The whole history of Israel, its ritual and its government, is explicable only as it is typical of the spiritual Israel, of the sacrifice on Cavalry, of the precious blood which alone can wash away sin.
I have always considered the atonement to be characteristic of the Gospel as a system of religion. Strip it of that doctrine, and you reduce it to a scheme of morality, excellent indeed, and such as the world never before saw; but to man in the present state of his faculties, absolutely impracticable.
Christs sacrifice stands in glorious proportions with the work to be done. Nothing else or less would suffice. It is a work supernatural, transacted in the plane of nature; and what but such a work could restore the broken order of the soul under evil?
Having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them to the end. Often had they been faithless; and now, while addressing them, He knows that they will all in a few hours forsake Him. Yet He trusts them; He commits His cause to their keeping. And we must love as He loved.
O, let us understand that the power of Christianity lies not in a hazy indefiniteness, not in shadowy forms, not so much even in definite truths and doctrines, but in the truth and the doctrine. There is but one Christ crucified. All the gathered might of the infinite God is in that word.
Other men have said, If I could only live, I would establish and perpetuate an empire. This Christ of Galilee says, My death shall do it. Other martyrs have died in simple fidelity to truth. This martyr dies that He may make His truth mighty over all hearts. He was a man: but was He only a man?
In agony unknown He bleeds away His life; in terrible throes He exhausts His soul. Eloi! Eloi! lama sabachthani? And then see! they pierce His side, and forthwith runneth out blood and water! This is the shedding of blood, the terrible pouring out of blood, without which, for you and the whole human race, there is no remission.
It was in His parting sorrowthat Jesus asked His disciples to remember Him; and never was entreaty of affection answered so; for ever since has His name been breathed in morning and evening prayers that none can count, and has brought down some gift of sanctity and peace on the anguish of bereavement, and the remorse of sin.
Gods beloved Son, leaving the echoes of His cries upon the mountains and the traces of His weary feet upon the streets, shedding His tears over the tombs and His blood upon Golgotha, associating His life with our homes, and His corpse with our sepulchres, shows us how we, too, may be sons in the humblest vale of life, and sure of sympathy in heaven amid the deepest wrongs and sorrows of earth.
As we look upon that agony and those tearful prayers, let us not only look with thankfulness; but let that kneeling Saviour teach us that in prayer alone can we be forearmed against our lesser sorrows; that strength to bear flows into the heart that is opened in supplication; and that a sorrow which we are made able to endure is more truly conquered than a sorrow which we avoid.
It was not until Jesus had cried, It is finished, and from His riven side the soldiers spear had fetched the blood and water; it was not till then that the fountain sealed of Incarnate Love became the fountain opened of Redeeming merit, and that the Siloah began to flow, which ever since has flowed adown the oracles of God.
But now, the sounds of infancy, always nearest the heart, and sure to come to the lips in our deepest emotion, returned in His anguish; and in words which He had learned at His mothers knee, His heart uttered its last wailEloi! Eloi! lama sabachthani? My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken me?
Grant, O Lord, that as we are baptized into the death of Thy blessed Son our Saviour Jesus Christ, so by continual mortifying our corrupt affections, we may be buried with Him; and that through the grave, and gate of death, we may pass to our joyful resurrection; for His merits, who died, and was buried, and rose again for us, Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The study of everything that stands connected with the death of Christ, whether it be in the types of the ceremonial law, the predictions of the prophets, the narratives of the gospels, the doctrines of the epistles, or the sublime vision of the Apocalypse, this is the food of the soul, the manna from heaven, the bread of life. This is meat indeed and drink indeed.
A moment more, and all was over. The cloud had passed as suddenly as it rose. Far and wide, over the vanquished throngs of His enemies, with a loud voice, as if uttering His shout of eternal victory before entering into His glory, He cried, It is finished! Then, more gently, came the words, Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit. A moment more, and there arose a great cry, as of mortal agony; the head fell. He was dead.
All other great men are valued for their lives; He, above ail, for His death, around which mercy and truth, righteousness and peace, God and man are reconciled; for the cross is the magnet which sends the electric current through the telegraph between earth and heaven, and makes both Testaments thrill, through the ages of the past and future, with living, harmonious, and saving truth.
The world cannot bury Christ. The earth is not deep enough for His tomb, the clouds are not wide enough for His winding-sheet; He ascends into the heavens, but the heavens cannot contain Him. He still livesin the church which burns unconsumed with His love; in the truth that reflects His image; in the hearts which burn as He talks with them by the way.
He was alone; alone, enduring the curse for us; alone, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, and exhausting the fierceness of eternal justice; alone, without succor from man; alone, without one strengthening whisper from angel; above all, alone, without one ray from His Fathers countenance. And that expiring cry, My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken me? was the bitter, dreary, dismal, piercing wail of a soul utterly desertedwrapped, shrouded in essential unmitigated desolation.
I entreat you to devote one solemn hour of thought to a crucified Savioura Saviour expiring in the bitterest agony. Think of the cross, the nails, the open wounds, the anguish of His soul. Think how the Son of God became a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, that you might live forever. Think as you lie down upon your bed to rest, how your Saviour was lifted up from the earth to die. Think amid your plans and anticipations of future gaiety what the redemption of your soul has cost, and how the dying Saviour would wish you to act. His wounds plead that you will live for better things.
He planted His cross in the midst of the mad and roaring current of selfishness, aggravated to malignity, and uttered from it the mighty cry, of expiring love. And the waters heard Him, and from that moment they began to be refluent about His cross. From that moment, a current deeper and broader and mightier began to set heavenward; and it will continue to be deeper and broader and mightier till its glad waters shall encompass the earth, and toss themselves as the ocean. And not alone did earth hear the cry. It pierced the regions of immensity. Heaven heard it, and hell heard it, and the remotest star shall hear it, testifying to the love of God in His unspeakable gift, and to the supremacy of that blessedness of giving which could be reached only through deaththe death of the cross.
When the Father would give men the light of the knowledge of His glory, how does He proceed? To what does He turn mens gaze? Not to His mighty works; not to creative or providential wonders; not to geological or astronomical facts; not to the data on which Paley and Bell and other admirable writers build up their argument from design; not to the still greater wonder of mind, but to the face of Jesus Christ, that face that was more marred than any mans; that endured the ruffian blows; down which the blood drops trickled; that looked down on a mocking crowd from an ignominious cross.