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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.

V. The Consolation of Christ's Conquest of Pain

I thirst. S. John xix, 25.

ONLY a few moments before death our Lord thinks of bodily needs. A theorist would say that on the verge of the grave, the cravings of an exhausted and tortured nature would be of no account to a righteous man. His mind would be set on the new day that was about to dawn: he would probably ignore the last demands of the physical part of his being for momentary relief. That is theory. The fad: is that when the Son of Righteousness was deep in the valley of the shadow, He held His body to be an integral portion of His personality, to be attended to and cared for in its legitimate demands.

How this contradicts the contention of certain modern idealists who maintain that the body is ultimately of no account, that it is to the true self only what a glove is to the hand, that its troubles are figments of the imagination, and that there is no resurrection of the flesh!

[50] But it is neither by ignoring the body and relegating it with its aches and pains to the category of things unreal, nor by "medical materialism" throwing our full weight on the triumphs of science, that we can best combat physical ills and achieve physical well-being. When faith accepts science and science accepts faith, each viewing the other as a potent force over disease, there will be won such victories over sickness and frailty as to-day are only happy dreams. The human body, as our Lord attests, is a holy thing; it is a necessary part of personality, here and hereafter; without it man is not wholly man. It has its legitimate needs here,--needs which must be ministered to up to the last.

How truly human is our Lord! He is the Son of God, but also and just as completely the Son of Man. He is susceptible to all human experience--His soul to anguish through others' sins, His mind to the lashings (though impotent) of doubt, His body to pain. He is natural, i.e. He acts out human life under human conditions to the very end, and responds to the innocent cravings of His flesh. "I thirst." He refused the [50/51] draught that would benumb His faculties, but looked and gently asked for relief in His fierce thirst. And in so doing He excites us to a new recognition of the duty of helping physical need in our fellows. His cry awoke quick-footed Pity, who with fertile energy fixed the wetted sponge to the reed and sprang to his succour. Mary and John have bathed His human soul in the refreshing stream of their sympathy; and now His implied request for something to relieve His parched lips, brings a response from an unknown, unnamed friend. Let us fill in the hiatus and give him a worthy name; let it be Human Compassion.

Our Lord's thirst stands as the symbol of the whole realm of pain. Thirst was the typical pain of the Cross; and in that the Cross was chosen by Christ to be His portion, this torturing thirst was part of His voluntary suffering.

There are two kinds of pain in human experience, the pain that is inevitable and the pain that is chosen. First there is the unerring, exacting, unavoidable suffering which you cannot escape. However cunning [51/52] or fleet-footed you may be, sooner or later bereavement, sickness, death will come: it will arrive when it is due; each dark-visaged assailant is a plain fad; of a rational universe, and must be seriously reckoned with. You must become either its victim or its victor; if you fail to face and conquer it to the enrichment of your character, it will harden and impoverish your soul. It is difficult to bear pain of any sort, and as I think of the days of suffering which lie ahead, I know that unless God abides with me, when the storm breaks I shall perish.

But the pain which is most of all typified by the Cross and its characteristic torture of thirst is not the pain that is inevitable; rather is it that which is chosen. By this I do not mean that our Lord ever chose suffering because it was suffering, as though it had some inherent virtue, or as though the Father found delight in the spectacle of one of His creatures in pain. What He did do was to lay His life along a course which, if it led to a lofty goal, led to it by the ladder of the Cross. Whenever a man chooses something high, he chooses a cross. Because [52/53] Christ chose the highest vocation, the vocation of Saviour, at the same time He chose the Cross, i. e. the hardest cross that the world can know. He knew the cost which His choice involved; He knew that if he was to save others, Himself He could not save. The pain of the Saviour was the pain which only refined, sensitive natures can experience. Capacity for righteousness or for service entails capacity for suffering; and the higher you rise the larger the capacity, until you reach the perfection of our Lord, which touches the outermost bounds of human possibility.

Now it is fatally easy to avoid the pain which is typified by the Cross. He who keeps his nature coarse, defending it from refining influences, will move serenely, smilingly through stretches of life which a highly developed character can traverse only at the cost of bleeding feet and shuddering soul. The impenitent robber plunged hilariously, blasphemingly into the pain that helped to break the heart of the Saviour. The soul that claims for itself the refinements of the Incarnation, that not merely tries to avoid [53/54] what is wrong, but to discern between the good and the less good, that searches daily for new and hitherto unrevealed aspects of Christian living,--such a soul ipso facto courts the pain of the Cross. Every call to Christ is a call to suffering. It must be so. God has erected crosses between us and the ideal to keep desecrating, unprepared hands from soiling the prize or misusing it, as we surely would if we grasped it too early. But each seeming obstacle proves to be an aid if we are patient, and by its help we mount to the joy and freedom of the ideal.

What a consolation that Christ was so truly one with us, that He, too, "though he was a Son, yet learned obedience by the things which he suffered!" We would have a right to conclude that we had made some fatal mistake when, after trying to do right, we were to meet with nothing but rebuffs and failure, were it not that the Son of God has acted out before our eyes the complete experience, and taught us how we court pain when we woo an ideal. Not a few fall by the wayside because they have never learned this elementary lesson of Christianity. We [54/55] are caught in the splendour of some vision; we spring to claim it for our own, and immediately a hostile army confronts us.

Where we looked for crowns to fall
We find the tug's to come,--that's all.

At such a moment we need the experience of our Lord to lean upon. The servant ought to be content to be as his Master. Our consolation is that if every call to Christ and his righteousness is a call to suffering, the converse is equally true--every call to suffering is a call to Christ, a promotion, an invitation to come up higher.

Let us then be brave Christians, not faltering before new pain, not turned aside because the Cross blocks the way to achievement; for the call to suffer is a call to win as well. "The God of all grace, who called you unto his eternal glory in Christ, after that ye have suffered a little while, shall himself perfect, stablish, strengthen you. To him be the dominion for ever and ever. Amen." Let us pray for all sufferers in mind, body or estate; especially for those who are suffering for righteousness' sake, [55/56] and for such as are striving to set up new and ever higher standards.

ART thou weary, art thou languid,
Art thou sore distrest?
"Come to Me," saith One, "and coming,
Be at rest."

Hath He marks to lead me to Him,
If He be my guide?
"In His feet and hands are wound-prints.
And His side."

Is there diadem, as monarch,
That His brow adorns?
"Yea, a crown, in very surety,
But of thorns."

If I find Him, if I follow,
What His guerdon here?
"Many a sorrow, many a labor,
Many a tear."

If I still hold closely to Him,
What hath He at last?
"Sorrow vanquished, labor ended,
Jordan past."

If I ask Him to receive me,
Will He say me nay?
"Not till earth, and not till heaven
Pass away."

[57] Finding, following, keeping, struggling,
Is He sure to bless?
Saints, apostles, prophets, martyrs,
Answer, "Yes."


THAT it may please thee to succour, help, and comfort, all who are in danger, necessity, and tribulation;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to preserve all who travel by land or by water, all women in the perils of childbirth, all sick persons, and young children; and to show thy pity upon all prisoners and captives;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please thee to defend, and provide for, the fatherless children, and widows, and all who are desolate and oppressed;

We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord.

WE humbly beseech thee, O Father, mercifully to look upon our infirmities; and, for the glory of thy Name, turn from us all those evils that we most justly have deserved; and grant, that in all our troubles we may put our whole trust and confidence in thy mercy, and evermore serve thee in holiness and pureness of living, to thy honour and glory; through our only Mediator and Advocate, Jesus Christ our Lord.

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