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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.”
These words are still echoed and re-echoed from ten thousand pulpits, and as many Christian teachers ring constantly the changes, and they are various, on the words, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” On the one hand, we are told by divines of the Episcopal Churches of England and Ireland, as well as by the Roman Catholic, in the words of the Athanasian Creed, that, “Whosoever will be saved : before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which faith, except every one do keep whole and undefiled: without doubt he shall perish everlastingly;" a portion of this Catholic faith being the words quoted concerning Jesus from the same creed in the former chapter. And we
are also informed by divines of the Church of Scotland, quoting from their Confession of Faith, viz. that of Westminster, chap. 33, par. 2, “The wicked, who know not God, and obey not the Gospel of Jesus Christ, shall be cast into eternal torments.” For those who ask to have these “eternal torments" more plainly defined, there is the answer to Question 29 in the “Larger Catechism,” viz. “Most grievous torments in soul and body, without intermission, in hell fire, for ever.” To these torments all are destined who are not saved, and lest it be supposed that only the flagrantly "wicked ” will be thus condemned, we quote Answer to Question 60, “They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature.”
But here it is due to ourselves and our readers to admit that we cannot profess to urge the hideous clauses above quoted as reasons why we should seek to know Jesus. We let them stand as part of what is still nominally held and authoritatively stated, but we do not now write for such as accept literally either the Catholic or Calvinist creed in its entirety. We are not speaking of such persons as explain away what is most offensive to the unsophisticated (like the late Charles Kingsley, who wrote, in all sincerity, in defence of the Athanasian Creed), but of those who profess to believe either creed in its most obvious
We shall hardly obtain serious readers from amongst these.
The masses of the people, also, who frequent Methodist and other evangelical places of worship, and especially those who are found at "revival services" and in the ranks of the "Salvation Army," give utterance in song to their conviction of the supreme need for belief in Jesus as “the Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world.”
“ Believe, and all your sin's forgiven ;
Only believe, and yours is heaven.” So the Methodists; but the more thoroughgoing of the Evangelicals echo the oft-quoted words found in some collections of hymns for revival services :
“Till to Jesus' cross you cling
By a simple faith,
Doing ends in death."
We see, then, that the question "What think ye of the Christ ? ” is truly a momentous one, and, in words at least, is by the majority confessed to be so. It is not a question confined to any particular class or section, but one that intimately concerns the welfare of every individual, and as such ought to command the serious attention of all who are able to consider it, and who have not already done so.
This great importance of the subject is, strange to say, to many the very reason why they do not seriously entertain it as a question. Awestricken by the terrible doom pronounced on want of belief-on unbelief, they hasten to silence any unwelcome doubt of the truth of the creed which they have been trained from infancy to regard as certainly revealed from heaven; such doubt they unhesitatingly stifle as "devil-born.”
This is an attitude, however, which we, on the eve of an inquiry into the truth concerning Jesus, cannot take. Whatever may be our private conviction, it does not become us to assume beforehand the truth of any particular view or set of views.
The whole question is to us, at this our present standpoint, an open one, excepting only the extreme aspects we have already noticed, but to reprobate as too absurd for this discussion.* Therefore, and because we are bound, previous to inquiry, to admit
* We mean that we—and, we presume, our readers—had already given such attention to them as they deserve, and had rejected them long before entering on the present inquiry, any consideration of these revolting dogmas belonging to a more elementary stage.