Why seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight…
I. Life is a journey; BUT LIFE IS SOMETHING MORE. Life is a work. It is the great opportunity for the artist who is toiling, by Divine assistance, at the world outside him; because, first, he is toiling at his own Soul. The Man of Sorrows — it is a strange paradox, but it is a fact — the Man of Sorrows supplies us with the sustaining principle, anticipated joy. Joy has a depth and a stillness far beyond mere merriment. Joy has a moral force, because it rises out of and combines real and constituent spiritual elements, loftier, more enduring than pleasure; it draws its life and gathers its strength from the most vigorous and the most varied faculties of our nature. Joy! It co-ordinates and harmonises all rays of moral glory; it has the sweetness and freshness of the music of Mendelssohn; it touches with the chromatic tenderness of Spohr; it unites the depth and splendour of the colouring of Titian, and the refinement and severity of Francia's Christ. Joy! and the crucifix! Yes, it has its roots, remember, in a rugged soil. Travellers in the Tyrol, so an able writer tells us, noticed in the distance the crest of the mountains cinctured with a girdle of vivid blue. Was it a mirage, a magic deception, worked up by the mist and the light and the winds? Would it pause at the approach of invading footsteps, or would it — as all beautiful things in this low world — would it fade and be gone? They drew on, and found it not fainter, but clearer, not vanished, not gone, no trick of the sunlight, no passing effect of the cloud; it was a belt of vivid gentians, drawing strength from the rugged rock and unsympathising stone, taking the light and outfacing the heavens with the intensity of its burning blue. Now such is the joy of the spirit. Beautiful; not vanishing, but vigorous; anticipating what it knows to be certain, the final victory of truth and righteousness, having, therefore, its roots in " eternal things." This, too, this is preached from the Cross; hence, my brothers, what looks like a streak of sunlight on the unrestful ocean becomes a stimulating and sustaining principle in the labour of life.
II. This, then, may become the stimulating principle of a persevering life, and the question is, HOW CAN IT BE LEARNED? The answer is found in the twofold aspect of the Cross.
1. If we catalogue the various departments of the subject-matter of our Redeemer's joy, we find in the Cross a revelation. It reveals the mystery of the Atonement. But a mystery it is, beautiful, wonderful, bringing life out of death, as spring flowers are the children of the winter, and forming the subject-matter Of our Redeemer's joy.
2. And the Cross is an example. Speaking morally, it springs directly out of the self-sacrificing temper, gains, in fact, its unselfish colouring there, teaches us what is the temper, the prevailing atmosphere needful for a useful life. We know of no self-denial so personal to ourselves, so complete and lasting, as the self-denial of the Cross; and we read in the joy of the Conqueror not only the principle which stimulates His endeavour, but also the evidence of His love. He had a delight, indeed, not, to use a modern phrase, "in influencing the masses," but in saving you and me.
3. And another subject-matter of that joy — we dare to say it, because His apostle taught us to do so — was the crowning in Himself of human perfection — the vindication of goodness. Goodness! the greatness of doing what you ought to do; goodness, the greatness of loyalty amid sorrow. This, the highest height of all human excellencies, is crowned on the throne of the Crucified, in the person of " Him who liveth and was dead."
III. WHAT THEN, WE ASK, ARE THOSE OPPOSING FORCES WHICH THIS PRINCIPLE IS REQUIRED TO BREAK AND CONQUER?
1. There is a force, fierce as an unfettered animal, wild as the wind, strong as the storm; it springs from the fever and fret of a restless heart needing and finding no satisfaction. Call it taedium vitae; call it ennui; call it a lazy weariness of spirit in the overworked toiler for this world, or in the blase idler — whatever you call it, it is that mortal sickness of the human spirit, worn out with a life of unsatisfied desire, with the knowledge that riches and pleasure cannot gain for it a salvation or win for it a rest — possessions only of those who hold the hope of a future, itself the first dawning of supernatural joy.
2. We have another force in the pressure of the present. It surely comes to all either in failure of health, or overwork, or bewildering anxiety, or heartbreaking bereavement, or change of circumstances, or fading of dreams, or parting from others; it is felt in bereavement that has broken you, sorrow that has subdued you, change of circumstances, loss of fortune, forgetfulness of friends, disbelief in you by those whom you believed in, and, what is infinitely worse, disbelief in them when you have found them wanting, and the sad remembrance that you expected too much, and have been accordingly the victim of disappointment not undeserved. It may produce despondency; it may eventuate in a life of miserable murmuring and habitual discontent; or it may be made to yield the " peaceable fruit of righteousness " to them who apply the stimulating and sustaining principle.
3. And there is personal and spiritual and accomplished sin. Have you not felt the fierceness of desire, and the difficulty of its domination? Oh, it is when you get to the Crucified you see in the Atonement the way to penitence, the possibility of pardon, the path of peace.
4. And religious perplexity. You are in an age when Christianity is attacked with pitiless severity; you need fear no argument against the truth shaking your faith, though it assail your intellect, if the spiritual conditions are fulfilled; but the strength of your stand on the side of the Crucified is not the strength of your degree at Oxford or Cambridge, it is not the power of your intellect; it rests and will rest on moral grounds. Are you trying to do your duty? Are you living in communion with your Creator? Then you are in the way to keep alive a sustaining principle which will breast the religious difficulty of this great, and, I add it, of this bad time. If, yes, if we are to avoid the curse of Meroz, it is by the hope of a future, and the joy in God that we need to be stimulated, that we need to be sustained in coming "to the help of the Lord against the mighty."
IV. YES, THE CONDITIONS OF PRESERVING SUCH A PRINCIPLE ARE NOT FAR TO FIND. On the Cross we have our example; in us it is a gift of the Holy Ghost sent by our ascended Master; and it is a fruit of the Spirit in its relation to God; it depends for its energy upon our faithfulness; it is not so much the quiet joy from an accomplished fact as the larger, bracing joy of anticipated victory; and it is preserved bright and sustaining in those who willingly make sacrifices for truth and duty. The sea sets onward through the Straits of Messina with a heaving swell, smooth, yet unflagging, even when the winds are silent and the skies are clear; the Tiber rushes onward, mad and swollen, century after century, by the Sylvan's Cave; now like the restful, now like the restless waters, human waves unnumbered of the rising and falling peoples have swept over the hills and plains of Italy, have passed and disappeared; civilisations many, dim or brilliant, across the histories of Greece, of Syria, of the twilight East, have danced into the sunlight and died into the shade; but, in storm or summer stillness Soracte has towered above the dim Campagna and the Sabine Mountains, calm and stately and crowned with snow; and amid all human agonies and the tragedies of the peoples, the giants of the Abarim, folding round them their draperies of purple, have watched the starlight, or wrapped in their robes of roseate brilliance, have reckoned with the dawn. So human passions, troubles, sins, may flow onward in wild current, but principles, supernatural principles, stand firm.
(Canon Knox Little.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
WEB: Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,