CHRIST'S TEACHING IN RELATION TO THE CEREMONIAL LAW
We have already discussed most of the materials of this chapter. Nevertheless, for the sake of clearness and completeness, it will be needful briefly to discuss the subject here. If we be asked what we mean by ceremony, or what right we have to group different topics under that common head, it may be answered that a ceremony is a non-spiritual religious obligation. In Jesus' own view, all things which come under this head are on one footing. As in conduct, so in teaching, Christ habitually allowed the authority of the ceremonial law; but He was prepared for its abrogation; and, when occasion offered, He plainly indicated that it was secondary in value, and therefore destined to pass away.
First of all, we may refer to the cleansing or cleansings of the temple (Matt 21:12 and parallels; also John 2:13-15). These, to a remarkable degree, apart from whatever significance they may have in the lifework of Jesus, indicate the reverence He paid to ceremonial worship. The synagogue was the providentially provided home for moral piety, a sphere for evangelising work by Jesus and His apostles; the temple was the centre of ritual worship; it was an outrage upon the solemnities of the Divine ritual that moved Jesus to bitter practical rebuke. This must have been His impulse, even if He had further in view to vindicate the rights of the Gentiles.(1)
To suppose that a temple could exist without sacrifice is absurd, though Jesus may well have attached less value to sacrifice than to prayer. Both at this time and earlier (Luke 2:49) He called the temple "His Father's house."
1. Weiss, Holtzmann, from Mark 11:17.
A second indication of Jesus' regard for ritual, as part of the Divine law then in force over Israel, is found in His respect for the ordinances of the law regarding the cleansing of lepers (Matt 8:2 and parallels; Luke 17:12). No such provision existed for the cleansing of demoniacs; possession, whatever it may have been,and it was the most usual occasion for Jesus' healing,had no existence for the Old Testament Law. But on both the occasions when, so far as recorded, Jesus healed lepers, there may have been many more (cf. Matt 11:5 and Luke 7:22), He sent the men cured, though under different circumstances, to do their ceremonial duty. We are not bound to think that the "testimony" He counted on (Matt 8:4) was our Lord's only motive for this course; the less, as the command in Luke 17 says nothing about such a ground.(2)
2. Godet takes the "testimony" to be, Testimony that I respect the Law and prophets. Weiss washes it down to, Official evidence for the public that you are cured.
It has been said, indeed (Holtzmann), that even to touch lepers was illegal. But Jesus' was a healing touch. Leprosy did not soil His cleanness; He cleansed the leper's foulness. Obviously the Law did not cover such a case, though Jesus' conduct might shock precisians. Another point is raised by Holtzmann in admitting (to Ritschl, Weizsacker, Keim, Schenkel) that, at a subsequent time, when the woman with the issue of blood was healed, we do not hear that she was sent to the priests. The suggestion is, that Jesus had grown bolder. Such an argument e silentio is, however, always precarious.
Another indication of Jesus' recognition of the ceremonial law is found Matthew 17:27, in a passage immediately to be discussed. Here, however, as we shall see, His judgment as to ceremonies is explicitly stated; and accordingly, when He orders obedience to ceremony, the motive of His conduct shows beneath the deed. He orders payment of the temple dues, "lest we cause them to stumble"; but, none the less, He orders payment.
Finally, Jesus explicitly acknowledges the duty to be even nice in ceremonies; the verse is found in that great discourse, which the first Gospel places as His final summing up against the Pharisees (23:23). His indignation was roused, not only by their immorality, but by the accompanying pedantry of their religious punctilio. They "left undone the weightier matters of the Law, judgment and mercy and faith," while they "tithed mint and anise and cummin"; the moral duties, the weightier duties, exclaims Jesus, they ought to have done! But lest there should be misapprehension on the part of His hearers, He checks the flow of His moral indignation, slipping in a lowly practical caveat. Wrong in exaggerating the value of punctilio, the Pharisees were right in not omitting to tithe their herbs; for conscientiousness, which appears as the dead fossil of self-righteousness in the self-righteous, shows itself in good men to be the living root of all their goodness. In saying what He did, our Lord thus acknowledged that ceremonies, however abused, were binding on men's consciences.
Luke, indeed, in the parallel passage, prefixes to this verse a maxim hardly to be reconciled with it: "Give for alms those things which ye can; and, behold, all things are clean unto you" (11:41). This version of Matthew 23:26 can hardly, however, compete with the form given in the first Gospel. Our revisers, translating, "Give for alms those things which are within," make the parallelism(3)
closer; but it is more than probable that the change in the shade of meaning, manifest in the unguarded injunction of the last clause, so characteristic of the remoter distance from the Law at which Luke wrote, extended also to the first clause, and interpreted that clause in the sense of the third Gospel's favourite praise of almsgiving and habitual condemnation of wealth (12:33, 6:20-24).
3. Meyer and Godet take the words to mean, "Give your food in alms," and prefer Luke's text, without noticing the parallelism of vers. 39, 41, or the difficulty of the final clause of ver. 41. Weiss criticises Luke's version much as is done above.
Having now decided that Christ confirmed for the time the practical duty of keeping the ceremonial law, we proceed to study that part of His teaching which indicates His inward indifference to it, and His foretelling or foreordaining a time when it should cease to prevail.
First of all, as we began the last head by referring to Jesus' cleansing of the temple, so we may begin this head by referring to a passage(4)
that has often been used to prove Christ's superiority to ceremonialism; I mean His prophecy of the destruction of the temple (Matt 24:2 and parallels). The act of cleansing the temple proved that Jesus regarded its worship as holy and Divine. His prediction of its destruction proves that He felt that the religious spirit He was bringing into the world was not bound to that order in the midst of which it began life; it proves that He was able to value the temple cult, while free from any bondage to ceremonialism. The loss of the holy place had been the sorest and most staggering blow to the piety of the Old Testament; but Jesus, while He looks forward to the coming catastrophe with the tenderest feelings of a patriot and of a shepherd of souls (Matt 23:37 and Luke 13:34, also 19:41), nowhere hints that the future blow will touch His kingdom, nowhere feels it necessary to explain that the future blow will not touch His kingdom. In a private conversation Jesus had even earlier given a similar prediction (John 4:21), and spoken of its effect(5)
4. Weiss, New Test. Theol., 24.
in the spiritualizing of worship.
5. See below
Secondly, we may refer to Christ's summaries of the Law. These have already been quoted and commented on in chapter 2. What strikes us in them is the fact, that the ceremonial element in the Law is entirely ignored. From the central principle of love, or from that of the Golden Rule, it is plain that all possible moral duties may be deduced. But it is equally plain that duties of ceremonial purity or of ritual assiduity stand in no direct relation with love or unselfishness.
Another indication of Jesus' relation towards the ceremonial law is found in the twice quoted prophetic principle, that mercy is better than sacrifice (Hosea 6:6; Matt 9:13, 12:7). In this Jesus is true to the precedent of the prophets; but He disregards the precedent of ceremonialism in adjudging to ceremony a place morally, and therefore intrinsically, and therefore permanently, lower than that of genuine goodness. It might of course be urged that the enunciation of this principle by Jesus need no more abolish or preclude ceremony than its enunciation by the prophets. But this ignores the difference between Jesus and even the greatest prophet. Is it not a frequent incident of pro gress, that, without the discovery of new truth, old truths receive a new and potent life when the electric moment comes? This quotation by itself might mean little; on Jesus' lips, holding its own place among His sayings, such a quotation means much.
A fourth point, not unworthy of notice, is, that in Jesus' own teaching ceremonies have no place. He refers, indeed, to the actual order of society; "if thou art offering thy gift at the altar" (Matt 5:23); "when thou doest alms" (6:2); "when ye fast" (6:16); "pray ye that your flight be not on a Sabbath" (24:20). But His own commandments move in a different sphere.
Finally, we have to consider a short series(6)
of passages in which Jesus expressly indicates His attitude towards the Old Testament ceremonies. In all these cases His teaching is occasional. He did not make or seek occasion to disclaim "the bond written in ordinances"; He did not systematically expound its limitations; His teaching was more living, more practical, more peaceable. But, when occasions came, He was prepared to use them.
6. Matt 12:8 has already been removed for us from this category. Chapter 4, p. 65, sq.
The first passage to be quoted is found in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matt 9:14 and parallels). A question was put to Jesus, as Mark correctly(7)
records, by some one in the multitude, with a view to two classes of religionists. "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but Thy disciples fast not?" Jesus was thrown into a profound lyrical sadness. We do not know at what date this conversation occurred; but we can see that the question suggested to Jesus His impending death(8)
7. Beyschlag (Halle Osterprogramm, 1875) observes that John's disciples could not be conceived as themselves putting the question, Why do we fast?
and the necessary parting from His disciples. They were now like wedding guests; they were glad in His fellowship; but a day of parting was to come; then they would sorrow; then they must fast. It is plain, that these words are not to be taken with dull literalness; they are words of the heart, not coinage of the intellect. Recovering Himself, Jesus at once set Himself in earnest to answer, the question put to Him. But He preferred, as His manner was, to insinuate the new truth in the guise of parable. Parables, it is generally(9)
8. The sad cast of our Lord's words seems to assure us that death, and not (as Beyschlag) an undefined departure, was in view.
recognised, were used to teach the mysteries of the kingdom, in order both to repel the careless, and to give instruction, in impressive forms, to those who cared to lift the thin veil thrown over the truth. In the present case, Jesus was uttering a truth which, put in plain words, would have provoked a storm of controversy,a truth, whose realisation Jesus was content to commit to time. The parables used may offend the careless, but they cannot do them wrong, while they fall like seeds into the hearts of the disciples; by-and-bye they will bear fruit. Two parables, or, according to Luke, three, were spoken. All turn on the contrast of old and new; old bottles, new wine; old dress, new patch; old wine, new wine. But what is the interpretation of the old, and what of the new? If Jesus' gospel is the good old wine, what is the new wine that bursts old bottles? Or, if Jesus' gospel be the new wine of gladness, are there any bottles in which it is not to be stored,any men or classes of men to whom it is wrong to offer the gospel? Earlier interpretations were too apt, as usual, to clear the difficulties of the passage at a flying leap. Among recent interpreters Holtzmann (after Schenkel, Ludemann) supposes that Jesus is charging John and the Pharisees with patching with ascetic novelties the old garment of the Law, which knew only of one fast, on the yearly Day of Atonement. For His own part, Jesus disclaims patch-work. It is objected to this interpretation, that fasting is distinctively an old fashion, however freshly developed; further, that Jesus could not speak of the action of His contemporaries as being what "no man does." Weiss holds that, in all three parables, Jesus is apologising for the backwardness of John's disciples, looking on it as a stranger fact than the comparative maturity of His own. John's disciples were men with old bottles, who were shy of the new wine of gladness; men with old garments, who feared to adulterate their staid religious temper with any unsuitable novelties; men who, like connoisseurs in wine,(10)
9. Trench, Notes, Introduction, ii; Plumptre, in Smith's Bible Dictionary.
knew that the old was good, the old ascetic religion, and were naturally reluctant to travel further, only, it might be, to fare worse. Beyschlag holds that Weiss is right in regard to the first and last parables; in them Jesus is apologising for the backwardness of John's disciples; but in the second Beyschlag holds that our Lord is defending Himself for omitting to teach His disciples to fast, and is hinting that new spiritual experiences need new forms. This lesson is found in the passage by many interpreters (so Holtzmann also, and those he quotes). In any case Jesus speaks of a contrast, and must mean to contrast the spirit of fasting with the spirit of His religion. Fasting, then, is no essential part of Christianity.
10. The third parable, preserved only in Luke, brings out the reference to John's disciples.
The second passage we have to deal with is found in Matthew and Mark, but omitted by Luke. It is the often-quoted story of the Jerusalem Pharisees, who asked (Matt 15:2) why Jesus' disciples "transgressed the elders tradition." This provoked Jesus to a bitter exposure(11)
of the transgressions of God's law sanctioned by Pharisaism, and to making a statement for the benefit of the disciples, within hearing of the Pharisees, of one of those moral principles to which His whole life witnessed: "Not that which entereth into the mouth defileth the man, but that which proceedeth out of the mouth, this defileth the man." A simple parable, if(12)
11. Chapter 3, pp. 44, 49.
a parable at all,a vivid pictorial statement which did not elude even the Pharisee's shallowness,this was too hard for the disciples. In answer to a request of Peter's, they received an explanation (ver. 16, sq.) which it was impossible to mistake; but, in pity, perhaps, for their weakness, Jesus only affirmed, that "to eat with unwashen hands defileth not the man." Nevertheless, "this He said," adds Mark, "making all meats clean." And we did not need the Evangelist's assurance that such was the purport of Christ's teaching. Were the Pharisees "offended when they heard this saying"? No wonder! It was a deadly blow not only for Talmudism but for Levitism,a watchword for the undying battle between Jesus with His following and the Pharisees with their following,a setting aside of everything for which Pharisees cared to live. And, bitterest thought, it was a death blow aimed, not by means of personal authority or prudential arguments, but by simple moral considerations, whose truth, once they were stated by the Christ, could never be eclipsed, but must continue to beam more and more brightly, to the great distaste of all that loved twilight.
12. Weiss refers it to physical pollutions in the ceremonial law. It seems difficult to hold that unclean meats, even if not technically a defilement, could be said "not to defile" when the Law forbad them; and Weiss's attempt to show that Jesus was supporting the Levitical law is a mere evasion. Holtzmann approves of Weiss's explanation of the parable; but instead of finding an endorsement of the Law, he continues to find in the passage the foreshadowing of the abolition of ceremony, just as most interpreters have done.
The third and last of this group of passages is found in one Gospel only, Matthew 17:24-27. So strange a narrative, supported by only one witness, seeming to point to so unusual a claim on the part of Jesus, recit ing so singular a miracle,(13)
would hardly command our belief, if it were not supported by analogies elsewhere. On a closer view, however, the appearance of strangeness vanishes in great measure, and we find that Jesus' claim is analogous to His usual teaching, and His action to His usual conduct.
13. Holtzmann is bound to exclude miracle; he boldly affirms that the phrase is no more literal than "fishers of men" (Protestantenbibel, after Paulus). Weiss calls this "unmeaning torture" of the passage, but hints at a misunderstanding of Christ's word and of the event (after Hase). Meyer says bluntly, "The miracle remains, . . . and its difficulties too."
The temple shekel in question might perhaps be regarded rather as a traditional exaction than as a legal due. The Rabbis, it is true, based this yearly tribute on the poll tax of Exodus 30:13; but there is no proof that that tax was meant to be repeated, and none that it was meant to be annual. Perhaps this very ambiguity in the nature of the tax helps to explain Jesus' conduct. Tradition He disowned; law He kept; yet His spirit was destined to put both law and tradition out of currency. Was not this a favourable opportunity for indicating the true bearing of His spirit on such external exactions? Children are free,children,(14)
not the Christ only; and it does not become a child to let his zeal for pleasing men make him slavishly ready with accommodations to unchildlike disciplines. And yet it is best to give no offence. The exaction after all, whether rightly or wrongly, is based on God's word; it does not become the Christ to descend below the morals of exegesis and to wrangle over verbal niceties. Provision may therefore be made for Christ and His disciples in a strange way, divinely supernatural, and yet very humble; in this manner the conquests of the new spirit may involve less bitterness.
14. See what is said earlier, chap. 4, p. 75.
It is worthy of note how, in speaking privately to one of His disciples, our Lord drops the figurative veil, which He generally throws over the statement of practical changes to come. He plainly announces that the spirit of His kingdom is one of sonship, of freedom, of lordship. And He Himself indicates the inference, that many obligations, though fit for older dispensations, even though still to be suffered for a season, are intrinsically unworthy(15)
of those whom the Son makes free.
15. Similar teaching is given, also in private, John 4:24. That case, however, is peculiar, in referring not to a Christian principle, but to a principle of Old Testament revelation (Weiss, Joh. Lehrbegriff, pp. 54, 55), in order to base on it a Christian inference. Its parallel is Matthew 19:8.
It is remarkable how Jesus prepares for the abrogation of ceremonies; not by authority, but by nature and reason. He sometimes looks to the new source of joy He is destined to implant in mankind; sometimes He trusts in the freedom, the child's temper, which His people shall inherit; never is the motive for abrogating ceremony other than a moral and religious principle. To dispel darkness, to illuminate what is obscure, the simplest means is to bring in light. And it is a feature of all reforms, that the moral principle on which they proceed is the moving force in their execution, working directly, without detailed reckoning of obstacles or qualifying circumstances. The more neutral historical view of reforms comes later, with its reflection, that the right was not theirs only, and that they were not purely right; or that, if they were happy enough to be unsullied by baseness, they yet owed their success, not alone to their intrinsic justice, but to the favour of circumstance and to fitness of occasion. That reflection comes later; moral progress, for the "moment, is impatient of the past; it can see only wickedness to be inverted, foolishness to be removed. Exactly opposite is legal progress, familiar in the politics of modern society, and represented in Jesus' time by the system of the scribes. Even in changing it affects to follow precedent, and slavishly clothes the new life it cannot exclude with the garb of former days. Religious progress, in a sense, combines the features of both kinds of progress. It never forgets its past; it never ignores the present. Jesus knew that He was not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets; He knew that He was come to fulfil them.
Yet even religion must have its moral changes and reforms of practice. And, in the practical sphere, even religion is dependent on the naked force of moral motives, which have grown self-conscious. The abrogation of Jewish ceremonies dates from the time when Jesus intimated that they were unchildlike, unjoyous, meaningless. It is later in the day that we find a more reflective but also a colder judgment of these ceremonies, in the light of history, as part of God's pedagogy and "a shadow of the good things to come." Just so, in the Reformation, the moving force was not a philosophical spirit of amendment, but burning scorn for idolatry and anger at the enslavement of the Church; hardly yetso keen is the battleare we in a position to perceive that Mediaevalism had its part to play in the evolution of Christianity. Our Reform Bills are never carried by the calculations of Whig prudence, but by vague feelings as to liberty and popular rights. After the event men begin to see that, whatever the rights of men, education is needed before power can be well employed, and that hitherto liberty herself must needs have borne delay. Toleration is established on grounds of universal spiritual authority; it is acceptedat least they say soby men who have the intolerance of the Old Testament staring them in the face, and who revere the Old Testament even to excess; reflection begins to mediate later on; we are beginning to see that even so fundamental a piece of religious common-sense as toleration must necessarily be late in appearing. Free Trade did not enter the world as a device suited to the time, but as a sort of economic revelation or political gospel; perhaps at last our economists begin to guess that universal competition is not the highest social ideal. Even a Von Bismarck, to achieve the first of his astute schemes of national selfishness, must use that idea of race which he has often repressed and always despised. The most cynical apostle of materialism, with a continent at his feet, would be powerless, if moral forces were not enlisted among his vast armies.
But does this parallel with other movements reduce the Christian reform to their level? Or is Christ's place merely that of the suggester of moral considerations? Is His connection with Christian spiritualism accidental and passing? On the contrary; the personality of Christ dominates Christianity. His deep I say unto you is heard in every Christian principle, imparting an indescribable but vital qualification. All we have pointed out is, that for one endthe end of a practical reformationHe uses the appropriate means, statement of moral truth.
We must remember that a moral consciousness is growing in mankind. Normal perceptions of duty are so far from being written on every heart, from the first, that they are learned slowly through many an error. Or, if they are written on the heart, they are written in invisible ink, and only developed by the reaction of life, with help from the moral leaders of mankind. But, once a duty is discovered and acted on, conscience owns it; to do right, as now understood, henceforward seems natural. Not a mere stock of opinions, but a moral nature, is in course of growth. Nay, in this way diseased developments are possible. There are numberless false starts on the moral racecourse. Every erroneous public opinion propagates bastard moral intuitions, teaching men to sin with a clear conscience, or to do right hesitatingly, with a heavy heart. Still, in the long run, progress is certain to an honest conscience, or an earnest community. False beliefs are in disaccord with facts. They are sloughed off, while truths are confirmed. Now, the growth of a moral nature may lead to concealment of its origin and history. When right seems natural, we forget to ask who first taught us the great lesson. The moral universe is revealed in Christ; but, while living in it, we may set fictitious boundaries to it, and deny the claims of its discoverer. Revelation, indeed, is scarcely the affirmation of new and unheard-of truths,how could such things be received into the life of reason? It is rather the confirmation of the heart's doubting moral deliverances, the shaping out and interpreting of what was vague or rudimentary, the cleansing of religious life from the disease of sin. But faith is the necessary complement to duty. The moral universe must not be mutilated. And faith can survive the storms of the world only in dependence on its rightful Lord, in the form of faith in Christ.
Only one objection occurs to me, which could evade the force of Jesus' words about ceremony, as we have been led to interpret them. It may be said that He favoured some repeal, but not a total repeal. And, no doubt, it is open to anyone to hold that Jesus disbelieved in distinction of meats, but wished to retain tithes. But the theory will not escape grave difficulties. The freedom which He ascribed to God's children, the lordship of the Sabbath which He (perhaps) taught them, the moral grounds on which His whole teaching rested, the connection of all with His absolute revelation of goodness, make it strangely unlikely that He rested in any such compromise. So pure and spiritual a message as His claims to be interpreted from the centre outwards. Jesus' teaching needs no other clue, than is given by the resolution, to establish an order worthy of God's kingdom, and to do this without violent change, by a quiet and gentle growth.
A fact, which might seem to support the hypothesis just canvassed, is strongly emphasised by Ritschl, that Jesus nowhere foretells the abrogation of circumcision. He would infer from this, that Jesus looked forward to a society(16)
in which Jews should have the first rank, while Gentiles should be admitted to a secondary place, and the Jewish law in general abrogated. But the fact on which he builds is ambiguous. For Jesus taught on such themes only as occasion offered; and, living, as He did, among Jews, and ministering only, to Jews, He could meet with no occasion for discussing the ethical value or valuelessness of circumcision. He may have omitted it as a single detail, thinking He taught sufficiently in laying down the general principles of His revelation, and in passing judgment on the points of principle regarding ritual.(17)
16. A. K. Kirche, 34, 125.
I say this, remembering the abstract possibility that, if Israel had been converted, the Kingdom of God might have had Jewish features. There is another necessary admission which it would be well to bear in mind. Though we, for our part, understand circumcision as superseded by the implications of Jesus' teaching, His silence regarding it may have had important bearings on the growth of parties in the early Christian Church.
17. Reuss, quoted by Prof. Bruce, calls our Lord's silence "significant." Interpreter for December, 1884.
Christ then, while He not only respected the ceremonial law but was zealous for its honour, looked calmly forward to the destruction of its centre in the temple, and omitted ceremony from His positive injunction, while in such diverse points as fasting, distinctions of meat, and temple dues, He indicated its incongruence with the spirit of His Kingdom.
CHRIST'S TEACHING IN ITS RELATION TO THE
LAW CONSIDERED AS STATUTE LAW
Our title requires a word of apology. For we shall have to prove, that Christ's teaching, so far as words go, stands in no explicit relation to the statute law of the Old Covenant, that Jesus refused to be drawn into the sphere of politics. But this very fact is important. The comparison of Christ's political abstinence with Old Testament practice is instructive; it throws a strong light on the moral centre of Christ's teaching; it gains itself in depth of meaning when illustrated by those moralities which Christ's life and words alike revealed.
The first indication of Christ's attitude towards political questions is afforded us in the narrative of His temptation,(19)
not, it is true, in Mark's outline, but in the fuller details of Matthew and Luke. The culminating trial of our Lord's faithfulness, according to the first Gospel and according to internal probability, was the temptation to acquiesce in the current expectations of the Messiah, so far as to choose whatever spiritual price it might cost a worldly kingdom, and to do His merciful work from the ideal loftiness of David's throne. But Jesus repelled this from Him as a compromise of the duties of His vocation, a bargain with Satan, a snare of the arch enemy. We can readily understand that, at the entrance to His ministry, Jesus must decide, even by means of the anguish of temptation, what form His lifework should take. We can readily understand, that the miraculous endowment, which He never used before, but which He used unrestingly here after, should, as Mr. Seeley has pointed out, have lent weight to the plausible suggestion, that supernatural force should be employed to establish a political Kingdom of God. And such a kingdom could have done much; it is one of the most attractive, one of the most tantalizing visions of prophecy; yet it could not have done what Christ had come to do. Hence we can well believe that Jesus, strong in perfect faithfulness and insight, rose superior to that temptation then and always. The rest of His life is the record of His loyalty to the supernatural purpose which had been tried with fire.
19. Good remarks in Ecce Homo, ch. ii.
It is the fourth Gospel which records the occasion on which temptation returned to Jesus from the actions of men (John 6:15; cf. Matt 14:13 and parallels; also 16:23, and Mark 8:33). The Galilean crisis of His ministry, obscurely visible in the Synoptic Gospels, is here tragically plain. The people were aroused to enthusiasm by His words and signs, but their enthusiasm took the base form of trying to thrust on Him a role, which, for Him, would have been an indignity. He escaped from the "force" that would have "made Him king" by "straightway constraining" His disciples to depart, and by Himself withdrawing into the mountain alone. Soon this popularity waned. Disappointed, it could only make its victims ready to look on with languid acquiescence during the rejection and murder of the misunderstood Christ; but Jesus had been perfectly faithful to His ideals; and all that befel Him, in consequence of His faithfulness, came to Him in the path of His calling, by permission of God's providence, and so tended to His perfecting in the work of our salvation.
Three special narratives are found in the Gospels, illustrating Jesus' attitude towards political questions. The chief of these is recorded in all three synoptics (Matt 22:15 and parallels). It relates a conversation between Jesus and some emissaries of the Pharisees, at the time, towards the end of our Lord's life, when His enemies were anxiously seeking to gather materials for a telling charge against Him. On this occasion their question was skilfully enough framed for their ends. Was it lawful to give tribute to Caesar, or not? Practical common-sense forbade disobedience; refusal of tribute meant hopeless rebellion. But did not theory demand it? Was it consistent with the Old Testament national theocracy to acknowledge the foreign tyrant, and to acquiesce in the continued degradation of the chosen people? If Jesus refused to sanction the payment of tribute He could be denounced to Pilate as a rebel; if He sanctioned it, the people would readily believe that He was no prophet.
It was thus our Lord's interest to evade the question; and although He answered it, He did so indirectly. He used the wise man's right, in this instance, of refusing to be put to the question by prying malice. Nor was the question really so important, or so honest, as it at first sight seemed. Jesus was come to put out of currency those ethnic conditions of religion, which made it seem sinful, as well as unpatriotic, to pay taxes to the foreigner; it was unnecessary to treat with respect thatso to sayIrish patriotism, which hungrily enough swallowed all benefits of the alien rule, and objected only to paying for them. It was reasonable to evade the question. But it was more than permissible; it was, in the highest sense, needful for Jesus to do so. He must at all costs escape sinking from a religious authority into a partizan. His work was not to alter external conditions of life, but to set free the spirit and to save from sin. So He asked for a denarius, the coin paid in the tax, and inquired whose was the head stamped upon it. When they answered Caesar's, they must surely have felt reminded that this image of Caesar was the type of an authority over the national life, which could not be escaped by any whimsical theory as to the lawfulness of paying or duty to refuse payment; they must have felt reminded of the long Divine punishment which had stifled their political freedom, and which soon was to bring the national life to an end. But Jesus was not done with them. When they had given their helpless answer, Caesar's, He rejoined: "Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's." If you take Caesar's coin, He in effect said, you must pay it too. That is your duty. But it is a different duty to which I am come to bear witness. Coin bears the stamp of the emperor's mint; all the world bears the stamp of God's creation. Render, then, God's gifts to God's glory, as the emperor's coin returns to his treasury; this also is part of your duty; this is the greater part of your duty; this, too, not political reform, what ever that be worth, is the thing to establish which I, the Christ, am come into the world. In refusing the other task, I am not faithless but faithful to this.(20)
20. Substantially as in Meyer and, more nearly, Weiss. De Wette understands, Political matters have nothing to do with conscience; a holy service is what God asks. But Christ was asked, was it a religious act or sinful to pay tribute, and He implied that it was a duty,not a secularity with no religious colour. The vulgar view is De Wette's more coarsely: Keep sacred and secular things separate. But this is still worse. Caesar, Caesar's must be understood strictly. Our religious slang is a modern growth.
Thus our Lord had revealed the truth. It may be that, as a recent writer(21)
on His life holds, this conversation proved a turning-point, after which Hosannas steadily yielded to execrations. Still, Jesus had been faithful to His mission. If His faithfulness only hurried on the end, He would yet be faithful, even to the end, and win a blessing. In the highest sense, success was His. Wisdom and holy love had not failed Him.
A second incident, very similar on a lesser scale, is recorded only in Luke's Gospel (12:13). One day our Lord's teaching was rudely interrupted. "Master," said the speaker, "bid my brother divide the inheritance with me." It was the speech of one whose soul had been wholly untouched by the words of the Master; it manifested the presence of a narrow, worldly mind, to whom the Kingdom of God and words of life were nothing in comparison with the importance of an inheritance. Jesus seems to have been wounded by the interruption, showing as it did that His solemn truths had fallen vainly on at least one soul; but His first words, before uttering any rebuke, were a quiet disclaimer of the power to do as He was asked. "Man, who made me a judge or a divider over you?" He would not be led into seeming to admit that He had the functions of a worldly king or judge; His life and teaching were on a higher plane than theirs.
But here, as before, Jesus found it right to do more than repel false ideas concerning Himself. Instead of giving a judgment as to rights of property, He pronounced judgment on the sin of covetousness. We indignantly refuse to be called covetous if we wish to secure our legal right by all honourable means; and the man who spoke may have been no miser or grasping extortioner. Nevertheless, judged from the standpoint of the Kingdom, he appeared as one who sought first, not the Kingdom, but worldly advantages. Thus Jesus' commendation of disinterestedness and rebuke of the sin of covetousness were given in faithfulness to His mission. He was no ruler or reformer, except as He was ruler and creator of God's righteous kingdom; but He never ceased to bear witness, as occasion offered, to the manifold truth of God.
The remaining narrative to be studied is certainly without authority in the text where it stands (John 8:2). Its manner, however, is very like that of the synoptic memoirs; and it bears on its front, in a striking degree, the stamp of truth. We shall quote this remarkable story as it has been paraphrased and made luminous in the words of genius. "Some of the leading religious men of Jerusalem had detected a woman in adultery. It occurred to them that the case afforded a good opportunity of making an experiment upon Christ. ... It might be possible, they thought, by means of this woman, to satisfy at once themselves and the people of His heterodoxy. They brought the woman before Him, quoted the law of Moses on the subject of adultery, and asked Christ directly whether He agreed with the lawgiver. They asked for His judgment.
"A judgment He gave them; but quite different, both in matter and manner, from what they had expected. In thinking of the case, they had forgotten the woman, they had forgotten even the deed. ... But the judgment of Christ was upon them, making all things seem new, and shining like the lightning from the one end of heaven to the other. He was standing, it would seem, in the centre of a circle when the crime was narrated, how the adultery had been detected in the very act. The shame of the deed itself, and the brazen hardness of the persecutors, the legality that had no justice, and did not even pretend to have mercy, the religious malice that could make its advantage out of the fall and ruin and ignominious death of a fellow creatureall this was eagerly and rudely thrust before His mind at once. The effect upon Him was such as might have been produced upon many since; but, perhaps, upon scarcely any man that ever lived before. He was seized with an intolerable sense of shame. He could not meet the eye of the crowd, or of the accusers, and, perhaps at that moment least of all, of the woman. Standing, as He did, in the midst of an eager multitude that did not in the least appreciate His feelings, He could not escape. In His burning embarrassment and confusion He stooped down, so as to hide His face, and began writing with His finger on the ground. His tormentors continued their clamour, until He raised His head for a moment, and said, 'He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her'; and then instantly returned to His former attitude. They had a glimpse, perhaps, of the glowing blush upon His face, and awoke suddenly with astonishment to a new sense of their condition and their conduct. The older men naturally felt it first, and slunk away; the younger followed their example. The crowd dissolved, and left Christ alone with the woman. Not till then could He bear to stand upright; and when He had lifted Himself up, consistently with His principle, He dismissed the woman, as having no commission to interfere with the office of the civil judge.
"But the mighty power of living purity had done its work. He had refused to judge a woman; but He had judged a whole crowd. He had awakened the slumbering conscience in many hardened hearts, given them a new delicacy, a new ideal, a new view and reading of the Mosaic law."(22)
22. Ecce Homo, ch. ix.
He had refused to judge a woman; but He had judged a whole crowd. He had refused to step down from His position as head of God's kingdom; He had escaped answering a question which He could hardly have decided with justice in either way; and He had once again revealed, to soiled and blinded consciences, the beauty and the inexorable severity of holiness.(23)
23. Christ's decision regarding divorce is moral, not legislative.
The position of some "historical" students of the Gospel would neutralise the results of our present examination. According to (e.g.) Holsten,(24)
Jesus expected a miracle to erect a visible world-wide theocracy. On this view, Jesus was Himself a cross between a Zealot and a Pharisee. On such a view, His moral greatness is destroyed, or it is held to have co-existed with accidental errors of the day. Even in looking forward to death Jesus is said to have retained this expectation; His prophecy of a Resurrection is identified with His prophecy of a Second Advent; and the essence of the kingdom of God, in Jesus' view, is supposed to have been a millenarian reign "in three days," i.e., within a very short time after His death. We cannot attempt to determine with a passing word the eschatology of the New Testament. But we distinctly decline, upon such insolently conjectural grounds, to ignore the direct evidence of the narratives before us, or to set aside the words of Christ, or allow that His perfect moral wisdom was embedded in essentially erroneous fancies. Christ does not merely postpone vulgarly regal functions; nor does He ignore politics, like ritual, as being unimportant. His own language is, "Who made Me a judge or a divider over you?" He was distinctly conscious of giving a shock to the best thought of His age. What else is the meaning of His message to the Baptist? (Matt 11:1-6; Luke 7:23). But He Himself was never shaken. To the end He was entitled to say, "My kingdom is not of this world; if My kingdom were of this world, then would My servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now is My kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36).
24. Zum Ev. des Paulus u. des Petrus.
At first sight, indeed, our Lord's attitude seems to favour the well-worn theory, that Christianity cuts life into two halves, secular and sacred. And, it is true, the separation of religious functions from "cosmical" relations and conditions is a feat in which Christ appears profoundly original. Early civilization, for safety, for dear life, tied up religion with the state. Even the religion of Israel, while moral and supernatural, and tending to universalism, is natural in form so far as it is national. It, too, persecutes, not by accident, but inevitably; it, too, rests upon personal and political prosperity. Christ came, andone might saywith a word changed all this. Rejected by the capital and by the rulers of His nation, He went to Galilee, and there, not waiting for the conversion or the help of the great, not regarding political omens, He erected the kingdom of God. Such a power could be neither advanced nor hindered by the world's action. It stood full-grown, full-armed, unconquerable, in the midst of the generation who had rejected Jesus, before the men who had made sure that, without their countenance, Jesus must fail.
It is true, several features in the history of Israel make such a religious attitude as that of Jesus less wholly novel and less revolutionary in Israel, than it would have been had the Christ appeared in any other race. That is only to say, that the Old Testament religion was, in its measure, a true preparation for Christ. Prophecy, a religious institution so alien to the augurships of heathenism, itself foreshadowed Christ's work. In prophecy religion appeared as a free self-development; it brought messages directly from God; it refused, even for the sake of the security of institutions, to be trammelled by institutions or even by traditions of its own, breaking away at need from the "schools of the prophets"; it played boldly and with mastery on the political institutions of its day. But this is the limit of prophecy, that it works on the given conditions of religion, political and national. Even in its forecasts of the future it cannot disentangle itself from the instinctive expectation, that God will work to the end through the chosen nation and its polity. It was the mystery of ages, the secret hid from all generations, that an ethical community should be founded in the world, among its kingdoms, but not of them, indifferent to the props they lean on and to their mutual jealousies. Christ's surprise was prepared for, not only by prophecy, but by its cessation. The prophets, while they spoke, typified Christ; the people, when prophecy ceased, were driven inward for guidance to conscience and to prayer. Even the human school of the scribes was an anticipation of Christianity, in so far as the scribes obeyed reason and morality, and were faithful to Moses in leading the people. All these things silently prepared the way for Christ's act of emancipation. Similarly, while the loss of independence brought political development to an end, it called imperatively for religious development. It formally abolished those conditions on which Old Testament piety had counted. If religion was to live, it must take forms independent alike of the state and of the prophet; in the synagogue there arose a form of religious life which was parent to the Church; and, out of the pious individualisms of a broken age, Jesus Christ gathered the living materials for the perfect order of the king dom of God. Once more, when the life of Israel flamed up again in its proper field of religion, and the half-forgotten voice of prophecy was heard from the lips of John the Baptist, this revival prepared the way for Christ; it taught men to listen, as- their fathers had done, to a living religious authority, which carried its own verification with it; and, in the nature of the case, it taught them to expect a salvation that was of the soul, and that did not bring, at least as its first or chief gift, political freedom (Luke 1:76, 77).
Christ's conduct, then, was not without its precedents. Yet these were precedents of fact rather than of intention; they hardly diminished the originality of Christ's thought; they hardly lessened the shock of His contemporaries surprise. Circumstances did not tend to lead Jesus beyond the thought of the prophets, or teach Him to look on religion as not only free for itself, but complete in itself. Nothing traditional could suggest the hope, much less give the power, of establishing a kingdom of God among men, while political freedom was unachieved. Why did Christ separate Himself from Moses, that great religious leader, who, at the same time, was regarded as the founder of the whole social code of Israel? Why could not Jesus follow him, in both revealing God and dividing among men? Why did not Christ imitate Isaiah, who witnessed with power for God and righteousness, but who gained his ends by remonstrating with evil rulers, and by working upon the good? These men moved among the courts of the earth; centuries reverenced their smallest command; yet they were Jehovah's prophets; why will the perfect Prophet refuse the narrowest worldly functions? His vocation excludes worldly authority; He has risen above His forerunners; the internationalism of His ethic, the spirituality of His religion, the supernatural stamp of His whole life, make Him greater in His silence than they in all the influence to which God called them.
Nevertheless, one of the most constant features of Christian history has been the craving for a Theocracy. The early Church soon began to model itself after the Jewish Church. Mediaeval thought in Western Europe recognised two catholic Theocracies,that of the Holy Roman Empire in things civil, and that of the Holy Roman Church in things ecclesiastical.(25)
And the Puritans, accommodating themselves to the new ideas of nationality, called upon every separate state to obey the inspired legislation of the Old and New Testaments, as it would be answerable. The earth was to be dotted over with Christian Israels. Thus persecution was as native to Puritanism as it still is to Roman Catholicism,as native to both, as it ever was to the Old Testament religion. Can we judge these recurrent lapses as anything better than disloyalty to Christ? The modern spirit bases toleration, like private judgment, on inalienable individual rights; let us base both on the spirituality of the Christian religion, and on the priestly rights of believers, extending potentially, as they do, to all men.
25. Bryce, Holy Roman Empire, ch., vii.
In our own day and land we have to do with an aborted survival of Puritanism in the form of the Establishment Principle. Is this rag of Theocracy worth maintaining? Is it endurable that men should trick it out in the splendours of entirely obsolete opinions? The spirituality of Christ's work, the spirituality of Christianity, involve the spirituality of the Church; why should we reduplicate on ourselves by assigning properly spiritual functions to the state, and by deliberately creating a conflict of jurisdiction? The state cannot do the work of the Church. For example, it is not by accident that the Church is an international body; for she is witness to a supernatural life. But assuredly, we should do no good by running ahead of the moral development of the race, and substituting the International for the state!
There are three elements in the religious life of the individual. There is conduct; there are certain outward professions and rites performed in common; and there is the sphere of personal religion, when, in his inner chamber, with the door shut, the child of God prays to his Father in secret. Now, in the state, the last is amissing. The state has no personal religion; or rather, the personal religion of a land is that of its citizens. Our forefathers masked this fact of the case by talking of the duty and of the conscience of the "civil magistrate";(26)
but a democratic age makes plain, what was always true, that the religion of a country, to please God, must be the religion of its people. There remain then only two elements in national religion, conduct and profession; can we doubt which is of more importance? By all means, whether establishing or disestablishing churches, let us retain, in our national and public life, a seemly acknowledgment of God, even if, alas! it must be a formal acknowledgment. The usual proposal to give a tribunician veto to conscience,to make it omnipotent for negation and impotent in its positive claims,is an unhappy blunder. And we can allow seemly religious observance, without involving ourselves in the heartburnings and jealousy, or in the manifold dangers to religion, which attend on Church establishment. But do not let us think that seemly forms of reverence will outweigh the smallest pandering to national selfishness or cowardice or greed. It is for our own sake, rather than for the sake of God, that forms are to be respected. Justice and mercy are better than sacrifice. On one side after another the question has been taken up, How shall we sanctify public life? From one side after another,from Arnold, from Maurice, as well as from their keenest enemies,comes the answer, "Ecclesiasticise it!" Even one, who has least sympathy with Carlyle's ugly and envenomed naturalism, may object to this sort of "shovel-hattery." The natural life is holy in itself, and does not need to be draped in sacerdotal vestments.
26. Westminster Confession, ch. . xxiii.
As Theocracy recurs, prophetism also recurs. But both are out of date. In the days of imperfect revelation, particular intuitions of God's will were of the greatest importance. When the moral world was not fully known, the duty of the day was a problem for God's oracles; he who could both receive and utter these was God's prophet. Intuitions of God's will continue, but they have lost their vicarious importance. They continue; for, in so far as Christians are led along the path of duty, they are led to the recognition of particular duties required by God's will. Duty in the abstract, duty in the general, is not duty at all. But these intuitions have lost their vicarious importance. All Christians may have them, and are called to attain them. In Christ we find the revelation of the moral universe as a universe. And, therefore, the perfect Prophet, from dependence on whom we can never wish to escape, is the last of the prophets.
Therefore, also, those who, in these latter days, address their fellows in the tone of prophecy, occupy an awkward half-way house between inspiration and imposture. Our "Carlyles and Mazzinis," our Edward Irvings and John Ruskins, have the touch of the charlatan on them. Even a Savonarola sinks from his ideal elevation when he mixes up Divine inspirations with the policy of a party. It is much to be wished that the age were come, when men shall no longer wear a hairy mantle with intent to deceive. Right action essentially implies that we act from the heart; Christian feeling essentially involves that we reverence the judgment of our Christian brethren. We must not act, or try to make others act, from hard and fast rules, or from emotional fancies, which do not command the personal conviction of the individual. It appears on the surface as if faithfulness to these principles made Christians strangely unmoral in their action. Why so much ashamed of the will of God as their one rule? Why be Whig or Tory; not always Wilberforces and Shaftesburys? But wise Christians should know how to look below the surface.
In reference to the state as well as to the Church, Theocracy and a tone of authority are hard pushed by Democracy. Christ founded even the Church upon principles fully more than upon authority; and Democracy itself, if clothed and in its right mind, is based(28)
on nothing so much as on Christ. Sooner or later, Christianity must establish such a polity. Christ's very reticence on the subject of politics is the charter of negative freedom to the world; positive freedom is to be gained by a wise and conscientious use of rights. The old national religions were intensely aristocratic. At the root of ancient thought and ancient philosophies, we find the belief in a generic difference between the happy few who know and the ignorant multitude. Christianity, the religion for humanity, swept away all such distinctions. Into the midst of a profoundly cultured, languidly cynical age it launched, not as a dream of theorists, but as an irresistible faith, the belief in the brotherhood of the race. Liberty, equality, fraternity, the watchwords of the revolution, are stolen from Christ, and "marred in the stealing." Beginning by proclaiming, unsparingly, the dismal equality of all in sin, Christianity goes on to tell of a brighter destiny, common to all who will enter on it, in which men become brethren to each other and children of God. Those who receive this faith cannot remain slaves.(29)
28. In Mr. A. J. Scott's noble Discourses, Theocracy is used in an ethical sense, as what is necessary for a country's life. But is this correct? Must we not recognise the fact, that the moral consensus, however unhappily, extends beyond the religious? The question we have to ask in practical affairs is, what men will practically admit and obey. "He that is not against us is on our side." Theocracy if you will; but assuredly, whether you will or not, Democracy.
Hence, in spite of its theocratic errors, the inevitable nisus of the spiritual side of Puritanism towards civil liberty. And hence, too, at the present day, it is by no accident that those who have cast off faith in God and Christ lose faith in man; that hero-worshippers are tyrant-worshippers, looking back lovingly to a mythical age, before the Fall,before governing aristocracies became unworthy of their place, or Providence (!) set a-brewing the devil's caldron, out of which French Revolutions periodically proceed. Christians see things differently. To despair of the democracy is to deny Christ. The modern revolution is only, on a small scale, replacing inadequate and obsolete political ideals by Christian and adequate ideals.
29. This would be proved untrue, if we were forced to agree with Ecce Homo, that in Christianity "it was believed that men were called to different offices in life, and that, while it was the glory and dignity of some to feel nothing" between themselves and God, to others it was given only to see God reflected in wiser and nobler spirits than themselves" (ch. xii.). To this exaggerated inference from the fact that Christianity did not at once crusade against slavery,a fact easily explained from the practical wisdom of its Founder and Apostles, and from its habit of beginning with principles, not details,it is enough to answer that no trace of Mr. Seeley's doctrine appears in any book of the New Testament, whose persistent witness is that God is Father of all, and that He pours His spirit on all flesh that hear the gospel. Of course, it is true that "men are called to different offices in life." No liberty is attained without safety; no safe order arises except through the action of many members in one body with different offices. But the "difference" is not personal, but official,at most a social rank, not a spiritual caste.
The new ideals, if higher, are harder. But they are also truer. Indeed, in this matter, we seem to be working slowly back to Christ. In outward things we may be further and further from "primitive purity"; dogmatic certainty itself may be decaying; practical obedience to Christ, far from decaying, may be realised more perfectly than ever. Surely, whether as regards the mission of a powerful nation abroad, or the case of the poor at home, the national conscience is everywhere being quickened. And, with all the manifold faults of this age, is there not more benevolent effort than in any former generation? And is not the doing of God's will the best way to learn Christ's truth? That we are, however feebly, working back to Christ, affords the only ground of hope for this sad generation.
CHRIST'S TEACHING IN RELATION TO THE
LAW CONSIDERED AS A COVENANT
Hitherto, if the language may be allowed, we have walked along with Christ, side by side. We have watched the kingdom of God superseding and annulling whatever was incongruous with it in the religious life of the Old Testament; preserving and developing whatever was spiritual and essential; throwing into the world those principles whose working out is to occupy the whole of history, till the end come. Hitherto we have been able to walk with Christ, for, in His light, we can see the reasonableness and beauty of all His life. But now we must stay behind, while, like a greater Moses, He passes into the darkness to mediate for us with God. All men lean on Him; all lean with Him on God; but He leans on no man. If He is the founder of salvation, we necessarily must reach a point where the loneliness of Christ will be borne in on our minds. We must reach a point in His teaching where He ceases to stand with us, in the general light of ethical truth, and begins to stand above on God's side, representing God. In a life involving such elements there will be more than can be represented in the limits of a biography. At such a point Christ's words must become dogmatic rather than ethical; for He will be conscious of a secret personal mission from God. That point we have reached now.
It may be remembered that, on one view of Matthew 5:17, though not on the view adopted by us, we already found Christ professing to "perfect"and, therefore, in its old form to supersedethe Law. This itself would indicate that the old covenant was to be superseded by a new covenant. There is a hint of the same lesson in the very interpretation "fulfil the prediction of the Old Testament moral ideal." And again, in Luke's version of one of our Lord's utterances on the law and prophets (16:16),though not in the parallel in Matthew,we find the same truth indicated. But, passing from these, we shall gain firmer footing, where Jesus explicitly mentions or undoubtedly alludes to the covenant.
Perhaps no term in theology has been so abused by its friends or so unfairly criticised by its enemies as this term "covenant." It has been objected that the conception of a treaty involves the equality of the contracting parties, and, as the treaty's ultimate ground, arbitrary choice on both sides; hence it is said that the conception is unworthy of religion. But this is rather trenchant criticism of the religious imagination, which necessarily works with approximate formulae. Such criticism has the fatal note of want of historical sense. The critics find the term in such and such ways defective; the Hebrews did not find it so. "Covenant" was, indeed, the maid-of-all-work in Hebrew thought, much as "law" is with us; and we have no more right, to insinuate equality of parties, or conventionalism and caprice, when we read in Hebrew literature of a covenant, than we have to think of the myth of a legislator, or a parliament, or a judge, or a jury, when Mr. Tyndall or Mr. Herbert Spencer speaks of the laws of nature. Perhaps "covenant" had such importance for. early thought, just because it was the one sort of law which stood out in plain relief from the half-instinctive mass of traditionary customs. And, as the thought of a covenant was made use of in all speculative emergencies, so the practice of a covenant was common in all possible relations of real life. Conquerors made covenants with the conquered (1 Sam 11:1), people with their rulers (2 Kings 11:4; 1 Chron 11:3), nations with their allies (1 Kings 20:34; Hosea 12:1), Joshua with Israel (Josh 24:25). So far was equality from being necessarily supposed when a covenant was spoken of. Not less alien to Hebrew thought was the connection of change or caprice or conventionalism with covenant making. The things that are most certain and regular are spoken of as covenants. So Jehovah speaks of "My covenant of the day, and My covenant of the night" (Jer 33:20), not as things which, depending on God's will, may, therefore, be changed at His pleasure, but as things the most constant, fixed, unchangeable. Hence, when God's relation to Israel is said to be a covenant-relation, the thought is not that it is changeable, but that it is constant. Of course, Hebrew thought had no conception of an order of nature, with which it could either compare or contrast God's order of providence. When natural phenomena are referred to God's covenant, this alludes both to their regularity and to their dependence on God's will, Hebrew monotheism was too young, too fierce, to allow of slipping such an ideal Demiurge, as our "Nature" is, between God's will and God's world. Yet even God's will, if I may so speak, is enlisted on the side of constancy. One of Jehovah's characteristic epithets as covenant-God is "faithful," which means, true to the covenant, unchanging, ruler of all things, ruler of nature and history alike, for the end of His kingdom. For, finally, we do not deny, that calling the religious relation a covenant relation implies that it is other than a natural relation, that it is one involving, on the side of both contracting parties, moral self-determination.
It is of this covenant, as the whole system of Israel's religion, that we wish to know what Christ taught. It is not to be expected that He should formally discuss the question of its value. The reality and value of God's covenant is implied in His whole life, is asserted in every prayer. From what we have seen we need not affect to anticipate that He will formally repeal the Old covenant and enact the New. If His words and actions imply what may be called a new covenant, that is Christ's teaching on the law as a covenant. For a time the old and new may both be in the world. The moral principles of the new covenant may be left to convince men of the abrogation of the old. Such an attempt as Ritschl's,(30)
to show that Christ formally, though not in practice, abrogated the old covenant for His followers, and formally confirmed it for the multitude, errs by over-definiteness. A dispensation, to which three definite and distinct birthdays are assigned,the beginning of the Baptist's ministry (Mark 1:2, also Matt 11:12, and Luke 16:16); the beginning of Christ's manifestation (Matt 4:17, and Mark 1:15, also Luke 17:2l); the culmination of Christ's work in His death (Matt 26:28, and parallels), cannot be a dispensation heralded with legal forms or imposed with exact rigour. The duty of observing the old law for a time seems to conflict with the giving of a new covenant. But this is only one of those seeming practical contradictions which practice solves. It is enough for us that practice has long ago solved the difficulty, and brought the new covenant to its rights.
30. A. K. Kirche, p. 29.
A new covenant was not unexpected even before Christ came. One of the outstanding features of Israel's history had been the inadequacy of the covenant to produce a righteous nation. What Christ Himself could plainly discern, what is taught, on Christian grounds, by Paul or the author to the Hebrews, was the bitter experience of contemporary prophets and patriots in Israel. Such experience was one of the subjective sources of Messianic prediction. And not the least remarkable among those utterances of faith regarding the future, which we include under the name of Messianic, was Jeremiah's prophecy of a new covenant (Jer 31:31),not the least remarkable, and not the least emphatic. We have a dose parallel, on one side, in Joel's doctrine (2:28) of the outpouring of the Spirit on all flesh, i.e., of the universality of prophecy in the "last days." But hardly any other prediction is so bold as Jeremiah's in carrying us beyond ritual, and beyond the organised institutions of the age. On the part of the prophet this might be no more than strong rhetoric. It remains for fulfilment to declare, which elements of prediction are to be honoured by literal verification, and which are to be spiritualised or transcended. In the mouth of the Fulfiller, such language leaps into significance, and must be exactly interpreted. Jesus was conscious of bringing the new covenant. Though He did not often speak of it, or often so much as betray in language the exercise of its prerogatives, there were times when He did both.
The first three Gospels (Matt 9:2 and parallels) tell of an occasion on which Jesus revealed Himself as the bearer to this earth of God's forgiveness. It was in Capernaum; the scribes and Pharisees were on the outlook for grounds of accusation; the crowd so thronged Jesus that every access to the apartment where He taught was blocked. But four men, carrying a palsied friend, scaled the roof, lifting up their human burden, then raised the flat tiles, and lowered their friend into the crowded lobby beside Jesus. We are told that Jesus "saw their faith"; unless the faith of the patient is included, we are left to supply a link from conjecture. There is no room, however, for the assumption, that Jesus here speaks and acts merely according to popular and Pharisaic ideas of the Messiah's work or of the connection of suffering with sin. His speech was evidently as spontaneous as it was unexpected. It is possibleas Weissthat the paralytic had brought on his illness by a life of sin. At any rate, Jesus said, "Son, thy sins are forgiven thee."
It was a new sound upon earth. Men had prayed for the forgiveness of sins; prophets had announced of a particular trespass in reference to its direct punish ment, "The Lord hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die" (2 Sam 12:13); other prophets had looked forward to an age when sin should be forgiven. But the age the prophets looked for stood on the dim edge of the future, where the line between earth and heaven is blurred; and, although men might believe God forgave sins in heaven, they could not credit full justification in this life on earth. The words of Jesus are an unheard sound, implying an unheard-of claim. So the Pharisee spies, thinking for the crowd, began to challenge the strange proceeding. "Why doth this man thus speak? He blasphemeth: who can forgive sins but one, even God?" Jesus heard their thoughts, and at once took up their challenge. He did not rebuke them for assuming that God only can forgive; He did claim that He had power to grant forgiveness, and to grant it "on earth." In token of this He immediately healed the sick man, covering Himself with glory and His enemies with confusion. For, as He had said, while it was, indeed, God's work to forgive, and a servant's work to heal, it was easier to say, "Thy sins are forgiven thee," an assertion no one could test, than to say, "Rise up and walk," a command of whose efficacy or inefficacy all could judge. From the visible power they could reason to the invisible; He pledged His kingly word that one was as real as the other.
Such, then, was our Lord's view of His own miracles. So perfect was His certainty of His prerogative to grant forgiveness. But what is the exact force of the crucial saying? It occurs in three Gospels; it is given in the very same words, though the contexts are some what divergent: "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins." We read that the multitude, after the cure, "glorified God, which had given such power unto men"; and some exegetes, building on this, will have it that stress is to be laid on the fact that the Son of man forgives. But the crowd are an indifferent authority; "Son of man" is merely our Lord's usual way of designating Himself; and He could not lay emphasis on it here unless He meant to claim a sphere separate from the sphere in which God forgives; a very absurd view. The emphasis surely rests, not on "Son of man," but on the words "on earth,""power on earth to forgive sins." That will mean, not power to forgive sins so far as earth is concerned;(31)
that would have been a capitulation; it would have justified the Pharisees' objections; it will mean power to introduce on earth the forgiveness of sins. Jesus can claim nothing less than to found the absolute religious order. That is what He did; in that He was novel; in that His power remains unchangeable. His gospel was a gospel of the kingdom of heaven on earth. The time of preparation "was elapsed" (Mark 1:15); all waiting upon the repentance of earthly authorities, or upon their help, was over; here, in and with Christ and His circle, was the Kingdom; here was the fellowship of God and the forgiveness of sins. Miracle is a token of Christ's high prerogatives on the earth.
31. Expositor for 1882. (Dr. R. E. Wallis.)
The second time when Jesus broke the silence of the new covenant, and spoke in public of its central blessing, is recorded in Luke alone (7:36), in a narrative of great beauty. Jesus was invited(32)
by a half-friendly Pharisee to dine with him. He went, but was received inhospitably and uncivilly. With strange courage an outcast woman, who had seen and heard Christ, and who loved her Saviour, crept into the Pharisee's house, and made that place the scene of a remarkable act of grateful reverence. "She brought an alabaster cruse of ointment, and standing behind at His feet, weeping, she began to wet His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head, and kissed His feet, and anointed them with the ointment." Of course the Pharisee caught at the scandal. It was contrary to all his religious ideas that one should have to do with the depraved and outcast, much more that one should tolerate their attentions. Jesus could not know what this woman was; that was incredible; but if He did not know, He was no prophet. Jesus, true prophet of God, read the Pharisee's thoughts, as He had read the thoughts of the more malignant Pharisees at Capernaum, and as doubtless He had read the character of the poor penitent behind Him. Calling the Pharisee's attention, He told a simple parable of a creditor who forgave two debtors, to one a great sum, to the other little; asked him, which would love most? and received the languid answer, "I suppose he to whom he forgave the most." Right, said Jesusas Nathan said to David, Thou art the man,clinching the application of the parable at its outset with a strong word. Then, pointing to the woman, who may have listened till now without comprehending, or who may dimly have felt that our Lord spoke good words, He explained the situation; she was the debtor that had been forgiven much; therefore, she loved much; His hostso the inference laywas the debtor who had been forgiven little; who accordingly loved little, and entertained his Lord with timid coldness and uneasy constraint. Finally, addressing the woman for the first time, He told her directly that the good news of her forgiveness was no illusion, no uncertainty, no fancy of a bright-coloured story, but the truth; thy sins are forgiven. Again the company was startled and staggered by this claim; but Jesus answered nothing. He felt that enough had been said to instruct the candid and reflecting. He dismissed the woman with the assurance that her faith had saved her, and with words of peace.
32. We need only deny in a word that this anointing is the same as that by Mary, at Bethany. Probably there is truth in the suggestion of Meyer, that the name Simon has crept from one narrative into the other.
Those who deal pedantically with religious transactions may find a difficulty here. They may ask, What! did Jesus forgive her, or did He not? If He did, how could the love manifested before He did so be due to forgiveness? If she was already pardoned, why did not Christ avoid seeming to grant forgiveness, especially when that was sure to give offence and to occasion the charge of blasphemy? But such questions are worse than idle. We cannot penetrate into the chancery of heaven, and listen to Divine sentences of acquittal. We. cannot say that there is a when, and a why, and a how, in the history of the individual, when God changes His disposition towards him; such an assertion is beyond our competence; it is irreverent; it is empty. The truth about conversion is, that, like the beginning of all rational processes, it is unthinkable. Absolute beginnings involve a contradiction. Even when we look on at myriads of organisms and of minds beginning a history in time, they continue unsolved mysteries. We cannot explain to ourselves how life begins where there was no life, how the activity of thought follows the unconsciousness of infancy, how the estate of sin yields to the estate of justification. If we fix on one element as the first in the new life, immediately we are baffled by finding that it presupposes others. This woman comes to Christ, drawn by love, and receives forgiveness; yet He does not say, She is forgiven because she loves; He does say, She loves because she is forgiven. So of the paralytic at Capernaum; was not faith the ground of his forgiveness? And faith implies grace; but is grace granted first without forgiveness? Can grace be "cribbed by inches"?We are thrawn back on the fact of transcendent importance, that Christ came to forgive sins "on earth." If there is no logical prius in Christianity, Christ is the historical ground of faith. God's "ordinary means" of grace work through knowledge of Christ's revelation; and even extraordinary grace, if we postulate it, we can only conceive as culminating in an extraordinary knowledge of Christ. What was Divine goodwill towards men, if it remained shut up in the adytum of heaven? The consciousness of forgiveness is the spring of life; it is the gift of Christ, by which "the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts." Or again, what drew the paralytic or the sinner to Christ? Was it not the Divine grace that was in Him? Was it not the knowledge that He came bearing forgiveness and blessing? Without Christ's influence, the very approach to Him, which made possible the comfortable words of express forgiveness, would never have taken place. And yet again; what vitally is the Divine forgiveness? A judicial edict, a hidden process in God's mind? Or is it rather the beginning of God's saving fellowship with the forgiven soul? In this sense, Christ forgave sins on earth. He did not merely proclaim a previous complete good-will on God's part (though He did this), or draw men to seek and find the Divine sentence of acquittal (though He did this, too); He brought about, in the case of men living on earth, that fellowship, or renewed friendship, with God, which makes up true forgiveness. Hence, though we cannot trace back religion to any one subjective factor, we may, and must, refer all blessedness to Christ, in whom "God was, reconciling the world unto Himself, not reckoning unto them their trespasses"; and in whom also we are "brought to God"; in whom God sought the lost, and men found mercy; in whom God sought men, and men found God. And, further, though it will be impossible to explain the time causation of religious experience by forgiveness, or by the consciousness of forgiveness, or by imposing any other stereotyped routine upon the most solemn and incalculable moments in life, theology will tell us, and will rightly tell us, that the presupposition of all religious goodness, before God or towards men, is this great reality which Christ announced, and which was the bone and marrow of His new covenant,the forgiveness of sins.
So far we have merely seen that Christ exercised the prerogatives of the founder of the new covenant. By an attentive hearer these words must have been understood in the light of Jeremiah's prophecy. He did not end His ministry, however, without explicitly declaring that that prophecy was fulfilled in Him (Matt 26:28, and Mark 14:24). It was at the most solemn moment of His solemn farewell supper with His disciples, when He was instituting the simple ordinance which binds His people together, that Jesus, with reference to His approaching death, spoke of the wine-cup as "His covenant-blood."(33)
A covenant was initiated by sacrifice (Exo 24:5; Psa 50:5); Jesus told His disciples that He was initiating a covenant; therefore, necessarily, a new covenant. He was founding His covenant on the forgiveness of sins; therefore, His covenant corresponded to the new covenant that had been promised. His death was no defeat, no separation from God; it was the crown of His work in founding God's kingdom, the perfect conquest of sin. It was at once sin-offering and covenant sacrifice; His death should (Heb 10:14) for ever cleanse from conscience of sin those who, by means of it, were consecrated to serve God; His blood should be shed "for many unto remission of sins."
33. "New covenant" (Luke 22:20) is probably an unconsciously Pauline touch, (1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Gal 4:24; not 3:17.)
Thus we see that, in spite of His reverence for God's former revelations, Christ knew and taught that He was come, not only to found the absolute moral order, but to introduce men to a realm of perfected reconciliation. As yet we have never found Christ comparing the old and the new. It would not have been strange had He nowhere done so; but one occasion is recorded when He was led to do this, and explicitly to teach that salvation depends not on the Law, but on relation to Himself. This precludes every insinuation of incoherence in Christ's teaching, or of unconsciousness on His part of the religious revolution He was inaugurating.
We read (Matt 19:16 and parallels) of a certain ruler who came running to Jesus, and kneeled to Him, and asked Him, "Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" This sounded hopeful and interesting. And if Jesus had been what many think Him, a moral "master," with a "method and secret" to impart, nothing could have been more pleasing to Him than such a question. But, in point of fact, it grated on Him. Perhaps He despised the selfishness which, not "seeking first the kingdom of God," asked, "What shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" and which, even in personal negotiations, postponed duty to interest. Christ came to enlighten all the people, not to found a coterie; He taught the few, but it was for the sake of the many. Perhaps Jesus detected self-satisfaction in so bold a query. Certainly He discerned that, however fair its aspect, and whatever elements of goodness might be in it, the attitude of the questioner was not truly religious.
Two versions of Jesus' reply are preserved. In Mark and Luke we read that Jesus answered, "Why callest thou Me good? None is good save one, that is God." Many MSS. of Matthew give the same reading; but our revisers have preferred the reading, "Why askest thou Me concerning that which is good? None is good save one, that is God." Now, it may be argued that the former version of the first clause leads up better to the second clause, and that motives of reverence might lead to the creeping-in of a reading, which avoided seeming to indicate, that Jesus refused to be called good. But, on the other hand, such motives of reverence would be very shortsighted; the second clause itself, shows us Jesus refusing the title "Good master." "None is good save one, that is God." And the very fact, that the usual reading leads up more directly to the second clause, may account for its prevalence in Matthew, and for its ousting the other in the tradition or transmission of Mark and Luke. If we can give a suitable meaning to the less obvious reading, we may retain it, not with certainty, but with a measure of confidence. As has already been said, there can be no dogmatic bias in this decision, for there is no dogmatic motive in its favour.
Jesus then, we may suppose, disliked the attitude of the young man, feeling that it gave Himself the place not of a religious authority, but of a rabbi,a name which He accepted only from those who had given up everything for Him, and thus shown that, implicitly, He was far more to them than a moral teacher. To remedy this, He directed attention away from Himself, with His supposed private goodness and supposed esoteric wisdom, to God, the source of all goodness, and to God's revelation of wisdom in connection with the ten commandments. Of these, Jesus quoted the latter six,a strange and significant choice, though one cannot pretend to grasp all its motives. This is not the only place where Jesus chose human goodness as the proximate law and test of character.(34)
The young man, nothing abashed, rather with the eagerness of one who hoped for satisfaction, but felt that what had as yet been said was no novelty, and therefore brought no help to him, assured Jesus that he had known these all his life, and had done what they bid. Still he did not feel secure of eternal life. What more did he need? Then it was that Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and told him he needed just one thing,to sell all he had and give the proceeds to the poor, and to follow Christ. It was too much for him; "his countenance fell at the saying, and he went away sorrowful, for he was one that had great possessions."
34. See, chap. 2.
have supposed that the young man was only backward in his piety. They say that he sought, but failed, when he found them, to follow, "counsels of perfection." But the ethical view of life embraces everything in vocation. There are no works of supererogation in the Christian republic. "When ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do." And we must allow that Jesus' authority settles the question as to the young man. "How hardly," He says, "shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God,"implying that the young ruler, at least as yet, was unfit for the Kingdom.
35. Dr. Cox, in Expositor, Second Series.
We have to note here, first, the value Christ gives to the old revelation. Jesus does not merely answer the young man in the spirit of his question, when He refers him to the Old Testament law. Such a reference is not with Jesus, as it might be with Paul, a mere irony, intended to drive the inquirer, to despair, and so to make him more susceptible of grace. Jesus will deal only with those who are seeking God and His salvation; and all His dealings with men are in that "way of righteousness" which had already been revealed, and which prepared the world for His kingdom. To the same effect is what we find in the introduction to the parable of the Good Samaritan, if it be lawful to count this a new source of information. To the question, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus replies, "What is written in the law? How readest thou? . . . . This do, and thou shalt live." Here, it is true, a shade of irony is hardly to be missed; a shade of displeasure against the questioner is plainly manifest. Nevertheless, it is significant, that Jesus, when asked to speak of the way of salvation, should always refer men from Himself to God's law. He pays it a still more emphatic tribute in the solemn parable of Dives and Lazarus. When the prisoned spirit prays, that Lazarus may be sent from the realms of the dead to evangelise the rich man's brethren, Abraham replies (Luke 16:29), "They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them." And, when Dives persists in his prayer, "If one went to them from the dead they will repent," he receives the terrible answer, "If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded if one rise from the dead." In this we hear the great and unaffected value Jesus puts on the old covenant as a power of God unto salvation. Do we hear in it also the judgment by anticipation of the Jewish rulers, who had refused to hear the living Christ, and would not be persuaded even by the "power of His resurrection?"(36)
36. So Lipsius (apud Holtzmann in Jahrb., 1878), who, therefore, holds the verses to be interpolations.
Not less plain, however, in our narrative is the fact, that Jesus, as in so many places, declared the final decision, regarding a man's character and position, to turn upon his relation to Himself. "For My sake," and "for the kingdom of God's sake," are interchangeable. Christ's work and His person cannot be separated; the Kingdom cannot be cut off from Christ. The one thing lacking to the young ruler is what Jesus elsewhere describes as the one thing needfula hearty, and, therefore, practical attachment to Himself. In the case of the young ruler his attachment to Jesus was to show itself by a voluntary poverty and a participation in Jesus' life of exile, partly doubtless because this prescription was needed on account of the moral ailment from which the young man suffered, partly, too, because a capable and faithful disciple must, for the most part, live as his Lord did, while the Lord dwelt on earth, and partly because a society, which included in its ranks not many rich, or mighty, or noble, could not despise the opportunity of enlisting one, who, sprung from a different rank, was unusually, and in so far specially, gifted. He turned away; and, in turning away, he left his hope of salvation; but it is not, therefore, true that salvation consists in the imitation of Christ by poverty, or by the life of a wandering mendicant. The external surrender of property is the need of one individual; bodily wandering in Jesus' train is a passing form of the Divine life; the abiding demands of God are for surrender of the life, and a spiritual continuance of Christ's temper.(37)
But there is another lesson in this story. Salvation is not only a gift but a duty, not only grace but vocation. It admits of being presented to each man in either form; the miserable may embrace its comfort more readily, and so draw the whole into their hearts; the prosperous, the uncontaminated, the young and ardent, are perhaps best presented with the conception of personal vocation. At any rate, that was what Christ held up to the young ruler. But, unless both are present, neither aspect of salvation has truly been attained. We, in our age, think we have less outward opportunity for sacrifice. Perhaps, when the cross is secret, the temptation to refuse it is more insidious and harder to overcome.
37. Cf. below, chap. 9.
Christ, even when He speaks of the value of His person, does little more than hint at the nature of the work He does for His people. His silence was necessary, although He found occasion to break it.
It is less in His announcement than in the response of the repentant Church that we find the monument of Christianity as a religion. And hence our canon is not the mere gospel narrative, but the New Testament, and, in dependence on it, the Old Testament. God's revelation in Christ must always, indeed, be the heart of our faith; but the heart has its place in the body; and to study God's revelation fully we must look at it, not only as it is given, but as it is received and obeyed. In this view Christ's teaching in regard to the covenant is only an introduction to the apostles' teaching, regarding Christ's death and the new covenant. We, who have both at our disposal, should be able to find religion, and not mere morality, in every part of the New Testament; we should everywhere be able to trace the tacit presupposition of our reconciliation with God through Christ.
THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST
We have now reviewed, in every light, Christ's attitude towards the Jewish Law. We have seen how He set it above tradition, and how He set Himself against its traditionalist degraders; we have seen what moral worth He found in it, and what an ethic He developed by its side; we have seen how faithfully He kept it, how He honoured its ceremonies, statutes, and religious uses, and how, while doing so, He hinted at a time in the near future when it should pass away. We are now, therefore, in a position to gather up the results of our study, and to indicate what Christ's authority, tested by His treatment of Old Testament institutions, has shown itself to be.
Readers of a certain school may think this uncalled for. They may fail to see any authority in what has been recorded; they may ask, either in honest faith, or in covert malice, for a more literal observance of Christ's words and example. Some will ask us to do Christ's, bidding because He bids it,not interpreting or qualifying it, or adding any other motive, even though our path should lead to socialism or fanaticism. Such is the true temper, they will tell us, of religious reverence. Others will ask us how we can be Christians when we reverse Christ's example in reference to the ceremonies of the Mosaic Law. This argument might possibly be more nicely adjusted to modern scholarship, but it could not well be more ingeniously insinuated, than in the sentences which Gibbon puts into the mouth of his Ebionites. "They affirmed, that, if the Being, Who is the same through all eternity, had designed to abolish those sacred rites which had served to distinguish His chosen people, the repeal of them would have been no less clear and solemn than their first promulgation; that, instead of those frequent declarations, which either suppose or assert the perpetuity of the Mosaic religion, it would have been represented as a provisionary scheme, intended to last only till the coming of the Messiah, Who should instruct mankind in a more perfect kind of faith and of worship; that the Messiah Himself, and His disciples, who conversed with Him on earth, instead of authorising by their example the most minute observances of the Mosaic Law, would have published to the world the abolition of those obsolete ceremonies, without suffering Christianity to remain, during so many years, obscurely confounded among the sects of the Jewish Church."(38)
Of course, the modern Ebionite is not in earnest, as the ancient Ebionite was, in wishing to introduce the Jewish Law. He only aims at doing what the other unconsciously did; he seeks to dethrone Christ from His religious sovereignty, and to make us believe that the historical Jesus was only a good and wise Jew, who could not dream of abrogating for us that to whose authority He personally submitted. A third objection is still more serious; it attaches to the example Christ set, not in matters of form, but in His personal conduct. We have confessed that His own mode of living ignored the order of this world; must we not confess that His followers, or at least the nobler spirits among them, are called to quit the world and live in imitative isolation? These questions have been incidentally touched on in different chapters; they constitute a challenge to define with care the authority of Christ.
38. Decline and Fall, ch. xv. Compare with this Sup. Rel., iii., 123: "It must be apparent that, in order to remove the obligation of a law and form of worship, believed to have been, in the most direct sense, instituted by God Himself, the most clear, strong, and reiterated order would have been requisite."
But, in order to reach true conceptions of Christ's authority, or to pay it true reverence, we must respect the mind of Christ. If He asked for a spiritual obedience, literalism is not reverent but irreverent. Mohammed founded a system upon hard-and-fast rules; Loyola and Wesley re-arranged Christianity by means of hard-and-fast rules and methodised emotions; the old covenant itself rested upon national law. But the kingdom of God, in its very nature as an ethical society, is on a different footing. The family of God cannot yield a servile obedience. This is our answer to the charge of defect in Christ's use of His authority. As has well been said,(39)
"Jesus must ask, like every one else, to be understood specifically for what He is." His aim was to be a religious authority, not to teach art, or science, or moral philosophy; these, even the last, would only hinder His work. "The more detailed is the programme of a reformation in the life of the spirit, so much the narrower is its scope; the more indefinite it is in detail, so much the further and longer does it operate." To found the absolute religion, He must respect its conditions. We have seen the kingdom of God touching and transforming phase after phase of Old Testament life and teaching. Will not our true loyalty consist in serving the kingdom of God, as it has been created by its Founder?
39. Ritschl, Justification, iii., 359 (criticising Strauss).
If we are asked for proof that Christ is founder of a religion, we point to the Christian Church. Often, indeed, scepticism challenges the legitimacy of the Church's pedigree. Jesus, we are told, meant to found a community which should obey Him in a certain literal fashion; a sort of Essenism tending to communism or Fourierism on a basis of Judaism. His indifference to politics was due partly to the socialist cast of His ethic, partly to an enthusiastic expectation of the near end of the world. This was Christ's ideal; Paul, or others with him, converted Christ into the head of the Church and the image of God. But, not to say, with Ritschl,(40)
that this leaves one in doubt which is Messiah, Jesus or Paul, such criticism has the misfortune to have history against it, and to be eighteen hundred years late in arriving to correct history. One must ask, How did Jesus, if He meant to do something so different, happen to found the Church? How is Paul himself, greatest figure in Church history, content and resolute to rank as a mere satellite of Christ? And why have religious men, during so many ages, found, within the Christian Church, that satisfaction at the hand of Christ which He never sought to confer?
40. A. K. Kirche, p. 20, criticising Schwegler.
But even this argument may not be relied on too far. It establishes a probability, but does not amount to a demonstration. Not merely because so many causes are represented in the historical fabric of Christianity, that the critics of Christianity may impute to lower sources many excellences which we can plainly see to flow from Christ's initiative. Not only so, but because evil is so largely present in the Christianity of history. It always happens in human affairs, that the original impulse is coloured and changed by the course of events upon which it works. The treasure of God's grace is in earthen vessels; even it, in the lapse of time, acquires a taint. We cannot afford to measure down Christ to the limits of empirical Christianity. So many things alien to His spirit have been imputed to Him by men, and have come to be intertwined with His own performance, that the sceptic will be able to retort on us with disastrous effect one point, and another, and another, if we insist that Christ's purpose and Christian history are equivalents. We may fairly use history to show what Christ did not purpose; we cannot use it to explain fully what He did design; He remains "His own interpreter." And, therefore, it is only to those who know Him that the historical figure of Jesus Christ becomes intelligible. Only faith understands His purposes, and perceives, that, even in the mingled strand of human affairs, His purpose is being fulfilled. His kingdom is truly come, though it tarry; His Church is alive,in the eye of faith. Only those who reckon themselves to His Church, and who find the riddle of their own life plain nowhere except in the light of Christ, but there perfectly plain, can be expected to believe that Christ meant to found a Church, not a school or a sect, or can understand what He meant by it. Only those who submit to His authority, and feel its influence over themselves, can understand the authority of Christ.
We may indeedand the request may seem most moderatebe asked to point at least to the formulation by Christ of His claim to found a Church. But even this demand, as will appear on reflection, ignores the conditions under which the kingdom of God was founded. Christ hints at a Church among His disciples; He never announces it to the world. He was working in the midst of a complex civilisation. He spoke to men to whom God was already revealed. He wished to leave the kingdom of God, which was a living organism and not a machine, to adapt itself quietly to its environment as time passed on. He did not wish to neutralise His absolute revelation by tying men even to His own phrases or habits of life. Why, then, should we ask what is incompatible with the very nature of the Kingdom? There is a difficulty, too, even as to the passages in which Christ claims most for Himself. Unbelief cavils at these, and denies their genuineness; even "honest doubt" stumbles at them. In the Johannine discourses the Church recognises without a doubt the Christ of her faith. Their teaching is profoundly and tenderly Christian; the risen Lord speaks to His people in them; that is the essential matter, and that constitutes their primary verification. But, until a reader is in the right state of spiritual receptivity, he cannot be expected to admit such considerations as these. There is a difficulty, then, in drawing the exact lineaments even of the claims of the historical Jesus. But, in this way, every believer is brought into personal contact with the Saviour. Others cannot act for him; he cannot reach vicarious certainty, or acquire vicarious faith. He finds that Christ keeps His promises; and this coincidence between the offers and the performance of Christ proves that Christ is faithful. In other words, the Christian life is its own evidence. Every believer is thus a new personal witness to Christ, as he could not be if religion were demonstrable to the intellect. Sin, no doubt, is what has hidden God from men. Only Christ brings God back to our hearts, and only to those who believe; but all men are potential believers; they are "born to be saved." Certainty in religion belongs to holiness of life; the pure in heart see God; but God is ready to reveal Himself in the purified lives of all His children.
This point of view is met by the claim of "historical impartiality," or "historical objectivity." Not only Ebionites or ascetics, but critical scholars are found tying us down to unsympathetic literalist interpretation of Christ. This species of interpretation may not be the fruit of hostile animus; it is connected with a general spirit of positivism. But we may well ask, whether it is justified even apart from religious questions. We cannot find it better stated than by Mr. Cotter Morison,(41)
an admirably transparent representative of the Zeitgeist in its strength and its weakness. "What is the historical point of view? Is it not this; to examine the growth of society in bygone times with a single eye for the stages of the process; to observe the evolution of one stage out of another previous stage; to watch the past as far as our means allow, as we watch any other natural phenomena with the sole object of recording them accurately? The impartiality of science is absolute. It has no preferences, likes, or dislikes. It considers the lowest and the highest forms of life with the same interest and the same zeal; it makes no odious comparisons between lower and higher, between younger and older; but simply observes co-ordinates, in time rising to generalisations and deductions. The last work of the greatest of English biologists was devoted to earth worms, a subject which earlier science would have treated with scorn. Now, what does Macaulay do in his observation of the past? He compares it, to its disparagement, with the present." "This is to invert the historical problem: to look at the past through the wrong end of the telescope." Now, without extenuating Macaulay's crimes, or finding the key to the politics of the past in the villas of the present, we may fail to agree with Mr. Morison. First of all, the proposed impartiality of history is noble, but impracticable. Everything that happens is history; if everything is to be recorded, the world will be buried under its own biographies. We must select, with help from the fact itself. "Guiltless, inglorious" Napoleons may lie among the slain of many a battle; they were facts, as real and important as their more fortunate rivals; but we do not elect to write their history. Secondly, in speaking of society as an organism, Mr. Morison has betrayed the importance of looking through both ends of the historical telescope. Keep a chrysalis, and you shall see what it becomes; read the past, as it shows in the light of the present. Organisms, as Kant confessed, constrain us to use the category of final cause. They show teleology as well as aetiology; all their parts and stages are controlled by a slowly manifested development,the development of life. And so with the history of society, if society is an organism. For purposes of mere observation the nearer one is to facts the better; but what wise man will propose to write a scientific history of his own time? Thirdly, to call society an organism is to use a category not given with the facts, but found by rational interpretation. It is true that M. Comte has called society an organism; and Comte is the sworn enemy of metaphysic; but to suppose that there is no metaphysic in Comte evinces a touching simplicity of faith. It may be answered, that the Comtist doctrine of society is a mere comparison; and that fact itself selects and evolves sufficiently for the writer of history. And it is no doubt true, that one does not need correct metaphysical views to do good work in the special sciences. But man's rational nature affords the very possibility of history. He stands in the stream of development; the reason within him answers to the embodied reason without him. His interest in the past, and his power to interpret it, are due to his kinship. Where interest fails, men become not objective historians, but antiquarian chiffonniers. If that be a desirable manifestation of the historical spirit, let us cut up Gibbon and Mommsen into paragraphs for Notes and Queries.
41. Macaulay, "English Men of Letters," pp. 170, 173.
Reason, then, is the author of history. And religion, we allege, must be the interpreter in sacred history. Spiritual sympathy alone can furnish the key to spiritual mysteries. It is true, this position recognises a deep cleft formed by sin in human nature; for supernatural religion itself does so. All men potentially possess moral and Christian sympathies; but few have them so developed as is necessary to understand Christ. Until the deadly wound in man's nature is recognised, it can never be healed.
We hold, then, that spiritual things are discerned by the spiritual. The authority of Christ is a certainty, its meaning is plain, only to genuine Christians. In other words, the authority of Christ is primarily an authority over the Church or over the kingdom of God. Secondarily, Christ is to be served in all departments of life; for all belong to the kingdom of God. But the moral consensus may extend beyond the religious; and, if men are willing to be governed in their conduct by Christian principles, Christians must be content, for the time, if they can do their Master's will, to cooperate with those who do not acknowledge the Master whom in part they serve. But, it may be objected, can Christ's authority not reach the unconverted? How can we even make men responsible for failing to treat uncertainties like certainties?
In the first place, we may answer, what does not amount to a demonstration, may establish a probability. No one can deny the impressiveness of Christianity as a stupendous historical fact, or ignore its claim to be conscientiously investigated. Perhaps, as the scientific treatment of the Christian origins is exhaustively worked out, many more points may emerge from alleged uncertainty into the region of admitted fact. But, even if this process were complete, the methods of science are for the few; and, though the results of science may pass from hand to hand, it will not suffice to build a whole life on a foundation of second-hand results. There must be a more direct method of personal conviction, a nearer access for every soul to the only fountain of life.
And, certainly, the Christian doctrine of sin forms a most legitimate make-weight in the case of many. Mankind, as a whole, are unconscious of sin; the world is convinced of sin only by the approach of righteousness. But, once the truth is proclaimed, conscience pleads guilty. The astonished soul finds itself newly revealed to itself; God's revelation has proved the first interpreter of the heart of man. It falters, "Thou hast harped my fear aright." The former sceptic is forced down from his attitude of calm inquiry; if he continues to resist, he resists on his knees. But, he asks himself, is it not probable that the authentic revealer of such a truth is to be trusted still further? Others may fail to be thus summarily affected by the charge of sin; but the moral reasonableness of the Gospel speaks to them in one voice or another; point after point grows certain, as conscience is educated. God has His own method of commending His word to the hearer. He leaves not Himself without a witness. Internal evidence, in the true sense of the word, is the strength of Christianity. The inherent reasonableness of the message may be drawn out in argument; it becomes a personal conviction in experience by the witness of the Spirit; until, in judgment or in mercy, God is again revealed in the souls of His lost children.
Nor is this all. The authority of Christ is primary; the authority of Scripture is secondary; but both are needed. Scripture, in so far as it extends beyond the record of the revealing and redeeming facts, is the complement of revelation. The primary matter is the knowledge of God in Christ; the primary matter is the worship of Christ and transaction with Him for salvation; but, because the Scriptures enlighten for this and help in it, and because they embody Christianity and exemplify the nature of communion with God, as no other book can, the Church in all ages, with poor attempts often at evasion, has agreed to see in the Bible her own belief, and to count it a God-given treasure, the abiding revelation of His mercy, the ever fresh source of inspiration. Those who are enlightened from on high understand the Scripture witness to Christ. In essential outline they are at one, and may grow more and more in agreement. If unenlightened, they need not think to supersede spiritual sympathy by logical correctness. The witness of the Spirit cannot be replaced by anything else; but it may be sought and found. That witness will become a consciousness as a solemn and tremendous sense of reality in reading the words of prophets and apostles. It will be plain that spiritual things are no Brocken spectre, cast by our own subjectivity, but the ultimate realities of existence. God's witness to them will be felt to be indeed the Word of God. Force has failed in the past to secure Christian unity; logic has failed; spiritual sympathy has hardly been fairly tried. It cannot fail, if, indeed, there is one life which dwells in God's children, not as a fancy but as a fact.
There is yet another element to take account of in God's witness to men. Christ, the Scripture, and the Church are correlates. When, in virtue of Christ's revelation of God as a reconciled Father, forgiving sin, Christians are encouraged to approach God with the service of children in spite of the sin that clings to their actions; when, in virtue of the revelation of God's abiding grace, which Christ gave us at the cost of all the suffering of His life, we, in spite of suffering, rejoice in God, and overcome the world through the same indifference to its rewards which Christ displayed, and so begin already to taste(42)
eternal life; when, in consequence, through Christ, the mind of God regarding sin and righteousness is formed in us, and, either privately by humility and patience and prayer, or publicly by prayer and worship, we express our faith,then the authority of Christ reaches its end, in the perfecting of His work of reconciliation, and His witness is prolonged among men. It is only within the Church that individual Christianity shows in its true light. Ideally, the Christian life is one of continual confidence in God and devotion to Him. But even now, though not, one may hope, to the same degree as in the dispensation of the Psalmist, the religious life has its ups and downs. We do not expect God's Fatherliness to be shown by His granting us constant prosperity; nor do we find that, in keeping His covenant, He grants us without a break even the sunshine of His grace. But, in the Church, earth makes her nearest possible approach to the Christian ideal. Here they always worship; here they never refuse to repent; here, Sunday after Sunday, the Creed is said without a falter; or, if the congregation falter, it is not from want, but from a flood of feeling. In the Church the Bible is understood, and legibly written out in saved human lives. This is the work of Christ's authority, plain to all men.
42. Ritschl, Justification, iii., 52. Whatever may be thought of Dr. Ritschl's work elsewhere, his treatment of this subject amounts to a religious discovery of the first order.
Thus the Church, the Bible, and Christ, God's indissoluble threefold witness, publish abroad the Word of Life. And yet it remains true that "none knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son willeth to reveal Him."
To sum up. The authority of Christ, as shown in His treatment of the old covenant, is explained by the fact that He is founder of a new covenant. From its nature, legalism is excluded in the interpretation of His words, and literalism in the following of His example. Christ wished to be founder of a Church. The Church's existence is the best proof that He did so. If this proof can never amount to a certainty for outsiders, it does so, by the continual witness of the Spirit, for all true members of the Church. Though the witness of the Church has been splintered by sectarianism,partly through man's sin, partly through the demand for an impossible unity in creed and ritualthat error is essentially an excrescence, and need not be permanent. Scripture, the Church's own standard, might seem a stronger and safer witness to the world. But the same causes which have broken up the Church have led to endless differences in the interpretation of Scripture. The several elements of God's witness need each other. The witness of Scripture implies acceptance of the witness of Christ. In other words, Scripture is understood by those who are Christ's, and who, therefore, normally and properly constitute the Church, and constitute one Church. Spiritual unity, with harmony, or at least with sympathy, will be the note of a purified Church, embracing in its catholic fellowship the whole manifestations of Christian life. This embodiment and revivifying of Scripture, in the hands of the Spirit of God, who is poured out upon all flesh, will perfect the witness of Christ to the world, and will exhibit mankind's appropriate obedience to the authority of Christ.
THE VALUE TO OUR LORD OF HIS JEWISH BIRTH
In the last chapter we looked at our Lord's work, in relation to the Law, as it presents itself from the standing-ground of Christianity. In that view it almost seemed as if His connection with the Jewish people was fortuitous. But the passages bearing on the subject come near giving an opposite impression. It is difficult not to infer from them that Israel bounded our Lord's horizon. In sending out the twelve He began His instructions to them with the words, "Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." To a Gentile woman He said of Himself, "I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt 10:5, 15:24). In order to complete our recapitulation, let us endeavour to clear the marches between these opposite conceptions of the value to our Lord of His Jewish birth.
We shall begin by inspecting those passages which afford us direct information on the subject. They are the passages which concern our Lord's dealings with the Gentiles. Let us take first a passage found in two Gospels (Matt 8:5, and Luke 7:2),a passage whose historicity is beyond question by any conscientious criticism, and which affords us a point of view from which to judge of other narratives. An officer of the Roman army, who was friendly to the Jews, if not a proselyte of the gate, sent the elders of the synagogue at Capernaum,or, according to another account, came in person,to plead for a son or servant who lay sick. The story evidently belongs to an early time in our Lord's ministry. Without any hesitation our Lord consented to go to the centurion's house, and work the miraculous cure desired. Of this let us take distinct notice. If Jesus was delayed, it was by a second embassy or second petition from the Gentile soldier himself. The soldier felt himself unworthy to be honoured by a visit from Jesus; and, arguing from his own experience as a man who knew what it was both to obey and to command, he asked the Lord, as He was, and where He was, to speak that word of command, which, uttered by One who had proved Himself to possess such power over nature, would certainly be sufficient. This prayer drew from Jesus the memorable saying, "Verily, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel." Then, in compliance with the officer's prayer, He wrought the cure at once, where He was.
Two points are noteworthy in this narrative. The first is, that Jesus, before doing the miracle, had proof of faith. Faith was the plea He always required (Matt 9:28, 14:31, 16:8, 17:17; Mark 9:23), and never disappointed (8:2, 3, 9:2, 22, etc.). The second, it was not His choice, but that of the centurion, that the cure should be worked from a distance. Our Lord has promised to go to the patient's bedside. Hence the generalisation, that our Lord conferred miraculous blessing on Gentiles only from a distance, is inaccurate. There was a special reason in each case.
In the case next to be noticed (John 4:50), the miracle was done at a distance as a test of faith. Some harmonists identify this narrative with the one just discussed. It is liker Matthew's version than Luke's; but if the transaction described is the same, one or all accounts have been altered almost beyond recognition. Here Jesus is not at Capernaum, but at Cana; and this nobleman is as backward in faith as the other was advanced.
We now come to the story of Christ's dealings with the Syrophcenician woman (Matt 15:22; Mark 7:25). Let us carefully note the circumstances. Our Lord (Matt 15:21) had left the Holy Land. He was seeking a time of rest. He was recruiting,perhaps in body, but far more in spirit,in order to resume (as He soon did, ver. 29, 30, sq.) the drain of incessant labour. When a woman came crying, "Have mercy on me, O Lord, Thou Son of David," so that she called attention to the company of strangers, He felt that, by answering her prayer, He would make Himself liable to a host of other petitions. He knew by experience how thronged His hours were in every new place He visited. He had not come here to seek a mission of His own choice; He "was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (ver. 24). He had come here only for rest. Thus He could not do as the disciples asked, grant the woman's prayer (and go with her?) in order to be quickest rid of her. When she came and fell before Him, saying, "Lord, help me," He repeated His difficulty. He was sent to the "children of the kingdom"; and, although the more He loved them the less He was loved, He would not, because of His own pain, take away their food, and give it to the animals whose claim is so very far less.(43)
It was not right that He should take so much time, strength, gospel, away from the Jews by giving them to Gentiles. An abrupt offer of cure at a distance lacked its warrant, and might have over-strained the woman's faith. But the woman,how strange it is, that even when Jesus' attitude was seemingly repulsive, He set such deep chords sounding in those about Him!won the day by accepting His argument. "Yes surely, Lord! it is while the children are being fed that the dogs are fed, for crumbs fall to their share." Give me my crumb, she said. And Jesus, moved by such faith, involving, as Mark brings out, such loyal understanding of the situation, granted the prayer of proved faith, as He always did. And He wrought the cure, it needs no words to tell us, in the simplest, least obtrusive manner; hence, at a distance.
43. See Weiss, Matthausev. The attempt to take the word dogs, either here or Matthew 7:6, as the usual Jewish name of contempt for Gentiles, is as uncalled for as it is repulsive.
What is true of Christ's dealings with Gentiles is true of His dealings with Samaritans. If we take John 4:5 in its natural sense, His mission to Sychar was a mere episode, occasioned by the direction of a journey. And, in healing ten lepers, one of whom was a Samaritan, it is certainly curious, if it be an accident, that Jesus (Luke 17:12-14) effectually tried their faith by sending them off, uncured as yet, to appeal to the priest for a certificate of healing.
We are thus led to the result, that Christ extended His blessings to Gentiles on occasion, without prejudice to His Jewish mission, under proof of the presence of faith. This in itself seems to show an outlook beyond the Jewish people; and there are many passages which confirm this (Matt 8:11, 21:43; Luke 4:24-27, sq.). Indeed, it could not be otherwise, in consideration of what the prophets had foretold regarding the Messiah's day. But how, then, are we to understand the rigid confining of His earthly ministry to Israel? What would have been improper in a Gentile tour? What is the special value to our Lord of His Jewish birth?
Here passages of Scripture fail us. If we are to proceed, we must take our courage in our hands, and do the best we can in the way of construction.
First of all then, it may be remarked that it is a spiritual law that what is to be the property of the race first becomes the property of a smaller circle. It is no mere fancy that sees in Greece God's elect to teach the nations wisdom and beauty, or in Rome God's elect to teach lessons of law and government to all generations. Similarly, but in a higher sense still, every believer in Christ must see in Israel God's elect, who is put through the initial stages of revelation and of fellowship with the unseen God. At first, no doubt, the choice is plainer than the purpose of the choice. Perhaps it may even be plainer for a time, that Jehovah is God of Israel, whom Israel must serve, than that Jehovah is God of all the earth. The one is a religious truth, the other might be a mere dogma; but, by-and-bye, each is seen to include the other. And correspondingly the religious truth of election"Ye did not choose Me, but I chose you"is seen to include and lead out into the moral truth of election,"I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles,""neither for these only do I pray, but for them also that believe on Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us: that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me." To be chosen by God, it is seen, implies being chosen for service.
The education of Israel, however, began in an external way. Israel was the chosen; not Israelites as persons. The old covenant was founded on a redemption; but it was a redemption from bondage, not from sin. It gave gifts of grace, but they were in the form of legal privileges, held on a legal tenure. It is hardly too much to say, that the old covenant was founded less on the forgiveness of sins than on the ignoring of sin. The astonishing assumption of the Levitical system is, that, except for accidental errors, men may please God throughout life in a satisfactory way. That men in affliction have none the less satisfied the claim of God's covenant, is the argument of Psalm 44
. Even, a psalm of so different a type as Psalm 18
Psalm 44 (To the chief Musician for the sons of Korah, Maschil.)
1 We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old. 2 How thou didst drive out the heathen with thy hand, and plantedst them; how thou didst afflict the people, and cast them out. 3 For they got not the land in possession by their own sword, neither did their own arm save them: but thy right hand, and thine arm, and the light of thy countenance, because thou hadst a favour unto them. 4 Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob. 5 Through thee will we push down our enemies: through thy name will we tread them under that rise up against us. 6 For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me. 7 But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. 8 In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah.
9 But thou hast cast off, and put us to shame; and goest not forth with our armies. 10 Thou makest us to turn back from the enemy: and they which hate us spoil for themselves. 11 Thou hast given us like sheep appointed for meat; and hast scattered us among the heathen. 12 Thou sellest thy people for nought, and dost not increase thy wealth by their price. 13 Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us. 14 Thou makest us a byword among the heathen, a shaking of the head among the people. 15 My confusion is continually before me, and the shame of my face hath covered me, 16 For the voice of him that reproacheth and blasphemeth; by reason of the enemy and avenger.
17 All this is come upon us; yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy covenant. 18 Our heart is not turned back, neither have our steps declined from thy way; 19 Though thou hast sore broken us in the place of dragons, and covered us with the shadow of death. 20 If we have forgotten the name of our God, or stretched out our hands to a strange god; 21 Shall not God search this out? for he knoweth the secrets of the heart. 22 Yea, for thy sake are we killed all the day long; we are counted as sheep for the slaughter. 23 Awake, why sleepest thou, O Lord? arise, cast us not off for ever. 24 Wherefore hidest thou thy face, and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? 25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust: our belly cleaveth unto the earth. 26 Arise for our help, and redeem us for thy merciesí sake.
is equally removed from sense of guilt. It is a prolonged shout, not to say shriek, of triumph, unshadowed by repentance, unclouded by doubt or fear; a strange instance of uncompounded simplicity of emotion. In point of fact, while the Church existed in the form of a national theocracy, it could not but be inadequate to the truth of man's religious condition. This was both its strength and its weakness. The individual saint was not left alone, in the bondage of legalism, to earn his salvation through obedience; he was borne up, as on eagles' wings, by the faith of the whole community; he knew that God had elected the nation. Hence the error(44)
Psalm 18 (To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, the servant of the LORD, who spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul: And he said,)
1 I will love thee, O LORD, my strength. 2 The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower. 3 I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies. 4 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. 5 The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me. 6 In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears. 7 Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth. 8 There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it. 9 He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet. 10 And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind. 11 He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. 12 At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire. 13 The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire. 14 Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. 15 Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils. 16 He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. 17 He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me. 18 They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay. 19 He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
20 The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. 21 For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. 22 For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. 23 I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. 24 Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. 25 With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright; 26 With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward. 27 For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks. 28 For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
29 For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. 30 As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. 31 For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God? 32 It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect. 33 He maketh my feet like hindsí feet, and setteth me upon my high places. 34 He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms. 35 Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great. 36 Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. 37 I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed. 38 I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. 39 For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me. 40 Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me. 41 They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not. 42 Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets. 43 Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me. 44 As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me. 45 The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places. 46 The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted. 47 It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me. 48 He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. 49 Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name. 50 Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.
of supposing that the whole Old Testament Church worked through law to grace. On the other hand, the limitations of prophecy are as much involved in the conditions of the old covenant as are the germs of development. The limitations of the covenant generated unrest, which led to looking forward and upward. If the unrest of the Old Testament was due only to sin and misrule, what guarantee was there for progress, or for the old covenant yielding to the new? It was by the old covenant, however, as a national theocracy, that God was able to make a small group of tribes learners on behalf of humanity.
44. So still, Dr. P. Fairbairn's Revelation of Law in Scripture.
Doubtless, they were learners on their own behalf, too; and, at first, though it delayed, the promise of glory and piety was bright. Some time is needed before the spiritual advantages, or limits, of a system work themselves out in practice; and it was some time before the national covenant with Israel declared its inadequacy. Yet, as an imperfect revelation, it was certain, as tried by the highest standards, to fail. And, if it failed in religion, it must fail politically as well. In particular cases, it reared splendid and noble characters. The differences in individual history are infinite and incalculable; and the satisfaction of an early age with what we deem meagre half-truths is inexplicable to us who are later born. But, dispensationally, Mosaism was foredoomed to sorrow. What does not produce true holiness, cannot, in the long run, ensure respectability or public prosperity; an eternal truth, which is always receiving fresh illustration among sceptical and sinful nations.
No doubt, God might have granted to a faithful nation progress without sin; but not without pain. As in the case of the human race, so in the case of Israel, we may imagine mankind groping upwards, retaining hold of God's strength, stumbling, but not falling. It was not to be so. And, in point of fact, among imperfect men, moral faithfulness on a low stage of progress is too often associated with spiritual blindness to the necessity for further progress. Other things co-operated with moral failures in giving the signal for advance. It would be harsh and presumptuous to allege that there is sin in the sad complaints made by Old Testament prophets and singers of evil. Yet the sin of others doubtless reacted heavily on these pure souls, and constituted their burden; while it is precisely in the overruling of sin for good that we trace the working of Providence, where God does what man cannot and dare not do.
In these or in such ways a time came, when the whole national fabric collapsed. Prophetic insight did not wait till the crash arrived to denounce the faithlessness and sin of the people, or to assure them how things must end. When all went most prosperously, an Amos started up with his message of doom, or an Isaiah rebuked the godless and precarious success of the rich. The ideal of the Old Testament, in spite of the partial nature of revelation at that time, was a lofty ideal; it had a spring of development in itself; but the contrast between the ideal and the actual was increasingly painful. The covenant was founded in grace; it was able to bring salvation to generations of saints; yet on the broad scale it failed.
But, when it failed, the prophets were empowered to awaken a living hope for the future. The predictive element is thus native to prophecy. At least, written prophecy, as we know it, begins(45)
with the message of destruction for the whole existing national order, along with a message of hope for the future. In regard to the Messianic promise, both elements in the covenantboth its ideal excellence and its actual failureare important. If there had been no ideal excellence in the religion of Israel, prophetic prediction would have been mere idle boasting. What God had done was earnest to His people of the greater things He would yet do; what God had already done gave them the right to believe His promise. On the other hand, had there been no actual failure in Israel's religious history, there would have been no room for outlook to a better future. Progress would have been arrested; permanence would have been stamped on an undeveloped order; but such permanence is not stability; it is stagnation. "If that first covenant had been faultless, then would no place have been sought for a second." This is true synthetic progress, this is the true law of historic growth, when progress resumes the past in a higher form, but when its advance is mediated by the failure and annulling of the outward fabric of the past. There is negation as well as reassertion in every real case of growth. Linear development is impossible even in the lowest forms of life.
45. So Duhm, W. R. Smith. A modified statement in Riehm, as above.
But the prophecy, which had already caught sight of the future, was not emancipated from the conditions of the present. The prophets had it given to them to maintain the people's faith in Israel's God, and to refresh their courage, but not to write history in advance, not to describe the event as it actually took place. The broad outlines are there: the spiritual principle is firmly grasped; many of the details, apparently, are foreshadowed. But the most essential details, even when they are foreshadowed by God, are not foreknown by men. Old Testament prophecy is still prophecy from an Old Testament standpoint. It takes many forms; it runs out from many points of ideal excellence, or of ideal excellence joined with actual failure; it is now typically Messianic, now consciously predictive; it gives us Jeremiah's promise of the spiritual centre of Christianity, and the second Isaiah's picture of the suffering servant, as well as the more popular predictions of kingly splendour. But prophecy on the whole, as well as the popular expectation, described the unknown in terms of the known. That was necessary, if God's message was either to come through men of that generation, or to be received by the generation to whom He addressed it. The message took the form of a promise of all that was best, holiest, most peaceful and glad, in the nation's recollection, only better, holier, more peaceful, more joyous. The golden age of the past became the key to the golden age of the future.
When we turn from prophecy to fulfilment, we encounter another case of synthetic progress. Here again the advance is made, not merely by reassertion of the prophetic ideal, but by negation of its outer form. Christ is known as Christ, not only because He fulfils prediction, but because He transcends it. Each is alike part of the evidential value of prophecy in its connection with Christ's work. It was open to any one to claim to be Messiah. Bar Cochba, perhaps Judas of Galilee, Simon Magus too, and other impostors, if we may believe the Fathers, all tried to play the role of Messiah. And where is the result of their ambition? The endeavour to re-establish David's throne in a sea of blood was drowned in blood. All these were endeavours of false men. The only true and spiritual man that might have played the part, the Baptist, was too true and spiritual to make the attempt; all his force is poured out in his witness to Jesus. But Jesus' plan of Messiahship is beyond the reach of fraud. When we have a problem to solve, and fail, we may dash our heads wildly against it; but, until the elements of the problem are re-arranged, we shall make no further progress; when the elect spirit is raised up who is to solve the problem, the elements re-arrange themselves before his eyes, and his work is easy; for the re-arrangement is due to the spirit of the solution, the spirit of that higher wisdom to which the problem has ceased to be a problem; his changed thoughts regarding the order and importance of different elements in the problem are the painless birth-pangs of the solution. And what is true of a theoretic problem is true of a practical task. Men always think wrongly of it till it is achieved; and while they think wrongly of it, its performance is impossible. Thus, while men expected the absolute religion to come through the literal re-establishment of the Davidic empire, their thoughts were on wrong lines, and their efforts, hopes, or even prayers, were miscalculated. But, when the Elect Spirit was raised up, who should bring men to the absolute religion, the problem at once altered its form; and this was part of His work. For the right conception of a practical problem is as inextricably joined with its performance, as the right view of a theoretical problem is with its solution. One man cannot say how the thing ought to be done, and hand on the doing of it to his successor. Those beautiful spirits, who aim high and fail, do not fail because of their beautifulness, but because their aim was less high and less wise than it ought to have been. His own vitality and God's providence promise the man who has understood a crisis that he shall solve it. Thought and the action are but hemispheres of a living whole. And so the first proof of Jesus' Messiahship, and the first part of His work, was that matchless ideal of His work which ruled His life. That a king should reign in righteousness, and princes rule in judgment; that a man should be as a hiding-place from the wind, and a covert from the tempest; as rivers of water in a dry place, and as the shadow of a great rock in a weary land this was a sort of kingship that only Jesus could either think of or discharge. How poor and how weak by comparison was the kingship with which those pseudo-king-Davids, the false Messiahs, tried to put off men! Their empires fell at the first touch of the enmity they had dared. But the secret of our Lord's work was its simplicity. His Divine strength was perfected in utterest weakness. The dream of centuries simplified itself before His eyes, till it became almost easy. Not even the condescension of His ministry is more wonderful than, from another point of view, is its simplicity. Eighteen years of waiting, three years of teaching, and of the lowly use of miracle, a few hours of unfathomed suffering and the sin of the world was taken away. Thus our Lord realised the Law's ideal, which was also the ideal of prophecy, by fulfilling the types and predictions of prophecy. But His fulfilment is an interpretation from a higher point of view. The argument from prophecy is also an argument for prophecy. To say that Christ in transcending it fulfilled it, is no tortuous device of a baffled supernaturalism, but the fact of the case, the recognition of the law of historic growth, the due tribute to Christ's greatness. In Christ all evidence for Christianity centres; except in the understanding of His work, and in its entrance into our own life, we can find no proof that Jesus is Christ, or Christ is God. And the history of the Old Testament, considered as the record of the growth of man's life in God's favour, appears, the more we know it, the more natural, simple, free from arbitrary elements. In this is manifested God's wisdom. To Israel He gave the perfect and fitting preparation for Christ as they could receive it; to Christ He gave a prepared people, so far as they had a high ideal and a longing expectation for Him; to the world He gave perfected redemption in the Christ.
We must not rashly conclude that anything said in the New Testament is inconsistent with this state of the case. When Paul speaks of the law as necessarily, and in accordance with God's will, making men worse (Rom 5:20; 1 Cor 15:56; Gal 3:19) rather than better in their condition,as having no connection with grace except in so far as it prepared men to throw themselves on the grace of Christ,his account of the matter, though doubtless true of his own history, is not by any means true of all men. The Law was founded in grace, though not, it is true, in a full manifestation of grace. The Law was able to awake peace and joy in many a psalmist. Even in Paul's own day, James preferred to speak of Christianity as "the perfect law," and found nothing strange in calling it "the law of liberty." Paul accentuates only one side of the truth. He expresses the judgment passed, from a Christian standpoint, on the imperfect dispensation. "When that which is perfect is come," it often seems to us incredible we should have lived and endured during the preparatory stages of life. Their healthy vigour has grown to seem an intolerable bondage. Similarly, when the author to the Hebrews (9:10-13) speaks of the Old Testament sacrifices as "carnal ordinances," which "sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh," he is expressing, not what was in the mind of Old Testament worshippers, but what is in his mind as he looks on Christ's sacrifice. The perfect has antiquated the imperfect. No doubt we are apt to think that the author's teaching is, that the old covenant sacrifices were civil rites, without religious value, because destitute of religious meaning or aim. And it is historically true, that the sin offerings of the Levitical code are meant to atone for improprieties or mere errors rather than for sins. But the Old Testament was a religionnot to say that it was a religion in which civil, social, and sacred were uniquely intertwinedand religion poured all its depth of feeling into every prescribed ordinance. This is recognised, too, in the Epistle to the Hebrews. The author sees in the sacrifices he is depreciating (10:1, sq.), not a yearly atonement for the year's improprieties, but a yearly attempt to atone for sin,an attempt which, in his judgment, turned out a yearly failure; did nothing else, as regarded the conscience, than betray every year that the sense of sin was unremoved; achieved no actual result beyond those outward privileges denoted by "cleanness of the flesh." Now, this judgment, I say, is the feeling of a Christian man towards pre-Christian rites. In their own dispensation, animal sacrifices need not have been out of relation to the conscience,, and we know of historical occasions when they expressed repentance and faith, and brought men peace.
Hitherto we have spoken of the preparation for Christ, which the Old Testament afforded by its ideals and by the anticipations it aroused. We must also speak of another side of its work. We must consider the training it afforded to character, and the preparation for discipleship which it thus included.
The first element in this training consisted in the fact that the Old Testament was a spiritual religion. It invited men to communion with God. The Jews knew what they worshipped; salvation was theirs. How real this practice of piety was, and how deep, we may see by turning to the devotional literature of the Old Testament in the Book of Psalms. Here every form of religious experience has a voiceroyal, national, ecclesiastical, prophetic, private. There is confession of sin; there are bursts of praise; there are longings for the Deliverer and glowing pictures of His reign. And through them all we perceive the utterance of a life wholly devoted to God,not so wise in understanding His ways as Christians ought to be, or so patient and untroubled in faith where these ways seem dark; but, perhaps all the more, hanging visibly on God's favour, depressed when He turns away for a moment, contented if He but smile again, more and more clearly perceiving that this, and not whatever God may give to be the vehicle of this life, is the soul's true joy. "One thing have I desired of the Lord." "Thou hast put gladness into my heart more than in the day that their corn and their wine increased."
But there was another side to this training. Communion with God not only accustomed the heart to His worship, but introduced the heart to a knowledge of its own sin. We are too apt to speak of this as if it were peculiarly the work of the Old Testament lawa sort of law-work, or orthodox routine of conversion illustrated in history on the great scale. But this is merely an exaggeration of the Pauline view of the Law. The Old Testament was an experience in grace; its saints had religious communion, not only a preparation for it. And it is the experience of many Christians, that their own historyif only because of their idiosyncrasygives them less conscious teaching in God's grace than it does in their own sinfulness. The normal religious life has both; it grows in the joy and frequency of Divine fellowship; it grows in serious appreciation of the evil of sins which at one time it passed lightly over. The Old Testament had both; in point of fact, it is an illustration of religious experience according to its normal truth. It trained men in worship, but it did more. It began with deliverance from outward evil, with the establishment of a national theocracy, with bidding men live rightly. Their failure taught them their sin. The Law was their tutor to bring them to Christ. Doubtless, as has already been said, the Law continued for long to be prized as a means of religious communion with God. Even when its public operation was impeded, private piety chose out the Law as the revelation of God's Wisdom, and made it by preference the centre of a special type of religion. This "love for the Law" lasted even while sin was being taught through the Law; the period of the Law overlapped the period of finished grace, and the New Testament has a James as well as a Peter, a Paul, a John. None the less, sin was urged on the consciences of men; and the Law could not fail to play its part in this. Other things co-operated. Liberty was lost. God's anger against sin was seen in the nation's adversity. Year after year of sacrifice and of repeated atonement could not fail to do their work on the mind of sensitive worshippers. For a time, indeed, there was balm in Gilead; and the sense of sin the old covenant roused, it found means to allay. When the Psalmist asks, "If Thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?" he quiets himself by adding, "But there is forgiveness with Thee, that Thou mayest be feared," and is at peace again. Even Psalm 51
is less remarkable for its unparalleled depth of penitence than for its high and unwavering confidence in God's lovingkindness and in His accepting and forgiving mercy. But, by the time the Law has come to be viewed as Paul views it; by the time a man who had sought God can say, "The commandment, which was unto life, this I found to be unto death"; by the time a theory of the old dispensation is based on that experience of the Law, it is evident that it is becoming old, and is waxing aged, and is nigh unto vanishing away. Its work is done. Men's faith, and expectancy, and the bitter fruit of their own doings, have made them, as far as may be, ready for Christ.
Psalm 51 (To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came unto him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.)
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. 4 Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight: that thou mightest be justified when thou speakest, and be clear when thou judgest. 5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. 6 Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9 Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. 11 Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. 12 Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. 13 Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. 15 O Lord, open thou my lips; and my mouth shall shew forth thy praise. 16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise. 18 Do good in thy good pleasure unto Zion: build thou the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then shalt thou be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering: then shall they offer bullocks upon thine altar.
But, when we think of Israel as made ready to be Christ's people and His servants, we are confronted by the fact that Israel, as a whole, rejected Him.
Still, God's education of Israel was far from wasted. Its lessons, as God had designed they should, passed to all the world. The partial and simpler revelations of God continue to arrest, to edify, to save, often coming with a fresher thrust of surprise than what is higher but is dulled by familiarity. Christ found His witnesses, too, in Israel. Our New Testament is the work, under God, of Jewish pens. The Apostle of the Gentiles himself is a Hebrew of Hebrews. And if, in God's providence, as Paul teaches us, the salvation which failed to seek the Gentiles through the salvation and service of Israel, came to us with accelerated speed and undiminished certainty by the refusal of Israel to hear, it is quite possible, in consistency with this, that Ritschl may be right in affirming, that Gentile Christianity was retarded by having to pass for itself through the stages of legal development, and that the world lost, even while it gained, by Israel's unbelief.
Further, we should remember that, however unworthy it proved, however unrepentant, Israel formed a sphere for our Lord's labours. His strict confinement of His work to Israel need not be derived only from Israel's prior right, if we fail to justify it by Israel's superior faith and usefulness; it may well be, that it was spiritually fitting for Christ to work within the bounds of a chosen people. On such a subject it would be conceit to expect perfect distinctness of certainty. But we need feel no jar or contrast between Christ's restriction of His work to Jews and His purpose of mercy for mankind.
There is a paragraph (Matt 28:19; Luke 24:48, 49; Acts 1:8) which represents the risen Lord as giving the disciples a commission to all the world. While those who deny the supernatural make short work of this statement, others (as Weiss) point out that the sketch in Matthew,containing, as it does, no reference to the farewell interview at the Ascension,is an ideal or generalised portrait of the risen Lord's visible intercourse with His disciples. With this is associated the suggestion, that the apostolic commission is the mere dramatising of the Church's conviction, that in the heathen mission she was carrying out the will of the glorified Lord. We are bound, however, to account for the entrance of this conviction into the consciousness of the Church of Jerusalem, with whose traditions we are dealing. To us this commission is but the breaking forth of our Lord's underlying purpose from that reticence, which He had imposed on Himself during His ministry, the better to fulfil it.
One topic still claims a reference. Our Lord's sayings as to His second advent present a dark and entangled problem. It would be useless to enter on it here. But a solution in a certain direction must be protested against. There is, e.g., a theory, based, not without plausibility, on one or two texts in Matthew (10:23; 16:28, with 16:21, and parallels), to the effect, that Jesus looked for His resurrection in the form of a speedy return to the earth after His passion, and for the completion of His kingdom in an earthly reign. This would degrade our Lord's spiritual wisdom, and His refusal of an earthly kingdom, to a mere happy accident or an amiable enthusiasm. On such a view,(46)
the future He sought could only be Jewish, particularist, earthly.
46. A different but not a safer turn is given to the theory as it is worked out in detail by Weiffenbach, Wiederkunftsgedanke Jesu. See also Holsten, as above.
Now, any theory of this sort has many exegetical difficulties. Other Gospels modify the impression made by Matthew's record of these texts. The first Gospel itself in other texts, though it only, represents Jesus as looking forward, not to a kingdom in Israel, but to the rejection of Israel altogether from His kingdom (8:12, 21:43). Thus dogmatism, as to what the man Christ Jesus expected, is very, ill placed. We might admit prophecies of a speedy Parousia. Jesus may have seen coming history, as the prophets saw it, in perspective. He may have described a future, as the prophets often did, whose coming was conditional on the faithfulness of God's people; and the sin of the Church may have subserved God's hidden purpose of delaying the second advent. What is certain is this, that Jesus never looked for any consummation of the world's development that would have been unworthy of Him. After the study we have made we may surely judge ourselves reasonably entitled, as well as religiously bound, to exclude any such view.
No doubt there is a great fascination in the effort to understand the human development of Jesus. The most interesting, sacredest, purest of great men, He casts a spell alike on believer and unbeliever. Still, "there is no historical character whose motives, objects, and feelings remain so incomprehensible"; and I suspect this is due to more than the dogmatism of "church doctors or even apostles." The human development of Jesus is the childhood of Christianity, holy, pure, separate from manhood's sin; it is lost to us, as the childhood of humanity is lost to us, or as our own childish view of the world has irretrievably disappeared from our own imagination. We cannot, even by "critical weighing of facts," understand Jesus as a mere man. But He is not, therefore, a stranger to us. All that we need for the soul He gives us; we may live to know Him with the deepest intimacy, and to hold fellowship with Him in doing His will; His purpose is the sphere of our life, if His grace has saved us.
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