NONE can properly read this chapter without having an eye to Christ, who is spoken of all the way through it. The Lord, by his inspired penmen in the New Testament, shows this. Thus we see how the Old and New Testament correspond. The Old is confirmed by the New. Last Friday I was overwhelmed with grief because of severe domestic affliction, which has since relieved to my astonishment. If any one had told me last Friday that this would be the case, I should have said, "Oh thou man of God, do not lie unto thy servant." But the Lord's goodness is beyond our thoughts. Hart says--
"Nor spare to make me clearly see
The sorrows thou hast felt for me.
If death must follow, I comply;
Let me be sick with love, and die."
This has been the language of my heart during the whole of this morning.
"If thou the least displeasure shew,
And bring my vileness to my view;
Tim'rous and weak I shrink and say,
'Lord, keep thy chast'ning hand away.'
My dear Redeemer, purge this dross;
Teach me to hug and love the cross;
Teach me thy chast'ning to sustain,
Discern the love, and bear the pain."
This chapter speaks-first, of the person of Christ; second, of the sorrow and grief of Christ; third, of the sufferings of Christ; fourth, of the death of Christ; fifth, of his burial; and sixth, of his resurrection. Then this follows, "He shall see his seed." This comes out of all these things, and is the joy that was set before him. This innumerable seed, who should be with him. "Behold I and the children which God hath given me," in full number--not one missing. We may go very far and fall short of Christ. The foolish virgins said, "Lord, open to us; but he answered, verily, I say unto you, I know you not." None could go much further than these virgins did in a profession. They went forth with the wise; they made a glare for a time; but the midnight cry came, and their lamps were gone out. This will be the case with many professors. This is a solemn thing. When such come to die it will be awful work. If we have no communion with Christ there is something wanting in our religion. I know that I am sealed to the day of redemption, and therefore I wait for my death in hope.
"O my Jesus, thou art mine
With all thy grace and power;
I am now, and shall be thine,
When time shall be no more."
This is true religion. I have been advised by a kind friend to leave home for a month because of the state of my nerves; but I told him that I could not get away from myself, from my own thoughts. I should be glad of a month's retreat if I could get free from these things, but I cannot leave Lewes--"Being bound in affliction and iron." I am bound here and dare not move. I believe the Lord will keep me so as long as it shall be for the glory of his name. "Who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?" This the apostle John applies to Christ, chapter 12:38; and in the following verses, quoting from Isaiah 6, he adds, "These things said Esaias when he saw his glory and spake of him," namely, that though Isaiah was a personal witness of his power and glory, yet the multitude saw it not, and would not see it; and these prophecies were fulfilled in Christ's day, as recorded in John 12. "Arm of the Lord revealed." This is the grand point. Thousands saw Christ in the days of his flesh who did not see his power. We must have power to believe. Paul says, "Our Gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance." (1 Thess. 1:5) All the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Has this power been revealed to you in subduing your hardness, impenitency, and unbelief, so that you could say with Jeremiah, "Thy words were found, and I did eat them, and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart." Mr. Jenkins once preached from these words, "That which thou hast, hold fast till I come." In meditating afterwards upon this discourse, the fire kindled in my heart, and I spake and said, "Thou knowest that I love thee." I could not at first receive the word from Mr. Brooke, and one I walked nearly forty miles to hear another preacher; but afterwards I heard Mr. Brooke with the inward ear of my mind. "Blessed are your ears for they hear." Then Mr. Brooke preached from these words, "As the hart panteth after the waterbrooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God." In this sermon he brought forth his exercise, and I found unity with him, and never doubted of him afterwards. Very few believed Christ though many heard him. "He came to his own but his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." (John 1:11,12) When he drew the line between the spiritual and the carnal church, many were offended. Then he said to the twelve, "Will ye also go away? and Peter answered, Lord, to whom shall we go? (John 6:60-68) Thou hast the words of eternal life." So the Lord said, "I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them." (John 17:8) This was a searching ministry that separated between the precious and the vile. (Jer. 15:19) "He hath no form nor comeliness. He is despised and rejected of men." This refers, in the first place, to the general rejection of Christ by the Jewish nation. I must say the same of myself. I could see no beauty in him. (Isa. 53:2) It is now otherwise with me. I am grieved at my very heart that I can see so little of a precious Christ and of his beauty. Is this the case with you? All natural affection is too short. Rest not in it. This is the grand deception of the present day. Many think it to be the power of God, when it is but the delusion of the devil. Every act of faith is in one sense a prophecy. Preaching is prophesying, so says Paul. "But if all prophesy, and there come in one that believeth not or one unlearned, he is convinced of all, he is judged of all: and thus are the secrets of his heart made manifest; and so falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is in you of a truth." Job had the spirit of prophecy when he said, "He knoweth the way that I take; when I am tried I shall come forth as gold." "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Heb. 11:1) "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." The spirit of faith is the same. I don't wish to sit in judgment upon any; but this is the only view I can take of men--
"In vain men talk of living faith,
When all their works exhibit death."
"By their fruits ye shall know them." You must see the same in me or I am wrong. My old friend Mr. Gorringe says, "I look more to the feet than to the head now; I used to look to the head, but I have left off doing so." This is my way also. "Surely he hath borne our griefs," (verses 4-7) You must keep your eye on Christ all the way through the verses. Not a grief that any of his children suffer, but he has had the same. The chief acquaintance of Christ in the days of his flesh was with grief. Our sin was the procuring cause of all this. Nothing but his love led him to this grief. In his love and in his pity he redeemed them." (Isa. 63:9)
"O love of unexampled kind,
That leaves all thought so far behind."
"He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it," (Prov. 11:15) and Christ did so. He passed by the nature of angels and took hold of ours. "Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh." (1 Tim. 3:16) He took all our sin upon himself. "He was made sin for us who knew no sin." (2 Cor. 5:21) May we have a due sense of sin, and what it cost the Saviour. "Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him: he hath put him to grief." Bread corn is bruised, is crushed in a mill. This is much stronger than being wounded. You may have a cut, but to be bruised in the mortar of God's law is a different thing. See how far you follow Christ in this. Peter refers to this point, "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you...but rejoice inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings." "All we like sheep have gone astray,...and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." It was the act of the Father to lay the sin on his Son. Our sins of omission and commission, actual and original, all are laid on him. "The blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:7) "He that spared not his own Son," that is, of his own nature, of the same essence. He has thousands of sons and daughters by adoption and grace, but only one Son of his own nature. Begotten, not made. These are solid truths. On this rock the church is built. "I and my Father are one." If you form no higher idea of Christ than of his being an adopted Son, you are far below the mark. He is higher than all created beings. Yet "he was oppressed." What was it that oppressed him? If you go to heaven, you will have to know something of it. The Son of God, who had all power in heaven and in earth, oppressed? Yes, and we will show the cause in a few particulars. Can you enumerate them in your own experience?
First, The whole of all the sins of the elect. "He was made sin for us," which is a very strong expression. Let David explain it in Psalm 40, "For innumerable evils have compassed me about, mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up." Here he personates Christ. And also in Psalm 38, "For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me." This is the intolerable weight of our sin. Hart says--
"For all our sins we his may call,
As he sustained their weight;
How huge the heavy load of all,
When only mine's so great."
This is personal religion. Here is the grand mystery. All our sin laid on him. "I am black but comely as the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Solomon." (Songs 1:5) Christ says, "Thou hast made me to serve with thy sins." He freely took them upon himself. All our sins were made his by imputation--no other way. Can you say you have been so pressed by the weight of sin as to be like corn in a mill? I have been crushed under my sin. Hart says--
"To see sin smarts but slightly,
To own with lip confession
Is easier still; but oh! to feel,
Cuts deep beyond expression."
Thus have I been taught to know something of the sufferings of Christ.
The second particular is, The vindictive wrath of God. "Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves." (Ps. 88:7) The vials of God's wrath were poured out upon him. You and I don't know the vindictive wrath of God. "Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, and against the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of Hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered." (Zech. 13:7) When the wrath and the sword meet together, this is vindictive. When a sense of sin, the wrath of God, and the sentence of the law, meet together, and there is no gospel, we cannot stand. Under the weight of these things, excessive horror seized the soul of Christ. "My heart is sore pained within me, and the terrors of death are fallen upon me." (Ps. 55:4) His heart was melted within him. These horrors overwhelmed the Son of God. Yes, the Scriptures say so. I know that I have had enough of this to overwhelm me. It is written, "While I suffer thy terrors I am distracted." Was not Christ distracted when he was greatly amazed? These are some of the bitter things that Christ tasted of. "Thy fierce wrath goeth over me: thy terrors have cut me off." (Ps. 88:16) The 88th Psalm (Heman's, one of Solomon's wise men) speaks of very deep sorrows and sufferings, and it may be that he in part "testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ." These excessive sorrows and griefs of Christ no tongue can tell, nor can any heart in the least conceive, except it has in a measure felt the same. I have known something of them. The Lord said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death." But
"At most we do but taste the cup,
For thou alone hast drunk it up."
A verse out of one of Hart's hymns occurred to my mind very powerfully this morning.
"Much we talk of Jesus' blood;
But how little's understood
Of his suff'rings, so intense,
Angels have no perfect sense.
Who can rightly comprehend
Their beginning, or their end?
'Tis to God, and God alone,
That their weight is fully known."
Jeremiah says, "I am the man that hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath." I can say the same with humility. I have had glimpses of Christ's sufferings in a practical manner. It is said, "Fearfulness and trembling are come upon me," and also, "Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared." Then fears belonged to the Son of God. Yes; he had our nature upon him. What was the cause of Christ's being afraid to be alone? "Tarry ye here and watch with me." If it were not for the fears I do not think he would have said so. I have told you that I have been afraid of being left alone. Perhaps I have gone into these troubles tenfold deeper than you have; but there is no salvation in that. The salvation is in finding Christ, who took me as he did Jonah out of the belly of hell. And further, all the powers of darkness were let loose upon Christ. "This is your hour and the power of darkness." Christ was more oppressed by the devil than were all his followers. Is this all? There is one thing more that oppressed him more than all the rest, namely, the desertion of his God. This was the most distressing thing. "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" I have found something of all these things in my experience. "If we suffer with Christ we shall also reign with him." "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial that is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you; but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings." When I was in my deep trouble, nearly all the ministers that came to see me said that I was gone far enough out of their depth. But
"Sinners can say, and none but they,
How precious is the Saviour."
This exercise so endears Christ, that he is exceedingly precious to me. You may not have been called quite into these depths, and don't ask for them; but if you do come so low, one grain of the fear of the Lord will eventually bring you up again. Don't go home cast down because you have not been so deeply exercised as I have described. If you have grace in your heart, underneath you are the everlasting arms. "He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters." Into whatever depths you may fall, you will come up a very little thing. You will leave the pope (self) behind you. I have gone down big, but come up little. You will be less than nothing, and won't think that you know much. "He that thinketh he knoweth anything, knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." "Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed, lest he fall." We must be brought low that Jesus may be set on high, and may you and I join heartily together in singing, "Salvation to God and the Lamb." If you can trace that you have one spark of grace, one spiritual desire, one divine breathing or hankering after Christ (oh that Christ may be formed in my heart the hope of glory), God has given you this, and he will perfect it, and bring you to what Hart says--
"The sinner that, by precious faith,
Has felt his sins forgiven,
Is from that moment pass'd from death,
And sealed an heir of heaven."
I have dropped these few things lest I may have said anything that might wound the weakest of God's children.