Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

and to the dissolving of doubts in the minds of those who have not as yet come to any definite conclusion on the subject.

I may just add that these chapters originally appeared in the Shield of Faith, of which Dr. Sexton and myself were for some time co-editors.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

I

N the introductory chapter I have drawn a distinction between

a belief in the personal divinity of Christ and a belief in His divine mission. As I have no desire, near or remote, to be unjust, or misrepresent those from whom I am constrained to differ, I will state what I believe to be the prevailing faith of what may be termed Christian Unitarians,' and in doing so I shall use the words of two eminent men, both of them living in America, but one of whom is by birth an Englishman. In a lecture on 'The Christ of the Gospels and the Christ of the Creeds,' delivered at Leeds, Nov. 13, 1873, by the Rev. Brooke Herford, then of Manchester, but now of Chicago, that gentleman says, page 20 :

«« But is this idea of Christ being man, then, all ? ” some of you may say. I believe it is; for myself, I tell you frankly that I believe Jesus was simply a man, a man born in honest wedlock, a man tempted at all points as we are, the noblest and most perfect of men; yet still, simply a man. convinced that the more men study Christ's life as it was,

the more they will come back to His simple humanity.' Dr. James Freeman Clarke, of Boston, in a lecture entitled Why am I a Unitarian ? delivered in the Music Hall, Boston, and forming No. 28 of the fourth series of tracts published by the American Unitarian Association, says, page 13 : We do not embarrass ourselves by these technical and theological distinctions, but accept Him (Christ) as He appears everywhere to be, a simple man, a man

I am

А

who by the divine gift and help and inspiration was able to rise till He came so near to God, that when we see Him we catch something of the reflected light of the Deity shining in His face.' So far as respects' Christian Unitarians.' I do not feel myself able to give any statement of the views about Christ held by Unitarians, who are at the same time not Christians; but when Mr. Herford, an English Unitarian, and Dr. Clarke, an American Unitarian, speak, they speak as claiming to be received as Christians as well as Unitarians, and what they really think about the personality of Christ is fairly set out in the quotations I have just now made. The question therefore for us to decide is a simple one,—How far are the views held by these Unitarian divines, and such as these, compatible with the distinct unembarrassed utterances of the New Testament? Of course, it is open to any man who believes in the simple humanity of our Lord, when he is confronted with texts, which look, or seem to look in another direction, to say either that the words are not genuine, that is to say, that they were not written by the person whose name vouches for them, or that they are not authentic, i.e. they are not true, but fictional. It may also be said that the writers, or those whom they report, have occasionally put into the mouth of Jesus words He never really uttered, or that the New Testament contains traces here and there of words respecting the Lord Jesus which were not in the originals, which were not uttered by Him, but which are later additions. It is also possible to say-what, indeed, has often been said that the initial chapters of St. Luke, recording the miraculous conception, are not trustworthy; and that the initial chapters of St. Matthew, while they were written by him, are nothing more than memoranda of traditions concerning the infancy and childhood of Jesus which the writer had received from others, after he had become one of the Lord's disciples. Into a discussion of these alternatives I do not intend to enter, because they are not the points of sight from which I intend to look at the question in hand. Assuming that the four Gospels were written by the persons whose names they bear, and that those Gospels do give a reliable account of what Jesus said, and of the beliefs of the writers themselves; assuming, also, that the remainder of the New Testament is historically reliable, and that we have in the writings ascribed to St. Paul, St. Peter, etc., what those apostles did really write and believe,—what is the fair inference to be derived from the evidence which these documents supply—not so much the direct as the indirect evidence? Suppose a man to come to the study of the New Testament with entire freshness of mind, with no theological bias, with a simple desire, as before God, to decide what it does really teach as to the personality of Christ, – what in all probability would be the conclusion at which he would arrive? Would he say the New Testament clearly taught the simple humanity of Christ and that only, or that it taught His personal divinity? I contend that the latter would be his conclusion; not alone from a study of what may be called the 'proof texts,' but quite as much from texts which are not ordinarily quoted in the controversy, but which cast a very definite light upon what Christ Himself taught, and what was believed and taught by His disciples. I may just say here that the texts I shall quote from the four Gospels will be taken in their chronological order, as that order has been laid down in Dr. Lant Carpenter's Harmony of the Gospels, not because that or indeed any other harmony is utterly reliable, but because it is, on the whole, quite as much so as any other work of a similar kind.

1. (John i. 29.) “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. Now, whatever difference of opinion there may be between Calvinists and Arminians as to the word world,' or between parties holding somewhat unimportant differences as to the actual character of Christ's Atoning Sacrifice, I ask whether this is language which a Jew would be likely to apply to a simple man, and whether it is within the limits of the capacity of a simple man as such to take away the sin of the world'? He who is to do this, and do it effectually, must be something more than man; for man is himself born ' under the law of sin and death.' He must be divine, as well as human, if the world' by His instrumentality is to be healed, made whole,' delivered from its state of sin.

2. (John ii. 18-21.) “Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things ? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days ? But He spake of the temple of His body.' St John adds, in the succeeding verse, words which clearly imply that the saying of our Lord was eventually interpreted by His disciples to have reference to His resurrection from the dead. What, therefore, according to St. John, our Lord said was virtually this, that He Himself would raise Himself from the dead. Undoubtedly, our Lord's Resurrection is often regarded as an awakening effected by the power of the Father ;' but here our Lord claims for Himself the power of self-resurrection, and I do not see how any simple man could claim that power, if he were both sane and sincere. A divine being might do so, a human being could not without manifest exaggeration and untruth.

3. (John iii. 16, 17.) "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.' These words reveal the possibility of man possessing everlasting life,' which is equivalent to being saved ;' for eternal or everlasting life is not mere continuity of existence, although, of course, it includes that, but is sympathetic union with God; and he who is a partaker of the divine nature is certainly saved. They reveal the possibility of man 'perishing,' or being condemned;' and just in proportion as the spirit of man voluntarily divorces itself from the Spirit of God, so is it in a state of perishing, and consequently of condemnation ; for he is and must be condemned who is out of harmony with God's order, which is but the outcome of God's nature. The words

« ÎnapoiContinuați »