The Divinity of
The Jews answered Him, saying, For a good work we stone Thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a Man, makest Thyself God.—ST. JOHN x. 33.
IT is common with some modern writers to represent the questions at issue between the Faith and its opponents, in respect of the Person of our Lord, as being substantially a question between the ‘historical spirit’ and the spirit of dogmatism. The dogmatic temper is painted by them as a baseless but still powerful superstition, closely pressed by the critical enquiries and negative conclusions of our day, but culpably shutting its eyes against the advancing truth, the power of which nevertheless it cannot but instinctively feel, and clinging with the wrong-headed obstinacy of despair to the cherished but already condemned formulae of its time-honored and worn-out metaphysics. Opposed to it, we are told, is the ‘historical spirit,’ young, vigorous, fearless, truthful, flushed with successes already achieved, assured of successes yet to come. The ‘historical spirit’ is thus said to represent the cause of an enlightened progress in conflict with a stupid and immoral conservatism. The ‘historical spirit’ is described as the love of sheer reality, as the longing for hard fact, determined to make away with all ‘idols of the den,’ however ancient, venerated, and influential, in the sphere of theology. The ‘historical spirit’ accordingly undertakes to ‘disentangle the real Person of Jesus from the metaphysical envelope’ within which theology is said to have ‘encased’ Him. The Christ is to be rescued from that cloud-land of abstract and fanciful speculation, to which He is stated to have been banished by the patristic and scholastic divines; He is to be restored to Christendom in manifest subjection to all the actual conditions and laws of human history. ‘Look,’ it is said, ‘at that figure of the Christ which you see traced in mosaics in the apsis of a Byzantine church. That Countenance upon which you gaze, with its rigid, unalterable outline, with its calm, strong mien of unassailable majesty; that Form from which there has been stripped all the historic circumstance of life, all that belongs to the changes and chances of our mortal condition; what is it but an artistic equivalent and symbol of the Catholic dogma? Elevated thus to a world of unfading glory, and throned in an imperturbable repose, the Byzantine Christos Pantocrator must be viewed as the expression of an idea, rather than as the transcript of a fact. A certain interest may be allowed to attach to such a representation, from its illustrating a particular stage in the development of religious thought. But the “historical spirit” must create what it can consider a really “historical” Christ, who will be to the Christ of St. Athanasius and St. John what a Rembrandt or a Rubens is to a Giotto or a Cimabue.’ If the illustration be objected to, at any rate, my brethren, the aim of the so-termed ‘historical’ school is sufficiently plain. It proposes to fashion a Christ who is to be aesthetically graceful and majestic, but strictly natural and human. This Christ will be emancipated from the bandages which ‘supernaturalism has wrapped around the Prophet of Nazareth.’ He will be divorced from any idea of incarnating essential Godhead; but, as we are assured, He will still be something, aye more than the Christ of the Creed has ever been yet, to Christendom. He will be at once a living man, and the very ideal of humanity; at once a being who obeys the invincible laws of nature, like ourselves, yet of moral proportions so mighty and so unrivalled that his appearance among men shall adequately account for the phenomenon of an existing and still expanding Church.
Accordingly by this representation it is intended to place us in a dilemma. ‘You must choose,’ men seem to say, ‘between history and dogma; you must choose between history which can be verified, and dogma which belongs to the sphere of inaccessible abstractions. You must make your choice; since the Catholic dogma of Christ’s Divinity is pronounced by the higher criticism to be irreconcileable with the historical reality of the Life of Jesus.’ And in answer to that challenge, let us proceed, my brethren, to choose history, and as a result of that choice, if it may be, to maintain that the Christ of history is either the God Whom we believers adore, or that He is far below the assumed moral level of the mere man, whose character rationalism still, at least generally, professes to respect in the pages of its mutilated Gospel.
For let us observe that the Catholic doctrine has thus much in its favor:—it takes for granted the only existing history of Jesus Christ. It is not compelled to mutilate or to enfeeble it, or to do it critical violence. It is in league with this history; it is at home, as is no other doctrine, in the pages of the Evangelists.
Consider, first of all, the general impression respecting our Lord’s Person, which arises upon a survey of the miracles ascribed to Him in all the extant accounts of His Life. To a thoughtful Humanitarian, who believes in the preternatural elements of the Gospel history, our Lord’s miracles, taken as a whole, must needs present an embarrassing difficulty. The miraculous cures indeed, which, more particularly in the earlier days of Christ’s ministry, drew the eyes of men towards Him, as to the Healer of sickness and of pain, have been ‘explained,’ however unsatisfactorily, by the singular methods generally accepted among the older rationalists. A Teacher, it used to be argued, of such character as Jesus Christ, must have created a profound impression; He must have inspired an entire confidence; and the cures which He seemed to work were the immediate results of the impression which He created; they were the natural consequences of the confidence which He inspired. Now, apart from other and many obvious objections to this theory, let us observe that it is altogether inapplicable to the ‘miracles of power,’ as they are frequently termed, which are recorded by the three first Evangelists, no less than by St. John. ‘Miracles of this class,’ says a freethinking writer, ‘are not cures which could have been effected by the influence of a striking sanctity acting upon a simple faith. They are prodigies; they are, as it seems, works which Omnipotence Alone could achieve. In the case of these miracles it may be said that the laws of nature are simply suspended. Jesus does not here merely exhibit the power of moral and mental superiority over common men; He upsets and goes beyond the rules and bounds of the order of the universe. A word from His mouth stills a tempest. A few loaves and fishes are fashioned by His Almighty hand into an abundant feast, which satisfies thousands of hungry men. At His bidding life returns to inanimate corpses. By His curse a fig-tree which had no fruit on it is withered up1.’ The writer proceeds to argue that such miracles must be expelled from any Life of Christ which ‘criticism’ will condescend to accept. They belong, he contends, to that ‘torrent of legend,’ with which, according to the rationalistic creed, Jesus was surrounded after His Death by the unthinking enthusiasm of His disciples2. But then a question arises as to how much is to be included within this legendary ‘torrent.’ In particular, and above all else, is the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave to be regarded as a part of its contributions to the Life of Christ? Here there is a division among the rationalizing critics. There are writers who reject our Lord’s miracles of power, His miraculous Conception, and even His Ascension into heaven, and who yet shrink from denying that very fundamental fact of all, the fact that on ‘the third day He rose from the dead, according to the Scriptures3.’ A man must have made up his mind against Christianity more conclusively than men are generally willing to avow, if he is to speculate with M. Renan in the face of Christendom, as to the exact spot in which ‘the worms consumed the lifeless body’ of Jesus4. This explicit denial of the literal Resurrection of Jesus from the grave is not compensated for by some theory identical with, or analogous to, that of Hymenaeus and Philetus5 respecting the general Resurrection, whereby the essential subject of Christ’s Resurrection is changed, and the idea of Christianity, or the soul of the converted Christian, as distinct from the Body of the Lord Jesus, is said to have been raised from the dead. For such a denial, let us mark it well, of the literal Resurrection of the Human Body of Jesus involves nothing less than an absolute and total rejection of Christianity. All orthodox Churches, all the great heresies, even Socinianism, have believed in the Resurrection of Jesus. The literal Resurrection of Jesus was the cardinal fact upon which the earliest preachers of Christianity based their appeal to the Jewish people6. St. Paul, writing to a Gentile Church, expressly makes Christianity answer with its life for the literal truth of the Resurrection. ‘If Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. . . Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished7.’ Some modern writers would possibly have reproached St. Paul with offering a harsh alternative instead of an argument. But St. Paul would have replied, first, that our Lord’s honor and credit were entirely staked upon the issue, since He had foretold His Resurrection as the ‘sign’ which would justify His claims8; and secondly, that the fact of the Resurrection was attested by evidence which must outweigh everything except an a priori conviction of the impossibility of miracle, since it was attested by the word of more than two hundred and fifty living persons who had actually seen the Risen Jesus9. As to objections to miracle of an a priori character, St. Paul would have argued, as most Theists, and even the French philosopher, have argued, that such objections could not be urged by any man who believed seriously in a living God at all10. But on the other hand, if the Resurrection be admitted to be a fact, it is puerile to object to the other miracles of Jesus, or to any other Christian miracles, provided they be sufficiently attested. To have admitted the stupendous truth that Jesus, after predicting that He would be put to a violent death, and then rise from the dead, was actually so killed, and then did actually so rise, must incapacitate any thoughtful man for objecting to the supernatural Conception or to the Ascension into heaven, or to the more striking wonders wrought by Jesus, on any such ground as that of intrinsic improbability. The Resurrection has, as compared with the other miraculous occurrences narrated in the Gospels, all the force of an a fortiori argument; they follow, if we may use the term, naturally from it; they are fitly complemental incidents of a history in which the Resurrection has already made it plain, that we are dealing with One in Whose case our ordinary experience of the limits and conditions of human power is altogether at fault.
But if the miracles of Jesus be admitted in the block, as by a ‘rational’ believer in the Resurrection they must be admitted; they do point, as I have said, to the Catholic belief, as distinct from any lower conceptions respecting the Person of Jesus Christ. They differ from the miracles of prophets and Apostles in that, instead of being answers to prayer, granted by a Higher Power, they manifestly flow forth from the majestic Life resident in the Worker11. And instead of presenting so many ‘difficulties’ which have to be surmounted or set aside, they are in entire harmony with that representation of our Savior’s Personal glory which is embodied in the Creeds. St. John accordingly calls them Christ’s ‘works,’ meaning that they were just such acts as might be expected from Him, being such as He was. For our Lord’s miracles are something more than evidences that He was the organ of a Divine revelation. They do not merely secure a deferential attention to His disclosures respecting the nature of God, the duty and destiny of man, His own Person, mission, and work. Certainly they have this properly evidential force; He Himself appealed to them as having it12. But it would be difficult altogether to account for their form, or for their varieties, or for the times at which they were wrought, or for the motives which were actually assigned for working them, on the supposition that their value was only evidential. They are like the kind deeds of the wealthy, or the good advice of the wise; they are like that debt of charity which is due from the possessors of great endowments to suffering humanity. Christ as Man owed this tribute of mercy which His Godhead had rendered it possible for Him to pay, to those whom (such was His love) He was not ashamed to call His brethren. But besides this, Christ’s miracles are physical and symbolic representations of His redemptive action as the Divine Savior of mankind. Their form is carefully adapted to express this action. By healing the palsied, the blind, the lame, Christ clothed with a visible form His plenary power to cure spiritual diseases, such as the weakness, the darkness, the deadly torpor of the soul. By casting out devils from the possessed, He pointed to His victory over the principalities and powers of evil, whereby man would be freed from their thralldom and restored to moral liberty13. By raising Lazarus from the corruption of the grave, He proclaimed Himself not merely a Revealer of the Resurrection, but the Resurrection and the Life itself. The drift and meaning of such a miracle as that in which our Lord’s ‘Ephphatha’ brought hearing and speech to the deaf and dumb is at once apparent when we place it in the light of the Sacrament of baptism14. The feeding of the five thousand is remarkable as the one miracle which is narrated by all the Evangelists; and even the least careful among readers of the Gospel cannot fail to be struck with the solemn actions which precede the wonder-work, as well as by the startling magnificence of the result. Yet the permanent significance of that extraordinary scene at Bethsaida Julias is never really understood, until our Lord’s great discourse in the synagogue of Capernaum, which immediately follows it, is read as the spiritual exposition of the physical miracle, which is thus seen to be a commentary, palpable to sense, upon the vital efficacy of the Holy Communion15.
In our Lord’s miracles then we have before us something more than a set of credentials; since they manifest forth His Mediatorial Glory. They exhibit various aspects of that redemptive power whereby He designed to save lost man from sin and death; and they lead us to study, from many separate points of view, Christ’s majestic Personality, as the Source of the various wonders which radiate from it. And assuredly such a study can have but one result for those who honestly believe in the literal reality of the wonders described; it must force upon them a conviction of the Divinity of the worker16.
But the miracles which especially point to the Catholic doctrine as their justification, and which are simply incumbrances blocking up the way of a Humanitarian theorist, are those of which our Lord’s Manhood is itself the subject. According to the Gospel narrative, Jesus enters this world by one miracle, and He leaves it by another. His human manifestation centers in that miracle of miracles, His Resurrection from the grave after death. The Resurrection is the central fact up to which all leads, and from which all radiates. Such wonders as Christ’s Birth of a Virgin-mother, His Resurrection from the tomb, and His Ascension into heaven, are not merely the credentials of our redemption, they are distinct stages and processes of the redemptive work itself. Taken in their entirety, they interpose a measureless interval between the Life of Jesus and the lives of the greatest of prophets or of Apostles, even of those to whom it was given to still the elements and to raise the dead. To expel these miracles from the Life of Jesus is to destroy the identity of the Christ of the Gospels; it is to substitute a new Christ for the Christ of Christendom. Who would recognize the true Christ in the natural son of a human father, or in the crucified prophet whose body has rotted in an earthly grave? Yet on the other hand, who will not admit that He Who was conceived of the Holy Ghost and born of a Virgin-mother, Who, after being crucified, dead, and buried, rose again the third day from the dead, and then went up into heaven before the eyes of His Apostles, must needs be an altogether superhuman Being? The Catholic doctrine then is at home among the facts of the Gospel narrative by the mere fact of its proclaiming a superhuman Christ, while the modern Humanitarian theories are ill at ease among those facts. The four Evangelists, amid their distinguishing peculiarities, concur in representing a Christ Whose Life is encased in a setting of miracles. The Catholic doctrine meets these representations more than half-way; they are in sympathy with, if they are not admitted to anticipate, its assertion. The Gospel miracles point at the very least to a Christ Who is altogether above the range of human experience; and the Creeds recognize and confirm this indication by saying that He is Divine. Thus the Christ of dogma is the Christ of history: He is the Christ of the only extant history which describes the Founder of Christendom at all. He may not be the Christ of some modern commentators upon that history; but these commentators do not affect to take the history as it has come down to us. As the Gospel narratives stand, they present a block of difficulties to Humanitarian theories; and these difficulties can only be removed by mutilations of the narratives so wholesale and radical as to destroy their substantial interest, besides rendering the retention of the fragments which may be retained, a purely arbitrary procedure. The Gospel narratives describe the Author of Christianity as the Worker and the subject of extraordinary miracles; and these miracles are such as to afford a natural lodgment for, nay, to demand as their correlative, the doctrine of the Creed. That doctrine must be admitted to be, if not the divinely authorized explanation, at least the best intellectual conception and resume of the evangelical history. A man need not be a believer in order to admit, that in asserting Christ’s Divinity we make a fair translation of the Gospel story into the language of abstract thought; and that we have the best key to that story when we see in it the doctrine that Christ is God, unfolding itself in a series of occurrences which on any other supposition seem to wear an air of nothing less than legendary extravagance.
It may—it probably will—be objected to all this, that a large number of men and women at the present day are on the one hand strongly prepossessed against the credibility of all miracles whatever, while on the other they are sincere ‘admirers’ of the moral character of Jesus Christ. They may not wish explicitly and in terms to reject the miraculous history recorded in the Gospels; but still less do they desire to commit themselves to an unreserved acceptance of it. Whether from indifference to miraculous occurrences, or because their judgment is altogether in suspense, they would rather keep the preternatural element in our Lord’s Life out of sight, or shut their eyes to it. But they are open to the impressions which may be produced by the spectacle of high ethical beauty, if only the character of Christ can be disentangled from a series of wonders, which, as transcending all ordinary human experience, do not touch the motives that compel their assent to religious truth. Accordingly we are warned, that if it is not a piece of spiritual thoughtlessness, and even cruelty, it is at any rate a rhetorical mistake to insist upon a consideration so opposed to the intellectual temper of the time.
This is what may be urged: but let it be observed, that the objector assumes a point which should rather have been proved. He assumes the possibility of putting forward an honest picture of the Life of Jesus, which shall uphold the beauty, and even the perfection of His moral character, while denying the historical reality of His miracles, or at any rate while ignoring them. Whereas, if the only records which we possess of the Life of Jesus are to be believed at all, they make it certain that Jesus Christ did claim to work, and was Himself the embodiment of, startling miracles17. How can this fact be dealt with by a modern disbeliever in the miraculous? Was Christ then the ignorant victim and promoter of a crude superstition? Or was He, as M. Renan considers, passive and unresisting, while credited with working wonders which He knew to be merely thaumaturgic tricks18? On either supposition, is it possible to uphold Him as ‘the moral ideal of humanity,’ or indeed as the worthy object of any true moral enthusiasm? We cannot decline this question; it is forced upon us by the subject-matter. A neutral attitude towards the miraculous element in the Gospel history is impossible. The claim to work miracles is not the least prominent element of our Lord’s teaching; nor are the miracles which are said to have been wrought by Him a fanciful or ornamental appendage to His action. The miraculous is inextricably interwoven with the whole Life of Christ. The ethical beauty, nay the moral integrity of our Lord’s character is dependent, whether we will it or not, upon the reality of His miracles. It may be very desirable to defer as far as possible to the mental prepossessions of our time; but it is not practicable to put asunder two things which God has joined together, namely, the beauty of Christ’s character and the bona fide reality of the miracles which He professed to work.
But let us nevertheless follow the lead of this objection by turning to consider what is the real bearing of our Lord’s moral character upon the question of His Divinity. In order to do this, it is necessary to ask a previous question. What position did Jesus Christ, either tacitly or explicitly, claim to occupy in His intercourse with men? What allusions did He make to the subject of His Personality? You will feel, my brethren, that it is impossible to overrate the solemn importance of such a point as this. We are here touching the very heart of our great subject: we have penetrated to the inmost shrine of Christian truth, when we thus proceed to examine those words of the Gospels which exhibit the consciousness of the Founder of Christianity respecting His rank in the scale of being. With what awe, yet with what loving eagerness, must not a Christian enter on such an examination!
No reader of the Gospels can fail to see that, speaking generally, and without reference to any presumed order of the events and sayings in the Gospel history, there are two distinct stages or levels in the teaching of Jesus Christ our Lord.
1. Of these the first is mainly concerned with primary fundamental moral truth. It is in substance a call to repentance, and the proclamation of a new life. It is summarized in the words, ‘Repent ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand19.’ A change of mind, both respecting self, and respecting God, was necessary before a man could lead the new life of the kingdom of heaven. In a previous lecture we have had occasion to consider the kingdom of heaven as the outline or plan of a world-wide institution which was to take its place in history. But viewed in its relation to the life of the soul, the kingdom of heaven is the home and the native atmosphere of a new and higher order of spiritual existence. This new life is not merely active thought, such as might be stimulated by the cross-questioning of a Socrates; nor is it moral force, the play of which was limited to the single soul that possessed it. It is moral and mental life, having God and men for its objects, and accordingly lived in an organized society, as the necessary counterpart of its energetic action. Of this stage of our Lord’s preaching, the Sermon on the Mount is the most representative document. The Sermon on the Mount preaches penitence by laying down the highest law of holiness. It contrasts the externalized devotion, the conventional and worldly religion of the time, created and sanctioned by the leading currents of public opinion, and described as the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, with a new and severe ideal of morality, embodied in the new law of Christian perfection. It stimulates and regulates penitence, by proposing a new conception of blessedness; by contrasting the spirit of the new law with the literalism of the old; by exhibiting the devotional duties, the ruling motives, the characteristic temper, and the special dangers of the new life. Incidentally the Sermon on the Mount states certain doctrines, such as that of the Divine Providence, with great explicitness20; but, throughout it, the moral element is predominant. This great discourse quickens and deepens a sense of sin by presenting the highest ideal of an inward holiness. In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord is laying broad and deep the foundations of His spiritual edifice. A pure and loving heart; an open and trustful conscience; a freedom of communion with the Father of spirits; a love of man as man, the measure of which is to be nothing less than a man’s love of himself; above all a stern determination, at any cost, to be true, true with God, true with men, true with self;—such are the pre-requisites for genuine discipleship; such the spiritual and subjective bases of the new and Absolute Religion; such the moral material of the first stage of our Lord’s public teaching.
In this first stage of our Lord’s teaching let us moreover note two characteristics.
(a) And first, that our Lord’s recorded language is absolutely wanting in a feature, which, on the supposition of His being merely human, would seem to have been practically indispensable. Our Lord does not place before us any relative or lower standard of morals. He proposes the highest standard; He enforces the absolute morality. ‘Be ye therefore perfect,’ He says, ‘even as your Father Which is in Heaven is perfect21.’ Now in the case of a human teacher of high moral and spiritual attainments, what should we expect to be a necessary accompaniment of this teaching? Surely we should expect some confession of personal unworthiness thus to teach. We should look for some trace of a feeling (so inevitable in this pulpit) that the message which must be spoken is the rebuke, if not the condemnation, of the man who must speak it. Conscious of many shortcomings, a human teacher must at some time relieve his natural sense of honesty, his fundamental instinct of justice, by noting the discrepancy between his weak, imperfect, perhaps miserable self, and his sublime and awful message. He must draw a line, if I may so speak, between his official and his personal self; and in his personal capacity he must honestly, anxiously, persistently associate himself with his hearers, as being before God, like each one of themselves, a learning, struggling, erring soul. But Jesus Christ makes no approach to such a distinction between Himself and His message. He bids men be like God, and He gives not the faintest hint that any trace of unlikeness to God in Himself obliges Him to accompany the delivery of that precept with a protestation of His own personal unworthiness. Do you say that this is only a rhetorical style or mood derived by tradition from the Hebrew prophets, and natural in any Semitic teacher who aspired to succeed them? I answer, that nothing is plainer in the Hebrew prophets than the clear distinction which is constantly maintained between the moral level of the teacher and the moral level of His message. The prophetic ambassador represents the Invisible King of Israel; but the holiness of the King is never measured, never compromised by the imperfections of His representative. The prophetic writings abound in confessions of weakness, in confessions of shortcomings, in confessions of sin. The greatest of the prophets is permitted to see the glory of the Lord, and he forthwith exclaims in agony, ‘Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts 22.’
But the silence of Jesus respecting any such sense of personal unworthiness has been accounted for by the unrivalled closeness of His life-long communion with God. Is it then certain that the holiest souls are least alive to personal sin? Do they whose life of thought is little less than the breath of a perpetual prayer, and who dwell continuously in the presence-chamber of the King of kings, profess themselves insensible to that taint of sin, from which none are altogether free? Is this the lesson which we learn from the language of the best of the servants of God? My brethren, the very reverse is the case. Those who have lived nearest to God, and have known most about Him, and have been most visibly irradiated by the light of His countenance, have been foremost to acknowledge that the ‘burden’ of remaining imperfection in themselves was truly ‘intolerable.’ Their eager protestations have often seemed to the world to be either the exaggerations of fanaticism, or else the proof of a more than ordinary wickedness. For blemishes which might have passed unobserved in a spiritual twilight, are lighted up with torturing clearness by those searching, scorching rays of moral truth, that stream from the bright Sanctity of God upon the soul that beholds It. In that Presence the holiest of creatures must own with the Psalmist, ‘Thou hast set our misdeeds before Thee, and our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance23.’ Such self-accusing, broken-hearted confessions of sin have been the utterances of men the most conspicuous in Christendom for holiness of life; and no true saint of God ever supposed that by a constant spiritual sight of God the soul would lose its keen truthful sense of personal sinfulness. No man could presume that this sense of sinfulness, as distinct from the sense of unpardoned guilt, would be banished by close communion with God, unless his moral standard was low, and his creed imperfect. Any such presumption is utterly inconsistent with a true sight of Him Whose severe and stainless beauty casts the shadow of failure upon all that is not Himself, and Who charges His very angels with moral folly.
Yet Jesus Christ never once confesses sin; He never once asks for pardon. Is it not He, Who so sharply rebukes the self-righteousness of the Pharisee? Might He not seem to ignore all human piety that is not based upon a broken heart? Does He not deal with human nature at large as the true prodigal, who must penitently return to a Father’s love as the one condition of its peace and bliss? Yet He Himself never lets fall a hint, He Himself never breathes a prayer, which implies any, the slightest trace, of a personal remorse24. From no casual admission do we gather that any, the most venial sin, has ever been His. Never for one moment does He associate Himself with any passing experience of that anxious dread of the penal future with which His own awful words must needs fill the sinner’s heart. If His Soul is troubled, at least His moral sorrows are not His own, they are a burden laid on Him by His love for others. Nay, He challenges His enemies to convince Him of sin. He declares positively that He does always the will of the Father25. Even when speaking of Himself as Man, He always refers to eternal life as His inalienable possession. It might, so perchance we think, be the illusion of a moral dullness, if only He did not penetrate the sins of others with such relentless analysis. It might, we imagine, be a subtle pride, if we did not know Him to be so unrivalled in His great humility26. This consciousness of an absolute sinlessness in such a Soul as that of Jesus Christ, points to a moral elevation unknown to our actual human experience. It is, at the very least, suggestive of a relation to the Perfect Moral Being altogether unique in human history27.
(b) The other characteristic of this stage of our Lord’s teaching is the attitude which He at once and, if I may so say, naturally assumes, not merely towards the teachers of His time, but towards the letter of that older, divinely-given Revelation which they preserved and interpreted. The people early remarked that Jesus ‘taught as One having authority, and not as the Scribes28.’ The Scribes reasoned, they explained, they balanced argument against argument, they appealed to the critical or verifying faculty of their hearers. But here is a Teacher, Who sees truth intuitively, and announces it simply, without condescending to recommend it by argument. He is a Teacher, moreover, not of truth obvious to all, but of truth which might have seemed to the men who first heard it to be what we should call paradoxical. He condemns in the severest language the doctrine and the practice of the most influential religious authorities among His countrymen. He takes up instinctively a higher position than He assigns to any who had preceded Him in Israel. He passes in review, and accepts or abrogates not merely the traditional doctrines of the Jewish schools, but the Mosaic law itself. His style runs thus: ‘It was said to them of old time, . . . but I say unto you29.’
Here too it is necessary to protest against statements which imply that this authoritative teaching of Jesus was merely a continuation of the received prophetical style. It is true that the prophets gave prominence to the moral element in the teaching of the Pentateuch, that they expanded it, and that so far they anticipated one side of the ministry of Jesus Himself. But the prophets always appealed to a higher sanction; the prophetic argument addressed to the conscience of Israel was ever, ‘Thus saith the Lord.’ How significant, how full of import as to His consciousness respecting Himself is our Lord’s customary phrase, ‘Verily, I say unto you30.’ What prophet ever set himself above the great Legislator, above the Law written by the finger of God on Sinai? What prophet ever undertook to ratify the Pentateuch as a whole, to contrast his own higher morality with some of its precepts in detail, to imply even remotely that he was competent to revise that which every Israelite knew to be the handiwork of God? What prophet ever thus implicitly placed himself on a line of equality, not with Moses, not with Abraham, but with the Lord God Himself? So momentous a claim requires explanation if the claimant be only human. This impersonation of the source of moral law must rest upon some basis: what is the basis on which it rests?
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus Christ does not deign to justify His lofty critical and revisionary attitude towards the ancient Law. He neither explains nor exaggerates His power to review the older revelation, and to reveal new truth. He simply teaches; He abrogates, He establishes, He sanctions, He unfolds, as the case may be, and in a tone which implies that His right to teach is not a matter for discussion.
It was inevitable that the question should be asked, anxiously, earnestly, fiercely, ‘Who is This Teacher?’ I say, it was inevitable, for if you teach the lowest moral truth, in the humblest sphere, your right to do so will sooner or later be called in question. To teach moral truth is to throw down a challenge to human nature, human nature being such as it actually is, that is to say, conscious of more or less disloyalty to the moral light which it already possesses, and indisposed to become responsible for knowledge of a yet higher standard of moral truth, the existence of which it may already suspect. Accordingly the challenge which is thus made is generally met by a sharp counter-scrutiny into the claims, be they personal or official, of the teacher who dares to make it. This penalty of teaching can only be escaped either in certain rare and primitive conditions of society, or else when the teacher fails to do his duty. Missionaries have described savage tribes whose sense of ignorance was too sincere, and who were too grateful for knowledge, to take umbrage at the practical bearings of a new doctrine. Poets have sung of ancestors
‘Qui praeceptorem sancti voluere parentis
Generally speaking, however, an immunity from criticism is to be secured by signal inefficiency, feebleness, or disloyalty to principle, on the part of the teacher. A teacher of morals may have persuaded his conscience that the ruling worldly opinion of his time can safely be regarded as its court of final appeal. He may have forced his thought to shape itself with prudent docility into those precise conventionalities of expression which are understood to mean nothing, or which have lost their power. In such a case too it may happen that the total failure to achieve moral and spiritual victories will not necessarily entail on the teacher complete social or professional obscurity, while it will certainly protect him against any serious liability to hostile interference.
Picture to yourselves, on the contrary, a teacher who is not merely under the official obligation to say something, but who is morally convinced that he has something to say. Imagine one who believes alike in the truth of his message and in the reality of his mission to deliver it. Let his message combine those moral contrasts which give permanency and true force to a doctrine, and which the Gospel alone has combined in their perfection. Let this teacher be tender, yet searching; let him win the hearts of men by his kindly humanity, while he probes, aye to the quick, their moral sores. Let him be uniformly calm, yet manifestly moved by the fire of repressed passion. Let him be stern yet not unloving, and resolute without sacrificing the elasticity of his sympathy, and genial without condescending to be the weakly accomplice of moral mischief. Let him pursue and expose the latent evil of the human heart through all the mazes of its unrivalled deceitfulness, without sullying his own purity, and without forfeiting his strong belief in the present capacity of every human being for goodness. Let him ‘know what is in man,’ and yet, with this knowledge clearly before him, let him not only not despair of humanity, but respect it, nay love it, even enthusiastically. Above all, let this teacher be perfectly independent. Let him be independent of the voice of the multitude; independent of the enthusiasm and promptings of his disciples; independent even when face to face with the bitter criticism and scorn of his antagonists; independent of all save God and his conscience. In a word, conceive a case in which moral authority and moral beauty combine to elicit a simultaneous tribute of reverence and of love. Clearly such a teacher must be a moral power; and as a consequence, his claim to teach must be scrutinized with a severity proportioned to the interest which he excites, and to the hostility which he cannot hope to escape provoking. And such a Teacher, or rather much more than this, was Jesus Christ our Lord.
Nor is this all. The scrutiny which our Lord thus necessarily encountered from without was responded to, or rather it was anticipated, by self-discovery from within. ‘The soul,’ it has been said, ‘like the body, has its pores;’ and in a sincere soul the pores of its life are always open. Instinctively, unconsciously, and whether a man will or not, the insignificance or the greatness of the inner life always reveals itself. In our Lord this self-revelation was not involuntary, or accidental, or forced; it was in the highest degree deliberate. He knew the thoughts of those about Him, and He anticipated their expression. He placed beyond a doubt, by the most explicit statements, that which might have been more than suspected, if He had only preached the Sermon on the Mount.
II. It is characteristic then of what may be termed the second stage of our Lord’s public teaching, that He distinctly, repeatedly, energetically preaches Himself. He does not leave men to draw inferences about Himself from the power of His moral teaching, or from the awe-inspiring nature of His miracles. He does not content Himself with teaching primary moral truths concerning God and our duties towards God and towards one another. He does not bequeath to His Apostles the task of elaborating a theory respecting the Personal rank of their Master in the scale of being. On the contrary, He Himself persistently asserts the real character of His position relatively to God and man, and of His consequent claims upon the thought and heart of mankind. Whether He employs metaphor, or plain unmetaphorical assertion, His meaning is too clear to be mistaken. He speaks of Himself as the Light of a darkened world32, as the Way by which man may ascend to heaven33, as the Truth which can really satisfy the cravings of the soul34, as the Life which must be imparted to all who would live in very deed, to all who would really live for ever35. Life is resident in Him in virtue of an undefined and eternal communication of it from the Father36. He is the Bread of Life37. He is the Living Bread That came down from heaven38; believers in Him will feed on Him and will have eternal life39. He points to a living water of the Spirit, which He can give, and which will quench the thirst of souls that drink it40. All who came before Him He characterizes as having been, by comparison with Himself, the thieves and robbers of mankind41. He is Himself the One Good Shepherd of the souls of men42; He knows and He is known of His true sheep43. Not only is He the Shepherd, He is the very Door of the sheepfold; to enter through Him is to be safe44. He is the Vine, the Life-tree of regenerate humanity45. All that is truly fruitful and lovely in the human family must branch forth from Him46; all spiritual life must wither and die, if it be severed from His47. He stands consciously between earth and heaven. He claims to be the One Means of a real approach to the Invisible God: no soul of man can come to the Father but through Him48. He promises that all prayer offered in His Name shall be answered: ‘If ye ask anything in my Name I will do it49.’ He contrasts Himself with a group of His countrymen as follows: ‘Ye are from beneath, I am from above; ye are of this world, I am not of this world50.’ He anticipates His Death, and foretells its consequences: ‘I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Myself 51.’ He claims to be the Lord of the realm of death; He will Himself wake the sleeping dead; all that are in the graves shall hear His voice52; nay, He will raise Himself from the dead53. He proclaims, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life54.’ He encourages men to trust in Him as they trust in God55; to make Him an object of faith just as they believe in God56; to honor Him as they honor the Father57. To love Him is a necessary mark of the children of God: ‘If God were your Father, ye would have loved Me58.’ It is not possible, He rules, to love God, and yet to hate Himself: ‘He that hateth Me, hateth My Father also59.’ The proof of a true love to Him lies in doing His bidding: ‘If ye love Me, keep My commandments60.’
Of this second stage of our Lord’s teaching the most representative document is the Discourse in the supper-room. How great is the contrast between that discourse and the Sermon on the Mount! In the Sermon on the Mount, which deals with questions of human character and of moral obligation, the reference to our Lord’s Person is comparatively indirect. It lies, not in explicit statements, but in the authority of His tone, in the attitude which He tacitly assumes towards the teachers of the Jewish people, and towards the ancient Law. In the last discourse it is His Person rather than His teaching which is especially prominent; His subject in that discourse is Himself. Certainly He preaches Himself in His relationship to His redeemed; but still He preaches above all and in all, Himself. All radiates from Himself, all converges towards Himself. The sorrows and perplexities of His disciples, the mission and work of the Paraclete, the mingling predictions of suffering and of glory, are all bound up with the Person of Jesus, as manifested by Himself. In those matchless words all centers so consistently in Jesus, that it might seem that Jesus alone is before us; alone in the greatness of His supramundane glory; alone in bearing His burden of an awful, fathomless sorrow.
It will naturally occur to us that language such as that which has just been quoted is mainly characteristic of the fourth Gospel; and you will permit me, my brethren, to consider the objection which may underlie that observation somewhat at length in a future lecture61. For the present the author of ‘Ecce Homo’ may remind those who, for whatever reasons, refuse to believe Christ to have used these words, that ‘we cannot deny that He used words which have substantially the same meaning. We cannot deny that He called Himself King, Master, and Judge of men; that He promised to give rest to the weary and the heavy-laden; that He instructed His followers to hope for life from feeding on His Body and His Blood62.’
Indeed so entirely is our Lord’s recorded teaching penetrated by His Self-assertion, that in order to represent Him as simply teaching moral truth, while keeping Himself strictly in the background of His doctrine, it would be necessary to deny the trustworthiness of all the accounts of His teaching which we possess. To recognize the difference which has been noticed between the two phases of His teaching merely amounts to saying that in former His Self-proclamation is implied, while it is avowed in the latter. For even in that phase of Christ’s teaching which the three first Evangelists more particularly record, the public assumption of titles and functions such as those of King, Teacher, and Judge of the human race, implies those statements about Himself which are preserved in the fourth Gospel.
Consider, for instance, what is really involved in a claim to judge the world. That Jesus Christ did put forward this claim must be conceded by those who admit that we have in our hands any true records of Him whatever. Some who reject that account of the four Gospels which is given us by the Catholic Church, may perhaps consent to listen to the opinion of Mr. Francis W. Newman. ‘I believe,’ says that writer, ‘that Jesus habitually spoke of Himself by the title Son of Man, [and] that in assuming that title He tacitly alluded to the seventh chapter of Daniel, and claimed for Himself the throne of judgment over all mankind. I know no reason to doubt that He actually delivered in substance the discourse in the twenty-fifth chapter of St. Matthew63.’ That our Lord advanced this tremendous claim to be the Judge of all mankind is equally the conviction of foreign critics, who are as widely removed as possible from any respect whatever for the witness of the Church of Christ to Holy Writ64. But let us reflect steadily on what Christ is thus admitted to have said about Himself by the most advanced representatives of the destructive criticism. Christ says that He will return to earth as Judge of all mankind. He will sit upon a throne of glory, and will be attended by bands of obedient angels. Before Him will be gathered all the nations of the world, and He will judge them. In other words, He will proceed to discharge an office involving such spiritual insight, such discernment of the thoughts and intents of the heart of each one of the millions at His feet, such awful, unshared supremacy in the moral world, that the imagination recoils in sheer agony from the task of seriously contemplating the assumption of these duties by any created intelligence. He will draw a sharp trenchant line of eternal separation through the dense throng of all the assembled races and generations of men. He will force every individual human being into one of the two distinct classes respectively destined for endless happiness and endless woe. He will reserve no cases as involving complex moral problems beyond His own power of decision. He will sanction no intermediate class of awards, to meet the neutral morality of souls whom men might deem ‘too bad for heaven, yet too good for hell.’ If it should be urged that our Lord is teaching truth in the garb of parable, and that His words must not be taken too literally, it may be answered that, supposing this to be the case (a supposition by no means to be conceded), the main features, the purport and drift of the entire representation cannot be mistaken. The Speaker claims to be Judge of all the world. Whenever, or however, you understand Him to exercise His function, Christ claims in that discourse to be nothing less than the Universal Judge. You cannot honestly translate His language into any modern and prosaic equivalent, that does not carry with it this tremendous claim. Nor is it relevant to observe that Messiah had been pictured in prophecy as the Universal Judge, and that in assuming to judge the world Jesus Christ was only claiming an official consequence of the character which He had previously assumed. Surely this does not alter the nature of the claim. It does indeed show what was involved in the original assertion that He was the Messiah; but it does not show that the title of Universal Judge was a mere idealist decoration having no practical duties attached to it. On the contrary, Jesus Christ asserts the practical value of the title very deliberately; He insists on and expands its significance; He draws out what it implies into a vivid picture. It cannot be denied that He literally and deliberately put Himself forward as Judge of all the world; and the moral significance of this Self-exaltation is not affected by the fact that He made it as a part of His general Messianic claim. If He could not claim to be Messiah without making it, He ought not to have claimed to be Messiah unless He had a right to make it. It may be pleaded that He Himself said that the Father had given Him authority to execute judgment because He is the Son of Man65. But this, as has already been shown, means simply that He is the Universal Judge because He is Messiah. True, the chosen title of Messiahship implies His real Humanity; and His Human Nature invests Him with special fitness for this as for the rest of His mediatorial work. But then the title Son of Man, as implying His Humanity, is in felt contrast to a higher Nature which it suggests. He is more than human; but He is to judge us, because He is also Man. On the whole it is impossible to reflect steadily on this claim of Jesus Christ without feeling that either such a claim ought never to have been made, or that it carries us forward irresistibly to a truth beyond and above itself.
In dealing with separate souls our Lord’s tone and language are not less significant. We will not here dwell on the fact of His forgiving sins66, and of transmitting to His Church the power of forgiving them67. But it is clear that He treats those who come to Him as literally belonging to Himself, in virtue of an existing right. He commands, He does not invite, discipleship. To Philip, to the sons of Zebedee, to the rich young man, He says simply, ‘Follow Me68.’ In the same spirit His Apostles are bidden to resent resistance to their Master’s doctrine: ‘ When ye come into an house, salute it. And if the house be worthy, let your peace come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, when ye depart out of that house or city, shake off the dust of your feet. Verily I say unto you, It shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city69.’ And as His message is to be received upon pain of eternal loss, so in receiving it, men are to give themselves up to Him simply and unreservedly. No rival claim, however strong, no natural affection, however legitimate and sacred, may interpose between Himself and the soul of His follower. ‘He that loveth father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me70;’ ‘If any man come to Me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple71.’ Accordingly He predicts the painful severance between near relations which would accompany the advance of the Gospel: ‘Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: for from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law72.’ And the Gospel narrative itself furnishes us with a remarkable illustration of our Lord’s application of His claim. ‘He said unto another, Follow Me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. And another also said, Lord, I will follow Thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God73.’
It is impossible to ignore this imperious claim on the part of Jesus to rule the whole soul of man. Other masters may demand a man’s active energies, or his time, or his purse, or his thought, or some large share in his affections. But here is a claim on the whole man, on his very inmost self, on the sanctities of his deepest life. Here is a claim which altogether sets aside the dearest ties of family and kindred, if perchance they interfere with it. Does any who is merely man dare to advance such a claim as this? If so, is it possible that, believing him to be only a fellow-creature, we can listen to the claim with respect, with patience, without earnest indignation? Do not our souls belong only and wholly to Him Who made them? Can we not bury ourselves out of the sight and reach of every fellow-creature, in the hidden recesses of the spirit which we carry within? Can we not escape, if we will, from all eyes save One, from all wills save One, from all voices save One, from all beings excepting Him Who gave us life? How then can we listen to the demand which is advanced by Jesus of Nazareth? Is it tolerable if He is only man? If He does indeed share with ourselves the great debt of creation at the hand of God; if He exists, like ourselves, from moment to moment merely upon sufferance; or rather, if He is upheld in being in virtue of a continuous and gratuitous ministration of life, supplied to Him by the Author of all life; is it endurable that He should thus assume to deal with us as His own creatures, as beings who have no rights before Him, and whom He may command at will? Doubtless He speaks of certain souls as given Him by His Father74; but then He claims the fealty, the submission of all. And even if souls are only ‘given’ to Christ, how are we to account for this absolute gift of an immortal soul to a human Lord? What, in short, is the real moral justification of a claim, than which no larger could be urged by the Creator? How can Christ bid men live for Himself as for the very End of their existence? How can He rightly draw towards Himself the whole thought and love, I do not say, of a world, but of one single human being, with this imperious urgency, if He be indeed only the Christ of the Humanitarian teachers, if He be anything else or less than the supreme Lord of life?
It is then not merely an easy transition, it is a positive moral relief, to pass from considering these statements and claims to the declarations in which Jesus Christ explains them by explicitly asserting His Divinity. For although the solemn sentences in which He makes that supreme revelation are comparatively few, it is clear that the truth is latent, in the entire moral and intellectual posture which we have been considering, unless we are prepared to fall back upon a fearful alternative which it will be my duty presently to notice.
Every man who takes a public or stirring part in life may assume that he has to deal with three different classes of men. He must face ‘his personal friends, his declared opponents, and a large neutral body which is swayed by turns in the opposite directions of friendliness and opposition.’ Towards each of these classes he has varying obligations; and from their different points of view they form their estimate of his character and action. Now our Lord, entering as He did perfectly into the actual conditions of our human and social existence, exposed Himself to this triple scrutiny, and met it by a correspondingly threefold revelation. He revealed His Divinity to His disciples, to the Jewish people, and to His embittered opponents, the chief priests and Pharisees.
Bearing in mind His acceptance of the confessions of Nathanael75 and of St. Peter76, as well as His solemn words to Nicodemus77, let us consider His language in the supper-room to St. Philip. It may have been Philip’s restlessness of mind, taking pleasure, as men will, in the mere starting a religious difficulty for its own sake; it may have been an instinctive wish to find some excuse for escaping from those sterner obligations which, on the eve of the Passion, discipleship would threaten presently to impose. However this was, Philip preferred to our Lord the peremptory request, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.’ Well might the answer have thrilled those who heard it. ‘Have I been so long time with you, and yet thou hast not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me78?’ Now what this indwelling really implied is seen in our Lord’s answer to a question of St. Jude. St. Jude had asked how it was that Christ would manifest Himself to His servants, and not to the world. Our Lord replies that the heavenly revelation is made to love; but the form in which this answer is couched is of the highest significance. ‘If a Man love Me, he will keep My words; and My Father will love him, and We will come unto him, and make Our abode with him79.’ ‘We will come unto him and make Our abode!’ Reflect: Who is This Speaker That promises to dwell in the soul of man? And with Whom does He associate Himself? It may be true of any eminent saint, that ‘God speaks not to him, as to one outside Himself; that God is in him; that he feels himself with God; that he draws from his own heart what he tells us of the Father; that he lives in the bosom of God by the intercommunion of every moment80.’ But such an one could not forget that, favored as he is by the Divine Presence illuminating his whole inner life, he still lives at an immeasurable distance beneath the Being Whose condescension has so enriched him. In virtue of his sanctity, he would surely shrink with horror from associating himself with God; from promising, along with God, to make a dwelling-place of the souls that love himself; from representing his presence with men as a blessing co-ordinate with the presence of the Father; from attributing to himself oneness of will with the Will of God; from implying that side by side with the Father of spirits, he was himself equally a ruler and a helper of the life of the souls of men.
The most prominent statements however which our Lord made on the subject of His Divinity occur in those conversations with the Jews which are specially recorded in the fourth Gospel. Our Lord discovers this great truth to the Jewish people by three distinct methods of statement.
(a) In the first place, He distinctly places Himself on terms of equality with the Father, by a double claim. He claims a parity of working power, and He claims an equal right to the homage of mankind. Of these claims the former is implicitly contained in passages to which allusion has been already made. We have seen that it is contained in the assumption of a judicial authority equal to the task of deciding the final condition of every individual human being. Although this office is delegated to and exercised by our Lord as Man, yet so stupendous a task is obviously not less beyond the reach of any created intelligence than the providential government of the world. In like manner, this claim of an equality in working power with the Father is inseparable from our Lord’s statements that He could confer animal life81, and that the future restoration of the whole human race to life would be effected by an act of His will82. These statements were made by our Lord after healing the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda. They are in fact deductions from a previous and more comprehensive one. Our Lord had healed the impotent man on the Sabbath day and had bidden him take up his bed and walk. The Jews saw an infraction of the Sabbath, both in the command given to the impotent man, and in the act of healing him. They sought to slay our Lord; but He justified Himself by saying, ‘My Father worketh hitherto, and I work83.’ ‘Therefore,’ continues the Evangelist, ‘the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Own Father, making Himself equal with God84.’ Now the Jews were not mistaken as to our Lord’s meaning. They knew that the Everlasting God ‘neither rests nor is weary;’ they knew that if He could slumber but for a moment the universe would collapse into the nothingness out of which He has summoned it. They knew that He ‘rested on the seventh day’ from the creation of new beings; but that in maintaining the life of those which already exist, He ‘worketh hitherto.’ They knew that none could associate himself as did Jesus with this world-sustaining energy of God, who was not himself God. They saw clearly that no one could cite God’s example of an uninterrupted energy in nature and providence as a reason for setting aside God’s positive law, without also and thereby claiming to be Divine. It did not occur to them that our Lord’s words need have implied no more than a resemblance between His working and the working of the Father. If indeed our Lord had meant nothing more than this, He would not have met the objection urged by the Jews against His breaking the Sabbath. It would have been no argument against the Jews to have said, that because God’s incessant activity is ever working in the universe, therefore a holy Jew might work on uninterruptedly, although he thereby violated the Sabbath day. With equal reason might it have been urged, that because God sees good to take the lives of His creatures, in His mercy no less than in His justice, therefore a religious man might rightfully put to death His tempted or afflicted brother. The Sabbath was a positive precept, but it rested on a moral basis. It had been given by God Himself. Our Lord claims a right to break the Sabbath, because God’s ever active Providence is not suspended on that day. Our Lord thus places both His Will and His Power on the level of the Power and Will of the Father. He might have parried the Jewish attack by saying that the miracle of healing the impotent man was a work of God, and that He was Himself but the unresisting organ of a Higher Being. On the Socinian hypothesis He ought to have done so. But He represents the miracle as His own work. He claims distinctly to be Lord of nature, and thus to be equal with the Father in point of operative energy85. He makes the same assertion in saying that ‘whatsoever things the Father doeth, those things the Son also doeth in like manner86.’ To narrow down these words so as to make them only refer to Christ’s imitation of the moral nature of God, is to take a liberty with the text for which it affords no warrant; it is to make void the plain meaning of Scripture by a skeptical tradition. Our Lord simply and directly asserts that the works of the Father, without any restriction, are, both as to their nature and mode of production, the works of the Son. Certainly our Lord insists very carefully upon the truth that the power which He wielded was derived originally from the Father. It is often difficult to say whether He is speaking, as Man, of the honor of union with Deity and of the graces which flowed from Deity, conferred upon His Manhood; or whether, as the Everlasting Son, He is describing those natural and eternal Gifts which are inherent in His Godhead, and which He receives from the Father, the Fountain or Source of Deity, not as a matter of grace or favor, but in virtue of His Eternal Generation. As God, ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself,’ and this, ‘not from lack of power, but because His Being is inseparable from That of the Father87.’ It is true of Christ as God in one sense—it is true of Him as Man in another—that ‘as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself.’ But neither is an absolute harmony of the works of Christ with the Mind and Will of the Father, nor a derivation of the Divine Nature of Christ Itself from the Being of the Father by an unbegun and unending Generation, destructive of the force of our Lord’s representation of His operative energy as being on a par with that of the Father.
For, our Lord’s real sense is made plain by His subsequent statement that ‘the Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son; that all should honor the Son even as they honor the Father88.’ This claim is indeed no more than He had already advanced in bidding His followers trust Him and love Him. The obligation of honoring the Son is defined to be just as stringent as the obligation of honoring the Father. Whatever form that honor may take, be it thought, or language, or outward act, or devotion of the affections, or submission of the will, or that union of thought and heart and will into one complex act of self-prostration before Infinite Greatness, which we of the present day usually mean by the term ‘adoration,’ such honor is due to the Son no less than to the Father. How fearful is such a claim if the Son be only human; how natural, how moderate, how just, if He is in very deed Divine!
(b) Beyond this assertion of an equal operative Power with the Father, and of an equal right to the homage of mankind, is our Lord’s revelation of His absolute oneness of Essence with the Father. The Jews gathered around Him at the Feast of Dedication in the Porch of Solomon, and pressed Him to tell them whether He was the Christ or not89. Our Lord referred them to the teaching which they had heard, and to the miracles which they had witnessed in vain90; but He proceeded to say that there were docile and faithful souls whom He terms His ‘sheep,’ and whom He ‘ knew,’ while they too understood and followed Him91. He goes on to insist upon the blessedness of these His true followers. With Him they were secure; no power on earth or in heaven could ‘pluck them out of His Hand92.’ A second reason for the blessedness of His sheep follows: ‘My Father which gave them Me is a Greater Power ('meizon') than all: and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s Hand93.’ In these words our Lord repeats His previous assurance of the security of His sheep, but He gives a different reason for it. He had represented them as ‘in His own Hand;’ He now represents them as in the Hand of the Almighty Father. How does He consolidate these two reasons which together assure His ‘sheep’ of their security? By distinctly asserting His own oneness with the Father: ‘I and My Father are One Thing94.’ Now what kind of unity is that which the context obliges us to see in this solemn statement? Is it such a unity as that which our Lord desired for His followers in His intercessory prayer; a unity of spiritual communion, of reciprocal love, of common participation in an imparted, heaven-sent Nature95? Is it a unity of design and co-operation, such as that which, in varying degrees, is shared by all true workers for God96? How would either of these lower unities sustain the full sense of the context, which represents the Hand of the Son as one with the Hand—that is, with the Love and Power—of the Father, securing to the souls of men an effectual preservation from eternal ruin? A unity like this must be a dynamic unity, as distinct from any mere moral and intellectual union, such as might exist in a real sense between a creature and its God. Deny this dynamic unity, and you destroy the internal connection of the passage97. Admit this dynamic unity, and you admit, by necessary implication, a unity of Essence. The Power of the Son, which shields the redeemed from the foes of their salvation, is the very Power of the Father; and this identity of Power is itself the outflow and the manifestation of a Oneness of Nature. Not that at this height of contemplation the Person of the Son, so distinctly manifested just now in the work of guarding His redeemed, melts away into any mere aspect or relation of the Divine Being in His dealings with His creatures. As St. Augustine observes on this text, the ‘unum’ saves us from the Charybdis of Arianism; the ‘sumus’ is our safeguard against the Scylla of Sabellius. The Son, within the incommunicable unity of God, is still Himself; He is not the Father, but the Son. Yet this personal subsistence is in the mystery of the Divine Life strictly compatible with Unity of Essence;—the Father and the Son are one Thing.
‘Intellexerunt Judaei, quod non intelligunt Ariani.’ The Jews understood our Lord to assume Divine honors, and proceeded to execute the capital sentence decreed against blasphemy by the Mosaic law98. His words gave them a fair ground for saying that ‘being Man, He made Himself God99.’ Now if our Lord had been in reality only Man, He might have been fairly expected to say so. Whereas He proceeds, as was often His wont, to reason with His opponents upon their own real or assumed grounds, and so to bring them back to a point at which they were forced to draw for themselves the very inference which had just roused their indignation. With this view our Lord points out the application of the word Elohim, to the wicked judges under the Jewish theocracy, in the eighty-second Psalm100. Surely, with this authoritative language before their eyes, His countrymen could not object to His calling Himself the Son of God. And yet He irresistibly implies that His title to Divinity is higher than, and indeed distinct in kind from, that of the Jewish magistrates. If the Jews could tolerate that ascription of a lower and relative divinity to the corrupt officials who, theocratically speaking, represented the Lord Jehovah; surely, looking to the witness of His works, Divinity could not be denied to One Who so manifestly wielded Divine power as did Jesus101. Our Lord’s argument is thus a minori ad majus; and He arrives a second time at the assertion which had already given such offense to His countrymen, and which He now repeats in terms expressive of His sharing not merely a dynamical but an essential unity with the Father: ‘The Father is in Me, and I in Him102.’ What the Father is to the Son, the Son is to the Father. The context again forbids us to compare this expression with the phrases which are often used to express the indwelling of God with holy souls, since no moral quality is here in question, but an identity of Power for the performance of superhuman works. Our Lord expresses this truth of His wielding the power of the Father, by asserting His identity of Nature with the Father, which involves His Omnipotence. And the Jews understood Him. He had not retracted what they accounted blasphemy, and they again endeavored to take His life103.
It will probably be said that the Church’s interpretation of Christ’s language in the Porch of Solomon is but an instance of that disposition to materialize spiritual truth, which seems to be so unhappily natural to the mind of man. ‘What grossness of apprehension,’ it will be urged, ‘is here! How can you thus confound language which merely asserts a sustained intercommunion between a holy soul and God, with those hard formal scholastic assertions of an identity of essence?’ But it is obvious to rejoin that in cases like that before us, language must be morally held to mean what it is understood to mean by those to whom it is addressed. After all, language is designed to convey thought; and if a speaker perceives that his real mind has not been conveyed by one statement, he is bound to correct the deficiencies of that statement by another. Had our Lord been speaking to populations accustomed to Pantheistic modes of thinking, and insensible to the fundamental distinctness of the Uncreated from all forms of created life, His assertion of His oneness with the Father might perhaps have passed for nothing more than the rapture of a subjective ecstasy, in which the consciousness of the Speaker had been so raised above its ordinary level, that He could hyperbolically describe His sensations as Divine. Had our Lord been an Indian, or an Alexandrian, or a German mystic, some such interpretation might have been reasonably affixed to His language. Had Christ been a Christian instead of the Author of Christianity, we might, after carefully detaching His words from their context, have even supposed that He was describing the blessed experience of millions of believers; it being certain that, since the Incarnation, the soul of man is capable of a real union with the All-holy God. Undoubtedly writers like St. Augustine, and many of later date104, do speak of the union between God and the Christian in terms which signally illustrate the loving condescension of God truly present in holy souls, of God’s gift of Himself to His redeemed creatures. But the belief of these writers respecting the Nature of the Most High has placed the phrases of their mystical devotion beyond the reach of a possible misunderstanding. And our Lord was addressing earnest monotheists, keenly alive to the essential distinction between the Life of the Creator and the life of the creature, and religiously jealous of the Divine prerogatives. The Jews did not understand Christ’s claim to be one with the Father in any merely moral, spiritual, or mystical sense. Christ did not encourage them so to understand it. The motive of their indignation was not disowned by Him. They believed Him to mean that He was Himself a Divine Person; and He never repudiated that construction of His language.
(c) In order however to determine the real sense of our Savior’s claim to be One with the Father, let us ask a simple question. Does it appear that He is recorded to have been conscious of having existed previously to His Human Life upon this earth? Suppose that He is only a good man enjoying the highest degree of constant spiritual intercommunion with God, no references to a Pre-existent Life can be anticipated. There is nothing to warrant such a belief in the Mosaic Revelation, and to have professed it on the soil of Palestine would simply have been taken by the current opinion of the people as a proof of mental derangement. But believe that Christ is the Only-begotten Son of God, manifested in the sphere of sense and time, and clothed in our human nature; and some references to a consciousness extending backwards through the past into a boundless eternity are only what would naturally be looked for at His hands.
Let us then listen to Him as He is proclaiming to His countrymen in the temple, ‘If a man keep My saying, He shall never see death105.’ The Jews exclaim that by such an announcement He assumes to be greater than Abraham and the prophets. They indignantly ask, ‘Whom makest Thou Thyself?’ Here as elsewhere our Lord keeps both sides of His relation to the Eternal Father in full view: it is the Father that glorifies His Manhood, and the Jews would glorify Him too if they were the Father’s true children. But it was not their Heavenly Father alone with whom the Jews were at variance. The earthly ancestor of the Jewish race might be invoked to rebuke his recreant posterity. ‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.’ Abraham had seen the day of Messiah by the light of prophecy, and accordingly this statement was a claim on the part of Jesus to be the true Messiah. Of itself such a claim would not have shocked the Jews; they would have discussed it on its merits. They had latterly looked for a political chief, victorious but human, in their expected Messiah; they would have welcomed any prospect of realizing their expectations. But they detected a deeper and to them a less welcome meaning in the words of Christ. He had meant, they thought, by His ‘Day’ something more than the years of His Human Life. At any rate they would ask Him a question, which would at once justify their suspicions or enable Him to clear Himself. ‘Thou,’ they said to Him, ‘art not yet fifty years old, and hast Thou seen Abraham?’ Now if our Lord had only claimed to be a human Messiah, such as the Jews of later years had learned to look for, He must have earnestly disavowed any such inference from His words. He might have replied that if Abraham saw Him by the light of prophecy, this did not of itself imply that He was Abraham’s contemporary, and so that He had Himself literally seen Abraham. But His actual answer more than justified the most extreme suspicions of His examiners as to His real meaning. ‘Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.’ In these tremendous words the Speaker institutes a double contrast, in respect both of the duration and of the mode of His existence, between Himself and the great ancestor of Israel. ‘Prin Abraam genesthai’. Abraham, then, had come into existence at some given point of time. Abraham did not exist until his parents gave him birth. But, ‘Ego eimi.’ Here is simple existence, with no note of beginning or end106. Our Lord says not, ‘Before Abraham was, I was,’ but ‘I am.’ He claims pre-existence indeed, but He does not merely claim pre-existence; He unveils a consciousness of Eternal Being. He speaks as One on Whom time has no effect, and for Whom it has no meaning. He is the I AM of ancient Israel; He knows no past, as He knows no future; He is unbeginning, unending Being; He is the eternal ‘Now.’ This is the plain sense of His language107, and perhaps the most instructive commentary upon its force is to be found in the violent expedients to which Humanitarian writers have been driven in order to evade it108.
Here again the Jews understood our Lord, and attempted to kill Him; while He, instead of explaining Himself in any sense which would have disarmed their anger, simply withdrew from the temple109.
With this statement we may compare Christ’s references to His pre-existence in His two great sacramental Discourses. Conversing with Nicodemus He describes Himself as the Son of Man Who had come down from heaven, and Who while yet speaking was in heaven110. Preaching in the great synagogue of Capernaum, He calls Himself ‘the Bread of Life Which had come down from heaven.’ He repeats and expands this description of Himself. His pre-existence is the warrant of His life-giving power111. The Jews objected that they knew His father and mother, and did not understand His advancing any such claim as this to a pre-existent Life. Our Lord replied by saying that no man could come to Him unless taught of God to do so, and then proceeded to re-assert His pre-existence in the same terms as before112. He pursued His former statement into its mysterious consequences. Since He was the heaven-descended Bread of Life, His Flesh was meat indeed and His Blood was drink indeed113. They only would have life in them who should eat this Flesh and drink this Blood114. Life eternal, Resurrection at the last day115, and His own Presence even now within the soul116, would follow upon a due partaking of that heavenly food. When the disciples murmured at this doctrine as a ‘hard saying117,’ our Lord met their objections by predicting His coming Ascension into Heaven as an event which would justify His allusions to His pre-existence, no less than to the life-giving virtue of His Manhood. ‘What and if ye shall see the Son of Man ascend up where He was before?118’ Again, the reality of our Lord’s pre-existence lightens up such mysterious sayings as the following: ‘I know whence I came, and whither I go; but ye cannot tell whence I come, and whither I go119;’ ‘I am from above: . . . I am not of this world120;’ ‘If ye believe not that I am He, ye shall die in your sins121;’ ‘I proceeded forth and came from God122;’ ‘I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father123.’ Once more, how full of solemn significance is that reference to ‘the glory which I had with Thee before the world was124’ in the great intercession which our Incarnate Savior offered to the Eternal Father on the eve of His agony!
Certainly taken alone, our Lord’s allusions to His pre-existence125 need not imply His true Divinity. There is indeed no ground for the theory of a Palestinian doctrine of metempsychosis; and even Strauss shrinks from supposing that the fourth Evangelist makes Jesus the mouthpiece of Alexandrian theories of which a Jewish peasant would never have heard. Arianism however would argue, and with reason, that in some of the passages just referred to, though not in all, our Lord might conceivably have been speaking of a created, although pre-existent, life. Yet if we take these passages in connection with our Lord’s assertion of His being One with the Father, each truth will be seen to support and complete the other. On the one hand, Christ asserts His substantial oneness with Deity, on the other, His distinct pre-existent Personality. He might be an inferior and created Being, if He were not thus absolutely One with God. He might be only a saintly man, and, as such, described as an ‘aspect,’ a ‘manifestation’ of the Divine Life, if His language about His pre-existence did not clearly imply that before His birth of Mary He was already a living and superhuman Person.
If indeed, in His dealings with the multitude, our Lord had been really misunderstood, He had a last opportunity for explaining Himself when He was arraigned before the Sanhedrin. Nothing is more certain than that, whatever was the dominant motive that prompted our Lord’s apprehension, the Sanhedrin condemned Him because He claimed Divinity. The members of the court stated this before Pilate. ‘We have a law, and by our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God126.’ Their language would have been meaningless if they had understood by the ‘Son of God’ nothing more than the ethical or theocratic Sonship of their own ancient kings and saints. If the Jews held Christ to be a false Messiah, a false prophet, a blasphemer, it was because He claimed literal Divinity. True, the Messiah was to have been Divine. But the Jews had secularized the Messianic promises; and the Sanhedrin held Jesus Christ to be worthy of death under the terms of the Mosaic law, as expressed in Leviticus and Deuteronomy127. After the witnesses had delivered their various and inconsistent testimonies, the high priest arose and said, ‘I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy128.’ The blasphemy did not consist, either in the assumption of the title Son of Man, or in the claim to be Messiah, or even, excepting indirectly, in that which by the terms of Daniel’s prophecy was involved in Messiahship, namely, the commission to judge the world. It was the further claim129 to be the Son of God, not in any moral or theocratic, but in the natural sense, at which the high priest and his coadjutors professed to be so deeply shocked. The Jews felt, as our Lord intended, that the Son of Man in Daniel’s prophecy could not but be Divine; they knew what He meant by appropriating such words as applicable to Himself. Just as one body of Jews had endeavored to destroy Jesus when He called God His Father in such sense as to claim Divinity130; and another when He contrasted His Eternal Being with the fleeting life of Abraham in a distant past131; and another when He termed Himself Son of God, and associated Himself with His Father as being dynamically and so substantially One132;—just as they murmured at His pretension to ‘have come down from Heaven133,’ and detected blasphemy in His authoritative remission of sins134—so when, before His judges, He admitted that He claimed to be the Son of God, all further discussion was at an end. The high priest exclaimed ‘Ye have heard His blasphemy;’ and they all condemned Him to be guilty of death. And a very accomplished Jew of our own day, M. Salvador, has shown that this question of our Lord’s Divinity was the real point at issue in that momentous trial. He maintains that a Jew had no logical alternative to belief in the Godhead of Jesus Christ except the imperative duty of putting Him to death135.
III. In order to do justice to the significance of our Lord’s language about Himself, let us for a moment reflect on our very fundamental conceptions of His character. There is indeed a certain seeming impropriety in using that word ‘character’ with respect to Jesus Christ at all. For in modern language ‘character’ generally implies the predominance or the absence of some side or sides of that great whole, which we picture to ourselves in the background of each individual man as the true and complete ideal of human nature. This predominance or absence of particular traits or faculties, this precise combination of active or of passive qualities, determines the moral flavor of each individual life, and constitutes character. Character is that whereby the individual is marked off from the presumed standard or level of typical manhood. Yet the closest analysis of the actual Human Life of Jesus reveals a moral Portrait not only unlike any that men have witnessed before or since, but especially remarkable in that it presents an equally balanced and entirely harmonious representation of all the normal elements of our perfected moral nature136. Still, we may dare to ask the question: What are the features in that perfectly harmonious moral Life, upon which the reverence and the love of Christians dwells most constantly, most thankfully, most enthusiastically?
1. If then on such a subject I may utter a truism without irreverence, I say first of all that Jesus Christ was sincere. He possessed that one indispensable qualification for any teacher, specially for a teacher of religion: He believed in what He said, without reserve; and He said what He believed, without regard to consequences. Material error is very pardonable, if it be error which in good faith believes itself to be truth. But evident insincerity we cannot pardon; we cannot regard with any other sentiment than that of indignation the conscious propagation of what is known to be false, or even to be exaggerated. If however the sincerity of our Lord could be reasonably called in question, it might suffice, among the various facts which so irresistibly establish it, to point to His dealings with persons who followed and trusted Him. It is easy to denounce the errors of men who oppose us; but it is difficult to be always perfectly outspoken with those who love us, or who look up to us, or whose services may be of use to us, and who may be alienated by our outspokenness. Now Jesus Christ does not merely drag forth to the light of day the hidden motives of His powerful adversaries, that He may exhibit them with so mercifully implacable an accuracy, in all their baseness and pretension. He exposes, with equal impartiality, the weakness, or the unreality, or the self-deception of others who already regard Him with affection or who desire to espouse His cause. A disciple addresses him as ‘Good Master.’ The address was in itself sufficiently justifiable; but our Lord observed that the speaker had used it in an unreal and conventional manner. In order to mark His displeasure He solemnly asked, ‘Why callest thou Me good? There is none good but One, that is, God137.’ A multitude which He has fed miraculously returns to seek Him on the following day; but instead of silently accepting this tacit proof of His popular power, He observes, ‘Ye seek Me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves and were filled138.’ On another occasion, we are told, ‘there went great multitudes with Him.’ He turns, warns them that all human affections must be sacrificed to His service, and that none could be His disciple who does not take up the cross139. He solemnly bids men ‘count the cost’ before they ‘build the tower’ of discipleship140. He is on the point of being deserted by all, and an Apostle protests with fervid exaggeration that he is ready to go with Him to prison or to death. But our Lord, instead of at once welcoming the affection which dictated this protestation, pauses to show Simon Peter how little he really knew of the weakness of his own heart141. With the woman of Samaria, with Simon the Pharisee, with the Jews in the temple, with the rich young man, it is ever the same; Christ cannot flatter, He cannot disguise, He cannot but set forth truth in its limpid purity142. Such was His moral attitude throughout: sincerity was the mainspring of His whole thought and action; and when He stood before His judges, He could exclaim, in this as in a wider sense, ‘To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth143.’ Surely this sincerity of our Holy Savior is even at this hour a main secret of His attractive power. Men, we know, may flatter and deceive, till at length the soul grows sick and weary of a world, which Truth in her stern simplicity might sometimes seem to have abandoned. But Jesus Christ, speaking to us from the Gospel pages, or speaking in the secret chambers of conscience, is a Monitor Whom we can trust to tell us the unwelcome but wholesome truth; and could we conceive of Him as false, He would no longer be Himself in our thought; He would not be changed; He would simply have disappeared144.
2. A second moral truism: Jesus Christ was unselfish. His Life was a prolonged act of Self-sacrifice; and sacrifice of self is the practical expression and measure of unselfishness. It might have seemed that where there was no sin to be curbed or worn away by sorrow and pain, there room might have been found for a lawful measure of self-satisfaction. But ‘even Christ pleased not Himself.’ He ‘sought not His own glory;’ ‘He came not to do His Own will145.’ His Body and His Soul, with all the faculties, the activities, the latent powers of each, were offered to the Divine Will. His friends, His relatives, His mother and His home, His pleasure, His reputation, His repose, were all abandoned for the glory of God and for the good of His brethren. His Self-sacrifice included the whole range of His human thought and affection and action; it lasted throughout His Life; its highest expression was His Death upon the Cross. Those who believe Him to have been merely a man endowed with the power of working miracles, or even only with the power of wielding vast moral influence over masses of men, cannot but recognize the rare loveliness and sublimity of a Life in which great powers were consciously possessed, yet were never exercised for those objects which the selfish instinct of ordinary men would naturally pursue. It is this disinterestedness; this devotion to the real interests of humankind; this radical antagonism of His whole character to that deep-seated selfishness, which in our better moments we men hate in ourselves and which we always hate in others;—it is this complete renunciation of all that has no object beyond self, which has won to Jesus Christ the heart of mankind. In Jesus Christ we hail the One Friend Who loves perfectly; Who expresses perfect love by the utter surrender of Self; Who loves even unto death. In Jesus Christ we greet the Good Shepherd of humanity; He is the Good Shepherd under Whose care we can lack nothing, and Whose glory it is that He ‘giveth His Life for the sheep146.’
3. A third moral truism: Jesus Christ was humble. He might have appeared, even to human eyes, as ‘One naturally contented with obscurity; wanting the restless desire for eminence and distinction which is so common in great men; hating to put forward personal claims; disliking competition and disputes who should be greatest; . . . fond of what is simple and homely, of children, and poor people147.’ It might have almost seemed as if His preternatural powers were a source of distress and embarrassment to Him; so eager was He to economize their exercise and to veil them from the eyes of men. He was particularly careful that His miracles should not add to His reputation148. Again and again He very earnestly enjoined silence on those who were the subjects of His miraculous cures149. He would not gratify persons whose motive in seeking His company was a vain curiosity to see the proofs of His power150. By this humility is Jesus Christ most emphatically distinguished from the philosophers of the ancient world. Whatever else they may have been, they were not humble. But Jesus Christ loses His individuality if you separate Him in thought for one moment from His ‘great humility.’ His humility is the key to His whole life; it is the measuring-line whereby His actions, His sufferings, His words, His very movements must be meted in order to be understood. ‘Learn of Me,’ He says, ‘for I am meek and lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls151.’
But what becomes of these integral features of His character if, after considering the language which He actually used about Himself, we should go on to deny that He is God?
Is He, if He be not God, really humble? Is that reiterated Self-assertion, to the accents of which we have been listening this morning, consistent with any known form of creaturely humility? Can Jesus thus bid us believe in Him, love Him, obey Him, live by Him, live for Him; can He thus claim to be the universal Teacher and the universal Judge, the Way, the Truth, the Life of humanity,—if He be indeed only man? What is humility but the honest recognition of truth respecting self? Could any mere man claim that place in thought, in society, in history, that authority over conscience, that relationship to the Most High; could he claim such powers and duties, such a position, and such prerogatives as are claimed by Jesus Christ, and yet be justly deemed ‘meek and lowly of heart’? If Christ is God as well as Man, His language falls into its place, and all is intelligible; but if you deny His Divinity, you must conclude that some of the most precious sayings in the Gospel are but the outbreak of a preposterous self-laudation; they might well seem to breathe the very spirit of another Lucifer152.
If Jesus Christ be not God, is He really unselfish? He bids men make Himself the center of their affections and their thoughts; and when God does this He is but recalling man to that which is man’s proper duty, to the true direction and law of man’s being. But deny Christ’s Divinity, and what will you say of the disinterestedness of His perpetual self-assertion153? What matters it that He teaches the ‘enthusiasm of humanity,’ if that enthusiasm was after all to center in a merely human self, and to surround His human presence with a tribute of superhuman honor? What avails it that He proclaims the law of self-renouncement, if He is Himself thus guilty of its signal infraction? Nay, for what generous purpose can He still be held to have died upon the Cross? The Cross is indeed for Christians the symbol and the throne of a boundless Love; but it is only such to those who believe in the Divinity of the Crucified. Deny the truth of Christ’s account of Himself; deny the overwhelming moral necessity for His perpetual Self-assertion; and His Death may assume another aspect. For He plainly courted death by His last denunciations against the Pharisees, and by His presence at a critical moment in Jerusalem. That He was thus voluntarily slain and has redeemed us by His Blood is indeed the theme of the praises which Christians daily offer Him on earth and in paradise. But if He be not the Divine Victim freely offering Himself for men upon the altar of the Cross, may He not be what Christian lips cannot force themselves to utter? You urge that in any case He would be a man freely devoting himself for truth and goodness. But it is precisely here that His excessive self-assertion would impair our confidence in the purity of His motive. Is not self-sacrifice, even when pushed to the last extremity, a suspected and tainted thing, when it goes hand in hand with a consistent effort to give unwarranted prominence to self? Have not men ere now even risked death for the selfish, albeit unsubstantial, object of a posthumous renown154? If Jesus was merely man, and His death no more than the fitting close, the supreme effort of a life consistently devoted to the assertion of self, has He not ‘succeeded beyond the dreams of the most delirious votary of fame? If the blood of a merely human Christ was the price which was deliberately paid for glory on Mount Calvary, then it is certain that the sufferer has had his reward. But at least he died, only as others have died, who have sought and found at the hands of their fellow-men, in death as in life, a tribute of sympathy, of admiration, of honor. And we owe to such a sufferer nothing beyond the compassionate silence wherewith charity would fain veil the violence of selfishness, robed in her garments, and seeking to share her glory and her power, while false to the very vital principle which makes her what she is155.’
Once more, if Jesus Christ is not God, can we even say that He is sincere156? Let us suppose that it were granted, as it is by no means granted, that Jesus Christ nowhere asserts His literal Godhead157. Let us suppose that He was after all merely man, and had never meant to do more than describe, in the language of mysticism, the intertwining of His human Soul with the Spirit of God, in a communion so deep and absorbing as to obliterate His sense of distinct human personality. Let this, I say, be supposed to have been His meaning, and let His sincerity be taken for granted. Who then shall anticipate the horror of His soul or the fire of His words, when He is once made aware of the terrible misapprehension to which His language has given rise in the minds around Him? ‘Thou being a man, makest Thyself God.’ The charge was literally true: being human, He did make Himself God. Christians believe that He only ‘made’ Himself that which He is. But if He is not God, where does He make any adequate repudiation of a construction of His words so utterly derogatory to the great Creator, so necessarily abhorrent to a good man’s thought?
Is it urged that on one occasion He ‘explained His claim to Divinity by a quotation which implied that He shared that claim with the chiefs of the theocracy?’ It has already been shown that by that quotation our Lord only deprecated immediate violence, and claimed a hearing for language which the Jews themselves regarded as not merely allowable, but sacred. The quotation justified His language only, and not His full meaning, which, upon gaining the ear of the people, He again proceeded to assert. Is it contended that in such sayings as that addressed to His disciples, ‘My Father is greater than158,’ He abandoned any pretension to be a Person internal to the Essential Life of God? It may suffice to reply, that this saying can have no such force, if its application be restricted, as the Latin Fathers do restrict it, and with great apparent probability, to our Lord’s Manhood. But even if our Lord is here speaking, as the Greeks generally maintain, of His essential Deity, His Words still express very exactly a truth which is recognized and required by the Catholic doctrine. The Subordination of the Everlasting Son to the Everlasting Father is strictly compatible with the Son’s absolute Divinity; it is abundantly implied in our Lord’s language; and it is an integral element of the ancient doctrine which steadily represents the Father as Alone Unoriginate, the Fount of Deity in the Eternal Life of the Ever-blessed Trinity159.
But surely an admission on the part of one in whom men saw nothing more than a fellow-creature, that the Everlasting God was ‘greater’ than himself, would fail to satisfy a thoughtful listener that no claim to Divinity was advanced by the speaker. Such an admission presupposes some assertion to which it stands in the relation of a necessary qualification. If any good man of our acquaintance should announce that God was ‘greater’ than himself, should we not hold him to be guilty of something worse than a stupid truism160? Would he not seem to imply that he was not really a creature of God’s hand? Would not his words go to suggest that the notion of his absolute equality with God was not to be dismissed as altogether out of the question? Should we not peremptorily remind him that the life of man is related to the Life of God, not as the less to the greater, but as the created to the Uncreated, and that it is an impertinent irreverence to admit superiority of rank, where the real truth can only be expressed by an assertion of radical difference of natures? And assuredly a sane and honest man, who had been accused of associating himself with the Supreme Being, could not content himself with admitting that God was greater than himself. Knowing himself to be only human, would he not insist again and again, with passionate fervor, upon the incommunicable glory of the great Creator? Would not a purely human Christ have anticipated the burning words of the indignant Apostles at the gate of Lystra? Far more welcome to human virtue most surely it would have been to be accused of blasphemy for meaning what was never meant, than to be literally supposed to mean it. For indeed there are occasions when silence is impossible to a sincere soul161. Especially is this the case when acquiescence in falsehood is likely to gain personal reputation, when connivance at a misapprehension may aggrandize self, ever so slightly, at the cost of others. How would the sincerity of a human teacher deserve the name, if, passively, without repudiation, without protest, he should allow language expressive whether of his moral elevation or of his mystical devotion to be popularly construed into a public claim to share the Rank and Name of the great God in heaven?
It is here that the so-termed historical Christ of M. Renan, who, as we are informed, is still the moral chief of humanity162, would appear even to our natural English sense of honesty to be involved in serious moral difficulties. M. Renan indeed assures us, somewhat eagerly, that there are many standards of sincerity163; that is to say, that it is possible, under certain circumstances, to acquiesce knowingly in what is false, while yet being, in some transcendental sense, sincere. Thus, just as the Christ of M. Renan can permit the raising of Lazarus to look like a miracle, while he must know that the whole episode has been a matter of previous arrangement164, so he can apparently use language which is generally understood to claim Divinity, without being bound to explain that he is altogether human165. The ‘ideal of humanity’ contents himself, it appears, with a lower measure, so to call it, of sincerity; and while we are scarcely embarrassed by the enquiry whether such sincerity is sincere or not, we cannot hesitate to observe that it is certainly consistent neither with real humility nor with real unselfishness166.
Thus our Lord’s human glory fades before our eyes when we attempt to conceive of it apart from the truth of His Divinity. He is only perfect as Man, because He is truly God. If He is not God, He is not a humble or an unselfish man. Nay, He is not even sincere; unless indeed we have recourse to a supposition upon which the most desperate of His modern opponents have not yet ventured, and say with His jealous kinsmen in the early days of His Ministry, that He was beside Himself167. Certainly it would seem that there must have been strange method in a madness which could command the adoration of the civilized world; nor would any such supposition be seriously entertained by those who know under what conditions the very lowest forms of moral influence are at all possible. The choice really lies between the hypothesis of conscious and culpable insincerity, and the belief that Jesus speaks literal truth and must be taken at His word168.
You complain that this is one of those alternatives which orthodoxy is wont to substitute for less violent arguments, and from the exigencies of which you piously recoil? But under certain circumstances such alternatives are legitimate guides to truth, nay, they are the only guides available. Certainly we cannot create such alternatives by any process of dialectical manufacture, if they do not already exist. If they are not matters of fact, they can easily be convicted of inaccuracy. We who stand in this pulpit are not makers or masters of the eternal harmonies; we can but exhibit them as best we may. Truth, even in her severer moods, must ever be welcome to sincerity; and she does us a service by reminding us that it is not always possible to embrace within the range of our religious negations just so much dogma as we wish to deny, and to leave the rest really intact. It is no hardship to reason that we cannot deny the conclusion of a proposition of Euclid, without impugning the axioms which are the basis of its demonstration. It is no hardship to faith that we cannot deny the Divinity of Jesus, without casting a slur upon His Human Character. There are fatal inclines in the world of religious thought; and even if men deem it courteous to ignore them, such courtesy is scarcely charitable. If our age does not guide anxious minds by its loyal adherence to God’s Revelation, its very errors may have their uses; they may warn us off ground, on which Reason cannot rest, and where Faith is imperilled, by enacting before eyes a reductio ad absurdum or a reductio ad horribile.
Of a truth the alternative before us is terrible; but can devout and earnest thought falter for a moment in the agony of its suspense? Surely it cannot. The moral Character of Christ, viewed in connection with the preternatural facts of His Human Life, will bear the strain which the argument puts upon it169. It is easier for a good man to believe that, in a world where he is encompassed by mysteries, where his own being itself is a consummate mystery, the Moral Author of the wonders around him should for great moral purposes have taken to Himself a created form, than that the one Human Life which realizes the idea of humanity, the one Man Who is at once perfect strength and perfect tenderness, the one Pattern of our race in Whom its virtues are combined, and from Whom its vices are eliminated, should have been guilty, when speaking about Himself, of an arrogance, of a self-seeking, and of an insincerity which, if admitted, must justly degrade Him far below the moral level of millions among His unhonored worshippers. It is easier, in short, to believe that God has consummated His works of wonder and of mercy by a crowning Self-revelation in which mercy and beauty reach their climax, than to close the moral eye to the brightest spot that meets it in human history, and—since a bare Theism reproduces the main difficulties of Christianity without any of its compensations—to see at last in man's inexplicable destiny only the justification of his despair. Yet the true alternative to this frightful conclusion is in reality a frank acceptance of the doctrine which is under consideration in these lectures170. For Christianity, both as a creed and as a life, depends absolutely upon the Personal Character of its Founder. Unless His virtues were only apparent, unless His miracles were nothing better than a popular delusion, we must admit that His Self-assertion is justified, even in the full measure of its blessed and awful import. We must deny the antagonism which is said to exist between the doctrine of Christ’s Divinity and the history of His human manifestation. We must believe and confess that the Christ of history is the Christ of the Catholic Creed.
Eternal Jesus! it is Thyself Who hast thus bidden us either despise Thee or worship Thee. Thou wouldest have us despise Thee as our fellow-man, if we will not worship Thee as our God. Gazing on Thy Human beauty, and listening to Thy words, we cannot deny that Thou art the Only Son of God Most High; disputing Thy Divinity, we could no longer clearly recognize Thy Human perfections. But if our ears hearken to Thy revelations of Thy greatness, our souls have already been won to Thee by Thy truthfulness, by Thy lowliness, and by Thy love. Convinced by these Thy moral glories, and by Thy majestic exercise of creative and healing power, we believe and are sure that Thou hast the words of eternal life. Although in unveiling Thyself before Thy creatures, Thou dost stand from age to age at the bar of hostile and skeptical opinion; yet assuredly from age to age, by the assaults of Thine enemies no less than in the faith of Thy believing Church, Thou art justified in Thy sayings and art clear when Thou art judged. Of a truth, Thou art the King of Glory, O Christ; Thou art the Everlasting Son of the Father.
Referring to a passage which is often quoted to destroy the dogmatic significance of St. John x. 30, Professor Bright has well observed that ‘the comparison in St. John xvii. 21, and the unity of Christians with each other in the Son has sometimes been abused in the interests of heresy.’ ‘The second unity,’ it has been said, ‘is simply moral; therefore the first is so.’ But the second is not simply moral; it is, in its basis, essential, for we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones; it is the mysterious incorporation into His Sacred Manhood which causes the oneness of affections and of will. Thus also in the higher sphere, the Father and the Son are one in purpose, because They are consubstantial. ‘Those,’ says Olshausen on St. John x. 30, ‘who would entertain the hypothesis—-at once Arian, Socinian, and Rationalistic—that 'en einai' refers only to unity of will, not of nature, should not forget that true unity of will without unity of nature is something inconceivable. Hence, if Christ speaks of unity of will between Himself and His people, this can subsist only so far as such unity of will has been rendered possible to them by a previous communication of His nature’ (Eighteen Sermons of St. Leo, p. 132).
1. Schenkel, Charakterbild Jesu, p. 21. Dr. Schenkel concludes: ‘Sonst erscheint Jesus in den drei ersten Evangelien durchgangig als ein wahrer, innerhalb der Grenzen menschlicher Beschrankung sich bewegender Mensch; durch Seine Wunderthatigkeit werden diese Grenzen durchbrochen; Allmachtswunder sind menschlich nicht mehr begreiflich’
2. Schenkel, Charakterbild Jesu, p. 21: ‘Dass ein Lebensbild, wie dasjenige des Erlosers, bald nach dessen irdischem Hinscheiden von einem reichen Sagenstrom umflossen wurde, liegt in der Natur der Sache.’ It may be asked—Why? If these legendary decorations are the inevitable consequences of a life of devotion to moral truth and to philanthropy, how are we to explain their absence in the cases of so many moralists and philanthropists ancient and modern?
4. Les Apôtres, p. 38: ‘Pendant que la conviction inebranlable des Apôtres se formait, et que la foi du monde se preparait, en quel endroit les vers consumaient-ils le corps inanime qui avait été, le samedi soir, déposé au sepulcre? On ignorera toujours ce detail; car, naturellement, les traditions chretiennes ne peuvent rien nous apprendre la-dessus.’
9. 1 Cor. xv. 6: 'Epeita wfqh epanw pentakosioij adelfoij efapac, ec wn oi pleiouj menousin ewj arti, tinej de kai ekoimhqhsan.' It is quite arbitrary to say that ‘the Resurrection with Paul is by no means a human corporeal resurrection as with the Evangelists,’ that ‘his 'wfqh kamoi' implies no more than a flash and a sound, which he interpreted as a presence of Christ.’ (Westm. Rev. Oct. 1867, p. 529.) On this showing, the 'wfqh Simwni' in St. Luke xxiv. 34 might similarly be resolved into an illusion. The 'ewrakamen' of St. John xx. 25 might be as unreal as the 'ewraka' of 1 Cor. ix. 1. Contrast with the positive tone of 1 Cor. xv. 6 the measured hesitation of 2 Cor. xii. 2. It is also a mere assumption to say that a ‘palpable body’ could not be seen at once by 500 persons; and the suggestion that St. Paul’s own belief in ‘a continued celestial life of Christ,’ and in the moral resurrection of Christians was ‘afterwards materialized’ into ‘the history of a bodily resurrection of Christ, and the expectation of a bodily resurrection of mankind from the grave,’ is nothing less than to fasten upon the Apostle the pseudo-spiritualistic error, against which in this chapter he so passionately contends. On this subject, see ‘The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,’ by R. Macpherson, D.D., pp. 127, 346; Pressensé, Jesus Christ, pp. 660-665.
10. ‘Dieu peut-Il faire des miracles, c’est a dire, peut-Il deroger aux lois, qu’Il a etablies? Cette question serieusement traitee serait impie, si elle n’etait absurde. Ce serait faire trop d’honneur a celui, qui la resoudrait negativement, que de le punir; il suffirait de l’enfermer. Mais aussi, quel homme a jamais nie, que Dieu put faire des miracles?’ Rousseau, Lettres ecrites de la Montagne, Lettre iii.
15. Compare St. John vi. 26-59; and observe the correspondence between the actions described in St. Matt. xiv. 19, and xxvi. 26. The deeper Lutheran commentators are noticeably distinguished from the Calvinistic ones in recognizing the plain Sacramental reference of St. John vi. 53, sqq. See Stier, ‘Reden Jesu,’ in loc.; Olshausen, Comm. in loc.; Kahnis, H. Abendmahl, p. 104, sqq. For the ancient Church, see St. Chrys. Hom. in loc.; Tertull. De Orat. 6; Clem. Alex. Paedagog. I. vi. p. 123; St. Cyprian, De Oratione Dominica, p. 192; St. Hilary, De Trin. viii. 14, cited in Wilb. H. Euch. p. 199. The Church of England authoritatively adopts the sacramental interpretation of the passage by her use of it in the Exhortation at the time of the celebration of the Holy Communion. ‘The benefit is great, if with a true penitent heart and lively faith we receive that Holy Sacrament: for then we spiritually eat the Flesh of Christ and drink His Blood; then we dwell in Christ and Christ in us; we are one with Christ and Christ with us.’ Cf. too the ‘Prayer of Humble Access.’
16. It may be urged that Socinians have been earnest believers in the Resurrection and other preternatural facts of the Life of Christ, while explicitly denying His Godhead. This is true; but it is strictly true only of past times, or of those of our contemporaries who are more or less inaccessible, happily for themselves, to the intellectual influences of modern skepticism. It would be difficult to find a modern Socinian of high education who believed in the literal truth of all the miraculous incidents recorded in the Gospels. This is not merely a result of modern objections to miracle; it is a result of the connection, more clearly felt, even by skeptics, than of old, between the admission of miracles and the obligation to admit attendant dogma. In his Essay on Channing, M. Renan has given expression to this instinct of modern skeptical thought. ‘Il est certain,’ he observes, ‘que si l’esprit moderne a raison de vouloir une religion, qui, sans exclure le surnaturel, en diminue la dose autant que possible, la religion de Channing est la plus parfaite et la plus épurée qui ait paru jusqu’ici. Mais est-ce la tout, en vérité, et quand le symbole sera réduit a croire a Dieu et au Christ, qu’y aura-t-on gagné? Le scepticisme se tiendra-t’il pour satisfait? La formule de l’univers en sera-t-elle plus complete et plus claire? La destinée de l’homme et de l’humanité moins impenetrable? Avec son symbole epure, Channing évite-t-il mieux que les théologiens catholiques les objections de l’incredulité? Hélas! non. Il admet la resurrection de Jesus-Christ, et n’admet pas sa Divinité; il admet le Bible, et n’admet pas l’enfer. Il deploie toutes les susceptibilités d’un scholastique pour etablir contre les Trinitaires, en quel sens le Christ est fils de Dieu, et en quel sens il ne l’est pas. Or, si I’on accorde qu’il y a eu une Existence réelle et miraculeuse d’un bout a l’autre, pourquoi ne pas franchement l’appeler Divine? L’un ne demande pas un plus grand effort de croyance que l’autre. En vérité, dans cette voie, il n’y a que le premier pas qui coute; il ne faut pas marchander avec le surnaturel; la foi va d’une seule piece, et, le sacrifice accompli, il ne sied pas de réclamer en detail les droits dont on a fait une fois pour toutes l’entière cession.’ Etudes d’Histoire Religieuse, pp. 377, 378. Who would not rather, a thousand times over, have been Channing than be M. Renan? Yet is it not clear that, half a century later, Channing must have believed much less, or, as we may well trust, much more, than was believed by the minister of Federal-street Chapel, Boston?
17. Ecce Homo, p. 43: ‘On the whole, miracles play so important a part in Christ’s scheme, that any theory which would represent them as due entirely to the imagination of His followers or of a later age, destroys the credibility of the documents, not partially, but wholly, and leaves Christ a personage as mythical as Hercules.’
18. Cf. Vie de Jesus, p. 265: ‘Il est donc permis de croire qu’on lui imposa sa reputation de thaumaturge, qu’il n’y résista pas beaucoup, mais qu’il ne fit rien non plus pour y aider, et qu’en tout cas, il sentait la vanite de l’opinion a cet égard. Ce serait manquer a la bonne methode historique d’écouter trop ici nos repugnances.’ See M. Renan’s account of the raising of Lazarus, ibid. pp. 361, 362.
26. Hollard, Caractère de Jesus-Christ, p. 150. Cf. also Ullmann, SundIosigkeit, Th. I. Kap. 3. § 4. The frivolous objections to our Lord’s sinlessness which are urged from St. Luke ii. 41-52, St. Matt. xxi. 12-17, and 17-22, and from His relation to Judas, are discussed in this work, Th. III. Kap. 1. § 4. This interesting writer however, while asserting non peccasse of our Lord, falls short of Catholic truth in denying to Him the ‘non posse peccare.’ The objections advanced by M. F. Pecant in his Le Christ et la Conscience, 1859, are plainly a result of that writer’s Humanitarianism. Our Lord’s answers to His Mother, His cursing the barren fig-tree, His sending the devils into the herd of swine, His driving the money-changers from the temple, and His last denunciations against the Pharisees, present no difficulty to those who see in Him the Lord, as well as the Son of Mary, the Maker and Owner of the world of nature, the Searcher and Judge of human hearts. Cf. also note C.
27. Cf. Mr. F. W. Newman, in his Phases of Faith, p. 143: ‘We have a very imperfect history of the Apostle James; and I do not know that I could adduce any fact specifically recorded concerning him in disproof of his absolute moral perfection, if any of his Jerusalem disciples had chosen to set up this as a dogma of religion. Yet no one would blame me as morose, or indisposed to acknowledge genius and greatness, if I insisted on believing James to be frail and imperfect, while admitting that I knew almost nothing about him. And why? Singly and surely, because we know him to be a man: that suffices. To set up James or John or Daniel as my model and my Lord; to be swallowed up in him, and press him upon others as a universal standard, would be despised as a self-degrading idolatry, and resented as an obtrusive favoritism. Now why does not the same equally apply if the name Jesus be substituted for these? Why, in defect of all other knowledge than the bare fact of his manhood, are we not unhesitatingly to take for granted that he does not exhaust all perfection, and is at best only one amongst many brethren and equals?’ The answer is that we have to choose between believing in Christ’s moral perfection, and condemning Him of being guilty either of spiritual blindness or hypocrisy (see Ullmann, ubi sup.); and that His teaching, His actions, and (Mr. Newman will allow us to add) His supernatural credentials, taken together, make believing Him to be sinless the easier alternative. But Mr. Newman’s remarks are of substantial value, as indirectly showing, from a point of view much further removed from Catholic belief than Socinianism itself, how steadily a recognition of our Lord’s moral perfection as Man tends to promote an acceptance of the truth that He is GOD. ‘If,’ says Mr. Newman, ‘I were already convinced that this person [he means our Lord] was a great Unique, separated from all other men by an impassable chasm in regard to his physical origin, I (for one) should be much readier to believe that he was uniqne and unapproachable in other respects; for all God’s works have an internal harmony. It could not be for nothing that this exceptional personage was sent into the world. That he was intended for head of the human race in one or more senses, would be a plausible opinion; nor should I feel any incredulous repugnance against believing his morality to be, if not divinely perfect, yet separated from that of common men so far that he might be a God to us, just as every parent is to a young child.’ Ibid. p. 142.
55. St. John xiv. 1: 'mh tarassesqw umwn h kardia; pisteuete eij ton Qeon, kai eij eme pisteuete.' St. Aug. Tr. 67. in Joann.: ‘Consequens est enim ut si in Deum creditis, et in Me credere debeatis, quod non esset consequens, si Christus non esset Deus.’ St. John xvi. 33: 'tauta lelalhka umin, ina en emoi eirhnhn exhte. en tw kosmw qliyin ecete; [exete, Tisch.] alla qarseite, egw nenikhka ton kosmon.'
56. Ibid. vi. 29: 'touto esti to ergon tou Qeou, ina pisteushte eij on apesteilen ekeinoj.' Ibid. ver. 40: 'touto gar estin to qelhma tou Patroj mou; ina paj o qewrwn ton Uion kai pisteuwn eij auton, exh zwhn aiwnion.' Ibid. ver. 47: 'o pisteuwn eij eme, exei zwhn aiwnion.' Cf. Acts xxvi. 18: 'tou labein autouj afesin amartiwn, kai klhron en toij hgiasmenoij, pistei th eij eme.'
64. Baur, Vorlesungen uber N. T. Theologie, p. 109: ‘Dass Jesus Sich Selbst als den kunftigen Richter betrachtete, und ankundigte, lässt sich auch nach dem Evangelium Matthaus nicht in Zweifel ziehen. Fasst man die Lehre und Wirksamkeit Jesu auch nur nach dem sittlichen Gesichtspunkt auf, unter welchen sie der Bergrede und den Parabeln zufolge zu stellen ist, so gehort dazu wesentlich auch die Bestimmung, dass sie der absolute Maasstab zur Beurtheilung des sittlichen Werthes des Thuns und Verhaltens der Menschen ist.’
66. St. Matt. ix. 6; St. Mark ii. 10. M. Salvador represents in our own day the Jewish feeling respecting this claim of our Lord. ‘Voila pourquoi les docteurs se recrierent de nouveau en entendant le Fils de Marie s’arroger a lui-même, et transmettre a ses delegues le droit du pardon: ils y voyaient une autre maniere de prendre la place de Dieu.’ Jesus-Christ, tom. ii. p. 83.
80. Quoted in Dean Stanley’s Lectures on the Jewish Church, part ii. p. 161, from Renan (Vie de Jesus, p. 75), who is speaking of our Lord. M. Renan, in using this language, is very careful to explain that he does not mean to assert that our Lord is God: ‘Jesus n’énonce pas un moment l’idée sacrilege (!) qu’il soit Dieu.’ Ibid.
81. St. John v. 21: 'o Uioj ouj qelei zwopoiei.' The quickening the dead is a special attribute of God (Deut. xxxii. 39; 1 Sam. ii. 6). If our Lord’s power of quickening whom He would had referred only to the moral life of man, the statement would not have been less significant. To raise a soul from spiritual death is at least as great a miracle, and as strictly proper to God Almighty, as to raise a dead body. But the 'zwopoihsij' here in question, if moral in ver. 25, is physical in ver. 28; our Lord is alluding to His recently-performed miracle as an illustration of His power. Ibid. vers. 8, 9.
82. St. John v. 28, 29: 'erxetai wra, en h pantej oi en toij mnhmeioij akousontai thj fwnhj autou, kai ekporeusontai, oi ta agaqa poihsantej, eij anastasin zwhj, oi de ta faula pracantej, eij anastasin krisewj.'
83. St. John v. 17: 'o Pathr mou ewj arti ergazetai, kagw ergazomai.' ‘Wie der Vater seit Anbeginn nicht aufgehort habe, zum Heil der Welt zu wirken, sondern immer fortwirke bis zur jetzigen Stunde, so mit Nothwendigkeit und Recht, ungeachtet des Sabbathsgesetzes, auch Er, als der Sohn, Weicher als Solcher in dieser Seiner Wirksamkeit nicht dem Sabbathsgesetze unterthan sein kann, sondern Herr des Sabbaths ist.’ (St. Matt. xii. 8; St. Mark ii. 28.) Meyer in loc.
84. St. John v. 18: 'Patera idion elege ton Qeon, ison eauton poiwn tw Qew.' M. Salvador points out the abiding significance of our Lord’s language in the opinion of his co-religionists. ‘Si l’on ne s’attaquait qu’aux traditions et interpretations abusives, c’etait s’en prendre a la jurisprudence du jour, aux docteurs, aux hommes; c’était user simplement du droit commun en Israel, et provoquer une reforme. Mais si l’on se mettait au dessus de l’institution en elle-meme, si, comme Jesus devant les docteurs, on se proclamait le Maître absolu du sabbath, dans ce cas, entre circoncis, c’etait attaquer a la loi, en renverser une des pierres angulaires; c’etait imposer au grand Sacrificateur le devoir de faire entendre une voix accusatrice; enfin c’était s’élever au dessus du Dieu des Juifs, ou tout-au-moins se pretendre son Egal. Aussi un témoignage éclatant vient a l’appui de cette distinction, et ajoute une preuve a Ia conformite générale des quatres Evangiles. “Les Juifs,” dit judicieusement l’apotre et evangeliste Jean, “ne poursuivirent pas Jesus, par ce seul motif qu’il violait les ordonnances relatives au sabbath. On lui intenta une action par cette autre raison; qu’il se faisait égal a Dieu.” Salvador, Jesus-Christ, ii. pp. 80, 81.
88. St. John v. 22, 23. Meyer in loc.: ‘In dem richtenden Sohne erscheint der beauftragte Stellvertreter des Vaters, und er ist in so fern (also immer relativ) zu ehren wie der Vater.’ But if the honor paid to the Son be merely relative, if He be merely honored as an Ambassador or delegated Judge, then men do not honor Him as they honor the Father; they pay the Father one kind of honor, namely adoration, and they pay the Son a totally distinct kind of honor,—possibly respect. If this had been our Lord’s meaning, would He not either have omitted 'kaqwj', or used two different verbs to express what is due from all men to the Father and to the Son respectively? Moses was ‘as a GOD unto Pharaoh,’ and GOD’S ambassador and judge among the children of Israel. Does he therefore claim that all men should honor Moses even as they honor Jehovah?
94. Ibid. ver. 30: 'Egw kai o Pathr en esmen.' For a full explanation of this text see Bishop Beveridge’s noble sermon on the Unity of Christ with God the Father, Works, vol. ii. Serm. xxv. See also note D.
97. Meyer in Joh. x. 29: ‘Der Vater in dem Sohne ist und wirkt, und daher dieser, als Organ und Trager [He is, of course, much more than this] der gottlichen Thatigkeit bei Ausfuhrung des Messianischen Werks, nicht geschieden von Gott [i.e. the Father] nicht ein zweiter ausser und neben Gott ist, sondern nach dem Wesen jener Gemeinschaft Eins mit Gott. Gottes Hand ist daher seine Hand in der Vollziehung des Werkes, bei welchem Er Gottes Macht, Liebe u. s. w. handhabt und zur Ausfuhrung bringt. Die Einheit ist mithin die der dynamischen Gemeinschaft, wornach der Vater im Sohne ist, und doch grosser als der Sohn, [i.e. as man,] weil Er ihn geweiht und gesandt hat. Die Arianische Fassung von der ethischen Harmonie genugt nicht, da die Argumentation, ohne die Einheit der Macht (welche Chrys. Euth. Zig. u. V. auch Lucke mit Recht urgiren) zu verstehen, nicht zutreffen wurde.’ This interpretation is remarkable for its scholarly fairness in a writer who sits so loosely to the Catholic belief in our Lord’s Godhead as Meyer.
104. e.g. Thomas a Kempis. Of his teaching respecting the union between GOD and the devout soul, there is a good summary in Ullmann’s Reformers before the Reformation, vol. ii. pp. 139-149, Clarke’s transl.
106. St. John viii. 58. Meyer in loc.: ‘Ehe Abraham ward, bin Ich, alter als Abraham’s Werden ist meine Existenz.’ Stier characterizes our Lord’s words as ‘a sudden [not to Himself] flash of revelation out of the depths of His own Eternal Consciousness.’ That Christ should finally have spoken thus, is not, Stier urges, to be wondered at, on the supposition of this Eternal Consciousness ever abiding with Him. Rather is it wonderful, that He should ordinarily, and as a rule, have restrained it so much. Here too, indeed, He restrains Himself. He does not go on to say, as afterwards in the Great Intercession—'pro tou ton kosmon einai.' (St. John xvii. 5).
108. Cf. Meyer on St. John viii. 58: ‘Das 'egw eimi' ist aber weder: Ich bin es (der Messias) zu deuten (Faustus Socinus, Paulus, ganz contextwidrig), noch in den Rathschluss Gottes, zu verlegen (Sam. Crell, Grotius, Paulus, B. Crusius), was schon durch das Praes. verboten wird. Nur noch geschichtlich bemerkenswerth ist die von Faustus Socinus auch in das Socinianische Bekenntniss (s. Catech. Racov. ed. Oeder, p. 144, f.) ubergegangene Auslegung: “Ehe Abraham, Abraham, d. i. der Vater vieler Völker, wird, bin Ich es, nämlich der Messias, das Licht der Welt.” Damit ermahne Er die Juden, an Ihn zu glauben, so lange es noch Zeit sei, ehe die Gnade von ihnen genommen und auf die Heiden ubergetragen werde, wodurch dann Abraham der Vater vieler Volker werde.’
118. Ibid. ver. 62. Strauss thinks it ‘difficult but admissible’ to interpret St. John viii. 58, with the Socinian Crell, of a purely ideal existence in the predetermination of God. He considers it however ‘scarcely possible to view the prayer to the Father (St. John xvii. 5) to confirm the 'doca' which Jesus had with Him before the world was, as an entreaty for the communication of a glory predestined for Jesus from eternity.’ He adds that the language of Jesus (St. John vi. 62) where He speaks of the Son of Man re-ascending where He was before, 'anabainein opou hn to proteron,' is ‘in its intrinsic meaning, as well as in that which is reflected on it from other passages, unequivocally significative of actual, not merely of ideal preexistence.’ Leben Jesu, pt. ii. kap. 4. § 65.
Here, as sometimes elsewhere, Strauss incidentally upholds the natural and Catholic interpretation of the text of the Gospels; nor are we now concerned with the theory to which he eventually applies it. It may be further observed, that Strauss might have at least interpreted St. John viii. 58 by the light of St. John vi. 62.
125. St. Luke x. 18 would be a weighty addition to these passages, if 'ek tou ouranou' could be pressed, against the apparent requirements of the context, so as to refer to the fall of the rebel angels. In that case 'eqewroun' would be an act of the pre-existent Word. So many Fathers, and Hofmann, Schriftbew. i. p. 443, ed. 2.
126. St. John xix. 7. ‘Devant ce procurateur,’ observes M. Salvador, ‘chacune des parties emit une parole capitale. Telle fut celle du conseil ou de ses délégués: “Nous avons une loi; d’apres cette loi il doit mourir,” non parcequ’il s’est fait Fils de Dieu, selon l’expression familiere a notre langue et a nos prophetes; mais parcequ’il se fait egal a Dieu, et Dieu meme.’ Salvador, Jesus-Christ, ii. p. 204.
135. Salvador, Jesus-Christ, ii. pp. 132, 133, 195: ‘La question avait un côté politique ou national juif: c’était la résistance du Fils de Marie, dans Jerusalem même, aux ordres et avertissements du grand Conseil. Au point de vue religieux, selon la loi, Jesus se trouvait en cause pour s’être déclaré égal a Dieu et Dieu lui-même.’ See also the Rev. W. Wilson’s Illustration of the Method of Explaining the New Testament, p. 77, sqq. Mr. Wilson shows that the Sanhedrin sincerely believed our Lord to be guilty of the crime of blasphemy, as inseparable, to a Jewish apprehension, from His claim to be Divine. This is argued (1) from the regularity of the proceedings of the Sanhedrin, the length of the trial, and the earnestness and unanimity of the judges. The false witnesses were considered as such by the Sanhedrin: our Lord was condemned on the strength of His Own confession; (2) from the language of the members of the Sanhedrin before Pilate: ‘By our law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God;’ (3) from the fact that the members of the Sanhedrin had no material object to gain by pronouncing Jesus guilty, without being persuaded of His criminality in claiming to be a Divine Person. Mr.Wilson fortifies these considerations by appealing to our Lord’s silence, to St. Peter’s address to his countrymen in Acts iii. 14-17, and to the general conduct of the Jewish people.
136. Young, Christ of History, p. 217: ‘The difficulty which we chiefly feel in dealing with the character of Christ, as it unfolded itself before men, arises from its absolute perfection. On this very account it is less fitted te arrest observation. A single excellence unusually developed, though in the neighborhood of great faults, is instantly and universally attractive. Perfect symmetry, on the other hand, does not startle, and is hidden from common and casual observers. But it is this which belongs emphatically to the Christ of the Gospels; and we distinguish in Him at each moment that precise manifestation which is most natural and most right.’
144. Felix, Jesus-Christ, p. 316; Channing, Works, ii. 55: ‘When I trace the unaffected majesty which runs through the life of Jesus, and see Him never falling below His sublime claims amidst poverty, and scorn, and in His last agony, I have a feeling of the reality of His character which I cannot express. I feel that the Jewish carpenter could no more have conceived and sustained this character under motives of imposture, than an infant’s arm could repeat the deeds of Hercules, or his unawakened intellect comprehend and rival the matchless works of genius.’
152. Mr. F. W. Newman, Phases of Faith, p. 154: ‘When I find his high satisfaction at all personal recognition and bowing before his individuality, I almost doubt whether, if one wished to draw the character of a vain and vacillating pretender, it would be possible to draw anything nearer to the purpose than this.’ (p. 158), ‘I can no longer give the same human reverence as before to one who has been seduced into vanity so egregious [as to claim to be the Son of Man].’ So our Lord’s parabolical sayings are said (p. 153) to ‘indicate vanity and incipient sacerdotalism;’ (p. I 57), His tone, in dealing with the rich young man, is ‘magisterial, decisive, and final,’ so as to keep up ‘his own ostentation of omniscience;’ His precept bidding men receive those whom He sent (Matt. x. 40) suggests the observation that inasmuch as the disciples ‘had no claims whatever, intrinsic or extrinsic, to reverence, it appears to me a very extravagant and fanatical sentiment thus to couple the favor or wrath of GOD with their reception or rejection’ (p. 157). Compare Felix, Jesus-Christ, pp. 301-322.
153. M. Renan accounts for our Lord’s self-assertion in the following manner: ‘Il ne prechait pas ses opinions, il se prêchait lui-même. Souvent des ames très-grandes et tres-desinteressees presentent, associé a beaucoup d’elevation, ce caractère de perpetuelle attention a elles-mémes, et d’extreme susceptibilité personnelle, qui en général est le propre des femmes. Leur persuasion que Dieu est en elles et s’occupe perpetuellement d’elles est si forte qu’elles ne craignent nullement de s’imposer aux autres.’ (Vie de Jesus, p. 76.) Accordingly, we are told that ‘Jesus ne doit pas être juge sur la règle de nos petites convenances. L’admiration de ses disciples le debordait et l'entrainait. Il est evident que le titre de Rabbi, dont il s’était d’abord contente, ne lui suffisait plus; le titre meme de prophete ou d’envoye de Dieu ne repondait plus a sa pensee. La position qu’il s’attribuait était celle d’un être surhumain, et il voulait qu’on le regardat comme ayant avec Dieu un rapport plus eleve que celui des autres hommes.’ (Vie de Jesus, p. 246.)
154. Newman, Phases, p. 158: ‘When he had resolved to claim Messiahship publicly, one of two results was inevitable, if that claim was ill-founded:—viz., either he must have become an impostor in order to screen his weakness; or he must have retracted his pretensions amid much humiliation and have retired into privacy to learn sober wisdom. From these alternatives there was escape only by death, and upon death Jesus purposely rushed.’ (p. 161.) ‘Does my friend deny that the death of Jesus was wilfully incurred? The “orthodox” not merely admit but maintain it. Their creed justifies it by the doctrine that his death was a “sacrifice” so pleasing to GOD as to expiate the sins of the world. This honestly meets the objections to self-destruction; for how better could life be used than by laying it down for such a prize.’
156. Newman, Phases, p. 154: ‘It sometimes seems to me the picture of a conscious and wilful impostor. His general character is too high for this; and I therefore make deductions from the account. Still I do not see how the present narrative could have grown up, if he had been really simple and straightforward and not perverted by his essentially false position.’ Mr. Newman is complaining that our Lord ‘does not honestly and plainly renounce pretension to miracle, as Mr. Martineau would,’ but his language obviously suggests a wider application. (p. 158.) ‘I feel assured, a priori, that such presumption [as that of claiming to be the Son of Man of Dan. vii.] must have entangled him into evasions and insincerities, which naturally end in crookedness of conscience and real imposture, however noble a man's commencement, and however unshrinking his sacrifice of goods and ease and life.’
157. M. Renan indeed says, ‘Jesus n’enonce pas un moment l’idée sacrilège qu’il soit Dieu.’ (Vie de Jesus, p. 75.) Yet, ‘on ne nie pas qu’il y eut dans les affirmations de Jesus le germe de la doctrine qui devait plus tard faire de lui une hypostase divine.’ (Ibid. p. 247.) M. Renan even explains our Lord’s language as to His Person on the ground that ‘l’idealisme transcendant de Jesus ne lui permit jamais d’avoir une notion bien claire de sa propre personnalite. Il est son Père, son Père est lui.’ (p. 244.) In other words, our Lord did affirm His Divinity, but only because He was, unconsciously perhaps, a Pantheist!
158. St. John xiv. 28: 'poreuomai proj ton Patera; oti o Pathr mou meizwn mou esti.' For Patristic arguments against the Arian abuse of this text, see Suicer, Thes. ii. p. 1368. The 'meizonothj' of the Father is referred by St. Athanasius, St. Chrysostom, St. Basil (who, however, Ep. viii. gives the Latin int.), St. Hilary, to the Son’s being the Only-begotten: cf. also Pearson on Cr. i. 243; Newman, Par. Serm. vi. 60. By St. Cyr. Alex. (de Recta Fide, 28; Thes. p. 91, and in loc.); St. Ambrose (in Conc. Aquil. § 36; de Fid. ii. 61); St. Augustine (in loc.; de Trin. i. 7; Enchir. x.); St. Leo (Ep. xxviii. ad Flav. c. 4; and in the Ath. Creed, to the Son’s humiliation as incarnate. St. Augustine unites both explanations in De Fide et Symb. c. 9. St. Th. Aq. gives both: Summ. Theol. i. 33. 1; i. 43. 7.
159. Bull, Def. Fid. Nic. iv. i. 1: ‘Decretum illud Synodi Nicaenae, quo statuitur Filium Dei esse 'Qeon ek Qeou,' Deum de Deo, suo calculo comprobarunt doctores Catholici, tum qui ante cum qui post Synodum illam scripsere. Nam illi omnes uno ore docuerunt naturam perfectionesque divinas, Patri Filioque competere non collateraliter aut coordinate, sed subordinate; hoc est, Filium eandem quidem naturam divinam cum Patre communem habere, sed a Patre communicatam; ita scilicet ut Pater solus naturam illam divinam a se habeat, sive a nullo alio, Filius autem a Patre; proinde Pater, Divinitatis quae in Filio est, fons, origo ac principium sit.’ See Bull’s remarks on the error of calling the Son 'autoqeoj,' as though He were not begotten of the Father, Ibid. iv. i. 7. Also Petavius, De Deo Deique proprietatibus, ii. 3, 6. Compare Hooker’s Works, vol. i., Keble’s Preface, p. lxxxi. When St. Athanasius calls our Lord 'autosofia' (Orat. ii. 78, iv. 24), 'autoj' has the sense of ‘full reality’ as distinct from that of ‘Self-origination;’ the idea is excluded that He had only a measure of Wisdom or Divinity. See Petavius de Trin. vii. 11.
162. Renan, Vie de Jesus, p. 457: ‘Cette sublime personne, qui chaque jour preside encore au destin du monde, il est permis de l’appeler divine, non en ce sens que Jesus ait absorbe tout le divin, ou lui ait été adéquat (pour employer l’expression de la scolastique) mais en ce sens que Jésus est l’individu qui a fait faire a son espèce le plus grand pas vers le divin. L’humanite dans son ensemble offre un assemblage d’étres bas, egoistes, supérieurs a l’animal en cela seul que leur egoisme est plus réfléchi. Mais, au milieu de cette uniforme vulgarité, des colonnes s’élevent vers le ciel et attestent une plus noble destinée. Jesus est la plus haute de ces colonnes qui montrent a l’homme d’ou il vient, et oui il doit tendre. En lui s’est condensé tout ce qu’il y a de bon et d’élevé dans notre nature.’ On the other hand, M. Renan is not quite consistent with himself, as he is of opinion that certain Pagans and unbelievers were in some respects superior to our Lord. ‘L’honnête et suave Marc-Aurèle, l’humble et doux Spinoza, n’ayant pas cru au miracle, ont été exempts de quelques erreurs que Jésus partagea.’ (Ibid. p. 451.) Moreover, this superiority to our Lord seems to be shared by that advanced school of skeptical enquirers to which M. Renan himself belongs. ‘Par notre extreme delicatesse dans l’emploi des moyens de conviction, par notre sincérité absolue et notre amour désintéressé de l’idée pure, nous avons fondé, nous tous qui avons voué notre vie a la science, un nouvel idéal de moralité.’ (Ibid.) Indeed, as regards our Lord, M. Renan suggests that ‘il est probable que beaucoup de ses fautes ont été dissimulées.’ (Ibid. p. 458.)
163. Ibid. p. 252: ‘Pour nous, races profondément serieuses, Ia conviction signifie la sincérité avec soi-meme. Mais la sincérité avec soi-meme n’a pas beaucoup de sens chez les peuples orientaux, peu habitués aux délicatesses de l’esprit critique. Bonne foi et imposture sont des mots qui, dans notre conscience rigide, s’opposent comme deux termes inconciliables. En Orient, il y a de l’un a l’autre mille fuites et mille détours. Les auteurs de livres apocryphes (de “Daniel,” d’ “Hénoch,” par exemple), hommes si exaltés, commettaient pour leur cause, et bien certainement sans ombre de scrupule, un acte que nous appellerions un faux. La vérité matérielle a très-peu de prix pour l’oriental; il voit tout a travers ses idées, ses intérêts, ses passions. L’histoire est impossible, si l’on n’admet hautement qu’il y a pour la sincérité plusieurs mesures.’
164. M. Renan introduces his account of the resurrection of Lazarus by observing that ‘les amis de Jésus désiraient un grand miracle qui frappat vivement l’incrédulité hiérosolymite. La résurrection d’un homme connu a Jérusalem dut paraitre ce qu’il y avait de plus convaincant. Il faut se rappeler ici que la condition essentielle de la vraie critique est de comprendre la diversité des temps, et de se dépouiller des repugnances instinctives qui sont le fruit d’une éducation purement raisonnable. Il faut se rappeler aussi que dans cette ville impure et pesante de Jérusalem Jésus n'était plus lui-meme. Sa conscience, par la faute des hommes et non par la sienne, avait perdu quelque chose de sa limpidité primordiale.’ (Vie de Jesus, p. 359.) Under these circumstances, ‘il se passa a Bethanie quelque chose qui fut regardé comme une résurrection.’ (p. 360.) ‘Peut-être Lazare, pale encore de sa maladie, se fit-il entourer de bandelettes comme un mort, et enfermer dans son tombeau de famille.. . Jésus désira voir encore une fois celui qu'il avait aimé, et, la pierre ayant été ecartée, Lazare sortit avec ses bandelettes et la tete entourée d’un suaire. Cette apparition dut naturellement etre regardée par tout le monde comme une résurrection. La foi ne connait d'autre loi que l’intérêt de ce qu’elle croit le vrai. . . . . Quant a Jésus, il n'était pas plus maitre que saint Bernard, que saint Francois d’Assise de modérer l’avidité de la foule et de ses propres disciples pour le merveilleux. La mort, d’ailleurs, allait dans quelques jours lui rendre sa liberté divine, et l’arracher aux fatales nécessités d’un role qui chaque jour devenait plus exigeant, plus difficile a soutenir.’ (p. 363.)
165. Sometimes M. Renan endeavors to avoid this conclusion by representing our Lord’s self-proclamation as being in truth the result of a vain self-surrender to the fanatical adulation of His followers, the reiteration of which in the end deceived Himself. (Vie de Jesus, p. 139): 'Naturellement, plus on croyait en lui, plus il croyait en lui-meme.’ Accordingly (p. 240) ‘sa légende [i.e. the account given of Him in the Gospels and in the Apostles’ Creed, and specially the doctrine of His Divinity] était le fruit d’une grande conspiration toute spontanée et s’élaborait autour de lui de son vivant.’ Thus (p. 238) the Christ of M. Renan first allows himself to be falsely called the Son of David, and then ‘il finit, ce semble, par y prendre plaisir.’ Cf. p. 297, note.
167. Channing, Works, ii. 56: ‘The charge of an extravagant, self-deluding enthusiasm is the last to be fastened on Jesus. Where can we find traces of it in His history? Do we detect them in the calm authority of His precepts; in the mild, practical, beneficent spirit of His religion; in the unlabored simplicity of the language in which He unfolds His high powers and the sublime truths of religion; or in the good sense, the knowledge of human nature which He always discovers in His estimate and treatment of the different classes of men with whom He acted? . . . . The truth is, that, remarkable as was the character of Jesus, it was distinguished by nothing more than by calmness and self-possession.’
169. Channing, Works, ii. 61: ‘I know not what can be added to heighten the wonder, reverence, and love, which are due to Jesus. When I consider Him, not only as possessed with the consciousness of an unexampled and unbounded majesty, but as recognizing a kindred nature in all human beings, and living and dying to raise them to a participation of His divine glories; and when I see Him under these views allying Himself to men by the tenderest ties, embracing them with a spirit of humanity which no insult, injury, or pain could for a moment repel or overpower, I am filled with wonder as well as reverence and love. I feel that this character is not of human invention, that it was not assumed through fraud or struck out by enthusiasm; for it is infinitely above their reach.’
170. Channing might almost seem to have risen for a moment to the full faith of the Church of Christ in the following beautiful words; Works, ii. 57: ‘I confess when I can escape the deadening power of habit, and can receive the full import of such passages as the following: “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;” “I am come to seek and to save that which was lost;” “He that confesseth Me before men, him will I confess before My Father in Heaven;” “Whosoever shall be ashamed of Me before men, of him shall the Son of Man be ashamed when He cometh in the glory of the Father with the holy angels;” “In My Father’s house are many mansions, I go to prepare a place for you;” I say, when I can succeed in realising the import of such passages, I feel myself listening to a being such as never before and never since spoke in human language. I am awed by the consciousness of greatness which these simple words express; and when I connect this greatness with the proofs of Christ’s miracles, I am compelled to speak with the centurion, “Truly this was the Son of God.” Alas! that this language does not mean what we might hope, is too certain from other passages in his writings. See e.g. Works, ii. 510: ‘Christ is a being distinct from the one GOD.’