Taken and adapted from, The Blood of the Cross
Written by Horatius Bonar
That blood has been shed upon the earth…
…and that this blood was no other than the “blood of God” (Act 20:28), as all admit who own the Bible. But admitting this, the question arises, how far is each one of us implicated in this blood shedding? Does not God take for granted that we are guilty? Nay further, that this guilt is the heaviest that can weigh a sinner down?
If so, then is it not a question for the saint, how far have I understood and confessed my participation in this guilt incurred by my long rejection of the slain One? How far have I learned to prize that blood, which, though once my accuser, is now my advocate? How far am I now seeing and rejoicing in the complete substitution of life for life—the divine life for the human—which that blood shedding implies?
Is it not also a serious question for the ungodly, is this blood shedding really and legally chargeable against me? Is God serious in saying that He means to reckon with me for this? Is this blood at this present hour resting over me as a cloud of wrath ready to burst upon my head as soon as my day of grace runs out? Is it on account of my treatment of this blood that I am to be dealt with at the seat of judgment? Is my eternity really to hinge on this?
If so, what course can I pursue? Can I, like Pilate, take water and wash my hands saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just man?” (Mat 27:24). No: that is hopeless. My long rejection of it must involve at least something of the guilt; how much remains yet to be seen. If I cannot clear myself, and if I cannot extenuate my crime, then I must either brave the trial and the sentence, or make haste to enter my protest against the deed as the only course now remaining for me.
In such a matter there is room neither for delay nor uncertainty. Let the matter at once be inquired into, and put beyond the reach of doubt. Is it possible that anyone can rest with less than a certainty of forgiveness so long as a charge is hanging over him? Either he does not understand its meaning, or he is resolved to set it at nought.
No certainty can be greater than that I am guilty of the crime. Can I rest satisfied with anything but an equal certainty that this crime has been canceled? To be sure of guilt, and not to be sure of pardon, is a fearful condition indeed. To know that there is a Savior whose blood cleanses from all sin, and yet not to know with equal certainty that all the blessings flowing from His blood have become mine, must be misery beyond endurance. Uncertainty in such a case is the very mockery of my grief.
Was the Gospel meant to bring us no certainty here? Is our believing it designed to give us no assured peace? Is this assured peace a plant not of this clime? Must we wait for it till we reach the land of peace? Is it not our portion here, and is it not by having this that we are enabled to face and battle with the darkest storms of life?
Did the sight of that blood assure us at once of our guilt, and shall not the sight of it now assure us equally of our forgiveness? Did it formerly speak certain terror, and shall it not now speak certain peace? Or do we say, but I am not sure whether I am really receiving it—this is my difficulty. Be it so. Did you find the same difficult in knowing whether you were rejecting it? Was it so easy to discover the rejection, and is it so hard to discover the reception? You knew when you put it from you, and do you not know when you would take it to you? Is there not something unnatural, something strange in this?
If you are not sure whether you have received or rejected the blood of propitiation, then in so far as your peace is concerned, it is all one as if you knew that you had rejected it.
For uncertainty can bring no peace to the troubled spirit. It can heal no wounds; it can kindle no hope. It leaves the soul in sorrowful darkness, just as if the true light had not arisen, or had withdrawn itself from view; just as if the peace-bringing blood had never been shed, or had been hidden from your eyes. Uncertainty! Who that realizes an accusing law, and a sin-hating God, can remain uncertain without also remaining most thoroughly and absolutely miserable?
God has provided for this certainty, and taken out-of-the-way all that might mar it, or generate the reverse. He has not only shed the blood of His dear Son, but so presents it to us as sinners, as to leave us no alternative, but either to deny His testimony concerning it, or to be at peace with Him in simply receiving it as that through which peace has been made by His Son upon the cross. Shall we then cleave to this uncertainty as if it contained some mysterious blessing? Or shall we remain contented with it, even for an hour, seeing we cannot but feel that it is no blessing, but a blighting curse?
The amount of uncertainty in the present day is great. Thousands who name the name of Christ are not ashamed to own it. Few seem to have firm and abiding peace. Few walk in the blessed consciousness of being forgiven, and saved, and reconciled. No wonder that we should be so feeble and sickly; no wonder that we should have so small success in laboring for God. Conscious of personal friendship between Him and us, what is there that we will not do or dare? What is there that He will not do for us and by us?
Is this a time for uncertainty when judgments are darkening over us, and God has arisen to smite the nations for their sins? Nothing now will keep us calm but certainty. Such a storm will need a sure anchor. A man may cheat his soul into tranquility when days are prosperous and skies are blue. He may say, “I hope it will go well with me at last,” and sit down contented with his meager hope. But when heaven and earth are shaken, he cannot but tremble. His peace gives way at the first ruffle of the tempest. He had no certainty to lean upon, and his false security was broken in an hour.
So it must be with everyone in these days of evil, that is resting satisfied with less than a certainty—a certainty reared upon the one foundation. And how many hearts are secretly throbbing now, when they hear afar off the sound of advancing terror. They are confessing to themselves now that their rest was unreal, and their hope a fancy. They are filled with fear, and “grope for the wall as the blind.” They feel that they have hitherto taken hold of an uncertainty, and flattered themselves with the idea that a man might very well be a Christian, and yet know it not. But now they are moved. They feel that this is “a covering narrower than that a man can wrap himself in it.” They had tried to make themselves believe that they were Christians of long-standing, and now they find themselves no further on than ten or twenty years ago, when first they awoke from their sleep of death.
It is well, however, that the discovery be made, however late. It matters not how roughly the speaker is awakened, if only he be roused in time to flee from encompassing danger. It is not yet too late. The cross is still standing on the earth. The crucified One is still upon the mercy-seat. If the favor of God has hitherto been a dark uncertainty, it may yet be made sure. The way of reconciliation through the blood is as open as ever.
Rest not till you have got matters thoroughly settled between God and our soul.
This settlement must be on solid and immovable grounds. But these grounds God is presenting to you in the blood of His only begotten Son. Consider them well. They are your all for eternity! You need not fear risking your soul upon them. Oh! Well for you, if you were but settled there. There would follow a lifetime of peace in this world, and eternity of glory in the world to come.
“Ye wish to bring this Man’s blood upon us,” were the words of indignant scorn with which the High Priest resented the accusations which the apostles, in their preaching, brought against their nation, and specially against its rulers (Act 5:28). They were the words of well-feigned contempt, but they were words of fear.
“Ye wish to bring this Man’s blood upon us,” was the utmost extent of an answer attempted by the High Priest to these accusations—as if he would thus insinuate that they were as false as they were absurd and impossible. “This Man’s blood! What have we to do with it; what mean you by charging us with the guilt of it?”
The High Priest had not mistaken the meaning of the apostles, nor misconstrued the drift of their charge.
He was altogether correct in his statement. The apostles did intend to “bring this Man’s blood upon them.” There was no need of calling witnesses to prove that they both said so, and meant so. They denied it not. They were not ashamed of having made the declaration, nor afraid to repeat it. They made no secret of it. They reiterated it in every sermon; they dwelt and insisted upon it continually. It formed part of their message everywhere. “Ye are the crucifiers of the Lord of glory; your hands are stained with the blood of God’s own Son.” This might be said to be the commencement or preamble of each sermon, each address (Act 2:23; 3:15).
Bitterly was this felt by those against whom it was directed. The arrow went deep and rankled sore in the wound. The anger of the priests arose. They denied the charge. They treated it as a slander upon their good name, and reviled the apostles as calumniators. The charge of blood they resented and repelled.
This does seem strange. For, but a short time before, they had come forward voluntarily to take upon them the guilt and the consequences of this blood shedding. How eagerly they shouted, “His blood be upon us and on our children!” Then they made light of this blood. They valued it at thirty pieces of silver. They rushed forward to shed it, as if they could not rest till they had poured it out like water upon the earth. But now they shrink from the imputation, and are stirred up to anger when it is cast upon them. Nay, so much do they resent it, that they seek to imprison or put to death those who make it.
Why this sudden change of feeling? Why this sensitiveness to the charge of blood-guiltiness? It cannot be from dread of the men who bring it forward. They are few in number, and have no power to injure. The charge which they make is accompanied with no threat; nor does it bring with it any temporal evil or danger. It can issue in nothing disastrous or fatal, so far as man and time and the laws are concerned. Why then this nervous irritability under the charge brought against them by these unoffending men—these fishermen of Galilee?
Conscience had made them cowards. Its murmurs were irrepressible and unwearied. It tormented them before the time. Their attempts to smother and silence it only turned its course and sent it inward, to work the disease into the whole frame, thereby producing that singular revulsion of feeling which has been noticed, and occasioning that wrathful sensitiveness which they so often exhibited under the preaching of the apostles. Bold enough before the deed was done, now they are full of continued alarms, as if haunted by a specter, or beset with weapons which they feared might every moment pierce them, and avenge the blood which they had shed.
1. His blood is upon you; and you know it. You shed it, and you cannot deny the deed. You thirsted for the shedding of it. You gloried in the deed.
2. It was innocent blood, and you knew it. It was the blood of one who had never wronged you, who had done evil to none, but good to all; against whom no charge of sin had been proved.
3. It was blood shed by means of treachery and falsehood. You had to buy and bribe the traitor. You suborned witnesses, whose testimony you knew to be false. Everything connected with that trial casts dishonor upon those who did the deed, or procured it to be done.
4. It was perhaps, after all, the blood of God’s own Son! He claimed this title. Many admitted it. There were signs of its being authentic. What then if it be really true?
Could there be a crime like this?
Such might be the workings of their spirits, the secret suggestions of consciences not at rest, but ever and anon starting from the slumber into which they had been in some measure lulled. No wonder that the men were cut to the heart, and roused up to fiercest anger by the preaching of the apostles. The serpent had twined itself around them. It might at times be torpid or asleep. But every fresh mention of the blood, or of the name of Him whom they had slain, awoke it, and sent its sting into their vitals. Hence they hated the mention of that blood and that name. Vengeance was in their hearts and on their lips against everyone who might venture upon an illusion so hateful. In words they repelled the charge as slanderous, but the inner man confessed it. Addressing the apostles they might use the language of denial,
Thou canst not say, I did it.
But the fear, the anger, the remorse which awoke within them, betrayed the consciousness of guilt in a way which could not be mistaken. If they were not the actual murderers, they were at least accomplices in the deed of murder; and as such they were self-convicted and self-condemned.
True children of Cain! Both in their crime, and in their evasive denial of it! When Jehovah charged the first murderer with his brother’s blood, how insolent, yet how evasive the answer—“Am I my brother’s keeper?” As if he had said, “Do you mean to charge me with Abel’s blood? What do I know about it or its shedder?” So with these Jewish rulers. They commit the crime, and then they challenge the proof of their guilt. Their hands are still stained with the crimson, yet they can say, “Do you mean to bring this Man’s blood upon us?”
True children of Cain! For where was there rest now for them? Fugitives and vagabonds they now must be, at least in spirit; carrying within them a hidden wound which they try in vain to cover; disturbed with horrors which they cannot allay; trembling at the sound of the shaken leaf or the rustling breeze.
True children of Cain! They go out from the presence of the Lord, and seek to drown their terrors in worldly undertakings, in dreams of vanity, or in the lusts of pleasure. The worm that never dies has begun to gnaw them! Yet they will not look on Him whom they have pierced. They turn away in anger when He is set before them!
The blood they had shed would heal them; for it speaks better things than that of Abel; but they will not be healed. The blood that alarmed would also have laid all their alarms to rest. But they turn away from it. It accused them, no doubt; yet it brought forgiveness with it for the very crime which it laid to their charge. It spoke to them as to murderers—sinners for whose crime and conduct there could be no excuse. But it also said, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—even “the chief” (1Tim. 1:13-16).
They might be “blasphemers, persecutors, and injurious”; but “the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant.”
Nay, and of some of them at least it might be said, “They did obtain mercy, that in them the chief, Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them, who should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting.”