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BY CHARLES F. DEEMS, D.D., LL.D.
"HE SHALL SEE OF THE TRAVAIL OF HIS SOUL, AND SHALL BE SATISFIED."— ISAIAH, LIII. 11.
Jesus of Nazareth had been crucified, dead, and buried. He had arisen from the dead. He had ascended into heaven.
The day of Pentecost had passed, and the disciples of Jesus had received the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and were preaching the gospel of the resurrection and of salvation through Jesus. In the history of their labors was a passage of idyllic beauty, preserved in the eighth chapter of the Acts.
Philip was moved by the Holy Spirit to go down from Jerusalem southward by a deserted road which led toward Gaza. He went, not knowing why, except that he was under a divine impulse. As he journeyed, he beheld a stranger
riding in a chariot. This traveller was a nobleman, a high officer in the court of Candace, queen of Ethiopia. He had been up to Jerusalem.
It was an epoch of spiritual activity among leading men. The Magi had come to Jerusalem, at the birth of Jesus, from the far East. This nobleman had come, after the death of Jesus, from the far South. Here is another illustration of the truth presented in last Sunday morning's sermon, that "the hope of glory" was not confined to the Hebrews. Jesus was drawing the nations together. The Holy Spirit of the Eternal God, everywhere present, moves upon the minds of men of all nations, if those men are striving to be good. Here was a pagan, of high rank in his own country, whose inquiring mind had led him to investigate the religion of Judaism, and whose search after the truth had led him to accept the fundamental principles of Judaism as sound. His interest in the religion of the Jews had brought him to the Holy City " to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple." He was returning to his own country, and was reading one of the sacred books of the Jewish f;:.ith. It was
the prophecy of Isaiah.
The Spirit of God inclined Philip to speak to him. He ran up to the chariot. The nobleman was reading aloud, and perhaps slowly.
It was this very chapter which contains our text. He seemed to be pondering these most remarkable statements. His very tones, perhaps, betrayed his mental puzzle. Philip modestly said to him: "Do you understand that which you are reading?"
The nobleman replied: " How can I, except some man should guide me?"
So intent was he on spiritual knowledge that, although Philip was a total stranger to him, he invited him up into the chariot, because he had taken interest in his religious studies. Then Philip carefully and solemnly expounded to him the Gospel of Jesus in this prophecy of Isaiah, and the man who was probably striving to become a Jewish proselyte became a Christian
convert. He discovered the mystery which had been hid from generations, the riches of the glory of that mystery among the Gentiles, namely, Christ in him the hope of glory.
It is thus that the Holy Spirit of God gives us the key to this remarkable chapter. It was locked to the Ethiopian nobleman until Philip told him that the prophet was not speaking of himself but of some other man, and that that other man was Jesus of Nazareth.
And now go back and read this chapter in Isaiah, and then read the Gospels, and then recollect that the former was written nearly twenty-six centuries ago, and the latter about eighteen centuries ago, and that between them there was a space of time equal to that which separates to-day from the day that William the Conqueror was crowned, and it appears marvellous. The words of Isaiah seem to be as historical as those of Luke. The prophet treats Jesus with the same reverent tenderness as the historian. Both carry us to the cross, to the sufferings of Jesus, to the judgment-hall, the place of execution, the agony, the death, and
the moral triumph that followed. In the case of no other man did these things predicted by Isaiah come to pass. They were all fulfilled in Jesus. This special passage which we have selected today points to the intense sufferings of Christ and the satisfying vision which comforted Him in the hour and power of darkness. May the Spirit of God, who enlightened Philip while he expounded this passage to the Ethiopian nobleman, help me to expound it to you.
There has always seemed to me to be a profound interest in the question how the transaction of the Cross impresBed the persons immediately concerned, being present on the spot at the time. Let us see if we can carry ourselves back to that most remarkable of all historical groups.
First of all there were the chiefs of the Jews, who had regarded Jesus as a dangerous man — dangerous to their hierarchy by reason of His constant pressure against churchism, the width of His views, and His unsparing denunciations of the priestly vices ; and dangerous because
of probable political results from the course of life which He was pui'suing. Under the Roman rule they might keep their place and nation, and they were so debased that they preferred to having their ease in degradation to losing their comforts in an attempt to set their people free.
To them His death was a relief It was an enemy safely put out of the way. There might be quiet, again, and the Temple-service go forward, and the ecclesiastical affairs of the nation be carried on in quiet. The terrible phenomena which attended His crucifixion must have given them great anxiety; but the darkness passed away, the earthquake subsided, and the mumbling priests went forward with the morning and evening sacrifices.
To the Romans who were engaged in the transaction, the Cross must have been a most fearful puzzle.
Pilate sat moody in his palace, having been borne down by priestly persistency. He was angry and humiliated. There was nothing in Jesus to make the representative of Caesar fear-
ful for the crown of his master. He was apparently a penniless peasant and a harmless enthusiast, so far as Pilate could see. But the deep, the frightful interest which the leading religionists and the priests of the nation manifested in having Him slain, and the prodigies that followed the sentence which Pilate felt himself compelled by the circumstances to pronounce, combined with the singular dignity and silence of the accused, must have made the Cross to Pilate the fearfuUest thing he had ever known.
And there were the rude Roman soldiers, men of the camp and the barracks, who had
carried their dice out that they might amuse themselves with play while three wretches were slowly expiring on the cross — men who had witnessed many an execution and been in bloody tumults and in battles, who had driven the nails into Jesus and into the other two persons with as little feeling as they would have slaughtered a lamb, — what a marvel He was to them ! They had never before seen gentleness that was not
weakness. The two malefactors were not gentle. They were strong men, and resisted, and cursed and swore, and died hard. But Jesus was as dignified on His cross as the Imperator on his throne, and yet was as gentle as a babe. When the commander of the platoon saw all, be was forced to believe that it was a god he beheld dying. He exclaimed, "Surely this was a son of the gods !" It was a dread mystery.
How must it have seemed to the disciples who hovered about the outskirts of the crowd, or cowered, broken-hearted, in lonely chambers in the city? O what a dire disappointment it was to their hearts I O what a tight puzzle it was to their brains ! O what a sore trial it was to their faith ! Was not this the Prophet of God ? Has He not made displays of power that were credentials of His divine mission ? And would God send out so spotless a man to die ignominiously ?
For, we must strive to recollect what the cross was, my brethren. We have wrought it in gold and wreathed it with flowers, and worn it as an ornament, and placed it at the head of all hu-
man symbolisms, until we have transfigured it. It had none of these associations originally. It was the meanest of all the engines of torture. The guillotine has something respectable in it, as it was for the decapitation of princes as well as robbers. The gallows is not so mean as the cross, for when there was slavery among us, and a master and his slave were convicted of a capital crime, they perished on the same scaffold. But the cross was reserved for slaves. It added deepest ignominy to death. Tacitus called crucifixion the torture of slaves.
Now, when they saw their Master hanging there, it was indescribably puzzling as well as painful. He had been so good, so sweet, so pure, so what all men's ideal of the perfect man has ever been ! He had shown such power, stilling the winds, multiplying bread, opening deaf ears and blind eyes, cleansing lepers and raising the dead, doing all those things that they had been taught to beheve belonged only unto God to do. How could He let Himself be crucified 1 How could the great eternal God allow
What Jesus saw from the Cross.
this model of goodness and beauty to be crushed out of the world ? The Cross gave them a disappointment sadder than ever had fallen on men before, sadder than any since. It was the bitterest blighting of hopes recorded in the history of humanity.
But Jesus — how did it all seem to Him ? He knew what was in Pilate's mind, and what in the minds of the chief-priests and the Jewish rabble and the Roman centurion and the brutal soldiery and His fainting Mother and His disheartened, disappointed friends. He knew that they felt that they were parting from Him forever. He heard the gibes and jeers of the mocking crowd, the roar of the unfeeling mob, the groans and cries of the Blessed Virgin, and the frightful
noise wherewith the earthquake burst open the tombs and ripped the Temple's veil from top to bottom. He saw the darkness coming on Temple and Tower and Calvary, and on His own soul, like the shadow of hell. But through it all He beheld a vision ! But above it all He heard a shout ! And he died satisfied !
Now, what was it in Christ's sufferings which gave them the interest with which the Bible always speaks of them ? It was not that His physical sufferings were so very extraordinary. Hundreds of thousands of men have endured as much. The two rogues who were on crosses on either side of Him suffered quite as much bodily as He. It was not the meekness with which He bore it all, for no man can suffer as much as a woman can, and many a woman has endured the most exquisite torture and died in meeker silence.
It was not a display of heroism. There was nothing of that in Jesus. He did not meet His fate heroically. His behavior in dying would bring contempt upon Him from many a pirate and highwayman and prize-fighter, who have
borne the blows of death unflinching, while He shrank and sank under them. The thieves that died with Him were more heroic. They defied Iheir torm.entors and flung grim jokes fromlheir crosses among the populace and at one another, and one of them at Jesus, whom the fierce villain manifestly despised for His displays of what he considered unmanly weakness.
Was it His martyrdom merely, as some teach? It could not have been, for Stephen and Paul and Peter were equally martyrs, stoned, beheaded, crucified, because they would not cease to bear witness to the truth. How is it that His death continues this day to affect the world as no death of other martyr or hero or deliverer does? Read the prophecy. Read the history.
Read the comments of the Apostles. Here is what makes this death surpass all deaths: it was vicarious, it was expiatory. " He was wounded for our transgressions." " With His stripes wi are healed." ''He was bruised for ^?^r iniquities ; the chastisement of our peace was upon
Him." Take that element away ; say He died as other good men die, or other great men die ; and then we are a world of fools, for we have expended our poetry and art and tenderest sentiments on a death which has often been equalled in all the elements of martyrdom, and sometimes surpassed.
There was holy Stephen, dying under the blows of stones and in the sight of heaven. Was he not a martyr? Yes; but he was not "bruised for our iniquities." There was Paul, grandly self-sacrificing, and in death dropping his head from the block of the imperial executioner. Was he not a martyr ? Yes ; but be was not "wounded for our transgressions." There was Peter, who endured a bitter crucifixion, maintaining the truth he had once denied. Was he not a martyr? Yes; but "the chastisement of our peace was not laid on him." And none of the martyr-souls ever said of himself, "And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." But Jesus did say that, and Jesus is doing that.
The attraction of the Cross lies in the fact,
and solely in the fact, that Jesus was "suffering for sin, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." Take away that element and His decease sinks to the level of an ordinary death. With that element, it was the most painful and the most productive death among men.
It was amid all the sufferings, it was in the crisis of His mental and spiritual horror and agony and darkness, that a vision broke on the eyes of Jesus which made even His death on the cross — which was much more dreadful than any other death on the cross, not in its physical pain, but in its excruciation of spirit — to be even a satisfaction to Him.
First of all, He saw the completion of the most stupendous undertaking of God.
Now, among men success is always pleasing. In proportion to the largeness of the outlay, the risk of the venture, and the time or strength required for the accomplishment of the work, the success is exciting to every one who witnesses it, but still more to the person most concerned.
When it was considered sufficiently practicable to enlist large capital in the laying of a cable on the bed of the ocean, that two great
WTiat Jesus saw from the Cross.
nations might speak and be instantly heard by each other across three thousand miles of stormy seas ; when millions of money and several years and many reputations had been staked on the experiment ; and when heads and hearts had ached through many many months; and the skeptics and adverse critics had predicted failure ; and several times failure had seemed inevitable ; but when at last the prodigious undertaking was a success, how the shouts of the people filled the air and ran thrilling through
the waves. New York went wild with joy because one of our fellow-citizens had encountered and overcome such vast difficulties. We have had greater faith in the capabilities of human nature ever since.
Even those who know nothing of the formidable oppositions Mr. Cyrus W. Field and his coadjutors had to overcome, are amazed at the grandeur of the undertaking when they contemplate what is open to every man's view. But to him the success must have given a secret joy that could be shared by no partner.
O how above all mere human accomplishments is the achievement of the cross ! It was the attempt to present to man the love of God for him in such a light that his blinded eyes might see it, and in such a way that his hardened heart might feel it. None knew that blindness and that hardness as Jesus did. There is no mere man who can measure the intensity of the repugnance between good and evil. There no man can know how precious to the heart of God is a single soul. God the Father knows how he loves man the son. He only knows
what a loss it is to Him to have any soul perish. He knows that the only way to save a soul is to arouse its love for the good, and make it feel an interest in eternal things, because it feels sure that the Heavenly Father loves it. Hence the divine necessity of the incarnation and the sufferings on the cross.
Jesus saw the whole of this, swept this vast circuit of thought with a glance, and saw that in the cross that to which God could forever appeal is the demonstration of His changeless love for man. The chasm that lay broad and deep between earth and heaven, between man and God, was to be bridged by the cross ; and when it touched both sides, and lay securely firm on the pillars of eternal justice and eternal love, and put the denizens of time into full communication with the inhabitants of eternity, Jesus died with a shout of satisfaction, the memory of which shakes heaven and earth with gladness to this day.
The vision gave Him the satisfaction of a
The opposition between Good and Evil is not passive. It is a dire, relentless conflict, a war of extermination. Evil cannot exist where Good is, nor Good where Evil is. It is what Plato calls "the undying war." It involves every being that has consciousness and will. All men, all spirits are in it, ranked and ranged on one side or the other. Evil is in opposition to God. It is an evil thing to think that our interests are not identical with God's, that He has some plan which He is going to carry forward without regard to the happiness of His human children, and that it is possible for us to find our happiness and success regardless of what He thinks and what He commands. No one would be found fighting on the side of the Evil if he truly believed that God deeply loved him and was exerting His infinite powers and was employing His infinite resources to make him happy. The war-cry of Evil is, "Down with God. " Why? "What has God done ? " He has bound man in iron bands, and is a tyrant," says Evil. " Am I?" says the Heavenly Father. "Look on the cross and see. I have become one in flesh with
my children, as they were one in spirit with me. I have lifted their burdens, have drunk of their bitter cups, have identified Myself with them, so that hereafter, whoever slights a man, slights God; whoever injures a man, injures God ; whoever ministers to man, ministers to God. O, my children, how could I, how could I show My love more plainly ?"
It was this that was to prove the defeat of Evil. This was to be the greatest reinforcement of Good. Jesus saw it all. He saw that "the banner of the Cross" was not to be a mere flourish of rhetoric but the symbol of a mighty truth. Whenever a blow was given to Evil it was to be given in the name the highest love, and that highest love was on the Cross. Whenever men believed that the Lord of Eternity had incarnated Himself to come lovingly near to man, men would come lovingly near to God, and the nearer men come to God, the further they go from evil, and so His death would bring victory to the side of the good. It was the anticipation of this victory which so cheered the soul of the dying but conquering Jesus. He died knowing that now was to be fulfilled what the prophet
had spoken in this chapter, "Therefore will I divide Him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He has poured out his soul unto death." He sprung from the depths of death to the throne
WTiat Jesus saw from the Cross.
of the hearts of men, and died the greatest of the conquerors.
And, lastly, in that vision was a sight of the success of the Gospel in winning the hearts of men to God.
He knew what one soul is, in all its worth and in all its capabilities of development. If there had been but one soul in the universe in alienation
from its Heavenly Father, it had been worth all that Jesus endured to lay that soul under saving bonds of love. He saw such a soul, and so saved, and gazed on its ascending and widening and brightening path of immortality, until its increasing glory oversplendored the Cross and filled the soul of the dying Jesus with shouts of satisfaction.
One such triumph would have repaid the august sufferer for all that He endured. But He "saw His seed. He prolonged His days." He beheld Pentecost, the effusion of the Holy Ghost, and the conversion of the three thousand souls in one day. He beheld the travels and labors and successes of His Apostles, and hundreds and thousands of men, women, and children in Antioch, where they were first called Christians after Him, and in Philippi and Colosse and Smyria and Ephesus, and in the seat of imperial power, Rome, that was soon to be pagan Rome no more but Christian Rome forever. He saw men worshipping Him in catacombs and cloisters and cathedrals. He beheld tall and great and reverend heads bow with the golden headsof children when His name was called. Kings
were becoming fathers and queens nursing mothers to His people. Westward the star of Jesus took its way. The cold isle of Britain became great through Him. The vast continent of America received and reared millions that loved Him. The whole earth was girdled with churches erected to His name. There is not a moment of day or night that some one was not lovingly and trustingly speaking His dear name. Hush! He hears them, breathing, speaking, singing, shouting the name of " Jesus." Fainting people whisper
" Jesus can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are, While on his breast I lay my head
And breathe my life out sweetly there ."
He saw and felt the terrible darkness around Him, perhaps filled with preternatural sounds and sights of horror. But through it all He beheld the final triumph of the cause of Love. He saw the ranks of the redeemed spirits, gone up from earth, walking in the heavenly land,
thronging the blissful groves, crowding the eternal temple, circling the everlasting throne. No more sins and penitence and sorrows now ! All tears wiped from all eyes ! Who are these in white robes? These are they that came up through much tribulation and "washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." And He sees Himself again on the throne of the universe, and all tliese won, changed, redeemed, loving children worshipping Him, and shouting to Him and singing, " Salvation to our God that sitteth upon the throne, even unto the Lamb !" The musical thunder of that mighty song rolled down the heavens and fell upon the cross, and Jesus heard and saw of the travail of His soul, and cried, "It is finished," and, with a sense of completion, died, "satisfied!"
Nothing but the saving of souls can satisfy Him.
There had been two other epochs of marked
significancy in the biography of God.
One was at the creation of the material universe, when the ** morning stars," those spiritual creatures who were the beginnings of the work of God, "sung together," and "all the sons of God shouted for joy !" They had known what spiritual substance is, but now God makes them to see Matter and Force, and these new and sublime revelations filled them with a rapture that burst forth in songs and shouts. They had never seen so much of God before ! He saw His worlds, He heard His angels sing, and yet the unappeasable heart of Infinite Love had its divine longings. It was not said of Him that He was satisfied.
Again. There was a most mysterious event. It occurred I know not where in the universe, nor when in eternity, nor how in the processes of God. The First-begotten was brought into the world, God put Himself before His mighty angels in some new way that showed fatherhood and sonhood. This was a grander revelation of Himself than ever before, more sublimely mysterious. " All the angels of God"
saw it. It was an epoch in eternity. Angelic histories must date in cycles before and after the bringing-in of the First-begotten. All the angels worshipped him. He saw every lyre of, heaven hushed, every head in heaven bared, and every crown in heaven laid at His feet. Never was there such homage. It was a sight of awfullest beauty and most solemn delight. Angels found in themselves unknown depths of spirit filled with tides of almost intolerable gladness. Jesus, the Christ, had enjoyed even
WTiat Jesus saw from the Cross.
that. But He was not satisfied. The unappeasable heart of the Infinite Love still had its longings.
Nothing satisfied Him until sinners were saved.
Nothing satisfies Him now until the heart of man yields to the claims of love.
But when a poor, broken-hearted, contrite, penitent wretch looks up to the cross and perceives its significance of divine love, acknowledges the Father of Spirits in the Son of Man, and yields himself to this supreme argument of God in this supreme self-sacrifice of love, and comes and throws himself confidingly into the arms of the divine affection and is saved, then, and then only, does Jesus "see His seed," " see of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied."
We may pile gold and frankincense and myrrh around the cradle of the infant Redeemer; we may build cathedrals of marble, and adorn them with malachite and gems and precious stones so costly that one of them would give bread to a whole starving province; we may preach the doctrines of the atonement with tenfold the logic of Paul and rhetoric of Peter; we may sing the name of Jesus in every metre to the accom-
paniment of every musical instrument, and yet, if we do not let God in Christ reconcile us unto Himself, if we do not receive into our souls the spiritual gift of the cross, we shall never,
for our parts, have given satisfaction to the crucified-
My dear brethren, have you given that satisfaction to Christ by giving Him your heart ? When He looks down into that heart, does He see such tender penitence, such true faith, such holy hope, and such divine love, that He says of you, "1 am satisfied !"
O brethren of my church, of all the churches, are you and I day and night striving to deepen the satisfaction of our Lord by bringing our children and friends and all our human brothers under the power of the cross ? Can He look down into our homes and shops and stores, into our pews, into this pulpit, and see on our parts such intentness to have souls saved, that nothing contents us that is not promoting the salva-
tion of souls, — does He see all this until His mighty soul beholds our work, and says to the angels about Him, " I am satisfied?"
O Jesus Christ, Almighty lover of our souls, send from Thy cross and from Thy throne Thy spirit of love into our hearts until everyone of us shall be able to say, in all truth and with deepest earnestness, " God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." O blessed cross, O wondrous cross, that of all there is in earth and heaven, alone canst give peace to the heart of men and satisfaction to the soul of God.
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