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Now, there, taking the words even in their most superficial sense, we come upon the strange peculiarity which marks off the life of Jesus Christ from every other life that was ever lived. There are no loose ends left, no unfinished tasks drop from His nerveless hands, to be taken up and carried on by others. His life is a rounded whole, with everything accomplished that had been endeavoured, and everything done that bad been commanded. His hands have laid the foundation; His hands shall also finish. He alone of the sons of men, in the deepest sense, completed His task, and left nothing for successors.
The rest of us are taken away when we have reared a course or two of the structure, the dream of building which brightened our youth. The pen drops from paralysed hands in the middle of a sentence, and a fragment of a book is left. The painter's brush falls with his palette at the foot of his easel, and but the outline of what he conceived is on the canvas. All of us leave tasks half done, and have to go away before the work is completed. The half-polished columns that lie at Baalbec are but a symbol of the imperfection of every human life. But this Man said, 'It is finished,' and 'gave up the ghost.' Now, if we ponder on what lies in that consciousness of completion, I think we find, mainly, three things.
Christ rendered a complete obedience. All through His life we see Him, hearing with the inward ear the solemn voice of the Father, and responding to it with that I must' which runs through all His days, from the earliest dawning of consciousness, when He startled His mother with 'I must be about My Father's business, until the very last moments. In that obedience to the all-present necessity which He cheerfully embraced and perfectly discharged, there was no flaw. He alone
of men looks back upon a life in which His clear consciousness detected neither transgression nor imperfection. In the midst of His career He could front His enemies with Which of you convinceth Me of sin?' and no man then, and no man in all the generations that have elapsed since—though some have been blind enough to try it, and malicious enough to utter their attempts,-has been able to answer the challenge. In the midst of His career He said, I do always the things that please Him'; and nobody then or since has been able to lay his finger upon an act of His in which, either by excess or defect, or contrariety, the will of God has not been fully represented. At the beginning of His career He said, in answer to the Baptist's remonstrance, *It becometh us to fulfil all righteousness,' and at the end of His career He looked back, and knowing that He had thus done what became Him-namely, fulfilled it all-He said, 'It is finished !'
The utterance further expresses Christ's consciousness of having completed the revelation of God. Jesus Christ has made known the Father, and the generations since have added nothing to His revelation. The very people, to-day, that turn away from Christianity, in the name of higher conceptions of the divine nature, owe their conceptions of it to the Christ from whom they turn. Not in broken syllables; not ‘at sundry times and in divers manners,' but with the one perfect, full-toned name of God on His lips, and vocal in His life, He has declared the Father unto us. In the course of His career He said, 'He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father'; and, looking back on His life of manifestation of God, He proclaimed, "It is finished !' And the world has since, with all its thinking, added nothing to the name which Christ has declared.
The utterance further expresses His consciousness of having made a completed, atoning Sacrifice. Remember that the words of my first text followed that awful cry that came from the darkness, and as by one lightning flash, show us the waves and billows rolling over His head. "My God! My God! why hast Thou forsaken Me?' In that infinitely pathetic and profound utterance, to the interpretation of which our powers go but a little way, Jesus Christ blends together, in the most marvellous fashion, desolation and trust, the consciousness that God is His God, and the consciousness that He is bereft of the light of His presence. Brethren! I know of no explanation of these words which does justice to both the elements that are intertwined so intimately in them, except the old one, which listens to Him as they come from His quivering lip, and says, “The Lord hath made to meet on Him the iniquity of us all.'
Ah, brethren! unless there was something a great deal more than the physical shrinking from physical death in that piteous cry, Jesus Christ did not die nearly as bravely as many a poor, trembling woman who, at the stake or the block, has owed her fortitude to Him. Many a blood-stained criminal has gone out of life with less tremor than that which, unless you take the explanation that Scripture suggests of the cry, marred the last hours of Jesus Christ. Having drained the cup, He held it up inverted when He said • It is finished !' and not a drop trickled down the edge. He drank it that we might never need to drink it; and so His dying voice proclaimed that by one offering for sin for ever,' He obtained eternal redemption' for us.
II. Now, secondly, note the work which began from the Cross. Between my two texts lie untold centuries,
and the whole development of the consequences of Christ's death, like some great valley stretching between twin mountain-peaks on either side, which from some points of view will be foreshortened and invisible, but when gazed down upon, is seen to stretch widely leagues broad, from mountain ridge to mountain ridge. So my two texts, by the fact that millenniums have to interpose between the time when It is finished!' is spoken, and the time when It is done!' can be proclaimed from the Throne, imply that the interval is filled by a continuous work of our Lord's, which began at the moment when the work on the Cross ended.
Now it has very often been the case, as I take leave to think, that the interpretation of the former of these two texts has been of such a kind as to distort the
perspective of Christian truth, and to obscure the fact of that continuous work of our Lord's. Therefore it may not be out of place if, in a sentence or two, I recall to you the plain teaching of the New Testament upon this matter. It is finished!' Yes; and as the lower course of some great building is but the foundation for the higher, when 'finished' it is but begun. The work which, in one aspect, is the close, in another aspect is the commencement of Christ's further activity. What did He say Himself, when He was here with His disciples ? I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you.' What was the last word that came fluttering down, like an olive leaf, into the bosoms of the men as they stood with uplifted faces gazing upon Him as He disappeared? •Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the ages.' What is the keynote of the book which carries on the story of the Gospels in the history of the militant Church? "The former treatise have I made ... of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day VOL. III.
in which He was taken up'-and, being taken up, continued, in a new form, both the doing and the teaching. Thus that book, misnamed the Acts of the Apostles, sets Him forth as the Worker of all the progress of the Church. Who is it that adds to the Church daily such as were being saved'? The Lord. Who is it that opened the hearts of the hearers to the message ? The Lord. Who is it that flings wide the prison-gates when His persecuted servants are in chains ? The Lord. Who is it that bids one man attach himself to the chariot of the eunuch of Ethiopia, and another man go and bear witness in Rome? The Lord. Through the whole of that book there runs the keynote, as its dominant thought, that men are but the instruments, and the hand that wields them is Christ's, and that He who wrought the finished work that culminated on Calvary is operating a continuous work through the ages from His Throne.
Take that last book of Scripture, which opens with a view of the ascended Christ walking in the midst of the seven candlesticks, and holding the stars in His right hand'; which further draws aside the curtains of the heavenly sanctuary, and lets us see the Lamb in the midst of the Throne,' opening the seven seals—that is to say, setting loose for their progress through the world the forces that make the history of humanity, and which culminates in the vision of the final battle in which the Incarnate Word of God goes forth to victory, with all the armies of heaven following Him. Are not its whole spirit and message that Jesus Christ, the Lamb who is the Antagonist of the Beast, is working through all the history of the world, and will work till its kingdoms are become the kingdoms of our God and of His Christ'?