THE FOOT OF THE CROSS by Octavius Winslow

The Believer Crucified

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." Galatians 6:14

A brief allusion to this subject was made in the preceding chapter. We propose to present it more fully as the topic of the present one. It must ever be an attractive and sanctifying theme to the true believer, seeing that God has implanted in his heart the love of holiness; and that holiness involves a spiritual crucifixion, and that that crucifixion is alone effected by the moral power of Christ's cross. This will explain, in some measure, the ground of the apostle's exultation and boast- "I glory in the cross!" It would seem
to some a strange object to boast of, to glory in. It was a gibbet, it was ignominious in the eyes of men, it crucified his Lord and Master; and yet it was his boast, his glory, and his triumph. All other glory faded before it. The glory of His birth, the glory of His ancestry, the glory of His intellectual attainments, the glory of His ritualism, the glory of His own righteousness, all, all paled before the luster of Christ's cross. He assumes, as it were, the solemnity of an oath. "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." The cross of Christ was in his view the grand consummation of all preceding dispensations of God to men- it was the meritorious procuring cause of all spiritual blessings to our fallen race- it was the scene of Christ's splendid victories over all His enemies and ours- it was the most powerful incentive to all evangelical holiness- it was the instrument which was to subjugate the world to the supremacy of Jesus- it was the source of all true peace, joy, and hope- it was the tree beneath whose shadow all sin expired, all grace lived- it was the spot at whose foot bloomed the loveliest flowers, sparkled the purest springs, and grew the sweetest fruit that made glad the city of God.

We marvel not, then, that, whether he stood amid the classic scenes of Greece, or the imperial grandeur of Rome, encircled by its sages, its poets, and its statesmen, Paul should exclaim, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ; for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes." "The Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified." "God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." But it is to one aspect of this subject we wish, in the present chapter, to restrict the attention of the reader- the believer's moral crucifixion by the cross, "By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world."

Our blessed Lord illustrated this great spiritual principle in His personal history. He could accomplish man's redemption in no other way than by crucifixion. He must die, and die the death of the cross. Apart from His death, His gospel, divine as was its nature and holy as were its doctrines; His religion, heavenly as was its origin and sublime its principles; His miracles, supernatural as were their nature and convincing their testimony, could not renew, purify, and save the soul. The central cross of Calvary stands alone in its moral power-the death of sin, the life of holiness. Nothing does man know, and nothing can he know, of the dethronement in his soul of enmity to God and the reign of love, of the crucifixion of sin and the life of holiness, until faith has bound his heart to Christ's cross. Then, and then alone, the glorious and triumphant language of Paul will awaken its echoes in every cloister of his heart, "God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, by whom I am crucified unto the world, and the world unto me." We are about to illustrate this truth by the experimental Christianity of the true believer, showing that there is no true mortification of sin, no real death of its principle in the heart by the power of moral persuasion, or the lodgment of the truth in the intellect, or even by the conviction and enlightenment of the conscience; but, by the moral influence the cross of Christ introduced into the heart by the Spirit of holiness. The subject presents itself in two leading points of light–  the instrument of the believer's moral crucifixion; and the twofold crucifixion of which the cross is the instrument- the believer to the world, and the world to the believer.

THE INSTRUMENT OF A BELIEVER'S CRUCIFIXION is the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. What a volume of meaning is there in these few words, "The cross of the Lord Jesus Christ!" What light and glory beam around it! Of what prodigies of grace is it the instrument, of what glorious truths is it the symbol, of what mighty, magic power is it the source! Around it gathers all the light of the Old Testament economy. It explains every symbol, it substantiates every
shadow, it solves every mystery, it fulfils every type, it confirms every prophecy of that dispensation which had eternally remained unmeaning and inexplicable but for the death of the Son of God upon the cross.

Not the past only, but all future splendor, gathers around the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. It assures us of the ultimate reign of the Savior, tells of the reward which shall spring from His sufferings; and while its one arm points to the divine counsels of eternity past, with the other it points to the future triumph and glory of Christ's kingdom in the eternity to come. Such is the lowly yet sublime, the weak yet mighty instrument by which the sinner is saved and God eternally glorified.

But let us turn from the cross to THE CRUCIFIED. And who is He? It is the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. We emphasize this because the perfection and efficacy of our Lord's atonement depends upon the perfect sinlessness of His nature. If He had not been sinless we must have taken His place of suffering, as He, the righteous One, was capable of taking ours. We must have endured the wrath, the condemnation, the woe, which were concentrated on Him. And yet sin was there, suffering was there, hell was there. Solemn thought! All this lay upon the holy soul of the Sin-bearer- for as such our Lord was crucified upon the accursed tree. "Who His own self bear our sins in His own body on the tree."

The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ! What a holy thrill these words produce in the heart of those who love the Savior! How significant their meaning, how precious their influence! The subject they illustrate is vastly comprehensive. We have in a preceding chapter dwelt upon the cross as the instrument of our Lord's deepest ignominy. He died the death of a bond slave. It was enjoined in the Levitical economy that when a servant bound himself to his master his ear should be bored to the door as a token and seal of his servitude. When our Lord was transfixed to the cross, He was fastened there as a bondslave. To this the Messianic Psalm refers "My ears have you opened;" margin, 'dug'. Our blessed Lord bound Himself as the servant of the Father to save His Church, and this service involved the nailing of Him to the tree. But there are other points of light in which we would desire to place before the pious reader the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.

We may regard it as unveiling the character of God. Nowhere is the Divine character so presented as in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. There the cloud-veil is withdrawn, there the Divine portrait is uncovered, and we learn what God is as we could learn from no other source. All other manifestations of the Deity astound, appall, and overwhelm us. Apart from the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is no portrait of the Divine character which presents God in His full-orbed majesty, nothing which quells our fears, wins our confidence, inspires our love. Do we contemplate His power? -we tremble. Do we contemplate His truth? -we are awed. Do we contemplate His holiness? -we are overwhelmed. Do we contemplate His justice?-we despair. Poor religionist of nature! gathering all your knowledge of God from mountains and rocks, from oceans and suns and stars, will this meet your case as a fallen being, as a sinner, as a rebel against Jehovah? Will this answer the momentous inquiry, "What must I do to be saved?" Will this tell you of sin pardoned, your person accepted, your soul redeemed? Will an acquaintance with God, derived from such an impartial source, from such an imperfect volume as the book of nature, enable you to confront death with composure, and eternity with hope? Never, never! But, behold God's character completely, gloriously unveiled in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. There all His perfections are displayed in their most perfect and beauteous harmony. Justice, holiness, truth, mercy, wisdom, grace, and love all are there united- and united to save! No jarring, no collision, no compromise. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other. Approach the cross, then, and study in its holy light the just, yet sin-pardoning character of God. Behold, how He stands before you divested of not a single perfection, but all blended and embodied in one" God is love!"

Again, we may study the cross of Jesus as a grand manifestation of the Three people in the Godhead. There is no such unfolding of that deeply mysterious, yet truly scriptural doctrine of the Trinity as here. We have before referred to this. Here is the Son of God suffering, here is the Father slaying the Son, and here is the Holy Spirit making His atoning; death effectual in its application to the soul. Where do we find such a visible display of the unity of the three people in the one Godhead as is presented in the cross of Calvary? Think not lightly, my dear reader, of this glorious doctrine, the doctrine of the Trinity. Our salvation involves its full acceptance, its firm belief. It may be to our reason an unfathomable mystery. Were it not so, we might hesitate to accept it as Divine. But come and learn to bow your reason to revelation, your faith to the cross, and receive, as a little child, the doctrine, which teaches you that God is light and that God is love, and that both are engaged to bring the soul to heaven. He, then, who receives the cross into his believing heart, as the Holy Spirit reveals it, has found the clue to all the mysteries of redemption. Above all, he has solved that most stupendous of all stupendous mysteries- the love of this Triune God, in saving lost, rebellious man. "God is love " -and this truth appears, transparent as the sun bursting through an electric cloud, as it shines out in resplendent glory from beneath the cross of Jesus.

But what a hiding place is the cross of Christ! This presents it in another and most precious light. Ah, you can tell who have fled to its shelter in the storm. It was sin's deep conviction in the soul that brought you there. It was guilt upon the conscience that drove you there. It was the swift footstep of the avenger of blood that hastened you there. It was the fear of death, the dread of judgment, the terror of hell, that impelled you there. All other refuge failed you, until at last you found the one place of safety, the appointed city of refuge, the only shelter beneath which the curse could not touch you, the avenger of blood could not arrest you- it was the cross of the Son of God. Oh, what a refuge have you found it to be! When affliction has overtaken you, and sorrow has overwhelmed you, and temptation has assailed you, testify what a delightsome shelter you have found the cross of Christ to be. It has been to you like an oasis in the wilderness, the shadow of a great rock in a weary land- just the spot where, worn and faint, your spirit has found perfect safety and repose.

We reach now THE TWOFOLD CRUCIFIXION OF WHICH THE CROSS OF JESUS IS THE INSTRUMENT. Marvellous and irresistible is the power of the cross. It has subdued many a rebellious will, has broken many a marble heart, has laid low many a vaunting foe. It has overcome and triumphed when all other instruments have failed. It has transformed the lion-heart of man into the lamb-like heart of Christ. And when lifted up in its own naked simplicity and inimitable grandeur, it has won and attracted millions to its faith, admiration, and love. And by the preaching of the cross alone shall this vast empire at length be subdued to the supremacy and reign of Jesus. Reader, has it subdued and won your heart to Jesus?

But I am to illustrate the power of the cross by a reference to its effects in the soul of the regenerate. The apostle presents THE WORLD to us as the great antagonist of the believer; and a powerful foe it is. I do not say it is the only one, or that it is the greatest one, but it is a powerful, subtle, and never slumbering one. Our Lord felt it so. The world was His antagonist. What did He say? "Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." If the world had not been His foe He had not overcome it. The world was in league against the Son of God. It confronted Him wherever He went. Every step He took brought Him in collision with the powers of this world. But He overcame it.

The world is our enemy, beloved. We are passing through it to glory. Our Christianity does not bid us go out of it. It is a false view of the religion of Jesus that teaches us to leave the world entirely and become a hermit, to relinquish our lawful calling and isolate ourselves from the position of influence and duty and service which God in His providence has assigned us. God could, at the first moment of conversion, take the believer to heaven. But why does He leave him in the world? For many and obvious reasons. Among these, that the world might be the theater of his conflicts, and the school of his graces, and the sphere of his testimony for God. The believer needs the world as a school, as the world needs the believer as a light. How much may a child of God learn in it, and how much is the world blessed by his holy influence! But what is the moral position of the world to the believer? Is it friendly? Far from it! it is antagonistic. It is impossible that the world should love our religion, or help us heavenward, since it crucified our Lord. We live separated from it, are witnessing against it, testifying of it, that its works are evil. Do all who profess the religion and name of Jesus so regard it? Alas! ensnared by its specious appearance, and won by its religious pretensions, they are wont to view it as a friend- its fair speech, its kind offices, its soft, insinuating address, its offered hand to advance the kingdom of Christ by its patronage and liberality, blinding and seducing them into a friendship and confederacy. But the word of God is most clear and decided on this point. It teaches us that the world is the enemy of God, and is therefore opposed to the Christian. But there is nothing in it in sympathy with the religion of the soul, nothing favorable to its state of holiness. How clear and comprehensive its statements on this subject: "Know you not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."

But the apostle speaks of a CRUCIFIXION TO THE WORLD by the cross of Christ. His argument is, that the cross, lodged in the heart by the Holy Spirit, and faith constantly looking at, and dealing with it, the world becomes to him as a dead thing- a thing that is crucified. "The cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which I am crucified unto the world and the world unto me." Has the cross lost anything of its power? Eighteen hundred years have passed since it uplifted the Son of God, and yet it is as attractive and potent at this hour as when wet with the blood of the Crucified. When our faith deals closely with the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, can we love the world? can we form a covenant with it? can we drink its pleasures? can we sun ourselves in its smiles? When we solemnly view our Savior suspended there amid the ribaldry, the taunts, the insults, the blasphemies of that very world which woos us to its embrace, can we make it our friend? Can a fond parent caress the sword of the assassin which in cold blood slew his beloved child? All this is impossible. Here is the test of our real position- our crucifixion to the world, and the world's crucifixion to us. Beloved reader, with the spiritual power of the cross in your heart, the world will become to you as a dead thing. The sentence of death will be written upon its principles, its policy, its pleasures, its religion. You will pass through it as through a cemetery- the place of death. Is this world crucified to you? Is it, again we ask, as a dead thing? Has it lost its charm, its power, its in
fluence over you? Has the cross of Jesus broken the spell and set you free? Only then is the believer crucified to the world.

What a marvellous power does this cross of Jesus possess! It changes the Christian's entire judgment of the world. Looking at it through the cross, his opinion is totally revolutionized. He sees it as it really is- a sinful, empty, vain thing. He learns its iniquity, in that it crucified the Lord of life and glory. His expectations from the world, his love to the world, are changed. He has found another object of love, the Savior whom the world cast out and slew, and his love to the world is destroyed by that power which alone could destroy it- the crucifying power of the cross. We are dealing with a great truth, my reader. Let us inquire for what purpose did Jesus Christ thus give Himself to die? Was it not that we might be spiritually crucified with Him? How beautifully the apostle brings out this truth, "Who gave Himself for us, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Savior." And what was the apostle's experience? "I am crucified with Christ." Oh, how holy and sublime his decision; "Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For me to live is Christ." And what was John's exhortation? "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." "This is the victory which overcomes the world, even our faith." And what is the weapon by which faith combats with and overcomes the world? What but the cross of Jesus?
It is the cross which eclipses, in the view of the true believer, the glory and attraction of every other object. Just as the natural eye, gazing for a while upon the sun, is blinded for the moment, by its overpowering effulgence, to all other objects; so to the believer, wont to concentrate his mind upon the glory of the crucified Savior, studying closely the wonders of grace and love and truth meeting in the cross, the world with all its attraction fades into the full darkness of an eclipse.

Does not your experience, believer, testify to this? When has your heart been most weaned from its idols, withdrawn from
the world, crucified to the flesh? Has it not been when bending beneath the cross, the splendor, bursting from beneath the cloud of humiliation, darkness, and woe which enshrouded it, has risen like a new created sun upon your soul- Jesus crucified filling the entire vision?
"Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the cross I spend,
Life and health and peace possessing,
From the sinner's dying Friend.
"Truly blessed is this station,
Low before the cross to lie;
While I see Divine compassion
Floating in His languid eye.
"Here I'll sit forever viewing
Mercy's streams in streams of blood;
Precious drops! my soul bedewing,
Plead and claim my peace with God."

A crucifixion involves SUFFERING. We dare not speak of this separation from the world as though it were to nature an easy and delectable thing. There must of necessity be sadness, pain, and loss. There will, in some cases, be the wrenching of many a fond tie, the relinquishment of many a loved bond, the abandonment of many a fleshly enjoyment, and the extinguishment of many an earthly hope. There will be the chilled affection, the estranged friendship, the cold reserve, the alienated confidence, and, perhaps, the sacrifice of worldly interests. But be it so. Your Lord and Master forewarned you of this. "Think not that I have come to send peace on earth; I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household. He that loves father and mother more than me, is not worthy of me; and he that loves son or daughter more than me, is not worthy of me. And he that takes not his cross, and follows after me, is not worthy of me."

But, oh, the gain of such a sacrifice! Are not Christ and His cross infinitely better than the world and its love? What can compensate for Christ as your portion, your Friend, your Redeemer? Welcome suffering, welcome separation, welcome loss, with such a treasure in your possession as Jesus. Listen once more to His words: "Every one that has forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive a hundred-fold, and shall inherit everlasting life." Yes, the sacrifice- if sacrifice it be- must be made. The right hand must be parted with, and the right eye plucked out. You must dare to be singular, isolated, and separated from your brethren according to the flesh. Nature must yield its claims to grace, sense to faith, earth to heaven, the creature to God. You will be misunderstood, misrepresented, and maligned. Natural affection will be congealed, confiding friendship withdrawn, earthly supplies cease- nevertheless, one sight of the cross, one smile of Jesus, one moment's enjoyment of God's love, one glimpse of glory will outweigh it all! "Therefore, come out front among them, and be separate, says the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."