THE PREVALENCE OF UNBELIEF
Isa . Who hath believed our report?
I. THE DESCRIPTION HERE GIVEN OF THE GOSPEL. It is a "report." A report is a statement made to us of facts existing, or of events that have occurred, at some distance of time or place, and which we ourselves have not witnessed. Reports we accept or reject according to the degree of credibility which attaches to those who bring them to us. The Gospel is a "report." As such it surpasses all others—
1. In the importance of the truths which it professes to communicate to us. Consider what they are: What God hath done to deliver us from the bondage and condemnation of sin; how we may approach Him with favour and acceptance; what He has prepared for His people in the world to come; how we may qualify ourselves to share in "the inheritance of the saints in light." What communications can be compared with these for importance?
2. In the evidence by which it is confirmed. No other report was ever so authenticated as this. It has in its favour the testimony of friends and enemies, Jews and Gentiles. The statements of its first preachers were confirmed by miracles (Mar ). The predictions contained in their writings have been fulfilled: e.g., the dispersion of the Jews; the wide extension of Christ's kingdom. We have the testimony of our own senses to the truth of this "report." The Gospel professes, where it is received and obeyed, not only to ensure the possession of an eternal inheritance in heaven, but even on earth to work a great and glorious change in the hearts and characters of men, and to deliver them from the practice and power of sin. As a matter of fact, is not this change produced by the preaching of the Gospel? Might we not say to some of our acquaintances what Paul said to the Corinthians (1Co 6:11)? Let us remember that every such instance of a moral change effected by the Gospel is a proof of its truth, a convincing evidence that it is indeed "the power of God unto salvation," and an additional reason for believing that the promises which it makes concerning the life to come are equally worthy of credit (H. E. I. 1144-1148). Yet this "report," so important and so completely authenticated, is extensively rejected.
II. THE QUESTION WHICH THE PROPHET ASKS IN REFERENCE TO IT. "Who hath believed our report?" There never has been an age in which this question might not have been asked. It may well be asked to-day. True, many nations are professedly Christian; true, the majority of our fellow-countrymen would consider it a grievous insult if we were to call them infidels. But to believe this report is not merely to assent to the truth of it. Belief in the truths it makes known to us implies such a reception of them into the heart as shall influence our conduct. The very nature of the report shows that such is the belief intended and required. They are not changes in which we have no concern, but changes in which consequences so momentous to ourselves depend, that it is impossible but that a hearty persuasion of their being true must lead us to act accordingly. If we do not so act, the inference is plain and just that we do not really believe the report. It is quite clear which of the Egyptians believed, and which of them rejected, the "report" Moses carried to them (Exo ). If a man were told that at a certain hour his house would be attacked, and his goods plundered; or that a certain part of a road along which he had to travel was infested by robbers, and he took no precautions to defend himself against the evil of which he was warned, would you not conclude that he gave no credit to the warning? Apply this test to the subject before us. Look round on society, and say whether it is not true that very few men really believe the "report" of the Gospel. Put on one side the openly irreligious, the self-righteous and the profane, the false and hypocritical professors of religion, all of whom, it is certain, do not "believe" the "report," and what are the numbers that remain? Are they not few? few in comparison with those you have set aside. Do not call this inference uncharitable, it is Scriptural (Mat 7:14). Instead of resisting a conclusion so clearly proved, make a practical use of it. Are there few that be saved? Then strive yourselves to enter in at the strait gate (Luk 13:24).—E. Cooper: Practical and Familiar Sermons, vol. vii. 68-84.
Isaiah foresaw that his message concerning the Messiah would be received with unbelief, and our Lord and His apostles had sad experience of the correctness of the prophet's anticipation (1Co ; 2Co 6:8, &c.) Want of faith in, and obedience to, the heavenly message was not the sin only of those to whom it was first sent. The nature of man is still the same. Still he is naturally inclined to unbelief, to refuse the good and to choose the evil, and to turn away from the truth when it is presented to him. Therefore the ministers of the Gospel still have to complain of the grievous neglect it meets with.
I. THE NATURE AND SUBSTANCE OF THAT REPORT WHICH THE SERVANTS OF JESUS CHRIST MAKE KNOWN TO YOU.
It is the same which the inspired prophet proclaimed—glad tidings of salvation in and through a suffering Redeemer. It sets before us, not temporal, but everlasting things; it deals with our eternal interests, and the way to heaven! It is "a report so marvellous, that it fills heaven and earth with wonder; so true, that we may as well doubt our own existence as entertain a doubt respecting it; so interesting, that all the things of time and sense are, in comparison with it, but as the dust of the balance; and so joyous, that it is a certain and inexhaustible source of happiness to all who receive it" (Simeon). It might be expected, then, that it would meet with universal attention. But when we look around and observe what manner of people the bulk of mankind are, we cannot but feel impressed with the sad truth that the religion of the crucified Saviour is of all objects the least attended to.
II. WHY IS IT THAT SO MANY WILL NOT BELIEVE OUR REPORT?
1. Some believe not because they are too much exalted in the pride of human reason; think too highly of themselves, are too full of worldly wisdom to submit to be taught of God. The humbling doctrines of the Cross are against "the vanity of their minds," they will not receive them.
2. The love of this world causes many to disregard our report. The doctrine of the Cross is diametrically against all worldly desires. It admits of no divided hearts (Luk ; 2Co 5:14-15; Gal 6:14). But "the children of this world" are devoted to it. Their whole heart is set upon it, and all their hopes, pleasures, and pains spring from it. Therefore, when the servant of God delivers his report to them, he is dismissed with the words, "Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee."
3. Another great cause of the disbelief of our report is the prevailing power of sin. The doctrine of a crucified Redeemer is a "doctrine which is according to godliness" (Tit ; Gal 5:24). This is one main reason why we cannot prevail upon men to listen to the message from God which we deliver. The consciousness of guilt induces many to wish it were not as we testify. And when men wish earnestly, they soon bring themselves to believe. They persuade themselves, therefore, that heaven and hell are but names, and that the Gospel is no more than an empty sound (Joh 3:19).
Thus, from one cause or another, the Saviour is still "despised and rejected of men."
CONCLUSION.—Can any one imagine for a moment that God will suffer the greatest of His blessings to be thus lightly esteemed? To such men the servants of God are commissioned to lift up the awful voice of warning, and to proclaim the punishment of disobedience (Heb ; 1Pe 4:17; Hos 12:2; Isa 66:14-15; Jer 13:16-17; H. E. I. 2438).—Jonathan Walton, B.D.: Sermons, vol. ii. 410-427.
1. Let us reflect on the great guilt of unbelievers in a Gospel land, and the awful condemnation to which they stand exposed.
2. If there are many who hear the report of the Gospel, and yet believe it not, each one should be solicitous for himself. We believe that the doom of those around us who neglect the Gospel will be awful, and we flatter ourselves that we shall escape it. But what is the ground of our hope?—Some of you do not even pretend to an evidence of your present title to salvation, but you hope to obtain it by a future compliance with its conditions. But had not many who have perished in their sins, as strong resolutions of future repentance as you have? What will your intentions do for you?
3. We learn that the unsuccessfulness of the Gospel is not always to be imputed to the want of fidelity or ability in the preachers of it. It must often be ascribed to some other cause. The prophets of old, the apostles, yea, our Saviour complained, "Who hath believed our report?" Zeal and diligence in ministers are most important; but if you are unsaved, the probability is, that the fault lies, not in the ministers to whom you have listened, but in you.—Joseph Lathrop, D.D.: Eighty Sermons, pp. 243-247.
I. The Gospel is a message or report to man, upon matters of supreme importance.
1. The character and claims of God.
2. The character and the condition of mankind.
3. The method of salvation by the intervention of a Mediator.
II. The Gospel is communicated to man for the express purpose of being believed.
1. The Gospel is worthy of faith, on account of the evidence by which it is confirmed.
2. Faith in the report of the Gospel is the only medium by which it can be rendered available to our safety and final happiness.
3. Faith in the Gospel results from the operation of Divine power upon the soul.
III. It frequently becomes a matter of solemn inquiry as to the number of those by whom the Gospel has been embraced.
1. Observe the implication which this inquiry involves—that there are but few persons comparatively to whom the testimony of the Gospel is presented, who cordially and truly embrace it. This implication was plainly truthful and correct, in connection with the prophet himself, in his own age. The same implication was correct, in regard to the ministry of the Lord Jesus, the apostles and preachers in the past and present age.
2. This being the nature of the implication, you must also observe the results which from that implication must be produced.
(1.) Compassion must be produced.
(2.) Exertion. Remember the obligation of faithful, and intense, and incessant exhortation lies also upon all and upon each of you; and if you lose your opportunity and sacrifice your influence in the world, when opportunity might be employed and influence might be exerted in the Church, and for Christ, and for souls, take heed how you answer for the deficiency, when blood shall be required at your hands.
(3.) Prayer. The influence of the Divine Spirit, to which we have adverted, is to be sought and is to be obtained by prayer.
CONCLUSION.—If, amid these scenes of privilege, you die in your sins, and thus enter into a retributive eternity, you will know by your own history what it is to be a lost soul.—The Preacher's Treasury: pp. 109-110.
I. The "report" here spoken of.
1. Its general contents.
2. Its great importance.
II. How we are required to believe it.
1. Practically, with our hearts.
2. Seasonably, without delay.
3. Perseveringly, without declension.
III. The effects of this belief.
1. It delivers from the burden of guilt, and the dominion of sin.
2. It blesses instantly.
3. It keeps constantly. It rewards eternally.—Four Hundred Sketches, vol. ii. p. 89.
WHY SO FEW BELIEVE THE GOSPEL
Isa . Who hath believed our report?
Generally the most powerful preaching of the Gospel has been with little fruit. So that Isaiah had this sad complaint, "Who hath believed our report?" Our Lord Jesus Christ had it also (Joh ). When it was so with sweet Isaiah in the Old Testament, and with our blessed Lord in the New, who spoke with such power and authority, you may see there is reason for us to inquire, Why it is that so few believe? i.e., believe to the salvation of the soul. It is with those causes only which are most common and operative that I would now deal frankly, "speaking the truth in love."
I. LACK OF APPRECIATION AND CONSIDERATION OF THE GOSPEL.
1. You do not think yourselves in danger. You confess that you are sinners, but in your hearts you do not think so. In your own opinion, you are good friends with God already. You do not believe that you are the slaves of Satan, and that you are on your way to hell. You are like the Scribes and Pharisees who were well satisfied with themselves, and thought they had no need of a physician, and therefore never sought Christ's help. His offer of help they angrily rejected (Joh ), and you resent any plain speaking concerning your real state.
2. Hence, also, you neither appreciate nor consider the glad tidings that are brought to you. You are not awake to the fact that the Gospel is the very thing you need to hear. You do not hear or read it as a merchant on the verge of ruin reads a cheque which a wealthy friend has sent to save him from bankruptcy. Thinking of yourselves as you do, you give no heed to it. Your sad lack in this matter is shown in three ways.
(1.) By the way in which you come to hear the Gospel. How few hunger and thirst for it, and come desiring to learn from it how you are to prepare to meet with God! You come, not to profit by it, but for some defective and worthless reason (Joh ).
(2.) By the way you behave when you are here. Many of you are inattentive; your thoughts are running after your trade, &c.; and some of you even sleep! Were you in any other meeting about ordinary business, how different your outward and inward conduct would be!
(3.) By the way you behave after you have heard the Word. In what unedifying conversation you will be engaged as soon as you have reached the door! When you have heard what plainly meets the needs of your soul, do you meditate upon it, and go to your knees with it before God, desiring Him to breathe upon it, and to make it a blessing to you?—You know these things are true. Oh, "take heed how you hear!" As long as you take no heed how you hear, you cannot profit (H. E. I., 2575, 2576, 2604).
See H. E. I. 1935-1942, 1957-1968.
IV. IGNORANCE AS TO THE NATURE OF TRUE HAPPINESS. You do not look upon it as your happiness to have communion with God. Hence you are like those who were invited to the marriage of the king's son (Mat ). The offer of the Gospel has no weight with you. If a market of fine things at a cheap rate were proclaimed, ye would all run to it; but ye delight not in the Word of God, ye prize not the Gospel and the precious things it offers you. You deny this? Well, then,
1. How often have you thanked God for sending the Gospel to you? You say grace before meat; how often have you said grace for the Gospel?
2. How is it that you are so intermittent in your attendance at the preaching of it? Were a messenger sent you from some great man, how you would arrange all your affairs so as not to miss it! But to the sanctuary, where messages from God are delivered, you come rarely, or at the most only once on the Lord's-day.
3. If you had reason to believe that you were heir to an earthly estate, how careful you would be to put yourself in possession of all the evidence of your right to it! But how much trouble have you taken to make sure that the "inheritance" of which the Gospel speaks to us shall ever be yours? Alas! it is too clear that you think happiness is to be found in earthly things, and not in the heavenly things the Gospel offers you.
V. STRUGGLING AGAINST CONSCIENCE. Some of you have been made sometimes to tremble as Felix did; but like him you have pushed off the appeal, and put off your decision to another time, and gone away to some company or recreation, that so you might stifle the conviction, and drive it out of your thoughts. So you have struggled against conscience awakened and alarmed by sickness, bereavement, &c.
VI. SAYING "PEACE, PEACE," WHEN PEACE HAS NOT BEEN MADE. There are still in the world many Laodiceans (Rev ).
1. Some of you have attained to a sort of outside reformation, and you think on that account that you are well enough, and on good terms with God. But there must be more than reformation; there must be regeneration, a new heart! (H. E. I. 4069-4081).
2. Some of you pray, and you think something of that. But mere mechanical prayer is worthless (Mat ).
3. Some of you think you have faith enough, because you have "historical faith." Alas! many of you have as much believing as keeps you from faith in Christ! [Like a man who believes that a certain life assurance company is a sound one, but does not insure his life with it, and yet feels that he has done all he ought to have done for the welfare of his family after his death! But in our secular life such folly is impossible.]
4. Some of you are satisfied because at times your heart has been tender, and then you formed good resolutions. But this is one of the rottenest of the props on which you could rest. Such tenderness of heart is transient, and mere resolutions, mere intentions, never profited any man.
VII. BEING SATISFIED WITH THE APPROVAL OF MEN. It is not the commendation of men, but the commendation of God that you should seek mainly after; and yet if you think that good men esteem you, you suppose you are good enough; like the foolish virgins who were so secure because the wise took them and retained them in their company. This is the ruin of many, especially when they look about them, and observe in others some sin from which they abstain (Luk ). Self-approval added to the approval of their fellow-men satisfies them, though they lack "the one thing needful."
VIII. RESTING IN THE MEANS OF GRACE. The things through which all men should be saved ruin many. Where the Gospel is in any measure powerfully preached, there are many more secure and fearless than if they had it not; having the Gospel, they feel as if they were in no danger, and could believe it when they pleased. Against this danger our Lord has expressly warned us (Luk ). If you do this, ere long against you the door will be shut (Luk 13:25). Thank God for the means of grace, but do not rest in them (H. E. I. 3426-3437).—James Durham: Christ Crucified, pp. 50-55.
COUNSELS AND CONSOLATIONS FOR DISAPPOINTED CHRISTIAN WORKERS
Isa . Who hath believed our report, &c.
Is this really the language with which you are obliged to return from your attacks on the kingdom of darkness? I would fain hope that this is not the case with you all, nor altogether the case with any of you. But to whatever extent you may thus justly complain, I express my sympathy with you. Such disappointment is unquestionably a source of grief, for,
1. Here is labour lost, and in a task on which our heart was set.
2. Your labour is without one of the most natural and satisfactory tokens of your heavenly Father's acceptance of it.
3. The spiritual wretchedness of men continues, notwithstanding all your efforts to relieve it.
4. Perpetual dishonour is done to God. Still His name is blasphemed, His glory disregarded, His law trampled on, His mercy despised; and can you, as a friend of God, look on such a scene, and not glow with a holy indignation?
To sympathy we add some considerations by which your feelings may be regulated and turned to advantage.
I. Your judgment respecting your success is probably, and almost certainly, fallacious.
1. Even if everything were known to us, it is much too soon for any judgment to be formed. The time during which the instructions we have given may operate to produce conviction and conversion is not yet terminated, so that calculation is quite set at defiance. As seed may lie buried long in dust, and yet ultimately vegetate, so knowledge communicated and disregarded now may have decisive influence hereafter, when some circumstance shall induce reflection upon it.
2. Your opportunity for exertion is not yet past; so that if what you have already done be not of itself effectual, it may become so in combination with what you or others may hereafter do.
3. We are far from knowing everything which has already occurred.
(1.) Some of those for whose good we have laboured are not under our observation at all, so that, if we have done them any good, we are not likely to know it until the day of God.
(2.) There is something in the commencement of piety often dubious or studiously concealed.—We can never be entitled to affirm that we have had no success, until the arrival of the final day, when for the first time the volume of providential history will be laid open to our view.
II. But, suppose that your success is quite as small as you imagine it to be. What then? Make it a matter of serious examination.
1. Whether your exertions have been such as to authorise the expectation of success. Defects and improprieties may have attended them, which will sufficiently account for their inefficiency, without attributing it to the absence of the Divine blessing. Have you really been trying to convert sinners?
2. Whether, when you have striven to save a soul, you have used the Divinely appointed and adapted means. The only means is the Word of God, which throws light into the understanding, and makes it appeal to the conscience and to the heart upon spiritual grounds.
3. Whether, if you have used the right means, you have used them in a proper manner. Have you, according to the Scriptures, made clear the grounds of duty, the nature and evil of sin, the righteousness of God's anger, and the method of fleeing from the wrath to come? Or, have your instructions been defective, inconsistent, or obscure? How much of solemnity, faithfulness, and tenderness have you carried into the work?
4. Whether your labours have been conducted in a right spirit towards God. Have you devoutly acknowledged the necessity of the Holy Spirit's aid, and rendered due honour to His gracious agency? What has been your leading aim and impelling motive? Has it been your first and ardent desire to glorify God, by bearing a testimony for Him in His controversy with a rebellious world, and thus striving to reconcile sinners to Him?
When we think what means should be employed for the conversion of sinners, in what manner and in what spirit, we may find causes enough why we have not been successful, without ascribing it to the sovereignty of God.
III. Perhaps, after the most serious examination, you may be ready to hope that your labours have contained something on which your Heavenly Father might smile, and yet you do not see the blessing you have hoped for on your toil. Conclude, then, that the Lord has been pleased to withhold from you His blessing; and observe the lights in which this state of things may be regarded.
1. It is to be considered, undoubtedly, as an act of that holy, wise, and gracious sovereignty which the Most High is continually exercising in the administration of His affairs. You would not for a moment deny that He is entitled to such a sovereignty, or imagine that He can make an improper use of it. Submit unquestioningly and unmurmuringly to what may be His will in regard to the conversion of sinners by your instrumentality.
2. If you look through the history of His ways, you will find that many of His most honoured servants have partaken of similar discipline. What but unsuccessful was the ministry of Enoch, Noah, Elijah, Elisha, Jeremiah, and Isaiah—yea, of our Lord Himself? Now, the servant is not above his Lord: it is enough, and should be enough even for you, that the servant be as His Lord.
3. You tremble for the cause of God, which you have desired to see prospering in your hands. But you need not do this. Your individual exertions constitute but a small fraction of the agency which is employed for the advancement of His kingdom, and is far too insignificant to affect materially the measure of its success. The blasting of a single field does not sensibly affect the harvest. The resources of the Almighty are sufficiently ample to secure the accomplishment of His purposes (Isa ).
4. No good work is really lost. If instruction and expostulation be not effectual to the conversion of the sinner, it is conducive to the glory of God, since it carries into operation that system of equitable and merciful probation which He has established in His government of mankind, and by the result of which, alike in the penitent and the impenitent, He will be eminently glorified. If sinners do not obey, we still bear a testimony for God, and not only uphold His rights and honours in the world now, but prepare for their fuller and more glorious manifestation hereafter.
5. God in His sovereignty is infinitely wise, and the ends which He brings to pass are, on the whole, the very best that can be attained. If any desirable end is passed by or frustrated, it is only that one more desirable may be secured. In this view, it may be truly affirmed that there is no failure, and no unsuccessfulness. And if He sees it good that an object should be produced by our labours differing somewhat from that which we have contemplated, a firm ground is laid for our acquiescence in His will.
6. We who labour shall not lose our reward. We may lose, indeed, what it would be unspeakably delightful to attain, namely, the rescue of sinners from the wrath to come; but still we shall gain something, even an appropriate and blessed recompense (2Co ).
IV. From whatever cause your want of success may have arisen, it is adapted to yield you instruction and benefit.
1. If you feel justified in referring it to God's sovereign pleasure, you will find occasion for corresponding exercises of mind.
(1.) You must learn to blend ardent desire with silent submission, and to resign without a murmur an object for which you have striven with your utmost ardour.
(2.) The object upon which our hearts should be chiefly set is the glory of God. But we are too apt, either to confine our view to the salvation of men, or to attach to it a disproportionate value. Let our disappointments rectify this evil. Without at all diminishing our desire for the salvation of men, which is much too feeble, let them teach us that we ought to contemplate the glory of God as our chief end, and be willing in any way to promote it by our labours.—The benefit of our learning these lessons effectually will not be confined to our personal experience, it will extend to our work. It is when we are annihilated before God that He may begin to exalt us; when we have learned to acquiesce in His will, He may grant us our own; when we come to seek first His glory, He may afford us more extensively the salvation of men.
2. If, on the other hand, we find reason to conclude that our want of success arises from our own defects, it is obvious that this is a loud call
(1) to humiliation; and
(2) to give all diligence in becoming better fitted for a work which we may not resign, and the issues of which are so unspeakably solemn.
V. Want of success in our labour ought not to induce either abandonment or despondency.
1. Never suffer yourselves to say, "It is of no use to try any longer."
(1.) Under no circumstances ought you to desist from taking a part with God in His righteous controversy with mankind.
(2.) The object of saving men from everlasting destruction is clearly too important to be relinquished, while any possibility of accomplishing it remains.
2. As for despondency, it does endless mischief, and is utterly destitute of reason.
(1.) The Lord's hand is not shortened that it cannot save. It maybe that He only looks for another resolved effort on your part, and for a little more exercise of faith and patience, before He pours out an abundant blessing. It is characteristic of His ways to try faith before He rewards it.
(2.) If you seem reduced to the necessity of despondency, that is just a reason why you should imbibe fresh hope. All your self-sufficiency having perished, now make another effort, more eminently in the name and strength of the Lord, and peradventure He will be with you.
(3). Despondency is inevitably mischievous. Under its influence, you will either set about nothing at all, or nothing heartily. And nothing is to be wrought by a despairing hand (1Co ; Gal 6:9).—John Howard Hinton, A.M.: The Active Christian, pp. 241-264.
THE GREAT MESSIANIC PROPHECY
Isa . For He shall grow up before Him, &c.
Among the prophecies of Isaiah, that which is contained in the chapter before us stands eminent and illustrious. Received and interpreted according to the sense attached to it by Christians, it involves in it a striking proof of the truth and divinity of our holy religion. It does this simply as a prophecy, irrespective of its dogmatic or theological character. It is a prediction of what was to come to pass. It is not merely capable of being turned into a prediction by a little fancy or a little ingenuity, but it was uttered as such; it was meant when uttered to be received as such. And it was unquestionably in being—it was written and read—seven centuries before the events which are supposed to have fulfilled it. It is found in a Jewish, as distinguished from a Christian writing—in a writing admitted, preserved, believed, by those who have every reason for wishing this passage altered or expunged. After the appearing of Jesus Christ, a passage like this could not be introduced into the writings of Isaiah by Christians; the jealousy of the Jews would prevent that. It would not be introduced by the Jews; that would be inconsistent with their unbelief. To be here at all, it must have formed an original part of the prophetical Scriptures. Such it is admitted to be—and admitted by the Jew; he preserved and perused it as such before the appearance of the "Man of sorrows;" and after he had seen Him—seen Him "grow up as a tender plant and as a root out of a dry ground;" after he had looked upon Him and found in Him "nothing to desire," "neither form nor comeliness," nor verdure nor beauty; after he had "hid his face from Him" and "esteemed Him not," "wounded" and "bruised," and "imprisoned" and "oppressed" Him, "despised and rejected," and "smitten Him to death;" after this it was impossible for them to recede. The book was in the hands of both parties, and the passage in the custody of both; the Jew could not have expunged it, for the Church would have detected and denounced the fraud; the Christian would not, for he exulted in its existence and import. It there stands an acknowledged portion of a writing strictly and intentionally prophetic, uttered and recorded as prophetical, hundreds of years before the occurrence of all that it so distinctly and graphically describes. Now, the thing to be observed in connection with these remarks is this—that the particulars of the prophecy are so many, so minute, so singular, previously so improbable, that they could never have been foreseen by human sagacity, and surely never thrown together by any lucky but hazardous guesses. They were all fulfilled, and fulfilled with minute and marvellous fidelity in Jesus Christ. They apply to no other person; to Him they do apply, and apply with an accuracy which would be admitted to be wonderful and which never would be doubted, did it not involve the admission of the truth of His pretensions. That it does this is seen by the simplest of all arguments:—none can foresee future events but God; a clear and indubitable prediction is produced, having long afterwards its fulfilment in the character and history of one claiming a Divine mission; therefore (it is impossible to hesitate) that mission was Divine; He must have sent Him, who foresaw His coming, and foreseeing, foretold it.
Such is the value and use of every prophecy whose character and meaning are clearly ascertained, and whose import can be proved to have met its accomplishment. But the prophecy before us does more than this; it not only proves, in relation to Christ, the truth of His pretensions, but it proves what some at least of these pretensions were; it not only demonstrates that He came from God, but it also demonstrates what He came for—what He came to accomplish for man. If words are to be permitted to have any meaning, if the language of the Bible was intended to be understood, the prophecy is a declaration, positive, unequivocal, distinct—that Messiah was to be made a propitiatory sacrifice. His innocence is asserted, His righteousness declared, His exquisite agony, bodily and mental, alike described; Jehovah is represented as crushing Him, "bruising Him," and "putting Him to grief," and "making His soul an offering for sin;" He is Himself depicted as suffering as a substitute, as "bearing the griefs and carrying the sorrows" of others, as "wounded for their transgressions, bruised for their iniquities," on their account afflicted and stricken and smitten to death, and as having "laid upon Him the iniquity of them all." Every variety of phrase is employed, as if purposely to render mistake impossible, and to mark the importance of the subject itself.
Many translations of the passage have been attempted, but none succeeds in getting rid of and excluding its pervading idea. The Jew who rejects. Christ, and who applies therefore the prophecy to his nation as a whole, and not to an individual, is endlessly embarrassed by its personal allusion; and the Christian (if Christian he be) who rejects the Redeemer's sacrifice and atonement, may alter and attenuate the phraseology of the passage, may change and modify and emasculate it, but the great truth cannot be concealed; its existence is indicated and its presence is felt, whatever be the language in which it is conveyed—aye, even in that which is carefully selected, not for the purpose of expressing, but of hiding it. The nature of the work of Christ, the "decease which He accomplished at Jerusalem," the efficacy of His sufferings, and the nature of His death, "His soul being made an offering for sin"—this truth is so abundantly borne out in the ample and illustrious prophecy before us, that it flames forth, however it may be clothed, just as the glory of Christ's body, when transfigured upon the Mount, shone through and illumined the robes He wore. It rises up in spite of every effort to reduce and to subdue it, even as the mighty champion of. Israel snapped asunder the new ropes and the green withes by which he was attempted to be bound.—T. Binney: Sermons, Second Series, pp. 6-9.
That this chapter contains a direct prophecy of Jesus Christ is so plain, that I can scarcely conceive any serious objection to be made to it. The principal doubt which is likely to arise in the mind, is that it is so literal and particular as to seem to be rather a history foisted into the texts after the events had taken place, than a prophecy delivered seven hundred years before them. But this doubt is instantly removed, by considering that the Jews, the grand enemies of Christ, were the very persons to whom the preservation of this prophecy was intrusted; that they acknowledge it to be genuine; nor ever suggested a doubt as to its authenticity.
If, then, it is genuine, to whom can it relate? It would be a waste of time to attempt to confute the interpretations that have been given by the Jews of late years, by which it is made to apply to Hezekiah, to Jeremiah, &c. It will here be sufficient to observe, that as in a lock, consisting of numerous wards, that key alone is the true one which fits all the wards; so in prophecy, that only is the true interpretation of any prediction which fits every part of it; and the more numerous and uncommon such parts are, the more manifest is it, in the case of a perfect coincidence, that the true interpretation has been given. I say, the more uncommon; because if events are foretold which cannot possibly apply but to a few persons, the interpretation is then proportionably limited. If, for instance, a prophecy should relate to a king, this would narrow the range of interpretation to those who bore the kingly office; if to a king who had died a violent death, this would narrow it still more; if that death was inflicted by his own subjects, it would reduce still more considerably the number of persons to whom it could be applied. But in the present case there are circumstances so very peculiar that they can be applied to one person alone.
The person here spoken of was to be the servant of God, the arm of the Lord, the subject of prophecy. Yet when he came into the world, he was to be despised and rejected of men; he was not to be received as the Messiah; he was to be put into prison; he was to be brought as a lamb to the slaughter; many were to be astonished at him; his visage was to be marred more than any man's; he was to be numbered with transgressors, and cut off by a judicial sentence out of the land of the living; his grave was to be appointed with the wicked, yet his tomb was to be with the rich man. And his sufferings were to be of no ordinary kind, and inflicted for no common cause. He was to be wounded for our transgressions, and smitten for our iniquities. Jehovah was pleased to put him to grief, and to make his soul an offering for sin, though "he had done no wrong, neither was any guile found in his mouth." But after God had thus made his soul an offering for sin, then he was to revive again; to prolong his days; to erect a spiritual kingdom; to sprinkle many nations; to be advanced above kings, who should shut their mouths before him; to be exalted and extolled, and be very high; to see and be satisfied with the effect of the travail of his soul; to justify many by his knowledge; and to make intercession for transgressors.
Now, of those particulars, it is evident that most of them can be applied only to a few persons; some, from their very nature, to none but such a divine and extraordinary person as Jesus Christ; but that to Him all are applicable in the plainest and most literal sense. We may conclude, therefore, that if the real import of any prophecy is clear and indisputable, that of this chapter is so when it is made to refer to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.—Venn.
THE DESPISED AND REJECTED SAVIOUR
Isa . He is despised and rejected of men, &c.
This is a summary of the history of our Lord, as it is recorded by the four Evangelists. His very first hours on earth may be cited in proof of its correctness. No place could be found for Him even in an inn. His life was a life of poverty. Scorn and insult followed Him everywhere. His life closed amid circumstances of unspeakable ignominy. In these facts we have,
I. A reason for not being very strongly desirous of popularity. It is natural to desire the approval of our fellow-men; but no wise and good man will make this the end of his actions. He will seek to do right; if men applaud him for doing so, well; but if not, he will not be greatly grieved. He will not murmur because he is called to drink of the cup that Christ drank of. Shall the servant be above his Lord?
II. A consolation when fidelity to duty exposes us to unpopularity. To be reproached and ridiculed; to have our actions misjudged and our motives misrepresented; to be deserted by those whom we regarded as our friends, to be pursued by the enmity of foes whom we have not wronged, is a bitter trial. But if it should be ours, let us remember that Christ trod the same path of suffering, and sympathises with us.
III. An argument for entire consecration to the service of Christ.—The shame and suffering of which the text speaks, Christ endured for us (2Co ).—W. H. Sullivan, M.A.: Parish Sermons, pp. 206-222).
THE MAN OF SORROWS
Isa . A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.
The subject of the sorrows of the Saviour has proved to be more efficacious for comfort to mourners than any other theme in the compass of revelation, or out of it. Christ is in all attitudes "the consolation of Israel," but He is most so as a man of sorrows. As Aaron's rod swallowed up all the other rods, so the griefs of Jesus make our griefs disappear.
I. "A MAN." We can never meditate too much upon Christ's blessed person as God and as man. He who is here called a man was certainly "very God of very God;" "a man," and "a man of sorrows," and yet at the same time "God over all, blessed for ever." His manhood was not the less real and substantial. It differed from our own humanity in the absence of sin, but it differed in no other respect. He was no phantasm, but a man of flesh and blood, even as ourselves; a man needing sleep, requiring food and subject to pain, and a man who, in the end, yielded up His life to death (Php ).
This condescending participation in our nature brings the Lord Jesus very near to us in relationship. Inasmuch as He was man, though also God, He was, according to Hebrew law, our goel—our kinsman, next of kin. According to the law, if an inheritance had been lost, it was the right of the next of kin to redeem it. Our Lord Jesus exercised His legal right, and seeing us sold into bondage and our inheritance taken from us, came forward to redeem both us and all our lost estate. A blessed thing it was for us that we had such a kinsman!—It would not have been consistent with Divine justice for any other substitution to have been accepted for us, except that of a man. Man sinned, and man must make reparation for the injury done to the Divine honour.
Sinner, thou mightest well tremble to approach Him whom thou hast so grievously offended; but there is a man ordained to mediate between thee and God (H. E. I. 889).
II. "A MAN OF SORROWS." The expression is intended to be very emphatic, it is not "a sorrowful man," but "a man of sorrows," as if He were made up of sorrows, and they were constituent elements of His being. Some are men of pleasure, others men of wealth, but He was "a man of sorrows."
Our Lord is called "a man of sorrows,"
(1.) For peculiarity, for this was His peculiar token and special mark. We might well call Him "a man of holiness;" for there was no fault in Him: or a man of labours, for He did His Father's business earnestly; or "a man of eloquence," for never man spake like this man. Yet had we gazed upon Christ and been asked afterwards what was the most striking peculiarity in Him, we should have said His sorrows. The various parts of His character were so singularly harmonious that no one quality predominated, so as to become a leading feature. But there was a peculiarity, and it lay in the fact that "His visage was so marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men," through the excessive griefs which continually passed over His spirit. Tears were His insignia, and the cross His escutcheon. He was the warrior in black armour, and not as now the rider upon the white horse. He was the lord of grief, the prince of pain, the emperor of anguish, a "man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief."
2. By way of eminence. He was not only sorrowful, but pre-eminent among the sorrowful. All men have a burden to bear, but His was heaviest of all. Common sufferers must give place, for none can match with Him in woe. He who was the most obedient Son smarted most under the rod when He was stricken of God and afflicted; no other of the smitten ones have sweat great drops of blood, or in the same bitterness of anguish cried, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?"
The reasons for this superior sorrow may be found in the fact that with His sorrow there was no admixture of sin. Sin deserves sorrow, but it also blunts the edge of grief by rendering the soul untender and unsympathetic. We do not start at sin as Jesus did, we do not tremble at the sinner's doom as Jesus would. His was a perfect nature, which, because it knew no sin, was not in its element amid sorrow, but was like a land bird driven out to sea by the gale. To the robber the jail is his home, and the prison fare is the meat to which he is accustomed, but to an innocent man a prison is misery, and everything about it is strange and foreign. Our Lord's pure nature was peculiarly sensitive of any contact with sin; we, alas! by the Fall, have lost much of that feeling. Our hands grow horny with toiling, and our hearts with sinning; but our Lord was, as it were, like a man whose flesh was all one quivering wound; He was delicately sensitive of every touch of sin. We go through thorn-brakes and briars of sin because we are clothed with indifference, but imagine a naked man, compelled to traverse a forest of briars—and such was the Saviour, as to His moral sensitiveness. He could see sin where we cannot see it, and feel its heinousness as we cannot feel it: there was therefore more to grieve Him, and He was more capable of being grieved.
Side by side with His painful sensitiveness of the evil of sin, was His gracious tenderness towards the sorrows of others. All men's sorrows were His sorrows. His heart was so large, that it was inevitable that He should become "a man of sorrows."
Besides this, our Saviour had a peculiar relationship to sin. Sin was laid upon Him, and He was Himself numbered with the transgressors; and therefore He was called to bear the terrible blows of Divine justice, and suffered unknown, immeasurable agonies. "It pleased the Father to bruise Him, He hath put Him to grief." behold the man, and mark how vain it would be to seek His equal sorrow.
3. To indicate the constancy of His afflictions. Born in a stable, sorrow received Him, and only on the cross at His last breath did sorrow part with Him. His disciples might forsake Him, but His sorrows would not leave Him. He was often alone without a man, but never alone without a grief.
4. Because of the variety of His woes; He was a man not of sorrow only, but of "sorrows." All the sufferings of the body and of the soul were known to Him. Affliction emptied its quiver upon Him, making His heart the target for all conceivable woes.
(1.) Our Lord was a man of sorrows as to His poverty. Oh, you who are in want, your want is not so abject as His: He had not where to lay His head, but you have at least some humble roof to shelter you.
(2.) Our Saviour knew the heart-rendings of bereavement. Jesus wept, as He stood at the tomb of Lazarus.
(3.) Perhaps the bitterest of His sorrows were those which were connected with His gracious work. He came as the Messiah sent of God, on an embassage of love, and men rejected His claims. There was no name of contempt which they did not pour upon Him; nay, it was not merely contempt, but they proceeded to falsehood, slander, and blasphemy. There was not a word He spoke but they would wrest it; not a doctrine but what they would misrepresent it: He could not speak but what they would find in His words some occasion against Him. Was there ever man so full of goodwill to others, who received such disgraceful treatment from those He longed to serve?
(5.) In the last crowning sorrows of His life, there came upon Him the penal inflictions from God, the chastisement of our peace, which was upon Him. The sharpest scourging and severest griefs were all within; while the hand of God bruised Him, and the iron rod of justice broke Him, as it were, upon the wheel.
III. "ACQUAINTED WITH GRIEF."
1. With grief He had an intimate acquaintance. He did not know merely what it was in others, but it came home to Himself. We have read of grief, sympathised with grief, sometimes felt grief: but the Lord felt it more intensely than other men in His innermost soul; He, beyond us all, was conversant with this black-letter lore.
2. It was a continuous acquaintance. It was indeed a growing acquaintance with grief, for each step took Him deeper down into the grim shades of sorrow. As there is a progress in the teaching of Christ and in the life of Christ, so is there also in the griefs of Christ. The tempest lowered darker, and darker, and darker. His sun rose in a cloud, but it set in congregated horrors of heaped-up night, till, in a moment, the clouds were suddenly rent in sunder, and, as a loud voice proclaimed, "It is finished!" glorious morning dawned where all expected an eternal night.
3. This acquaintance of Christ with grief was a voluntary acquaintance for our sakes. He need never have known a grief at all, and at any moment He might have said to grief, Farewell. But He remained to the end, out of love to us, grief's acquaintance.
What shall I say in conclusion, but just this: let us admire the superlative love of Jesus. O love, what hast thou done! Thou art omnipotent in suffering. Few of us can bear pain, perhaps fewer still of us can bear misrepresentation, slander, and ingratitude. These are horrible hornets which sting as with fire: men have been driven to madness by cruel scandals which have distilled from venomous tongues. Christ, throughout life, bore these and other sufferings. Let us love Him, as we think of how much He must have loved us.—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1099.
"Behold the man!" There is a fascination in His human sympathies, tears, words, that is irresistible. As we toil on our way amid sorrow and distress, we remember Who it is that has power to succour the tempted (Heb ). The Redeemer was emphatically "a man of sorrows." In the Gospel narrative this is more frequently implied than expressed, although there are not wanting passages in which it is definitely stated (Mar 3:5; Joh 11:35; Mat 26:37-38).
There are various causes for sorrow:—
I. ISOLATION OF SPIRIT.—It is no mere conceit, in which the poet tells us that
"Not e'en the tenderest heart, and next our own,
Knows half the reasons why we smile or sigh."
A wiser than he had said: "The heart knoweth its own bitterness," &c. This solitariness of spirit was the heritage of Christ.
1. There was no spirit on earth that could claim perfect kindred with His spirit. No sympathy—in the true use of the word—could be between Him and sinful souls. The best and holiest could not look upon life from His standpoint, nor enter into His feelings, nor share His aspirations.
2. He was love personified; they were selfish. The affections of His heart were perpetually welling up like an inexhaustible fountain; they were wrapped up in self, and knew no higher delight than self-gratification—no higher principle than love of self.
3. His heart yearned after companionship, and found it not. It called to its fellows, but they understood not its language. Hence He was alone (Isa ).
II. THE CONTEMPLATION OF SORROW IN OTHERS. This was pre-eminently the case with Jesus Christ. When the news of the Baptist's death was brought to Him, He went into the wilderness, but at the cry of human need He soon came forth again; and as soon as He saw the multitude, He was moved with compassion toward them, and healed their sick. As He journeyed from place to place there were always appeals to His tenderest feelings. Not often was He called to the house of mirth; but He was frequently sought to go to the house of mourning. We find Him once at a marriage feast; once at the table of Simon; twice "eating with publicans and sinners," and sharing the modest hospitalities of Bethany; but sorrowing hearts were always seeking His comfort and His help.
III. BEREAVEMENT. The world has never heard a more touching story than that at Bethany. For Himself He shed no tears, and gently reproved those who wept for Him but; the sight of misery in others drew floods of tears from His eyes.
IV. DISAPPOINTMENT. Of this Jesus tasted to the full. "He went about doing good;" surely from all the seed He sowed He had a right to expect a bountiful harvest! Yet the seed fell for the most part on unproductive soil (Mat ). The nine lepers who returned not to give thanks for their cleansing were but typical of multitudes who selfishly received all and gave nothing in return (Psa 106:13). Thousands followed Him, because "they did eat of the loaves and were filled;" Those who attached themselves to Him were but few, while even these left Him at the last. Was there not something of disappointment in the compassion that moved Him to say, "O Jerusalem," &c.? (Mat 23:37.) Said not Isaiah truly, He was "a man of sorrows"? Tears were His meat day and night, and He could say: "Reproach hath broken My beart," &c. (Psa 69:20).—Frederick Wagstaff: Study and Pulpit, New Series (1876), pp. 237-239.
I. The sufferings of our Lord Jesus Christ. A sanctuary we should enter with reverence, &c.
1. His were chiefly agonies of the soul.
2. The magnitude and intensity of any soul's sufferings are in proportion to the soul's greatness. The greater the soul, the greater its capacity for suffering.
3. How the agonies of His soul and body reacted upon each other. The agony of His soul, acting upon the body, produced utter prostration. His physical suffering reacted again upon His soul.
4. We must also take into account their propitiatory character.
II. The relation of His sufferings to those of whom it is here said that they despise and reject Him.
1. The object for which He came was to save them.
2. To despise and reject Him is a poor return for all His love.
3. We may well be ashamed that the Lord of life and glory should receive such treatment in our world. He is despised and rejected still. He that despiseth Christ wrongeth his own soul—deprives it of its highest and only true and enduring bliss. You cannot do without Christ.—L. H. Byrnes, B.A.: The Christian World, June 8, 1866.
How pathetic is the designation here applied to the Messiah, and how truly was it verified in Jesus—"A Man of Sorrows!"
I. The fact that the Lord Jesus was, in His humiliation, a Man of Sorrows. There are minds that resent this description, that deem it incredible that it should apply to a Divine Being, or regard such a picture as marred by an unwholesome sentiment. In fact, the true and full impression of the picture can only be received by those who acknowledge both the Deity and the Humanity of Christ. We recognise several elements in this sorrow.
1. There was personal sorrow when He wept tears of grief, when there escaped Him groans of disappointment.
2. The sorrow of sympathy and compassion, when He grieved for His friends, for His nation, for the disobedient and rebellious, for the sin stricken race of man.
3. Christ's was progressive sorrow. It gathered thick as a cloud above His head as His ministry advanced. It culminated with life's close in Gethsemane and on Calvary.
II. How it came to pass that the Lord Jesus was a Man of Sorrows.
1. It was through His contact with sin and with sinners,—to a nature like His how specially painful and distressing.
2. It was also through His conscious bearing of sin; the sins of the whole world having been laid upon Him and assumed by Him.
3. He suffered through His conflict with sin, He endured the contradiction of sinners. Wounds and scars were inflicted upon His sensitive nature in this appalling battle.
III. With what intent the Lord Jesus deigned to become a Man of Sorrows.
1. That He might be the representative man, the Head of an afflicted humanity.
2. That He might be the Saviour—perfect through sufferings, as the Captain of our salvation.
3. That He might be a sympathising High Priest, touched with a feeling of our infirmities. His sorrows were to avert our woes and to procure our bliss.—The Homiletical Library, vol. ii. p. 78.
I. The language of our text does not describe the case of one who encountered only the ordinary or the average amount of the trials which belong to human life. There is implied in it a pre-eminence in sorrow, a peculiarly deep experience of grief.
II. Of all the many griefs of the Divine Redeemer in His human life, there was not one which He Himself either needed or deserved to bear.
IV. In all the griefs and sorrows which the blessed Saviour suffered, His mind was chiefly occupied with the good results in which His sufferings were to issue (Heb ).
1. If even the Son of God, when on earth, was a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief, we certainly should not think it strange that days of trial are appointed unto us.
2. If our blessed Lord felt keenly what He suffered, and was even moved to tears, we need not reproach ourselves because we deeply feel our trials, and cannot but weep in the fulness of our grief (P. D. 3287).
3. If Christ was a willing sufferer, deliberately choosing to suffer for the good of others, we surely should consent to suffer for our own advantage (H. E. I. 158; P. D. 3239, 3246).
4. If our blessed Lord made less account of what He suffered than of the good results which were to follow, it is wise at least in us to do the same (H. E. I. 2204-2221, 3678-3704).—Bay Palmer, D.D.: The National Preacher, vol. xxxviii. pp. 25-34.)
THE SUFFERING SAVIOUR
Isa . He is despised and rejected of men. &c.
A deliverer was expected. "The desire of all nations." What sort of personage was He? He was a disappointment, and was treated as one. For He was a suffering Saviour. Yet this is His glory.
I. A SUFFERING SAVIOUR IN PROPHECY.
The text predicts this. Picture out the kind of career indicated in the text. Men admire grandeur, despise poverty and suffering. But He was "a man of sorrows;" and it is quite possible that He carried in His countenance the marks of inward suffering. Prophecy required that He should be a sufferer: this chapter, and many other passages. There are in fact two classes of prophecies—the one represents Him as a sufferer, the other as a reigning King. If He had not suffered, the proof of His Messiahship would have been fatally defective (Luk ; Luk 24:26-27; Luk 24:44-46; Act 3:18).
II. A SUFFERING SAVIOUR IN HISTORY.
"Behold the man," said Pilate. Was He not rejected, despised, "a man of sorrows"? Fine natures feel such a position as that in which He was placed, coarse natures do not. And there were deeper causes of sorrow than man could fathom. The prospect immediately before Him was sorrowful enough. He had said, "Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour." "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." He had agonised in the garden. He had sweat, as it were, great drops of blood. He had cried out for the cup to pass away. He had felt the bitterness of betrayal. He had been tried by the Jewish court. He had been crowned and scourged by the Roman soldiery. Ere many hours had passed He felt the shame, the pain, the fever of crucifixion. He was forsaken of God. His heart broke. His sufferings ended only with His life.
Such were the facts of history. Such were the requirements of prophecy. Thus—
1. Scripture was fulfilled.
2. His Messiahship was proved.
3. Satisfaction was made for sin. Repentance by itself is no satisfaction for past sin (H. E.
1. 4225-4228). Nor is reformation. Nor is there any force within man's depraved nature that would impel to repentance. Therefore atonement is needed by another: Himself suitable as being Divine, human, sinless (Isa ).
Such is the Saviour. Thus He suffered. Measuring love by the labour it is willing to undergo, the suffering it is willing to endure, the sacrifices it is willing to make, does the love of Christ burn in our hearts with intensity such as might be expected from our obligations to Him?
Have we indeed all received Him? Do not some, like the Jews, despise and reject Him? Reflect on this.
1. Its ingratitude.
2. Its presumption. In effect it says that God hath done an unnecessary thing in giving His Son: because the end could have been gained without it. Or, that the personal acceptance of Christ, though required in the Gospel, is an unnecessary requirement: because the salvation will be given without it.
3. Its rebelliousness. It is determined love of sin and resistance of God.—J. Rawlinson.
The sufferings of Christ must always be the main subject of the believer's thought, for no other can compare with this either in the intensity, the universality, or the duration of its interests. Strangers may think the Cross repulsive, for it is to the Greeks foolishness; but to believers it is a revelation of the power and the goodness of God. "We preach Christ crucified," says St. Paul, and from his day unto our own "Christ crucified" is the only foundation of hope, the only rock of faith, and the only bulwark against death. No wonder, then, that the absorbing enthusiasm of Christianity has been proved able to break mighty empires in pieces, and to subdue to itself the fiercest of human passions! Neither is this a subject of merely local interest. Moses might be compared to one of those desert chiefs whose very name is unheard in civilised lands, but Christ rather resembles those majestic conquerors who have aspired after a universal and enduring kingdom. Not Jerusalem, or Rome, but all the races of mankind, are ransomed by His death. Of this theme the Church will never weary, for, so long as there is a sorrow to heal, a temptation to conquer, or a sin to pardon—so long, in fact, as man continues to be man, so long will there be need of Jesus and the Resurrection. No advancement of knowledge or civilisation can atone for the want of a Saviour. Now that same Saviour on whom we trust was also the hope of the ancient prophets. We look back on an accomplished fact, and they looked forward to a glorious promise.
I. THE SUFFERINGS OF THE LORD'S LIFE. The sorrows of our Saviour's life are in some respects more completely above our sympathy than those of His death; for, while we can understand the pang of the nail or the thorn, we cannot so easily realise His mental or moral sorrows. Yet these latter are not to be overlooked. There was,
1. Our Lord's loneliness. Loneliness is the inevitable penalty of greatness. Our Lord's loneliness may seem unimportant if we look only at His divinity, but He was as perfectly man as He was truly God. Whatever, therefore, is painful to sinless man was equally painful to Christ. Now no proof is needed that man hates to be alone. How lonely was His life! A few friends gathered round Him for a time, but forsook Him in His utmost need. Burdened with the world's redemption, He was too great and high for human sympathy. The source of all kindness, and the Creator of all families, yet of Him we are compelled to say, "He hath trodden the winepress alone." (See p. 478.)
2. His uninterrupted self-denial. No doubt an accomplished act of self-denial always produces satisfaction. The very nature of self-denial requires that the painful feelings predominate, otherwise the act would be self-indulgence. What life, then, can compare with the life of Christ? Whatever is pleasant He put far from Him, and whatever is painful He took as His own. Christ lived in sorrow because sorrow was His own free choice. Yet we may gladly remember the suffering Saviour. A Redeemer who lived in pomp and honour, amid the palaces of the state and the triumphs of nations, would be too grand for ordinary men; but when we see Him walking in weariness and in pain, or bitterly mourning at the tomb of a friend, or forsaken by the chosen twelve, then we remember that He was "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh."
3. Our Lord's purity and compassion. It may not at first be obvious that the purity of our Lord's nature should produce sorrow; and yet, when we consider that He gave Himself up to the battle against impurity, we may conceive how He would shrink from contact with it. Contrast the splendid purity of that palace which He forsook, with that foul and loathsome dungeon of pollution which He entered, God's holiness with our corruption, and then judge whether it was a small thing for Christ to live among men. Sin troubles only the pure, but sorrow appeals to all. Such an emotion always filled our Saviour's breast. He saw all men, of every race and age, involved in one common ruin, &c. At last the burden of compassion became too heavy even for Him to bear, and He longed for the relief of the shame and agony of the cross (Luk ).
4. The ingratitude and opposition of the Jews. Though no comparison can fully illustrate this subject, yet suppose that, when Satan's host was cast down from heaven, a blessed spirit compassionated the awful ruin; suppose that, from the sacred light above, he journeys to the guilty darkness below, and there, by his own keen sorrow, he expiates the sin of the lost; yet suppose also that, while this strong spirit was kindling hope even in hell, all the spirits of the lost should agree to curse and torment their benefactor. "Impossible," you cry; "impossible even in hell!" Alas! it was possible on earth. Count up the miracles of mercy, and then consider how soon indifference became ingratitude, and ingratitude ripened into opposition. We may blush for our humanity. Those who yesterday ate the sacred bread, to-day cry, "Crucify Him!" &c.
II. THE SUFFERINGS OF OUR LORD'S DEATH. We may not press too closely into that mysterious scene of woe. It is rather a topic for thought than speech.
1. Our Lord's death was bitter and painful. "They pierced," says the prophet, "my hands and my feet;" and, adds Isaiah, "He was smitten of God and afflicted." For six hours He hung upon the cross. Yet doubtless His sorest sufferings were mental, for He bore all the sins of all the world. In some mysterious manner, the debt which we could never pay through all eternity, He paid in a moment of time. Yet surely He was supported by Divine consolation? Alas, no! He who stands in my place stands beneath offended justice; and hence, perhaps, that strange, mysterious cry, "My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Yet, as these sufferings were extreme, so the result of them was excellent. By them He purchased everlasting redemption for man; and equally by them He inspires us with a holy horror of sin.
2. Our Lord's death was apparently that of a criminal. He was numbered with the transgressors. "We did esteem Him judicially smitten," says Isaiah, and, adds the Evangelist, "He was crucified between two thieves." The vilest wretch who dies to-day, amid the horrors of a public execution, is kindlier treated, meets with more sympathy and less contempt than did the Lord of glory. Consider, then, the innocence of His character, and the apparent guilt of His death. How great the contrast!
3. Thus our Lord died amid ignominy and contempt. The Romans considered crucifixion to be a doom too base for any but the vilest slaves, &c.
There is no need to add that these sorrows were the revelation of eternal love. "Herein is love," herein and nowhere else is it so affectingly, so unequivocally proved, "Not that we loved God, but that God loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins."—Bamford Burrows: The Methodist Recorder, March 29, 1877.
SYMPATHY WITH THE SUFFERING
(A Hospital Sunday Sermon.)
Isa . "Surely He hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows."
This Scripture is quoted in 1Pe, as expressing the Saviour's substitutionary suffering on the cross. It is quoted in Mat 8:17, as fulfilled by the Saviour's healing miracles. It thus at first sight presents a considerable difficulty, which, however, disappears when you remember three things. First, that the scope of this chapter is to exhibit the suffering Saviour. Second, that the thing in the mind of Matthew was the Saviour's intense sympathy, which took up into Himself the sorrows and sufferings of our fallen nature. Third, that some Scriptures are capable of many fulfilments. A passage may have one main meaning, yet that meaning may contain others within itself, as a tube may contain several tubes, or as a rose may contain many leaves overlapping each other. There is thus in the whole work of Jesus a twofold fulfilment of this important prophecy.
I. THAT WHICH CONSISTED IN HIS ATONING DEATH FOR SIN.
In this sense He took the infirmities and sicknesses of our souls. In the phraseology of the Old Testament the bearing of sin is equivalent to the consequences of its guilt. The Lord Jesus Christ was the great sin-bearer. He took upon Him our nature, not only that He might adequately represent humanity and be an example, but especially that He might bear the sin of man in His death on the cross (1Pe ; 2Co 5:21). When you look for a reason why the Son of God became a man and was crucified, you cannot find it in any breach of law by Him, nor in the circumstance that He had provoked the authorities, and fallen under their power. You can only find it in the fact that His death was the atoning satisfaction for sin, on the ground of which its penal consequences can be removed from the sinner; and in the further fact that it is the fullest condemnation of sin, and the most powerful motive to abandon it. Thousands have believed this, and found peace to their consciences; and not only so, they find that faith in Him crucifies sin, and inspires them with the ardent desire to be free from its power. So that our text contains the three ideas essential to the Saviour's work: viz.,
But this is not the only fulfilment of this prophecy. There is
II. THAT WHICH CONSISTED IN HIS FEELING FOR, AND HELP IN, MEN'S BODILY SUFFERINGS.
We must bear in mind the close connection between the body and the soul. Sin has affected both. While the seat of sin is the soul, the body, as its instrument, participates in the sin. It suffers in consequence of sin. In Scripture all bodily infirmity, suffering, death in man, is traced to sin. The disease of leprosy was selected by Moses as the representation of this truth. The exclusion of the leper from the congregation, and the ceremonies connected with his re-admission, marked and kept this great truth in memory.
It was therefore fitting that He who came to destroy death and sin should take into His view and into His heart, not only the spiritual, but the physical aspects of the case He had undertaken. Man's completed redemption will be the redemption of the body at the resurrection. The final state of the glorified is one in which there shall be no more sorrow, nor sickness, nor pain, nor death. How then could He who came to accomplish that redemption be indifferent to the sufferings in which He saw a part of the misery He came to remove?
In this view, what a splendid career was His life on earth! There have been philanthropists, like Howard, and Wilberforce, and Clarkson, who have had compassion on the prisoner and the slave. But who has devoted Himself with such fulness of consecration and such forgetfulness of self? Whoever, in so short a time, accomplished so much, left such a mark behind Him in the grateful memories of those whom He had relieved and cured, and whose dark lives He had made bright by His healing touch? He could not see suffering without compassion, and He could not feel compassion without stretching out His hand to help.
In those works of beneficence He furnished a pre-intimation of the spirit that would characterise His religion. We have heard something about the religion of humanity. Men are to live for man rather than for God. Its practical effect will be nothing, because it takes away the motive power that would impel man to live for man. Nothing but the love of God creates the love of man. The idea is as old as Christianity; it is a part of Christianity, it is essential to it, it is borrowed from it. One of the first principles of practical Christianity is that "none of us liveth to himself." "We live unto the Lord," and our life to Him is manifested in living and working for our fellow-men. Christianity inspires its votaries with the desire to communicate it to others. But that is not all. In keeping with the idea that Christ has redeemed the human body as well as the human soul, it interests itself in everything that concerns the wellbeing of man. Wherever it is extended, it improves his material condition. The savage becomes civilised. Slavery has been abolished. Even war has yielded to its influence. There is greater reluctance to engage in it; restrictions are imposed on its conduct; benevolent ministers attend friend and foe alike on the battlefield. Christianity leads men to use their material opportunities to the best advantage; yet it does not encourage its votaries to turn coldly from those who have been unsuccessful in the race of life. The numberless institutions of the present day for the improvement of the material condition of the people, as a rule owe their origination and perpetuation to the humanising influence of Christianity.
And in these works of beneficence the Lord Jesus Christ furnished an example to His followers in all ages. Individually and personally they are called upon. They are to interest themselves in the spiritual and temporal wellbeing of man, as He did. They cannot work miracles. But they can perform the daily duties of life. Husbands, wives, parents, children, masters, servants, can imitate His consideration for others. There can be the visit to the sick and the troubled. The poor cannot perhaps be lifted out of their poverty; but they can be helped in it. It is of advantage to do such work personally as far as possible. But much of it can only, at least can best, be done by means of public institutions and societies. Thus the sending the gospel to the heathen. Thus ministration to the sick and wounded is most effectual by means of hospitals. Catch the spirit of Jesus.
The example is enforced by the unparalleled sacrifices He made to gain His end. Think of the number and variety of diseases and sufferings, and do what you can, like Jesus, to heal.—J. Rawlinson.
THE MYSTERY OF OUR LORD'S SUFFERINGS
Isa . We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, &c.
No man, free from bias and prejudice, can fail to see that in this chapter the Messiah—the suffering Messiah—is referred to. As little can any open-minded man fail to see, that in it the vicarious nature of Messiah's sufferings is declared. He is the sinless One who bears on His own heart and life the burden of the sins of others. He is the sent One who bears that burden as God, and for Him.
The pathway of shame which the humbled Saviour trod comes into our view. We see the thick clouds gathering over Him. We hear men reviling the seemingly helpless sufferer. We read the stricken heart that for a moment even fears the Divine forsaking. We catch the dying cry, "It is finished! "and the last heart-breaking sigh. And through the blinding, sympathising tears we read, "He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities."
The mystery of Christ's sufferings! It may be profitable for us to meditate upon them, asking, What is man's explanation of them and what is God's?
I. THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS,—MAN'S EXPLANATION OF IT.
"We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted." And it is impossible to say that this is other than a fair view to take from man's position and with man's knowledge.
1. Try and realise the process of thought in a man who was told of Christ's sufferings and death, but had no knowledge of His personal innocence. To such a man it would be plain that God has established an immediate connection between sin and suffering. Throughout His wide domain God "by no means clears the guilty." The suffering often comes openly, so that men may see it; sometimes it comes only to the man's spirit; but it always comes. Upon the basis of this constant union between sin and suffering, the man might fairly argue that there must be a connection between suffering and sin, so that wherever he saw suffering he would suspect that sin was its cause (H. E. I. 4490, 4603-4610).
The discipline of chastisement through which the Christian passes may seem opposed to this view; it is only, however, lifting it up into a higher plane, and treating it with qualifying considerations. All discipline carries the idea of punishment; it is the recognition of some evil in the person on whom it rests. Since then the man is prepared to find sin wherever he finds suffering, he will be ready to explain the mystery of Christ's sufferings by saying, "Christ had sinned." and such a man, looking upon Christ as condemned by law, would further recognise God's hand in His sufferings. For if human laws are to gain the respect of men, they must be regarded as the expression of God's law. It was perhaps thus that the Jewish bigots thought of the Nazarene malefactor. Yet we know, we feel, that this explanation of the mystery of our Lord's sufferings is insufficient and incorrect. Worthless—nay, wholly wrong—if He be the spotless Lamb of God.
2. Try to realise the process of thought in a man who has some knowledge of Christ's life, and especially of His personal innocence. Such a man might say, Christ's sufferings were a special and extraordinary Divine judgment. "He was smitten of God;" His death was a sad calamity. Calamity, that is, suffering of which the sufferer's sin is not the immediate cause, is no such uncommon thing in the world. The tower of Siloam fell. The sin was Pilate's; it did not belong to those whose blood was poured forth. They were smitten of God. The world has known many instances in which the innocent has been treated as the guilty. Such cases are mysteries; man can only say of the sufferers—"Smitten of God." In the case of Christ, this, too, is insufficient; it is but the beginning of an explanation. A calamity! Yes, but only a seeming calamity, seeing that by dying He conquered death. Man cannot of himself explain the mystery of Christ's sufferings.
II. THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST'S SUFFERINGS—GOD'S EXPLANATION OF IT. Notice—
1. That God sustains man's view, that the sufferings of Christ were His appointment; but He further declares that they were an unusual, and altogether singular appointment. They were the voluntary fulfilment of a Divine decree; the carrying out to its completion, whatever that might involve, of a Divine mission (Joh ; Joh 4:34; Joh 6:38). God the Father gave extraordinary witness to Him as His Son and Messenger (Mar 9:7); ancient prophecy represented Christ as saying, "Lo, I come," &c. (Psa 40:7-8); and apostles firmly declare, "We have seen, and do testify," &c. (1Jn 4:14). The direct connection of the life-work and the sufferings of Jesus with the redeeming plan and purpose of God, must be anxiously and watchfully maintained. The question of surpassing interest to us is, "What does God think of it all? How does it all stand related to His purposes of grace?"
2. God's explanation declares that Christ's sufferings bore no relation whatever to His own guilt. The text gives an explanation which excludes all others. If He had sinned, it is plain that He must have come under the condemnation of the Divine law, and must have been occupied with bearing the penalties of His own sin. But Christ suffered as the representative or substitute for others; His sufferings were wholly "vicarious;" borne in carrying out the great work He had undertaken, of delivering us from the penalty and the power of sin, and securing for us eternal peace with God. This is God's wonderful solution of the question, "How shall man be just with God?"
CONCLUSION.—In the restoration of man to the Divine favour we can recognise three stages.
1. A loving purpose towards man cherished in the deep heart of the Holy Father.
2. That Divine and loving purpose effectually wrought out by God's well-beloved and only begotten Song of Solomon 3. The voluntary and hearty acceptance, by the long-sought children, of the redemption thus gloriously wrought for them. The third stage is yet incomplete. For the love of God does not—perhaps we should say cannot—save you against your will. But is it so, can it be so, that you have no will to be saved? Put out the hand of faith. For "all we like sheep have gone astray, and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."—Rev. Robert Tuck, B.A.: Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiv. pp. 8-10.
(Sunday School Address.)
Compare the progress and the unfolding clearness of the Old Testament prophecies of Messiah, to a picture which takes many hands and long years to paint. Picture one man beginning by putting in the bare outline; then another and another comes, and makes the outline more and more complete and clear. Then others come and paint in the figure, form, and dress; and yet others the features and expression of the face. When the picture is complete, behold, it is Jesus of Nazareth: the suffering Saviour.
I. The suffering Saviour. Dwell on the terms in which His sufferings are detailed (see pp. 477-483). Carefully point out that He suffered more in His mind and heart than in His body.
II. The suffering Saviour misunderstood. By those who only look on the surface. By all who have no personal conviction of sin.
III. The mystery of the suffering Saviour revealed. It was vicarious suffering, borne according to the will of God, and borne for us.
IV. The glorious results won by a suffering Saviour. Man's redemption. His own eternal joy. The triumph of God's love over man's sin.—Sunday School Addresses, New Series, p. 157.
THE SUFFERINGS OF CHRIST
Isa . But He was wounded for our transgressions, &c.
To any one who seriously contemplates the death and sufferings of Jesus Christ, three things suggest themselves as requiring explanation.
1. An innocent man suffers. All testimonies agree as to the purity and perfectness of the life of Jesus. There is a certain violence done to our sense of justice, when we see Him who boldly demanded, "Which of you convinceth me of sin?" and to whose character the Roman judge bears unqualified witness, undergoing the double agonies of an iniquitous trial and a shameful death.
2. The death of Jesus is the apparent defeat and destruction of one who possessed extraordinary and supernatural powers. For Him, whose word could still a tempest, eject a devil, raise the dead, to have escaped the power of the Sanhedrim and of the soldiery would surely have been easy (Mat ). In the suffering of a person so mighty, there is an intellectual inconsistency quite as remarkable as the moral inconsistency already noted.
3. This apparent defeat and ruin, instead of hindering the progress of His work, became at once, and in all the history of the progress of His doctrine has been emphatically, the instrument whereby a world is conquered. The death of Jesus has not been mourned by His followers, has never been concealed, but rather exulted in and prominently set forward as that to which all men must chiefly look, if they would regard Christ and His mission aright. Here, again, is a difficulty for rationalism to overcome. The innocent suffers as if guilty, the mighty is seized as if in helpless weakness, the shame and the failure result in glory and completest success. What is the philosophy of this? We ask impatiently for the explanation of the wonder. Has any ever been given which approaches the Divinely-revealed meaning supplied to us by our text, "He was wounded," &c.?
We learn here,
I. That the sufferings of Jesus Christ resulted from our sins. Whether absolutely and universally suffering is the result of sin, we need not now inquire. Two things, at least, are certain: a large amount of suffering is the direct consequence of sin, and it is the habit of men to associate the suffering which comes before them, either directly or indirectly, with sin. Broken law everywhere brings unhappiness, pain, and death.—Now, the sufferings of Jesus could not result from His sin, for He was sinless. What He endured was not in accordance with His deserts. He became the passive recipient of what was laid upon Him.—Much of this we may see: the sin of the people who refused Him, of the leaders who conspired against Him, of the judges who condemned Him. And inasmuch as these represent mankind, inasmuch as there is a corporate unity among all men, inasmuch as the sin of each is itself only an expression and even an outcome of the sin of all the individual specific wrongs against Jesus, and finally, inasmuch as these sins are being repeated by every man—wherever we find refusal of the good, blind and wilful rejection of truth, unfaithfulness to duty and right, ingratitude, craven fear, selfishness and pride—there is a profound meaning, even upon the plane of a merely human interpretation, in the words of the prophet, "He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities." It was sin, human sin, our sin, which slew Jesus (P. D. 459).
II. That the sufferings of Jesus were related to the Divine law. Such an analysis of the sufferings of Christ as we have already indicated may be accepted by the inquirer, but it would suggest the further question, Does not this suffering of the innocent reflect upon the law and power of God? The presence of evil and sin everywhere around us is itself a great and awful mystery; but that the most terrible manifestation of evil should be found in the sufferings of the highest being ever revealed to man—this only adds to the horror of the mystery, and envelops our moral nature, the government of God, and God Himself, in a thicker darkness. Ought such a scene to be possible in a world where goodness is supreme? Either God is careless of the right, or indifferent to suffering, or powerless to prevent either the wrong or the result of it. Such must be the conclusion, if the foregoing analysis be final.
But there is an alternative. God may have permitted, nay, even ordained, the sufferings of His Son. In the sacred unity of their nature, the suffering and death of Jesus may be a part of the will and purpose of the Godhead. That it is so, man can never know unless God reveals it. But what if God has revealed it? What if there be a still deeper meaning in the cross and the grave of Jesus, and that thereby God re-enacts His broken law, reveals the exceeding and awful wickedness of sin, and sets up a vindication of law as against wilfulness and sin more splendid than of nature, more powerful than that of conscience, more persuasive than that which thundered from Sinai? What are the facts? Divine law broken by human sin. Divine mercy willing to pardon, but not by a mere remission—a letting off. The sin of man would have been repeated in such a forgiveness by a God as careless of His law as man was disobedient to it. But behold the Son of God cometh. He meets and overcomes it, obeys law completely, perfectly, sets up a life of surpassing beauty and sweetness, nobler than law itself, and yet suffers and dies—at once the fulfiller of law and the victim of sin—in His obedience illustrating the former, and in His death condemning the latter. Now mercy is free. Mercy herself through Jesus Christ is highest justice. Forgiveness by His grace is not the suspension, the destruction of law, but it is the union of law and love—it is love arrayed in garments more awful than those of law, it is law sweetened and beautified by the lineaments of love. Pardon is declared, mercy is extended, forgiveness spoken, and we know not what words can better set forth the blessed truth than the expression of the prophet, "The chastisement making for our peace was upon Him."
III. That the sufferings of Jesus became remedial of human sinfulness. A consideration of our Lord's death which placed it only in its historic relation, as one of the facts of the sad history of human wretchedness, and in its objective relation to the re-establishment of Divine law and the procuring of a free course for mercy, is wholly insufficient. In the death of Jesus there is a moral significance in respect of human character and life altogther unique. Its influence upon man's heart and conduct is incalculable—indeed so great that many regard only these sides of it and neglect the Divine aspect altogether, and refer to this as a result and outcome of the former.
The elevation of our Lord's nature, especially as it comes out in the midst of His sufferings, would of itself have been a mighty force for the amelioration of all who contemplated it. All greatness ennobles, and when it is the greatness of the good and the gentle, the heroism of love and the power of self-sacrifice, the soul of man not only admires, but is inspired, emulates the example and joins in a holy fellowship. But Christ's death was the death of one who loved men, and whose love is revealed to us by that wisdom which alone could fathom it, as being personal and individual. Christ was not a mere philanthropist, but before His infinite intelligence every man stood separate and alone; in His infinite heart every man had a place. Hence His sufferings were sufferings for me, for you; His death was in my place, in yours (P. D. 456).
We find that in Him there gathers not only goodness, patience, all the virtues of which man is capable, there exhibited through hostility and even unto death, but there is love—a personal, direct, and individual love—such as would have been equal to all the claim made upon it, to all the burden which it had to bear even if there were only one soul in the world to be redeemed, and that mine or yours. Let this be realised by each man, and see how his spirit will be affected by that love of Christ. What a price for righteousness! What a hindrance to sin! What a discipline, a culture, is here! How life will be inspired, action directed, victory assured for him who lives with the ever-present thought of the love of Christ! Thus will the sinful character be changed, the wounds be healed, a new heart given, and by the grace of the Holy Spirit who applies these "things of Christ," the soul is regenerated, sanctified, and at last glorified in the perfect blessedness and holiness of heaven. This is what we need within ourselves—this healing grace; and this is what the prophet declares Messiah will bestow, for "with His stripes we are healed."
With these thoughts, let us surround the holy table of the Lord. Here is the broken body and the shed blood. Here are we reminded of the sufferings which yet glorified law and obtained forgiveness, and are evermore the power of the love which heals and strengthens and at last completely saves.—Ll. D. Bevan, D.D.
These sufferings constituted the price which the incarnate Son of God had voluntarily engaged to pay for human redemption: they were the atonement due for the accumulated sins of a guilty world, and were required by "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God."
I. THEIR NATURE.
To form an adequate conception of our Redeemer's sufferings, we must contemplate Him as forsaken and unsupported, save only by the consciousness of perfect innocence; surrounded by a whole nation of implacable enemies; betrayed by His own treacherous companion; insulted and beaten by a ferocious multitude; dragged, on a perjured accusation, before the judgment-seat; affixed to the accursed tree, where, for six tedious hours of mortal agony, He hangs suspended from His own quivering flesh. Bitter, however, as were the physical sufferings of our Lord, the peculiar agony of His passion did not result solely from that cause. It was the mental anguish that He endured during that awful period; the overwhelming consciousness of God's anger; the total absence of all aid or consolation from above; the feeling of utter desertion both by God and man, when He approached the tremendous conflict with all the powers of darkness;—it was the pressure of that enormous mass of transferred sin which, as the representative of mankind, He had undertaken to bear. Physically, His sufferings did not differ materially from those of that noble army of Christian heroes who followed His steps to martyrdom and glory; but they had no desertion of the Divine grace and favour to lament—no load of imputed corruption to weigh them down. The Prince of Martyrs felt the unnatural load of His polluted burden; He tottered under its enormous weight, but no assisting hand stretched out to help; alone He had to undergo the tremendous ordeal, without support from His Father, without the comfort and companionship of the Holy Spirit.
Thus was the "Messiah cut off, but not for Himself." He owed no submission to death, having never fallen under the dominion of sin. The punishment which He underwent was due to us; they were our iniquities for which He was wounded and slain; for our sakes He became as it were the paschal lamb, "sprinkling His blood" for our salvation; for us He consented to be treated like the scapegoat in the wilderness, and to bear in His own person the iniquities of us all. How bitter the ingredients of the cup of which He drank! The annals of mankind can furnish no parallel to the immensity of His sufferings.
II. THEIR OBJECT.
Mankind had been created perfect, but had fallen from their original uprightness into a state of degradation most offensive to the holiness of God. He could not behold His creation, once so happy and sinless, thus corrupted and depraved, without just indignation. Yet in the midst of His wrath He remembered mercy; and, because mankind were too widely alienated from Himself ever to be rescued from the lamentable consequences of the Fall by any exertions of their own, He devised the wonderful expedient of vicarious atonement, by which, through the personal intervention of some friendly mediator, full and perfect satisfaction might be offered, in man's behalf, to the offended holiness and plighted truth of Heaven. No one could be found sufficient for this purpose but His only SON, who assumed the nature and liabilities of those whom He desired to rescue from destruction. The object for which He came into the world was to redeem mankind—by undergoing the full amount of punishment that had been incurred; by rescuing all that might believe on Him from the dominion of sin and Satan; and by opening a fountain for sin and uncleanness, capable of removing pollution from the entire human race.
These merciful purposes had long been intimated by Divine revelation, and the expectation kept alive by a series of prophecies. The necessity of a real expiation was prefigured by the early institution of blood offerings, in which an innocent victim became an atonement for the sins of the sacrificer, and was supposed to draw down the divine wrath upon itself, and to avert it from the offender. Corresponding intimations were made in all the other types and ordinances of the law, especially in the driving forth of the sin-laden scapegoat into the wilderness, and in the entrance into the holy of holies of the priestly intercessor bearing the blood of sacrifice (Heb ; Heb 9:11-12).
III. THEIR SUFFICIENCY.
The entire value of our Redeemer's mediation, the whole efficacy of His atonement, depended on His total freedom from sin. The smallest deviation from the perfection of righteousness would have entirely disqualified Him for the office of a Saviour, by degrading Him to the very condition of those whom He purposed to save. He would have become in His own person a debtor to Divine justice, and thus would have required a surety for Himself, instead of becoming a surety for others. But the spotless holiness of the expiation was secured by His inseparable relation to the Deity; and, for the same reason, a redundancy of merit accrued to Him which rendered the atonement He made abundantly efficacious for the redemption of the world (1Pe ; H. E. I. 377-381).
The surest proof of the entire sufficiency of our Lord's sufferings and death as an offering for sin consists in His resurrection from the dead. This was the sign to which He had previously referred the Jews as an evidence of His divine power (Joh ); and it was, doubtless, essential that He who claimed a victory over death should exhibit in His own instance the first fruits of that victory by raising Himself from the dead. Had He failed in rescuing Himself, His ability to save others might reasonably have been questioned; but having exercised that power in His own case, much more is He able to raise others from the death of sin to the new life of righteousness and glory. The sufficiency of our Lord's atonement is still further evident in His public and triumphant ascension into heaven, and in His subsequent fulfilment of the promise that after His departure He would send the Holy Spirit unto them.—George Pellew, D.D.: Sermons, vol. i. pp. 107-124.
Consider I. THE NATURE OF THE REDEEMER'S SUFFERINGS. Physical, but not chiefly so. The physical sufferings of many of the martyrs were greater than His. Mental, and these are harder to endure than physical sufferings. Minds differ in their capacity for suffering; the more capacious and sensitive they are, the greater that capacity (H. E. I. 915). II. THEIR SOURCE: our sins, which He had taken upon Himself. III. THEIR ENDS.
1. That a way of salvation might be opened for all who believe.
2. That a complete triumph over the powers of darkness might be achieved, by the setting up of a kingdom that will never be destroyed (see outlines on Isa ).—C. B. Woodman: The British Pulpit, vol. iv. pp. 384-393.
I. In His body and in His soul. Heartache is worse than headache. "The sufferings of His soul were the soul of His sufferings." II. In His earlier and in His later years. Of the babe—boy—man. III. In personal endurance and by sympathy. Sympathy with all the ills of humanity, and with the woes of individual sufferers. IV. From all orders of being. Men—friends, foes, neutrals; devils; GOD—withdrawal, infliction of penalty.
CONCLUSION.—Can the sufferings of Christ be explained apart from the doctrine of the atonement? Ought not the sufferings of Christ for us to draw forth our faith and love? Should not the sufferings of Christ lead us as believers to confide in His sympathy?—G. Brooks: Outlines, p. 79.
There is nothing else which ought so to affect our hearts as the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. It brings to mind all our misery, all our salvation. It places before us the august emblems of our crucified Master, and calls us to pronounce over His broken body and shed blood the sacramental vow. It is, therefore, one of the most affecting solemnities in which we shall ever be engaged till we get to heaven. Let us endeavour to prepare our hearts for it, while we attend to the two great ideas of the text—
I. It is proper to enter fully into the consideration of our sins, for unless we come to this sacrament as sinners—penitent, emptied of self—we shall fail of entering into the meaning of our ordinance, or holding communion with our Saviour.
1. The number of our sins. Go back to the years of your childhood and youth. Let busy memory call up from forgotten years the thousand sins which time has almost worn from the brain. As we look back on our life, recollection fails us, and well may we say with the Psalmist, "Who can understand his errors?" Surely our hearts should be affected with the number of our sins. Had we sinned but once, the law of God would have condemned us, and we could not have justified ourselves. But we have sinned times without number! eternity alone can calculate their amount!
2. Their enormity. The undisturbed sinner, moving on in his career of carelessness, does not realise the great evil of the sins he commits. He thinks of transgression against God as a trifle, &c. We should measure the enormity of our sin by the evil of it; and the evil of it by the majesty of the Deity we have offended, and by the eternity of punishment which God pronounces over it (H. E. I. 4477-4490).
3. The motives which induced us to sin. Surely the small motives there are to sin, contrasted with the immense motives to holiness, manifest a guilt of the heart which ought to fill our souls with the deepest contrition.
4. The effect our sins have had on others. Sin is a contagious evil; "one sinner destroyeth much good." We are so situated in human society that we cannot avoid holding an influence over one another. Had we destroyed ourselves only, the evil would not have been so lamentable. But we have dragged others into the same gulf wherein we have so thoughtlessly precipitated ourselves! (H. E. I. 4565).
II. Penitently consider the sufferings of Jesus Christ to atone for men. "But He was wounded for our transgressions." Jesus Christ helped us when we could not help ourselves.
1. In the sacrifice of Christ the pardon of sin is secured.
2. The justice of God is satisfied.
3. An everlasting righteousness is procured for the sinner.
4. That grace which subdues the heart has been obtained.—Ichabod S. Spencer, D.D.: Discourses on Sacramental Occasions, pp. 178-196.
Isa . But He was wounded for our transgressions, &c.
It is generally admitted that this prophecy refers to Christ, and if so, the vicarious nature of His sufferings and death cannot admit of reasonable dispute. If language has meaning in the text, this must be acknowledged. But there is a previous question started by scepticism, to which it is proper to reply. We maintain then—
I. That the principle of vicarious sacrifice is consistent with the Divine perfections. It has been urged that the sufferings of the innocent for the benefit of the guilty, is utterly inconsistent with perfect justice. This we deny. In doing so we are under no obligation to satisfy human scruples, for our ideas of what Divine justice really is must necessarily be very partial and imperfect, so that dogmatically to affirm what may or may not be harmonised with it, beyond what we learn expressly from Divine revelation upon the subject, is impudent presumption. It would be sufficient to know, as a matter of fact, that the law of vicarious suffering is recognised, not only in Scripture, but is also everywhere manifest in the universe.
1. The vicarious principle is a law of physical being.
(1.) The mineral kingdom suffers for the sake of the vegetable; for the vegetable eats upon the mineral, and lives upon its destruction and conversion.
(2.) The vegetable kingdom, in its turn, suffers for the sustentation of the animal.
(3.) Herb-feeding races of animals die to support the life of carnivora. And geological researches show the laws of prey and death were in commission among animals before sin was introduced by our first parents.
(4.) Again, vegetables and animals alike labour and suffer, and die for the benefit of their offspring.
(5.) How beautifully is the vicarious principle evinced in the voluntary cheerful sufferings of the human mother for the sake of her child (H. E. I. 393-396).
2. The vicarious principle is a law of intellectual being.
(1.) The enjoyment experienced by a reader of a masterly treatise, as its profound and brilliant thoughts successively rise, as by enchantment, is the purchase of the wearisome vigilance, and sustained and often painful effort of the author's mind.
(2.) The repasts upon which many a Christian congregation are Sabbath after Sabbath delighted, are the sweat of the preacher's brain.
(3.) The civilisation we inherit with our birth, is the result of an incalculable amount of anxious, laborious, and distressing thought on the part of millions now sleeping in the dust.
(4.) What privations do parents voluntarily suffer in order to secure the education of their children!
3. The vicarious principle is a law of moral being.
(1.) It is the very soul of sympathy. Without sympathy society would lose its charm—a community of stoics.
(2.) The philanthropist facing the horrors of disease and wretchedness, &c. The missionary!
(3.) It is virtue which gives value to sacrifice.
A principle thus universally obtaining cannot but harmonize with the justice of the Universal Ruler. The vicarious sacrifice of Christ is the most marvellous and stupendous exemplification of a law everywhere exemplified.
II. A vicarious sacrifice of infinite merit is indispensable to human salvation.
1. Man is found in the attitude of rebellion against God.
2. Divine justice cannot be sacrificed to mercy (H. E. I. 376).
3. Man has no means by which to commend himself to the mercy of God.
(1.) Repentance of no value without an atonement (H. E. I. 4225-4228).
(2.) Man is too depraved of himself to repent (H. E. I. 4250).
4. The only remaining source is in the vicarious principle.
(1.) The vicarious person must be able to suffer the penalty of human sin.
(2.) He must have sufficient merit to procure the enlightening and sanctifying agency of a Divine worker.
III. The requirements of the vicarious principle are met in the sacrifice of Christ.
1. His merits fully realize the Divine ideal.
(1.) He was pure through the miracle of His birth.
(2.) He was righteous in the fulfilment of every requirement of law.
(3.) In His official capacity He was approved by celestial voices, at His baptism and transfiguration, and with reference to His sufferings at Gethsemane and Calvary.
(4.) Hence His exaltation (Joh ; Php 2:9-11).
2. Those merits were devoted to our redemption and salvation.
(1.) This is the great doctrine of the text.
(2.) The marrow of the Gospel.
(3.) They have made provision for the renewal of our nature—God cannot change, and therefore we must be changed. The Holy Spirit helps us to repent and believe the Gospel, &c.
1. Learn the absurdity of seeking salvation by works
2. Learn the obligation to aim at Christian perfection.
(3.) Learn the necessity of the vicarious principle to the Christian life (Mat ; 1Jn 3:16-17).—James Alex. Macdonald: Pulpit Analyst, vol. i. pp. 702-705.
HEALED BY HIS STRIPES
Isa . With His stripes we are healed.
The two great things which the Spirit of Christ in the ancient prophets testified beforehand, were the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow (1Pe ). And when Jesus, after His resurrection, expounded to His disciples, in all the Scriptures, the things concerning Himself, He showed the scope and purport of them all to be that "Christ ought to have suffered, and then to enter into His glory." But in no part of the Old Testament are these two things so fully exhibited as in this chapter, from which many passages are quoted and applied to Christ in the New Testament.
I. THE SUFFERINGS OF THE MESSIAH.
II. THE CAUSE AND DESIGN OF THOSE SUFFERINGS.
III. THE BENEFIT WE OBTAIN BY THEM, AND HOW WE OBTAIN IT. "With His stripes we are healed." We are healed,
1. Of our inattention and unconcern about divine things. The dignity of our Lord's person, the intensity of His sufferings, and the end for which He endured them, discover that things of a spiritual and divine nature are of infinite moment. Our ignorance and unbelief respecting these things. His sufferings confirm and seal His doctrine, and show the certain truth and unspeakable importance of it, and the reasonableness of a serious study of it, of laying it to heart, and receiving it in faith.
2. Of the disease of self-righteousness and self-confidence. For, if our own righteousness could have saved us, and if we could safely have trusted therein, Christ needed not to have died.
3. Of our love to sin and the commission of it. For how can we love Him and continue the willing servants of the betrayer and murderer of the Son of God, our Saviour? How can we willingly commit sin, which is so great an evil in its own nature, that it could not be pardoned, unless expiated by the sufferings and death of the Son of God, and Lord of glory? (H. E. I., 4589, 4590).
4. Of our love of the riches, honours, and pleasures of this world. For how can we reasonably desire any of these in a world, where our Lord and Master "had not where to lay His head," where He "was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief"?
5. Of our self-indulgence and self-seeking. Since His sufferings and death show that He did not seek Himself, and He died for us, that we "might not live to ourselves" (2Co ).
6. Of our lukewarmness and sloth. For shall we be indifferent about, and slothful in the pursuit of what cost Him His blood?
7. Of our cowardice and fear of suffering (1Pe ).
8. Of our diffidence and distrust with respect to the mercy of God, and His pardoning and accepting the penitent.
9. Of an accusing conscience and slavish fear of God, and death and hell (Heb ).
10. Of our general depravity and corruption of nature (Tit ; Eph 5:25-27).
11. Of our weakness and inability. His sufferings have purchased "the spirit of might."
12. Of our distress and misery, both present and future. For His sufferings bear away our griefs and sorrows; they are an astonishing proof of God's infinite love to all for whom He undertook; they lay the most solid foundation for the firmest confidence and most lively hope in Him. They show that—
"No man too largely from God's love can hope,
If what he hopes, he labours to secure."
Joseph Benson: Sermons, vol. i pp. 232-236.
Ever since the fall, healing has been the chief necessity of manhood. It is a great mercy for us who have to preach, as well as for you who have to hear, that the Gospel healing is so very simple. Our text describes it. These six words contain the marrow of the Gospel.
I. These are sad words. They are part of the mournful piece of music which might be called "the Requiem of the Messiah,"
1. Because they imply disease. This "we" comprehends all the saints, and hence it is clear that all the saints need healing. Those who are to-day before the throne of God, without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, were once defiled as the lepers who were shut out of the camp of Israel. Our fathers were fallen men, and so are we, and so will our children be.
(1.) The disease of sin is of the most loathsome character, and it will lead to the most deadly result in due season. It is none the better because we do not feel it. It is all the worse.
(2.) Sin is also a very painful disease when it is known and felt. Those black days of conviction! A man needs no worse hell than his own sin and an awakened conscience.
II. These are glad words.
1. Because they speak of the healing we need. Understand these words. Of that virtual healing which was given you in the day when Jesus Christ died upon the cross. But there is an actual application of the great expiation to us when by faith we receive it individually. To as many as have believed in Jesus, His stripes have given the healing of forgiveness, and it has conquered the deadly power of sin. Men have tried to overcome their passions by the contemplation of death, but they have failed to bury sin in the grave; they have striven to subdue the rage of lust within their nature by meditating upon hell, but that has only rendered the heart hard and callous to love's appeals. He who once believingly beholds the mystery of Christ suffering for him shakes off the viper of sin into the fire which consumed the great sacrifice. Where falls the blood of the atonement, sin's hand is palsied, its grasp is relaxed, its sceptre falls, it vacates the throne of the heart; and the spirit of grace, and truth, and love, and righteousness, occupies the royal seat. Behold Christ smarting in your stead, and you will never despair again. It is a universal medicine. There is no disease by which your soul can be afflicted, but an application of the blue bruises of your Lord will take out the deadly virus from your soul.
2. Because of the honour which the healing brings to Christ. Child of God, if thou wouldst give glory to God, declare that thou art healed. Be not always saying, "I hope I am saved." A crucified Saviour is the sole and only hope of a sinful world.
III. These are very suggestive words. Whenever a man is healed through the stripes of Christ, the instincts of his nature should make him say, "I will spend the strength I have, as a healed man, for Him who healed me." If you know that Jesus has healed you, serve Him, by telling others about the healing medicine. Tell it to your children; tell it to your servants; leave none around you ignorant of it. Hang it up everywhere in letters of boldest type. "With His stripes we are healed."—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1068.
I. A LAMENTABLE DISEASE ASSUMED
1. The baneful result of transgression.
2. Universal in its prevalency.
3. Hereditary in its descent.
4. Incurable by human agency.
II. AN INFALLIBLE PHYSICIAN SPECIFIED.
1. Infinite in Wisdom
2. Impartial in attendance.
3. Ever easy of access.
4. Gratuitous in His practice.
III. THE REMEDY HE EMPLOYS. "His stripes," i.e. the atonement.
1. Divine in its appointment.
2. Easy in its application.
3. Universal in its adaptation.
4. Infallible in its efficacy.
IV. THE CURE EFFECTED BY IT.
1. Is now no novelty.
2. Is radical in its nature.
3. Is happy in its influences.
CONCLUSION.—This subject tends,
1. To promote humility.
2. To produce self-examination.
3. To encourage the desponding penitent.
4. To excite fervent gratitude.—Four Hundred Sketches, vol. ii. p. 93.
I. THE MEDICINE WHICH IS HERE PRESCRIBED—the stripes of our Saviour. I take the term "stripes" to comprehend all the physical and spiritual sufferings of our Lord, with especial reference to those chastisements of our peace which preceded rather than actually caused His sin-atoning death: it is by these that our souls are healed.
"But why?" say you.
1. Because our Lord, as a sufferer, was not a private person, but suffered as a public individual, and an appointed representative. Hence the effects of His grief are applied to us, and with His stripes we are healed.
2. Our Lord was not merely man, or else His sufferings could not have availed for the multitude who now are healed thereby.
But healing is a work that is carried on within, and the text rather leads me to speak of the effect of the stripes of Christ upon our characters and natures than upon the result produced in our position before God.
II. THE MATCHLESS CURES WROUGHT BY THIS REMARKABLE MEDICINE. Look at two pictures. Look at man without the stricken Saviour; and then behold man with the Saviour, healed by His stripes.
III. THE MALADIES WHICH THIS WONDROUS MEDICINE REMOVES. The great root of all this mischief, the curse which fell on man through Adam's sin, is already effectually removed. But I am now to speak of diseases which we have felt and bemoaned, and which still trouble the family of God.
1. The mania of despair.
2. The stony heart.
3. The paralysis of doubt.
4. Stiffness of the knee-joint of prayer.
5. Numbness of soul.
6. The fever of pride.
7. The leprosy of selfishness.
8. The fretting consumption of worldliness. (See also p. 494.)
IV. THE CURATIVE PROPERTIES OF THIS MEDICINE. All manner of good this divine remedy works in our spiritual constitution. The stripes of Jesus when well considered,
1. Arrest spiritual disorder.
2. Quicken all the powers of the spiritual man to resist the disease.
3. They restore to the man that which he lost in strength by sin.
4. They soothe the agony of conviction.
5. They eradicate the power of sin; they pull it up by the root; destroy the beasts in their lair; put to death the power of sin in our members.
Thus the due effect of the sufferings of Christ upon man is the entire renovation of his heart. It tends to purify him from all sin, to fashion his soul in the frame of perfect holiness, to urge him to devoted zeal in all ways of piety and charity. The wisdom of God in appointing those sufferings as the means of our salvation, is justified in the beauty of holiness to which those who duly look upon them are thus brought. As the Israelites looked upon the brazen serpent till they were healed, so let us look upon our suffering Saviour till all the disorders of our souls are remedied, and we are restored to the "spirit of love and of a sound mind."—R. L. Cotton, M.A.: The Way of Salvation, pp. 95-99.
VI. ITS REMARKABLY EASY APPLICATION. There are some materia medica which would be curative, but they are so difficult in administration and attended with so much risk in their operation, that they are rarely if ever employed; but the medicine prescribed in the text is very simple in itself, and very simply received; so simple is its reception that, if there be a willing mind here to receive it, it may be received by any of you at this very instant, for God's Holy Spirit is present to help you. How, then, does a man get the stripes to heal him?
1. He hears about them.
2. Faith cometh by hearing; that is, the hearer believes that Jesus is the Son of God, and he trusts in Him to save his soul.
3. Having believed, whenever the power of his faith begins to relax, he goes to hearing again, or else to what is even better, after once having heard to benefit, he resorts to contemplation; he resorts to the Lord's table that he may be helped by the outward signs; he reads the Bible that the letter of the word may refresh his memory as to its spirit, and he often seeks a season of quiet, &c.—Poor sinner, simply trust and thou art healed; backsliding saint, contemplate and believe again.
Since the medicine is so efficacious, since it is already prepared and freely presented, I do beseech you take it.—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 834.
Isa . All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way.
Comparisons in Scripture are frequently to be understood with great limitation: perhaps, out of many circumstances, one only is justly applicable to the case. Thus, when our Lord says, "Behold, I come as a thief" (Rev )—common sense will fix the resemblance to a single point, that He will come suddenly and unexpectedly.
So, when wandering sinners are compared to wandering sheep, we have a striking image of the danger of their state, and their inability to recover themselves. Sheep wandering without a shepherd are exposed, a defenceless and easy prey, to wild beasts and enemies, and liable to perish for want of pasture; for they are not able either to provide for themselves, or to find their way back to the place from whence they strayed. Whatever they suffer, they continue to wander, and if not sought out, will be lost. Thus far the allusion holds.
But sheep in such a situation are not the subjects of blame. They would be highly blameable, if we could suppose them rational creatures; if they had been under the eye of a careful and provident shepherd, had been capable of knowing him, had wilfully and obstinately renounced his protection and guidance, and voluntarily chosen to plunge themselves into danger, rather than to remain in it any longer.
Thus it is with man.
1. His wandering is rebellious. God made him upright, but he has sought out to himself many inventions (Ecc ).
2. God has appointed for mankind a safe and pleasant path, by walking in which they shall find rest to their souls; but they say, "We will not walk therein" (Jer ).
3. They were capable of knowing the consequences of going astray, were repeatedly warned of them, were fenced in by wise and good laws, which they presumptuously broke through.
4. When they had wandered from Him, they were again and again invited to return to Him, but they refused. They mocked His messengers, and preferred the misery they had brought upon themselves to the happiness of being under His direction and care.
Surely He emphatically deserves the name of the Good Shepherd, who freely laid down His life to restore sheep of this character.—John Newton: Works, p 712.
We are like sheep,
1. In our proneness to err. No creature is more prone to wander and lose his way than a sheep without a shepherd. So are we apt to transgress the bounds whereby God has hedged up our way (Jer ). This has been manifest in every period of our life (Psa 25:7; Psa 19:12).
2. In our readiness to follow evil example. Sheep run after one another, and one straggler draweth away the whole flock; and so men take and do a great deal of hurt by sad examples. Sheep go by troops, and so do men follow the multitude to do evil; what is common passeth into our practice without observation (Eph ).
3. In our danger when we have gone astray. Straying sheep, when out of the pasture, are in harm's way, and exposed to a thousand dangers. Oh, consider what it is for a poor solitary lamb to wander through the mountains, where, it may be, some hungry lion or ravenous wolf looketh for such a prey. Even so is it with straying men: their judgments sleepeth not; it may be in the next hour they will be delivered to destruction (Jer ; Rom 3:16).
4. In our inability to return into the right way. Other animals can find their way home again, but a strayed sheep is irrecoverably lost without the shepherd's diligence and care. "I could wander by myself, but could not return by myself" (Augustine).
5. In our need of a redeemer.
CONCLUSION.—Has the Good Shepherd brought us back? Then,
1. Let us magnify His self-sacrificing and tender mercy, in following us, and bringing us into the pastures where there is at once safety and true satisfaction.
2. Let us remember for ourselves, and preach to others, that the sheep do not fare the better for going out of the pasture. In departing from God, we turn our back upon our own happiness. The broad and easy ways of sin are pleasing to flesh and blood, but destructive to the soul. Adam thought to find much happiness in forbidden fruit, to mend and better his condition, but was miserably disappointed. The prodigal did not fare well in the far country (Luk ).
3. Let us pray for grace that we may be watchful in the future. Alas, which of us has not sad need to make our own the Psalmist's confession and prayer (Psa )? Though our hearts be set to walk with God in the main, yet there is still in them a proneness to swerve from the right way, either by neglecting our duty to God, or by transgressing against His holy commandment; against this let us be on our guard, that we may not again grieve our Good Shepherd!—Thomas Manton, D.D.: Complete Works, vol. iii. pp. 300-303.
We wander, I. Like sheep, without reason—the pasture was rich, the shepherd kind, the food scarce.
II. Like sheep, aimlessly. The lion prowls for food, the hart in search of water, the sheep without aim.
III. Like sheep, persistently, despising the coming shades of evening, the distant bleatings of the abandoned flock, the loss of fleece and smarting wounds.
IV. Like sheep in peril—defenceless, surrounded by dangers and foes.
V. Like sheep—sought; the Good Shepherd calls to us, "Return."—Stems and Twigs, second series, pp. 267.
It is acknowledged here by the person speaking, that all had, like sheep, broken the hedge of God's law, forsaken their good and ever blessed Shepherd, and wandered into paths perilous and pernicious. We are not likened to one of the more noble and intelligent animals, but to a silly sheep. All sin is folly, all sinners are fools. You will observe that the creature selected for comparison is one that cannot live without care and attention. There is no such thing as a wild sheep. The creature's happiness, its safety, and very existence, all depend upon its being under a nurture and care far above its own. Yet for all that the sheep strays from the shepherd. If there be but one gap in the hedge, the sheep will find it out. If there be but one possibility out of five hundred that by any means the flock shall wander, one of the flock will be quite certain to discover that possibility, and all its companions will avail themselves of it. So is it with man. He is quick of understanding for evil things. But that very creature which is so quickwitted to wander is the least likely of all animals to return. And such is man—wise to do evil, but foolish towards that which is good. With a hundred eyes, like Argus, he searches out opportunities for sinning; but, like Bartimeus, he is stone blind as to repentance and return to God.
The sheep goes astray ungratefully. It owes everything to the shepherd, and yet forsakes the hand that feeds it and heals its diseases. The sheep goes astray repeatedly. If restored to-day, it may not stray to-day, if it cannot; but it will to-morrow, if it can. The sheep wanders further and further, from bad to worse. There is no limit to its wandering except its weakness. See ye not your own selves as in a mirror?—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 925.
DIVERSITY AND INDIVIDUALITY IN TRANSGRESSION
Isa . We have turned every one to his own way.
I. A NOTICEABLE FACT.
We all resemble each other, in that we all like sheep have gone astray; but we all differ from each other, more or less, in the manner of our departure from God. There are many ways of sinning; though there be one path to heaven, there are many roads to hell. Each man chooses his own road and the choices vary for several reasons:—
1. Because each mind is more or less individually active. While in an unrenewed condition, it is active in devising means for its own gratification (Psa ).
2. Because of the diversity of our constitutions. We see plainly that the body hath some indirect influence on the mind, and that the condition of the mind follows the constitution of the body. Moreover, Satan adapts his temptation according to what he perceives to be our constitutional tendencies (H. E. I. 4680).
3. Because of the variety of our businesses and position in the world. Many men are engaged in ways of sin because they best suit with their employments; it is the sin of their calling, as vainglory in a minister (1Ti ). So worldliness suits a man of business, or deceitfulness in his trade. Callings and businesses have their several corruptions, and into these, through the wickedness of their hearts, men slide.
4. Because of the differences in our education. Their education in the home as well as in school!
5. Because of the differences in the company into which we are drawn, and of the examples that are thus set before us. Men learn from those with whom they converse. Hence come national sins, partly, as they run in the blood, but more by way of example. Of the German we learn drunkenness and gluttony; of the French wantonness, &c. Hence also come individual sins. Hence the importance of shunning the society of the evil, and consorting only with the godly (H. E. I. 2123-2148, 4693, 4700).
II. PRACTICAL USES TO BE MADE OF THIS FACT.
1. Do not be too ready to bless yourselves, merely because the sins of others do not break out upon you; do not flatter yourselves because you do not run into the same sins that others do. The devil may take you in another snare that suiteth more with your temper and condition of life. Some are sensual, some vainglorious, some worldly, &c.; many meet in hell that do not go thither the same way. A man may not be as other men, and yet he may not be as he should be (Luk ). For many reasons men made light of the invitation to the marriage feast (Mat 22:5), but each excuse ruined. One hath business to keep him from Christ, another pleasures, another the pomps and vanities of the present world, another his superstitious observances; but each of these things obstructs the power of the truth, and the receiving of Christ into the soul. Thou hatest this or that public blemish, but what are thy faults? (Joh 8:7.) Do not rashly censure others, and descant on their faults; look within!
2. Stop your way of sinning; pluck out thy right eye, cut off thy right hand (Mat ). Your trial lieth there, as Abraham was tried in the call to offer up his Isaac; and David voucheth it as a mark of his sincerity (Psa 18:23).
3. As we look back upon our past, and humble ourselves before God, let us penitently confess, not only the sinfulness of our nature, which we have in common with all men, but also the personal transgressions by which individually we have grieved Him.
4. As to our future, there are two things we must do.
(1.) We must walk circumspectly. We must look carefully at and around our way, and make sure that it is also the way of God (Pro ; Pro 14:12); remembering that while there are many evil paths, there is but one right one. To save us from mistake, four waymarks have been mercifully given us. First, at the entrance of the way which leads to life everlasting there is a strait gate—so strait that we can enter it only by putting off all our sins, and giving ourselves entirely to the Lord. Secondly, it is a narrow way, and sometimes a very rugged way, so that much self-denial is needed to enable us to continue in it. Thirdly, it is a way in which you have little company (Mat 7:14). Fourthly, it is a way in which, if we look carefully, we can discern Christ's footsteps (1Pe 2:21).
(2.) We must walk prayerfully, day by day asking God to keep us in His way. It is pleasanter the further it is pursued, and it conducts to a glorious resting place (Pro ).—Thomas Manton, D.D.: Works, vol. iii. pp. 304-308.
GUILT CONFESSED, MERCY ACKNOWLEDGED
Isa . All we like sheep have gone astray, &c.
Our text expresses the sentiment of those, and of those only, who are acquainted with the misery of our fallen state, feel their own concern in it, and approve of the method which God has provided for their deliverance and recovery. It contains—
I. A CONFESSION OF GUILT AND WRETCHEDNESS. "All we … way."
1. It is a sufficient proof of our depravity, that we prefer our own ways to the Lord's; nor can He inflict a heavier judgment upon us in this life, than to give us up entirely to the way of our own hearts.
2. There is only one right way, but a thousand ways of being wrong. If you are not following Christ, you are wandering from God. The profane and the self-righteous, the open sinner and the hypocrite, the lover of pleasure and the lover of gold, the formal Papist and the formal Protestant, though they seem to travel different roads, though they pity or censure each other, will meet at last (unless the grace of God prevent) in the same state of final and hopeless misery. Whatever character you may bear amongst men, if you have not faith and holiness, you certainly are not in the way of life (Mar ; Heb 12:14).
3. As wandering sheep are liable to innumerable dangers which they can neither see nor prevent, such is our condition, until, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are stopped, and turned, and brought into the fold of the Good Shepherd.
II. AN ACKNOWLEDGMENT OF MERCY.
Where sin abounded, grace has much more abounded. Man sinned, and Messiah suffered. "The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all." On what grounds! On the ground of His voluntary substitution for sinners, as their covenant head and representative (H. E. I. 396).—John Newton: Complete Works, pp. 712, 713.
In few words, this text contains the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It consists of lamentation and consolation.
It is a lamentation over human sinfulness. "All we … way." Here is sinfulness—
1. In its nature. It is a departure from God. It is transgression of the law which defines the boundaries within which God's responsible creatures should keep. If they overleap or break them down, if they trespass into the territories beyond, they become sinners. Man has strayed from God.
2. In its reality. It is no ideal thing. It has passed into history. It is the sternest of living facts. From the fatal hour when the first transgression was committed, the holy God has witnessed the perpetration of sins beyond the power of any intellect other than His own to enumerate or estimate. But He numbers and estimates them with unerring accuracy.
3. In its universality. There are no exceptions. "All." The whole flock has followed the leader. The manner in which this is to be accounted for may be disputable, may be mysterious. The fact is neither. Scripture, history, observation, experience unite in the testimony that, with the exception of the incarnate Son of God, all have sinned.
4. In its variety. It does not run onwards in a straight line, as the sinfulness which appears in action would if it were merely imitation of example. The various modes of sin show that it results from a radical tendency to sin in the present state of human nature. According to peculiarities of circumstances, taste, temperament, men transgress. Ten thousand paths of sin strike off in as many directions, each possessing its peculiar attraction to different characters and dispositions. A lamentable ingenuity is displayed in the invention of various ways in which God may be sinned against.
5. In its degrees. The universality predicted of it does not imply that every one is equally sinful. Every sheep of the flock has wandered from the fold, some further than others. But let not this be made a refuge from the accusations of conscience. Because some one has committed fewer crimes than his neighbour, he persuades himself that his case calls for no alarm. He imagines that because wickedness is universal, it has overgrown the power of God to punish it; that there is something in the crowd which lessens the wretchedness of the individual; that the sin and misery of others will be greater than his own. He deems it impossible for himself to fall over the precipice, because it is not so near the point of departure as the pit which opens to engulph another who has chosen a different and swifter road to ruin. One transgression constitutes a sinner. Perhaps you underrate your own transgressions and overrate those of others. The degrees of guilt God alone understands. He sees and knows the heart's wickedness.
All, then, have gone astray. All are guilty. All need mercy. This is the lamentation of the text. But it contains also
"The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." It is found in the substitution of the suffering Saviour. This truth may be—
1. Explained. Our iniquities have been laid on Christ the Son of God. No inferior person could bear such a load. The story of Jesus is the story of Him who has placed Himself, although innocent, in the sinner's position before the law. His death was instead of the death the sinner deserved.
2. Confirmed. Those who by wicked hands crucified Him were the instruments by whom the determinate counsel of God was carried out. The Lord appointed Him. He prepared the way by type, and prophecy, and history. He has accepted the atoning sacrifice. He declared it openly by the resurrection from the dead. He was thus proclaimed in the preaching of apostles (2Co ).
3. Applied. Is this consolation for you? Are you drinking life from this fountain? Have you, as a penitent sinner, applied for this mercy? Is Jesus your trust? Then your debt is paid. You owe it no longer. What you owe is gratitude and love to Jesus. Dismiss distress and fear. Enter into the liberty which shows itself in loving services.—J. Rawlinson.
SIN LAID ON JESUS
Isa . All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
The verse opens with a confession of sin common to all the persons intended in the verse. The confession is also special and particular. It is the mark of genuine repentance that while it naturally associates itself with other penitents, it also feels that it must take up a position of loneliness. "We have turned every one to his own way" is a confession importing that each man had sinned against light peculiar to himself, or sinned with an aggravation which he at least could not perceive in his fellow. It is very unreserved. There is not a single syllable by way of excuse; there is not a word to detract from the force of the confession. It is moreover singularly thoughtful, for thoughtless persons do not use a metaphor so appropriate as the text: "All we like sheep have gone astray"—like a creature cared for, but not capable of grateful attachment to the hand that cares for it; like a creature wise enough to find the gap in the hedge by which to escape, but so silly as to have no propensity or desire to return to the place from which it had perversely wandered; like sheep habitually, constantly, wilfully, foolishly, without power to return, we have gone astray. I wish that all our confessions of sin showed a like thoughtfulness, for to use words of general confession without our soul entering into them may be but a "repentance that needeth to be repented of," an insult and mockery to high Heaven vented in that very place where there ought to have been the greatest possible tenderness and holy fear.
I. Let us consider the text by way of exposition.
The expression "laid on Him" is rendered in the margin "hath made to meet on Him," and allusion is supposed to be made to the scape-goat (Lev ). This ceremony was typical of the Great Sinbearer; but it is only a part of Christ's atoning work, the other part being represented by the other goat which was slain in sacrifice. The scape-goat alone is not an adequate representation. Besides, the verb has a stronger meaning than the laying of hands on the head. It conveys the idea of violent collision—to strike, push, urge. "Jehovah hath made to strike or rush upon Him the iniquity of us all." Our sin was the procuring cause of Christ's death, and actually brought it about. He was appointed to occupy the place of sinners, and to bear the punishment which they had incurred, and which, but for His enduring it, they must have suffered in their own persons.
Other interpreters see a different figure in this clause. The verse, they think, would be disjointed and broken, unless the image introduced at the beginning be regarded as underlying the whole. As man's transgression is exhibited as a strayed flock, the atonement made for them would naturally be represented as the means employed to bring them back to the fold, or to avert the evils to which they are exposed. Our iniquity is like a band of ravening wolves, but Jehovah appoints His Son to come in between us and our destroyers. This is the very picture which Jesus Himself draws (Joh ). But we cannot understand the passage in this light, without doing violence to the language of the prophet. Were the figure carried out in the last clause, we should have some such statement as that of Peter (1Pe 2:25). We, therefore, take the words in their literal sense. The statement, no doubt, is obscure, and could not be fully comprehended until its fulfilment; but, viewed in the light of Gethsemane and Calvary, it has a fulness of meaning and a completeness of realisation. We must remember that the prophet views the death of Christ as just over; all His agonies are vividly before him, and he says, "The Lord hath caused the iniquity of us all to strike upon Him." The standpoint of the prophet, from which he surveys his subject, is placed between the humiliation and the exaltation of our Lord, when He lay in Joseph's tomb. From that point he looks back on the sufferings, and forward to the triumphs and glories of the Redeemer.—William Guthrie, M.A.
2. Sin was made to meet upon the suffering person of the innocent substitute. I have said "the suffering person," because the connection of the text requires it (Isa ). The Lord Jesus would have been incapable of receiving the sin of all His people as their substitute, had He been Himself a sinner; but He was the spotless Lamb of God, and therefore He was on all accounts capable of standing in the room, place, and stead of sinful men. The doctrine of the text is, that Christ did stand in such a position as to take upon Himself the iniquity of all His people, remaining still Himself innocent; having no personal sin, being incapable of any, but yet taking the sin of others upon Himself. Not only was Christ treated as if He had been guilty, but the very sin itself was, I know not how, laid upon His head (2Co 5:21). Is it not written, "He shall bear," not merely the punishment of their sin, nor the imputation of their sin, but "He shall bear their iniquities"? Our sin is laid on Jesus in even a deeper and truer sense than is expressed by the term "imputation."
3. It has been asked, Was it just that sin should thus be laid upon Christ? Our reply is fourfold. We believe it was rightly so,
(1.) Because it was the act of Him who must do right, for "the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
(2.) Christ voluntarily took this sin upon Himself (Joh ; H. E. I. 913).
(3.) There was a relationship between our Lord and His people, which is too often forgotten, but which rendered it natural that He should bear the sin of His people. Why does the text speak of our sinning like sheep? I think it is because it would call to our recollection that Christ is our Shepherd. It is not that Christ took upon Himself the sins of strangers. Remember that there always was a union of a most mysterious and intimate kind between those who sinned and the Christ who suffered. The Lord Jesus stood in the relationship of a married husband unto His Church, and it was not, therefore, a strange thing that He should bear her burdens.
(4.) This plan of salvation is precisely similar to the method of our ruin. How did we fall? Not by any one of us actually ruining himself. Our own sin is the ground of ultimate punishment, but the ground of our original fall lay in another. If we grant the fall,—and we must grant the fact, however we may dislike the principle,—we cannot think it unjust that God should give us a plan of salvation based upon the same principle of federal headship.
What were the pangs which Christ endured? I cannot tell you. You have read the story of His crucifixion. That is only the shell, but the inward kernel who shall describe? His griefs are worthy to be described according to the Greek Liturgy as "unknown sufferings." The height and depth, the length and breadth of what Jesus Christ endured nor heart can guess, nor tongue can tell, nor can imagination frame; God only knows the griefs to which the Son of God was put when the Lord made to meet upon Him the iniquity of us all (H. E. I. 915). To crown all there came death itself. Death is the punishment for sin, and whatever it may mean, whatever over and beyond natural death was intended in the sentence, "In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die," Christ felt. Death went through and through Him, until "He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost." "He became obedient to death, even to the death of the cross."
II. Now consecrate a few moments to hallowed contemplation. Think,
1. Of the astounding mass of sin that must have been laid on Christ (Joh ; 1Jn 2:2). All the sins against light and knowledge, sins against law and gospel, week-day sins, Sabbath sins, hand sins, lip sins, heart sins, sins against the Father, sins against the Son, sins against the Holy Ghost, sins of all shapes, all laid upon Him!
2. The amazing love of Jesus, which brought Him to do all this (Rom . H. E. I. 920, 946-949).
3. The matchless security which this plan of salvation offers. I do not see in what point that man is vulnerable who can feel and know that Christ has borne his sin. I look at the attributes of God, and though to me, as a sinner, they all seem bristling as with sharp points, thrusting themselves upon me; yet when I know that Jesus died for me, and did literally take my sin, what fear I the attributes of God? (H. E. I. 2286). There is justice, sharp and bright, like a lance; but justice is my friend. If God be just, He cannot punish me for sin for which Jesus has offered satisfaction. As long as there is justice in the heart of Deity, it cannot be that a soul justly claiming Christ as his substitute can himself be punished. As for mercy, love, truth, honour, everything matchless, Godlike, and divine about Deity, I say of all these, "You are my friends; you are all guarantees that since Jesus died for me I cannot die." How grandly does the apostle put it! (Rom ).
4. What, then, are the claims of Jesus Christ upon you and upon me? Did our blessed Lord take your sin, my brethren, and suffer all its terrific consequences for you, so that you are delivered? By His blood and wounds, by His death, and by the love that made Him die, I conjure you treat Him as He should be treated! You will tell me that you have obeyed His precepts. I am glad to hear it. But if you can say this, I am not content; it does not seem to me that with such a leader as Christ mere obedience should be all. Napoleon singularly enough had power to get the hearts of men twisted and twined about him; when he was in his wars there were many of his captains and even of his private soldiers who not only marched with the quick obedience of a soldier wherever they were bidden, but who felt an enthusiasm for him. Have you never heard of him who threw himself in the way of the shot to receive it in his bosom to save the Emperor? No obedience, no law could have required that, of him, but enthusiastic love moved him to it; and it is such enthusiasm that my Master deserves in the very highest degree from us.—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 694.
Our faith is retrospective as Isaiah's was anticipatory; faith annihilates the past, and the believer stands in the presence of an actual cross. A stupendous fact is that to which our faith turns. Satan tried to lay iniquity on Christ, and failed. Having met Satan and the powers of evil in struggle after struggle, He yet challenged blame with absolute assurance (Joh ). Wicked men strove to lay iniquity on Christ. Judas (Mat 26:4), Pilate (Mat 22:21). The Church of Jerusalem sought to lay iniquity on Him as guilty of impiety. But he was most devout. He received the sign of the covenant in circumcision, and feast days, &c., were observed by Him with conscientious devotion and carefulness. All these many powers were foiled in attaching sin to the person or character of Jesus Christ. What, then, means the darkness that gathers around the cross? "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all." That which sinners failed to do, God in sovereignty that day accomplished, and this sinless Man has become the substitute for the race (2Co 5:21).
I. THE MEETING-PLACE OF ALL SIN IS THE CROSS OF CHRIST. In the margin, our text is rendered, "Hath made the iniquity of us all to meet on Him."
II. THE MEETING-PLACE OF SIN IS THE MERCY-SEAT FOR ALL SINNERS.
1. How gracious is the assurance!
2. To rest in this assurance is to make sure of our salvation.
3. This should render our worship grateful.
CONCLUSION.—The imperative claim Christ has upon the soul. If you will not consent that your iniquites shall meet on Christ, bear them you must yourself.—Stephen H. Tyng, jr., D.D.: Study and Homilitic Monthly, new series, vol. iv. pp. 328, 329.
CHRIST BEARING OUR SINS
Isa . The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
1Pe . Who His own self bear our sins in His own body on the tree.
These texts are not unusual declarations of Scripture, but are of a very numerous class. The doctrine which they set before us is woven into the very texture of Christianity, and furnishes the great resting-place of faith. And, what is especially proper to be observed this day, it is the truth of all others which we are coming to celebrate at the holy table. Yet it has been so altered, and diminished, and shorn of its genuine dignity and proportions, that we often need to reexamine its meaning, and reassert the foundations of our faith. In our own day there is a manifest tendency to explain away its import, and to concede undue force to the objections of opponents. These objections have in many instances been aimed at opinions charged upon us, which we do not hold; at exaggerations, perversions, and even caricatures of the truth: and all the changes have been rung on the terms imputation, satisfaction, and substitution, as if these had been found chargeable with inherent injustice or absurdity. The very first thing, therefore, which we should attempt, is to clear away certain mists which have been conjured up around the Scriptural statement.
I. WHAT WE DO NOT MEAN BY CHRIST BEARING OUR SINS.
1. When we assert that Christ bore our sins, we do not mean that He was a sinner. He is, by way of eminence, "Jesus Christ the righteous." Only as such could He ever have cleared away our guilt. He bore our sins, without bearing their power or their pollution. Of their vileness and lawlessness His soul had no experience.
2. We do not mean that He suffered, pain of conscience. Remorse is the necessary consequence of sin, and part of its punishment. But He who knew no sin, could know no repentance, no contrition, no personal regrets, no anguish of guilty self-accusation. Even in Gethsemane, when His soul was exceeding sorrowful, and on the cross, when He pierced heaven with His imploring cry, He could no more suffer compunction of conscience, than He could speak falsehood, or blaspheme.
3. We do not mean that Christ was at any time personally displeasing to God. He bore the wrath of God, but He bore it representatively. He never was more pleasing to God, He never was more righteous, He never was more acceptable and lovely, He never was more intensely and immeasurably fulfilling the will of God, than when He cried, Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani! If this exclamation has a difficulty, it is a difficulty for the adversaries of substitution: let them explain it. For our part, we hold it to be an awfully mysterious expression of the truth, that at that moment of darkness and earthquake, Jesus Christ was so involved in the consequences of our sin, as to sink under the sense of agony, and to feel the absence of all consoling divine influence. But while angels stooped to look into these things, they might have heard from the invisible throne the words of infinite complacency: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased!" The all-holy Jehovah cannot hate holiness, and could not hate His only-begotten Son, in the exercise of the sublimest holiness which the universe has known.
4. We do not mean that there was any transfer of personal character. The chief strength of our opposers lies in this fallacy. They charge us with maintaining a transfer of personal attributes, and moral qualities, and easily triumph over the phantom which they have raised. We, as well they, hold such a transfer to be impossible and absurd: and (be it declared for the thousandth time) it is no such thing which we mean by the imputation of sins to Christ. Our sins must ever remain our sins, and the sins of no one else, as a matter of fact, as a historical verity, as a personal transaction. As deeds, and as connected with sinful motives and desires, they attach to our own persons, and are to be repented of, and eternally remembered by us as our own. And, on the other hand, Christ's acts and sufferings, as matter of fact and history, are and cannot but for ever be, His own acts and sufferings, and those of no other being in the universe. There is no confounding of personality, nor has such a thing ever been maintained by our theologians, though assiduously and pertinaciously charged, during at least two centuries. We hold indeed an intimate and blessed union between the head and the members; we hold that our sins were visited on Him, and that His righteousness enures to our benefit, but we repudiate all such commingling of personality as this imagined tenet would convey.
II. WHAT WE DO MEAN WHEN WE ASSERT THAT CHRIST BORE OUR SINS.
1. The Lord Jesus Christ bore our nature. It was the all-essential preliminary to His whole work. To be our Head, "the Word was made flesh."
2. Christ actually endured pain, It was in this way only that He could bear our sins.
3. The Lord Jesus Christ suffered for our sins. It is one of those truths which lie on the very surface of the Scripture, and which must be twisted into violent metaphor, before it can be robbed of its meaning. To give but a few instances—Isa ; Rom 5:6; Rom 5:8; 1Co 15:3; 1Th 5:10; 1Pe 2:21; 1Pe 3:18; 1Pe 4:1.
They declare, first, that Christ's sufferings were for us, and secondly, that they were for our sins. A friend, a father, a husband, a sister, may suffer, and yet not for us; or these beloved ones may suffer for us, and yet not for our sins. But the suffering of Jesus stands out with this striking peculiarity, that it is always represented as being, not only for our sakes, but for our sins.
4. Christ bore our sins, in this sense, that He bore the penalty of our sins. This is the primary, obvious, and necessary meaning of the words. "Christ died for us," that is, died in our stead.
But here the adversary rejoins, that penalty must always attach to the person; that he who has sinned must be punished; and that the suffering of the innocent cannot benefit the guilty. If this were true, it would at once cut off all our hopes, and put an end to all proper atonement. But it is not true. The Church in all ages has held first, that sin for its own sake deserves the wrath and curse of God; and secondly, that to redeem us from the law, God sent His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh, who in His own person fulfilled those demands, and endured that curse in our stead. And this is so far from violating any of our natural principles of justice, that it is of all things most suited to relieve and pacify the afflicted conscience.
The Scriptures represent the penalty as a debt, which our Surety pays for us (H. E. I. 383). We are familiar with substitution of this kind in civil cases, which would not be true, if such commutation were in itself repugnant to the common sense of justice among mankind. Ancient history has striking instances of similar substitution in criminal and capital cases. And the reason why this is not admitted in such cases, under modern jurisdiction, is not any injustice in the principle. The case, we admit, must be a peculiar one in which such a substitution can take place; and if ever there was a case thus peculiar, in which the innocent might suffer for the guilty, it is surely this. To make such suffering allowable, the innocent person must be one who has lordship and dominion over his own life; which men in common life have not; but which the Son of God had: "I lay it down of Myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." Again, the innocent surety must assume the place and penalty of his own free will: which was eminently and gloriously true of the Lord Jesus. Again, he must be able to answer all the demands of the law, for those whom he represented. Again, he must be able to restore himself from death: no mere man could do this, and therefore if such a substitution were to take place in a capital instance, the state would lose a good citizen. In the substitution, then, of this willing, glorious, triumphant Surety, there is no injustice, but infinite grace.
5. Christ so bore our sins, as to remove from us all their penal consequences, and secure our salvation. By that suffering He exhausted the penalty and discharged the debt. He who believes, in the very moment of believing, becomes one with Christ, and graciously entitled to all that Christ has purchased for His people. The death of Christ is not merely a transaction which makes our pardon possible, contingent, or even probable: it secures it. It breaks all the penal force of the law. Whatever chastisements, even death itself, may henceforth befall the believer, none of them can befall him in the character of punishment. The law is as fully and eternally at peace with a justified sinner, as though he had never sinned. And this is the glad news which first of all brings peace to the soul of a convinced penitent. He beholds the Cross, and sees how God can be just, and yet the justifier of the ungodly that believeth in Jesus.
1. When we behold Christ bearing our sins, we should learn to look on sin with shame and horror. How intense must that evil be which demands such a sacrifice!
2. When we behold Christ bearing our sins, we should see in Him the object of saving faith. In all the universe of nature and grace—this is the point for the eye of a convinced sinner.
3. When we behold Christ bearing our sins, we have before us the greatest of all motives to personal holiness. When temptation comes in a like tide, cast your eyes to the Cross (H. E. I. 4589, 4590).—J. W. Alexander, D.D.: The Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii. pp. 222-226.
DIVINE LOVE IN CHRIST'S PASSION
Isa . The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
"I know the thoughts that I think towards you, thoughts of peace, and not of evil," said the Lord to His people. And if we could know the thoughts He thinks towards us, we should hardly tell how to admire sufficiently His love for us, or to humble ourselves enough for our baseness towards Him.
The love which God hath for us is manifested in our creation, and in His continual care over us ever since we were born. But in a measure far beyond that in all other instances of His love, it is displayed in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. But, unhappily, after all that is said of the redeeming love of God, with all the proofs of it in the wonderful things done for our salvation, many have little notion of the Divine kindness exercised in this great and glorious work. Were it better understood, more hearts would be melted into sorrowful contrition for sin, and thence brought to faith and holiness, and so prepared for the kingdom of God.
Let us consider, then, how awful is the accumulated weight of sin laid upon Jesus—"the iniquities of us all," of the entire human race! (1Jn ). Oh, how can we calculate the weight of this burden? how can we number and measure the sins of the whole world? how can we estimate the punishment due to them which our Saviour endured in our stead? The sins that began with the sins of Eve and Adam, and have been increasing in all times and climes ever since, how appalling their number! When we call to mind that one sin was sufficient, in the judgment of the righteous God, to condemn men to sorrow and death, we wonder not that the contemplation of the burden that awaited our Saviour in atoning for "the iniquities of us all" laid Him prostrate in Gethsemane, caused Him to sweat "as it were great drops of blood," and to pray that if it were possible that "cup" might pass from Him. No man with his present confined faculties can form an adequate notion of the weight of affliction which Christ endured, when He stood in the place of a world of sinners. All we can say is, that it was something which was equivalent, in the scales of Divine justice, to the eternal punishment due to the sins of all mankind (1Pe 2:24; Rom 3:26). After all the notions I can form of the sufferings of Jesus, all that I can do as a thinker is to stand with awful astonishment contemplating the cross, overwhelmed with thoughts of the unseen and unknown sufferings of my Redeemer.
I. Now, our apprehension of the love of Jesus must run parallel with our apprehension of His sufferings. The more He had to endure, the greater effort of love must have been required to urge Him to undergo it. If a man, seeing another whom he loved condemned to a cruel death, were to go and suffer in his place, we should stand amazed at such a man, and say that he was possessed of an extraordinary measure of charity. How much more, if he were to endure for him the everlasting sufferings of hell! But, how incomprehensibly great would his charity appear, if he could call down upon himself sufferings equivalent to the eternal sufferings of the whole race of mankind! Yet when we contemplate Jesus on the cross, we see one having thus acted. How infinitely great, how stupendous, this makes the love of Christ appear!
The manner in which He suffered also manifests His love for us. With all the mighty love with which He was urged through His sufferings, with all the strength of firmness and resolution with which He endured to the end, with all the immeasurable greatness of His passion, and the vast amount of good He was accomplishing, still there was no vain display of His love or of His endurance, no boast of the great things He was effecting. Not a word did He utter of what He was enduring, or what He was purchasing for us. Humble and quiet lowliness and gentle meekness were the dispositions manifested in Him, through all that He did and suffered for us (Isa ). Now, it is always true love that is the secret of lowly suffering for others. Who can see lowly sorrow, and humble patience and resignation in bitter affliction, especially when it is endured for the benefit of others, without a feeling of love towards the charitable sufferer? Must not that which we see manifested in Jesus attract us to Him, and excite in our hearts admiring love? (P. D. 2340, 2341).
II. In proportion to the sorrow and pain which were laid upon the Son of God, is the measure of the Father's love in giving Him up to such suffering abasement for us. Here also we see that the Divine love is beyond all bound or measure of ours. If the sufferings and abasements of the Son were infinitely, immeasurably great, the love of the Father, who gave Him up to the pain and humiliation of the cross, must be incomprehensible also. Oh, where is our heart, that we are so little affected with God's redeeming love; that our return for it is ingratitude and sin? But our very worthlessness magnifies the Divine love. Had it been for unhappy creatures in misery, but not in fault, that God gave His beloved Son, had it been even for those who would one and all prize, highly value, and abound in love for what was done for them, still the love of God in this unspeakable gift would have been immeasurably great; but how incomprehensibly vast does it appear, when we consider how offensive in God's sight sin has made mankind, how great a portion of mankind never take any notice at all of the Divine love in the great redemption, and how slow the best of us are to see and be grateful for "the exceeding riches of His grace, in His kindness to us through Christ Jesus!" We feel that it rises above all speech or thought of ours (Rom . H. E. I. 2318-2337. P. D. 1468, 2345).—R. L. Cotton, M.A.: The Way of Salvation, pp. 78-91.
OUR SAVIOUR'S SUFFERINGS AND SUBMISSION
Isa . He was oppressed, &c.
The whole field of Scripture is of infinite value, yet the Christian peculiarly prizes those parts of it wherein Christ, the hidden treasure, the one pearl of great price, is most fully exhibited to the view. This chapter holds a first rank in His esteem, because here, long before our Redeemer's incarnation, He was evidently set forth crucified. Isaiah here discourses of Him with a pathetic tenderness and minuteness of detail, as if he had been an eyewitness of His sufferings. Had he stood with John at the cross, or watched with Mary at the sepulchre, he could scarcely have presented a more vivid and touching picture of the sufferings of Christ and the glory by which they were followed. The purport of the chapter is, that the Messiah would devote Himself as a voluntary sacrifice, a real and effectual expiation, suffering the heaviest woes and all the bitterness of death, in concurrence with the gracious intention of Jehovah, and for the salvation of rebellious men.
I. THE OVERWHELMING NATURE OF THE REDEEMER'S SUFFERIN
The suffering of Christ in Gethsemane was not bodily pain; physically he was in health and vigour, at the prime of life, and in the flower of His age. The torture of the cross was before Him, with all the preliminary accumulation of woe; but I cannot think that the mere apprehension of these will sufficiently account for what He endured. His mind had long been familiar with the death that He was to die, and He knew and had predicted His speedy resurrection to a glorious life. Now, it seems impossible that an event, however painful, which was to be immediately succeeded by "fulness of joy," could have thrown Him into such mysterious agony of mind. In after times, martyrs—men and women—had to entertain the prospect and undergo the infliction of death in forms as lingering and dreadful as His; and they anticipated and endured with cheerfulness, joy, magnanimity, rapture … Some other cause must certainly be found for Christ's darkness and distress of mind, distinct from the mere apprehension of the cross.
The seat of His suffering was the soul. But it is again and again affirmed that He was "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners;" that He was "without spot"—had no speck or stain of guilt upon His conscience. He could not therefore be oppressed by any feeling of personal demerit. He had no frailty, no defect; He had never erred in thought, word, or deed; He had no conscious deficiencies to oppress Him, nothing to acknowledge and confess with shame, no necessity to pray for mercy, no iniquity to fill Him with terror at the thought of God: in spite of all this, however, His soul was "troubled"—was "exceeding sorrowful, even unto death"—overpowered and beset with bitter anguish.
I know of no principle on which this mental suffering of a perfectly innocent and holy being can be rationally accounted for, except that which refers it to the fact of His being a sacrificial and propitiatory victim. "His soul was made an offering for sin," &c.… Can any account be given on this ground of the causes and nature of His extraordinary mental agony and terror?
The Scriptures, I think, seem to refer to three sources of this distress and anguish.
There was some mysterious conflict with the great adversary of God and man, from whose tyranny He came to redeem us. When discomfited in the Temptation, the Devil, it is said, "departed from Him for a season," and in Gethsemane he seems to have returned, for it was then, as Christ Himself expressed it, "the hour of the power of darkness." … The combined forces of the bottomless pit were brought against Him, and in some way, impossible to be explained, overwhelmed Him with darkness, discomposed His spirit, and alarmed His soul by infamous suggestions.
Then it is also said, that "it pleased the Father to bruise Him and to put Him to grief," that "Jehovah made His soul an offering for sin;" that He called for the sword, and awoke it against the Shepherd, and pierced and smote Him. Here was some mysterious infliction direct from the hand of God, some wonderful withdrawal of His countenance and complacency, or at least of their sensible manifestation; fire descended from heaven to consume the sacrifice.
It is also said that our iniquities were "laid upon Him," and that, in some sense, He bore the curse and penalty of transgression. I need hardly say, that we reject the notion that He literally endured the punishment of sin; this would have been impossible, since that includes actual remorse, and Christ could never feel that He was a sinner, though He was treated as if He were; nor would it have consisted with the nature of the Gospel and the display of mercy, since, the penalty literally exacted, mercy would be impossible, and the sinner might demand his release from justice. Still there was suffering in the mind of Christ, flowing into it from human guilt; His pure mind had such an apprehension of sin, such a view of all its vile and malignant properties; its possible attributes and gigantic magnitude so rose and spread before Him, that He started in amazement from the dreadful object, and trembled, and was terrified exceedingly; sin was "laid upon Him," and it sank and crushed. Him, and, in some sense, its poison and bitterness entered into His soul. The conclusion to which I am led, I confess, is this, that while I deem it impossible for Jesus to have endured that literal remorse, which is the natural and direct punishment of sin, yet I do think that His agony of mind was the nearest to this which it was possible for Him to experience. He was so affected by the pressure of sin on all sides, that He felt something like the terror, anguish, and agitation of a burdened conscience and a wounded spirit. His mind was in a tempest when His agony was at its height; it wrought upon His frame till His sweat was blood; the arrows of God seemed to have entered into His soul, He had all the appearance of a sinner stricken for his sins. I again repeat, that this could not literally be the case; I can only say that it was the nearest to it that Christ could feel or God inflict; and I see not that there is any more mystery in something of this nature being felt, than in the fact of a perfectly pure and spotless being suffering at all.—T. Binney, LL.D.: Sermons, Second Series, pp. 157-162.
As it was no common sufferer who is here pointed out, so they were no common sufferings He endured. "He was oppressed." Who? "The brightness of the Father's glory!" We are so constituted as to be more affected by the afflictions of distinguished men than by those of the multitude; our sympathy is awakened when princes endure great reverses and hardships; when sickness clouds the royal brow, and death enters the pavilion of the mighty, whence we are ready to imagine every care is excluded. But here you have the extreme of greatness in conjunction with the extreme of suffering. "HE was oppressed!"
The union and combination of various forms of suffering is implied: "despised," "rejected," "Man of sorrows," "acquainted with grief." Described as bearing griefs, carrying sorrows, stricken and smitten of God, afflicted, wounded, bruised, subjected to chastisement and stripes, and here "oppressed." It did not suffice that He was shorn as a sheep—stripped and deprived of His riches, ornaments, and comforts; but His life is demanded. "He is brought to the slaughter."
1. He suffered at the hand of God. "Smitten of God." Voluntarily standing in the sinner's place, He must endure the first penalty of sin. In nothing is the righteous displeasure of God against sin more displayed, His determination to visit us to the uttermost more exemplified, than in the sufferings of Christ. He, even He, must be smitten with the sharp sword of sin-avenging justice (Zec ). It would seem as though all the former executions of justice had only been inflicted as with a sword asleep, or in the scabbard, compared with what Jesus felt. Against Him it was awakened, unsheathed, and made to descend with unmitigated force and severity.
2. He suffered at the hand of man. It was much that He was to be "a Man of sorrows," but more that He was "despised and rejected of men." He who was ready to relieve every burden and break every yoke, was Himself afflicted by those whom He came to redeem. He who would not so much as "break a bruised reed," was oppressed through the whole course of His life. Contempt, reproach, and persecution were the requitals for His acts of mercy (Mat ; Mat 12:24; Mat 9:2-3; Joh 5:8-9; Joh 5:16).
Let this console His suffering disciples, that they only follow the footsteps of the Prince of sufferers; they only drink of His cup. Let them examine, and they will find that the very grief that oppresses them oppressed Him. Be consoled by the consciousness of sharing His sympathy, and by the certain prospect of sharing His triumph. The cross, the grave, the stone, the seal, the Roman guard, and the watchful Sanhedrim were in His case all in vain; and He has promised that the rebuke of His people shall be taken away.
3. He suffered from the assaults of hell (Luk ). The temptation in the wilderness, the agony in the garden, and the sufferings of the cross were all connected with Satanic agency. Satan will not fail to trouble even where he despairs to conquer.
II. THE SILENT SUBMISSION WITH WHICH CHRIST ENDURED SUFFERING.
"He is brought as a lamb," &c. The lamb goes as quietly to the slaughter as to the fold. By this similitude the patience of Christ is exemplified, not that He was absolutely silent, for more than once He replied to the falsehoods and slanders of His enemies; but it refers to His patience, submission, and moral fortitude. From the beginning to the end He was in a perfect calm; as in His external behaviour, so in His internal frame and temper of soul. Not one repining thought against God, not one revengeful thought against man, ruffled His spirit.
What were the principles that supported Him? Pity for the world that knew not its Saviour; love for the Church He came to redeem; conformity of sentiment with the mind and will of His Father; devout anticipation of the happy results that should flow from His sufferings; the joy that was set before Him—the joy of saving souls.
III. THE PROPER RESULTS IN US OF OUR CONTEMPLATION OF THE SUFFERINGS AND SUBMISSION OF OUR SAVIOUR.
1. Faith in His sacrifice.
2. Imitation of His example.
3. Devout remembrance of His love.
4. Exultant anticipation of His glory.
A SACRAMENTAL MEDITATION
Experimental piety does not exempt us from sufferings, but it teaches us how to bear them, especially when we contemplate a suffering Saviour (Heb ). Let us take our stand once more by the cross of Christ, and we shall find our grief absorbed in the grief of Jesus, and as we look upon His sufferings, the remembrance of our own will be forgotten.
I. Let us meditate upon the nature and extent of His sufferings. They were anticipated, voluntary, vicarious, unparalleled.
II. Let us muse upon the salutary lessons which Christ's sufferings teach. 1. The immeasurableness of His love (Joh ).
2. The enormity of our sins.
3. The debt of gratitude we owe to Jesus.
4. The spirit we should evince in suffering.
Renew your vows of perpetual fealty, and seal them at this sacramental board.—A. Tucker.
CHRIST'S SILENCE UNDER SUFFERING
(Sermon before the Lord's Supper.)
Isa . He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth.
I. The fact that Christ was silent under His sufferings.
1. He was silent before man. He was oppressed and afflicted, mocked and reviled by wicked men, yet He did not justify Himself before man. This is true—
(1.) When He was taken prisoner.
(2.) In His trial before Caiaphas.
(3.) In His trial before Pilate.
(4.) Upon the cross.
2. Christ was silent before God.
(1.) In the garden; how He was bruised there (Luk ). He might have said, "This is no cup of mine; let them drink it that filled it by their sins." But no; He only cries that it may pass from Him. Prayer is the cry of one who feels no right to demand.
(2.) On the cross. There God hid His face from Him. Yet. did He say it was unjust? No.
II. The reasons why Christ was silent under His sufferings
1. Because He knew His sufferings were all infinitely just. He was a substitute in the room of sinners.
2. Because He would keep His part of the covenant. Before the world was He entered into covenant with His Father, that He would stand as a substitute for sinners; and therefore when He did come to suffer, His very righteousness sustained and restrained Him.
3. Because of His love. Love to perishing sinners made the Son of God enter into covenant with His Father to bear wrath in their stead. The same love made Him keep the covenant He had made. It was love that tied His tongue, &c.
4. Because He sought His Father's glory. It is more glorifying to God when sin is punished in His own Son than when it is punished in the poor worms that committed it.
III. The broken bread represents the silent sufferings of Christ
I set before you the plainest and simplest picture of the silent sufferings of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. In that night in which He was betrayed He took bread. Why bread?
1. Because of its plainness and commonness. He did not take silver, or gold, or jewels, to represent His body, but plain bread, to show you that when He became a surety for sinners, He did not come in His original glory, with His Father's angels (Heb ).
2. He chose bread to show you that He was dumb, and opened not His mouth. When I break the bread it resists not—it complains not—it yields to my hand. So it was with Christ. Some of you believe not. You do not consent to take this silent Lamb as a sin-offering for your soul. Either you do not feel your need of Him, or you have not faith to look to Him. But if you do not truly look to Him, be not so rash, so daring, so inconsistent as to take the bread and wine. You say: It was my sin that lay so heavy on His heart, &c. Come, then, to the broken bread and poured-out wine; feed on them; appropriate Christ in them; and whilst you feed on the emblems of the silent Lamb, do this in remembrance of Jesus.—R. M. M‘Cheyne.
I. There never was such a sufferer. II. There never were such sufferings. III. There never was such conduct under suffering.—I. E. Page.
THE SHEEP BEFORE THE SHEARERS
Isa . As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, &c.
I. Consider our Saviour's patience under the figure of a sheep before her shearers. Our Lord was dumb and opened not his mouth—
1. Against his adversaries. He did not accuse one of them of cruelty or injustice.
2. Against any one of us. No doubt he looked across the ages; for that eye of His was not dim, even when bloodshot on the tree, and He might have looked at your indifference and mine, at our coldness of heart and unfaithfulness, and He might have left on record some such words as these: "I am suffering for those who are utterly unworthy of my regard; their love will be a very poor return for mine," &c. But there is not a hint of such a feeling, not a trace of it.
3. Against His Father.
II. View our own case under the same metaphor. We can go, and do go, as sheep under the shearers' hands. Just as a sheep is taken by the shearer, and its wool is all cut off, so doth the Lord take His people and shear them, taking away all their earthly comforts at times, and leaving them bare as shorn sheep. I wish when it came to our turn to undergo this shearing operation it could be said of us as of our Lord. I fear that we open our mouths a great deal, and make no end of complaint.
1. A sheep rewards its owner for all his care and trouble by being shorn. There is nothing else that I know of that a sheep can do. Some of God's people can give to Christ a tribute of gratitude by active service, and they should do so gladly every day of their lives; but many others cannot do much in active service, and about the only reward they can give to their Lord is to give up their fleece by suffering when He calls upon them to suffer; submissively yielding to be shorn of their personal comfort when the time comes for patient endurance (H. E. I. 157, 158).
2. The sheep is itself benefited by the operation of shearing. So when the Lord shears us, we do not like the operation any more than the sheep do; but it is for His glory, and for our benefit, and therefore we are bound most willingly to submit (H. E. I. 204-212).
3. Before sheep are shorn they are always washed. Whenever a trial threatens to overtake you, before it actually arrives you should ask the Lord to sanctify you. If He is going to clip the wool, ask Him to wash it before He takes it off; ask to be cleansed in spirit, soul, and body.
4. After the washing, and the sheep has dried, it actually loses what was its comfort. It is thrown down, and you see the shearers; you wonder at them, and pity the poor sheep. It will happen to you that you shall lose what is your comfort. Will you recollect this? Because the next time you receive a fresh comfort you must say, this is a loan.
5. The shearers, when they are taking the wool off the sheep, take care not to hurt the sheep. They clip as close as they can, but they do not cut the skin. Be ye sure that when the Lord is clipping and shearing us He will not hurt us; He will take our comforts away, but He will not really injure us, or cause a wound to our spirits. If ever the shears do make us bleed, it is because we kick, because we struggle.
6. The shearers always shear at a suitable time. It would be a very wicked, cruel, and unwise thing to begin sheep-shearing in winter time. Whenever the Lord afflicts us He selects the best possible time.
7. When God takes away our mercies He is ready to supply us with more. It is with us as with the sheep, there is new wool coming. Whenever the Lord takes away our earthly comforts with one hand, one, two, three, He restores with the other hand six, twelve, scores, a hundred; He takes away by spoonfuls, and He gives by cartloads; we are crying and whining about the little loss, and yet it is necessary in order that we may be able to receive the great mercy.
III. Imitate the example of our blessed Lord when our turn comes to be shorn. Let us be dumb before the shearers—submissive, quiescent, even as He was.—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 1543.
Isa . For the transgression of my people was He stricken.
The general doctrine of the text is that of an expiation for sinners, made by an innocent victim substituted in their place. In the substitution of an innocent being to suffer in the room of the guilty (and especially such a being as Jesus Christ), and in pardoning and accepting the guilty into favour on that account, there appears a departure from all our common ideas of justice and propriety, &c. We have no disposition to diminish this singularity. It stands alone. But we certainly shall fail of the just and real essence of the Christian religion in our hearts, if we do not have faith in this expiation; and if our minds cannot compass the whole amazing matter, we may hope at least to have some gleams of illumination, like the lightning's flash on the dark bosom of the storm. Let us see:
I. The wonder of this punishment for sin laid upon an innocent and Divine Being accords with our best conceptions of God. The most just conception of God that we have ever had is that of an incomprehensible Being. The high wonder of this expiation agrees with the infinitude of God. A suffering Christ is an infinite wonder; and, therefore, the wonder of the doctrine of an expiation for sinners by the sufferings of the innocent, instead of being a reason for our incredulity, is really a reason for our faith. The innocence, the person, and the expiation of the Victim, all accord with the incomprehensible God, &c. Be yond us, and peculiar in everything else, He is beyond us and peculiar in the great atonement.
II. Our God has different modes of giving intimations of Himself. We cannot learn all that we are able to know of Him in any one spot, or by any one transaction. To lead us on He has employed grades, and built one scaffolding above another. There is matter which came from nothing at His bidding; and in this world we may learn something of His control over matter. We may lift our eyes beyond this world, and as we look out upon the stars, we may add to our knowledge of God's government over material things. Beyond matter is mind. Beyond mere intelligence there is a kingdom of sensibilities. Still beyond there is a moral kingdom. The world of grace is still higher. Redemption—the salvation of sinners—is not a matter of mere creation, or mere government or recovery from ruin merely; it is a matter of mercy to the sinning and the punishment of sin. This matter evidently lies beyond all others. "Stricken for my people" is just the amazing thing which the rising gradations of the revelations of God demand.
III. The mystery, the wonder of this redemption of sinners, by "stripes" laid on Christ, accords with us, as well as it accords with God. We are sinners. See what sin hath done. Some symbols of its mischief are visible. It blasted paradise, &c.! Sin has broken up our relations with God. Our Creator, our final Judge, is against us! The law which sin has broken is God's law—the law for the immortal spirit—the law for eternity to come! Eternity! The mind staggers under the weight of that idea. To last on for ever, a sinner cut off from God, and no more at peace with myself than with Him; to feel eternally the gnawings of "the worm that dieth not" and the wrath of God! Sooner come annihilation! Now, in the presence of these wants, this sin which has no analogy, which has broken up our peace relations with God, this conscience, these agonies of a fearing spirit, and this dreadful eternity—what shall God do for us? What do we want Him to do? Just what He has done. We want Him to meet our infinite fears with His infinite offers, our worst foes with His ineffable grace; to show us while we stand trembling before His justice, that something has been done which that justice cannot find fault with—something which shall wave the peace-branch over the door into eternity! He has done it. It is His own work, on His own authority, like Him, and just because it has such wonders about it as the innocence and mysterious person of a suffering Christ, our faith can trust it. Where we most fear, God is most wonderful. The excellence and the innocence of the sacrifice as the ground of our peace, shows us that the august redemption perfectly assorts with the ineffable woes and wants of our sinful condition.
4. The uses we ought to make of this subject are not trivial. There are those who have no living faith in this atonement, and who will not come to the memorial of it. Why? Simply because of two things.
(1.) They have low and grovelling ideas of God—ideas very much confined to His earthly things and His natural attributes.
(2.) They do not justly realise their condition and necessities as sinners. If men have inadequate notions of God, they will have inadequate notions of sin. If they have inadequate notions of sin, they will have inadequate notions of Christ; and then there will be nothing seen in their condition to drive them, and nothing in His character to draw them, to His infinite sacrifice. If they had anything like a just idea of what it is to be a sinner, they would look to the sacrifice of Christ with amazing gladness and gratitude.—Ichabod S. Spencer, D.D.: Sermons, vol. ii. pp. 412-431.
THE BURIAL OF JESUS
Isa . And He made His grave with the wicked, &c.
The death and resurrection of Christ are frequently dwelt upon by preachers and writers; but His burial is seldom distinctly alluded to. Yet it is spoken of in Scripture as a most important fact (Act ; 1Co 15:4; Eph 4:9-10).
I. THE HONOURABLE BURIAL GRANTED TO JESUS WHO HAD BEEN SO IGNOMINIOUSLY PUT TO DEATH.
1. He was to have been buried with criminals. "They appointed Him His grave with criminals" (Dr. Calkins). Not satisfied with His sufferings and death, they sought to insult Him even in death by wishing to bury His corpse with criminals (Mat ; Joh 19:31). They intended to heap the highest possible indignity upon Him, denying him the privilege of an honourable burial (1Ki 21:19; Isa 14:19; Jer 26:23). As a matter of course, since He was put to death with wicked men, He would naturally have been buried with them, unless there had been some special interposition in His case. He was given up to be treated as a criminal; He was made to take the place of a murderer, Barabbas, on the cross; He was subjected to the same indignity and cruelty to which the two malefactors were, and it was evidently designed also that He should be buried in the same manner, and probably in the same grave (Joh 19:31). Who can but wonder at the striking accuracy of the prediction?
2. He was really buried in a grave that was intended for the corpse of a rich man. "With a rich man after His death." The purpose which had been cherished in regard to His burial was not accomplished. He was buried by persons of distinction: Joseph and Nicodemus—men of rank—secret disciples now emboldened. How different this from the interment of malefactors! How striking and accurate the fulfilment of prophecy! (Mat ; Joh 19:39-40). "He who died as a malefactor was buried as a king." All the more remarkable because during His life He was associated with the poor, and was Himself poor. The humiliation was over, and the exaltation was begun!
II. THE REASON WHY JESUS RECEIVED SUCH HONOURABLE TREATMENT. It was found in the fact—
1. That He had done no wrong. "Because," rather, although "He had done no violence",—had not by harsh and injurious conduct provoked such treatment, or in any way deserved it at their hands. He was perfectly innocent—suffered without having committed any crime. To none did He do wrong. He was charged with perverting the nation and sowing sedition, but the charge was utterly false. He had done no violence, but "went about doing good." His actions were always prompted by purest benevolence. Evidently with this passage in view, the Apostle Peter says of the Lord Jesus: "Who did no sin," &c. (1Pe ). Those who knew Him best spake thus. Well did Peter remember the unsullied purity, the loving gentleness, the high principles of our Lord. As he looked back on that life, it must have seemed like a pure pellucid stream flowing amid charred unsightly rocks.
2. That there was no deceit in His mouth. He was no deceiver, though He was regarded and treated as one. He was perfectly candid and sincere, true and holy. He was in all respects what He professed to be, and He imposed on no one by any false and unfounded claim (Heb ; 1Pe 2:22). Duplicity, craft, and deceit are the accustomed methods of false teachers. He neither pandered to the rich nor flattered the poor. When in the greatest peril, He adopts no ingenious arguments nor methods for escape. All He said was plain, undisguised, unclouded, bold. He never disguised His abhorrence of falsehood. He did not promise more than He intended to perform. He did not hide from His followers the consequences of their position: "Ye must be hated," &c. None of His enemies could take up that challenge of His, "Which of you convicteth me of sin?" The judge that tried Him declared, "I find no fault in Him," and the centurion that executed Him professed that "certainly He was a righteous man."
Thus, by Divine arrangement, Jesus received such honourable treatment immediately after His ignominious death as a vindication of His spotless character.
III. PRACTICAL LESSONS SUGGESTED BY THE HONOURABLE BURIAL OF JESUS.
1. The character of Jesus is unique. He stands alone among men. He was spotlessly pure in the midst of universal pollution. Then He must be something more than a mere man. "Truly this is THE SON OF GOD." How admirably qualified is He to act as our substitute, and to present a sacrifice for our sin! Had He been guilty of a single sin, what could He have done for us? of what merit His obedience? of what value His death? of what efficacy His intercession?
2. The purity of Jesus in word and deed should be sought by us. Here on earth, in flesh and blood, and under the conditions to which men in general are subject, He exhibited a perfect character, and so stands before us as a true, complete, and universal pattern and example. We are commanded to be imitators of Him (Eph ; 1Pe 2:21). Let us follow Him as if we trod exactly behind Him. Let there be the closest imitation. Take heed to your deceitful heart (Psa 32:2). Guard against deceit of mouth (Psa 120:3), and deceit in practice, &c. If we suffer, let us be careful that it shall not be on account of our faults. Let us seek grace so to live as not to deserve the reproaches of others, and to be able to bear them with patience if we are called to suffer them. The purity of Jesus can never be congenial to us until our hearts are regenerated.
3. The burial of Jesus should divest the grave of its terror. These bodies of ours must fail and faint and die, and go down to the cold grave to return to their native dust. What then? Shall we who are "risen with Christ," dread to rest where He Himself lay? Shall we fear to be consigned to the place in which He, who is the "resurrection and the life," reposed? Shall we doubt that He will bring us forth in triumph from the dominion of the grave; that He will clothe us with a body all beauteous and immortal like His own, &c.? The darkness of the grave is the forerunner of the unparalleled brightness of the resurrection life. "Come, see the place where the Lord lay," and learn to view without fear your own final resting-place, and rejoice in the assurance that His resurrection is the pledge and earnest of your own.—A. Tucker.
Isa . Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin.
Both Jews and Gentiles knew pretty well what "an offering for sin" meant. The Gentiles had been in the habit of offering sacrifices. The Jews, however, had by far the clearer idea of it. What was meant by a sin-offering?… This was always the idea of a sin-offering—a perfect victim taking the place of the offender.
Christ has been made by God an offering for sin. Oh, that we may be able to do in reality what the Jew did in symbol! May we put our hand upon the head of Christ Jesus; as we see Him offered up upon the cross for guilty men, may we know that our sins are transferred to Him!
I. SIN DESERVES AND DEMANDS PUNISHMENT.
Some say that there is no reason in sin itself why it should be punished, but that God punishes offences for the sake of society at large. This is what is called the governmental theory—that it is necessary for the maintenance of good order that an offender should be punished, but that there is nothing in sin itself which absolutely requires a penalty. Now, we assert, and we believe we have God's warrant for it, that sin intrinsically and in itself demands and deserves the just anger of God, and that that anger should be displayed in the form of a punishment. To establish this, let me appeal to the conscience, not of a man who has, by years of sin, dwindled it down to the very lowest degree, but of an awakened sinner under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Ask this man, who is now really in the possession of his true senses, whether he believes that sin deserves punishment, and his answer will be quick, sharp, and decisive—"Deserve it? Ay, indeed; and the wonder is that I have not suffered it. I feel that if God should smite me now, without hope or offer of mercy, to the lowest hell, I should only have what I justly deserve; and I feel that if I be not punished for my sins, or if there be not some plan found by which my sin can be punished in another, I cannot understand how God can be just at all. How shall He be the Judge of all the earth if He suffer offences to go unpunished?" There has been a dispute whether men have any innate ideas, but surely this idea is in us as early as anything, that virtue deserves reward, and sin deserves punishment. Add to this, that God has absolutely declared His displeasure against sin itself (Jer ; Deu 25:16, &c). There is nothing more clear in Scripture than the truth that sin is in itself so detestable to God that He must and will put forth His tremendous strength to crush it, and to make the offender feel that it is an evil and a bitter thing to offend against the Most High (H. E. I., 2281, 2282).
The other idea, that sin is only to be punished for the sake of the community, involves injustice. If I am to be damned for the sake of other people, I demur to it. If my sin intrinsically deserves the wrath of God, and I am sent to perdition as the result of this fact, I have nothing to say. Conscience binds my tongue. But if I am told that I am only sent there as a part of a scheme of moral government, and that I am sent into torment to impress others with a sense of right, I ask that some one else should have the place of preacher to the people, and that I may be one of those whose felicity it shall be to be preached to, for I see no reason in justice why I should be selected as the victim. Really, when men run away from the simplicities of the Gospel in order to make Jehovah more kind, it is strange how unjust and unkind they make Him.
The reverse of this doctrine, that sin demands punishment, may be used to prove it, for it is highly immoral, dangerous, and opens the flood-gates of licentiousness to teach that sin can go unpunished. If sin deserve not to be punished, what is Tophet but injustice on a monstrous scale? Go and preach this in hell, and you will have quenched the fire which is for ever to burn, and the worm of conscience will die. And then come to earth, and go, like Jonah went, though with another message than Jonah carried, through the streets and thoroughfares of the exceeding great city, and proclaim that sin is not to be punished for its own intrinsic desert and baseness. But, if you expect your prophecy to be believed, enlarge the number of your jails, and seek for fresh fields for transportation in the interests of society; for if any doctrine can breed villains, this will.
It is written clearly upon the conscience of every one of us, that sin must be punished. Here are you and I brought into this dilemma—we have sinned, and we must be punished for it: it is impossible, absolutely, that sin can be forgiven without a sacrifice: God must be just, if heaven falls. But God, in His infinite wisdom, has devised a way by which justice can be satisfied, and yet mercy be triumphant. Jesus Christ, the only begotten of the Father, took upon Himself the form of man, and offered unto divine justice that which was accepted as an equivalent for the punishment due to all His people.
II. THE PROVISION AND ACCEPTANCE OF A SUBSTITUTE FOR SINNERS IS AN ACT OF GRACE.
It is no act of grace for a person to accept a pecuniary debt on my behalf of another person. If I owe a man twenty pounds, it is no matter to him who shall pay the twenty pounds, so long as it is paid. But it is not so in penal matters. If a man be condemned to be imprisoned, there is no law, no justice which can compel the lawgiver to accept a substitute for him. If the sovereign should permit another to suffer in his stead, it must be the sovereign's own act and deed; he must use his own discretion as to whether he will accept the substitute or not, and if he do so, it is an act of grace. In God's case, if He had said, in the infinite sovereignty of His absolute will, "I will have no substitute, but each man shall suffer for himself, he who sinneth shall die," none could have murmured. It was grace, and only grace which led God to say, "I will accept a substitute."
This grace of God is yet further magnified in the providing of such a substitute as Christ—on Christ's part that He should give up Himself, the prince of life, to die; the king of glory to be despised and rejected of men. Think of the unexampled love which shines in Christ's gift of Himself. But the Father gives the Son (Joh ). To give your wealth is something, if you make yourself poor, but to give your child is something more. I implore you, do not look upon the sacrifice of Christ as an act of mere vengeance on the Father's part. Never imagine that Jesus died to make the Father complacent towards us. Jesus' death is the effect of overwhelming and infinite love on the Father's part. Never indulge the atrocious thought that there was justice, and justice only here; but magnify the love and pity of God in that He did devise and accomplish the great plan of salvation by an atoning sacrifice (H. E. I. 390, 2319-2321).
III. JESUS IS THE MOST FITTING PERSON TO BE A SUBSTITUTE, AND HIS WORK IS THE MOST FITTING WORK TO BE A SATISFACTION.
Consider what sort of a mediator was needed. He must be one who had no debt of his own. If Christ had been at all under the law naturally, if it had been His duty to do what it is our duty to do, it is plain He could only have lived for Himself; and if He had any sin of His own, He could only have died for Himself, seeing His obligations to do and to suffer would have been His just due to the righteousness and the vengeance of God. Jesus Christ was perfectly exempt from service, and therefore could volunteer to undertake it for our sake.
There was needed, also, one of the same nature with us. Such was Jesus Christ. For this purpose He became man. Made in all points like unto us, being a man, and standing exactly in a man's place, becoming a real Adam, standing quite in the first Adam's place, He was a fit person to become a substitute for us.
The dignity of His sacred person made Him the most proper substitute. A mere man could at most be a substitute for one other man. Crush him as you will, and make him feel in his life every pang which flesh is heir to, but he can only suffer what one man would have suffered. He could not even then have suffered an equivalent for that eternal misery which the ungodly deserve; and if he were a mere man, he must suffer precisely the same. A difference may be made in the penalty, when there is a difference in the person, but if the person be the same, the penalty must be exactly the same in degree and quality. But the dignity of the Son of God, the dignity of His nature, changes the whole matter; it puts such a singular efficacy into every groan and every pang, that it needs not that His pang should be eternal, or that He should die a second death; it adds a special force to the substitution, and thus one bleeding Saviour can make atonement for millions of sinful men, and the Captain of our salvation can bring multitudes unto glory.
One other condition needs to be fulfilled. The person so free from personal service, and so truly in our nature, and yet so exalted in person, should also be accepted and ordained of God. Our text gives this a full solution, in that it says, "He shall make His soul an offering for sin." Christ did not make Himself a sin-offering without a warrant from the Most High: God made Him so. "The Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
IV. CHRIST'S WORK AND THE EFFECTS OF THAT WORK ARE NOW COMPLETE.
Christ has made an atonement so complete that He never need suffer again. The death-knell of the penalty rings in the dying words of the Saviour, "It is finished." Do you ask for a proof of this? Remember that Christ rose again from the dead. If he had not completed His work of penalty-suffering, He would have been left in the tomb till now. More than that; He has ascended up on high. Think you He would have returned thither with unexpiated sin red upon His garments? Do you suppose He would have ascended to the rest and to the reward of an accomplished work?
Complete also in its effects. There is now complete pardon for every soul which believeth in Christ. You need not do anything to make the atonement of Christ sufficient to pardon you. It wants no ekeing out—pardon, full and free, is now presented in the name of Jesus, proclaimed to every creature under heaven.—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 561.
Isa . When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, &c.
I. THE SOUL OF THE MESSIAH WAS TO BE MADE AN OFFERING FOR SIN.
The word here used ( אשמ, asham) signifies either guilty,—or, by a figure, an offering for guilt. We may consider it in both senses. He was not in Himself guilty, but innocent and perfectly so (2Co ; Heb 7:26). But our sins were imputed to Him, or "laid upon Him;" that is, they were laid to His charge, and He was made accountable for them (Isa 53:6; 1Pe 2:24); "made a curse" (Gal 3:13). Hence He was made an offering for guilt. Two things were to be done, that the glory of God might be fully displayed, in the redemption of man. Sin must be pardoned, otherwise the sinner could not be saved. It was necessary also it should be punished; otherwise, its evil could not appear, nor the Divine attributes escape impeachment; the law of God, which had forbidden sin, must be magnified, or the equity of His government asserted. Sin must, therefore, be pardoned in a way that marks and publishes the evil of the offence. The sacrifice of bulls and goats, or of any creature inferior to man, was insufficient for this purpose (Heb 10:4). Nor could any man atone for his own sins, or suffer a punishment adequate to their demerit, without suffering eternally, and to the utmost extent of his capacity, much less could one man atone for many, or many for all. It was necessary, therefore, one should suffer, who, although possessed of human nature, yet had a nature superior to man, who could bear unlimited sufferings—sufferings adequate to the demerit of all human offences, in a limited time. This the Messiah did, whose Godhead supported His manhood, and enabled Him to bear, partly in His body, and especially in His soul, an anguish so great as might give not only men, but angels, a proper view of the evil and bitterness of sin, and the purity, justice, and wrath of God, in hating, condemning, and punishing it. No mere bodily sufferings could do this, and, therefore, "His soul" was made "an offering for sin." (See Mat 26:36-45. Comp. Mar 14:34-36; Luk 22:41-44).
II. BY WHOM IT WAS TO BE MADE AN OFFERING.
By the Father; "when Thou," &c. (Isa ; Isa 53:10). It was done by His "determinate counsel" (Act 2:23). This does not excuse those who became the instruments of His death. It was God who required an offering for sin; His purity, His justice, His truth, the authority of His law, the rights of His government required it. His glory demanded it, as a consideration on account of which He might pardon sin, and save the sinner with honour to Himself (Rom 8:3; Rom 3:25-26). God provided it in mercy and love to mankind (Joh 3:16; 1Jn 4:9-10; Tit 3:4). He provided even His own Son to be made flesh, to be poor, despised, afflicted, to die in ignominy and torture, for men who were sinners, enemies, rebels! (Rom 5:6-10).
III. THE EFFECTS WHICH SHOULD BE PRODUCED.
1. "He shall see His seed,"—a numerous race of sons and daughters begotten by the Gospel among Jews and Gentiles (Isa ; Isa 53:8; Psa 110:3).
2. "He shall prolong His days." His resurrection, ascension, and exaltation are here alluded to, whereby He obtained an everlasting life at God's right hand (Psa ). The end of it is threefold:
(1.) For a recompense of His own labours and sufferings (Php ).
(2.) For the salvation of His seed, whose Prophet, Priest, and King; whose wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; whose Saviour, Protector, Judge, Rewarder, &c., He thus becomes (Mat ).
(3.) For the judgment, condemnation, and punishment of those that reject Him, and are not His seed (Mat ; Psa 110:1; Heb 10:13; 1Co 15:25).
3. "The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand." By "the pleasure of the Lord" is intended the progress of truth and goodness, of wisdom, holiness, and happiness in the world, the advancement of God's glory, and the salvation of mankind, the felicity of the righteous, and the destruction of the wicked.
4. Hence we need not wonder that "He sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied."
1. Was it necessary that Christ should be made "an offering for sin?" How great, then, is its evil! How dreadful its effects! It is of so heinous a nature that its guilt could not be expiated, so that it might be pardoned, consistently with the Divine perfections, without the sacrifice of so glorious a person. How great, then, will be the punishment of those in the other world, who, by rejecting or neglecting this sacrifice, are not saved from sin?
2. Are God's holiness and justice so inviolable, and His law so honourable, and the rights of His government so sacred, that such a sacrifice was required for the manifestation of His glory? Then, what a powerful call and motive have we here for reverence and fear, solemnity and awe!
3. Did God judge it proper that such a price as this should be paid for man's redemption? Then, how important, how valuable are the souls of men!
4. Has the Father provided such an atonement? And is it actually made? Then, how great, how astonishing, His mercy and love! What a foundation is laid for confidence in Him, and love to Him in return (Rom ; Rom 5:9-10).
5. Has God been thus kind and bountiful? Then what a loud call upon your gratitude!
6. Shall the pleasure of the Lord prosper in His hands? Then, if it be your anxiety to know, experience, and do the will of the Lord, you may commit your cause to Him.
7. Are you His seed? If so, rejoice; for He has prolonged His days for your benefit. If not, tremble; for He is your Judges 8. Does He see of the travail of His soul, and is He satisfied? Then, sympathise with Him in His sufferings and His satisfaction. Being conformed to the motives and ends for which He suffered and died on our behalf, let us become instances of the efficacy of His gracious undertaking and objects of His joy, in consequence of it (Tit ).—Joseph Benson: Sermons, vol. i. p. 236-243.
I. A DOCTRINE OF THE CHRISTIAN SYSTEM THAT NEEDS TO BE EXPLAINED.
1. Christ died in the room of sinners. Not as the death of an individual may be the occasion of benefit to others, but by a legal substitution.
2. He died to satisfy Divine justice. Not to satisfy any thirst of vengeance in the Father, but to satisfy His justice, which requires Him to punish sin as sin, and not merely for its consequences.
3. He died to expiate human guilt. Man is guilty or liable to punishment for sin. He has a sense of guilt latent or awakened. The death of Christ is intended to deliver him from his guilt, and to remove the sense of guilt from his conscience.
4. He died to propitiate the Divine favour. Wrath against sin is not incompatible with love. It is infinite abhorrence of sin, and an inflexible determination to punish it. It is displayed in the cross of Christ. The death of Christ averts it from all who believe in Him.
II. AN EXPEDIENT OF THE DIVINE GOVERNMENT THAT NEEDS TO BE VINDICATED.
1. It is said that God, as a being of infinite love, might forgive sin without atonement. Perhaps He might, if sin were a personal insult or a debt. It is a crime, a violation of law, rebellion against legitimate authority. It must be punished before it can be pardoned.
2. It is said that atonement involves the substitution of the innocent for the guilty, which is cruel and unjust. Admit that Christ was innocent, and His death presents a problem of which the doctrine of the atonement is the only satisfactory solution. It was voluntary.
3. It is said that atonement is inconsistent with grace. All is grace to the sinner.
4. It is said that atonement is subversive of the interests of morality. It has a man-ward as well as a God-ward aspect. It exercises a moral influence. It supplies the strongest motive-power that was ever brought to bear on the formation of character (H. E. I., 396-398).
III. A REMEDY FOR THE ILLS OF MEN THAT NEEDS TO BE APPLIED.
1. The atonement unappropriated will not avail any one. It does not operate mechanically or magically. Many will perish although Christ has died.
2. The benefits of the atonement are offered to all. There are no limitations in the offer. "To you, O men, I call."
3. The benefits of the atonement are conferred on all who believe on Christ. Faith is a condition of human nature rather than of the Gospel. Man is a voluntary being, having the power of choice. He must choose Christ as his Saviour; trust in His ability and His willingness to save; rest on His finished work. He must receive Him, or be undone for ever.—G. Brooks: Outlines, p. 91-93.
I. The atonement of Christ was necessary to save the guilty. Denied by some, who say, "God can pardon sin as easily as a father pardons a disobedient child;" and further contend that for God to require an atonement in order to forgive would be an act of unnecessary severity. But God is not only the "Father of mercies;" He is also the moral governor of the universe. He has a public character to sustain, and in His public character He could not consistently pardon sin without an atonement, any more than could a judge on the bench pardon a guilty criminal when the law required that he should be punished. God is a just as well as a merciful Being; and would not, and could not, sacrifice one attribute to the exaltation of another (Rom ).
II. The atonement of Christ was not designed to make God merciful, but to open up an honourable way for Him to show mercy. It is a grievous mistake to represent God the Father, all justice, and God the Son, all mercy, and to suppose that by the sacrifice of Christ God the Father was influenced to become merciful. "God is love," &c. Besides, the great design of saving man originated with God the Father as such. It was from His love and mercy that He gave His Son to die for sinners (Joh ; 1Jn 4:9-10). Christ's death did not make Him merciful, but opened up an honourable way for showing mercy (see pp. 92, 93).
III. The atonement of Christ was an expedient in the government of God that would answer the same end as the eternal punishment of the transgressor. The law of God requires that the transgressor should die; had we been left to perish like fallen angels, His justice and holiness would have been eternally glorified. But all that Divine justice required is done by the substitution of Christ in the sinner's place.
IV. The atonement of Christ must not be considered as a commercial affair, but as a moral act. It is an error to represent sin literally as a debt: it is a crime. Those texts which speak of it as a debt must not be taken literally but figuratively. If sin were merely a debt it would not be so aggravated in its nature as it really is: a crime against the high authority of heaven. Further, if it were a debt, God could pardon it without a sacrifice, as easily as a creditor can forgive a debtor, if disposed so to do. Christ's atonement is not a pecuniary payment of debt, but a moral satisfaction to the Lawgiver to atone for a crime (1Pe ; 1Pe 1:20; H. E. I. 383).
V. The atonement of Christ is an arrangement that protects the character of God, and establishes His government even while pardoning sinners. The character of God must stand unimpeached and unimpeachable, and His government must stand on the unalterable laws of truth and justice. Now, by the sacrifice of Christ sin appears exceedingly sinful, the justice of God stands out in all its awful glory, and the government of Jehovah (or His moral influence over His creatures) appears stronger than if men had never sinned, or if, after sinning, they had been eternally punished. All the perfections of God harmonise even while forgiving believing sinners (Psa ).
VI. The atonement of Christ was not designed to save us in our sin, but from it, and all its dreadful consequences. It leads not to licentiousness, as some affirm (Rom ), but the reverse, since it gives stronger motives for obedience. We fear sin, not only because we fear hell, but because we see how awful a thing it is, in the death of Christ. We hate sin, not merely because it ruined us, but because it caused Him so much suffering. We obey God, not merely as creatures, but from love as redeemed sinners (Mat 1:21; Gal 6:14).
VII. The atonement of Christ was not made for few only, but for many. Such is the aggravation of sin, that it would have been equally necessary for Christ to have suffered as He did, if but one sinner were to be saved. His atonement is equally sufficient for all that believe (1Jn ).
VIII. There is no defect or insufficiency in the atonement of Christ to save any who believe. If we are not saved, it will not be from any want of virtue in the atonement of Christ, but for not believing in Him for salvation (Joh ; Mar 16:16). Have we received the atonement, or rather, reconciliation through the atonement? (Rom 5:11.)—Studies for the Pulpit, part 1, pp. 467-469.
THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST'S DEATH
I. It was the good pleasure of God. His eternal, wise, gracious purpose. II. It was an offering for sin. Life for life. To expiate guilt. By Divine appointment. III. It is the source of inexhaustible wonders of grace and glory. A holy seed. A mysterious life. A triumphant work.—J. Lyth, D.D.
MESSIAH CONTEMPLATING HIS SPIRITUAL OFFSPRING
Isa . He shall see His seed.
Observing that Messiah, though He did no sin, suffered even unto death—astonished while they read of an incarnate, obedient, and expiring God, many will ever be ready to inquire, Why, and for what great purpose, was it so? To all such questions, this chapter, nay, this verse, enables us to reply. "It pleased the Lord to bruise Him, &c." A part of the high remuneration is set forth in these few short words—"He shall see His seed."
I. He shall see them all born and brought in. To Him they are children of sure promise (Rom ; Gal 4:28); He is acquainted with them individually. Messiah's offspring may differ much at different times, in respect of the measure of its increase. Now, it may be slow; anon, it may be rapid; but at all times, and in all places, the measure of its increase will just accord with His own expectation (Psa 145:4; Psa 22:30-31).
II. He shall see them all educated and brought up. The practical object is to imbue them with the spirit of children. Great varieties may exist as to their talents, &c.; but in one thing they are all alike (Jer ). Of their education, Messiah Himself has the principal charge (Isa 54:13); and the means He employs are worthy of Him, for He instructs them by the truth of His word, by the light of His Spirit, and by the events of His providence. The charge is weighty, but it is His pleasant work. In evidence of this, He invites them to His school, arguing with them from the attractions of His own character, and the blessedness of such as are under His tuition (Mat 11:28-30; Pro 8:32-34). "Experience," it is said, "is the best schoolmaster;" let us, therefore, listen to one who, being at once proficient in the learning of his time, and a partaker of heavenly wisdom, could compare and contrast the two (Php 3:8).
III. He shall see them all supported and brought through. God's rich providence is their inheritance for a present world; His sure promise is their charter for a better; and for all their work and warfare, there is more than enough in the wisdom, grace, and strength that are in Christ Jesus. The history of Messiah's offspring is full of illustrations of this.
IV. He shall see them all perfected and brought home. As Christ Himself was made a perfect Saviour by the sufferings which He underwent, even so His honour requires, and it belongs to His office, that He confer on all His offspring a perfect salvation. With this view He has appointed His Church for the perfecting of the saints, &c. The Bible speaks of a future and fixed period, which it significantly styles the "manifestation of the sons of God," and the "coming of Christ with all His saints." Home! delightful word to such as have sojourned in a land of strangers. Home! where? To the house not made with hands—to the prepared city, which is also the city of habitation. With what rapture and triumph will Messiah exclaim in the presence of His great Father, and before an assembled universe—"Behold I, and the children whom God hath given Me!" This is a home of which Messiah shall not be ashamed; it will do Him infinite honour. Nor is this all: arrived at home, their ineffable and inconceivable felicity is to be absolutely without end.
CONCLUSION.—Our subject shows that Messiah's glory is inseparably bound up with the happiness of His offspring; that the application is not less certain than the purchase of redemption; it contains a seasonable and powerful antidote against undue depression in the Church (Rom ); it shows, also, that it is our duty and our honour to concur, after our measure, in carrying this scripture into effect.—Robert Muter, D.D.: Weekly Christian Teacher, vol. ii. pp. 713-718.
THE IMMORTAL HIGH PRIEST
Isa . He shall prolong His days. Heb 7:15-16; Heb 7:25.
In these passages we have, first in Hebrew prophecy, and then in Christian teaching, the doctrine of the enduring life of the Christ after His sufferings are over. The Old Testament prophet sees from afar the new life of the Messiah, in a blaze of glory. The New Testament prophet declares the life already begun, and indicates the purposes for which that life is being spent as well as the glory with which it is crowned.
I. The Lord Jesus now lives as the Priest upon His throne. Calvary's night is over. The Christ is not here, He is risen. He has entered "within the veil," there to appear in the presence of God for us, and is now the "Apostle and High Priest of our confession." His atoning work was finished on earth once for all,—His administrative work is being carried on in perpetuity—sustaining a like relation to the work accomplished by His death, that God's upholding of all things does to His first acts of creative power.
II. The supreme fitness of Christ for this vast work, is owing to His possessing all the power of an indissoluble life. The word "endless" is inadequate; it merely signifies a life that will not end. But the word in the original signifies a life that cannot end;—one that is and must be perpetuated, by virtue of its own inherent energy and power. With whatever devotion and care the high-priest might bear the concerns of the Israel of God on his heart, and with whatever skill he might administer Israel's affairs, he must sooner or later resign the office, and give it up to another, when death called him away. But the life that resides in that Christ whom God raised from the dead, is a life infinitely full of spontaneous, self-sustaining energy, not dependent on aught without for its maintenance. There is within it no cause of decay; there is no wasting of energy, however much is spent; no outside power can weaken or obstruct that glorious life. It has in it all Divine perfections to the full—.strength, wisdom, intelligence, fidelity, and love—each and all of these being "the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever!" That life which is dependent on none, is the life on which all things depend! Since His life can never be weakened by decay from within, or imperilled by assaults from without—time, which makes other power to crumble, does but give grander scope for the manifestation of His. Kings, thrones, and empires, may rise up, flourish, decline, pass away, and be succeeded by others, and yet the power of Christ's endless life shall be "ever new, ever young,"
"And firm endure, while endless years
Their everlasting circles run."
III. Because Christ's life is indissoluble, His Priesthood cannot change hands. Long as the human race shall need an Advocate with God, Jesus will be that Advocate to interpose on their behalf. He ever liveth with a view to intercession. Can we frame to ourselves an intelligible conception of the method of this Redeemer's interposition? There seem to be four things involved in it.
(1.) Christ appears in the presence of God for us; the seer beholds Him like a Lamb as it had been slain, bearing the marks of Calvary's work—marks full of their own infinite meaning—how He has borne away the sins of the world. As that offering was well pleasing to God then, so it ever will be; neither its meaning nor its worth can change throughout eternity.
(2.) Christ pleads in the presence of God, continuing there for sinners the plea He urged on the Cross; continuing for those who believe on Him His wondrous intercessory prayer!
(3.) He acts in the presence of God for us: "I go to prepare a place for you." The Son of God prepares a place for us, while the Spirit of God is preparing us for the place.
(4.) He is governing for us—He is Head over all things to the Church. All things are working together for good to them that love God, because their working is in our Redeemer's hands.
IV. The effect of a priesthood that is unchanging, is a redemption that is unvarying. Because of the Redeemer's sway in heaven, the work of salvation is advancing on earth.
V. This great Redeemer ever living, this great Redemption being unvarying, is the guarantee of the salvation being carried on to the uttermost! Who can set forth all that that glorious phrase means?
(1.) This Saviour can reach to the uttermost depth of sin and guilt and misery. His sacrifice, appropriated by faith, can cause the highest pile of guilt to disappear for ever. His power can eradicate the most inveterate and apparently hopeless corruption. The hardest heart can be melted down by Jesus' love—to the uttermost.
(2.) Jesus can reach souls through the uttermost extent of His domain. No human spirit can be too far off for contact with Jesus.
(3.) However varied the demands which may be made on the saved one at any moment, Christ can help to the uttermost (H. E. I. 934, 945). Though the longer each believer lives, the greater will be his demands on his Saviour, he cannot overtax Him. This bank can be drawn upon to the uttermost, and yet be rich as ever!
(4.) Christ's salvation can lay hold of every part of our nature. Body, soul, and spirit; all will be sanctified by Him.
(5.) Christ's salvation will reach to the uttermost point of time.
(6.) However believers may multiply—let myriads on myriads be added to the roll, for myriads on myriads of ages—the salvation will be large enough and strong enough for all, even to the uttermost!
(7.) Believers shall be gathered unto Christ: all presented to Him, a glorious Church without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing. Then, when they are without fault before the throne of God, they will have proved the truth of salvation to the uttermost! No. I am wrong. They will not have proved it; they will be proving it still, for, when they reach that point which is now the "uttermost" of our conception, that goal of glory will be but a starting point for eternity!—Clement Clemance, D.D.: The Christian Era, vol. i. pp. 39, 40.
THE DIVINE PURPOSE FULFILLED
Isa . The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
Some have affirmed that this chapter relates to the mission of Jeremiah, and to the hostile treatment he had to encounter in performing it; some that it sets forth the approaching downfall and subsequent exaltation of the Jewish nation; some that it refers entirely to the history of the Messiah. The former two of these interpretations have been suggested only under the influence of mental perversion, and are utterly untenable. The last is confirmed by the best evidence that can be afforded. Philip declared that this prophecy referred to Jesus (Act ). On several occasions in the New Testament the prophecy is expressly announced as having been fulfilled in Christ. The whole course of the Saviour's life, and the circumstances associated with His final sufferings and death, correspond so exactly with the description given by the prophet, that had he been a personal witness of that course and of these circumstances, his statements could not have been more accurate or more striking.
I. God has formed a purpose of mercy toward mankind. "The pleasure of the Lord" (Eph ; Eph 2:11). His purpose was—
1. Formed before the foundations of the earth were laid.
2. Manifested on earth as soon as the need of mercy existed, in the promise made to our first parents even on the day that they sinned.
3. Unfolded more and more clearly to patriarchs and prophets.
4. Fully disclosed in the Christian economy.
II. The fulfilment of this purpose of mercy is committed to the Lord Jesus. The pleasure of the Lord is in His hand. It was He to whom the first promise referred (Gen ); of whom Abraham was informed (Gen 26:4); whose coming Jacob anticipated (Gen 49:10); and of whom Moses and all the prophets wrote and spoke (Deu 18:18, &c.). The Lord Jesus performs the purpose of mercy—
1. By His atonement for human sin.
2. By the communication of the Holy Spirit, by whose influence men are brought to a cordial reception of the Saviour's meritorious work, so as to render that work their own.
III. Under the administration of the Lord Jesus the purpose of mercy shall be perfectly and triumphantly accomplished. Every Divine purpose is certain to be accomplished (Isa ; Psa 33:11). But apart from this general reason, the certainty of the accomplishment of the work which has been entrusted to the Lord Jesus rests,
1. On His own character. It is essentially Divine. His proper Deity imparts to His atoning sacrifice an absolute fulness of merit, and renders failure in His work impossible.
2. On the Divine assurance solemnly pledged to that effect (Isa ; Php 2:9-11; Joh 12:32; Heb 12:12-13).
APPLICATION. God has formed a purpose of mercy toward mankind. Hence—
1. Those theologies are false which represent God as a God of vengeance. In the Scriptures He appears in consistency with all His perfections as the God of love. The redemption of our race is His "pleasure."
2. The perfect unity of the Father with the Son is exemplified in the eutrustment of this work to the Son. He came into the world, and "made His soul an offering for sin," not to change the Father's purposes but to fulfil them (see p. 92).
3. If we sympathise with this purpose, which God cherished from all eternity, and in the fulness of time entrusted to Christ for its accomplishment, let us show that we do so by making known to all nations the glad tidings of His grace. If we cannot personally carry to perishing men the good news, let us do our utmost to send it.—James Parsons: Christian World Pulpit, .
ALL THINGS IN CHRIST'S HAND
Isa . The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.
I. WHAT THINGS ARE PUT INTO CHRIST'S HAND?
The Father is here, as everywhere else in Scripture, looked on as the originator and disposer of all things. The Son is the medium through whom, and for whom things come to be what they are, and come to be arranged as they are. At least, one reason why all things are put into Christ's hand is,—the great love of the Father towards Him. Ere Christ made His appearance into this world, there had been a sublime transaction between the Father and the Son, in which vast affairs had been entrusted on the one hand and accepted on the other. For the knowledge of this we are indebted to revelation alone. All things are put into Christ's hand.
1. Creation is put into Christ's hand (John 1; Colossians 1; Hebrews 1). Here, Christ, as the Son of the Father, is very clearly marked off from ought that is created, by being distinctly declared to be, Himself, the Creator. The Father, indeed, appoints, and the Son executes, the Father's appointment. Subordination of office is perfectly consistent with equality of nature (see p. 83). And if we would seize the most adequate view of our Divine Lord which it is possible for us to attain unto, we must let all the Scriptures concerning Him have their right place and power. All creation was formed and is upheld by our Redeemer's hand!
2. Revelation is also put into His hand. God speaks to us in His Son. When we speak of the work of creation being Christ's, we speak of that which includes all worlds. But here, when revelation is our theme, we have to do, so far as we know, with only one world. Not, indeed, that there are not hints in the Word of God, that the Son is the revealer of the Father to other worlds than this. On earth, Christ is the clearest and brightest beam of glory that is let down from heaven for us to see! We see in Him, One in whom "dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily!"
3. But we must limit our field of thought yet again. It might have been that Jesus had been a revelation of God to this world, quite irrespective of any element of sin. But where sin is, a declaration of what God is, is not enough. If relations of friendship and love are to be established between a holy God and sinful men, it must be in such a way as shall clear the holy throne from all compromise with sin, and as shall make even those who are conscious of guilt feel at home in the blaze of pure and holy love. It was reserved for Christ to institute these gracious relations between us and heaven. Mediation is put into Christ's hand. He is the way along which the penitent may come and hold converse with the great Supreme! And, owing to sin, His mediation involved not only an incarnation, but expiation. Christ, owing to the two-foldness of His nature, could make an offering which should be effective as towards God, and suitable as towards man. The Father loveth the Son, and hath put expiation into His hand!
4. Creation, revelation, mediation. Two more steps have yet to be taken. A power is needed to ensure that the mediation shall not fail through men refusing to accept it. Such a power is lodged in Christ. He gives the Spirit to convict and to renew. And by His own living energy bestowed through the Holy Ghost, He will regenerate the sinner and perfect the saint. This great work of the conquest and training of hearts is put into His hand!
5. The administration of the affairs of the globe on behalf of the Church is put into His hand. He is now a Priest upon His throne. He is the King and Lord of His Church. He builds up that Church by the word of truth and by the Spirit of His grace. He watches over the Church everywhere in this world, presides over the departure of every soul, and governs the "spacious world unseen" with a view to the judgment day. "He died for us that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him."
6. The consummation of all things is put into His hand. He who sent Peter to gather in the first-fruits, will send forth His angels to reap when the harvest of the earth is ripe. Then the end, when He shall have delivered up the Kingdom to God, even the Father, when, for all believers, He shall have conquered death, having raised them up at the last day. Then the redeemed shall be gathered home from all lands, shall be without spot before the throne of God, and presented before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy. Then shall our Saviour have manifested the wisdom of the Father in putting all things into His hand; He shall everlastingly have proved His infinite capacity for the trust; and then shall Christ and His Church be glorified together.
II. WHAT IS THE PRACTICAL BEARING OF THIS THEME?
1. We see that Christ's work in saving us, is but part of a vast, boundless, infinite scheme of glory and of grandeur which it will take ages on ages to develop and reveal!
2. We see a reason why every preacher should follow the example of John the Baptist, and point away from himself to Christ (Joh ).
3. We see the imperativeness of insisting on the Lordship of Christ over men and nations. Governments only lay up sorrow for themselves if they contravene the holy will of Christ.
4. We see why we must point to Jesus only as the exclusive object of a sinner's trust.
5. We see the security of the redemption of those who are in Christ.
6. We see the certainty of the ruin of those who persist in rebelling against Christ.—Clemant Clemance, D.D.: The Christian Era, vol. ii. p. 41, &c.
OUR SAVIOUR SUFFERING, SATISFIED, TRIUMPHANT
Isa . When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin.… He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.
I. The aspect in which that work of the Saviour by which He accomplished the redemption of the world is here represented: "The travail of His soul." The New Testament teaches that the Saviour's sufferings were—
1. Sacrificial and expiatory.
2. Voluntary. The first clause of the text should read: "When His soul shall make an offering for sin."
II. The nature of that sublime and heavenly satisfaction described in this passage, as accruing to the Redeemer from witnessing the effect of His work and sufferings in the salvation of men.
1. It is the satisfaction arising from enlarged success of a pleasure always proportionate to the difficulties of the task we have fulfilled, and to the zeal with which it has been prosecuted.
3. It is such as springs from contemplating the greatness, the importance, and the difficulties of the work itself. Salvation is an illustrious and an arduous work. The obstacles that present themselves in the way of its accomplishment are, to all but the power of God, insuperable.
4. It is to be estimated only by the perfection of the Saviour's knowledge, relative to the whole progress and issue of that event which he so joyously contemplates.
III. The certainty that this satisfaction shall be finally realised. This is certain, because the most unlimited diffusion of Christianity throughout the world is certain. We cherish this confidence—
The manner in which it addresses itself to the heart is equally peculiar. Other systems effectuate their purpose the most fully when they can alarm and agitate and appal. It is this alone which lulls the breast into sacred tranquillity, and, banishing every fear, ravishes the soul with ceaseless adoration, and allures to the cheerful obedience of gratitude and love, and unites the tears of contrition with the ardour of thankfulness and the exultation of hope.—M‘All.
2. Because of the tendency of the Gospel to an unlimited and ceaseless diffusion. This characteristic was exhibited in the age of its first promulgation. It still continues, for in every heart in which the Gospel is truly received it kindles a strong desire to make it known to others. Wherever it is received, it blesses men in temporal as well as in spiritual things.
4. Because of the peculiar and encouraging appearances which are now everywhere beheld in the condition and circumstances of the Church. Awaking from her long and inglorious repose, she has thrown aside that lethargy by which she was restrained from asserting her ancient glories. She has heard and is responding to the voice of Him who summons her to extend her conquests, and to inherit the desolate heritages.—R. S. M‘All, LL.D.: Sermons, pp. 422-472.
THE TRAVAIL AND SATISFACTION OF THE REDEEMER'S SOUL
Isa . He shall see of the travail of His soul and shall be satisfied.
Three distinct ideas presented:—
I. THE TRAVAIL OF OUR REDEEMER'S SOUL.
The "travail" of the Redeemer signifies the sufferings He underwent. By "the travail of His soul" is meant that peculiar agony of grief by which His soul was affected in the course of His sufferings. The physical sufferings of some of "the noble army of martyrs" equalled, perhaps surpassed, those of their Lord. But the sorrows of His soul forced from Him His bloody sweat, and His cry, "My God," &c. These sorrows were wisely designated by the ancient fathers of the Church, "the unknown sufferings of the Son of God." But it is revealed that two of the ingredients in that cup of mental suffering were the burden of the sins of a guilty world, and the furious onslaught of Satan and his emissaries in the utmost violence and plenitude of their power. We must also take into view certain considerations of a peculiar nature which tend to heighten our conceptions of their character and extent:—
1. The soul of the Redeemer was perfect in holiness. In proportion to a man's purity of heart is the shock and revulsion of soul of which he is conscious, when he is compelled to witness the debasing and desolating effects of sin. Inconceivably painful must have been the travail of our Redeemer's soul when He was brought into the nearest relation to sin that is possible to a being perfectly pure, when surveying its horrors in the light of His own spotless holiness, when bearing the wrath of His heavenly Father on account of it.
2. The soul of the Redeemer was full of light. Confined to a small spot of the surface of the globe, and capable of interpreting only to a very small degree those revelations of the future which have been vouchsafed to us, our conception of the real extent of the tendencies and effects of sin is very limited. But to the mind of the Redeemer all the awful effects of sin throughout time and eternity lay bare, and the impression thereby produced must have been correspondingly deep and solemn. Moreover, when man suffers, his sufferings come on him by a gradual process, and he is sustained by the hope of deliverance at every stage of his journey. But to our Redeemer all the parts and constituents of His sufferings were by clear anticipation present at one and the same instant. What, then, must have been "the travail of His soul?"
3. The soul of the Redeemer was full of love. A philanthropist feels with tender acuteness for the distresses of his fellowmen. What, then, must have been the travail of the Redeemer's soul when, in the full flow of His ardent and unlimited benevolence, He surveyed the ruin of man's moral greatness, and died that He might restore him to his forfeited honour?
II. THE RESULTS OF OUR SAVIOUR'S SUFFERINGS AS SEEN BY HIMSELF.
In the preceding part of the chapter, He is represented as suffering the most cruel and ignominious inflictions on account of sin. Here He is represented as beholding the results of His sufferings—in the deliverance of unnumbered millions of sinful men from the condemnation and misery of sin, and their exaltation to blessedness and glory in heaven. Those results began to appear in the entrance of Abel into heaven; and have been seen in every heart, every home, every country in which the work that Christ came into the world to do has been accomplished. What glorious and exquisitely beautiful results!
III. THE SATISFACTION WHICH THE REDEEMER FEELS IN CONTEMPLATING THE RESULTS OF "THE TRAVAIL OF HIS SOUL." A debased mind is satisfied with what is mean and degrading; a narrow mind will rest contented with what is little and trifling; but an enlarged and comprehensive mind will be pleased only with what is dignified and noble! What, then, can be that which can satisfy the soul of the Divine Redeemer? It is by us inconceivable. But some things we do see—
1. That the scheme of redemption affords a bright display of the attributes of God.
2. That through the sufferings and death of Christ the great interests of holiness have been most effectually secured. His people are delivered from the dominion as well as the condemnation of sin. On holiness the welfare and happiness of the universe depend.
3. That by His blood countless myriads of the human race have been redeemed. As He contemplates these things, we may say with reverent confidence, His mind, expanded with the noblest and purest benevolence, must become filled with delight and satisfaction indescribable.
1. This great theme reminds us of the inestimable value of the human soul. Surely that must be inestimably precious the redemption of which, at such a cost, can satisfy the Son of God (P. D. 3204).
2. If the salvation of a soul gives delight to the mind of God, surely He will not reject any awakened sinner who comes to Him in faith (Joh ; Rev 22:17; H. E. I. 928, 929).
3. The subject furnishes the most powerful motives to love and obey the Saviour. By so doing we co-operate in the accomplishment of His great design, and contribute to the satisfaction of His soul.
4. The subject furnishes most ample encouragement in the labours and trials of the Christian ministry. The enterprise in which we are engaged is the opposite of hopeless, for God has promised that by the results of it His Son shall be satisfied, and "He is faithful who hath promised!" Besides, in what can we find greater delight than in doing something to contribute to the satisfaction of Him who loved us and gave Himself for us?—Robert Burns, D.D.: Protestant Preacher, vol iii. pp. 399-408.
I. A FEW THOUGHTS ILLUSTRATIVE OF THE MEANING OF THE TEXT.
1. Mark the singularity and greatness which our text would seem to teach us to attach to Christ. It implies a distinction between Christ and the Church. He is not a part of it; He does not rank with saved men. He, looking upon them, "shall see of the travail of His soul;" they, looking unto Him, shall behold the source of their spiritual existence. In such a case there must be an essential difference between the parties. To confound them together, as of the same nature, and possessing nothing else on either side, would seem like confounding the potter with the material substance he can fashion as he will, or the Creator of the world with the work of His hands. God is not a part of the creation; nor is Christ a part of the Church. This essential distinction, or at least the supremacy resulting from it, would seem to be indicated by the declaration that "He shall be satisfied;" as if to intimate that were He not, whatever else might be achieved, nothing comparatively would seem to be accomplished.
2. The passage also indicates the peculiar work of Christ, and attaches preeminent importance to that.
(1.) This remarkable expression would seem to imply that all the glory of the Church, all the salvation of sinners, the perfection of the faithful, whatever in the consequences of His undertaking connected either with God or man can be regarded as a source of satisfaction to Messiah, is to be attributed to the fact that "His soul was made an offering for sin." The sufferings of Christ and the salvation of men are connected together as cause and effect.
(3.) Of those agonies the passage further depicts the intense and aggravated character—"the travail of His soul." The pangs of "a woman in travail" is a phrase sanctioned and employed again and again by the Divine Spirit, as an image combining in itself all that can be conceived of the extreme and the terrible in human suffering. And this image, among others, is here employed to depict the mental sensations of the Son of God when "the chastisement of our peace was upon Him," &c. "Travail" is the peculiar suffering connected with the natural birth of a human being; and as applied to Christ it intimates that in the throes and pangs of His soul, He endured what was necessary to give spiritual existence to the Church.
It was not what Christ was in His moral character, nor what He did as a prophet, "mighty in deed and in word," that constituted that peculiar work by which He became personally and alone the Saviour of men.
3. The greatness of the results which are to flow from the Redeemer's sufferings. Implied in the declaration, "He shall be satisfied;" the mind of Messiah shall be filled with joy when He witnesses the effect of His sufferings in the salvation of the redeemed. That the results productive in Him of this feeling must be surpassingly and inconceivably great appears from several considerations.
(1.) Messiah is the Creator of the universe (Joh ). All its vastness and magnificence was needed to satisfy Him as such. How much sublimer must those spiritual results necessarily be with which He is to be "satisfied!" The new creation may reasonably be expected to surpass as far the old and the earthly as the human intellect is superior to dead brute matter, or the love of God's heart must necessarily excel the power of His hand, or the redemption of the lost exceeds and surpasses the support of the living.
(3.) Consider the period occupied, the care expended, and the anxiety sustained in carrying on the process, the result of which is to satisfy Messiah. In nature, that which is of slow growth is always distinguished by proportionate excellence. Among men, long—continued and arduous labour is expected to be followed by corresponding results, both in the effects produced and in the rewards enjoyed. But the work of redemption abounds over history of all time. Nay, previous to the birth of time, it occupied the thought and councils of the Eternal. In actual operation it stretches from the fall of man to the restitution of all things. The reward will be proportioned to the magnitude and costliness of the work performed.
4. Those things with which we may suppose the Saviour will be "satisfied."
(2.) The equally inconceivable perfection of their character.
(3.) The love and adoration of the redeemed.
(4.) The effect of the work of redemption on the moral universe, revealing God more fully to it, and helping to keep it loyal to Him.
II. HOW WE WHO UNDERSTAND AND BELIEVE THE MEANING OF THE TEXT OUGHT TO BE AFFECTED.
1. We should be moved to humility. The continued prevalence in the world of what grieves and offends Him ought to have disappeared long since, and would have done so, had the Church been faithful to her office and her Lord. In the unfaithfulness of the Church we have had our share.
2. The declaration of our text should stimulate our faith and missionary activity. "He shall see, &c." Christianity is yet to be acknowledged and professed by universal man (H. E. I. 979, 1166-1169). But this end, however confidently expected, even faith expects not without the employment of appropriate instrumentality. Among the means employed, there must be the sending forth of the Bible and the preacher, the letter of the message and the loving messenger.
3. The subject ought to lead us, individually and personally, seriously to examine whether we are contributing to the Saviour's "satisfaction" either by what we are, or what we are doing (H. E. I. 4423-4428, 4446-4466).—T. Binney, LL.D.; Sermons, second series, pp. 1-50.
Christ's bodily travail was great. On this part of the Messiah's sufferings the prophet lays no particular emphasis, because, though most visible, it was not the main part of His atoning sufferings. He emphasizes the inward mental spiritual agony as that in which he chiefly bore our iniquities. Let us reverently note some of those things which we may conceive constituted for our Lord, "the travail of His soul"—first, during his life, and secondly, in connection with His death; though this distinction is not to be pressed, since the sufferings of the life and of the death overlap each other, and constitute together "the travail of His soul."
I. IN LIFE. We must not limit Christ's atoning mental sufferings to His actual endurance on the cross, or forget what He endured before the last scenes of His ministry on earth. The whole period of His public ministry was a "temptation," and to Him temptation was suffering, as He met and fought it.
1. He endured "the contradiction of sinners against Himself."
2. The sight and contact of human sin and misery as they lay passive around Him must have deeply wounded His soul. If Lot could vex his righteous soul in Sodom, what must Christ have endured as He saw all that was debased and repulsive in humanity with His holy eye (see p. 476), as He sighed over human pains and sorrows, and made them in sympathy His own (Mat ; see p. 484).
3. His foresight of the doom coming on God's chosen people caused Him pain (Luk ).
4. The shadow of the cross projecting itself over His life cast a burden on His spirit as He anticipated the end of His ministry (Mar, &c.).
II. IN CONNECTION WITH DEATH. The travail of soul during life culminated at death, assuming a distinctness and bitterness peculiarly great as that crisis arrived. All the past was intensified and concentrated, and additional elements of pain were experienced. Thus His friends forsook Him and fled. One denied Him. One betrayed Him. Did not this experience, to one who was so sympathetic and social Himself, and who then needed all the human sympathy and society which His friends could give Him, cause sorrow of soul of no ordinary kind? His enemies, too, the people He came to save, trampled His love under foot, insulted, maligned, cast Him out, and crucified Him, inflicting sorer wounds upon His generous heart and loving soul than on His body by their shameful treatment of Him. The lifelong vision and contact of sin came to a head in its most painful and repulsive form, and He would see more vividly and feel more acutely in His own maltreatment the depravity, not only of the nation, but of the race which He had come to save, and of which He was one. The fierce passions that raged against Him, His actual collision with the world's evil, His suffering of its concentrated hatred of good must have caused Him, the' only sinless One of the race, unspeakable horror and anguish of soul. But there was also—
1. The human and natural shrinking from death as the dissolution of soul and body; in His case peculiarly painful because of the perfection of His human nature, the consciousness of His own sinlessness, the fulness of His indwelling power of life, the clear insight He had into the dread connection between sin and death, and that His death was by judicial murder. He was not a Stoic. He was not ignorant of what it involved, and had not the feeling that it was natural for Him to submit to the "common lot," or die a death of refined and wilful cruelty.
2. Satanic temptation. The prince of this world came back to find something in Him, and found nothing. But the search was painful, as the devil did his last and worst, since all temptation is suffering. It was the hour and power of darkness for our Lord when the seed of the serpent bruised the heel of the seed of the woman. The bruising of the heel might indicate only a slight injury in comparison with the wounding of the head, but who can tell what in itself it was to Jesus Christ; how manifold and searching were the assaults of Satan, and how they intensified the bitterness of Christ's sorrow of soul?
3. His treatment as a sinner. Christ realised sin in the, to Him, most painful form of bearing it and suffering for it. He was "made sin for us"—enduring for us, in some real but mysterious way, the wrath of God due to us for our sins. Every view of His death which ignores this wraps His whole suffering in inexplicable mystery, and provokes men to despair, not only of themselves, but even of God. What pain for the Holy One to be treated, not merely by man, but by God as a sinner, to feel in His soul the anger of God, to be forsaken for a time by His Father! Who can fathom the depth of soul-sorrow in the cry, "My God," &c., as it came from the heart of the only-begotten and well-beloved Son?
(1.) The costliness of His redemption.
(2.) The evil and shamefulness of sin.
(3.) The reality of our Lord's sympathy for all who are in the world as He was, and follow in His footsteps.
(4.) The greatness of the suffering of the impenitent.—The Homiletical Library, vol: ii. pp. 78-82.
Throughout the chapter the Messiah appears as a suffering individual. He is represented as bearing the punishment of sin, though not on His own account, but on behalf of others, for whom He appears as a substitute. The expression, "travail of His soul," is elliptical, and evidently means, that He shall see the fruit of the travail of His soul. The mighty and benevolent objects He had in view would certainly be accomplished, and would be fully satisfactory to Him.
I. SOME OF THOSE OBJECTS WHICH THE MESSIAH SHALL BEHOLD AS THE RESULT OF HIS SUFFERING.
1. Obstructions removed out of the way of the sinner's salvation. The apostasy and rebellion of man have subjected him to the curse of the divine law. No offer of mercy can be made to him, while that law, by which God rules all worlds, is trampled upon and dishonoured. The substitution of the innocent for the guilty, was the great moral expedient by which God determined to save His apostate creatures, and to preserve unsullied the honour of His government. The object of divine mercy was to save transgressors, but the government of God required that sin should be condemned in the flesh. The obedience of the Son of God has magnified the law, as law. God can now, as a moral governor, exercise mercy without doing violence to His character, or weakening the obligations of His law.
2. His own people saved. Every sinner that has been saved, from the beginning of the world, has been saved by virtue of the death of Christ (Heb ; Heb 10:4). After His humiliation and death, He was to see the fruit of His sufferings (Isa 53:10). The death of Christ was to be followed by the rapid and extensive diffusion of the truth. Christianity widely spread in every direction. It took root in every soil—it visited every clime—and gained converts from every rank in society.
3. The moral disorders of our nature rectified. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and to establish an empire of righteousness, truth, and joy in the Holy Ghost. As the doctrines of the cross extend, the Saviour is "purifying to Himself a people zealous of good works." This process is going on in the world; the latter-day glory will consist in the wide and extended reign of holy principles. The great mass of human society will be pervaded by them. Instead of wrath, hatred, envyings, covetousness, and all unrighteousness, love, joy, peace, gentleness, meekness, temperance, will become the dominant principles of action.
II. THE SATISFACTION WITH WHICH THE SAVIOUR WILL BEHOLD THE ACCOMPLISHMENT OF HIS PURPOSES.
1. The completion of any great undertaking is accompanied with pleasure and satisfaction. To see a wise and mighty scheme of action working out the anticipated results, cannot fail to be gratifying to the projector.
2. The consciousness of having accomplished a work of infinite beneficence. One of the purest and highest pleasures we can enjoy on earth is the consciousness of having performed a disinterested act of benevolence. To impart happiness is pleasurable to all virtuous minds, and our enjoyment will be in proportion to the magnitude of the blessing bestowed. Jesus Christ gives eternal life—an infinite good, and His satisfaction will be proportionably large and enduring. In the Saviour's consciousness of having bestowed an infinite blessing, there is an element of happiness peculiarly His own. He still retains the sympathies and affections of our nature in His glorified state. We are to awake in His likeness. There will, therefore, be a peculiarity in the satisfaction He enjoys, arising from a community of feeling with us. There will be an identity of feeling, a sympathy in happiness, which no one can feel who has not tasted of humanity.
1. Let the subject teach us that we all have a deep interest in the travail of the Redeemer's soul. It has a gracious aspect to every one of us. This is the glad tidings of salvation, the gospel of the grace of God.
2. How great are our obligations to the Saviour!—Samuel Summers: Sermons, pp. 169-191.
Were there no other evidence of the true divinity of our Lord than that which may be gathered from a comparison of this chapter with the accounts of His life, sufferings, and death, as furnished by the four Evangelists, it ought to be abundantly sufficient to satisfy any reasonable mind. While Scripture is most positive and frequent in its declaration on this great doctrine, there is no passage or word, rightly understood, which favours a contrary opinion. If a firm belief in the true divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ is necessary, a proper notion of His real humanity is not less so. The doctrine of atonement requires a distinct conviction of the true and proper humanity of our Lord. Deity cannot suffer, &c. We shall confine ourselves to the consideration of our Lord's sufferings of soul; because general attention is directed rather to His sufferings of body, and because the text speaks expressly of the "travail of His soul."
I. OUR LORD'S TRAVAIL OF SOUL. He had a travail of soul arising—
1. From an anxious desire to be engaged in His great work. We know something of this feeling. How strong must it have been in the soul of Christ (Luk ).
2. From the temptations of the devil. These were sometimes presented through the unconscious agency of others. But His severest temptations were suggested by Satan in his own person in the wilderness.
3. From sorrow at men's impenitence and hardness (Mar ; Mat 23:37).
4. From fear in the immediate anticipation of His agony (Heb ; Mat 26:38-39).
5. From a sense of Divine desertion. "He trod the wine-press alone." All His sufferings and travail of soul were as nothing compared with that sensation of utter loneliness and destitution which wrung from Him that exceeding great and bitter cry, "My God," &c.
II. WHAT WERE THE RESULTS OF ALL THIS TRAVAIL OF SOUL AND AGONY OF BODY?
1. In reference to man. The result to every one who receives Him is Justification. "By the knowledge of Him shall My righteous servant justify many," implies a living faith in the Saviour.
2. In reference to our Lord Himself. One word expresses them. "He shall … be satisfied." Satisfied with what?
(1.) With its effects upon individuals, leading them from the depths of sin to the heights of holiness.
(2.) With its efficacy for all mankind.
(3.) With the fulfilment of the Divine engagement to save every believing penitent. No poor guilty sinner coming in the way of God's appointment has been rejected.
(4.) The salvation of sinners is Christ's satisfaction. He does not regret His mediatorial undertaking, His reproach, and suffering, and death. He knows what our salvation has cost Him, and is satisfied.
But He may see of the travail of His soul and not be satisfied. He is not satisfied when the backslider crucifies Him afresh and puts Him to an open shame. He is not satisfied when the open sinner "tramples Him under foot," &c. We have all, I trust, given some satisfaction to Christ; but which of us has done so fully? How many defects and imperfections have marred our best services!—S. D. Waddy, D.D.: Sermons, pp. 43-61.
To Christian Workers.
III. The salvation of man is the satisfaction of God. Let this thought cheer the soul oppressed by guilt: God will delight to save you. Let it cheer the Christian worker; surely it should animate us in going forth to any work, that God is on our side, and that He finds His satisfaction in saving men.
IV. The salvation of men will be on such a scale as to give complete and perfect satisfaction to our God. "Satisfaction" is a large word. It is easy to please a man, but hard to satisfy him; and, as some one has said, it is the same with God: He is easily pleased, but hard to satisfy. Yet He shall be "SATISFIED!"—R. Glover: The Baptist, Oct. 11, 1878.
THE KNOWLEDGE THAT JUSTIFIES
Isa . By His knowledge shall My righteous servant justify many.
"Of whom speaketh the prophet this?" (Act ). Only of One, in all earth's history, could these things be said. Is not His name "Wonderful"? Here we have—
I. THE FATHER'S RIGHTEOUS SERVANT. "My righteous servant," says God, as if He had never had another. "Servant," is a name of subjection and obedience, yet also of honour, according to the rank of him whom he serves. As servant He is the doer of the Father's will; the Father's servant for us, and in this sense our servant (Luk ; Mat 20:28). As servant He is the fulfiller of the Law; the obedient One in all things; not pleasing Himself, nor doing His own will. "My righteous Servant," says God, as delighting in Him; for never before had He got such service and such righteousness; Divine, yet human service; Divine, yet human righteousness. It is of this righteous Servant that the whole chapter speaks. Wondrous servant! Gracious service! What or where should we be without such a servant and such a service? All we need is ministered to us by Him freely, liberally, lovingly!
II. THIS RIGHTEOUS SERVANT JUSTIFIES. He is no common servant. He is the great Judge of all; the Justifier of the sinner; He who acquits and pardons the guilty. He acted as such on earth (Joh ; Mat 9:2, &c.); He acts as such in heaven. Our justification is in His hands; we go to Him to be justified. In one aspect it is the Father that justifies; in another, it is the Son. He "justifies many." All power is given Him—judicial, royal, priestly. We get acquittal and acceptance from His priestly-royal hands. "Let us then come boldly," &c. His justifying sentence reverses the law's condemning sentence. It is with the condemned that He deals; it is them that He pardons. There was justice in the condemnation; there is no less justice in the pardon. The Justifier is the Father's Servant; the Word made flesh; the Son of God, who came in the name of the Lord to save us. Grace and righteousness in all their fulness are to be found in Him.
III. THIS RIGHTEOUS SERVANT JUSTIFIES BY HIS KNOWLEDGE. The "knowledge" is the link between the "many" and justification. He justifies them by giving them the knowledge of Himself as the Justifier, and of His work as the justifying thing. Know ledge is not here used in the sense of wisdom or understanding. It means that which He teaches them to know. We are justified by knowing the "righteous servant." It is not by working, or praying, or suffering, but by knowing, that we enter on the state of acceptance (Joh ). This is one of the simplest aspects in which the Gospel is presented to us. There is no mystery or darkness here. To know Jesus is to be justified! The justified man can say nothing in his own behalf; nothing good has he found in himself, in his works, feelings, character. The knowledge of "God's righteous servant" has brought him into the state of "no condemnation." Satisfied with that knowledge, though satisfied with nothing about himself, he can say with certainty and gladness, "Who is he that condemneth?"
IV. THIS RIGHTEOUS SERVANT JUSTIFIES BY BEARING THE INIQUITY OF THOSE WHOM HE JUSTIFIES. He justifies as a judge; as a judge giving righteous judgment; righteous judgment in acquitting the unrighteous. The ground on which He justifies is not mere grace, it is also righteousness. Not that sin is trivial; but that He has borne iniquity in the room of righteousness. God has given us a testimony to the work of His Son; and He has added the promise, that whosoever believes that testimony is straightway justified We believe and are justified. We know that we are so because of the sure word of promise to him who receives the testimony. This is what is called "appropriation." It is the simple conclusion we draw from our believing the testimony. "He that believeth hath everlasting life."—Horatius Bonar, D.D.: Light and Truth, Old Testament, pp. 266-270.
THE WORK AND THE REWARD OF CHRIST
Isa . Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, &c.
Both the work and the reward of the Saviour were included in the prophecies concerning Him.
I. HIS WORK.
1. Its culminating act. "He hath poured out His soul unto death." Not His incarnation, poverty, miracles, teaching, obedience. All these necessary. But the grand act was His death.
2. Its humiliating circumstances. "He was numbered with the transgressors." On the cross as a male-factor with malefactors.
3. Its vicarious character. "And He bore the sin of many." This conducts our thoughts farther than the outward spectacle, to the reason of it.
4. Its mediatorial power. "He made intercession for the transgressors" (Luk ; Heb 7:25; 1Jn 2:1-2).
II. HIS REWARD.
"Therefore will I divide Him," &c. The allusion is to the conqueror receiving as his reward a portion of the spoils taken in war. Christ's triumphal entry into heaven and seat upon the throne. His acquisition of the souls rescued from the power of the enemy. Illustrate by the progress of the Church from small beginnings to the present time. Also its further progress as indicated in prophecy as yet unfulfilled. This includes a multitude which no man can number; and all the intelleot, wealth, holy character, talent, power of usefulness of each.
1. These glorious results will be secured by human agency.
2. The work is committed to the Church of Christ, every member of which is responsible for his proper portion of it.
3. The strongest motives to engagement in this enterprise exist. They are the united obligations of love and loyalty.—J. Rawlinson.
Be careful not to mistake the pleasure with which you listen to a subject like this for real religion and acceptable devotion. Many weep over Christ's sufferings who never weep over their sins, &c. The true feeling with which we should contemplate His work.
I. Christ as a sufferer. This chapter forms rather a history of His passion, than a prophecy. It appears to be a part of God's procedure that the most important blessings should arise out of suffering. Christ has consecrated and ennobled the path of suffering.
1. Christ's sufferings were penal. Ours are salutary. We have many alleviations under them, and have cheerful hopes of benefit by them, but Christ was unsustained by the prospect of any moral benefit to Himself.
2. Christ's sufferings were vicarious.
3. Christ's sufferings were chiefly intellectual.
Some of the advantages arising from the fact that our Saviour was a sufferer.—
(1.) It reconciles us to the endurance of trial.
(2.) It secures to us support and sympathy under the pressure of our various trials.
(3.) It leads us to anticipate a final conquest over trial. Glory preceded by humiliation, &c.
II. Christ as a conqueror (Col ; Php 2:9). Innumerable multitudes shall enjoy the benefits of His death. He is still conquering. The final triumph is certain.
III. Christ as an intercessor.
In Christ we have a complete and all-sufficient Saviour.—Samuel. Thodey.
LESSONS AT THE CROSS
(For Good Friday, or Sacramental Service.)
Isa . He hath poured out His soul unto death.
Of all wonderful deaths, that of the Son of God is the most wonderful. Let us take our stand at the cross, and gather up some of the lessons taught by His death—
I. THE IMMEASURABLE DEPTH OF MAN'S MISERY.
He had sunk so low that he could sink no lower, except he sank into hell. He might justly have been left to perish, and must have perished but for the interposition of the Son of God, who assumed the nature that had sinned, &c., and "poured out His soul unto death" on the accursed tree. He alone could rescue man from Satan's grasp, &c. (Isa ).
II. THE INFINITE ENORMITY OF SIN.
It is evident that to a God of perfect purity sin must be infinitely hateful. Call to mind the destruction of fallen angels, the expulsion from Eden of the parents of our race, &c. The Apostle Paul maintains that sin subjects the sinner to temporal, spiritual, and eternal death, by a law perfectly holy, just, and good, and is consequently set forth in its true colours as "exceeding sinful"—out of measure, beyond all expression or conception sinful (Rom ). But the crowning evidence is seen in the cross of Christ: not so much in the fact that impenitent sinners are damned by it, as that the immaculate Son of God died for it. What must be its enormity when God's mercy could not consistently pardon it till His own Son had undergone its punishment—a person of infinite purity, dignity, and worth, &c.? Cease to regard sin as a trifle, &c. Put yourself in the line of God's view of it. A right estimate of sin is a vital point in the process of personal salvation. Repent, and believe on Christ, or you must perish eternally, for "there is no other sacrifice for sin." If God spared not His own sinless Son, when He bore the sins of the guilty, much less will He spare impenitent sinners when they bear their own sins.
III. THE ALL-SUFFICIENT ATONEMENT FOR SIN, AND THE ONLY FOUNDATION OF HOPE FOR SINNERS.
Christ did not die as a martyr, or as a spotless example of virtue, &c. These were important ends secured by His death, but they were not the direct and supreme purpose of His death, which was, according to the uniform teaching of the sacred word, "for our sins," &c.—a substitutionary sacrifice, &c. Though God is a being of infinite love, He cannot pardon sin apart from an adequate atonement. All ideas of Divine mercy separate from the great atoning scheme are erroneous, valueless, dangerous. "God was in Christ," &c. God has always dealt with humanity "in Christ," whether they have known it or not. The dealings of an absolute God with a sinner—a God out of Christ, what would that be? What is the appropriate retort of offended Omnipotence? Annihilation. The history of mankind is a history of redemption. All the characteristics and conditions of an adequate atonement met in the Christ. That the Father has accepted His atoning work as all-sufficient is evident by His raising Him from the dead, and exalting Him, &c. (Act, and others). And, that His death is now available as an atonement for sin, is manifest from the fact, that He is set before us in the Gospel, by the supreme authority of the Father, as the only object of faith and ground of acceptance (Rom 3:25-26; Gal 2:21, and others). Have you "received the atonement?" If not, you have not found the ground on which you can venture without fear into the presence of the Holy One, &c.
IV. THE SUPREME REVELATION OF DIVINE LOVE.
All other manifestations are but faint compared with the love exhibited in our redemption. Either Christ must assume our nature, &c., or the race must perish. Will God's love to a world of sinners induce Him to give His Son? The everlasting interests of humanity were suspended upon that question (Rom ; Joh 3:16, and others). He might have formed a more glorious world, &c., but He could not manifest His love in a higher degree than He has done. What more convincing proof can you want that God loves you? Can you continue to grieve such love? Yield to His love's all-conquering power.
Let us, then, often visit the cross to learn the depth of our misery, &c.; the one great theme of all true Christian preaching, and the supreme object of Christian glorying (Gal ; P. D. 595).—A. Tucker.
THE FRIEND OF SINNERS
Isa . He was numbered with the transgressors; and He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
A vague notion is abroad in the world that the benefit of Christ's passion is intended only for good people. How inconsistent is such a supposition with the whole teaching of Scripture. Consider the plan itself. It was a plan of salvation and of necessity, it was intended to bless sinners. The plan was based in grace, but how "grace," unless it was meant for persons who deserve nothing? Moreover, think of the work itself. The work of Christ was to bring in a perfect righteousness. For whom? For those who had a righteousness? That were a superfluity. And then look at God's end in the whole work. It was to glorify Himself; but how could God be glorified by washing spotless souls, and by bringing to everlasting glory by grace those who could have entered heaven by merit?
Our text, in its threefold character, shows the intimate connection which exists between Jesus and sinners, for in none of its sentences is there meaning unless there be a sinner, and unless Christ has come into connection with him. It is this one point I want to work out.
I. CHRIST IS ENROLLED AMONG SINNERS.
In what sense are we to understand this? He was numbered with them—
1. In the census of the Roman Empire. There went out a decree from Csar Augustus that all the world should be taxed, and the espoused wife of Joseph, being great with child, must travel to Bethlehem that Christ may be born there, and that He may be numbered with the transgressing people, who, for their sins, were subject to the Roman yoke.
2. In the scroll of fame. Ask public rumour "What is the character of Jesus of Nazareth?" and it cannot find a word in its vocabulary foul enough for Him. "This—" they sometimes said; and our translators have inserted the word "fellow," because in the original there is an ellipsis, the Evangelists, I suppose, hardly liking to write the word which had been cast upon Christ. Fame, with her lying tongue, said He was a drunken man and a wine-bibber, &c.
3. In the courts of law. The ecclesiastical court of Judaism, the Sanhedrim, said of Him, "Thou blasphemest;" and they smote Him on the cheek. Written down among the offenders against the dignity of God and against the security of the Jewish Church, you find the name of Jesus of Nazareth which was crucified. The civil courts also asserted the same. Pilate may wash his hands in water, and say, "I find no fault in Him," but still, driven by the infernal clamours of an angry people, he is compelled to write, "This is Jesus, the King of the Jews;" and he gives Him up to die as a malefactor who has rebelled against the sovereign law of the land. Herod, too, the Jewish tetrarch, confirms the sentence, and so, with two pens at once, Jesus Christ is written down by the civil leaders among transgressors.
4. By the whole Jewish people. Barabbas is put in competition with Christ, and they say, "Not this man, but Barabbas." His being numbered with transgressors is no fiction. Lo, He bears the transgressor's scourging! He bears the felon's cross. All earth holds up its hands for His death; it is carried unanimously. Of all men is He accounted to be the offscouring of all things, and is put to grief.
5. God, the Eternal Judge, shows that He too considers Him to be in the roll of transgressors, for He veils His face till Jesus shrieks in agony so unutterable, that the words cannot express the meaning of the Redeemer's soul, "My God," &c.? The only answer from heaven being, "I must forsake transgressors; thou art numbered with them, and therefore I must forsake thee." He dies without a protest on the part of earth, or heaven, or hell; He that was numbered with the transgressors, having worn the transgressor's crown of thorns, lies in the trangressor's grave.
Pause here a moment, and think this matter over. It is a strange and wonderful thing, and ought not to be passed by in silence. Why, think you, was Christ numbered with transgressors?
(1.) Because He could the better become their advocate. I believe, in legal phraseology, in civil cases, the advocate considers himself to be part and partner with the person for whom he pleads. You hear the counsellor continually using the word "we;" he is considered by the judge to represent the person for whom he is an advocate. Now, Christ, when the sinner is brought to the bar, appears there Himself. What is the accusation? He stands to answer it; He points to His side, His hands, His feet, and challenges Justice to bring anything against the sinners whom He represents; He pleads His blood, and pleads so triumphantly, being numbered with them and having a part with them, that the judge proclaims, "Let them go their way; deliver them from going down into the pit, for He at their head hath found a ransom."
(2.) That He might plead with them. Suppose a number of prisoners confined in one of our old jails, and there is a person desirous to do them good, imagine that he cannot be admitted unless his name is put down in the calendar. Well, out of his abundant love to these prisoners he consents to it, and when he enters to talk with them, they perhaps think that he will come in with cold dignity; but he says, "Now, let me say to you first of all that I am one of yourselves." "Well," they say, "but have you done aught that is wrong?" "I will not answer you that," saith he; "but if you will just refer to the calendar you will find my name there; I am written down there among you as a criminal." Oh, how they open their hearts now! They opened their eyes with wonder first, but now they open their hearts, and they say, "Art thou become like one of us? Then we will talk with thee." And he begins to plead with them. Sinner, dost thou see this? Christ puts Himself as near on a level with thee as He can. He cannot be sinful as thou art, but He so puts His name down in the list that when the roll is called His name is called over with thine. Oh, how near doth He come to thee in thy ruined state!
(3.) That sinners may feel their hearts drawn to Him. There is a tendency in awakened sinners to be afraid of Christ; but who will be afraid of a man that is numbered with us? Surely now we may come boldly to Him, and confess our guilt. He that is numbered with us cannot condemn us.
(4.) That we might be written in the red roll of the saints. He was holy, and written among the holy; we were guilty, and numbered among the guilty; He transfers His name from yonder list to this black indictment, and ours are taken from the indictment, foul and filthy, and written in the roll which is fair and glorious, for there is a transfer made between Christ and His people. All that we have goes to Christ; and all that Christ has comes to us.
II. CHRIST BARE THE SINS OF MANY.
1. Here it is as clear as noon-day, that Christ dealt with sinners. Do not say Christ died for those who have done no wrong. That is not the description given. It is clear to every one that chooses to look, that Christ could not bear the sins of those who had no sins, but could only bear the sins of men who were sinful and guilty. Their sins were really, not in a legal fiction, but really transferred from them to Him. You see, a man cannot bear a thing which is not on his back; it is impossible that he can bear it unless it is actually there. The word "bear" implies weight, and weight is the sure indicator of reality. Christ did bear sin in its fulness, vileness, and condemnation upon His own shoulders. Comprehend this, then, and you have the marrow of the subject.
2. Then notice, that as He did bear them, so other texts tell us that He did bear them away (Joh ). Sin being on His head, the scapegoat took it away. Where? Into the wilderness of forgetfulness. If it be sought for it shall not be found; the Everlasting God seeth it no more, it hath ceased to be, for He hath finished iniquity and made an end of sin; and when there is an end of it what more can be said?
3. There is now no sin abiding upon those for whom Jesus died. "And who are they?" you say. Why all those who trust Him. Are you a sinner? Yes or no. If you say "No," then I have nothing to say to you; Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If you are a sinner, to you is the word of this salvation sent. "But I have been a thief!" I suppose a thief is a sinner? "But I have been a drunkard!" &c. &c. You come in under the list of sinners, and I say that such Christ contemplated, and the two sentences we have already considered prove this to a demonstration. He contemplated such as you are when He came to save, for "He was numbered with transgressors," and He "bare"—not the virtues, not the merits, not the good works of many, but "the sin of many." So, if you have any sin, here is Christ the sin-bearer; and if you are a sinner, here is Christ numbered with you.
III. JESUS INTERCEDES FOR SINNERS.
He prays for His saints, but remember that by nature they are transgressors, and nothing more.
1. There is a transgressor here this morning. He has been hearing the Gospel for many years, &c. I hear a voice saying—"Lo, these three years I come seeking fruit," &c. The woodman feels his axe; it is sharp and keen. "Now," says he, "I will lay to at this barren tree, and cut it down." But hark! There is One that maketh intercession for transgressors, hear Him, "Spare it yet a little while, till I dig about it and dung it," &c. Bless God that Christ pleads for you in that way.
2. But that done, He pleads for their forgiveness. "Father, forgive them," &c. It is this that breaks a man's heart; to think that Christ should have been loving me, with the whole force of His soul, while I was despising Him, and would have nothing to do with Him.
3. He next prays that those for whom He intercedes may be saved, and may have a new life given them. Every soul that is quickened by the Holy Spirit is so quickened as the result of His intercession for transgressors. His prayer brings down the life, and dead sinners live. When they live He does not cease to pray for them, for by His intercession they are preserved. And more, our coming to glory is the result of the pleading of Christ for transgressors (Joh ).—C. H. Spurgeon: Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, No. 458.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Isaiah 53". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany