" Prune thou thy words, the thoughts control That o'er thee swell and throng; They will condense within thy soul, And change to purpose strong.
"But he who lets his feelings run In soft, luxurious flow, Shrinks when hard service must be done, And faints at every woe".
Ah ! we should shrink from the cross of Jesus. We shrink from being ill-spoken of now ; we shrink from all the little crosses that duty brings us from day to day. Perhaps I should not say we should rather suffer like Jesus ; but oh that we might be ready to! that we might school ourselves now by acts of self-denial, by patience under suffering, by continuing to love though there are those who hate us, by constantly surrendering our self-will in face of the divine necessities that surround us, — school ourselves so that we shall be ready, should we be called upon, to render the last sacrifice, and withhold not life itself from the service of the world ! Death is a sorry fact; there is no beauty in it that we should desire it, — it is the opposite of all we crave ; we do not like to think of it, we turn from it when the mention of it is made. 0 hard, ungracious visitor ! 0 stern, repulsive visage ! yet thou mayest be transfigured, thou mayest even be made welcome. " Let death come straightway," said Achilles, " after I have punished the wrong-doer, so that I remain not here by the beaked ships, a laughing-stock and a useless burden of the earth." Jesus said, " Let death come." Death is almost made sacred since Jesus and other heroic, generous souls have died; there have been impetuous spirits that have even courted it, — that have been ready to throw the world away that they might follow in the footsteps of the great whom they revered. Do not fear death, O Friend! but rather fear that thou mayest not die worthily, — selfish, fretful, bitter, rebellious, when thou shouldst be full of love, and peaceful and thankful and ready to yield, and even glad if in any way thy death may contribute to the world's good.
3. There is another aspect of the death of Jesus. It is impossible to put out of mind the element of illusion in the hope to which he fell a martyr. The world's progress is not all in a straight line. Those who would benefit the world we remember the more tenderly for their mistakes. The road to humanity's perfect goal is not revealed to us by flashes from heaven, — we have to find it out by experience ; and incidental to humanity's experience are mistakes and failures numberless. The hope of Jesus to come again to the world in power and glory was illusory; the solemn prediction he made to the high-priest at his trial was illusory. Had he had no illusions he would not have died as he did, — he would not have endured to be spit upon and mocked and tortured and crucified. But when 1 think of this aspect of the case I call to mind George Eliot's words : —
" Even our failures are a prophecy, Even our yearnings and our bitter tears After that fair and true we cannot grasp, — As patriots who seem to die in vain Make liberty more sacred by their pangs".
Jesus died in vain, as have others before him or since his time ; but his cause is the dearer to us because he failed in it. I would we might write his thought on our foreheads and in our hearts ; I would we might make it the great sovereign aim of our lives to bring that " kingdom of heaven " for which he sighed and prayed and died, to pass in the world. What are we living for ? What thought is topmost in our souls ? Nothing is fitted to be there but the thought which Jesus cherished. Let us purify it from all that belonged merely to his time and race; let it be to us a hope for America and the world, instead of, as it was to him, for Israel and the world; let us strive to build a true kingdom of justice, a city of the light; let us hold to such an aim against our fears, against the selfishness of men, against our own selfishness, against all the odds that count on the other side; and then though we in turn make mistakes, others will remember us the more tenderly for them, and press the harder to find the way that is true and sure.