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to what St. Paul says : “Seeing it is God that said, Light shall shine out of darkness, who shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ;' 'And gave Him to be head over all things to the Church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all ; ' 'Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for in Him were all things created, in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers, all things have been created through Him, and unto Him, and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist, and He is the head of the body, the Church. Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the pre-eminence, for it was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fulness dwell ;' 'For in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, and in Him ye are made full, who is the head of all principality and power ;' "His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds (or ages), who being the effulgence of His glory, and the very image (or impress) of His substance, and upholding all things by the word of His power.' These are some of the statements which the great Apostle to the Gentiles makes respecting Jesus Christ-statements which are intelligible and wonderfully impressive if taken to teach our Lord's Personal Divinity, His oneness of nature with the Father, but which are bombastic and unreal if so explained as to teach that our Lord was human, and only human. Let us now hear some words of St. John, 'the disciple whom Jesus loved,' a man who appears to me to have entered by sympathy into our Lord's inner life and consciousness as not even St. Paul did. Read the first eighteen verses of St. John's Gospel, especially as they are presented in the Revised Version, and do they not tell of one of whom it was simply impossible for the writer to think as of a simply human being, greatly endowed, greatly inspired, but still human, and that only? True, some of the phraseology is Alexandrian, and irresistibly reminds the student of Plato, Philo, and the Gnostics. But St. John has here taken the terms in use among the Gentile philosophers of his day, and, disengaging the truths from the errors with which they were associated, has taught us that only to Jesus Christ can the terms themselves be appropriately referred, but that they can be to Him. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only-begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. No man hath seen God at any time; the only-begotten Son (or God only-begotten), which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.' If such words as these do not teach the Personal Divinity and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, by what terms could the doctrine be taught more plainly? The doctrine itself, in its entirety, but with slightly varying phraseology, is laid down in the first two verses of St. John's First Epistle. I confidently affirm that these two apostles, St. John and St. Paul, did really and truly hold, not the humanitarian theory of our Lord's Personality, but the doctrine of His Personal Divinity and Incarnation, and this, too, without in the least degree ignoring, and still less denying, the Lord's humanity. I cannot pass on to our Lord's actual words concerning Himself, without referring to one very suggestive fact. St. Paul had not known our Lord in His mortal life, but St. John, St. Peter, and St. James had had that inestimable privilege. They had seen Him, heard Him, walked and talked with Him, been the witnesses of His private as well as public life, had formed part of the number of that inner circle of disciples which He gathered, and the members of which He loved so utterly. Now, on the supposition that they believed our Lord to be human, and human only, and making all fair allowances for the added and purified love which we give to our lost ones, and for the fact that they were Orientals, is the language they use about Christ, their selfabasement and His exaltation, their dependence upon Him and His independence of them, their reverent, and obedient, and trustful, and prayerful worship (yes, prayerful) of Him, consistent with their belief in His being only an exceptionally endowed man, to whom an exceptional mission had been given ? I cannot think so. Say that they were wrong in the views of Him which they held. I understand you, although I do not agree with you ; but it is too much to be asked to admit that these New Testament writers, and especially the writers of the epistles, were humanitarians, and that through all these centuries a vast majority of Christian believers and students of the New Testament have utterly misinterpreted the New Testament doctrine of our Lord's Personality.
9. But it is time to turn from the servants to the Master, from the disciples to the Teacher, from the subjects to the Sovereign. We have heard some of the words which St. Paul and St. John uttered respecting the Christ, and have come to the conclusion that they at least believed in the Divine Humanity of the Lord. But although they were inspired, they were not infallible. They were creatures, sinful creatures, with limited knowledge, and sometimes made mistakes. We must now, therefore, try to hear what the Lord Himself said about Himself. Surely He knew who and what He was. Surely, too, He could and would be sure to report perfectly correctly the facts of the case. The claims He made for Himself did not originate in a later age.
He was not consciously dishonest, He was not a fanatic, He was not a man carried away by an irresistible enthusiasm, He was not a madman, He was no charlatan. In listening to Jesus of Nazareth we are listening to one whose word is to be trusted, because He has given to the world every proof that reason or conscience has a right to demand in evidence of the reliability of His statements. Now, reading the four Gospels as we would any other documents of a similar character, what do we find their principal subject say of His Personality, and what claims to our faith and obedience does He make upon us ? To the question, ‘Is He the very and eternal God, and is there none other God but He ?' it seems to me that His answer is altogether unambiguous. Not only does He not claim self-existence, He expressly repudiates it. 'For as the Father hath life in Himself, even so GAVE HE to the Son also to have life in Himself ; ' 'As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he that eateth me, he also shall live because of me ;' 'For the Father is greater than I ;' 'And this is life eternal, that they should know Thee the only true God, and Him whom Thou didst send, even Jesus Christ. But although He disclaimed the self-existence of Deity,—disclaimed, that is to say, the idea that He was the self-existent Jehovah, the 'I am’ of the Old Testament,—and although His usual designation of Himself was 'Son of Man' (His reiterated use of the term, however, pointing to
See Whitelaw's Divinity of Jesus (Hodder & Stoughton), Kennedy's Pilate's Question (Hamilton, Adams, & Co), Young's Christ of History (Strahan), and Channing's works.
3 John viii. 58 does not militate against the truth of my statement. See the expression in viii. 24, 28, iv. 26, Mark xiii. 6, John xiii. 19, John xviii. 5, John vi. 20, John ix. 9.
something beyond its ordinary and accepted meaning), He nevertheless advanced, directly and indirectly, the claim to sinlessness.
Which of you convicteth me of sin ?' said He to the Jews, and the challenge then given has never been successfully met. The four Gospels do not record one solitary confession of sin made by Him. He does not even admit that He ever made a mistake, or that there was any imperfection in His life-work. Just before His death He looked straight into the eyes of the Eternal Father, and said to Him, 'I glorified Thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which Thou hast given me to do.' His use of the word 'Father,' as applied to God, was peculiar. When He prayed He did not say, as He taught His disciples to say, 'Our Father ;' He said “your Father,' 'my Father,' 'Father, but never our Father,' when speaking of His own relations and those of His disciples to God. I admit that He said to Mary Magdalene, “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, and my God and your God,' thus teaching the subordination of the Son to the Father, and the Son's dependence upon the Father.
But why say 'my' and 'your,' if He was of the same nature and rank as Mary and the other disciples ? Why this form of words, if not to denote the existence of a relation to God special to Himself? But now read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest' the following words, unparalleled in the world's literature or history : 'All things have been delivered unto me of my Father, and no one knoweth the Son save the Father, neither doth any know the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him.' 'I came out from the Father, and am come into the world ; again I leave the world and go unto the Father. 'I am the Light of the world : he that followeth me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life. 'I am the living bread which came down from heaven.' 'I am the Resurrection and the Life: he that believeth on me, though he die, yet shall he live ; and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die.' “The Son of man came to seek and to save that which was lost.' * This is my blood of the covenant which is shed for many unto remission of sins.' 'He hath given all judgment unto the Son, that all may honour the Son even as they honour the Father.' 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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.' 'I am the true vine : I am the vine, ye are the branches.' 'Baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' 'All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth.' 'For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.' 'Lo, I am with you alway (or all the days), even unto the end of the world (or the consummation of the age).' ‘The Comforter, whom I will send unto you from the Father.' 'Let not your heart be troubled : ye believe in God, believe also in me.' These are but a few specimens of the words He uttered, of the claims He made.
There are many more such.
But search and read for yourselves. Why, this man, this ‘Son of man,' makes claims upon our faith, our obedience, our love, which are simply intolerable and bordering upon blasphemy, if they are not just claims. He will be content with no less a thing than complete self-surrender to Him, His will to be ours, His law to be our law. His words are the words of a sovereign, not of a subject or of a man to his equal. Is there any conceivable circumstance in which it would be becoming for a man, a man only, a man endowed as no other man is or has been, but still a man, to demand such unreserved obedience, to prefer such claims, to present himself to others in such a character ? and yet see what Christ did, what Christ said, what Christ claimed. Do you tell me that His language was Oriental,—that it was fluid, not fixed,-emotional, not strictly logical,that it was never intended by Him to be understood absolutely as we are accustomed to understand it ? Is that your contention ? Be it so ! you have 'appealed unto Cæsar,' and unto Cæsar let us go. Paul, and Peter, and John, and James, and all the early apostles and first teachers of Christianity were Orientals. But did it ever occur to any one of them, in their most supreme moments of self-assertion, to use language respecting themselves such as Jesus used respecting Himself? They were men, men of wonderful and unusual endowment, men to whom exceptional duties were entrusted, men who were sent out with Divine authority to do their work and speak their word. But did any of them say, 'I am the Way, and the Truth, and the Life : no one cometh unto the Father but by (or through) me;' 'He that hath seen me hath seen the Father ;' 'I am the Light of the world ;' 'I am the Bread of Life ?' Did they say, Hear me, obey me, trust me, love me, come unto me, I am your master, I am your