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HOW WE ARE TO CONCEIVE OF THE SUFFERINGS OF
CHRIST, DURING THAT CLOSING PERIOD OF WHICH
THE sufferings of Christ during the hour and power
I of darkness have been dealt with in two quite opposite ways. · I. They have been regarded in their simply physical aspect; and aid to the imagination and the heart in realising their terrible amount has been eagerly sought in pictured representations or picturing words ; and thus a lively feeling of the pain endured by our blessed Lord, under the hands of wicked men, has been cherished as a help in measuring the evil of our sins and our obligations to the Saviour. I am not afraid to regard all that was attained of knowledge of the sufferings of Christ in this way as only a knowing Christ after the flesh, and therefore what had no virtue to accomplish any spiritual development in men,-no virtue to impart a true knowledge of sin, or to raise the spirits of men into the light of what our sins are in the sight of God,- what they are to the heart of God. Feelings of a strong and solemn, as well as tender character, have, doubtless, been thus cherished; and, doubtless, the element of gratitude has been present: yet there was not, for there could not be, in images of physical suffering anything of the nature of spiritual light,however such light may have been present along with them, being received otherwise.
II. But there has been manifested also, and this especially recently, a tendency to deal with the detailed
sufferings of Christ, as these were endured at the hands of wicked men, in the quite opposite way of making as little account of them as possible; I do not mean denying their reality,—denying that our Lord's flesh was suffering flesh,—but rashly admitting the justness of a comparison of them with other cases of suffering inflicted by man on man.
Of such other cases it is not difficult to find many recorded that would bear the comparison; cases in which the cruellest tortures have been submitted to with such fortitude and patience of endurance as, if this way of viewing the subject had been admissible, would excuse the sneer of the infidel. Indeed, dealing with the sufferings of the Saviour on this principle, those who have done so have escaped from justifying that infidel sneer only by referring the language of our Lord, in relation to the cup given Him to drink, to an apprehension of what the cup contained, altogether unrelated to His being delivered into the hands of sinful men. Nay, because of its seeming to shut us up to the view which they have taken of what that cup contained, viz. that it was filled with the wrath of God, the concession has been willingly made of the alleged disproportion between our Lord's agony in the garden of Gethsemane, in looking forward to the coming hour and power of darkness, and those sufferings which the history of that hour records.
And here let me say that I entirely feel that our Lord's physical sufferings viewed simply as physical sufferings, and without relation to the mind that was in the sufferer, could not adequately explain the awful intensity of the feelings which accompanied His prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. But, on the other hand, apart altogether from the insuperable objection that presents itself on other grounds to the conception that
the cup which was the subject of Christ's prayer contained the Father's wrath, it seems impossible, without putting aside the record, not to connect that cup with these minutely detailed sufferings, foretold, as they had been, to the disciples on the way up to Jerusalem, and having their commencement immediately after the answer of His prayer in the garden was revealed to the Lord; being also, as we have seen, met and submitted to by Him, with words which identified them with the cup as to which He had prayed.
While John records the words already quoted as addressed to Peter, “The cup which my Father gives me to drink shall I not drink it.” Matthew gives these
—“Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” words which, as well as all else, suggest, not a wrath coming forth from the Father, but a power of evil which the Father permitted to have its course. We cannot indeed doubt what the impression on the disciples as to that to which their Lord was subjected, must have been; and accordingly, after our Lord's resurrection, in that interview of touching tenderness with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus, when He joined Himself to them and said, “What manner of communications are these which ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad?”—their sad thoughts were “concerncerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to death, and have crucified Him.” On these events were their minds going back, and on these events did He give them light. “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken : ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets,
He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.” Luke xxiv. 17, 19, 20, 25, 26, 27.
But both the errors now noticed,—the minute dwelling on the physical suffering as such, on the one hand, and on the other hand, the turning away from it altogether, for the explanation of the intensity of our Lord's agony in the garden, and seeking that explanation in the assumption that the wrath of the Father was the bitterness of the cup given to the Son,—both these very opposite errors have alike originated in the root error of regarding our Lord's sufferings as penal, and so being occupied with their aspect as sufferings merely, when they were truly a moral and spiritual sacrifice, to which the sufferings were related only as involved in the fulness and perfection of the sacrifice.
In St Matthew xvi. 21, we have the record of an intimation to the disciples of the sufferings to which the Lord looked forward, earlier than that quoted above. And both the outburst of natural feel ing in Peter at the thought of his Master's suffering such things, and our Lord's rebuke, that in so feeling he savoured not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men, connected with the teaching that is immediately added, “Then said Jesus unto them, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me: for whosoever will save his life shall lose it, and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it”-illustrate to us the relation of the sufferings foretold to the life which the Son of God was presenting to the faith of the disciples, and to the fellowship of which He sought to raise their desires and their hopes.
The later occasion of His speaking of His anticipated sufferings to His disciples already quoted, is also marked by an incident which is in its teaching to us entirely to the same effect, I mean the request of the two sons of Zebedee. They, with Peter, were the three privileged to be present with our Lord during His agony of prayer in the garden; as they had also been to be with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration, when, “as He prayed, the fashion of His countenance was altered, and His raiment was white and glistering. And behold there talked with Him two men, which were Moses and Elias, who appeared in glory, and spake of His decease which He should accomplish at Jerusalem.” Whether the scene on the Mount, along with the words with which their Lord's intimation of His approaching suffering, had concluded, “And the third day He shall rise again,”—though not fully understood, had carried their thoughts at once beyond the sufferings to the glory that should follow, and so moved the desire which the request to “sit the one on His right hand, the other on His left in His kingdom,” expressed, we know not; but nothing can be more conclusive as to the relation-the abiding relation of the sufferings which the Lord foretold, to the development of the life that was in Him, than His reply to this request. First, in accordance with the awful impression of what He looked forward to, which it was His intention to convey, He says,-“Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” But when they reply, “ We are able,” He adds, “ Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with :" plainly preparing them for that fellowship in His anticipated sufferings which His words on the former occasion, as to the necessity of “bearing His cross," had equally implied. CAMPB.