"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." (Isaiah 53:5)
In various ways in His providence, God gives abundant evidence of His hatred to sin. He afflicts nations and families and individuals, proclaiming thereby that He hates sin. Nations will not acknowledge His judgments "LORD, when Thy hand is lifted up, they will not see." But, says the prophet, "they shall see, and be ashamed." Families and individuals in natural trouble, pass through it hardly bestead and hungry, and they look up and curse their King and their God and there is no acknowledgement of sin. Every child of God by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, understands painfully and with great shame, the evil of sin as it is represented to him by the law. The law presses accusations upon the conscience, and God is justified by each conscience so dealt with in the severest sentence of the law and in His terrible dealings with the soul, and sin is perceived to be of an infinite malignity and evil. But there is one place and one Person where and in whom sin in its utmost evil and punishment, with God in His utmost hatred to it, is met; and you will discover if the Holy Spirit be pleased to reveal it to you, that place and that Person is Calvary and Christ crucified.
The most solemn, the most sweet, the most bitter experience of sin and of divine love that the people of God can ever know in this life, they know when Christ crucified is revealed in them. The glory of God's justice, and His natural and necessary hatred to sin is there. Every heart that perceives it trembles at it. O! if we know sin, and God's salvation from it, we shall know it here. The infinite wisdom and love of God He displays in the unspeakable gift of His dearly beloved incarnate Son, sent to be the Saviour of the world; sent to redeem His chosen people by substituting Himself in His incarnation and sorrow, in His travail and death.
It may be asked today as it was asked by the Prophet Isaiah, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed?" It may seem almost impertinent for me to ask pointedly this question in this congregation because we are constantly, as we believe, reading the Bible without question and without doubt, as to the facts revealed. We read the scriptures more or less with a feeling of reverence; we read of the death of Christ and do not question that it was a death of substitution; the death of One who intervened in the terrible quarrel that man set up against God, and that God justly is against man. Why they should it be asked if we have believed this report? This I believe is the reason; that not all of us could say we have seen the Lord Jesus suffering; not all of us can say we have seen Him suffering for our sins; a few may be able to say that; more can say that they want to see Him bleeding for them; to see that their dreadful sins, which at times burden them beyond expression and almost beyond bearing were put away by the Lord Jesus when He said, "It is finished," and bowed His head and dismissed His Spirit.
"Who hath believed our report?" to whom is the offence of the cross ceased; to whom is it made the life and the glory, the hope and strength; the peace and comfort; the joy and rejoicing of their hearts? Why should it be thought such a wonderful thing for people to believe in Christ crucified? First, because of the Person who was crucified. No mere man, but the God-man, that blessed One of whom it is written, "This is His name wherewith He shall be called, THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS." (Jer. 23:6) This was an offence to the Jews: Let Him come down from the cross and we will believe Him to be what He has claimed to be; believe Him to be the Son of God, if God take pleasure in Him; if God be His Father, let Him come down from the cross, save Himself and prove that truth. Our hearts take as much offence, perhaps not in the same form, but they take the same offence naturally against Christ and Him crucified. Why should it be with us amazing that we cannot believe it? Because the natural man cannot believe it, because, "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto Him, neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Cor. 2:14) This is the very climax of all the wonders and mysteries, and grace and love and favor of God to the church, that Christ the very Son of God and the very Son of man, the one Person without sin should suffer for sin. That God the Father in whose bosom His Son had been from eternity, should be just in bruising and wounding and chastising His Son; and that it should be just and proper for the Son who did no sin, in whose mouth there was no guile, should notwithstanding be such a sufferer for sin. No wonder it needs the Holy Spirit to make a sinner believe this and to see the greatest glory God will ever reveal to a creature, shining in Christ through the ignominy and shame and pain and grief of His death! May the Lord grant us that glorious operation of His Spirit, whereby we shall truly believe, not only that Christ died but that He died for us; that we may in faith gather round His cross and weep and love, mourn and sing, rejoice and be ashamed, and feel that the only evil existing is that which exists in our nature, and the only thing to be ashamed of is that which lives in us sin.
"Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." If it was sin in Adam to despise his Creator and his Law-giver, and he did despise Him when he partook of the forbidden fruit, what sin it is to turn away from Christ and Him crucified. May the Lord turn our hearts to His Son Jesus Christ, for there is no beauty in Him that we should desire Him from the natural point of view. Take this view-point of Christ, I mean the natural man's view-point, and what is there in Him to attract? But if you are led into the mystery of iniquity in your nature, and into the mystery of His love on the cross, you will perceive everything that is desirable in Him; everything that can do you good and save you from sin and keep you from sin and justify you from all law charges, and bring you spotless and without blame and unreprovable before His sight.
"We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." Job's friends misunderstood God and therefore they misunderstood Job. Eliphaz said, "Who ever perished, being innocent?" What a misunderstanding! Today we have the same legality and ignorance in our hearts. If you see a person who made a profession of religion very specially afflicted, and afflicted perhaps for years, you might find in your heart a legal feeling, and the question, what has he been doing? You would not boldly say what Eliphaz said, but you might in your legal minds find the question; What has that professor of religion been doing? God seems to be always against him, providence never favors him, what has he been doing? But it was foolishness in Eliphaz. It was wrong with respect to God, and it was a false charge against Job. Eliphaz was one of the three men of whom the Lord said, "Ye have not spoken of Me the thing that is right, as My servant Job hath." It was not right for Eliphaz to say that Job sinned in some particular way and consequently this affliction had befallen him.
"Whom the Saviour favours much,
Their faults He oft reproves;
He takes peculiar care of such,
And chastens whom He loves."
Sometimes for reasons known only to Himself, for a long time, the Lord may put a public cross on a child of His and set him for a wonder; and would that be an entirely single singular case? No, here is the Son of God singularly afflicted; set up above all others by affliction as an object of God's anger. But whatever judgment we may form of Christ in this His particular case of sorrow, this is the truth; "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."
I wish for myself that this might produce in me that pure hatred of sin that belongs to the gospel, and to the operations of the Holy Spirit on the heart. Sin is bitter and will be bitter in hell to all who suffer the punishment of eternal fire; but it is more bitter in another sense, and woe to those who escape that vengeance by Christ crucified.
"Shall the believer dare to sin,
Because his sin has been forgiven?
......Forbid it, Heaven!"
I would speak first of the Sufferer; secondly of the suffering and lastly of those for whom He endured the suffering.
The Sufferer, in the first place. We are told who He is. It is that great and gracious and humble One, the Lord Jesus Christ, who submitted to have sin laid on Him. "The LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." God made Him to be sin, the Son of God, Emmanuel. He did no sin, no guile was found in His mouth, yet God made Him sin, a sin-bearer, and actually imputed sin to Him. It was a real transaction when the Eternal Three entered into that Covenant. God the Father took, with His own hand, the sin of a fallen church and laid it on Him who volunteered to become her Surety and Saviour. This mystery will need eternity to open and magnify. How it took place in eternity and that it was actually done in time; that the Lord Jesus Christ did, by dying, swallow up death and hell and bring life and immortality to light by the gospel, will require eternity for all who are interested in it to explore. It is Jesus Christ, the Mighty God who said of Himself, "Before Abraham was, I am;" the Lamb of God "slain from the foundation of the world." This is the Person, infinite in His being, in His beginning, in His Glory, in His purity, and in His blessedness. Yet He condescended to come down into the womb of the virgin, into the lowest parts of the earth and have laid on His holy soul that sin which procured agony of body and of soul, exquisite pain of soul producing a bloody sweat in His sacred body. He condescended to do this, and did it voluntarily. None in heaven is like Him; and none on earth is to be compared with Him. He stands alone as the eternal Son of God; as the very Son of man; one Person; of whom His Father said at His baptizing, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Here stands a wondrous Person with that one name above all other names belonging to Him by right, "the Son of God;" the name that expresses His complex Person, "Emmanuel." The Jews saw Him, and not seeing Him they said, "Is not this the carpenter's son?" Seeing His miracles and hating Him, they said, "He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils He casteth out devils." Men today say the same, and not being able to deny that such a person once lived they acknowledge Him only as a great man, born as other men, living as other men and dying that He might set an example of patient suffering to other men who should follow Him; that is all. O! but when Christ said, "Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?" and then, yet closer, "Whom say ye that I am?" the Holy Spirit gave Peter a manifestation of Christ, so that he said, "Thou art the Christ, The Son of the living God." He saw Him by faith. Every believer gets the same sight in measure, from time to time, so that it is true of every one of them, each can say for himself: I have seen the Lord; I have seen Him to be the Son of God, and the Son of man, one Person; I have seen a beauty in that name He bears, Emmanuel. This is He of whom it is written in the Psalms, "I have laid help upon One that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people." (Ps. 89:19) The enemy shall not exact upon Him." There is none like Christ.
Well might we ask ourselves here and now, "What think ye of Christ? Whose son is He?" Whence came that Person whom men despised, crucified and slew? Whence His human nature? Whence His divine Person? From heaven He came. No man hath ascended into heaven but the same who descended into the lowest parts of the earth, and the same Person who descended, ascended up far above all principality and power. Now Christ said, "Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also," and very close and solemn that is, as I understand it and have felt it. Where is your treasure? Let conscience answer. Where is your treasure? "Rich men," says Bunyan, "carry their treasure in their trunks." Do you carry yours there? Do you carry your treasure about with you, or put it in your safe, or for security into your bank? Well then your heart is there. There you live. Says a child of God addressing the Lord,
"My treasure is Thy precious blood;
Fix there my heart, and for the rest,
Under Thy forming hands, my God,
Give me that frame which Thou lik'st best."
It is very solemn and very sweet to be enabled to say that.
Now we have this Person, unique, glorious, infinite, and blessed; this Person, true man, without sin. He had no sin, never a corrupt thought in His mind, never an unwise word fell from His lips; He always did those things which pleased His Father. Yet this Person was by His own Father made to be sin, covered with sin and immersed in it; not tainted with sin but covered with it. God "laid on Him the iniquity of us all." What then shall the Lord do with Him? What can His Father do with Him? What can the Law do with Him? What can justice say to Him? If He engaged His heart to approach unto God, what can holiness divine say to Him? These are great questions, simple perhaps, but containing infinite principles. What can His Father say to Him and do with Him? Why, He must punish Him. Sin can never be winked at by God. He is of eyes too pure to look on iniquity, He cannot behold sin; wherever God finds sin He must punish it. He found sin on His Son so He must punish it. And the law must curse Him, it cannot do otherwise, "Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree," (Gal. 3:13) and Christ was made a curse for us. The law must perform it; it could not honor itself, it could not honor its Author unless it curse and punish sin; it abates nothing of its claims of what is owing to it. Every attribute of God represented by holiness and justice must stand up against this Sin-bearer. O! what a solemn truth. This is the explanation of our text, "He was wounded," tormented, as it is in the margin. He was tormented for our transgressions, tormented. Yes, His holy heart was tormented with sin imputed to Him, His holy soul was tortured with the presence of sin on Him, so that of necessity He was what He is declared to have been in the Scriptures, "A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." It could not be otherwise until He had purged sin, and put it away by the sacrifice of Himself.
"He was bruised for our iniquities." Bread corn is bruised; and Christ was bruised. "The chastisement of our peace was upon Him." Chastisement is instruction. Chastisement is the rod of a father and chastisement here is instruction. Christ was instructed in eternity. What was necessary for the peace of His church. He was taught of His Father what He had to do. He received a revelation from God. "The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto Him." This awful and wondrous, mysterious and glorious transaction in the Trinity included this instruction, that it was necessary that incarnate Deity should suffer in order to procure the peace of His church. But what stripes were laid on Him, "And with His stripes we are healed." The word stripes is in the margin "bruised;" He was bruised so solemnly, that our peace might come and that we might be healed.
Let us then put those things together as the Lord helps us. Notice the sufferings so intense in the Lord Jesus.
"How willing was Jesus to die,
That we fellow-sinners might live!
The life they could not take away,
How ready was Jesus to give.
The pangs of His body were great,
But greater the pangs of His mind."
Christ must have suffered the solemn and terrible curse of the law in every feeling of His soul. He must have felt that the law which had been broken in Eden; which had been broken by every vessel of mercy who should be born after His death to the end of time; that the curse of the law thus broken, must have been inflicted upon Him so as to fill His whole soul with fearful torment. If we realize this more fully, I believe it would make us men of sorrows and acquaint us with grief, and nothing in providence that could come to pain or afflict us would ever half pain our hearts, like a sight of Christ's sufferings opened and revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.
The Lord Jesus Christ must have felt the hiding of His Father's face to have been the keenest of all His sorrows. He had been in the bosom of His Father eternally. His eternal Father had loved and embraced Him, communed with Him, talked to Him and He with His Father and the Holy Spirit both; the Three having that wondrous, mysterious, blessed, communion in eternity, which we must believe if we believe in the Trinity. Yet that very Father come to this Son Incarnate, burdened with sin and guilt and looked on Him with infinite abhorrence and withdrew from Him as from one He must punish; withdrew from Him. Well, if you have had God's smile for five minutes on your conscience and then He has gone, you will know what grief is. You will know what it is to feel a practical sense of loss and grief. What must it have been to the Lord Jesus to have wanted and lacked that smile and brightness, that approval and blessedness, that glory which had been His from eternity when He was on the cross without a friend near Him, without an arm to support Him, without a word to encourage Him and with billows of divine wrath rolling over Him. The climax came when His Father withdrew every smile and the Son said, under His grief and burden, "My God, My God why hast Thou forsaken Me?" This, as I believe, was the greatest of all His troubles. The bruising, the chastening, the wounding, and every stripe and stroke laid on Him had its climax in this, that His Father forsook Him and left Him alone. Thus He was left to Himself to grapple with the powers of hell and to finish the work He came to do; to bear the wrath and curse a broken law could and did inflict; His Father left Him, and so the church of Christ was saved, purchased with His own blood.
Look in the next place at the blessing that comes by all this that the dear suffering Saviour endured. "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." And here there is a gathering up of everything that a child of God can endure and feel in his conscience--transgressions, iniquities, lack of peace, and soul sickness, even sickness unto death if there be not physician. These are gathered up in the experience of the Lord's people more or less distinctly from time to time in order that they may come into a blessed realization of this great thing, "we are healed." If sin be pardoned, the soul is healed, really healed, blessedly healed. When transgression is felt a burden all but intolerable is felt; when iniquity is felt pollution troubles the mind and the conscience; when lack of peace is realized, nothing in the world can give you peace and comfort; when you feel your soul sickness a sickness unto death, a sickness that at times you cannot think can possibly be removed, then you reach a solemn climax in your case. Here is a sin sick soul; here is a law cursed soul; here is one immersed in iniquity; and here is one covered and encircled with his transgressions. Every one of you that has some experience of this, will not need that I shall speak of the pain, of the perplexity and the grief and the weakness and the sinking and the terrible apprehensions that you have had at times. But when the Lord who gathered up the sins of your soul and laid them on the dear Saviour, brings that which His death accomplished, namely peace and reconciliation, then you entered into this, "With His stripes, we are healed;" and this healing consists as far as it becomes an experience, in the application to the soul of what the Lord Jesus did.
Experimental salvation is an application of an accomplished salvation on the cross, and as the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross bore away all iniquity, so the application of that work bears away from the conscience transgressions, iniquities, want of peace and soul sickness. It is said of the man whom Peter healed by the name of Christ, that through faith in His name, this man had perfect soundness which all could see, so the soul has a perfect soundness when the death of Christ is applied to him.
What a wonder it is to be released from your transgressions. You cannot number them, can you? I cannot number mine. Transgressions, our heart immorality, our breaking through all boundaries set by God, our stepping over rules and laws given by Him. Who can number our transgressions? Amongst the most solemn, heart paining and weakening meditations we can ever have, this will be one, that we have transgressed innumerable times; broken through every proper boundary, law, admonition, precept and warning; gone boldly in sin transgressing at every turn; breaking through every hedge, not thinking that a serpent would bite us. Who can number our transgressions? If God should come and say our iniquities were in a bag we could not count them; we should find them to be heavy for us, but we could not count them.
O! but to have these things removed from you, washed away, conscience cleared, heart and spirit cleared, not as to the nature of sin, for that remains, but as to the sense of your being a transgressor and an iniquitous and leprous person, that and your want of peace, in reconciliation to God taken away by the death of Christ. There is plenty of religion without reconciliation to God, but when that want of reconciliation is felt and mourned and when you have said, "Lord, I do not deserve peace either in my body or in my family or in my business or with my friends or with Thyself either here or through eternity." When that is your humble, sincere confession, He comes sooner or later and says, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you." This peace is not God's eternal tranquility as the Creator and Ruler and Sovereign Law-giver, maintaining His own throne and governing everything and turning everything to His own glory; not that, but the peace which He had with His Father when sin was put away and He said, "It is finished." The peace which He was filled with when His soul entered Paradise; the peace which He had when He was raised from the dead and which He breathed on His disciples ere He left them to go into heaven; the peace of the Conqueror; of the Peace-maker, of the Sin-bearer, the peace of Him who had put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. "My peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth." The world may give you peace when you have no trouble of any particular sort, when your circumstances are easy, when no special adversity is in your house. That is a kind of peace that the world has and wishes to have always, but that is not Christ's peace. God's Christ prepared this peace when He was in trouble, and by His trouble His tears wipe yours away. His sorrows bring you joy. The hidings of His Father's face which He experienced bring the smiles of God into your soul; this is the peace which He prepared.
"The chastisement of our peace was upon Him," for He did His Father's will and did it for His children. Therefore they have that peace and, "with His stripes," or bruising, "we are healed," healed of the fever of sin, of the love of sin, and of the leprosy of sin. "We are healed," healed so as to be in God's sight as it is said, blameless and unreproveable."
Is this the religion you have or wish to have? This will do in all the rivers of sorrow; all the turmoil of a roaring sea; all the removal of moveable foundations, this will do in Jordan's icy flood. This will do to stand with before the throne of God. Less will leave us in eternal sorrow; this will land us in eternal bliss. "With His stripes we are healed." As a man who has been afflicted in his body a long time with pain in His strong bones, recovers and rejoices in renewed strength and feels now he is at liberty, he can walk, he can move, and he can act physically; so the soul that has been bound in sickness, being healed, now shows no pain or sorrow. The sorrows of death and the pains of hell are relieved by the blood of Jesus Christ, and by the Holy Spirit bringing that precious blood. The soul says: I am healed; I have perfect soundness in my conscience; and for the moment he has perfect soundness in his affliction, for Christ is to him all and in all; and what more can he want? What more can he wish? He can wish for nothing better, nothing greater.
This is the gospel I want to live by, to preach, and to die in. This is the gospel that will present us holy and without blame and unreproveable in God's sight, when the excitements of man-made religion, and creature confidence and all the things which God will reject are dead. If we have this, this will do, this will carry us through all trouble, bear us up in all rivers, give holy confidence from time to time in all sorrows so that we shall find it well with us. This, this. I know nothing else. I do not want to preach anything else. This has done me good. It is my hope and my support, and whenever I have any real peace this is it, and I do not want you to have anything else. May the good Spirit of Christ bring this gospel to us. Peace with God.
"Peace by His cross has Jesus made;
The church's everlasting Head
O'er hell and sin has victory won,
And, with a shout, to glory gone."
O! poor believer,
"......when thy eye of faith is dim,
Rest thou on Jesus, sink or swim."
This will stand you in good stead when you most need it. Then you will find yourself on a wondrous and mysterious but very true equality with the Lord Jesus, "As He is so are we in this world." Is He righteous? So is the believer. Is there no blame attached to Him? Neither is there to the believer. Is He pleasing to God? So is the child of God pleasing to God. Whatever Christ is as Christ; whatever He possesses as His people's Head and Surety, belongs to them also. O! if the Holy Spirit be pleased to make out this to us we shall say we have enough. Here is all a God can give. Then we shall pray,
"Here would I constantly abide,
And every moment live."