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    The Place Which is Called Calvary

    What tender associations cluster around that word Calvary! There justice and mercy met together. There sufferings triumphed and glories were assured. There the depths of divine compassion found expression, and the central mystery of the gospel was revealed. I invite you to come with me to the place which is called Calvary. Let us come with open minds and with subdued hearts, for there was enacted the most touching tragedy of all human history. And while we wait at the foot of the cross, let us pray that the Holy Spirit, who has been appointed to be the teacher of saving truth, will not only enlighten our minds, but also convey to our hearts with convicting power the lessons which Calvary ought to teach us.SOTW 47.1

    There is no gospel of salvation apart from the cross. I state this as the expression of my own deepest conviction, the result of my own study of the word of God and my own personal experience. And so the apostle Paul writes: “The word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:18. The message of the cross is the good news, the blessed truth, that God in Christ has so dealt with sin that it need not any longer be a barrier between us and God, that the hindrance to the most intimate fellowship with God has been removed, and that the gift of life eternal has been brought within our reach. A crucified and risen Christ has wrought deliverance from both the guilt and the power of sin for every believing soul, and from the agony of Gethsemane comes the joy of salvation. What a wonderful gospel! What a compassionate Saviour!SOTW 47.2

    But just here I am reminded of the blinding effect of sin upon the human heart, as I am conscious of the fact, so much emphasized in these later years, that the word of the cross is an unwelcome message to the modern mind. And why is this? What constitutes the offense, or the scandal, of the cross? Ah, it is because Christ crucified, the righteous and holy one suffering for the unrighteous and doing a work for us which it was impossible for us to do for ourselves, speaks to us with a convicting power of the terrible nature of sin and of our own dreadful guilt. The cross humbles the pride of man in the dust, calls for heartfelt confession of sin, and a yielding of self to God with a sense of utter helplessness and dependence, and proclaims the absolute need of a Saviour. But all this offends the sense of self-sufficiency, and arouses antagonism in the natural heart, especially as it demands the admission of guilt. Because of its rebellion against a holy law, all the world has become guilty in God’s sight, and atonement must be made for sin as guilt, and here is the scandal of the cross.SOTW 48.1

    “This modern mind can easily confess its ignorance-is it not always seeking to abolish ignorance? It can confess its error-is it not forever committed to the search for truth? It can even confess its disease-did not Christianity come into the world to create doctors and nurses and comforters? It can confess its stupidity-are we not always glad to find out when we have made fools of ourselves? It can confess its feebleness-have we not dedicated ourselves to the worship of power? But its guilt? Never!”SOTW 48.2

    To confess sin as guilt, to rely upon another for making atonement, to deny self, and to accept righteousness as an undeserved gift,-all this is abhorrent to the modern mind, which is committed to the principle of evolution in religion, and relies upon “resident forces” for the “progressive change” toward higher ideals. I am not given to pessimism, and I prefer to sound the note of courage and hope, but I must repeat and apply in my own experience the words of Jesus, “Apart from Me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5.SOTW 49.1

    “Just as I am, without one plea,
    But that Thy blood was shed for me,
    And that Thou bidst me come to Thee.
    O Lamb of God, I come, I come.”
    SOTW 49.2

    We are now at the place called Calvary. Here we behold a cross, and Jesus of Nazareth is nailed to it. Some are deriding Him, and some are weeping over Him. What has He done to bring upon Him this death of shame? Did not Pilate, the governor, before whom He was accused, say three times over, “I find no crime in Him”? John 18:38; 19:4, 6. Did He not go about from town to town healing the sick (Matthew 9:35), cleansing the lepers (Luke 17:11-14), casting out demons (Mark 1:34), and even raising the dead to life? Mark 5:41, 42; Luke 7:14, 15; John 11:43, 44. Did He not preach the good tidings to the poor (Matthew 11:5), and bring renewed hope to many a despairing heart? What cruel fate has thus brought Him to the cross between two thieves?SOTW 49.3

    It seems paradoxical to say that it was His own deliberate choice which brought Him to Calvary, but so it was. According to the terms of the covenant made between the Father and the Son “before times eternal,” it was mutually agreed that, in case man should yield to the temptation to sin, the Father would give the Son, and the Son would give Himself, and thus God in Christ would give Himself, for the redemption of humanity. And so “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, that He might redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5):and Christ “gave Himself for our sins” (Galatians 1:4); and “Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God.” 1 Peter 3:18. “Behold, the Lamb of God, that beareth the sin of the world.” John 1:29.SOTW 49.4

    Now it is just here that some modern philosophers assume the right to sit upon the judgment seat, and to decide that it is an immoral act to give up one to death for sins which another has committed. This sounds plausible, and some seem to think that it is a mark of superiority to declare that they will not accept any such arrangement, but that they themselves will meet the consequences of their own sins. All such worldly-wise reasoning is, however, the outcome of a very superficial view of the person and the atoning work of Christ. I think this will plainly appear, if we will give some further study to the facts as they have been revealed to us. Revelation is the sufficient answer to all false reasoning.SOTW 50.1

    And first I affirm that the death of Christ was absolutely voluntary, and that there was, therefore, nothing immoral in the transaction. He “gave Himself.” Galatians 1:4. He “loved me, and gave Himself up for me.” Galatians 2:20. He freely consented to death when in the garden He said to His father, “Nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done.” Luke 22:42. The record of His last moments upon the cross clearly indicate that not under compulsion but of His own free choice He surrendered His life, for we read: “Jesus cried again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.” Matthew 27:50. Under ordinary circumstances it often happened that days of suffering preceded death by crucifixion, but not so in this case; for while Jesus was still able to cry with a loud voice, He “gave up the ghost.” Mark 15:39. Having fulfilled the last specification of prophecy, He declared to His Father, “It is finished: and He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.” John 19:30. Furthermore, while it is true that those who demanded and secured His death are rightly held responsible for it, yet the fact remains that the Roman soldiers did not really take His life. His own words settle this matter: “Therefore doth the Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I may take it again. No one taketh it away from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment received I from My Father.” John 10:17, 18.SOTW 50.2

    We must not think of the Father as demanding the death of His Son as the means of appeasing His own anger and rendering Him propitious toward us. Such a conception of the atonement arises from a perverted view of the character of God, and of the relation between the Father and the Son. “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19. “God suffered with His Son. In the agony of Gethsemane, the death of Calvary, the heart of Infinite Love paid the price of our redemption.” “God so loved the world that He gave.” John 3:16.SOTW 51.1

    Again, it is asserted, with an air of finality, that it is contrary to justice for one to bear the punishment due to another. But is it not possible that this form of objection to the gospel of the grace of God is based upon a misapprehension of the facts in the case? I would not use the word “punishment” in any such connection. God did not punish Christ for our sins. Punishment implies moral responsibility and personal guilt, but Christ was not responsible for our sins and had not incurred personal guilt. What then? Christ voluntarily assumed the penalty for sin and met it, but not as punishment. He freely took upon Himself the liabilities of a world bankrupt through sin, and He provided satisfaction for those liabilities; but He did not create the liabilities, and He was not punished as a bankrupt. The heirs of the J. Ogden Armour estate recently discharged about eighteen million dollars of personal liabilities of the testator, sacrificing their own private fortune to do this, although there was no legal claim upon them, merely for the protection of the good name of the family. No one could set up the complaint that there was injustice in this act, since it was done voluntarily and not under pressure, and the parties concerned were universally lauded for their willingness to carry a family burden. I grant that this is only a feeble illustration, but it may suggest the wide difference between suffering a punishment due to another, and voluntarily paying the penalty involved in the conduct of Blank Page another. God is no unjust. On the contrary, “righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.” Psalm 97:2.SOTW 51.2

    But there is another phase of this question which ought to receive consideration. Jesus of Nazareth was not an outside party who intervened between two other parties with whom He had no intimate relation. He was both the Son of God and the Son of man. When He assumed human nature, “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14), not simply a man, but generic man, the family, the race. The first Adam was the head, the representative, of the whole human family, and so what he did was reckoned as having been done by the family and involved the whole family, because of the solidarity of humanity. This principle is recognized and asserted in the Scriptural explanation of the universality of sin: “Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned.” Romans 5:12. All sinned in the one man, Adam, because all were in him, just as Levi paid tithes when Abraham paid tithes, because he was in Abraham when Abraham paid tithes. Hebrews 7:9, 10. But the first Adam “is a figure [or type] of Him that was to come” (Romans 5:14); and as the sin of the first Adam was not only an individual sin but also a racial sin, and therefore brought the penalty of death upon the whole family, so the death of the last Adam, the representative man, the head of the new humanity, was justly reckoned as the death of the whole family, and met the penalty involved in the representative sin of the first Adam.SOTW 53.1

    This representative idea, this principle of solidarity, is fundamental in the gospel of salvation, as is plainly taught: “The love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that one died for [in behalf of, instead of] all, therefore all died.” 2 Corinthians 5:14. The law convinces us of sin, and assesses the penalty of death; but while I admit this, I can meet the demand by asserting that I have already paid the penalty. How?-In Christ, my representative. Although there may be a proper sense in which the word “substitute” can be used as applied to Christ in His death for us, yet I like the word “representative” better, as it seems to harmonize more clearly with the idea of the human relationship between Christ and the family for whom He died. In a certain sense, He was we, and so when He died, we died. I do not attempt to explain this revealed fact, but I do wish to emphasize the great benefit arising from it.SOTW 53.2

    But I can almost hear some one saying, “I do not think there is any justice in my being punished for the sin of Adam. I was not consulted, and had no choice in the matter.” My answer is, No one has been, or ever will be, punished for the sin of Adam. This is the good news which it is my joy to proclaim. As the sin of Adam occurred apart from any choice on my part, so the penalty for that sin was paid apart from any choice on my part. The first Adam sinned; the last Adam died; holiness was satisfied; I am released from the penalty incurred by that sin. There is no basis for any charge of injustice.SOTW 54.1

    In saying this I do not overlook the fact that I am suffering some of the consequences of the sin of Adam. But I distinguish between consequences and punishment, and I wish to add something about consequences. In His dealing with the problem of sin, God has not only thwarted the purpose of Satan, the author of sin, but has provided a salvation which lifts man to a far higher plane than Adam occupied at the first, and makes him a sharer in the blessings and privileges which are the inherent right of the only begotten Son of God, as we read: “He that overcometh, I will give to him to sit down with Me in My throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with My Father in His throne.” Revelation 3:21. Well might the apostle Paul exclaim, as these things were revealed to him: “I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to usward.” Romans 8:18. And again: “Our light affliction, which is for the moment, worketh for us more and more exceedingly an eternal weight of glory.” 2 Corinthians 4:17. Some of the consequences of the sin of Adam can be realized only in the glories of the eternal world, after the curse has been removed.SOTW 54.2

    We are at the place called Calvary. There is a cross there. “What do we see inscribed on that cross? If we look through human eyes alone, we shall read the title, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews.” Matthew 27:37. But can we not read more than that? If our eyes are anointed with the heavenly eye salve, we may discern the words, “God is love.” 1 John 4:8. The cross where God “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” (Romans 8:32), reveals both the terrible meaning of sin and the inmost nature of God-that “God is love.” But what further inscription do we read upon the cross? Is it not written in letters of blood, “The wages of sin is death”? Romans 6:23. At the cross God’s condemnation of sin was expressed in such terms as to startle every created being in the universe. The Son of God Himself, being voluntarily under the condemnation of sin, could not be spared, and so “Christ died for our sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:3. God could not abolish His own law of righteousness, but He could and did provide an atonement for it at infinite cost. The words of the late Dr. James Denney, of Scotland, are appropriate:SOTW 55.1

    “The cross is the place at which the sinless One dies the death of the sinful; the place at which God’s condemnation is borne by the innocent, that for those who commit themselves to Him there may be condemnation no more. I cannot read the New Testament in any other sense. I cannot see at the very heart of it anything but this-grace establishing the law, not in a ‘forensic’ sense, but in a spiritual sense; mercy revealed, not over judgment, but through it; justification disclosing not only the goodness but the severity of God; the cross inscribed, God is love, only because it is inscribed also, The wages of sin is death.”SOTW 55.2

    Such is the gospel of the cross.SOTW 55.3

    We are still at the place called Calvary. Behold, three crosses are there. On the one in the center we see Jesus of Nazareth, and on each side of Him a thief is crucified. “There they crucified Him, and the malefactors, one on the right hand and the other on the left.” Luke 23:33. Is there any outward mark of distinction between Jesus in the center and the other two? Yes, we note that He wears a crown of thorns. How shall we interpret this contemptuous fling at His claim that He is a king? Little did the Roman soldiers think when they mockingly crowned Him with the wreath of thorns, that they were acting their part in proclaiming the gospel of redemption; but we remember that thorns were the evidence of the curse, nature’s testimony to sin, and the crown of thorns declared that He who is now “King of kings, and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:16), bore the curse for us, and therefore “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us.” Galatians 3:13. This is another message from the cross. O wondrous love! O wondrous condescension!SOTW 55.4

    “O cross that liftest up my head,
    I dare not ask to hide from thee:
    I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
    And from the ground there blossoms red,
    Life that shall endless be.”
    SOTW 56.1

    The mission of Christ did not end in merely a martyr’s death, a disappointment, a failure. Oh, no! The cross is not a symbol of defeat, but of triumph. There death was abolished, and life and immortality were brought to light. O glorious victory!SOTW 56.2

    We have been at the place called Calvary. What have we seen there? The mystery of redemption revealed; the love of God manifested; the justice of God vindicated; our salvation from sin assured. The glory of the cross pierces the dark shadows of a world in sin, and lights the way to heaven. The cross is our all-sufficient plea.SOTW 56.3

    “Nothing in my hand I bring;
    Simply to Thy cross I cling.”
    SOTW 56.4

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