By Beverly Carradine
The Saviour said while on earth, that if He should be lifted up, He would draw all men unto Him. The reference was to His crucifixion, and its effect on the hearts and lives of men.
That Christ drew multitudes after Him before His death, and still vaster crowds today, as no one else ever did or can, is an indisputable fact. The question of interest is, What is the secret of this influence, the explanation of this power?
One reason is to be found in the wonderfulness of His life.
But for the fact that the constant repetition in the home, Sunday-school and church of the Saviour's amazing history has familiarized the mind with their wonder, men would simply be overwhelmed at the narration. Born in a stable, cradled in a manger, raised in poverty, without the learning of the schools, and without social, political or ecclesiastical influence, He had nothing in a human way to help Him. On the other hand, He was constantly met with the bitterest opposition from Church and State, and at last put to a shameful death outside the city walls. Yet this same man, dying a felon's death at the age of thirty-three, has fastened upon himself the reverential gaze of all nations and ages, captured chronology, made men date all things from his birth, and become the moral standard of the world.
Where is there anything like this? Alexander, Caesar Mohammed, Napoleon, conquered with their swords. but this Man of Galilee said to His disciples, "Put up thy sword," would have no army, refused legions of angels, told His followers to expect ridicule, rejection and death, and trusted all to His perfect character, beneficent life and victorious death. The result has been that He is the central and loftiest figure in the world's history and thought today.
A second explanation of Christ's influence is found in His moral or spiritual beauty.
There is something about physical beauty which draws. Men turn aside to look at a charming object, whether it is a flower, statue, painting, or person. As there is such a thing as physical loveliness, so is there moral beauty as seen in character and life.
An individual who possesses one or more of the virtues and graces called love, truth, goodness, patience, purity, gentleness and kindness, is felt to be an attractive person, will be sought after, and stand high in the estimation of people. But Christ had them all, and in their superlative excellence. What men were in measure and part, He was in fulness, completeness and perfectness.
We have all seen a person who was truthful, but not kind; another who was pure, but not gentle; a third who was generous, but not patient; and a fourth who was loving, but not honorable. Frequently the soul, attracted by a feature of moral beauty in one, would find itself suddenly disappointed, pained and at times disgusted with a moral lack or blemish.
In Christ there is no such disappointment. He is beautiful all through. He has moral completeness and harmony. Every feature of a perfect character is in proper place, and the spiritual eye gazes delightedly on one who is at all times right, and who doeth all things well.
An additional striking feature of the Saviour's character was its harmony. There was an exquisite balance of faculty and attribute. Each duty was seen to be in just relation with other obligations. There was an utter absence of one-sidedness. He was morally symmetrical.
Then there was nothing spasmodic in His life, none of those swift transitions which so puzzle us in people. All of us know how our admiration and affection for worthy individuals have suffered great shocks from these very things. They would become hobbyists in doctrines and martinets in duty and discipline. They would burn and then freeze; spring forward and then fall back; assert with great heat some things, and soon after retract what they had said; give counsel in different ways in as many days, and altogether try the patience and shake the confidence of their acquaintances and friends.
We once heard a lady say of a certain member of the family: "Just as I begin to have regard and respect for him, he does something to completely undo the good impression." all of us have had such acquaintances, and may have furnished material ourselves for similar pain to our friends.
But when we look to Christ, we see nothing of this kind to confuse and distress us. He is steadfastness, unchangeableness, fixedness, and faithfulness itself in the moral world. This, of course, appeals most powerfully to the soul, and constitutes an unspeakable charm in the life of the Saviour.
A third power of Christ over the human heart is found in His death for us.
The story of the cross will never get old or lose its power. Nothing has ever been done which so moves men as the tragedy on Calvary. Goodness died for Wickedness; an innocent man suffered for the guilty. Then, such a death as it was!
The description of the crucifixion has been given countless millions of times, and yet men find themselves listening with the same interest and awe as if for the first time. The words, "He died for us," go to the soul like an arrow; and the thought, "He died for me," has softened myriads of hearts, and sent the tears streaming down the face like a torrent.
We have known children brought into the world at the cost of the young mother's life. In after years, when grown, they could never mention the name of the domestic martyr without their eyes filling.
In Russia a nobleman was in a sleigh with his family, when they were pursued by wolves. When it became evident that they would be overtaken, the servant, who was driving, quietly handed the reins to his master, and before be could be prevented, leaped from the vehicle, and in a moment was covered and destroyed by the ravenous beasts. This delay of the animals for a few minutes enabled the nobleman to escape with his family. In recognition of the sacrifice a monument was erected by them to the memory of their preserver, and they never spoke of him afterwards without their eyes filling with tears.
We had a far greater danger on our track. The wolves of an eternal night were after us, and Hell was yawning for our souls. But Jesus, seeing our peril, leaped down before us, and with the monsters of Death and Hell surrounding and covering Him, died for us. Who wonders that millions of eyes overflow every Sabbath at the Old Story of the Cross, and that the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper is felt to be a perpetual monument of the wonderful act, never failing to solemnize the mind, while the heart has melted times without number under the solemn strain and words of the Communion hymn:
"He dies, the Friend of sinners dies; Lo, Salem's daughters weep around; A solemn darkness veils the skies, A sudden trembling shakes the ground.
"Come, saints, and drop a tear or two For him who groaned beneath your load; He shed a thousand drops for you, A thousand drops of richer blood."
A fourth power of Christ is His personal love for each one of us.
With our little group of friends, and small home circle, it passes our comprehension to see how the Lord can love with a special affection each one of the myriads of earth. But He is God, and such a thing so difficult to us is possible and even easy to Him.
All of us know the peculiar influence exercised over us by one who loves us. It is impossible to keep from them. To be told that a certain person has expressed regard and admiration for us is to invest him at once with interest. Their love for us draws us to them. So when we read in the Word that God so loved us as to give His Son, that Christ so loved us as to give Himself for us; that in addition, He regards us with a personal affection; that the solitary wandering sheep in the mountains is remembered, followed, sought and found with rejoicing; the heart is at once awakened from its moral stupor and despair, and is drawn toward God. When the thought obtains entrance in the mind of the sinner that Jesus loves him, even him, then salvation is begun. When in the Christian life the Holy Spirit repeatedly impresses the same fact upon the believer's soul, that soul becomes conscious of an increasing strength, and closer walk with God as the result.
The great burden of the gospel message and ministry is to declare this wonderful truth to men; that in spite of ingratitude, unworthiness, sinfulness, backsliding and every form of faithlessness, Jesus loves them. It is this that breaks the heart at last, and draws men to Him.
We once sat by the deathbed of a man who had been an infidel all his life. At the age of sixty, and after a sickness of months, and only a few days before his death, God forgave his sins. His sorrow over his misspent life was something most affecting to witness. One sentence, however, above all others, he kept repeating with floods of tears. He did not seem to be saying it to be heard, but it was the expression of an inward thought which continually pressed upon him. "Oh," he said, "to think that the Saviour loved such a sinner as I have been."
We never read aloud the chapter on the crucifixion without observing the breathless attention of the audience. and we firmly believe that those grand old hymns which depict that amazing scene of divine love and mercy could not be sung before the roughest crowd without solemnizing and silencing the throng.
It is said that a missionary once saved his life from the hands of a band of African natives by relating the story of the cross. They were about to put him to death when he secured a temporary suspension of the sentence by the statement that he wished to tell them a story. He told them in their own dialect of the marvellous birth of Jesus, His peril at the hands of Herod, His holy, beautiful, beneficent life, the hatred of His enemies, His betrayal, arrest, scourging, mocking and crucifixion. Their interest in the narration deepened every moment. and when at last the preacher told them of Christ's prayer for His murderers as they nailed Him to the cross; His thoughtful care of others in the midst of His agony; His patient endurance of human wrong and physical suffering; how the heavens were robed in black, and men continued to mock; how He extended mercy to the thief at His side, and bowing his head accepted death to save a ruined world, with the cry, "It is finished," and "Father, into thy hands I commend my Spirit;" sighs, tears and groans swelled the breast, filled the eyes, and burst from the lips of the absorbed listeners. It is needless to say that the missionary was not killed.
A Fifth cause for Christ's power over men is the fact that He holds in His hand blessed gifts for men.
It is not simply that He has pardon for the sinner, but purity for the believer. This is He which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost and fire. This is not only the one who casts out devils, but brings in the angels, and, better still, the Holy Ghost. He is the one who is to crown us at the last day, exalt us to thrones, and give us authority over cities and kingdoms.
This fact alone seems sufficient to arrest the thought of men and fasten the gaze of the world on such a being.
In the political and military realms, when a man has position and power, and so has offices to distribute, he becomes naturally the centre of observation, and draws men to him. If a man had ten thousand dollars in his pocket for the reader, one can readily see how the eye would be fastened on the individual, and the constant effort made not to lose him in the crowd.
But these promotions and gifts are nothing, compared to what Christ has for the soul They are not only richer and nobler in character, but eternal in duration. Hence it is that as men hear of and believe in the Son of God, His drawing power steadily increases, and they not only come to Him, but gladly leave all to follow Him.
The old cry is still uttered, and still rings down the ages, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." And another, "I appoint unto you a kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me; that ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
And still another, "Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? Know ye not that we shall judge angels?"
And yet another, "Verily I say unto you, that ye which have followed me in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones; and every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren or sisters, or father or mother, or wife or children, or lands, for my sake, shall receive an hundred fold, and shall inherit everlasting life."
Then comes the summing up, "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and His Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever, amen."
Who wonders that as men read about this wonderful Christ, learn of His coming kingdom, and hear of His glorious rewards, that they fix their eyes upon Him, give Him their hearts, surrender their lives, and patiently, faithfully follow Him to the end?