John Fleetwood.

The life of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ : containing a full and accurate history, from His taking upon Himself our nature, to His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension : together with the lives, transactions, and sufferings, of His Holy evangelists, apostles, and other primitive martyrs, t online

. (page 44 of 68)
Online LibraryJohn FleetwoodThe life of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ : containing a full and accurate history, from His taking upon Himself our nature, to His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension : together with the lives, transactions, and sufferings, of His Holy evangelists, apostles, and other primitive martyrs, t → online text (page 44 of 68)
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A pious person tegs his hady of Pilate, in order for interment.

It was expressly forbidden by the law of Moses, that the
bodies of those who were hanged should remain all night on
the tree. In conformity to this law, and because the siabbath

49



386 LIFE OF CHRIST.

■was at hand, the Jews begged; thfe governor that the legs of the
three persons crucified might be Broken, to hasten their death.
To this request Pilate readily consented ; and accordingly gave
the necessary oi der to the soldiers to put it in execution.

But on perceiving that Jesus vcas already dead, the soldiers did
not give themselves the trouble of breaking his legs, as they had
done those of the two malefactors that were crucified with him.
One of them, however, either out of wantonness or cruelty, thrust
a spear into bis side, and out of the wound flowed blood and
water.

This wound, therefore, was of the greatest importance to
mankind, as it abundantly demonstrated the truth of our Sav-
iour's death, and consequently prevented all objections that the
enemies to our holy faith would otherwise have raised against
it. The Evangehst adds, that the legs of our great Redeei)jpr;
were not broken, but his side pierced, that two particular .pro-
phecies might be fulfilled : " A bone of him shall not be broken ;"
and, " they shall look on him whom they have pierced."

Among the disciples of our blessed Jesus, was one called Jo-
seph of Arimathea ; a person equally remarkable for his birth,
fortUEfe and office. This man, who was not to be intimidated
by the malice of his countrymen, went boldly to Pilate, and
begged the body of his great Master. He had, indeed, no-
thing to fear from the Roman governor, who, during the whole
course of our Saviour's trial, had shown the greatest inclination
,to release him ; but he had reason to apprehend that this action
might draw upon him the malice of the rulers of the Jews, who
had taken such great pains to get the Messiah crucified.

"However, the great regard he had for the remains of his Mas-
ter, made hinj despise the malice of the Jews ; being-persuaded
that Omnipoteiice would defend him, and cover his enemies with
shame and confusion. And he well knew, that if no friend pro-
cured a grant of the body, it would be ignominiously cast out*
among the executed malefactors.

Pilate was at first surprised at the request of Joseph, thinking
it highly improbable that he should be dead in so short a time.
He had, indeed, given orders for the soldiers to break the legs of
the crucified persons ; but he knew it was common for them to
live many hourstafter that operation was performed ; for though
%e pain they felt must be exquisite to the last degree, yet, as the
vital parts remained untouched, life would continue some time in
the miserable body.

The governor, therefore, called* the centurion, to know the
truth of what Joseph had told him ; and being convinced, from
the answer of that officer, that Jesus had been dead some time,
he readily gave the body to Joseph.



THE CRUCIFIXION.

page 386.




"But when they came to Jesus, and saw that he was dead already, they
brake not his legs ; But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his sidei aad
forthwith came there out blood and water."— John xix. 33, 34.



■LITE or CHRIST. 3Q7

This worthy counsellor having obtained his request, repaired
to Mount Calvaiy ; and, being assisted by Nicodemus, took the
body down from the cross. The latter was formerly so cautious
in visiting Jesus that he came to him by night But in paying
the last duties to his Master, he used no art to conceal his design.
He showed a courage far superior to that of any of his apostles,
not only assisting Joseph in taking down the body of Jesus from
the cross, but bringing with him a quantity of spices, necessary
in the burial of his Saviour.

Accordingly they wrapped the body with the spices in fine linen,
and laid it in a new sepulchre, which Joseph had hewn out of a
rock for himself. This sepulchre was situated in a garden, near
Mount Calvary : and, in which having carefully deposited the
body of the blessed Jesus, they fastened the door, by rolling to
it a very large stone. " And when Joseph had taken the body,
he wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new
tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock ; and he rolled a great
stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed." Matt, xxvii.
59, 60.

Oh ! what a wonderful spectacle was now exhibited in this,
memorable sepulchre ! He who clothes himself with light, aa
with a garment, and walks upon the wings of the wind, was
pleased to wear the habiliments of mortality, and dwell among
the prostrate dead ! Who can repeat the wondrous truth too
often ? Who can dwell upon the enchanting theme too long 1
He who sits enthroned in glory, and diffuses bliss among all the
heavenly host, was once a pale and bloody corpse, and pressed
the floor of this httle sepulchre !

O death ! how great was thy triumph in that hour ! never did
thy gloomy realms contain such a prisoner before — Prisoner
did I say ? No, he was more than Conqueror. He arose far
more mighty than Samson from a transient slumber; broke
down the gates and demolished the strong holds of those dark
dominions. And this, O moiials ! is your consolation and secu-
rity. Jesus hath trod the dreadful path, and smoothed it for
your passage. Jesus, sleeping in the chambers of the tomb,
has brightened the dismal mansion, and left an inviting odour
in those beds of dust. The dying Jesus is your sure pro-
tection, your unquestionable passport through the territories of the
grave. Believe in him, and they shall prove a " highway to
Sion;" shall transmit you safe to Paradise. Believe in him,
and you shall be no losers, but unspeakable gainers by your
dissolution. For hear what the oracle of heaven says on this
important point : " Whoso believeth in me shall never die."
Death shall no longer be inflicted as a punishment, but rather
vouchsafed as a blessing. The exit is the end of their frailty,



388 LIFE OP CHRIST.

and their entrance upon perfection : their last groan is tiie pre-
lude to life and immortally.

But to return. The women of Galilee, who had watched
their dear Redeemer in his last moments, and accompanied his
body to the sepulchre, observing that the funeral rites were per-
formed in a hurry, agreed among themselves, as soon as the
Sabbath was passed, to return to the sepulchre, and embalm
the body of their dead Saviour, by anointing and swathing him
in the manner then common among the Jews. Accordingly
they retired to the city, and purchased the spices necessary for
that purpose ; Nicodemus having furnished only a mixture of
myrrh and aloes.

During these transactions, the chief priests and pharisees, re-
membering that Jesus had more than once predicted his own
resurrection, came to the governor, and informed him of it,
begging, at the same time, that a guard might be placed at
the sepulchre, lest his disciples should carry away the body,
and affirm that he was risen from the dead.* This happened a
little before it was dark in the evening, called " the next day
that followed," by the Evangelist, because the Jewish day began
at sunset.

This request being thought reasonable by Pilate, he gave
them leave to take as many soldiers as they pleased, out of the
cohort, which at the feast came from the castle of Antonia, and
kept guard of the porticoes of the temple. For that they were
not Jewish but Roman soldiers, whom the priests employed to
watch the sepulchre, is evident from their asking them of the
governor. Besides, when the soldiers returned with the news
of our Saviour's resurrection, the priests desired them to report
that his disciples had stolen him away while they slept : and
to encourage them to tell the falsehodd boldly, promised that if
their neglect of duty came to the governor's ears, proper methods
should be used to pacify him, and deliver them from any punish-
ment : a promise which there was no need of maldng to their
own servants.

The priests having thus obtained a guard of Roman soldiers,
men long accustomed to military duties, and therefore the most
proper fea* watching the -body, set out with them to the sepulchre ;
and to prevent these guards from combining with the disciples
in carrying on any fraud, placed the,m at their post, and sealed
the stone which was rolled to the door of the sepulchre.

Thus what was designed to expose the mission and doctrines
of Jesus, as rank falsehood and vile imposture, proved in fact
the strongest confirmation of the truth and divinity of the same,
that could possibly be given ; and placed what they wanted, to
reftite (which was his resurrection from the dead) even beyond
9 doubt.



'MFE OP CHRIST. 3^9



CHAPTER XLI.

Two pious Women go to view the Sepulchre of their crucified Lord
and Saviour. — An awful phenomenon happens. — A minister-
' ing Spirit descends. — Tlie Redeemer hursts the chains of death,
and^ rises from the confines of the grave.

Very early in the morning, after the Sabbath, Mary Magda-
lene, and the other Mary came to visit the sepulchre, in order to
embalm our Lord's body ; for the performance of which, they
had, in concert with several other women from Galilee,'brought
ointments and spices. But before they reached the sepulchre,
there was a gi-eat earthquake preceding the most memorable
event that ever happened among the children of men, the resur-
rection of the Son of God from the dead. " For the angel of
the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the
stone from the door of .the sepulchre, and sat upon it ; his coun-
tenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow : and
for fear, of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men;"
they fled into the city, and the Saviour of the world rose from
the dead.

The angel, who had, till then, sat upon the stone, quitted his
station, and entered into the sepulchre. In the mean time Mary
Magdalene, and the other Mary, were still on their way to the
sepulchre, together with Salome, who joined them on the road.
As they proceeded on their way, they consulted among them-
selves, with regard to the method of putting their design of
embalming the body of their Master into execution ; particularly
with respect to the enormous stone which they had seen placed
there, with the utmost difficulty, two days before. " Who,"
said they, " shall roll away the stone from the door of the sep-
ulchre ? For it was very great." — But in the midst of this
deliberation about removing this great and sole obstacle to
their design (for it does not appear they knew any thing of the
guard) they lifted up their eyes, and perceived it was already
rolled away. ». . ?.,

Alarmed at so extraordinary and unexpected a circumstance,
Mary Magdalene concluded, that the stone could not have been
rolled away without some design ; and that those who rolled it
away could have no other intent than that of removing our
JiOrd's body. Imagining, by appearances, that they had reallj
done so, she ran imn!>ediately to acquaint Peter and John of
what she had seen, and what she suspected ; leaving Mary and
Salome there, that if the other women should arrive during her
absence, they might acquaint them with their surprise, at find-



390 LIFE OP CHRIST.

ing the stone removed, and of Mary Magdalene's running to
inform the apostles of it.

In the mean time, the soldiers, who were terrified at seeing an
awful messenger from on high roll away the stone from the door
of the sepulchre, and open it in. quality of a servant,' fled into
the city, and informed the rulers of these miraculous appear-
ances. This account was highly mortifying to the chief priests,
as it was a proof of our Saviour's resurrection that could not be
denied : they, therefore, resolved to stifle it immediately : and
accordingly bribed the soldiers to conceal the real fact, and to
publish every where, thal^ his disciples had stolen the body out of
the sepulchre.

What ! the body taken away while the sepulchre was guarded
by Roman soldiers ? Yes, the disciples stole the body while the
soldiers slept ! A story so inconsistent, and which so evidently'
carries the marks of its own confutation with it, that it deserves
no answer.

The priests themselves could not be so stupid as not to foresee
what constructions the world would put upon the account given
by persons who pretended to know and tell what was done while
they were asleep.



CHAPTER XLII.

The angel addresses the pious Women. — Two disciples go to the
Sepulchre. — Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene. — Afterwards
to a company of Women. — Peter meets his Lord and Master,
after his Resurrection.

While Mary Magdalene was going to inform the disciples
that the stone was rolled away from the mouth of the sepul-
chre, and the body taken away, Mary and Salome continued
advancing towards the sepulchre, and at their arrival found,
what they expected, the body of their beloved Master gone
from the place where it had been deposited by Nicodemus and
Joseph of Arimathea ; but at the same time beheld, to their
great astonishment, a beautiful young man, in shining raiment,
very glorious to behold, sitting on the right side of the sep-
ulchre.

Matthew tells us that it was the angel who had rofted away
the stone, and frightened away the guards from the sepulchre.
It seems he had now laid aside the terrors in which he Was then
arrayed, and assumed the form and dress of a human being, in



LIFE OP CHRIST. 891

Order that these pious women, who had accompanied our Savicfur
during the greater part of the time of his public ministry, might
be as little terrified as possible.

But notwithstanding his beauty and benign appearance, they
were greatly affrighted, and on the point of turning back, when
the heavenly messenger, to banish their fears, told them, in a
gentle accent, that he knew their errand. " Fear not," said he,
" for I know that ye seek Jesus which was crucified. He is
nor here, for he is risen, as he said :" and then invited them to
come down. into the sepulchre, and view the place where the
Son of God had lain : that is, to look on the linen clothes, and
the napkin that had been about his head, and which he had left
behind him when he arose from the dead : for to look at the
place in any other view would no.t have tended to confirm their
faith of his resurrection.

The women, greatly encouraged by the agreeable news, as
well as by the peculiar accent with which this sweet messenger
from the heavenly Canaan delivered his speech, went down into
the sepulchre, when, behold, another of the angelic choir ap-
peared.

They did not, however, yet seem to give sufficient credit to
what was told them by the angel ; and therefore the other gently
chid them for seeking the living among the dead, with an inten-
tion to do him an office due only to the latter, and for not be-
lieving what was told them by a messenger from heaven, or
rather for not remembering the words which their great Master
himself had told them with regard to his own resurrection.
"Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here,
but is risen : remember how he spake unto you when he was
yet in Galilee, saying, The Son of man must be delivered into
the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise
again."

When the women had satisfied their minds by looking at the
place where the Lord had lain, and where nothing was to be
found but the linen clothes, the angel who first appeared to
them resumed the discourse, and bade them go and tell his dis-
ciples, particularly Peter, the glad tidings of his Master's res-
urrection from the dead ; that he was going before them, to
Galilee ; and that they should there have the pleasure of seeing
him.

The reason why the disciples were ordered to go into Gali-
lee to meet their great and beloved Master seems to be this ;
they were now jnost of them in Jerusalem, celebrating the pass-
over ; and it may be easily imagined that, on receiving the news
of the Lord's resurrection, many, if not all, would resolve to
tarry in Jerusalem, in expectation of meeting him there : a thing
that must have proved of great detriment to them, at that time



392



LIFE OF CHRIST.



of the year, when the harvest was about to begin, the sheaf of
first fruits being always offered on the second day of the passover
week.

In order, therefore, to prevent their staying so long from home,
the message was sent directing them to return into Galilee, with
full assurance that they should there have the pleasure of seeing
their great Lord and Master ; and by that means have all their
doubts removed, and be fully convinced that he had patiently un-
dergone all his sufferings for the sins of mankind.

The women, highly elated with the news of their Lord's resur-
rection, left the sepulchre immediately, and ran to carry the dis-
ciples the glad tidings. ^

During these transactions at the sepulchre, Peter and John,
having been informed by Mary Magdalene, that the stone was
rolled away, and the body of Jesus not to be found, were hast-
ening to the grave, and missed the women who had seen the
appearance of angels. , ■ *

The disciples being astonished at what Mary Magdalene had
told them, and desirous of having their doubts cleared up, made
all the haste possible to the sepufchre ; and John, being young-
er than Peter, arrived at the sepulchre first, but did not go in,
contenting himself with stooping down, and seeing the linen
clothes lying, which had been wrapped about our Saviour's
body. Peter soon arrived, and went to the sepulchre, where he
saw the " linen clothes lie : and the napkin that was about his
head not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a
place by itself."

Our Lord left the grave-clothes in the sepulchre^ probably to
show that his body was not stolen away by his disciples, who
in such a case would not have talsen time to have stripped it.
Besides, the circumstances of the grave-clothes induced the dis-
ciples themselves to believe when the resurrection was related to
them. But at that time they had not any suspicion that he was
risen from the dead.

These two disciples having thus satisfied themselves that what
Mary Magdalene had told them was really true, returned to their
s-espective habitations ; but Mary continued weeping at the door
of the sepulchre. She had, it seems, followed Peter and John to
the garden, but did not return with them, being anxious to find
the body. Accordingly, stepping down into the sepulchre to ex-
amine it once more, she saw two angels sitting, the one at the
head and the other at the feet where the body of Jesus had lain.
They were now in the same position as when they appeared to
the other women ; but had rendered themselves invisible while
Peter and John were at the sepulchre.

Mary, on beholding thes&' heavenly messengers, dressed in
robes of light, was greatly terrified. But" they, in the jjjost



MFB OP CMBIST. 803

endearing accent, asked her, " Woman, why weepest thou ? To
■which she answered, Because they have taken away my Lord,
and I know not where they have laid him." On pronouncing
these words, she turned herself about, and saw Jesus standing
near her : but the terror she was in, and the garments in which he
was now dressed, prevented her from knowing him for some time.
Jesus repeated the same question used before by the angel,
" Woman, why weepest thou ?" To which Mary, who now sup-
posed him to be the , gardener, answered. Sir, if his body be
troublesome in the sepulchre, and thou hast removed him, tell mo
where he is deposited, and I will take him away. But our bles-
sed Saviour, willing to remove her anxiety, called her by her
name with his usual tone of voice, on which she immediately
knew him ; and falling down before him, would have embraced
his knees, according to that modesty and reverence with which
the women of the East saluted the men, especially those who were
their superiors in station.

But Jesus refused the compliment, telling her, that he was not
going immediately into heaven. He was often to show himself
to the disciples, before he ascended ; so that she would have fre-
quent opportunities of testifying her regard to him. And at the
same time, said to her, " Go to the brethren, and say unto them,
I ascend to my Father and your Father ; and to my God and
your God."

Thus did the blessed Jesus contemplate, with a singular pleas-
ure, the work of redemption he had just finished. The happy
relation between God and man which had been long cancelled
by sin, was now renewed. The Almighty, who had disowned
them on account of their disobedience, was again reconciled to
them ; he was become their God and Father ; they were exalt-
ed to the honorable relation of Christ's brethren, and the sons
of God ; and their Father loved them with an affection far ex-
ceeding that of the most tender hearted parent upon earth. —
The kindness of this message sent by our dear Redeemer to
his disciples, will appear above all praise, if we remember their
late behaviour. They had every one of them forsaken him in
the greatest extremity ; when he was scourged £ind mocked by
the Roman soldiers, derided by his countrymen, and spitefully
entreated by all, they hid themselves in some place of safety,and
preferred their own security to the deliverance of their master.
When he fainted under the burden of his cross, none of them
were there to' assist him.

Simon, a Cyretiian,- was compelled by the Roman soldiers to
ease him of his ponderous burden. But notwithstanding they
had refused to assist their Master during his sufferings for the
sins of the world, he graciously, he'freely forgave them ; he as -

50



3d4 L.ltB OF CHIUSl'.

Sured them of their pardon, and called them even by the endear-
ing name of brethren.

There is something very remarkable in this part of the his-
tory. None of the apostles or male disciples were honored with
the first appearance of the angels, or with the immediate news of
the resurrection of the Son of God, much less with the appear-
ance of Jesus himself.

The angels in the sepulchre kept themselves invisible all the
time that Peter and John were observing the linen clothes, and
satisfying themselves that the body of their Master was not
there. Perhaps the male disciples in general were treated with
this mark of disrespect, both because they had, with shameful
cowardice, forsaken their Master when he was betrayed into the
hands of his enemies, and because their faith was so weak that
they had absolutely despaired of his being the Messiah, when
they saw him expire on the cross. But how different was the
conduct of the women ! Laying aside the weakness and timid-
ity natural to their sex, they showed an uncommon magnanimity
on this melancholy occasion. For in contradiction to those of
tiie Jews, who so vehemently required Jesus to be crucified as
a deceiver, they proclaimed his innocence, by tears, cries, and
lamentations, when they saw him led forth to suffer on Mount
Calvary ; accompanied him to the cross, the most infamous of all
punishments ; kindly waited on him in his expiring moments,
giving him ail the consolation in their povpei", though at the same
time the sight of his sufferings pierced Ihem to the heart ; and
when he expired and his body was carried off", they accompanied
him to his grave, not despairing, though they found he had not
delivered himself but to appearance was conquered by death,
the universal enemy of mankind. Perhaps these pious women
entertained some faint hopes that he would still revive. Or, if
they did not entertain expectations of that kind, they at least cher-
ished a strong degree of love for their Lord, and determined to
do him all the honor in their power.

A faith so remarkably strong, a love so ardent, and a for-
titude so unshaken, could not fail of receiving distinguished
marks of the divine approbation : and they were accordingly
honored with the news of Christ's resurrection, before the male
disciples had their eyes cheered with the first sight of their be-
loved Lord after he arose from the chambers of the grave ; so
that they preached the joyful tidings of his resurrection to the
apostles themselves.

But there seem to have been other reasons why our great Re-
deemer showed himself first to the women. The thoughts of
the Etpostles were constantly fixed on a temporal kingdom, and
they. had wrested all his words into an agreement with that
favorite notion. And whatever they could not construe as con-



LIFE OF CHRIST. S95



Online LibraryJohn FleetwoodThe life of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ : containing a full and accurate history, from His taking upon Himself our nature, to His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension : together with the lives, transactions, and sufferings, of His Holy evangelists, apostles, and other primitive martyrs, t → online text (page 44 of 68)