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offense to so many religious schools and rabbis, charged
so inevitably with being a wild impostor, I should not
be quite turned away from him. Perhaps I should not
join his crucifiers, but should I not as truly reject him
as they ? O shame to say it, but it fills me with pain,
or even with a kind of horror, to conceive the possibil-
ity. Were not his enemies religious men in their habit,
serious, thoughtful men, exact in the observances of
their religion, many of them even sanctimonious in
their lives? Had they not religious pretexts for all
that they did? At any rate they had human hearts,
and so have you and I. And will not what they show
for their own heart, be as good a proof for us ? So felt
the multitude of spectators, and the feeling of the world
has been the same.

Lastly, there is another and more direct kind of argu-
ment, that I mean which we get from our own con-
sciousness. I think I may assert, with confidence, that
there is no man living, who is not made conscious, at
times, of sin, as in no other manner, by the simple fact
of his own rejection of Christ. Nor does it make any
great difi'erence, if his belief appears to be hindered by
speculative difficulties. He may imagine, or distinctly
maintain, that he rejects, or does not believe, on the
ground of sufficient evidence. Still Christ is Christ,
and the cross is the cross, and he can not so much as
think of himself, before the merely conceived image of


a goodness so divine — be it really historic or not — with*
out a feeling of disturbance, in the not cleaving to the
profound reality of the truth discovered in him. N'o
matter what may be reasoned by infidels and Christian
speculatists about, against, or for, the historic person of
Christ; if he is a fiction only, or a myth, a romance
of character gotten up by three or four of the most un-
romantic writers of the world, still he is the greatest,
solidest, most real truth ever known to man. The
mere conception of such a life and character is inhe-
rently eternal — more indestructible, and so far more real
than a mountain of rock. It affirms itself eternally as
light, by its own self-evidence, and the soul of guilt
trembles inwardly before it — trembles even the more
certainly that it is a good approved, but not welcomed,
or embraced. Enough that the Christ of the N'ew Tes-
tament is the want, consciously or unconsciously, of
every human heart, and that aching secretly for him, it
aches the more that it has him not, and still the more
that it will not have him. Who of you could ever
think of him rejected without a pang?

But the most of you are troubled by no such specu-
lative doubts ; you are only selfish and earthly, want
your pleasures, want other objects more, that must be
renounced to receive him — meaning still, at some time,
to do it, and become his disciples. Living in this
feeble and consciously false key, your courage wavers,
and self-rebuking thoughts are, ever and anon, making
their troublesome irruptions upon you. When the
Saviour says — "Of sin because they believe not on


me," the very words sbarpeD guilty pangs in your bo-
som. Sometimes the question rises distinctly, wh}^ is it,
that beholding this love, I still do not embrace it?
why do I so profoundly admire this wonderful excel-
lence and still suppress the longings I so consciously
feel ? And then the goodness rejected becomes a fire of
Hinnom in your uneasy convictions. It is not any par-
ticular sins that trouble you thus ; consciously it is sin —
nothing else explains you to yourself. The conviction
of it runs quivering along your feeling in sharp pangs
of remorse, and you half expect to hear — "I am Jesus
of Nazareth whom thou rejectest." Even his tenderest
call comes to you, more as an arrow, than as a balm,
and your heart is inwardly stung, pricked through and
through, with the rankle of thoughts that are being
revealed. How many have passed, or now are passing
through just this struggle of experience. To many too
it will have been, I trust, the gate of heaven.

But I must not close my argument on this great subject,
without noting a common objection ; viz., that all such
phases of mental disturbance called conviction of sin,
in the New Testament, are too weak for respect, and
should not be indulged, even if they are felt. But
if they are according to truth, if they are so far intelli-
gent as to be modes of sensibility accurately squared
by the fact of character within, then they are only a
kind of weakness that is stronger by far allowed than
stifled. They are however, in some sense, moods of
weakness, I must still admit ; for they belong to sin and
sir itself is weak. Nothing in fact is weaker. Cour



age, repose, equilibrium, strength of will, firmness of
confidence — all these receive a shock under sin, and
are more or less fatally broken. Were not all those
Athenians weak who wept the death of Socrates, when
they saw his place made vacant by themselves ? But
that weakness it was even honorable to suffer, because
it was the very best thing left, after they had been
weak enough to vote his death. So, when the Son of
God is crucified and expelled to be seen no more, not
the spectators only of the scene, but all we that pierced
him by our sin were to be visited with guilty, soul-
humbling pains in like manner — how much more that
he is gone np visibly, as the wonderful Greek was
not, to be stated in the eternal majesty of righteousness
and judgment. All sin is weak, and the convincing
cross must needs bring out the revelation of weakness,
even as it did at the first. When the marshal's band,
sent out to make the arrest, were shaken out of courage
and strength enough even to stand, they fitly opened the
scene that followed, by their backward fall and prostra-
tion. Was not Peter weak when he wept bitterly?
Was not Judas weak when he cast down the money for
which he sold him ? Were not the priests and elders
weak when they said "he stirreth up the people?"
Was not Pilate weak when he was " the more afraid ?"
Were not the multitude when they went home smiting
their breasts? Nay, were not the rocks themselves
weak when they shcok, and the tomb when it opened,
and the stone when it rolled back ? 0, it was a mighty
judgment day, that day of the cross ; token visible, tc


you and to me, of that other, higher judgment which
our righteous Lord has gone up to assume I Hence the
distress which rises in so many hearts before the cross,
and which some can think of only with disrespect.
Could they learn to disrespect the sin that makes it
necessary, they might even honor it rather, as the sign,
^r beginning, of a return to righteousness and reason.

In what manner Christ was to convince of sin we
have now seen, and no farther argument appears to be
needed. But the subject can not be fitly concluded
without noting a remarkable effect that has followed
the cross as a convincing power on the world ; viz., the
fact that, in what is called Christendom, there has been
a manifest uplifting of the moral standards, and a corre-
spondent quickening of the moral sensibilities, both
of individual men, and of whole races and peoples. In
the people of the old dispensation and of the great
Pagan empires long ago converted to the cross, moral
ideas have now taken the place, to a great extent, of
force ; the coarse, blank apathy of sin is broken up ;
the sense of duty is more piercing ; and it is even as if
a new conscience had been given respecting the soul in
its relations to God. It is as if men had seen their
state of sin glassed before them, and made visible in
the rejection of Christ and his cross. Jews and Pagans
had before been made conscious at times of particular
sins; we are made conscious, in a deeper and more
appalling way, of the state of sin itself, the damning
evil that infects our humanity at the root— that which


rejected and crucified the Son of God, and is in fact,
the general madness and lost condition of the race.
Thus, immediately after the departure of Christ from
the world, that is on the day of Pentecost, there broke
out a new demonstration of sensibility to sin, such as
was never before seen. In the days of the law, men had
their visitations of guilt and remorse, respecting this or
that wrong act ; but I do not recollect even under the
prophets, those great preachers of the law, and sharpest
and most terrible sifters of transgression, a single in-
stance, where a soul is so broken, or distressed, by the
conviction of its own bad state under sin, as to ask
what it must do to be saved — the very thing which
many thousands did, on the day of Pentecost, and in the
weeks that followed, and have been doing even till
now. So different a matter is it to have rules in a
book, or rules in the conscience, from having them
bodied into power, through a person, or personal char-
acter ; that character, hated, persecuted, murdered, by
the public will and voice; that murdered one rising
again to be glorified in the triumphant righteousness
of his life ; that righteousness, after having cast down
principalities and powers, installed in the judgment
bench of the world. Hence an amazing accession of
strength, in the moral standards and convictions of all
Christian peoples. It is all from the cross ; which has
raised the sense of guilt in human bosoms to such a pitch,
that even strong men weep, and groan, and tremble for
their sin. Every sensibility that lies about the standards
of the soul, and its fallen possibilities in defection from


them, is amazingly quickened. And it i? just this to
which the apostle refers, when speaking to the Hebrews
of " the word of God" — he means the new word of Chris-
tianity, that which we have now, and not the old word
of the law — "For the word of God is quick and
powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing
even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the
joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and
intents of the heart." Having this penetratirg and con-
vincing efiicacy, the word of the cross is capable of a
most faithful and deep work in the character ; no gospel
therefore of temporizing mercy, and slight healing, but
a downright, thorough-going, radical, life-renewing
energy — a power of God unto salvation. It bends to no
false principle, deals in no mock sentiment, hides no
point of exactness, spares no necessary pain. It applies
to sin a surgery deep as the malady, it cuts the cancer
clean out by conviction, that a genuine, true healing
may follow. Just so much worthier is it of our confi-
dence and respect. And what shall we do but open
our heart to it, counting it even good to be condemned
before a salvation so thorough, so deeply grounded in
t!ie unsparing severities of truth. But this condemna-
tion, these unsparing severities, it behooves us to re-
member, will be not less piercing, when they cease to
come in the hopeful guise of a salvation. Doubtless
Christ rejected, will have a convincing power always,
even in the future life. Moral ideas and standards will
be raised, and moral sensibilities quickened still by the
cross lemembered. And the pangs of guilt will of



course be sharpened still farther, by the barren regrets
and the hopeless future of that undone state. O, that
desert of guilt — to one that has journeyed long ages in
its fiery and thirsty sands, how dreadful the words of
the rejected Saviour still ringing and forever in his
memory, — "Of sin because they believe not



^^And behold there arose a great tempes t in the sea, irtsO"
much that the ship was covered with the loaves : but he was
asleep.'^ — Matt., viii. 24.

Christ asleep — the eternal Word of the Father, incar-
nate, lapped in the soft oblivion of unconsdousness — a
very strange fact, when deeply enough pondered to
reveal its significant and even singular implications.

Where then do we go to look upon so great a sight,
the sleep of God's Messiah? Is he royally bestowed
in some retired hall, or chamber of his palace ? Is he
curtained about and canopied over on his bed of down, as
one retiring into the deepest folds of luxury, there to
woo the delicate approach of sleep? Must no doors be
swinging, no feet of attendants stirring in the halls?
Are the windows carefully shaded, lest some ray of
moonlight streaming in may break the tender spell of
the sleeper ? No, it is not so that Jesus sleeps, or v/ith
any such delicate provisions of luxury to smooth his
rest ; but he is out upon the Gennesaret, in some little
craft that his disciples have picked up for the crossing,
and upon the short space of flooring, or deck, in the
hinder part, he sinks, overcome with exhaustion, andi*


buried shortly in the deepest, soundest sleep. The
open sky is over him, the boat swings drowsily among
the waves, and the boatmen, talking over the miracles
of the day, and all they have seen and heard, under
the wonderful new ministry, continue on, as we may
suppose, till by degrees the conversation lulls, the
replies become slow and sepulchral, as if coming from
afar, and finally cease. Meantime Jesus sleeps, fanned
by the gentle breath of the night, rocked by the bab-
bling waters, watched by the stars, that brighten seem-
ingly to a finer purity, reflected from the sleeper's

By and by a change appears. A dark and ominous
cloud, sailing up, shuts in the sky. The lightnings be-
gin to flill, crashing on the head of Hermon and Tabor,
and very soon the tempest that was booming heavily
in the distance strikes the little skiff, dashing the waves
across, and filling instantly the forward part with water.
The little company are thrown, as it w^ould seem, into
the greatest panic and confusion, unable to manage the
sinking vessel, and only mixing their cries of distress
with the general tumult of the storm. Still Jesus
sleeps, folded in that deep self-oblivion which no rage
of the elements can disturb. " And behold there arose
a great tempest in the sea, insomuch that the ship was
•overed with the waves: but he was asleep." Even so,
no wildest tumult without can reach the inward compo-
sure of his rest. The rain beating on his face, and the
spray driving across it, and the sharp gleams of the
lightning, and the crash of the thunder, and the roai of


the storm, and the screams of the men — not all of these
can shake him, far enough inward to reach the center
wliere sleep lodges and waken him to consciousness. It
is as if both consciousness and soul were gone — gone
U]) in holy dream, to bask in the divine peace, breath-
ing airs of music, and w^andering along the rivers of
paradise, where angels moor their boats and watch the
currents of eternity. Finally sonie one touches him
gently and says, "Master;" whereupon he is roused
instantly ; for it is a tender word, spoken, too, distress-
fully, in a manner of appeal, and there is no softest call
of compassion that is not louder in his ear than either
tempest or thunder. So his sleep is ended, and the
storm, in turn, is laid in a deeper sleep than he.

The sleeping of Jesus I believe is mentioned nowhere
else in the gospels, and I do not recollect ever to have
heard the subject presented as a topic of discourse, or
even distinctly noticed — an omission the more remark-
able that the theologic implications of the fact appear
to be so important

Sleep is a shadow that falls on the soul, as well as on
the body. It is such a kind of state, or affection, as
makes even the nQ.ind, or intelhgent principle, uncon-
pcious. What could be more in point, then, for the
speculative humanitarian, than to call this fact to his
aid, by raising the question, what can be made of the
sleep of Jesus, on the supposition that he is divine?
Does sleep attack divinity? How can it be conceived
that deity, or a nature essentially deific, sleeps, falling


into the condition of unconsciousness ? And ttien what
next should follow, in the common way, but that such
as think to maintain the divinity of Christ, only as thej
are able to explain it, will make answer, that it is the
liunian nature of Jesus that sleeps and not the divine —
giving up thus, for the time, the fact of the incarnation
i I self; which, if it is any thing, is the absolute unity
of the divine and the human in one person.

It would carry me too far, to go into these questions
here, taking me, in fact, quite away from my subject.
I most readily admit that Jesus, being essentially a
divine person, can not, in good logic, sleep; and just as
certain it is that, if we proceed logically, he can not, as
having a deific nature, be a man. And yet he both slept
and was a man. As being God incarnate, the Word
made flesh, the infinite in the finite, he is logically impos-
sible. But Grod has a way of doing the impossible. In
the communication of himself to men, he tears away the
logical carpentry, refusing to put his glory into it. The
truth is that our laws of thinking are totally at fault, in
regard to subjects of this nature, speculatively handled.
All that we can say of the personality of Jesus is that
he is a being in our plane, and yet not in it — in it as a
practical approach of God, not in it as being logically
resolvable by our scientific or speculative deductions
The very thing proposed in the person of Jesus is to
make an approach transcending any possible explication
by us ; viz., to humanize divinity ; that by means of a
natuie fellow to our own, he may bring himself wit bin
our range, and meet our feeling by a feeling formally hu-


manized in himself. And in order to this, there must be
no doubt of his humanity; he must not be simply
templed in a human body, but he must make his hu-
manity complete by that last, most convincing evidence,
the fact of sleep. If he were exhaustible only, or
weak, or frail, as other men are known to be, but were
never to sleep, we could scarcely feel that he is one of
us; but beholding his intelligence close up, his con-
sciousness fall away, and his prostrate body palpitating
in deep slumber, we no longer question his humanity.
Call him the Word incarnate, the Son of God, God
manifest : still he is none the less truly man to us, now
that we find him asleep. No matter if we can not ex-
plain the mystery, or seeming contradiction, as we cer-
tainly can not. To say that only the human soul sleeps,
explains nothing, and it signifies nothing more to us, if
it does, than the sleep of any other human soul. To
say that he is only human, is against the plainest de-
clarations of scripture, and against all that we know of
his more than mortal bearing, or character. All that
we can do here is to confess that the incarnate Word is
somehow man, even one of ourselves, receiving and em-
bracing in him the eternal love, and fellowship, and full-
ness of God.

There is then a very great spiritual importance, in
the fact that Jesus sleeps. In it we behold the divine
humanity sealed oi set in complete evidence. Divine
he must be, for his character is deifically spotless and
perfect; human he must be for he sleeps like a man.


tbis Great Benefactor and World's Kedeemer in his
sleep ! just to look upon liim here, in this strange hour —
the rain and the spray drenching his body, his hair and
pillow of plank washed by the driving storm, his calm
benignant face lighted by the glittering flashes that set
the night ablaze — thus to gaze upon him, king of angels
and men, descended to this mortal plight — how very nigh
does it draw us to his humbled state, how closely,
and by what easy ties of sympathy, knit us to his
person 1

And yet more nigh, by a sympathy more tender,
when we go over the count of what he had been doing
yesterday, and see how it was that he fell into a sleep so
profound. The warrior sleeps returning spattered and
spent from the bloody horrors of the field ; the devotee
of pleasure sleeps, because he has drunk the cup dry
and would fain forget himself; one hasting to be rich,
exhausted and spent by his overmastering cares, and
the strain of his mightj^ passion, sleeps a hurried sleep,
fevered by his price-current dreams ; the hireling sleeps
on his wages, gathering strength for the wages of to-
morrow ; Jesus sleeps, because he has emptied the fund
of his compassions and poured himself completely out
in works of mercy to the sick and the poor. His giv-
ing way to sleep is well accounted for, when we find
him engaged the whole day previous, in works of teach-
ing, advice, counsel, sympathy, consolation, healing,
and rebuke, such as kept him in a constant expenditure
of feeling and strain of attention, that no mortal
strength could support. According to Matthew he


heals tbe centurion's servant, and Peter's wife's mother,
and continues at his work of healing, thronged by mul-
titudes pouring in upon him, even till night. On the
same day, according to Mark, he appears to have given
the parable of the sower, and that of a candle hid undur
a bushel, and that of the earth as a harvest field sown
by the owner, and that of the grain of mustard seed,
with a discourse on hearing, and a private exposition
of his parables to his own immediate disciples. It is
also understood by some, combining what is given in the
sixth chapter of Luke, and the third of Mark, that he was
awake the whole night previous to this day, engaged in
prayer; that he chose the twelve at day-break, and that
coming down from the mountain, he was so thronged, at
that early hour, that he could not so much as eat bread,
and came near being trampled by the crowd ; whereupon
his friends laid hold of him to bring him off, declaring
that he was beside himself; his mother and breth
ren also came to expostulate with him. However
this may have been, it is at least clear that every
moment of his day is a draft upon his physical re-
sources, and the multitude are growing more clamor-
ous for attention as their number increases, till finally,
unable to bear the strain longer, he flies what he can
not support. It even appears to be intimated by Mat-
thew, that he was obliged to effect his escape, by has-
*-,ening on board a vessel that lay near the place — " Now
whcm Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave
commandment to depart to the other side." The great-
ness of the multitude, and their pressing applications



were rather a reason why he should stay, than why he
should try to escape. They were only not a reason,
w^hen he was just ready to sink for exhaustion. Accord-
ingly we see that, no sooner is he entered into the boat
and cleared from the chore, than he drops on the deck
of the skiff, apparently not minding the hunger of a
whole day's toil unrespited, perhaps, by food, and is
buried immediately in a slumber so profound that not
even the hurricane wakes him.

In this sleep of Jesus therefore, as related to the
works of the day, a very great mistake, into w^hich we
are apt to fall, is corrected or prevented ; the mistake,
I mean, of silently assuming that Christ, being divine,
takes nothing as we do, and is really not under our hu-
man conditions far enough to suffer exhaustions of
nature by work or by feeling, by hunger, the want of
sleep, dejections, or recoils of wounded sensibility. Able
to do even miracles — to heal the sick, or cure the l)lind,
or raise the dead, or still the sea — we fall into the im
pression that his works really cost him nothing, and
that while his lot appears to be outwardly dejected, he
has, in fact, an easy time of it. Exactly contrary to
this, he feels it, even when virtue goes out only from
the hem of his garment. And when he gives the word
of healing, it is a draft, we know not how^ great, upon
his powers. In the same way every sympathy requircH
an expenditure of strength proportioned to the measure
of that sympathy. Every sort of tension, or attention,
every argument, teaching, restraint of patience, concern
of charity, is a putting forth with cost to him, as it is to


US. And yet we somehow do not quite believe it. We
read that he goes long journeys on loot, but we do nol
conceive that he is weary and foot-sore as we might be.
We read that he is actually " wearied with his joui-ney,"
and sits him down by a well, while his disciples go into

Online LibraryHorace BushnellSelect works (Volume 1) → online text (page 9 of 29)