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The Loveliness of Christ!

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The Loveliness of Christ!

From Timeless Grace Gems

William Bacon Stevens

"Yes, He is altogether lovely! This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend!" Song of Songs 5:16

Excellence, either mental, moral or physical — will always command attention. We are so constituted as to admire, almost instinctively, whatever is virtuous, or lovely, or of good report; and the nearer man approaches to God, the greater will be the admiration which such a character will elicit. In vain, however, do we search among men for even one example of perfect excellence in all the attributes of humanity. We can find those who have been distinguished for some one or more excellencies; who have manifested a large philanthropy, or profound humility, or unswerving honor, or heroic devotion, or exulted patriotism, or expansive benevolence; but one cannot be found who embodied in himself all these perfections in full and symmetrical proportion.

Yet our text tells us of one who is "altogether lovely;" in whom every virtue dwelt, every excellence met, every glory was manifested; and we can certainly be at no loss to designate the being who merits this title, as our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. But this is mere assertion — let us now to the proof. This proof, however, naturally arranges itself under two heads, corresponding to the two natures of Jesus Christ, human and divine; and our attention, therefore, must first be given to the human excellencies of Jesus.

But before we can rightly estimate his human character, we must take into consideration the many disadvantages which, in a worldly point of view, tended to cramp his powers, and dwarf his virtues. He had, for example, no advantages of birth; for his reputed parents were so poor, that he was born in a stable. He had no advantages of education in the Jewish schools, for the Rabbis themselves, astonished at his words, exclaim, "How did this man get such learning without having studied?" He had no advantages of society, for he dwelt in the crude district of Galilee, and in the lowly town of Nazareth; and his character in its forming stage, was acted upon only by the harsh influences of base and uneducated men. He had no advantages of profession; he was not a Scribe, or a Priest, or a Levite, or a Pharisee, or a Sadducee, to claim affinity with any of these powerful classes, and by them to be lifted up into notice and influence. He had no advantages of companionship; the first thirty years of his life were spent among the mechanics and peasants of Nazareth; and when he entered upon his mission, he chose as his friends, not the titled and the learned and the powerful — but the brawny sunburnt fisherman, and the outcast publicans. If, then, from any human character you subtract the advantages conferred by birth, rank, education, companionship, wealth, and influence — how little will remain as a basis upon which to erect a broad and elevated superstructure of greatness! But from the character of Jesus these must all be removed; and not only so — but they must be regarded as antagonizing elements, tending to break him down and destroy his influence.

In considering the positive elements of Christ's character, we shall look at him first in PRIVATE life. How simple and frugal in his habits! his ordinary diet seems to have been bread and fish; his journeyings were all on foot, except his last entry into Jerusalem; his lodging uncertain, the casual accommodation provided by friends, themselves poor and needy. He was modest, and seemed to shrink from the intrusive gaze of the populace. Not a jest or slander ever escaped his lips; purity, propriety, and holiness — reigned over every hour of his retirement, and the finger of malice could not point to a single stain or error in his entire private life.

Look at him in PUBLIC life — his characteristic work was "going about doing good." His benevolence knew no bounds, it gushed out in every act, and virtue went out from the very "hem of his garment." At his touch, thousands of sufferers languishing in disease took up their beds and walked; at his word the blind saw, the deaf heard, the dumb spoke, the maimed were made whole, and the dead came back to life and health. The whole ministry of Jesus was a ministry of philanthropy — full of sympathy, full of compassion, full of love. Where can we find him, that he is not doing good or planning good to his fellow men?

Look at him among his friends! He never lowered himself to anything base or ignoble; he never trifled, boasted, or deceived; he had no pride or vanity, no weakness or foible. Though poor — he never coveted riches; though humbly born — he never sought to mingle with the great; he practiced no arts to win and retain his friends; and held out no lures — but spiritual ones, to the multitudes who resorted to him for instruction and discipleship.

Look at him among his enemies! He is calm, self-possessed, void of malice, and majestic in the simplicity of his own goodness and truth. We see no cringing to power, no dalliance with popular feeling, no timidity, no yielding up of truth; but he stood among them in that attitude of conscious virtue, and poised benignity — superlatively grand. No passion tinged his cheek with the red spot of anger; no malice roughened into ridges his serene brow. Composed amidst the wildest tumult, submissive to grossest insults, meek under the most demoniacal mockings — "he was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is silent before his shearers, so he opened not his mouth." Silent, indeed, to man! but not speechless to God, for when nailed to his cross, when torn with the death throes of crucifixion his lips move — he speaks, and as we listen we hear — no murmur — no reviling — no reproach — but the words of prayer — prayer not for himself — not for his disciples — not for his mother — but for his enemies; and the supplication is, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

Look at him as a teacher! His doctrines are the most holy, interesting, and sublime, that ever fell from the lips of man. They were designed to revolutionize the world — and they will revolutionize the world. Yet with what plainness and simplicity did he deliver them! By the wayside, on the seashore, in the house, around the festive table, in the courts of the temple, and on the grassy mount. A beautiful parable, a touching allegory, a delicate comparison, an axiomatic sentence, an exposition in the synagogue, a night talk with Nicodemus, or a parting conversation with his disciples — were the vehicles of his mighty truths. We observe no magisterial airs, nothing dogmatic or pragmatic — but all comes out in the natural incidents of daily interaction, and with a simplicity worthy of a heavenly mind.

Look at him in his MENTAL characteristics. He possessed every element of mental greatness and loveliness. His teaching evidenced his divine wisdom. His interactions with various men and sects displayed his judgment. His controversies with the Scribes and Pharisees, and Sadducees, and Herodians, evinced the strength and acumen of his reason. His exhaustless fund of illustration, his ready subsidizing to his use of all nature, manifested his knowledge. And his gigantic scheme of reconciling God and man, embracing as it did two worlds, running backwards to creation's dawn, and forward through all eternity — show the breadth and stature of his peerless intellect.

"The ingredients of genuine human greatness undoubtedly are true wisdom, strength of soul, an invincible will, and an expansive benevolence." Combine these, and you make one altogether lovely. Such was Jesus Christ. He possessed . . .

wisdom unalloyed by a single folly;

strength of mind unimpaired by a single weakness;

calmness and serenity of soul that never, in his darkest hour, forsook him;

and a singleness of aim and firmness of purpose, that knew no shadow of turning.

"A soul full of wisdom, calmly reposing on its own greatness, working out a great scheme of future good, and patiently biding the day of its triumph amidst everything to thwart and discourage, is one of the sublimest manifestations of the human mind."

But you may say that this is a character of Christ drawn by one of his professed followers; well, then, let me give it to you as drawn by a profligate infidel, who, writing of Jesus Christ, uses these remarkable words: "What sweetness! what purity in his manners! what affecting grace in his instructions! what elevation in his maxims! what profound wisdom in his discourses! what presence of mind, what delicacy, what justness in his replies! what government of his passions! where is the man, where is the philosopher who knows how to act, to suffer, and to die without weakness, and without ostentation? The death of Socrates severely philosophizing with his friends, is the most gentle that one can desire. That of Jesus expiring in torments, injured, derided, reviled by a whole people, is the most horrible that one can fear. Yet, if the life and death of Socrates are those of a philosopher — then the life and death of Jesus Christ are those of a God." Thus wrote Rousseau, and such is the testimony of one of Jesus' most daring blasphemers and licentious enemies.

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The Loveliness of Christ!

From Timeless Grace Gems

William Bacon Stevens

But would we know the full loveliness of Jesus Christ, we must briefly glance at his DIVINE as well as human excellencies. At a time when the human race had completely alienated itself from God, when the wide impassable gulf of sin lay between the creature and the Creator, when the covenant with God had been broken, and the justice of God required the destruction of the sinner — then it was, that Jesus Christ voluntarily, and by the impellings of his infinite love, "Made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant," that he might in our nature mediate between man and God, and work out in this nature, a full and complete salvation.

In order to secure this end, however, there were certain things to be done which could only be accomplished by enduring great sacrifices and sufferings of a mental, moral, and physical nature — such as no mere human being could bear, such as no divine being deserved. Yet such as must be borne, before God could be reconciled to man, and man be pardoned by God. Knowing by his divine foreknowledge all things that would befall him, Jesus Christ most cheerfully assumed our humanity, became "a man of sorrows," endured "the contradiction of sinners," suffered the reproaches of Jews and Gentiles, was persecuted with cruelty, and, after a few years, suffered death for sinful man and by sinful men upon the cross. In consequence of his faithful obedience of the law, of his infinite merits, of his vicarious death, of his mighty resurrection and glorious ascension, of his present exaltation and intercession — he has made himself "the Mediator of the New Covenant," and by his mediatorial work has made it possible for God to be just to himself, to his holy law, to the holy angels — and yet the justifier of all those who believe in Jesus, and accept him in his work and offices, as the Savior of their souls.

All this was love's work. "He loved us," says the Apostle, "and gave himself for us."

Love prompted the rescue of the race;

love robed him in the garments of flesh and blood;

love bowed down his head as a man of sorrow;

love made him obedient to the law;

love humbled him to the death of the cross.

His whole mediatorial work, from its conception in the counsels of the Godhead, to its accomplishment on the world's first Easter morning — was but the manifestation of infinite love. Are we not right in speaking of him who did it, as "altogether lovely!" His heart was love's original fountain — and it welled up perpetually with words of love, and dripped over continually with deeds of love, and sent out its ever broadening rills of love to every quarter of the globe, making the else desert wastes of humanity, green and fertile in the graces of his overflowing affection.

As full of love in himself — he must be "altogether lovely." As full of love towards others, illustrating its depth and affluence by its unceasing outgoings, to every living being — he must be "altogether lovely." As planning out for us schemes of release from sin and Satan and death, from misery here and woe hereafter, from the frown of God, and the companionship of devils — he must be "altogether lovely." As bringing us into favor, reconciliation, and relationship with God, as introducing us into the society of saints and angels, as enabling us to overcome death and the grave, as opening to us mansions of bliss in Heaven, as elevating us to be "kings and priests unto God" in his holy temple not made with hands, where we shall sin no more, and sorrow no more, and weep no more, and die no more — but where we shall be forever with the Lord, as one who can and will do all this for us — he must be "altogether lovely!"

Yet there is still one aspect more in which Jesus Christ is altogether lovely. As nothing is truly lovely except as it approximates to divinity; and as everything is lovely in proportion as it is an emanation or reflection of the divine being — so that which is most full of God must be most full of loveliness, "for God is love." In Jesus Christ therefore, this love is perfect; for "in him," says Paul, "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." He is the image or human representative to us of the invisible God, for "God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself," and we can behold God only as we see him "in the face of Jesus Christ."

God in his own essence, being, and existence, is absolutely incomprehensible; therefore we can have no direct intuitive notions or apprehensions of the divine nature, or any of its properties. "Such knowledge is too wonderful for us."

God is a spirit — and we are flesh and blood;

God is eternal — and we are mortal;

God is infinite — and we are finite;

God is omnipotent — and we are impotent;

how then, where there is such infinite disparity — can we know God?

Some of the attributes of Jehovah we may indeed learn from nature: "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows his handiwork." The ten thousand varieties of idols which natural religion has carved out for itself, prove, however, that unaided reason could never "by searching find out God." And even when revelation was given, how was it possible by a mere external doctrinal description of the divine nature, without any exemplification or real representation of it — to get a sufficient idea and a right understanding of God? Scripture, it is true, did indeed contain over and over again this doctrinal description of his nature and attributes; but what the world needed and what it sighed after, was an embodying of these in definite form, such as we could look upon, and study, and love, and feel ourselves attracted to, and worship. All this was done in the person of Jesus Christ. He is the image of the invisible God, "the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person." Hence he is the complete and perfect representation of the Divine being and excellencies. It is God in Christ that we love and adore. It is God in Christ, "reconciling the world unto himself," who is thus "altogether lovely."

This limitless subject opens before us many avenues of thought, any one of which, if followed out, will lead us into boundless fields of high and holy and rapturous meditation.

The character of Christ, either in its human or divine phases, is not enough studied; it is looked at with too much of a passing glance, so that we get only hasty and superficial views, which consequently have but a faint and passing influence upon our heart and lives. We must study it, sit down before it, as a painter would sit down before the masterpieces of a Raphael — gazing upon it, pondering over it, tracing out its developing lines and beauties — until the soul becomes fired by its excellencies, and is changed into His image.

Angels and the saints in Heaven who see Christ in his heavenly glory, and who know something of his divine excellencies — must wonder at the lack of enthusiasm in professing Christians concerning the loveliness of Christ. They are amazed that we . . .

look upon Him with so cold an eye;

speak of Him with so tame a tongue;

love Him with such a lukewarm heart; and

labor for Him with such a drudging heavy spirit.

It is our privilege to love this altogether lovely one, and we lose a rich and precious employment when we fail to do it. There is no higher pleasure for a redeemed soul — than contemplating the glories of Jesus. While we muse, the fire burns. There is no surer evidence of a gracious state — than a thirsting after deeper knowledge of Jesus, and a more thorough conformity to his likeness. The great and crowning bliss of Heaven consists . . .

not in its seraphic melodies;

not in its gorgeous displays of almighty power;

not in its exemption from sorrow and and sighing;

not in its ceaseless round of high intellectual joys — but . . .

in seeing the unveiled Christ with undimmed eyes;

in studying the loveliness of the ever present Redeemer with unfettered mind;

in daily discovering and admiring new points of His beauty;

and in having our souls, through all eternity, made the receptacles of the light, the joy, the peace, the holiness, the love, and the wisdom of Him, who is "the chief among ten thousand, and the one altogether lovely One!"

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    • By nChrist
      From Grace Gems:
      Very Old - But Beautiful and Timeless Treasures.
      Everything is FREE and Public Domain.
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      Precious Promises for Aged Saints

      (N.B. The following is a selection of eight choice gems--so it is longer than usual. Please forward this on to every aged saint you know!)

      "Your shoes shall be iron and brass; and as your days--so shall your strength be!" Deuteronomy 33:25

      "Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone!" Psalm 71:9

      "Since my youth, O God, You have taught me, and to this day I declare Your marvelous deeds. Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God." Psalm 71:17-18

      "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green!" Psalm 92:12-14

      "Hearken unto Me! I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you!" Isaiah 46:3-4

      "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day! For our light and momentary afflictions are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all!" 2 Corinthians 4:16-17


      (James Smith, 1802--1862)

      "Hearken unto Me! I have cared for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you!" Isaiah 46:3-4

      This passage of Scripture is the aged believer's cordial. Let us look at the beautiful images employed.

      God is our heavenly parent--a kind and tender-hearted parent. He is peculiarly attached to His people--they are dear to Him, precious in His sight. They are His portion. He prizes them above all creation. He is strong to sustain, to defend, and support them. His strong arm, tender heart, and watchful eye--are all employed for them--and especially so in old age.

      The aged believer is as a child. He is weak. He feels exposed and defenseless. He is timid and fearful. But the Lord, as a tender parent, engages to take him up in the arms of His power--and carry him in the bosom of His love! Like a tender lamb in the shepherd's bosom, on a cold and frosty night, borne across a bleak and snow-covered wasteland--so the believer, in the winter of old age, shall be carried in the bosom of his God, across the bleak and cheerless desert of time.

      God will carry him tenderly--hushing the weak one's fears. He will bear him carefully--so that nothing shall harm or hurt him. He will soothe him with gentle words, and encourage him with kind acts--until He safely introduces him at Home!

      Dear aged Christian, you have nothing to fear! Your God says, "I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age! I am your Father--your Friend--your solace--and your confidence! Look unto Me--even to old age, I will carry you. I will bear you up under all that you feel and fear. I will carry you through all that discourages or distresses you. I will deliver you from foes, fears, dangers, and death itself! Nothing shall by any means hurt you! My arm is strong enough--trust in it. My bosom is your resting-place--lean on it, lean hard! Do not be afraid . . .
      eternal love dwells there,
      divine pity rules there,
      your name is engraved there!
      Trust Me, I will never leave you nor forsake you!

      "Hearken unto Me!" Believer, your God bids you to "hearken." His words are true and faithful. He speaks to banish your fears. He speaks to strengthen your faith. He speaks to comfort your poor drooping heart. He speaks to clothe your care-worn brow, with the light of hope, with the cheerfulness which confidence imparts.

      Hearken to Him--not to unbelief!
      Hearken to Him--not to carnal reason!
      Hearken to Him--not to Satan!
      Hearken to Him--not to erroneous men!

      Hearken, it is your Savior who speaks;
      it is the Guide of your youth who addresses you;
      it is your tender Parent who seeks to cheer your heart.

      "As a mother comforts her child--so will I comfort you." Isaiah 66:13
      He is near you--near you every moment;
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      (James Smith, 1802--1862)

      "Now that I am old and gray--do not abandon me, O God!" Psalm 71:18

      Old age and its infirmities will creep in on us; and with old age come weakness, pains, and fears. But an aged Christian should be a happy person; for he has proved the Lord to be faithful so many years, he has had answers to prayer so many times, and the God of his youth stands pledged never to leave nor forsake him. Will the Lord forsake an old servant? Never! Will the Father of mercies forsake one of His children when compassed with the infirmities of old age! Impossible! No, no! The Lord, who has borne with us so long--will bear with us to the end. The Lord, who has glorified Himself in our life--will get glory to Himself in our death.

      As the God of all comfort, He will comfort us on the bed of languishing, and will make all our bed in our sickness; and when heart and flesh are failing--He will be the strength of our heart, and our portion forever!

      Aged believer--doubt not, fear not! God has given you His Word--trust it. He has confirmed His Word by the death of His Son--therefore exercise confidence in Him. He has been a Friend and a Father to you for many years; and He will be your Friend and Father to the very last!

      Be much with Him in prayer. With all the simplicity of a little child--let your requests be made known unto Him. He has grace for old age--as He had for youth; and He has grace for a dying bed--as He had grace for all the conflicts of life. Believe His word, rest in His love, expect His blessing to the end--and you shall be more than a conqueror through Him who loved you. God never loved you more than He does now in your weakness, pains, and old age; and--sweet thought!--He will never love you less! His love is infinite, everlasting. Having loved you--He loves you to the end!

      Father in Heaven, I thank You for the mercies of my life. Help me to trust You through to the end of my life--in spite of my weakness and human frailty.

      "I will be your God throughout your lifetime--until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you!" Isaiah 46:4
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      The Surety's Cross

      From Timeless Grace Gems
      By Horatius Bonar, 1867

              "The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Galatians 6:14

              The death of the cross has always been, above every other, reckoned the death of shame. The fire, the sword, the axe, the stone, the hemlock, have in their turns been used by law, as its executioners; but these have, in so many cases, been associated with honor, that death by means of them has not been reckoned either cursed or shameful. Not so the cross. Its victim, nailed in agony to the rough wood, suspended naked and torn to the gaze of multitudes, has always been reckoned a specimen of disgraced and degraded humanity; rather to be mocked than pitied. With Jew and Gentile alike—evil and not good, the curse and not the blessing—have been connected with the cross. In men's thoughts and symbols it has been treated as synonymous with ignominy, and weakness, and crime. God had allowed this idea to root itself universally, in order that there might be provided a place of shame, lower than all others, for the great Substitute who, in the fullness of time was to take the sinner's place, and be himself the great outcast from man and God, despised and rejected, deemed unworthy even to die within the gates of the holy city.

              When the fullness of time had come, it begin to be rumored that the cross was not what men thought it, the place of the curse and shame—but of strength and honor and life and blessing. Then it was, that there burst upon the astonished world the bold announcement, "As for me, God forbid that I should boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Greek and Roman, Jew and Gentile, prince, priest, philosopher, Rabbi, Stoic, Epicurean, Pharisee, barbarian, Scythian, bond and free, North, South, East and West—looked to one another with contemptuous impatience, indignant at the audacity of a few humble Christians, thus affronting and defying the "public opinion" of nations and ages; assailing the religions of earth with the cross as their only sword; striking down the idols with this as their only hammer; and with this, as their one lever, proposing to turn the world upside down.

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              This power remains—in its mystery, its silence, its influence—it remains. The cross has not become obsolete; the preaching of the cross has not ceased to be powerful and effectual! There are men among us who would persuade us that, in this modern age, the cross is out of date and out of fashion, time-worn, not time-honored; that Golgotha witnessed only a common martyr scene; that the great sepulcher is but a Hebrew tomb; that the Christ of the future and the Christ of the past are widely different. But this shakes us not. It only leads us to clasp the cross more fervently, and to study it more profoundly, as embodying in itself that gospel which is at once the wisdom and the power of God.

              The secret of its power lies in the amount of divine truth which it embodies. It is the summary of all the Bible; the epitome of Revelation. It is pre-eminently the voice of God; and, as such, conveying his power as well as uttering his wisdom. "The voice of the Lord is powerful; the voice of the Lord is full of majesty."

              Yet is the cross not without its mysteries, or, as men would say, its puzzles, its contradictions. It illuminates, yet it darkens; it interprets, yet it confounds. It raises questions—but refuses to answer all that it has raised. It solves difficulties—but it creates them too. It locks as well as unlocks. It opens, and no man shuts; it shuts, and no man opens. It is life, yet it is death. It is honor, yet it is shame. It is wisdom—but also foolishness. It is both gain and loss; both pardon and condemnation; both strength and weakness; both joy and sorrow; both love and hatred; both medicine and poison; both hope and despair. It is grace, yet it is righteousness; it is law, yet it is deliverance from law; it is Christ's humiliation, yet it is Christ's exaltation; it is Satan's victory, yet it is Satan's defeat; it is the gate of heaven and the gate of hell.

              Let us look at the cross as the divine proclamation and interpretation of the things of God; the key to his character, his word, his ways, his purposes; the clue to the intricacies of the world's and the Church's history.

              I. The cross is the interpreter of MAN. By means of it God has brought out to view—what is in man. In the cross man has spoken out. He has exhibited himself, and made unconscious confession of his feelings, especially in reference to God—to his Being, his authority, his character, his law, his love. Though "the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23) were at work in the dreadful transaction—yet it was man who erected the cross, and nailed the Son of God to it. Permitted by God to give vent to the feelings of his heart, and placed in circumstances the least likely to call forth anything but love, he thus expressed them—in hatred of God and of his incarnate Son. Reckoning the death of the cross the worst of all deaths—man deems it the fittest for the Son of God. Thus, the enmity of the natural heart speaks out, and man not only confesses publicly that he is a hater of God—but he takes pains to show the intensity of his hatred. No, he glories in his shame, crying aloud, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" "This is the heir, come let us kill him!" "Not this man—but Barabbas!" The cross thus interpreted man; drew the mask of pretended religion from his face; and exhibited a soul overflowing with the malignity of hell.

              You say, "I don't hate God. I may be indifferent to him; he may not be in all my thoughts; but I don't hate him." Then, what does that cross mean?—Love, hatred, indifference—which? Does love demand the death of the loved One? Does indifference crucify its objects? Look at your hands! Are they not red with blood? Whose blood is that? The blood of God's own Son! No—neither love nor indifference shed that blood. It was hatred that did it! Enmity—the enmity of the carnal mind. You say that I have no right to judge you. I am not judging you. It is yon cross which judges you, and I am asking you to judge yourselves by it. It is yon cross that interprets your purposes, and reveals the thoughts and intents of your heart. Oh, what a revelation! Man hating God—and hating most, when God is loving most! Man acting as a devil! And taking the devil's side against God!

              You say, "What have I to do with that cross, and what right have you to identify me with the crucifiers?" I say, "You are the man." Do not say, "Pilate did it, Caiaphas did it, the Jews did it, the Romans did it; I did not crucify Jesus." No—but you did, you did! You did it in your representatives—the civilized Roman and the religious Jew; and until you come out from the crucifying crowd, disown your representatives, and protest against the deed—you are truly guilty of that blood. But how am I to sever myself from these crucifiers, and protest against their crime? By believing in the name of the crucified One! For all unbelief is approval of the deed and identification with the murderers. Faith is man's protest against the deed; and the identification of himself, not only with the friends and disciples of the crucified One—but with the crucified One himself.

              The cross, then, was the public declaration of man's hatred of God, man's rejection of his Son, and man's avowal of his belief that he needs no Savior. If anyone, then, denies the ungodliness of humanity, and pleads for the native goodness of the race, I ask, what means yon cross? Of what is it the revealer and interpreter? Of hatred or of love? Of good or of evil? Besides, in this rejection of the Son of God, we have also man's estimate of him. He had been for thirty years despised and rejected; he had been valued and sold for thirty pieces of silver; a robber had been preferred to him; but at the cross, this estimate comes out more awfully; and there we see how man undervalued his person, his life, his blood, his word, his whole errand from the Father. "What do you think of Christ?" was God's question. Man's answer was, "Crucify Him!" Was not that as explicit as it was appalling?

              As the cross reveals man's depravity, so does it exhibit his foolishness. His condemnation of him, in whom God delighted, shows this. His erection of the cross shows it still more. As if he could set at nothing Jehovah, and clear the earth of him who had come down as the Doer of his will! His attempt to cast shame upon the Lord of glory is like a child's effort to blot out the sun. And as his erection of the cross was the revelation of his folly, so has been his subsequent estimate of it, and of the gospel which has issued from it. He sees in it no wisdom—but only foolishness; and this ascription of foolishness to the cross is but the more decided proof of his own foolishness. He stumbles at this stumbling-stone. The cross is an offence to him, and the preaching of it folly.
    • By nChrist

      The Surety's Thirst

      From Timeless Grace Gems
      By Horatius Bonar, 1867

              "I thirst." John 19:28

              Three things need our notice here—the thirst, the cry, the answer. They are not trifles, nor accidents, either in themselves or in connection with the great event of which they form a part. They have much to tell us of the Sufferer, and the nature of his sufferings; and they help us to get at the meaning of the mysterious transaction of that hour—an hour of the deepest darkness which ever rested over earth, yet an hour which proved the forerunner of the brightest and most blessed day-spring that ever shone from heaven!

              I. The thirst. It was a true thirst, and as deep and sore as it was true. It was a thirst corresponding with the character of him who felt it. He was human, and He was divine. It was, of course, humanity which thirsted; but it was humanity in union with divinity, and therefore made more susceptible of suffering, more capable of enduring what alone it would not have been capable of undergoing. Christ's humanity was perfect; but that only made it more sensitive, more acutely alive to suffering, so that his hunger, his thirst, his weariness, instead of being mitigated or made unreal—became more real and intense, more unmodified and harder to bear, than they are or can be in our imperfect humanity. The perfection of humanity implies the perfection of suffering, whenever that perfect humanity comes into contact with suffering at all. Pre-eminence in sorrow, and pre-eminence in joy, must be the portion and prerogative of such exalted perfection. It is only perfection such as this, which can sound the depths of creature-sadness, or reach the heights of human joy. Had there been one taint of imperfection, about either the body or the soul of Jesus, he could not have tasted the whole bitterness of our anguish; he could not have drained our cup; he could not have paid our penalty; he could not have felt that extremity of thirst, regarding which he uttered the bitter outcry in the hour of his conflict with death, and with the powers of darkness, upon the cross.

              Christ was filled with the Spirit, "without measure," in a way and to an extent such as no other man ever was or could be; yet this did not exempt him from pain, or make his thirst unreal, or alleviate one pang which fell to his lot as the Sin-bearer. With that Spirit He was filled; by that Spirit he was sustained and strengthened; by that "eternal Spirit" he "offered himself without spot to God;" but in no way and at no time did this Spirit come between him and suffering, either to blunt the edge of the weapon or ward off the stroke. The indwelling of the Spirit in him added to his perfection, and every addition to his perfection was an increase of his susceptibility to suffering; so that he felt pain more than we can do; he felt weariness, hunger, thirst, more than we can do. The Spirit who dwelt within him could not, indeed, feel the pain or the thirst; but the human nature thus inhabited by the Spirit was made capable of containing or receiving more pain, and thirst, and sorrow than it could have done otherwise, even as perfect humanity.

              Christ was God-man; very God as truly as very man. But this did neither prevent nor nullify his sufferings. No abatement could be made from his sorrows, either in respect of number or intensity, because of his Godhead. That Godhead seemed only to present him as a broader mark for the arrows of his enemies; to make him a more capacious vessel for containing the fullness of the divine wrath due to him as the sinner's substitute. The Godhead could not, indeed, suffer, nor hunger, nor thirst, nor weep; but, by its union with the manhood, it could make all these endurances more true and more intense to that humanity with which it was united; not only attaching to these sufferings a value which they could not otherwise have had—but imparting to them a profound reality, which, in other circumstances, could not have belonged to them. We need to be cautious in using language respecting Christ not expressly employed in Scripture; but, seeing the love of Christ is called the love of God, and the blood of Christ is called the blood of God, may we not term the thirst of the Son of God upon the cross, "the thirst of God?"

              How true was the humanity of Christ! That thirst proclaims him truly a man; in body and in soul a man; in sorrow and in joy a man. His Godhead did not neutralize his manhood, nor make any of its actings less truly human. That which was divine in his person, made that which was human more thoroughly human than it could have been in any other circumstances. As his humanity showed forth his Godhead more illustriously, so his Godhead brought out his humanity into fuller, wider, truer, and more perfect action—exhibiting it in an extremity of weakness and suffering, to which it could not otherwise have been reduced without wholly giving way. No mere man could have passed through Gethsemane and Golgotha, could have endured the agony of the one, and the thirst of the other, without being annihilated.

              And what does this thirst mean? Is it a mere vain exhibition of what humanity can bear; of what the Creator can enable the creature to endure? No. He thirsts as the sinner's substitute; and his strength is dried up like a potsherd, because the heat of divine wrath was withering up his moisture. That thirst is expiatory; for he suffers the Just for the unjust. He thirsts, that we might not thirst. He is parched, that we might not be parched. He is consumed with wrath, that we might not be consumed. That thirst is the bearing of your sin and your hell, O believer. That thirst is the unsealing of the eternal fountain, that its waters might flow forth to the parched and weary sons of earth. How much we owe to that dreadful thirst! How much we owe to the love of Him who thirsted upon that cross for us!

              II. The cry. "I thirst!" or, "I am thirsty!" These are common words among us; and the cry, in itself, does not strike us as remarkable. "I am thirsty," says the child to its mother. "I am thirsty," says the traveler on the highway. "I am thirsty," says the sick man on his hot bed of fever. We are familiar with the cry; it is that of a fellow-mortal; and we know that it will be met with a quick response, for it is a cry for something which can be easily and cheaply supplied.

              But when such words come from the lips of the Son of God, the case is wholly different. It is no remarkable thing to hear a beggar asking alms on the highway or at our door; but when the great Roman general, the conqueror of kings, is reduced to poverty, and begs his bread, we are amazed; an interest is immediately excited, and we ask, How is this? So, when the cry comes from him who is God over all, the Creator of heaven and earth, the framer of all earth's fountains and streams, the fashioner of man's soul and body, we are startled. How can this be? Whence does it arise? What can it mean? Is the cry a real and natural one? Is it the true expression of deep-felt pain in the divine utterer? or is it the mere indication by him of what, in such circumstances, a crucified malefactor would feel—but which he himself, in virtue of his exalted nature, could not possibly have been supposed to suffer?

              One thing strikes us much here. His is the only cry heard at this time. There are two men on crosses beside him; but they utter no cry. One spends his breath in reviling, the other in praying; but they do not say, "I thirst." This is a peculiarity which we cannot fail to notice. Of the three sufferers, the Son of God alone utters the cry of thirst. How great must that thirst have been! how bitter the cry thus wrung from his expiring lips!

              Specially does this appear when we call to mind the meek and uncomplaining character of the holy sufferer. Only once or twice, in a life of unutterable sorrow, did he allow any expression of his grief to escape him, as when he said, "Now is my soul troubled;" and when in Gethsemane he said, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death;" and now on the cross, when he exclaimed, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and again, in the words of our text, "I thirst." Intense and overpowering must have been his thirst before it could have extorted from him such an utterance at such a time.

              The present is the only reference which the Lord makes to pain of body; the others are to the griefs of his troubled soul. No doubt, in the Psalms he alludes once or twice to his bodily sufferings, as when he speaks of his bones being out of joint, his heart melted like wax, his strength dried up like a potsherd. But these intimations of physical pain are few; it is of the sorrows of his soul, in connection with the wrath of God, that he speaks so fully. In the Gospels, this cry of thirst is the only expression of bodily anguish that is recorded; and from the way in which it is introduced we are plainly given to understand that even this cry would not have been uttered had it not been for the fulfilling of Scripture. However terrible the thirst, the cry would have been repressed, had it not been for what was written in the Psalms concerning this—"In my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink" (Psalm 69:21). For thus the Evangelist writes—"After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, says, I thirst."
    • By nChrist

      From Timeless Grace Gems
      by J. C. Ryle

      You probably know that Calvary was a place close to Jerusalem, where the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, was crucified. We know nothing else about Calvary beside this. I call this tract "Calvary," because I am going to speak to you about the sufferings and crucifixion of Christ.

      I am afraid that much ignorance prevails among people on the subject of Jesus Christ's sufferings. I suspect that many see no peculiar glory and beauty in the history of the crucifixion: on the contrary; they think it painful, humbling, and degrading. They do not see much profit in the story of Christ's death and sufferings: they rather turn from it as an unpleasant thing.

      Now I believe that such people are quite wrong. I cannot agree with them. I believe it is an excellent thing for us all to be continually dwelling on the crucifixion of Christ. That is a good thing to be often reminded how Jesus was betrayed into the hands of wicked men, -how they condemned Him with most unjust judgment, -how they spit on Him, scourged Him, beat Him, and crowned Him with thorns, -how they led Him forth as a lamb to the slaughter, without His murmuring or resisting, -how they drove the nails through His hands and feet, and set Him on Calvary between two thieves, how they pierced His side with a spear, mocked Him in His suffering, and let Him hang there naked and bleeding until He died. Of all these things, I say, it is good to be reminded. It is not for nothing that the crucifixion is described four times over in the New Testament. There are very few things that all the four writers of the Gospel describe: generally speaking, if Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell a thing in our Lord's history, John does not tell it; but there is one thing that all the four give us most fully, and that one thing is the story of the cross. This is a telling fact, and not to be overlooked.

      People seem to me to forget that all Christ's sufferings at Calvary were fore-ordained. They did not come on Him by chance or accident: they were all planned, counseled, and determined from all eternity; the cross was foreseen, in all the provisions of the everlasting Trinity for the salvation of sinners. In the purposes of God the cross was set up from everlasting. Not one throb of pain did Jesus feel, not one precious drop of blood did Jesus shed, which had not been appointed long ago. Infinite wisdom planned that redemption should be by the cross: infinite wisdom brought Jesus to the cross in due time. He was crucified by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God.

      People seem to me to forget that all Christ's sufferings at Calvary were necessary for man's salvation. He had to bear our sins, if ever they were to be borne at all: with His stripes alone could we be healed. This was the one payment of our debts that God would accept; this was the great sacrifice on which our eternal life depended. If Christ had not gone to the cross and suffered in our stead, the just for the unjust, there would not have been a spark of hope for us; there would have been a mighty gulf between ourselves and God, which no man ever could have passed. The cross was necessary, in order that there might be an atonement for sin.

      People seem to me to forget that all Christ's sufferings were endured voluntary and of His own free will. He was under no compulsion: of His own choice He laid down His life: of His own choice He went to Calvary to finish the work He came to do. He might easily have summoned legions of angels with a word, and scattered Pilate and Herod, and all their armies, like chaff before the wind; but He was a willing sufferer: His heart was set on the salvation of sinners. He was resolved to open a fountain for all sin and uncleanness, by shedding His own blood.

      Reader, when I think of all this, I see nothing painful or disagreeable in the subject of Christ's crucifixion; on the contrary, I see in it wisdom and power, peace and hope, joy and gladness, comfort and consolation. The more I keep the cross in my mind's eye, the more fullness I seem to discern in it; the longer I dwell on the crucifixion in my thoughts, the more I am satisfied that there is more to he learned at Calvary than anywhere else in the world.

      Would I know the length and breadth of God the Father's love towards a sinful world? Where shall I see it most displayed? Shall I look at His glorious sun, shining down daily on the unthankful and evil? Shall I look at the seed time and harvest, returning in regular yearly succession? Oh, no! I can find a stronger proof of love than anything of this sort. I look at the cross of Christ: I see in it not the cause of the Father's love, but the effect. There I see that God so loved this wicked world, that He gave His only begotten Son,-gave Him to suffer and die-that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. I know that the Father loves us, because He did not withhold from us His Son, His only Son. Ah, reader, I might sometimes fancy that God the Father is too high and holy to care for such miserable, corrupt creatures as we are: but I cannot, must not, dare not think it, when I look at Christ's sufferings on Calvary.

      Would I know how exceedingly sinful and abominable sin is in the sight of God? Where shall I see that most fully brought out? Shall I turn to the history of the flood, and read how sin drowned the world? Shall I go to the shore of the Dead Sea, and mark what sin brought on Sodom and Gomorrah? Shall I turn to the wandering Jews, and observe how sin has scattered them over the face of the earth? No: I can find a clearer proof still, I look at what happened on Calvary. There I see that sin is so black and damnable that nothing but the blood of God's own Son can wash it away; there I see that sin has so separated me from my holy Maker that all the angels in heaven could never have made peace between us: nothing could reconcile us, short of the death of Christ. Ah, if I listened to the wretched talk of proud men I might sometimes fancy sin was not so very sinful; but I cannot think little of sin when I look at Calvary.

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    • By nChrist

      The Outlook
      From Timeless Grace Gems
      J. C. Ryle, 1886

      (1) The first and worst cloud which I see in our Church's outlook, is the widespread disposition to regard religious externalism as a substitute for vital soul-saving Christianity.

      When I speak of externalism, let me explain what I mean. We all know that the external part of religion has received a large amount of new attention during the last forty years. All over the land it has become the fashion to restore churches, to get rid of old square pews, to improve the singing and music, to have a well-adorned choir, to decorate the church-building in a most elaborate style, and, in one word, to adorn, beautify, and improve the whole exterior of Church Christianity. Do I say there is anything sinful in all this? Nothing of the kind! I abhor everything like slovenliness in the ceremonials of worship. I dislike square pews, and bad music, and bad singing as much as anyone! But I do say, that I fear an external improvement often takes place in a church—without the slightest corresponding increase of godliness in the worshipers! No doubt there is a far more show of religion in our Churches—but it is very doubtful whether there is more vital Christianity, more presence of the Holy Spirit, more heart and conscience work, in the private lives and the homes of our people. I fear that in hundreds of cases, men have rested content with having secured a handsome church and a 'bright and hearty service,' and have forgotten that what God looks at—is the hearts of the worshipers, and the quantity of grace to be found among them.

      This is a very delicate subject, and I would be sorry to be misunderstood, or to give pain to anyone in handling it. But I am obliged to say plainly, that I fail to see that all the external improvement of the last forty years, is accompanied by any corresponding growth of practical holiness! There is no decrease in the total idolatry of recreations, or the extravagant expenditure of money, or self-indulgence of all kinds. On the contrary, there is far less repentance, faith, holiness, Bible-reading, and family religion! If this state of things is not a most unhealthy symptom in the condition of a Church, I know not what is!

      We may depend upon it—that knowledge of Christ, obedience to Christ, and the fruits of the Spirit—are the only tests by which God weighs and measures any Church. If these are absent, He cares nothing for beautiful buildings, fine singing, and a pompous ceremonial. These are 'leaves,' and He desires to see not leaves only, but 'fruit'. The tree of the Church of England perhaps never had so many leaves on it, as it has just now. I wish there was a corresponding quantity of fruit!

      We must never forget that the Temple service at Jerusalem in the day of our Lord's crucifixion was the most perfect ceremonial that ever was—whether for singing, order, vestments, or general magnificence and beauty. Yet we all know that at this very time, the Jewish Church was thoroughly rotten at heart, and after forty years was swept away! Who can doubt that the little upper chamber, where the apostles met on the day of our Lord's ascension, was far more beautiful in God's sight, than the beautiful temple which our Master Himself called 'a den of thieves'? I heartily wish that we would remember this, more than we appear to do. The disposition to make an idol of externals, and to sacrifice the inside of religion to the outside, is, in my judgment, the darkest cloud on our ecclesiastical horizon! Of this we may be quite certain—that God will never support a Church which is content with such a low standard of practical piety.

      "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence! Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness!" Matthew 23:25-28

      (2) The second thing which I see with pain in the outlook of the Church of England at the present time, is the growing tendency to ignore all distinct doctrine.

      The leading idea of many minds in this day appears to be, that it does not signify much what a man believes or teaches about what are commonly considered the principal verities of the Christian faith. A wave of extravagant liberalism in religion, as well as in everything else, is sweeping over England. Concerning the Trinity, the Divinity of Christ, the atonement, the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, conversion, justification, the inspiration of Scripture, the future state, and the like—it seems to be agreed that men may believe as much or as little as they please, and nobody is to find fault. The only question you are to ask is, whether a man is 'earnest, sincere, and zealous,' and if he is, you are not to ask anything more. It is thought very narrow and illiberal to say that any opinion in religion is false, or that anybody is unsound in the faith. Distinct and positive statements about anything in Christianity are thought downright uncharitable. All the old dogmas are to be held back, and never to be put forward in a solid, tangible state—or to be put forward in such a foggy, misty manner that, like a half-developed photographic plate, they are never to come out distinct, sharp, and clear. I challenge any one who observes closely the pulpit utterances of this day, or reads speeches which touch religion, to deny the accuracy of what I have just said.

      Now all this, no doubt, sounds very noble and generous and liberal. It is in perfect harmony with the political tendencies of the age, which all lean in the direction of the principle—that everybody is to be allowed to do what he likes, and to be at liberty to do anything except commit theft or murder. Moreover, these ideas save men a great deal of trouble in the way of thinking and inquiry in order to find out truth. But the question still remains to be answered, Can this indifference to doctrine stand the test of cross-examination? Is it really true that there are no limits to the Church's comprehensiveness? If it does not matter what we believe—where is the use of the Bible, Creeds, Confessions, and Articles of faith? We may as well throw them aside as useless lumber! Beside this, does history show that any good work has been done in improving human nature during the last eighteen centuries by any instrumentality except that of distinct and positive doctrine? Did the apostles turn the world upside down by proclaiming everywhere, 'Be earnest, be sincere, be moral, be charitable—and it does not matter what you believe'? Did the early church Fathers, or the Continental and English Reformers, work on these lines? Do the missionaries to the heathen abroad, or to those who are practically heathen at home, ever obtain success without distinct doctrinal statements? And, to come home to ourselves at last—is there a man or woman among us who would be content on a deathbed to be told, 'Never mind what you believe; if you are in earnest you will go to heaven'? Questions like these demand very serious consideration.

      I commend this whole subject to the attention of all who hear me. I am convinced that it is a very dark spot in the outlook of our Church at the present time, and I apprehend great danger in this quarter. Surely we must stop somewhere. There is such a thing as liberality and 'breadth of thought' gone mad! The modern notion, that all faiths so called are equally good and true, is very dangerous, and replete with eternal harm to men's souls!

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