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FREEWILL BAPTIST QUARTERLY.
No. LXI.-JANUARY, 1868.
ART. I. JESUS CHRIST: HIS PERSON AND HIS PLAN.
Jesus Christ : His Person and His Plan-has been exercising the thoughts of men for successive centuries, but probably never so fully as in the present. The conflict of opinion began in the brief ministry of the Saviour in Jerusalem ; and though sixty generations have passed away since His ascension to heaven it is not yet accomplished. The warfare waxes in intensity. His wondrous life is being written again in the full blaze of the new lights of this nineteenth century; of a historical criticism, as inexorable as it is unfair; of a material science, vaunting its perfection; and of a worship of humanity bidding for the place of the religion of Christ. Emended gospels are issuing from the press, some with not a few additions, and others greatly needing supplements and appendices, if not even more. The enemies of the Cross are not doubtful of the issue. One bluntly says, “ The study of the life of Jesus is the snare in which the theology of our time is destined to be taken and destroyed.” Another declares, “In a certain sense our God is different from the God of the writers of the New Testament ; our world is undoubtedly different, and our Christ can no longer be the same.” Nor is this all. The shout of triumph already rings in the camp of the foe. Christianity is destroyed, and left in its putrefaction to seek a deserved grave along with the wornout superstitions of a credulous past. The arrows of criticism have shot through the weak places of the armor of the Captain of salvation, and His intellectual and moral errors are laid bare to the
of men. Christ has been stripped of the false glories in which loving disciples and weak women had robed Him, and it is now seen that “ beautiful errors" were the secret of His power. Falsehood, therefore, has been more fruitful of good than truth. The richest grapes of eighteen hundred years have grown on a thorn!
But the foundation of God standeth sure. We do not give up our convictions because Simon Magus is a hypocrite, nor will we tremble for the kingdom of heaven because Judas betrays Christ. Rather will we hail any controversy concerning the Prophet of Nazareth, believing that anything that brings men into His presence is likely to be fraught with good to the majority, though, alas ! it may work the sadder ruin of a few. To touch but the hem of the garment of the Healer of souls is an unspeakable blessing; and men and women may rejoice, even if it be a wearying disease or a pestilent error that forces them beyond the strength of their courage, through pressing crowds of doubts and fears, to stretch forth the trembling hand of trust and stand for a moment near the fringes of His beneficent power.
As we are not appalled, so we are not surprised. The final conflict with unbelief, whenever it occurs, must necessarily be fought around the Person and concerning the Plan of our Divine Lord. Of the battle-grounds of recent generations, some are verdant meadows covered with thick summer grass and fragrant flowers; some well-tilled fields yielding a prodigious harvest, and others the scenes of occasional skirmishing and fruitless sallies of rash and combative men, but never of serious fight. We have almost forgotten Calvin in resisting Comte, and only wish for the brave heart and gentle spirit of Arminius in putting on our armor to contend with Renan. The question of general redemption by the work of Christ that Andrew Fuller and Dan Taylor discussed so warmly is rapidly merging into the larger question, “ Is there a divine Saviour at all ?” All theological teaching is certainly moving towards Christ himself for its last settlement and victorious defence. The enemy has said, “ Here is the heir, come, let us take him, and then the inheritance shall be ours." The embattled hosts of Christendom gather round the Son of God for their decisive struggle. At this Philippi the contending warriors meet, no matter from what points they start or along what routes they travel. The character of Christ is the keystone of the arch of New Testament doctrine.
Allow the supernatural person of Jesus, and the body of Christian truth has solid coherence of statement, precision of purpose, symmetry of proportion, and fulness of life-giving power. Our view of the inspiration of Scripture must be determined, in part, by reference to His words, and therefore by the judgment we form of Himself. We only know God the Father as we know Him, for “no man hath seen the Father at any time, the only begotten Son he hath revealed Him." The attractions of his cross are powerless if He who dies there be an infatuated revolutionist and not the Prince of Life. History is a blinded muse, and has no interpreter, if Jesus be excluded from the highest throne in the rank of Divine kings. He is the light of the past, as He is the light of the Bible and the life of men. If I cease to admire and adore Him as my Lord and my God, my reason is as much puzzled and bewildered as my heart is orphaned and woe-strick
The achievements of science are no gospel for me, but merely like strains of beautiful music that fall on the listless ears of the dying, so long as my higher aspirations after God and immortality remain without affectionate response; and the adoration of humanity, so fervently commended by the high priests of a new religion, is but a subtle form of the practice from which, of all others, I am praying and fighting to be delivered ; in fact, if the Son of God be taken from me, I have nothing left to hope, nothing to live for, life is a chaos, history a riddle, God a problem, death a terror, and the future an abyss.
The person of Jesus is the Divine centre of Christianity, and the controlling figure of the gospel history. In the former everything depends upon Him as its basis, and in the latter everything gathers around Him as its living core. The principal intention of each Evangelist is to describe the works and words of the Master, not, indeed, so fully as he might have done, but with such completeness as he judged necessary to induce his
readers to believe in the Saviour's name. Owing to the special conditions under which each gospel was written, it is possible for us to discover a suggestive variety in the four-fold representation of the one life; but assuredly the foundation of each historian is the person and plan of Christ. Behind all they narrate and describe—fragments of sermons, complete parables; practical and oft-repeated aphorisms, good deeds in the quiet village or the bustling city—it is intended we should see the. form of the Son of God, the presiding spirit of the whole: His presence pervades and suffuses every part of the story: Each writer puts Him in the foreground of his picture, and makes all else subordinate to the exhibition of His inimitable character. It is impossible for us to accept the thinnest, “ rudiment of certainty” in the gospel account without being brought face to face with the marvellous person of the Son of : Mary: Here is a world from which we are as absolutely incapable of banishing Him as we are of excluding the sun from the heavens. His presence glows on every page, is the life of every scene, the thread of gold traversing the entire web, the crowning glory of the whole. Are we favored with glimpses of Hiş legislation? It is not merely that we may see by what : politics and according to what rules He would govern men, but that we may behold the King in His beauty, and, being enamored of His charms, yield ourselves in loving homage to His benignant authority. Do we listen to words of grace proceeding from His mouth? It is not as though He were another Socrates uttering His opinions as to “ what is to be worshipped and what is not; what is beautiful and what disgraceful, what is just and what is unjust ;" but that being brought into His presence we may obtain the spiritual life which flows along His words. Are we ushered into the audience-chamber of this King of men;" and privileged to behold His miracles? It is not for the sale of seeing the signs, nor that we may open wide the eģes of our wondering credulity and be led to chant the praises :of Christ as though He were a magician, but that we may have vital fellowship with the Son of Man, and ourselves do greater 'works :: than these through the indwelling of His power. From first to last the aim of the Evangelist is to describe what He did and
said, so that he may make plain what He was ; for these things were written that men might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing they might have life through His name.
This spirit the historians had caught from their Instructor. No other method was possible to them in narrating such a life, for Jesus had made Himself the pivot of all His sayings and the goal of all His works. It is here the marvel begins. From this point we journey along a course which peremptorily refuses to be satisfactorily explained on any merely natural principle. The predominance of Jesus in the evangelistic records might, for the most part, have been easily accounted for by literary considerations only ; but there is something so thoroughly unwonted, so unconsciously vain and pretentious in the perpetual and exaggerated prominence given by Christ to Himself in all His teaching and throughout all His works, that the supernatural or the demoniacal is at once forced upon us, and between the two we must make our choice. To men who set themselves to explain the life by natural causes, this is no inconsiderable difficulty. They do not know what to do with it. They cannot deny it, though they have a “ rudiment of certainty" of the extremest tenuity. Approaching it, they express their wonder, and then in a rhapsodical utterance take their leave in quest of less perplexing ground. Everywhere the fact meets us.
6. He did not,” confesses Renan, “preach His opinions ; He preached Himself.” Throughout His teaching there is a wearying and offensively repetitious egotism, unless, indeed, we feel that we are listening to one who is our God and Saviour. "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh to the Father but by me. “ Without me ye can do nothing." “ Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst : but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”
The same fact is indisputably supreme in the miraculous works of Christ. The object of the exertion of His wonderworking power was not to gain the applause of men, but the love and worship of Himself as the way to their new life. He was no sorcerer. There is nothing of the patron of sensa