Take two planks of common wood, nail one across the other, and what do you have? A gruesome object, a perpendicular couch of horror, a death-beam for impaling an outlaw.
Crosses have caught on their fierce arms some of the worst men in history. Killers, renegades, robbers, have stained the ugly beams with their blood. Hard-hearted Romans turned away their eyes when they saw those death-sticks growing like a forest on the Appian Way. And the Scripture of Israel cried, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree!”
Imagine a man holding up a hangman’s noose and saying, “This is the sign of my faith!” Think of wearing a scaffold on a golden chain. Incredible! Yet an execution-beam is the sign borne by Christians. This death-piece became a symbol of life, “towering o’er the wrecks of time.” It glitters on a million altars in a million churches. A cynical world traveler once pointed toward the cross and cried half angrily, “The sun never sets on that thing!”
On this side of Calvary the cross is a glorious object. On that wretched hill it underwent a metamorphosis, changing from an emblem of death to an emblem of life. Out of ah execution has come a consciousness of pardon for millions. Out of agony have arisen uncountable songs of joy.
Actually, the cross had nothing to do with this strange thing that happened. At times, perhaps, the Church has spoken as though the cross itself effected something tremendous. The cross is a stick of wood. It is an instrument of destruction. Anybody could die on it, and many did in those tormented times when Caesar ruled the world. The sight of some groaning wretch spiked to the tree was common.
Crosses cannot save men; they kill men. Had there not been a certain Man in the world, the cross would still ...1
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