CARRYING A CROSS
D. M. Panton.
Lord stated one of the most practical truths by coining a wholly new phrase,
never found before in Holy Writ, and never found in classical literature; and a
phrase over which, perhaps most of all, the disciples anxiously brooded.
"And He said unto all, If any man would
come after Me, let him deny himself, AND TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY"
- not a cross of ivory or jet or gold dangling on the bosom, but rough,
sharp-edged cross-beams - "and follow Me"
(Luke 9: 23). The anarchists of
But this truth is conditioned by a fact of the first importance. Jesus says: "If any man would [is willing to] come after Me, let him" - for cross-bearing is entirely the doing of the man himself - "take up his cross" - a deliberate action of open-eyed choice - "daily" - for once joining that procession, we are never to fall out: it is not a great sacrifice made once for all, but a readiness to die for what we believe all the time - "and follow Me." This reveals that the taking up of a cross is purely optional. Our cross - for each has a cross peculiar to himself: "let him take up his cross" - is not something compulsory, but a thing of choice; it is not misfortune, or disease, or anything unavoidable that comes to us in the way of providence: it is something painful which, because Christ commands it or because Christ experienced it, we deliberately take upon ourselves; with our eyes wide open we lift the cross-beam, and fall into the procession, knowing that what we carry may cost us our life. Our obedience must be, in will if not in event, an obedience unto death.
So a cross lies in each believer's pathway. None of us needs to manufacture one: "there is enough wood in every man's forest to build all the crosses he will ever have to carry"; and they are always waiting at our feet. We have a most remarkable example given by our Lord Himself. Jesus said to the young ruler: "Take up thy cross, and follow Me" (Mark 10: 21). And what was his cross? "Sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor." The Lord supposes that we may flinch from our cross, may shirk it, may walk around it; for He says elsewhere, "He that doth not take his cross and follow after Me is [not lost, but] not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10: 38). "I shudder," Fenelon wrote to a friend, "at the mere shadow of the cross." But in the admirable words of Archbishop Tillotson: "He that cannot take up a resolve to live as a saint, has a proof within himself that he is never like to die as a martyr." Said an old mystic: "Never run after a cross, and never run away from one."
Now it is profitable to ponder why we should take up our cross cheerfully, buoyantly, courageously, joyously. "let us therefore go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach" (Heb. 13: 13). For (1) religion must prove its sincerity by its martyrs. John Witherspoon, in a crisis of American history, said: "Although these grey hairs must soon descend into the sepulchre, I would infinitely rather they should descend thither by the hand of the public executioner than desert at this crisis the sacred cause of my country": it was these words that the Declaration of Independence was signed, and the United States was born. The rough, jagged edges of the cross cut into the 'flesh.' The humiliating ritual; the doctrine which at once involves unpopularity; the loneliness which only compromise can avoid; the practice which at once costs - in purse, in reputation, in health, perhaps life; the impossible attitude (as the world regards it) into which loyalty to the Word of God forces us: it is in our cross that the world sees Christ. A company of unbelievers once followed on of their number to the grave. On the bier was a cross. Someone reproved them for their inconsistency; but they answered, "No; the cross stands for all that is noblest in manhood."
Again (2) the Via Dolorosa is the highway of holiness. "There is no independence upon earth so strong," says Bishop Moule, "and so nobly strong, as that of a Christian who wills to be Christ's servant. There is a power and presence in such a life, be it the poorest and the simplest, which in these days, as in days long gone, can attract more than wonder from those who may least betray the feeling. For what is it but a breath of the victorious martyr-spirit, the spirit in which seventeen centuries ago Polycarp stood invincibly superior before the heathen world and the cruel flame?"
The shadow rend.
And o'er us bend.
O martyrs with your crowns and palms;
Breathe through these things
Your scaffold prayers, and dungeon psalms!
(3) generations yet to come are depending on our fidelity. When we walk on
coral rocks our steps are made sure by the depths of countless fossil millions:
so today we ourselves are treading on the laid-down lives of the noble dead;
and souls not yet born again are depending on our death-in-life as the dust of
their highway to God. A Church-house in
(4) the doctrine of a lifted cross counterbalances the danger of an unbalanced
statement of the doctrine of grace. The Roman Church takes up the
cross in order to be saved; we because we are saved:
Again (5) no cross, NO CROWN. The sorrow into which the cross plunges us in the furnace in which our crown is forged. "Were the felicities of the next world as closely apprehended as the felicities of this, it were a martyrdom to live" (Sir Thomas Browne). No sooner had Jesus spoken of His crucifixion, and then of each disciple following with a cross, that we read: "the fashion of His countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and dazzling." It is a saying of profound truth - carry the cross, and you will find it will carry you. It is the path into the glory.
in an ever-deepening crisis of the world's history, let us shoulder our cross
strongly, buoyantly, joyously. A draft was to be taken from an American
regiment when transport was too limited for all to cross the
Saviour, in Thy love abiding,
Fearing naught by day or night,
In Thy promise simply resting,
Knowing Thou wilt lead aright;
Safe and happy, cleansed and pardoned,
Wholly lord, for ever Thine,
Closer draw me - never leave me,
All to Thee I now resign.
Keep me in the part of duty,
Thine is such a rich REWARD,
Fearless help ME face the conflict
In the armour of the Lord.
Powers of darkness would deter me,
Turn me back, my way impede,
In Thy love, O Lord, abiding,
Ever for me intercede.
Keep me daily, hourly, trusting,
May my life more fragrant be,
When the mists of doubt encompass,
With Thy might, Lord, STRENGTHEN ME.
Soon life's trials will be over,
Soon life's cares for ever cease,
No more sorrow, no more sadness,
Only then Thy perfect peace.
Ever watching for Thy coming,
Ever prayerful would I be,
Waiting for Thy glorious Advent,
Waiting, Lord, Thy face to see.
Keep me in Thy peace, Lord Jesus,
Hold me to Thy heart of love.
And when earthly cares are over,
Grant Thy promised rest above.
- Doris Goreman.
Must I be carried to the skies
On flowery beds of ease?
Whilst others FOUGHT TO WIN THE PRIZE
And sailed through bloody seas.
Since I MUST fight if I would reign,
Increase my courage Lord!
I'll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.
Are there no foes for me to face,
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend of grace,
To help me unto God?
To gain that PRIZE I towards that goal will struggle
Which God has set before.
To gain that prize 'gainst sin and death I'll battle
and with the world make war.
And if it brings me here but shame and troubles,
And scorn, if pain life fills.
Yet seek I nothing of Earth's empty baubles,
My God alone my longing fills.
To gain that prize, to reach that CROWN I'm pressing,
Which Christ doth ready hold.
I mean His great REWARD to be possessing,
His booty for the bold.
I will not rest, no weariness shall stay me,
To hasten home is best.
Where I some day in peace and joy shall lay me,
Upon my Saviour's heart and rest.
O happy band of pilgrims, look upward to the skies,
Where such a light affliction,
SHALL WIN YOU SUCH A PRIZE.