« ÎnapoiContinuați »
an Annas and a Gamaliel that Jesus was a deceiver of the people. The events on which the apostles relied in proof of His divinity had taken place in the full blaze of contemporary knowledge. He had not to deal with uncertainties of criticism, or assaults on authenticity. He could question, not ancient documents, but living men; he could analyze, not fragmentary records, but existing evidence. He had thousands of means close at hand whereby to test the reality or unreality of the resurrection, in which, up to this time, he had so passionately and contemptuously disbelieved. In accepting this half-crushed and wholly execrated faith he had everything in the world to lose, he had nothing conceivable to gain ; and yet, in spite of all, overwhelmed by a conviction which he felt to be irresistible, Saul, the Pharisee, became a witness of the resurrection, a preacher of the Cross.'
To those who will take the trouble to compare the three accounts to which I have already alluded, it will be apparent that, for all practical purposes, we may now confine ourselves to the defence which St. Paul made before King Agrippa, Bernice, and Festus, as it is recorded in the 25th chapter of the Acts. It is, of course, a perfectly easy thing to get rid of these narratives by denying, in toto, the possibility, or, at any rate, the actuality of the supernatural, although even then the conversion of Saul has to be accounted for. It is also possible to assign the phenomena here stated to have occurred to the purely subjective workings of the apostle's mind and conscience, or to some physical derangement from which his system was at that moment suffering. I prefer to take the narratives as I find them, not only because I see nothing in them that is unreasonable and improbable, but because they themselves are the best answers to the questions of how Saul the Pharisee became Paul the Christian, and Saul the persecutor became Paul the Christian apostle. Now, looking at these narratives quietly and carefully, with no theological or philosophical prepossessions, taking them as they lie before one's eyes, do they suggest that the Being who stopped Saul as he journeyed to Damascus was simply some man, as you and I are men? Do not the phenomena by which the interposition was accompanied, and the whole of what was said to this fiery persecutor, better consist with the interposition of a divine rather than of a simple human being? Suppose a person to read these accounts for the first time, one who had never heard of the controversies in the Christian world relative to the personality of Christ, would it readily or naturally occur to him that the Jesus of Nazareth who stopped Paul on the way was, after all, only a great man, 'born in honest wedlock,' who died a martyr's death, and went to a martyr's reward ? Besides, I think some stress should be laid upon what Paul himself believed on this matter, while what he did believe may be gathered from the epistles he wrote to various Churches and to private individuals, and in which so much of his inner life finds the most vivid expression. I think, as we go through those epistles, we shall find that the apostle regarded the Lord Jesus as the pre-existent divine Son of God, and that he had none of that nervous apprehension with which some people to-day are afflicted, lest somebody, in some degree or some form, should say something about Jesus Christ that was inconsistent with the absolute supremacy of God the Father. Clearly St. Paul always believed that God was God and Christ was Christ, that the Father was not the Son, nor the Son the Father, that each personality was individual and distinct; but, had he believed that, in dealing with Jesus of Nazareth, and coupling His name with the eternal Jehovah, he was dealing with a man, and a man only, his language would have been guarded to an extent which, as a matter of fact, it is not, as any person may know for himself who will take the trouble to examine St. Paul's epistles. I cannot read this man's account of his .conversion,' very properly so called, together with what he thought, and felt, and said about the Lord Jesus in subsequent days, and come to any other conclusion than that he looked upon his Lord as not merely having a divine mission to rule in the 'new creation' He had called into existence, but that He was Himself a divine Person, the Son of God, as we are not sons, and having the heavens as His dwelling-place, ere, in infinite condescension to us, He was pleased to live on this lower earth, ‘for us men and for our salvation.'
39. (Acts X. 42, 43.) 'And He charged us to preach unto the people, and to testify that this is He who is ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To whom bear all the prophets witness, that through His name every one that believeth on Him shall receive remission of sins.' It will be seen that these words occur in an address which Simon Peter delivered to Cornelius the centurion, and his household, at Cæsarea. There is no doubt in my mind, and certainly there was none in the minds of Peter and the rest of the apostles, that Jesus Christ was in some very
real sense a man. His humanity is not now the question in dispute. But that must be a special humanity indeed to which the judging of the living and the dead is given, and in connection with which remission of sins' comes to a guilty soul !
40. (Acts xiii. 38, 39.) 'Be it known unto you therefore, brethren, that through this man is proclaimed unto you remission of sins : and by Him every one that believeth is justified from all things, from which he could not be justified by the law of Moses.' Paul and Barnabas are at Antioch, in Pisidia, and Paul, in his address in the synagogue on the Sabbath day, makes use of the words I have now quoted, in reference to the Lord Jesus. It is the same idea to which Peter gave expression at Cæsarea, showing that, in this matter at least, Paul and Peter were agreed as to the sacrificial work of Christ. We are not now concerned with a philosophical statement of the doctrine of Christian atonement, but one thing is abundantly evident from the words of these two apostles, that remission of sins,' and what is here called 'justification,' are blessings that come to us through Jesus of Nazareth, and that no such statements are made in the New Testament respecting any other man,-a proof, as I think, that Jesus was not merely a man, but the man, the Divine Man.
41. According to Ellicott's New Testament Commentary for English Readers, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus took place A.D. 37, and it would seem to be sixteen years afterwards when Paul, the now Christian apostle, wrote his First and Second Epistles to the Thessalonians, and while he was at Corinth. The salutations in these Epistles join ‘God the Father' and the • Lord Jesus Christ' in the same sentence, expressing the desire that 'grace and peace' might come to them from the one and the other. You get the same idea in St. Paul's Epistles to the Romans, the Corinthians, the Galatians, the Ephesians, and the Philippians; the exception being in the Epistle to the Colossians, where the words are simply, 'Grace to you and peace from God our Father." In the First Epistle to Timothy it is, 'Grace, mercy,
peace, from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. In the Epistle to Titus it is, 'Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Saviour.' In the Epistle to Philemon it is, 'Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.' Now I have one simple remark to make on these salutations, and it is this. What would be likely to be the belief in the mind of this writer touching the personality of Jesus, when it is his uniform practice, in saluting either communities or individuals, to join the names of God and Christ in this way? Remember that the writer was a Jew-a Jew converted to Christianity, but still a Jew-in whose eye ‘God the Father' would be the Jehovah of the Old Testament, a Being who could not without infinite profanity be named side by side with a mere creature, and yet blessings are invoked by this man from the one Being equally as from the other! If St. Paul believed that Christ Jesus our Lord was only a great inspired man, an inspired prophet, and wonderful martyr, I do not think he would have brought these two names into such conjunction, and put them upon what would appear to be a common level. In the Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, ii. 16, the writer names Christ first and God second, saying : ‘Now our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and God our Father,' which it is not reasonable to believe he could have done if he had thought for one moment that our Lord Jesus Christ was only a human being, of like nature with himself. Indeed, throughout these two Epistles to the Thessalonians the references to Christ are of such a nature as all but irresistibly to raise the supposition that Paul is thinking of a divine person, a divine agent, occupying a position and doing a work which are appropriate to divinity, but not appropriate to humanity, however exalted.
42. (Acts xvii. 31.) 'He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by the man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead.' The words occur in St. Paul's address at Athens. Clearly the appointment spoken of is made by God; He is the source of the authority, and it is His power which has 'given assurance unto all men.' But a man, a human being like ourselves, is not quite the person fitted to judge the world in righteousness.' He himself needs a Judge; he himself would have sins to acknowledge, and forgiveness to implore. If Jesus Christ is, in any intelligible sense, the world's Judge, the Judge of the whole human race, He must be divine, and not merely human.
early Christians would appear to have been 'baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.' And yet, as a matter of fact, our Lord, before His ascension, commanded His disciples to é baptize into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.' Why was this shorter formula used apparently as a practical equivalent for the longer one ? Does it seem reasonable to believe, if the Lord Jesus were only an inspired man, an inspired prophet, a faithful martyr, that His single name would be a fair equivalent for the threefold name of
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost ?' Dr. Horace Bushnell, in his God in Christ, new edition, just out, page 127, says : 'As a last evidence on this subject (the divinity of Christ), and one that, in my view, winds up all debate, I add the holy formula of baptism "into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."