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in all.” This grand purpose was invaded by the introduction of sin. . The glory of man was suddenly covered with darkness; a deep abyss stretched between the sinful creature and the holy Creator. But it was impossible that God and humanity could be permanently separated. The conception of the one necessitates the conception of the other ; the idea and the fact of man must be complemented by those of God. The heart of man asks for a God; and he has invariably supplied himself with one. It may have been the gloomy and inexorable god of fate, or the dreamy and shackled god of nature, or even the feeble and necessitous god of a self-asserting humanity. The knowledge of God is only attained by an acquaintance with His attributes, which find their expression in “the relation of His nature to reasonable beings.” God never forsakes man; neither “can man remove from God.” Man cannot divest himself of his moral nature, and thus sink into the category of animals. If he attempts the experiment, he discovers that he has produced a demon. His conscience binds him eternally to God. In the ultimate triumph of good over evil, of purity over sin, the true communion of God and men will be realized. A fallen spirit is not to proclaim its victory over Omnipotence. The redemption of men is the gracious purpose of God; through the medium of that redemption the subtile enemy will be foiled ; from the wreck of sin, purity and order will arise; and God and man will become eternally one. “God manifest in the flesh ” is the cheering pre-announcement of these issues.
The method of redemption is one of those subjects which, from their transcendent importance, command the inquiry of both friends and foes. Some measure of light may be thrown upon the subject by the remarks just made, though it must be maintained that from Revelation our information must be finally derived. It is, however, of value to observe the opinions of men with reference to it; as in so doing we are convinced, by contrast, of the partial and uncertain character of human decisions, and of the clearness and fulness of Divine teachings.
It has been objected by some, who are not disposed to place their confidence in the Bible, that it seems quite improbable that the Creator of so many worlds, which are immeasurably superior, in point of dimensions, to this fraction of His universe, should fix upon it as the scene of the most astonishing display of His condescending wisdom and love. Why should He veil His glory, and take upon Himself the woes of the inhabitants of this speck of creation, and seek to make them “partakers of His nature ?" Was there no worthier sphere for such a marvellous exhibition? This objection is like many others which men urge against the ways of God, is much more apparent than real. Are we to measure the Divine proceedings by any human standard, and to maintain that He must act, in the manifestation of His love, on precisely the same principle, and by the same rule, as man? This would be to limit God; and in some sense to impeach His character, in a most unwarrantable manner. We see everywhere illustrations of the fact that His " ways are not our ways."
The disclosures which science has made of the vast amount and varied forms of existence with which our earth abounds, show it to be a universe in itself. Every atom of matter, every drop of water, contains a world of wonder or of life. It may, therefore, not be improper to measure the wisdom and greatness of God by another standard than that of mere extension; and in His estimation this smaller sphere may be more important than the mightiest sun that, accom. panied by attendant planets, which pay their constant homage to its greatness, floats in space. In a spiritual sense, too, this world may be vastly more important than any other. We must not regulate our expectations of what may be enacted on any particular scene by the mere extent of the theatre. The grandest events may occur within a very limited sphere. This is one of the prerogatives of mind, which can make what is superficially and materially small the scene of its greatest achievements.
The objection also proceeds on the assumption that other worlds equally with our own require such a manifestation of God. It may, therefore, be very properly met by the inquiry, What if this world only stood in need of this form of Divine interposition ? That would be a sufficient reason for such a distinction being conferred upon it; and would be quite in harmony with the Great Teacher's representation of the conduct of the true shepherd: "How think ye? if a man have a hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray ? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray." (Matt. xviii. 12, 13.) And why may not God leave, in this sense, the countless worlds which He tends, and follow the one which has wandered from its right path, in order to restore it to fellowship with Himself? If in our world only the standard of rebellion has been raised, and hostile forces concentrated, certainly may we conclude that the Great Ruler will hasten with all His power to crush the resistance to His authority, and to restore the erring to His favour and to the condition of loyal subjects. In that case, no other part of His dominion would entertain a sense of neglect; but would rather rejoice over the grand enterprise and its benevolent results.
On the other hand, it has been asserted by some that the very superiority, in a material sense, of this world, furnishes a reason for the display of God's glory which the Incarnation supposes. In the
opinion of such persons, all other worlds are only in a state of development and progression towards the condition of completeness at which our earth has arrived. To them, “our planetary system is the most organized point in the universe;" and they further express their conviction that "the sacred place where the Lord appeared will be recognised as being the absolute centre of the universe.”
These and other human opinions show us the necessity of something more authoritative and definite, and make us thankful that we have the testimony of God Himself on these great questions in which we are so deeply interested. The Scriptures represent the sin of man as the occasion for the assumption of our nature by the eternal Son of God. The preservation of the Divine authority, and the restoration of mankind to the communion of God, were the immediate objects to be accomplished. This great design being manifested, the malignant attempt of Satan to lead away our race into permanent rebellion and misery, or to induce its immediate extinction in the exercise of Divine judgment, would be signally defeated. The higher order of intelligences, who had not left their “first estate,” would acquire enlarged views of the wisdom and rt sources of God, while their benevolent nature would exult in the promised redemption of the fallen race. Every part of God's creation that remained faithful to Him would raise its shouts of praise when the scheme of redemption was made known. No doubt it was one of the most honourable and joyful errands with which those angels had been commi-sioned, when they appeared on the plains of Bethlehem, chanting in the ears of the astonished shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
This great truth was intimated to the first man in the judgment which was pronounced on the seducer, and which was practically the promise of deliverance to himself: “I will put enmity between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The Seed of the woman was to enter into conflict with the spiritual foe that appeared in the serpent; and, while suffering in the conflict, was to achieve a glorious victory. How sigvificantly and exactly that early statement agrees with the history of the God-man, and with His sufferings and successful mediation! The Divine incarnation was prefigured in the form under which God communicated with the patriarchs. The Maleach-Jehovah appeared to them under a human form ; and the Person appearing applied to Himself the titles and prerogatives of God. This Angel of the Covenant was He who afterwards appeared as “God manifest in the flesh;" and the human form which He assumed was beautifully symbolic of His actual assumption of our nature when “the fulness of time was come.” The last of the prophets cried, “ Pehold, I will send My messenger, and he shall prepare the way before Me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the Covenant, whom ye delight in." (Mal. iii. 1.) This prediction is applied by St. Mark, in the introduction to the Gospel wbich he wrote, to John the Baptist and the incarnate Saviour : "As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send My messenger before Thy face, which shall prepare Thy way before Thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." (Mark i. 2, 3.) The Jehovah of the Old Testament was the incarnate Redeemer of the New. The Second Person of the Trinity has ever been the medium of communication between God and man. He who spake to the patriarchs, and "whose Voice shook the earth” in the announcements of Sinai, was the same Person who spake, in His manifestation in the flesh,“ as never man spake.” The salutation of the angel to Mary was a prediction of the near approach of the event: “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee : therefore also that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke i. 35.) The assuring announcement to Joseph was to the same effect: “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” (Matt. i. 20.) The Apostle Paul declares the fact in plain and direct terms: “Great is the mystery of godliness : God was manifest in the flesh.” (1 Tim. iii. 16.) St. John is equally explicit : “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God;” and though “the Word was God," He" was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we bebeld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John i. 1, 14.)
The history of Jesus is demonstrative that He was the God-man. It is impossible to account for the constitution of His character, the current of His teaching, and the grandeur of His acts, on any other principle than that He was Divine as well as human. If we regard Him as merely human, His person becomes a perfect enigma, involving the most irreconcilable contradictions; but if we admit His Divinity difficulty vanishes. The evidence is full and conclusive: the Divine and the human were associated in the one Person of Jesus Christ. To those who accept the teachings of the New Testament, the miraculous nature of the event offers no objection : to others it is avowedly the ground on which it is called in question. The possibility of a miracle is denied; and, therefore, the impossibility of the Incarnation as boldly asserted. Such assertions are both unphilosophical and presumptuous. On what principle can man venture to declare that there can be no such event as a miracle? He may assert that, so far as he has been able to understand the operation of what are termed "natural laws," he has observed so much regularity as to preclude the supposition of any departure from this fixed order.
But this amounts to nothing more than a confession of his partial kuowledge. It is now usual for our opposers to assume the impossibility of a miracle; and, from assumption, to deny the authenticity of the records in which the fact of numerous events which cannot be brought into the ordinary chain of natural sequence is declared. This is to constitute themselves judges of the whole case ; which is certainly very unlike the modesty for which true philosophy has ever been remarkable. We think we have indicated the right mode of proceeding : the real question is, Are the Records authentic ? We have no hesitation in saying, the historical part of the New Testament is supported by an amount of evidence far exceeding that upon which the historic character of any other ancient document is based. To dispose of those documents by an assertion of their mythical origin, is violently to destroy all written history; and to make a demand upon our faith, as to the mode in which they arrived at their present form, which far exceeds that which is made by their claim to be regarded as historical verities. The most able opponents of Christianity in its earliest age, (the time in which it was easy to determine the truth or falsehood of the Record,) never ventured to deny the historical character of Christ, and the miracles which biographies of Him declared that He wrought. To have done that would have been to have closed their own case, a point which they well understood.
The ultimate question is really to be fuund within a very narrow compass. Whether a miraculous event is to be considered possible or not, depends upon the question whether God is still the active Governor of the world. If He is still present, holding in His hands all the powers of nature, then to deny the possibility of a miracle is simply to limit Omnipotence. An act in which ordinary physical laws are
overruled in their operation is certainly no greater a thing than the original institution of those laws. Their institution necessarily implies a Power to control them. Bolder sceptics, therefore, take refuge in avowed pantheism, which is, in truth, a palpable absurdity, a self-condemned thing; for while it is a desperate attempt to escape the real and felt impossibility of naked atheism, it is nothing less than atheism in its most practical form. God is eternal, and therefore ever remains the Lord of all. The power to direct the physical order which He has originated and sustains, cannot be denied to Him without involving the denial of His existence. And if well-authenticated events are presented to us, which were accomplished in the most simple and direct manner, wrought in the presence of all classes of persons, performed for the promotion of objects the most sacred and beneficent, and which are, at the same time, events obviously above all creature-power to produce, true philosophy requires us to pronounce them Divine and miraculous. The occurrence of what may