April 12—Morning Devotion
“And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabacthani; that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”—Matthew 27:46
Mark, my soul! Jesus had hung upon the cross now for six hours. Think what agonies he sustained both in soul and body. The fury of hell had broke out upon him, and in the cruelties of the men around him, exercised upon his sacred person, manifested how extensive that fury was. But had this been all; had God the Father smiled upon him, had the cup of trembling been taken away, some alleviation would have taken place in Jesus’s sufferings; but so far was this from being the case, that the heaviest load of the sorrow his holy soul sustained, was the wrath of the Father due to sin, as the sinner’s surety. Angels, no doubt, looked on. All heaven stood amazed. And, at length, overpowered with the fulness of sorrow and anguish of soul, the dying Lamb cried out,” My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? “Pause, my soul, while thou hearest in the ear of faith, still vibrating in the air, the dolorous cry; and conceive, if it be possible, what the holy, harmless, undefiled Jesus felt, when such expressions of exquisite terror and distress were forced from his dying lips. What forsaking was this of Jesus by God his Father? Not the dissolving of the union between them: not the withdrawing the arm of his strength; for Jesus still calls him, “Eli, Eli,” that is, My strong One. Not that he left him to himself; neither that his love for Jesus was lessened: but it was the withdrawing or withholding those sweet manifestations whereby he had sustained the human nature of Jesus, through the whole of his incarnation. It was beholding Jesus in this solemn season as the sinner’s surety; and as such, it was a punishing desertion; implying that as Jesus stood, or rather hung, with all the burden of our sins, he was so deserted for that time as we, out of Jesus, deserve to be forsaken for ever. The cry of Jesus, the shriek of his precious soul, under this desertion, represented the everlasting shrieks of them that are cast out of God’s gracious presence to all eternity. Here pause again, my soul. And wouldst thou have howled this endless, pitiable cry for ever, had not Jesus uttered it for thee once? And art thou, by virtue of it, saved from this wrath to come? Hath Jesus both borne thy sins, carried thy sorrows, and been forsaken of his Father, that thou mightest enjoy his presence and favour for ever? My soul, what wilt thou render to the Lord for all his benefits? Wilt thou not take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord, now thy Jesus hath for thee taken the cup of trembling, and drank all the dregs of it? Precious, precious Redeemer, may I never, never lose sight of thee in this part of thy sufferings also; and especially eye thee still more when my soul is under the hidings of God’s countenance. Let me recollect, dearest Lord! that thou hast been forsaken before thy people, and for thy people; and here, as in all other instances, thou hast the pre-eminence, so as to sanctify even our momentary desertions to our good and to thy glory. Yes, precious Lord! such are the blessed effects of thy desertion, that hence my soul learns, my God still supports, though my God may withhold his comforts. Jesus was forsaken for a season, that my soul might not be forsaken for ever. And grant me, dearest Lord, from thy bright example, to cast myself wholly upon thee, as thou didst upon thy Father, when all sensible comforts fail, convinced that thou “art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever!”
Robert Hawker (1753-1827) was an Anglican (High-Calvinist) preacher who served as Vicar of Charles Church, Plymouth. John Hazelton wrote of him:
“The prominent features…in Robert Hawker's testimony…was the Person of Christ….Dr. Hawker delighted to speak of his Lord as "My most glorious Christ.” What anxious heart but finds at times in the perusal of the doctor's writings a measure of relief, a softening, and a mellowing? an almost imperceptible yet secret and constraining power in leading out of self and off from the misery and bondage of the flesh into a contemplation of the Person and preciousness of Christ as "the chiefest among ten thousand and the altogether lovely." Christ and Him crucified was emphatically the burden of his song and the keynote of his ministry. He preached his last sermon in Charles Church on March 18th, 1827, and on April 6th he died, after being six years curate and forty-three years vicar of the parish. On the last day of his life he repeated a part of Ephesians 1, from the 6th to the 12th verses, and as he proceeded he enlarged on the verses, but dwelt more fully on these words: "To the praise of His glory Who first trusted in Christ." He paused and asked, "Who first trusted in Christ?" And then made this answer: "It was God the Father Who first trusted in Christ."