By George Swinnock (Works, Vol.1, P.193-197)
Consider the doleful tragedy which the Son acted from first to last; meditate on His incarnation. For the Son of God to become the Son of man; for Him that lived from all eternity to be born in time; for Him that thundereth in the clouds to cry in the cradle; for Him that created all things to become a creature—is a greater suffering than if all the men and angels in this and the other world were crowded into an atom, or turned into nothing. This was the first and greatest step of His humiliation. Consider the manner of His birth: He was born, not of some great princes, but of mean and indigent parents; not in a royal palace, but in a place where beggars and beasts are entertained—a stable; He was no sooner born but sought after to be butchered. He fled for His life in His very swaddling-cloths, and was an early martyr indeed. When He grew up, though He was of ability to have swayed the sceptre of all the empires in the world, to have instructed the greatest potentates and counsellors in the mysteries of wisdom and knowledge; though to Him Adam and Solomon, yea, and angels themselves, were fools, yet He lived privately with His supposed father many years, and suffered His deity to be hid, as light in a dark lantern, near thirty years, save that once it darted a little out, when at twelve years of age He disputed and confuted the great Rabbis of the Jews (Luke 2:46).
When He entered upon His public ministry, He is no sooner ascended the stage, but all the devils in hell appear against Him, and He is forced to fight hand to hand with them for forty days together; and when they left Him they did not take their leave, but ‘departed only for a season’ (Luke 4:13). His whole life was a living death. How poor was He, when He was fain to work a miracle to pay His tax! ‘The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests; but the Son of man had not where to lay His head,’ though He were ‘heir of all things’ (Matthew 8:20). What did He suffer in His name when the worst words in the mouths of the Jews were thought not bad enough for Him! He is called the carpenter’s son, a glutton, a drunkard, a blasphemer, a friend of publicans and sinners, a Samaritan, a devil; nay, the prince of devils. What hunger and thirst and weariness did He undergo! He that feeds others with His own flesh had many a hungry belly. He that gave others that water, of which whosoever drinketh shall thirst no more, had His own veins sucking and paining Him for thirst. He that is Himself the only ark for the weary dove to fly to for rest, did Himself take many a wearisome step, and travel many a tiresome journey. Well might the prophet call him ‘a man of sorrows, and acquainted with griefs,’ though He had suffered no more than what is already written; but all this was but the beginning of His sorrows. The dregs of the cup were at the bottom. Doubtless many an aching heart had He, as a woman with child, beforehand, when He thought of the bitter pangs, sharp throes, and hard labour which He was to suffer at the close of his life. O friend, remember this Son of David and all His troubles. But to come to His end, which is specially represented in this ordinance, I will take Him in the garden, where He felt more than I can write or think. Consider His body there; it was all over in a gore blood. Ah, what suffered He, when He did sweat clods of blood! To sweat blood is against nature, much more in a cold season, most of all when He was full of fear and terror; then the blood retreats to the heart to guard it, and to be guarded by it.
But behold, reader, thy Saviour for thy sake, and under the weight of thy sins, did sweat blood in a cold night, when He was exceedingly afraid. Ah! who would not love such a Saviour, and who would not loathe sin? But the sufferings of His body were nothing to the sufferings of His soul; these were the soul of His sufferings. Observe His expression, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful;’ ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death.’ Unto death, not only extensively, seventeen or eighteen hours, till death ended His life; but chiefly intensively, such sorrow as the pangs of death bring—surely far greater. Again, ‘Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.’ Wise and valiant men do not complain of nothing. Ah, how bitter was that cup which valour and resolution itself seemed unwilling to drink! The two most tormenting passions, which are fear and grief, did now seize upon Him in the highest degree: ‘He began to be sorrowful and very heavy,’ saith Matthew (Matthew 26:37). ‘He began to be sore amazed and very heavy,’ saith Mark (Mark 14:33).
Reader, follow Him further; one disciple selleth Him at the price of a slave; another disciple forsweareth Him; all of them forsake Him, and fly; the greedy wolves lay hold on this innocent lamb; the bloody Jews apprehend Him, bind His hands like a thief, and hale Him away to the high priest; then they hire persons to belie truth itself: but when their testimony was insufficient, upon His own most holy confession, a sentence of condemnation is passed upon Him. Consider now how the servants smite His blessed cheeks with their fists, and spit on that beautiful face with their mouths, which angels counted their honour to behold; the masters flout Him with their scornful carriage, and mock Him with their petulant language: He must be the sink into which they fling all their filth. Afterwards they carry Him to Pilate; he sendeth Him to Herod; Herod, with some scorns and scoffs, sendeth Him back. Thus is He, like a football, spurned up and down between those inhuman wretches: Pilate tears His flesh with wounds and nails, and presenteth Him to the people with a crown of thorns on His head, to move pity; the people, thirsting after His blood, can by no words be persuaded, by no means be prevailed with, to let this innocent dove escape. Though He be put in competition with a murderer, yet the murderer is preferred before Him; and as the worst of the two, He is at last condemned as a seditious person, and a traitor against Caesar’s crown and dignity, to be crucified [outside] the gate, lest the city should be polluted with His blood. Now, reader, come along, like the beloved disciple, and behold thy Saviour bearing His own cross, and going to the place of execution to die the death of a slave, for no freeman was ever crucified; therefore Julian, in derision, called Him, ‘the staked God.’ He is no sooner come to the dismal place of dead men’s skulls, but they tear off His clothes, and some think skin and all, glued to His back with their bloody scourgings. Now they stretch His body, as cloth with tenters, and rack it so that His bones start out of His skin— ‘I may tell all my bones’ (Psalm 22:17)—in nailing His two hands to the two horns, and his feet, those parts so full of nerves and sinews, and so the most sensible of any parts of the body, to the stump of the cross, and hang Him up between two thieves, as the most notorious malefactor of the three; ‘He was numbered among the transgressors.’ His bloody, watching, fasting, scorched, racked body, is oppressed with exquisite pain, and His anguish so vehement that He crieth out, ‘I thirst’; to quench [His thirst] they give Him vinegar and gall, and spice it with a scoff to make it relish the better; ‘Let us see whether Elias will come and save Him.’
But oh, who can imagine what He suffered in His soul, when He hung under the weight of men’s revenge, devils’ rage, the law’s curse, and the Lord’s wrath! Men ‘revile Him, wagging their heads, and saying, “Thou that destroyest the temple and buildest it in three days, save Thyself: He saved others, himself he cannot save”’ ‘To Him that was afflicted, pity should have been shewn; but they added affliction to the afflicted, and forsook the fear of the Almighty’ (Job 6:14). All the devils in hell were now putting forth their utmost power and policy, for ‘this was their hour, and the power of darkness,’ to increase His sufferings, that, if possible, they might provoke Him to sin, thereby to have separated His human nature from His divine, that it might have perished eternally, and all mankind with it; but the sting of His death is yet behind. The head of that arrow which pierced His heart indeed was the frown of His Father. That His kinsmen, the Jews, whom He came to sanctify and redeem, for He was ‘the glory of His people Israel,’ should deliver Him up to be crucified, was not a small aggravation of His misery; that His apostles, that had been eyewitnesses of His miracles, and ear-witnesses of His oracles (to whom He had spoken so pathetically, ‘Will ye also forsake Me?’ and who had told Him so resolutely, ‘We will go with thee into prison, and to death’ [Luke 22:23; Matthew 26:35]) should now in His greatest extremity turn their backs upon Him, added some more gall to His bitter cup: that His mother should stand by the cross weeping, and have her soul pierced through with the sword of His sufferings, was far from being an allay to His sorrows; but that His Father, of whom He had often boasted, ‘It is my Father that honoureth me’; ‘My Father loveth me’; ‘I and my Father are one,’ should now in His low estate, in His day of adversity, in His critical hour, not only not help Him, and leave Him alone, as a harmless dove amongst so many ravenous vultures, to contest with all the fury of earth and hell; but also pour out the vials of His own wrath upon Him, and (though the union was not dissolved, yet) suffer the beams, the influences to be restrained, that He might fully bear the curse of the law, and feel the weight of sin; this was the hottest fire in which the paschal lamb was roasted; this caused that heartbreaking, soul-cutting, heaven-piercing expression, ‘My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?’ Oh how, how justly might He have cried out with Job, ‘Have pity upon me, my friend, have pity upon me, for the hand’—not only of my enemies and my friends, of multitudes of men, and of legions of devils, but the hand—‘of God hath touched me.’ How truly might the husband have taken up His spouse’s lamentation: ‘Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by! Behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted me in the day of His fierce anger’ (Lamentations 1:12). Ah, who can write or read such a tragedy with dry eyes?