The Sufferings and Death of Christ

“My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?” — MATTHEW xxvii, 46. 

LONG before our blessed Saviour was manifested in the flesh, the particular circumstances of His humiliation and death were revealed to the ancient prophets, and by them made known to the people. Neither can there be a more unanswerable proof given of the Messiahship of Christ than that all the prophecies from the least to the greatest, that were descriptive of the Messiah, were accomplished, to a tittle, in Him. Thus, for instance — Isaiah, who flourished about eight hundred and thirty years before the coming of Christ, foretold of Him that He should be despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; that He should be wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities; that He should be numbered with transgressors, and make His soul an offering for sin. Zechariah expressly foretold, that Christ should be delivered up for thirty pieces of silver, and that a potter’s field should be bought with the money. And David, who died upwards of a thousand years before the birth of Christ, prophesied of His fast in the wilderness; of His arraignment and condemnation through the instigation of false witnesses; of His being scourged, crucified, and buried; and likewise of His resurrection from the dead, and ascension into heaven.

And, as the writings of the Evangelists and Apostles are the best comment on the Old Testament; so, by consulting what they relate concerning the sufferings of Christ, and comparing their account with the ancient prophecies, we shall find that every event answered the predictions as exactly as face answers face in a glass. And I am persuaded, that one grand reason why we have so many Deists and infidels in the present age, is, either because those men never trouble themselves to read the Scriptures at all, or, supposing they may by chance look into them, it is in a slight, careless manner; and their prejudice on one hand, and want of attention on the other, render them proof against demonstration itself, and blind to the evidence of truth, let it shine ever so clearly.

But I only mention this; my chief design being to improve the circumstances of our blessed Lord’s crucifixion, as we find them recorded by this evangelist. The preceding chapter, among several other affecting particulars, informs us of His agony and prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. This garden, or field, was a solitary spot of ground at the foot of Mount Olivet, and about half a mile to the east of Jerusalem. Hither, as St. Luke acquaints us, our Lord used occasionally to retire; it being an unfrequented place, and therefore convenient for prayer and meditation. And now, as He foreknew that His death was at hand, after He had instituted the Last Supper, and bid a solemn adieu to His disciples, He repaired once more to the garden of Gethsemane, that He might spend a few minutes in supplication to His heavenly Father, and the better prepare Himself to undergo that weight of sufferings which He was shortly to sustain. Here then it was, that the agonies of His soul, and the intense fervour of His prayers, occasioned that bloody sweat, of which we read in St. Luke.

Though it was late at night, and the season of the year was uncommonly cold, yet this sweat was as it were great drops of blood, falling down to the ground, a kind of prelude this to His approaching crucifixion, when the crimson stream was not to fall in drops, but to flow in torrents from His wounded body. The prayer which our Lord put up, while He lay prostrate in the garden, was, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” As if He had said, If sinful man can be saved without My suffering, let Me not suffer; but if mankind must be lost, unless I die, Thy will be done. I am content to endure the punishment due to them, if Thy justice cannot be satisfied without it. Let all the weight of Thy resentment fall on Me, so My people may be pardoned, and their souls saved.

This prayer of Christ’s furnishes us with an answer to a question which some have been so daring as to ask, namely, Whether sinful mankind could not have been forgiven, and some other method have been found out for our salvation, besides the death of Christ? To which, with due deference to the divine wisdom, we may safely answer, No. If any other way for our redemption could possibly have been contrived, the prayer of Christ, who intreated that, in that case, the cup might pass from Him, would have certainly been heard. Neither is it even rational to think, that Christ would have assumed our nature, and lived a suffering life, and died a tormenting death, if it had not been absolutely necessary, and if less than that could have sufficed for our salvation.

Our blessed Lord had scarce ended His prayer, and risen from the ground, when a multitude of soldiers, made up partly of Jews and partly of Romans, came to apprehend Him. Of this troop Judas was the ring-leader. Possibly they had sought for Him in Jerusalem, and not finding Him there, Judas, who knew that Gethsemane was a place to which He frequently resorted, led the multitude thither. The traitor had before given them a signal, saying, “Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He, hold Him fast.” The Son of God being thus apprehended, was brought from Gethsemane to Jerusalem, with His hands tied behind Him, carried before the Jewish Sanhedrim, of which Caiaphas, the high priest, was president. Here, in the face of the whole court, our Lord resolutely asserted the dignity of His person, and the divinity of His mission. He had heard with silence the testimony of those who bore false witness against Him; He would not clear Himself of their malicious slanders, as thinking them beneath His notice; and knowing that His death was necessary, both to fulfil the decree of God, and to procure redemption for His people. He rather chose to suffer, than to offer anything in His own defence.

But since that which was alleged against Him by the false witnesses, supposing what they said had been true, was not capital, and could not reach His life; the members of the council, who thirsted for His blood, were in hopes that if they could prevail with Christ to speak, they might draw something or other from Him which might be interpreted to His prejudice, and furnish them with a plausible reason for condemning Him. The high priest, therefore, in the name of the rest, adjured Him by the living God, to tell them whether He was the Messiah, and the Son of God; on which, partly out of reverence to the name of His heavenly Father, by whom He was adjured; and partly out of apprehension that His silence might be construed as a denial of His Messiahship, our Lord answered, “Thou hast said”; that is, thou hast said right; I am the Son of God; adding, “Nevertheless, I say unto you, hereafter shall you see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” As if He had said, Though you now sit as judge, and I stand before you as a criminal, yet the time is coming, when the case shall be totally reversed; you, who at present look upon Me with abhorrence and contempt; even your eyes shall see Me come in the last day to judge mankind, not as I now appear, mean, poor, and forsaken; but clothed with uncreated glory, possessed of infinite power, and attended with innumerable hosts of adoring angels; and, so sure as I am now standing at your bar, shall you be arraigned and condemned at Mine.

Far from being affected with these awful words, or the majestic solemnity with which, no doubt, our Lord uttered them, the high priest was glad to hear this declaration, as he could now, with some colour, condemn Him for supposed blasphemy. The high priest rent his clothes; which, among the ancients, was the strongest sign they could give of horror and indignation. Then, addressing himself to those present, he cried, “He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard His blasphemy; what think ye?” To which they all replied, “He is guilty of death.”

No sooner was sentence pronounced, than the whole assembly, laying aside all decency and restraint, began to vent their rage on the guiltless sufferer; for it follows, “Then did they spit in His face, and buffeted Him”; that is, struck Him with their fists, and others smote Him with the palms of their hands, or, as I think it may be more exactly rendered, smote Him with staves; meaning, that those who, by reason of the throng, could not come near enough to strike Him with their hands, reached over, and struck Him with their walking staves. And some writers add, that not content with this, they tore off His beard and the hair of His head by the roots. Then was eminently fulfilled that prophecy in Isaiah, relating to the Messiah, “I gave My back to the smiters, and My cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, and hid not My face from shame and spitting.” Thus they continued to exercise their cruelty on the Lord of life, all the remainder of the night.

When morning came, we are told at the beginning of the next chapter, the chief priests and elders took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death; they concerted together what death they should put Him to; and how they might prevail on Pilate, the Roman governor, to ratify and put in execution the sentence of death which they had passed upon Him the preceding night. They resolved to deliver Him over to the secular magistrate, partly, because, as they were tributaries to the Roman emperor, the power of life and death was, in great measure, taken out of their hands: and partly because they were sensible that the common people who had been witness to the miracles of Christ, and the holiness of His life, would be exasperated at His being put to death. Therefore the high priests and rulers chose to give Him up to Pontius Pilate, that so the odium of His death might not devolve on them, but on the Romans. In order to cut off all possibility of His escaping with life, they agreed to charge Him with high treason; and to accuse Him to Pilate, as an enemy to the person and government of Caesar.

Accordingly, they led Him bound to the tribunal: and having given in their charge. Pilate addressing himself to Christ, asked Him, saying, “Art Thou the king of the Jews?” as much as to say, You have heard what has been alleged against You; are You guilty of the charge? Art Thou the King of the Jews? Is it possible that You should give Yourself out for a king? — You, who appear in all the circumstances of poverty, contempt, and shame? To which the divine sufferer replied, as He did before to the Jewish synod, “Thou sayest,” that is, Thou sayest true, in calling Me a king; even in a temporal sense I am so; being lineally descended from David. St. John informs us, that our Lord added, My kingdom is not of this world: meaning. Though I am, by descent, legal king of the Jewish nation, yet I voluntarily forbear to assert My temporal rights. I have never affected outward pomp and grandeur; My design, in coming into the world, being to establish a spiritual kingdom, a kingdom of grace, in the hearts of men; to rescue them from the slavery of sin and Satan: to enlighten them into the knowledge of saving truths; to make them spiritually happy here and eternally so hereafter.

Pilate, fully convinced of our Saviour’s innocence, and that the Jews had no other motive for prosecuting Him, than envy and malice, would fain have set Him at liberty; but the high priests, falsely urging, that Christ, if suffered to live, would usurp the throne of Judah, and put an end to the Roman government; Pilate consented that He should be crucified; lest, if he acquitted Him, he himself might be misrepresented to the emperor, as encouraging a person who was accused of treason. But, as Pilate acted herein contrary to the dictates of his conscience, and was more fearful of the emperor than of God; so he got nothing by his fancied prudence. For, we are told in history, that, within little more than five years after our Saviour’s crucifixion, the very thing that Pilate feared, came upon him. He fell under the displeasure of Tiberius, by whom he was sent into banishment, where he put an end to his own life, by laying violent hands on himself. And indeed, it commonly happens, that they who seek to please men by sinful compliances, and sacrifice a good conscience to preserve the esteem of the world, miss the end they have in view; and, while they barter the favour of God for the favour of man, frequently lose both together.

Pilate, though he was prevailed with, by the importunity of the Jews, to condemn Jesus; yet went as far to save Him as he could without offending them. He therefore proposed this expedient; that as it was usual for some criminal to be released to them, at the annual solemnity of the Passover; he desired that they would make choice of Christ. But the high priests and the leaders of the people, unanimously cried out, “Not this Man, but Barabbas.” In this particular the hypocrisy of the Jews was very observable. They had just before pretended to accuse our Lord for being an enemy to the state; wherein they had a two-fold view: — 1. That they might make the death of Christ inevitable, treason being always reckoned an unpardonable crime, in those countries which were subject to the Romans: and 2.Their design in charging Christ with disaffection to the government, and insisting on His execution, was, that they themselves might appear to be friends to the state, and well-affected to the Roman emperor. But that this was mere dissimulation is evident from their desiring Barabbas to be released to them. Barabbas actually had been guilty of treason; he had made a party in Jerusalem, and excited a rebellion, which, being suppressed by the vigilance of Pontius Pilate, Barabbas, the author of the insurrection, and two of his accomplices, which were, probably the two thieves that were crucified with Christ, were taken into custody, the rest escaping by flight.

The Jews having demanded the release of Barabbas, Pilate asked them, what he should do with Christ? to which they answered, “Let Him be crucified.” Pilate then ordered Him to be scourged. Whether he did this purely out of compliance to the Roman laws, which required that everyone, who was condemned to crucifixion should first be scourged; or whether by scourging our blessed Redeemer, he hoped to bring Him off with life, as thinking that so dismal a sight might melt His persecutors to compassion, and satisfy them without actually putting Him to death; which of these two motives it was that induced Pilate to scourge Him, is uncertain. However, scourged He was by the Roman soldiers, and that with most extreme severity.

Among them, when any person, ordered for execution, was to be scourged, his arms were fastened to a pillar, to prevent his struggling. If the sufferer was condemned for any very enormous crime, four soldiers were to stand behind him, each with a whip in his hand, composed of several wires, with nails and hooks fastened to the ends of them. Each soldier was alternately to give a blow, and so to continue till the criminal was almost dead, through loss of blood and the anguish of his wounds; on which, the soldiers were to leave off scourging him, and lead him away to the place of execution. All this was, no doubt, inflicted on Christ, in its utmost rigour, and therefore David, prophesying of Christ, says, “the ploughers ploughed upon my back” — and not satisfied with this, they took Him from the pillar to the Praetor’s hall, where the mangled and almost expiring Saviour was exposed to the insults and derision of the merciless guards.

Here it was that they plaited a crown of thorns, and put it on His head. Some think these were natural thorns that grew, but, most probably, they were artificial ones, made of iron, sharpened and pointed like thorns; and, that these thorns might penetrate the deeper into His temples, the Evangelist adds, that they took a reed and smote Him on the head. They had, before, given Him a reed, which they had insultingly made Him hold, as a mock sceptre. This reed they afterwards snatched out of His hand, and with it struck Him on the head, and as it were, nailed down the thorns into His forehead, which occasioned exquisite pain and a great effusion of blood.

I would observe, that the word which we translate a reed, may as well be rendered a cane, or wand; and it is most probable, that it was a walking staff; since a blow with a slight reed would scarce have been felt, or have deserved a mention in a detail of such dreadful sufferings. The crowning of Christ with thorns was prophesied of nearly a thousand years before His incarnation; namely, in the second chapter of Canticles, where He is compared to a lily among thorns. When the soldiers had satiated their cruelty, and offered the Son of God all the indignities they could devise, the Evangelist tells us that they led Him forth to crucify Him. They were fearful, perhaps, that He might die under their hands, and then they would be deprived of the pleasure of making Him a public spectacle, and tormenting Him on the cross.

As it was customary for those who were to be crucified, to carry their own cross on which they were to suffer, to the place of execution; so, we are informed by St. John, they made our blessed Lord carry His. He went forth, says the Evangelist, bearing His cross. Thus He proceeded through the streets of Jerusalem till His shoulders, which had so lately been torn with the scourge, and His body, emaciated with grief, and weak with fasting; could no longer sustain the weight of the cross. We are told, by some writers, and they give it as probable enough, that Christ, unable to carry His cross any further, fainted under it, on His way to Calvary. The guards who escorted Him, fearing, as before, that He might not live to reach the place of execution, compelled one Simon, of Cyrene, to bear the cross in His stead. Being at last arrived at Calvary, the soldiers, before they crucified Him, gave Him vinegar to drink, mingled with gall. Whether they did this out of mere derision, or out of compassion, to throw Him into a kind of lethargy, and thereby render Him less sensible of pain, is hard to determine; however, this we may be sure of, that the providence of God purposely ordered it, that that prediction in the Psalms might be accomplished; “They gave Me gall to eat, and when I was thirsty, they gave Me vinegar to drink.” Our Lord after this, was stripped of His raiment and fastened to the cross.

The ancient manner of crucifixion was this: the cross was laid on the ground, and the person to be crucified was laid upon it at full length, and with his arms extended. If he was to be only tied to the cross, the executioner stood by with cords; if the criminal was to be nailed to it, they stood ready with nails and hammers. The nails were never drove directly through the palms of the hands, but towards the bottom of the hand, near the wrist, both because the sensation of pain is more exquisite there, and that the hands might be the better able to bear the weight of the body. The feet of the criminal were generally crossed one over the other, so that one nail went through them both. When this was done, the cross was raised from the ground with ropes, and the foot of it was fixed in a deep hole dug in the earth.

As this was the general method of crucifixion, no doubt our Lord was crucified in this manner. Some assert, that after He was fastened to the cross, while they were fixing it in the earth, it fell with our Lord upon it; which, if true, serves to clear up that passage in the twenty-second Psalm, where David, speaking in the person of Christ, says, “All My bones are out of joint.” And certainly, if the cross fell down with Him, it must needs shock and dislocate His whole frame, widen the wounds He had received before, and add even to His immense sufferings. The cross being erected again, while the Prince of life was bleeding to death, the soldiers, who had assisted in His execution, amused themselves with casting lots; that is, throwing dice who should have His raiment; whereby they fulfilled the prophecy of David, “They parted My garments among them, and upon My vesture did they cast lots.”

But though the blessed Jesus suffered with the most invincible meekness, yet He did not die before He had given the guilty world some awful marks of His displeasure; for at the forty-fifth verse we are told, that from the sixth hour, which is about noon, when Christ was first nailed to the cross, there was darkness over all the earth till the ninth hour; that is, till about three in the afternoon, or somewhat longer. The sun miraculously withdrew his beams, and the skies were clad in mourning while Jesus, the Creator, was expiring on the tree. That this darkness, accompanied with an earthquake, was not confined to Judea only, but extended over the whole earth, is evident, as well from the accounts of heathen historians, as of all the evangelists.

And one circumstance was very observable, which is delivered by some ancient writers, namely, that at the time when our Lord was crucified, there dwelt at Helioplis, in Egypt, which was upwards of two hundred and twenty miles from Jerusalem, one Dionysius, who seeing this preternatural darkness, said to one of his friends, “Either God Himself suffers, or He sympathizes with one that does.” This Dionysius was then only a heathen philosopher, but afterwards was a convert, as St. Paul was, and died a martyr to the faith. That the darkness which involved the whole earth at this time, and which among other places, was observable at Nice, in Bythinia, seven hundred and twenty miles from Jerusalem, was miraculous; not owing to a natural eclipse of the sun is evident; for it did not happen at a new moon, but when the moon was at the full, at which time an eclipse of the sun cannot happen. Besides, an eclipse only continues for a few minutes, whereas this darkness lasted three hours. Add to this, that the darkness was universal, whereas an eclipse, though it may be visible in some countries, is never visible in all countries at once.

Our blessed Lord when He had hung near three hours on the cross, and suffered, not only in His body, but, which was more dreadful still, endured in His immaculate soul that sense of the divine wrath which was due to His people, broke out into that pathetic and bitter cry “My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Or as I think it may better be rendered, My God! My God! how hast Thou forsaken Me?” as much as to say, to what depth of immense distress does the withdrawing of Thy presence reduce Me! Christ suffered as our substitute, and in our stead; the punishment, which must otherwise have fallen on us, was transferred on Him. And one part of that punishment consisted in the inward manifestations of the divine displeasure. These, therefore, the Redeemer felt, not for any evil done by Him, but for the sins done by others, and which He graciously took upon Himself to atone for. So that this was the time wherein it pleased the Lord to bruise Him, and to make His soul an offering for sin, If the Most High God bent His bow against Him as an enemy, and stood at His right hand as an adversary, it is easy to account for the prodigious consternation of the Redeemer. It is not to be wondered at, that His heart, though otherwise indued with invincible fortitude, should, on this occasion, become like melting wax.

The vinegar and the gall, which they gave Him to drink, were not half so bitter as the cup of His Father’s wrath; yet for the sake of His people, He drank it to the very dregs. The nails that pierced His hands, and the spear that cleft His heart, were not half so sharp as the frowns of His eternal Father’s countenance; which, for our consolation, He patiently submitted to bear. He was rent with wounds, and racked with pain; yet this, all this, was gentle, was lenient, in comparison of those inexpressible agonies which penetrated His very soul. The former fetched not a single complaint from His mouth; the latter, wrung from His breaking heart that passionate exclamation, “My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?” —Astonishing words! surely a distress beyond all imagination grievous, uttered them! Surely the vengeance, not of men, but of heaven itself, exhorted them! Every syllable of which, speaks, what the prophet describes; “Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? Behold and see, if there be any sorrow like unto My sorrow, wherewith the Lord hath afflicted Me in the day of His fierce anger.”

The Evangelist adds, that Jesus cried again, with a loud voice. But why with a loud voice? To show that He did not die by compulsion but voluntarily. When a person is in his last moments, his speech commonly fails him; but Christ, when He was expiring, spoke with a clear, audible voice, which was a proof, that, though He had suffered so much in His human nature, yet that human nature was, in a supernatural manner supported by His Godhead, and that all the united cruelty of Jews and Gentiles, could not put an end to His life, sooner than He pleased. Having, therefore, with a loud and triumphant voice, commended His blessed soul into His heavenly Father’s hands, He gave up the ghost; or, as it may be literally rendered, “He dismissed or let go His spirit.”

When He knew that He had fulfilled all the prophecies that related to Him, and suffered enough to procure the salvation of His people, He voluntarily retired from life. No sooner was the important scene brought to a period; no sooner were the Redeemer’s eyelids closed, than universal nature seemed to sympathize with her departing Lord, and in a miraculous manner, to reproach the matchless guilt and the unexampled cruelty of His murderers. The first prodigy that immediately followed on His death, was the rending the veil of the temple. The priests, or at least, the major part of them, were attending divine service in the temple, to offer up the evening sacrifice, at the very moment when Christ expired; when the veil, or magnificent curtain, which separated the holy of holies from the rest of the temple, was suddenly rent in two. And as this veil was composed of the richest and strongest tapestry, its rending of itself was the more miraculous, and showed the immediate interposition of divine Providence. This rending of the veil signified, that the Jewish dispensation was now at an end, all the types belonging to it being fulfilled in Christ. It was also a presage of the approaching destruction of the Jews as a nation; and showed likewise, that by the death and sacrifice of Christ, a way was opened for sinners into heaven, of which the holy of holies was an emblem; and that now, there was no difference between Jew and Gentile; Christ having broken down the partition wall, and procured eternal life for all that trust in Him, out of every nation under heaven.

Nor was the veil’s rending the only prodigy that ensued. We are told, that the earth shook so violently, that the very rocks rent, and the graves were opened, and many of the bodies of the saints which had been dead, arose; both to show that Christ, by dying, conquered death, and likewise as an earnest token of His own speedy resurrection. All which amazing circumstances forced the very soldiers, who had so lately derided Him, and had just been His executioners, to tremble and say, “Truly this was the Son of God.”

How greatly does the contemplation of this great event call for our highest wonder, that the co-equal Son of God should thus stoop, to humble Himself unto death for sinners. “Lord, what is man, that Thou art mindful of him; or the son of man, that Thou shouldst vouchsafe not only to visit him, but even to ransom his life, by laying down Thine own?”

If anything can awake astonishment, and inflame our gratitude, it must be that mystery of love, God manifested in our nature, and made man, to bleed and die for our salvation. That He should condescend to be sold for thirty shekels of silver, that is, for three pounds fifteen shillings of our money; to be apprehended and condemned as a malefactor; to be crowned with piercing thorns; to be scourged at the bloody pillar; to bear His cross; to be numbered with transgressors; to be reviled by ruffian soldiers, and a merciless populace; to be torn with tormenting nails; and pierced with a hostile spear; and suspended on the ignominious tree, between heaven and earth, as unworthy of either, though He was the maker and preserver of both. What thought can reach, what tongue can tell, the infinite riches of His love to man, that induced Him freely to undergo all this, only to make him happy! Nay, He not only freely underwent it, but even longed for the time of His crucifixion to come — “I have a baptism, says He, a baptism of sufferings to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished?”

How should these considerations engage us, who are His purchased flock, to trust in His atonement, and to honour Him with our lips and in our lives? “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the apostle and high priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” Keep your mind stedfastly fixed on Him, who is the Messenger of the covenant of grace, and the executor of its conditions. He did not appear in this lower world barely to reveal the gospel, for that could have been done at an easier expense than His incarnation and death. Any angel could have proclaimed it, or prophets declared the same, as indeed the prophets did for “to Him give all the prophets witness.” But Christ came to procure forgiveness, and to suffer, and obey, for the salvation of the elect people of God.

Nothing but this could warrant the extreme depth of His humiliation, or comport with the essential dignity of His person, who was to sanctify His people with His own blood, and offering up of Himself, once for all, and by ever living to intercede for them. Openly then profess, confess and acknowledge Him in the face of an opposing world. Confess your guilt, as the priest under the law confessed the iniquities of Israel over the head of the scapegoat. Render to Him the thanks of your heart for His great humility, for His perfect righteousness, for His complete propitiation, for His perpetual intercession, and for the whole of His redeeming grace. Let us never forget, that through the covenant mercy of God, the righteousness of Christ was admitted as our payment; that Christ’s sufferings were our ransom; and the whole of His obedience unto death, is our free, full, and final discharge from punishment.

These considerations received by faith, will cause us to rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; they will put a new song into our mouths, even thanksgiving unto God, and make us sing. “O death, where is thy sting! O grave, where is thy victory!

Finished Salvation


“TIS finished” — the REDEEMER said,
And meekly bowed His dying head; While we His sentence scan;
Come, sinners, and observe the word! Behold the conquests of our LORD
Complete for helpless man.


Finished the righteousness of grace;
Finished for sinners, pardoning peace; Their mighty debt is PAID:
Accusing law cancelled by blood, And wrath of an offended GOD
In sweet oblivion laid.


Who now shall urge a second claim? The law no longer can condemn;
Faith a release can show;
Justice itself a friend appears; The prison-house a whisper hears,
“Loose him, and let him go.”


O unbelief, injurious bar;
Source of tormenting, slavish fear! Why dost thou yet reply?
Where’er their loud objections fall, “TIS FINISHED,” still shall answer all,
And silence every cry.


His work divinely FINISHED stands;
And O! the praise His love demands, Careful may we attend!
Conclusion to the whole be this; Because salvation FINISHED is,
Our thanks shall never end.



Educated at Westminster School and Trinity College, Dublin, he was converted through a Methodist lay preacher, took Anglican orders in 1762, and later became vicar of Broadhembury, Devon. In 1775 he assumed the pastorate of the French Calvinist chapel in London. He was a powerful preacher and a vigourous Calvinist, bitterly opposed to John Wesley. He wrote the Historic Proof of the Doctrinal Calvinism of the Church of England (2 vols., 1774) and The Church of England Vindicated from the Charge of Arminianism (1769). His fame rests, however, on his hymns, e.g., “A debtor to mercy alone”; “A sovereign Protector I have”; “From whence this fear and unbelief?”; and especially “Rock of Ages” (appended to an article calculating the “National Debt” in terms of sin). This article is taken from Toplady’s own manuscripts.

Topics: Gospel Distinctives
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