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cording to the testimony even of the Jews themselves, this vail was of a most curious and strong texture like tapestry, and was thirty ells in length and four fingers thick; that it was no old tattered curtain, but a masterly piece of art lately woven, for a new vail was made and hung up in the temple every year; and lastly, that this strong vail hung in a place where it could not be damaged by the weather; the hand of God must necessarily be acknowledged to have been concerned in the rending of it. What a terror must this sudden and unexpected rent have struck into the Priests, who probably were performing the service in the sanctuary, lighting the lamps of the golden candlestick, and burning incense! for it was about the time of evening sacrifice. How must they have been terrified with the sight of the vail, thus rent at once, by which means the Holy of Holies was exposed to the view of the people. For they had hitherto carefully concealed this sacred place from the eyes of all the other priests by the partition vail, beyond which only the High Priest was to enter; and that only once a year, on the great day of atonement.
If we now enquire into the signification of this first prodigy, we shall find that,
1. With regard to the unbelieving Jews, it was a very melancholy event. Hitherto God had dwelt in the temple within the Holy of Holies, over the ark of the covenant, and there manifested his presence in a peculiar manner. Hence this place was accounted so sacred, that no mortal eye was to look into it; and for this end, God had directed this thick vail to be made. But now, God having rent it himself, and thus,
were, opened the door of the Holy of Holies, that every one might look into it; he thereby intended to signify, that, from a just indignation and displeasure against the wickedness of his people and their priests, in putting the Lord of the temple to death, he would from that time leave this his dwelling, (Matt. xxiii. 38.) and prophane his sanctuary by giving it up to the eyes
and hands of unbelievers. This afterwards came to pass, when the temple was destroyed by the Romans ; for the holy vessels were taken out of the temple by the soldiers, and exhibited as a public show in the triumph by Titus Vespatianus, who had conducted the siege of Jerusalem. The night before our Saviour's crucifixion, the High Priest, from an hypocritical zeal, had rent his garments when he heard the Lord Jesus declare himself to be the Son of God; and now, God himself rends that vail with which, while he dwelt in the Holy of Holies, he as it were, cloathed, and veiled himself, and thereby confirms his Son's declaration, which the High Priest had called blasphemy.
2. But to the faithful this rending of the vail is a joyful type, representing that an entrance was then opened to them into the sanctuary, which is not made with hands. Hitherto the flesh of Jesus Christ, by the imputation of our sins to him, had hung before it as a vail. But when this vail was rent at the separation of his soul and body by death, and Jesus Christ, the true High Priest, had himself with his own blood entered into the holy place, i. e. into heaven; the way to the throne of grace is cleared of all obstacles, heaven is laid open, and the covering which hung before the mysteries of the Levitical worship is removed, (Isaiah xxv. 7.) The church militant on earth, which was prefigured by the sanctuary, and the church triumphant in heaven, the Antitype of the Holy of Holies, are now unitcd with each other; the wall of partition between Jews and Gentiles, namely, the ceremonial law, together with the whole Levitical economy, is thrown down. Therefore the Apostle thus speaks to all those whose hearts are rent with true repentance: “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which he has consecrated for us through the vail, that is to say, his flesh; and having an High Priest over the house of God, let us
draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith; having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water,' (Heb. x. 19, 20, 21, 22.) These were the glorious mysteries prefigured by this wonderful event.
A pious Christian, attentively meditating on this remarkable incident, may very justly cry out, I thank thee, O my Saviour, who, for my good, hast suffered the vail of thy flesh which hung, as it were, before the Divinity within thee, to be rent; so that through thee, my Mediator, I can now not only look into the heavenly sanctuary with the eye of faith, but likewise through thee I am enabled even to enter into it, and with confidence approach the throne of grace. O my Redeemer, I honour the day of thy death, as the day of my atonement! I rejoice that in thee I have. a merciful High Priest, who, with his own blood, has entered into the Holy of Holies, and accomplished the work of eternal redemption. Stretch forth thy mighty hand, and from the top to the bottom rend all the coverings of hypocrisy and wickedness, which thou findest before my heart, and which would preclude thine entrance into it. But, as a thick vail or covering of many prejudices still hangs before the eyes and heart of that wretched nation that crucified thee, and among whom thou didst take the human nature upon thee; be pleased to rend those vails, that they may see in thee the accomplishment of all the shadowy types of the law, and behold thy glory with
The second prodigy, which happened at our Saviour's death, was a violent earthquake, mentioned only by St. Matthew, who says, “The earth did quake, or was inoved. How far this violent shock extended cannot be determined with any precision. It is, however, certain, that it was felt in Judea, and that it shook Mount Golgotha with the neighbouring parts, and the foundations of the city of Jerusalem, so that it reeled like a drunken man, (Isaiah xxiv. 20.)
Thus the earth, and perhaps the whole globe, gave extraordinary tokens of its sympathy with its Creator, who was so terribly injured, and of its detestation of the atrocious crime then committed by the Jews. Therefore as the sun, by God's interposition, had before withdrawn its brightness, that it might not give light to the profligacy of the bold blasphemers, who stood round our Saviour's cross; so now, also, the earth, by its violent convulsions, indicates that it trembled at the impiety of those wretches who crucified him, by whose majestic voice on Mount Sinai the earth had been formerly moved, (Exod. xix. 18. Heb. xii. 26.) as it is now shaken a second time by the loud cry, with which he gave up the Ghost.
But as to the signification of this second prodigy, it prognosticated no good to the Jewish nation. By this earthquake, God not only manifested his anger at their wickedness, which had been carried to its highest pitch in the crucifixion of his Son; for the effects of God's wrath are in scripture represented under the image of an earthquake; (Joel iii. 16. Psalm xviii. 7.) but he also secretly intimated to them, that both their religion and policy should be shaken by violent concussions, should be removed from their place, and be utterly destroyed and abolished, as St. Paul observes in the epistle to the Hebrews, (Heb. xii. 26, 27.)
On the other hand, this earthquake was an emblem of the blessed motions to be caused in those hearts which had hitherto been carnally minded, by the preaching of the crucified Jesus, especially among the Gentiles, (Hagai ii. 7, 8.) As the mountains skipped, and the earth trembled before the Lord, (Psalm cxiv. 6, 7.) formerly at the deliverance of the children of Israel out of Egypt; so this earthquake shews, that now the true redemption of mankind from the hands of all their enemies is accomplished by the death of Jesus Christ.
Alas! may a pious Christian say, How am I asha. med, that my heart remains so unmoved at the con. sideration of my Saviour's death, when the earth it. self trembled and shook on the account of it! By the power of thy death, O blessed Jesus, kill in me all earthly and sinsul inclinations. May this awful truth, That the Son of God died for my sins, affect me with a holy trembling and a salutary dread at the great severity of God's justice, which appears so conspicuously in this instance. But, in the consideration of this comfortable truth, namely, That by thy death I am reconciled with God, fill my heart with holy emotions, and grateful love. Grant that I may exult for joy, on account of the great salvation obtained for me by thy death, and at the noble freedom in which I am placed by the redemption thou hast wrought.
The third prodigy that attended the death of Christ is related in these words: “The rocks rent.' This, in some measure, was an effect of the preceding earthquake. The country about Jerusalem was very mountainous and rocky; hence it is said in the Psalms, 'As the mountains are round about Jerusalem,' (Psalm cxxv. 2.) Now these rocks and hills were so shaken by the earthquake, that huge masses of some of them tumbled down from the suinmits into the valleys; others were rent with large clefts and fissures. Probably, this miracle displayed itself first on that rock where Christ was crucified, and was afterwards propagated to the adjacent parts, in which, to this very day, are seen very wide chasms and fissures in the rocks, as memorials of this prodigy.
This rending of the rocks, with regard to the unbelieving Jews, was likewise a token of God's
anger at their wickedness, for his fury is poured out like fire, and the rocks are thrown down by him,' (Nah. i. 6.) These rent rocks put the Jewish people in mind, that the earth only waited the order of its Crea. tor to open its mouth, and swallow up the rebellious