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who, according to Maimonides, was favoured with a habitual and superiour degree of illumination, they were thrown into a frenzy—they trembled and fainted. It is probable they were seldom if ever conscious of the things they uttered; and certain it is, they announced no future event until the spirit of prophecy was kindled within them by something plainly extraneous and beyond their power; ordinarily by the help or ministry of an angel.
But how may it be imagined that one would speak who was omniscient; who saw the end from the beginning ; to whom all things, whether past or future, were immediately present? Precisely as we would speak of objects and events which were within the range of sensible vision ; which we are accustomed to see from day to day. So prophesied the Messiah, without either constraint, effort, or perturbation. Future mysteries and events seemed as familiar to his mind as the objects of sense, amid which we have grown to manhood, are to our eyes. When he prophecied, it was in his own name : I say unto you. And whether the subject of his prophecy were his own sufferings and death, the destruction of the temple and of the holy city, the resurrection of the dead, the awful solemnities of the day of judgement, his own coming in the clouds of heaven with all the holy angels, or the eternal allotments of the righteous and the wicked, he spoke with manifest ease and composure, without seeming in the least astonished; or betraying any disposition to excite marvel. If Jesus Christ had been only a prophet, was there not, considering the nature of the human faculties, and the fact that we can know nothing of the future but from God, something very remarkable, rather inexplicable to us, in the manner of his prophesying? Strange, that all preceding prophets should have prophesied of him, and that he, if only a man, should make his own doings the burden of his prophecies; that when transfigured on the mount, he should not only be invested with a glory transcendantly surpassing that of Moses and Elijah, but singled out, and by an audible voice from heaven, declared to be God's only begotten and well beloved Son.
But proceeding to a general view of the sentiments which Christ uttered-has he consequently a claim on our homage ? No; not a few men have uttered extraordinary sayings; and most readily might Infinite Wisdom inspire any mortal with the utterance of moral truths which no Vol. V.
unassisted mind could excogitate or conceive. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that no man ever spoke as Christ spoke. Hear him. He styles himself the light of the world; the pearl of unknown price; the hidden treasure ; the living vine; the bread of God; the way, the truth, and the life. He expounds the law with the authority of a legislator; condemns the traditions, and mortifies the pride of the scribes and pharisees ; pours the light of fulfilment on the hidden meaning of ancient prediction ; displays the riches of the gospel ; unravels the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven ; detects the secrets of the human heart. How weighty the sentences which fell from his lips; how simple and comprehensive his precepts ; how novel and sublime his doctrines; how familiar and pertinent his illustrations; how wise his teachings ; how authoritative and conclusive his decisions.
Such was the inimitable combination of authority and gentleness, of dignity and condescension, of zeal and wisdom, of sublimity and plainness in all that he uttered, as might have almost led us to anticipate his own assertion,that all things were delivered to him of his Father, and that no man knew who the Son was save the Father, nor who the Father was save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son should reveal him.
We may not affirm, however, that in Christ's teachings there is to be found conclusive evidence of his divine nature; yet who will say that he did not speak with a native majesty befitting the Son of God; that he did not allude to the
great things pertaining to the invisible kingdom of God with all the gracefulness and familiarity with which one born a prince would speak of his father's court? Was there any thing in his language which did not at all times comport with so high an origin, or breathe the consciousness of his union with the Father ? He who can ponder the sayings of Christ, without being inspired with awe and reverence, is for ever insensible to any impressions of infinite excellence and grandeur.
Shall we, then, find in the moral character of Christ a sufficient reason for elevating him in our devotions, to an equality with the Father ? This particular might naturally sway the judgements of many minds ; for in a world where all have corrupted their ways before God, we cannot but respect any one who seems to partake less of the imperfections and frailties of human nature, and to embody more of
those conceptions of goodness and virtue which we are able to form ; but it will readily occur to the philosophic mind, that perfection in human character is no evidence of a divine nature, for God can render any man perfectly holy.
Still, it may not be without its important bearing on our argument to recall the fact, that Jesus Christ is the only model of perfection in real life the world has ever beheld. The characters of holy men of old were marred by those infirmities which are common to our nature ; while their brightest virtues fade away before the resplendent lineaments of the sun of righteousness: much less, then, can the most exemplary of the heathen worthies challenge a comparison with the holy Jesus.
Is it not a little remarkable, that among all whom God has commissioned to instruct mankind, Jesus Christ should be the only instance of perfection in character ? that the human mind can form no conception of excellence which his actions did not adumbrate ? that we cannot conceive of the Father as surpassing in excellence the moral lineaments of his Son? that there is nothing clear and definite in our conceptions of God except when we gaze on the aspect of Jesus ? that the world never had any conceptions worthy of the Great God until Jesus Christ appeared as the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of his person ?
Let any one dispassionately contemplate his piety and benevolence ; his compassion for man; his forgiveness of injuries ; his meekness and lowliness; his superiority to the world ; his command of the inferiour appetites ; his fortitude and constancy; his prudence and discretion ;-in his character a union of every possible excellence in all their consistency, strength, and just proportions--all the stronger virtues without austerity, and all the softer traits without weakness—all that is high and lofty, with all that is lowly and attractive, and say, whether here is not a personage at once divine and human ; infinitely above us, and yet level to our comprehension ; mysterious, and yet familiarly known-say, whether this character do not embody our every possible conception of an incarnate Deity-God stooping to man-in all the fulness and harmony of his perfections made visible to mortal eye? Who can fail to see in Jesus Christ the refulgence of Divinity--the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth? Or
who shall not now be inclined to admit the declaration of Christ himself: he that hath seen me, hath seen the Father :
Beyond compare the Son of God was seen
It may not be positively asserted, however, that the works and prophecies, and teachings, and perfect character of Christ impose on us an obligation to pay him divine homage. Notwithstanding all this, we have not conclusive evidence that he was of a divine nature; though the supposition that he was a mere man, is attended with no ordinary difficulties, when we merely glance at what he did, what he taught, how he predicted, and how he lived !
These difficulties are enhanced by the fact, which will not be denied by those who admit the inspiration of the Evangelists, of his miraculous conception. For how happens it, that of all born of woman, Jesus Christ should be the only one who was conceived by the Holy Ghost; that if no more than a prophet, he should not, like his predecessors in the prophetic office, have been conceived in the natural way? Does not his miraculous conception constitute the whole distinction between the character of Christ in the condition of a man, and that of any other prophet? Does it not imply a higher purpose than that of a mere teacher? Might not a mere man have been rendered competent by divine illumination, to convey all that men have capacity to receive? Could his intercourse with God have been of any higher kind than the nature of any other man might have equally admitted, had his conception been the result of Mary's marriage with her husband ?
But miraculous conception does not of itself imply preexistence, much less divinity-Admit it; yet if Christ had a previous existence—had he been the uncreated Word, his assumption of humanity would have implied a miraculous conception, though this had not been recorded; for how could union with the divine nature have been the principle of an existence physically derived from Adam?
Here, then, is a personage who, by the circumstances of his birth, the features of his character, and the incidents
of his life, stands alone in the annals of the world—in the sublimity of his virtue, himself a greater miracle than any which he wrought; one, who so far from bearing any impression of the place of his birth, was more distinguished from his countrymen than the Jew was from the Gentile; who was as superiour to the prophets, as they were to the people ; to whom Moses, the greatest of the prophets, with whom Jehovah conversed face to face, as a man talketh with his friend, bore no higher relation than that of a servant to a Son*- to whom the very angels are inferiour ; whose advent was announced at the fall of man; who is pointed out, both by Moses himself, and with gradually increasing clearness by all succeeding prophets; who was the hero of the patriarchal and the Levitical, and constitutes at once, the perpetual theme and the indispensably necessary key-stone of the Christian dispensation ; whose conception and birthplace, whose works and virtues, whose entire history answered in every particular to a long succession of prophecies; whose character and actions, too, accord in every respect with whatever may be our abstract conceptions of an incarnation of Deity; whose life is an enigma which no Edipus can unravel save by the supposition that he was essentially of the same nature with his Father, and yet, Jesus Christ was a mere man!
“Supposing there were a god who did not discover himself immediately to our senses, were it possible for him to give stronger proofs of his existence than what appear on the whole face of nature? What, indeed, could such a being do but copy the present economy of things ?" Notwithstanding this concession, Philot could deny the existence of a God! But is he more unreasonable than the man who, after similar concessions, denies the divinity of the Son of God? For supposing that God were to send a being into the world of the same specific nature with himself, and one, who by consequence, could not discover his true nature to our senses, were it possible for him to afford stronger evidence of his assumption of humanity than such as appear in the face of Jesus Christ? To assume our nature without sin, he must be born of a woman by a miraculous conception; to convince us of his independent power, he must perform miracles in his own name; of his omniscience, he must
+ Hume's Dialogues ou Natural Religion, p. 232.