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Letter XVIII.


Beloved Benjamin,

Having in the preceding letter considered a variety of predictions and types relative to the sufferings and death of the Messiah, literally fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth, I will now notice some other predictions relative to some remarkable circumstances which attended the death and burial of Christ.

§ 1. Isaiah predicted that Messiah was "to be numbered with transgressors." Isa. 53: 12. This was fulfilled in Jesus Christ; although he was holy, harmless, undefiled, and separated from sinners during the whole course of his life, yet in death he was numbered with transgressors. Not only condemned to die a death inflicted only for the worst of crimes, but crucified between two thieves, as if he had been the chief of sinners. O blessed Jesus, how great was thy condescension to die the most ignominious death, that the chief of sinners may live!

§ 2. It was the privilege of the soldiers who attended the execution of a criminal, to divide his garments. Hence we read that they took the garments of Jesus and divided them among themselves. But that which particularly deserves our notice is, that the upper garment, the vesture of Jesus, they did not divide, nor cut in pieces, but cast lots. Now the soldiers, doubtless, were actuated by pecuniary motives, for the coat being without seam, would have lost its value had it been cut in pieces and divided; but the providence of God watched over the prediction which is writ

ten in Ps. 22: 18, saying: "They part my garments, and cast lots upon my vesture."

3. We notice the prediction respecting Messiah's behavior under his afflictions, especially under his sufferings of death. The prophet Isaiah describes it thus: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth." 53: 7. Nothing can exceed the beauty and propriety of the images by which the Messiah's patience is here illustrated; and yet as the shadow falls short of the substance, so fall these images infinitely short of the real temper and disposition of our blessed Lord during his sufferings and death. As a sheep, when the shearer is stripping it of its clothing, makes neither noise nor resistance; and as a lamb sports about even while driving to the slaughter, yea, and licks the very hand that is lifted up to slay it; so the adorable Jesus endured all his sufferings willingly, silently, and perseveringly He not only willingly undertook the work of a Mediator, “saying, lo, I come; I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart." But even when the hour and power of darkness had come, he did not draw back, but with great earnestness did he desire to eat the last passover with his disciples, and to be baptized or immersed in the ocean of God's wrath; yea, he was greatly straitened till it should be accomplished. Well might the poet say,

"This was compassion like a God,

"That when the Savior knew
"The price of pardon was his blood,
'His pity ne'er withdrew."

"He opened not his mouth," either to murmur, complain, or find fault. The most eminent saints have opened their mouth in complaints both against God and man. The patriarch Jacob exclaimed, "All these things are against me;" Job

"cursed the day of his birth;" Moses "spake unadvisedly with his lips" Paul "reviled God's high priest." But Jesus was without spot or blemish; "who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth; who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not, but committed himself to Him that judgeth righteously." 1 Pet. 2: 22, 23. But I wish you, my dear Benjamin, to observe likewise, that the righteousness of Christ was not merely negative, as some people boast, "that they have done no harm;" but positive-he came to do good, even to his enemies. I now allude particularly to the last prediction of Isaiah, in that famous chapter to which I have already so often referred, viz.

§ 4. "He made intercession for transgressors." Jesus exemplified his precepts by practice. The heathen philosopher said, "revenge is sweet;" but Christ said, "to forgive is godlike." "I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust." Matt. 5: 44, 45. How strikingly did the dear Jesus illustrate this divine precept in the whole course of his life, till he bowed his head in death! When he came within sight of that city where he had met with so many insults, and where he knew they would speedily treat him most cruelly, and condemn him unjustly, instead of feeling or expressing any resentment, he wept over it, and most pathetically lamented the invincible obstinacy which would shortly involve it in utter ruin. And while he yet hanged on the cross, instead of accusing his murderers, he prayed for them, and ever. pleaded their ignorance in extenuation of their guilt; saying, "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do." Thus "he made intercession for transgressors." I shall name another circumstance, viz.

§ 5. The prediction which relates to their giving him gal and vinegar. Ps. 69: 21. "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst, they gave me vinegar to drink." This prediction relates to two different events. The first was fulfilled, as described by Matt. 27: 33, 34, about the 6th hour just before Christ was nailed to the cross: "And when they were come unto a place called Golgotha, that is to say, a place of a skull, they gave him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall; and when he had tasted thereof, he would not drink." The second part of the prediction was fulfilled about the 9th hour, just before Christ died; and is recorded by the four evangelists: "After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, I thirst. Now there was set a vessel full of vinegar; and they filled a spunge with vinegar, and put it upon hyssop, and put it to his mouth. When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, it is finished; and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." John, 19: 28–30. You will observe, my dear Benjamin, that the first vinegar, which was mixed with gall, offered to Jesus, he refused to take; you know that it was a custom in Israel to give to criminals, just before they were put to any pains of death, a potion to benumb their feelings; this potion, says Maimonides, was prepared by the pious women, Sanhed. c. 13. But as Jesus came for the purpose of suffering death in all its bitterness, or as Beza expresses it, "Christ being about to drink the most bitter cup of his Father's wrath against our sins, refused this solace; being so mindful of his Father's command as to be unmindful of himself; and only solicitous at once to expiate our sins, even to his latest breath." But when Jesus had cried, "I thirst," they gave him pure vinegar, which was the common drink of the soldiers, and he took it, and thus finished the last prediction to be fulfilled, before he bowed his head and gave up the ghost.

6. Having briefly considered the predictions which wara to be fulfilled in the sufferings and death of Messiah,

and shown their accomplishment in Jesus Christ, I will now proceed to point out some predictions which relate to the time between the death and the resurrection of Messiah. Although the Messiah was to suffer both in body and in soul, yet "not a bone of him was to be broken." This was both predicted and typified. In Ps. 34: 20, it is said, “he keepeth all his bones; not one of them is broken." Now, although it be true that God exercises a peculiar care over his people, yet they meet with such accidents as well as the wicked; but it has been literally fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the true Messiah, in a remarkable manner. It was a law in Israel, expressly prohibiting the bodies of those who were hanged, to remain all night on the tree. Deut. 21: 22. For this reason, as well as because the Sabbath was at hand, the Jews begged the favor of Pilate, that the legs of the three crucified persons might be broken, to hasten their death. Pilate consented, and gave the order they desired. But the soldiers appointed to execute it, perceiving that Jesus was dead already, did not take the trouble of breaking his legs. Now, whatever was the motive of the soldiers, the evangelist John, who was an eye witness, observes, "these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, a bone of him shall not be broken." John, 19: 36. This circumstance was also typified by the law, which prohibited the breaking of a bone in the passover lamb. Exod. 12: 46. See my Essays on the Passover.

§ 7. We observe next, the prediction delivered by the prophet Zech. ch. 12: 10, that Messiah should be pierced. "and I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him," or rather for it, 1. e. the act of piercing him. This prediction also was fulfilled in Jesus Christ, but neither by himself, nor by any of his friends, but by one who could have no idea of making the event fulfilling the Scriptures; but God knows how to

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