We must bear our crosses; self is the greatest of them all. If we die in part every day of our lives, we shall have but little to do on the last. O how utterly will these little daily deaths destroy the power of the final dying!
The cross is the center of the worlds history; the incarnation of Christ and the crucifixion of our Lord are the pivot round which all the events of the ages revolve. The testimony of Christ was the spirit of prophecy, and the growing power of Jesus is the spirit of history.
And how high is Christs cross? As high as the highest heaven, and the throne of God, and the bosom of the Fatherthat bosom out of which forever proceed all created things. Ay, as high as the highest heaven! forif you will receive itwhen Christ hung upon the cross, heaven came down on earth, and earth ascended into heaven.
Nothing like one honest look, one honest thought of Christ upon His cross. That tells us how much He has been through, how much He endured, how much He conquered, how much God loved us, who spared not His only begotten Son, but freely gave Him for us. Dare we doubt such a God? Dare we murmur against such a God?
A cross borne in simplicity, without the interference of self-love to augment it, is only half a cross. Suffering in this simplicity of love, we are not only happy in spite of the cross, but because of it; for love is pleased in suffering for the Well Beloved, and the cross which forms us into His image is a consoling bond of love.
To deny ones self, to take up the cross, denotes something immeasurably grander than self-imposed penance or rigid conformity to a divine statute. It is the surrender of self to an ennobling work, an absolute subordination of personal advantages and of personal pleasures for the sake of truth and the welfare of others, and a willing acceptance of every disability which their interests may entail.
There under the cross is the sinners sanctuarythere, my friend, is the place for you and me. The first smiling look we shall get from God will be when looking unto Jesus; and the first time that we shall experience the alacrity of a lightened conscience, the relief and elasticity of the great life-burden lifted off, will be when we have laid our sins on the Lamb of God.
Christianity without the cross is nothing. The cross was the fitting close of a life of rejection, scorn and defeat. But in no true sense have these things ceased or changed. Jesus is still He whom man despiseth, and the rejected of men. The world has never admired Jesus, for moral courage is yet needed in every one of its high places by him who would confess Christ. The offense of the cross, therefore, has led men in all ages to endeavor to be rid of it, and to deny that it is the power of God in the world.
God makes crosses of great variety; He makes some of iron and lead, that look as if they must crush; some of straw, that seem so light, and yet are no less difficult to carry; some He makes of precious stones and gold, that dazzle the eye and excite the envy of spectators, but in reality are as well able to crucify as those which are so much dreaded.
Thou, Everlasting Strength, hast set Thyself forth to bear our burdens. May we bear Thy cross, and bearing that, find there is nothing else to bear; and touching that cross, find that instead of taking away our strength, it adds thereto. Give us faith for darkness, for trouble, for sorrow, for bereavement, for disappointment; give us a faith that will abide though the earth itself should pass away a faith for living, a faith for dying.
Nothing but the cross of Christ can so startle the spiritual nature from its torpor, as to make it an effectual counterpoise to the debasing and sensual tendencies of the race. Favored by temperament and education, individuals may measurably escape; but if the race is to triumph in the conflict between the flesh and the spirit, between the lower propensities and the higher nature, they must, as Constantine is said to have done, see the cross, and on it the motto, In hoc signo vinces. By this sign we conquer.
At the foot of the cross, in all humility and in all adoration, we have learned at once the depth and the height of human nature; we have learned to think all wisdom but foolishness for the knowledge of Christ: all purity but sin, unwashed by His atonement; all hope in earth, of all hopes the most miserable, but in the faith of His most blessed resurrection; content to bear the struggles of life, at His command; and submitting to the grave, with a consciousness that it can sting no more.