(Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).
(Preached on the Monday Evening after the Consecration, Nov. 3.)
HEB. xii. 2.
Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our Faith, Who, for the joy which was set before Him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
THE first stage of penitence has mostly, with deep sorrow, at least some tinge of deep joy. How must it not be joyous, at least, with purpose of heart, to have broken off Satan's yoke, to have been plucked out of the mire of sin and had our feet, as we hope, set upon the Rock, Which is Christ; to hope that we are again in our Father's House, in a state of grace; that our Blessed Redeemer unites our sorrows with His Sufferings, our tears of penitence with those tears of Blood which gushed forth from His whole Body, to cleanse that whole Body Which He hath taken, and therein ourselves, the last and lowest and most miserable of His members; that He accepts our very pang that we cannot sorrow as we would out of love for Him and loathing of our sins, as though it were that love itself? How must it not be joyous to us, to hope that the pit, which by our sins we had opened for ourselves, will be closed by Him, that "it shut not its mouth upon us," and heaven which we had closed, is opened to us? How must not our heart bound for joy, at the hope set before us, that we shall one day see Him Who hath so loved and washed us from our sins in His own Blood, nor shall shrink back through thought of our former foulness, when He stretcheth forth His Arms to receive us; that one day our very memory will be cleansed, and we shall be able to look back at all the burning shame of that past, without any hindrance to our bliss; yea that it shall be bound up with our endless bliss and love, and we shall love the more, because we have been so much forgiven? How must we not, though with fainting soul, joy, that if but the very last in the Heavenly Courts, we may hope, once, with snow-white souls, to join in that endless harmony of praise, joy in the joy of the highest, though ourselves the lowest, yea joy in the joy of our Lord, and love through the love of God?
Yet must we riot think that it will be always so, nor that it is best for us to be thus, nor be downcast, if it cease so to be. God deals with us as with children. When weak, He gives to us the milk of His consolations. He gives us some "taste that the Lord is gracious." He gives us an earnest of His endless love, a ray of light which comes from His Divine Presence, which may shine to us in all our darkness, and guide us on to the perfect Day. But it is rare that He cleanses the whole soul at once. It seems to be almost an universal law of God's holiness, "a man is punished, wherein he hath offended." It may be that without after-suffering, we could neither loathe our own sins, as we ought, nor feel the depth of the love of God, nor the awefulness of His Holy Majesty which we offended, nor perhaps gain that humility which is a part of true penitence, nor be wholly purified. Yet certain it is, that after a long course of sin, there follow mostly in souls which He leads in the deeper ways of the Cross, seasons of darkness, dreariness, disquiet through evil thoughts, the offspring of the past sin, often strong temptations, misgivings doubts of God's mercy or of the reality of their penitence perhaps of all holy truth itself, of the use of self-discipline fears that they shall never persevere, often an almost seen presence of the Evil One. Against the will of God, do men sin, in thoughts of vanity or impurity, or doubt of holy truth, or wilful distractions in prayer, or impatience or evil thoughts of others, and so, in all other sin; against their own will they are scourged by these same thoughts, when they have parted with their sin and loathe it. And this is indeed of the mercy of God. For thus He tries them, as it were, over again, and by their not consenting to those thoughts, He gives them the victory, wherein they had been defeated, brings them again into the battle, that being faithful soldiers, He may crown them. And so do they obtain an intense hatred of sin, which otherwise they had never known. They could not see its blackness, when they themselves were darkness and walking in darkness; then they see it, when they themselves are in His light and are light in Him. In darkness we see not all the loathsomeness of the creatures which have nestled in some neglected dwelling; until the light of God's Holy Spirit be poured in, we see not how we have defiled the chambers of our imagery. And so with intense hatred of our sins, we are the more of one mind with God. Hating what He hateth, we learn a deeper love of Him Who loved us, though thus hateful.
"Why," says a father, "doth He permit thee thus long to be at strife with thyself, until all thy evil desires are absorbed? That thou mayest understand thine own punishment. On thyself, from thyself, is thy scourge; be thy quarrel with thyself. So is rebellion against God avenged on the rebel, that he is at war with himself who would not have peace with God." "Yet begin," he saith, "to the Lord in confession, thou shalt be perfected in peace. Still hast thou war against thyself. War is proclaimed to thee, not only against the suggestions of the devil, 'against the prince of the power of the air, who worketh in the children of disobedience,' against the devil and his angels, 'the spirits of wickedness;' not against them alone is war proclaimed to thee, but against thyself, against thy evil habits, against the old man of thy past evil life, which draws thee to what is habitual to thee, withdraws thee from thy new life. For a new life is enjoined thee, and thou art an old self. Thou art upraised by the joy of this newness; thou art weighed down by the burden of the old; thou beginnest to have war with thyself. But wherein thou art displeased with thyself, thou art united to God, and wherein thou art now joined to God, thou wilt be able to overcome thyself; for He is with thee, Who overcometh all things. Hear what the Apostle says, 'With the mind I serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin.' How 'with the mind?' Because thy past evil life displeaseth thee. How 'with the flesh?' Because evil suggestions and evil thoughts of delight quit thee not. Yet wherein thou art united to God, thou over-powerest what in thee willeth not to follow. For in part hast thou gone onward, in part art thou held back. Draw thyself up toward Him Who lifteth thee upwards. Thou art held down as by the weight of the old self; cry aloud and say, 'Wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?' Who shall free me from that whereby I am weighed down?' For the corruptible body weigheth down the soul?' Who then shall free me?' The grace of God through Jesus Christ our Lord.'
Thus is the end of these trials, as is the end of all trials in which God guides, in deeper peace, and holiness, and humility, and love. Yet for the present they are grievous. They who so suffer, can often not discern whether the thoughts wherewith Satan torments them are not their own. "Can God," they say, "dwell among such foulness? Can this be the temple of the Holy Ghost? Or is there any real love amid all this dullness? any fervour of penitence in all this dryness?" And then perhaps come vehement temptations to think all they hope for, aim at, even believe, a dream, and this life's vain shadow, the reality. And then will come stunning blows, thick perhaps upon each other; God seems not to prosper their work; or what they have laboured to do for His glory, gives way with one crash. Or God spares not outward trials, in heavy personal visitations, or the deep sins of those they love, or loss of those who, had they themselves been more faithful, might have been less imperfect, until their very soul reels to and fro with their distresses. Sorrows, within or without, will never, through God's mercy, be wanting to the penitent; so that thoughtful men have placed continual prosperity among the tokens of overhanging damnation, as Scripture saith, "if ye are without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons;" and chastisement, though it may be wasted, is still a certain present token of the love of God. So then a thoughtful writer of old tells us, as what he had seen and known in Christian experience, "Sweetness is ever found in the first beginnings of conversion; labour, hardship, disgusts and temptations to struggle with, as it proceeds; peace and repose in its end."
This then is the second fruit of devout meditation on the Passion of the Lord,--having learnt by It a loving sorrow for our sins, by It also to learn perseverance amid temptations, from It to draw strength and consolation in suffering. There must, indeed, throughout, be this difference, that He, being sinless, could suffer no trial from within; His was all sinless suffering, the fruit of our sins, ours all tainted with sin, the fruit of our own; His Precious Death was to sin, to destroy it, our death in Him was, ourselves to cease from it; His Sufferings were meritorious, ours merited; His, to hallow the nature in which He endured them sinlessly, ours, to purify our own from the effects of sin, with which we had denied it. Yet He vouchsafed to be like to us, even in bearing the likeness of our sinful flesh; and so, in His Death we died, and by His Life we live; so would He come (to speak reverently) as near to us as He can, our Pattern in the endurance of suffering, although the intensity and value of His were Divine, and ours are the sufferings not of men only, but of sinners.
This Pattern St. Paul sets forth for us in two very solemn ways, the one, as beginners, the other, when we are trained in His School. For Scripture words are so very full, that they mean more or less for us, as we are able to bear it. Either way they are very solemn, for they bring us into the very thoughts of Him Who was God and Man. "Who," he says, "for the joy which was set before Him, endured the Cross, despising the shame." It is a deep mystery to speak of our Lord, as Man, having motives, as we. Yet in that He would heal us wholly, He took our whole Nature. He was Perfect Man as well as Perfect God; and therefore although all in Him was ruled by His Divine Nature, and His Will was the more free, because it ever followed His Divine Will, yet, Scripture tells us, He had a Human Will, which He submitted to His Father's. "Not My will, but Thine, be done." And so, as He reformed our whole nature and hallowed it by taking it, so He healed our will also, by having Himself a sinless Will, which ever followed, freely yet at once, His Divine Will. And as He was Very Man, so willed He to have all our sinless affections as Man, to hallow all. What condescension, yet what solemn comfort, my brethren, that He vouchsafed with us to weep, to have His soul troubled, to be sore amazed and be very heavy, and, again, in His endurance, as our example, to look forward to the joy set before Him! We might have feared lest it should be too poor a service to toil for a reward: and yet it is a stay to look out of this world's miseries and trials, in the conflict with flesh and blood, and, as we know, with powers also of evil, to the rest in God; to think that each suffering, well endured, makes us, for His sake, more pleasing unto God. And so Scripture tells us how Christ JESUS, Who, in that He was God, could not suffer, but was ever in that ineffable unchangeable Bliss in the Father which He had before the world was, vouchsafed to withhold that bliss from Himself as Man, to look on to it as His future joy, to have it as yet (to speak reverently) in certain knowledge, not as we in hope only, yet, as we too, not yet in possession. There, on the Cross, He saw of the travail of His soul, and was satisfied; He saw the salvation of our souls, for which He thirsted; saw the reward of the great Price which He was paying, the everlasting joy and glory of all the redeemed; saw us, as many as ever were or are or shall be His, in our every victory over sin by the grace He purchased for us, and our glory, His Gift; saw His own unutterable Glory and Bliss with the Father, and "endured the Cross, despising the shame." And so would He teach us to abide patiently on our little crosses, by His Side, beholding the end of His and the glory which should follow, and knowing that "if we suffer with Him we shall also reign with Him." To His Human Nature that glory was once to come; the heaviness of soul, the pain, the shame, the blasphemies, the forsaking by the Father were to be endured; He foreknew all; to this end was He born; all was ever before Him; we are supported, often, through hopes that we may be spared the sufferings we dread; we know not, beforehand, what they are; when they come, one displaces or deadens another: He hid nothing from Himself, withheld from Himself nothing but the present consolations of His Divine Nature, and drew from It only the power to suffer more intensely. All that dread hour, from which His human will would have longed to be saved, was in all its Sufferings ever before His Mind. "Now," He saith, "is My Soul troubled, and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour; but for this cause came I to this hour."
And not only did He foreknow it, but He chose it. And this is that other meaning of those solemn words, "Who for joy set before Him endured the Cross," i. e. Who whereas He might have had joy, chose shame. Free was it to the Eternal Son of God to remain in His Eternal glory; but He chose for us to become Man; and when He became Man, He need not, had He not so willed, have endured the Cross. He, Himself saith, "Therefore My Father loveth Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again." "He shews," says a father, "that not by any penalty of sin did He come to the Death of the Flesh; for not without His will did He quit It, but because He willed, when He willed, as He willed." "In His power was it," they say generally, "not to be put to reproach; in His power, not to suffer what He suffered, had He willed to regard Himself. Yet He willed not this, but regarding us, He regarded not Himself." And so, of all His other sufferings. "He Who died for us, was first 'troubled' for us. He Who at His own Will died, at His own Will was troubled." "Thou art troubled against thy will; Christ was troubled, because He willed. Jesus hungered; true; but because He willed. Jesus slept; true; but because He willed. Jesus died; true; but because He willed. In His own power was it, in this or that way to be affected or no." What He did, or suffered, He did and suffered through the oneness of His own with the Eternal Father's Will.
And must not that then be good for us, which the Eternal Son chose? must not that be a proof of God's love to us, which He bestowed upon the Well-Beloved Son? must not that be safest for us, which most likens us to our Lord? must there not be great need for that, which "it behoved Christ to suffer?"
So then all things join together, if we are wise, to make us bear the Cross patiently, yea love it. Which of all these were not alone enough, to make us love it? Were it not enough that it is in the will of the All-wise, All-loving God? or that we ourselves need it? or that our Lord Who loved us, for us bore it? or that it is the gift of the love of God? But now to lighten it to us, because it is contrary to flesh and blood, all these are met in one; God wills it for us, because we need it; and He, loving us, gives us what we need; our Lord bore it for us, not only to atone for us, but to impart to our nature the power to bear it, to make us love it, because it likens us to Him Who hath so loved us, and Whom we would love.
All are not taught alike; one is led this way, another that; all ways are right, so that they end in the Cross. Virgin-souls may be most drawn by the love of Christ and the longing for His likeness; "Thy Name is as ointment poured forth" in Thy Passion; "therefore do the virgins love Thee." Penitents perhaps most often hang first, like the robber, upon the Cross against their will; and when, upon the Cross, they, by the secret grace of God, are drawn to say, "we indeed justly," they find themselves near their Lord; then they hang patiently upon it, they thank God for it, they feel its fruits, at last they love it, and would not be without it.
Our first step is patience, "Enduring the Cross." We cannot expect to love it all at once, not, at least, at the beginnings of our conversion. It will come to us often in some very tender place, piercing us to the dividing asunder of soul and body, so that we are so bewildered with the pang, that we know not what to do; we are stunned or dizzy, and all we can do is, to lie still and motionless and crushed under it. Happy, blessed breaking of the heart, which so bruises in pieces its earthly substance, that it can never come together again, as it was before, but God makes it anew. But that is ever true with us, "What I do, thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter." "No chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous; nevertheless it afterwards yieldeth the peaceable fruits of righteousness to them who are exercised thereby." Be not perplexed then, if thou understand it not, nor thyself, know not what God is doing with thee, or art tempted to think that thou profitest not by it, that it is even a token that God has cast thee off, that thou art not bearing it aright, that it cannot profit one who gains so little fruit from it, that it may harden rather than soften thee, that it makes thee worse rather than better. All these and more bewildering thoughts will often come, they are Satan's arts to make us throw aside our cross, or displease God by despairing of His mercy; it is the festering of the nails and thongs of thy sins, which pierce and bind thee to thy cross. Fear not; look unto Jesus by thy side; the nails of thy sins, which pierce thee, have first pierced Him; they have passed through His Blessed Hands, ere they reached thine, and so will heal thee; look out of thyself, and look to Him, the Captain of thy salvation, the Author and Finisher of thy faith.
And to this end, it helpeth much, not to think so much of the outward cause of thy cross, as of the love of God, Who sent it thee. It often makes our cross heavier, and distracts us to think, at one time, that we brought it upon ourselves, at another that it came, as it were, by chance, that had we or others done so and so, or had we been warned, or understood the warning, it had not been thus. "Lord, if Thou hadst been here, my brother had not died." But when the cross has found us, then it is God's will for us. Look not then through whom or what or how it comes, but to Him from Whom it comes. We know Who said, "Not a sparrow falleth to the ground without your Father," "there shall not a hair of your head perish." Rather, the more mysterious it is, the plainer is His Hand, and the greater His love. If He seemeth to do a new thing for thee, and dealeth with thee not after the manner of men, but bringeth thy cross to thee in some strange way, is it not a token the more of His love to thee? Is not His loving Heart set the more upon thee, that His Wisdom inventeth, as it were, some new thing, that He goeth out of the common track of His Providence, sooner than leave thee without His chastening love? "Blessed is that servant," says an ancient father, "on whose amendment the Lord is bent, with whom He deigneth to be angry!" It is of faith that all which happens, is from God, as either done by Him, if good, or controlled, if evil. Think not then of evil men, if any crosses come through them, except to bless and pray God for them; yea, love them the more who to thee have been made, by God's mercy, ministers of good, and have brought to thee, though they knew it not, that most precious token of God's love, the Cross of thy Lord. They know not the hidden blessing whereof they are the bearers to thee; but as in human joy, our gladness overflows to them who unknowingly bring us good tidings, and we can hardly refrain from sharing with them our joy, and feel some sort of love and thankfulness to them, although the unconscious bearers of the good which gladdens us; as men would welcome and honour the messenger of an earthly prince who brings them word of some honour or distinction of this earth, and give him gifts; so love thou whosoever brings to thee that choicest gift from the King of kings, the healing Cross. Think not, again, that from them the evil is undeserved. If not deserved of them, it is of God; if we are accused falsely in any matter, we have more evil in ourselves for which we might be accused truly. And even if the evil is from thyself, and the plain chastisement of their own sins, lose not patience even with thyself. Be displeased with thyself that thou hast deserved it; thankful to God, Who chastened thee here, that He might spare thee hereafter. "Humble thyself," but be it "under the Mighty Hand of God," resting as it were under Its shadow, trusting in Its protection, both against Satan and thyself. "Let the Passion of thy God," it has been said, "make satisfaction for thy sins; do thou suffer for love of thy Lord." Think not again that thou couldest bear any other cross better, or wouldest have any other. We may long and pray that "this Cup pass from us" before it come, so that we add His blessed words, "nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt." But when it is come, then thou knowest that this, and no other, is best for thee; else His Wisdom had not chosen it, nor His love given it to thee to drink. It is a very dangerous deceit of impatience, to think we could be patient under any other than what God gives us. Could we be purified or saved in any other way, would He Who saith, He "doth not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men," have chosen this for thee? Be not then impatient with thyself, even that thou feelest impatient, or hateful in thine own eyes, or that thou hast brought the evil on thyself, or that thou canst not amend it; but mourning for thy past sins, commit thy present and future, thy time and thine eternity, into His merciful Hands, Who, out of love, made thee and redeemed thee, and now, out of love, would re-make thee to His Praise and thy bliss in Him. It has been strongly said, "Although the Lord, as it were, cast thee from Him, and, so cast out, deliver thee in a manner to Satan, so that, abandoned within and without, thou be hemmed in on all sides with extreme calamities, on all sides driven on with dreadful thoughts, on all tormented with unspeakable oppression, yet doubt not in the least, of the love of thy most loving Creator for thee; allow not a thought, as though thou couldest therefore part from Him, or shrink from thy present trouble, or seek any profitless or forbidden remedy, or give thyself over to any impure consolation; but, bare of all, in faith and love cleaving to Him, give thyself to be bruised and scourged, as and as long as He shall will. Await the issue in silence, according to His ordering and dispensing, saying from time to time in thy heart, 'Let the will of the Lord be done; it can not be evil.' Waver not, I say, in thy holy purpose, although God put not at once an end to thy temptations, but, full of good hope, and with unconquered mind, endure." Yet what is this, but what holy Job says, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." Since His chastening is His love, would we have less of His love? "The wounds of the Righteous are love," says the Psalmist. The deeper, the greater love. Wouldest thou that He should not probe thee to the very quick, that He should leave any swelling unpierced, that so thou shouldest not be healed, that any festering sore of self-love or self-trust, or vanity, or impenitence be left, to destroy thee and eat out thy life? Would we have our dross remain, that we should wish the cleansing fire at an end? Or would we not gladly "pass through fire and water," so that He bring us forth, at last, to that "wealthy place," the rest and refreshment of His love? Rather say we with holy men, "Lord, burn, cut me here, but spare me in eternity;" Or as a holy father says, "Let then the consuming fire come, let it burn out in us the dross of iniquity, and the slag of sin, and make us pure gold; let Him burn my reins and my heart, that I may think what is good, and desire what is pure."
But that thou mayest endure, thou must not trust in thyself. While we trusted in ourselves we went astray; these sufferings are to teach us at once mistrust in self and trust in God. Part not for a moment with either. Either way, thou partest with His Hand. It matters not in which; whether thou think that thy weakness is strength, or that His strength will not be perfected in thy weakness. "Look unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of thy faith," that "as He has begun, so He will finish His good work in thee." As He has brought thee into the fire, so He will bring thee through it and out of it.
"Look unto Jesus," enduring the Cross, so shalt thou never be weary of thine. "Truly," says a father", "He scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. Every son? Yes, the Only-Begotten Son was without sin, yet not without the scourge. Whence the Only-Begotten Himself, bearing thine infirmity, and prefiguring in Himself thy person and that of His whole body, when He drew nigh to His Passion, in His Manhood which He bore, was sorrowful that He might gladden thee, was saddened that He might comfort thee." Let us shrink from any form of the Cross, if He bare it not first for us. "And we indeed justly." He bore the very same, if sinless, and for our sins, their punishment. Be it what it may, of body or spirit, He bore all, to sanctify all to us. "Thou endurest suffering for a time," says a father", "thou shalt not endure it for ever. Brief is thy trouble; eternal shall be thy bliss. For a little while thou grievest, endless shall be thy joy. But begirmest thou to give way, amid suffering? Thou hast too the pattern of the Sufferings of Christ set before thee. See what He suffered for thee, in Whom was nothing, wherefore He should suffer. Suffer what thou mayest, thou shalt not attain to those mockeries, to those scourgings, to that robe of derision, to that Crown of thorns, to that Cross." He took our very meanest, poorest, every-day ills, that we might be ashamed of none; He took deeper infinitely than our very deepest, as infinitely greater as God is than man, that we might fear none. He compassionates our least, Who bore each for us, upbears us in each. And He bare all of His own Will to teach us to will it. "All earthly goods," says the same father, "He despised, to shew they were to be despised; all earthly ills He endured which He bid to be endured, that neither in the one might happiness be sought, nor in the other, unhappiness be found. He hungered Who feedeth all; thirsted, through Whom all drink is created, He Who spiritually is the Bread of the hungry and the Fountain of the thirsty; He was wearied by an earthly journey, Who made Himself our Way to heaven; was dumb, as it were, and deaf before His revilers, through Whom the dumb spake and the deaf heard; was bound, Who loosed from the bonds of infirmities; was scourged. Who expelled from the bodies of men the scourges of all sorrows; was crucified, Who ended what excruciated us; died, Who raised the dead?" Does poverty harass us? think we of the Manger. Or homelessness? of His Sacred houseless Head. Or being forsaken of friends? how the disciples forsook Him and fled. Or unjust revilings? how to the Holy One it was said, "Thou blasphemest;" (not to name all those aweful coarse blasphemies, which God's Holy word records.) Or malice of enemies? see His whole Life, from the cradle at Bethlehem to the Cross. Or shame? the stripping of His raiment and those aweful spittings. Or any one bodily pain? behold His whole Body, from His thorn-crowned Head to the nail-pierced Feet, one Bruise! Or false witness? think of the mock-judgment of Caiaphas. And if it pursue thee to thy death, did it not even follow His Resurrection? Or that thou art disbelieved? "Neither did His brethren believe on Him." Or that thy good is evil-spoken of? Of Whom was that said, "He deceiveth the people." "For a good work we stone Thee not?" Or sorrow in others' grief? go to the grave of Lazarus, or see His Mother by His Cross, when the sword pierced her own soul also. Or seeming abandonment of God? Think of that mysterious cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?"
O blessed art thou, who, by whatever pain or sorrow, art in any way brought nigh unto thy Lord! Only pray for patience to endure by His Side. If thou look away from Him, the cross would be but, as to the impenitent thief, the foretaste of Hell; look to Him, and, for His sake, it is as to the penitent, the gate of Paradise. The very least will fret thee, if thou look at them or to thyself; the very greatest, if thou look to Him, will but lift thee nearer unto Him. Thee too shall the Cross lift up from the earth, and, by His grace, place thee nearer to Himself. O blessed holy loneliness of the aching heart, if thou mourn only to Him. Blessed widowhood of the soul, which finds no earthly comforter, that the Heavenly may in His time descend upon her! Blessed solitude of the Cross! in which, raised up for a while from among the throng of men, thou art nailed motionless, canst not reach forth thy hands to their pleasures, art severed from them and alone with JESUS! Blessed void, which nothing can fill except thy God! Blessed hours of unrest, in which thou canst on all sides find no repose for thy weariness, so it teach thee to repose in Him! Blessed bareness and nakedness of the soul, in which, reft of all, it may receive some likeness of its Lord bared for it upon the Cross, in which all falls from it which hid it from itself, or which it would hold fast, besides its God! Blessed depression and death of the heart, in which all living things die unto thee, and thou diest unto thyself and to the world, and art buried in thy Saviour's Tomb, tastest of the sweetness of His Death and of rest in Him, thence to rise with Him to newness of life, loving Him Alone, seeking Him Alone, living in Him Whom thou seekest, and seeking Him that thou mayest live. "O good Cross," shall all the redeemed say, "receive me from men and give me to my Master, that He through thee may receive me, Who through thee redeemed me!"
Be not dismayed, then, that thy, sins brought thee to it, nor through it be mingled with inward shame, or be the direct fruit of thy sins; humble thyself the more, but let nothing within thee or without, nothing, if so be, in the human instrument of them, no suggestion of Satan, no sense of thine own unworthiness, no unlikeness to Him, no foulness of thoughts or of temptations, draw thee off from 'looking unto Jesus,' Whatever we have been, trouble itself, if God give us but the longing to be patient out of love to Him, is a token of His Presence. He draws nigh to the soul, Who has said, "I will be with him in trouble," "when thou walkest through the waters, I will be with thee." He will (He seems to say) be near thee then in some special way, as though before He had not been with thee. He will then, in a manner, begin to be with thee, for He is with thee, by a secret presence, through the cross He gives thee. "When thou walkest through the waters," He joineth Himself, as it were, unto thee, and upbears thee, thou knowest not how. He Who was with the three children in the fiery furnace, shall not let "the flame kindle upon thee." Yea, although "He draw nigh to us" in "another Form" and in the guise of "a stranger," it shall but be, that He may "teach us concerning Himself" and "tarry with us" in the end, when "it is towards evening and the day is far spent." If He seem to "make Himself strange unto us, and speak hard things unto us," it shall be but to bring us to ourselves, and when we confess "we are verily guilty," to "bring us near unto" Him, and "make Himself known unto" us, and sustain us, and "save our lives with a great deliverance."
Fear not then. Suffering is the bridal ring by which He espouseth the returning soul unto Himself. Thy very endurance is a mark of His Presence in thy soul. Alone thou couldest not endure them; thou must faint under them; thou wouldest consent to evil in them or through them, but for His secret, even if unfelt, aid. In itself, chastisement would but harden the heart, unless God softened it. Such is the dreadful picture in Holy Scripture.
"Men were scorched with great heat, and blasphemed the Name of God, which hath power over these plagues; and they repented not, to give Him glory." "They gnawed their tongues for pain, and blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds." It is of the Lord's mercy, that it is not so with any of us. Receive, then, thy crosses, in whatever form they come, as most precious pledges of His undeserved love; thank His Fatherly Hand Who gives them; pray for grace to endure under them; think of every pang as a separate gift of His love; unite each, as far as thou canst, with the Cross of thy Lord, and He will give to each a part of Its virtue; the deserved buffetings of Satan shall, by His grace, prepare thee for the society of Angels; the loathsome memory of sin shall be a means of cleansing thee, through His Precious Blood, from all sin; the aching unrest of a broken heart, which but for His love were but the gnawing of the never-dying worm, shall prepare thee to enter into His everlasting rest; the badge of shame shall be thy entrance into His glory. Only "tarry thou the Lord's leisure; be strong, and He shall comfort thy heart, and put thou thy trust in the Lord."
Now unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own Blood.
Almighty and everlasting God, Who, of Thy tender love towards mankind, hast sent Thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ, to take upon Him our flesh, and to suffer Death upon the Cross, that all mankind should follow the example of His great humility; Mercifully grant, that we may both follow the example of His patience, and also be made partakers of His Resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.