Jesus of Nazareth was not mere man, excelling others in purity of life and conduct and in sincerity of purpose, simply distinguished from other teachers by the fullness of His knowledge. He is the God-man. Such view of the person of Messiah is the assured foundation of the entire Scriptural testimony to Him, and it is to be irresistibly inferred from the style and strain in which He habitually spake of Himself. Of this inferential argument of the Saviour we can give here the salient points only in briefest presentation.
1. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. We meet with this title in the Book of Daniel. It was used by Nebuchadnezzar to describe that fourth wonderful personage who walked with the three Hebrew confessors in the fire (3:25), and who was, doubtless, the Lord Jesus Christ revealing Himself in an assumed bodily form to His heroic servants. This majestic title is repeatedly appropriated to Himself by our Master. (See John 5:25; 9:35; 11:4, etc.) In His interview with Nicodemus He designated Himself, "The Only Begotten Son of God" (John 3:18).
When confronted with the Sanhedrim, Jesus was closely questioned about His use of this title; and He pleaded guilty to the indictment. (See Matthew 26:63,64, and 27:43; cf. Luke 22:70,71, and John 19:7). It is clear from the narrative that the Jews understood this glorious name in the lips of Jesus to be a blasphemous assertion of divine attributes for Himself. They understood Jesus to thus claim equality with God (see John 5:18); and to make Himself God. (See John 10:33). Did they understand Him? Did they overestimate the significance of this title as claimed by our Lord? How easy it would have been for Him to set them right. How imperative were His obligations to do so, not merely to Himself, but to these unhappy men who were thirsting for His blood under a misapprehension. Did not every principle of philanthropy require Him to save them from the perpetration of the terrible murder which He knew they were contemplating? Yes, if they were mistaken, it was a heinous crime in our Lord not to undeceive them. But not a word did He say to soften down the offensiveness of His claim. He allowed it to stand in all its repulsiveness to the Jewish mind, and died without making any sign that He had been misapprehended. He thus accepted the Jewish interpretation of His meaning, and sealed that sense of the title, Son of God, with His heart's blood. Nothing can be clearer, then, than the fact that Jesus died without a protest for claiming equality with God, and thus making Himself God. We dare not trust ourselves to write what we must think of Him under Such circumstances, if He were a mere man.
2. Jesus, on several occasions, claimed a divine supremacy in both worlds. Take for example His description of the final judgment: "The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity: and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matthew 13:41). The kingdom is His, and all the angels of God are His obedient servants.
He declared in the plainest terms that He will preside as the Universal Judge at the last great day, and that His wisdom and authority will award to every man his appropriate doom. "When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory; and before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats; and He shall set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left" (Matthew 25:31-33). His voice will utter the cheering words, "Come, ye blessed," and the awful sentence, "Depart, ye cursed" (Matthew 25:31-46). Without hesitation, equivocation, or compromise Jesus of Nazareth repeatedly assumed the right and the ability to discriminate the moral character and desserts of all mankind from Adam to the day of doom. His sublime consciousness of universal supremacy relieved the claim of everything like audacity, and only made it the natural sequence of His incarnate God-head. "All power," He said, "is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).
This idea germinated in the minds of His followers and apostles. The vivid picture recorded in the twenty-fifth chapter of Matthew gave a coloring to all their subsequent thoughts about their divine Master. They ever after spake of Him as "ordained to be the Judge of the quick and the dead" (Acts 10:42; 17:31). They testified that: "We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:10).
Thus the mind of John the Apostle was prepared for the subsequent revelations of Patmos, when he heard his glorified Lord claim to "have the keys of hell and of death" (Revelation 1:18), and saw the vision of the "great white throne, and Him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away" (Revelation 20:11).
But who is this that claims to grasp and wield the thunderbolts of eternal retribution; who professes to be able to scrutinize the secret purposes and motives, as well as the words and deeds, of every man that has been born, from the first dawn of personal responsibility to the day of death? Can anything short of indwelling omniscience qualify Him for such an intricate and complicated and vast investigation? If He could not search "the reins and the hearts" (to use His own words to John), how could He give to every one of us according to his works? (Revelation 2:23). The brain reels when we think of the tremendous transactions of the last day, and the momentous interests then to be decided forever and ever; and reason tells us, that if the Judge who is to preside over these solemnities be a man, He must be a God-man. If Jesus is to be the universal and absolute Judge of our race a Judge from whose decisions there will be no appeal, He must be "God manifest in the flesh." But what can we think of Him, if in setting up this claim He mislead us?
3. Jesus always claimed absolute and indisputable power in dealing with every question of moral duty and destiny. To quote Mr. Newman, the mere deist, "I find Jesus Himself to set up oracular claims. I find an assumption of pre-eminence and unapproachable moral wisdom to pervade every discourse from end to end of the Gospels. If I may not believe that Jesus assumed an oracular manner, I do not know what moral peculiarity in Him I am permitted to believe."* There is no possibility of denying the truth of these words. Jesus claimed to be absolute Lord in the whole region of morals. He settled the meaning and force of old laws, and instituted new ones by His own authority. Take the Sermon on the Mount as an illustration. With what a self-possessed peremptoriness does He define the existing legislation of God, and enlarge its limits! With what conscious dignity does He decide every question in the whole range of human duty with the simple-"But I say unto you!" Seven times in one chapter does he use this formula. (See Matthew 5:20,22,28,32,34,39,44). And in the application of the sermon He declared Him only to be the wise man and built upon solid rock, who hears His sayings and does them. (Matthew 7:24). Well might the people be astonished at His doctrine; for verily "He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes" (Matthew 7:28,29). But the tone which pervades the Sermon on the Mount runs through the whole of the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. He ever speaks as if He were the Author and Giver of the law; as if He had the power to modify any of its provisions according to His own ideas of fitness; and as if He were the Supreme Lord of human consciences. His style is utterly unlike that of any inspired teacher before or after Him. They appealed to the law and to the testimony. (See Isaiah 8:20). But Jesus claimed an inherent power to modify and to alter both.
[* In "Phases of Faith," by Francis William Newman, M. A., page 150.]
The Sabbath was the symbol of the entire covenant made by God with Israel through the ministry of Moses. (See Exodus 31:12-17). But Jesus asserted His complete supremacy over this divine institution. These were His emphatic words: "For the Son of man is Lord also of the Sabbath day" (Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5). He could, of His own will, relax the terrors of the Jewish Sabbath, and even supersede it altogether by the Christian "Lord's Day." He was Lord of all divine institutions.
And in the Church He claims the right to regulate her doctrines and her ordinances according to His will. The apostles He commissioned to baptize in His name, and charged them to teach their converts to observe all things whatsoever He had commanded them. (Matthew 28:19-20). Thus John was prepared for the sublime vision of the Son of man as "He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks" (Revelation 2:1); and as "He that hath the key of David, He that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth" (Revelation 3:7).
And the authority which Jesus claimed extends into heaven, and to the final state of things. He affirmed that He would ascend to share His Father's dominion, and to sit in the throne of His glory. (See Matthew 19:28). The counterpart to which announcement is found in His declaration to John in Patmos: "to him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne" (Revelation 3:21). The manner in which the Lord spake of Himself in connection with the heavenly state bore much fruit in the hearts and sentiments of His disciples. To them this life was being "absent from the Lord" as to His visible presence: and their one beautiful idea of heaven was that it was being "present with the Lord" (2 Corinthians 5:6,8). He had taught them to regard Him as their "all in all," even in their eternal state; and with unquestioning faith they cherished the one blessed hope of being forever with the Lord. All other ideas of the celestial world were lost sight of in comparison with this absorbing anticipation.
The very mansions which they were to occupy in the Eternal Father's house, Jesus said, He would assign to them (John 14:2). He asserted His right to give away the crowns and glories of immortal blessedness as if they were His by indisputable right. He wills it, and it is done. He constantly reminded His disciples of rewards which He would give to every servant whom, at His coming, He found to be faithful. (Compare Matthew 24:44 with 45,46,47; 25:14-46, etc.)
It is true Jesus will give these honors only to those for whom they are prepared by His Father; for, in their designs of mercy, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are one. Still He will, of right, dispense the blessing to all who receive it. For these were our Lord's true words: "To sit on My right hand, and on My left, is not Mine to give, but [or, except] it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of My Father" (Matthew 20:23). The language logically implies our Lord's absolute right to give the crowns; but only to such as are appointed to these honors by the Father.
These ideas are repeated in vision to John. Jesus gives "right to the tree of life" (Revelation 2:7). In the praises of the redeemed host, as described in that marvelous Apocalypse, they ever ascribe their salvation and glory to Jesus, and the sinless angels swell the chorus of Immanuel's praises, while the universe, from its myriad worlds, echoes the strain. (Revelation 5:8-14).
In the description of the final state of things-a state which shall be subsequent to the millennium (whatever that may be)-(Revelation 20:1-10), and also to the final judgment of both righteous and wicked (Revelation 20:11-15), and to the act of homage and fealty described in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, we find the Lamb still and forever on the throne. The Church is still "the bride, the Lamb's wife" (Revelation 21:9). In that consummated state of all things, "The Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it" (Revelation 21:22), the glory of God lightens it, "and the Lamb is the light thereof" (Revelation 21:23), the pure river of water of life still flows from beneath the throne of God and of the Lamb (Revelation 22:1), "the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and His servants shall serve Him: and they shall see His face; and His name shall be in their foreheads" (Revelation 22:3,4). Throughout the Apocalypse we never find Jesus among the worshippers, He is there the worshipped One on the throne, and with that picture the majestic vision closes.
The inspired apostles had imbibed these ideas from the personal teaching of their Lord, and subsequent revelations did but expand in their minds the seed-thoughts which He had dropped there from His own sacred lips. Paul nobly expressed the sentiments of all his brethren when he wrote, "Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also that love His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8). But surely He who claims supremacy, absolute and indisputable, in morals, in divine institutions, in the Church on earth, in heaven, and in a consummated universe forever, must be Lord of all, manifest in human form. If he were not, what must He have been to advance such assumptions, and what must the book be which enforces them?
4. Jesus asserted His full possession of the power to forgive sins. The moral instincts of the Jews were right when they put the question, "Who can forgive sins but God only?" (Mark 2:7). We do not wonder that, with their ideas of Christ, they asked in amazement, "Who is this that forgiveth Sins also?" (Luke 7:49), or that they exclaimed, in reference to such a claim, from such a quarter, "This man blasphemeth" (Matthew 9:3).
And yet Christ declared most emphatically, on more than one occasion, His possession of this divine prerogative, and healed the palsied man in professed attestation of the fact (Luke 5:24). Those who would eliminate the miraculous element from the second narrative altogether, must admit that Matthew, Mark, and Luke all relate most circumstantially that Jesus did at least profess to work a miracle in support of His claim to possess power to forgive sins. If He wrought the miracle, His claim is established; and if He did not work it, but cheated the people, then away with Him forever as an arrant impostor! But if He wrought it?, and proved His claim, He must be equal with His Father; for the Jews were right, and no one "can forgive sins but God only." Could a mere man cancel with a word the sin of a creature against his Maker? The very thought is a blasphemy.
5. Jesus claimed the power to raise His own body pore the grave, to quicken the souls of men into spiritual life, and to raise all the dead at the last great day. Jesus likened His body to a temple which the Jews should destroy, and which He would raise up again in three days. (John 2:19- 21). He affirmed that He had power to lay down His life, and power to take it up again. (John 10:18). He declared that the spiritually dead for the physical resurrection is spoken of afterward as a distinct topic should hear His voice and live. (John 5:25). And then He tells us not to wonder at this, for the day is coming when, by His omnificent fiat, all the generations of the dead "shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation" (John 5:28,29).
But if Jesus were not, in some mysterious sense, the Lord of His own life, what power had He to dispose of it as He pleased? And how could He recall it when gone? And how could he communicate spiritual life, if He were not its Divine Fountain? And how could He raise the dead from their graves, if He were not the Almighty Creator? All these claims, if genuine, necessitate faith in the Godhead of Jesus.
6. Jesus declared that He had the ability to do all His Father's works. The Saviour had healed the impotent man at the pool of Bethesda on the Sabbath day. When accused by the Jews of sin for this act, our Lord justified Himself by the ever-memorable words, "My Father worketh hitherto [that is, on the Sabbath day in sustaining and blessing the worlds], and I work"-on the same day, therefore, in healing the sick,-thus indirectly asserting His right to do all that His Father did, and, as the Jews put it, claiming such a Sonship as made Him "equal with God." But our Lord did not abate one iota of His claim. True, He admitted that, as the Incarnate Mediator, He had received His authority from the Father, but He declared that "What things soever the Father doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise" (John 5:17-19). Now, no language can overestimate the sublimity of this claim. Christ affirmed that He possessed full right and ability to do all that the Eternal Father had the right and ability to do. Was such language ever used by the most inspired or the most daring of mere mortals? We do not forget that our Lord was careful to declare that the Father had committed all judgment to Him (John 5:22), but had He not Himself been a partaker of the Godhead how could He, as the Incarnate One, have been qualified to be armed with the prerogative so vast? He who cart do all the works of God must be God!
7. Jesus spake of Himself as the greatest gift of infinite mercy even. In His conversation with Nicodemus. Christ spake of Himself in these terms: "God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16), by which our Lord evidently meant to convey the idea that the gift of the Son was the richest gift of divine love.
And this idea proved powerfully germinant in the minds of the apostles. They elaborated the argument. By the gift of Christ above all others, they taught us: "God commended His love towards us" (Romans 5:8; see, too, John 4:10). They reasoned thus, having learned their logic from the lips of their Lord, "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" (Romans 8:32). The argument of the apostle is from the greater to the less. It assumes that Christ Jesus is greater than all things. It would have no force on any other principle. More than this, it assumes that Christ is infinitely greater than all things, so that all the other expressions of divine goodness to our race dwindle into insignificance when compared with the gift of Christ. But can such representations as these be harmonized with the notion that Christ is merely a gifted man? Would they not deserve to be called hyperbole run mad on such art hypothesis? And imagine a mere man to stand forward and proclaim himself the choicest gift of God's love to our race. What a monstrous exaggeration and egotism! If Christ be greater than all other divine gifts combined, must He not be the God-man? On the evangelical hypothesis such representations are seen to be neither bombast nor rhetorical exaggerati we can say with the seraphic Paul, without reserve: "Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift" (2 Corinthians 9:15).
8. Jesus announced Himself as the center of rest for the human soul. Who has not thrilled under the mighty spell of those mighty words: "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). In this invitation our Lord proclaims Himself to be everything to the soul. We are to come to Him, to take His yoke upon us, and to learn of Him. In receiving Him we shall find rest unto our souls, for He will give us rest.
Now, God alone is the resting-place of the human spirit. In Him, and in Him only, can we find assured peace. But Jesus claims to be our rest. Must He not, then, be God Incarnate? And very noticeable is the fact that, in the same breath in which He speaks of Himself in these august terms, He says: "I am meek and lowly in heart." But where were His meekness and lowliness in making such a claim, if He were simply a man like ourselves?
In the same spirit are those memorable passages in which this wonderful personage speaks of Himself as our peace. "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you" (John 14:27). "These words have I spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace" (John 16:33). Thus ever does the Lord concentrate our thoughts upon Himself. But what must He be to be worthy of such supreme attention?
9. Jesus permitted Thomas to adore Him as his Lord and his God, and pronounced an eulogium upon the faith thus displayed. (John 20:28). On this fact we quote the admirable comment of Dean Alford: "The Socinian view, that these words, "my Lord and my God," are merely an exclamation, is refuted,
(1) By the fact that no such exclamations were in use among the Jews.
(2) By the eipen autô (he said to Him, that is, Christ).
(3) By the impossibility of referring ho kyrios mou, my Lord, to another than Jesus. (See verse 13).
(4) By the New Testament usage of expressing the vocative by the nominative with an article.
(5) By the utter psychological absurdity of such a supposition; that one just convinced of the presence of Him whom he deeply loved, should, instead of addressing Him, break out into an irrelevant cry.
(6) By the further absurdity of supposing that if such were the case, the Apostle John, who, of all the sacred writers, most constantly keeps in mind the object for which he is writing, should have recorded anything so beside that object.
(7) By the intimate connection of pepisteukas, thou hast believed. (See next verse).
"Dismissing it, therefore, we observe that this is the highest confession of faith which has yet been made; and that it shows that (though not yet fully) the meaning of the previous confessions of His being 'the Son of God' was understood. Thus John, in the very close of his Gospel iterates the testimony with which he began it-to the Godhead of the Word who became flesh, and, by this closing confession, shows how the testimony of Jesus to Himself had gradually deepened and exalted the apostles' conviction, from the time when they knew Him only as ho huios tou Iôséph (1:46), 'the son of Joseph,' till now, when He is acknowledged as their Lord and their God." (Alford's Greek New Testament, on the passage).
These judicious remarks leave nothing to be added as to the real application of the words, "my Lord and my God." But how did the Saviour receive this act of adoration? He commended it, and held it up for the imitation of the coming ages "Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen Me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (29). He thus most emphatically declared His Lordship and Godhead. But how fearful was His crime in so doing, if He was only a Socinian Christ!
This conversation produced a deep impression upon the apostolical mind, and upon the early Church. Stephen invoked Jesus in prayer with his dying breath. (Acts 7:59). Paul thrice besought the Lord (Jesus) in supplication, that this thorn in the flesh might be taken from him, and received an answer from the Lord. (2 Corinthians 12:8, compared with the next verse, the 9th). The prayer was offered to Jesus, and was responded to by Jesus, as the context demonstrates.
The primitive disciples are thus described: "All that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours" (1 Corinthians 1:2).
Every convert was, by Christ's orders, baptized in His name conjointly with that of the Father and the Holy Spirit; and thus the whole Church was taught to adore Him as equal with God at the solemn hour of religious profession. (Matthew 28:19).
The apostolical benediction invokes Jesus in prayer with God and the Holy Ghost (2 Corinthians 13:14), and the entire sacred record closes with a solemn litany to the Son: "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (Revelation 22:21). Again we ask, Who is this if He be not the God-man?
10. Jesus indirectly compared Himself with God. He did so in these words: "No man knoweth the Son [Luke gives it, "Who the Son is"], but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father [Luke gives it, "Who the Father is"], save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him" (See Matthew 11:27 27 and Luke 10:22). These statements are, perhaps, the most remarkable that fell even from the lips of Jesus. In them He asserted the Son to be as great a mystery as the Father, and consequently as difficult to know. This was in effect claiming equality with God. Nothing less can be made of it. Then, too, the Lord professed such a knowledge of God as can only be possessed by God. He indeed asserted that He knew the Father as well as the Father knew Him. Altogether, no language can well be more shockingly familiar and profane than these words of the Saviour were, if He were no more than a man. Let the reader well ponder them in the version both of Matthew and Luke.
On one occasion our Lord declared, "My Father is greater than all" (John 10:29); and on another, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28). But if our Lord was only a man, what need was there that He should tell us this? What should we think of any mere mortal who should stand up in our midst, and deliberately tell us that the Eternal Father is greater than he? Should we not question his sanity? Or should we not look upon the very comparison as a blasphemy? For what can justify a creature in such a virtual likening of himself to God? We are compelled to the conclusion that there must have been some other element in our Lord's nature, besides the human, which warranted Him in making so remarkable a statement. What danger was there that we should fail to recognize the superiority of the Eternal Father to the man Christ Jesus, if the latter was no more than a man? These words, generally supposed to be a stronghold of Unitarianism, are, in truth, an indirect testimony to the orthodox faith. For what comparison can there be between the Creator and a mere creature, between Infinity and one who is "less than nothing and vanity"?
11. Jesus demands of us an unhesitating and unlimited faith in Himself; such faith, in short, as we should only exercise in God. We are to believe in Him for the salvation of our entire being; not merely as pointing out to us the way to heaven, but as being Himself the way. He puts faith in Him in the same category as faith in the Father. (John 14:1). The spirit of His teaching about the faith to be reposed in Him is given in His words to the woman of Samaria: "If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." "Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:10-14). Unless we exercise faith in His person and work, figuratively called eating His flesh and drinking His blood, we have no life in us (John 6:53); but if any man eat of this bread; he shall live forever (51). Those who have given themselves up into the arms of Christ by faith receive eternal life from Him, and shall never perish. (John 10:28). They are as much in the arms of Jesus as in the arms of the Father; and their safety is as much secured by one as by the other (compare 28,29,30). In fact, in this gracious transaction the Son and the Father are one (30). Well might the Jews, with their views of His origin, take up stones to stone Him for these claims, saying as they did it, "We stone Thee for blasphemy, because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God" (33). Our Lord's vindication of Himself, by a reference to the language of Psalm 82:6, is an illustration of the argument from the less to the greater. If in any sense the Jewish rulers might be called gods, how much more properly might He, the only begotten Son of the Father, be so designated? "Without Me ye can do nothing," is in short the essence of the Saviour's teaching about Himself. (See John 15:1-5).
This is the sum of the Gospel message: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and ye shall be saved. It was a demand repeatedly and earnestly pressed by the Saviour, and inculcated by His apostles; and we say deliberately, that to exercise such a faith in Jesus as He required and the Gospel enforces, would, with Socinian views, be to expose ourselves to the terrible anathema: "Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and that maketh flesh in his arm" (Jeremiah 17:5). How could my soul be safe in the arms of a mere man? How dare I trust my eternal redemption to the care of such a Christ? And on what principle did Paul say: "I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me" (Philippians 4:13). And how can Jesus be "All in all" to true believers of every nation? (Colossians 3:11).
12. The affection and devotion to His glory, which Jesus demands, are such as can be properly yielded only to God. As we are to trust Christ for everything, so we are to give up everything for Him, should He demand the sacrifice. This was a doctrine which the Lord repeatedly taught. Let our readers study Matthew 10:37-39, and the parallel passage, Luke 14:26, 27, and they will see at once how uncompromising is the Saviour's demand. Father, mother, son, daughter, wife, and even life itself are all to be sacrificed, if devotion to Christ necessitates the surrender. All creatures, and all things, and our very lives are to be to us as nothing when compared with Christ. God Himself demands no less of us, and no more. What more could the Eternal Creator require? The moral law says: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and Him only shalt thou serve." But Christ bids us love Him thus, and demands of us the homage and sacrifice of our whole being; now, if He be not the Author of our being, what right has He to urge such a demand upon us? I could not love Christ as He requires to be loved, if I did not believe in Him as the Incarnate God. To do so with Socinian views would be idolatry. Yet the motives which reigned in the hearts of inspired apostles are summed up in this one: "The love of Christ constraineth us," and they laid down the law, that all men are henceforth to live "not to themselves, but to Him who died for them and rose again" (2 Corinthians 5:14,15). And Jesus declared that our eternal destiny will take its character from our compliance or noncompliance with His demands: "Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father who is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32,33,38-42, cf. Matthew 25:45,46), and the sentiment is echoed in apostolical teaching, the language of which is, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha" (1 Corinthians 16:22). But clearly the suspension of such tremendous issues on the decree of our love for the person of a mere creature, is an idea utterly revolting to our moral sense. He must be the God-man.
13. Jesus set Himself forth as the appropriate end of our lives and of all divine providences. He requires us to live for Him, and for His glory. As we have seen, life is to be sacrificed, if fidelity to Him shall so require. The sickness of Lazarus, He taught, was ordered, "that the Son of God might be glorified thereby" (John 11:4). He expounded the scope of the Holy Spirit's mission in one pregnant sentence: "He shall glorify Me" (John 16:14; John 15:26).
This Messianic reading of all things proved wonderfully suggestive. It is amplified in the apostolical Epistles. Thus, Christ is "Lord both of the dead and the living" (Romans 14:9). The great object of apostolic desire was, that Christ might be magnified in their bodies, whether by life or by death. (Philippians 1:20). The early Church's one idea of the present state was: "For to me to live is Christ" (Philippians 1:21). And they looked forward to the final Epiphany, because Christ would then "come to be glorified in His saints, and to be admired in all them that believe," and because His name will then be "glorified in you" (2 Thessalonians 1:10-12).
Under Him, as the Universal Head, all things are finally to be gathered, and towards this consummation all things are now working. (See Ephesians 1:10).
Now, such a presentation of Christ by Christ, and by His apostles inspired by Himself and His Spirit, we cannot harmonize with Socinian views. For surely He, for whose glory we are to live, and the whole universe exists, must be the Lord of all, God over all, blessed for evermore. What right has our Lord to be the supreme End of life, if He be not its Source, its Preserver, in short, its God?
14. Very suggestive, too, are those passages in which Jesus promised His continued presence to His disciples after His ascension. Beautiful are the words: "Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20). One of the last promises of our Lord was, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20). No perverse criticism can explain away these assurances; they guarantee the perpetual, personal presence of Jesus with all His disciples to the end of time.
And this idea had a wonderful influence over the thoughts and actions of the men whom Jesus inspired. They lived as those who were perpetually under their Lord's eye. Thus one speaks in the name of all: "Wherefore we labor, that, whether present or absent [from Christ as to his bodily presence, see 6 and 8], we may be accepted of Him [Christ]" (2 Corinthians 5:9). Though denied His bodily presence, His divine they knew to be ever with them?; hence they labored to please Him, and the best wish they could breathe for each other was, "The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit" (2 Timothy 4:22).
And John saw Him in vision ever holding the ministerial stars in His right hand, and walking in the midst of the golden lamps-the churches. (Revelation 2:1).
But how can we explain such representations as these, if Messiah be possessed of but one nature-the human, which must of necessity be local and limited as to its presence? Who is this that is always with His disciples in all countries at the same moment, but the Infinite One in a human form? We feel His presence; we know He is with us; and in this fact we have evidence that He is more than a man.
The line of argument we have been pursuing is by no means exhausted, but our space is filled. Every time we read the New Testament through, we detect new illustrations of the force of the testimony illustrated in this paper. Let the reader re-peruse for himself the sacred record with an eye to the hints which we have thrown out. Let him weigh again the old familiar phrases in which the Lord speaks, or is spoken of, and ask himself how he can explain them on any other principle than the orthodox view of our Lord's person and work, and he will be astonished to find how this view is woven into the very texture of the whole Gospel. Jesus Christ was neither the Holy One, nor the Just One, if He were not the God-man. (See Acts 3:14; Acts 2:27; Acts 7:52). In short, we must tear up our Bibles and wait for a new Christ, if He of Nazareth be not what all His teachings compel us to believe He was, God Incarnate.
A Socinian may well ask: "Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works?" (Matthew 13:54); but to us that question is forever answered by the assurance that "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
The argument is cumulative, and must be looked at as a whole as well as in detail. To us it appears irresistible.
Let no Unitarian seek to evade its force by taking refuge in those passages which affirm Christ's inferiority, as man and mediator, to His Father; such as Mark 13:32; John 10:29, and John 14:28. Such passages as these are not to the purpose. No one denies that, as man and mediator, our Lord was inferior to His Father. But to prove that He was inferior in one sense, does not disprove that He was equal in another sense. When you have demonstrated that He was a man, you have not shaken, or even touched, the evidence that He was God. The Saviour had a human soul with its natural limitation of knowledge, and a human body with exposure to death. This is admitted on all sides. The orthodox believe it as truly as their Unitarian friends. But the Gospel testimony teaches us something more. It reveals the Godhood of Jesus of Nazareth, and tells us that He thought it no robbery to claim equality with His Father. It is, therefore, disingenuous, or, at least, illogical, to quote testimonies to the humanity of the Christ in reply to the proof of His possession of a divine nature as well. The two questions are quite distinct. It is a non sequitur to affirm that Jesus is not God because He was a man. The point to be demonstrated is that He was not both.
There are two classes of Scriptures relating to our Lord: the first, affirming His possession of a human nature, with all its innocent frailties and limitations; the second, ascribing to Him a divine nature, possessed of the attributes of Godhood, performing divine works, and worthy of supreme honor and worship. Unitarians can only fairly explain one of these classes of Scriptures, the former; but Trinitarians can accept both classes, and expound them in their integrity and fullness. We are not stumbled by evidences that Jesus was "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh." We rejoice in Him as in one "touched with a feeling of our infirmities;" but we have no need to refine away, by a subtle and unfair criticism, the ascription to His person of divine perfections and works.
We gladly recognize the learning and the talents of many of the prominent Unitarian divines. We know that by the side of some of them we are but babes in intellect and attainment. But we remember that there was a time when "Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes" (Matthew 11:25).
The times demand of us a vigorous re-assertion of the old truths, which are the very foundations of the Gospel system. Humanity needs a Christ whom all can worship and adore. The mythical account of Strauss' "Leben Jesu"; the unreal and romantic Christ of Renan's "Vie de Jesus"; and even the merely human Christ of "Ecce Homo," can never work any deliverance in the earth. Such a Messiah does not meet the yearnings of fallen human nature. It does not answer the pressing query, "How shall man be just with God?" It supplies no effective or sufficient agency for the regeneration of man's moral powers. It does not bring God down to us in our nature. Such a Christ we may criticise and admire, as we would Socrates, or Plato, or Milton, or Shakespeare; but we cannot trust Him with our salvation; we cannot love Him with all our hearts; we cannot pour forth at His feet the homage of our whole being; for to do so would be idolatry.
A so-called Saviour, whose only power to save lies in the excellent moral precepts that He gave, and the pure life that He lived; who is no longer the God-man, but the mere man; whose blood had no sacrificial atoning or propitiatory power in the moral government of Jehovah, but was simply a martyr's witness to a superior system of ethics-is not the Saviour of the four Gospels, or of Paul, or Peter, or John. It is not under the banners of such a Messiah that the Church of God has achieved its triumphs. The Christ of the New Testament, of the early Church, of universal Christendom; the Christ, the power of whose name has revolutionized the world and raised it to its present level, and under whose guidance the sacramental host of God's redeemed are advancing and shall advance to yet greater victories over superstition and sin, is Immanuel, God with us, in our nature, whose blood "cleanseth us from all sin," and who is "able to save, even to the uttermost, all that come unto God through Him."