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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.

VII. The Consolation of Death's Conquest

Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. S. Luke xxiii, 46.

WITH this sweet cadence the mortal life of our Redeemer comes to its close. The storm has subsided and a hush falls on land and sea. Human passion and the army of evil have done their worst; their waves have lashed that Rock with final fury, and now fall back baffled and lifeless. Death leaps to the assault only to spill the soul of the Son of Man into the lap of God. At the moment of sunset the Word of duty melts into the Word of trust: "Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit."

"No man who is not a brute can say that he is not afraid of death," said a dying statesman. [Daniel Webster.] Even Christ feared. He made no compact with man's arch-enemy; He conquered it as the last onslaught of sin. Death, whether then or now, is always a foe and will remain so until it has been destroyed." The last [69/70] enemy that shall be destroyed is death." Our Lord "abolished death" only in the sense of extracting its sting. Death will cease to be when there are no more to die, when it will no longer have dominion over man in the same manner and for the same reason that it has none over Christ.

What was it that carried the Saviour through this last experience? It was trust in God. He laid Himself in the sustaining arms of the Father, as a little child nestles to its mother's bosom, whispering words of confidence and peace. "Trust in God is the last of all things and the whole of all things." God always, is the complete history of Jesus. He came from God, lived in God, and went to God. He who had trusted that He would have light to see and power to do God's will, trusted to the end, and He met with no disappointments. When men strive to do God's will there is nothing that can bring the kind of disappointment that sears the heart and paralyzes the vitality. In Browning's description of the life of Lazarus after his resurrection, this is well portrayed:--

[71] The especial marking of the man
Is prone submission to the heavenly will.

He will live, nay, it pie a set h him to live
So long as God please and just how God please.
He even seeketh not to please God more
(Which meaneth, otherwise) than as God please.

Upon the return of Lazarus to this world, he was fired with a consuming trust. Nothing could quench it; nothing dim its flame. Trust had been tested to the limit, and there had been no disappointment.

So may it be with us. The rough places which day by day bruise the feet of men can be endured if we believe that we are but treading the same path once trod victoriously by Sacred Feet, that we are being led by a pierced but unerring Hand; and we must early strive to come to an experimental knowledge of this truth. We can be trained in the Christian grace of trust only in the common occurrences of life. A great task lies ahead for trust to perform. Trust's last work on earth is to carry us through the valley of the shadow of death, when sunset comes. But it is in the morning of life, when [71/72] the pulse beats full and strong, that we must learn to lay ourselves quietly, without fear, on his broad, brave wings, so that we may be well practised when the last hard flight that is to carry us through the portals of death, is before us.

This was not the first time that Christ's lips had framed the prayer of trust. He was skilled in the exercise. Each day had begun with the same self-surrender. He trusted in God thatHewoulddeliverHiminHis boyhood trials, in the heat of manhood's temptation, in the pain of misunderstanding and persecution--in short from the manger to the Cross. His reward is that now, when He can do naught for Himself, but must leave all things to the Father, it is no effort for Him to trust. He does it intuitively. There was a day, before the night had come in which no man can work, when the promptings of evil had urged Him to trust, and only trust, though His arms were free to toil. "He shall give his angels charge over thee, that thou dash not thy foot against a stone." But it was a false trust to which Satan challenged Him on the dizzy height of the Temple's [72/73] pinnacle;--not trust at all, but insolent assurance. Now the arms that had been so active are transfixed, the feet so swift in mercy have made their last journey, the heart of love so sensitive to others' woe is broken. He does the only thing that remains for Him to do: He trusts. And because He has trusted at the beginning and in the middle of His career, because He has trusted in His activity, He now trusts triumphantly, gloriously, at the end.

Am I wrong in thinking that self-trust is to an unusual degree the sin of the age? Civilization has strewn the path of progress with the spoils of science and the fruits of invention. Discomfort is reduced to a minimum, distance has been conquered, disease is increasingly within our power. Humanity is crowned with the diadem of intellectual conquest and material success, and the heart is swollen with pride. Just how much we lean on temporal supports, only those know who in wholesome self-discipline for a season have tried to live without them, or from whose lives the pitiless hand of adversity has swept them. By some strange self-delusion [73/74] men and women whose whole weight is thrown upon things material, if they think of the end at all, seem to find satisfaction in considering the trust by which they will then be sustained. Weak sentimentalism fostering a false hope! How shall we be able to trust God in great things, if we have never had enough faith to trust Him in small things? How shall we have any confidence at the hour of death in One whose love and power we have never allowed ourselves to experience in life? Our money, our genius, our luck, our ideas, our plans, carried us through life. God was not in our thoughts. Believe me, there will come a day when "the cord is frayed and the cruse is dry." There will be nothing left for us to do but trust; and what if we find ourselves without the capacity of faith? The shadows of death will try the temper of our life, of what sort it is--our motives, our ambitions, our belief in God's personal providence. As far as we are concerned the foundations of the firmament will be broken up. Then will it be made evident to whom we have given the glory, whether to God or to self. No self-confidence [74/75] can carry us through death,--nothing but the power of God evoked by trust on our part.

To-day is the hour in which to learn the lesson of trust. What comfort to know that the Life which was lived wholly in the atmosphere of trust was the only complete life in human history! What gladness and encouragement in the assurance that God has never once failed, not merely to respond to trust, but to surprise trust by giving beyond its fairest expectations! What peace to live in the knowledge that we need not worry about the terrors of death as we look ahead and anticipate our last hour; if we but trust now we shall be able to trust with a practised faith then, as Christ trusted, and there will be "light at evening time." Christ, who in Himself conquered death, will repeat His victory in us and for us.

Thus it is that in the Cross we find our sufficient consolation. Our faltering hearts grow brave as we contemplate Jesus of the Passion. What larger consolations can life hold than those revealed in the royal bequest of the Saviour's dying words? Here [75/76] they are once more, compressed into brief compass: The largest hope is not denied the worst; forgiveness is not merely a remission, but an admission,--yes, more than an admission, a commission, to fellowship with God in Christ; the home and the nation together with the Church form God's triple throne on earth; Christ endured to the limit, even to taking upon Him the sins of the world; He went through the abyss of pain that it might become to us the ladder of achievement; in duty done is exultant joy, even when suffering is at its height; trust is victory, whether in life or in death.

O Love, I give myself to Thee,
Thine ever, only Thine, to be.

PEACE, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed?
To do the will of Jesus, this is rest.

Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round?
On Jesus' bosom naught but calm is found.

[77] Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away?
In Jesus' keeping we are safe, and they.

Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown?
Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours?
Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.

It is enough: earth's struggles soon shall cease,
And Jesus call us to heaven's perfect peace.

Let us pray for a Christian death
without sin, without shame,
and, should it please God, without pain,
and a good answer
at the dreadful and fearful judgment-seat
of Jesus Christ, our Lord.


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.


THE God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus Christ, the great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant; Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight; through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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