Project Canterbury

A Course of Sermons on Solemn Subjects
chiefly bearing on Repentance and Amendment of Life, Preached in St. Saviour's Church, Leeds,
During the Week after its Consecration on the Feast of S. Simon and S. Jude, 1845.

(Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1845).
[pp 157-172]

(Preached on the Friday Morning, Vigil of All Saints.)

GAL. vi. 14.
God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom the world is crucified unto me and I unto the world.

WHATEVER differences of opinion may exist respecting the use of the Holy Cross, and the advisableness of having it to meet the eye at every turn, all surely will agree in this, that our very perfection and salvation consists in having it ever impressed upon the heart, and upon all that we say and do and think; if not as a sign on the hand or as a frontlet between the eyes, if not literally on the posts of our house and on our gates, yet that in going out and coming in, in sitting in the house and walking by the way, in lying down and rising up, we should ever bear about in the body the sense of Christ crucified.

But is the Cross all of humiliation and pain? No, surely. It speaks indeed of shame and sorrow, but of these as lost and overwhelmed with love unspeakable. The Cross sets before us the truth of our condition, the truth as it is in God; but not the truth only, for that we tiould not endure to contemplate, but the truth united with love. It is that blissful and inseparable union which God Himself has joined, and which man must never, either in his practice or his teaching, rend asunder. It is in this mystery of Godliness that mercy and truth are met together; and righteousness and peace have sealed their covenant with the kiss of charity.

It is not for Truth then that we ask with the heathen judge, but for the truth as it is in Christ Crucified. And this our Blessed Saviour ever set forth in the teaching of His Gospel; for although He ever spoke of bearing the Cross, yet it was of bearing it together with Him. As He had never spoken to man but from between His Mercy-seat of old, so- it was from the midst of works of mercy, nay, rather it was by works of mercy, that He taught and proclaimed His Kingdom. If it were truth alone which were needed, this the devils were earnest to proclaim. For as they believe and tremble, so were they desirous, if one might so speak, to confess and preach Christ; and our Lord in casting them out exercised His Divine authority and power to prevent their doing this. "He suffered not the devils to speak," we read, "because they knew* Him." It was the constant desire and effort of the evil spirits to make Him known. "I know Thee Who Thou art," said one, "the Holy One of God." "Art Thou come hither," cried another, "to torment us before the time?" Now what was this but to confess the Son of God, to acknowledge Him as the Eternal Judge; to make known among men His holiness; to shew that He was their enemy, and therefore the great Saviour of mankind? But yet He suffered them not. He would not have the everlasting truths of His Kingdom made known but from the midst of His healing miracles. When John the Baptist sent to Him for His own evidences of the Christ, His only answer was an appeal to His works of mercy. "Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear." And when He sent forth the twelve Apostles as heralds of His Kingdom, and afterwards the seventy Disciples, the healing of men's bodies was to be the very seal and outward sign of their commission. Through these proofs of loving-kindness was the call to repentance and the Cross. "Into whatsoever city ye enter, heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The Kingdom of God is come nigh unto you." Even as our very prayer for "daily bread" brings with it this world's goods and the pledge of that better Bread, even the Living Bread, Which came down from Heaven to be our Life. And when He Himself would remonstrate with His enemies of truth and of judgment, He first puts forth His compassionate Hand full of tenderness, and heals the wounded ear, that they might listen to His Heavenly Voice, And as Christ by His Cross constraining, so His martyrs by their deaths bear witness, His saints by their sufferings, St. Paul appeals by his bonds, St. Peter is by repentance made meet to "strengthen his brethren;" all speak from the Cross, by the Cross are made full of compassion, and by being made compassionate convert souls. Even unto the end His true Prophets shall be known by their fruits, by fruits of love; and the good Samaritan, by his healing the bodies of men, shall be known to be He that poureth oil and wine into their wounded souls; and the good Shepherd, that gives His life for the sheep, shall be known again on His coming from the grave, by carrying the lambs in His bosom. All the boasted seeking for truth is to be suspected, if it be not combined with a compassionate consideration for others. Satan may speak truth, may transform himself into an Angel of Light; but habitual love He cannot counterfeit.

All the Gospel narratives are but the embodying of the unutterable love and humiliation of Christ Crucified, embracing all, but embracing them in bleeding Arms and Hands transfixed with pain. For such was His watching over all, praying whole nights and fasting, and seeking for all in thirst and wearisome travel; the birth-pangs of anguish indeed, but of love unspeakable. In like manner is all the Old Testament replete with Christ crucified; I speak not of the Cross in type and figure, but of God speaking to us in Christ, as if even from the foundation of the world bearing the Cross for us, and coming down from the throne of His Glory to speak to us from the Cross. For God is Love; and God is only known among men by the Cross of Christ, and therefore the Cross is inseparable from Love, and encompassed with the rainbow of His promise, with His love shining upon our tears; and in the Old Testament He appeals to us among burning thorns, as setting forth His thorny crown; and is typified by men suffering pain; and in His Prophets He ever speaks as the "Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;" because He bears our sicknesses in healing them, and carries our sorrows in relieving them. "In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them." ........" He bare them, and carried them all the days of old."

The guiding rod of Moses was but His Cross; and the pillar of fire and the cloud but set forth His guardian care, that day and night ceased not to watch, as an eagle fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings. The expressions of His love are ever such as denote suffering compassion; for His compassions are truly, as the word imports, a suffering with us; putting on Humanity and every tender relationship, in order that He may suffer in pleading and expostulating with us, "even as a father pitieth his own children; for He remembereth that we are but dust." "Can a mother forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will not I forget thee." It is throughout that Father that waited long and sad, and hastened to meet the returning prodigal. "Is Ephraim My dear son? is he a pleasant child?--for since I spake against him, I do earnestly remember him still. Therefore My bowels are troubled for him." Thus was He amidst heavy judgments as it were stretching forth His Hands to them from His own Cross. And because the Cross so far exceeded all that man could know of compassionate love, more than once is it added, "as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts:"--and the reason is given, because "His mercy is so great towards those that fear Him."

Now the Old Testament is in great measure an unfold-iug of God's natural Providence as subservient and ministering to the Kingdom of Grace. In nature also is God ever speaking to us from the Cross, and inviting to the Cross, but ever covering that His Cross with unspeakable love. What does decay and death and sickness, and "the whole creation groaning and travailing in pain together," teach us but the Cross? But in decays of Autumn and in setting suns, and in pains of all suffering creation, and in sick beds and death, the Cross is blended with loving-kindness, with gleams of beauty, and consolations, and peaceful hopes; and the darkness of night brings forth the unspeakable and hidden glories of the heavens that encircle us, and like love itself, when appearing most dark, embrace and enfold us most distinctly and lovingly. No calm and peace is so exquisite as that which is connected with sickness and affliction; so that the meanest flower after the sick room is, says the poet, as an "opening Paradise." For Gethsemane has become to us now in the place of Eden.

Thus would God teach us the mystery of the Cross, fi'orn the midst of love, and as it were self-humiliation; and, in bidding us bear our Cross, goes before us in bearing His own for our sakes; teaching us thereby to follow Him, and thus to partake of His Anointing, and of that "Virtue which goeth forth from" Him. Thus by Himself, and by all His appointed messengers, filling up that which was behind of His Sufferings, and bearing about His miraculous charities. And surely there is no other method for us to teach the same. If not from the bonds of St. Paul and from the midst of his many infirmities and afflictions, yet not from abundance and ease and honour, but in some way from the Cross; like holy David, and St. Peter, and St. Paul, himself by repentance and self-humiliation rendered compassionate, that so we may drink of that Divine love which bleeds for the souls of others.

And not thus only is it in doing good to others, but the mystery of the Cross hath passed into every duty; and as the fulfilment of every work of grace is called a bearing of the Cross; so does it also partake of the virtue of the tree of Life, of which "the leaves are for the healing of nations." Every duty is a denial of self, and therefore a bearing of the Cross; but be it so; for the same reason it is not painful; for, pain and shame though it be, yet these are made easy by love. The penitent thief found his bitter agonizing bed of death sweet and consolatory, because it had brought him near to Christ Crucified; and painful martyrdoms and lingering sicknesses have become very tolerable for the same cause. And thus the very thorns which are set about our dwellings are good and for our good, because they were borne on the bleeding Brow of Christ. As Christ resigned Himself to drink of the bitter Cup of Suffering for our sakes, so have we to drink of the same; and if it be with resignation and for His sake that His Will may be done, then will it become sweet to us, because it is "the cup of salvation;" the Blood becomes Wine, and the Wine becomes Blood, fresh blood of true life poured into our veins.

And as the Image of Christ Crucified passes into all things that are His--like the Sun in the Heavens, infinitely multiplying itself in all things even the most insignificant on which it looks, so does this great Law pass into all Christian duties, even the smallest of daily occurrence. If painful--yet because they are painful, are they all the more connected with peace and hope. "If any man compel thee to go with him a mile, go with him twain:" here is love enduring hardship; and therefore it becomes marked with the Cross of Christ. Rise early to prayer, and it may be that it is an hour that has pain, but it has sweetness also, for it has the image of the Cross upon it, the pain of the reluctant flesh and sweetness of Divine love; it has the Cross upon it; and therefore as such, it goes forward and is stored in Heaven. Fasting and alms are acceptable offerings, but not unless they have the Cross stamped upon them; for without this they will not endure: nor become as the widow's mite in His treasury, in the balances of His sanctuary. This is the rendering unto God of the things that are His in this evil world; whatever bears the Image and superscription of our King as reigning below upon His Cross, these the Father treasures in the royal treasuries of His Kingdom against the hour of our great need, As we walk on the shore, and look forward on that vast Ocean on which we are so soon to be launched, and are like children gathering pebbles on the beach, with our heads turned downward to the ground, let us look out for those only which bear the mark of the Cross. Even amid the trifling pursuits of this our daily life, we may find something of which to make a sacrifice, and to turn our thoughts to Christ Crucified.

And not our duties only, but the efficacy of our prayers arises from some connection with our Cross, as bearing the reflection of Christ's Cross, and therefore bringing down the dews of God's Grace; shame of confession, deeper earnestness of fasting, Divine love wrought by almsgiving,--these are the burning incense on which our prayers rise upwards; these are the grafts of the Cross, in love taking root downward, and upward in love bearing fruit. Nay, our very petitions themselves are steeped in the Blood of the' Cross; for when we pray that God's Will be done as in Heaven, what else do we ask but that the Cross be established in us according to the Divine pattern in the Mount? and when we pray to be forgiven as we forgive, we ask to be admitted to embrace Christ Crucified, bearing our own cross as the pledge.

One who is a sinner, and knows himself to be a sinner beyond all sinners, has this one thing still left him for the short remainder of his days, to sit at the foot of the Cross, to embrace the Cross, and to refuse to know any thing else in this corrupting world, because, in being willing to suffer pain and shame, he feels that pain and shame bring him near to the infinite love of God in Christ Crucified: he loves the Cross, not because he loves pain and shame of themselves, but because they are so bound up with love: and in speaking of the Cross, he knows not how to distinguish or separate his own Cross from that of Christ; for he feels his own to be Christ's Cross, and the Cross of Christ to be his: only this he knows, that to bear the Cross himself gives him a single eye to gaze on Christ Crucified, and leads him to dwell there with more intense affection, with the hope that when Christ looks into the eye of his soul He may see something of His own Image there pourtrayed: and that when he himself, after the death of sin, shall arise after His likeness, he may be satisfied: his hunger and thirst be at length filled with His Righteousness: his mourning make him meet to be comforted of the great Comforter, and as he comes to know the dark abysses of his own soul, he may be able to fathom the depth and breadth and length of Christ Crucified.

We have occasion enough for sorrow, if we be thus minded, but our sorrows will be different from those of the world; we have enough to bewail and be sorry for, not in the Cross we have to bear, but in the many things around us that bear it not. We have enough to bewail in the worldly goods wre enjoy, lest in them we have our reward: we are rich and live at ease, He was poor and had not where to lay His Head, excepting on that hard bed of death which we His creatures had provided for Him: we have a fair name with mankind, but His Name was cast out as evil, and no name could be found so opportune and suited to the Cross as that of Jesus of Nazareth: we are still on the look-out for a little more ease, but the only ease granted unto Him was in order to sharpen and protract His pains: on this side and that, we turn our restless longings; but every turn on the Cross was fresh infliction of anguish: we can scarce be induced to turn our eyes upward at all, except it be for sensible consolations and assurances of salvation and gleams of peace; but on His, when He looked Heavenward, was the abiding Cloud of His Father's wrath for our transgressions: we have, at least, some domestic joy s around us; but He "trod the wine-press alone," and for this solitude of His anguish was made an alien unto His mother's children, and His acquaintance put far from Him, and He abhorred of them: we have loving friends with whom we share our sorrows-but His was that our bitterness of the heart with which the stranger intermeddles not: we have soft worldly appliances for every annoyance; He stripes oft renewed like our sins, till every part of His Body shewed the corruption of our entire souls; when His "whole Head was sick and the whole Heart faint," and "from the sole of the Foot even unto the Head there was no soundness in Him, but wounds and bruises and sores." But from speaking of our own consolations we wander to His griefs; for there we may see, that these our many worldly satisfactions are true matters for sorrow, because in them the Cross is not; they are a medium that reflects It not.

But yet if these are our sorrows, they are godly sorrows, and they also will bring us near unto Christ; and those He loves, He will by chastening bring more near unto Himself, that they may be hid under His healing Robe, which was saturated with Blood: if we are ready in heart to go out of these things which allure us to take our rest here, and remembering that in them we "have here no continuing City, go forth unto Jesus without the camp bearing His reproach." The Jews looked into His Cup of agonies which they brought Him, but would fain have Him drink it all, even to the dregs of gall which they had infused; but to His own He gave each to see His own image in that Cup made radiant with His own Blood, and invited them to draw near and taste of the same with Him: each according to His measure of love; nearest of all the Blessed Virgin Mother, of whom it is written, as of none else, that the sword was in her soul: and the disciples each according to His nearness, St. Peter, chief of all, to be all the while on the most bitter Cross of repentance, shedding tears, and placed thereon from henceforth to preach from the same unto his death: and the beloved disciple and his honoured brother taken to be with Him and share His Agonies, and admitted to enter into the Cloud. "They sought lofty things," says St. Augustine, "and knew not that through the lowly valley of death was the passage to them;" they spake to Him of the greatness which they longed for, even life with Him; He spake of the way, the Cup of lowliness and of the Passion, and the Baptism in His Blood. And thus at His Death hath He pledged His Church, and given to her also to drink of His Cup; and after Death sent forth the Blood and Water from His Side, that we may even unto the end be baptized with His Baptism, and drink of His Cup.

And where else hath the Church ever found her strength but in this? To us of these latter days she appeals not only by the Cross of Christ, but by the sufferings of Martyrs surrounding that Cross, and the bonds and afflictions of Apostles, and the, voluntary poverty and mortification of the Saints. Thus does she bear witness and pass on the light unto the end. When the fire of her truth seems to wane, the blast of persecution kindles it; by no other pastoral staff has she been able to guide her sheep into the fold, nor to protect them when there from the devouring wolf, but the Cross of her Lord. This she bears before her, and in adversity more firmly grasps. Even in these latter days, if any have been allowed to teach the great truths of God, He has placed them for a while on the Cross, that they may teach from no other seat in His Kingdom, and from no other throne give laws. Some shape of reproach or sorrow hath first imprinted on them His mark: He hath purged their lips with the fire of affliction from His altar, before they have been allowed to preach Christ Crucified. Not only with regard to the Angels of Churches is it true, that "as many as I love I rebuke and chasten," but in every parish the same may be seen; when taken into the fellowship of His sufferings, and made compassionate by drinking of His Cup, it is given to men to speak effectually; and if His appointed herald bears not this his Master's sign, on some other in that place shall His mantle fall, whose silent example shall speak more than words. If indeed we look into any family and the teaching of God is there, we shall find that it is mostly through the means of those that suffer, some one on the bed of sickness or otherwise afflicted, whom God chooses to warn others by their words and their example and their prayers: even the words of a child in sickness are often such as seem to speak to others by the Spirit of God: the mouths of suffering babes are found eloquent in His Kingdom, and have been known to find access to a heart that seemed closed to all beside, and have opened anew the dried-up fountain of tears.

To be by suffering made meet for doing well; and to do well and suffer for it; and to suffer in order that we may do well; this is our calling: and if God finds in us thus any secret resemblance to the Son of Man, He may also lift us up toward Heaven, and draw men unto us by suffering. They who would do good to the world in a worldly way shall be called Benefactors; but it shall not be so among you; he that would be great among you in redeeming souls, must be made like unto Him Who gave His life a ransom for many.

To be allowed to do God's own work in the world, to bring forward the great truths of His Church, to convert souls, this is the highest privilege that can be bestowed on man, and he must needs be humbled who has had bestowed upon him honour so divine, that no flesh may glory in His presence. And therefore the high calling to be an Apostle speaks not of converting souls or of a crown of joy, but is contained in these words, "I will shew him how great things he must suffer for My Name's sake;" and hence that great Preacher himself of Christ Crucified, was himself, even in his very preaching, in "trembling and much weakness and great infirmities:" and another to whom, if to any, were more signally assigned the Keys of Remission, had himself most needed the same: and the Psalmist himself, the inspired teacher of God's holiness, in the depth of his afflictions found this comfort, that his sorrows might work for the conversion of others, when after the deepest expressions of penitential sorrow he exclaims, "then shall I teach Thy ways unto the wicked, and sinners shall be converted unto Thee."

And even for the penitent, and the sinner above all sinners, there is room for hope, if God is pleased to place him in the school of affliction, that even from this he may be allowed to do greater things than he thinks for; and it may be (so incomprehensible and overflowing is the goodness of God!) that He may render him an instrument to win souls to Him.

Nor do we in this too much exalt repentance; the prodigal son went on his way weeping, and on returning from a far country to his father's house had ever on his lips and in his heart and in all his bearing that prayer of humiliation, "I am no more worthy to be called Thy son, make me as one of Thine hired servants;" yet his gracious acceptance was not only beyond his thoughts; but, O the wonderful and mysterious Providence of God! even unconsciously beforehand while in this temper of mind, he was being made like unto the Son of God Himself, Who ever delighted to be among men,--not as the Eternal Son in Whom the Father was well-pleased, but "as he that serveth:" as one Who came not to be ministered unto but to minister. What therefore if it be so in His unspeakable goodness, that from the bitterness of repentance may come forth one meet to serve him in this life, when our sorrows become like the sea even as our sins, and the waterfloods run over us; yet the depths of God's mercies are found therein, calling in answer to the depths of our sins; and we may even from them come forth like Jonah from the great deep, made meet to preach repentance and the unsearchable riches of Christ Crucified.

And not we only, but on whomsoever and howsoever the Cross has come, be it as the evident chastisement of sins, the very consequence of them, or signal punishment for them, yet, if it be borne meekly by virtue of the saving Cross, such, though the poorest or most ignorant, with no other gifts of nature, no speech, nor utterance beyond the simple confession of Christ's mercies through the Cross, becomes, by his very being, a preacher of Christ crucified. Such is the wonderful and mysterious efficacy of the Cross. It has a power and virtue, wherever it descends, infused by Him Who said, "When 1 am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men unto Me." Words of comfort have other power, they speak another language, they speak to the heart, when uttered by one who has felt the blessed, penetrating, because piercing, touch of the Cross. Words have a power not their own, when given through the inward knowledge of the Cross. They who utter them have a mysterious being and privilege they know not of; of themselves they know this only, that Christ has, as they deeply feel, for their sins, given them His Cup to drink. But He Who regards not their unworthiness, but has vouchsafed to them His Cross to heal them, giveth to It, in them, Its own efficacy. As they on whom His gifts of healing were shewn, the lame or paralytic or blind or leprous, became, by their very being, living witnesses of His mighty love, so now, whosoever, having been once blind to himself, to the nature of sin, or the holiness of God, now, through the touch of the Cross, sees; whosoever, once bowed down by a spirit of infirmity to earthly things? has now been lifted up to the Cross, and from it beholds his Lord, is, by that very change, a witness that unto Christ Crucified and Risen and Ascended, "all power is given in Heaven and in earth." It needs not words. The lowlier, the more real and powerful his witness; for lowliness is the depth of the grace of Christ. As, before, through sin, there hung around him a nameless something, bearing a token of inward decay, so, when turned to God through the Cross, there is a hidden power within him, giving force to words, looks, acts, his very self-abasement and deep sense of unworthiness, not his own nor known to him, but the Presence of that Holy Comforter, Who ever rests upon the Cross and hallows it. Blessed then, thrice-blessed are ye, to whom your Lord has fitted your Cross, as He, in His righteous but tender love, saw best for you. Blessed are ye, if ye but learn your blessedness, whatever Cross, by nature or by the order of His government, He has placed upon you. Ye will not seek high things, on whom the lowly Cross has been bestowed. But treasure it up for yourselves in your secret hearts; there is no form of it, which is not healing; bury it deep there: it will heal you first, through His gracious Spirit, and when it has healed you, will through you heal others. Only yield yourselves to His Fatherly Hand Who gave it you, to do to you, in you, through you, His loving and gracious Will. So may the very punishment of sin raise you to the very life of the blessed; the chastisement of self-will conform you, by His Grace, to His ever-blessed Will, which is the joy of Angels, the perfection of saints, the bond of all things, the end of the human Life and Death of the Incarnate Son.

Now unto Him Who hath loved us, and has washed us from our sins in His own Blood.

Almighty God, Who hast given Thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that His inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of His most holy life; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Project Canterbury