CHRIST CRUCIFIED.

BY DAVID J. VAUGHA, M.A.,
Galatians iii. i.
Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth crucified,
I TAKE it for granted, that, in the course of the last few days,
we have all, or almost all, listened within these walls to the
Passion Music of the great German composer. It is an experi-
ence, which we may be thankful to have made. But we must not
allow such an unwonted — such an exceptional experience, — to
pass by, with nothing to show for it, except the transient
"pleasure — a very refined pleasure, I admit — of listening to such
music, under j'/z^A circumstances, with such accompaniments
and accessories of place and instrument and sacred association.
We must * gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be
lost.' And, the theme of the music being what it is, it cannot
be other than well for us to gather up these fragments on this
day, which, of all the days of the year, we associate specially
with the Passion of our Lord.
The Passion Music, then, to which we have been listening,
may, at the first superficial glance, be described as a comment
upon, and an exposition of, the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh
chapters of the Gospel according to St. Matthew. What com-
mentators and expounders do for the sacred text by force of words
and learning, the great German has done for it by the power of
xxni.] CHRIST CRUCIFIED. 225
song ; — a power far mightier in its own way than the power of
words and learning. As we now read the sacred text quietly to
ourselves over again, the musical exposition comes repeatedly
back to us, with all its wonderful lights and shades of meaning
and expression. We seem to hear the eager question of the
disciples, — a question almost childish in its eagerness : — * Where
wilt thou that we prepare for thee to eat the passover?' We
seem to witness the horrible mocking insolence of the chief
priests and elders and scribes, spitting in his face, buffeting
Him with their fists, striking Him with their open hands, and
saying, — as they swarmed round Him and struck Him, from
one side and another, in quick succession, — * Prophesy unto us,
thou Christ, who is he that smote thee ? ' We seem to hear,
firsts the deep, strong, startling, unanimous shout of the mob
for * Barabbas : ' and thcn^ immediately afterwards, the surging,
confused, angry cry of the same mob : * Let him be crucified.'
The whole scene becomes, in a moment, almost painfully vivid
and real to us ; — the whole story, full of colour and passion and
pathos.
I think we ought to be very grateful for this realistic force of
the Passion Music. The words of the sacred narrative are so
familiar to us, that they often pass over our minds without
making the faintest impression upon us. It is well that the
bondage of this familiarity should be broken for us. It is well
that we should be compelled to feel, that, on a certain day, in a
certain place, these terrible events did actually happen ; and
did actually happen, with all the rough, coarse, cruel, and
brutal accompaniments, which the Evangelists describe. For
the Passion Music adds nothing, exaggerates nothing. It only
helps us to realize thaty which the Evangelists assure us did
actually happen. And, in doing this, it throws the softening
veil of music over all. Could we really set it before us, as it
did actually happen, the scene would be too horrible for us.
But whilst we may well be grateful to the great musician
for doing this for us, we shall feel, I imagine, more than ever
Q
226 CHRIST CRUCIFIED. [SER.
grateful to the Gospel narratives for being exactly what they
are. And what are they ? The Passion Music makes us feel
what they are, better than anything else could. How calm
they are 1 how dignified ! how self-restrained ! how wisely and
intentionally colourless ! how unimpassioned ! how statuesque !
This is the secret of their abiding power over us. We should
weary of them, were they otherwise. Suppose, for example,
that they were steeped in colour and passion ; as the music,
which dramatizes them, is. How intolerable they would
become to us ! The most devoted worshipper of the Passion
Music would not wish to hear it every day, or every week, or
even every month of his life. Once or twice in every year
would be quite sufficient for him. But we can read the evan-
gelical narratives of the Passion of our Lord without ever
growing weary of them ; and, when we have finished them, we
can begin them at once, without weariness or satiety, over
again. Though so colourless, so passionless, in themselves,
they lend themselves so readily to the intellect and feelings of
the reader, that he finds something new in them on every
perusal. ow, that this should be so, seems to me an astonish-
ing proof of the truth of the facts recorded in them, and of
the inspiration which watched over their production. A mere
ordinary ^writer, or even a whole catena or generation of writers,
would never have written so, on a subject which must have
stirred heart and soul and conscience to their very depths.
Was it the surpassing grandeur and importance of the events,
which they recorded, that awed the writers into this strange and
unwonted reticence? Or was it, over and above this, that a
Higher Power guided their pens and sealed their lips ? Explain
it as we will, the fact is most impressive.
But the Passion Music is not merely realistic, in the sense of
making the Gospel narrative so awfully real and vivid to us.
It is also coloured, firom first to last, with the most profound
religious feeling. I need only remind you of those two
exquisite passages, one beginning: * Jesus, Saviour, I am
XXIII.] CHRIST CRUCIFIED. 22/
thine ; ' and the other : *See the Saviour's outstretched arm ; '
and you will at once understand what I mean. The whole
soul of the great composer evidently went into such passages
as these. He not only realizes the scene ; he makes equally
real the impression, which the scene made upon himself. He
not only gives out the text in clear, bold characters, so that
any one may read it : he also preaches from it, — both * evidently
setting forth ' the cross, and appealing to heart and conscience
through it. Working, like all other true artists, whether with
form and colour, like the great painters of Italy and Germany,
or with musical sound, like Handel and Mendelssohn, — work-
ing with a definite aim and object, he has a message for us.
* Being dead,' all those years ago, * he still speaketh.'
Most of us know, by engravings, the famous picture of the
crucifixion,-^ with the motto, * It is finished,' — by the great
painter, Albert Diirer, the fellow countryman of the composer of
the Passion Music. Did you ever look at the worst engraving
of that famous and noble picture, without feeling that the artist
who painted it had a message for you^ — was preaching to you^ —
out of the depth of his own convictions ? Look at it again :
mark the calm, majestic countenance, so full of repose even in
death. What does it say ? Or what does the artist say to us
through his own exquisite handiwork ? Does he not reiterate
and emphasize the Saviour's own message : ' Come unto me,
and I will give you rest'? And the writer of the Passion
Music has, it seems to me, the same message for us, however
diversely expressed. Amidst all his varied tones, we still seem
to hear the same fundamental key-note, ever and again returned
to : ' Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me \ and ye shall
find rest unto your souls.'
On this day, of all days, there is no thought that one would
more wish to emphasize than this. And I will emphasize it
first, not in any words of my own (they are all too weak), but in
the words of one, who is gone to his rest, gallant soldier of
Christ that he was, Charles Kingsley :
Q 2
228 CHRIST CRUCIFIED. [ser.
* Since Christ hung upon that torturing cross, sorrow is
divine, godlike, as joy itself. All that man's fallen nature
dreads and despises, God honoured on the cross, and took
unto Himself, and blest, and consecrated for ever. And now,
blessed are the poor, if they are poor in heart as well as purse,
for Jesus was poor, and theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are the hungry, if they hunger for righteousness as well
as food, for Jesus hungered, and they shall be filled. Blessed
are those who mourn, if they mourn not only for their afflic-
tions, but for their sins, and for the sins they see around them ;
for on this day Jesus mourned for our sins : on this day He
was made sin for us, who knew no sin, and they shall be com-
forted. Blessed are those who are ashamed of themselves, and
hate themselves, and humble themselves before God this day;
for on this day Jesus hmnbled Himself for us, and they shall be
exalted. Blessed are the forsaken and despised. Did not all
men forsake Jesus this day, in his hour of need ; and why not
thee, too, thou poor deserted one ? Shall the disciple be above
his master ? o ; every one that is perfect must be like his
master. The deeper, the bitterer your loneliness, the more are
you like Him who cried upon the cross : ** My God, my God,
why hast thou forsaken me ? " He knows what that grief too
is like. Though all forsake thee, He is with thee still ; and if
He be with thee, what matter who has left thee for a while?
Ay, blessed are those who weep now, for they shall laugh. It
is those whom the Lord loveth that He chasteneth ; and be-
cause He loves the poor He brings them low. All things are
blessed now hut sin ; for all things except sin are redeemed by
the life and death of the Son of God. Blessed are wisdom and
courage, joy and health and beauty, love and marriage, child-
hood and manhood, com and wine, fruit and flowers ; for
Christ redeemed them by his life. And blessed, too, are tears
and shame ; blessed are weakness and ugliness ; blessed are
agony and sickness ; blessed the sad remembrance of our sins,
and a broken heart, and a repentant spirit. Blessed is death,
XXIII.] CHRIST CRUCIFIED. 229
and blessed the unknown realms where souls await the resur-
rection day, for Christ redeemed them by his death. Blessed
are all things, weak as well as strong. Blessed are all days,
dark as well as bright, for all are his, and He is ours ; and all
are ours, and we are his, for ever. Therefore sigh on, ye sad
ones ; and rejoice in your own sadness ; rejoice that you are
made free of the holy brotherhood of mourners, that, you may
claim^ your place, too, if you will, among the noble army of
martyrs. Rejoice that you are counted worthy of a fellowship
in the sufferings of the Son of God. Rejoice, and trust on ;
for after sorrow shall come joy. Trust on ; for in man*s weak-
ness God's strength is made perfect. Trust on, for death is
the gate of life.'
To these brave and beautiful words of Kingsle/s I need
hardly add any of my own. They point clearly out to us that
way of peace, into which the Crucified calls us ; that way of
peace, which, amidst the infinite variety of the outward forms
and fashions of life, is ever in spirit one and the same for all.
Joyful or sorrowful, honoured or despised, rich or poor, health-
ful or sick, succeeding or failing, surrounded by friends and
comforts, or bereaved of all friends and destitute of all human
comfort ; still He says to us : * Take my yoke upon you ; learn
from me ; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.'
It is his secret of that conquest of the world, of which He
said to his disciples on the night before He suffered : * In the
world ye shall have tribulation ; but be of good cheer, I have
overcome the world.' That the world of outward things galls
us, oppresses us, disappoints us, threatens to crush us, — we all
know by sad experience. What, then, is the yoke, by which
we may hope to ease the galled shoulder, — to lift the almost
intolerable weight, — to drag the ponderous load ? * i^ yoke,'
Christ says in reply: — * Take my yoke upon you, and learn
from Me.'
What that yoke was, the cross revealed. Its first and last
230 CHRIST CRUCIFIED.
words were, * Father, forgive them, for they know not what they
do:' 'Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit' Look
through these words, dear brethren ; look through these words
of the dying Christ ; look through them into the heart, which
they reveal ; — ^and we shall see, what his yoke is, and how it was
that He conquered the world. In that one word, ' Father,' we
find the transforming power, which can convert our wintry world
too into summer for us. In the light of that word, men become
our brothers ; the whole area of life, from first to last, a scene
of fatherly discipline, — discipline, most wise, most just, most
tender; and the unknown world beyond, a home and haven of
rest In the light of that word, * Father,' I repeat, men become
our brothers ; brothers, to whom we owe all brotherly help and
service ; from whom we must expect little ; to whom we must
forgive all. The whole area of life becomes a fatherly dis-
cipline, — ^an education, of which it is impossible to understand
every single detail, until the whole is complete ; in the course
of which we are required again and again simply to trust ; and
not least so, when, as with Christ, all is slipping from oiu- grasp,
and we can do nothing but commend oiu: departing spirits into
the Father's hands.
Try this yoke, dear brethren; try it honestly, earnestly,
patientiy : try it so, and then pronounce for yourselves, whether
Jesus Christ has falsified his pledge : — * Take my yoke ; and ye
shall find rest unto your souls.'
* " O Father, not my will, but Thine, be done : "
So spake the Son :
Be this our charm, mellowing earth's ruder noise
Of griefs and joj^ :
That we may cling for ever to Thy breast
In perfect rest.'
1. 68 FREE BOOKS
http://www.scribd.com/doc/21800308/Free-Christian-Books
2. ALL WRITIGS
http://www.scribd.com/glennpease/documents?page=1000

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful