Oh, was there ever suffering and sorrow like that endured by the dying Saviour! It was the sense of His Father’s displeasure which made His cup so bitter. It was not bodily suffering which so quickly ended the life of Christ upon the cross. It was the crushing weight of the sins of the world, and a sense of His Father’s wrath. The Father’s glory and sustaining presence had left Him, and despair pressed its crushing weight of darkness upon Him and forced from His pale and quivering lips the anguished cry: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Jesus had united with the Father in making the world. Amid the agonizing sufferings of the Son of God, blind and deluded men alone remain unfeeling. The chief priests and elders revile God’s dear Son while in His expiring agonies. Yet inanimate nature groans in sympathy with her bleeding, dying Author. The earth trembles. The sun refuses to behold the scene. The heavens gather blackness. Angels have witnessed the scene of suffering until they can look no longer, and hide their faces from the horrid sight. Christ is dying! He is in despair! His Father’s approving smile is removed, and angels are not permitted to lighten the gloom of the terrible hour. They can only behold in amazement their loved Commander, the Majesty of heaven, suffering the penalty of man’s transgression of the Father’s law.
Even doubts assailed the dying Son of God. He could not see through the portals of the tomb. Bright hope did not present to Him His coming forth from the tomb a conqueror and His Father’s acceptance of His sacrifice. The sin of the world, with all its terribleness, was felt to the utmost by the Son of God. The displeasure of the Father for sin, and its penalty, which is death, were all that He could realize through this amazing darkness. He was tempted to fear that sin was so offensive in the sight of His Father that He could not be reconciled to His Son. The fierce temptation that His own Father had forever left Him caused that piercing cry from the cross: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
Christ felt much as sinners will feel when the vials of God’s wrath shall be poured out upon them. Black despair, like the pall of death, will gather about their guilty souls, and then they will realize to the fullest extent the sinfulness of sin. Salvation has been purchased for them by the suffering and death of the Son of God. It might be theirs, if they would accept of it willingly, gladly; but none are compelled to yield obedience to the law of God. If they refuse the heavenly benefit and choose the pleasures and deceitfulness of sin, they have their choice, and at the end receive their wages, which is the wrath of God and eternal death. They will be forever separated from the presence of Jesus, whose sacrifice they had despised. They will have lost a life of happiness and sacrificed eternal glory for the pleasures of sin for a season.
Faith and hope trembled in the expiring agonies of Christ because God had removed the assurance He had heretofore given His beloved Son of His approbation and acceptance. The Redeemer of the world then relied upon the evidences which had hitherto strengthened Him, that His Father accepted His labors and was pleased with His work. In His dying agony, as He yields up His precious life, He has by faith alone to trust in Him whom it has ever been His joy to obey. He is not cheered with clear, bright rays of hope on the right hand nor on the left. All is enshrouded in oppressive gloom. Amid the awful darkness which is felt by sympathizing nature, the Redeemer drains the mysterious cup even to its dregs. Denied even bright hope and confidence in the triumph which will be His in the future, He cries with a loud voice: “Father, into Thy hands I commend My spirit.” He is acquainted with the character of His Father, with His justice, His mercy, and His great love, and in submission He drops into His hands. Amid the convulsions of nature are heard by the amazed spectators the dying words of the Man of Calvary.
Nature sympathized with the suffering of its Author. The heaving earth, the rent rocks, proclaimed that it was the Son of God who died. There was a mighty earthquake. The veil of the temple was rent in twain. Terror seized the executioners and spectators as they beheld the sun veiled in darkness, and felt the earth shake beneath them, and saw and heard the rending of the rocks. The mocking and jeering of the chief priests and elders were hushed as Christ commended His spirit into the hands of His Father. The astonished throng began to withdraw and grope their way in the darkness to the city. They smote upon their breasts as they went and in terror, speaking scarcely above a whisper, said among themselves: “It is an innocent person that has been murdered. What if, indeed, He is, as He asserted, the Son of God?”
Jesus did not yield up His life till He had accomplished the work which He came to do, and exclaimed with His departing breath: “It is finished.” Satan was then defeated. He knew that his kingdom was lost. Angels rejoiced as the words were uttered: “It is finished.” The great plan of redemption, which was dependent on the death of Christ, had been thus far carried out. And there was joy in heaven that the sons of Adam could, through a life of obedience, be finally exalted to the throne of God. Oh, what love! What amazing love! that brought the Son of God to earth to be made sin for us, that we might be reconciled to God, and elevated to a life with Him in His mansions in glory. Oh, what is man, that such a price should be paid for his redemption!
When men and women can more fully comprehend the magnitude of the great sacrifice which was made by the Majesty of heaven in dying in man’s stead, then will the plan of salvation be magnified, and reflections of Calvary will awaken tender, sacred, and lively emotions in the Christian’s heart. Praises to God and the Lamb will be in their hearts and upon their lips. Pride and self-esteem cannot flourish in the hearts that keep fresh in memory the scenes of Calvary. This world will appear of but little value to those who appreciate the great price of man’s redemption, the precious blood of God’s dear Son. All the riches of the world are not of sufficient value to redeem one perishing soul. Who can measure the love Christ felt for a lost world as He hung upon the cross, suffering for the sins of guilty men? This love was immeasurable, infinite.
Christ has shown that His love was stronger than death. He was accomplishing man’s salvation; and although He had the most fearful conflict with the powers of darkness, yet, amid it all, His love grew stronger and stronger. He endured the hiding of His Father’s countenance, until He was led to exclaim in the bitterness of His soul: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” His arm brought salvation. The price was paid to purchase the redemption of man, when, in the last soul struggle, the blessed words were uttered which seemed to resound through creation: “It is finished.”
Many who profess to be Christians become excited over worldly enterprises, and their interest is awakened for new and exciting amusements, while they are coldhearted, and appear as if frozen, in the cause of God. Here is a theme, poor formalist, which is of sufficient importance to excite you. Eternal interests are here involved. Upon this theme it is sin to be calm and unimpassioned. The scenes of Calvary call for the deepest emotion. Upon this subject you will be excusable if you manifest enthusiasm. That Christ, so excellent, so innocent, should suffer such a painful death, bearing the weight of the sins of the world, our thoughts and imaginations can never fully comprehend. The length, the breadth, the height, the depth, of such amazing love we cannot fathom. The contemplation of the matchless depths of a Saviour’s love should fill the mind, touch and melt the soul, refine and elevate the affections, and completely transform the whole character. The language of the apostle is: “I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” We also may look toward Calvary and exclaim: “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.”
Considering at what an immense cost our salvation has been purchased, what will be the fate of those who neglect so great salvation? What will be the punishment of those who profess to be followers of Christ, yet fail to bow in humble obedience to the claims of their Redeemer, and who do not take the cross as humble disciples of Christ and follow Him from the manger to Calvary? “He that gathereth not with Me,” says Christ, “scattereth abroad.”
Some have limited views of the atonement. They think that Christ suffered only a small portion of the penalty of the law of God; they suppose that, while the wrath of God was felt by His dear Son, he had, through all His painful sufferings, the evidence of His Father’s love and acceptance; that the portals of the tomb before Him were illuminated with bright hope, and that He had the abiding evidence of His future glory. Here is a great mistake. Christ’s keenest anguish was a sense of His Father’s displeasure. His mental agony because of this was of such intensity that man can have but faint conception of it.
With many the story of the condescension, humiliation, and sacrifice of our divine Lord awakens no deeper interest, and stirs the soul and affects the life no more, than does the history of the death of the martyrs of Jesus. Many have suffered death by slow tortures; others have suffered death by crucifixion. In what does the death of God’s dear Son differ from these? It is true He died upon the cross a most cruel death; yet others, for His dear sake, have suffered equally, so far as bodily torture is concerned. Why, then, was the suffering of Christ more dreadful than that of other persons who have yielded their lives for His sake? If the sufferings of Christ consisted in physical pain alone, then His death was no more painful than that of some of the martyrs.
But bodily pain was but a small part of the agony of God’s dear Son. The sins of the world were upon Him, also the sense of His Father’s wrath as He suffered the penalty of the law transgressed. It was these that crushed His divine soul. It was the hiding of His Father’s face—a sense that His own dear Father had forsaken Him—which brought despair. The separation that sin makes between God and man was fully realized and keenly felt by the innocent, suffering Man of Calvary. He was oppressed by the powers of darkness. He had not one ray of light to brighten the future. And He was struggling with the power of Satan, who was declaring that he had Christ in his power, that he was superior in strength to the Son of God, that the Father had disowned His Son, and that He was no longer in the favor of God any more than himself. If He was indeed still in favor with God, why need He die? God could save Him from death.
Christ yielded not in the least degree to the torturing foe, even in His bitterest anguish. Legions of evil angels were all about the Son of God, yet the holy angels were bidden not to break their ranks and engage in conflict with the taunting, reviling foe. Heavenly angels were not permitted to minister unto the anguished spirit of the Son of God. It was in this terrible hour of darkness, the face of His Father hidden, legions of evil angels enshrouding Him, the sins of the world upon Him, that the words were wrenched from His lips: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”
The death of the martyrs can bear no comparison with the agony endured by the Son of God. We should take broader and deeper views of the life, sufferings, and death of God’s dear Son. When the atonement is viewed correctly, the salvation of souls will be felt to be of infinite value. In comparison with the enterprise of everlasting life, every other sinks into insignificance. But how have the counsels of this loving Saviour been despised! The heart has been devoted to the world, and selfish interests have closed the door against the Son of God. Hollow hypocrisy and pride, selfishness and gain, envy, malice, and passion, have so filled the hearts of many that Christ can have no room.
He was eternally rich, yet for our sakes He became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. He was clothed with light and glory, and was surrounded with hosts of heavenly angels waiting to execute His commands. Yet He put on our nature and came to sojourn among sinful mortals. Here is love that no language can express. It passes knowledge. Great is the mystery of godliness. Our souls should be enlivened, elevated, and enraptured with the theme of the love of the Father and the Son to man. The followers of Christ should here learn to reflect in some degree that mysterious love preparatory to joining all the redeemed in ascribing “blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, … unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
Chapter 30—Warnings to the Church
Dear Brethren In —–,
You are not standing in the light, as God would have you. I was pointed back to the ingathering of souls at —– last spring, and was shown that your minds were not prepared for that work. You did not expect or believe that such a work would then be accomplished among you. But the work was carried on, notwithstanding your unbelief, and without the co-operation of many among you.
When you had such evidences that God was waiting to be gracious to His people, that mercy’s voice was inviting sinners and backsliders to the cross of Christ, why did you not unite with those who had the burden of the work upon them? Why did you not come up to the help of the Lord? Some of you seemed benumbed, stupefied, and amazed, and were unprepared to participate fully in the work. Many assented to it, but their hearts were not in it. This was a great evidence of the lukewarm condition of the church.
Your worldliness does not incline you to throw wide open the door of your hard hearts at the knock of Jesus, who is seeking an entrance there. The Lord of glory, who has redeemed you by His own blood, waited at your doors for admittance; but you did not throw them open wide and welcome Him in. Some opened the door slightly and permitted a little light from His presence to enter, but did not welcome the heavenly Visitor. There was not room for Jesus. The place which should have been reserved for Him was occupied with other things. Jesus entreated you: “If any man hear My voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with Me.” There was a work for you to do to open the door. For a time you felt inclined to hear and open the door; but even this inclination departed, and you failed to secure the communion with the heavenly Guest which it was your privilege to have. Some, however, opened the door and heartily welcomed their Saviour.
Jesus will not force open the door. You must open it yourselves and show that you desire His presence by giving Him a sincere welcome. If all had made thorough work in clearing away the world’s rubbish and preparing a place for Jesus, He would have entered and abode with you, and would have done a great work through you for the salvation of others. But notwithstanding you were unprepared for the work, it commenced among you in mighty power. Backsliders were reclaimed, sinners were converted, and the sound went out into the region round about. The community was stirred. Had the church come up to the help of the Lord, and had the way been fully opened for further labor, a work would have been accomplished in —– and —– and the region round about, such as you have never witnessed. But the minds of the brethren were not aroused, and they were in a great degree indifferent to the matter. Some who had ever been seeking their own interest could not think of having their minds drawn away from themselves on this occasion, even though the salvation of souls might be at stake.
The Lord had laid upon us the burden. We were willing to give you all there was of us for a time, if you would come up with us to the help of the Lord. But in this there was a decided failure. Great ingratitude was shown for the manifestations of the power of God among you. Had you received the tokens of God’s mercy and loving-kindness as you should, with thankful hearts, and united your interest to work with the Spirit of God, you would not be in your present condition. But since that precious work was done among you, you have been going down and withering spiritually.
The parable of the lost sheep you do not yet understand. You have not learned the lesson the divine Teacher designed you should. You have been dull scholars. Read the parable in Luke 15: “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbors, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.”
Here were the cases of several who had backslidden, who had been in darkness, and who had strayed from the fold. But especially was the case of Brother A prominent. All the efforts were not made which should have been made in wisdom to prevent his straying from the fold; and after he had strayed, diligent efforts were not put forth to bring him back. There was more gossiping over his case than sincere sorrow for him. All these things kept him from the fold and caused his heart to be separated farther and farther from his brethren, making his rescue still more difficult. How different was this course from that pursued by the shepherd in the parable, when in pursuit of the lost sheep. The whole ninety and nine were left in the wilderness to care for themselves, exposed to dangers; yet the lone sheep, separated from the flock, was in greater danger, and to secure the one, the ninety and nine were left.
Some of the church had no special anxiety to have Brother A return. They cared not enough to unbend from their dignity and pride and make special efforts to help him to the light. They stood back on their dignity and said: “We will not go after him; let him come to us.” Viewing the feelings of his brethren toward him as he did, it was impossible for him to do this. Had they regarded the lesson taught by Christ, they would have been willing to yield their dignity and pride, and go after the wandering ones. They would have wept over them, prayed for them, implored them to be faithful to God and the truth, and to abide with the church. But the feeling of many was: “If he wants to go, let him go.”
Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 2 pp. 209-218