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does not seem to depend on another, even though that other be God; but to heal diseases, control the forces of nature, and forgive sin equally from Himself. His moral teaching, acknowledged even by sceptics to be the most perfect system of ethics that the world has seen, He lives out in His life ; and on no single occasion do we find Him admitting that He falls short of its most perfect principles. He declares that all men are sinners, yet Himself confesses to no sin, but, on the contrary, indirectly repudiates being a sinner. All this is so utterly unlike anything that we find in connection with any other man that the world has seen, that we are at once startled, if not with the supernatural character of the Being here brought before us, at least with the unique nature of His pretensions. In His public teaching, too, He invariably preaches Himself, and declares that the sum and substance of all religion is belief in Him and dependence
He speaks of Himself as “the Light of the World,” “the Bread of Life,” “the Living Bread which came down from heaven,” the one “Good Shepherd,” the very“ Door of the Sheepfold,” and the only means of approach to God. He claims to raise Himself from death by His own power, to be able to give the living water of the Spirit, and to be “the Resurrection and the Life," and the Judge of the World. He asked men to trust Him as in God, to believe in Him as in God, to honour Him as they honour God. The commandments that He desires men to keep are His own, and He demands that the love bestowed upon Him shall be greater than that given to father, or mother, or husband, or wife, or the nearest and dearest blood relations. He will accept no devotion short of that of the whole heart and soul. To love Him is to love God. And, on one distinct and memorable occasion, He declared that those who had seen Him had seen the Father. Passages proving the truth of these facts might be quoted without end; but they are so familiar to every reader of the Scriptures, that it is unnecessary to extend them. They all go to show, however, that the claims and pretensions here made are perfectly unique ; we meet with them nowhere else, we do not expect to find them elsewhere, and should be terribly startled if we came across them in connection with any other being.'
In the first series of Sermons preached in King's Weigh House Chapel, London, by the late Dr. Thomas Binney, who died Feb. 24, 1874, I find the following words, p. 7, as part of a sermon on the text,
'Jesus saith, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me' (John xiv. 6): ‘The text, while perfectly of a piece with the characteristic habit of Jesus, in constantly referring to Himself, is in that very particular quite different from anything to be met with in the speech and bearing of any other inspired man. The obtruding personalism, if I may so term it,-the self-assertion, which distinguishes and pervades the discourses of Jesus,-is altogether unique. There never was anything like it,never, before or since.
No mere prophet ever spoke in such terms or so frequently about himself. None of the apostles fell into such a habit, -even when they had passed the limits of Judea, to which He was confined, had come into contact with many peoples, and were turning the world upside down. The old prophets shrank into nothingness before God-concealed themselves behind the glory of His name and the import of His message. They spoke of Him and for Him, each seeking to secure attention, not by proclaiming “ I say unto you," but by the humbler and more becoming announcement, “ Thus saith the Lord.” The constant references to Himself which appear in the sayings of Jesus—the “I” and the “Me" as the topic of discourse-is something altogether new. It was not thus with Isaiah, or Ezekiel, or any of their class. It was not thus with Moses, who, though he spoke like a prophet, ruled like a king. In a variety of ways, and on many occasions, Jesus speaks of Himself as none other of the servants of God ever dreamed of speaking. But in such a passage as the one before us, He uses expressions and puts forth claims which are remarkable even in Him. There is here not only the ordinary phenomenon that, as usual, He says something about Himself, but there is the additional circumstance that there is something very extraordinary in what He says. Let us look at it : "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no man cometh unto the Father but by me." Every word is emphatic and remarkable. you observe, “I teach the way ; I declare what is true ; I reveal or announce the life to come.” Not that ; but “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life." I am all this, in a sense quite distinct from my prophetic teaching. I, personally, am the way to God. I am myself embodied truth. I have in myself the source and springs of immortal life. That by “the way: He means “the way to God” is, you perceive, clear from the relation of the last clause of the verse to the
It is not,
first. “I am the Way; no man cometh unto the Father but by me." This way, then, Jesus does not simply assert that He reveals and opens to the eye of the reason by an authoritative message—that He sets it forth in His discourses—that by word and speech, in sermon and parable, He makes known to man in what way he may approach God, have communion with Him, enjoy His favour and friendship, and be ultimately admitted to His presence and glory in the upper world. It is not that, or that only, that He does.
All this He may do, but there is something else and something more. He does not merely teach the way, He is the way. He not only says what is true, He Himself is the Truth. He does not utter merely, in the Divine name, the promise of eternal life, He gives it; He is the Author of it; in some mysterious sense He claims personally to be that life.'
In one of the volumes of The Theological Library (Hodder & Stoughton), entitled, How is the Divinity of Jesus depicted in the Gospels and Epistles? there are the following suggestive words, p. 180 : ‘The Personage whose image is portrayed in the Gospels talks about Himself in a way that is perfectly consistent and intelligible on the foregoing assumption of an incarnation, but utterly inexplicable on the hypothesis of mere humanity. Not only does He claim to have come down from heaven (John vi. 38), and to have been sent forth upon a special embassy to the world (John iii. 16), but He solemnly declares that He had pre-existed as the Son of God (John v. 20) and the Equal of the Father (John x. 30), and was even at the moment while He talked the Son of man who was in heaven (John iii. 13). Not only does He put Himself forward as the absolutely perfect exemplar of human virtue, saying, “I am the Light of the world. He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John viii. 12), and exempt Himself from all participation in the sins of men, exclaiming, “Which of you convinceth me of sin ? ” (John viii. 46), but He arrogates to Himself the right of dispensing pardon to the guilty, declaring that "the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins !” (Matt. ix. 6).. Representing Himself as possessed of life in Himself (John v. 26), He declares Himself at the same time to be capable of giving life to whomsoever He may please (John v. 21); nay, He affirms that He had come to give His life "
a ransom for many” (Matt. xx. 28), and so to be “the Bread of life,” of which if a man ate he should never hunger
more, nay, should never die, but should live for ever (John vi. 35, 50, 51). Though confessing Himself at one time to be the Son of man who had not where to lay His head (Matt. viii. 20), at another time He makes the astounding assertion, “All power is given unto me in heaven and earth” (Matt. xi. 27, xxviii. 18).
He even ventures to assert that He was such a being as only the Father could thoroughly understand, and as alone could thoroughly appreciate the Father (Matt. xi. 27 ; John X. 15); that only in knowing, loving, and obeying Him could men find either true happiness on earth or final salvation in heaven (Matt. xi. 27 ; John v. 24, xvii. 3); and that the future destinies of all men would be determined by the attitude they might assume towards Him (Matt. x. 32, xxv. 31, 46). In the most solemn and impressive manner He'announces that though He may die He shall rise again (Matt. xx. 19), and reascend to the glory which He had before the world was (John vi. 62); that there He shall continue to preside over the affairs of the universe till the end of time (Matt. xxviii. 18, 20); and that then He shall once more return to earth to raise the dead and judge all the inhabitants of the world : “The Son of man shall come again in the glory of His Father, and with His holy angels, and before Him shall be gathered all nations” (Matt. xxv. 31). Now it will be obvious that these extraordinary claims and unparalleled assumptions were neither extraordinary nor unparalleled except on the hypothesis that Christ was a mere man. If the consciousness of which these utterances were the self-witness was a purely human consciousness, then the psychological problem of explaining such a consciousness must remain for ever hopelessly insoluble. If Jesus of Nazareth, being an ordinary son of Adam, habitually spoke as is represented in the Gospels, it is certain He must have been either a madman or an impostor. But neither of these theories is tenable. It is true that on one occasion His friends thought Him beside Himself (Mark iii. 21); but this was rather an expression of kindly solicitude for His welfare than a deliberate impeachment of His sanity. The scribes and Pharisees also more than once insinuated doubts of His mental integrity, saying, “He hath a devil and is mad” (Matt. xii. 24; Mark iii. 22; Luke xi. 15; John vii. 20, viii. 48, 52, X. 20); but such an allegation Christ expressly repudiated (John viii. 49), and the people who were invited to believe it generally remained incredulous (John x. 21), while it is
doubtful if the propagators of the scandal were themselves persuaded of its truth. At all events, the attempt to explain Christ's sublime self-witness as the incoherent talk of a maniac is so remote from likelihood, betrays so palpable an incapacity to distinguish things that differ, that the author of such suggestion would at once lay himself open to the charge that he desired to fix on Jesus. And even less conceivable is the idea that Christ, in so discoursing about Himself as He is represented by the evangelists, was consciously uttering what He knew to be false, since in this case He must have been the most astounding impostor that the world has ever seen, having wilfully and wickedly attempted what never before or since entered into a human brain, to palm Himself off upon His contemporaries as the Son of God and the Equal of the Supreme. Nay, it will follow that Jesus of Nazareth, the most consummate of charlatans, was also the most successful of wonder workers, inasmuch as, while putting forth the most astounding claim that ever creaturely intelligence conceived, He was able to maintain the imposition so consistently and persistently that He never faltered and never broke down, never contradicted Himself and never uttered incongruities or absurdities, but so perfectly preserved the impersonation He had assumed, that millions of the human race have believed, and still believe, that He was God. And yet further will it result that Jesus, the Christ of the Gospels, must have been the greatest moral monstrosity the world has ever beheld, since in Him the highest goodness and the deepest wickedness were met, since in His life and character there shone forth the reflection of pure holiness, while underneath, in the secret depths of His being, there existed the absolute negation of all truth. And so, finally, will it be the case, on the hypothesis we are now considering, that Christianity and the Christian Church, with all its enlightening and purifying influences, must have proceeded from the genius of a liar and the success of an impostor. Assert it who may, that does not appear credible. There remains, therefore, only one more hypothesis possible, viz. that Christ's pretensions were exactly true, or, in other words, that He was precisely what He claimed to be, THE SON OF GOD.'
The following extracts are taken from the City of God: A Series of Discussions in Religion, by A. M. Fairbairn, D.D., Principal of Airedale College, Bradford. In Part III., the first paragraphs of which treat of the Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith, the learned author