EIGHTH "VERILY, VERILY."
THE SACRIFICE OF THE NEW MAN.
The gospel is summed up by the apostle as the "preaching of the cross" (1 Cor. 1:18), among other reasons because it is God's revelation of Himself, and God is love, and love must be a sacrifice. In the eighth "Verily, Verily," the Sacrifice of the New Man is opened to us. The priest unconsciously foretells it, in saying that "one man must die for the people, that the whole nation perish not" (John 11:50). The loving woman feels it, and comes beforehand to the Son of Man, putting oil and frankincense upon Him, as upon a Meat-offering (Lev. 2:15), to anoint His body for the burying (John 12:7). Above all the Son of Man Himself declares it, in words which show that sacrifice is the fundamental law of all increase. All witness in different ways that there must be sacrifice, even unto death, if the world is to be saved, and fed, and made fruitful (John 12:24, 25).
Our Lord's words call attention, first, to the universal law, that all increase is through death, and then to the results or fruit of this sacrifice.
1. The general law is this, written in God's book of nature from the beginning, though our blindness requires that our attention should be called to it by another reiterated Amen: "Verily, Verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He therefore that loveth his life shall lose it, and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." Such is the law, that without sacrifice there can be no increase, while through it there is abundant fruit.
These words were called forth by the wish expressed by certain Greeks, who, having come up to worship at Jerusalem, say to one of the disciples, "We would see Jesus" (John 12:21). Their desire is to the Lord the witness of the world's need, and of its unconscious craving for a Saviour. And His answer at once is, that by His sacrifice their longings shall be met, and that He will draw, not the elect only, but all men, to Him, by His uplifting. It is as if He said, They wish to see me. They have come at the right time. The hour is come that the Son of Man, who is linked, not with Israel only, but with all men, should be glorified. And His glory is, not to be in life and light alone, but to give Himself as seed sown in the earth, out of the dark earth to bring forth much fruit. He is the corn of wheat, the seed of life, which until it is sown abides alone, but which, if cast into the earth, multiplies itself through countless generations. If these Greeks had ever understood the mystic teaching of their own rites, they would at once have recognised in these words the confirmation of all the hopes which the greatest of their mysteries had dimly foreshadowed to them; for the mystery commemorated at Eleusis was that of Ceres and her daughter, whom the lower world had seized, that is of the harvest and the seed, which for awhile is held in bondage, under the earth, but which nevertheless returns to the light of heaven in due season, (Note: See Müller's Literature of Ancient Greece, chap. xvi. § 2, and Bacon's Wisdom of the Ancients, chap. xxix., as to the mystic sense of the myth of Ceres and Proserpine.)—a truth or fact of nature again referred to by St Paul, when writing to these same Greeks, who ought, by what their own religion, and still more by what nature, taught them, to have believed, that what we call death is indeed the gate of life (1 Cor. 15:35-37), and sacrifice and apparent loss the way to more increase. Even in its very nature and formation the seed teaches this same lesson. For seed, as naturalists have lately shown us, is simply an arrested and metamorphosed stalk or branch. The stalk or branch in producing seed sacrifices itself, and yields up its own life for another life that is to spring from it. The leaf ministers to the plant itself; the fruit ministers to others; and thus in its very formation is the perfect illustration of the law of self-sacrifice. (Note: See the Rev. Hugh Macmillan's interesting volume, entitled "The True Vine," pp. 95-97.) In the words before us our Lord points us to the still more obvious truth, that the seed itself must die, if it would increase, saying, "Verily, Verily, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit."
Now the first and greatest fulfilment of this law is in God Himself, both in what He is, and in what He has done. But who shall rightly speak of what He is? Only the pure in heart see God (Matt. 5:8). How then shall sinners see or speak of that which His very being says of this eternal law of self-sacrifice. And yet something of Him we may see as in a glass darkly. For, if He is love, the law of sacrifice, that is of giving and going out of self, must be inherent in His very being; and the very going forth of His Word, in the mystery of the eternal generation of the ever-blessed Trinity, be the first illustration of the truth, that without sacrifice or giving out from self one must abide alone. What is sacrifice in its highest form but an offering of love to the object of affection? Must there not therefore have been sacrifice in God Himself from everlasting, and He Himself be the great Sacrificer and the great Sacrifice? But eyes to see and words to utter what God's being says are lacking to us here. What He has done shows Him more clearly both as Offerer and Offering for His creatures, and that, if what He had in Himself had not been given, He might have remained alone, but that by the giving and going forth of His Only-begotten Son He has multiplied His seed, until it is as the stars of heaven, and as the sand upon the seashore. We in our weakness are prone to associate the thought of pain with sacrifice. And there may be pain, if the beloved object for whom the sacrifice is made is suffering, and can alone be helped by fellow-suffering. But in all truest sacrifice there is always more of joy than pain. Is it any pain to a lover to give himself and all he has to the beloved? Is not such giving up of self to another the greatest delight? All true sacrifice is simply this giving up of self, for love is not content until it can give itself away. And sacrifice in God is just this outflowing of His love; and the sacrifice of Christ, who is the image of God, is but the revelation of this love in all its fulness. To regard it as the mere payment of a debt, though this is also true, is to look on one side only of the subject, and this the side consequent upon the creature's failure and necessity. Sin surely has brought into sacrifice the idea of debt: this indeed is what is presented to us in the Sin and Trespass-offering, where the offerer by his sacrifice comes to meet a debt or wrong. And yet here as much as in the Sweet-savour offerings, where the idea is simply that of free and voluntary gift, it is love and love alone which pays the debt and makes the sacrifice. In the one case, in the Sweet-savour offerings, love freely, of its own will, and simply from the delight of giving, gives up its best to the beloved. In the other, that is the Sin and Trespass-offerings, love cannot see wrong without becoming itself a debtor to meet the need and wrong by self-sacrifice. For need, however brought about, makes love a debtor to remove the need. But in either case, and whatever view we take of sacrifice,—and the marriage tie is perhaps of all the highest figure of this truth, in which love's service may be viewed either as delight or debt and duty (See Song 2:3; 4:9, 10; 7:6; Exod. 21:10; 1 Cor. 7:3, 5),—this at least is true, that without giving forth from self we must abide alone. Only in so giving forth can we increase and bear fruit.
The most perfect manifestation of this law, as I have already said, is in the life and death of Him who is the image of God, in whose willing sacrifice of Himself, according to the Father's will, both as a Sweet-savour and a Sin-offering, we see the substance shadowed by the "corn of wheat," in its coming into the earth, and its death and increase through dissolution. The seed has in it all the virtues of the root from which it comes. So the Seed of God possesses all the fulness of the life and glory of the invisible God. By His holy incarnation He is sown into the earth, that so bringing His life and virtues into it, He may through His death take another body from it, which shall bear His image, and which shall again by the same process of self-sacrifice multiply itself from generation to generation. For by its falling into the earth the seed produces other seeds, each of which, formed in the image of that from which it springs, shall again by its sacrifice and dissolution still more increase until it fill the face of the earth with fruit. But this multiplication absolutely depends on falling into the ground and dying there. Without this death there is and can be no fruit. Had Christ not come in the flesh, the world would still have lacked His life. Had He not then died, there could have been no raising up of others with Him as partakers of His resurrection. It is by His coming into the earth that He brings His life into the earth. It is by His resurrection from the dead that He brings that which He has laid hold of in the earth, as partaker of His life, into His own light and glory with Him. Blessed be His name who took our earthly place and form for us, that so He might make us partakers of Himself and of His quickening spirit. Henceforth as He is, so are we (1 John 4:17). And as partakers of His life, who manifested the love of God by laying down His life for us, we cannot but lay down our lives also for the brethren, content, yea debtors even (1 John 3:10: "We ought," that is we owe it, ὀφείλομεν, "to lay down our lives," &c.), with Him to come in the flesh, and to stoop to things which are of the earth, to give to others the life which God has given to us. Thus is continued the life-giving sacrifice of the "corn of wheat." The Church fills up that which remains behind of the afflictions of Christ (Col. 1:24). The world may not know it, but the daily self-surrender of many a meek life, in the common cares and crosses of a very ordinary lot, is winning for God those with whom it comes in contact, who shall be its harvest of joy at the appearing of the Lord. I need not speak of the fruit won by those who have more manifestly laid down their lives for Christ, or of the victory over the kingdoms of the world by the ready sacrifice of saints, who in time of plague, peril, or want, willingly died even for those who had hated them and hunted for their lives. All this is now a proverb. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church." The seed has increased, because the seed has died.
But let us look more closely at the stages, which our Lord tells us must intervene, between "abiding alone," and "bringeth forth much fruit." These are, first, "falling into the ground;" then, "dying" there (John 12:24); both revealing something of the cost which sacrifice entails, in a world where sinners are to be reached, and where sinners too by grace are called to be partakers in the sacrifice.
First, as to the "coming" or "falling into the earth." Few think what this was to the Son of God. Think of the seed cast into the earth; exposed to wintry winds; trodden under the feet of those who drive the rake and harrow over it; buried out of sight, and left alone, as if cast out by God and man, to endure the slow process of a daily dissolution; then melted by rains and heats, until its form is marred, and it seems useless either to God or man. All this, and more, was but the shadow of what the Seed of God endured, in those days of little-estimated humiliation, when, though He had brought God's life into the world, that life as yet was not manifested. Who shall say what it cost Him to be "sown a natural body" (1 Cor. 15:44); to come from the form of God into the likeness of man; to be made of a woman, under the law; to share the weakness and limitations of a dying, earthly, transitory, life; to come into the lot of sinners, and to live with sinners; to live among such all unknown; so little understood even by His dearest, that when, as He increased in wisdom, He said, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" even His mother "understood not the saying which He spake unto them" (Luke 2:50). And in such humiliation to wear out nearly all this earthly life: all indeed but the last three years, which were still more a daily death. When one thinks that this was only the beginning of the sacrifice, we may perhaps dimly perceive what His coming into the earth must have been to God's dear Son. Some of us for His sake have left bright homes to enter dwellings, reeking with disease, where the stifling air is hard to breathe, and the sights of pain have so oppressed our hearts, that, even when again absent from such scenes, they have still weighed upon our bodies or our minds. But what can any such contrast, which we have known, be to that accepted by our Lord, between what He was and what He became for us, when He came into the earth as the Seed of God, that "truth should spring out of the earth, and our land should yield her increase" (Psalm 85:11, 12).
All this however was but a stage to dying in our place. For the corn of wheat, not only "falls into the ground," but must also "die," if it is to bring forth fruit. So not only was "the Word made flesh" (John 1:14), but "being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8). And in this death He died, not only to this world (Col. 2:20), but also to sin (Rom. 6:10), which had seized and held His creatures captive; because thus only, by taking our death, could mortality be swallowed up of life (2 Cor. 5:4), and our bodies, as well as our souls, be brought back to bear His likeness with Him. How He felt all this, or what He suffered, when "the sorrows of death compassed Him about, and the pains of hell gat hold upon Him" (Psalm 116:3); when he was "laid in the lowest pit, in darkness and in the deep, like the slain that lie in the grave, and are remembered no more" (Psalm 88:5, 6); what it was for life to die, no mortal tongue can tell. But we know He bore it all. For only so could the life shut up in the corn of wheat be brought forth out of the earth; only so could it spring up, not alone, but multiplied exceedingly. For ever blessed be His Name, who has thus made us partakers of His likeness; emptying Himself to fill us; dying to give us life.
Such is the pattern. The Son of God first came where He would have to die. Then He died here. And so must we. To be fruitful, we shall be brought into the place where, before we die, and in order to die, we must often be mortified and suffer a daily dissolution. Like the old invaders, who burnt their ships, if we follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, and give up, first our money, calling, and ease, and then, what is far dearer to self, our reputation, being counted fools, and even mad, to give to others what we have received, we shall ere long find ourselves in a place from which we cannot then draw back, and in which it only remains for us to die. Folly indeed would it then be to draw back. For just as the seed, cast into the earth, is spoilt for food by being sown, and spoilt for growing, if it be taken thence and not allowed to die, so is he who in following Christ has come into the place of death, but is not yet dead; for by his sacrifice, so far as it has advanced, he is already spoilt for this world, while, if he then draw back, he is spoilt and worthless also for the kingdom. If any so draw back, the Lord will have no pleasure in them (Heb. 10:38). Have any suffered so many things in vain, if it be yet in vain (Gal. 3:4)? Alas for those who have followed Christ enough to be spoilt for this world, and yet not so far as to die with Him, to win the crown of sacrifice, and to bring forth much fruit:—To good for great things, and too great for good,
While still "I dare not" waits upon "I would."
It cannot be so with the true elect, though with them too it is hard to die, harder far than to do a thousand religious things, which yet are short of death to self; for, as one said of old, "All that a man hath will he give for his life" (Job 2:4). They too must die; and, thank God, they are in the faithful hands of One who will carry out the sacrifice to its appointed end.
To bring about this end God uses many instruments, even as the seed comes to dissolution through the varied agencies of frosts, and dews, and sun, and air. But it is ever He himself who brings His children into this death, that He may raise them up again with great power. We are tempted to forget this, when men and devils seem to have their way, and we feel ourselves perishing, and no fruit appears of such sorrow. But the end of self is the one condition of the promised blessing. He that will not die cannot live. It is God himself therefore who brings us down to bring us up. Faith sees this, and thus can pierce the darkest cloud, and say in all, "It is the Lord" (1 Sam. 3:18). It is not man's hand, but thine, my God, that brings me down. "Thou turnest man to destruction" (Psalm 90:3). "Thou hast put away mine acquaintance, and hast made me to be abhorred of them" (Psalm 88:8). What they do, even when "the heathen rage, and the rulers stand up against thy Christ," is only "whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined to be done" (Acts 4:26-28). The trial may even come through God's elect, and when this is so, the pain is greater, for nothing wounds us more than the opposition and condemnation of true brethren. Yet this is the royal way. Christ was judged and left by all. And His one answer to perplexed disciples is, "Ought not Christ to suffer these things?" Is there any other way to glory (Luke 24:26)?
The pain and bliss of thus dying none know but those who have endured its pains and felt its bliss. For there is joy unspeakable and full of glory in the sacrifice of self,—in being hidden as God is hidden from the world. Till we can be thus unseen like God, there is little growth in the divine life, which only manifests itself as we pass through this secret death and dissolution. Yet this experimental learning what we are has its own sorrows also, which force even from the true elect the cry, "Now is my soul troubled; yet what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour? But for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name" (John 12:27, 28). The trial is indeed sifting. Yet the true deliverance is not in saying, "Save me from this or that"; but in accepting everything, however grievous it may appear, as from the Lord, saying only, "Father, glorify thy name." These apparent forsakings of God are a great deep. It is easier to speak of those separations from our brethren which this sacrifice involves, between those who remain unchanged, and those who through a daily death are being led on to resurrection. The dying and the dead are never pleasant to the living. Only a few loving ones will continue clinging to a corpse. And even they must soon bury it out of sight. To those who walk after the flesh there is a kind of horror in seeing one dying to the joys of earth, and to the things which make up the business of this present outward life. Let none therefore be surprised if at such a stage they are deserted. Was not the dead Christ buried? Are we not to be buried with Him? Surely, if we are to be conformed to Him, we must die, and be forsaken, as He was. Many things most lawful must be left. But meanwhile another world opens to our view, with its tree of life and paradise of God (Rev. 2:7). And yet even Christian brethren, instead of rejoicing in being partakers of such pains, or in seeing a crossed and wounded Christ in one another, often are in doubt as to themselves, or forsake a brother, when, to make him perfect through sufferings, he too is called to pass the straight and narrow gate. Perhaps it must be so. We must die alone. But though the inhabitants of mortality and time yet misunderstand such pains, and spite of Christ's agony and cross may forsake or shrink from such sufferers; though dear brethren are perplexed, and question how such a cross should be allowed, if the soul so suffering really is the Lord's; though, as with Christ, there comes a cloud of darkness and desertion; though censure and judgments pass from one to another, and even true disciples say, "We trusted that such a one would indeed have helped the Church" (Luke 24:21); though all this has to be suffered and debated, and all seems lost, and the soul cannot move or rise or justify itself; such sufferers need not fear. Those who die with Christ are safe with Him. For His own lifeguard of angels is about them, to watch and roll away the stone, that the dead may in due time rise again.
2. Such is the way. The corn must fall into the ground. But the result of the sacrifice is, "If it die, it bringeth forth much fruit" (John 12:24). For as the grain of corn, through dissolution, is made the root of many seeds, so the Lamb by His once dying, as the First-born and the First-fruits, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence (Col. 1:18), is multiplied into His disciples, who are made partakers of the same life, and who in their turn, through death, will be multiplied again into a still greater number, till the field of the world is full of the seed of God. This is the end of all the trial. The word as to Abraham's sacrifice is still true. "By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, because thou hast done this, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son, that in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed, as the stars of heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou hast obeyed my voice" (Gen. 22:17, 18). Increase must follow self-surrender. So the prophet, who most clearly foresees the great sacrifice, declares, "When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand" (Isa. 53:10). Fruit shall be borne, enriching not the offerer only, but also God and man, and shaking to its foundation the power of him who holds the world captive.
(i) First, this self-surrender has results upon the offerer himself. "The Son of Man is glorified" (John 12:23; 13:31), in and by that very sacrifice which to sense appears to be destruction. Just as with the seed, its dissolution is but a loosing of its bonds, that it may arise out of itself in a new form, and put on glorious apparel, and in its flower hold up to heaven its creaturely image of that sun, whose light and warmth have touched it even in the grave, and so have brought out of the dark root a beauty and glory, of which the seed while it remained intact afforded no indication; so in the elect does the sacrifice even unto death work for us "a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. 4:17). The Son of Man is glorified thereby. For what is our shame? Is it not this "body of humiliation" (Phil. 3:21), in which we are "straitened" (Luke 12:50), and "groan being burdened" (2 Cor. 5:2)? Is it not the selfish will of the flesh, which lusteth against the spirit, and presseth down the soul, so that we cannot do the things that we would (Wisdom ix. 15; Gal. 5:17)? Then the cross or sacrifice of this selfhood must be glory, even though to carnal minds, who "glory in their shame" (Phil. 3:19), and to carnal eyes, which see only the judgment of the flesh, it appears to be destruction. Therefore Paul "gloried in tribulation, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope; and hope maketh not ashamed, because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:3-5). The cross is the true sceptre. Things which trouble faith are overcome by death. "He that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin" (1 Pet. 4:1).
(ii) But the sacrifice also glorifies God. The soul which will not say, "Father, save me from this hour," but only, "Father, glorify thy name," is met at once by a voice from heaven, saying, "I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again" (John 12:28). Therefore "now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him" (John 13:31). For as surely as self-will and self-pleasing, as we see in Adam, always rob and dishonour God, so does self-surrender, even unto death, as we see in Christ, bring glory to Him. For self-surrender is the most perfect expression of our love. Can I give myself away? Can I wholly trust myself, in a path where I see nothing, to another? Can I so yield myself to Him in all, that He may do with me what He will? In no other way can I so express my estimate of Him, in whom I place such perfect confidence. Thus it is that self-surrender glorifies God. He looks upon a world, where the serpent's lie, that God cannot be trusted, rankles deep in every heart. He sees some weak one who can so trust Him, that, let the darkness be what it may, he will not even say, "Save me from this or that," but only, "Father, glorify thy name." And He is glorified thereby. For as unbelief makes Him a liar (1 John 5:10), so does faith, which yields itself to Him, above all else do honour to Him. Well then may the partakers of Christ's sufferings rejoice, for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon them. By the world He may be blasphemed; but in those who suffer with Him He is glorified (1 Pet. 4:13, 14).
(iii) Nor is this all. Sacrifice not only has results on him who makes it, and upon God, but it also acts directly on the world, freeing it, as nothing else does, from the power of him who holds it captive. So our Lord adds here, "Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out: and I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:31, 32). For the world is captive in its self-will. The judgment therefore is its salvation, when "the sword of the Lord shall be drawn out, against all flesh, that every heart may melt, and all hands be feeble, and every spirit faint, and all knees weak" (Ezek. 21:4, 7), that they may thus come into the place of blessing, and be among the "faint" and "feeble," to whom the promise is for ever pledged (Isa. 40:29), and learn, even as the elect, that Christ's strength is only perfect in man's weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). This is the purpose of the judgment; and the judgment itself is such as He himself enjoins, who says, "Seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Isa. 1:17); accomplished when orphan souls again cry, Abba, Father, and those who have lost their strength and stay are united to their true husband. Thus with righteousness does He judge the poor, and smite the earth with the rod of His mouth, and with the breath of His mouth destroy the wicked (Isa. 11:4). And there are many stages in this judgment. He who by His own submission overcame the tempter, little by little, as we can bear it, draws sinners to His cross, first by this or that involuntary sacrifice of their own will, and then by the willing acceptance of whatever He may lay upon them. And in the fires they find that the flames have only burnt their bonds; that, though cast in bound, they thus are made free (Dan. 3:24, 25). This is the "judgment of this world," by which "its prince is cast out," and "all men drawn to Him" who died for them. Well therefore may the Psalmist call upon all creatures to "rejoice before the Lord, because He cometh to judge the earth" (Psalm 96:11-13).
(iv) For the sacrifice at last must touch and draw back all to God: "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me" (John 12:32). Evil is not eternal: it is only disorder; the creature's will out of its true place. Sacrifice restores the true order. It was the fall into selfhood which divided man from God and man. It is by sacrifice, and by sacrifice alone, that they can again be reunited. For sacrifice is simply the law of the divine life, that going and giving out of self, which is love's inmost law and instinct. It was thus, by His own sacrifice of Himself, that God united Himself to us. It is thus, by our sacrifice through Christ, that we are united to Him and to one another. The blood of the cross reconciles all. It can unite the most opposed, and heal every breach, whether in heaven or earth (Col. 1:20). The reconciliation and union is already wrought in Jesus Christ. It shall be wrought in the world through Him, till the last rebel is subdued, and the last wanderer found. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men to me." This is the end, shadowed of old in type, partially fulfilled in the calling of the Gentiles, to be consummated when at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; when every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10, 11). And as in Himself, by His one oblation of Himself once offered, the breach between God and man, and man and man, has been for ever healed,—as in Him God and man are one,—so by the continued sacrifice of His body, through the sufferings of His members, which are His sufferings in them, is He conveying the grace of His own life and love to those who yet are strangers to it. Whether therefore we are comforted or afflicted, it is for others' consolation and salvation, which is made effectual in them through the enduring of the same sufferings (2 Cor. 1:6).
Thus do the elect fill up what remains of the joys and sufferings of Christ (Phil. 2:17; Col. 1:23). Little do we think how each unknown sufferer's daily cross is serving in God's hand to bring about the promised restitution. We quote as a doctrine, "As by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one are many made righteous" (Rom. 5:19). But it is a daily fact also. Every act of disobedience and refusal to submit to the law of love, which is the law of self-sacrifice, still makes, and must make, many sinners, even as every act of obedience makes many others righteous. The fact which is daily becoming clearer to scientific men, that the universe is one, and that the least things in our little world are related to and influenced by the sun and distant stars, and probably are influencing them also in return, is no less true of the spirit-world, of which as men made in God's image we form a part, and in which Christ as man has already effected such wonders. His incarnation and entrance into heaven as man necessarily affect all, in heaven, and earth, and hell. For there is in His humanity an eternal link with all, which knits together those who as yet are far apart as death from life and heaven from hell. He has tasted both for all (Heb. 2:9); and, because He died and rose and revived, He is Lord both of the dead and of the living (Rom. 14:9). Wherefore He is able also to save to the uttermost all who come unto God by Him (Heb. 7:25). Because He lives, we shall live also (John 14:19).
Such is the Sacrifice of the New Man. Shall we not ask, how much we know of that death to self, which our Lord here announces so unequivocally. Those especially who count themselves to be disciples should see to it, that in this giving up of self their life is conformed to Him who is the pattern. For never perhaps was there more light than now as to what becomes a son of God: never greater temptation to indulge ourselves, even while we admire and confess the truth, that self-sacrifice is most godlike. And our very nearness to Christ may help to deceive us. Simon the Cyrenian is the witness, that it is not some favoured disciple, but a poor stranger, who really bears Christ's cross (Mark 15:21), while better instructed disciples, for a time at least, only see and shrink from such suffering. God knows who now are bearers of that burden which was first laid upon the Lord. Who now are cross-bearers? Are they still gathered from among strangers to Him, who are "compelled to bear" the daily cross of poverty and pain, and the other varied ills which are sin's just penalty; or are they to be found among those, who, with greater knowledge of the Lord, shrink from and stumble at the cross, when, in its full bitterness and shame, it comes to overthrow their preconceived and mistaken notions of the way into the kingdom? Are there not still many, whose so-called faith, instead of leading to the cross, has been the directest way to gain the things of this world? Such is not the Sacrifice of the New Man. Now as of old the corn of wheat must die, if it is indeed to bring forth much fruit.
It may be asked, How can such a life of daily death go hand in hand with a due attention to the claims and wants of our earthly callings and relationships, where there must be worldly care and interest in these outward things, not only for the supply of our own but even of others' wants. This is a question which has often exercised the saints of God. And God alone can answer it so as to meet the varying growth and need of each believer. For we have each our special calling, depending on our growth in Christ, and the sacrifice which is proper to one stage may be unworthy of another. Our Lord's life is the real answer. From the first it was a life of love, and therefore could not but be a life of sacrifice in everything, whether as carpenter, or preacher, or sufferer on the cross. But the form of the sacrifice varied as time went on. Its first form was coming in the flesh: its last was dying in and to the flesh: the one quite as much as the other being indeed a sacrifice. And so the saints have ever felt that their coming or abiding in the flesh, stooping to carnal forms for carnal souls, continuing with them in the earthly life, because it is more needful for them (Phil. 1:24, 25), is quite as much a sacrifice as the dying to this outward life, whatever may be the form or pains of so dying. In either case, whether we leave the outward world for God, or seek to live for Him in the common toil and relationships of ordinary life,—"whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God, or whether we be sober, it is for your cause; for the love of Christ constraineth us, because we thus judge, that, if One died for all, all died in Him, and that He died, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again" (2 Cor. 5:14, 15). If we only live out Christ's life, we shall be conformed to Him in all, both in His coming in the flesh and in His dying to it; and shall prove that dying is more than doing, for "if we die we bring forth more fruit." But whether we live or die we are the Lord's (Rom. 14:8).
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