LONDON, WATERLOO PLACE
OXFORD, HIGH STREET; CAMBRIDGE, TRINITY STREET
IF these words had stood in the Gospel without any explanation, it might have been natural to understand them wholly or mainly of our Lord's Ascension into heaven. Not to dwell on our Lord's own references to that event, it is remarkable that St. Peter is reported to have applied the exact expression of the text to it, on two distinct occasions. On the Day of Pentecost he told the assembled multitudes that Jesus, Who had been crucified, was now, by the right hand of God, "lifted up" to a sphere of glory, from which He had poured out upon the earth the gifts of the Holy Ghost. [Footnote: Acts ii. 23.] A little later this same Apostle was arrested for teaching publicly in the Temple, and was cross-examined by the High Priest in the presence of the Sanhedrin. He seized the opportunity to explain that the Apostles had no choice about witnessing to two facts respecting Jesus who had been crucified; first, that He had really risen from the grave; and secondly, that God had "lifted Him up," that is to say, into heaven, to be the Prince and Saviour of the new Israel. [Acts v. 31, 32.]
But this is not the mind of our Lord in the text. For, after reporting His words, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me," St. John adds, "This He said signifying what death He should die." We are not, then, left in doubt as to our Lord's meaning, and it is in keeping with other words of His which St. John has recorded. Such is His saying to Nicodemus: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up." [St. John iii. 14.] Such too is His mysterious prediction to the irritated Jews: "When ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then shall ye know that I am He." [St. John viii. 28.]
And, indeed, St. John seems to have preserved these words of Jesus, with a view to throwing out into a clear sharp light [3/4] the main lesson of his Gospel. That lesson centres in the truth that Jesus Christ was not a human person, but a Divine and Eternal Person clothed in a Human Form, which He folded around Him when He deigned to enter into human history, and through which, as through an instrument, He acted upon men. That the Everlasting "Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" [St. John i. 14.] is the motto of St. John's Gospel. The other Evangelists lay their main stress upon Christ's Manhood, although they one and all say much which is simply unmeaning unless Christ be God. St. John lays his main stress upon the truth of Christ's Godhead, although he too says much which necessarily implies that Christ is truly Man. Although then St. John agrees in substance with the three, he differs from them in the prominence which he gives to the truth which they also recognise; the truth that Jesus Christ is God. And this general difference, running as it does throughout the entire representation of the Life of Jesus, naturally and very remarkably culminates in the picture of the Crucifixion. To the three first Evangelists the Crucifixion is the lowest depth of Christ's humiliation as Man: the insults, the shame, the pain,--all that is tragic and repulsive in a public execution, conducted under circumstances of violence and injustice, stands out with an unmistakeable prominence in their pages. Their task it is to train and strengthen our sympathies with the one Perfect Human Life, with our suffering Elder-brother. St. John's object is distinct. The death upon the Cross, with all its attendant circumstances, could not touch even remotely that Eternal and Divine Nature, upon which St. John's eye is so earnestly fixed. It could no more detract from Christ's essential glory than an Ascension into heaven could enhance it; but it could, as it did, form the very climax of the unveiling of the moral life of God by Him in Whom the Eternal Being dwelt among men. Therefore, in St. John's eyes, the Cross is not a scaffold but a throne; anal Christ's death is not His defeat, but His victory. Lifted on that tree of agony, between earth and heaven, He is an object of central interest, to a far larger multitude than the Roman soldiery who have nailed His limbs to the wood, or than the mob of uneducated and educated Jews who are watching His death-struggles, with brutal delight or with cynical indifference. Lifted up on that throne of victory, He draws to Him not merely His blessed Mother's heart, as she stands beneath His feet, veiled in the darkness of a sublime yet awful sorrow; not merely His loyal and well-beloved Apostle; not merely the deep sympathies of the band of faithful women, or the honest convictions of the centurion, or the penitent love of the thief beside Him. On the Cross, He is in presence of the [4/5] whole human family; of all the coming centuries; of all the races of men. From the Cross He will exert a world-embracing attraction: "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
Let us dwell on this fact one moment; for, of a truth, it is most significant; it is bound up with the inmost character, with the very heart of Christianity. If the Christian religion had come from man instead of from God, we may be sure that its chiefest attraction would not have been reserved for the event, which to human eyes is the moment of deepest humiliation in the life of Christ. To Christ delivering the Sermon on the Mount; to Christ rising triumphant from the grave; to Christ throned beyond the stars, and presiding over the destiny of the Church, would have been ascribed eminently, exclusively, this vast attractive power. The wisdom of the Teacher, the prowess of the Conqueror, the Majesty of the King of Glory would have been put forward; and a veil would have been drawn, as by an artist's hand, over the dark hours when it might have seemed that the highest truth and the brightest virtue were crushed beneath the chariot-wheels of error and of sin. Whereas, it is a simple matter of fact that Christianity makes a boast of that, which, to a human estimate, would have appeared its failure. Our Lord predicts, that as Crucified, He will chiefly attract the souls of men: and some twenty years later, St. Paul echoes His words. "We preach Christ crucified, to the Jews an offence, and to the Greeks a folly; but to them which are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." [1 Cor. i. 23.] Nay, he goes further than this, when he uses language which seems to imply that Jesus Crucified is the compendium of all Christian doctrine and of all Christian morality. "I determined," he says to a local church, "not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." [1 Cor. ii. 2.]
Let us then, to-night, ask this vital question. Wherein consists this attractive and victorious power of the Crucifixion of our Lord?
1. That which first of all draws men in reverence and love to Jesus Christ, hanging on His Cross, is the moral beauty, the moral strength of sacrifice. By sacrifice, I here mean the free surrender of that which is most precious to self for the benefit of others. And sacrifice exerts a vast moral power, nothing less than a fascination over those who witness it. This, for three reasons. First, It requires a moral effort of the highest kind: it is an exhibition of strength. It requires a force of will strong enough to set aside and to crush man's strongest natural instinct, such as is the instinct to preserve [5/6] and enjoy life, and to amass all that will make life enjoyable and secure. This force, like all strength, whether moral, or mental, or physical, is of itself beautiful. It solicits, or rather it commands admiration, an admiration which is proportioned to its intensity. Secondly, Sacrifice attracts, because of its rarity. To the mass of men, the lower forms of self-interest are what instinct is to the animal: the mass of men follow impulse, taste, passion, nature--call it what you will--call it self. They do not make head against self: they obey it. That majestic power of resisting and controlling and keeping well in hand all the forces that belong to the life of nature, by submitting them to a superior force, is rare among men. It is as rare as it is beautiful. As we admire gems and flowers for their rarity not less than for their intrinsic beauty, so we are drawn to great acts of self-sacrifice, not merely because of their lustre, but because they are in contradiction to the ordinary tenor of human life. But, thirdly, Sacrifice attracts by its fertilising power. Sacrifice is not mere unproductive moral beauty; it is not energy run to waste, without fruit and issue. Nay, we may go so far as to say that it is the one great fertiliser; that all the good which is done among men by men, is proportioned only and exactly to the amount of sacrifice which has produced it. To witness sacrifice, is to breathe a bracing atmosphere; to be capable of it, is to be strong. All labour, at least all intense labour, is sacrifice; all labour especially, which is intense, and at the time unrecognised and discouraged. Such has been that of men who have discovered great truths, and whose discoveries have only been made popular by others. If we keep to our own times, a life such as that of Faraday, was an eminent example, both of the disinterestedness and of the vast results of sacrificial labour; but there are also lives in which sacrifice, not less beneficial, takes the passive form of pure suffering, voluntarily undergone for a great cause or truth.
The old Paganism knew how great was the beauty, the rarity, the preciousness of sacrifice. The Greek pointed to the soldiers of Leonidas, who had died in the pass, struggling against the invading host; but not as if those noble lives had been really wasted. The Roman referred with pride to the stern old General, who rather than consent to his country's dishonour, returned of his own free will, as a captive, to Carthage, that he might undergo a death of lingering torture and shame. These men had never heard of Calvary; but they knew the power, the majesty, the wealth of sacrifice. And who that has ever witnessed the welcome which a man receives from the bystanders, when at the risk of his life he has saved a fellow-creature from drowning, or from the flames of a burning house, can doubt the power of sacrifice [6/7] over every class in human society? Ah! men know that sacrifice is indeed a ray of light from heaven. They know that sacrifice is a good angel upon earth; that all which is most noble, most lasting, all that most truly enriches and elevates the life of man is only achieved by sacrifice, the sacrifice of inclinations, the sacrifice of time, the sacrifice of goods, the sacrifice of health, the sacrifice of life.
If we ask, why this is, we pass from the surface facts of human life, to a deeper region, in order to find an answer. Our Lord said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." [Acts xx. 35.] Why is it more blessed? At first sight, it might seem more blessed to receive than to give. The man who receives augments his stock of material for life and action: the man who gives diminishes it. So it is at first sight; yet so it is not really. In reality, he who gives receives; he receives in moral power more than in other ways he can possibly bestow. That each gift of self, or of that which is dear to self, adds immeasurably to moral capital, is a simple matter of experience. And this is so, because "a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things" external to himself "which he possesseth," [St. Luke xii. 15.] but chiefly in an internal possession, in the force and freedom of his will. The more he can at will give to and for others, the more his action and his character are made like to the perfectly free action and to the loving generosity of God; the Divine Life, in its relation to the creatures, is but one continuous bestowal of gifts: and thus sacrifice is that whereby man becomes likest to God in His creating and preserving energy.
This, then, is the first reason for the attractiveness of our Lord upon the Cross. He exhibits a consummate act of sacrifice. Long before His Passion, He had given up all that men care for most. He had sacrificed home, friends, popularity, reputation: He had stripped life of all its brightness and ornamentation; with Him to live, was simply to exist, hour by hour, with a view to duty. But on the Cross He gave up even His Human life. It was His own act: He was not murdered against His will. "No man taketh My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself: I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." [St. John x. 18.] In His freedom He willed to die: He gave His Body, in the prime of life, to a cruel and ignominious death: He gave His Soul, with its sensibilities of unrivalled keenness, to a protracted agony. The precise reason why He gave Himself thus, is not for the moment in question: but no one will deny that it was an act, nay, the highest of all acts, of sacrifice.
Ah! had He come among us without this mark of self-sacrifice, would He indeed have drawn us unto Him? Would [7/8] beauty of doctrine, or proof of prowess, or symbols of majesty, alone have won us and made us His? Would he not have seemed, even on the Mount of the Beatitudes, even at the grave of Lazarus, even on the morning of the first Easter-day (if it could have dawned upon the world without the first Good Friday), would He not have seemed to be wanting in that which could really command our deepest and most earnest sympathies? Is not His voluntary self-sacrifice upon the Cross the secret of His attractiveness for creatures who know that sacrifice is as beautiful as it is rare, and as rare as it is productive? Is not this, at least, one meaning of His words; "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me?"
2. A second explanation of this strong attraction which Jesus Christ on the Cross exerts over the hearts of men is found in the prevalence of suffering in human life. Here, we are certainly dealing with a matter of experimental fact. However we might wish that it were otherwise, however we may explain what we witness, the broad fact that the life of man upon earth is a life largely made up of pain, whether of mind or body, cannot be gainsayed. "Man that is born of a woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery:" that is the rule. Here and there, perhaps, you may find a young man or a young woman, who has never yet felt anything that can be called a heartache, and upon whose bodily frame disease has as yet laid no violent hands. Such persons take what they call a bright view of life, simply because they are unacquainted with its real average character, and do not wish to be wakened out of their dream. And yet every one in this Cathedral knows that all the hospitals of this metropolis, taken together, only succeed in relieving an inconsiderable percentage of its real mass of suffering; and that at least half the suicides which are almost a matter of nightly occurrence, from the parapets of our bridges, do but represent the extreme point of a mental despair which is the despair of multitudes. Is it not the case that at this very moment the distress of the unemployed thousands at the East End of London has distanced the efforts of all our ordinary parochial and charitable organisations for relieving them, and that we are gravely proposing that last resource which is the confession of national incapacity for doing a nation's real duty towards its poor--the resource of emigration? Nor let it be said that because these unwieldy masses of suffering are exceptional, pain itself is the exception. Pain is not the exception; it is the rule. It is not the misfortune of great cities, or of civilised communities, or of particular classes, or of particular temperaments; children and savages are its victims just as certainly as grown people and [8/9] philosophers; it comes to all of us, in some shape, sooner or later; it is the inseparable attribute of human life.
We may make schemes, too, of a fancy world, in which there is no pain. We may say in our secret hearts that if we had been the Almighty and Loving Creator, pain should not have found a place in our universe. But fact is fact; and reveries of this kind generally alternate between silliness and blasphemy. Looking at the world as we see it; what account can be given of this Empire of Pain? There is much to be said, much which even heathens could see and say, in explanation. Pain is a punishment; it is not the worst, the real evil; it is the advertisement which tells us that a worse evil than itself, which we do not feel, is there beneath our eyes, even though it be wilfully unrecognised. Pain is the shadow of sin. And pain is a remedy, a purification; it burns out evils, which else would fester within us, and which would destroy our life. Once more, pain is a preventive; it is the sensitiveness of a protective organ which guards the delicate sense whether of truth or right. There is, then, much to be said as to its providential purpose; enough to satisfy the reason of the abstract enquirer: but when all has been said, it still remains true that when you or I have to suffer acute bodily or mental pain, an abstract doctrine in justification of pain is not sufficient to support us; we need the sympathy of a human heart, which shall whisper, whether in audible words or not, it matters little--"I too have suffered; I can feel with you."
Now if Jesus Christ had come among us after the fashion of an eastern prince, cradled in the comforts and luxuries of life, and jealously fencing out, by a superhuman power, its anxieties and sorrows, He would still, undoubtedly, being what He is, have made a vast impression on the world. If he had come among us, teaching us the true theory of pain, yet withal dying in peace on a soft bed (if we can dare to imagine Him thus), He might still have been honoured as the teacher at any rate, of the deepest truths that man can know. But in these cases would He have drawn all men unto Him? I trow not. Had He come thus, He would not have been, as He is, the Universal Sympathiser. We should have said: "He speaks what is, no doubt, the truth, but between His condition and mine, there is a measureless interval: it is one thing to teach the theory of pain, it is another to suffer." And therefore "it behoved Him to be made in all things like unto His brethren,--to be in all points tempted, or tried, as we are, yet without sin." [Heb. ii. 17; iv. 15.] Therefore after a life of varied experiences in suffering, He would enforce His teaching by a supreme example; He would recapitulate in one awful agony the experiences of a life; He would place His possession of human sympathy beyond [9/10] reach of question. Therefore, from generation to generation in the palaces of princes, and in the huts of the very poor, in Christian art as in Christian thought, Jesus Christ hangs Crucified before the eye of suffering humanity. Who that has visited the bed of sickness has not again and again heard the exclamation: "It is hard to bear; and yet what are my sufferings to the Sufferings of my Saviour?" Not when teaching upon the mountain, not when sitting at the publican's feast, not even when rising from the grave, or mounting from earth to beyond the stars, but when hanging upon the tree of shame is He most welcome to a race, whose days are few and evil, whose life at best is chequered by sorrow and by pain. It was a profound view of our real average circumstances which dictated the words: "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
3. But there is a third reason, deeper and more powerful than any yet mentioned for the attractive power which Jesus Christ crucified exerts over the hearts of men. Why is it, think you, that among all races of mankind, we find either the institution of sacrifice, or something which corresponds to it? Here is a common custom, diffused among races and peoples the most diverse. It cannot be explained except upon the ground that it expresses a feeling recognised universally by the human conscience. This feeling is that man carries about with him, upon him, that which is of itself offensive to the purity of heaven. The blood which flowed even on heathen altars, bears its witness to a felt truth, the naked simplicity of which was disguised by the fungus-growth of superstitions around it. That truth was the sense, the reality, of sin. And that sense of sin, implied beyond it, an equally universal recognition of a law of right and wrong, inseparable from the constitution of the human soul. While man's conscience has been in different times and places frightfully perverted; while there have been the most horrible, the most fantastical mistakes, as to what is right and what is wrong; the original truth that there is a right and that there is a wrong, is as wide and as old as the human conscience. And along with a recognition of the law of right and wrong comes the sense of its infraction, in other words, the sense of sin. As the real area of right, the vast fabric of moral truth, is elaborated and made plain, step by step, to the eye of the conscience, so the possibilities of sin are seen to widen, and the sense of the guilt of sin becomes deeper. Thoughtful heathens felt wrong-doing more than did savage heathens: Jews, who saw wrong-doing to be sin in the light of the Decalogue, had a higher and altogether distinct, estimate of it from that of the most thoughtful heathens: Christians who have adored the Sinless Christ, must needs [10/11] have a far keener sense of sin than the best, the most instructed Jews. The depth of the sense of sin is proportioned to the soul's vision of moral truth.
This sense of sin, based on the perception of a moral truth to which sin gives the lie, of a moral aim, from which sin turns away, is the very nerve of the soul's religious life. When this nerve has been deadened by the anodynes which are now-a-days so skilfully applied to it, the soul's life is fatally jeopardised. And when once this nerve has been killed through the caustic of some one wilful gigantic crime, which may burn out, even in a few seconds, the keenest sensibilities of conscience; then the soul's true life is extinct. Better far is the steady protest of a perpetual heartache than this ease, than this repose of a moral death. There are, alas, those who witness to the ruin within themselves when they would tell you that the sense of sin is but a morbid fancy; that the law of right and wrong is an airy phantom, suited only to the infancy of the human brain. You can believe them only if you can destroy the primary perceptions of the soul within you, if you can practise upon your spiritual nature a violence which would be parallel to a deliberate closing up or excision of the bodily eye. The sense of a law of right and wrong, and the accompanying sense of breaking that law, are by nature just as obvious and integral to the soul of man, as is the succession of day and night, of light and darkness to his healthy bodily organ.
It is, then, this profound sense of dislocation, of jar, of failure, of anguish, of moral incapacity and collapse, produced by sin, which is the normal, but subtle torment of the human conscience. This is St. Paul's fundamental position in the Epistle to the Romans. The Jewish law only heightened that torment. It presented to man the sight of a higher standard of duty than heathens knew; but it supplied no means of realising that standard. Thus "by the law was the knowledge of sin." [Rom. iii. 20; vii. 7.] The law, after all, was only like the slave who led the children of the well-to-do Greek down to the school of the philosopher: it was but a pedagogue to bring us unto Christ. [Gal. iii. 24.]
Let us ask ourselves, my brethren, whether, if Christ our Lord had only left us the Sermon on the Mount, He would have drawn all men unto Him. If He had done this, no more than this; He would but have heightened our misery. He would but have added fuel to the fire of the awakened conscience. Men who have felt the reproaches of the Decalogue, must feel yet more the reproaches of the Beatitudes; men who have winced at the spectacle of Jewish or of heathen virtue must sink into a very agony of shame when confronted with the spectacle of a sinless Life. Nay, the death of our [11/12] Lord itself, if it be considered as an expression of His supreme devotion to truth, to virtue, to duty, does but quicken the pain of the human conscience, by setting before it a standard of excellence which is so lofty, as to be lost, to all appearance, in the heights of heaven.
Jesus Christ, our Lord, upon the Cross, draws us men unto Him, because He, and He alone offers relief to this our deepest, most lasting, most universal need. This relief is not so much the fruit of His life generally, or of His doctrine, as of His death upon the Cross. Christ's doctrine and His life heighten the anxiety which is set at rest by His Passion. The Bible describes the three main forms which the sense of sin takes in the human soul, and then it points out how Jesus Crucified relieves us from each of them. It tells man that sin is like a tyrant who keeps him fettered and imprisoned in a land of slaves, far from home and light and peace; and then it points to Jesus, as paying down the price of an infinitely costly ransom, by His precious death. The Bible tells man that since God is necessarily holy, sin makes God and man at enmity with each other: God would not be God, if He did not hate sin; man, while wilfully sinning cannot love God. And then it points to Jesus as replacing this state of enmity by an atonement, a reconciliation. Jesus represents humanity; in Jesus, offering the supreme act of obedience by His death, man and God are reconciled. Once more, the Bible insists that sin once committed is not like a vapour which melts away into the sky, but that it leaves upon the soul a positive load of guilt, which remains until it is removed by some act as definite as the act which introduced it. And then it points to Jesus as taking on Himself this load of unpardoned guilt, and as offering for it, a real propitiation, a will sacrificed as a victim, an obedience pushed to the extremity of a death of torture and of shame. Thus, in familiar words: "There is one mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom, or redemption-price, for all." [1 Tim. ii. 6; Eph. i. 7; Col. i. 14.] Thus, "being enemies, we are reconciled unto God by the death of His Son." [Rom. v. 10; 2 Cor. v. 18, 19; Col. i. 21, 22.] Thus, "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood. [Rom. iii. 25; 1 St. John ii. 2; iv. 10.] Jesus on the Cross offers the price which buys us out of bondage; Jesus effects an atonement, which restores us to the friendship of the Holy God; Jesus makes Himself a propitiatory Victim to expiate our sins. The redemption-price which He paid, the act which perfected the reconciliation, the sacrifice which expiates the guilt, is the [12/13] free offering of His own most precious life, to agony and to death.
Do you ask what it is which secures to the death of Jesus this power and value, so utterly distinct in kind from any that could follow upon the death of the best of men? I answer in the sense of St. Paul; the fact that Jesus is God; His Divinity imparts an infinite value to His redemptive work. "If God spared not His own Son, but freely gave Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" [Rom. viii. 32.] Do you ask upon what principle the obedience of Jesus, expressed in a voluntary death, can be substituted for and efface the disobedience of Christians; I answer, again in substance with St. Paul, because Jesus is the Second Adam. As the Second Adam, he represents by right, and in virtue of the terms of His Incarnation the whole race of men, just as legitimately, as our first Parent represented and compromised, with such fatal results, all his descendants. "As by the disobedience of one man many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous." [Rom. v. 19.] Do you ask how we lay hold on His righteousness? Again, with St. Paul, I answer, by faith; it is pre-eminently the "righteousness which is of God by faith." [Rom. iii. 22.] Do you ask what are specially the points of contact, the acts of conveyance, the means whereby God on His side unites us to His holy suffering Son. I reply, the Sacraments: St. Paul describes the one Great Sacrament as a "putting on Christ," [Gal. iii. 27.] and the other as a "communion of the Body of Christ," a "communion of the Blood of Christ." [1 Cor. x. 16.]
And thus it is that the Death of Jesus is not any mere past fact of history, though it were the most stupendous. It is a fact which has at this moment a power and significance as real in the spiritual world as the vote of the Legislature last week has in our puny world of political and national life. It lives not merely in its consequences; it is to the eye of faith ever present, ever energetic, as if it were detached from all the historic circumstances which introduced and followed it, as if it belonged to no special point in human history, even to no one consecrated spot on the surface of this earth. The Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world, in efficacy, in virtue, in the counsels of God, if not in historic fact. [Rev. xiii. 8.] The Lamb is crucified, historically in the environs of Jerusalem, yet to the eye of faith in the centre of the moral universe; the Lamb "as It had been slain" is in the midst of the throne. [Rev. v. 6.] And so now faith at one bound bridges the centuries; she forgets the Roman soldiers and the Jewish multitudes; she forgets the historic drapery of the crucifixion. She sees only the shame, the agony, and yet the majesty, the triumph of the Crucified; while that [13/14] Form, crushed beneath an unspeakable dishonour, yet radiant with a matchless splendour, stands out from the darkness of history as the One Object which can really raise the self-sacrificing enthusiasm, the enduring patience, the buoyant hopes and trust of the human soul. Faith unites us with the perfect, with the self-sacrificing Christ; and His acts, His obedience, His death, become ours; we have as real a share in the history of the one perfect Moral Being, as if our personality were altogether merged in His; though He is holy and sinless, He bears our sins in His own body on the tree; [1 St. Peter ii. 24.] though we, individually, are sinners, yet the life that we now live in the flesh we live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved us, and gave Himself for us. [Gal. ii. 20.]
If Jesus Christ had only taught us the guilt of sin without effacing it; or the strength of sin without breaking its spell; or the beauty of sanctity without bestowing the vital forces which can produce it; what would He have done for us? He would have augmented, He would have mocked our misery. Why light up the horrors of the prison-house if you cannot bring a mandate which restores to liberty? Why enlarge upon the symptoms of disease, if you are incompetent to suggest a cure? Why break in upon an ignorance which, indeed, is bliss, if wisdom is to bring no real relief? Why pour upon us the very light of heaven, if that light must add only to the energy of despair? Say what we will, these are the pleadings of the human heart; they are its ceaseless protest against all systems in which God's light is divorced from God's love; they prompt its eternal aspiration towards the Gospel of Calvary. Jesus Christ attracts us on the Cross, because He is manifestly the Love, as well as the Wisdom of God; because He is the well-beloved Son, no less than the Eternal Intelligence of the Father; because He is not merely the First of all teachers of moral truth, but the All-sufficient Victim for the sins of men. "I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me."
Let me make two brief remarks in conclusion.
(a) We stand to-day face to face with the one real principle of union in the human family. Looking out upon human life, as it is represented in this Metropolis, as it is represented for the moment on the floor of this Cathedral; how various are its interests! how divergent its aims! how deep its divisions! Man's natural energy is itself the fruitful principle of his divided efforts; we are severed from each other even by our common interests. Politics divide us; literature divides us; science divides us; commerce divides us; we take sides in the serious business of life, and we take sides in its amusements; everywhere the taste of [14/15] individuals, the conviction of individuals, the interest and hopes of individuals, the opinions and prejudices of individuals splinter and destroy the wisest efforts at organised union. So too, alas! when we look at this country, it is, we must sorrowfully confess, in religion. And yet how utterly opposed is this to the mind of Jesus Christ as He unfolded it in that marvellous prayer on the eve of His Passion, "That they all may be one; as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee; that they also may be one in Us." One as spirits are one, by a moral unity; one as bodies are one, by a visible association; drawn, in spite of the divergent instincts of nature, towards a common centre, by the overruling force of an invincible attraction. Such is the will of our Divine Saviour: the Cross was to inaugurate the Realm of Unity. Such was the thought of the great Apostle in one of his later contemplations of the Passion; it was to be the focus of the spiritual world; it was to be the point at which Jew and Gentile, heaven and earth, would be reconciled, drawn together by the power of a transcendent love. "In Christ Jesus," he exclaims, speaking to the converted heathen at Ephesus, "ye who sometimes were far off, are made nigh by the Blood of Christ. For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us. . . . and that He might reconcile both unto God in one Body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby, and came and preached peace to you that were far off; and to them that were nigh." [Eph. ii. 13, 14-16, 17.]
Children who have never agreed before, have embraced each other with heartfelt sincerity, while kneeling at a parent's deathbed. And if the Apostolic words are again to become true in this distracted Church, in this distracted country; if there is to be "neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free;" [Col. iii. 11.] it must be when, beneath the Cross of the Parent of Christendom, Christians forget self in all its forms, intellectual, political, social, melted into a mutual tenderness by a Love which draws them, in contrition and shame, into each other's arms. So only can the children of Division enter what should be ever the fold of Unity; so only can the misunderstandings of brethren within the Church, be really ended. They who are indeed drawn to the Cross of Jesus Christ Crucified, cannot for ever hate their brethren; they who own the power of that supreme attraction must needs, as the Blood of sprinkling drops upon them from the wounded Hands of love, "endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." [Eph. Iv. 3.]
(b) But if men are to be united to each other by being attracted to a common centre, it is necessary that they should be individually drawn. There are influences around us, many [15/16] and powerful, which we can afford, with more or less of prudence, to disregard. But among these it is not safe to reckon the attraction of the Cross of Christ. And that attraction is too general, too urgent, for any man to plead ignorance or even insensibility. If a man is not won by heroism, he is won by sympathy, if not by sympathy, yet surely by a love which is as strong as death. And who of us is absolutely removed from the power of at least one of these forms of the influence of the Cross? Who is utterly insensible to the generosity of heroism? Who is so unversed in pain, or so insured against it, as to be indifferent to a strong, tender, true, appreciative sympathy? Above all, who knows so little of himself, so little of a secret leprosy subtly diffused over his being, so little of the serpent's trail defiling his life of action and speech and thought; who is so confident that he is utterly and for ever removed from the stifling vapours of the Eternal Pit; as to be indifferent to the salvation, to the cleansing, wrought on Calvary? Here surely are attractions for all ages, for all temperaments, for all stations, for all degrees of culture, for all varieties of experience, for all shades of character. "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." Not irresistibly; by a moral, not by a material force; by an attraction strong enough, if we will, to surmount all opposing obstacles, yet not so imperious as to destroy our individual freedom. "He who created thee without thyself, and Who hath redeemed thee without thyself, will yet not save thee, in spite of thyself." He demands a free obedience, an obedience which would be unworthy of Him if it were forced. Of all days in the year, He asks it on this, the anniversary of His death, when of old He opened the gates of paradise even to the penitent thief. None is so near Him, that He may not be drawn nearer: none is so distant, as to be beyond the range of His attraction. Away then with all that can detain souls at a distance from their true centre; away with whatever can clog or impede their free gravitation towards Him who draws them. Life, it has been said, is a complex problem; and so it is, while we are distracted by the claims of contending influences, each absorbing something, but only something, of our vital force. But the problem of life is simplified for time and for eternity, when the one most legitimate influence has been ready yielded to, and when a soul has determined in the strength of God to know, by a practical obedience, and to its endless peace, only Jesus Christ and Him Crucified.