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disciples for not seeing that they were sufficient if they would but see it: “O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”
There is not a shadow of evidence that there were either a succession of teachers and preachers, each of a higher moral tone than the preceding, and thus leading up gradually and imperceptibly to Christ; or of any moral thought afloat at all approximating Christ's teaching between the close of the Old Testament and the period of Christ's coming. Now this is absolutely demanded to satisfy any hypothesis of evolution, supposing Christianity had been developed spontaneously and naturally. The pre-eminence of Christianity would have been but the last stage of a general process of evolution.
Moreover we have, so to say, what might appear to be the last link but one, preserved to us—i.e. St. John the Baptist. But his light is absolutely insignificant and out of all comparison with the brilliancy of Christ's. but a voice from without, a herald to awaken men to receive Him whose shoe's latchet he confessed he was not worthy to unloose. But Christ came to call up a voice within mankind, and not so much to pronounce external edicts, as to engraft inward principles upon the heart. Love with Christ was to replace duty with St. John.
Had Christ's teaching been the direct outcome of St. John's he would have been more immediately beholden to Him as his master and predecessor in the progress of moral thought. But no! Almost ignoring Him, Christ passes over many centuries of bygone history, and appeals solely to the prophets as ground for His authority and extraordinary pretensions.
It is sometimes said that the historical gap between Malachi amd Christ resembles the gaps in our knowledge of the geological history of many animals. The simile, however, is fallacious, for we do know a good deal of
the history of moral thought between the Captivity and the coming of Christ, and that so far from its being a development it was a decided and unmistakable retrogression.
This is not only to be seen in the New Testament but in the Talmud, which is a gigantic mass of puerilities, with a few valuable maxims. But take as an exampleand it is a crucial one—the key-note of all Christian harmony, the very basis of Christian practice, and the foundation of the Christian character—Charity. We know what it means from a Christian standpoint. So new was it to the world, that no word existed in the Greek language to express it, consequently 'Ayáron had to be coined. It represented a newly-created moral idea, utterly unknown before Christ pronounced it as a “new commandment.” Now in the Talmud, Charity is often spoken of, but it has no higher meaning than the giving of alms. And we know what that meant with the Jews from the New Testament well enough!
Whichever way we regard the phenomenon of Christianity as presented to us by its Founder, we cannot find a particle of evidence to shew that He was but the last link of a spontaneous development of moral thought. He himself unconsciously disproves it by invariably appealing solely to the Old Testament Scriptures alone, and by utterly ignoring St. John the Baptist as furnishing him with a single moral idea.
Thus then does the idea of a lineal moral continuity with the past completely break down !
A profound truth underlies Nathaniel's scepticism when Philip said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”. And Nathaniel said unto him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip saith unto him, “Come and see.”
Nathaniel here, quite unconsciously, bears witness to the absence of the fundamental conditions of evolution, that if the character of the external environment be unfavourable there can be no evolution for good; in other words, individual characteristics are determined by their
environment as well as by hereditary peculiarities; and knowing well the degraded character of Nazareth at that time, Nathaniel unhesitatingly decides that the moral training of any one born and bred there, if solely human, could not produce such a being as he was familiar with in the character of the Messiah as given in the descriptions of the prophets. On the other hand, Philip justly appeals to the sole method of right reasoning, that is, prove it for yourself by active verification—"Come and see.” In other words, the moral environment of Judaism, and especially of Nazareth, was thus unconsciously testified to by Nathaniel as incompatible with natural evolution.
But now driven from the grounds of evolution it might be urged by a sceptic that Jesus Christ was only a young man of great religious genius, who brooded over the prophetical writings till he persuaded himself that it was his duty—self-imposed no doubt—to regenerate first his nation, and then mankind in general, and came at last to identify himself with that ideal personage called the Messiah.
But, I would here ask, What do we understand by the prophetical writings ?
Three things are absolutely incontrovertible. First, that notwithstanding the prophets were born and bred in the most exclusive environment conceivable, in an atmosphere of hatred and detestation for all other races but their own; cultivated in a spirit of jealousy against any one except an Israelite having any share or lot in their God Jehovah ;-notwithstanding all this, they again and again proclaim that Jehovah should in some future day become the God of the very Gentiles whom their nation so detested. Secondly, in direct opposition to their training in the efficacy of the Mosaic law, they denounced the law itself as utterly subordinate to the religion of the heart and a spiritual worship. Thirdly, they never intimated that this religion should spontaneously grow out of their own teaching; never illustrated it by parables of a grain of mustard seed or other process of development; but, in a diametrically opposite way to this method
of Christ, they distinctly foretold that in the fulness of time a mysterious personage, called Messiah, should come; i.e. the anointed of God, or else Emmanuel, i.e. God with us; who Himself should be the direct means of establishing this spiritual religion, and thus break down the partition wall between Jew and Gentile.
And if we go further into details we find the Messiah not only spoken of as a great and glorious being, whose kingdom should be boundless and rule infinite; but there is, besides this grand and glowing description of Him, an undercurrent of a very different character-a mysterious whisper, which in the latter chapters of Isaiah became plainly audible, that this great personage should suffer in bringing about this revolution in religious thought.
These briefly are the main points of prophetic teaching, which we can verify for ourselves. There is no need to regard prophecies in the sole light of predictions of certain events. There is no necessity to attempt to fix later events upon individual sentences which appear to forecast them.
Prophecy of the character of the spiritual religion which was to come and replace the Levitical is the great element of the prophetic books.
Now observe this forecast is absolutely unique in the history of the world. It is an historical fact that the Jewish nation had for four hundred years jealously treasured up these forecasts, and although they were mistaken in their interpretation of the character of the Messiah, they all agreed in looking for one to come.
Now turn to the other picture. Christ did come, and Christianity has been the result.
The forecasts of a universal religion have been fulfilled ; that Jehovah should be the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews is now a fact; that a spiritual worship of the heart should supplant a ceremonial service is the very essence of Christianity; that this should be brought into the world not by progressive stages or development, but by One Being was the reitertated assertion of the prophets; that Christianity was thus brought in and founded by One Being is also an incontrovertible historical
fact; that that Being should possess a character so pure, holy, and exalted as alone to deserve the title of Son of God, if for no higher reason, is justified by the portraiture given to us by the Evangelists, and recognised by friends and foes alike as unique in the history of mankind. Moreover, that great as the Being was, He did suffer and die for His cause, thereby completing the prophetical features is also an historical fact not to be denied.
Thus, then, do facts upon facts accumulate, furnishing a moral conviction, nay, absolute demonstration, that Jesus Christ as the greatest representative of moral thought the world has ever witnessed, was not the product of spontaneous generation, was no issue of a natural developmental process from pre-existing religions; but was a divine embodiment of the highest phase of religious thought, is proved by His absolutely exceptional character, by His inherent power of regenerating mankind at the present day, and by His exact accordance with the divinely-charged utterances of the prophets of antiquity.
II. HYPER-CHRISTIAN, OR THE DANGER
NOTHING is more observable in the Church than the two opposite tendencies to maximise and to minimise. They are the banners of two distinct parties, so far as these parties carry flags. They may, however, be considered dispassionately and without any party spirit. Attention has of late been much drawn to the latter, very little to the former. The dangers of minimising have been depicted in dark colours ; those of maximising have been concealed or ignored. Minimisers have been branded as unorthodox, and orthodoxy has been claimed exclusively for maximisers. To these, authority has been all smiles ;