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perpetual!}^ instituted dispensation. And we have this
communion also with each other as with Christ ; because
he is the common life, which is endeavoring always a
common growth in the members.

O, that we might receive this supper to-day, my
brethren, according to its true meaning, and eat and
drink worthily. Take it as no mere commemorative
ceremony over Christ dead, but as the appointed vehicle
of Christ living, and in you to live. Come not here to
be sad and sit mourning for your Master's body, like
the women weeping for Tammuz. Consider, above all,
this, that Christ, once dead, is here alive, that he may
here dispense himself to you. Blessed is the heart that
shall be fully opened to him. Be that true, as it may
be, of you all ; that you may go forth loving one another
as you love your Master, and shining without, by the
light he gives you within. Neither forget how that
open, dear relation of spirit with him, of which we have
been speaking, is here sanctioned publicly for you, and
sanctified before you, even as by an institute of God.
As he has gone awa}^, so believe, henceforth and always,
that he has come again. Count this coming in the
Spirit to be with you, dearer than even outward society
with him would be, such as his disciples had at the first;
and expect to be always with him in this manner, in the
closest, most immediate knowledge; even as he said
himself— BUT ye see me.



^^And said to the mountains and rochs^ Fall on us and
hide us from the face of Mm that sitteth on the throne^ and
from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of his
wrath is come ; and who shall he able to stand F" — Rev. vi,

The lamb is the most simply innocent of all animals.
Historically also it had become a name for sacrifice.
For this twofold reason, Christ is set forth as the Lamb.
Under this name, as fulfilling the conception of gentle-
ness and sacrifice in God, we give him ready welcome.
We magnify him as the Lamb, and expect to magnify
him even eternally, in ascriptions offered to that dear
name. Even such as are most remote from the life of
religion are commonly satisfied with conceptions of God
under this gentle, patient figure ; making up, not seldom,
schemes of divine character and order, that have only
the innocuous way of tbe lamb — just as thousands of
the devotees of liberty will magnify liberty, as being
the whole substance of government ; counting it really
the same thing as a release from being governed. Yet
liberty is but justice secured; and, in just the same
manner, the Lamb is but the complemental gentleness
of God's judicial vigor.


All whicli appears to be represented by a most para-
doxical, jarring combination of words, that predicates
wrath of the very lambhood of Christ. To speak
simply of the wrath of God is bad enough to some ; it is
even a real offense. They recoil from such expressions
as unworthy, and as indicating, either a degree of irreve-
rence in those who use them, or else low ideas of God,
such as may not be revolted by the ascription of a tem-
per so unregulated and so essentially coarse. It is
commonly no sufficient answer to such, that the scrip-
tures of God speak of his wrath in this way without
compunction ; for the scriptures, they will suspect, are
not as far refined themselves, in the moral tastes and
proprieties, as they might be. But here we have "the
wrath of the Lamb ;" — which not only violates a first
principle of rhetoric, forbidding the conjunction of sym-
bols that have no agreement of kind or quality, but also
shocks our cherished conceptions of Christ, as the suf-
fering victim, or the all-merciful and beneficent friend,
in either way, the Saviour of sinners. Who will evei
speak of a lamb's wrath? Who, much more, of the
wrath of the Lamb of God ? And yet the scripture
does it without any sense of impropriety, or moral in-
congruity — what shall we make of such a fact ?

Simply this, I answer, that while our particular age
is at the point of apogee from all the more robust and
vigorous conceptions of God in his relation to evil ;
while it makes nothing of God as a person or govern-
ing will ; less, if possible, of sin as a wrong-doing by
subject wills ; we are still to believe in Christianity, and


not in the new religion of nature; in Christ, and not in
the literary gentlemen. It does not, in mj view, re-
quire a very great degree of nerve to do this. Only we
must have the right to believe in the real Christ, and
not that theologic Christ which has so long been praised,
as it were into weakness, by the showing that separates
him from all God's decisive energies and fires of com-
bustion, and puts him over against them, to be only a
pacifier of them by his suffering goodness. Our Christ
must be the real king — Messiah — and no mere victim ;
he must govern, have his indignations, take the regfvl
way in his salvation. His goodness must have fire and
fibre enough to make it divine.

We take the principle, in brief, without scruple, thai
if we can settle luliat is to he understood hy the wrath of
Godj we shall not only find the wrath in God^ hut as much
more intensely revealed^ in the incarnate life and ministry
of Christy as the love is, or the patience, or any other char-
acter of God. Since he is the Lamb, in other words, the
most emphatic and appalling of all epithets will have
its place, viz., — the wrath of the Lamb.

We want very much, in English, a word that we
have not, to express more definitely the true force of
the original scripture word [op/*)] occurring in this rela-
tion. We have a considerable family of words that we
can employ for this purpose ; such as ivrath, anger^ in-
dig ]ia lion, fury, vengeance, judgment, justice, and the like,
but they are all more or less defective. Indignation is
the most unexceptionable, but it is too prosy and



weak to carry such a meaning with due effect. Wrath
is the term most commonly used in our translation, and
it is really the best, if only we can hold it closely
enough to the idea of a moral, in distinction from a
merely animal passion; else, failing in this, it will con-
nect associations of unregulated temper that are painful,
and as far as possible from being sacred. It requires in
this view, like the safetj^-lamps of the miners, a gauze
of definition round it, to save it from blazing into an
explosion too fierce to serve the purposes of light.

We understand then by wrath, as applied to Grod
and to Christ, a certain principled heat of resentment
towards evil-doing and evil-doers, such as arms the
good to inflictions of pain, or just retribution, upon
them. It is not the heat of revenge, girding up itself
in fiery passion, to repay the personal injuries it has
suffered ; but it is that holy heat which kindles about
order, and law, and truth, and right; going in, as it
were, spontaneously, to redress their wrongs and chas-
tise the injuries they have suffered. It is that, in every
moral nature, which prepares it to be an essentially
beneficent avenger, a holy knight-errant champion for
the right, and true, and good. It can be let in to nerve
a resentment, or to bitter a grudge, and commonly is, in
souls given up to resentments and grudges ; but it was
ordained specially to be such an equipment of moral
natures, that goodness would be an armed state, capable
not only of beneficence, but of inflicting pain where
pain is wanted, in the fit vindication of order and right.

How it works, we may see, almost every hour, io


some example greater, or less, in its magnitude. Only
to see a large boy in the street harassing and persecuting
a small one, stirs the natural wrath-principle in us, in
such a manner that, if we do not actually lay hands upon
him ourselves, we could easily be much satisfied if a
considerable chastisement should overtake him. So, if
an officer of the law arrests a woman in the street, hal-
ing her away to justice, you will see a multitude, ex-
cited by her outcries, rushing quickly together, wanting
to know what a strong man can be doing in that fashion
with a woman, and about half ready to interfere^ before
they have learned whether it is a case of oppression or
not. We had an illustration, a few days ago, of this
wrath-principle in human bosoms, on a much grander
scale — the whole New England people, or rather the
whole nation itself, waiting, as it were, by the gallows
of a Webster, and giving their spontaneous sanction to
his death, by their emphatic and hearty Amen. Under
the solemn wrath-principle of which I am here speak-
ing, every healthy and robust soul took the penalty with
appetite, and with a certain good revenge, stood stiff
and firm by the impartial and righteous sentence of the
law. So if this great and awful rebellion against which
we are now in arms, should finally collapse and go
down, and the friends of Union, so long and bit-
terly oppressed by their tyrants, should rise upon then*
and drag them to summary justice, compelling them to
expiate, by their death, the most terrible and bloodiest,
and really most impious, crime ever committed on earth,
save the crucifixion of Jesus itself, who of us would


blame, or in the least regret, the judicial severity of the
retribution? Why, the unspeakable desolations, the
latitudes and longitudes of the woe, would even take on
a smile, in our thought, and we should find ourselves
thanking God, even before we knew it, that he has put
a wrath-principle in human bosoms for the avenging of
so great a crime. Nay, we should be quite willing to
imagine this wrath-principle residing also in the very
ground itself, and crying unto God, from every blood-
sodden field and region, even as the blood of Abel did,
in Cain's one, solitary, merely initial, comparatively in-
significant murder.

In all these and similar examples that could be cited
without number, there is, jou perceive, a function of
wrath, or an instinctively vindicatory function, that
pertains to all moral natures, and arms them to be the
supporters of justice and the avengers of wrong. They
have this high moral instinct, or function, not as a vice
to be extirpated or stifled, but as an integral part of
their inmost original nature. It is constituent, consub-
stantial, and is to be eternal.

Having distinguished, in this manner, what is to be
understood by wrath, as predicated, whether of God or
of the Lamb, we are ready to proceed with the main
subject of inquiry. Is it then a fact that Christ, as the
incarnate Word of God, embodies and reveals the wrath-
principle of God, even as he does the patience or love-
principle, and as much more intensely ? On this point
we have manv distinct evidences. And —


1. It is very obvious, at the outset, that Christ can
not be a true manifestation of God, when he comes in
half the character of God, to act upon, or qualify, or
pacify, the other half. He must be God manifest in the
flesh, and not one side of God. If only God's affec-
tional nature is represented in him, then he is but a
half manifestation. And if we assign him, in that
character, a special value, then we say, by implication,
what amounts to the worst irreverence, that God is a
being to be most desired when he is only half presented,
and when his other half is either kept back, or somehow
smoothed to a condition of silence. I take issue with
all such conceptions of Christ. He is God manifested
truly, God as he is, God in all his attributes combined,
else he is nothing, or at least no fair exhibition. If the
purposes of God, the justice of God, the indignations
of God, are not in him ; if any thing is shut away, or
let down, or covered over, then he is not in God's pro-
poitions, and does not incarnate his character.

2. It will be noted that Christ can be the manifested
wrath of God, without being any the less tender in his
feeling, or gentle in his patience. If God may fitly
comprehend these opposite poles of character, so also
may Christ; and if the fires of God's retril)utive indig-
nations are no contradiction to the fact that he is love,
no more is there any such contradiction to be appre-
hended, when these indignations are displayed in Christ.
Indeed we have occasions in the history of Jesus, when
he actually displays the judicial and the tender, most
affectingly, together and in the very same scene. ''And


when lie had looked about on them with anger," says
Mark, "being grieved for the hardness of their hearts."
Here we have the wrath, [o^yn] in a connection of feel-
ing so tender and loving, that he is even grieved. His
indignations have quickened his more tender sensibili-
ties, and these, in turn, have fired his indignations.
And we have exactly the same conjunction over again,
when we find him even weeping over Jerusalem, and,
at the same moment, denouncing against it, in stern
retribution, the day of its final visitation. " If thou
hadst known the things that belong to thy peace ! but
now they are hid from thine eyes !" How tenderly, and
yet how firmly spoken is the wrath. And then, while
the tears of his compassion are scarcely dried away upon
his face, he goes directly into the temple and drives out,
in a terrible outburst of indignant zeal, the whole crowd
of hucksters and traders that have made even that
sacred place, to his pure feeling, no better than a den
of thieves. His tears did not extinguish his wrath, and
his wrath did not stifle the tenderness that issued in

Indeed these two poles of sensibility, wrath and tender
love, are not only compatible ; I must go farther and
say, that the tenderest, purest souls will, for just that
reason, be hottest in the wrath-principle, where any
bitter wrong, or shameful crime, is committed. They
take fire and burn, because they feel. Furthermore
you will observe that the man whose dull -hearted
phlegm keeps prudent silence, utters no condemnation,
burns with no indignant fire, when some wicked cruelty


or oppression is perpetrated, is, in almost every case,
deficient in the finer, nobler, and more tender sympa-
thies. His cold, apathetic, politic, sour nature is just
about as defective in the gentle sensibilities, as it is in
the fiery and strong impulses.

8. It is another and distinct consideration that God,
without the wrath-principle, never was, and Christ never
can be^ a complete character. This element belongs in-
herently to every moral nature. God is no God with-
out it, man is no man without it. Take it away from
God and he is simply Brama, a mere Fate, or Infinite
Thing — no Governor of the world, but an ideal, in the
neuter gender, of the True and the Good ; a Beauty
that lies in sweet lassitude on the world, for literary souls
to make a religion of, for themselves. Take it away
from man, and he is only paste, or, at best, an animal ;
for though animals have the capacity of brute passion,
or infuriated excitement, yet that moral passion or vin-
dicatory instinct, of which we are now speaking, they
as little share as they do the instinct of language, or
that of scientific inquiry. They have no moral ideas,
and of course have no moral armature of wrath to set
them on the side of moral ideas, and steel them, as in
principled resentment, to be avengers of the same. Now
it is this principled wrath, in one view, that gives starai-
nal force and majesty to character. It is in this princi-
ple of the moral nature that it becomes a regal nature.
In these indignations against wrong, it champions the
right and judges the world. Without this, or apart
from this, submission to wrong is pusillanimity, forgive-


ness to enemies a flimsy and feeble habit, love a merely
clinging devotement. All such tender passivities be-
come great, only as they consciously consent to bathe,
what fiery judgment has a right to burn. There is no
dignity in them, till the grand vindicatory instinct, the
governmental wrath-principle, is found united with
them. This also it is, in our humanity, that is always
volunteering government, and is, in that manner, the
capacity of society — all movements of redress, all insti-
tutes of penalty, all executed pains of justice, being
issued, as it were naturally, from this. It is, in fact, a
kind of electric battery moral that God has put in the
body of society, to shock, or stun, or kill, the violators
of order and right. No wrong-doer can so much as
touch it, without being struck and paralyzed by it.
And it is in virtue of this same regal or judicial instinct,
that Grod's moral nature, including his lovely and gentle
sympathies, becomes everlastingly electric, in its wrath
against misdoing and wrong. He governs with a will,
he towers in personal majesty, he is great in his author-
ity, because the regal attribute is in him. Which if we
suppose to be true in no sense of Christ, if we take him
to be a gentle way of goodness only, separated wholly
from this flaming kind of vigor — soft only, and submis-
sive, and patient — we put him in a grade almost un-
moral, and show him making feeble suit to the
world, in the merely plaintive airs of suffering. The
character is weak, unkingly, unchristly, and it can not
l)e more, till the wrath, is added to the patience, of the


•1. It is a conceded principle of justice, thai wrong-
doers are to suffer just according to what thej deserve.
It was unavoidable, therefore, that if Christ brought in
new mercies and gifts of grace, the liabilities of justice
must be correspondently increased — not diminished, as
many try to imagine. As the score of justice, too, is
augmented, the judicial wrath must be, and be also at:
much more forcibly manifested — just as we sliall find it
to be, in fact, in the new assertion made of God, by
Christ's personal life and doctrine. First he asserts the
principle — " For unto whomsoever much is given, of
him shall much be required." Next he asserts the new
liability that has actually accrued under it — " If I had
not done among them the works that none other man
did, they had not had sin, but now they have both seen
and hated both me and my Father." Then again he
makes specific denouncement both of the principle and
the liability, declaring to the cities that reject his minis-
try, that they are bringing a doom of judgment on them,
worse than God ever put upon the worst and wickedest
of the past ages — " Woe unto thee, Chorazin, woe unto
thee, Bethsaida ; it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and
Sidon at the day of judgment than for you." "And
thou, Capernaum, it shall be more tolerable for the land
of Sodom, in the day of judgment, than for thee." His
apostles, too, onlj^ represent him fitly, when they sav —
"treasurest up unto thyself wrath, against the day of
wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of
God ;" or again — " Of how much sorer punishment
suppose ye shall he be thought worthy, who hath trod-



den under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the
blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified an
unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of
gi-ace." The wrath-principle and justice, you will thuj?
perceive, have the same place under Christianity that
they had before. The divi«ne government is not made
new, but is only new revealed. God is not less just,
nor more merciful, but more fitly and proportionately

5. One of the things most needed in the recoverj^ of
men to God, is this very thing ; a more decisive mani-
festation of the wrath-principle and justice of God. In*
timidation is the first means of grace. No bad mind is
arrested by love and beauty, till such time as it is balked
in evil and put on waj^s of thoughtful ness. And
nothing will be so effectual for this, as a distinct appj-e-
hension of the wrath to come. Then, when it is brought
to a condition of thoughtfulness by the apprehension
of damage and loss, the vehemence of God and his
judgments starts a correspondent moral vehemenc-^ in
its own self-condemnations ; when of course it is ready
to be melted by the compassions and won by the beauty
of the cross — that is born of God. Now it is no longer
swayed by interest and fear, but having come into God's
occupancy and become spirit, as being permeated by
God's impulse, it ranges in liberty with God himself.
The precise thing not wanted, in this view, is to get
justice out of the way. To know that the aveng-
ing wrjithrprinciple of God's moral nature is fon^ver
hushed, would be fata], The weak poi'^t of sin is that


it car tremble — does inwardly tremble even in its
boldest moods. Too low in its moral conceptions to be
taken by goodness and love it for its own sake, it can
be seized and shaken by the rough hand of wrath
Hence the wrath is wanted, and at this point the attack
of salvation begins. It could not be a salvation by
rose-water, -or by any means less stringent than GodY^
roughest enforcements.

6. We can see for ourselves that the more impressive
revelation of wrath, which appears to be wanted, is actu-
ally made in the person of Christ. I will not stop here
to speak of the driving out of the money-changers
from the temple, which has been the scandal of so many,
just because of the imagined over-vehemence of the
wrath, and which his disciples took as being the zeal
that was to eat him up; I will not stay upon the fiery
denunciations and imprecations of woe by which he
scorched the oppressions and the sanctimonious hypoc
risies of the priests and the Pharisees ; I will not recui
again to the terrible judgments he denounced upon so
many guilty cities, and among them even upon Jerusa-
lem itself; but pass directly to the fact that no other
preacher ever had appealed as strenuously as he to the
sense of fear, or employed with as little restraint the
artillery of God's penalties. The terrible and abun-
dantly unwelcome, or unpopular, doctrine of future
punishment is specially his. Previously, the sanctions
of religion had been temporal, and the future state
itself had been only dimly revealed; save that in two
or three single passages of the prophets it had finally


obtained a more distinct recognition and pronounced
Its more fearful awards. But Christ, when he came^
opeued up formallj and distinctly the great world of
the future, and pressed home the claims of duty and
repentance by the tremendous sanctions of eternity,
lie uses, without scruple, in his language, the most ap-
palling terms, which, though they are certainly figures
of speech, are yet such figures. as show that he is in no
mood of delicacy, but is keyed up in the wrath-princi-
ple, as intensely and heartily as he is in the love-prin-
ciple — speaking to men as offended majesty should,
when it goes to rebels in arms. He denounces what he
calls " everlasting punishment," " destruction," " death,"
"fire," "the worm that never dies," "the gnashing of
teeth," "thirst," "outer darkness," "torment." I can
not stop to settle the precise meaning of these figures.
I only ask you to note, first, that they are new, almost
every one of them, never heard of before, even under
what is called the hard and pitiless rigors of the Old
Testament; and, secondly, that they are from Christ,
the all-merciful Saviour, and tenderly suffering friend
of the world. We call him the Lamb, for God's mercy
w^as never before revealed, by a sacrifice of simple,
unoffending innocence. And just so these are the
wrath of the Lamb ; which never before shook human
bosoms by such words of doom and sanctions of eternal

Once more Christ is appointed, and publicly under-
takes, to maintain the wrath-princij:Ie officially, as the
judge of the world — even as he maintains the love-


principle officiall}^ as the Saviour of the world. He
consents, that is, when every attempt to do better by
mon, than they have deserved, has failed to win them,
to fall back on the merely retributive regimen of hia
kingdom, and do by them as they deserve. He even
declares that authority is given him to execute judg-
ment, because he is the Son of Man ; for as he has come
Into the flesh to unfold God's human sympathy and
tenderness, so, to maintain what is only fit proportion,
he must needs be clothed in the rigors of judicial

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 1) → online text (page 23 of 29)