The Love of God
The Last Seven Words
TOGETHER WITH A
Transcribed by Wayne Kempton
Archivist and Historiographer of the Diocese of New York, 2012
My Beloved Parishioners
St. Paul's Church, San Diego
To whom, during fifteen years as their friend and pastor,
I have tried to tell the meaning of the love of God.
THESE addresses and the sermons were delivered in St. Paul's Church, San Diego, Cal. They have running through them all the thought of the love of God. They lay no claim to originality or learning. They are given here as they were spoken from notes with only slight correction. They were helpful to many in my own parish, and friends whose opinion is valued asked me to have them printed.
The sermon on the Atonement, it must be remembered, is not a treatise for the theologian, but a simple talk to lay people, many of whom have been perplexed by ideas of Calvinistic origin. Many of the ideas in these sermons and in the addresses came to me, no doubt consciously or unconsciously, from sermons and books read. I have not noted these in their place, but acknowledge here that I feel under special obligation to Canon Liddon, Frederick Robertson, the Rt. Rev. A. C. Hall, D.D., Dr. S. D. McConnell, and the Rev. S. Baring Gould.
SAN DIEGO, CAL., Advent, 1896
A SERMON FOR PALM SUNDAY OR GOOD FRIDAY.
He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves.
2 CORINTHIANS V. 15.
WHILE the Galilean pilgrims to the passover sang loud Hosannas on Palm Sunday, an observer could readily have seen the look of contempt and hatred in the faces of some of the spectators, and so have been prepared, in a measure, for the cry of "Crucify Him!" five days later.
The central thought of Holy Week is the death of Jesus Christ; and so there is brought to our minds ideas which shape themselves into such words as "Atonement" and "Vicarious Sacrifice."
There has gone with these theological terms in the popular mind so much that is [1/2] horrible, so much that seems to make God a monster of injustice and even of bloodthirstiness, that it is no wonder that so many devout souls shrink from the whole idea. The fact is, so much of Calvinistic theology has been woven into these terms that the Catholic doctrine is largely hidden from view. The hearts and minds of men rebel against the bargain idea of the price of an innocent life paid to save sinful lives, so that many seek to escape from it all by rejecting the great truths for which these words stand. But let us reverently try to learn what there is in them of meaning and import in the way of life.
What is the keynote of the Gospels? What is the essence of the whole New Testament? We find the answer in the words, "God so loved the world." Whatever Jesus Christ did, whatever His sacrifice was, we must go to it with this key. The Cross means love. God, who emptied Himself of self and was made flesh, was impelled to it by the love, the yearning love, for His straying children. It was a love which nothing [2/3] could beat off. It was a love which, to reach the lost, must go to the very depths to which the lost go; must seek the wandering sheep over mountain and desert; must seek even to the death.
Why is Jesus Christ lifted up? Not to appease the Father. We find no such idea in the New Testament. He is lifted up to draw all men unto Him. He goes to the very depths of the disorganized nature of man that He might reconcile it, make it at one with God's will. My brethren, it was "for us men and for our salvation" that God came and was "made man."
If we go to the Cross with this precious truth, the hideous tree begins to lose its hideousness. If a man was riding with his children and was pursued by ravenous wolves, we should recoil in horror if, to save the rest, he took one and flung him to appease the demands of the beasts. But if he threw himself to the death, we should feel the throb of admiration and love. [Robertson.] This in a feeble [3/4] measure illustrates the Catholic doctrine of the Sacrifice.
God, came in the Person of the Son, and died for us. God cannot be divided. The will of the Father is not different from the will of the Son. The Father demanding the death of man, the Son wanting to save man —this is impossible. We believe in one God. "God so loved the world." God came to save the world. And, my brethren, the very nature of God is sacrifice. Love in its very essence means the giving of self. It is passion which seeks to possess. It is love which seeks to give, that must give, and the love of God impels Him to give Himself. Creation is one outward sign of this truth; the Cross is another.
But you say this does not touch the matter of the text when it says, "He died for all." You shrink from the idea of one suffering for another. It seems unjust to you. It hurts your heart somehow. But not if you get away from the view of placation, which is a false one. The Jews made the [4/5] same mistake. A large number of them looked at the sacrifices which prophesied in type the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, as offered to placate God. But the prophets were continually warning the people that the sacrifice of bulls and goats availed nothing of itself. In its ideal the sacrifice of beasts symbolized the pouring out of life at the feet of God—the acknowledgment that all life should be consecrated, given to Him.
But let us go back. He died "for all." "For"—that is the crucial word. You rebel at the thought of one suffering for another, you shrink from the idea of vicarious suffering. We may as well shrink from the law of gravitation. Life springs from death. "The death of a star is the birth of a world." The grain must die if it is to spring up into new life. The law of vicarious sacrifice begins with life. You owe your life to the maternal vicarious sacrifice. Through pain came the joy of a new life, which the mother love must bring to true manhood only by continuous vicarious sacrifice, [5/6] impelled by love and resulting in joy.
The principle pervades the universe. The bread which feeds our life represents the toil and painful labor of the sweating brow. Tell me what there is of liberty, of anything of real benefit in life which has not been purchased by blood, or toil, or painful industry. The blessings which we enjoy in every avenue of life come from the vicarious research and toil of others.
This law does seem harsh and horrible when looked at coldly and logically. But Jesus Christ brings to this law a light which removes its curse, a light which removes its hardness. It is the light of love. God is love, and gives Himself. From His very nature He must give Himself, for He is love. The love which is willing to suffer vicariously is not to be pitied. The mother love is not to be pitied. The patriot who dies that we may live is not to be pitied. There is joy in the sacrifice. We, like Jesus, go not up to joy but first we suffer pain.
 But you say I have understood the word "for" in the sense of a substitute. Catholic theology will not bear out that sense of the word. Where St. Paul uses Jewish figures in writing to Jewish people, it may seem to mean what you say. Many Christians in all ages, as many Jews did, may have had the idea of placation; but it is not a true one, because it is contrary to the keynote, "God so loved the world."
Jesus Christ did not die as a substitute "for" us. His death does not release us from law and the wages of sin. The sense of the word "for" is as representing man. He is the "Son of Man." That is a term full of meaning. He in Himself represented Man in perfection. He for all time is the representative of the race. Christ died for man that man might do the same through Him. What is a vicar? It is one who does what others are bound to do as representing them. He does not release them from obligations by his representing them. Jesus Christ's righteousness does not make righteousness in us. [7/8] His sacrifice does not release us from sacrifice. He represents in Himself for all men the eternal principle of sacrifice as the law of procedure to a higher life. Vicar means for all, and not releasing all, but representing all, binding upon all.
Go to Holy Scripture and see how plainly this is set forth. Look at the text, "He died for all," that they should henceforth not live unto themselves. That does not release us, but it puts His sacrificial life upon us. We are exhorted to be "crucified with Christ;" "to crucify the sinful affections and lusts;" to offer ourselves a "living sacrifice" as our "reasonable service." It is a very lazy sort of belief to hold that Jesus Christ died to relieve us from the consequences of sin; that we can go on selfishly and self-seekingly, and in the end believe in His sacrifice and have all the consequences of sin done away. "Ye shall be judged for the deeds done in the body, whether they be good or whether they be evil." This truth, so frequently set forth in Holy Scripture, contradicts the assumption [8/9] that all a man has to do is to go on sinning and at the last moment to trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and "ever after wave a palm in the company of the holiest of the ages."
On the contrary, we are shown by His sacrifice that we may enter into the life of God by sacrifice. We learn the truth that "it is more blessed to give than to receive;" that he who would save his life must lose it in sacrifice; that the life of God is a flow of self-giving love; and if our life finds Him, it must take the same channel.
Just a word as to the term "victim." Jesus Christ was the Victim of sin, He was the Victim of the greed and the selfishness of Judas, of the narrow bigotry of partisanship, of the hateful passions of the multitude. The sins of man brought Him to the Cross. We know what the Cross means because we are sinners. We know in ourselves, in our own nature, the capacity for the sins which nailed Him to the Cross. We know, because we are what we are, that He [9/10] is there for us in a real and true way; that He is there for man; and that if man stands out against sin, he will in some way find himself crucified with Christ.
Now we shall all be able to understand better what the atonement is. The only time the word is used in the New Testament it means reconciliation, at-one-ment, to make at-one. With whom is man to be made at-one? It needs no argument to convince you that you are out of harmony with the will of God; that you want your own will. Further, that you are out of harmony with yourself; that "the flesh warreth against the spirit." Further, that you need reconciling to man. There are those whom you hate, those with whom you are angry. Man's hand is against man. This is shown in the awful blood-stained history of the race, with its oppressions and wrongs.
Now, this threefold reconciliation, this atonement, cannot come from a mere contemplation and belief. It is the idea of some religionists that salvation is something to [10/11] come to a man suddenly with the promise of eternal bliss rather than something which he must work out in his own life by his will cooperating with the Holy Spirit.
How is it, then, asks one, it is written "by faith ye are saved"? Yes, we are saved by faith, by a faith in Him whereby His life is applied to ours, worked out in ours; faith without this is of no avail, is dead.
The atonement is not something which merely comes to us, but something which is to be wrought out in us. If we are to be made at-one with God, our will must be reconciled to God. The life of Christ is expressed in the words: "To do Thy will, O God, am I come." The atonement is to be wrought out in us by the sacrifice of our own will. This will be brought about by the sacrifice of Christ being wrought out in us. Our life must know what His sacrifice was in the surrender of self to God. The Cross means that you will partake of its benefits just as you sacrifice your will and come to [11/12] be able to say: "Not my will, but Thine be done," in me. No wonder pride and self-assertiveness rebel at this. Ah, brethren, know as we approach the Cross in these days, that your soul, instinct with the throbbings of immortality, must be reconciled to God by opening its doors and saying: "God take me—use me. The way may be painful, may be a bitter Cross; let it be so if it is best; only Thy will be done in me."
This is the atonement wrought by Him who represented humanity; that by His example and by His help we might, as we die with Him, know what immortality means. Remember that without the doctrine of the atonement the death of Jesus Christ would be a mere martyrdom for truth and righteousness; no more valuable, perhaps, than the death of other martyrs. But Christ's death is more than this, it is the at-one-ment of the soul.
I cannot dwell on the other features of the atonement. We are reconciled in ourselves just as our will is surrendered to God; [12/13] just as we make ourselves the victims of sacrificial love, just so are we reconciled to man and in ourselves.
In Christ alone can the brotherhood of the human family be assured. Men may try other ways, and they do try them; but in Jesus Christ, the Head of the race, in Him alone, we learn that we are one; that it is the spirit of self-denial and sacrifice by giving, that man will be reconciled with man, and the brotherhood of man be a living realized fact.
All selfishness, national or racial, only hinders the day of the working out of the atonement in the race; and God uses all the means of travel and swift communication to hasten the day, as He once before marvellously prepared the way for the coming of His Son.
It is, then, you see, my brethren, love which makes the Cross and the Sacrifice a blessed living truth and not a hard, dead question. Sacrifice, looked at in a cold, logical, reasoning process of mind, is cruel, [13/14] harsh. It is love which makes self-sacrifice the law of higher life, a royal road; for He, the King, has taken it. It is God's life and love shown, shown in the most profound way, that we might be reconciled to God by His death worked out in us.
 AGAIN, my dear friends, we gather for comfort and hope and inspiration around the Cross of Jesus Christ. It is best, in meditating upon the words which the Divine Man uttered, to have some thought which shall run through all, and so connect them all. The Cross of Jesus Christ is the supreme manifestation of love. To seek and to save He emptied Himself of self, was made flesh, became obedient unto death, even the death of the Cross. Let love, then, be the central thought. Love alone explains the mystery of the Cross. Love alone makes it the sign of triumph. Love alone takes away its ugliness, and makes it, despite its pain and sorrow, its nails and spear and blood, the most beautiful tree of healing and of life.
 Here, then, to-day is brought before us in awful vividness the love of God. We see in the Victim on the Cross Him who was lifted up that He might draw all men unto Him.
We gather here not to indulge in mere sentiment, not to rehearse the horrible scene merely to arouse the emotions. We draw near that we may know better what love is. We draw near that our hearts may be moved to love Him more.
You must have in mind that love means in its very nature the giving of self. If a man once grasps the idea that God is love and that man is a wandering child, Jesus Christ and the Cross become necessities. To seek man, God, being love, must seek him in the very depths of his disorganized nature. To make him at-one with the Father He must endure all that sin brings to man, and show that love will seek to the end.
Let us see the way of the Cross—see the unselfishness of it all! One of the greatest trials of a loving heart is to be deserted. He was forsaken. To bear trials with loved [18/19] ones around us is hard enough. He was alone. Hurried from Gethsemane to the Council Chamber, from the Council Chamber to Pilate's Judgment Hall, thence to Herod, then to Pilate again. The brutal mocking, the cruel scourgings, the hideous crowning borne in the dignity and silence of wounded love. How peevish and fretful pain and trial are apt to make the best of us! No word of complaint, no cry of bitterness came from Him. His thoughts were of others—of Peter, who stood over there denying Him; of others in hiding—of the Blessed Mother, of the holy women. He must comfort and help them. He must comfort and help the world, whose untold and unborn millions should see in Him the example for all time.
Dear friends, selfishness is the root sin, from which springs the deadly brood of sins. Look out into the world. Note the oppression of the poor. See the betrayal of trusting love. See the cruelty, the lust, the greed that fills the world with sorrow. See the [19/20] unhappy home, where the wife is brokenhearted or the husband driven to despair. What is there behind it all? Love of self, selfishness, and perverted love.
Dear friends, selfishness means hostility to the Cross, in Judea, in America, everywhere, eighteen centuries ago, here to-day. It mocked Jesus Christ then, it mocks Him now. It reviled Him then, it does so to-day. It led Him to the Cross then, it nailed Him to it, it scoffed at Him as He hung upon it. Selfishness does so now; it despises and rejects Jesus Christ, it sees no beauty nor comeliness in the Divine Man. He is despised and rejected by the policy-serving Pilate, the vain Herod, and the bigoted Pharisee.
Let us see in these hours if we cannot strike at the root of our sins and failings. Let us apply the nail and the spear to ourselves. Let us climb up to the Cross and strive to be crucified with Him.
If you would gain all the blessings of the service, you must enter into it. You must listen to the words. You must try to sing. [20/21] You must kneel for the common prayers. You must use the times of silence for pouring out your heart to God in supplication, in intercession—prayers for loved ones, prayers for those who hate you, prayers for the nation, prayers for all men.
Let us go out of ourselves, out of this building. Let us follow Him, worn and weary with pain, down the steps of the Praetorium, bearing the beam of the Cross. Brutal faces hiss and scoff. Yes, and hard, stern faces of pietists curse and spit. The soldiers press back the multitude with swords and spear shafts. And the King of Love goes on His Royal Way.
Fling wide the gates of your hearts. May the words which He speaks enter in. Onward He goes, fainting under His burden. Here the women gather by the wayside weeping and wailing, and hear His words: "Weep not for Me, but weep for yourselves and your children." Oh, unselfish words! Grant, O Son of Man, that in our Via Dolorosa we may be like Thee.
 We draw near the mound of Calvary. The crosses are prepared, for three are to die. He is offered the benumbing drug. He refuses it. They strip Him, place Him upon the wood, and drive the nails through those hands so often lifted to bless, and those feet which have been so tireless on errands of love and mercy. They place the Cross with no careful hands in the hole prepared for it.
Let us gather near, that we may hear what He says. Not in morbid spirit, but to know the love that is in His words; to learn what there is in them for our life day by day. When a man dies, the love of all who knew him is drawn out with peculiar force. His whole life seems summed up in it. Last words; they are always precious. "More light," said Grotius, as he breathed his last. More light may we gain here to-day.
Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.
 SPOKEN soon after the Cross was raised to an upright position; it was a time of intense agony. We are told that men, when crucified, frequently shouted bitter curses at their tormentors. Jesus looked around upon the faces filled with hate, gloating in sense of victory, and as He looked He said: "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do." Here is shown His love to sinners. What is it, dear friends, that makes us Unforgiving, easily overcome with sense of being slighted, oversensitive, angry when we hear of hostile criticism and misjudgment of motives? What is it makes us bristle to defend our dignity? Why do we let the injury rankle in our hearts until we seek to return evil for evil? Ah! it is, after all, [25/26] selfishness, self-love. If we could love as Christ loved we should pity and pray for those who despitefully use us. When the great-hearted Phillips Brooks was once told by a woman of one who had slandered her—"My dear friend," said Dr. Brooks, "it is not you who are to be pitied, it is the one who could be guilty of such a fault. He needs our pity and our prayers. Let us pray for him now." Here is the spirit of Jesus Christ in His love for sinners. He on the Cross, with His hands outstretched above the people, prays that they may be forgiven.
Here is shown the infinite love of God to sinners. Men reject God. They seem to think that God does not see or that He does not care, and they go on outraging His love. But what is God's attitude toward them? The answer is in the Word from the Cross. He overcomes evil with good.
What was it that brought Jesus Christ to the Cross? It was selfishness; it was the selfishness of the chief priests; it was the selfish greed of Judas; it was pride and [26/27] envy and covetousness, and all these have their root in selfishness. Trace our sins back which keep us from a consecration of self to God; what do we find? We find that just as our love is given to self it keeps us back from love of God. Just as we crucify self it will lead us to the spirit of Christ. We see no beauty in Him because His life is so opposite to ours. We shrink from His life and reject it. He thought not of Himself. It was among the mockings uttered that He could not save Himself. It was true. If He had saved Himself He could not have saved others. Perfect love does not think of self. It sacrifices even to the losing of life, and in the losing finds more abundant life.
We learn from the Cross over there the love of God for sinners, for us—for we are sinners for all men—for all are sinners. The Cross is the eternal manifestation of His love. Some men have made the One on the Cross a substitute for man, a victim to appease God's anger. It is not so. Jesus on the Cross is [27/28] there in a sense in the sinner's place; there by the power of sympathy and love; there as the representative of the fallen race; knowing all the pain of sin, though He knew not sin, to save man from sin. God through Christ shows that He loves sinners with infinite, unconquerable love.
Oh, what a lesson in these words, love and forgiveness for insult and injury and mocking! The dignity and manhood of the perfect Man treated with ignominy and shame and spitting, and the return, love, streams of love flowing out to the mockers, to you and to me and to all mankind. What a lesson, I say! How do we treat those who revile or slander or provoke us? The flash of anger provoking more anger, the denunciation arousing bitterness and strife. We learn from the Judgment Hall and the Cross the majestic power of silence, and the dignity and eternal power of love which sacrifices self. You may say such forgiving conduct is impracticable; a man would be a fool if he did not defend himself and take his own part. [28/29] Yes, to the world Jesus Christ is ever foolishness, sacrifice is ever folly, but it conquers nevertheless. It is victorious at last, and triumphs over all selfishness and worldly policy. It is hard, you say; of course it is. It is the Cross. It is crucifying yourself daily. It is climbing up and stretching your hands where His hands are. It is being where He is on the Cross; but the Cross is the sign of triumph, it is worthy of the sons of God. Oh, we know not what we do when we sin against God! We know not the enormity of a love which seeks Mammon before Christ, and so rejects and crucifies Him again.
We know not what we do toward unfortunates around us. In our ease and comfort and selfish service we say, "It is their own fault that these are poor and miserable and suffering; pass them on; hound them by the law; have no mercy for them; have no patience with those who fall. What to us are these people in our cities oppressed by greed and selfishness, and crowded in filthy rooms to make cheap things for us?" We know not [29/30] what we do when we refuse to let distress and wrong move us to unselfishness and sacrifice.
We know not what we do when we neglect spiritual privileges. We know not what we did when we sinned long ago; when we said words which led off our friend from belief or from purity. Oh, our sins should rise now as a cloud, and as we look at them we may well cry out, "O Father, forgive me, I knew not what I did; knew not when I wounded loved ones with bitter words; knew not when in pride and self-seeking I denied Thee; knew not in my unloveliness how I wounded infinite love. O Son of God, hanging on the Cross, come to me! Open my heart, at which Thou knockest. Pour in Thy love there, that it may flow back to Thee and to mankind. Give me of Thy love, which means sacrifice of self; which means a spirit like Thine; which shall say to those who offend me, 'Father, forgive them, forgive them in the name of Thy crucified Son.'"
Verily I say unto thee, to-day shall thou be with Me in Paradise.
 THE time passes. The confusion of mockery and insult goes on. But the one on the central cross is silent. Oh, the power of silence! And what power in the man it shows! He that can keep silent amid taunt and insult is greater than he who takes a city. It is not fear, it is not stoicism which keeps Him silent; it is love. The scribes and priests wag their heads. Yes, in His work for others He must forget self, He must love on despite all. But the conduct of Jesus Christ has effect in an unexpected quarter. This malefactor had seen many crucified, he had heard the shrieks and curses of those nailed on the cross. But here was one who had refused the drug that benumbed the body and mind, and yet had spoken no [33/34] word but that of love and pity and forgiveness. See, brethren, what influence a loving soul has in its very presence. You have known souls who have caught much of this spirit of the Master; to be near them was to be helped, to be near them was calming in trouble and in anger. As we see them we see Christ in them, and want to lead a consecrated life because they do. Know, dear friends, the wonderful power for good or evil, for help or hindrance, as you are loving or unloving in your life day by day, in the home, in the counting-house, in the drawing-room, in the street.
The man who was nailed by the side of Jesus, slightly facing Him, rebukes his comrade, who had joined in the mockery. "We," he says, "deserve our death; this Man hath done nothing amiss." He reads the accusation nailed above the Cross. He recognizes that this Man is of kingly power. He recognizes that His kingdom is not of this world. The first one to recognize it, yes, even before the Apostles did, and he [34/35] says out of his heart, "Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom."
See here, beloved, the infinite love of God. He had followed this man through life, calling him, pleading with him, as He does with you and me, in conscience, in Holy Bible, in Church. He wearies not when rebuffs, slights, even mockeries greet His love, for this thief seems to have mocked Him at first, perhaps when intoxicated by the drug. God still follows the man. Since nothing else will do, he shall at last hang there on a cross face to face with His Son, and he is won at the last. The other man had seen the same things, had heard the same words, suffered the same pains, but his heart was hardened into unbelief. My brother, God will seek you even if He has to make you bear a Cross to see His Son, and though you curse Him because of its pain.
The long-suffering love of God! How often we say, "It is no use to be patient; patience in this case has ceased to be a virtue. It is no use to try to do anything more for [35/36] this man or this woman. It will only be wasted time and energy. It is no use trying to reclaim this soul." This is not the way the Cross teaches us. As sons of God, let us try to be like God to our brothers and sisters.
There is a lesson to us also in the fact that this day we are brought before the Cross. We see Him. We hear Him. God has brought us here in His love to seek us, to reach our hearts. Do we hear Him? Do we turn our faces to Him? This Good Friday do we say, "Dear Lord, remember me; remember that I am Thy child—Thine by creation, Thine in the family of Jesus Christ by rebirth. Remember my innocence as a child. Remember my sins as a youth. Remember my frailty, my temptations, my feeble efforts, my neglected privileges, my sins of disposition, my wilful errors. Oh, dear Lord, remember them all in mercy when Thou comest into Thy kingdom, to judge the quick and the dead."
"Thou shalt be with Me in Paradise." [36/37] God takes the motive. After all, what has the best of us done but to turn to God, hoping and praying to do right! We know not the circumstances of this man's life. The Lord knew them, and He accepted his turning to Him, leaving his progress and purification to the time which he should spend in Paradise. And what are we when we count our opportunities better than He? Perhaps not as worthy. In Paradise we shall all need to make progress in being made like unto Him.
In Paradise! There are those who were with us last Good Friday, at this very service, watching before the Cross. There was one who had the special gift of seeking men, and of following them under all difficulties. To-day in Paradise, looking down upon us. Last year with us by the Cross. "Jesu Mercy, Lord all blessed, grant them Thine eternal rest." To-day we are here. Next Good Friday? Who can tell?
There is encouragement for us in our work in this incident of the penitent. We feel [37/38] discouraged because there is so little apparent result to our own work. Think of this: Jesus Christ endured the Cross. All that agony, as far as we know, won to God that day but a single soul. Yet His love was not wasted. His willing service was not lost. One soul is of great worth—worth the seeking of the Son of God. What a rebuke to those who say missions cost the Church too much in proportion to returns!
We thank Thee, O Jesus, for Thy love shown to penitents, Thy love which seeks us, seeks us now, seeks us to the end. May Thy divine love be given to us, that we may seek souls patiently, untiringly, through pain and sorrow, if that is the best way; that we may seek and draw men to God in word, in deed, in all the ways of love.
Woman, behold thy son; son, behold thy mother.
 WE have seen the love of God as made known to us from the Cross toward sinners and toward penitents. We see in these words how God would have us love those to whom we are related by the ties of blood or of friendship.
There is a lull now in the noise around the Cross. It is midday, and the fierce Syrian sun beats down upon the sufferer. Is there no face among all around Him that has a look of pity, no one of all whom He has healed or blessed or forgiven, whose love is strong enough to bring him here? Yes; there meets his gaze a little group approaching. One leads it who went from Gethsemane to the High Priest's Palace. One who stood when He was before Pilate, and heard [41/42] the accusation. Now, when the soldiers are at their meal, and some of the scoffers are gone and others are sitting at rest, there will be less fear of insult, so the Beloved Disciple leads the Blessed Mother and two faithful women to the foot of the Cross for a last message of love.
What a relief, after three hours of looking into faces made devilish by hate and cruelty, to look into eyes which told better than a thousand words could of love and sympathy! They come to Him. He recognizes them. Dear friends, God recognizes faithfulness. He is grieved by our unfaithfulness. He looks at St. Peter in the Hall, He looks at St. John here. He rewards the love which had made this man brave and unselfish. He ever rewards deeds of mercy. He watches and He blesses.
We see God's blessing on human love at the Cross; and note that it was really love. In the novels of the day we read of much which is called love, which is not love but passion. Passion seeks to possess. Love [42/43] seeks to give. Passion is selfish. Love is in its essence sacrifice.
The mother stands with the sword through her soul looking into the eyes of her Son. She is not there to weep and wail and make it harder for Him. She comes with the helpfulness which woman's love brings. Ah! brother men, where should we be to-day if we had not known a mother's love? The true mother-love in its unselfishness is a type of the love of God.
"Woman, behold thy son." It calls us, does this word, to love in the home. There is danger of making the home selfish in its influence and narrow in its sympathies. There is much of the love given to children nowadays which selfishly shrinks from giving them correction, and then they grow up to despise their parents, and have no reverence for age. This word teaches us to love, honor, and succor our parents; to be patient with the infirmities and the peevishness of age; to be gentle and self-sacrificing; to go out, from this Church better sons and better daughters.
 This mother could not wholly enter into the life of her Son, could not understand all of His work. He had gently to remind her of this twice. And it may be one of the greatest trials which we have to bear, that some loved one in the home cannot go with us in our religious life, cannot understand us in our relations and duties to the Church of God. The Cross teaches us to be dutiful and gentle as well as firm and true to God under such circumstances.
Home! One of the dearest of words. The disciple took her to his own home. Beloved, if our homes are not what they might be, if they are disappointing to us, if the ideal of our youth is far from being reached, let us ask ourselves, in the light of the Cross, whether it is due in any way to our self-love. We are apt to say, "It is not my fault that things are not pleasant." Ask yourself, "Has my pride, my unyielding spirit, my lack of patience, my selfishness anything to do with it?"
Too soon our homes will be broken by the [44/45] cross of death. Then it will all come to us—what we might have done, what we might have been! Let us go back to our homes with love that seeketh not its own, does not even assert its rights, because it seeks to give.
And there is a message to friends—for His friends gathered there—the agonized soul of Mary Magdalene, the anxious face of St. John the beloved. They were what they were because of His unselfish love. They had responded with love to His love. Are we using the sacred bond of friendship to draw our friends to a nobler conception of life? Is our affection for them leading them Godward or worldward?
God has made men instruments for His service. He has allowed them to do His work. With every friendship we make there is the responsibility of influence. If that influence is evil we may never be able to undo it, though we repent and seek it with tears. When Ferdinand Ewer was a young man in San Francisco, a journalist and an unbeliever, [45/46] he was an intimate friend of a young man who was studying for Holy Orders. Ewer unsettled his friend's faith, and led him to give up his plans. I have the story from the lips of the man himself, whose name will go down in the history of this State. When Ewer became a believer and later became a priest of the Church, he sought his friend to undo his own work. It was one of the griefs of his life of self-sacrificing service and lovely character that he failed, and the man lives today without faith and yet yearning for it, as he told me not long ago. Brethren, let your love be helpful. Let not our last hours be pained at the thought of having hindered another on the way to God.
Blessed Jesus, make us faithful in our friendships; make us to stand by friends in trial and distress. May we, as Thou didst, recognize the service of friends, and not take it for granted. May we be ready to encourage and support our friends by unselfish love.
My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?
 THE Mother has been led gently away. A strange darkness begins to creep over the land. It is no ordinary gloom. Such strange darknesses are not unknown in history. The spectators and soldiers become still. There is something that strikes terror to the heart on such occasions. But the outward gloom is but the shadow of a greater one. The human soul of Jesus Christ felt the loneliness of wounded love, the isolation which the soul in anguish knows. He cries out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" The first three words from the Cross relate to persons; now all external duties are fulfilled. He has shrunk from nothing, and now, because He loves man, He will seek him to the very end. He will [49/50] know in His humanity, even that agonizing sense of being shut off from God. To make man at-one with God and at-one with his own disorganized and fallen nature, he will seek man, even in the deepest result of that fallen state. Jesus Christ, though sinless, will know the misery to which sin brings man, that man may be lifted up, saved, restored. Man without God, shut out from God by his sins, what is that but the very pain of hell? Well did Milton's Satan say, "And I myself am Hell."
The cry of Jesus reveals the barrier which exists between sin and the Holy God.
My dear friends, the heart of man was made for God. You may try to satisfy it with something else, but it will be ever rest-less until it finds rest in Him.
There is a mystery in the words, but they are the most precious words from the Cross, because they reveal to us as nothing else can the perfect manhood of Jesus Christ. He was very man, and as such must know what sin does to man, for He is there on the Cross [50/51] for man, not as a substitute for man, but as the representative of the race.
We can understand something of the anguish of which the cry tells if we have ever had the agony of the sense of separation which some sin of ours has placed between us and the one we loved best. Everything seems gone; the soul's depths are broken up, and no one can comfort us, no one can help; it must be borne alone, as this agony of Jesus' was. And some have known what it is to feel shut off from God. I have heard the cry. "My God, I cannot pray; I do not feel that Thou art."
It is a cry, too, of the loneliness of death. Once, not long ago, when the shadows of death came over a lovely, devout soul, I heard, just as she died, the same cry. With hands clasped above the head the cry rang out, "My God! my God!" I thanked God then for the cry of her Elder Brother. It was an assurance to me as it was to her as she clasped a crucifix which hung around her neck, that He had been there before her, and [51/52] that He was with her then. The words tell us that the children of God cannot be forsaken, and that His love will go with us into the very shadow of death and into the beyond.
These words are no words of despair. Note them: "My God!" His humanity trusts on God. He knows that His cloud, which shuts His soul from God, will soon be gone. They are words of trust—"My God!" They tell us, in the darkest hour of wounded love, of broken heart, yes, even in the darkness of sin, He is our God. Is there one here who is despondent, one who has almost lost hope, one who feels that it is no use trying longer? These words of love tell you to cry out, "My God." Yes, thy God still, dear friend, loving, seeking to the end.
There are those here perhaps who are in trouble. God seems to have deserted them, to have stripped them of possessions, to have smitten loved ones, to have taken the dearest; all hope is gone, declining years are upon them. "What," the soul asks, "has [52/53] been the use of honesty or prayer? God has forsaken me." There is a temptation to doubt God's love and pity. "Why is it all?" I know not. It does pass our understanding. But this I do know, that somehow behind it all is God, and that God is the Father. We may cry as His humanity cried, "My God," and we, like Him, will be heard. Hold firm. He knows it all. Angels were near Jesus. Angels are near you. Jesus Christ Himself sees you. Great is the sorrow, endless is the joy. Hold firm to God, and cry out to Him. God will be near, He is near; the darkness will roll away.
I said that I would take love for the thought to run through all the Words. Was ever love like this, that seeks to such depths as this?
Ah! dear ones, how these Words should make us hate sin. Can we wound love such as this? Can we live on unmindful of this love? Can we hear that cry and not hate the evil that is in us and in the world? Well [53/54] may we cry, "My God, remove this cloud that hides Thee from me."
What do you, here, owe to that Cross, with its bitterest cry of a broken heart? What do you owe? All that makes your life worth living; all the recognition of the worth of a human life; all the recognition of the dignity and glory of womanhood; all the recognition of what the child is. What have you that gives and protects life, liberty, and happiness, which does not come because He hangs on the Cross and utters the awful cry?
Will you love Him? Will you seek to do something, to make some sacrifice for Him who so loved you? O Blessed Jesu, give me grace to love Thee more. Keep me from adding one pang of grief to a heart which knew all woe in His love for me and for the world.
 WE should be glad of this Word, because it is a human cry. It shows that Jesus Christ was not exempt from the pains of the flesh. We might have thought that Jesus Christ was in some way different from us, that He did not suffer just as we have to suffer.
"I thirst." Yes, He was really and truly man as well as truly God, and we learn that blessed truth that the love and sympathy of Jesus Christ is with us in all our bodily pains and woes, as well as in our anguish of spirit.
When the procession of soldiers and the ones to be crucified had reached Calvary, our Lord had been offered the stupefying drink of wine and myrrh, which the ladies of Jerusalem provided for those who were to be crucified. The malefactors eagerly drank of it. [57/58] This may account for the broken sentences of scoffing which both of them seem to have uttered at first. Jesus refused the drug. His work was not yet done. He must not becloud His mind. He must be Himself. No natural desire to escape suffering must interfere with the work which He had to do. No alleviating drug must prevent him from knowing the full pain of sin. His love must shrink from nothing. It must seek fallen man to the very worst condition of woe.
There comes incidentally in the refusing of the drug a warning for the age. Anesthetics and palliatives are allowable. God in His mercy led man to know of them when the nervous development of the race needed them. But there is a danger in all blessings, and the danger is to rush to them and become habitual users, and then comes physical and moral slavery that robs man of manhood and woman of womanliness.
And there is a higher lesson; there is a tendency to shrink from disagreeable things—to begin to stupefy the conscience with deceits [58/59] that we may avoid the pain of disagreeable things in social life; and so a beclouded conscience misses the discipline of bearing trouble.
We learn from the Word that we may lose the use of pain in the divine economy if we are cowards in the face of it. The pain of Jesus had its use. It was for man. Whether we can explain it or not, pain has its use, not only in warning and punishing, but as a refining and purifying power. Shall we meet it so that it will develop in us patience and gentleness, and shall we see it come to call out our sympathies and to arouse us to works of mercy? If there were no pain, human nature would be without means of developing some of its finest qualities.
But there is more than this meaning in that terrible thirst which was an accompaniment of crucifixion. The tension of the unnatural position, the nails piercing the parts where the nerves are most closely strung, produced great thirst. This Jesus felt in all its pain.
 There is a spiritual significance in the words "I thirst." The thirst of parched lips and fevered tongue came as a result of a deeper, a more burning thirst. He had the great thirst of an all-consuming love for man. It is a thirst of which we must have a part, of which we shall have a part just as we enter into the sacrificial life and love of Jesus Christ. We see it in the eager St. Andrew, who went to seek his brother. Men are trying to quench their thirsting souls, striving to satisfy them with the pleasures and profits of the world. But there come times when the soul cries out, "I thirst;" some moment of joy or sorrow or some light from Heaven reveals its needs to its self. Men strive to quench it with human philosophy, with culture, but it finds in the end that these are broken cisterns instead of a living fountain.
What are you doing to quench the thirst of Jesus Christ? You can quench it. "Inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, My brethren, ye do it unto Me." What are [60/61] you doing to win souls to Christ? In the home? Do your example of patience and gentleness and your words of love win husband or wife or children to God? Are you careful that your servants of the household are not hindered from enjoying religious privileges, that you may be more comfortable or have more enjoyment? Are you doing anything personally to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Do you dare to come here and look at the Cross and say, "I don't believe in missions," or, if you do believe in missions, you believe in them only locally. Ah! you might be a painted savage now if the Christians of the first century had said that it was no use to carry the Gospel to those savage Britons or piratical Germanic tribes. You do not think, my dear brother, when you say you do not believe in missions. The love of the Cross is not only for you and your set or your nation or your race. It is for the world, and your unbelief hinders the kingdom of God.
You may learn a lesson from the Roman soldier. [61/62] He of all seems to have had human feeling, and what we call human feeling grew out of the Cross. No asylums or hospitals were in the world before. The soldier ran; he used the means which he found at hand—a sponge used to clean the hands, a vessel of sour wine set there for the refreshment of the executioners; he put it upon hyssop, the very herb with which the blood of the paschal lamb was placed upon the lintel and door-posts, and he put the sponge to the sufferer's mouth. It appears they had mocked Him before by offering it and then taking it away. The soldier did the best that he could. Some of you say, "I can do nothing; I have no time, no money, no ability." Learn the lesson to use the opportunity and means at hand. We learn the lesson, too, of personal help. There is a real danger of letting some organization do all our charity, and then we lose the benefit which comes from personal service and the personal touch of heart with the suffering or needy, and so miss the enlargement of sympathy that we [62/63] need. Yes, we can quench the thirst of Jesus. "Whosoever giveth a cup of cold water in My name, giveth it unto Me." Let us be careful lest we give it through some organization which drips it off as from an icicle.
"What can I do?" you say. Carry the living water to those around you. God has so ordained things that this living water is carried in earthen vessels. He has a purpose in it. Let us learn to be kind, tender-hearted, loving one another as Christ also loved us.
O Son of God, who thirsts upon the Cross, may I seek to quench that thirst! Souls cry out all around me. May I run eagerly, as that Roman soldier did, and do the best I can! Give me of Thy thirst. May I thirst to do the will of God; thirst for Thy love; thirst for Thy blessing; thirst for Thy peace!
It is finished.
 THIS Word tells of the enduring power of love. The strife is over, the toil is ended, sorrow is vanquished, love has won the victory. Love has endured all for a great and eternal purpose.
As far as man can see, the Man on the Cross is defeated, and His life is a miserable and hopeless failure. But "love never faileth;" it may appear to fail, it may hang upon the cross and be buffeted and mocked, but it does not fail, for as it pours itself out its fountain sources are enlarged. The more it gives the more it has to give. It does not fail because a loving, trustful spirit has set forces in motion whose results cannot be measured by man's eye or man's hand, and a loving, trustful spirit has produced a character that lives on when [67/68] the outward building, its tabernacle of flesh, has fallen to dust.
In this word God teaches us that no life is a failure which in loving service does its duty. What was finished here on the Cross? "To do Thy will, O God, am I come." The will of God to seek in love the fallen race was done. Prophecy was fulfilled. Types were lost in the completion of the reality. Love has done its perfect work in perfect sacrifice. For this He came into the world, for this He lived, for this He did what the Father gave Him to do.
And here is the message of love to us. God says, "My son, my daughter, do what is given you to do;" do the "next thing;" do your duty in that state of life in which it has pleased God to call you. Do this in loving service, and no matter how mean your work may be in man's eyes, no matter how incomplete it may seem to be, no matter how man may view it, no matter how early you are called away, your life will not have been a failure. And why? Because if that [68/69] loving, dutiful, sacrificial service has entered into your life, you have by it entered through Jesus Christ into the life of God, for God is love, and love is sacrifice.
Work unfinished! Thirty-three years of age, with a small following of women and men. Roman soldiers, Jewish priests, laughing at His utter failure, and His disciples thinking that their hopes were forever blasted. And yet He says, "It is finished," and every Cross raised to Heaven proclaims Him King. We see lives full of promise go out of this world with their work, as we think, scarcely begun. We cry out, "Why did God take this one? Why not take some life that seems useless?" The finishing of life's work in the light of the Cross does not depend upon the mark which it has made in the world. It depends upon whether the life has sought to do the will of God.
It is finished. The day cometh when no man can work. Soon some one will watch your breath as it is leaving the body, and will say, "It is finished, he is gone." What [69/70] will be finished in you? Will it be a hateful, unforgiving disposition? Will it be your own selfish desires? Will it mean that the time given us for repentance has passed? What will be finished in us? Will it be the finish of a brave fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil? Will it mean by surrender of self in willing sacrifice of self through Jesus Christ we have entered into the life of God for God is love and love is sacrifice.
Perhaps, as you hear the Word "It is finished," you feel disheartened. Perhaps you say, "I really do not see that I have done anything; my life seems made up of patches, a series of fits and starts; so many hindrances have come into my life, so much lack of sympathy in those near me, poor health, that is a constant thorn in the flesh."
Beloved, the Word has a message for you. It asks one question—Is love and duty (done in love) the law of life? Not whether you have attained the high mark of your calling, but are you pressing on, doing day [70/71] by day what God gives you to do? If so, then go on with your work bravely, patiently, hopefully, and never mind visible results; they are often deceptive. Ours is the work. God will take care of the harvest.
And there is a warning in the Word "It is finished." The simple life of one who went about doing good, doing what God gave Him to do. Your work is not in neglecting duties, however dull in routine, that you may labor in a larger field and gain praise or prominence or place. Not in the work you like, but in the work you find to be yours because of the relationships which you have; this is the work you are to do, and in the doing you may know that if called away at any moment "It is finished."
O God of power, help me to recognize that success in life lies not in millions amassed, or place gained, or in honor received. May I learn that he who is greatest is he who serves his brethren best. Help me to learn, here before the Cross, as I see Thy sacrificial life expiring, that I may know that work finished [71/72] means self given to God. Yes, this poor life, these poor talents, if given to Thee, if consecrated to Thy service, will win the words, "Well done."
"Just as I am,
Without one plea."
With all pride and self-glory, take me, O Jesus, take me, here at the Cross; take my heart, that I may finish the work which Thou hast given me to do.
Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.
 THE first Word on the Cross, "Father, forgive them, they know not what they do;" the last, "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." Yes, on the Cross the Son reveals the Father to His brethren. "It is finished!" was the loud cry of victorious love. "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit" is the breathing out in loving trust of the humanity of Jesus Christ to God.
The blood of sacrifices symbolized the pouring out of life to God, the consecrating of life to God. The blood of Jesus Christ has been poured out, the life even to death has been poured out, the perfect Man has made the perfect sacrifice, the work is finished, the spirit is breathed out into the Father's keeping. It is the very last. The gloom is passing. It is the time of the evening [75/76] sacrifice, and the startled priests see the great Veil of the Temple, shutting off the Holy of Holies, rent in two from the top to the bottom. An earthquake shakes the hill of Calvary, and adds terror to the scene. The centurion, accustomed as he is to crucifixions, is not used to see a young and strong man die so quickly, and he says truly, "This was the Son of a God." This man had not been like other men, He had not died like other men.
The spectators, frighted at the gruesome scene, smote their breasts and ran toward the city. Jesus died, so surgeons tell us, of a broken heart. No need to break His sacred bones to save the scruples of the priests. His head had fallen upon His breast. He was dead.
Yes, at last the at-one-ment has been wrought out. God has won back man to Himself. Man has been reconciled to God. God's yearning love toward His prodigal, [76/77] wandering children has been satisfied in the complete and perfect sacrificial surrender of the second Adam. God was well pleased. God delights in the offering of Christ, not in the suffering, but in the love which was willing to suffer that man might be redeemed from the power of evil and bondage of sin. He, the Son of Man, the representative of the race as the first of a new order, has made it possible for man to become at-one with the Father through Him. And the spear that opened His heart showed that by the water of Baptism and the Eucharistic blood the life that was poured out was poured out only that it might bring to men newness of life. For this end He came into the world, that His infinite love might draw, with its cords of power, the heart of man.
What is man, that such love should be shown? The answer to the whole question, the solution of the whole mystery, lies in the words, "God so loved the world"—so loved His children—for, brothers, we are the sons of God. Try as man may to stamp it out, it [77/78] will clamor for recognition. It will not down. In our sonship lies the meaning of life. It solves the riddle of being. It makes plain the ways of God, or it makes us trust where we cannot see the way, just as we learn to say, "Father, into Thy hands I commend my spirit."
Such had been the spirit of his life. He could say it now at the end, because He had always said it. "Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit." This is the very essence of sacrifice.
You are here by the Cross. The moments are slipping away. Soon we shall leave this House of Prayer. Beloved, let us consecrate ourselves to God. Let us say here, "Father, into Thy hands I commend myself. Come what may, so long as it brings me nearer to Thee. Father, into Thy hands. Come joy or sorrow, come fruition or blasted hopes, come sickness or health, come satisfaction or disappointment, come life, come death, Father, into Thy hands I commit myself and all I am."
 O sons and daughters of God, these are solemn moments! O Eternal Father, O Crucified Son, O Holy Spirit, move these hearts here to-day to a religion that shall be a religion, a true binding of the whole life to Thee.
Oh, what partial lives ours are! What half belief ours is! What an excuse for devotion our poor service is! And yet, sons of God, the Father seeks you ever; He seeks you now. Shall the sacrifice of the Son be worked out in you by a surrender of yourself, or shall these hours be empty bubbles which have come before your vision and passed away?
And death, in the light of this word, what is it? It is to go home. Home to the Father's House. Home where the Elder Brother is. Yes, death is coming. He who has led the way will reach out His hand. He will say, "Come, my loved one, death is to be with Me, face to face, knowing as thou art known."
In these words the sting of death passes away, and the victory which the grave claims [79/80] is turned into defeat as we listen. The doors of the Church Expectant seem open as we hear:
"O blest Communion, fellowship divine,
We feebly struggle; they in glory shine."
So near does that world become that the nebulous cloud of witnesses resolves itself into the faces of those
"Loved long since, and lost awhile."
In Thy hands, O Father, they are. May Light perpetual shine upon them. May we with them and they with us at last attain to Thy Heavenly Kingdom.
But it is life, and not death, I would have as the last thought—life in Christ, life which in inmost being commends itself to God. As we kneel here before we depart, commend yourself to the Father.
"And then for those our dearest and our best,
By His prevailing presence we appeal.
Oh, fold them closer to Thy mercy's breast,
Oh, do Thine utmost for their souls' true weal.
From tainting mischief keep them white and clear,
And crown Thy gifts with grace to persevere."
 Father, into Thy hands I commend myself, now and forever. In life! In death! Abide with me, and I in Thee.
Amen. Amen. Amen.
That I may know Him and the power of His Resurrection.
PHILIPPIANS iii. 10.
 ONE central thought has run through all that I have had to say to you during the days of Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. It has been that which is the life of God, and that is love. As it is love which unfolds the mystery of the Cross and makes it a tree of beauty, because it manifests in great power and vividness the love of God, so it is love which makes the Resurrection a necessary, outcome of Good Friday. Love is at once the power and the meaning of the Resurrection. Keep this in mind as we consider the subject this morning.
There is a special need in this age for Easter Day, with its glorious message, "I am He that liveth and was dead, and behold [85/86] I am alive for evermore." And the need arises from the fact that men have been busy with the investigation of things and the laws governing things. They have been absorbed in the study of the sciences and the application of them to useful arts. And there has come with it all the tendency to look at things, the senses which cognize things, knowledge about them, and the acquisition of them, the whole business of human life. And this certainly is the natural outcome and conclusion for those who look at man as a mere collection of atoms which, after a brief period of attractions and repulsions in what is called life, will fall apart, and that will be the end.
It is but natural that as men get to look upon the grave as the goal of being they should begin to ask themselves: "Why should we sacrifice our own enjoyments or seek the good of others when these interfere with our own pleasures or profits? Certainly human reason or speculation can give no satisfactory answer. I know that there are [86/87] men who say, "I am not satisfied as to immortality," who are of high character. But they are what they are, whether they acknowledge it or not because they have behind them generations of Christian ancestry, and the environment of Christian law, custom, and habit of thought, so that their very nature is impregnated and moulded with the uplifting influence of Jesus Christ.
But the spirit of the age has produced results in society which we cannot fail to see. There is the lack of regard for the sacred trust of human life, as shown in the alarming frequency of suicide; there is in the mind of the masses the substitution of the idea of concubinage, which can be put aside at will, for the sacred ties of Holy Matrimony, which no man can "put asunder;" there is the prevalence of worldliness and a lack of sense of responsibility among the rich, and, fostered by this, there is the feeling of rebellious envy and class hatred among those who toil with their hands. The outlook oftentimes seems very gloomy to the one who thinks.
 What message, then, has Easter Day to the world as it is? It has the message of the fact of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, and in that the revelation to man of his own worth and the promise of his own immortal destiny.
One thing we may take for granted. No intelligent person to-day thinks of denying the enormous power in the uplifting of man which belief in the Resurrection has been in all the ages since it was first proclaimed. It is not a matter of speculation but of plain historical fact that wherever it has been preached and believed there has been wrought in man an entire change of idea as to the value and meaning of human life. The value of the individual life apart from all considerations of labor or citizenship did not exist before the Resurrection was preached, and is not found to-day where the Cross has not been lifted up. And from this estimate of human life has grown our ideas of the rights of men to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness which mark a Christian civilization [88/89] and all that it means to every man, woman, and child in its protecting and uplifting power.
But the question is not what a power belief in the Resurrection is, but how can it be believed? By what power was it wrought? And here comes the necessity of a right approach of the subject. Men of science recognize that to understand any subject men must approach it rightly. I have said that the Resurrection was the manifestation of the power of the love of God. If a man is to form a correct judgment as to the working and results of any force he must become familiar with the working of that force. Take a man of ordinary intelligence who has not heard of the power of electricity, and so knows nothing of the laws under which it works, nor of the wonderful possibilities in its manifestations. Take such a one into a telegraph office. Tell him that the man over there making that clicking sound with that metal instrument is conversing with another man in a city a thousand miles distant. [89/90] He would smile, as much as to say: "You must take me for a foolish person; you need not think I believe such an impossibility as that."
But bring a man who has read about, or who has observed experiments with, this subtle force, unseen, but believed and known by the evidence of things seen. Bring one who knows something about electricity from the time when the Greeks observed its manifestations in the rubbed amber, on to the powerful electrical generator of to-day. The more such a one knows about the power itself the less will he be likely to deny any possible manifestation of it. Knowing what we do now, he would be a bold man who would say that it was impossible to do such and such a thing by means of electricity. And yet, although I am not an old man, I heard one of the first scientists of the age say in a public lecture in 1871 that electricity would never be used for lighting nor as a motive power for machinery. The more we know of a power and the means by which it [90/91] can work and does work, the less are we inclined to deny possible results to that power in the hands of those who understand it.
This is far more strongly the case when we go from physical forces and the intelligent use of them to the powers possessed by an intelligent and spiritual being. We to-day perform what appear to be stupendous miracles in the sight of untutored and unenlightened races. To deny the Resurrection on the ground of its being impossible is to say that we understand fully the powers which were in Jesus Christ whom the wise of all the centuries have called wonderful. To deny its possibility is really placing a limit to the power of the life and love of God as manifested in Jesus Christ. This was what St. Peter saw fully when he said at Pentecost, ten days after the Ascension, that Jesus Christ rose from the dead because He was the Prince of Life, and therefore it was impossible that death should hold Him. But a disbelief in the Resurrection goes further than limiting the power of God in Jesus Christ. [91/92] It sees the power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ in the world, in history, in the lives of men and women, in countless millions today, and in face of it all denies the only possible source of that power, and, in fact, that there is any power at all behind all the mighty onward and upward movement of man wherever the Resurrection is known.
If we would know the Resurrection we must not begin at the Resurrection. If we approach it point blank without a study of the life and love of which it is the manifestation, if we come to it without a knowledge of Jesus Christ, then it may well seem credulous to believe it. If we would know the Resurrection we must study the power which Jesus Christ had in Himself. We must seek to know Jesus, and as we know Him we shall know His Resurrection.
I believe that if any man will begin at the beginning, and seek to know the power which entered into the life of Jesus Christ, then he will be led to the position of mind [92/93] and heart which St. Peter had when he asserted that Jesus rose from the dead because it was impossible for death to hold Him. We are on very unstable ground when we deny the possibility of certain results to powers of which we know but little and which we have not sought to know. If a man would know the power of the Resurrection he must begin to learn who Jesus Christ is, for He is the Resurrection and the Life. Christianity is not a mere ethical system, is not a set of rules for conduct. It is a force, a power, and that power centres in and is Jesus Christ. To know the Resurrection we must study Him, seek Him, know Him.
A main objection to the Resurrection is that death reigns. Is this what nature teaches us? Go to nature and learn from it that life reigns, life prevails, life is victorious. Why are these flowers here to-day, raising their mute tongues to glorify God? Because from the death of the seed springs the newness of life. But I mean more than this when I say life is victorious. Take the [93/94] barest theory of evolution, that a primordial germ came upon this planet and that all life has sprung from it. Who will say, as he sees the marvelous variety of life, animal and vegetable, and as the microscope reveals numberless species unseen before, who will say that life, as it teems on this planet, is not victorious as it goes on from order to order in constant progress, guided and sustained by the power and wisdom and love of God?
If we go to man, we find him an order of himself. "Like the beasts, yet quite unlike them." With hopes reaching to the heavens, with aspirations which go out and take hold upon God. Man, who has a nature which will seek the higher somehow. Man, into whose nature there enter forces which we call moral and spiritual, powers which clamor for recognition just as persistently as the senses and passions. Man, with these powers showing themselves in marvellous ways, triumphing over the gross and animal continually of given opportunity. Man, [94/95] with powers which make life irrational and existence a curse if death ends all. From man go on to Jesus Christ.
Go first to the Old Testament. We cannot ignore that in a right understanding of Jesus Christ. What do we find? We read in its first pages the promise of One who should have power over sin. Go on; read how, from generation to generation, under strange circumstances, the promise is renewed, and see how that promise is set forth in types and prophecies all telling of One who should come.
At last we behold the Being who said that all these were fulfilled in Him, and that He came to make manifest the love of God; that He came to seek man, to lift him up, to give him power to become a son of God. He had come because He was and is Life and Love, and man needed to know his own immortal destiny.
No one can reverently study the life of Jesus Christ and not see infinite love in Him. We dwelt upon this on Good Friday. Now, [95/96] as you study the power in this man Jesus Christ, as you recognize that it is love, infinite love, the mystery begins to be solved. If we understand the life of Jesus Christ, and the power shown in His life, we come from the Cross with the conviction that this cannot be the end; that if the Cross and grave were all, then of all beings on the face of the earth man would be the most miserable, for he alone "looks up." And more than this —I say it reverently—if the Cross and grave were all, then God is not love, and Jesus Christ did not show us the Father; then He is not the illuminator of life, but an impostor; then all this power of the Resurrection, which we know in history, and see in millions of lives to-day, showing itself in every high thought, every noble action, and every work of mercy, is not a force, not a power after all; does not exist really, which conclusion is not only unscientific and irrational, but impossible.
When a man comes to the tomb of Jesus Christ with the approach which we have tried [96/97] to outline, then he is not surprised that the stone is rolled away. He sees then that he ought to have expected it before; that the Resurrection is not unnatural, but the most natural thing in the world, in keeping with the whole life of Jesus Christ and the logical outcome of a life which manifests the power and the love of God in fullness.
At first the apostles and disciples thought that all was over. The women went to anoint the body—a ceremonial anointing, perhaps, for Nicodemus had already used one hundred pounds of ointment on the linen bands which were wound around the corpse. When they found the deserted tomb, they thought that some one had taken the body away: but when the word came, "He is risen," it all dawned upon them. Why had they not known it? Why were they slow of heart to perceive that the prophets and Jesus Himself had told this? Why had they not known that death could not hold the Prince of Life? Why had they not known that He, who had manifested the love of God and the [97/98] power of God, could not end that manifestation on the Cross, but must bring life and immortality to light, bring it from the mists of poetic guesswork, or philosophic speculation, or ardent aspiration, into a glorious reality, and so to be an incomparable, stupendous power in man for the uplifting of character wherever the Resurrection was preached.
And so He came to His disciples, none of them at first having any thought or expectation of it; came to some of them in their hiding-places; came first to Mary of Magdala as she went weeping from the empty tomb, seeking where they had laid Him; she swiftly carries the word to Peter and John, and they run more swiftly still and get the angelic message and see the discarded linen wrappings. Then as the other women, with Mary and the mother of James, wend their way toward the tomb, the risen Lord meets them and bids them rejoice. Later on, He is seen by Peter. In the evening two who had not heard the news travel to Emmaus, and He makes Himself known to them in the [98/99] breaking of bread. That same night in His changed, incorruptible, glorified spiritual body, of the nature of which we know nothing, He enters into the room where the ten apostles are gathered in secret talk over the strange and wonderful news.
The next Lord's Day the eleven—Thomas the doubter being there—see Him and talk with Him. He sends them to Galilee, and there appears to over five hundred disciples at once, to the greater part of whom St. Paul appeals as witnesses in one of the Epistles, which Epistle is among the four which the most hostile critics acknowledge to be genuine and to have been written less than twenty years after the event.
Again He meets seven apostles as they are fishing on the lake, and then He is seen of James, His cousin, and at the end of forty days ascends in the sight of many witnesses, "to whom He showed Himself alive, after His passion, by many infallible proofs," as St. Luke says. And then He is seen of St. Paul "as one born out of due time."
 He appeared unto chosen witnesses, witnesses who had the right approach of mind and heart. If He had appeared to the rulers they would have said, "It is by the power of the devil," to whom they ascribed His power before, when He was going about doing good.
Now note the effect of His Resurrection on the men who saw Him. From disappointed, hopeless, hiding men, we see them at once become satisfied, hopeful, fearless preachers of the Gospel. Their constant appeal was to the Resurrection, of which they said, "We are witnesses." They openly, in Jerusalem, ten days after the Ascension, preached the Resurrection, and thousands believed their testimony and their appeal to facts well known. His brethren believed on Him. Many priests became obedient to the faith. They endured humiliation, pain, and death in the power of the Resurrection, and for a witness to that fact. Men of the most devout character, who believed that the liar's portion was in hell, went everywhere telling [100/101] that Jesus Christ had been crucified and had risen, and they were witnesses of the fact. They staked their all on that; and St. Paul boldly said, "If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain."
The power that was in their lives was the power of love, of that love which conquered death and opened the gates of everlasting life. Everywhere they went men turned from their sins and sought to lead lives such as sons of God should lead.
With the mighty truth of Christ's Resurrection embodied in a great feast day; with a weekly memorial of the Resurrection bearing witness to that fact; with Holy Book written to witness to the truth—the mighty Church of God, the body of Christ, with the power of the Resurrection as a part of her life, goes on carrying to men's hearts the knowledge of Him and the power of the Resurrection, making the strong man, the noble woman, and little children seeking to do right, wherever the sun shines in its round of the world on this happy Easter [101/102] Day, and "He is risen" still rejoices human hearts.
If we draw near the open tomb with right approach, in a reverent way, there will be the strongest probability that He will rise, for we shall know, as the apostles did, that He, the King of Love and the Prince of Life, could not be holden of death. We shall see the stupendous power of the Resurrection on the characters of men; we shall see and understand the character of the witness, and the multiplicity of witnesses whose testimony is recorded for our sakes, so that no event of history is so sure. We shall learn the necessity of the Resurrection from the nature of God and His infinite love for His children, that they might come from dark gropings into the marvellous Light. We shall hear Jesus Christ say to eager, waiting hearts, "Behold I am He which was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore." We shall enter into sacramental union with Him as sons and daughters of God. We shall know both Him and the power of His Resurrection, [102/103] and rise daily into newness of life, and at last, as Christ the firstfruits, so those who have entered into His life shall rise and ascend to be with Him.