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shall serve Him,' and the reason why he was certain of it was for He shall deliver the needy when he crieth.' We may be certain of it for the same reason. He who can deal with man's primal needs, and is ready and able to meet every cry of the heart, will never want suppliants and subjects. He who can respond to our consciousness of sin and weakness, and can satisfy hungry hearts, will build His sway over the hearts whom He satisfies on foundations deep as life itself. The history of the past becomes a prophecy of the future. Jesus has drawn men of all sorts, of every stage of culture and layer of civilisation, and of every type of character to Him, and the power which has carried a peasant of Nazareth to be the acknowledged King of the civilised world is not exhausted, and will not be till He is throned as Saviour and Ruler of the whole earth. There is only one religion in the world that is obviously growing. The gods of Greece and Rome are only subjects for studies in Comparative Mythology, the labyrinthine pantheon of India makes no conquests, Buddhism is moribund. All other religions than Christianity are shut up within definite and comparatively narrow geographical and chronological limits. But in spite of premature jubilations of enemies and much hasty talk about the need for a re-statement (which generally means a negation) of Christian truth, we have a clear right to look forward with quiet confidence. Often in the past has the religion of Jesus seemed to be wearing or worn out, but it has a strange recuperative power, and is wont to startle its enemies' pæans over its grave by rising again and winning renewed victories. The Title on the Cross is for ever true, and is written again in nobler fashion on the vesture and on the thigh' of Him who
rides forth at last to rule the nations, 'KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.'
THE IRREVOCABLE PAST
•What I have written I have written,'-JOHN xix. 22.
This was a mere piece of obstinacy. Pilate knew that he had prostituted his office in condemning Jesus, and he revenged himself for weak compliance by ill-timed mulishness. A cool - headed governor would have humoured his difficult subjects in such a trifle, as a just one would have been inflexible in a matter of life and death. But this man's facile yielding and his stiffnecked obstinacy were both misplaced. "So I will, so I command. Let my will suffice for a reason,' was what he meant. He had written his gibe, and not all the Jews in Jewry should make him change.
But his petulant answer to the rulers' request for the removal of the offensive placard carried in it a deeper meaning, as the Title also did, and as the people's fierce yell, «His blood be on us and on our children,' did. Possibly the Evangelist had some thought of that sort in recording this saying; but, at all events, I venture to take a liberty with it which I should not do if it were a word of God's, or if it were given for our instruction. So I take it now as expressing in a vivid way, and irrespective of Pilate's intention, the thought of the irrevocable past.
I. Every man is perpetually writing a permanent record of himself.
It is almost impossible to get the average man to think of his life as a whole, or to realise that the fleeting present leaves indelible traces. They seem to
fade away wholly. The record appears to be written in water. It is written in ink which is invisible, but as indelible as invisible. Grammarians define the perfect tense as that which expresses an action completed in the past and of which the consequences remain in the present. That is true of all our actions. Our characters, our circumstances, our remembrances, are all permanent. Every day we make entries in our diary.
II. That record, once written, is irrevocable.
We all know what it is to long that some one action should have been otherwise, to have taken some one step which perhaps has coloured years, and which we would give the world not to have taken. But it cannot be. Remorse cannot alter it. Wishes are vain. Repentance is vain. A new line of conduct is vain.
What an awful contrast in this respect between time future and time past! Think of the indefinite possibilities in the one, the rigid fixity of the other. Our present actions are like cements that dry quickly and set hard on exposure to the air—the dirt of the trowel abides on the soft brick for ever. Many cuneiform inscriptions were impressed with a piece of wood on clay, and are legible millenniums after.
We have to write currente calamo, and as soon as written, the MS. is printed and stereotyped, and no revising proofs nor erasures are possible. An action, once done, escapes from us wholly.
How needful, then, to have lofty principles ready at hand! The fresco painter must have a sure touch, and a quick hand, and a full mind.
What a boundless field the future offers us! How much it may be! How much, perhaps, we resolve it shall be! What a shrunken heap the harvest is! Are you satisfied with what you have written?
III. This record, written here, is read yonder.
Our actions carry eternal consequences. These will be read by ourselves. Character remains. Memory remains.
We shall read with all illusions stripped away.
•We shall all be manifested before the judgment-seat of Christi'
IV. This record may be blotted out by the blood of Christ.
It cannot be made not to have been, but God's pardon will be given, and in respect to all personal consequences it is made non-existent. Circumstances may remain, but their pressure is different. Character may be renewed and sanctified, and even made loftier by the evil past. Our dead selves may become 'stepping-stones to higher things.'
Memory may remain, but its sting is gone, and new hopes, and joys, and work may fill the pages of our record.
•He took away the handwriting that was against us, nailing it to His Cross.'
Our lives and characters may become a palimpsest. • I will write upon him My new name.' 'Ye are an epistle of Christ ministered by us.'
CHRIST'S FINISHED AND UNFINISHED WORK
*Jesus ... said, It is finished.”—JOHN xix. 30.
ONE of these sayings was spoken from the Cross, the other from the Throne. The Speaker of both is the same. In the one, His voice then shook the earth,' as the rending rocks testified; in the other, His voice will
shake not the earth only but also heaven'; for 'new heavens and a new earth'accompanied the proclamation. In the one, like some traveller ready to depart, who casts a final glance over his preparations, and, satisfied that nothing is omitted, gives his charioteer the signal and rolls away, Jesus Christ looked back over His life's work, and, knowing that it was accomplished, summoned His servant Death, and departed. In the other, He sets His seal to the closed book of the world's history, and ushers in a renovated universe. The one marks the completion of the work on which the world's redemption rests, the other marks the completion of the age-long process by which the world's redemption is actually realised. The one proclaims that the foundation is laid, the other that the headstone is set on the finished building. The one bids us trust in a past perfected work; the other bids us hope in the perfect accomplishment of the results of that work. Taken singly, these sayings are grand; united, they suggest thoughts needed always, never more needful than to-day.
I. We see here the work which was finished on the Cross.
The Evangelist gives great significance to the words of my first text, as is shown by his statement in a previous verse: 'Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, said, I thirst,' and then — It is finished.' That is to say, there is something in that dying voice a great deal deeper and more wonderful than the ordinary human utterance with which a dying man might say, 'It is all over now. I have done,' for this utterance came from the consciousness that all things had been accomplished by Him, and that He had done His life's work.