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ameliorated, and is being daily more and more ameliorated, by the elevation of their moral nature through the Gospel, and through spiritual grace; and we may well believe that infinite possibilities in this respect still remain, which God designs us to realize in the exercise, under that spiritual influence, of our natural powers. He would have us exert ourselves in all ways to the utmost, according to His own lesson in one of His miracles, Gathering up the fragments that nothing be lost.' But what a supreme blessing to be assured that He is ever with us, to bless and to complete every effort that we can make!

The law laid down by the Apostle applies to our whole career. God will not protect us from all temptation, nor deliver us at one stroke from the evils which we have brought upon ourselves. But He is ever near, as with the disciples in the storm, to ensure that we shall not be overwhelmed ; He is faithful, and will not suffer us to be tempted above that we are able, but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that we may be able to bear it.'

Under His guidance, and with His aid, a way of deliverance from all evils is ever open to us. If we have failed to realize it, let us ask ourselves how far we have appealed to Him with the faith which is exhibited in those examples of His saving power which St. Matthew here brings before us. The rule of His working has ever been,

'As thou hast believed, so be it done unto thee.' All things-all things necessary for our spiritual health, and for our physical welfare also, so far as the latter is compatible with the former--are still, as ever, possible to him that believeth; and let us pray, at the conclusion of such meditations, Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief.'

LECTURE VI

THE PASSION AND DEATH OF OUR LORD

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” — Rom. iii. 25, 26.

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THE history of our Saviour's Passion is a subject which must be approached at any time with feelings of deep apprehension; and we must above all things feel reluctant to bring its sacred and solemn associations into connexion with discussions which have anything of a controversial nature. At the same time it would be impracticable to form a just view of the general character of the Gospel narratives without considering that history, were it only in consequence of the large space in them which it occupies. On an average, the narrative of the Passion occupies not less than one-tenth of the four Gospels, while of the rest of St. John's Gospel a great portion may be said to lead up to it. The character, therefore, of the evangelical narratives

THE PASSION AND DEATH OF OUR LORD

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on this subject must go very far to determine their general credibility, and must afford no inadequate measure of the power with which they have apprehended and presented to us the essential elements of our Lord's life and work.

Now it is very remarkable, from this point of view, that there is practically no difference of opinion as to the credibility, in all substantial points, of this momentous portion of the story of the Gospels. Thus Dr. Hase, already referred to as one of the most distinguished and venerable of the theologians of Germany, and sufficiently rationalistic to hold very sceptical conclusions as to our Lord's Resurrection and Ascension, says that in respect of this period of our Lord's life, all four Gospels go side by side with each other, and exhibit in their variations only the various sides and conceptions of the same occurrence; and that up to the hour of our Lord's death, all is narrated with the particularity with which men are wont to preserve the memory of the last moments of a beloved and great man.* This result is the more remarkable because there are some real difficulties in point of chronological harmony in this part of the narrative, as, for instance, with respect to the evening on which the Lord's Supper was instituted. But it is

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* Geschichte Jesu, $ 92, p. 525; Leipzig, 1876.

felt that the narrative in each Gospel bears the most unmistakeable marks of truth, and that no such difficulties of detail, which are probably only due to our own ignorance of some reconciling facts, can affect their authority.

In fact, by a sort of unconscious agreement, however men may dispute the truth of other parts of the Gospels, they tacitly assume the truth of the story of the Passion; and among unbelievers, no less than believers, Jesus Christ is regarded as having suffered the martyrdom which the evangelists describe, and as having suffered it for the reasons which they allege. It would seem there is something in the intense reality of the narrative which compels belief, and makes men feel instinctively that the narrators are telling the simple and terrible truth. The perfect simplicity of the narration, and yet its revelation of depths of sorrow and suffering, and at the same time of the loftiest truth and majesty, in our Lord—all this is felt, and is practically confessed, to be beyond the power of any iuvention. The absence of a single false note, of a word or a comment, inconsistent with the awful character of the scene, compels men to acknowledge that they are in the presence of absolute realities.

There is one other mark of complete sincerity and truthfulness in the narration which deserves particular attention, and which has been forcibly

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