Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort; who comforteth us in all our affliction, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any affliction, through the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound unto us, even so our comfort also aboundeth through Christ. 2 Cor. i, 3-5.
THE Cross of Christ has an unfailing attraction for us in that it touches every human life, and ministers to every human need. It is a present power, not an echo from the past; it is not an idea let loose to take care of itself and find lodgement where it will, but a force controlled by the hand of Him who transformed it from a means of torture and death into the way of consolation and life. To-day we are not going to spend our time merely in the consideration of an historic happening and an historic Person. We shall look back of course, but we shall reach up for present help, for the Cross is a present power and the historical Christ is the present Christ,--Jesus "the same yesterday, today, [1/2] and for ever." He has ever before Him and in Him those human experiences that culminated in the Cross. His sympathy is instant, and He is ever ready to pour the abundance of His strength into our lives. We read the inspired story that tells us what He was, that we may know what He is; we learn what He thought, that we may know what He thinks; the record of what He did is valuable because it reveals to us what He does. As He lived--that is essentially, inwardly--He lives; as He loved, He loves,--"the same yesterday, to day, and for ever." He did not fling away His humanity after His mortal career on earth had closed, but retained it as a sacred thing, as the shrine of His experiences among men, as the link to bind men to Him. Imbedded in His personality, each incident shining as a jewel in His memory as an ever present fact, is the history of His life, passion, and death. The man Christ Jesus upon whom we look back in the tragic story of the crucifixion is He to whom we look up. It is all one--what He was and what He is: to see Him as He was yesterday is to see Him as He is to-day: [2/3] the God of strength, the God of love.
We are going to consider Christ in His sufferings rather than the sufferings of Christ. The contemplation of Christ's sufferings can easily become a trap for emotional and morbid natures to shut men out from Him. Too often the preacher has made the Passion the centre of interest and the Person of Christ the incident, whereas Christ is all in all, and the Passion a background throwing Him into relief. His personality is that which must enchain our attention as we try to relate ourselves afresh to Him, so that we shall receive new strength and hope to take up again our lives and our work.
He is indeed the Strong One. His is the only human life of which is recorded no failure; there is not a shadow of fault in His character or a line of defeat in His history. So we turn to Him for strength, for life. But in this day of strenuous living we are apt to lose sight of the tender side of His character. He is God the Consoler as well as God the Strengthener. To remember the former only is to become sentimental; to think of the latter alone is to become hard and [3/4] stoical. Human life has the double need,--the need of strength and the need of consolation. These having been given, there should emerge that glorious combination of strength and tenderness which forms the most winsome as well as the most powerful of characters. And so what Christ is, man according to his measure becomes--strengthener, consoler; such is his wonderful destiny. We ask Christ for strength, that we may give what we get to the weak; for consolation, that we may extend sympathy to the distressed.
He is the Consoler, and never was He more so than when He was the Sufferer on the Cross. We all aim to pass through life with a smile on our lips. It is a recognized duty that most of the time at any rate we should wear our sorrows in the deeps and not on the surface of our lives. It is a nice courtesy, more than that a delicate considerateness due our fellows, that every man should bear his own burden. But even when the face is adorned with gladness, our inner world aches with the hidden pains and sorrows. Ofttimes behind a hard-won serenity of countenance resides such tragedy, such [4/5] suffering, as lies beyond the reach of merely human aid: indeed what man or woman who is trying to live seriously has not an infinite need which can be met by nothing short of infinite wisdom and sympathy? We must turn to Christ as the Consoler if we are to continue human, if we are to be saved from bitterness and despair with advancing age, if we are to grow in gentleness and thoughtfulness in our relationship with mankind. O Lord, to Thy gift of strength add that of consolation.
Christ the Sufferer is in a special sense Christus Consolator, and to-day we approach Him as such. His seven last utterances are seven points of light, each with a radiance and a colour of its own, each a source of consolation in which to find the very balm that will suit our special need. He who spoke long years ago will speak again as we commemorate the crucifixion, will speak in the old terms but with a new application. He will not fail us. He is the Prince of Peace, and gives to those who seek, that otherwise unattainable peace, without which human nature withers and dies.