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"God's own,"• and which it emphatically designates the “ Heir of God.” For a little while he may be lower than the angels; but for all that the angels are but “ministering spirits," waiting upon the earthly “sons of God," so that even now angels exist for man, and not man for angels. And hereafter, when sitting with Christ in his Throne (Rev. iii.21), we shall judge angels (1 Cor. vi. 3), the highest place beneath the Lord of all being assigned to those who “ sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, far above all principality and power, and might, and dominion ; and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”
And how are they arranged in the invisible world, in the visions recorded in the book of Revelation? In Rev. v. 6, 11, the order is complete : “in the midst is the throne, then the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders (the undoubted symbol of the church); and round about the throne, the living creatures, and the elders ;” angels to the number of ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands. We find just the same order D Rev. vii. 11. Now, this is in perfect harmony with our conclusion. Symbolical it may be ; but a symbol must be true. And if this spiritual vision, or symbolical representation, teach anything, it is surely this : that whilst Jesus, the “Son of Man," is seated on the throne, his brethren, redeemed from among men, will form the inner circle next the throne, and being raised with Christ far above principalities and powers, will be for ever “higher than the angels.”
Our argument needs only one thing more, we think, to make it both complete and conclusive ; and that is a glance at the simple upon
which this glorious prospect rests. The sight is certainly a dazzling one. If we pass suddenly from the "gloom and darkness here," into the effulgent glory, in which dwell
"All the angels, progeny of light,
Thrones, dominations, princedoms, virtues, powers," it is too brilliant for human eyes to bear. And when we think of them as towering, rank above rank, up towards the throne, it seems hardly conceivable that we should equal the lowest, much less that we should rise above the very highest. But all this is quite as applicable to the contrast between the church on earth, and the church in heaven ; and in the world where acorns are transformed into oaks, contrast presents no difficulty at all. The explanation of the whole, however, is to be found not in any innate capacity or undeveloped powers, that we can discover either dormant or half-awakened in the breast of humanity, but in that close and indissoluble relation into which Christ, the Word, the brightness of the Father's glory, the only-begotten Son, has entered with the family of man ; and in the fact so clearly stated, that His exaltation
This is the true meaning of the expression “a peculiar people."
involved our own.
The link which binds him to the human race, is not a dissoluble one. The vine and branches, the head and members, are never to be separated. “Where I am, there shall my servants be.” “ To him that overcometh, will I give to sit with me upon my
throne." Such assurances as these involve one, of two things; either a position of inferiority will be assigned to Christ on the ground of His relation to us, or one of pre-eminence will
be comiferred upon us on the ground of our relation to Him. That the former cannot be the case, is attested by all that the Bible teaches respecting Christ; that the latter will be, by all that it teaches respecting ourselves. He is “appointed heir of all things." He has “ascended up far above all heavens, that He might fill all things.” He has sat down “for ever” on the right hand of God
. And if all things are put under His feet, He is “the head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him, that filleth all in all.”
“ So shall we be ever with the Lord.” “ The man Christ Jesus" is now the head and centre of all things. All history, all beings, all worlds point upwards to Him. God " is gathering together in one all things in Christ; both which are in the heavens, and which are on earth.” He is alike the heir of all, and Lord of all. But Christ is inseparable from those whom He has redeemed.” His future and theirs are linked eternally together. His glory is their glory; His throne their throne. If He, then, has been exalted above the angelic hosts, His church cannot remain below. Redemption will be seen for ever to be the crowning work of God. The new song will never be worn out, “ Thou art worthy, for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood; and that song shall proceed from the lips of those who stand higher than the angels, and nearest to the throne.
Though the opinion expressed in this paper may appear a strange one to some of our readers, we do not give it as in any sense original or new.
It was warmly defended by the late Dr. Harris in an article in the “Biblical Review" (Jan. 1848), which has come to our hands since the paper itself was written, and the following extract from that article will show that many other writers have advocated the same view. “ If man,” he says, " has been the object of Divine mercy, and is thus the occasion of bringing to light an aspect of the Divine character, additional to all which the angelic dispensation had been the means of disclosing, the analogical conclusion is, that, as to his original constitution and his ultimate destination, he ranks above them. The latter part of the conclusion to which I am thus brought, is not quite unknown to our theologs
, although the recognition of it is only partial and indirect. It appears in the following verses of well-known hymns :
“ Worthy the Lamb that died, they cry,
To be exalted thus;
For He was slain for us.
Saints who surround his dazzling throne,
Their joyful voices raise ;
Lady Huntingdon's Collection. The same sentiment often occurs in our popular commentaries; such, for example, as Henry's and Scott's. In the following verse, indeed, there is a distinct recognition of man's original pre-eminence over all creation :
* Foremost of created things,
Head of all thy works he stood ;
C. Wesley. So also in the following extracts : -“ Adam was originally made higher than the angels" (Dr. A. Clarke on Heb. ii. 7). “There is still a sense in which all the saints are, through Christ, to be exalted above angels." "Human nature, then, in the person of the saints-in a special manner, of course, in the person of their Head or Leader-is exalted to a state of precedence above the angels, to a state of universal dominion" (Stuart on Heb.). “While the glory of human nature, as here delineated (in Ps. 8), has been so deteriorated through the fall, that it is to be seen only in small fragments, and what is here said is to be referred to the idea rather than to the reality, it appears anew in Christ in full eplendour. The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews describes the glory obtained for humanity in Christ over the things of creation, whereby it is to be raised above the angels, in the words of the Psalm" (Hengstenberg).
* It might, in fact, occur to us, as it did to Beza, Michaelis, and Storr, that he (the writer of the Epistle) had' by man in the psalm understood man in general, to whom universal dominion was promised in Christ, and now wished to prove, that in Christ, the true man, the fulfilment, had, in a preliminary manner, begun.”. (Tholuck on Heb. ii. 9.) Nottingham.
THE GOSPEL OF RATIONALISM.
VIE DE JESUS, PAR ERNEST RENAN, MEMBRE DE L'INSTITUT.
PARIS, 1863. We should ill discharge our functions as observers of the varying phases of religious thought, were we to omit a notice of the remarkable book of M. Ernest Renan. Its publication has produced, on the various classes of religionists and non-religionists in France, a somewhat similar effect to that of Bishop Coler so's book in England. Yet the two writers are very opposite in their character
Colenso's examination of the credibility and authorship of the Pentateuch is essentially a work of destruction. Renan's object is a constructive one-to recover for Christ the affections and faith of his countrymen, minus those divine and supernatural
qualities which the Evangelists, and the orthodox of subsequen ages, have lovingly, but erroneously, in M. Renan's estimation attributed to Him. In the bold illogical criticism of the Protestant bishop, the personality and real existence of Moses fades away inta the mist of ancient legendary lore ; from the subtle analysis of the sceptic Renan, Jesus emerges, shorn, indeed, of his divinity, as th best and noblest specimen of humanity, the real hero and leade of the modern and future ages of our race.
As might have been expected, the work has been received by the Catholic party of France with horror and indignation. The vilest epithets are heaped upon Renan's head; for with him Jesus is not merely the model of what is most worthy of respect in human nature, He is also the destroyer of priestcraft
, and the slayer of all dogma. On the other hand, the great sceptical school, embracing in France almost all who think, has welcomed the work with triumphant shout, as a very skilful, if not entirely successful, attempt to reconcile the now recognized, unquestionable, historical character of Christ's life and work, with their disbelief in the supernatural and their denial of a written revelation from God. Renan teaches them how to believe in Jesus, and yet reject His claim to divine authority—to accept Him as their teacher, and yet criticise His doctrine.
From amid the confused onsets of the German school of critics on the Gospel history, and their hostile questionings of the early records of the church, some results have emerged as of indubitable truth. No sane man will now deny, that, at the epoch to which the events of the Gospel narratives are usually referred, Jesus of Nazareth lived in Palestine, was acknowledged as a great teacher by many of his countrymen, died an ignominious death, and left an impression on His age, of which the subsequent history of the Christian church, and the great changes which Europe has since seen, are the certain results. But Evangelists and church historians claim for this remarkable personage divine authority and supernatural power. They affirm that His history is unintelligible without the recognition of them, and account for the effects wrought through His teaching, His life and death, by their presence. Now as sceptics are constrained to admit that Jesus did really live, and influence His own and subsequent ages, and as they continue to deny His divide origin and power, they are driven by logical consistency to attempt a new picture of the Messianic era, devoid of those colours which the supernatural element in the history of Christ's life and works flashes upon us, in order to account for the effects produced. Christ's life has to be re-written, and the early conflicts of the kingdom He founded set in a new light. This M. Renan has endeavoured to accomplish; and the volume before us is the first book of a new “ History of the Origin of Christianity.”
M. Renan has enjoyed many advantages that have peculiarly fitted him for his task. He is intimately acquainted with the works of the German school of criticism.* For many years he has made the languages and history of the Semitic peoples his special study. In the dedication, so tender and so sad, of the volume to his sister, who died at Byblos, in 1861, he speaks of its pages as having been inspired on the very spots where Jesus lived, and written under the recollections and impressions which the scenes of that noble life were calculated to produce. “Silencieuse à côté de moi,” be says, “tu relisais chaque feuille et la recopiais sitôt écrite, pendant que la mer, les villages, les ravins, les montagnes se déroulaient à nos pieds.”
In an introduction of sixty pages, M. Renan treats of the sources of the history of Christ's life. It is here that he gives his estimate of the value of the documents on which we must rely, and states the general principles which guide him in his selection of incidents and reception of facts. An analysis of this portion of the volume is essential to a clear understanding of its value, and will
, at the same time, render unnecessary any criticism of the structure he has raised. The plan of the work does not embrace a critical examination of the sources of Christ's biography. For the most part, M. Renan is content to adopt such results as he finds ready to his hand in the works of Strauss, Reville, Reuss, and others.
We are not told the reasons why he accepts this and denies that. He takes, as it were, the stones cut and polished by others, and of these builds a shrine, at which men are henceforth to worship. Another builder might supply stones of another fashion. Sceptical architecture has no rules but negative ones. It is an art not a science. And as taste and fancy play a very important part in all art, so in this school of so-called scientific criticism, we are indulged
every variety of design. But with the materials so furnished, M. Renan has conceived it possible to write a “Life of Jesus," that shall meet the wants of the age, and give a truer view of this "sublime object" of human admiration and hope.
There are, then, according to our author, five great collections of writings to which we can resort for the life and times of Jesus. 1.The Gospels and writings of the New Testament. 2.—The Apocrypha of the Old Testament. 3.—The works of Philo. 4.-The works of Josephus.
5.- The Talmud. From Philo we may gather the thoughts which moved the contemporaries of Jesus -the great religious topics which then agitated all minds. Philo may be regarded as the elder brother of Jesus; and it is a pity that the accidents of life did not conduct him to Galilee. What
* It is a curious fact, however, that Renan refers to none but French translations of German writers. We suspect that his knowledge of German is not very profound.