Up from the Country, and Pressed Into the Service
“And they compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.”— Mark xv. 21.
JOHN tells us that our Saviour went forth bearing his cross (John xix. 17). We are much indebted to John for inserting that fact. The other evangelists mention Simon the Cyrenian as bearing the cross of Christ; but John, who often fills up gaps which are left by the other three, tells us that Jesus set out to Calvary carrying his own cross. Our Lord Jesus came out from Pilate’s palace laden with his cross, but he was so extremely emaciated and so greatly worn by the night of the bloody sweat, that the procession moved too slowly for the rough soldiers, and therefore they took the cross from their prisoner and laid it upon Simon; or possibly they laid the long end upon the shoulder of the strong countryman, while the Saviour still continued to bear in part his cross till he came to the place of doom. It is well that we should be told that the Saviour bore his cross; for if it had not been so, objectors would have had ground for disputation. I hear them say: You admit that one of the most prominent types, in the Old Testament, of the sacrifice of the Son of God, was Abraham’s offering up his son Isaac; now, Abraham laid the wood upon Isaac his son, and not upon a servant. Should not therefore the Son of God bear the cross himself? Had not our Lord carried his cross, there would have been a flaw in his fulfilment of the type; therefore, the Saviour must bear the wood when he goes forth to be offered up as a sacrifice. One of the greatest of English preachers has well reminded us that the fulfilment of this type appeared to have been in eminent jeopardy, since, at the very first, our Lord’s weakness must have been apparent, and the reason which led to the laying of the cross upon the Cyrenian might have prevented our Lord’s carrying the cross at all. If the soldiers had a little earlier put the cross upon Simon, which they might very naturally have done, then the prophecy had not been fulfilled; but God has the minds of men so entirely at his control, that even in the minutest circumstance he can order all things so as to complete the merest jots and tittles of the prophecy. Our Lord was made to be, in all points, an Isaac, and therefore we see him going forth bearing the wood of the burnt-offering. Thus you see that it was important that Jesus should for a while bear his own cross.
But it was equally instructive that some one else should be made a partaker of the burden; for it has always been part of the divine counsel that for the salvation of men from sin the Lord should be associated with his church. So far as atonement is concerned, the Lord hath trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with him; but as far as the conversion of the world is concerned, and its rescue from the power of error and wickedness, Christ is not alone. We are workers together with God. We are ourselves to be in the hands of God part bearers of the sorrow and travail by which men are to be delivered from the bondage of sin and Satan, and brought into the liberty of truth and righteousness. Hence it became important that in the bearing of the cross, though not in the death upon it, there should be yoked with the Christ one who should follow close behind him. To bear the cross after Jesus is the office of the faithful. Simon the Cyrenian is the representative of the whole church of God, and of each believer in particular. Often had Jesus said, “Except a man take up his cross daily, and follow me, he cannot be my disciple”; and now at last he embodies that sermon in an actual person. The disciple must be as his Master: he that would follow the Crucified must himself bear the cross: this we see visibly set forth in Simon of Cyrene with the cross of Jesus laid upon his shoulder.
“Shall Simon bear the cross alone,
And all the rest go free?
No; there’s a cross for every one,
And there’s a cross for me.”
The lesson to each one of us is to take up our Lord’s cross without delay, and go with him, without the camp, bearing his reproach. That many among this vast and mixed congregation may imitate Simon is the anxious desire of my heart. With holy expectancy I gaze upon this throng collected from all parts of the earth, and I long to find in it some who will take my Lord’s yoke upon them this day.
I. I will begin with this first remark, that UNEXPECTED PERSONS ARE OFTEN CALLED TO CROSS-BEARING. Like Simon, they are impressed into the service of Christ. Our text says: “They compel one Simon a Cyrenian, who passed by, coming out of the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to bear his cross.” Simon did not volunteer, but was forced into this work of cross-bearing. It would seem from another evangelist that he speedily yielded to the impressment, and lifted the burden heartily; but at first he was compelled. A rude authority was exercised by the guard; who being upon the Governor’s business acted with high-handed rigour, and forced whomsoever they pleased to do their bidding. By the exercise of such irresponsible power they compelled a passing stranger to carry Christ’s cross. It was specially singular that the man to have this honour was not Peter, nor James, nor John, nor any one of the many who had for years listened to the Redeemer’s speech; but it was a stranger from Northern Africa, who had been in no way connected with the life or teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
Notice, first, that he was an unknown man. He was spoken of “as one Simon.” Simon was a very common name among the Jews, almost as common as John in our own country. This man was just “one Simon” — an individual who need not be further described. But the providence of God had determined that this obscure individual, this certain man, or I might better say, this uncertain man, should be selected to the high office of cross-bearer to the Son of God. I have an impression upon my mind that there is “one Simon” here this morning, who has to bear Christ’s cross from this time forward. I feel persuaded that I am right. That person is so far unknown that most probably he does not recognise a single individual in all this throng, neither does anybody in this assembly know anything of Am: certainly the preacher does not. He is one John, one Thomas, or one William; or perhaps, in the feminine, she is one Mary, one Jane, one Maggie. Friend, nobody knows you save our Father who is in heaven, and he has appointed you to have fellowship with his Son. I shall roughly describe you as “one Simon,” and leave the Holy Spirit to bring you into your place and service. But this “one Simon” was a very particular “one Simon.” I lay the emphasis where there might seem to be no need of any: he was one whom God knew, and chose, and loved, and set apart for this special service. In a congregation like the present, there may be somebody whom our God intends to use for his glory during the rest of his life. That person sits in the pew and listens to what I am saying, and perhaps as yet he does not begin to enquire whether he is that “one Simon,” that one person; and yet it is so, and ere this sermon is ended, he shall know that the call to bear the cross is for him. Many more unlikely things than this have happened in this house of prayer. I pray that many a man may go out from this house a different man from the man he was when he entered it an hour ago. That man Saul, that great persecutor of the church, afterwards became such a mighty preacher of the gospel that people exclaimed with wonder, “There is a strange alteration in this man.” “Why,” said one, “when I knew him he was a Pharisee of the Pharisees. He was as bigoted a man as ever wore a phylactery, and he hated Christ and Christians so intensely that he could never persecute the Church sufficiently.” “Yes,” replied another, “it was so; but he has had a strange twist. They say that he was going down to Damascus to hunt out the disciples, and something happened; we do not know exactly what it was, but evidently it gave him such a turn that he has never been himself since. In fact, he seems turned altogether upside down, and the current of his life is evidently reversed: he lives enthusiastically for that faith which once he destroyed.” This speedy change happened to “one Saul of Tarsus.” There were plenty of Sauls in Israel, but upon this one Saul electing love had looked in the counsels of eternity; for that Saul redeeming love had shed its heart’s blood; and in that Saul effectual grace wrought mightily. Is there another Saul here to-day? The Lord grant that he may now cease to kick against the pricks, and may we soon hear of him, “Behold he prayeth.” I feel convinced the counterpart of that “one Simon” is in this house at this moment, and my prayer goes up to God, and I hope it is attended with the prayers of many thousands besides, that he may at once submit to the Lord Jesus.
It did not seem likely that Simon should bear the cross of Christ, for he was a stranger who had newly come up from the country. He probably knew little or nothing of what had been taking place in Jerusalem; for he had come from another continent. He was “one Simon a Cyrenian;” and I suppose that Cyrene could not have been less than eight hundred miles from Jerusalem. It was situated in what is now called Tripoli, in Northern Africa, in which place a colony of Jews had been formed long before. Very likely he had come in a Roman galley from Alexandria to Joppa, and there had been rowed through the surf, and landed in time to reach Jerusalem for the Passover. He had long wanted to come to Jerusalem; he had heard the fame of the temple and of the city of his fathers; and he had longed to see the great Assembly of the tribes, and the solemn Paschal feast. He had travelled all those miles, he had hardly yet got the motion of the ship out of his brain, and it had never entered into his head that he should be impressed by the Roman guard, and made to assist at an execution. It was a singular providence that he should come into the city at the moment of the turmoil about Jesus, and should have crossed the street just as the sad procession started on its way to Golgotha. He passed by neither too soon nor too late; he was on the spot as punctually as if he had made an appointment to be there; and yet, as men speak, it was all by mere chance. I cannot tell how many providences had worked together to bring him there at the nick of time, but so the Lord would have it, and so it came about. He, a man there in Cyrene, in Northern Africa, must at a certain date, at the tick of the clock, be at Jerusalem, in order that he might help to carry the cross up to Mount Calvary; and he was there. Ah! my dear friend, I do not know what providences have been at work to bring you here to-day; perhaps very strange ones. If a little something had occurred you had not taken this journey; it only needed a small dust to turn the scale, and you would have been hundreds of miles from this spot, in quite another scene from this. Why you are here you do not yet know, except that you have come to listen to the preacher, and join the throng. But God knoweth why he hath brought you here. I trust it will be read in the annals of the future:
“Thus the eternal mandate ran,
Almighty grace arrest that man.”
God has brought you here, that on this spot, by the preaching of the gospel, you may be compelled to bear the cross of Jesus. I pray it may be so. “One Simon a Cyrenian, coming out of the country,” is here after a long journey, and this day he will begin to live a higher and a better life.
Further, notice, Simon had come for another purpose. He had journeyed to Jerusalem with no thought of bearing the cross of Jesus. Probably Simon was a Jew far removed from the land of his fathers, and he had made a pilgrimage to the holy city to keep the passover. Every Jew loved to be present at Jerusalem at the Paschal feast. So, to put it roughly, it was holiday-time; it was a time for making an excursion to the capital; it was a season for making a journey and going up to the great city which was “beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth.” Simon from far off Cyrene must by all means keep the feast at Jerusalem. Mayhap he had saved his money for months, that he might pay his fare to Joppa; and he had counted down the gold freely for the joy which he had in going to the city of David, and the temple of his God.
He was come for the passover, and for that only; and he would be perfectly satisfied to go home when once the feast was over, and once he had partaken of the lamb with the tribes of Israel. Then he could say throughout the rest of his life, “I, too, was once at the great feast of our people, when we commemorated the coming up out of Egypt.” Brethren, we propose one way, but God hath other propositions. We say, “I will step in and hear the preacher,” but God means that the arrows of his grace shall stick fast in our hearts. Many and many a time with no desire for grace men have listened to the gospel, and the Lord has been found of them that sought him not. I heard of one who cared little for the sermon till the preacher chanced to use that word “eternity,” and the hearer was taken prisoner by holy thoughts, and led to the Saviour’s feet. Men have stepped into places of worship even with evil designs, and yet the purpose of grace has been accomplished; they came to scoff, but they remained to pray. Some have been cast by the providence of God into positions where they have met with Christian men, and a word of admonition has been blessed to them. A lady was one day at an evening party, and there met with Caesar Malan, the famous divine of Geneva, who, in his usual manner, enquired of her whether she was a Christian. She was startled, surprised, and vexed, and made a short reply to the effect that it was not a question she cared to discuss; whereupon, Mr. Malan replied with great sweetness, that he would not persist in speaking of it, but he would pray that she might be led to give her heart to Christ, and become a useful worker for him. Within a fortnight she met the minister again, and asked him how she must come to Jesus. Mr. Malan’s reply was, “Come to him just as you are.” That lady gave herself up to Jesus: it was Charlotte Elliott, to whom we owe that precious hymn—
“Just as I am— without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me come to thee—
O Lamb of God, I come.”
It was a blessed thing for her that she was at that party, and that the servant of God from Geneva should have been there, and should have spoken to her so faithfully. Oh for many a repetition of the story “of one Simon a Cyrenian,” coming, not with the intent to bear the cross, but with quite another mind, and yet being enlisted in the cross-bearing army of the Lord Jesus!
I would have you notice, once more, that this man was at this particular time not thinking upon the subject at all, for he was at that time merely passing by. He had come up to Jerusalem, and whatever occupied his mind he does not appear to have taken any notice of the trial of Jesus, or of the sad end of it. It is expressly said that he “passed by.” He was not even sufficiently interested in the matter to stand in the crowd and look at the mournful procession. Women were weeping there right bitterly— the daughters of Jerusalem to whom the Master said, “Weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children”; but this man passed by. He was anxious to hurry away from so unpleasant a sight, and to get up to the temple.. He was quietly making his way through the crowd, eager to go about his business, and he must have been greatly surprised and distressed when a rough hand was laid upon him, and a stern voice said, “Shoulder that cross.” There was no resisting a Roman centurion when he gave command, and so the countryman meekly submitted, wishing, no doubt, that he were back in Cyrene tilling the ground. He must needs stoop his shoulder and take up a new burden, and tread in the footsteps of the mysterious personage to whom the cross belonged. He was only passing by, and yet he was enlisted and impressed by the Romans, and, as I take it, impressed by the grace of God for life; for whereas Mark says he was the father of Alexander and Rufus, it would seem that his sons were well known to the Christian people to whom Mark was writing. If his son was the same Rufus that Paul mentions, then he calls her “his mother and mine”; and it would seem that Simon’s wife and his sons became believers and partakers of the sufferings of Christ. His contact with the Lord in that strange compulsory way probably wrought out for him another and more spiritual contact which made him a true cross-bearer. O ye that pass by this day, draw nigh to Jesus! I have no wish to call your attention to myself, far from it; but I do ask your attention to my Lord. Though you only intended to slip into this tabernacle and slip out again, I pray that you may be arrested by a call from my Lord. I speak as my Lord’s servant, and I would constrain you to come to him. Stand where you are a while, and let me beg you to yield to his love, which even now would cast the bands of a man around you. I would compel you, by my Lord’s authority, to take up his cross and bear it after him. It would be strange, say you. Ay, so it might be, but it would be a glorious event. I remember Mr. Knill, speaking of his own conversion, used an expression which I should like to use concerning one of you. Here it is: “It was just a quarter past twelve, August 2nd, when twang went every harp in Paradise; for a sinner had repented.” May it be so with you. Oh that every harp in Paradise may now ring out the high praises of sovereign grace, as you now yield yourself to the great Shepherd and Bishop of souls! May that divine impressment which is imaged in the text by the compulsion of the Roman soldier take place in your case at this very moment; and may it be seen in your instance that unexpected persons are often called to be cross-bearers!
II. My second observation is—CROSS BEARING CAN STILL BE PRACTISED. Very briefly let me tell you in what ways the cross can still be carried.
First, and chiefly, by your becoming a Christian. If the cross shall take you up, you will take up the cross. Christ will be your hope, his death your trust, himself the object of your love. You never become a cross-bearer truly till you lay your burdens down at his feet who bore the cross and curse for you.
Next, you become a cross-bearer when you make an open avowal of the Lord Jesus Christ. Do not deceive yourselves— this is expected of each one of you if you are to be saved. The promise as I read it in the New Testament is not to the believer alone, but to the believer who confesses his faith. “He that with his heart believeth and with his mouth maketh confession of him shall be saved.” He saith, “He that confesseth me before men, him will I confess before my Father; but he that denieth me”— and from the connection it should seem to mean, he that does not confess me— “him will I deny before my Father which is in heaven.” To quote the inspired Scripture, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” There should be, there must be, the open avowal in Christ’s own way of the secret faith which you have in him. Now this is often a cross. Many people would like to go to heaven by an underground railway; secrecy suits them. They do not want to cross the channel; the sea is too rough; but when there is a tunnel made they will go to the fair country. My good people, you are cowardly, and I must quote to you a text which ought to sting your cowardice out of you: “But the fearful and unbelieving shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone.” I say no more, and make no personal applications; but, I beseech you, run no risks. Be afraid to be afraid. Be ashamed of being ashamed of Christ. Shame on that man who counts it any shame to say before assembled angels, and men, and devils, “I am a follower of Christ.” May you who have hitherto been secret followers of the crucified Lord become manifest cross-bearers! Do you not even now cry out, “Set down my name, sir”?
Further, some have to take up their cross by commencing Christian work. You live in a village where there is no gospel preaching: preach yourself. You are in a backwoods town where the preaching is very far from being such as God approves of: begin to preach the truth yourself. “Alas!” say you, “I should make a fool of myself.” Are you ashamed to be a fool for Christ? “Oh, but I should break down.” Break down: it will do you good, and perhaps you may break somebody else down. There is no better preaching in the world than that of a man who breaks down under a sense of unworthiness: if that breakdown communicates itself to other people, it may begin a revival. If you are choked by your earnestness others may become earnest too. Do you still murmur, “But I should get the ill-will of everybody”? For Christ’s sake could you not bear that? When the good monk said to Martin Luther, “Go thou home to thy cell and keep quiet,” why did not Martin take the advice? Why, indeed? “It is very bad for young people to be so forward; you will do a great deal of mischief, therefore be quiet, you Martin. Who are you to interfere with the great authorities? Be holy for yourself, and don’t trouble others. If you stir up a reformation thousands of good people will be burnt through you. Do be quiet.” Bless God, Martin did not go home, and was not quiet, but went about his Master’s business, and raised heaven and earth by his brave witness-bearing. Where are you, Martin, this morning? I pray God to call you out, and as you have confessed his name, and are his servant, I pray that he may make you bear public testimony for him, and tell out the saving, power of the Saviour’s precious blood. Come, Simon, I see you shrink; but the cross has to be carried; therefore bow your back. It is only a wooden cross, after all, and not an iron one. You can bear it: you must bear it. God help you.
Perhaps, too, some brother may have to take up his cross by bearing witness against the rampant sin which surrounds him. “Leave all those dirty matters alone; do not say a word about them. Let the people go to the devil, or else you will soil your white kid gloves.” Sirs, we will spoil our hands as well as our gloves, and we will risk our characters, if need be; but we will put down the devilry which now defiles London. Truly the flesh does shrink, and the purest part of our manhood shrinks with it, when we are compelled to bear open protest against sins which are done of men in secret. But, Simon, the Master may yet compel you to bear his cross in this respect, and if so, he will give you both courage and wisdom, and your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord.
Sometimes, however, the cross-bearing is of another and more quiet kind, and may be described as submission to providence. A young friend is saying, “For me to live at home I know to be my duty; but father is unkind, and the family generally impose upon me. I wish I could get away.” Ah! dear sister, you must bear Christ’s cross, and it may be the Lord would have you remain at home. Therefore bear the cross. A servant is saying, “I should like to be in a Christian family. I do not think I can stop where I am.” Perhaps, good sister, the Lord has put you where you are to be a light in a dark place. All the lamps should not be in one street, or what will become of the courts and alleys? It is often the duty of a Christian man to say, “I shall stop where I am and fight this matter through. I mean by character and example, with kindness and courtesy and love, to win this place for Jesus.” Of course the easy way is to turn monk and live quietly in a cloister, and serve God by doing nothing; or to turn nun and dwell in a convent, and expect to win the battle of life by running out of it. Is not this absurd? If you shut yourself away from this poor world, what is to become of it? You men and women that are Christians must stand up and stand out for Jesus where the providence of God has cast you: if your calling is not a sinful one, and if the temptations around you are not too great for you, you must “hold the fort” and never dream of surrender. If your lot is hard, look upon it as Christ’s cross, and bow your back to the load. Your shoulder may be raw at first, but you will grow stronger before long, for as your day your strength shall be. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth;” but it is good for a man to bear the cross in his old age as well as in his youth; in fact, we ought never to be quit of so blessed a burden. What wings are to a bird, and sails to a ship, that the cross becomes to a man’s spirit when he fully consents to accept it as his life’s beloved load. Truly did Jesus say, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Now, Simon, where are you? Shoulder the cross, man, in the name of God!
III. Thirdly, TO CROSS-BEARING THERE ARE NOBLE COMPULSIONS. Simon’s compulsion was the rough hand of the Roman legionary, and the gruff voice in the Latin tongue, “Shoulder that cross;” but we hear gentler voices which compel us this day to take up Christ’s cross.
The first compulsion is this— “the love of Christ constraineth us.” He has done all this for you; therefore by sweet but irresistible compulsion you are made to render him some return of love. Does not Jesus appear to you in a vision as you sit in this house? Do you not see that thorn-crowned head, that visage crimsoned with the bloody sweat, those hands and feet pierced with the nails? Does he not say to you pointedly, “I did all this for thee; what hast thou done for me”? Startled in your seat, you cover your face, and inwardly reply, “I will answer that question by the rest of my life. I will be first and foremost a servant of Jesus: not a trader first and a Christian next, but a Christian first and a business man afterwards.” You, my sister, must say, “I will live for Christ as a daughter, a wife, or a mother. I will live for my Lord; for he has given himself for me, and I am not my own, but bought with a price.”
The true heart will feel a compulsion arising from a second reflection, namely, the glory of a life spent for God and for his Christ. What is the life of a man who toils in business, makes money, becomes rich, and dies? It winds up with a paragraph in the Illustrated London News, declaring that he died worth so much: the wretch was not worth anything himself; his estate had value, he had none. Had he been worth anything he would have sent his money about the world doing good; but as a worthless steward he laid his Master’s stores in heaps to rot. The life of multitudes of men is self-seeking. It is ill for a man to live the life of swine. What a poor creature is the usual ordinary man! But a life spent for Jesus, though it involve cross-bearing, is noble, heroic, sublime. The mere earth-worm leads a dunghill life. A life of what is called pleasure is a mean, beggarly business. A life of keeping up respectability is utter slavery— as well be a horse in a pug-mill. A life wholly consecrated to Christ and his cross is life indeed; it is akin to the life of angels; ay, higher still, it is the life of God within the soul of man. O ye that have a spark of true nobility, seek to live lives worth living, worth remembering, worthy to be the commencement of eternal life before the throne of God.
Some of you ought to feel the cross coming upon your shoulders this morning when you think of the needs of those among whom you live. They are dying, perishing for lack of knowledge, rich and poor alike ignorant of Christ; multitudes of them wrapped up in self-righteousness. They are perishing, and those who ought to warn them are often dumb dogs that cannot bark. Do you not feel that you ought to deliver the sheep from the wolf? Have you no bowels of compassion? Are your hearts turned to steel? I am sure you cannot deny that the times demand of you earnest and forceful lives. No Christian man can now sit still without incurring awful guilt. Whether you live in London or in any other great town amidst reeking sin, or dwell in the country amidst the dense darkness which broods over many rural districts, you are under bonds to be up and doing. It may be a cross to you, but for Jesus’ sake you must uplift it, and never lay it down till the Lord calls you home.
Some of you should bear the cross of Christ because the cause of Christ is at a discount where you dwell. I delight in a man in whom the lordlier chivalry has found a congenial home. He loves to espouse the cause of truth in the cloudy and dark day. He never counts heads, but weighs arguments. When he settles down in a town he never enquires, “Where is the most respectable congregation? Where shall I meet with those who will advantage me in business?” No, he studies his conscience rather than his convenience. He hears one say, “There is a Nonconformist chapel, but it is down a back street. There is a Baptist church, but the members are nearly all poor, and no gentlefolk are among them. Even the evangelical church is down at the heel: the best families attend the high church.” I say he hears this, and his heart is sick of such talk. He will go where the gospel is preached, and nowhere else. Fine architecture has scant charms for him, and grand music is no part of his religion: if these are substitutes for the gospel, he abhors them. It is meanness itself for a man to forsake the truth for the sake of respectability. Multitudes who ought to be found maintaining the good old cause are recreant to their convictions, if indeed they ever had any. For this cause the true man resolves to stick to truth through thick and thin, and not to forsake her because her adherents are poor and despised. If ever we might temporize, that time is past and gone. I arrest yonder man this morning, who has long been a Christian, but has concealed half his Christianity in order to be thought respectable, or to escape the penalties of faithfulness. Come out from those with whom you are numbered, but with whom you are not united in heart. Be brave enough to defend A good cause against all comers; for the day shall come when he shall have honour for his guerdon who accepted dishonour that he might be true to his God, his Bible, and his conscience. Blessed be he that can be loyal to his Lord, cost him what it may— loyal even in those matters which traitors call little things. We would compel that Simon the Cyrenian this day to bear the cross, because there are so few to bear it in these degenerate days.
Besides, I may say to some of you, you ought to bear the cross because you know you are not satisfied; your hearts are not at rest. You have prospered in worldly things, but you are not happy; you have good health, but you are not happy; you have loving friends, but you are not happy. There is but one way of getting rest to the heart, and that is, to come to Jesus. That is his word: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” If after this you need a further rest for other and higher longings, then you must come again to the same Saviour, and hearken to his next word: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Some of you professors have not yet found perfect rest, and the reason is because you have looked to the cross for pardon, but you have never taken to cross-bearing as an occupation. You are hoping in Christ but not living for Christ. The finding of rest unto your soul will come to you in having something to do or to bear for Jesus. “Take my yoke upon you: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”
There are many ways, then, of bearing the cross for Christ, and there are many reasons why some here present should begin at once to carry load.
IV. To close: bear with me a minute or two wile I say that CORSS-BEARING IS A BLESSED OCCUPATION. I feel sure that Simon found it so. Let me mention certain blessings which must have attended the special service of Simon. First, it brought him into Christ’s company. When they compelled him to bear his cross, he was brought close to Jesus. If it had not been for that compulsion he might have gone his way, or might have been lost in the crowd; but now he is in the inner circle, near to Jesus. For the first time in his life he saw that blessed form, and as he saw it I believe his heart was enamoured with it. As they lifted the cross on his shoulders he looked at that sacred Person, and saw a crown of thorns about his brow; and as he looked at his fellow-sufferer, he saw all down his cheeks the marks of bloody sweat, and black and blue bruises from cruel hands. As for those eyes, they looked him through and through! That face, that matchless face, he had never seen its like. Majesty was therein blended with misery, innocence with agony, and love with sorrow. He had never seen that countenance so well, nor marked the whole form of the Son of man so clearly if he had not been called to bear that cross. It is wonderful how much we see of Jesus when we suffer or labour for him. Believing souls, I pray that this day you may be so impressed into my Lord’s service, that you may have nearer and dearer fellowship with him than in the past. If any man will do his will he shall know of the doctrine. They see Jesus best who carry his cross most.
Beside, the cross held Simon in Christ' s steps. Do you catch it? If Jesus carried the front part of the cross and Simon followed behind, he was sure to put his feet down just where the Master’s feet had been before. The cross is a wonderful implement for keeping us in the way of our Lord. As I was turning this subject over I was thinking how often I had felt a conscious contact between myself and my Lord when I have had to bear reproach for his sake; and how at the same time I have been led to watch my steps more carefully because of that very reproach. Brethren, we do not want to slip from under the cross. If we did so, we might slip away from our Lord and from holy walking. If we can keep our shoulder beneath that sacred load, and see our Lord a little on before, we shall be making the surest progress. This being near to Jesus is a blessed privilege, which is cheaply purchased at the price of cross-bearing. If you would see Jesus, bestir yourselves to work for him. Boldly avow him, cheerfully suffer for him, and then yon shall see him, and then you shall learn to follow him step by step. O blessed cross, which holds us to Jesus and to his ways!
Then Simon had this honour, that he was linked with Christ's work. He could not put away sin, but he could assist weakness. Simon did not die on the cross to make expiation, but he did live under the cross to aid in the accomplishment of the divine purpose. You and I cannot interfere with Jesus in his passion, but we can share with him in his compassion; we cannot purchase liberty for the enslaved, but we can tell them of their emancipation. To have a finger in Christ’s work is glory. I invite the man that seeks honour and immortality, to seek it thus. To have a share in the Redeemer’s work is a more attractive thing than all the pomp and glitter of this world, and the kingdoms thereof. Where are the men of heavenly mind who will covet to be joined unto the Lord in this ministry? Let them step out and say, “Jesus, I my cross have taken. Henceforth I will follow thee. Come life or death, I will carry thy cross till thou shalt give me the crown.”
While Simon was carrying the cross through the crowd, I doubt not that the rough soldiery would deal him many a kick or buffet; but I feel equally sure that the dear Master sometimes stole a glance at him. Simon enjoyed Christ' s smile. I know the Lord so well, that I feel sure he must have done so: he would not forget the man who was his partner for the while. And oh, that look! How Simon must have treasured up the remembrance of it. “I never carried a load that was so light,” says he, “as that which I carried that morning; for when the Blessed One smiled at me amidst his woes, I felt myself to be strong as Hercules.” Alexander, his first-born, and that red-headed lad Rufus, when they grew up both felt it to be the honour of the family that their father carried the cross after Jesus. Rufus and Alexander had a patent of nobility in being the sons of such a man. Mark recorded the fact that Simon carried the cross, and that such and such persons were his sons. Methinks when the old man came to lie upon his death-bed he said: “My hope is in him whose cross I carried. Blessed burden! Lay me down in my grave. This body of mine cannot perish, for it bore the cross which Jesus carried, and which carried him. I shall rise again to see him in his glory, for his cross has pressed me, and his love will surely raise me.” Happy are we if we can while yet we live be co-workers together with him, that when he cometh in his kingdom we may be partakers of his glory. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.” God bless you, and especially you who have come out of the country. God bless you. Amen and amen.