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THE DOCTRINE OF THE CROSS.
All Christians look to the cross for salvation. The death of Christ is the life of their hope. Whatever difference of opinion may exist in regard to the method by which his death accomplishes the work of redemption, all agree in the main fact that redemption is its work.
It has been the effect of controversy on this subject to bring into too great prominence obscure and difficult points, and to keep out of sight the plainer and more useful, about which, when justly considered, there can be but one opinion. But the plain and useful are, after all, the only essential points, and in these all true Christians agree. There is a broad common ground, firm as the pavement of heaven, on which all stand. I invite Christian believers, of all denominations, to take a candid survey with me of this common ground. It is the design of this Tract to show in what particular views of the death of the Saviour all his disciples must be substantially of ore mind. I wish to make it appear that these are highly important views, far more so in respect to their influence on the character than any others, and that they are perfectly intelligible and free from mystery, whilst those about
which opinion is divided, are such as nobody can clearly understand or explain.
What was there, then, in the death of Christ, that served to draw men unto him and to save them, according to his words, “ And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.” This is the subject of the present inquiry.
back to the time of the crucifixion, and first look at the subject from that point of observation. And I remark, that in order to gain for Christ and his doctrine a reception in the world, something was immediately needed to soften the hard hearts of his enemies, to mitigate the ferocity with which they had pursued him, and to make them, if possible, feel tenderly and kindly towards him, so that they could examine his character and pretensions with calmness and candor. This, it will be seen at once, would be a great point gained. If the opposition of but a single individual could be removed, and his mind fairly opened to the truth concerning Jesus, that individual, in some circumstances, might give an impulse and a celebrity to the new faith which it would never lose, and be instrumental, directly and indirectly, in converting hundreds, and, in the generations of his descendants, perhaps thousands. Whatever, then, contribúted to remove the prejudice and hostility of the people, and to open their hearts to the truth in relation to Jesus, would proportionably strengthen his cause, make his doctrines known, and draw the confidence and affection of men towards him. Of this there can be no dispute. Every person must admit it.
Now, is not this precisely the effect that might be naturally expected to follow froin the death of Christ, - its scene and circumstances ? Is it not the effect which did
actually ensue? Was not a sensible and deep impression in his favor, made upon the hearts of the by-standers, when, as the Saviour yielded up his spirit, the vail of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, and the earth quaked beneath their feet, and the sun was dark. ened in the heavens ? Could they easily forget this? Could they fail of perceiving the momentous meaning of
And when they looked upon the blessed sufferer, and saw how patiently he bore the insults and cruelties that were heaped upon him, with what a melting eye of compassion he surveyed the numerous throng that exulted over him as though he had been an atrocious malefactor, with what calm majesty he raised his eyes and prayed, not that fire might come down from heaven and consume them, not even that they might receive a just retribution for their iniquities, but that God would mercifully forgive them, can it be, I ask, that seeing all this, - a spectacle such as neither men nor angels had seen before, not one of all that multitude was softened, not one relented, not one, overcome by the matchless display of goodness, said within himself, “This was, indeed, a righteous man ?” Nay, can it be doubted that of all that assemblage, not a few were melted with pity, and yearned with love towards him, and held down their heads to conceal their tears ? that not a few, as they withdrew from the tragic scene, walked sadly and timidly to their homes, at every step praying God to forgive them, starting at the spectres which their imaginations, excited by the terrors of guilt, conjured up, and repeating to themselves in bro. ken utterances, “ How like a God he died !”
No, it cannot be doubted that some, even of the most inveterate of his foes, as the shades of evening drew on, VOL. XIV.NO. 156.
and they slunk away with fear and shame from the place of death, whispered one to another, “ What, if this shall prove to have been the Son of God ?" and as the red -sky of the twilight glared upon them, “ His blood is upon us, the blood of the innocent! and that they sighed despairingly, and smote their breasts, and cursed themselves, and deprecated the vengeance of heaven. Aye, and many a mother was there in Israel who watched all that night, and started at the breath of her babes, and hid her head at the sound of the wind, and expected momently some terrible vindication of the murdered Prophet.
This exhibition upon the cross was, then, I maintain, the preparation for the faith of many. It prepared their hearts to receive evidence concerning Jesus. They could not, after this, effectually resist it. It convinced them that there was something in this man whom they had put to death which they had not before apprehended; something which belonged to no other man; something almost divine. All that they who are thus impressed need farther, to satisfy them, is information concerning him, or some additional proof, however slight, that he came forth from God.
Besides ; after what they had seen on the cross, who was at liberty longer to doubt that, at least, the dying Teacher was sincere, that he fully believed his own doctrine, and that it was from a deep conviction of duty that he acted. No man could doubt it. Doubt was utterly impossible. Men never expose themselves to violent suffering for falsehood's sake, unless they believe they are to gain a more than counter-balancing advantage. No man ever suffered martyrdom for what he believed to be a lie. To call in question the sincerity of Jesus, therefore, after