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rally, as a violent death, Ye have slain him; and more particularly, as a most ignominious, cursed, dishonorable death, Ye have crucified him.
2. The causes of it are here likewise expressed, both principal and instrumental. The principal cause, permitting, ordering, and disposing all things about it, was "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." There was not an action or circumstance but came under his most wise and holy counsel and determination. The instruments effecting it were their wicked hands." This foreknowledge and counsel of God, as it did no way necessitate or constrain them; so neither doth it excuse their conduct from the least aggravation of its sinfulness. God's end and manner of acting was one thing, their end and manner of acting another. His most pure and holy; theirs, most malicious and daringly wicked. In respect to God, Christ's death was justice and mercy. In respect to man, it was murder and cruelty. In respect to himself, it was obedience and humility. Hence,
Our Lord Jesus Christ was not only put to death, but to the worst of deaths, even the death of the cross. To this the apostle gives a plain testimony, "He became obedient to death, even the death of the cross," Phil. 2:8; where his humiliation is both specified, he was humbled to death; and aggravated by a most emphatical reduplication, even the death of the cross. So Acts, 5: 30, "Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree:" it did not suffice you to put him to a violent death, but you also put him to the most base, vile, and ignominious death; "you hanged him on a tree." And here we will consider the nature, the manner, and the reasons of Christ's death.
I. As to the kind or nature of his death, it was violent, painful, shameful, cursed, slow, and unalleviated.
1. It was a violent death. Violent in itself, though
voluntary. "He was cut off out of the land of the liv ing." Isa. 53: 8. And yet "he laid down his life of himself; no man took it from him." John, 10:17. I call his death violent, because he died not a natural death, he lived not till nature was exhausted with age. He was but in the flower and prime of life. And indeed, he must either die a violent death, or not die at all; partly, because there was no sin in him to open a door to natural death, as it doth in all others; partly, because else his death had not been a sacrifice acceptable and satisfactory to God for us. That which died of itself was never offered up to God, but that which was slain in its full strength and health. The temple, which was a type of the body of Christ, John, 2: 19, did not drop down as an ancient structure decayed by time, but was pulled down by violence, when it was standing in its full strength. Therefore he is said to suffer death, and to be put to death for us in the flesh. 1 Pet. 3: 18.
2. The death of the cross was a most painful death. Indeed in this death were many deaths, contrived in one. The cross was a rack as well as a gibbet. The pains which Christ suffered upon the cross are by the apostle emphatically styled "The pains of death," Acts, 2:24; but properly they signify the pangs of travail. His soul was in travail, Isa. 53, his body in bitter pangs; and being, as Aquinas says, of the most excellent, exact and just temperament, his senses were more acute and delicate than ordinary; and so they continued all the time of his suffering, not in the least blunted by what he endured.
3. The death of the cross was a shameful death: not only because the crucified were naked, and exposed as spectacles of shame; but mainly, because it was a kind of death which was appointed for the basest and vilest of men. Free-men, when they committed capital crimes, were not condemned to the cross. No, that was the
death appointed for slaves. Tacitus calls it servile supplicium, the punishment of a slave and Juvenal says, Pone crucem servo, Put the cross upon the back of a slave. And yet it is said of our Lord Jesus that he not only endured the cross, but despised the shame. Heb. 12:2. Obedience to his Father's will, and zeal for our salvation, made him disregard its reproach.
4. The death of the cross was a cursed death. Upon that account he is said to be "made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree." Gal. 3:13. However, as the learned Junius has well observed, this curse is only a ceremonial curse; for otherwise it is neither in itself, nor by the law of nature, or by the civil law, more execrable than any other death. And the main reason why the ceremonial law affixed the curse to this, rather than to any other death, was with respect to the death Christ was to die. And therefore, reader, see and admire the providence of God, that Christ should die by a Roman, and not a Jewish law. For crucifying, or hanging on a tree, was a Roman punishment, and not in use among the Jews. But the Scriptures cannot be broken.
5. The death of the cross was a very slow and lingering death. They died leisurely, which still increaseth and aggravateth the misery of it. If a man must die a violent death, it is a favor to be despatched as they that are pressed to death beg for more weight. On the contrary, to hang long in the midst of tortures, to have death coming upon us with a slow pace, that we may feel every tread of it as it approaches, is a misery. And surely in this respect it was worse for Christ than for any other that was ever nailed to the tree. For all the while he hung there he remained full of life and acute sense. His life departed not gradually, but was whole in him to the last. Other men die gradually, and, towards their end, their sense of pain is much blunted; they
falter, and expire by degrees; but Christ stood under the pains of death in his full strength. His life was whole in him. This was evident by the mighty outcry he made when he gave up the ghost, which showed him to be full of strength, contrary to the experience of men, and made the centurion, when he heard it, conclude, "Surely this was the Son of God." Mark, 15: 37, 39.
6. It was an unalleviated death. Sometimes they gave to malefactors, amidst their torments, vinegar and myrrh, to blunt, dull, and stupify their senses; and if they huug long, would break their bones to despatch them out of their pains. Christ had none of this favor. Instead of vinegar and myrrh, they gave him vinegar and gall to drink to aggravate his torments. And he died before they came to break his legs. For the Scriptures must be fulfilled, "Not a bone of him shall be broken."
This was the kind of death he died. Even the violent, painful, shameful death of the cross. An ancient punishment both among the Romans and Carthaginians. But in honor of Christ, who died this death, Constantine the Great abrogated it by law, ordaining that none should ever be crucified any more, because Christ died that death.
II. As to the manner of the execution, they that were condemned to the death of the cross bore their cross upon their own shoulders to the place of execution. They were stripped of all their clothes, and then were fastened to the cross with nails.
And that the equity of the proceedings might the better appear to the people, the cause of the punishment was written in capital letters, and fixed to the tree over the head of the malefactor. Of this I shall speak distinctly in the next discourse, there being so much of providence in this circumstance, as invites us to spend more than a few transient thoughts upon it.
III. Among the reasons why Christ died this, rather than any other kind of death, three are obvious.
1. Because Christ must bear the curse in his death, and a curse was by law affixed to no other kind of death, as it was to this. Christ came to take away the curse from us by his death; and so must be made a curse. On him must lie, all the curses of the inoral law which were due to us. And that nothing might be wanting to make it a full curse, the very death he died must also have a ceremonial curse upon it.
2. Christ died this death, to fulfil the types and prefigurations that of old were made with respect to it. All the sacrifices were lifted up from the earth, upon the altar. But especially the brazen serpent prefigured this death, "Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole." Numb. 21:9. And, saith Christ, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up," John, 3:14, that so he might correspond with that type of him in the wilderness.
3. He died this death, because it was predicted of him, and in him must all the predictions, as well as types, be fully accomplished. The psalmist spake, in the person of Christ, of this death plainly, as if he had been writing the history rather than a prophecy of what was done : For dogs have compassed me about, the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and feet; I may tell all my bones; they look and stare upon me." Psalm 22: 16, 17. Which has a manifest reference to the distension of all his members upon the tree, as on a rack. So, "They shall look upon me whom they have pierced." Zech. 12: 10. Yea, our Lord himself foretold the death he should die, John, 3: 14, saying he must be lifted up," that is, hanged between heaven and earth. And the Scriptures must be fulfilled. INFERENCE 1.-Is Christ dead? and did he die the