John Pearson (1613-1686) was widely regarded in his own day and long afterwards as the premier theologian within the later seventeenth-century Church of England. Pearson was the Lady Margaret Professor of Divinity and Master of Trinity College in Cambridge before becoming Bishop of Chester. He was widely esteemed for the depth of his expertise in patristics and the oriental languages, and his renown was particularly due to his Exposition of the Creed (first edition 1659), which was the dominant theological textbook in the Church of England during the later Stuart period.
In his discussion of the fourth article of the Apostle’s Creed (“He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried”), Pearson first discusses the suffering which Christ experienced bodily during his passion, before focusing on the suffering which he underwent in his soul, making it clear that “as our Saviour took upon him both parts of the nature of man [viz., body and soul], so he suffered in them both, that he might be a Saviour of the whole.” The following extract, in which he discusses the depths of Christ’s suffering in the soul, is from the 4th edition (1676), p. 190-193:
We ought… to endeavour to reach, if it were possible, the knowledge how far and in what degree [Christ] suffered; how bitter that grief, how great that sorrow and that anguish was. Which though we can never fully and exactly measure, yet we may infallibly know thus much, both from the expression of the Spirit of God, and from the occasion of his sufferings, that the griefs and sorrows which he felt, and the anguish which he underwent, were most incomparably far beyond all sorrows of which any person here was sensible or capable.
The Evangelists have in such language expressed his agony, as cannot but raise in us the highest admiration at the bitterness of that passion. He began to be sorrowful, saith S. Matthew (26:37); He began to be sore amazed, saith S. Mark (14:33); and to be very heavy, saith both: and yet these words in our translation come far short of the original expression, which render him suddenly, upon a present and immediate apprehension, possessed with fear, horror and amazement, encompassed with grief, and overwhelmed with sorrow, pressed down with consternation and dejection of mind, tormented with anxiety and disquietude of spirit.
This he first expressed to his disciples, saying, My soul is exceeding sorrowful; and, lest they should not fully apprehend the excess, adding, even unto death; as if the pangs of death had already encompassed him, and, as the Psalmist speaks, the pain of hell had got hold upon him. He went but a little farther before he expressed the same to his Father, falling on his face and praying, even with strong crying and tears, unto him that was able to save him from death (Heb. 5:7). Nor were his cries or tears sufficient evidences of his inward sufferings, nor could the sorrows of his breast be poured forth either at his lips or eyes; the innumerable pores of all his body must give a passage to more lively representations of the bitter anguish of his soul: and therefore while he prayed more earnestly, in that agony his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground. As the Psalmist had before declared, I am poured out like water and all my bones are out of joint my heart is like wax it is melted in the midst of my bowels (Ps. 22:14). The heart of our Saviour was as it were melted with fear and astonishment, and all the parts of his body at the same time inflamed with anguish and agony: well then might that melting produce a sweat and that inflamed and rarified blood force a passage through the numerous pores.
And as the evangelists’ expressions, so the occasion of the grief will manifest the height and bitterness thereof. For God laid on his own Son the iniquities of us all; and as we are obliged to be sorry for our particular sins, so was he grieved for the sins of us all. If then we consider the perfection and latitude of his knowledge, he understood all the sins of men for which he suffered, all the evil and the guilt, all the offence against the Majesty, and ingratitude against the goodness of God, which was contained in all those sins. If we look upon his absolute conformity to the will of God, he was inflamed with most ardent love, he was most zealous of his glory, and most studious to preserve that right which was so highly violated by those sins. If we look upon his relation to the sons of men, he loved them all far more than any did themselves, he knew those sins were of themselves sufficient to bring eternal destruction on their souls and bodies, he considered them whom he so much loved as lying under the wrath of God whom he so truly worshipped. If we reflect upon those graces which were without measure diffused through his soul, and caused him with the greatest habitual detestation to abhor all sin: If we consider all these circumstances, we cannot wonder at that grief and sorrow. For if the true contrition of one single sinner, bleeding under the sting of the law only for his own iniquities, all which notwithstanding he knoweth not, cannot be performed without great bitterness of sorrow and remorse, what bounds can we set unto that grief, what measures to that anguish, which proceedeth from a full apprehension of all the transgressions of so many millions of sinners?
Add unto all these present apprehensions the immediate hand of God pressing upon him all this load, laying on his shoulders at once an heap of the sorrows which can happen unto any of the saints of God; that he, being touched with the feeling of our infirmities, might become a merciful high priest, able and willing to succour them that are tempted (Heb. 2:17-18; 4:15). Thus may we behold and see if there be any sorrow like unto that sorrow which was done unto him, wherewith the Lord afflicted him in the day of his fierce anger (Lam. 1:12). And from hence we may and must conclude, that the Saviour of man, as he took the whole nature of man, so he suffered in whatsoever he took, in his body by infirmities and external injuries, in his soul by fears and sorrows, by unknown and inexpressible anguishes…
That our Saviour did thus suffer is most necessary to believe. First, that thereby we may be assured of the verity of his human nature. For if he were not man, then could not man be redeemed by him; and if that nature in which he appeared were not truly human then could he not be truly man. But we may be well assured that he took on him our nature, when we see him subject unto our infirmities. We know the Godhead is of infinite perfection, and therefore is exalted far above all possibility of molestation. When therefore we see our Saviour truly suffer, we know his divine essence suffered not, and thence acknowledge the addition of his human nature as the proper subject of his passion. And from hence we may infallibly conclude: surely that Mediator between God and man was truly man, as we are men, who when he fasted was hungry, when he travelled was thirsty and weary as we are, who being grieved wept, being in an agony sweat[ed], being scourged bled, and being crucified died.
Secondly, it was necessary Christ should suffer for the redemption of lapsed men, and their reconciliation unto God; which was not otherwise to be performed than by a plenary satisfaction to his will. He therefore was by all his sufferings made an expiation, atonement and propitiation for all our sins. For salvation is impossible unto sinners without remission of sin, and remission in the decree of God impossible without effusion of blood. Our redemption therefore could not be wrought but by the blood of the redeemer, but by a Lamb slain, but by a suffering Saviour.
Thirdly, it behoved Christ to suffer that he might purchase thereby eternal happiness in the heavens both for himself the head, and for the members of his body. He drunk of the brook in the way, therefore hath he lift up his head (Ps. 110:7). Ought not Christ to suffer, and so to enter into his own glory? (Luk. 24:26) And doth he not by the same right by which he entered into it, confer that glory upon us? The recompense of the reward was set before him, and through an intuition of it he cheerfully underwent whatsoever was laid upon him. He must therefore necessarily suffer to obtain that happiness, who is therefore happy because he suffered.
Fourthly, it was necessary Christ should suffer, that we might be assured that he is truly affected with a most tender compassion of our afflictions. For this end was he subjected to misery, that he might become prone unto mercy: for this purpose was he made a sacrifice, that he might be a compassionate high priest: and therefore was he most unmerciful to himself, that he might be most merciful unto us.
Fifthly, it was necessary the Son of man should suffer, thereby to shew us that we are to suffer, and to teach us how we are to suffer. For if these things were done to the green tree, what shall be done to the dry? Nay, if God spared not his natural, his eternal, his only-begotten Son, how shall he spare his adopted sons, who are best known to be children because they are chastised, and appear to be in his paternal affection because they lie under his fatherly correction? We are therefore heirs only because coheirs with Christ, and we shall be kings only because we shall reign together with him. It is a certain and infallible consequence, If Christ be risen, then shall we also rise; and we must look for as strong a coherence in this other, If Christ hath suffered then must we expect to suffer. And as he taught the necessity of, so he left us the direction in, our sufferings. Great was the example of Job, but far short of absolute perfection: the pattern beyond all exception is alone our Saviour, who hath taught us in all our afflictions the exercise of admirable humility, perfect patience, and absolute submission unto the will of God.
And now we may perceive the full importance of this part of the Article, and every Christian may thereby understand what he is to believe, and what he is conceived to profess, when he makes this confession of his faith: He suffered. For hereby everyone is obliged to intend thus much: I am really persuaded within myself, and do make a sincere profession of this as a most necessary, certain, and infallible truth, that the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father, and of the same essence with the Father, did for the redemption of mankind really and truly suffer, not in his divinity, which was impassible, but in his humanity, which in the days of his humiliation was subject unto our infirmities. That as he is a perfect redeemer of the whole man, so he was a complete sufferer in the whole: in his body, by such dolorous infirmities as arise internally from human frailties, and by such pains as are inflicted by external injuries; in his soul, by fearful apprehensions, by unknown sorrows, by anguish inexpressible. And in this latitude and propriety I believe our Saviour suffered.