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the cross, a darkness covered the face of the earth, to the great terror and amazement of the people present at his execution. This extraordinary alteration in the face of nature was peculiarly proper, whilst the sun of righteousness was withdrawing his beams from the land of Israel, and from the world, not only because it was a miraculous testimony borne by God himself to his innocence, but also because it was a fit emblem of his departure and its effects, at least till his light shone out anew with additional splendor in the ministry of bis apostles. The darkness which now covered Judea, together with the neighbouring countries, beginning about noon and continuing till Jesus expired, was not the effect of an ordinary eclipse of the sun : for that can never happen, except when the moon is about the change; whereas now it was full moon; not to mention that total darknesses occasioned by eclipses of the sun, never continue above twelve or fifteen minutes. Wherefore it must have been produced by the Divine power, in a manner we are not able to explain. * Jesus was now in the depth of his own sufferings. Yet when he saw his mother and her companions, their grief affected him to a great degree; particularly the distress of his
* Explain. The Christian writers, in their most ancient apologies to the heathens, affirm, that as it was full moon at the passover when Christ was crucified, no such eclipse could happen by the course of nature. They observe also, that it was taken notice of as a prodigy by the heathens themselves. To this purpose we have still remaining the words of Phlegon the astronomer, and freed-man of Adrian, cited by Origen from his book, at a time when it was in the hands of the public: Contr. Celsum, p. 83. That heathen author, in treating of the fourth year of the two hundred and second Olympiad, which is the nineteenth of Tiberius, and supposed to be the year in which our Lord was crucified, tells us, “ T'hat the greatest eclipse of the sun that ever was known happened then ; for the day was so tumed into night that the stars in the heavens were seen.” If Phlegon, as Christians generally suppose, is speaking of the darkness which ac. companied our Lord's crucifixion, it was not circumscribed within the land of Judea, but must have been universal. This many learned men have believed, particularly Huet, Grotius, Gusset, Reland, and Alphen. Josephus, it is true, takes no notice of this wonderful phenomenon. But the reason may be, that he was unwilling to mention any circumstance favourable to christianity, of which he. was no friend.
mother. Wherefore, though he was almost at the point of death, he spake a few words, in which he expressed the most affectionate regard both to her, and to them. For he told her, the disciple whom he loved, would for the sake of that love, 'supply his place to her afier he was gone, even the place of a son : for he desired her to consider him as such, and expect from him all the duty of a son.
“ When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son.” But our Lord, besides expressing great filial affection towards his mother, gave the beloved disciple also a token of his high esteem. He singled him out, the only one of his friends whom he could trust, as fit to be in his stead to his mother. Accordingly he desired him expressly to reverence and love her, as if she had been his own parent. This duty the favourite disciple gladly undertook : for he carried her home with him, and maintained her from that time forth, her husband Joseph it seems being dead. Thus, in the midst of the heaviest sufferings that ever human nature sustained, Jesus demonstrated a Divine strength of benevolence. Even when his own distress was at the highest pitch, his friends had such a share of his concern, that their happiness for a while interrupted the sense of his pains, and wholly ingrossed his thoughts.
A little before he expired, Jesus repeated the first verse of the twenty-second Psalm. “ And about the ninth hour," answering to our three in the afternoon, “ Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani ? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” or as others will have it translated, “ My God, my God, to what a degree, or to what a length of time, hast thou forsaken me!" For lama in the Hebrew has this signification : “Some of them that stood there, when they heard that, said, This man calleth for Elias.” And though they misunderstood him, it might have arisen from their not hearing him distinctly. straightway one of them ran, and took a spunge, and filled it with vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave him to drink.” St. John informs us, that they did this in consequence of our Lord's telling them, “ He thirsted." He
says also, that they put the spunge upon hyssop, that is, a stalk of hyssop, called by the other Evangelists a reed. Mark observes, that the person who gave Jesus the vinegar, said, xv. 36, “Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take him down." But Matthew attributes that saying to the persons who stood by. It seems they repeated the words of him who administered the vinegar, expressing their desire likewise that Jesus should be kept alive as long as possible, to see if Elias would come and rescue him. " When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished ;" John xix. 30, namely, the work of man's redemption, to accomplish which he had come into the world. In speaking these words, he cried with an exceeding loud voice, probably to shew that his strength was not exhausted, but that he was about to give up his life of his own accord. Having thus shouted, he addressed his Father with a tone of voice such as is proper in prayer, and said, “ Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit : and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost;"> leaving us the best pattern of a commendatory prayer in the article of death.
While Jesus breathed his last, the vail of the temple was miraculously rent from top to bottom, probably in presence of the priest who burnt the incense in the holy place at the evening sacrifice, and who, no doubt, gave an account of it when he came out; for the ninth hour, at which Jesus expired, was the hour of the evening sacrifice. “ And the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. And the graves in the rocks were opened, and many bodies of saints which slept, arose, and came out of the graves after his resurrection,” Matt. xxvii. 51, 52, 53. These graves were opened by the earthquake at his death; but the dead in them did not come to life till his resurrection : " and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” It would seem, that these saints were disciples, who had died but lately. For when they went into the city, they were known to be saints by the persons who saw them; which could not well have happened, had they not been their contemporaries. And as the rending of the vail of the temple intimated, that the entrance into the holy place, the type of heaven, was
now laid open to all nations, so the resurrection of á number of saints from the dead demonstrated, that the power of death and the grave was broken : the sting was taken from death, and the victory wrested from the grave. In short, our Lord's conquests over the enemies of mankind were shewed to be complete, and an earnest was given of a general resurrection from the dead.
" And when the Centurion which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost,” Mark xv. 39, “ He glorified God, by saying, Certainly this was a righteous man,” Luke xxii. 47, the character which Pilate's lady bad given of him before he was condemned. According to Mark he said likewise, “ Truly this man was the Son of God,” or Messiah. " And all the people that came together to that sight, beholding the things which were done, smote their breasts, and returned.” The people who came to behold this melan. choly spectacle, were wonderfully affected when Jesus gave up the ghost. They had been instant with loud voices to have him crucified; but now that they saw the face of the creation darkened during his crucifixion, and found his death accompanied with an earthquake, as if nature had been in an agony when he died, they rightly interpreted these prodigies to be so many testimonies from God of his innocence; and their passions, which had been inflamed and exasperated against him, became quite calm, or moved them in his behalf. Some could not forgive themselves for neglecting to accept his life, when the governor offered to release him. Others were stung with remorse for having had an active hand in his death, and in the insults that were offered to him. Others felt the deepest grief at the thought of his lot, which was undeservedly severe.
And these various passions appeared in their countenances. For they came away from the cruel execution pensive and silent, with downcast eyes, and hearts ready to burst: or groaning deeply within themselves, they shed tears, smote their breasts, and wailed greatly. Nor was this the temper only of a few, who may be thought to have been Christ's particular friends. It was the general condition of the people, who had come in such numbers to look on, that Vol. II.
when they parted after the execution, they covered the roads, and as it were darkened the whole fields around. “ And all his acquaintance, and the women that followed him from Galilee, stood afar off beholding these things." Who these acquaintance were, Matthew and Mark inform us.
“ And many women were there (beholding afar off) which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto him. Among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebe. dee's children.” The three Evangelists agree in affirming that these women stood afar off, looking on. Yet this is not inconsistent with John xix. 25, where our Lord's mother, and her sister Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene, are said to have stood beside the cross. They were kept at a distance a while, perhaps by the guards; or they were afraid to approach : But when the greatest part of the soldiers were drawn off, and the eclipse was begun, they gathered courage, and came so near, that Jesus had an opportunity to speak to them a little before he expired.
The law expressly prohibited the bodies of those who were hanged, to remain all night on a tree, Deut. xxi. 22. For that reason, as well as because the sabbath was at hand, the Jews begged the favour of Pilate, that the legs of the three crucified persons might be broken to lasten 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; one of them only thrust a spear into his side. The spear thrust into our Lord's side is thought to have reached his heart; for the water issuing from the wound seems to shew, that the pericardium was pierced, and that Jesus was some time dead. Or though he had not been dead, this wound was of such a kind as must have killed him outright. And therefore, as it was of the greatest importance to mankind to be as. certained of the truth of Christ's death, when the Evangelist John relates the circumstance which demonstrates it, namely, the issuing of the evater out of the wound in his side, he insists upon it particularly, and mentions it as a thing which he himself saw. He adds, that his legs were