“'Tis midnight! - and on Olive's brow
The star is dimmed that lofty shone;
'Tis midnight!- in the garden now.
The suffering Savior prays alone.
'Tis midnight!- and from all removed,
'Tis midnight!- and from all removed,
Emmanuel wrestles lone with fears;
E'en the disciple that He love
Heeds not his Master's grief and tears.”
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.” Matthew 27:45.
A few nights since we were deeply impressed with the solemn sufferings of the crucifixion. Few indeed are the times in the saint's mortal pilgrimage that his mind is turned to the fearfully sublime scenes at the Cross of Christ.
We fret and worry, and worry and fret, when in the flesh over little trivial occurrences, often unworthy of our attention. We turn our backs upon things of the Kingdom; attending first to worldly things; and often consider that we have well done, if but for a few hours, we have spent in an outward form of heavenly worship. Our farms, our shops, our worldly interest; and more especially our families, often occupy our undivided attention; while the interests of the Kingdom come in second, third; and sometimes last in our calculations.
How mean and despicable such a course appears when the mind of the child of grace is turned to the superiority of heavenly over earthly things; and to what the dear Savior has passed through as an example of suffering, and of triumphant grace: “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through suffering.” - Hebrews 2:10.
We grunt and grumble over trivial things, as though the life of the child of faith in this world is one of ease, comfort, and pleasure; not at all realizing only as the Spirit of God enables us to look “unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame.” - Hebrews 12:2.
Do any of us suppose that the life of faith is like the life of a butterfly, dancing in the light and sunshine of worldly favor, prosperity, and pleasure; and simply following the round of worldly engagements: then do we fail to see Jesus “who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death.” Or yet to realize that the dear Master has said: “In the world ye shall have tribulations.”
The sublime and living picture of the Cross was vividly portrayed in type, and by prophecy, “testifying before-hand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” - I Peter 1:11.
In what is really the Savior's prayer recorded in John 17, He says; “Father the hour is come.”
Solemn and impressive words! not the day, nor the week, but the hour; yea, the identical moment of time! “Now” He says, “is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.”
The slumbering sword of Divine Justice had awakened (Zechariah 13:7), to strike the fatal blow.
“The cross He bore was life and health,
Though shame and death to Him.”
He stood under the burden of imputed sin and death, the accumulated debt of all His chosen seed. The shadow, stretching over intervening ages had reached the living, vital point: “The hour is come.” He was about to bow His head in death, while the waves and billows of Divine wrath were to roll over Him, and break forever upon the farther and eternal shore. No wonder then the gathering gloom upon Calvary! No wonder the weight of death upon His soul; “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful unto death.” - Mark 14:34.
Every minutia of the Divinely ordained way (not plan) had been determined, and was to be accurately fulfilled. Judas was on hand, and the “thirty pieces of silver” had been coined to pay the price of the betrayal. The scarlet robe and crown of thorns were there; the vinegar and gall was mixed; the shouting rabble assembled; and they must spit upon Him, and mock Him, and cry; “Hail, King of the Jews.”
But while all these were there, and much in evidence; there was also more than these, and that was the all-seeing eye of that Almighty God who
“Can dash whole worlds to death,
And make them as He please.”
Fully recognizing this all-important fact, Jesus said to the rabble; “This is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Again; “Thou couldst have no power at all against me except it were given thee from above.”
“Not a single shaft could hit,
‘Til the God of love saw fit.”
Not a moment upon that fateful hill, but what was with “an eye single to the glory of God.” Mark tells us (chapter 15:25;) “And it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.” Again (verses 34-37;) “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is, being interpreted, My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me,” from Psalm 22:1. “And some of them that stood by, when they heard it, said, Behold, He calleth Elias. And one ran and filled a sponge full of vinegar, and put it on a reed, and gave Him to drink, saying, Let alone; let us see whether Elias will come to take Him down. And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the Ghost.” In this connection stands our text:
“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour.” Luke says, “And the sun was darkened, and the vail of the temple was rent in the midst.” Luke tells us of the declaration of Jesus to the thief at His side; “To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise.” and says, “And it was about the sixth hour.” Indications point to this as the hour in which the dear Redeemer entered the dark portals that lead into the valley of death.
At the dread moment the sustaining hand of the Father was manifest; the all-searching, and all-seeing eye penetrated the gloom, the death-damp of the valley; the power that holds all worlds, controls all destinies, and directs all incidents and events, shone forth in His glory. What a fearful moment of time, this! What mighty and lofty purposes and developments hang upon this tragic, this awe-inspiring scene! As the Savior of sinners enters the valley of death, darkness spreads its mantle over the earth; attesting the work, bearing witness to its character. Awful, dreadful, all-important moment of time, this! A testimony of its nature is recorded in Joshua 3:14-17; “And as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordon, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water.” &c.
Into the dreadful agony of that all-important moment the dear child of God must necessarily enter, “For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead.” (II Cor. 5:14). “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.” - Galatians 2:20.
And as Jesus passed through the dark valley, the lights of earth were darkened, showing the complete control of the God of heaven over these temporal things; and the nature of the scene transpiring upon Calvary. Wonderful scene! “And the earth did quake, and the rocks rent. And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose, and came out of the graves after His resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.” The morning looks forth through the night; behind the morning is the night. Jesus passed through the darkened valley and opened the massive portals of the Gospel morning. “The vail of the temple was rent in twain.”
The dark shadows of the long, legal night vanished in the glorious splendor of the morning's dawn. O bright and glorious day! How soul-inspiring thy conquering light! How healthful the cooling shade! “O death where is thy sting? O grave where is thy victory?”
“The Saviour has passed through its portals before thee,
And the lamp of His love is thy guide through its gloom.”
But were these wondrous scenes entirely unheeded? Ah, no! True the world slept in carnal ignorance of the all-important event transpiring in their midst. The wild rage of the persecutors of the cross had done its utmost, but could go no farther than what had been determined before to be done. The wild roar of the world's rabble had dashed its spite and venom at the Cross, and yet we see how completely under Divine control the rage of men and devils' they were allowed to break the legs of the two thiefs crucified at His side, but not the legs of Jesus, for it was written: “A bone of Him shall not be broken.”
But these incarnate fiends were allowed to pierce His side, for it is written, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” - John 19:31-37. While these mighty events were being fulfilled, however, another and very dissimilar group are prominently brought to view; “And many women were there beholding afar off, which followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him.” Matt 27:55. “And there followed Him a great company of people, and of women, which also bewailed and lamented Him.” Luke 23:27. Solemn and impressive were His words to these; “If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in a dry?” And Joseph, a man of wealth and a disciple took the body of Jesus and wrapped it “in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in a rock: and he rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed.” Matt. 27:59-60
It is noticeable regarding this sepulchre divinely prepared for the reception of this body that it was one, “wherein never man before was laid.”
And there came also Nicodemus, (which at the first came to Jesus by night,) and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pound. Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” - John 19: 39,40. “And the women also, which came with Him from Galilee, followed after, and beheld the sepulchre, and how His body was laid. And they returned, and prepared spices and ointments; and rested the sabbath day according to the commandment.” Luke 23:55,56. Was not here manifested wonderful devotion?
In this group of women prominently mentioned are “Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses.” Mark 15:47. “And many other women which came up with Him unto Jerusalem.” Mark 15:41. The Jewish sabbath must now intervene. Wonderful figure this of the Gospel dawn.
The chief priests and Pharisees now came to Pilate “Saying, Sir, we remember that that deceiver said, while he was yet alive, After three days I will rise again. Command therefore that the sepulchre be made sure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night, and steal Him away, and say unto the people, He is risen from the dead; so that the last error shall be worse than the first.” Matthew 27:63-64. Here is an exhibition of the old adage of measuring another's corn by one's own bushel. As lies, deception. subterfuge, and evasion was, and is, the only stock in trade which such religionists have; they easily suppose this to be the case of all others. Pilate gave them permission to make sure the tomb that there should be no resurrection; which they proceeded to do with every power that earth could possibly command.
But hark! what sound is this? A great earthquake exhibits the power of the resurrection. “The angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow; and for fear of him the keepers did shake, and become as dead men.” - Matthew 28:2-4.
Early in the morning of the first day of the week came the women with the spices which they had prepared reaching the tomb at the rising of the sun, (Mark 16:2) - typical moment! In one place it says that Mary Magdalene came while “It was yet dark.” - John 20:1. He was not there, having risen on the Sabbath.
Here indeed was an exhibition of devotion to Christ, of the love of God upon the part of these disciples, mostly in this case women, sisters, worthy of record. Marvelous beyond all mortal comprehension was the work of God. And the apostle Paul tells us in Ephesians 1:19-21, that it requires the same mighty power to enable us to believe in Him, in His resurrection life, immortality as it did to raise Him from the dead: “And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to us-ward (toward us) who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places.” No wonder then a scoffing world! no wonder incredulous saints!
Children of the Regeneration; you who “have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come,” you who have trodden with no unequal steps the path of suffering and of sorrow, of bitter persecution, ridicule and relentless strife over which our brethren of other days have gone; do you suppose that after the stupenduous work of the Cross, to which we have called attention, that our God would allow this go by default; that His cause could suffer shipwreck, or His blessed body, the Church, do down to rise no more? Assuredly, No!
“The cause which God and Truth sustain,
Unmoved forever must remain.”
We look out upon the broad road of death, whose
“Thousands walk together there.”
We contemplate a world ruled by force and greed. We see every where around us the accursed abominations practiced in this degraded inventive age; Secret orders, Life-Insurance, False Religion, Prohibition (one of the latest hatch of the devil to please and gratify his dupes;) these things and many others equally accursed of God; and our spirit scorns to drink in the vile, filthy pool.
On the other hand we see the chosen few of God struggling against apparently great odds; and here and there a falling off as one, Judas-like, betrays the high trust committed to his care, turning traitor to God and Truth; “clouds without water carried about of winds: (ready to shift and turn to every wind of doctrine,) trees whose fruit withereth without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.” (Jude 12). Unto whom “it is happened according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and The sow that was washed, to her wallowing in the mire.” (II Peter 2:22.) We mark these things and know well that the all-seeing eye of God is upon all these developments; that His predestinating hand directs and controls them all; setting their bounds; and that they are working together in perfect harmony for good to “them that love God;” and for “the lifting on high of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
As wonderful and mysterious; an exhibition of the wisdom and power of Almighty God are the leadings of spiritual Israel. He will preserve a pure witness in the church of Christ of to day; an organism separate and apart from the world; and keep them “as the apple of His eye.” He will weed out the noxious plants, reduce her visible membership, trim off the dead branches of Means and Measures from the living Vine; and “In that time shall the present be brought unto the Lord of hosts of a people scattered and peeled, and from a people terrible from the beginning; a nation meted out and trodden under foot, whose land the rivers have spoiled, to the place of the name of the Lord of hosts, the mount Zion.” - Isaiah 18:7.