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"The way of is here to be considered; life comes grace through death; God comes in Christ; and Christ comes in blood: the choicest mercies come through the greatest miseries. Oh! how should this raise the value of our mercies! What, the price of blood, the price of precious blood, the blood of the cross! Oh what an esteem should this raise!
Things (as the same ingenious author adds) are prized rather as they come, than as they are. fetched and dear bought make the price, and give the worth with us weak creatures. Upon this ground the Scripture, when it speaks of our spiritual riches, tells the great price it cost; as knowing if any thing will take with us, this will, 'To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood.'" Rev. 1:5.
Beware then that you abuse not any of the mercies that Christ procured with so many bitter pangs and throes. And let all this endear him more than ever to you, and make you say, in a deep sense of his grace and love, Thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.
THE TITLE AFFIXED TO THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
"And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This is the King of the Jews." Luke, 23:38.
Before I pass on to the manner of Christ's death 1 shall consider the title affixed to the cross, in which the wisdom of Providence was strikingly displayed. It was the manner of the Romans, that the equity of their pro
ceedings might the more clearly appear to the people, when they crucified any man, to publish the cause of his death on a tablet written in capital letters, and placed over the head of the victim. And that there might be at least a show of justice in Christ's death, he also has his title or superscription.
This writing one evangelist calls the accusation, T, Matt. 27: 37. Another calls it the title, Traes, John, 19 19. Another the inscription or superscription, #g, so the text. And another the superscription
of his accusation, pan tus arias, Mark, 15: 26. In short, it was a fair legible writing, intended to express the fact or crime for which the person died.
This was their usual manner, though sometimes we find it was published by the voice of the common crier; as in the case of Attalus the martyr, who was led about the amphitheatre, one proclaiming before him, This is Attalus the christian. But it was customary to express the crime on a written tablet as the text expresses it. Wherein consider,
1. The character or description of Christ contained in that writing. He is described by his kingly dignity, "This is the King of the Jews:" the very office which but a little before they had reproached and derided, bowing the knee to him in mockery, saying, Hail, King of the Jews. The providence of God so orders it, that by the same he shall on the cross be vindicated and honored: This is the King of the Jews: or, as the other evangelists give it more fully, This is Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.
2. The person that drew his character or title was Pilate. He that but now condemned him becomes his herald, to proclaim his glory. For the title is honorable. Surely this was not from himself, for he was Christ's enemy; but rather than Christ should want a tongue to clear him, Divine Providence employs an enemy to do it.
3. The time when this honor was done him was when he was at the lowest ebb of his glory; when shame and reproach were heaped on him. When all the disciples had forsaken him, and fled. Not one left to proclaim his innocency, or speak a word in his vindication. Then doth the providence of God as strangely, as powerfully, overrule the heart and pen of Pilate to draw this title and affix it to his cross. Surely we must look higher than Pilate in this thing, and see how Providence serves itself by the hands of Christ's adversaries. Hence The dignity of Christ was openly proclaimed and defended by an enemy; and that in the time of his greatest reproaches and sufferings.
To unfold this mystery of Providence, that you may not stand idly gazing upon Christ's title, as many then did; we will consider the nature of this title, and how the providence of God was displayed in it.
I. The nature of Christ's title or inscription.
1. It was an extraordinary title, varying from all examples of that kind, and directly crossing the main design and end of their own custom. For, as I hinted before, the end of it was to clear the equity of their proceedings, and show the people how justly they suffered the punishments inflicted on them for such crimes. But lo, here is a title expressing no crime at all, and so vindicating Christ's innocency. This some of them perceived, and desired Pilate to change it. Write not, This is, but, This is he that said, I am the King of the Jews. In that, as they conceived, lay his crime. Oh how strange and wonderful was this! But what shall we ? It was a day of wonders and extraordinary things. As there was never such a person crucified before, so there was never before such a title affixed to the cross.
2. It was a public title, both written and published with the greatest advantage of being known far and near among all people, "for it was written in three lan
guages, and those most known in the world at that time." The Greek tongue was then known in most parts of the world. The Hebrew was the Jews' native language. And the Latin the language of the Romans. So that it being written in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, it was easy to be understood both by Jews and Gentiles.
Thus the providence of God designed to make it notorious and evident to all the world; for so all things intended for public view and knowledge were written. Josephus tells us of certain pillars, on which was engraven in letters of Greek and Latin, "It is a wickedness for strangers to enter into the holy place." So the soldiers of Gordian, the third emperor, when he was slain upon the borders of Persia, raised a monument for him, and engraved his memorial upon it, in Greek, Latin, Persic, Judaic, and Egyptian letters, that all people might read the same. And as it was written in three learned languages, so it was exposed to view in a public place, and at a time when multitudes of strangers, as well as Jews, were at Jerusalem, the time of the passover; so that all things concurred to spread and divulge the innocency of Christ, vindicated in this title.
3. It was an honorable title. Such was the nature of it, says Bucer, that in the midst of death Christ began to triumph by it.
4. It was a vindicating title; it cleared up the honor, dignity, and innocency of Christ, against all the false imputations, calumnies, and blasphemies which were cast upon him by the wicked tongues, both of Jews and Gentiles. They had called him a deceiver, a blasphemer, because he made himself the Son of God. But now in this they acknowledge him to be the King of Israel.
5. Moreover it was a predicting and presaging title. Evidently foreshowing the propagation of Christ's kingdom, and the spread of his name and glory among all kindreds, nations, tongues, and languages. As Christ
hath right to enter into all the kingdoms of the earth by his Gospel, and set up his throne in every nation; so it was presaged by this title that he should do, and that Hebrews, Greeks, and Latins should be called to the knowledge of him. Nor is it a wonder that this should be predicted by wicked Pilate, when Caiaphas himself, a man every way as wicked as he, had prophesied to the same purpose; for "being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad." John, 11:51, 52. Yea, many have prophesied in Christ's name, who, for all that, shall never be owned by him. Matt. 7:22.
6. And lastly, It was an immutable title. The Jews endeavored, but could not persuade Pilate to alter it. To all their importunities he returns this resolute answer, "What I have written, I have written;" as if he had said, Urge me no more, I have written his title, I cannot, I will not alter a letter thereof. Surely the constancy of Pilate at this time can be attributed to nothing but special Divine Providence. Most wonderful! that he, who before was inconstant as a reed shaken by the wind, should now be fixed as a pillar of brass. And yet more wonderful, that he should write that very particular in the title of Christ, This is the King of the Jews, which so alarmed him but a little before, and was the consideration that moved him to give sentence. What was now become of the fear of Cesar! that Pilate dares to be Christ's herald, and publicly to proclaim him, The King of the Jews.
II. In all this, Divine Providence acted gloriously and wonderfully,
1. In overruling the heart and hand of Pilate contrary to his own inclination. I doubt not but Pilate himself was far enough from intending what the wisdom of