It Is Finished
( Originally Published 1902 )
THE Venerable Bede, the Father of English history, lay dying in his monastery at Jarrow, in the year 735. Great and many had been the works of this good priest, but the effort on which his heart was most earnestly set, was the translation into the common language of the four Gospels, and now when the pangs of death were lacerating his body, the last Gospel was yet unfinished.
The monk, feeling his end rapidly approaching, hastily summoned his scribes, and bidding them write with speed, began to dictate the translation with feverish haste. Swiftly flew their pens, but death moved swifter, and when the last chapter of the Gospel of St. John was reached, the pens were forced to cease from their writing ; for the monk's lips were silent, as his thoughts were taken up with the death struggle raging within him.
Despite the sorrow of his disciples, the zeal of one overcame all other emotions, and he softly whispered :
" Dearest Master, there is yet another chapter wanting; will the trouble be too severe ? "
The dying man roused himself ; his indomitable spirit asserted itself even in the face of death, and he answered in feeble tones :
" Trouble there is none; take your pen, prepare your parchment and write fast."
Again the pens work rapidly ; no other sound disturbs the chamber of death save the low voice of the dying man dictating the words, and the scratching of the pens.
For a time the soul is superior to the weakness of the flesh, and the work progresses rapidly, but again the power of dissolution makes itself felt, and the voice of the priest once more becomes silent, as he leans back from exhaustion. But the task is not yet completed, and fearful of losing the knowledge of his master, the disciple again says softly, while the tears roll down his cheeks :
" Dearest Master, there is yet one sentence unwritten."
There is a short struggle, and the will again proves its power, and the priest, with faltering accent, says :
" Write quickly."
The sentence is finally completed, and as the last words fall from his lips, the scribe exultantly exclaims, " Master, it is finished." A happy smile illumines the countenance of Bede, as he replies:
" It is well ; you have said truly, it is finished ; bear me in your arms and set me before the place at which I was wont to pray."
Tenderly the monks carried him to the spot, and then, while they lifted up their voices in " Glory to God the Father, to the Son and to the Holy Ghost," the good Bede died, even while they were singing.
The Great High Priest, after having offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, on the cruel Cross, hung in inexpressible agony, until He had drunk to the dregs the last drop of human guilt and human woe, and then said: "It is finished," and gave up the Ghost. It was finished, the last word of the law and the Gospel was fulfilled, the last and only possible thing that could be done for the redemption of the world had been done, and, having finished His mission, He went back to His Father's throne to make continual intercession for men.