MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK
OUR SAVIOUR CARRIES HIS CROSS
Consider first, how upon Pilate’s pronouncing sentence against our Lord they immediately proceed to execution: and first they strip off his purple robe and clothe him again with his own garments; then they bring him the cross, which he was to carry on his shoulders to mount Calvary, as Isaac formerly did the wood upon which he was to be offered in sacrifice. But O who can express or conceive that affection of soul with which our Saviour embraces his cross, which he is now going to consecrate with his precious blood? this cross, designed to be the happy instrument of our redemption, the altar of his sacrifice, the throne of his mercy, the trophy of his victory, the eternal monument of his love, the refuge of sinners, the comfort of the afflicted, the glory of his elect, the school of all virtues, and the source of all our good. O my soul, what are thy sentiments with regard to the cross of Christ? Thou must embrace the cross with him if thou desirest to reign with him. Give ear to a great servant of God, expressing his affection to the cross in this pathetic manner: ‘I bow down to thee, O precious cross, consecrated by the embraces and by the blood of Jesus, my Lord and my King. I look upon thee as the standard of his armies, as the watch-tower showing forth its light to guide his elect in this stormy ocean, as the defence of his servants and as the mark and badge of his children. I adore thee, O hidden wisdom! O light unknown to the world! the honour of them that follow thee, the safety of them that carry thee, the crown of them that embrace thee, the reward of them that love thee, and the salvation of them that cast themselves into thy arms. To die on thee is to live and to live on thee is to reign. He that loves thee is content; he that desires thee is easy; he that possesses thee is rich. I bow down to thee, O tree of life, the fruit of which is the solid food of the children of God. O balance ever even, in which alone we discover the just value and the true price of all things: in thee is found health and life, the victory over hell, the sweets of Paradise, strength of heart, joy of spirit, perfection of virtue, and assurance of eternal goods, &c. I embrace thee, O holy cross, consecrated by the sweat and by the blood of my Saviour. Thou shalt be henceforward my refuge, my light, my knowledge, and all my wisdom. Forsake me not, keep not at a distance from me, though this flesh of mine dreads thee, and seeks to fly from thee. O fasten me to the cross with thee, my sweet Jesus, and enlighten me with thy admirable light; that my spirit may penetrate into the depth of the mysteries and of the wisdom of the cross.’ – Sufferings of Jesus, chap. xlii. My soul, are these thy sentiments?
Consider 2ndly, and take a view of the Lamb of God setting out upon this his last, most wearisome, and most painful journey of his mortal life; loaded with the enormous weight of the cross and with the far more intolerable weight of the sins of the world. See the length and whole size of the cross, proportioned to bear the weight of a human body suspended in the air; and reflect how little strength remains in his body after so many sufferings and fatigues and the loss of so much blood. Ah! how rough, how hard, how insupportable, then, is this load to his shoulders and back, all mangled, rent, and torn with whips and scourges! How does it press upon his green wounds and squeeze out his sacred blood all the way! O mark this last procession. A crier leads the way, publishing his pretended crimes and blasphemies; then follow the soldiers and executioners with ropes, hammers, nails, &c. And after them goeth, or rather creepeth along, our high priest and victim, all bruised and bloody, and staggering under the burden of his cross, attended with a thief on each hand and surrounded with a multitude of his enemies, insulting over him and loading him with scoffs, reproaches, and curses, whilst the cruel executioners at every turn are hastening him forward with their kicks and blows. Follow thy Lord, my soul, in this his last and most painful procession; offer him what service thou canst to ease him of some part of his burden; weep over him at least with the good women that followed him; but take notice of his admonishing them rather to weep for themselves and for their children; and see how, in the midst of his sufferings, he is much more concerned for our miseries and sins than for any thing he himself endures. O! blessed be his infinite charity for us poor sinners!
Consider 3rdly, how our Lord, having for some time with unspeakable labour and torment carried his cross through the streets, at last falleth down under the enormous weight of it, unable to carry it any longer. But with what a shock does he fall! with what an additional torture to his wounded body, now quite exhausted with pain and labour, and loss of blood! See how the bloody executioners employ their kicks and blows to oblige him to rise again with his burden, but all in vain: his strength is quite gone, he is not able to carry it any further. Therefore, lest his execution should be delayed, they lay hold on Simon of Cyrene, whom they met coming out of the country, and they oblige him to take up the cross, and to ease our Lord of part of the burden by carrying it after him. But O! who shall ease him of any part of that other load, infinitely more insupportable, which his heavenly Father has laid upon him, of the sins of the whole world! My soul, do thou give him what little ease thou canst by lamenting the share thy sins have in this tragedy, and by ceasing henceforward to afflict him by sin.
Conclude to run in and offer thy service to thy Redeemer on this occasion, to take up his cross for him and to help him, like Simon of Cyrene, in the carriage of it; or rather offer thyself to him, to take up thy own cross with perfect resignation and patience, and follow him. It is this he particularly calls for and expects at thy hands.