WHEN the Portuguese traders, following the trail of the great explorer, Vasco da Gama, settled on the south coast of China, they built a massive Cathedral on a hill-crest overlooking the harbour. But a violent typhoon proved too severe, and three centuries ago the great building fell—all except the front wall. That ponderous façade has stood as an enduring monument, while high on its triangular top, clean cut against the sky, and defying rain, lightning and typhoon, is a great bronze cross. When Sir John Bowring, then governor of Hong Kong, visited Macao in 1825, he was so impressed by the scene that he wrote the famous hymn beginning:
"In the Cross of Christ I glory,
Towering o'er the wrecks of time,
All the light of sacred story
Gathers round its head sublime."
The builders of that ancient cathedral are forgotten, but the cross they reared in memory of the Crucified remains. China has seen stupendous changes, old institutions have crumbled and dynasties disappeared, but the Cross still stands. "A great ruined wall on a misty hill-top; birds nestling on its hideous gargoyles; the sea and the mountains and the sky of China seen through its gaping doors and windows; and over all the Cross, changing desolation to majesty." So has it been in all lands and in all ages.
The missionary among Moslems (to whom the Cross of Christ is a stumbling-block and the atonement foolishness) is driven daily to deeper meditation on this mystery of redemption and to a stronger conviction that here is the very heart of our message and our mission. The secret of the missionary passion.
If the Cross of Christ is anything to the mind, it is surely everything—the most profound reality and the sublimest mystery. One comes to realize that literally all the wealth and glory of the gospel centres here. The Cross is the pivot as well as the centre of New Testament thought. It is the exclusive mark of the Christian faith, the symbol of Christianity and its cynosure.
The more unbelievers deny its crucial character, the more do believers find in it the key to the mysteries of sin and suffering. We rediscover the apostolic emphasis on the Cross when we read the gospel with Moslems. We find that although the offence of the Cross remains, its magnetic power is irresistible.
The following chapters are the result of meditation on the passion of our Lord and His Death on the Cross in the midst of men who deny the historicity of the crucifixion and the necessity of the atonement. But the Moslem is not alone in his denial. The message of the Cross has always been an outrage and a scandal, a superfluity or foolishness to the worldly-wise. Yet it is Christ on the Cross who will finally draw all men to Himself. Under the shadow of the Cross is rest and peace. The Glory of the Cross is as real as its Shame; and to meditate on the shame is to see the glory. The Cross interprets sin and righteousness and love. It is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Its shadow is the longest shadow in the world, because it fell even on the Resurrection morning. "He showed them His hands and His side." Did He ever show them to you? Then were the disciples glad when they saw the scars of the Risen Lord. "Far be it from me to glory save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ through which the world hath been crucified unto me and I unto the world."
"There was a knight of Bethlehem,
His wealth was tears and sorrows;
His men-at-arms were little lambs;
His trumpeters were sparrows.
His castle was a wooden cross
On which He hung on high;
His helmet was a crown of thorns
Whose crest did touch the sky."
SAMUEL M. ZWEMER.
"As there is only One God so there can be only one Gospel. If God has really done something in Christ on which the salvation of the world depends, and if He has made it known, then it is a Christian duty to be intolerant of everything which ignores, denies, or explains it away. The man who perverts it is the worst enemy of God and men; and it is not bad temper or narrow-mindedness in St. Paul which explains this vehement language (Gal. i. 8), it is the jealousy of God which has kindled in a soul redeemed by the death of Christ a corresponding jealousy for the Saviour. Intolerance like this is an essential element in the true religion. Intolerance in this sense has its counterpart in comprehension; it is when we have the only gospel, and not till then, that we have the gospel for all." — JAMES DENNEY in The Death of Christ.