Sermon 378. Christ's Finished Work
A SERMON DELIVERED ON THURSDAY EVENING, APRIL 4, 1861, BY THE REV. OCTAVIUS WINSLOW, D.D., AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE,NEWINGTON.
"It is finished!" John 19:30. THERE never existed but one Being who in Truth could affirm of His work-"It is finished!" Incompleteness and defect tracethe most vast, elaborate, and accomplished products of human genius and power. That brilliant volume of history, at a periodof thrilling interest, falls from the death-struck hand of its author, fragmentary and incomplete. That magnificent work ofart fades before the glazed eye of the painter and the sculptor, at a moment when the pencil is pointed, and the chisel upraisedto impart the last and perfecting touch. That splendid edifice, the conception of a master mind, with all its architecturalskill and beauty, is but a monument of human forethought and power, blinded and cramped in its range. Thus, contemplate man'snoblest achievements-the intellectual and the physical-the touch of human imperfection and incompleteness mars and tracesall. The great truth, then, stands out like a constellation flaming in its own solitary orbit, that there never was but oneMan who could gaze with complacency upon His work and, with His expiring breath, exclaim, "It is finished!" That man was theGod-Man, Mediator, who, as the Son, and yet the Servant of the Father, relinquished His Throne for a Cross, that He mightaccomplish the Redemption, work out the salvation of His Church-the people given to Him of God-and who, on the eve of thatRedemption and with all the certainty of an actual Atonement, could thus breathe His intercessory petition to Heaven, "I havefinished the work which You gave Me to do."
We summon you this evening around the Cross of Calvary, to listen to the words now breathing from the quivering lips of ourdying Lord-"It is finished!" And believing, as I do most firmly and solemnly, that no Scriptural Doctrine, no revealed Truth,will ever be able to confound the infidelity ofthe present day, we meet to explode the many errors and heresies, fearful and fatal, which are inseparable from this ageof licentious thought, unchecked utterance and freedom of opinion. We summon you this evening to proclaim the one remedy-thesimple, full, unreserved exhibitionof the ATONEMENT, the SACRIFICIAL, and FINISHED WORK of the Lord Jesus Christ! I am the more anxious and earnest on thisimportant and impressive occasion to bend upon it your especial, devout, and solemn attention. Oh, that our modern theologicalcontroversialists-the men who aredesirous of contending earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints-who are putting on their armor and furbishingtheir weapons for the approaching conflict, might learn the secret of their might, wherein their great strength lies! It isnot in accumulating around theCross the stores of ancient and modern love; it is not in a strife of arms, dazzling and distinguished by profound intellectualism,learning, and eloquence-but in a simple, bold, uncompromising presentation of the Atoning and Finished Sacrifice of Christ-thelifting up, in itsnaked simplicity and solitary, unapproachable grandeur, of the Cross of the Incarnate God, the instrument of the sinner'ssalvation, the foundation of the Believer's hope, the symbol of pardon, reconciliation, and hope to the soul; in a word, thegrand weapon by which error shallbow to Truth, and sin give place to righteousness; and the kingdoms of this world long in rebellion against God, crushedand enthralled, shall yield to Messiah's specter, spring from the dust, burst their bonds, and exalt in the undisputed supremacyand benign reign of Jesus!
And believing, too, as I firmly do, that so large an amount of corroding doubts, and gloomy fears, and painful forebodings,which so essentially and so widely impede the religious progress, invade and cloud the spiritual joy and hope of the Lord'speople, is mainly traceable to imperfect, crude,and dim views and apprehensions of Christ's complete work, of the Savior's finished salvation which He has worked for HisChurch-not distinctly seeing that all is done-the great debt paid, the mighty bond cancelled, the full Atonement made, sinall and freely forgiven, I amstill the more desirous of placing this great, this cardinal and precious Truth prominently and broadly, as the Lord theSpirit shall help me, before the present assembly, trusting and believing that, in answer to prayer, there will be tonightthe Presence and power of the HolySpirit descending, invisible and noiseless, upon your souls, sealing upon your hearts this grand, this essential, this savingTruth-the FINISHED WORK OF CHRIST. "It is finished." Let us consider these memorable words-
I. As THE CRY OF A SUFFERER. And what a Sufferer! Contemplate for a moment the Divine dignity of the Sufferer. Here was noordinary Sufferer, my Brothers and Sisters. We approach the scene of the Crucifixion, and we behold three individuals alikesuspended upon three different crosses, two oneither side and One in the center. They all suffer- all languish-all die. But the sufferings and death of One is attendedby circumstances so strange, and events so unparalleled, by prodigies so miraculous and sublime, that we are led to exclaimin wondering awe, "Who is this?"And the voice of Prophecy replies, "This is He of whom I spoke-'Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd and against the Manwho is My Fellow, says the Lord of Hosts; smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.'" My dear Hearers, if throughoutthe life of Christ I couldfasten upon no other event confirming the Doctrine of the Godhead of Christ, I would be willing and satisfied to predicatemy argument in vindication of His essential dignity upon the closing scene of the Cross-the last moments of His parting life.If His life were destitute offact, His death alone would supply the evidence that He who died upon Calvary was none other than the Son of God! Hold fastthe Doctrine of Christ's essential Deity, for upon it, as upon a rock, reposes the entire and stupendous fabric of the ATONEMENT.
The sufferings of Christ were expiatory and vicarious. You are aware that by many this fact is denied. The only solution ofthe mystery of Christ's death offered by the school to which I refer, is that which presents our Lord as a model of patienceand resignation in suffering-a saint invirtue-a hero in endurance. And thus, the Cross of Christ is deprived of its magnificence and robbed of its Glory! But ourLord suffered as an expiatory Offering, as a vicarious Victim. All suffering is, in a sense, vicarious-not in the fullestmeaning of the term, as conveyingthe idea of substitution, but simply and only in the sense that all suffering is the effect and consequence of sin. Theman who violates the laws of his physical nature-who puts the empoisoned cup of intemperance to his lips to steal away hisbrains-who wastes his substance inriotous living-who herds among the unclean, and sacrifices to his baser passions health, property, character, shall sufferas a consequence of his lawlessness, folly and sin. He cannot trample upon the laws of his physical and mental constitutionwith impunity-he shall suffer.These sufferings shall not expiate his transgression, but they shall follow in its wake a sure and dire consequence. OurLord's sufferings were also the result and consequence of sin-sin not His own, but His people's; and in the fullest and mostemphatic meaning of the terms, wereexpiatory and vicarious-sufferings, not only the fruit of sin, but more than that, suffering expiatory of sin-sufferings,substitutionary and vicarious, sacrificial and atoning. There are theologians who dispute this statement, who deny this Doctrine.But I challenge them toexplain these sufferings of our Lord satisfactorily upon any other hypothesis than this. I bring them back to the idea,that all human suffering is the effect of sin-our Lord suffered the death of the Cross. Was not that death in some way connectedwith sin? Most assuredly! Hadthere been no sin, there had been no suffering. This granted, we advance a step further, and claim for that death of Christ,a substitutionary character, an atoning nature-a sin expiatory result. And so the revealed Truth of God stands out in allits magnitude and Glory; and thisis the only clue to the mystery-"He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities." " Who, His ownself, bore our sins in His own body on the tree." "Christ also has loved us and has given Himself for us an offering and asacrifice to God, for a sweetsmelling savor." " The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleans us from all sin.""
Behold the Almighty Sufferer! There stood the Son of God, bearing the sin and enduring the curse of His Church- putting awaythe one, and entirely exhausting the other-by the Sacrifice of Himself. To all the demands of God's moral government, to allthe claims of Law and justice, Jesus now, onbehalf of the people for whom He stood as Surety, gave a full, honorable, and accepted satisfaction. Come, poor sin-burdened,heart-broken penitent, and sit beneath the shadow of this Tree of Life, and its bending fruit of pardon, peace, joy and hopeshall be sweet to your believingtaste! But the sufferings of Christ were unparalleled and intense. Never since the universe was formed was there such aSufferer as Jesus. He was the Prince of Sufferers. No sorrow ever broke the heart like that which tore His in two. Truly couldHe challenge the universe ofsufferers, and ask, "Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? Behold and see if there is any sorrow like unto My sorrow."No, Lord! Your sufferings had no parallel, no sorrows were ever like unto Yours! I do not go with the Greek Church, as youknow. I differ from it bothecclesiastically and doctrinally. But I admire and love what is good, find it where I may. And I perfectly assent to theremark of my beloved Brother, made in the vestry before the service,
"That there's some good in all Christian communions and creeds, and that it is our wisdom to accept what is good and leavewhat is evil." Now, that is a sublime sentence in the liturgy of the Greek Church, which I have often pondered with emotion-"Yourunknown agonies." Yes, the agonies of oursin-suffering, sin-atoning Lord were unknown! They were in their intensity known only to His own holy soul. No angel couldever fathom their depth; no finite mind shall ever be able to gauge the breadth, to scale the height, to conceive even ofthe agony of His soul when Heexclaimed, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? I can bear the abandonment of My disciples-one has denied Me, anotherhas betrayed Me, all have forsaken Me-but O My God, My God, why have Youforsaken Me?" We may form some idea of their character,else how can we with Paulhave fellowship with Him in His sufferings? First, there was the physical element; our blessed Lord suffered bodily. Menof science and of sanctified intellect have endeavored to analyze and describe the physical agonies which Christ endured,when His heart was broken with grief;but physiology in its noblest triumphs has never been able to fully portray what the Savior endured when, like the rendingrocks around His Cross-
"That heart was torn asunder, Never once defiled by sin."
Then there was mentalagony. The mental grief He endured, who can conceive? His mind was a human mind, and all the more sensitivebecause it was a sinless mind. The human sympathy of Christ infinitely transcends the most exquisite sympathy that glows inour bosom, because it was the sympathy of apure and sinless Humanity. There is selfishness in our sympathy. We love to sympathize with the sufferer because we lovethe sufferer, and we are paying a homage to our love to the creature when we take the hand and dry the tears, and speak thewords of consolation. But the sympathyof Christ was all the more exquisite, and all the more tender, and all the more human, because it was all the more freefrom sin. The perfect sinlessness of Christ's sympathy did not in the slightest degree affect the perfect humanity of Hissympathy. He was more human than you andI are, because His Humanity was entirely free from sin. We are not all human. We possess a part of a demoniacal nature.Sin has impaired all those glorious virtues and excellencies which our humanity in its primitive condition possessed, andours is a distorted, paralyzed, alteredhumanity. Let your humanity be restored to its original righteousness, to its primitive purity; let it be elevated, renewed,sanctified, ennobled, as your humanity will be if you are believers in Christ, and as you gradually recede from sin you willapproach the perfect. As sin iseliminated and purged away from your nature, your crushed, your bruised, your bowed humanity will rise in its original purity,and majesty, and glory, and you will be all the more human because you approach all the more to the purity of the Divine.
But the soul-suffering of our Lord was more intense than all. This was inconceivable, indescribable. Listen to the cry inGethsemane, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death." The billows of God's wrath began now to penetrate His Nature,the storm to break in upon His Soul. Oh, that wasa terrible moment! It was only now that He began to succumb to the woe. Before this He had maintained a comparatively calmand uncomplaining Demeanor. The tempest until now was outside. When a vessel, coursing its way over the ocean, is arrestedby a storm-the fierce windsblowing, the ocean broken into billows, seething, raging, roaring-as long as his gallant boat plows its way, and keeps itscourse, the mariner treads its deck undaunted by fear, confident in the strength and firmness of his vessel to outride andoutlive the tempest. But let thecry be heard, "a leak! A leak! A plank is sprung, the waters are coming in!" And in a moment, despair enters and enthronesitself upon the brow, and the hearts of the stern sons of the sea die within them. Beloved, that was the moment of our Lord'sdeep, unknown agony, when He couldexclaim, "Save Me, O God, for the waters are come into My soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing. I am comeinto deep waters, where the floods overflow Me. All Your waves and Your billows are gone over Me!" All this, O child of God,was for your soul! It pleased theLord to crucify Him and put Him to grief for you. By His stripes you are healed. Your healing flows from His wounds, yourjoy from His sorrow, your glory from His abasement, your riches from His poverty; your hope beams through the darkness whichenshrouds His holy Soul. Oh, wasever love like Christ's love? In what else can we resolve all this mystery of unknown agony-of intense, unparalleled suffering,but in the "love of Christ which passes knowledge!" "Christ also loved the Church and gave Himself for it!" O mystery of suffering!O deeper mystery oflove!
But these sufferings now are over. Hear him cry-"It is finished!"
Have you ever stood by the dying bed of one you have loved-and have marked the throb, the throe of agony, the maddening convulsion,the terrible shaking of the earthly tabernacle as pin after pin, and beam after beam has fallen a shattered wreck; and asyou caught the last breath that floatedfrom the pale, quivering lips and closed those eyes in death, has not your heart in the depth of its grief felt somethinglike a thrill of joy and gladness that the sufferings of the loved one now were over? Rejoice then-rejoice that the sufferingsof Jesus are finished; that thestorm and the tempest will no more beat around Him! The sun of God's love shall no more darken over Him, for He took thecup, pressed it to His lips, exhausted the last bitter drop, and then shouted out in words that made Heaven reverberate withits melody, and Hell to ring with itsmightiness, "It is finished!" Child of sorrow, child of suffering, rejoice that the sufferings of your Lord are over, andthat in all the suffering, and all the trial, and all the sorrow through which He leads you Home to Himself, has nor on dropof the curse to embitter it; has notone particle of the sufferings He endured. He took your cup of grief, your cup of the curse, pressed it to His lips, drankit to its dregs, then filled it with His sweet, pardoning, sympathizing love, and gave it back for you to drink, and to drinkforever.
II. Secondly, and more briefly, "It is finished" is not only the cry of a Sufferer, it is THE LANGUAGE OF A SAVIOR.
Our Lord's mission to our world was simply and singularly to save. He came for no other objective than to save man, to giveHis life a ransom for many; to provide, to execute an expedient devised in the Eternal Council, and purpose, and love of theTriune God, for securing the full Redemption ofHis Church-an expedient that should harmonize and unite all the moral attributes and perfections of His being, and thenlower from the battlement of Heaven to sin's fathomless depths the golden chain of mercy, pardoning mercy, to which, if infaith you take hold, it will lift youup to the Throne from where it came! It is the fashion of the present day to ignore the Saviorship of Jesus, and to representHis Person, and His life, and His death in any and every form, rather than acknowledge that He died on the Cross in the Characterof a Savior, and that faithin the merits of His obedience and in in the efficacy of His death, constitute the only basis on which a lost sinner canbuild his hope of Heaven. I ask you, my beloved Hearers, what is the grand objective of modern heresy but to undermine theCross of Christ, to ignore theSacrifice of His death, to blot out the glorious Atonement, and to reduce the splendid paraphernalia of Calvary, with allits moral and sublime results, to a mere nonentity? His death, His obedience was the obedience of the Law-Maker in the formof the Law-Fulfiller to a Law whichman had broken and violated; and that perfect and complete obedience of that broken Law is the righteousness that justifiesthe ungodly, and places him who believes spotless before God. Hold fast that Truth-the imputed righteousness of the Lord ourrighteousness worked out andcomplete in His perfect obedience to the precepts of a broken Law. His death on Calvary was an Atonement to Divine Justice;the shedding of His blood was for the remission of man's sins; the paying out of His soul to death was the perfect honor givento the moral government ofJehovah; and when He went out of the streets of Jerusalem staggering beneath the beam on which He was to be impaled; when,with lowly footsteps, He ascended that sacred hill, Calvary; when there, like a lamb led to the slaughter, He gave Himselfup uncomplainingly, unreservedly intothe hands of His executioners; when they stretched Him on that tree, transfixed His limbs to those beams, lifted it andlet it fall into the place excavated for it to stand; when there the Son of God poured out His holy Soul unto death-oh, myBrothers and Sisters, it was toharmonize Justice and Mercy, Holiness and Truth, to blend in one vast bow of hope all these Divine Attributes, that theymight span the moral Heaven, and encircle our lost humanity! It was then He gave up His Soul unto death, and offered up thatSacrifice for sin, which man, in hismadness, folly, and infidelity, dares in this, our day, to ignore and to deny!
Yes, it is the language of a Savior. Those words speak hope to the hopeless, pardon to the guilty, acceptance to the lost;they tell you, O poor sin-smitten, burdened sinner, that there is hope! There is pardon even for you!He has finished all thatJustice asked, that the Law demanded; He hasfinished the mission His Father had confided to His hands; He has finished the grand oblation that was to restore to God'smoral government the Glory it had lost in man's apostasy. He has finished all the ancient types, predictions and shadows;He has torn the veil in two, andopened the bright pathway for the sinner to retrace his steps back to Paradise, back to God, and once more feel the warmembrace of his Father's forgiving love. And yet this is the work, this is the Atonement, this is the Sacrifice which modernessayists dare with scorn and unbeliefto trample beneath their feet! Oh, it is the language of a Savior which bids you come! Poor brokenhearted Sinner, with allyour burden of sin, believe and be saved! It bids you come without money and without price; it tells you the blood He pouredfrom His broken heart can wash outand cancel the deepest stain that is on your soul; it tells you there is room in that bosom which He laid bare to the lightening-strokeof God's wrath; it tells you, dry your tears, embrace the Cross, trust in the finished work of Christ; fling to the heavensall your ownrighteousness, wrap your- self up by faith in the righteousness of Christ, and all the choirs of Heaven shall tune theirharps of gold, and make the heavens reverberate with their songs of praise over your submission in faith to the Atonementof the Son of God!
III. Lastly and only one word or two on this-it is THE SHOUT OF A CONQUEROR.
Christ was a Man of war, our glorious Joshua was He. He had come to gird on the sword, to invest Himself with the armor, andto go out and battle with Satan, with sin and with Hell. It was a terrible conflict, it was a fearful battle, but He girdedHimself for the mighty and the solemn work, and Hecompleted it, He finished it. He met His foes on the battlefield, confronted all His enemies, and on the Cross He destroyed-Hedivested death of its sting, triumphed over Satan, the grave, and Hell, and as He expired, He exclaimed, "It is finished!"Oh what a sublime conflict wasthat, my Brothers and Sisters, when the Captain of our salvation met single-handedly and overcame the powers of darkness,fought the fight, won the victory, and died, saying "It is finished!"
With two or three brief inferences from the subject I will close.
What a spring of comfort flows from it to the true Believer amid his innumerable failures, flaws, and imperfections. Whatservice do you perform, what duty do you discharge of which you can say, "It is finished"? Alas, not one! Your service isimperfect, your obedience is incomplete, your love isfluctuating, yes, upon it all are the visible marks of human defilement and defect. But here is the work which God mostdelights in, "finished." " You are complete in Him." Turn, then, your eyes of faith out of yourself, and off of all your owndoings, and deal more immediately,closely, and obediently with the finished work of Immanuel. Come away from your fickle love, from your weak faith, fromyour little fruitfulness, from your uneven walk, from all your shortcomings and imperfections, and let your eyes of faithrepose where God's eyes of complacentlove reposes-on the finished work of Jesus. God beholds you only in Christ-it is not upon youHe looks, but on His BelovedSon, and upon you in Him, "wherein He has made us accepted in the Beloved."
2. If Christ's Atoning work is finished, what folly and what sin to attempt to supplement it/What vast numbers are doing this!Away with your tears, your confessions, your duties, your charities, even your repentance and faith, if these things dareto take their place side by side with the finishedwork of Christ! See that you attempt to add nothingto it. In a similar strain of exhortation let me
3. Warn you of the utter worthlessness and fallacy of all grounds of faith, and of all human hope that comes in conflict withthe finished work of Christ. My dear Hearers, you have nothing to do in the great matter of your salvation, but to acceptin faith the one Offering made once and for all byGod manifest in your nature. Cast your deadly doings at the foot of the Cross; cease from your own works; cease from yourown righteousness; cease from resting in your confessions, in your tears, in your prayers, in your going to your church oryour chapel. Oh, cease from all this,and in simple faith accept-take hold of-the Divine work of the Lord Jesus Christ! God needs no more sacrifices; God asksno other atonement; God looks for nothing on your part to propitiate His regard, or present you with acceptance; He is satisfiedwith the Divine work ofChrist-with His obedience-and with His blood-shedding. And if tonight, sin-burdened and distressed one, you will renounceall your own doings, and rest in the finished work of Christ-the one eternal Redemption He has offered-God will expand Hisarms of love and embrace you,take you into a covenant, filial relation to Himself; and from that moment your path to eternity will be like the sun, growingbrighter and brighter unto the perfect day. All is done! Christ has done all. Christ has suffered all-all He asks of you isin faith to receive Hisglorious Sacrifice. Believe in Him, and be saved!
4. Beware of the errors of the day, the tendency of which is to veil the Light and Glory of Christ's finished work, and tomislead, misguide, and misdirect souls on their way to the Judgment Seat. The fact is too patent to ignore, and it would beaffectation to veil it-that there exists at thepresent moment, a theological school in our land-which by the press is endeavoring to circulate doctrines and statementswhich go to undermine the Divine Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, and to cast the pall of darkness, and of death overthe splendors of the Cross. I warnyou of these terrorists, and against their errors. Perfidious men, false to your Master, and unfaithful to His Truth! Youmay attempt to veil the luster of the Cross, you may sepulcher Incarnate Truth, roll upon it your stone, seal it, and setyour watch, but the Truth of God shallleap from the dark chamber in which you attempt to entomb it, and shall walk this earth again-a thing of life, light andbeauty! Rejoice, O Christian, that all these attempts to subvert the Truth as it is in Jesus, God will laugh to scorn, andfinally His Gospel shall fully anduniversally prevail-
"Truth crushed to earth, shall rise again!
The eternal years of God are hers; But error wounded writhes in pain, And dies amid her worshippers!
And now, from my heart, I ask the blessing of the Triune God upon my beloved Brother, the grand substance of whose ministryI believe from my very soul is to exalt the finished work of Jesus. And I pray that this noble edifice, reared in the name,and consecrated to the glory of the Triune God, may for many years echo and re-echo with his voice of melody and of powerin expounding to you the glorious Doctrines and precepts of Christ's one finished Atonement. And God grant that none of youmay be found rejecting to your everlasting woe the Doctrine of the Cross. You may attempt to laugh it to scorn; you may makeyour excuses for its rejection; but the hour is coming, yes, the hour is near, when death confronting you-the veil fallingupon all earthly scenes, rising upon all eternal realities-you will discover the unbelief and contumely that could triflewith the Atonement, dispute it in life, and in health, fail you in your solemn hour, and you will find yourself on the brinkof eternity, without a plank, without a lifeboat, without a star of hope to cheer the dark spirit's travel to the bar of God!Reject it; deny it at your peril; your blood be upon your own heads. And may God grant in His Grace, that before long youwho have believed in Him, confessed Him, and loved Him here on earth, may cluster around His Throne, gaze upon His uncloudedface, unite in the anthem of the blessed, and from those lips which once uttered that glorious sentence-"It is finished,"receive the "Well done, good and faithful servant;" "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for youfrom the foundations of the world." And to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we will all unite in oneeternal ascription of praise. Amen.