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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 8 - Galatians 6:14 - The Cross and the Double Crucifixion Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius

Index

VIII.

 

The Cross And The Double Crucifixion.

 

"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

-Galatians 6:14.

 

 

     The words of this verse literally run thus: 'From me, however, far be it that I should glory, save in the cross;' and the form of expression reminds us of the frequent phrase in the Psalms, 'But as for me;' so calm, yet so decided; so, simple, yet so dignified. Others may glory in the flesh, or in forms, or in rites; but as for me, the cross is my only boast; all that I rejoice in centers there; it is my gain and my glory, it is my solace and my song. He lays great stress upon this 'I' or 'me.' Though the whole world were uniting to glory in other things, he could not; he would be inexcusable. He had a thousand reasons for rejecting every other boast,-more reasons than any other man. And he knew well what he was saying in this boast.

     Let us take up here, the cross, the glorying, and the double crucifixion.

     I.  The cross.-It is not the literal piece of wood that he is speaking of, nor any figure or imitation of it, such as men in all ages have made for ornament or worship,-a piece of ecclesiastical furniture, or an article of female dress. It is the essence of the cross that he speaks of; the great truths represented by it; salvation by a crucified Christ; God's way of justification through the death of a sin bearer. The sacrifice for sin upon the cross, the burnt-offering upon the altar; it is this that be keeps before his eyes, and would have us keep before ours. It is the slain Lamb which he holds up to view. Connected with the cross there is death, but there is also life; there is weakness, but there is also strength; there is poverty, but also riches; shame, but also glory; defeat, but triumph too. The cross, as it stood on Golgotha, has long since gone into dust; but that cross was a symbol, like the desert pole and the brazen serpent. That cross and that serpent embodied in them mighty truths; truths which were to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness; truths which the natural man despises and rejects, but which, to the new man, are the gladdest and most glorious of all glad and glorious things. It is as the embodiment of these things that the cross is here held up to us. Without these the cross is nothing save a piece of Hebrew wood, in no respect more precious than the other crosses erected at its side. Take away from it the sacrificial blood shedding, the propitiation for sin, and it is useless and worthless. The cross is mighty and venerable and glorious solely because of what it reveals concerning God, amid His way of saving the lost by providing a Saviour for the guilty. The cross is God's verdict against sin; His exhibition of righteousness; His declaration of love to the sinner; His method of removing guilt from the condemned, and imparting life through death to every one who is willing to take life at His hands.

     II. The Glorying.-Paul's opinion of the cross had undergone a wonderful change. The cross was once the lowest object in his estimation, now it is the highest. He glories in it. This implies such things as these:-

     (1.) To think well of it.-Once he had thought evil of it; now he thinks well. His estimate is changed,-reversed. He admires what he disesteemed.

     (2.) To speak well of it.-He commends it to every one wherever he goes. He has not a good word to say for himself but he has good words without number for the cross. He dispraises self and the flesh and the world; he praises the cross. It is the tree of trees.

     (3.) To boast of it.-It is to him the one object of boasting; all other boasting is excluded for ever. In it he exults as one who has found a treasure. He calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me.' And if men ask, What is thy cross more than another cross? he answers, My cross is the cross of crosses; there is nothing like it, so perfect, so admirable, so glorious; in it I have found the love of God, the pardon of sin, the life of my soul, the peace of my conscience, an everlasting kingdom.

     (4.) To trust in it.-It is the tree of life, under whose shadow he sits down. It is the treasure-house of all riches; it is the fullness of all grace and blessing. It presents a resting-place to his weary soul. It invites and attracts and welcomes. Everything about it is fitted to remove distrust and awaken confidence. It is the end of fear and doubt; the producer of all happy, trustful thoughts. It is the place of light and peace. No wonder that he gloried in it. Let us learn to glory. The more we look at it and understand its meaning, the more we shall trust it, and in trusting it find rest to our souls. We cannot add to it, and we cannot take from it. It is perfect. Let us be satisfied in knowing that it is what it is,-the place of propitiation and of peace.

     III. The Double Crucifixion.-The cross crucifies Paul; it crucifies the world to Paul. In crucifying Paul it crucifies time world, and in crucifying the world it crucifies Paul. They are crucified to each other. Paul is nailed to the cross, and becomes an object of contempt and hatred to the world. The world is nailed to the cross, and becomes an object of contempt to Paul. For the crucified object becomes, by being nailed to the tree of shame, a thing of degradation,-a 'curse and an hissing.' To be nailed to a cross was to be made a dead thing, a cursed thing, a shameful thing. Thus it was mutually with Paul and the world. Each was dead to the other; they were mutually irreconcilable. The world saw nothing in Paul but vileness and meanness; Paul saw nothing in the world but the same. And it was the cross of Christ that had produced this reciprocal feeling of separation and abhorrence. It was a double crucifixion. That double crucifixion was the key to the apostle's life. It set Christ between him and the world. It set the grave between him and his former self. Crucifixion with Christ had crucified him to the world and the world to him. Thus the old man was crucified; the flesh and all things pertaining to the flesh were crucified; and only out of resurrection could anything good or holy come. All that came short of resurrection came short of the glory of God.'

     (1.) A Christian is a decided man.-The cross of Christ rejects all half-heartedness; nay, renders it impossible. There was no compromise upon yon cross, when the Father smote the Son, and the Son consented to be smitten; there can be none in those who are nailed to it.

     (2.) A Christian is an unworldly man.-He was part of the world; he is so no longer. He has come out from it and become separate, and touches no more the unclean thing. He has bid farewell to the world and its vanities.

     (3.) A Christian is a man of heaven.-He has set his affection on things above. He has gone up to be with his Lord upon the throne in the heavenly places. His heart and his treasure are above.

     How glorious is the cross! How safe are they who have taken refuge there! It is the cross of the Divine Substitute.  It stands forever, outliving ages and generations, like Egypt's pyramids and palms. Its substitutionary value does net alter, and its efficacy for salvation to the chief of sinners is liable to no failure, no shortcoming. Its potency for shelter and deliverance and pardon knows no diminution; it is the same yesterday, today, and forever. We may be transgressors of no common order, both as to duration and enormity; we may have very superficial convictions of our own sinfulness, and very feeble thoughts of the sufficiency of the cross; we may have little faith, much unbelief; little light, much darkness; little repentance, much impenitence: still the sufficiency of the cross is infinite. Like the wide arch of heaven, it throws its canopy over the broadest circle of transgression and unworthiness. He who is willing to take shelter beneath it, whatever he may be, shall find it sufficient. To sit under its far-reaching shadow is certain life and safety; to sit anywhere else is certain wrath and doom. That shadow avails or takes effect in the case of all who, crediting God's testimony concerning it, consent to be indebted to it for security and peace. For faith in the cross is no work or merit, which a poor sinner must toil at till he has secured enough to give him the benefit of the shelter. It is simply the relinquishment of all other pretended shelters, and the willingness to allow this divine shelter to be extended to him by the God who has provided it for the sinner. Whosoever will, is our proclamation. God does not mock you by providing a refuge and then throwing hindrances in your way, or refusing to remove existing obstacles out of your way. He provides the glorious shelter; He removes all obstacles without; He presents you with His own heavenly Spirit (better and more accessible than all self-power) to remove all hindrances within. It is in all respects a wondrous cross, for security, for sufficiency, for accessibility to the sinner. Its value is divine, and that is infinite; its sheltering canopy is wide,-wide as the world; wide as the sinner's utmost sin and ruin; wide as heaven and hell; wide as earth and sea; wide as the wrath of the Judge; wide as the love of God and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.