Adapted from a Sermon by J.C. Ryle
“Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Galatians 6:14
What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ? You attend the worship of a Christian church. You have perhaps been baptized in the name of Christ. You profess and call yourself a Christian. All this is well. It is more than can be said of millions in the world. But all this is no answer to the question, “What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ?”
I want to tell you what the greatest Christian that ever lived thought of the cross of Christ. He has written down his opinion. He has given his judgment in words that can’t be mistaken. The man I mean is the Apostle Paul. The place where you will find his opinion, is in the letter which the Holy Spirit inspired him to write to the Galatians; and the words in which his judgment is set down, are those we have just heard in verses 14 of chapter 6, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now what did Paul mean by saying this? He meant to strongly declare, that he trusted in nothing but Jesus Christ crucified for the pardon of his sins and the salvation of his soul. Let others, if they would, look elsewhere for salvation. Let others, if they were so disposed, trust in other things for pardon and peace. For his part, the Apostle was determined to rest on nothing, lean on nothing, build his hope on nothing, place his confidence in nothing, and boast in nothing, except “the cross of Jesus Christ.”
Let us look into this subject; a deep and important one. This is no mere question of controversy. This is not one of those points on which men may agree to disagree, and feel that differences will not shut them out of heaven. A man must be right on this subject, or he is lost forever. Heaven or hell, happiness or misery, life or death, blessing or cursing in the last day,—all hinges on the answer to this question, “What do you think about the cross of Christ?”
I. Let me show you, first, what the apostle Paul did not boast in.
II. Then, let me explain to you what he did boast in.
III. And in the third place, let me show to you why all Christians should think and feel about the cross like Paul did.
I. And so, to begin, What did the apostle Paul not boast in?
There are many things that Paul might have boasted in, if he had thought as some do in this day. If ever there was someone who had something to boast of in himself, that man was the great apostle of the Gentiles. Now if he did not dare to boast, who will?
i) He never boasted in his national privileges.
He was a Jew by birth, and as he tells us himself,—“A Hebrew of the Hebrews.”(Phil 3:5) He might have said, like many of his brethren, “I have Abraham for my forefather. I am not a dark unenlightened heathen. I am one of the favoured people of God. I have been admitted into covenant with God by circumcision. I am a far better man than the ignorant Gentiles.” But he never said so. He never boasted in anything of this kind. Never for one moment!
ii) He never boasted in his own works.
None ever worked so hard for God as he did. He worked harder than any of the apostles. No living man ever preached so much, travelled so much, and endured so many hardships for Christ’s cause. None ever converted so many souls, did so much good to the world, and made himself so useful to mankind. No father of the early church, no Reformer, no Puritan, no Missionary, no Minister, no Layman,—no one man could ever be named, who did so many good works as the Apostle Paul. But did he ever boast in them, as if they could earn the salvation of his soul? Never! never for one moment!
iii) He never boasted in his knowledge.
He was a man of great gifts naturally, and after he was converted the Holy Spirit gave him greater gifts still. He was a mighty preacher, and a mighty speaker, and a mighty writer. He was as great with his pen as he was with his tongue. He could reason equally well with Jews and Gentiles. He could argue with infidels at Corinth, or Pharisees at Jerusalem, or self-righteous people in Galatia. He knew many deep things. He had been in the third heaven, and heard unspeakable words. He had received the spirit of prophecy, and could foretell things yet to come. But did he ever boast in his knowledge, as if it could justify him before God? Never! ever for one moment!
iv) He never boasted in his graces.
If ever there was one who abounded in graces, that man was Paul. He was full of love. How tenderly and affectionately he used to write! He could feel for souls like a mother or a nurse feeling for her child. He was a bold man. He didn’t care whom he opposed when truth was at stake. He didn’t cared what risks he ran when souls were to be won. He was a self-denying man,—in hunger and thirst often, in cold and nakedness, in watchings and fastings. He was a humble man. He thought himself less than the least of all saints, and the chief of sinners. He was a prayerful man. See how it comes out at the beginning of all his epistles. He was a thankful man. His thanksgivings and his prayers walked side by side. But he never boasted in all this, never valued himself on it,—never rested his soul’s hopes on it. Never for a moment!
v) He never boasted in his churchmanship.
If ever there was a good churchman, that man was Paul. He was himself a chosen Apostle. He was a founder of churches, and an ordainer of ministers. Timothy and Titus, and many elders, received their first commission from his hands. He was the beginner of services and sacraments in many a dark place. Many did he baptize. Many did he receive to the Lord’s table. Many a meeting for prayer, and praise, and preaching, did he begin, and carry on. He was the setter up of discipline in many a young church. Whatever ordinances and rules and ceremonies were observed in them, were first recommended by him. But did he ever boast in his office and church standing? Does he ever speak as if his churchmanship would save him, justify him, put away his sins, and make him acceptable before God? Never for a moment!
And now, consider this carefully: If the apostle Paul never boasted in any of these things, who in all the world, from one end to the other,—who has any right to boast in them in our day? If Paul said, Far be it from me to boast except in the cross, who will dare to say, “I have something to boast of,—I am a better man than Paul?”
Who is there in the hearing of these words, that trusts in any goodness of his own? Who is there that is resting on his own reforms,—his own morality,—his own performances of any kind whatsoever? Who is there that is leaning the weight of his soul on anything whatsoever of his own, in the smallest possible degree? Realize that you are very unlike the Apostle Paul. Realize that your religion is not apostolical religion.
Who is there in the hearing of these words that trusts in his Churchmanship for salvation? Who is there that is valuing himself on his baptism, or his attendance at the Lord ’s Table,—his church-going on Sundays, or his daily services during the week,—and saying to himself, Surely I lack nothing? Realize that you are very unlike Paul. Your Christianity is not the Christianity of the New Testament. Paul would not boast in anything but the cross. Neither ought you.
Beware of self-righteousness! Open sin kills its thousands of souls. Self-righteousness kills its tens of thousands. Go and study humility with the great apostle of the Gentiles. Go and sit with Paul at the foot of the cross. Give up your secret pride. Throw away your vain ideas of your own goodness. Be thankful if you have grace, but never boast in it for a moment. Work for God and Christ with heart and soul and mind and strength, but never dream for a second of placing your confidence in any work of your own.
Think, you who take comfort in some imagined ideas of your own goodness,—think, you who wrap up yourselves in the notion, “all must be right in the end, if I attend church regularly,”—think for a moment what a sandy foundation you are building on! Think for a moment how miserably defective your hopes and pleas will look in the hour of death, and in the Day of Judgment!
Whatever men may say of their own goodness while they are strong and healthy, they will find little to say of it, when they are sick and dying. Whatever merit they may see in their own works here in this world, they will discover none in them when they stand before the bar of Christ. The light of that great Day of Judgment will reveal all they have done in a very different perspective.
It will strip off the tinsel, shrivel up the veneer, expose the rottenness, of many a deed that is now called good. Their wheat will prove nothing but chaff. Their gold will be found nothing but dross. Millions of so-called Christian actions, will turn out to have been utterly defective and graceless. They passed as genuine, and were valued among men. They will prove light and worthless in the balance of God. They will be found to have been like the whitened tombs of old, fair and beautiful on the outside, but full of corruption on the inside. Alas, for the man who can look forward to the Day of Judgment, and lean his soul in the smallest degree on anything of his own!
Again, beware of self-righteousness in every possible shape and form. Some people get as much harm from their imagined virtues as others do from their sins. Be careful then, lest you be one. Do not rest until your heart beats in tune with the Apostle Paul’s. Do not rest until you can say with him, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
II. Let us see, in the second place, what we are to understand by the cross of Christ,
The cross is an expression that is used in more than one meaning in the Bible. What did the Apostle Paul mean when he said, “I boast in the cross of Christ,” in the Epistle to the Galatians? Let us try and clarify this point.
The cross sometimes means that wooden cross, on which the Lord Jesus was nailed and put to death. This is what the Apostle Paul had in his mind’s eye, when he told the Philippians that Christ “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:8.) This is not the cross in which the Apostle Paul boasted. He would have shrunk with horror from the idea of boasting in a mere piece of wood. There is no doubt he would have denounced the Roman Catholic adoration of the crucifix, as profane, blasphemous, and idolatrous.
The cross sometimes means the afflictions and trials which believers in Christ have to go through if they follow Christ faithfully, for their religion’s sake. This is the sense in which our Lord uses the word when he says, “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:27) This also is not the sense in which Paul uses the word when he writes to the Galatians. He knew that cross well. He carried it patiently. But he is not speaking of it here.
But the cross also means in some places the doctrine that Christ died for sinners on the cross,—the atonement that He made for sinners, by His suffering for them on the cross,—the complete and perfect sacrifice for sin which He offered up, when He gave His own body to be crucified. In short, this one word, “the cross,” stands for Christ crucified, the only Saviour. This is the meaning in which Paul uses the expression, when he tells the Corinthians, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing.” (1 Cor 1:18). This is the meaning in which he wrote to the Galatians, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross.” He simply meant, “I boast in nothing but Christ crucified, as the salvation of my soul.”
Jesus Christ crucified was the joy and delight, the comfort and the peace, the hope and the confidence of Paul’s soul. He did not think of what he had done himself; and suffered himself. He did not meditate on his own goodness, and his own righteousness. He loved to think of what Christ had done, and Christ had suffered,—of the death of Christ, the righteousness of Christ, the atonement of Christ, the blood of Christ, the finished work of Christ. In this he did boast. This was the joy of his soul.
This is the subject he loved to preach about. He was a man who went to and fro on the earth, proclaiming to sinners that the Son of God had shed His own blood to save their souls. He walked up and down the world telling people that Jesus Christ had loved them, and died for their sins on the cross. Mark how he says to the Corinthians, “I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins.” (1 Cor 15:3) “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2) He, a blaspheming, persecuting Pharisee, had been washed in Christ’s blood. He could not remain silent about it. He never tired of telling the story of the cross.
This is the subject he loved to dwell upon when he wrote to believers. It is wonderful to see how full his epistles generally are of the sufferings and death of Christ,—how they run over with warm thoughts and words about Christ’s dying love and power. His heart seems full of the subject. He enlarges on it constantly. He returns to it continually. It is the golden thread that runs through all his teaching and practical exhortation. He seems to think that the most advanced Christian can never hear too much of the cross.
This is what he lived upon all his life, from the time of his conversion. He tells the Galatians, “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) What made him so strong in his efforts? What made him so willing to work? What made him so persistent in endeavouring to save some? What made him so persevering and patient? The secret of it all is that he was always feeding by faith on Christ’s body and Christ’s blood. Jesus crucified was the meat and drink of his soul.
And we may all rest assured that Paul was right. The cross of Christ,—the death of Christ on the cross to make atonement for sinners,—is the central truth in the whole Bible.
This is the truth we begin with when we open Genesis. The seed of the woman bruising the serpent’s head is nothing else but a prophecy of Christ crucified. This is the truth that shines out, though veiled, all through the law of Moses and the history of the Jews. The daily sacrifice, the Passover lamb, the continual shedding of blood in the tabernacle and temple,—all these were emblems of Christ crucified. This is the truth that we see honoured in the vision of heaven before we close the book of Revelation. “And between the throne and the four living creatures,” we are told, “and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.” (Rev 5:6) Even in the midst of heavenly glory we get a view of Christ crucified. Take away the cross of Christ, and the Bible is a dark book. It is like the Egyptian hieroglyphics, without the key that interprets their meaning,—curious and wonderful, but of no real use.
Please consider this carefully. You may know a good deal about the Bible. You may know the outlines of the histories it contains, and the dates of the events described, just as a man knows the history of Canada. You may know the names of the men and women mentioned in it, just as a man knows Cæsar, Alexander the Great, or Napoleon. You may know several precepts of the Bible, and admire them, just as a man admires Plato, Aristotle, or Seneca. But if you have not yet found out that Christ crucified is the foundation of the whole book, you have read your Bible up till now to very little profit. Your religion is a heaven without a sun, a compass without a needle, a lamp without oil. It will not comfort you. It will not deliver your soul from hell.
Again, please consider this carefully. You may know a good deal about Christ, by a kind of head knowledge. You may know who He was, and where He was born, and what He did. You may know His miracles, His sayings, His prophecies, and His ordinances. You may know how He lived, and how He suffered, and how He died. But unless you know the power of Christ’s cross by experience,—unless you know and feel inside that the blood shed on that cross has washed away your own particular sins,—unless you are willing to confess that your salvation depends entirely on the work that Christ did on the cross,—unless this is the case, Christ will profit you nothing. The mere knowing Christ’s name will never save you. You must know His cross, and His blood, or else you will die in your sins.
As long as you live, beware of a religion in which there is not much of the cross. We live in times when the warning is sadly needed. Beware of a religion without the cross.
There are hundreds of places of worship in today, in which there is almost everything except the cross. There is a library, and vast parking lot. There is a gym and sports activities. There are captivating services, and a constant round of ordinances. But the real cross of Christ is not there. Jesus crucified is not proclaimed in the pulpit. The Lamb of God is not lifted up, and salvation by faith in Him alone is not freely proclaimed. And therefore all is wrong. Beware of such places of worship. They are not apostolical. They would not have satisfied the Apostle Paul.
There are thousands of religious books published in our times, in which there is everything except the cross. They are full of directions about life problems, and church building. They abound in exhortations about holy living, and rules for achieving success. They have plenty of pictures of crosses both inside and outside. But the real cross of Christ is left out. The Saviour and his dying love are either not mentioned, or mentioned in an unscriptural way. And therefore they are worse than useless. Beware of such books. They are not apostolical. They would never have satisfied the Apostle Paul.
The Apostle Paul boasted in nothing but the cross. Strive to be like him. Set Jesus crucified fully before the eyes of your soul. Do not listen to any teaching which would interpose anything between you and Him. Do not fall into the old Galatian error: do not think that anyone living today is a better guide than the apostles. Do not be ashamed of the old paths, in which men walked who were inspired by the Holy Spirit. Do not let the vague talk of men, who speak great swelling words about open mindedness, and the church, and the ministry, disturb your peace, and make you release your hands from the cross. Churches, ministers, and sacraments, are all useful in their way, but they are not Christ crucified. Do not give Christ’s honour to another. “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1:31)
III. In the third place, let us see why all Christians ought to boast in the cross of Christ.
It is to be feared that many see no peculiar glory and beauty in the subject of Christ’s cross. On the contrary, they think it painful, humbling, and degrading. They do not see much profit in the story of His death and sufferings. They rather turn from it as an unpleasant thing.
But this is surely quite wrong. Rather, it is an excellent thing for us all to be continually dwelling on the cross of Christ. It 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, flogged Him, beat Him, and crowned Him with thorns,—how they led him out as a lamb to the slaughter, without His murmuring or resisting,—how they drove the nails through His hands and feet, and set Him up between two thieves,—how they pierced His side with a spear, mocked Him in His sufferings, and let Him hang there till He died.
It is good to be reminded of all these things. 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 which should not be overlooked.
We must remember that all Christ’s sufferings on the cross were fore-ordained. They did not come on Him by chance or accident. They were all planned, counselled, 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. Every throb of pain that Jesus felt, every precious drop of blood that Jesus shed, had 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 determined counsel and fore-knowledge of God.
We must remember that all Christ’s sufferings on the cross were necessary for man’s salvation. He had to bear our sins, if ever they were to be borne at all. With His wounds alone could we be healed. (Is 53:5) This was the one payment of our debt 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 place, 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.
We must remember that all Christ’s sufferings were endured voluntarily 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 the cross 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 in 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.
When we think of all this, is there anything painful or disagreeable in the subject of Christ’s cross? Do we not see in it wisdom and power, peace and hope, joy and gladness, comfort and consolation? The more we keep the cross in our mind’s eye, the more fulness we will discern in it. The longer we dwell on the cross in our thoughts, the more we will be satisfied that there is more to be learned at the foot of the cross than anywhere else in the world.
Would we know the length and breadth of God the Father’s love towards a sinful world? Where can we see it most displayed? In His glorious sun shining down day by day on the unthankful and evil? Or at seed-time and harvest returning year after year? No! We can find a stronger proof of love than anything of this kind. Look at the cross of Christ. See in it not the cause of the Father’s love, but the effect. There we 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. We know that the Father loves us because He did not withhold from us His Son, His only Son. We might sometimes imagine that God the Father is too high and holy to care for such miserable, corrupt creatures as we are! But we cannot, dare not think it, when we see the cross of Christ.
Would we know how exceedingly sinful and abominable sin is in the sight of God? Where can we see that most fully displayed? In the history of the flood where we read how sin drowned the world? To the shore of the Dead Sea, and the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah? No: We can find a clearer proof still! Look at the cross of Christ. There we see that sin is so black and damnable, that nothing but the blood of God’s own Son can wash it away. There we see that sin has separated us from our holy Maker to such an extent, that all the angels in heaven could never have made peace between us. Nothing could reconcile us short of the death of Christ. If we listen to the wretched talk of proud men, we might sometimes imagine that sin was not so very sinful! But we cannot think little of sin, when we look at the cross of Christ.
Would we know the fulness and completeness of the salvation God has provided for sinners? Where can we see it most clearly? To the general declarations of the Bible about God’s mercy? Shall we rest in the general truth that God is a God of love? No! Look at the cross of Christ. There is no evidence like that. There is no medicine for a sore conscience and a troubled heart, like the sight of Jesus dying for sinners on the accursed tree. There we see that a full payment has been made for all the enormous debts of his people. The curse of that law which they have broken has come down on One who suffered there in their place. The demands of that law are all satisfied. Payment has been made for them, even to the last penny. It will not be demanded twice over. A believer might sometimes imagine that he is too bad to be forgiven! Is own heart may sometimes whisper that he is too wicked to be saved. But he sees in his better moments that this is all foolish unbelief. He sees the answer to all his doubts in the blood shed at the cross. We may feel sure that there is a way to heaven for the very vilest of men, when we look at the cross.
Would we learn how to be contented and cheerful under all the cares and anxieties of life? What school shall we go to? How can we achieve this state of mind most easily? Shall we look at the sovereignty of God, the wisdom of God, the providence of God, the love of God? It is good to do so. But there is a better argument still. Look at the cross of Christ. There we can see that He who spared not His only begotten Son, but delivered Him up to die for us, will surely with Him give everything that we really need. He that endured that pain for my soul, will surely not withhold from me anything that is really good. He that has done the greater things for me, will doubtless do the lesser things also. He that gave His own blood to purchase a home for me, will unquestionably supply me with all that I really need by the way.
Would the believer gather arguments for hoping that he will never be cast away? Where can he go to find them? Shall he look at his own graces and gifts? Shall he take comfort in his own faith, and love, and penitence, and zeal, and prayer? Shall he turn to his own heart, and say, “this same heart will never be false and cold?” No, thankfully not. He must look at the cross of Christ. This is the grand argument. It cannot be that He who went through such sufferings to redeem a soul, will let that soul perish after all, when it has once cast itself on Him. No! what Jesus paid for, Jesus will surely keep. He paid dearly for it. He will not let it easily be lost. He died for me when I was yet a dark sinner. He will never forsake me after I have believed. When Satan tempts us to doubt whether Christ’s people will be kept from falling, we should tell Satan to look at the cross. The believer is so freed from eternal wrath, that if Satan and conscience say, “you are a sinner, and under the curse of the law,” he can say, “it is true, I am a sinner, but I was hanged on a tree and died, and was made a curse in my Head and Lawgiver Christ, and his payment and suffering is my payment and suffering.”
And now can anyone wonder at the statement that all Christians ought to boast in the cross? Rather, is it not a wonder that anyone can hear of the cross and remain unmoved? There is no greater proof of man’s depravity, than the fact that thousands of so-called Christians see nothing in the cross. Well may our hearts be called stony,—well may the eyes of our mind be called blind,—well may we all be called dead, when the cross of Christ is heard of, and yet neglected. Surely we may take up the words of the prophet, and say, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked; An appalling and horrible thing has happened,” (Jer 2:12, 5:30)—Christ was crucified for sinners, and yet many Christians live as if He was never crucified at all!
Consider that the cross is the distinguishing mark of the Christian religion. Other religions have laws and moral precepts,—forms and ceremonies,—rewards and punishments. But other religions cannot tell us of a dying Saviour. They cannot show us the cross. This is the crown and glory of the Gospel. This is that special comfort which belongs to it alone. Miserable indeed is that religious teaching which calls itself Christian, and yet contains nothing of the cross. A man who teaches in this way, might as well profess to explain the solar system, and yet tell his hearers nothing about the sun.
The cross is the strength of a minister. Without it he would be like a soldier without arms,—like an artist without his pencil,—like a navigator without his compass,—like a labourer without his tools. Let others, if they will, preach the law and morality. Let others describe the terrors of hell, and the joys of heaven. Let others drench their congregations with teachings about the sacraments and the church. But let us have the cross of Christ. This is the only lever which has ever turned the world upside down to this day, and made men forsake their sins. And if this will not do it, nothing will. A man may begin preaching with much eloquence. But he will do little or no good among his hearers unless he knows something of the cross. Never was there a minister who did much for the conversion of souls who did not dwell much on Christ crucified. Luther, Whitefield, M’Cheyne, were all most eminently preachers of the cross. This is the preaching that the Holy Spirit delights to bless. He loves to honour those who honour the cross.
The cross is the foundation of a church’s prosperity. No church will ever be honoured in which Christ crucified is not continually lifted up. Nothing whatever can make up for the lack of the cross. Without it all things may be done decently and in order. Without it there may be much outward splendour, but without the cross no good will be done. Dark hearts will not be enlightened. Proud hearts will not be humbled. Mourning hearts will not be comforted. Fainting hearts will not be encouraged. Christ crucified is God’s grand avenue for doing good to men. Whenever a church keeps back Christ crucified, or puts anything whatever in that foremost place which Christ crucified should always have, from that moment a church ceases to be useful. Without Christ crucified in her pulpit, a church is little better than a well without water, a sleeping watchman, a lighthouse without light, a stumbling-block to weak believers, a comfort to infidels, a joy to the devil, and an offence to God.
The cross is the grand meeting point among true Christians. Our outward differences are many without doubt. One man is a Presbyterian,—one is a Baptist,—one is a Calvinist, another an Armenian. But after all, what will we hear about most of these differences in heaven? Nothing, most probably: nothing at all. Does a man really and sincerely boast in the cross of Christ? That is the main question. If he does, he is my brother;—we are travelling on the same road. We are journeying towards a home where Christ is all, and everything outward in religion will be forgotten. But if he does not boast in the cross of Christ, I cannot feel good about him. Union on outward points only is union only for time.—Union about the cross is union for eternity. Error on outward points is only a skin-deep disease. Error about the cross is disease at the heart. Union about outward points is a mere man-made union. Union about the cross of Christ can only be produced by the Holy Spirit.
And now what you think of all this? I do hope that this sermon has given you something to think about. I hope that you see the importance of the question with which we began, “What do you think and feel about the cross of Christ?” We will come to a close with a few words to apply the whole subject to our conscience.
i) First, are you living in any kind of sin? Are you following the course of this world, and neglecting your soul? Please hear what I say to you this day: “Behold the cross of Christ.” See there how Jesus loved you! See there what Jesus suffered to prepare for you a way of salvation! For the careless men and women which we are all by nature, for you that blood was shed! For you those hands and feet were pierced with nails! For you that body hung in agony on the cross! You are those whom Jesus loved, and for whom He died! Surely that love ought to melt you. Surely the thought of the cross should draw you to repentance. There is no reason why it might not be so this very day. Would that you would come at once to that Saviour who died for you, and is willing to save. Come and cry to Him with the prayer of faith, and I know that He will listen. Come and lay hold upon the cross, and I know that He will not cast you out. Come and believe on Him who died on the cross, and this very day you will have eternal life. How will you ever escape if you neglect so great salvation? None surely will be so deep in hell as those who despise the cross!
ii) Second, are you searching for the way toward heaven? Are you seeking salvation, but doubt whether you can find it? Do you want to have an interest in Christ, but doubt whether Christ will receive you? To you also I say this day, “Behold the cross of Christ.” Here is encouragement if you really want it. Draw near to the Lord Jesus with boldness, for there is nothing to hold you back. His arms are open to receive you. His heart is full of love towards you. He has made a way by which you may approach him with confidence. Think of the cross. Draw near, and do not fear.
iii) Are you one who ‘cannot read’ large religious books? Do you want to get to heaven, and yet are confused and brought to a stand-still by difficulties in the Bible which you cannot explain? To you also I say this day, “Behold the cross of Christ.” Read there the Father’s love and the Son’s compassion. Surely they are written in great plain letters which no one can mistake. What if you are now perplexed by the doctrine of election? What if at the moment you cannot reconcile your own utter corruption and your own responsibility? Look at the cross. Does not that cross tell you that Jesus is a mighty, loving, ready Saviour? Does it not make one thing plain, and that is, that if you are not saved it is all your own fault? Get hold of that truth, and hold it tight.
iv) Are you a distressed believer? Is your heart pressed down with sickness, tired with disappointments, overburdened with cares? To you also I say this day, “Behold the cross of Christ.” Think whose hand it is that is disciplining you. Think whose hand is measuring to you the cup of bitterness which you are now drinking. It is the hand of Him that was crucified. It is the same hand that in love to your soul was nailed to the cursed tree. Surely that thought should comfort and hearten you. Surely you should say to yourself, “A crucified Saviour will never lay upon me anything that is not good for me. There is a need for it. It must be well.”
v) Finally, are you a believer that longs to be more holy? Are you one that finds his heart too ready to love earthly things? To you also I say, “Behold the cross of Christ.” Look at the cross. Think of the cross. Meditate on the cross, and then go and set your affections on the world if you can. There is no better place to learn holiness than at the cross. One cannot look much at the cross without feeling his will sanctified, and his tastes made more spiritual. As the sun, if looked at for a moment, makes everything else look dark and dim, so does the cross darken the false splendour of this world. As honey tasted makes all other things seem to have no taste at all, so does the cross seen by faith take all the sweetness out of the pleasures of the world.
And so I have done what I can to lay these thoughts before your mind. What you think now about the cross of Christ, I cannot tell; but I can wish you nothing better than this, that you may be able to say with the apostle Paul, before you die or meet the Lord, “Far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.”