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HIS FAITH IN THE FUTURE.
writing, elaborating no system, and with a world, in all the pride of its philosophy and all the glare of its power, arrayed against him, he proceeded to fulfil his aim with a confidence as sublime for its calmness, as it was mysterious for its strength. If every human hand had been extended to aid him, and every human heart sealed to his service, he could scarcely have spoken and acted with a more unfaltering assurance that his labour would not be in vain, that the objects at which he aimed must be fulfilled. He went forth on his lonely and untried path, as if he were placed upon a mountain top, and saw his success written out upon the world lying at his feet; as if every word that he uttered, instead of being caught up and perverted and turned against him as it was, were a spell, operating with magical rapidity aud resistless power. Had his career been one unbroken triumph, he could not have exhibited a more settled conviction of ultimate success. Among a people burning with the fiercest passions, with the impatient hope of national dominion, he announced an empire whose glory is righteousness, whose laws are peace and love. In an age when religious worship was, in most places, scarcely better than a pageant, and religion was a thing of costly temples and long processions and glittering rites, he taught that the object of worship is a pure spirit, and that the service of God consists not so much in calling on his name, as in doing his daily will. Upon a corrupt and licentious world, he inculcated a purity of mind with which a look tending to sin is inconsistent. At a time when military prowess was the first of virtues, and heroes and conquerors
HIS FAITH IN THE FUTURE.
were the world's saints, he exhibited a new model of greatness, revealing man's highest honour in humility, in forgiveness of injuries, and in sacredly abstaining from all violence. In opposition to superstitious observances and artificial duties, he vindicated the simple and despised laws of nature; teaching that to relieve a fellow-creature is more holy than to observe sabbaths, and that to a child the comfort of a parent should be more sacred than the treasuries of temples. His own nation was prostrate, and writhing under the oppression of Rome ; and, although he raised no banner and mustered no armies, yet he uniformly asserted that a kingdom was to be established into which multitudes from the four quarters of the earth should be gathered. Thus he lived, wrought, and died, never deserted by that faith in the future, which is one of the most imposing, most mysterious traits of his character.
But the wonder is not even yet exhausted. He not only foresaw his own death, and the ultimate triumph of his religion, he saw so clearly into futurity that he discerned the connexion between these two events. It was not a blind assurance of success that he cherished. He knew that he should soon be put to death, under circumstances the most painful and ignominious ; that he should die misrepresented by the most, fully understood by none. And he felt that he should finally triumph, notwithstanding these circumstances apparently so fatal to every hope of success, ay, and in consequence of these very circumstances.
He not only perceived that his death would not obstruct, he saw that it would directly and most gloriously aid the
CHRIST'S DEATH THE SEAL OF HIS SUCCESS.
progress of truth. He foreknew his own fate, and, what is far more astonishing, he understood and interpreted it. He discerned its end and issue. Here, I say, he evinced a depth of prophetic power altogether without precedent. “If I be lifted up," that is, on the cross, “ I will draw all men unto me.” Again, in that answer to the two brethren who wished to sit on his right hand and on his left in his kingdom, to which I have already referred; how clearly does he show that he understood the purport and result of the sufferings he was about to endure ! “ Can ye drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with ?” How plainly does this language prove that the kingdom he was thinking of -the power which he sought, was a power to be gained over the affections of mankind, over their deepest sympathies, by the patient, voluntary endurance of suffering in their behalf ! In immediate connection with this passage, he gives that fine definition of true greatness, a definition to whose perfect truth, the progress of government and society has borne most expressive testimony—“He who would be greatest among you, let him be your servant.” To reign most gloriously over men, we must be ready to serve them even to the loss of every earthly blessing—of life itself. Consecrating his whole being to the service of man, prepared to pour out his blood like water in the cause of truth, he saw with the clearest prophetic vision, that a glorious and everlasting dominion must be his. He trusted not, he needed not to trust to perishing paper and parchment to perpetuate his name and influence in the world, for he was writing out his laws
212 CHRIST'S DEATH THE SEAL OF HIS SUCCESS. upon the living tables of the heart, in his own lifeblood. He knew that by drinking the bitter cup of death-by submitting to that fearful baptism, he was immortalizing his power; he was making an appeal to the sympathies of the human soul, which could not be in vain. Those steps of suffering, which to all other eyes seemed to lead down into utter darkness, in his illuminated vision were seen to be a glorified ascent to the right hand of Eternal Power.
Again. Listen to that most remarkable language of his upon the occasion of his last visit to Jerusalem, shortly before his death. “The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone ; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit." To those who heard these words they could scarcely have been intelligible. And yet we may perceive a deep and natural meaning here. The glory with which his mind was engrossed was the pure moral glory of an entire self sacrifice. It was as evidently necessary in his view that he should suffer and die as he was about to die, as that the seed should be buried in the earth and undergo that natural, familiar, but mysterious change by which it is converted into a fruit-bearing plant. The process of vegetation was not more natural to his mind, than the dark and painful method by which he was to be glorified, and the triumph of his religion—the establishment of his kingdom consummated. Once more.
Let me remind you of that remarkable declaration of his, uttered just after Judas had left him, to go and execute his traitorous purpose.
JESUS, THE FIRST OF PROPHETS.
The departure of Judas upon this base errand naturally enough caused Jesus to feel most vividly that the great crisis was at hand, that in a very little while his fate would be fulfilled. Does he shrink at the dark
prospect thus brought distinctly before him? Oh no! he beholds in it only the manifestation of his glory and the glory of God. “Now is the Son of man glorified,” he exclaims, “ and God is glorified in him.” The elevation of his mind and his language could not have been more remarkable, if a visible spectacle of the wide spread of his religion had at that moment been accorded him. This is to me the stupendous wonder. He not only knew that he must die, but it is shown beyond all doubt that he knew his death would be the instrument of his signal success, that by dying as he was about to die he would be glorified as no other ever had been, and God would be glorified in him. Here is a depth and extent of inspiration to which the whole world can bring no parallel. This it is that attests him as the first and greatest of prophets. And then too how astonishing is it that, possessing this extraordinary knowledge, he was not elated by it, nor the balance of his mind in the slightest degree disturbed. He was still the most patient, the meekest of beings. There is nothing excited, nothing hurried, nothing incoherent in his manner. The present was not lost sight of in the near and familiar view of the vast future. He was still the most practical of teachers.
[NOTE.—I do not know whether any illustration I have adduced of the foreknowledge of Jesus be more striking than that presented in his answers to those who, on different occasions, demanded of him a sign. When he drove the money-changers from the Temple, and