« ÎnapoiContinuați »
and addressing Himself to Jews, who pride themselves on their race, their election of God, their law reaching back to Moses, their temple forty and six years in building, their religious privileges, their absolutely unique position in the world. True, they are a people politically enslaved by a heathen power; but a promise was long ago made to their father Abraham, that through one of his seed deliverance should come to them, and that the Messiah should be born of them. Now this man gathers Jewish hearers and disciples together, and all that He says to them in this sermon is directly in the teeth of their most chosen convictions, their strongest prejudices, their most heartfelt yearnings and hopes. It is true He speaks of a 'kingdom of heaven,' but not such a one as they themselves have been dreaming about for centuries, and which they think must sooner or later come. If He speaks with the tone of a law-giver, His laws are altogether contrary to anything they desire or expect. Not only so, but He reverses, absolutely reverses, very much of the teaching they have been taught to look upon as altogether divine, for He tells them that, while it has been said by them of old time this or that, 'I say unto you.' And pray who is ‘I'? By what right does this Man speak with such absolutely personal emphasis? Moses was a law-giver, and spoke as one having authority ; but in everything he commanded he referred those to whom he addressed himself back to the Being from whom he derived his authority, for he always said, "Thus saith Jehovah.' But Jesus says, not 'Thus saith Jehovah,' but I say unto you.' You can find no teaching like this elsewhere. These are the words of a self-conscious impostor, a wild fanatic, an entranced but wild enthusiast, or a divine being who can speak with authority that is simply God-like. Notice, too, how in all He says, in all the commands He gives, in all His exhortations, how often He excludes Himself from their obligation. He does not say, When we pray we ought always to pray after this manner;' but, “When ze pray, you ought to be this, you ought to do that, this is the form of character you should assume.' He stands apart from them, never confusing Himself with them, never allowing it to be seen or supposed that He is anything less than their Master, their supreme Lord. I find no such style of teaching as this in the Old Testament, or, indeed, outside of it. Leaving Moses for the moment, one looks in vain to Socrates, Plato, and all the mighty minds of the olden time, whose names irresistibly rise before us, when we think of the commanding intellect, the transcendent genius, the legislative capacity with which God has endowed some of the race. No, we may have somewhat of difficulty in understanding minute particulars in this sermon; but the sermon, as such, is the utterance of Divinity, not of humanity; of a Sovereign whose right it is to rule, of One who never troubles Himself to adjust His teachings to and harmonize them with those of others, but who speaks as from the Throne of the Universe, and claims belief and obedience on the ground of a divine right
II. (Matt. viii. 24-27; Mark iv. 37-41; Luke viii. 22–25.) Read the accounts which these three Evangelists give of our Lord and His disciples being in a storm on the lake, and the fears which that storm had awakened in the little band; of their appeal to the Lord to protect them, and of the mingled ease and majesty with which He rebuked the raging of the water, and how, as He said, 'Peace, be still,' the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Why should He say to them, 'Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? where is your
faith'? Why, indeed, if He were but a man, as they were men? He was in precisely the same danger as themselves, and any appeal to Him would be simply useless. Why should He rebuke them for their want of faith, if He was not inwardly conscious, not alone of His own power to subdue the stormy elements, but that they themselves must have known of His possession of that power, and ought therefore to have trusted it? You cannot well think of the whole scene, and take in the meaning that lies upon the very surface of it, without feeling that the poor disciples were fearful men, as we ourselves might have been fearful under similar circumstances, while He was conscious of being the Ruler of the winds and the waves, and therefore not human, but divine.
12. (Matt. ix. 1-9; Mark ii. 1-14; Luke v. 17–28.) Jesus has returned to Capernaum, and it is noised abroad that He is in a certain house, when straightway a poor paralytic is brought to Him that He may heal him; and He, seeing the faith of those who had thus brought him, said at once to the paralytic, 'Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven thee.' Not unnaturally, as it seems to me, the scribes and Pharisees, with the ideas they entertained of Him, charged Him at once with blasphemy, and asked the unanswerable question, "Who can forgive sins but God only?' Who indeed? If Christ was not divine, by what right did He pronounce the forgiveness of this man's sins, before the man had uttered one word of confession, or done one single act of penance? But that He had the power on earth to forgive sins, He very soon proved by healing the man with the same ease that He had shown in forgiving him.
13. (Matt. x. 32–33.) Whosoever, therefore, shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father who is in heaven.' You will find words very similar to these in other portions of the Gospels, and they all of them appear to me to imply a felt sense of authority and power altogether inconsistent with the hypothesis of Christ's simple humanity. What man is there, past or present, of whom you can think, and on whose lips such words as these would be felt to be simply appropriate? The question answers itself.
14. (Luke vii. 36-50.) I need not recite the whole narrative, but there is one point in it to which I desire particular attention. Our Lord tells this poor woman who had been a sinner that her sins had been forgiven her, and when they that were at table with Him began to murmur, and strove as best they could to snatch the great blessing from her, He simply told her that her faith had saved her, and she was to go in peace.
Why had her sins been forgiven her ? Our Lord said that she had loved much; but loved whom? Himself, and Himself only! So it comes to pass that love to Christ, such as this sinner showed,
could result in the free forgiveness of her sins; the faith of a poor sinner in Christ was sufficient to ensure her forgiveness and peace. I fail to see why all these results should accrue if Jesus Christ were a simple man only. We may love a man very much superior to ourselves, between whom and ourselves there seems to our humility to be an all but immeasurable distance; we may have faith in the words, the life, the teachings of such a man; but I do not quite see how the forgiveness of our sins is therefore to follow from such love and faith. Man himself, exalted as he may be, needs the forgiveness of his own sins; while only He who is without sin, the Sin-bearer, and divine, can remove the guilt from off the conscience of a convicted sinner.
15. (Matt. xi. 27; Luke x. 22.) "All things are delivered unto me of my Father, and no man knoweth the Son but the Father, neither knoweth any man the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him;'or, more correctly, reveal Them.' I say nothing here by way of putting a stress upon the term 'all,'—a term the right interpretation of which must always depend upon the circumstances under which it is used. I also freely admit that there is possible to man, in his regenerate state, some measure of knowledge of the Son, and of the Father also. But the Lord here claims a fulness, a thoroughness of knowledge of the Father, which no had ever claiined before Him, and which no one has claimed since His time. So great is the Son in His nature, relations, offices, and aims, that there is but one being, the eternal Father, who fully understands Him. Not only so: He, and He only, knows the Father, as the Father is, and as He may be known; or, to use the words of St. John, ‘No man hath seen God at any time. The only begotten Son who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.' Prophets, apostles, teachers, seers, artists, the great and the good of all ages and all climes, these have known something of God; while, no doubt, there is a knowledge of God possessed by the angels immeasurably in excess of any knowledge possessed by human beings. But no finite being, human or angelic, knows the eternal Father, fully
knows Him, perfectly comprehends as well as apprehends Him. The word here used, epiginoskei,' means "know fully or thoroughly,' while the distinction between this word and ginosko is marked in i Cor. xiii. 12. (Thomas's Genius of the Gospel, page 239.) The Father alone knows the Son fully, the Son alone knows the Father fully, and the Son, and He only, can fully reveal Himself or the Father to other intelligences. Now I do not know how all this strikes your mind, my reader, but I am compelled to believe that if Jesus were a man, and a man only, He must have known that He had no right to use such language as this, that it would be inconsistent with the actual limitations of human knowledge, and with that spirit of humility which a human being should cherish in reference to himself; and, above all, to his relations with the Eternal. What would be thought of the saintliest man of whom we have ever heard, or whom we know, using such words as these? They are altogether consistent with the hypothesis of Jesus being the Son, of one substance with the Father;' but the utterance of them by 'a man born in honest wedlock' would be simply shocking and even blasphemous.
16. (Matt. xi. 28–30.) '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 of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your
souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.' Christ here addresses a certain class of characters, and to them He offers spiritual rest. · He claims for Himself the character of being 'meek and lowly in heart.' He calls upon those to whom He addresses Himself to wear His yoke which is easy, and His burden which is light, and to learn of Him, and he offers the one great blessing after which the world is in search, and in the pursuit of which the world wearies itself in a thousand ways and in illimitable degrees. 'Rest :' it is the very thing we all of us want; not rest from physical labour alone, but rest for the inquisitive and restless intellect, rest for the guilty and burdened conscience, rest for the eager and unsatisfied affections, rest for that part of our nature which