I offer you some reflections on this incident. It is the kind of incident that may be multiplied indefinitely. I offer you certain reflections, first, on some of its analogies with Christ’s work, and secondly, on some of its differences.

1. This man, in a very true sense, died and rose again. His soul went through what he would have gone through if he had never risen from the track. He gave himself; and that is all a man can give at last. His deed had the moral value which it would have had if he had lost his life. He laid it down, but it did not please God to take it. Like Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, it was complete and acceptable, even though not accepted. The man’s rising from the ground – was it not really a resurrection from the dead? It was not simply a return to his post. He went back another man. He went back a heavenlier man. He had died and risen, just as if he had been called, and had gone, to God’s presence – could he but remain there. This is a death and rising again possible to us all. If the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ do not end in producing that kind of thing amongst us, then it is not the power of God unto salvation. These moral deaths and resurrections are what make men of us. “In deaths oft.” That is the first point.

2. The second point is this. Not one of the passengers in either of those trains knew until they read it what had been done for them, nor to whom they owed their lives. It is so with the whole world. Today it owes its existence, in a way it but poorly understands, to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. That is the permanent element in Christianity -the Cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And yet it is nothing to all them that pass by. Under the feet of those travelers in Belgium there had taken place one of those deeds that are the very soul and glory of life, and they had no idea of it. Perhaps some of them were at the very moment grumbling at the staff of the railway for some small grievance or other. It is useful to remember, when we are inclined to grumble thus, what an amount of devotion to duty goes to make it possible for us to travel as safely as we do – far more than can be acknowledged by the payment of a wage. These people were ploughing along in safety over one of the railway staff lying in a living grave. I say it is so with the whole civilized world. Its progress is like that of the train; it seldom stops to think that its safety is owing to a divine death and resurrection, much more than heroic. The safety of that train was not due to the mechanism. The mechanism had gone wrong. It was not due to organization, or to work done from fear of punishment. Heroic duty raised to martyrdom saved the whole train. And the world’s progress is saved today because of a death and resurrection of which it knows little and mostly cares to know less. “Propter Jesum non quoerimus Jesum.” The success of Christ hides Him. It is the death of Christ that is the chief condition of modern progress. It is not civilization that keeps civilization safe and progressive. It is that power which was in Jesus Christ and culminated in His death and resurrection. When people read the Bible, and get behind the Bible, and that principle comes home to them, it may sometimes be like the shock that those travelers would receive when they read in the newspaper of their risk and deliverance.

3. Another point. And I am now coming on to the difference. This man died for people who would thrill with the sense of what they owed him as soon as they read about it. His act appeals to the instinct which is ready to spring to life in almost every breast. You felt the response at once when I told you the story. Some of you may have even felt it keenly. Do you ever feel as keenly about the devoted death of Christ? Perhaps you never have. You have believed it, of course, but it never came home to you and gripped you as the stories of the kind I instance do You see the difference between Christ’s death and every case of human heroism. I am moving to answer that question I put a moment ago as to whether the development of the best in human nature would ever give us the work of Christ and the Kingdom of God. I have been illustrating one of the finest things in human nature, and I am asking whether, if that were multiplied indefinitely, we should yet have the effect which is produced by the death of Christ, or which is still to be produced by it in God’s purpose. No, there is a difference between Christ’s death and every case of heroism. Christ’s was a death on behalf of people within whom the power of responding had to be created. Everybody thrills to that story I told you, and to every similar story. The power of response is lying there in the human heart ready – it only needs to be touched. There is in human nature a battery charged with admiration for such things; you have only to put your knuckle to it and out comes the spark. But when we are dealing with the death of Christ we are in another position. Christ’s was a death on behalf of people in whom the power of responding had to be created. We are all afraid of death, and rise to the man who delivers us from it. But we are not afraid of that worse thing than death from which Christ came to deliver us. Christ’s death was not a case of heroism simply, it was a case of redemption. It acted upon dull and dead hearts. It was a death which had to evoke a feeling not only latent but paralyzed, not only asleep but dead. What does Paul say? “While we were yet without strength, Christ died for us” – without power, without feeling, as the full meaning is.