Images de page

depths. For who can tell what it was to be made sin for us? Who can tell what it was in Him to feel the world's evil, cleaving to and pressing down His spirit, which in its perfect holiness recoiled in horror from the very shadow of sin? All the spiritual woe that this means was His then when, on the verge of crucifixion, the cup was offered that would have soothed His pain. At that hour a transient rest would have been priceless. Must not His humanity have yearned to forget but for a little that deep agony, to feel the throbbing pain grow calmer, and for the awful run of thought to be for a moment stilled. But from that rest He turned away. So unconquered

· was He that not for one moment would he yield to the tide of agony that was rising round Him. And to bear suffering thus, brings out in its highest form the moral majesty of the Son of Man. We ask, then, whence came that grandeur of endurance? What endowed Him with a might so tremendous in its energy as to refuse relief from inconceivable suffering at the very moment when that suffering was gathering to its highest strength, and death had still to be undergone? This incident itself gives us the reply. He received not His strength from man, and from the relief men offered Him. He turned away; He received His might from God, and the secret of that might lay in perfect submission to His will. His divinelyordained plan demanded that he should endure to the end, and by surrendering utterly all the impulses of human weakness to that plan of Heaven, the strength came which enabled Him to stand unshaken to the end. The very refusal to accept any balm for His woe was in its deep self-denial for God, the source of the strength, in the might of which He refused it. Not from human aid, not from outward things, did He gain His moral majesty, but from the simple unhesitating sacrifice of self-will. That was Christ's power, the yielding to the loving will of Heaven, even though it let Him into darkness so deep and woe so unutterable, that His fainting humanity sank beneath the awful burden of the spirit's agony. That was the origin of Christ's nobleness of endurance; not choosing suffering in order that He might grandly bear it, but bearing it because it came from Heaven, and refusing to accept any deliverance from man, and through that self-surrender came the power that enabled Him to endure to the end. And although we stand here before the awful secrets of sacrificial sorrow, which we can never fully comprehend, may we not say, in all reverence, that herein too lies the true nobleness and might of man in endurance, even as Christ—the ideal of all that is noble --endured? Here, my oppressed, tempted, suffering brother, lies your strength. Yield not for one moment to the inducements that would lead you away from the sorrowful path of self-sacrifice, which it may be God's will for you to tread, but endure, and in self-sacrificing endurance shall come that heavenly energy which came to the dying Lord, and like Him you shall have the spiritual majesty of a Son of God.

We pass now to notice

2. The meaning of the consummation of Christ's sufferings. He drank the last drop of His cup of agony by refusing the cup that would alleviate its final pangs. We have said that He did not do that for the mere sake of enduring, but in surrender to the will of Heaven. The question comes—what means that will ? Why was the sorrowful conflict of His life insufficient ? Why must this be added to the woe of the garden that even the relief afforded to the lowest criminals is to be refused, and the only Sinless One is to bring His great agony to a terrible perfection? There must be some deep meaning here.

Men have said, “The Redeemer must bear such an amount of suffering as would be equal to the sin for which He atoned.” If that be so, then the awfulness of sin lies only in its suffering. If so, it is not dreadful, because it is the separation of the human child from its Divine Father, and the cause of his wandering away into deep and unfathomable Godlessness, but because it brings sorrow! A doctrine utterly opposed to the teachings of the Bible.

Again, it has been said, “ Christ must endure to the utmost in order to propitiate God.” I can only say that if God required so much agony from the sinless Christ, in order to make Him kind to sinful men, that God I can neither worship, revere, nor love; and the Bible is no book for me.

But I need not say that such doctrines as these do not answer the question before us. Let us take the Bible teaching. Christ died not to reconcile God, nor yet to compensate for so much evil

, but to restore the living spirit of man to the Eternal Father. For that restoration two things were requisite: man must learn the majesty of God's law, and he must be drawn by love to the Divine One. Both these receive glorious illustration from the words before us.

He must recognize the majesty of law, for the law is God's own eternal character expressed to man. We shall perceive the relation of the consummation of Christ's sufferings to this, if we begin by observing that all suffering is the reaction of God's holy law against the sinful. The voice of law is unhesitating and unchangeable. “Do this, and live in fellowship with God; do it not, and die in alienation from Him.” Man must be brought to recognize its violated sanctity, and bow to its eternal requirements. Thus suffering is the voice of law to fallen humanity. The deep tones of its offended majesty rung out in the sorrow which thrills through human life. Its voice to man is, “ Thou hast broken the law, and it releases not its hold upon thee.” And thus it is that suffering proclaims the real dignity of man. It tells him of his nobleness in being made to hold fellowship with God, and of his degradation in having broken away from that fellowship. The animal knows not punishment-it knows not the grandeur of God's moral law. But man does, and hence the nobleness of his nature—he feels the awful results of having violated his true destiny.

Hence, then, we learn the meaning of Christ's sufferings. He became human, and thus must bear the penalty of law on man in the form of sorrow. He came to restore him, and He must exhibit a perfect submission to the majesty of law, uttering itself through human agony. If He suffered not to the end, then, so far, the glory of the commandment would be concealed. And, therefore, to show forth the grandeur and perfection of God's law, He refused to accept relief, but endured to the utmost the suffering that man's departure from God had created.

Before going further, observe how this fact in Christ's life overthrows certain doctrines of law and sin very popular in this age. A sentimental philosophy says, “Sin is a trifling deviation It becomes a necessary step in man's progress to a Divine life." It is proclaimed, “ God, the loving Father, will receive His wandering child without enforcing the glory of His law. He has hushed the thunders that brooded over Sinai.”

Now, stand before the fact that Christ refused to receive


relief from His sufferings, and ask what that means? Do you say He suffered as an example ? An example of what? Of this, that God sends the heaviest, most incomprehensible agony on the Sinless One ? No! I learn from it the eternal sanctity of the commandment, in that He bore its results to the close. I learn there the meaning of sin. He who came to remove its curse drained to the last dregs the awful cup of woe that sprang from it, and thus proclaimed it to be a thing whose awfulness nothing but the spectacle of a sorrowing Christ could ever shadow forth to the world.

Glance now at the other aspect of Christ's sufferings, and you will find a yet deeper meaning in this refusal of a balm for His woe. He suffered to express God's love to man, as well as to glorify the commandment. Let us start from the old truth that man must begin to love God by loving Him in the form of humanity. Man can never love a stern fatality-an awful Ruler of the great ranges of being—whose word brings to life or death the creatures He has formed. He may tremble before, or submit to such a thought of God; but that very submission is unreal;


for he will not sacrifice his own inner will to such a Being in self-denying love. Man cannot love an incomprehensible and everlasting Lord : he may stand before Him in reverence-he will not render to Him the deep worship of his soul. Through the human we must reach the Divine, through God in man we rise to the Absolute Eternal King. Now, Christ manifested all that is loveable in man; all that is great in calm endurance, and noble in sublime self-sacrifice, and overpowering in deep human sympathy. He came nearest

man by bearing all that man can bear. From no peril would He shrink; from no death of horror would He draw back; from no deep degradation or dreadful conflict would He turn aside that He might, in tears and sorrow, reveal God to the deep heart of humanity.

Is there not a meaning now in this ? Had He submitted to a lessening of His fierce agony, would He not so far have lessened His perfect expression of that love which could fully express itself in no other way than by enduring to the very utmost of human woe? So He went on to the bitter end, and from that cup and thus to the last manifested the illimitable pity of the unseen God for His ruined and wandering child. Thus in that simple, grand refusal to accept relief in the moment it was most needed by His sinking humanity, I read what God is, by a love whose height and depth I cannot fathom, and whose marvellous glory melts man's heart to tears, and leads him to yield himself for ever to the Great Father on High.

turned away,

3. We learn, too, from this history the clearness of Christ's vision of death. He resolved to die—with His mental vision clear and calm. In full self-possession He went to face Death's horror. There is a deep significance in this, in relation to the manner in which Christ has conquered death for every man. The source of much of our terror of death arises from its loneliness and mystery—from these our human nature shrinks. We feel that alone we must die. All that strength which springs from the nearness and communion of our fellow-men in the living world ; all the support created by the ties of brotherhood and sympathy, which strengthen for many an earthly conflict, are of no avail in the last stern battle. We cling to the human to the end, and seek the grasp of a brother's hand during the bitter moments of our expiring mortality. But the moment comes when the earth recedes, and we must go forth alone—from the known to the unknown; alone on that mysterious sea o'er whose dusky margin the mists are hanging, and on whose hidden shores we know not what surges are beating. It is this loneliness and this mystery—this ignorance of what death really is, for we can only see its outward signs—which makes our physical nature shrink.

But in death there lies a still darker terror than these. Its


deepest horror springs from its being the witness of the soul's separation from God-from its being the inevitable result of sin. Death is but the last act of Sin's tragedy upon earth—the final testimony of man's alienation from Heaven—the last visible blow of the righteous anger of the Most High. Now, see how Christ, by facing death, destroyed its terrors. Its solitude He feared not to face. Its mystery He calmly fronted. The awful separation which it signified He resolved to pass through in all its keenest dreadfulness.

This refusal of the cup they offered Him shows that He submitted to death not as to an inevitable necessity, but because it was the loving will of God; and thus He deprived it of its fiercest sting, and testified to the world for ever that it was no longer a sign of separation of man from Heaven. By His obedience unto death He perfected the union of the Son of Man with the Father. He slept its dreadful sleep, tore away its veil, and henceforth consecrated it a blessed path to the eternal home.

We learn, again, from this subject

4. The duty of Christ's disciples. It may seem strange to attempt to read any human duty here. Is it that we are to choose suffering and refuse relief, in order to make ourselves noble? That would be a departure from Christ's example. It is rather this : when suffering meets us in the path of obedience we must not shrink back from its approach, but, trusting in Christ's strength, calmly, resolutely, fearlessly face it. Our modern Christianity stands much in need of this spirit of Christlike endurance. It may not be ours to have to face the fierce sufferings of the martyr-ages. We may not be called to endure the baptism of fire. But if we are Christians at all, we have each a battle to fight, which needs a spirit of stern self-sacrifice and unflinching self-denial. Measure your sacrifices with Christ's, your sufferings with His, my brother, and shall you, named in His name, shrink back from any sorrows God sends you? Hold fast to the life Christ has revealed to you, to the example He has shown you, and go calmly on, and all suffering will glorify you.

This subject suggests, lastlyThe power of Christ's claims on all men. My brother, He bore this agony for you. Wilt thou not give thyself to Him? He rejected alleviation in His immeasurable pain, that by such obedience unto death He might reconcile you to God ;-wilt thou remain unreconciled? By despising His love, you "crucify the Son of God afresh;" you burden your own soul, and transform the love of Him who refused the cup of balm in His auguish, into “ fearful judgment and fiery indignation.” I know not what the wrath of the Man of Sorrows can mean, but I can only contrast with this picture of


« PrécédentContinuer »