« ÎnapoiContinuați »
labours of the ablest and most successful are so disappointing and unfruitful. If, at the close of life, we can say we have enjoyed much happiness and done some good, we shall have cause for deep gratitude and humble hope ; but a sense of complacency, of satisfaction as of a part fulfilled and a work accomplished, can belong to no man who looks back over his course with a single eye, and in the light of an approaching change. The finer the spirit, the profounder the insight, the more unconquerable is this feeling of disappointment.' Exactly so, and yet, side by side with Mr. Greg's confession, which expresses with rare felicity the world-fact, put the words of our Lord in the fourth verse of this chapter, and they are either the words of 'conceit run mad,' or of conscious divinity. I am free to confess that such a prayer as this is degraded and insulted when we come to it merely for help to build up some theological system, or from which to borrow weapons for sectarian conflict; but I think we are warranted in so far drawing near to it, and allowing its own spirit to inspire us, as that we may be enabled to answer for ourselves the question as to the personality of Him who uttered it. Mr. Charles Beard, in Positive Aspects, says, "There is a sense in which the question “What think ye of Christ?” is the deepest and most urgent question which theology can ask.' I have often heard it said that it mattered little what Christ's personality was, and that the chief matters were what He taught, and the possession of His spirit. Undoubtedly, 'if any man have not the spirit of Christ he is none of His,' a truth very much lost sight of amid all our un-Christian rivalries; but surely it is only the commonest sense to affirm that such a chapter as this will be variously viewed, and the impressions it makes will be of various kinds, according as we believe in the simple humanity, or in the divinity of its author. If it were competent
. for a mere man to offer such a prayer as this, there can be no antecedent objection to its being offered by any other eminently holy man. Jesus Christ could have no monopoly in such outpourings and petitions.
33. After the utterance of the prayer just referred to, I think our Lord went His way with His disciples to Gethsemane, while on the way He again warned Peter of his impending treachery. What has always been called ' our Lord's agony in Gethsemane,' is a subject about which those who feel the most will say the least. I have no desire whatever to lessen, rather I would bring out very distinctly, the intense humanity of that agony; but it has struck me for many years that the agony is to be accounted for far more reasonably by the theory that He who suffered was THE Son of God, clad in our human flesh, than the other and opposite theory that He was a man, simply and only a man. I do not mean by this that the scriptural account of Gethsemane will necessarily yield the divinity of Christ, but that it is more intelligible on that hypothesis than on the other. If it be said that divinity, that the divine nature cannot suffer, I say that the impassibility of the divine is a pure assumption, held to because it is too often necessary as a component part of some iron system of theology. If God is love, and if the divine love is in any manner or degree akin to human love, then there must be sacrifice in the divine nature, and wherever there is sacrifice there must be suffering, sometimes in one form, sometimes in another. To me, an impassable God is a simple monstrosity.
34. (John xviii. 33, 37.) I wish here to fasten particular attention on ver. 37. Would not any mere man, however richly endowed, however highly placed, be guilty of unpardonable arrogancy if he were to claim all the truth-loving, not merely as his brethren, but as his subjects? The Son of God, the Word made flesh, the truth as well as the wisdom and power of God, might very well do this; but not a mere human being, born under the law of sin and death.'
35. I readily admit that the Crucifixion and the Resurrection of our Lord are not, in themselves, any evidences of His divinity. That is to say, that the narratives which tell of these events cannot be fairly and necessarily made to yield any such doctrine. That He who was crucified, that He who was raised from the dead by the power of God the Father,' was the Eternal Son of God, veiled from us in flesh, I most utterly and absolutely believe; but the narratives which record the Death and the Rising again do not tell me unambiguously and necessarily so much as this, and therefore I have no right to speak of them as if they did. The occurrences between the resurrection morning and that moment when 'a cloud received Him out of their sight' appear to me to take us into the borderland between what we might call the natural and the supernatural ; while some of the words used by our Lord during that interval are of such a kind as I find it impossible to reconcile with the humanitarian hypothesis. For what man has any right to say that 'all power is given to him in heaven and on earth'? What man has any right to join his own name with the name of the Father, and the name of the Holy Spirit, and tell his fellow-creatures to ‘go out into the world discipling all nations, and baptizing them in, or into' that threefold name, one part of which is his own? What right has any man to claim universal obedience to his commands ? What right has any man to promise his fellow-creatures that “he will be with them always, even unto the end of the world,' or, if you like, 'the consummation of the age'?
I have now finished what I have to say on the Indirect Evidences to the Personal Divinity of Christ,' which the four Gospels appear to supply. That I have culled all those evidences is more than I dare to affirm, but such as I have gathered and presented will, I think, honestly bear the interpretations I have put upon them. Nor do I say that the world's judgment is always right-God forbid !—but there is one fact which has often impressed me. Ever since Jesus of Nazareth first appeared on our earth down to the present time, those who have heard of Him, drawn near to Him, entered most entirely into His Spirit, have, as a rule, accepted the doctrine of the divinity of His person as a something not to be questioned. The consciousness of the Christian Church, from the first age down to the present one, yields all but uniform testimony,
Have the immense majority of Christian people during all these centuries been in the wrong, and the few. in the right? I know that numbers do not determine the truth or falsehood of a doctrine, the right or wrong of anything. But surely, when one adds to numerical superiority the profound learning and the eminent piety of so many of the majority in this case, one may well be pardoned for believing that the many have rightly interpreted their Lord's personality, and that the mistake, if any, has been made by the minority,-a minority containing, I frankly admit, many learned, many pious souls, but whose learning and piety are quite equalled by similar instances on the other side.
T is only common fairness to admit that the interpretation
of the New Testament book known as the “ Acts of the Apostles,' is, in some respects, an extremely difficult task. What, precisely, is the meaning of the very title of the book? who was its author? what was his design in writing? to what date can the book be fairly attributed ? and from what sources was the narrative derived ? · These, and many other issues that might be raised, leave room for ample differences of opinion amongst those who are equally competent as scholars, and equally loyal to the one Lord Jesus Christ. Setting aside inclination, I have not the needed ability to discuss these questions, nor do I think their discussion is at all necessary in a series of chapters devoted to the subject of Christ's personal divinity. But, following the chronological order laid down by Professor Plumptre in his introduction to the Acts of the Apostles, in Ellicott's New Testament Commentary, vol. ii., I should now like to make a few remarks on some portions of this book that refer to events which transpired before the Apostle Paul wrote his First Epistle to the Thessalonian Church. And in doing so, it must, I think, be admitted that the Acts is so largely historical that the book does not contain many references to Christ necessarily implying, or fairly suggesting, His personal divinity, except to such persons as are already believers in it. If by such a remark I am supposed to make a dangerous concession, I can only say that I am quite willing that anything that can be honestly made as concession shall be made. Are unbelievers in the personal divinity of Christ to be the only persons permitted to select their own point