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What I have said represents fairly enough, I think, the view of very many at the present day; and the questions that are raised by this attitude of mind are very serious and demand consideration. That there is a one-sidedness about the Pauline conception, from the circumstance alluded to, is to be granted. One who believed, as Paul did, that the real significance of Christ for man's salvation belongs to His Heavenly and not to His earthly life, and who, in consequence, goes back on what was transacted in those brief years of the Lord's life on earth only in so far as they bore on the transcendent virtue of His present life for us, must needs omit much that is of the highest importance for us to include in our Picture of Christ. Paul tells us nothing of the revelation of God which we have in the human life of Christ, or of what is to be learnt of the Divine character from all those acts of mercy and grace and sympathy with men in their various circumstances of need, in which the heart of Jesus was displayed.1 He passes over the work of the Prophet of Nazareth. The unrivalled supremacy of Christ as a Teacher and a Revealer of truths bearing on human conduct, that command conviction and dispel doubt and ignorance regarding human life in its higher aspects and relations, finds no place in that Image of Him that we owe to the apostle. He calls Christ indeed the "wisdom of God,"2 but he does not thereby mean to exalt the teachings about life and duty that came from His lips and that are
1 According to Paul, the Incarnation is a humiliation to Christ, and the glory of His Personality is hid and concealed, if not curtailed, by His earthly limitations; it is not till He has died and is Risen again that He is revealed in His proper nature. This is not the view of the Apostle John. He regards the Incarnation as the continuous unveiling of the Divine glory of Christ. The glory of His love and goodness is apparent all through His earthly Life. The resurrection is but the consummation of it. Paul's point of view naturally led him to undervalue the instruction to be derived from the Life.
2 1 Cor. i. 18-25.
so precious to us, but rather to signalise the truth of the Divine character and purpose which we learn from the death of Christ in its redemptive aspect, and the disclosure of the plan of God for men's salvation that is made to us in the mission and work of Christ as a whole. That there are omissions in Paul's representation of Christ, when we look at it as the portrait of His Personality, is evident. Christ is greater than all the interpretations of Him, and Paul's is but one of these. There is more truth to be learnt from the study of His Person and work than men have yet been able to spell out. But while all this is granted, it must be denied that there is any such inconsistency between the historic Christ and the Christ of faith and experience as some allege, and I must demur to the position that there is such a sufficiency in the revelation of truth contained in the Christ of the Gospels as to make us independent of that contained in the Christ set forth in the Epistles. Each is necessary to the understanding and appreciation of the other. And while it is true that for us the Exalted Christ can be reached only through the Historical, and is a Power over our lives in the measure in which our thought of Him and of His actual relations to us is enriched with the memories of His earthly life,1 it is equally true that the history as a whole, and His death in particular, must be conceived from the point of view of the apostle who exhibits to us the Exalted Christ as the key to the understanding of the History, if our faith in Him is to be the faith of the apostle, that is, if Christ is to be to us the Power of God for our redemption from sin and death.
Let us at this point go back for a minute to the past and watch the evolution of Christian thought on this subject, that we may see more clearly how the matter stands.
1 "We need again and again to go back to the consideration of the historical Jesus" (Gore, Bampton Lectures, 1891, p. 144).
It is to be borne in mind that alongside of the faith in the Heavenly Christ, which was everything to Paul, and which, undoubtedly, tends to become separated from its roots in history and experience, and to harden into a dogmatic conception, there was from the beginning at work in the Church an instinct that clung to the historic tradition of the Man of Galilee who in the flesh had revealed God to men. The Gospel of John is regarded by many as having been called forth by that feeling that craved more in the Church's Lord than a Christ who had been exalted to perform redemptive functions, and whose human personality was in danger of being lost sight of in the Divine activities of His Heavenly Life. The Gospel of John is an interpretation as well as a narrative of the Historic Christ; but, unlike that of Paul, which limits itself to the single event of Christ's death, it covers the whole life, and finds the truth it is written to enforce illustrated in historic event and spoken word from the beginning to the end of His earthly career; and this Gospel is of priceless value to the Church, because it takes us back from the Risen Christ to the Historical, and sets before us the manifestation in the Flesh of the Son of God, of that Divine Life which is His Gift to His people. But it cannot be denied that, after all, the view of the Jesus of History it presents is a partial one, for its didactic purpose is to exhibit His Personal glory as the Son of God and the Revealer of the Divine nature, and it selects only such material from His Life as can be made to contribute to the exposition of that idea. Then came the Synoptic Gospels, embodying the tradition of the Life in all its memorable features. The doctrinal bias of the writers is here reduced to a minimum; and the Church has always accepted these histories as presenting a faithful Picture of the Son of Man as He revealed Himself in His goodness and truth in the varying situations of a human life. The patristic period followed,
characterised by the speculative discussions regarding the Person of Christ into which the Church was forced in its controversy with error. From these discussions it came forth triumphant, but at a cost; for while the dogma in which it expressed its conviction of the union of Humanity and Divinity in the Person of its Lord grew in definiteness and sharpness of outline, the historic Figure in which the Divine and Human had been in fact so beautifully harmonised receded into the background. The theological definition of Christ contained in the formularies of the Church hid from men's minds the real human Christ who had in His life brought God near to man and raised man up to God.1 But definitions cannot satisfy the hunger of the soul; and the religious life of men throughout the ages when the Gospels were almost unknown connected itself less with the creed of orthodoxy that had removed Christ so far from human feeling and made Him as inaccessible as God the Father was, than with the worship of the Virgin. To her had been transferred that ideal of a pure and pitiful sympathy with sinning men that had in fact been realised in Jesus;2 and she was in consequence to many an erring soul the Saviour and Helper it needed. Enthusiasm for Mary, which was at least the worship of pure love, helped no doubt to vitalise the religion of the Middle Ages. But here and there a truer vision came to men, a vision of Christ not as the stern Judge of the world, but as He had been beheld of old in His humility and grace in the pathways of a human life. It was the Image of the Jesus of the Gospels, full of compassion for miserable men, living only to do them good, and finding
1 See Note A, where Dome^s striking testimony to this is given.
'The worship of the Mass must have kept alive the memory of the crucified Christ in the Mediaeval Church, and was one point of contact between the worshipper and the historical Christ. See The Nicene Theology, by H. M. Scott, D.D., p. 220 (note)•
His joy in poverty and loss for their sakes, that touched the heart of Francis of Assisi, inspiring in him and his followers a life fashioned even to the letter to that of Jesus, a life which made men feel that the Son of Man was once more present in the world to heal and bless. Again, it was the Image of the Man of Sorrows, perfected by the discipline of the Cross into patience and untroubled peace, that rose on the vision of Thomas a Kempis and burnt itself into his soul. The power that the words of that old monk still possess to comfort the sad and sorrowful is due to the vividness with which he reproduces before the mind's eye the Jesus who had hung on the ignominious Cross, and the skill with which he transfers from the Gospels and lodges in the heart that Image of patient, uncomplaining, all-enduring sorrow.1 And surely it is a marvellous tribute to the universal power of the Figure depicted in the Gospels that the men who have been raised up from time to time to reform religious life, and who have represented in each case the spirit and genius of the age in which they lived, have always found in it some new meaning, that which most swayed their hearts and the hearts of their contemporaries, that which best met their peculiar needs and fulfilled their loftiest ideals.
When the Reformation came, a crisis had arisen in the history of religion similar to that in Paul's day; and the Christ whom the apostle had preached once more spoke to men. It is Christ the Exalted Head and Lord, the Vanquisher of sin and guilt, the Mediator of God's gracious love to mankind, whom the Reformers saw and proclaimed. Then, and as often since as He has been held up to faith,
1 Readers of George Eliot will recall the striking scene in the Mill on the Floss in which Maggie Tulliver, in trouble of mind, happens to open the pages of the hnitatio Chrtsti, and as she reads catches a vision of the "Invisible Teacher, the Pattern of Sorrow, the Source of all Strength," that reveals to her the secret of life, and brings to her peace of soul.