Sermon 1896. The Three Hours of Darkness
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, APRIL 18, 1886,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land unto the ninth hour." Matthew 27:45.
FROM nine till noon the usual degree of light was present, so that there was time enough for our Lord's adversaries to beholdand insult His sufferings. There could be no mistake about the fact that He was really nailed to the Cross, for He was crucifiedin broad daylight. We are fully assured that it was Jesus of Nazareth, for both friends and foes were eyewitnesses of Hisagonies-for three long hours the Jews sat down and watched Him on the Cross, making jests of His miseries. I feel thankfulfor those three hours of light, for otherwise the enemies of our faith would have questioned whether, in very deed, the blessedbody of our Master was nailed to the tree and would have started false rumors as many as the bats and owls which haunt thedarkness! Where would have been the witnesses of this solemn scene if the sun had been hidden from morn till night? As threehours of light gave opportunity for inspection and witness-bearing, we see the wisdom which did not allow it to close toosoon.
Never forget that this miracle of the closing of the eye of day at high noon was performed by our Lord in His weakness. Hehad walked the sea, raised the dead and healed the sick in the days of His strength, but now He has come to His lowest-thefever is on Him-He is faint and thirsty. He hangs on the borders of dissolution. Yet He has power to darken the sun at noon!He is still very God of very God-
"Behold, a purple torrent runs
Down from His hands and head!
The crimson tide puts out the sun!
His groans awake the dead!"
If He can do this in His weakness, what is He not able to do in His strength? Fail not to remember that this power was displayedin a sphere in which He did not usually put forth His might. The sphere of Christ is that of goodness and benevolence and,consequently, of light. When He enters the sphere of making darkness and of working judgement, He engages in what He callsHis strange work. Wonders of terror are His left-handed deeds. It is but now and then that He causes the sun to go down atnoon and darkens the earth in the clear day (Amos 8:9). If our Lord can make darkness at will as He dies, what Glory may we not expect now that He lives to be the Light of thecity of God forever? The Lamb is the Light and what a Light! The heavens bear the impress of His dying power and lose theirbrightness! Shall not the new heavens and the new earth attest the power of the risen Lord? The thick darkness around thedying Christ is the robe of the Omnipotent-He lives again! All power is in His hands and all that power He will put forthto bless His chosen!
What a call must that mid-day midnight have been to the careless sons of men! They knew not that the Son of God was amongthem nor that He was working out human redemption. The grandest hour in all history seemed likely to pass by unheeded, when,suddenly, night hastened from her chambers and usurped the day! Everyone asked his companion, "What does this darkness mean?"Business stood still. The plow stayed in mid-furrow and the axe paused uplifted. It was the middle of the day, when men arebusiest, but they made a general pause. Not only on Calvary, but on every hill and in every valley, the gloom settled down.There was a halt in the caravan of life! None could move unless they groped their way like the blind. The master of the housecalled for a light at noon and his servant tremblingly obeyed the unusual summons. Other lights were twinkling and Jerusalemwas as a city by night, only men were not in their beds! How startled were mankind!
Around the great deathbed an appropriate quiet was secured. I doubt not that a shuddering awe came over the masses of thepeople and the thoughtful foresaw terrible things. Those who had stood about the Cross and had dared to insult the majestyof Jesus, were paralyzed with fear. They ceased their ribaldry and, with it, their cruel exultation. They were cowed thoughnot convinced, even the basest of them. While the better sort "smote their breasts and returned," as many as could do so,no doubt, stumbled to their chambers and endeavored to hide themselves for fear of awful judgments which they feared werenear. I do not wonder that there should be traditions of strange things that were said during the hush of that darkness. Thosewhispers of the past may or may not be true-they have been the subject of learned controversy, but the labor of the disputewas energy ill spent. Yet we could not have wondered if one did say, as he is reported to have done, "God is suffering, orthe world is perishing." Nor should I drive from my beliefs the poetic legend that an Egyptian pilot passing down the riverheard among the reed banks a voice out of the rustling rushes, whispering, "The great Pan is dead." Truly, the God of Naturewas expiring and things less tender than the reeds by the river might well tremble at the sound!
We are told that this darkness was over all the land. And Luke puts it, "over all the earth." That portion of our globe whichwas then veiled in natural night was not affected-but to all men awake and at their employment, it was the advertisement ofa great and solemn event. It was strange beyond all experience and all men marveled-for when the light should have been brightest-allthings were obscured for the space of three hours!
There must be great teaching in this darkness, for when we come so near the Cross, which is the center of history, every eventis full of meaning. Light will come out of this darkness! I love to feel the solemnity of the three hours of death-shade andto sit down in it and meditate with no companion but the august Sufferer, around whom that darkness lowered. I am going tospeak of it in four ways, as the Holy Spirit may help me. First, let us bow our spirits in the presence of a miracle whichamazes us. Secondly, let us regard this darkness as a veil which conceals. Thirdly, as a symbol which instructs. And, fourthly,as a display of sympathy which forewarns us by the prophecies which it implies.
I. First, let us view this darkness as A MIRACLE WHICH AMAZES US.
It may seem a trite observation that this darkness was altogether out of the natural course of things. Since the world began,was it ever heard that at high noon there should be darkness over all the land? It was altogether out of the order of Nature.Some deny miracles and, if they also deny God, I will not, at this time, deal with them. But it is very strange that anyonewho believes in God should doubt the possibility of miracles. It seems to me that, granted the Being of a God, miracles areto be expected as an occasional declaration of His independent and active will. He may make certain rules for His actionsand it may be His wisdom to keep them, but surely He must reserve to Himself the liberty to depart from His own laws, or elseHe has, in a measure, laid aside His personal Godhead, deified law and set it up above Himself! It would not increase ouridea of the Glory of His Godhead if we could be assured that He had made Himself subject to rule and tied His own hands fromever acting except in a certain manner! From the self-existence and freedom of will which enters into our very conceptionof God, we are led to expect that sometimes He should not keep to the methods which He follows as His general rule. This hasled to the universal conviction that miracles are a proof of Godhead.
The general works of Creation and Providence are, to my mind, the best proofs, but the common heart of our race, for somereason or other, looks to miracles as surer evidence-thus proving that miracles are expected of God. Although the Lord makesit His order that there shall be day and night, He, in this case, with abundant reason, interposes three hours of night inthe center of a day! Behold the reason. The unusual in lower Nature is made to consort with the unusual in the dealings ofNature's Lord. Certainly this miracle was most congruous with that greater miracle which was happening in the death of Christ.Was not the Lord, Himself, departing from all common ways? Was He not doing that which had never been done from the beginningand would never be done again? That man should die is so common a thing as to be deemed inevitable? We are not startled atthe sound of a funeral knell-we have become familiar with the grave. As the companions of our youth die at our side, we arenot seized with amazement, for death is everywhere about us and within us. But that the Son of God should die, this is beyondall expectation and not only above Nature, but contrary to it! He who is equal with God deigns to hang upon the Cross anddie! I know of nothing that seems more out of rule and beyond expectation than this. The sun darkening at noon is a fit accompanimentof the death of Jesus. Is it not so?
Further, this miracle was not only out of the order of Nature, but it was one which would have been pronounced impossible.It is not possible that there should be an eclipse of the sun at the time of the full moon. The moon, at the time
when she is in her full, is not in a position in which she could possibly cast her shadow upon the earth. The Passover wasat the time of the full moon and, therefore, it was not possible that the sun should then undergo an eclipse. This darkeningof the sun was not strictly an astronomical eclipse-the darkness was doubtless produced in some other way-yet to those whowere present, it did seem to be a total eclipse of the sun-a thing impossible. Ah, Brothers and Sisters, when we come to dealwith man and the Fall, and sin, and God, and Christ, and the Atonement, we are at home with impossibilities! We have now reacheda region where prodigies, marvels and surprises are the order of the day-sublimities become commonplace when we come withinthe circle of Eternal Love! Yes, more-we have now left the solid land of the possible and have put out to sea-where we seethe works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep. When we think of impossibilities in other spheres, we start back. But theway of the Cross is ablaze with the Divine and we soon perceive that "with God, all things are possible."
See, then, in the death of Jesus, the possibility of the impossible! Behold, here, how the Son of God can die! We sometimespause when we meet with an expression in a hymn which implies that God can suffer or die. We think that the poet has usedtoo great a license, yet it behooves us to refrain from hypercriticism since, in Holy Writ, there are words like it. We evenread (Acts 20:28) of "the Church of God which He has purchased with His own blood"-the blood of God! Ah well! I am not careful to defend thelanguage of the Holy Spirit, but in its presence I take liberty to justify the words which we sang just now-
"Well might the sun in darkness hide, And shut his glories in, When God, the mighty Maker, died For man, the creature's sin."
I will not venture to explain the death of the Incarnate God. I am content to believe it and to rest my hope upon it.
How should the Holy One have sin laid upon Him? That, also, I do not know. A wise man has told us, as if it were an axiom,that the imputation or the non-imputation of sin is an impossibility. Be it so-we have become familiar with such things sincewe have beheld the Cross. Things which men call absurdities have become foundational Truths of God to us! The Doctrine ofthe Cross is, to them that perish, foolishness. We know that in our Lord was no sin and yet He bore our sins in His own bodyon the Cross. We do not know how the innocent Son of God could be permitted to suffer for sins that were not His own. It amazesus that Justice should permit one so perfectly Holy to be forsaken of His God and to cry out, "Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabachthani?"But it was so and it was so by the decree of the highest Justice-and we rejoice in it! As it was so, that the sun was eclipsedwhen it was impossible that it should be eclipsed, so has Jesus performed, on our behalf, in the agonies of His death, thingswhich, in the ordinary judgment of men, must be set down as utterly impossible! Our faith is at home in wonderland where theLord's thoughts are seen to be as high above our thoughts as the heavens are above the earth!
Concerning this miracle, I have also further to remark that this darkening of the sun surpassed all ordinary and natural eclipses.It lasted longer than an ordinary eclipse and it came in a different manner. According to Luke, the darkness all over theland came first and the sun was darkened afterwards-the darkness did not begin with the sun, but mastered the sun! It wasunique and supernatural. Now, among all grief, no grief is comparable to the grief of Jesus-of all woes, none can parallelthe woes of our great Substitute! As strongest light casts deepest shade, so has the surprising love of Jesus cost Him a deathsuch as falls not to the common lot of men. Others die, but this Man is "obedient unto death." Others drink the fatal draught,yet reckon not of its wormwood and gall-but my Master "tasted death." "He poured out His soul unto death." Every part of HisBeing was darkened with that extraordinary death-shade-and the natural darkness outside of Him did but shroud a special deathwhich was entirely by itself.
And now, when I come to think of it, this darkness appears to have been most natural and fitting. If we had to write out thestory of our Lord's death, we could not omit the darkness without neglecting a most important item. The darkness seems a partof the natural furniture of that great transaction. Read the story through and you are not at all startled with the darkness.After once familiarizing your mind with the thought that this is the Son of God and that He stretches His hands to the crueldeath of the Cross, you do not wonder at the rending of the veil of the Temple! You are not astonished at the earthquake orat the rising of certain of the dead. These are proper attendants of our Lord's passion-and so is the darkness. It drops intoits place, it seems as if it could not have been otherwise-
"That Sacrifice!-the death of Him-
The high and ever Holy One!
Well may the conscious Hea ven grow dim,
And blacken the beholding sun."
For a moment think again. Has it not appeared as if the death which that darkness shrouded was also a natural part of thegreat whole? We have grown, at last, to feel as if the death of the Christ of God were an integral part of human history.You cannot take it out of man's chronicles, can you? Introduce the Fall and see Paradise Lost-and you cannot make the poemcomplete till you have introduced that greater Man who did redeem us-and by His death gave us our Paradise Regained. It isa singular characteristic of all true miracles, that though your wonder never ceases, they never appear to he unnatural-theyare marvelous, but never monstrous! The miracles of Christ dovetail into the general run of human history. We cannot see howthe Lord could be on earth and Lazarus not be raised from the dead when the grief of Martha and Mary had told its tale. Wecannot see how the disciples could have been tempest-tossed on the Lake of Galilee and the Christ not walk on the water todeliver them! Wonders of power are expected parts of the narrative where Jesus is! Everything fits into its place with surroundingfacts.
A Romish miracle is always monstrous and devoid of harmony with all beside it. What if St. Winifred's head did come up fromthe well and speak from the coping to the astonished peasant who was about to draw water? I do not care whether it did ordid not-it does not alter history a bit, nor even color it-it is tagged on to the record and is no part of it! But the miraclesof Jesus, this of the darkness among them, are essential to human history and especially is this so in the case of His deathand this great darkness which shrouded it! All things in human story converge to the Cross which seems not to be an afterthoughtnor an expedient, but the fit and foreordained channel through which Love should run to guilty men!
I cannot say more from lack of voice, though I had many more things to say. Sit down and let the thick darkness cover youtill you cannot even see the Cross and only know that out of reach of mortal eyes your Lord worked out the redemption of Hispeople. He worked in silence, a miracle of patience and of love by which the Light of God has come to those who sit in darknessand in the valley of the shadow of death.
II. Secondly, I desire you to regard this darkness as A VEIL WHICH CONCEALS. The Christ is hanging on yonder tree. I see thedreadful Cross. I can see the thieves on either side. I look around and I sorrowfully mark that motley group of citizens fromJerusalem-along with scribes, priests and strangers from different countries-mingled with Roman soldiers. They turn theireyes on Him and, for the most part, gaze with cruel scorn upon the Holy One who is in the center. In truth it is an awfulsight. Mark those dogs of the common sort and those bulls of Bashan of more notable rank who all unite to dishonor the Meekand Lowly One. I must confess I never read the story of the Master's death, knowing what I do of the pain of crucifixion,without deep anguish-crucifixion was a death worthy to have been invented by devils! The pain which it involved was immeasurable!I will not torture you by describing it. I know dear hearts that cannot read of it without tears and without lying awake fornights afterwards.
But there was more than anguish upon Calvary-ridicule and contempt embittered all. Those jests, those cruel gibes, those mockeries,those thrusting out of the tongues-what shall we say of these? At times I have felt some little sympathy with the French Princewho cried, "If I had been there with my guards, I would soon have swept those wretches away!" It was too terrible a sight-thepain of the Victim was grievous enough-but the abominable wickedness of the mockers, who could bear it? Let us thank God thatin the middle of the crime there came down a darkness which rendered it impossible for them to go further with it! Jesus mustdie. For His pains there must be no alleviation and from death there must be for Him no deliverance-but the scoffers mustbe silenced. Most effectually their mouths were closed by the dense darkness which shut them in.
What I see in that veil is, first of all, that it was a concealment for those guilty enemies. Did you ever think of that?It is as if God, Himself, said, "I cannot bear it. I will not see this infamy! Descend, O veil!" Down fell the heavy shades-
"I asked the heavens, 'What foe to God has done This unexampled deed?' The heavens exclaim, 'Twas man! And we, in horror,snatched the sun From such a spectacle of guilt and shame.'"
Thank God, the Cross is a hiding place. It furnishes for guilty men a shelter from the all-seeing eyes, so that justice neednot see and strike. When God lifts up His Son and makes Him visible, He hides the sin of men. He says that "the times of theirignorance He winks at." Even the greatness of their sin He casts behind His back, so that He need not see it, but may indulgeHis long-suffering and permit His pity to endure their provocations. It must have grieved the heart of the Eternal God tosee such wanton cruelty of men towards Him who went about doing good and healing all manner of diseases. It was horrible tosee the teachers of the people rejecting Him with scorn-the seed of Israel, who ought to have accepted Him as their Messiah-castingHim out as a thing despised and abhorred! I therefore feel gratitude to God for bidding that darkness cover all the land andend that shameful scene! I would say to any guilty ones here-Thank God that the Lord Jesus has made it possible for your sinsto be hidden more completely than by thick darkness! Thank God that in Christ He does not see you with that stern eye of Justicewhich would involve your destruction! Had not Jesus interposed, whose death you have despised, you had worked out in yourown death the result of your own sin long ago! But for your Lord's sake you are allowed to live as if God did not see you.This long-suffering is meant to bring you to repentance. Will you not come?
But, further, that darkness was a sacred concealment for the blessed Person of our Divine Lord. So to speak, the angels foundfor their King a pavilion of thick clouds in which His Majesty might be sheltered in its hour of misery. It was too much forwicked eyes to gaze so rudely on that Immaculate Person! Had not His enemies stripped Him naked and cast lots for His garments?Therefore it was meet that the holy Manhood should, at length, find suitable concealment. It was not fit that brutal eyesshould see the lines made upon that blessed form by the engraving tool of sorrow. It was not meet that revelers should seethe contortions of that sacred frame, indwelt with Deity, while He was being broken beneath the iron rod of Divine Wrath onour behalf! It was meet that God should cover Him so that none should see all He did and all He bore when He was made sinfor us. I devoutly bless God for thus hiding my Lord away-thus was He screened from eyes which were not fit to see the sunmuch less to look upon the Sun of Righteousness! This darkness also warns us, even we who are most reverent.
This darkness tells us all that the Passion is a great mystery into which we cannot pry. I try to explain it as substitutionand I feel that where the language of Scripture is explicit, I may and must be explicit, too. But yet I feel that the ideaof substitution does not cover the whole of the matter and that no human conception can completely grasp the whole of thedread mystery. It was worked in darkness because the full, far-reaching meaning and result cannot be beheld of finite mind.Tell me the death of the Lord Jesus was a grand example of self-sacrifice-I can see that and much more. Tell me it was a wondrousobedience to the will of God-I can see that and much more. Tell me it was the bearing of what ought to have been borne bymyriads of sinners of the human race, as the chastisement of their sin-I can see that and found my best hope upon it. Butdo not tell me that this is all that is in the Cross! No, great as this would be, there is much more in our Redeemer's death.God only knows the love of God-Christ only knows all that He accomplished when He bowed His head and gave up the ghost. Thereare common mysteries of Nature into which it were irreverence to pry, but this is a Divine mystery before which we take ourshoes off, for the place called Calvary is holy ground! God veiled the Cross in darkness-and in darkness much of its deepermeaning lies-not because God would not reveal it, but because we have not capacity enough to discern it all! God was manifestin the flesh and in that human flesh He put away sin by His own Sacrifice-this we all know. But "without controversy greatis the mystery of godliness."
Once again, this veil of darkness also pictures to me the way in which the powers of darkness will always endeavor to concealthe Cross of Christ. We fight with darkness when we try to preach the Cross. "This is your hour and the power of darkness,"said Christ, and I doubt not that the infernal hosts made, in that hour, a fierce assault upon the spirit of our Lord. Thusmuch we also know, that if the Prince of Darkness is anywhere in force, it is sure to be where Christ is lifted up! To becloudthe Cross is the grand objective of the enemy of souls! Did you ever notice it? These fellows who hate the Gospel will letevery other doctrine pass muster-but if the Atonement is preached and the Truths of God which grow out of it, straightawaythey are awakened! Nothing provokes the devil like the Cross. Modern theology has for its main goal the obscuration of theDoctrine of the Atonement. These modern cuttlefish make the water of life black with their ink! They make out sin to be atrifle and the punishment of it to be a temporary business-and thus they degrade the remedy by underrating the disease. Weare not ignorant of their devices. Expect, my Brothers, that the clouds of darkness will gather as to a center around theCross, that they may hide it from the sinner's view. But expect this, also, that there
darkness shall meet its end. Light springs out of that darkness-the eternal Light of the undying Son of God, who, having risenfrom the dead, lives forever to scatter the darkness of evil!
III. Now we pass on to speak of this darkness as A SYMBOL WHICH INSTRUCTS. The veil falls down and conceals, but at the sametime, as an emblem, it reveals. It seems to say, "Attempt not to search within, but learn from the veil, itself-it has cherubwork upon it." This darkness teaches us what Jesus suffered. It aids us to guess at the griefs which we may not actually see.
The darkness is the symbol of the wrath of God which fell on those who slew His only begotten Son. God was angry and His frownremoved the light of day. Well might He be angry, when sin was murdering His only Son-when the Jewish farmers were saying,"This is the heir; come, let us kill Him, and let us seize o His inheritance." This is God's wrath towards all mankind, forpractically all men concurred in the death of Jesus. That wrath has brought men into darkness- they are ignorant, blinded,bewildered. They have come to love darkness better than light because their deeds are evil. In that darkness they do not repent,but go on to reject the Christ of God. Into this darkness God cannot look upon them in complacency, but He views them as childrenof darkness and heirs of wrath, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever!
The symbol also tells us what our Lord Jesus Christ endured. The darkness outside of Him was the figure of the darkness thatwas within Him. In Gethsemane a thick darkness fell upon our Lord's spirit. He was "exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death."His joy was communion with God-that joy was gone and He was in the dark. His day was the light of His Father's face-that facewas hidden and a terrible night gathered around Him. Brothers, I should sin against that veil if I were to pretend that Icould tell you what the sorrow was which oppressed the Savior's soul-only so far can I speak as it has been given me to havefellowship with Him in His sufferings. Have you ever felt a deep and overwhelming horror of sin-your own sin and the sinsof others? Have you ever seen sin in the light of God's love? Has it ever darkly hovered over your sensitive conscience? Hasan unknown sense of wrath crept over you like midnight gloom and has it been about you, around you, above you, and withinyou? Have you felt shut up in your feebleness and yet shut out from God? Have you looked around and found no help, no comfort,even, in God-no hope, no peace? In all this you have sipped a little of that salt sea into which our Lord was cast. If, likeAbraham, you have felt a horror of great darkness creep over you, then you have had a taste of what your Divine Lord sufferedwhen it pleased the Father to bruise Him and to put Him to grief.
This it was that made Him sweat great drops of blood falling to the ground-and this it was which, on the Cross, made Him utterthat appalling cry, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" It was not the crown of thorns, or the scourge, or the Crosswhich made Him cry-it was the darkness, the awful darkness of desertion which oppressed His mind and made Him feel like onedistraught. All that could comfort Him was withdrawn and all that could distress Him was piled upon Him. "The spirit of aman will sustain his infirmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?" Our Savior's spirit was wounded and He cried, "My heartis like wax, it is melted in the midst of My heart." He was bereft of all natural and spiritual comfort and His distress wasutter and entire. The darkness of Calvary did not, like an ordinary night, reveal the stars, but it darkened every lamp ofHeaven. His strong crying and tears denoted the deep sorrow of His soul. He bore all it was possible for His capacious mindto bear, though enlarged and invigorated by union with the Godhead! He bore the equivalent of Hell-no, not that, only-butHe bore that which stood instead of 10,000 Hells, so far as the vindication of the Law is concerned! Our Lord rendered, inHis death agony, a homage to Justice far greater than if a world had been doomed to destruction! When I have said that, whatmore can I say? Well may I tell you that this unutterable darkness, this hiding of the Divine Face, expresses more of thewoes of Jesus than words can ever tell.
Again, I think I see in that darkness, also, what it was that Jesus was battling, for we must never forget that the Crosswas a battlefield to Him, wherein He triumphed gloriously. He was fighting, then, with darkness-with the powers of darknessof which Satan is the head-with the darkness of human ignorance, depravity and falsehood. The battle thus apparent at Golgothahas been raging ever since. Then was the conflict at its height, for the chiefs of the two great armies met in personal conflict.The present battle in which you and I take our little share is as nothing compared with that wherein all the powers of darknessin their dense battalions hurled themselves against the Almighty Son of God! He bore their onset, endured the tremendous shockof their assault and, in the end, with shout of victory, He led captivity captive! He, by His power and Godhead, turned midnightinto day, again, and brought back to this world a reign of light which,
blessed be God, shall never come to a close! Come to battle again, you hosts of darkness, if you dare! The Cross has defeatedyou-the Cross shall defeat you! Hallelujah! The Cross is the ensign of victory-its light is the death of darkness! The Crossis the lighthouse which guides poor weather-beaten humanity into the harbor of peace-this is the lamp which shines over thedoor of the great Father's house to lead His prodigals home.
Let us not be afraid of all the darkness which besets us on our way Home, since Jesus is the light which conquers it
The darkness never came to an end till the Lord Jesus broke the silence. All had been still and the darkness had grown terrible.At last He spoke and His voice uttered a Psalm. It was the 22nd Psalm. "My God," He said, "My God, why have You forsaken Me?"Each repeated, "Eloi," flashed morning upon the scene! By the time He had uttered the cry, "Why have you forsaken Me?" menhad begun to see, again, and some even ventured to misinterpret His words-more in terror than in ignorance. They said, "Hecalls Elijah!" They may have meant to mock, but I think not. At any rate, there was no heart in what they said, nor in thereply of their companions. Yet the light had come by which they could see to dip the sponge in vinegar. Brothers and Sisters,no light will ever come to dark hearts unless Jesus shall speak and the light will not be clear until we hear the voice ofHis sorrows on our behalf as He cries, "Why have you forsaken Me?" His voice of grief must be the end of our grief! His cryout of the darkness must cheer away our gloom and bring the heavenly morning to our minds!
You see how much there is in my text. It is a joy to speak on such a theme when one is in good health and full of vigor-thenare we as Naphtali, a hind let loose-then we give goodly words! But this day I am in pain as to my body and my mind seemsfrozen. Nevertheless, the Lord can bless my feeble words and make you see that in this darkness there is a deep and wide meaningwhich none of us should neglect. If God shall help your meditations, this darkness will be light about you.
IV. I come to my fourth point and my closing words will deal with THE SYMPATHY WHICH PROPHESIES. Do
you see the sympathy of Nature with her Lord-the sympathy of the sun in the heavens with the Sun of Righteousness? It wasnot possible for Him by whom all things were made to be in darkness and for Nature to remain in the light.
The first sympathetic fact I see is this-all lights are dim when Christ shines not. All is dark when He does not shine. Inthe Church, if Jesus is not there, what is there? The sun, itself, could not yield us light if Jesus were withdrawn. The sevengolden lamps are ready to go out unless He walks among them and trims them with the holy oil. Brothers, you soon grow heavy,your spirits faint and your hands are weary if the Christ is not with you! If Jesus Christ is not fully preached. If He isnot with us by His Spirit, then everything is in darkness. Obscure the Cross and you have obscured all spiritual teachings!You cannot say, "We will be clear in every other point and clear upon every other doctrine, but we will shun the Atonementsince so many quibble with it. No, Sirs! If that candle is put under a bushel, the whole house is dark! All theology sympathizeswith the Cross and is colored and tinctured by it! Your pious service, your books, your public worship must all be in sympathywith the Cross, one way or another. If the Cross is in the dark, so will all your work be-
"What do you think of Christ?is the test To try both your work and your scheme; You cannot be right in the rest Unless youthink rightly of Him."
Conjure up your doubts; fabricate your philosophies and compose your theories-there will be no Light of God in them if theCross is left out. Vain are the sparks of your own making-you shall lie down in sorrow! All our work and travail shall endin vanity unless the work and travail of Christ is our first and only hope! If you are dark upon that point, which alone isLight, how great is your darkness!
Next, see the dependence of all creation upon Christ, as evidenced by its darkness when He withdraws. It was not meet thatHe who made all worlds should die and yet all worlds should go on just as they had done. If He suffers eclipse, they mustsuffer eclipse, too. If the Sun of Righteousness is made to set in blood, the natural sun must keep touch with Him. I believe,my Friends, that there is a much more wonderful sympathy between Christ and the world of Nature than any of us have ever dreamed.The whole creation groans and travails in pain together until now because Christ, in the Church, is in His travail pangs.Christ in His mystical body is in travail and so the whole creation must wait for the manifestation of the Son of God.
We are waiting for the coming of the Lord from Heaven and there is no hill or dale-there is no mountain or sea but what isin perfect harmony with the waiting Church! Wonder not that there should be earthquakes in many places, blazing volcanoes,terrible tempests, and sore spreading of deadly disease! Marvel not when you hear of dire portents and things that make one'sheart to quail, for such things must be till the end shall come! Until the Great Shepherd shall make His crook into a scepterand shall begin His unsuffering reign, this poor earth must bleed at every vein! There must be darkness till these days ofdelay are ended. You that expect placid history till Christ shall come expect you know not what! You that think that generouspolitics shall create order and contentment and that the extension of free-trade shall breathe universal peace over the nations,look for the living among the dead! Till the Lord shall come, the word has gone out, "Overturn, overturn, overturn," and overturnedall things must be-not only in other kingdoms, but in this also, till Jesus comes! All that can be shaken shall be shakenand only His immovable Throne and Truth shall abide. Now is the time of the Lord's battle with darkness and we may not hope,as yet, for unbroken light.
Dear Friends, the sin which darkened Christ and made Him die in the dark, darkens the whole world. The sin that darkened Christand made Him hang upon the Cross in the dark is darkening you who do not believe in Him-and you will live in the dark anddie in the dark unless you get to Him, only, who is the Light of the World and can give light to you. There is no light forany man except in Christ! And until you believe in Him, thick darkness shall blind you and you shall stumble in it and perish!That is the lesson I would have you learn.
Another practical lesson is this-if we are in the dark at this time; if our spirits are sunk in gloom, let us not despair,for the Lord Christ, Himself, was there. If I have fallen into misery on account of sin, let me not give up all hope, forthe Father's Well-Beloved passed through denser darkness than mine. O believing Soul, if you are in the dark, you are nearthe King's cellars and there are wines on the lees well refined lying there! You have gotten into the pavilion of the Lordand now may you speak with Him! You will not find Christ in the gaudy tents of pride, nor in the foul haunts of wickedness!You will not find Him where the viol and the dance and the flowing bowl inflame the lusts of men! But in the house of mourningyou will meet the Man of Sorrows! He is not where Herodias dances, nor where Bernice displays her charms. He is where thewoman of a sorrowful spirit moves her lips in prayer. He is never absent where penitence sits in darkness and bewails herfaults-
"Yes, Lord, in hours of gloom, When shadows fill my room When pain breathes forth its groans, And grief its sighs and moans,Then You are near."
If you are under a cloud, feel for your Lord, if haply you may find Him. Stand still in your black sorrow and say, "O Lord,the preacher tells me that Your Cross once stood in such darkness as this-O Jesus hear me!" He will respond to you-the Lordwill look out of the pillar of cloud and shed a light upon you. "I know their sorrows," He says. He is no stranger to heart-break.Christ also once suffered for sin. Trust Him and He will cause His light to shine upon you! Lean upon Him and He will bringyou up out of the gloomy wilderness into the land of rest. God help you to do so!
Last Monday I was cheered beyond all I can tell you by a letter from a Brother who had been restored to life, light, and libertyby the discourse of last Sabbath morning [Sermon No. 1895, Volume 32-Love Abounding, Love Complaining, Love Abiding]. I knowno greater joy than to be useful to your souls. For this reason I have tried to preach, this morning, though I am physicallyquite unfit for it. Oh, I do pray I may hear more news from saved ones! Oh that some spirit that has wandered out into thedark moorland may spy the candle in my window and find its way home! If you have found my Lord, I charge you, never let Himgo, but cleave to Him till the day breaks and the shadows flee away! God help you so to do for Jesus' sake! Amen.