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“Built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the
THE REPROACH OF THE CROSS, ITS GLORY.
BY THE REV. W. K. ARMSTRONG, B.A.
“Ho saved others; himself he cannot save."-Mark xv. 31. ONE of the aspects of the question of inspiration most difficult to understand is the frequent embodiment in the Scriptures of facts, arguments, and observa. tions which are evidently derived from human sources. With regard to many
of these inspiration can have no further concern than to vouch for the accuracy with which they are reported; but there are others in which, along with undeniable proofs of an earthly origin, unmistakeable traces of a Divine element are apparent. This is particularly the case with many of the sayings of the enemies of Jesus. They were unconscious testimonies to his Divine mission and person; and coming from such quarters, are the inore to be remarked. They have been accepted in a meaning widely different from that in which they were uttered, and were apparently recorded for the sake of that meaning. Thus the celebrated prophecy uttered by Caiaphas (John xi. 49), which appears in the form of an exhortation breathing the spirit of malignant hatred, is distinctly declared by the evangelist to have been an authoritative declaration of the necessity for an atonement; 80 strangely do the Divine and human elements meet together. Thus also the sneer of the Pharisees, “ This man receiveth sinners," is now repeated as the boast of the Christian. Thus the dreadful imprecation with which the accusers of Jesus invoked their own destruction, “His blood be on us, and on our children," may be used without revulsion of feeling by parents who know the efficacy of the blood of sprinkling; and thus, too, the keen reproach with which the dying Saviour was assailed may become to the children of God the expression of a deep and precious thought. They pick up this stone, hurled by wicked and malicious hands at his thorn-crowned head, and find it a gem worthy to sparkle among the splendours of his crown of glory. The scorn is past, but the truth abides for ever-“He saved others ; himself he did not save."
But this view of the reproach cast upon the Saviour does not lessen the guilt of its authors, or our abhorrence of their conduct. It was a display of human depravity almost without a parallel. Only the worst of tyrants have ever stooped to glut their eyes and ears with the sufferings of their victims; but in this instance the highest in the land jostled with the lowest rabble for the base pleasure of insulting the meek and holy Sufferer. We think a person who witnesses the public execution of a criminal worthy of censure ; but what should we think of a mob round the scaffold, composed of the most distinguished in the country for wealth, birth, and learning, disturbing with cruel mockery the dying moments of an innocent man? Their reproach was as false as their conduct was cruel. He could have saved himself if he would. He was as mighty when he was suffering as when he was saving. He was more truly Wonderful when bearing silently the pain and shame of the cross than when at midnight he walked the waters and stilled the winds upon the Lake of Galilee. To have come down from the cross would have been a great work : to remain upon it was infinitely greater. But he could not be tempted of evil. He knew that to save others he must not save himself; and therefore he endured the cross, despising the shame, until he could say, “ It is finished.” Our acquaintance with this great necessity transforms the words, so false and wicked in their primary meaning, into an important declaration of Gospel truth.
I. They are an unimpeachable testimony to the benevolence of the Saviour's character and life. “He saved others." Men are sometimes better known by the detractions of their enemies than by the praises of their friends. It was so with our Lord. The selfish instincts of the Pharisees gave them an earlier and clearer insight of his character than that possessed by his own disciples : hence the truth of some of their cavils. But they did not love him, and therefore the truth perceived made him more odious. They saw danger approaching to their influence, and became unscrupulous in opposing and reviling him. Yet they could find nothing to say, but that “he saved others." They could not help acknowledging him as the Saviour, nor could they impugn the motives from which his mighty works had been done. They had been wrought in aid of the afflicted, and to bless the poor; and no accusation of self-seeking or popularityhunting could be brought against him. Not the shadow of evil ever fell upon the path of the Son of God. It was all light. They said their worst; and all they could say was, “ He saved others.” For this they crucified him. Better the poor should perish than he should save them. Did no blush of shame burn upon their cheeks as they uttered a reproach so full of disgrace to themselves ? A strange testimony from such lips, and given in a strange place. At the foot of the cross to which their hatred had condemned him they proclaimed to the world that their victim “gaved others." What a contrast! Virtue suffering; vice mocking: heaven silent; hell in triumph! But even here, though we might not know the issue, nor have a glimpse of the glory to follow, we know on which side it is best to be. By the cross itself, while the wicked are mocking, we can take up their taunts, and reply, “Yes, Jesus saved others, and for that, in life or death, we will not deny him.” The passion and prejudice of the hour may exert their violence; but mercy and truth shall stand for ever; and blessed are they who stand by them in the evil day.
II. They were a fair statement of the distinguishing characteristic of the Saviour's whole life.
The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. It was no part of bis purpose to save himself. He never had done so, and he could not now. Self-sacrifice was the law of his existence, the end of his incarnation. He would have nothing for himself. Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be made rich. His self-denial reached from the highest to the smallest things. When in his sacred hunger the tempter proposed that he should command the stones of the wilderness to become bread, he repudiated the thought of a miracle to supply his own wants, although he would work one that the multitude might not go fasting away. When in Gethsemane Peter would have done battle in his defence, he not only forbade the use of the sword, but also signified his voluntary surrender of that angelic guard his Father was ready to supply. He had given up everything, that he might become our Saviour-his glory and dominion in heaven; his reputation and comfort on earth-and he would not withhold even life itself. If we dismiss from our minds for a moment all that is divine in the person, and all that is propitiatory in the work of the Lord Jesus, and look only at the human aspect of his life
and death, we shall see that it teaches this lesson, that the highest service man can render or God receive, is a life of self-denial and self-sacrifice for the good of others. Self-denial there is in abundance for selfish and worldly ends, but Jesus denied himself utterly for the sake of others. During his whole life not an appetite was indulged, not a passion was unrestrained, not a duty neglected, that he might thereby save others. Himself he could not save ; therefore, when in his Divine consciousness he contemplated his approaching sufferings, he said, “Now is my soul troubled ; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name."
III. This reproach can be claimed as a testimony to the necessity of Christ's atonement. If he was to become the Saviour of sinners in that large and emphatic sense in which the words find their full meaning, it was impossible he could save himself. Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins, and no blood but his could suffice for a perfect offering. And since Christ is set forth by God as the propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, the proof that Christ must have suffered is satisfactory and complete. He whose understanding is unsearchable, and whose power is equal to all the purposes of his will, had before him all the conditions of the problem to be solved in the redemption of man. He saw what Divine equity required for its vindication, and what human nature needed for its restoration. He knew the capabilities of all created beings, and found in none of them the qualities of a Redeemer. He looked into the Godhead, and the Son appeared, to save by suffering and death. We need ask for no other reason. The fact that salvation is of God is the assurance that it has been effected in the best and only possible way. But we must adore the depths of that love which contemplated and completed the atonement by the sacrifice of his Son.
« This was compassion like a God,
That when the Saviour knew
But, further, if we trace the historical development of the plan of salvation in the ancient promises, and the experience of early believers, we shall see what the mocking Jews could not see; that the true Saviour could not save himself. From the first announcement of the victory of the woman's seed, to the fulfilment of aged Simeon's hopes, every testimony indicated the coming of a man of sorrows. The Lord Jesus always had them before his mind, and long before their actual infliction foretold their approach. He had a baptism to be baptized with. A cup was to be put into his hands full of bitterest misery, at which even he trembled ; and in the hour of his agony he prayed that it might pass from him : but it might not pass. It was to be drained, and it was drained, that the wicked forsaking his way might be saved from the infliction. So also, after his resurrection, on the way to Emmaus, Jesus expounded to the two disciples those Scriptures that concerned himself. He asked, Ought not Christ' to have suffered ? If indeed he was the Messiah foretold in that book, he could not save himself. His lot was to be one of sorrow and death. He was to be despised and rejected, wounded, bruised, scourged, oppressed, murdered, and to bear all this in silence and meekness. He could not, therefore, save himself without falsifying the Bible, and destroying his own claim to be the Saviour it foretold.
Our Lord's interpretation of the Scriptures in their application to himself is an astonishing proof of his Divinity. No mere man, in the most favourable circumstances, could have so completely emancipated himself from the popular opinions of his time as Jesus did, while obscure, and destitute of the ordinary
means of intellectual advancement. The prevalent notions of the time, those that were taught in the synagogues where he worshipped, and cherished in the social circles with which he was familiar, were all opposed to his views. Both rulers and people, scribe and Pharisee, looked for an earthly monarch, a temporal kingdom, and a restoration of traditionary splendours, with a power greater than David's, and a temple more magnificent than Solomon's; but Jesus of Nazareth drew from the same Scriptures the picture of a Saviour without earthly power, destitute of a home, the living friend of the poor, the dying companion of malefactors, and so curiously and perfectly wrought this picture into the details of his own history, that the scattered portions of prophecy became like the materials of some rich mosaic, where the absence of the smallest fragment would destroy the whole, but everything, to the most minute point, is in its place and proportion. This was the True Messiah, whose death more than his life barmonized, explained, and illustrated the whole circle of revealed truth, But who enabled him to make this grand discovery, that his strange, tumultuous death should be the perfect fulfilment of all prophecy? Only the Teacher and Inspirer of the prophets himself possessed the wisdom and knowledge required. Only God could have fulfilled his own word.
IV. This reproach is also of value as a testimony to the voluntariness of His suffering. This is of as much importance as its necessity. Unless he had suffered freely he could not have saved by grace. There was, indeed, no way of saving but by suffering ; but it was mere unconstrained mercy that led him to think of saving. He might have left mankind to perish in their sin, or might have swept the race out of existence, and repeopled the world by worthier inhabitants. In the day of man's transgression no voice could have objected to the instant execution of the sentence. Heaven had been cleared of rebellious angels ; why not earth of rebellious men? Free mercy spared them, then; but Calvary gave a more stupendous proof of its power. Here love was strained to the uttermost. If Christ had paused in his work, and turned from the wretched beings whose malignant passions were tormenting him, nothing would have been more natural, more just. There was nothing to make him love them. Of the people there was none with him. The traitor's kiss was upon his cheek ; the oaths and curses with which his dearest friend had denied him were still in his ears; the cruelty and injustice of the previous night were vividly before him; the stripes were on his back, the thorns clinging to his temples, the spittle on his face. They had stripped him naked. He was hanging in agony, by nails driven through his hands. In his death-thirst they had thrust gall and vinegar into his mouth, and scornfully called him to come down. What if he had ? It was not the nails that kept him there. What if, wearied with their wickedness, he had come down from the cross in their sight? What if he had abandoned his work, and left the wicked world to its fate? Not a soul wanted him there. But if he had given these mockers their wish, what must have been the consequence ? Evil could not have triumphed. The wrath of God, that Christ was bearing while they cried, Come down, must have torn the earth asunder, and swept the wretched scorners of salvation into hell: no power could have helped them when he had withdrawn. Blessed be God, when the prince of this world came with the last and sorest temptation of all, and heaped man's ingratitude upon the Saviour's afflicted head, he found no part in him. He would not save himself, and Satan fell, baffled and overthrown, before that love stronger than death, which shall yet finally destroy his reign of falsehood, hatred, and murder.
And how shall this be but by the transformation of the people of Christ into the likeness of their dying Lord! Self-sacrifice must be the rule of our lives, even as it was of his. If we would save others, we must not spare ourselves; and if we would be constant and victorious in his work, no revilinge, nor opposition, nor ill-usage, will be able to move us. We shall endure contradiction of sinners without being weary or faint in our minds; and we shall seek for no immediate triumph, but submit even to the last indignity, in the confidence that as he overcame by death, so his disciples must overcome by suffering. Not only shall his saints “triumph though they are slain," but they shall triumph because they are slain. How much of this truth the Church of Christ has yet to learn. But no brighter pages mark her annals than those which record the self-sacrifice of the soldiers of the cross, and their resistance unto blood, striving against sin, and the final triumph of the truth they loved, and suffered to maintain. How often has it been shown, that to save others themselves they could not save. What is the sacrifice demanded of the people of God in this time? What is the surrender we each as individuals have to make? There never yet was one faithful follower who had nothing to give up for Christ. And if the sacrifice is too costly or too often demanded for the carnal spirit, we have but to look at the Lamb of God, and his complete surrender of himself for us and our salvation, to have every obstacle swept away before the swelling emotions of adoration and love, which never fail to move the heart to its utmost depths in the contemplation of the great sacrifice.
THE STORY OF A KING AND HIS PRIME MINISTER;
WITH A MORAL TO IT.
BY THE REV. J. W. LANCE. "And Joash did that which was right in the sight of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.”
2 Chron. xxiv, 2. THE story of Joash the king, and ringing in our ears, " These have no root Jehoiada the priest, is a very old one ; | in themselves.” To this class Joash bemuch older than the times in which these longs. He is of the parasitic brood; and men lived, and yet repeating itself every when the life to which he clings is gone day. Let us but get to the heart of it; he is gone with it. He never works out let us but remember that these high and his own salvation, because he never realizes mighty ones, kings and priests, are but that it is God who works in him, and not men of like passions with ourselves, the man Jehoiada. In him, the priest, he swayed this way and that; reeds shaken seems, alas ! to live and move and have his with the wind, even when most gorgeously being. He makes an arm of flesh his apparelled and living delicately, sheltered trust, and the power of the ancient curse in their sumptuous houses; and we shall is upon him. see in this narrative "the story of our We may gather up, I think, the story lives from year to year.” “For whatsoever and its moral thus :things were written aforetime were written I. The grounds of Jehoiada's influence. for our learning, that we through patience II. The extent to which it was carried. and comfort of the Scriptures might have III. What happened when it was with. hope." It is a tale concerning influence, drawn. that mysterious influence which one person I. As to the grounds of Jehoiada's inexercises over another; a tale of the weak fluence. Can we at all understand it ? or man and the strong, the foolish man and shall we, in the attempt to analyze it, miss the wise. There is something ominous in it altogether? How subtle and indefinable the very words of the text, “ All the days are the elements of this power as we see it of Jehoiada the priest.” We see in this in common life. Perhaps in most cases it the measure and limit of the goodness of is partly physical, as well as mental and Joash. Here is the end from the begin. moral.' There is something in a “prening; and the words of the Lord are l sence" to which few are insensible. The