It was on a visit to Macao in 1825 that Sir John Bowring, then governor of Hong Kong, received the inspiration to write his great hymn, "In the Cross of Christ I Glory." At Macao the early Portuguese colonists erected as one of their first buildings a massive cathedral on the crest of a hill. Three centuries ago, under the assault of a violent typhoon, the cathedral fell, all save the front wall. The cathedral has never been rebuilt, and the ponderous facade has stood for three hundred years now as a monument to the past. On top of the facade is a colossal bronze cross silhouetted against the sky, defying rain, lightning, and typhoon. It was this cross, towering o'er the wreck of the past, that inspired Bowring to write:
In the cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o'er the wrecks of time.
As long as the Church is faithful to the Cross, as long as it holds up to a dying world Christ and him crucified, it will have power and glory, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
When the penitent bows at the foot of the Cross, his sin becomes a different thing. In the beautiful memorial window of the Abbey Church at Elstow, the visitor can see in the mystic colors of ecclesiastical glass Christian kneeling at the foot of the Gross, while his dark and heavy burden rolls from his shoulders. Bunyan's immortal picture is as true and brief an answer as can be given to the question, "What is the result of forgiveness?" Christian said that he "saw it no more"—the burden was gone. This will always be true. It does not mean that the memory of transgression will pass, or that its shadow will never fall across our path; but that the sting and shame and pain which constitute its burden are gone.
In Turgenev's powerful novel Fathers and Sons, filled with so much that is tragic and inexplicable in the tangled and stained web of human lives, Pavel Petrovitch presents the princess, who once loved him but has left him and forsaken him, with a ring, on the stone of which is engraved a sphinx. What he meant in his hour of bitter grief and disappointment was that life is an enigma, as unanswering and silent as the Sphinx to all prayers and cries and tears and entreaties. After the princess died in Paris, he received back the ring. Over the sphinx on the stone she had drawn the rude lines of the cross, and with it the words that the solution of life's mystery and enigma is the Cross, and the divine love that suffered thereon.
Winston Churchill paid a great tribute to the young men of the Royal Air Force, who mounted up with wings as eagles and with their sheltering wings guarded the land they love. He said, "Never in the history of mankind have so many owed so much to so few."
But when we think of the cross of Christ, and him who died on it, what we say is this: "Never in the history of the universe has mankind owed so much to one."
In the Journal of David Brainerd, the great apostle to the Indians, who died in the home of Jonathan Edwards, the editor of the Journal, we have this striking testimony to the practical value of the Cross: "I never go away from Jesus and him crucified, and I found that when my people were gripped by this great evangelical doctrine of Christ and him crucified, I had no need to give them instructions about morality. I found that one followed—a sure and inevitable fruit of—the other.'
One day early in the eighteenth century, a German artist, Stenberg, walking through the market place of his home town, was attracted by the face of a dancing gypsy girl. He invited her to come to his studio and sit for him, and with her as a model he painted his "Dancing Gypsy Girl." The little girl was much taken with what she saw in the artist's studio, and watched him with great interest as he worked on a painting of the Crucifixion.
One day she said to Stenberg, "He must have been a very bad man to have been nailed to the cross like that."
"No," the artist said, "he was a good man. The best man that ever lived. Indeed, he died for all men."
"Did he die for you?" asked the girl.
That question set the artist to thinking, for he had not yet given his heart to Christ. One day he chanced to go to a meeting of the Reformers, who opened the Scriptures to him, showed him the way of salvation, and brought him to Christ. Then he went back to finish his painting of the Crucifixion, working this time not only with an artist's skill and technique but with the love that comes of a believing heart.
When the painting was finished it was hung in the gallery at Dusseldorf. One day a young aristocratic German count, wandering through the studio, paused before Stenberg's "Crucifixion." The painting moved him greatly, as did the words written under it: "This I did for thee; what hast thou done for me?" That set the young count to thinking about what he could do for Christ. The result was the founding of that noble pietistic and missionary brotherhood, the Moravians, for the young count was none other than Nicholas Zinzendorf.
The great Scottish preacher Chalmers, after having been, as it were, reconverted in the midst of his ministry—when he turned away from preaching mere morality and began to preach redemption through the Cross—confessed that all his former sermons about man's moral duty had not exerted a feather's weight of influence upon the conduct of his people. It was only when he brought them by his preaching near to the Cross that he was able to note any change in their lives.
In ancient Israel six cities were founded as cities of refuge. Thither for refuge could flee men who, without malice or premeditation, had taken the life of a fellow man. Once within the gates of the city of refuge, they could not be touched by any hand of vengeance or judgment. The rabbis have an interesting tradition that once every year the roads leading to these cities of refuge were carefully repaired and cleared of obstacles and stones, so that the man fleeing for his life would have no hindrance in his way. The Cross is God's great and eternal city of refuge from the penalty upon sin.
When his spoilers called for mirth in the temple of Dagon, blind Samson, groping with either arm, laid hold upon the pillars of the temple and then, bowing himself, brought the Philistines and their idols and their temples down in ruin and death. So our great Champion, with his arms spread out on the Cross, seizing with one arm the pillar of sin and with the other the pillar of death—the two gigantic pillars upon which rests the kingdom of Satan, bowed himself unto death and brought that kingdom down into irretrievable ruin.
The religion of Benjamin Franklin as outlined by his statements and his published creed was far different from that of the evangelical Church. Nevertheless, when Benjamin Franklin came to die he directed that a crucifix, or picture of Christ on the cross, should be so placed in his bedroom that he could look, as he said, "upon the form of the Silent Sufferer."