Friday, April 2, 2010

showers of effacing rain...

Today and tomorrow, excerpts from "Calvary," a Good Friday Sermon by Edmund Hamilton Sears.

"THE fundamental facts on which the whole Christian system rests are ranged into a series ; each one of which necessitates all the rest...

In unfolding so great a subject as the significance of the cross of Christ, we must not fall into the error of making it sole and exclusive ; as if the whole work of redemption were concentrated here. In that way we should fling disparagement on the other facts of the Gospel history. On the other hand, if we may enter aright into the meaning of this great sacrifice, all those other facts will be seen in the light of it, and the whole system of Christian faith appear in new consistency and beauty.

I. First, then, we say, that the cross is an expression out of profounder depths of the Divine Love than the world had ever known before or since... " God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son ;" and " He was in Him reconciling the world unto Himself." The Divine Justice in the Christian Gospel becomes simply the form and aspect of the Divine Goodness, moulding it and keeping it from missing its mark. Sacrifice means the giving of one's self away for the good of others, and the sacrifice of Christ is called " complete " because nothing was kept back, and it is doubly significant because the love of the Father is imaged and shown forth in the sacrifice of the Son...

II. There is all this in the cross of Christ, and of consequence there is another truth which it holds aloft, and which it preaches every day to the world. It is the depth and the malignity of human sinfulness. There is only one step in the argument which shows how vast is the moral ruin which requires such a reconstruction as this...It is a doctrine, you know, of some branches of the modern Church, that God himself in the person of Christ, suffered as a substitute for man, and so his death becomes the sole condition of forgiveness. Do not denounce the doctrine till you first eliminate what is false from it, and then take home the truth ; for it has melted the iron out of many a sinful soul, and given it peace in believing. It is not the supposed commercial transfer of our sins to Christ, and his merits to us that gives the peace. It is the thought that Christ represents here the infinite Mercy; that God himself can come over to us, and make our case his own ; that He so hates the evil that spreads canker through the tenderest places of the heart, that He will take the burden of it upon himself; that He will let our hardness and impenitence put stabs into his wounded love before He will let us go ; that not his Fatherhood alone, on the peaks of heaven, but his humanity, brought nigh and inserted in our lowly condition, is given in sacrifice for us every hour ; it is this that will make you hate your sin, if anything will, and let the heart melt in repentance, and the Divine Grace clear its stains out of you in showers of effacing rain..."
(art: Hiroshige, "Ohashi Bridge in the Rain")

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