One such memorable episode was related by a Rev. Robert Boag Watson who was witness to the following incident in the winter of 1864. Dr. Duncan was instructing an assemblage of senior students, pacing and pondering the significance of the Psalmist’s cry “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? (Psalm 22:1)” Suddenly he stopped, as though an arrow from heaven slung from the arm of the Almighty had hit him, and he addressed them thus:
“‘Ay, ay, d’ye know what it was – dying on the cross, forsaken by His Father – d’ye know what it was? What? What?...It was damnation – and damnation taken lovingly.’ And he subsided into his chair, leaning a little to one side, his head very straight and stiff, his arms hanging down on either side beyond the arms of his chair, with the light beaming from his face and the tears trickling down his cheeks he repeated in a low intense voice that broke into a half sob, half laugh in the middle, ‘It was damnation – and he took it lovingly.’”
Damnation taken lovingly. So much said in so few words. I consider this crisp statement as something like Cliff Notes on the cross. It is a succinct summary of our Savior’s sacrifice. It is, if you will, all of redemption reduced to a simple remark. All the Bible uttered in a breath. And yet, for all its brevity, I find it bolder, braver and more benevolent than many of my own far less condensed contemplations upon Calvary. Is it too daring to declare that the death of my dear Savior was more than mere dying…it was damnation? A dysphemism designed to dilate our Lord’s demise? I don’t think so.
“Yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God…” (Isaiah 53:4)
“For He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us…” (2 Cor. 5:2)
“Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us…” (Gal. 3:13)
Oh my soul does that designation of “damnation” offend my senses? Do I retreat from such a rigorous remark? Would I prefer a more pleasant painting of this promised punishment? Then I haven’t even begun to see the seriousness of my sin. The salvation of my soul demands the damnation of my sin. God the Judge met God the guilty at Golgotha. It is more than I can grasp. All my enormous wickedness met all God’s eternal wrath there at that place in history when Jesus hung upon that cross.
And He took it lovingly. Oh my soul…can I see just a little glimpse of what Duncan seemed to grasp in this enigmatic event? There upon that grievous lumber the law of God and the love of God agreed. It was not nails that held my Savior to that tree, but His love for sinners like me. I could hardly believe it if God had not said it “He loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). The damnation my every sin deserved…He took it lovingly. The eternal curse of my evil corruption…He took it lovingly. The door to Hell swung open…and He entered lovingly!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this, O my soul!
What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul,
To bear the dreadful curse for my soul. (Attributed to Alexander Means)
I thank you dearest Duncan for this devotion! And thank you Mr. Stuart for your collection of these quotations, so that “He being dead, still speaks” (Heb 11:4).
 The Life of John Duncan, A Moody Stuart