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this Christ has proved a Divine power in the experience of all who wrestled in earnest with the questions that arise out of that consciousness of guilt and moral weakness which is an essential element in the self-knowledge of the race.
With the recovery of the Christ of Paul and of the apostles, the quest after the historical Christ did not, however, cease. It may in truth rather be said, that since that time down to the present it has gone on with increasing ardour as well as success; and the enlarged understanding of the character and mind of the Christ of history that has been attained, has fostered in many the belief in its all-sufficiency for the moral and religious life of mankind, to the denial or overclouding of the higher significance attached by the apostles to the Spiritual Heavenly Christ. I need not dwell on the causes of this; but among these may be mentioned the growing indisposition in modern times to admit the supernatural, the impatience of dogma and of an interpretation of Christ that implies dogma, the revived interest in historical study, and the hesitating tone regarding the humanity of Christ that was, and still is, too characteristic even of Protestant theology, and that was bound to bring about a reaction and to lead to a severance in men's thoughts of the Christ of history from the Christ of faith.
These and other causes have quickened a spirit of critical inquiry into the contents of the Gospels that has issued in remarkable results. Learning and imagination have been devoted to the task of revivifying history, so that the Figure of Jesus may glow before our eyes, and His words may sound in our ears as a living voice. One biography of Christ after another has appeared in which the events of the Sacred Life are made to follow one another in accordance with the author's idea in each case of the plan of the whole; and the interest of the reader is sustained by the writer's endeavour to account for the movements of Jesus by an assumed knowledge of the motives that influenced Him. His character has been made again and again the subject of profound study, and has been set in fresh lights that illustrate His commanding claim on the love of men. His words have received similar attention; and justice has been done to the principles of His teaching and the plan or idea of His mission in a way that has not been done hitherto. Witness the reconstruction of His doctrine that has been attempted again and again by means of His own great thought of the Kingdom of God—that reign of God in human lives in which we reach the true end of our being, and which is realised when He awakens in men trust in Himself and love to one another. The gain of all this original research is a knowledge of Christ—of the thoughts of His mind, His aim and purpose, His sympathies, judgments, ideals of life, characteristic excellences, for which it is claimed that it is the only proper understanding of Him and the one basis of a Christology that rests on historic fact. If, it is said, a person is known in the living image and expression of his soul when we know what his aims are, what his mind is, what he did, whom he loved, what judgments he formed on the profoundest and most interesting subjects that can occupy our thought, then Christ is most truly known in an understanding of Him that embraces these matters, and not through any dogma about Him or about His life in a state of Being in which He is really inaccessible to knowledge. The LIFE of Christ, it is urged, contains the revelation we need; let us know how He lived and felt and acted, how He dealt with men, rich and poor, good and bad, needy and prosperous, how He stood in relation to God and the world, what He thought about man and God and duty, about the things of time and the things of Eternity—let us go back to the Gospels and learn the secret of His influence by following Him as He moved about among men, teaching, healing, consoling, blessing them; and when we know Him thus, we may look for Him reasserting His power and renewing His triumph over human hearts.
Now, apart from the exaggerated length to which it is carried and to which I have given expression, this movement of the modern mind back to the historical Christ is to be welcomed on many accounts, not only for the new feeling of reality with which it enables us to contemplate the Christ of the Gospels, but for the aids it furnishes to a deeper understanding of His religious worth as the Exalted Head of His people. At first sight, indeed, it seems to carry us away entirely from the Pauline interpretation; for while, in the latter, the knowledge of the historical Christ is secondary and that of the Heavenly is primary in importance, the reverse holds of the new point of view. Christ is regarded as an object of knowledge proper only as He is revealed in His Life on earth; as Exalted He is declared to be beyond knowledge. There is a sense in which the latter statement is true. We can have no proper idea of the modes of Christ's activity as the Glorified Head of His people except by means of the impressions made upon our minds by His earthly course. In the apostle's view, indeed, the death and resurrection of Jesus seem to mark His entrance on a life that is cut off from the former one—on a life that is new, and whose glory cannot be measured by anything that befell Him in time. But, as I have tried to show in these lectures, the life of the Exalted Son of God is new only in this sense, that it is a liberation of His Personality from all that hindered the perception of His real nature when He was on earth, with the consequent expansion of His distinctive powers for the activities that lay before Him as the Perfected Messiah of the human race.1 For the real knowledge of what He is and does for His people we most fall back on the records of His earthly life, and fill up, by 1 See Note B on The Historical and the Exalted Christ
the impressions we derive from these of His Grace and truth, the content of our conception of His Present state.1 Paul does not, indeed, refer much to the human history, but there is no doubt that he presupposed in his readers an acquaintance with it. Behind all that he says of the Heavenly activity of the Lord there was in his own mind a vivid impression of the human personality that gave meaning to what he said. "He could not have written as he does of Christ," says Dr. John Ker, "unless he had before him the Christ of the Gospels in word and deed and death and higher life." 2 And we cannot understand his language regarding the Glorified Christ unless we bring with us a knowledge of the Historic Jesus. Were we to obliterate from our minds all impressions of His earthly Life, and to content ourselves with a belief in Him exalted to communicate to us the benefits of His Work, He would be little more to us than an intellectual conception or a theological idea,—a category of thought, without power to touch our hearts. Or, if conceived by us as a Person, He would be to our souls what the spiritual Christ is to a certain class of Mystics, the object of an intercourse in which impressions are referred to Him that really come from their own hearts, and that have no connection with the historical manifestation of the Son of Man.3
1 In thinking of Him as Exalted we must not conceive of Him as changed in His humanity or in the nature and range of His human sympathies. "The man who would truly paint Jesus," says Naumann, "must not show Him in pillared aisles or on the steps of altars, but under thatched roofs and by the side of village roads," meaning that in his lowliness and preference for lowly ways He is in glory what He was as seen in the flesh.
2 Thoughts for Heart and Life, p. 96.
3 "The relation of faith to the Exalted Christ can be thoroughly ethical in its character only by the ethical content of His Personal Life being made intelligible to us in the Exalted One, and presented to us as a direct point of contact for our faith. This is the case, however, only in virtue of the Identity of the Exalted One with the Personality of the earthly Jesus Christ: only in the Saviour Jesus Christ, one with the
The one safeguard against these evils is to draw our conceptions of His present mind and present Activity in and through His people from the material supplied in the record of His life on earth. From His personal characteristics as there revealed, we are able to form a true idea of what He is to us now. If it is His work in Heaven to convey to His people the Good He Himself possessed on earth, and possesses now in perfection, we can partake intelligently of that Good only when we look at Him in the mirror of His earthly life. If we are to share in His Glory as the Archetypal Man, we must learn from His conduct, in the relations in which He stood to God and His brethren, what that Pattern Manhood is that He once realised under earthly conditions, and that He would form in us. The changes on ourselves that we may expect His Indwelling Spirit to accomplish we can understand only when, falling back on the Gospel record, we observe the graces of moral and spiritual character that distinguished His human life, and that came from the personal Indwelling in Him of that very Spirit of God that is His Gift to us. And how could we conceive of that Divine Sovereignty which He now wields over the world if we had not the history of His life to show us that the power by which He overcame the world and subdued the hearts of men was, as it still is, the power of Love and of patient endurance, the majesty of Self-sacrifice, the kingly might of Meekness? It is in the earthly life that we are to discover the nature and effects of that Lordship which the Exalted One now exercises over men. All in that life is indeed humiliation; but were there nothing but humiliation, were there not a hidden glory under it as well that was to be manifested in
Father and living to save sinners, and in His redemptive activity in living personalities, is the ethical character and influence of the Exalted One made intelligible and brought near to us, so as to be, through the impression that He irresistibly makes on the conscience, the object of a spontaneous ethical trust" (Max Reischle).