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Behold the Suffering Christ!

Johann Gerhard

(Translated by Rev. C. W. Heisler, A.M.)

BEHOLD, O faithful soul, the grief of thy Lord upon the cross, His gaping wounds as He hangs there, and the awful agony of His death. That head, before which the angelic spirits bow in reverential fear, is pierced with crowded thorns; that face, beautiful above the sons of men, is defiled by the spit of the ungodly; those eyes, more luminous than the sun, darken in death; those ears, accustomed to the praises of the angelic hosts, are greeted with the insults and taunts of sinners; that mouth, which spake as never man spake, and teaches the angels, is made to drink the vinegar and the gall; those feet, at which footstool (Is. lxvi. 1) the profoundest adoration is paid are pierced with nails; those hands, which have stretched out the heavens (Is. xlv. 12), are extended upon the cross and fastened with spikes; that body, the most sacred abode and the purest habitation of the Godhead, is scourged and pierced with a spear; nor did aught in it remain uninjured but His tongue, that He might pray for those who crucified Him (Luke xxiii. 34). He who rules in heaven with the Father is most shamefully abused upon the cross by sinners. God suffers; God sheds His blood (Acts xx. 28). From the greatness of the price paid, judge of the greatness of thy peril; and from the cost of the remedy, judge the dreadfulness of thy disease. Great indeed were thy wounds of sin, which could be healed only by the wounds of the living and life-giving flesh of the Son of God; desperate indeed was that disease which could be cured only by the death of the Physician himself.

Consider, O faithful soul, the blazing wrath of God. After the fall of our first parent, the eternal only-begotten, and well-beloved Son of God himself became our intercessor; and yet God's wrath was not turned away from us. He, by whom God made the worlds (Heb. i. 2), was interceding for us, and for the sake of us miserable sinners, He, the Most High, became the Advocate of our salvation (1 John ii. 1); and yet for all this was God's wrath not turned away from us. The Saviour clothes Himself in our flesh, that the divine glory being communicated to our flesh, He might make an atonement for sinful flesh, and that the healing power of perfect righteousness being communicated to our flesh, He might thus purge out the poison of sin inhering in our flesh; and yet, despite all this, God's wrath was not turned away from us. He takes upon Himself our sins and their just deserts; His precious body is bound, scourged, wounded, pierced, crucified, and laid in the sepulchre; His blood starts forth profusely, like the dew, from all parts of His suffering body; His most holy soul is saddened beyond measure, and became sorrowful even unto death (Matt. xxvi. 38); He is subjected to the very pains of hell, and the Eternal Son of God cries out in horror that He is forsaken of God (Matt. xxvii. 46). He sweats such great drops as of blood, and such anguish does He suffer as to need the comfort of an angel (Luke xxii. 43), who Himself comforts all angels. He dies, who is the giver of life to all. If this be done in a green tree, what shall be done in a dry (Luke xxiii. 31)? If this be done to the Just and Holy One, what shall be done to sinners? If God so punish our sins in the person of His Holy Son, how shall He punish them in us? How shall God continually tolerate in a servant, that which He punished so severely in His own Son? What shall those whom He condemns suffer, if His only Son, whom He so dearly loves, suffered so much? If Christ, who came into the world without sin, could not depart from it without the bitter scourging, of how much sorer punishment shall they be deemed worth, who are born in sin, and who die in sin? The servant rejoices, while for his sin the well-beloved Son is grievously afflicted. The servant treasures up against himself the wrath of the Lord, while the Son strenuously labors to soften and appease the Father's anger. O, the infinite wrath of God! O, His unutterable indignation! O, the inconceivable rigor of divine justice! If God visits His holy indignation upon His only-begotten and well-beloved Son, the partaker of His own divine nature, not because of any sin of His own, but because He had taken the miserable servant's place, what, think you, will He do to the servant, who so confidently persists in his sins and offenses? Let the servant fear and tremble and deeply sorrow at the thought of his own just deserts, since the blessed Son is so punished for no fault of His own; let the servant fear, who ceases not to sin, while the Son so agonizes for sin; let the creature fear, who has crucified his Creator; let the servant fear, who has slain his Lord; let the ungodly and the sinner be afraid, who has so afflicted the Holy and Righteous One. Let us hear our Saviour, O my beloved, crying aloud to us; let us give heed to Him as He sheds bitter tears for our sakes. From the cross He cries: "Behold, O sinful man, what I am suffering for thee; to thee I cry, because for thee I am dying. Behold the punishment inflicted upon Me! Behold the nails which pierce Me; there is no grief like unto My grief, and yet though My outward sufferings are so great, far greater is the agony of My heart, because I am finding thee so ungrateful." Have mercy upon us, have mercy upon us, O Thou only God of mercy, and turn our stony hearts to Thee!

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