The meaning ordinarily attached to the word “cross” is that of a figure composed of two or more lines which intersect, or touch each other transversely. Thus, two pieces of wood, or other material, so placed in juxtaposition to one another, are understood to form a cross. It should be noted, however, that Lipsius and other writers speak of the single upright stake to which criminals were bound as a cross, and to such a stake the name of crux simplex has been applied. The usual conception, however, of a cross is that of a compound figure. Punishment by crucifixion was widely employed in ancient times. It is known to have been used by nations such as those of Assyria, Egypt, Persia, by the Greeks, Carthaginians, Macedonians, and from very early times by the Romans. It has been thought, too, that crucifixion was also used by the Jews themselves, and that there is an allusion to it (Deut. xxi. 22, 23) as a punishment to be inflicted.
The cross of Christ, as if it were the glittering eye of God, has in a most wondrous way held man spell-bound, and made him listen to its strange story “like a three years’ child” who “cannot choose but hear.” Were not the fact so familiar, men would call it miraculous. Had its action and history been capable of a priori statement, it would have seemed, even to the most credulous age, the maddest of mad and unsubstantial dreams. For it is not only that in the immense history of human experience it stands alone, a fact without a fellow, the most potent factor of human good, yet with what seems the least inherent fitness for it, but it even appears to contradict the most certain and common principles man has deduced from his experience. We do not wonder at the cross having been a stumbling-block to the Jew and foolishness to the Greek. We should have wondered much more had it been anything else.
One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all. And sixty cents of it was in pennies. Pennies saved one and two at a time by bulldozing the grocer and the vegetable man and the butcher until one’s cheeks burned with the silent imputation of parsimony that such close dealing implied. Three times Della counted it. One dollar and eighty-seven cents. And the next day would be Christmas.
The sects in the Church might be judged by a comparison of their favorite holidays. And so might eras in history be judged. It is matter of real interest, then, to see how all poets and prophets of all divisions of the Church unite on this day, to proclaim it the Sunday of Sundays, the High Holy Day of the year. For this is to say that poet and prophet, of every sect and those least sectarian, have found out at last that the Christian Religion stands for Life. Life instead of form; Life instead of Laws; Life instead of Grave-clothes; Life instead of Tombs; Life instead of Death ; — that is what Christianity means, and what it is for. You would be tempted to say that the Saviour had already enforced this completely in what he said to men; tempted to say that Easter morning was not needed either for illustration or enforcement. Certainly the gospel texts are full of the lesson. "Because I live, ye shall live also." "As the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself." "This is Life Eternal — to believe on thee." And central text of all, the text we have chosen for the motto of this church, "I have come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." If texts alone ever did anything, these and a thousand more would show what The Truth is, and The Way. But one is tempted, in bitter moods, to say that texts never do anything, that words never achieve or finish anything. One is tempted to remember how he said that any man who prepared God’s way is greater than any man who only proclaims it, how prophets and prophesying were done with, mere talk was over — praise the Lord! and energy, action, force had come in instead, praise the Lord! Yet, if anybody did still trust in talk, he might take a lesson from these Gospels.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." "All things were made by Him." "The Word was made flesh." Now what is a word or λδγος? As understood by St. John and the men of his time, it is thought embodied in language. It is that which is in us set forth in that medium of articulates sounds which God has given to us, in order that we may make our very selves known to our fellows. The most true and fitting words give us the most exact conception of the heart and soul of him whose words they are; and so the Personal and Eternal Word is the setting forth, so to speak, of the hidden intellect, love, and goodness of God, so that His creatures may be able to apprehend Him, Whom neither man nor angel hath seen or can see. So that the Word, being perfect, is the perfect utterance, or showing forth, or manifestation of all that is in God.
If the Incarnation of the Eternal Son, as it is set forth in the Scriptures, be a truth of God — if the Divine Person Who had glory with the Father, having taken upon Him the nature of His creature, really condescended to go through the humiliation and pain and distress which is written of Him, it stands to reason that the loving humility and abnegation of self displayed in such endurance, must be the chief feature in the character of the God-man, which we must in our degree possess, if, in the words of the Holy Ghost, Christ is to be " formed in us."
Jesus Christ is the Master who can comfort and Strengthen a man, a laborer and working man whose life is hard — because he is the Great Man of Sorrows who knows our ills, who was called a carpenter’s son, though he was the Son of God, who worked for thirty years, in a carpenter’s shop to fulfill God’s will. And God wills that in imitation of Christ man should live humble and go through life not reaching for the sky, but adapting himself to the earth below, learning from the Gospel to be meek and simple of heart.
You say, “Moral justice cannot take the innocent for the guilty, even if the innocent were to offer itself; to suppose justice to do this, is to destroy the principle of its existence, which is the thing itself; it is then no longer justice, it is indiscriminate revenge.” Before this question can be decided, we must inquire, What is moral justice, as it applies to God? That it must be something different with him, from what it is with us, will appear from this consideration: God can, when, how, or where he pleases, deprive men of their lives, without any visible cause for such actions; yet God, notwithstanding this, is morally just in all his ways. Apply this to man; we cannot, consistently with moral justice, deprive men of their lives, without a previous forfeiture of the same to moral justice. Unless the cause of death, with us, be equal to the death inflicted, the act is injustice, and the death assassination and murder; but God cannot commit murder; therefore the deprivation of life, of any of his creatures, by him, must not only be reconcilable with justice, but founded on its very principles and nature. Neither can God be guided by the same laws, nor actuated by the same motives, with which we are. To talk of laws, and apply them both to God and man, is derogatory to his nature, for the reasons assigned above; and that, which derogates from God, cannot be applied to him. The rules, which regulate his ways and conduct in the economy of things, are such as we know little of; and what is justice with God, will in many cases, be injustice with us. It is a principle, which must be admitted, that the same power, which has a right to establish a law, must have a right to repeal that law; but God had a morally just right to establish, both the laws of nature, and the laws of his word; therefore, he has the same morally just right to suspend, or finally repeal either.
You affect, indeed, in the page I have last quoted, to speak highly of the personal character of Jesus Christ; yet, strange as it may appear, his apostles and disciples, who trod in his steps, and followed his example, inculcated the same morality, and preached the same doctrine, have the honourable misfortune of meriting your censure, and your scorn. "Jesus Christ," you say, "appears to be a virtuous and an amiable character;" but, how you will be able to reconcile this, with his own assertion, "I and my Father are one," it will be somewhat difficult to discover. For, if the sentiment, contained in this assertion, be true, all your attempts, to invalidate the evidence of the New Testament, are founded in falsehood; and, if this assertion be false, you must impeach his morality, by allowing a man to be virtuous, who could aspire to an equality with God; and, in either case, you evidently convict yourself.