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THE MARTYR LAMB.
MARK XIV. 65.
And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to
buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.
Most terrible scene! fit to move a heart of stone! What is it that is happening to our Redeemer ? And in what a terrible sense is he become a reproach unto the people, despised and rejected of men! Well might the heart bleed and break when it beholds such a tragedy: and yet when it views it with the eye of faith, it may at the same time sing and rejoice. For here the foundation of our salvation is laid, and out of the martyrdom of the Son of God, the tree of life springs forth unto sinners !
The history which we contemplate to-day, is as significant and important as it is terrible and awful; and is more suitable than almost any other for unveiling the true aim and object of the sufferings of Jesus. Whilst reading it, however, I find myself placed in five alternatives, which I shall proceed to detail. Either the man described in our narrative is guilty, or Divine providence is a delusion. Either this man is punished, or the whole occurrence is inexplicable. Either He has
made ample satisfaction for us, or we are lost for ever.' Erther we hate sin, or we do not love Jesus. Either no regenerated one can enter heaven, or the condemning power of evil thoughts suggested by Satan has been taken away.
I. Either the man described in our narrative is guilty, or what has been taught us of Divine providence is a dream and a delusion.
This is our first alternative, and one of these sides of the question we must adopt. Let us now consider the subject of our text; contemplate his situation, and measure his sufferings. Only a few moments before, suborned witnesses had raised up their voices against him, the principal authorities had accused him of blasphemy, and unanimously condemned him to death ; and now he had been delivered up to the mercy of the populace, to do with him what they would. Great God! What happens now to the Saviour of Israel ! Who can look upon this terrible scene without shud. dering, and starting back in terror? A troop of the most debased of men seize upon the helpless One, to wreak their rage upon him, and pour out all their devilish hatred on his devoted head. David trembled at the thought of falling into the hands of men : but here is a greater than David, and more terrible men than the Philistines, before whom the royal Psalmist quaked. Would it not be a terrible thing for us, my brethren, to be exposed to the rage of an infuriated populace? But what are we in comparison to the man in our narrative ? The most acute feelings which ever mortal possessed, are, when compared to those of Jesus, like the coarse skin on the hand of a labourer,
to the tender and exquisitely transparent filament covering the eye. Ye know how the smallest sin, viewed even from afar, grieved and offended his soul ; judge then how the Holy One must have suffered, when the rage of the ungodly overwhelmed him, and he found himself in the hands of the servants of Satan, confounded with the lowest malefactors. They commenced by saluting their innocent victim with the most insulting mockery, and outvied each other in heaping upon him terms of opprobrium. A dagger thrust into the heart is painful, but the sting of scorn is far worse than a blow from the sharpest poinard. Even we experience this; and how much more must the tender soul of our Redeemer have done so ? But mere words were not all; for the contemptuous mockery and malicious language soon passed into deeds of hatred. They smote the Man of sorrows on the face, on the back, and on the bosom, some with their hands, and some with reeds; and no just man interposed to drive away the miscreants; no compassionate heart implored for mercy and compassion to the martyr, and no thunderbolt from heaven descended to annihilate the barbarians. Think for a moment, ye who were brought up in civilized society, how ye would have felt this ; is it not true that the bodily pain which ye might suffer, would be as nothing in comparison to the agony occasioned by such unworthy and degrading treatment ? And now call to mind who is the striken One in our history, and try to realize all he must have suffered.
Let us next inquire who are his tormentors. Men to whom he had stretched out the arms of his love,
and to save whom he was about to shed his most precious blood. Think upon this, ye who have felt the wounds which the ingratitude and misapprehension of the world can inflict, and then say, if ye can comprehend how the cords of gentleness and patience were not snapped asunder, when the Martyr Lamb underwent such an accumulation of the most refined bitterness and suffering. The blows, however, which Jesus received, were not the worst part of his treatment; his tormentors went farther—they even spat upon him, like. hissing adders giving vent to their venom. Holy Jesus ! how didst thou bear this? Pure incarnation of the Godhead! why wast thou plunged in this depth of degradation and woe? And what think ye? Did the spitting upon Jesus conclude his sufferings ? No! The fountain of their iniquity was not yet and they fell upon another mode of torment. They wished to make a jest of his prophetic office; and for this purpose, having bound his eyes, they struck him in the face with their hands, saying, “Prophecy, who is it that smote thee?" In short, they repeated one scene of this kind after another; and blasphemy after blasphemy; for hell took care that their diabolical devices should not be soon exhausted. Meanwhile, I repeat with astonishment, no just man interposed to deliver him, and no destroying thunderbolt descended from heaven!
This then, my brethren, is the terrible scene which we have to contemplate to-day. Now mark me with attention! It seems to me that one whom the gospel hitherto has not mentioned, now appears before us.
You yourselves must judge, however. If one more thinking than the rest had been present at those misdeeds, what would have been his opinion of them ? Without doubt he would have said, “Surely, this man, so much abused, must have been a sinner, and must have deserved such a fate !” And if we replied to him, “Not so, he is a just and a holy man,” he would contradict us in the most decisive manner, saying, “ That cannot be--it is impossible !" And should we now try to make him observe the gentleness, love, and unutterable patience with which the martyred One bears his sufferings, the sceptic would reply, “Let him appear as holy as he pleases, he must surely have committed some secret crime !" Let it be granted that we were at last able to convince him that the object of those tortures was in reality no sinner ; but a just man, nay, even a blameless and a perfect one ; how then would the stranger express himself? He would say, “Is that man guiltless ? and has he fulfilled all that the divine law requires ? Then, it is impossible for one to believe henceforward in a divine providence !" This would be his opinion; and, in truth, all the world must agree, that it would be sound and reasonable. For what do we understand by divine providence, unless the eternal rule of an unutterably wise, just, and holy Being, who not only punishes the wicked, and chastises the disobedient, but according both to justice and his promises, exalts and protects the righteous, encircling them with the arms of his tenderness, and making them happy, soul and body? And what then becomes of this holy and righteous governance, if