in the present day, is, because there is too much conformity to the world; persons professing godliness imitate the people of the world in their manners, pride, and vanity. If persons professing godliness were in all things to walk as Christ walked; if they had Him for their example, they would find what was done in the green tree would also be done in the dry. Christ told his disciples that they would be hated of all men for his sake; but he bade them not to marvel at it; for, says he, "If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you." (John 15:18) And he says again, "Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you." (Luke 6:26) And the Apostle Peter says, "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit of Glory and of God resteth upon you; on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. Therefore let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping their souls to him in well-doing as unto a faithful Creator." (1 Pet. 4:14,19)
3. Christ also suffered reproach. All manner of evil was said against him falsely; for though he went about doing good, healing all manner of diseases among the people, and delivering those who were possessed by devils; yet, they said, "He casteth out devils through Beelzebub, the prince of the devils." (Luke 11:15) "He hath a devil, and is mad: why bear ye him?" (John 10:20) "If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household? (Matt. 10:25) Therefore, it is not to be wondered at that the followers of Christ are called enthusiasts and madmen by persons who know not their right hand from their left in the things of God. Are you then hated of all men for Christ's sake? "Rejoice, and be exceeding glad; for great is your reward in heaven." (Matt. 5:12) Are you suffering reproach for Christ's sake? Remember, it is better to suffer for well-doing than for evil-doing. Be constantly on the watch; and study to keep a conscience void of offense both toward God and man. None shall harm you, if ye be followers of that which is good. Let us, therefore, go forth to Him without the camp bearing his reproach; for "if we suffer with him, we shall also reign with him."
4. But again. Christ also suffered from temptation; "He was led up of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil." (Matt. 4:1) This combat lasted forty days; and I believe, there is not a single temptation presented by the devil to a saint of God, however strange and singular it may appear to the person tempted, but what that same temptation was presented to Christ during the forty days' combat: all that the power and subtlety of the devil could invent was brought to bear against him; for we are told, "Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest; (Heb. 2:7) one that can be "touched with the feeling of our infirmities; who was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin;" (Heb. 4:15) one that knoweth how to succor under temptation, and deliver out of them.
He was tempted to question his Sonship, "If thou be the Son of God," saith Satan. And how frequently is the same temptation presented and fastened on the mind of a child of God, even after the most satisfactory evidence has been given that he is a son and heir of God. Our precious Jesus, as the poet says,
"Knows what sore temptation means,
For he has felt the same."
Satan next tempts the Son of God to work a miracle to prove his Sonship, and satisfy his hunger. And how frequently is a child of God tempted by this infernal foe to take forbidden and unlawful steps, when his way is hedged up with thorns, and he knows not what to do, nor which way to turn, saying, with the disciples, "What shall I eat? what shall I drink? and wherewithal shall I be clothed? Satan knows that a day of adversity to a saint of God is a day of temptation and trial, and therefore he follows him with his powerful temptations to cause him to turn aside from the path of obedience: and if he cannot succeed in drawing him aside into open sin, he will stir up in his heart murmurings, discontent, envy, and self-pity, till, with Asaph, he is envious at the foolish, when he sees the prosperity of the wicked.
Again. Satan taketh the Son of God, and placeth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and there tempts him to presume on the providence and promise of his Father by casting himself from thence; "for it is written," saith Satan, "He shall give his angels charge concerning thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone." (Matt. 4:6) "If thou be the Son of God," therefore, he says, "cast thyself down; no evil shall befall thee, seeing that angels have charge over thee. And how frequently is the child of God tempted by this infernal foe to presume on the promise and providence of his God. How often Satan will suggest to his mind, 'Why, according to your own doctrine, if you are elected you will certainly be saved; and as you cannot sin away the love of God, nor sin yourself out of an interest in his mercy, why so scrupulous? why so cautious in treading upon forbidden ground?' But if he cannot succeed in drawing away a child of God into looseness of living, he will turn round, and tell him 'that all his religion is in the flesh; that he has deceived himself, and others are deceived in him; that he is a hypocrite in Zion, and as such will certainly have his portion in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone; he had better destroy himself, and know the worst of it.' Thus, he is tempted to rush upon the thick bosses of God's buckler; and some have escaped out of this snare of the devil as it were by the skin of their teeth, for oftentimes there have been but one step between them and death.
Again. Satan taketh Jesus into an exceeding high mountain, and there tempts him to worship him. This was the most diabolical and outrageous of all his temptations, and one which seldom if ever assails a child of God. I never was tempted to worship the devil, though I have been tempted to almost every other evil that can be named; nor did I ever hear or read of any person who was tempted to do so; although a person may be tempted to things almost as horrible. We read of some, "whose god is their belly;" others are carried away with the pleasures of the world, their hearts being where their treasures are: thus the pleasures of sin are the idols they worship. Others, in a profession of religion, are under the power and dominion of covetousness: a covetous person is an idolater; and to be under the power and dominion of covetousness is very little better than worshipping the devil. And though a child of God is not held captive to these things, yet such diabolical temptations are sometimes presented to, and fastened on his mind, as often make him tremble; they are things that his righteous soul loathes, hates, and abhors, but which oftentimes he has neither the power to withstand, nor the wisdom to escape.
"But here's our point of rest,
Though hard the battle seem;
Our Captain stood the fiery test,
And we shall stand through him."
For the Lord has promised with every temptation to make a way of escape, or to give strength to bear it; and, blessed be his name, "He is faithful who hath promised."
5. But again. Christ suffered from desertion. He was not only hated by his enemies, but he was forsaken by his friends. Judas, his professed, though false friend, betrayed him. Peter, his real friend, denied him. When he was in the deepest distress every disciple forsook him and fled. We are told, that "He looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but he found none:" and although it was very trying, there was a needs be for it; He was to tread the winepress alone, and of the people there was to be none with him; his own arm, even his only, was to bring salvation. The Lord's family have to drink deeply of the same cup. David says, "I looked on the right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me; refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul." (Ps. 142:4) And when was this the case? Why, when David was in the greatest distress. Job found the same; for he saith, "He hath put my brethren far from me, and mine acquaintance are verily estranged from me. My kinsfolk have failed, and my familiar friends have forgotten me." (Job 19:13,14) The old proverb is, 'Prosperity gains friends, and adversity tries them.' Job's friends, in the day of adversity, proved to him like a brook that faileth. To be hated by the world and empty professors is a badge of honor; and a child of God at times can esteem it as such. But when the people of God, the excellent of the earth, in whom our souls delight, are shy of us, and stand aloof from our souls, this is trying. David complains of it as a thing painful to be borne; "Lover and friend hast thou put far away from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness." (Ps. 88:18) But these things are profitable; they wean us from an arm of flesh, and prevent us from trusting in man, or putting confidence in a guide, and are the means of bringing us to put our whole trust in the Lord of hosts. Thus, we find, that when father and mother forsake us, the Lord takes us up.
6. But the greatest of all Christ's sufferings were those that he passed through in the garden of Gethsemane. Here his precious soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. It was here that he sweat as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground; and, being in an agony, he prayed more earnestly that the bitter cup might pass from him. But against the decrees of heaven even the Son of God himself could not prevail.
But what was this bitter cup which the Son of God drank up? The chief ingredient was, the sins of his chosen people, which were charged to his account, and laid with all their weight and guilt on his precious soul. The Father caused all the sins of his people to meet upon him; he "made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." (2 Cor. 5:21) As their sins were found on Christ, there justice sought satisfaction for them, there the Father visited them in wrath; for God will visit for sin wherever he finds it; consequently, if you die in your sins, God will visit your sins in vindictive wrath. The intolerable load of sin, the wrath of God due thereto, and the justice of God calling for satisfaction--these were some of the bitters in this cup of affliction which occasioned his trouble, grief, sorrow, anguish, and distress of soul, and at the sight of which his humanity shrunk. Hear his sorrowful language in the Book of Psalms. "Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off." Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves." (Ps. 88:7) "While I suffer thy terrors I am distracted." (Ps. 88:15) "Save me, O God, for the waters are come into my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me." (Ps. 69:1,2) All these things were experienced by the Saviour in their fullest extent in the garden of Gethsemane.
7. But follow the sacred Sufferer to the cross, and there he is in an agony of body and soul that tongue can never describe. There you behold him with a crown of thorns upon his head; his body nailed to the tree; his side pierced by soldiers; the sword of justice thrust into his very soul; the vials of God's wrath emptied on him without mixture of mercy; the sorrows of death compassing him about, and the pains of hell getting hold of him; forsaken by his friends, and insulted by his enemies even when in the agonies of death; and, as the poet says,
"To make his sorrows quite complete,
By God forsaken too:"
hence his dolorous cry, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1; Matt. 27:46) But after enduring this agony for three hours, he cries, "it is finished." (John 19:30) Commits his spirit into the hands of his heavenly Father, and gives up the ghost.
"Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer." And every sensible sinner, more or less, tasteth of the same bitter cup: for, when the Holy Ghost convinces the sinner of his sins by charging it home upon his conscience, with all its guilt and filth, he knows what it is to feel bitterness; his iniquities go over his head; they are a burden too heavy for him to bear. And as "By the law is the knowledge of sin," (Rom. 3:20) so the law enters the conscience as the ministration of death, and is "the letter that killeth." (2 Cor. 3:6,7) By this law the sinner is consigned over to death and everlasting destruction; the character of the Lawgiver is made known to him, with righteousness girding his loins, and faithfulness his reins, ministering judgment to the people in righteousness, and who will in nowise clear the guilty. (Num. 14:18) The wrath of God in a broken law is now revealed in his guilty conscience; his sins stare him in the face, and stand in battle array against his soul; his iniquities are now made known to him, and he fears in this day of evil, while the iniquity of his heels take hold upon him. The law of God condemns him; the justice of God pursues him go where he will; and the arrows of God's wrath stick fast in his conscience, the poison whereof drinketh up his spirit; so that he saith, "O that I had winds like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest. Lo, then would I wander far off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest." (Ps. 55:6-8) But the wings of a dove are to no purpose; there is no flying from God's presence, from a guilty conscience, from a broken law, and from the wrath of God. There is no breaking these bands asunder, or casting these cords away: he feels himself shut up under the law, in the strongholds of God's wrath, and his soul laid in the irons: the sorrows of death compass him about, and the pains of hell get hold upon him, so that he finds trouble and sorrow. All that the poor sinner can do in this state is to cry unto God to bring his soul out of prison; yet, at the same time he cannot believe that the Lord will regard his cry. The sorrows of a soul experiencing these things are compared to that of a travailing woman; and it may be truly said, "Alas, for the day is great; there is none like it; it is the time of Jacob's trouble: but he shall be delivered out of it." (Jer. 30:7) This is drinking of the cup that Christ drank of, and being baptized with the baptism that he was baptized with.
Thus I have treated some of the things which Christ suffered, and endeavored to prove that all God's people have to walk in a greater or lesser degree in the same path of suffering. In this they have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings; (Phil. 3:10) as said Paul, "It is given unto you on the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on his name, but also to suffer for his sake." (Phil. 1:29) O what a mercy is this! "If we suffer with Him, we shall also reign with Him."
But I will now pass on to take notice of the word "behove," which implies the same things as "Ought not Christ to have suffered these things."
On what ground, then, "ought" Christ to suffer? Certainly not on his own account, for He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;" (Heb. 7:26) there was no sin in him, neither was guile found in his mouth. And it is contrary to law that an innocent person should suffer; for God will not condemn the righteous, neither will he clear the guilty. Eliphaz preached this doctrine to Job, and said, "Whoever perished, being innocent, and when were the righteous cut off?" (Job 4:7) Therefore, on this ground he ought not to have suffered.
1. But we must view Christ as the surety of his people. He became responsible for their debt: he entered into a covenant contract with the Father and the Holy Ghost before the world began; and in this covenant he engaged to become responsible for the crimes of his people. Now this contract cannot be broken, nor the thing altered that is already done. On this ground he "ought" to have suffered. If one man is surety for another, he is not only bound by the law to pay the debt for which he is bound; but he is also as an honest man bound by his own conscience to do so, although he did not himself contract a single mite of the debt. It is well to be cautious in being bound for another: many persons and families have been ruined in consequence: but, when once bound, never attempt to evade your responsibility, for in so doing you will not act like an honest man.
2. Again. It "behoved" Christ to suffer that the scriptures might be fulfilled; "Heaven and earth shall pass away;" he says, "but my words shall not pass away." (Matt. 24:15) "The word of the Lord endureth for ever." (1 Pet. 1:25) "The scriptures cannot be broken." (John 10:35)
3. But again. It also "behoved" him to suffer that the sons of God might be brought safe home to glory; for Paul saith, "It became him for whom all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (Heb. 2:15) "And being made perfect, He became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him." (Heb. 5:9)
We are certain that the sufferings of Christ added nothing to his perfection as God, nor anything to his perfections as a holy man. But his sufferings prove him to be a perfect and complete Saviour; one who is able to save with that salvation that is suitable to the very state and condition of his people. Therefore, it "behoved" him to suffer, that the Church might be fully and finally saved. Had he not have suffered, this could not have been. The law of God must be magnified, and made honorable; sin must be atoned for, and put away; the justice of God must be satisfied, and reconciliation made; the world must be overcome; the devil conquered and death destroyed: otherwise the elect of God never could be saved. Now none could accomplish these things, but he who is mighty to save; nor could they be accomplished without suffering. He hath indeed suffered "the Just for the unjust," (1 Pet. 3:18) that perishing sinners might be brought nigh unto God; and "having made peace by the blood of his cross," (Col. 1:20) he has opened up a new and living way of access unto the Father; a way in which "the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with songs; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away." (Isa. 35:10)
Thus it "behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day." "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." (1 Cor. 15:26) The sentence of the law passed upon man for his sin is death; this sentence was executed upon Christ; therefore when Christ died, the law received its due, and with it justice was satisfied. But then, he must rise from the dead, or the last enemy will not be destroyed. Hence it "behoved" him to rise from the dead, as well as to suffer; and when he arose from the dead, he destroyed death, and became the destruction of the grave. He is therefore, "the resurrection and the life;" and he said to Martha, "He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die." (John 11:25,26) Christ appeared to John in the Isle of Patmos, and said unto him, "I am he that liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore, and have the keys of hell and of death." (Rev. 1:18) "I open, and none can shut; I shut, and none can open." (Rev. 3:7) And to his disciples he said, "Because I live, ye shall live also." (John 14:19)
May the Lord add his blessing to what has been said. Amen.