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JESUS : IMPORTANCE OF THE INQUIRY.
We have seen how differently men think of Jesus, and what various beliefs and opinions have found expression concerning him. Is it, then, worth our
. while to consider the questions hereby raised, and to endeavour to follow the rule,“ Prove all things, hold fast that which is good,” in the present instance, by trying and searching what knowledge is possible for us respecting the prophet of Galilee? And if even no knowledge, yet what evidence of probabilities? Is the subject important to us? We are told on all sides that it is, and that the question, "What think ye of the Christ?” is, even in this our day, perhaps the most weighty that can by any possibility engage our attention.
That word “ Christendom” is very suggestive—the dominion of Christ. It reminds us what mighty influences, emanating either directly or indirectly from Nazareth, have been at work in building up our modern civilization, such as it is. Influences, if not always the direct result of Jesus' teaching and life, yet of men's faith in him-of what has been taught respecting him. Hence, what other historical subject can compare with this in importance, affecting, as it does, the whole community of nationalities constituting Christendom ?
And, apart from its interest as a historical question, and looked at merely as one of general human interest, the fact that Jesus has occupied some of the most gifted minds from his own age down to the present day might well arouse our curiosity, so that we also may be excused for desiring to look into the circle of ideas and sentiments revolving around him as a centre. The questions connected with Jesus of Nazareth are, then, important, if we only knew as much as this. But we know also that these questions personally concern us much more intimately. Looking at the estimate of Jesus given above by those who do not acknowledge him as the Hebrew Messiahthe King anointed of God, if even the lowest estimate of those we deemed it worth while to quote be found correct, still Jesus is one of the souls specially noteworthy for their kindling power, and surely we need all influences for good that we can readily have access to, to restrain our native selfishness and to fan into a flame, even if intermittent and but faintly burning, any spark susceptible of enthusiasm for humanity. Better than nothing if love of the Nazarene constrain us but thus far—or, if not love, say admiration of or sympathy with him. “Look on our divinest symbolJesus of Nazareth,” says Carlyle, "a symbol whose
significance will ever demand to be anew inquired into.” If it prove a veritable symbol of salvation from sin, shall it not be welcome? Yea, if the name of Jesus prove itself a talisman, operating, we know not how, to surround us with a pure atmosphere of thought, and to stir our languid souls with impulses to good, with yearning towards “the kingdom of God and His righteousness,” then we shall not have sought acquaintance with him in vain.
But we will remember that perhaps the most vital element of righteousness is—Truth. It is the whole of the theory, and no small part of the practice. For Truth comprehends the whole of knowledge, which if not of facts, is but sham knowledge. We will, then, try to come to "the knowledge of the truth," "as it is in Jesus,” or, at any rate, to such knowledge of the facts about him as is possible for us.
If we see reason to believe he has been commissioned by God "to lead men to truth and virtue," we shall do well to follow his guidance. If we find him worthy to be "a universal Model," we shall be improved by being moulded, to some extent, after his image.
But now, what does the Church say of the importance of learning all that she professes herself able to teach of Jesus ? Let us hear the words which she has transmitted to us as being the words of Jesus himself. “Every one, therefore, who heareth these words of mine and doeth them, shall be likened unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock.” “ 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.” “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” “He that believeth not hath been judged already, because he hath not believed on the name of the only begotten Son of God.” “This is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ."
The importance of knowing the truth concerning Jesus is also affirmed in the New Testament in words which are not given as having been uttered by Jesus himself. We appear to be told * that it was the Baptist who said, "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth (or believeth) not the son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
If Jesus be in very truth God's Anointed, King and Saviour of mankind, Incarnate Righteousness and Wisdom, then indeed it is manifestly of great moment that we should know this, and render to him the obedience due. The vast importance of believing on Jesus, and openly confessing this belief is distinctly affirmed by most of the writers of the Christian Scriptures. Thus Paul tells the Roman believers (x. 9): “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from
* John iii. 36.
the dead, thou shalt be saved.” We find also in 2 Thess. i. 7-9 the following words :-“the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with the angels of his power in flaming fire, rendering vengeance to them that know not God, and to them that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus : who shall suffer punishment, even eternal destruction from the face of the Lord.” "How shall we escape,” says the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, “if we neglect so great salvation ?" The writer of the fourth gospel states that the object held in view by himself in writing it was, “that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name " (xx. 31). See also i John iv. 3: “Every spirit, which confesseth not Jesus is not of God;" and 15, “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God.” Again (v. 10, 11), “ He that believeth not God, hath made him a liar; because he hath not believed in the witness that God hath borne concerning his Son." Also 2 John 9-11, “Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son. If any one cometh unto you, and brings not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting : for he that giveth him greeting partaketh of his evil works." Finally, in 2 Peter ii. 1, we read of persons, for "denying even the master that bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction.”