"Follow the Christ, the King," sings the Poet. "Yea, Lord, we would follow Thee. In the Cross of Christ we glory," we answer cheerfully. Were ever such vain words uttered so blithely? Yes. Back across the centuries we hear them: "Give to sit one on the right hand and one on the left hand when Thou comest into Thy Kingdom." That is the "following" we wish and expect—to thrones of glory. The cross we "glory" in is one that was erected that we might escape crucifixion. But the answer of long ago is repeated every day. "Are ye able to drink of the cup that I drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with ?" For, as an old writer says: "Christ and His Cross part at Heaven's door," but never before.
In this sense all men do follow the Christ, the difference between them being that some do it willingly, voluntarily, even as he offered himself; others follow not knowing the road they tread. For in the realm of the spiritual, as of the physical, there is consciousness and self-consciousness. And in what did the Cross of Christ consist? Not in the transverse beams of wood on which the Roman soldiers nailed him. Probably it consisted of many things, but in all that bitter brew of suffering was there an ingredient more bitter than loneliness? From the time when his brethren counted him mad; through the stupid misunderstandings and low ideals of his disciples; through the lonely anguish of Gethsemane; up to that supreme hour of hours when he thought himself deserted not only by followers and friends, but by the Father also, was he not always, inevitably, alone? And loneliness is universal. Some are acutely conscious of it; others hardly, or not at all. But it is always true for each that while the outer court of the Temple of Life may be filled with laughter and song, in the Holy of Holies the soul dwells ever alone, save for the Father. Many live largely in the outer court, and so seem anesthetized to the reality, but some day they too will become aware of their loneliness. For it is an undubitable fact that, try how we will, we can neither admit any to the secret chamber of our own life, nor can we enter another's. Those with widest knowledge and fullest sympathy get to the door, but no further. Sometimes, when the pain of the loneliness is too hard, we try to open the door, but our nearest and dearest cannot enter. They cannot understand us, nor we them. For each soul has its own cipher, and none but the Father holds the Key. This was Christ's comfort, and must be ours. Alone, yet not alone, for the Father is with us.
So, consciously or unconsciously, we follow the Christ, the King, and we cannot tread that pathway of sorrow even unconsciously without learning many things; but it is only when we willingly hold out our hands for the cup, and bow our heads for the baptism, that we become self-conscious sons of God, or understand something, however dimly, of the Cross of Christ.
Into a dark tremendous sea of cloud,
It is but for a time; I press God's lamp
Close to my breast; its splendor, soon or late,
Will pierce the gloom: I shall emerge one day.
Pain only arises when there is discord in the nature of the sacrificer.
Without the experience of sorrow, strength could not be developed.
Without the experience of sorrow, sympathy could not be evolved.
Mends not her slowest pace for prayers or cries.