Given in Trinity Church, New York, on Good Friday, A.D. 1894
When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost. - St. John 19:30.
WHAT have we next to think of! what next to hear! This is the last word but one. Towards the end comes the peace. In the seventh word it is attained--God's gift of perfect rest. This sixth word indicates that the end of the Passion is near, the end of Christ's Passion, the end of their passion who will end it in His. When all is finished man enters into rest.
Consummatum est! Did our dear Master ever utter a more satisfying word, a word which goes more straight to the weary soul f What does the soul long for, if not for an end in which to be content and at peace, for the term of strife, for the final closing up of agitation, debate, dispute! What weariness is that occasioned by the monotony of ceaseless questioning without apparent hope of answer, by the burden of having matters kept open as if they were never to be closed? The day brings before us some confusing and much-involved subject. It was there last week, and yesterday; it is here to-day; apparently we shall be still tormented with it to-morrow. It is confused and perplexing. Opinions vary greatly about it. They are diverse and innumerable; no two men seem to think alike; one thinks one thing, another thinks something else. Parties are formed, with leaders, names, and watchwords, and fight begins. No one can say where truth is. The miserable thing vexes the community by day, and haunts our dreams at night. Oh that suspense were ended! Oh that we could hear some voice announcing, "It is finished; it is settled; and you shall have no more annoyance from this disturber of your peace!"
Such was that voice which spake from the Cross. Jesus settled once for all certain things, blessed be He that He did so! And among the things settled for us were these: the truth which men long to know; the end to which they should aspire; the manner in which only it is safe to walk. "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." That announcement made a finished work. It marked the limit to reasonable debate. It met those who want to know in whom and in what to believe, and realise what it is to simmer and broil on the gridiron of perpetual doubt and uncertainty. It reminds us of the first creative word, to which, indeed, it may be taken as a parallel: "Let there be light: and there was light." So, "Let it be finished: and it is finished." Finished for wise and understanding spirits; finished for the saints on earth and the souls of the faithful in Paradise. There are no superseding truths. There is to be no new gospel. No religion can be devised or invented to take the place of ours or do for man what ours does. There is no progression towards a point where Christ and His things shall pass from human sight. Christ grows not old; He is "the same yesterday, and today, and for ever." The Cross stands firm; and so shall it stand till the end of the world. In this sense we understand the statement of the Divine Saviour, "It is finished."
Wherefore this Cross, which speaks to us of Jesus Christ completing and consummating a perfect work, is precious beyond any symbol that we know. "We have joy and peace in believing. We know whom we have believed. We are not the children of disobedience, driven about by every wind of doctrine, but obedient children, the eyes of whose understanding are enlightened. "God forbid that we should glory, save in the Cross of Christ," and in the light which streams forth from it, making the way plain before the face.
But, as heretofore, so now again, listen to the rebuke of this Cross--its last rebuke, and perhaps the most stern and terrible of all. It sets its ban, it throws its darkest shadow, on the quarters where they preach new gospels and pretend to see new Christs. How much of that is in the world to-day! How constant the excited cry, "Lo, here is Christ!" or, "Lo, He is there!" They begin by some slight changes in the system framed by the Lord; they go on to others still more presumptuous; then, worst of all, they put all their doubts and all their infidelities into a philosophic theory which breathes throughout of rebellion against the Lord, of which the principles are direct contradictions of what He told us for our joy and peace. "It is not finished," say they, these enemies of the Cross of Christ; "it is not finished. We are still moving on; we are looking for the Christ that is to be. We shall see this old system wear out and pass away like a show, and another come in, better adapted to our needs. We are dethroning Jesus as a God, and reducing Him to His real place; we are disestablishing that Church which He built into the souls and consciences of men. New Christs are coming, who shall do us good. Nothing is finished. What men have had these nineteen hundred years is not sufficient for them now. The Law passed away, and the Gospel is passing away; and we, apostles of reason, are the heralds of an improved religion. We cannot yet discern its outline; we cannot say what form it shall take; we cannot give it a name: but it is coming, and will presently assert its power." Against such wild heresy as this the Cross sends forth its strongest protest: "The enemies of the Cross of Christ, whose end is destruction." Many shall come in His Name, saying, "I am Christ." "There shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders:" "But go ye not after them; believe them not." That is the threatening message from the Cross towards the ending of the day, as the sun is declining and the night draws on. That is contained, conveyed, reiterated, year after year, century after century, in the "Consummatum est."
There will, no doubt, be men in all times till the end, and in great numbers, who cannot take Christ's word, with what it contains, and simply confess that it is finished. They cannot believe it, because they cannot forget self and be content to rest in the Word of God. But His own people will hear and believe; and "they shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more," except for the assurance of sight as to those things which now they know by faith. "Keep, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy Church with Thy perpetual mercy." Keep it anchored to this Cross, as an anchor sure and steadfast, entering into that within the veil. By the sign of the Cross the Church triumphed over the old heathenism. It is still the sign of power. It speaks of a faith unchanging, a Saviour undying, an intercession unceasing, a love unfailing, a religion which cannot be destroyed, an inheritance that fadeth not away.
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