« ÎnapoiContinuați »
of sight, from which to view that wondrous personality? Just as in the world of science, so in a matter of this kind, one has to find a workable hypothesis, and I believe that I have found one, which will cover all the facts of the case, in that of the personal divinity of Christ, as they cannot be covered by the humanitarian hypothesis. Students of the Scriptures, and especially those of the New Testament, are very liable to repeat the old story of the gold and silver shield; but we, who believe in Christ's personal divinity, are not more liable to do this than are our humanitarian friends, and I will not have it said without a disclaimer that we first of all commit ourselves to a position, and then try to make all the evidence bend to it. Many persons who reject Christ's personal divinity are in the habit of thinking and speaking of those who accept it, as if they, the acceptors, were either very ignorant, very prejudiced, or very weak. An easy way of dealing with an opponent, but not by any means a just one! To look down upon the man who differs from you, with a sort of mild contempt or mild pity, is not charitable; nor is it likely to influence your brother to consider what you have to say on your own behalf. I would not knowingly press a single verse, or even word of Scripture, into the service in which I am now engaged, that I did not think fairly belonged to it; and if the believers in the simple humanity of Christ would only exercise the same spirit, we might not indeed come to agree, but we should understand each other all the better, and be better friends.
36. (Acts ii., whole chapter.) I have elsewhere 1 stated at length what I conceive to be some of the real difficulties in dealing with the phenomena to which this chapter refers, and I do not intend to go over that ground again in these pages. But, in the first part of St. Peter's sermon, in which he refutes the mockers who supposed their superior wisdom had explained the whole thing, he first of all shows how unreasonable were their objections, and then goes on to recite that the resurrection of the Lord Jesus was God's witness to His Messiahship. Using references and language which would be familiar to his Jewish
| The Day of Pentecost and its Phenomena.
audience, and have great weight with them, he utters these words, “Therefore, being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this which ye now see and hear.' I suppose it will be admitted that the pronoun 'He' refers, not to the Holy Ghost, or the Father, but to Jesus, to whom the whole of this portion of the sermon relates. But if Jesus was the author of these phenomena, if He was now fulfilling that which was spoken by the prophet Joel, if, in fact, He was putting into operation the power of the Holy Spirit of God in these impressive forms, He was apparently doing that which was not within the limits of merely human capacity. While He was on the earth the powers of the heavenly world were apparently always at His command, and just before He returned to the heavens He told His ignorant and excited disciples that all power in heaven and on earth was given into His hands,' and now, out of those very heavens to which He had gone back, He comes forth, not indeed in bodily form as was His wont during the years of His mortal life, but as a divine spiritual Presence and Power, and shows Himself to be a Being transcending our humanity, but still actively interfering in its interests, and especially the interests of His resuscitated new-born Church ; in fact, He is here credited with doing what is entirely consistent with divine interference, but which is not so easily explained if we think of Jesus as a merely human being, with merely human powers. The historian goes on to relate the effect of St. Peter's sermon, and the answer he gave to those who asked him, 'What shall we do?' Peter tells them to repent, and be baptized, every one of them, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins, and that they should receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.' Already our Lord, in Luke xxiv. 47, had directed that “repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name, beginning at Jerusalem;' and that converts were to be 'baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' Evidently Peter considered that to be 'baptized in (or into) the name of Jesus Christ' was a fair equivalent for the baptismal formula enjoined by the Lord. I do not understand how Peter could have called upon these newly-convicted ones to be baptized into the name of Jesus Christ,' and above all to connect that baptism with the remission of sins,' if all the while he was thinking of his Lord as a man, and a man only. That he began his sermon by speaking of Jesus of Nazareth as 'a man approved of God,' is most true ; but, naturally, he began with the manhood or humanity of the Lord, as that which all his hearers would confess at once ; while, as he proceeds in his discourse, he seems to me to make statements about the Lord which are explainable only by the apostle's belief in His divinity, as well as His humanity.
37. (Acts vii. 54-56.) This chapter contains a report of the interrupted speech delivered by St. Stephen before the Jewish council, while the effect of the speech is described in these words: 'When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. This is not quite the position in the heavenly world which we can fairly attribute to a man, a man only, who simply died a martyr's death, as men had died before his day, and have died since.
38. (Acts vii. 59, 60.) "And they stoned Stephen, calling upon the Lord, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge.' So reads the Revised Version. As the Lord Himself had died, so did His servant learn to die. The Lord had said, 'Into Thy hands I commend my spirit;' but before doing so had prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do;' and now the Lord's first martyr is found asking his Master to do that which is not within the power of a human being to do, to receive the spirit of another at death, or to forgive the sin of another.
There are three accounts of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus in the Acts of the Apostles. One is in the 9th chapter, the second in the 22nd chapter, and the third in the 26th chapter. A careful comparison of these three accounts will show that one of them was given by St. Luke himself, the supposed writer of the book, and that the other two were speeches delivered by St. Paul,—one from the steps of the Castle of Antonia, and the other before King Agrippa. It will also be seen that the three accounts vary in what I am bound to think of as trivial details, although, in the narration of the main fact, there is, as has been well said by Dr. Farrar, 'no shadow of variation, and no possibility of doubt.' Dr. Farrar, in his Life and Work of St Paul, vol. i. page 195, when speaking of these variations in the three accounts, says: It is superfluous to repeat the reconciliation of these small apparent contradictions, because they are all reconciled and accounted for in the narrative of the text. Had they been of the smallest importance, had they been such as one moment of common sense could fail to solve, a writer so careful as St. Luke would not have left them side by side. With this statement I entirely agree, while for the information of those who might like to pursue this subject, I beg to refer to Conybeare and Howson's Life and Epistles of St. Paul; Lewin's Life and Epistles of St. Paul ; Ellicott's New Testament Commentary, vol. ii.; The Speaker's Commentary on the New Testament, vol. ii; and an article on 'Paul,' in Smith's Dictionary of the Bible,' vol. ii. page 731. With these authorities, to which others could easily be added, and Dr. Farrar's new work on St. Paul, any person who desires to do so may satisfy himself about the scriptural accounts of the great apostle's conversion. Before I go on to make the very few remarks which I desire to make on these three narratives, I should like to quote the following words from Dr. Farrar, because they are so pertinent to our subject. In vol. i. page 202,
And here let me pause to say that it is impossible to exaggerate the importance of St. Paul's conversion as one of the evidences of Christianity. That he should have passed, by one flash of conviction, not only from darkness to light, but from one direction of life to the very opposite, is not only characteristic of the man, but evidential of the power and significance of Christianity. That the same man who, just before, was persecuting Christianity with the most violent hatred, should come all at once to believe in Him whose followers he had been seeking to destroy, and that in this faith he should become a "new creature," —what is this but a victory which Christianity owed to nothing but the spell of its own inherent power? Of all who have been converted to the faith of Christ, there is not one in whose case the Christian principle broke so immediately through everything opposed to it, and asserted so absolutely its triumphant superiority. Henceforth, to Paul Christianity was summed up in the one word, Christ. And to what does he testify respecting Jesus ? To almost every single primarily important fact respecting His incarnation, life, sufferings, betrayal, last supper, trial, crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and heavenly exaltation. We complain that nearly two thousand years have passed away, and that the brightness of historical events is apt to fade, and even their very outline to be obliterated, as they sink into the dark backward and abysm of time.' Well, but are we more keen-sighted, more hostile, more eager to disprove the evidence, than the con summate legalist, the admired rabbi, the commissioner of the Sanhedrin, the leading intellect in the schools,-learned as Hillel, patriotic as Judas of Gaulon, burning with zeal for the law as intense as that of Shammai? He was not separated from the events, as we are, by centuries of time. He was not liable to be blinded, as we are, by the dazzling glamour of a victorious Christendom. He had mingled daily with men who had watched from Bethlehem to Golgotha, the life of the Crucified, not only with His simple-hearted followers, but with His learned and powerful enemies. He had talked with the priests who had consigned Him to the cross; he had put to death the followers who had wept beside His tomb. He had to face the unutterable horror, which, to any orthodox Jew, was involved in the thought of a Messiah, who had 'hung upon a tree.' He had heard again and again the proofs which satisfied