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SEVENTH AND LAST SAYING OF CHRIST ON THE CROSS.
“ And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into
thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost.” Luke, 23 : 46.
These are the last words of our Lord Jesus Christ upon the cross, with which he breathed out his soul. They were David's words before him, Psalm 31 : 5, and for substance, Stephen's after him. Acts, 7:59. They are words full both of faith and comfort; fit to be the last breathings of every gracious soul departing from this world.
1. The person here acting is the Lord Jesus Christ, who in this, as well as in other things, acted as the Head of the church. This must be remarked carefully, for therein lies no small part of a believer's consolation. When Christ commends his soul to God, he solemnly presents our souls with his, to his Father's acceptance. Jesus Christ neither lived nor died for himself, but for believers : what he did in this very act, refers to them as well as to his own soul: you must look therefore upon Christ, in this last and solemn act of his life, as gathering all the souls of the elect together, and making a solemn tender of them all, with his own soul, to God.
2. The person to whom he commits this precious treasure was his own Father: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Father is a sweet, encouraging, assuring title: well may a son commit any concern, however dear, into the hands of a father, especially such a Son into the hands of such a Father.
3. The thing committed into his hand, "my spirit,” was his soul, now upon the very point of separation from
the body. The soul is the most precious of all treasures. A whole world is but a trifle, if weighed, for the price of one soul. Matt. 16 : 26. This inestimable treasure he now commits into his Father's hands.
4. The act by which he puts it into that faithful hand, "I commend," was in Christ an act of faith, a most special and excellent act intended as a precedent for all his people.
5. The last thing observable is, the manner in which he uttered these words: "with a loud voice;" he spake that all might hear, and that his enemies, who judged him now destitute and forsaken of God, might be convinced that he was not so, but that he was dear to his Father still, and could put his soul confidently into his hands: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Taking, then, these words, not only as spoken by Christ, the Head of all believers, and so commending their souls to God with his own, but also as a pattern, teaching them what they ought to do themselves when they come to die; we observe, that Dying believers are warranted, and encouraged, by Christ's
example, believingly to commend their precious souls into the hands of God.
Thus the apostle directs christians to commit their souls to God's fatherly protection, when they are going to prison, or to the stake for Christ: "Let them that suffer according to the will of God, commit the keeping of their souls to him in well-doing, as unto a faithful Creator.” 1 Pet. 4:19. We will consider what is implied in the soul's thus commending itself to God by faith, and what warrant or encouragement gracious souls have for so doing.
1. What is implied in a believer's commending his soul into the hands of God at death?
1. It evidently implies that the soul outlives the body; it feels the house in which it dwelt dropping into ruins,
and looks out for a new habitation with God. "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” The soul knows itself to be more noble than the corruptible body, which it is now to leave in the dust: it understands its relation to the Father of spirits, and from him expects protection and provision in its disembodied state; and therefore commits itself into his hands. If it vanished, and did not survive the body; if it were annihilated at death, it were but mocking God to say, when we die, "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.”
2. It implies the soul's true rest to be in God. See which way its motions and tendencies are, not only in life, but in death. "Father, into thy hands.” God is the centre of all gracious spirits. While they tabernacle here, they have no rest but in the bosom of their God: when they go hence, their expectation and earnest desires are to be with him. It had been working after God by gracious desires before: it had cast many a longing look heaven-ward; but when the gracious soul comes near its God, (as it doth in a dying hour,) "then it even throws itself into his arms;" as a river that, after many turnings and windings, pours itself into the ocean. "Nothing but God can please it in this world, and nothing but God can satisfy it when it goes hence.” Whom have I in heaven but thee? And there is none on earth that I desire in comparison of thee. Ps. 73:25.
3. It also implies the great value believers place upon the soul. This is the precious treasure; and their main solicitude and chief care is to see it secured in a safe hand: "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.” These words express the believer's care for his soul, that it may be safe, whatever becomes of the vile body. A believer, when he comes nigh to death, spends but few thoughts about his body, where it shall be laid, or how it shall be disposed of; he trusts that in the hands
of friends : but as his great care all along was for his soul, so he expresses it in these his very last breathings, in which he commends it into the hands of God. It is not, Lord Jesus, receive my body, take care of my dust; but, "Receive my spirit;" Lord, secure the jewel, when the casket is broken.
4. These words imply the deep sense that dying believers have of the great change that is coming upon them by death ; when all visible and sensible things are shrinking away from them, and failing. They feel the world and the best comforts of it failing ; and the soul cleaves more closely than ever to God: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” Not that the soul cleaves to God, merely because it has then no other support. No; it chose God for its portion when it was in the midst of all its outward enjoyments, and had as good security as other men have for the long enjoyment of them. True, though gracious souls have chosen God for their portion, and do truly prefer him to the best of their comforts; yet, in this imperfect state, they live not wholly upon God, but partly by faith, and partly by sense ; partly upon things seen, and partly upon things not seen. Earthly objects had some interest in their hearts; alas, too much: but now all these are vanishing. "I shall behold man no more, with the inhabitants of the world,” said sick Hezekiah: the soul now turns itself from them all, and casts itself upon God, expecting now to live upon its God entirely, like the blessed angels.
5. It implies faith in the atonement of God, and his full reconciliation to believers, by the blood of the great Sacrifice; else they durst never commit their souls into his hands: For it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," Heb. 10:31; that is, of God unappeased by the offering up of Christ. The soul dare no more cast itself into the hands of God, without such
an atoning sacrifice, than it dare approach consuming fire. And, indeed, the reconciliation of God by Jesus Christ, as it is the ground of all acceptance with God; for we are made accepted in the Beloved ;” so it is plainly implied in the order or manner of the reconciled soul's committing itself to him: it first casts itself into the hands of Christ, and then into the hands of God by him. So Stephen cried, when dying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
6. It implies both the efficacy and excellency of faith, in supporting and relieving the soul at a time when nothing else can. Faith is its conductor, when in the greatest perplexity and distress : it secures the soul when it is turned out of the body; when heart and flesh fail, this leads it to the Rock that fails not; it remains by the soul till it sees it safe through all the territories of Satan, and safe landed upon the shore of glory; and then is swallowed up in vision. Many a favor hath faith conferred upon the soul while in the body. The great service it did was in the time of its espousals to Christ. This is the marriage-knot, the blessed bond of union between the soul and Christ. Many a relieving sight and sweet support hath faith afforded since the soul's espousals; but, surely, its first and last work are its most glorious works. By faith it first ventured itself upon Christ; threw itself upon him in the deepest sense of its own vileness and utter unworthiness, when sense, reason, and multitudes of temptations stood by, contradicting and discouraging ; by faith it now casts itself into his arms, when it is launching out into vast eternity. They are both noble acts of faith ; but the first, no doubt, is the greatest and most difficult; for, when once the soul is interested in Christ, it is easy still to commit itself into his hands. It is easier for a child to cast himself into the arms of his own father in distress, than for one that hath been both a stranger and an enemy to