Given in Trinity Church, New York, on Good Friday, A.D. 1894
When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple standing by, whom He
loved, He saith unto His mother, Woman, behold thy son!
Then saith He to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. St. John 19:26, 27.
Now comes to us from the Cross a teaching on a subject among the most vital; and now descends a rebuke on the madness which sends men beyond the reach of God, on the track opened by passion and self-will. The Home, the primal institution of the Lord in the days of man's innocency; the church within the Church, whereof the bands are love and sacrifice; whose guardian is the Cross, emblem of discipline and represser of passion; the Home, which, resting for two thousand years on the sacramental foundation of divine gift and grace, is now threatened by the denial of that gift and grace, and the substitution of the will of the flesh, the selfishness of degraded souls, and the restless desire of hearts and wills making pleasure the final end of existence.
The Home was God's own institution; but, like all His works, this was early defaced by sin: polygamy, adultery, wrecked it, as they ever must; and then false ideas of the relations of God's children broke up the sanctity of that place; it became a theatre for the overbearing pride of man, the degradation of woman, the slavery of unhappy children. When He came hither who died for us upon this Cross, among His cares was this, to build the old wastes, to repair and restore the desolation of many generations. Jesus elevated marriage to the rank of a sacrament in His Church; He took the Home and the Family under His direct protection; He signed His sons and daughters with the sign of the Cross, and gave them grace so to live together in this life that in the world to come they might have life everlasting. The Cross, there as everywhere, is the symbol of the dedicated life, the guarantee of its perpetuity. Love, not passion, is the law of the home. Not till passion is transformed into the calm, steady force of love is the will of God fulfilled towards us. And the home life shall never be regarded by any one who knows the meaning of the Cross as other than a life of daily discipline. Man and woman are not joined together by the Church, for this world and for the next, in order that each may do his own will and take his own way; nor yet for a wild and reckless revel down the vale of years, with power to give each other the slip at pleasure and strike off wherever fancy bids. But man and wife are bound to practice self-denial, to crucify the flesh, to tread with awe the path of duty. They have to concede, to renounce, to give up, to live as in bonds to Christ, and to find their happiness in doing the will of God and looking to the last and supreme end of our existence--union with Him, and with each other in Him. This is the lesson of the Cross on a subject which may well engage the closest thought of the wise, the most earnest attention of the lovers of the human race. The home, the Christian home, cannot be kept without the Christian grace, and the Christian ideals, and the Christian spirit. See Blessed Mary and that disciple whom Jesus loved going quietly away, hand in hand, when all is over. "From that hour that disciple took her unto his own home," obedient to the word, "Son, behold thy mother;" and she goes with him, the monition echoing in her heart, "Woman, Behold thy son." Love and Sacrifice are here: Love, of which the example is before us in him who leaned on Jesus' breast at supper; Sacrifice, perfected in her who said, at an awful moment of decision, yet without a doubt or a fear, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word." Of these two, Love and Sacrifice, shall those homes be built in which are to be trained the men and women who shall regenerate the world. Such homes as these shall give the citizens to Christian states. Such homes as these, which nothing but death can break up, are the material of high-toned nations. Such shall be the schools and nurseries for the future tenants of the Paradise of God. The Cross is stamped, as a seal, on true love; on love as distinct from lust; on love which triumphs in temptation, and repels the storm and tempest of sin; the love which bears the signet of the Cross, is that which seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, beareth all things, believeth all things, endureth all things. Such love is not by nature in any heart; it is the work of the Holy Ghost; it is the cement by which the walls of the Home are held together; it is the life of the household; it hath promise of this world and of the world to come. Follow those figures which slowly and with deep searchings of heart recede from this deserted hill. Follow them in thought, and try to picture to yourself the peace which must reign where the benediction from the Cross has made the home, and where the spirit of Jesus is the ruling power among its inmates. While we thus reflect, the darkness deepens, and a voice of stern remonstrance and reproof is heard from that symbol of divine love. What have men done, what are they doing, with the family and the home? What wild theories are they putting forth in opposition to the message from the Cross! "Those whom God hath joined together let no man put asunder." "Children, obey your parents in the Lord." What do we hear in contradiction to these divinely expressed obligations? What defiance of the law of God, in the laws of states whose very existence rests on that law! What approval of the substitution of passion for love! What angry expostulation on the part of those whom mutual affection has ceased to hold together, when forbidden to separate and seek new alliances! What cold-blooded calculation on the ease of dissolving a union, in case things do not turn out well! What breaking up of homes, what consecutive polygamy, what practical disinheritance of children! What undertaking of the most serious of all imaginable engagements without the lofty, worthy motive, for a mercenary consideration, for the gratification of a transitory fancy, for an independent position, for escape from the prospect of a solitary old age, for the freedom which the married state confers! How sternly frowns the Cross on levity such as this! How indignantly it rejects transgressors of this class from the number of those who, as they bear the name, should bear also the marks, of the Lord Jesus. How very clear it is, as we look about us and listen and read, that a philosophy practically atheistic is doing its utmost to break up the Home, to destroy the Family, to alienate the wedded from each other, to tear children from the arms of their parents, on the plea that the highest end for which we can live is pleasure and selfish enjoyment, and that all should be free from every hindrance to the pursuit of the desire of their heart!
Thus, then, does this Cross of Christ, "to the Jew a stumbling-block, and to the Greek foolishness," and now so bitterly derided by the animalism and materialism of the age, stand at the very centre of that civilization in which so many boast and so many more repose a boundless trust; and thus does it preach to us of that spirit and principle of sacrifice of which it is the perpetual expression; and thus does it warn us that, without that principle as the spring of individual and social action, the very foundations of this civilization must be swept away. The first word of Christ inculcates the need of one all-comprehending, all-embracing charity if men are ever to be drawn together and held together as one. The second word assures us of the rest which heart and soul desire in a peaceful state beyond these scenes. The third comes home to us as a people blessed of the Lord, yet standing only so long as they are true to His covenant and His testimonies; and warnings follow fast on promises. And so the Cross, whence those messages proceeded, has something about it at which the heart may tremble when reflecting what men will do should they ever succeed in turning the world back and hiding Calvary altogether from the sight.
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