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Beyond Humiliation: The Way of the Cross
The Inward Cross
“What is it to be inwardly cruciﬁed? It is to have no desire, no purpose, no aim but such as comes by Divine inspiration, or is attended with the Divine approbation. To be inwardly cruciﬁed, is to cease to love Mammon in order that we may love God, to have no eye for the world’s possessions, no ear for the world’s applause, no tongues for the world’s envious or useless conversation, no terror for the world’s opposition. To be inwardly cruciﬁed is to be, among the things of this world, ‘a pilgrim and a stranger,’ separate from what is evil, sympathizing with what is good, but never with idolatrous attachment; seeing God in all things and all things in God. To be inwardly cruciﬁed is, in the language of Tauler, ‘to cease entirely from the life of self, to abandon equally what we see and what we possess, our power, our knowledge, and our affections; that so the soul in regard to any action originating in itself is without life, without action, and without power, and receives its life, its action, and its power from God alone.’ “ — Professor Upham
The French have a most suggestive proverb: “He is not escaped who drags his chain!”
Gibbon tells of one of the Roman emperors who was brought from prison to the palace, and who sat for some hours on the throne with his fetters on his limbs. Thousands of those whom God has brought out of prison are in much the same condition. They are in the palace, but they carry about with them vestiges of the prison-life. They have escaped from the tyrant’s custody, but they are not yet completely free; for as the grim jailor hears the rattle of the links sin has forged, and sees some of his fetters upon the soul, he still exercises his power, and indulges the hope that he may one day seize and entirely enslave his former captives. So long as we fail to perceive and claim deliverance from the power of indwelling sin through the wondrous Cross, we may give occasional evidence of our kingship, but we shall give unmistakable proof of our servitude.
Our message was one of complete deliverance. We believe that our regal honors are not a ﬁction, as they must have seemed to the king Gibbon tells of, but a glorious reality; and so we sing of Him who “breaks the power of canceled sin,” and of a Cross that effects a “double cure.” The soul that dares, on the warrant of God’s word, to claim identiﬁcation with Christ in his death, resurrection, and enthronement, proves what it is to be a king in Christ Jesus; to such even the devils are subject, and the principalities and powers of darkness are made to feel the regal power of those who, clad in the armor of God, are more than conquerors through Him who shows His love to them by indwelling them. Charles Wesley sang of those who “hugged their chains.” There are some who do this still; but there are many others, thank God, who hate them, and who long to lose every link that binds them to the conquered enemy.
The Cross of Christ not only enforces holiness, but makes holiness possible. Conybeare gives a striking translation of Galatians ii. 20: “I have been cruciﬁed with Christ; it is no more I that live, but Christ is living in me; and my outward life which still remains, I live in the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me.” Here we have both the exterior and the interior Cross, or the Cross and its moral effect. There is a great difference between realizing, “On that Cross He was cruciﬁed for me,” and “On that Cross I am cruciﬁed with Him.” The one aspect brings us deliverance from sin’s condemnation, the other from sin’s power. We ﬁrst discover the Cross as coming between God and ourselves. That is its substitutionary or judicial aspect. In it Christ must ever be alone; into that circle none can enter; when He trod that winepress there was none with Him.
But there is an aspect of the Cross in the passage quoted which brings us into moral subjection as cruciﬁed with Christ. “I am cruciﬁed with Christ; it is no more I that live, but Christ is living in me. Here we see the Cross coming between us and our sinful I nature, and these words bring us face to face with a cruciﬁxion which is experimental in its effects. It is an instantaneous cruciﬁxion, inwrought by the power of the Holy Ghost, solely on our compliance with these clearly deﬁned conditions, absolute surrender to God, absolute dependence on God. It is continuous crucifixion, as the literal translation of St. Paul's words shows: "I have been and am crucified with Christ."
The death of Christ was not only an atonement for sin, but a triumph over sin. By faith we see our sins not only on His head for our pardon, but under His feet for our deliverance. Multitudes who glory in the outward Cross know nothing of the blessed inward effect of cruciﬁxion with Christ. They see not that by that wondrous Cross they are delivered from the power of self and sin, the world, the ﬂesh, and the devil. This many of God’s children do not know, “that their old man was cruciﬁed with Him, that the body of sin might be done away, so that they should no longer be in bondage to sin” (Rom. vi. 6).
There must be conformity between Christ and the members of His mystical body. How incongruous it is for a holy Christ to be leading a company of unholy Christians; or a cross-bearing Christ, a band of self-indulgent Christians, whose hearts are often towards Egypt, and who shrink from the least suffering and self-denial! It is only they who have truly followed Him, knowing experimentally the power of the Cross to deliver them from the dominion of sin, who will “have boldness, and not shrink with shame before Him at His coming.”
Why hesitate, therefore, to bear the Cross by which you may gain the crown? In the Cross is salvation, in the Cross is life, in the Cross is safety from enemies; in the Cross is that peace which the world cannot give, in the Cross is courage, in the Cross is joy; in the Cross is the sum of all virtues, in the Cross the perfection of holiness. There is no salvation for the soul, no hope of eternal life in anything else. The Cross is the beginning and the end; and all who would live worthily must ﬁrst die with Christ; there is no other way to life and to real inward peace but the way of the Cross. [Imitatio Christi, Chap. xii.]
In times of persecution, those who had an experimental knowledge of this inward cruciﬁxion were able to suffer the most terrible outward inﬂictions without shrinking or fear, while many of those who knew nothing of this interior Calvary abjured the truth to save their lives. Many instances are on record of such who afterwards — when they had learned to tread this royal road — came forward of their own will and gave up their bodies to ﬁre and death.
How much light this neglect of an experimental knowledge throws also on the doleful, shadowed death-beds of unsanctiﬁed Christians! When we have learned the blessedness of dying with Him, both to the ﬂesh with its affections and lusts, and to the deceitful world, we shall know nothing in our last hours of the pains of death which those experience whose carnal hearts cling to carnal things. With this experimental knowledge of the power of the Cross in its relation to indwelling sin, we shall face that death which can only touch the outward, without any fear, and as cheerfully put off the body as we put off our clothes. We fear the great death so little, because, for Christ’s sake, we have loved death with Him so well.
In physical cruciﬁxion there were three stages. The criminal was ﬁrst arraigned, found guilty, sentenced to death, and in many cases visited with marks of hatred and contempt. Then he was nailed to the cross, and ﬁnally he died. These three stages illustrate the experience of this inward cruciﬁxion. First the old nature must be arraigned and sentenced, for it is not likely that death to the old Adam nature will be appropriated, until we have clearly seen it to be deserving of death. Then this enemy, which is both God’s and ours, must be given over into the hands of the Holy Spirit. He will not undertake this work without our consent and co-operation. “If ye through the spirit do make to die the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. viii. 13). The law of death in our sinful members is only another form of the law of life in Christ. It is the same Spirit who both killeth and quickeneth.
Though it is said most expressly that “we have cruciﬁed the ﬂesh,” it is not said that the moral effects of this cruciﬁxion are by any act of ours. That is the sole work of the Divine Spirit. It is His breath which withers the fruits of evil springing out of our sinful nature; it is his condemning word that blights the tree of evil in us unto its root. He will watch the enemy within us, ready to inﬂict upon it the last stroke that shall ﬁnally dispatch it. We must not doubt that He will ﬁnish the work He has begun in us. Cruciﬁxion is not death; but it is unto death, and death will ﬁnally be its result. If we do our part and spare not our affections and lusts; if by identifying faith we reckon the sinning Adam as cruciﬁed, and watch, and pray, and wait in fervent expectation, we shall see the end. And we shall see it in this life, for there is no work of sanctiﬁcation beyond the grave; and surely there is no necessary connection between the death of the body of sin and the death of the physical body. The Holy Ghost will cry over our cruciﬁed ﬂesh, with all its affections and lusts, stilled and extinguished for ever. It is ﬁnished. [Dr. W. B. Pope, Sermons and Addresses, p. 302]
The way of the Cross is certainly the way of death with Christ. The stoning among the Hebrews, the guillotine of the French, the gallows of the English, and the cross of the old Roman times, as instruments of capital punishment, all mean death. If at the outset of this deeper experience we listen to the voices of the tempters, and allow our faith to falter, we cannot expect to know this complete and glorious deliverance. But if having had a vision of the loathsomeness of the old Adam nature, and of its power to prevent the incoming and consequent outﬂowing of the risen life of Jesus, we refuse for a moment to listen to its pleadings to be allowed to come down from the Cross and so save itself, we shall ourselves be saved to the uttermost.
The Jews were not content with blows and buffetings and scourgings; these were but the forerunners of death, and we may well beware of attempting to “run with the hare and hunt with the hounds,” or, in other language, to make a pretense of cruciﬁxion with Christ, while at the same time we are secretly parleying with the enemy. We shall not parley if we resolutely remember that to do so is to prolong the power of “the old man,” and so defeat the purpose of Jesus Christ, who was manifested not to buffet or maim, but to “destroy the works of the devil,” and only by that destruction can we fully know what real marriage union with Jesus means.
Hence it follows that our shrinking from the way of the Cross, and our fainting on that way, even when we have begun to tread it, arises from ignorance of the blessedness to which this pathway leads. The most joyous moment in the life of the bride ought to be the moment when she loses her own name and self-dependence at the marriage-altar, taking her husband’s name instead of her own, and merges her life in his; and the most blissful moment in our life ought to be that in which we, by taking up our cross, renounce our right to self-ownership, and begin to reckon ourselves dead to self, to sin, and to the world, through the Cross of Jesus Christ.
“Oh, sacred union with the Perfect Mind,
Transcendent bliss, which Thou alone canst give;
How blest are they this Pearl of Price who ﬁnd,
And dead to earth, have learnt in Thee to live.
“Thus in Thine arms of love, O God, I lie,
Lost, and forever lost to all but Thee.
My happy soul, since it hath learnt to die,
Hath found new life in Thine Inﬁnity.
“Go then, and learn this lesson of the Cross,
And tread the way that saints and prophets trod:
Who, counting life and self and all things loss,
Have found in inward death the life of God.”