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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.

VI. The Consolation of Christ's Completeness.

It is finished. S. John xix, 30.

THIS is not a cry of relief, but of joy. The Word is expressive of that spiritual gladness whose flame burns brightest oftentimes when adversity is the companion of our bosom. Life is not all pain; joys are scattered up and down the whole of life's pathway. Enduring joy will shine out even in the shadow of the Cross. If our Lord speaks of losing life for His sake and the Gospel's, in the same breath He speaks also of keeping it to life eternal. He who has learned his lesson aright turns the full flood of suffering as it comes to him upon the meaner, lower part of his nature; in so doing he relieves the higher part so that it at once rejoices in a larger freedom. The higher is glad because the lower has been made sorry. You cannot discipline your actual self without caressing your ideal self. So it happens that side by side with the cry of pain comes the cry of triumph: "I thirst"--"It is finished."

[60] He does not say: "It is ended; it is all over and I am relieved." But after having scanned His career with that infallible accuracy which belongs to the last hours of consciousness, His verdict: is that everything has been done that was to be done. The purpose of His life has been achieved. Can you conceive of any fuller gladness than that? His first recorded word is that He must be busy about the things of His Father. As a little lad He set His purpose before His face, and in after life He never wavered. To do God's will was His duty,--that which He was bound to do; and His meat,--that which He was hungry to do. So that now when the splendour of it rushes like a flood of sunlight into His soul, He rises to a joy comparable to that of the Transfiguration when, for the moment, the beauty hid the pain of self-sacrifice. Once again, at the close of life, when pain's last blow has been delivered and His every faculty is shivering under its shock, joy bursts in triumphant. This is the joy which, when it becomes our portion, no man taketh from us even though the shield, the sword, and [60/61] the battle try to rob us with merciless assaults. It is the joy that comes direct from and is held in place by the hand of God. Our Lord's life, which began with the joy of boundless promise, closed with the joy of promise fulfilled.

It is hard to conceive of a work that is so far above criticism as to be flawless in the sight of God. Only the self-sufficient are fully satisfied as they view a concluded task. The talented and great always see a gulf between what they strove to do and what they really accomplished. Herbert Spencer's pathetic preface to the last volume of his "Synthetic Philosophy" is an illustration of this. "At length," he says, "the end is reached. Doubtless in earlier days some exultation would have resulted; but as age creeps on feelings weaken, and now my chief pleasure is in my emancipation. Still there is satisfaction in the consciousness that losses, discouragements, and shattered health have not prevented me from fulfilling the purpose of my life."

He ended, he did not finish his work; and the only solace that came to him was [61/62] the satisfaction due to loyalty to his early purpose.

This is what will happen to you and to me. Our lives are incomplete now, and at best will be relatively but little more complete when we come to die. If we develop in character we shall realize more acutely then than now the immensity of our deficiencies. Where can we turn for comfort but to Him who fulfilled His duty to the last jot and tittle? Out of the abundance of His completeness we can draw to fill up what is lacking in us. If it is consequent on the unity of life that the sin of one can taint a whole race, it is equally true that the righteousness of One can vitalize the world of men, that the perfection of One can complete all. He stands by each one of us at our life's task as a master workman stands beside his pupils. A touch here and another there from His hand makes all the difference between completeness and incompleteness.

A while since an afflicted friend sent me one of those home-made tokens of affection that are valuable above gold and silver. "Here," she said, "is a bit of sea-weed I [62/63] gathered some few years back--a bit of God's work which I send as an Easter greeting. Humble enough as far as my own part in it goes, but--God did the rest." Man's little and God's much hand in hand, the wonder and the magnitude of the latter more than compensating for the modest proportions of the former! What consolation to know that it is part of God's joy to do the rest when we have done our best. Through and in Him we make real the duty up to its ideal. Lying behind that measure of success which we are capable of achieving must be the same directive and motive power that enabled our Lord to say at the end," It is finished." We must know God's will and do it. What is God's will concerning you? What does God mean you to do that no one else can do? Find out--first in the large, and then day by day in detail. You have gifts of opportunity, of talent, of capacity for service which cannot be duplicated, any more than a leaf from yonder tree can have its perfect counterpart. Your first duty is to ask God what He wants of you and your endowments. But how are we to find out? The voices [63/64] that speak within are numerous, confusing, and even contradictory. The only way to discover is to ask God. He is a Father, and a father will not refuse to tell that which most of all he desires his child to know. I do not say this in the spirit of reckless mysticism that creates a visionary, impractical character. I am profoundly conscious of the difficulty of ascertaining God's will; in its more delicate shadings, after we mount above the broad field of common morals and face the uplands of the spiritual life, it is far harder to discern it than to do it when it has disclosed itself. But, to change the simile, the little shallop of human personality was made to float on the great sea of God's eternal purpose. It is safe nowhere else. If we patiently trim our sails, in due time the breath of God's Spirit will lay its firm but gentle pressure upon them, and waft us along the course of our appointed destiny. I am disposed to think that the common fault consists not in the failure of men to ask God to reveal His will, but in their almost total neglect to listen in stillness for His answer. Times without number men do God's will, [64/65] but they are unaware of it; for they have not taken the trouble to ascertain whether their lives are attuned to Him or not. The result is that they are devoid of that peculiar joy and peace, to say nothing of the power, which accompany the consciousness of working under His immediate direction. Efficiency is contingent upon some sense of vocation at any rate.

Is it not a consolation to us who desire to know and to do God's will that our Elder Brother, although having seasons of dimness when He could not clearly discern His path, as for example in Gethsemane, was never without sufficient light. Like Him we are bound to have moments when innocent desire, which seems to lead close to His throne, will beheld in check by some mighty inner impulse which apparently leads into the dark. Nor will the issue of the struggle be doubtful if our set purpose, like His, is to respond to the will of God. If for a time we lose the light in our search for it, it will only be that we may find it again with greater brilliancy. So again I say: Seek for God's will in season and out of season, that you may [65/66] do a work that is like in intention to that of the Saviour. Only thus can its cracks and flaws be filled in by the completeness of His.

So, take and use Thy work:
Amend what flaws may lurk,
What strain o' the stuff, what warping; past the aim!

My times be in Thy hand!
Perfect the cup as planned!
Let age approve of youth, and death complete the same.

Let us pray for wisdom to see God's will, and power to do the same till the day breaks and faith gives place to sight, weakness to strength.

OFT in danger, oft in woe,
Onward, Christians, onward go:
Fight the fight, maintain the strife,
Strengthened with the Bread of life.

Let your drooping hearts be glad:
March in heavenly armor clad:
Fight, nor think the battle long,
Soon shall victory tune your song.

Let not sorrow dim your eye,
Soon shall every tear be dry;
[67] Let not fears your course impede,
Great your strength, if great your need.

Onward then to battle move,
More than conquerors ye shall prove;
Though opposed by many a foe,
Christian soldiers, onward go.


ALMIGHTY and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service; Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.

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