Project Canterbury

The Consolations of the Cross
Addresses on the Seven Words of the Dying Lord

Given at S. Stephen's Church Boston, on Good Friday, 1902 together with Two Sermons

By Rt. Rev. C. H. Brent, D.D.
Bishop of the Philippine Islands.

New York, London and Bombay: Longmans, Green and Co., 1904.

I. The Consolation of Christ's Intercession.

Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. S. Luke xxiii, 34.

OUR memory is filled with the story of the Passion as given by the four Evangelists, and it will not be necessary to repeat it. We shall only refer briefly to the events without endeavouring to supplement or paraphrase them; there is a beauty and directness in the matchless narrative of Holy Writ that cannot be improved upon by rhetoric.

The trial is over, and the journey of pain and of patience has been made. At Calvary Jesus is met by the ill-directed but well-meaning consolation of the cup that stupefies; but He will not quench his thirst at the expense of the full control of His mental faculties. He is stripped and fixed to the Cross. As the soldiers complete their task of crucifixion, He utters a prayer when we would expect a moan, a prayer which has echoed the world through ever [7/8] since,--"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do."

What consolation in this word for us! When human life is at its worst, and uncontrolled passions hold complete sway, Jesus sees hope for the poor victims and prays for their redemption. Greater degradation than that which surrounded the Cross the world has never known. He prays for His murderers in particular, but after a life of intercessory prayer one cannot prescribe limits to a petition. We learn to pray for the many by praying for the one; but a day will break when the prayer for one becomes the prayer for many. All who share a common need come flocking into the shelter of our prayer. There is no forbidding them even if we would; nor does it detract from the depth or earnestness of the prayer for one. This is true of every man who has learned through years of watching and years of wrestling how to pray; how much more is it true of Christ! Yes, He prayed for His murderers, and as He prayed for them a whole world of men and women came flowing in a beseeching tide and flooded His petition. The least [8/9] transgressor as well as the greatest sought and found place there.

Men want assurance, daily assurance, that they are not without hope, that God still has a future for them, and here it is. His prayer made clear there was hope for the worst, and if for the worst, then for all. Moreover, Christ's prayer was offered not at a time when He could marvel at man's faith. He hoped when things were their blackest. We can applaud and anticipate final success when our fellows are doing their best, we can hope for humanity then. But Christ hoped when His work of salvation seemed a failure and human life was at its worst. Even His chosen comrades had denied and abandoned Him. So, I say, this word consoles us, and shines like a beacon at moments when new failure, new shame has driven us out on the barren waste of despair. The knowledge that God still hopes for us renews hope for ourselves in our hearts.

But we have been looking back: now let us look up. What do we see yonder at God's right hand? We see the unchanged, unchangeable Jesus making intercession for [9/10] us,--not with a mere lip intercession, but with an intercession in which His full, unblemished humanity speaks and pleads. The intercession of our heavenly Advocate is no empty cry, no shallow request. It is as efficacious as it is unceasing, as deep as the love of God, as broad as human life. "He is able to save to the uttermost them that draw nigh unto God through Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." He who loved His own on earth to the uttermost and to the end, loves still with the same love. He saves men to the uttermost as well as from the uttermost. The best is His gift for those who have been the worst and have drawn near unto God.

Such is the consolation of the first Word from the Cross,--the consolation of knowing beyond peradventure that God has hope for us, hope for us now when our sins array themselves before our eyes in forbidding ranks, hope for us when human hope lies paralyzed and all but dead; the consolation of the perpetual and availing intercession of Christ that stops at asking nothing less than God's best. The returning prodigal is not [10/11] left forgiven, but naked and sick and alone; as the next word shows, he is saved to the uttermost. Sandals are on his feet, the best robe on his shoulders, and he has the comradeship of a Father who presses kisses on his brow.

As we receive so must we give. We must learn to hope with a steadier, larger hope for others. Let us cease caging men in an evil heredity when the heredity of sonship in God is their portion; let us cease believing the latest novel of the decadence that pictures society as hopelessly rotten, making a decayed apple-tree the symbol of an orchard. Men will become what we hope. Hope is not a courtesy, it is a vitalizing energy; and it blossoms into prayer, rich full prayer for others. We must unite our intercessions with Christ's. Shall we not spend in these three hours part of our devotions on others? We will look for the consolation of His intercessions; then being consoled, we will console. Putting self aside we will wrap a robe of hope around those about us--the worst as well as the best.

Let us pray for those who are near to us [11/12] and touch our lives, and we will find that others will also creep under the shadow of our prayer. We will pray for great things for them, a leaping prayer to Him who saves from and to the uttermost. Let us pray for the ignorant and the sinning; those who have wronged us, or those who we think have wronged us; and those whom we have wronged.

JESU, Lord of life and glory,
Bend from heaven Thy gracious ear;
While our waiting souls adore Thee,
Friend of helpless sinners, hear:
By Thy mercy,
Oh, deliver us, good Lord.

From the depths of nature's blindness,
From the hardening power of sin,
From all malice and unkindness,
From the pride that lurks within,
By Thy mercy,
Oh, deliver us, good Lord.

When temptation sorely presses,
In the day of Satan's power,
In our times of deep distresses,
In each dark and trying hour,
By Thy mercy,
Oh, deliver us, good Lord.

[13] When the world around is smiling,
In the time of wealth and ease,
Earthly joys our hearts beguiling,
In the day of health and peace,
By Thy mercy,
Oh, deliver us, good Lord.

In the weary hours of sickness,
In the times of grief and pain,
When we feel our mortal weakness,
When all human help is vain,
By Thy mercy,
Oh, deliver us, good Lord.

In the solemn hour of dying,
In the awful judgment day,
May our souls, on Thee relying,
Find Thee still our hope and stay:
By Thy mercy,
Oh, deliver us, good Lord.


O LORD, we beseech thee, absolve thy people from their offences; that through thy bountiful goodness we may all be delivered from the bands of those sins, which by our frailty we have committed. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake, our blessed Lord and Saviour.

Project Canterbury