THE FOOT OF THE CROSS
by Octavius Winslow
The Repose of the
"Now there was leaning on Jesus' bosom one of his
disciples, whom Jesus loved." John 13:23
There is but one place in this fallen world where perfect
repose is found. It is where God rested in the harmony of His perfections,
and where Jesus rested in the completion of His work- the cross of Calvary.
The world is peopled with a race which has lost its spiritual center- God!
and, so displaced, is as the troubled sea, ever moving, ever restless. All
are inquiring for some good, all in search of some repose- they cannot
tell what, and cannot tell where. The schism in the soul which God's
departure created is a schism still, and will remain so until He returns,
re-enters, and makes it once more His abode. And so long as that void
remains unoccupied and unfilled by God, restlessness and dissatisfaction
will be man's heritage and woe. Man, ever since his fall, has been building
his happiness and his hope below God; and he who builds his present and his
future being below God, builds upon the sliding, sinking sands, which must,
eventually, involve the fabric they sustain in irremediable and woeful ruin.
"And great was the fall of it."
But there is within this circle a smaller one, composed
of individuals brought, by the gracious influence of the Spirit, to an
enlightened, spiritual consciousness and conviction of sin and condemnation;
and who, sighing for that rest which the world, itself a troubled sea, can
never give, are, with but dim perceptions of the truth, with vague ideas of
salvation, and still dimmer views of Jesus, searching for it where it never
can be found. To them this chapter of our work is devoted. Its object will
be to show where the true rest for the sin-distressed, sorrow-stricken,
weary soul is found-even in the cross of Christ. We cite a touching and
expressive incident in the history of John as illustrating this. It is true,
it transpired before our Lord's passion; nevertheless, His death was
virtually an accomplished fact, for He could say, in His memorable
intercessory prayer, "Father, I have finished the work which you gave me to
do;" and in thus presenting the portrait of the beloved disciple- a picture
inimitable in its beauty, and touching in its pathos- we present
figuratively the portrait of a weary and sad, yet confiding and loving
disciple, seeking and finding his perfect repose on the bosom of his Divine
and loving Lord. The two points which arrest our devout study are the
expressive attitude, and the perfect rest.
There is in the posture of this disciple an implied
weariness, which speaks to us volumes. We portray a large class of our
species. We hold up a glass in which every individual of the human race may
see himself reflected. We speak advisedly when we limit our picture to the
earth's inhabitants. The angels in heaven are not weary, and therefore need
no rest. Their only burden is the burden of doing God's will, and this is to
them as the wings of a dove. Nor do the glorified spirits of heaven need
repose. They have cast off the burden of the body of sin and death, and,
emancipated from all ill, delivered from the bondage of the flesh, weeping
and sighing and sorrowing no more, "they rest from their labors," and the
only burden they feel is the burden of God's love. Who would wish to recall
them to earth's sin and woe and weariness? What love so selfish as to
disturb that unruffled peace, mar that deep joy, taint that perfect purity,
becloud that bright sunshine, to which their happy spirits have fled?
But we return to the world, so full of weary ones. First,
there is social weariness. We cannot move in human society without
experiencing those woundings and slights and disappointments which
contribute so much to the weariness of our spirit. Then there is what may be
termed the political weariness of our race- the oppression of tyrants, the
crushing cruelty of despots, the bonds and imprisonments, the tortures and
bloodshed of human governments. It is impossible to cast our eye over the
continent of Europe and not feel convinced that there exist, apart from the
restlessness common to our humanity, masses crushed beneath political
bondage and despotism. Life to them is a burden from which they pant to be
delivered. Again, there is a religious weariness to which many nations are
subjected. Look at the crushing burden of heathenism, with all its vile and
degraded rites; Mohammedanism, with its oppressive ceremonies; Popery, with
its galling, senseless mummery. Contemplate millions of our race wearing the
oppressive chains of ignorance and superstition, ground down by religious
thraldom, ceremonies, and rites, and say if there exists not a large portion
of our race groaning beneath the weight which false religion everywhere
imposes, and from which many sigh to be delivered.
Need I quote the myriads of the world's weary ones? The
world is like an ever-troubled sea- all who cleave its restless waters, more
or less, partake of its restlessness. "There are many who say, Who will show
us any good?" They travel from continent to continent, from spring to
spring, from flower to flower, and then comes the deep, deep sigh, and the
mournful exclamation, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity!" Oh what restless
beings are earth's sons and daughters! "The wicked are like the troubled
sea, that cannot rest."
But are the Lord's own people totally exempt? Is there no
weariness, no restlessness among them? Far from it! It is the existence and
the consciousness of this which brings them to the only repose found on
earth- the repose of the cross. We turn to the Church of God. We would first
refer to the physical weariness and suffering of which numbers of God's
people are the subjects. This may at first sight seem insignificant; and yet
they who have traced the
close relation of the mental with the spiritual, and the spiritual with the
physical, in Christian experience, will give this part of our subject a
prominent place in their study. God does not overlook the bodily infirmities
of His saints. He "knows our frame;" He "remembers that we are dust." And,
when spiritual despondency is occasioned by mental depression, and mental
depression by physical disease; He who constructed our frame can trace to
their subtle and mysterious influences the spiritual infirmities of His
Not less conspicuous or painful is the legal weariness of
those who are striving for gospel rest by an earnest and sincere, but
mistaken and fruitless attempt at the obedience which the law imposes, but
which Christ alone can give. Oh the sad, sickening feeling of the soul
disappointed a thousand times over in its strivings after perfect obedience!
The hopelessness of the task no tongue but inspiration can adequately
portray. "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh living be justified."
"Work, work!" is the cry of the soul longing for salvation; and as each duty
is followed by yet more disastrous failure, and each round of legal
observance followed by disappointment yet more bitter, the heart sickens and
But let us speak of a class more limited, as it is more
blessed. We refer to those who are burdened with a spiritual conviction and
sense of their sinfulness. Talk of the burden of political oppression! talk
of the burden of religious ceremonial! talk of the burden of a suffering
body! The burden of burdens is the burden of sin! When the Divine Spirit
removes the moral cataract from the soul's eye, uplifts the veil from the
heart, and all that looked so lovely and so fair and so commendable now
appears nothing but sin and darkness, and loathsome, then comes the true
soul- weariness- just the weariness Jesus delights to meet! But one word of
encouragement. Are you sensible of your sinfulness? Are your sins weighing
down your spirit to the dust? Is there the felt burden you cannot carry?
Then, we reply, there is spiritual sensibility; and spiritual sensibility is
the evidence of spiritual life, and spiritual life is the breathing of the
Holy Spirit in your soul. Lay the heaviest weight upon a dead body, and it
is insensible of the pressure; pierce it, and it feels not the wound. From
where does spiritual feeling spring? From where but from spiritual life in
the soul. Thus, then, may your faith gather down from the thistle, extract
honey from the gall, and glean food from the eater! These spiritual
exercises, through which, as a sin-convinced soul, you are passing- sad and
mournful and despairing- are among the most conclusive and hopeful evidences
that God has breathed into your dead soul the breath of life. Saint of God,
you need not to be reminded of this. In many a stage of past experience, in
many an hour of weariness and rest, of depression and hope, you have learned
this truth- that none know the plague of their own hearts, none see their
sinfulness, and seeing deplore it, and, deploring, seek unto Christ for
rest, but those who are the happy subjects of the Holy Spirit's quickening
grace. You have been instructed, therefore, to accept a broken and a
contrite heart as one of the Spirit's most precious gifts, and God's most
acceptable sacrifices. Such is the spiritual state of the soul expressed by
the attitude of John. It is one of weariness and need, of weakness and
sorrow. In a word, it includes whatever condition of life, mental and
spiritual exercise, through which the child of God may pass, who, like the
beloved disciple, lays down his weary head upon the Savior's bosom.
This conducts us to THE DISCIPLE'S POSTURE.
And who was that disciple? Emphatically described as, "the disciple whom
Jesus loved." Jesus loves all His disciples, and all alike; though John,
from a closer assimilation of the human copy to the Divine Original, seemed
an especial favorite of our Lord, winning to himself the distinctive and
honored appellation of the "the beloved disciple." But such are all the
disciples of Jesus. All alike share in His love. There may be degrees of
manifested love, but no degrees of love itself. The small vessel and the
large vessel may partake of different quantities, but the same love supplies
and fills them both. Bind, then, this precious truth to your believing
heart, and accept the comfort, the assurance it gives- that you are a
disciple whom Jesus loves. Do you ask, How does He love me? He has chosen
you- He died for you- He bore your sins- He has called you by His grace- He
keeps you by His power- He comforts you with His love- He has gone to
prepare a place for you in heaven- and by all His present leadings and
dealings and teachings, through adversity and temptation and sorrow, He is
preparing you for this prepared place. Oh, then, doubt that the sun shines,
that the earth moves, that seasons revolve, that you yourself exist, but, in
view of blessings and achievements like these, doubt not that Jesus loves
you! If love derives its inspiration from itself- if affection begets
affection- then, your simple, unquestioning belief in the marvellous and
free love which the Lord Jesus bears you, will enkindle in your breast, in
return, love to the Lord Jesus.
Nothing more tends to damp and chill and check our
responsive affection to Christ, and consequently to render our obedience and
service defective, than the latent suspicion in our hearts of the Savior's
love to us. Cruel unbelief! to suggest a thought so dark, a suspicion so
cold, a doubt so Christ-dishonoring! Where on earth or in heaven, where
within this illimitable universe, will you find a being who loves you like
Jesus? Oh, challenge every being whose eye has beamed love, whose lips have
breathed love, whose hands have conferred love, and see if there be love
like unto the love with which Christ has loved you! Summon the peopled
universe to listen to its story, and exclaim, "Come and hear, all you that
fear God, and I will declare what he
has done for my soul."
"What You have done, my God, for me,
Is more than I can tell;
This world had closed my heart to Thee,
But You did break the spell.
"I cannot tell one-half Your love,
Which daily, Lord, I See;
Countless Your tender mercies prove,
Wondrous Your love, to me.
"But I would tell to all around
That Jesus died for me;
That when in sin's dark bondage bound,
He set my spirit free.
"Yes, I would tell how His pure love
Unchanging does remain;
And how He pleads for me above,
In His most precious name.
"Would tell how, in my heaviest grief,
He calms my soul to rest;
How He can give that heart relief
Which leans upon His breast.
"Would tell, how in life's loneliest hour,
When every joy below
Seemed withered like the fading flower,
He soothed me in my woe.
"Would tell, how in perplexing care
He turns my thoughts above;
And makes me see that He is there,
Appointing all in love.
"Would tell, when weary often with sin,
And pressed beneath the load,
He, by His Spirit's voice within,
Points to my peace with God.
"Lord, I would tell- how loudly tell
There is no love like Thine!
You ever will do all things well,
You Mighty One, Divine."
Upon WHOM did the beloved disciple lean? He leaned upon a
personal Savior. He reposed on the bosom of the incarnate God. The truth
here taught to us is of marvellous moment. We can only deal, in the great
matter of salvation, and in the minor matters of everyday life, with a
personal Savior- and a personal Friend. The world is too replete with the
unrealistic, to meet the real needs of our humanity. All is shadowy, except
our present being, our sin, and our woe. These are solemn realities! We have
personal needs- we crave a personal sympathy. We have personal yearnings- we
crave a personal love. The "great mystery of godliness, God manifested in
the flesh," just meets our case- is just the provision a God of love has
made. We need repose; we cannot find it in a dogma, in a principle, in a
mere fact- we find it in a person- the person of the Son of God. It is from
ourselves, we wish to be detached from. Our happiness and repose are found,
not in or from ourselves, but, extraneous
to ourselves- only in Christ. As the solar beam is absorbed in the sun, and
the dew-drop is lost in the ocean, so, with all his sin and woe, his
neediness and weariness, the believer sinks into Christ, and is absorbed in
the infinite plenitude of His power, in the fulness of His grace, and in the
boundless ocean of His sympathy and love. Not more truly did the gentle and
loving John lean upon the yet more gentle and loving Savior, than by faith
do we, with all our mental and spiritual thoughts, and feelings and needs.
Here, in the cross of Christ, or rather in the Christ of
the cross, perfect rest is found for every species of weariness of which the
believing soul may be the subject. Here is rest from the galling yoke of
sin- for the power of the cross
breaks it. Here is rest front the dreadful guilt of sin- for the blood of
the cross cleanses it. Here is rest from the condemnation of sin- for the
death of the cross has slain it. Here is rest from the obedience of the law-
for the work of the cross supplies it. Here is rest from the sting of death-
for the death of the cross extracts it. Here is rest from the dread of hell-
for the love of the cross has closed it. And here is rest from the chafing
of sorrow- for the sorrow of the cross soothes it.
It was in the cross of Christ that the Divine perfections
found repose. Until that cross was reared, and the Divine Victim impaled
upon its wood, there was no rest or harmony in the attributes of God
concerning the salvation of the sinner. But when the Son of God was affixed
to the accursed tree, and gave Himself up as "an offering and a sacrifice to
God for a sweet-smelling savor, "then, "mercy and truth met together,
righteousness and peace kissed each other;" and so God rested in His love
when He rested in the cross of the Son of His love. There must we rest,
beloved of God, leaning upon Jesus the crucified; and so the sin-pardoning
God and the sin-forgiven soul meet in affection, friendship, and fellowship
in the same Divine and glorious center- the "Lamb of God, that takes away
the sin of the world."
Come, then, sin-distressed, self-weary, world-wounded,
sorrow-smitten soul, and lay down your weary spirit upon the bosom of the
Savior. There is room enough and love enough and sympathy enough for you.
The heart of Jesus is as capacious as the infinitude of His being. There can
be nothing in your case- take the most gloomy, despairing view of it you
may- which interposes a real objection to your rest in Christ. The cross,
while it unveils the soul's repose, supplies both its merit and its plea.
Jesus provides all, is all, and is in all. We have nothing to do but to
receive out of His fulness grace upon grace- grace to answer all the present
demands of grace- grace commensurate with all the past communications of
grace- and grace to meet all the future requirements of grace. Yet again and
again we repeat the Savior's gracious invitation- unconditional and
unlimited- and, oh! heaven's belfry breathes not a sweeter chime-
"Come unto Me, All You That Labor and Are Heavy Laden, and I Will Give You
Rest." Accept the invitation- it is for you. "In returning and rest shall
you be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength."
"My Savior, You halt offered rest,
Oh! give it, then, to me;
The rest of ceasing from myself,
To find my all in Thee.
"This cruel self, oh! how it strives
And works within my breast,
To come between You and my soul,
And keep me back from rest.
"How many subtle forms it takes
Of seeming verity,
As if it were not safe to rest
And venture all on Thee.
"And yet it was no little price
That bought this rest for me;
'Twas purchased at the mighty cost
Of Jesus' agony.
"I only enter on the rest,
Obtained by labors done;
I only claim the victory
By Him so dearly won.
"And, Lord, I seek a holy rest,
A victory over sin;
I seek that You alone should reign
Over all, without, within.
"In quietness, then, and confidence,
Savior, my strength shall be;
And, 'Take me, for I cannot come,'
Is still my cry to Thee.
"In Your strong hand I lay me down,
So shall the work be done;
For who can work so wondrously
As an Almighty One?
"Work on then, Lord, until on my soul
Eternal light shall break;
And in Your likeness perfected,
I, 'satisfied,' shall wake.'
This subject will at once meet the inquiries of the
earnest searcher for truth. All truth essential to our eternal well being is
embodied and presented in the cross of Christ. He who was crucified upon it
was Essential Truth- gospel truth- divine, saving, sanctifying truth. Let
there be but a believing sight of the cross, a spiritual perception of its
doctrine, a simple, unquestioning, child-like reception of its God-like
scheme- salvation by its Divine expiation, heaven by its one sacrifice- and
every theological difficulty will be met; and out of the chaos of the mind-
tortured with doubt, enshrouded with gloom, agitated with fear, perplexed
with difficulty- will arise a divine system of truth, a perfect scheme of
salvation, a sure hope of heaven, reasonable and harmonious, as suitable to
man's necessity, as honorable to God's government.
Approach, then, you who are earnestly asking, "What is
truth?" and find your answer at the cross. Take your place, a lowly
disciple, at its foot, and listen to the soothing words uttered amid its
dying agonies, its streaming blood, its deepening gloom, its supernatural
wonders," I Am the Truth," -repent, believe, and be saved!
Once more we invite to this rest, the spirit of the
weary- weary with sin, weary with sorrow, weary with the creature, weary
with self. Imitate the beloved disciple, and recline your head upon Christ.
It is the attitude of confidence, it
is the expression of love. Come and bury your heart in the heart of Christ.
Repose in Him your profoundest secret, unveil to Him your deepest grief. He
has revealed to you the secret of His covenant- reciprocate this marvellous
act of His friendship- tell Him all, trust Him with all, draw upon Him for
all. Not more dear to Christ was the disciple who nestled in His bosom than
are you. Precious and lowly as was his attitude when he literally bowed his
head on Christ, your repose of faith upon Christ is a yet more precious and
honoring act. Blessed as was John, more blest are you. "Jesus says unto
Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed: blessed are those who
have not seen, and yet have believed."
Let this be your believing posture when partaking of the
communion of the Lord's Supper. It was at the Supper the beloved disciple
leaned on Christ; "who also leaned upon His breast at supper." What a
befitting season does this Feast of love and fellowship present to rest in
Jesus, reposing every thought, feeling, and want- every trial, temptation,
and sin- in His heart. The Lord's Supper brings us closely beneath the
shadow of the cross, in the immediate presence of the Crucified. It is a
source of especial inter-communion between Christ and His people. If the
weary, languid head ever truly reposed upon the loving bosom of the Lord,
surely it is at the festival that commemorates His love. Hasten to disclose
all to Him, and be eager to receive all from Him. The hallowed hour is
short, the holy season brief- waste not its favored moments in vagrant
thoughts, in wandering affections, or in listless gaze; but concentrate all
on Christ, who, at this precious moment, concentrates His whole heart upon
you. While the King sits at the table, present and urge your petition. "Ask
what you will, and it shall be granted unto you."
Above and beyond all, seek closer manifestations to your
soul of "the King in His beauty," for your eyes shall then see Him. He
presides at the feast to grant especial discoveries of His loveliness and
love. And there is no window of His
grace in which He more delights to reveal Himself to His saints than in the
uplifted window of this expressive and precious ordinance.
"Happy the ones that eat this bread,
And doubly blest was he
That gently bowed his loving head,
And leaned it, Lord, on Thee.
"By faith the same delights we taste
As that great favorite did;
And sit and lean on Jesus' breast,
And take the heavenly bread."
And where, in sickness and in death, can we, would we lay
our head but on the bosom of Christ? We carry the cross with us in the
embrace of our faith to life's last, closing hour. On the cross death was
conquered for us, and with the cross we shall conquer death in us, and like
our Lord, in dying, live; and by death, overcome death. Oh, the sweet, the
perfect repose found in the cross of Jesus on a sick and dying bed! The
cross has made the bed of suffering a bed of roses, and the pillow of death
a pillow of down, and the gate of the sepulcher the door of heaven! And if
ever the aching, restless, languid head of the saint of God finds repose, it
will be when heart and flesh are failing, Jesus approaches, unveils His
bosom, and soothes our departing soul to perfect rest in His ineffable love.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, you weary one, lay down
Your head upon my breast."
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad,
I found in him a resting place,
And he has made me glad.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"Behold, I freely give
The living water; thirsty one,
Stoop down and drink, and live."
I came to Jesus, and I drank
Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
And now I live in him.
I heard the voice of Jesus say,
"I am this dark world's Light;
Look unto me, your morn shall rise,
And all your day be bright."
I looked to Jesus, and I found
In him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I'll walk,
Until traveling days are done. (Bonar)